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The founders of a new colony, whatever Utopia of human virtue. In accordance with this rule it. Certain it is. The rust on the ponderous. Like all that pertains to crime, it. Before this ugly. But on one side of the portal,. This rose-bush, by a strange chance, has been kept alive in.
Finding it. It may serve, let us hope, to symbolise some sweet moral. The grass-plot before the jail, in Prison Lane, on a certain. Amongst any other population, or at a later period in the. It could have betokened nothing. But, in that early severity of the. Puritan character, an inference of this kind could not so. It might be that a sluggish bond-servant,. It might be, too, that a witch, like old Mistress. Hibbins, the bitter-tempered widow of the magistrate, was to die. In either case, there was very much the same. Meagre, indeed,. On the other hand, a. It was a circumstance to be noted on the summer morning when our.
The age. Morally, as well as materially,. English birth and breeding than in their fair descendants,. The women who. They were her countrywomen: and the beef and ale of their native. The bright morning sun, therefore, shone. There was, moreover, a boldness and rotundity of speech. It would be greatly for the public behoof if. What think ye, gossips? If the hussy stood up for. Marry, I trow not. Dimmesdale, her godly pastor, takes it very grievously to heart. Hester Prynne's forehead. Madame Hester would have winced at. But she--the naughty baggage--little will.
Why, look. Truly there is,. Then let the. That is the hardest word yet! Hush now, gossips for. The door of the jail being flung open from within there. Stretching forth the official staff in his left. She bore in her arms a child, a baby of. When the young woman--the mother of this child--stood fully. On the breast of her gown, in fine. It was so. The young woman was tall, with a figure of perfect elegance on a. She had dark and abundant hair, so glossy that it. She was ladylike, too, after the manner of.
And never had Hester Prynne appeared more ladylike, in the. Those who had before known her, and had expected to. It may be true that, to a sensitive observer,. Her attire,. But the point which. Hester Prynne were now impressed as if they beheld her for the. It had the effect of. Why, gossips,. Not a stitch in that. The grim beadle now made a gesture with his staff. A blessing on the. Come along, Madame Hester, and show your. A lane was forthwith opened through the crowd of spectators.
Preceded by the beadle, and attended by an irregular procession. It was no great distance, in. In our nature,. With almost a serene deportment, therefore,. Hester Prynne passed through this portion of her ordeal, and. It stood nearly beneath the eaves of Boston's. In fact, this scaffold constituted a portion of a penal machine,.
It was, in short, the platform of the pillory; and above. The very ideal of ignominy. There can be no outrage, methinks, against our common. In Hester Prynne's instance, however, as not unfrequently in. Had there been a Papist among the crowd of Puritans, he might.
Here, there was the taint of deepest sin in the most. The scene was not without a mixture of awe, such as must always. The witnesses of Hester Prynne's disgrace. They were stern. Even had there. When such personages could. Accordingly, the crowd was sombre and. The unhappy culprit sustained herself as best a woman. Of an impulsive and passionate. Had a roar of laughter burst. Prynne might have repaid them all with a bitter and disdainful. But, under the leaden infliction which it was her doom to. Yet there were intervals when the whole scene, in which she was. Her mind, and especially.
Reminiscences, the most trifling and. Possibly, it was an. Be that as it might, the scaffold of the pillory was a point of. Standing on that. England, and her paternal home: a decayed house of grey stone,. She saw her father's face, with its bold brow, and reverend.
She saw her own face,. There she beheld another countenance, of a man well stricken in. Yet those same bleared optics had a strange,. This figure of the study and the cloister, as Hester. Prynne's womanly fancy failed not to recall, was slightly. Next rose before her in memory's picture-gallery, the intricate. Lastly, in lieu of these. Could it be true? She clutched the child so fiercely to her. From this intense consciousness of being the object of severe. An Indian in his native garb was standing there; but. By the. Indian's side, and evidently sustaining a companionship with.
He was small in stature, with a furrowed visage, which as yet. There was a remarkable intelligence. Although, by a seemingly. Again, at the first. But the mother did not seem to hear it. At his arrival in the market-place, and some time before she saw. Very soon, however, his look became keen and penetrative. His face darkened. After a brief space, the convulsion grew almost. When he found the eyes of Hester Prynne fastened on his.
Then touching the shoulder of a townsman who stood near to him,. Prynne and her evil doings. She hath raised a great scandal, I. I have met with. Will it please you, therefore, to tell me of Hester. Prynne's--have I her name rightly? Yonder woman, Sir, you must know, was the. To this purpose he sent his wife before him,. And who, by your favour, Sir, may be the. Daniel who shall expound it is yet a-wanting," answered the. The penalty thereof is death. But in. Mistress Prynne to stand only a space of three hours on the. It irks me,.
But he will be. He bowed courteously to the communicative townsman, and. While this passed, Hester Prynne had been standing on her. Such an interview, perhaps, would have been more terrible than. Dreadful as it was, she was. It was better to stand thus, with so many betwixt him. Involved in these thoughts, she scarcely heard a voice behind. It has already been noticed that directly over the platform on. It was the place whence. Here, to witness the scene which we. He wore a dark feather in his hat, a border of.
He was not ill-fitted to be the head and. The other. Divine institutions. They were, doubtless, good men, just and. But, out of the whole human family, it would not have been. She seemed conscious, indeed, that whatever sympathy. The voice which had called her attention was that of the. There he stood, with a. Wilson laid his hand on the. Knowing your natural temper better than. I, he could the better judge what arguments to use, whether of. But he opposes to. Truly, as I sought to.
What say you to it, once again,. Must it be thou, or I, that shall deal with. There was a murmur among the dignified and reverend occupants of. It behoves you; therefore,. The directness of this appeal drew the eyes of the whole crowd. Dimmesdale--young clergyman, who had come. His eloquence and. He was a person of very striking aspect, with. Notwithstanding his high native. Therefore, so far as his duties would. Such was the young man whom the Reverend Mr. Wilson and the. Governor had introduced so openly to the public notice, bidding.
The trying nature. The Reverend Mr. Dimmesdale bent his head, in silent prayer,. If thou. Be not silent from any mistaken pity and. What can thy silence do for him, except it. Heaven hath granted thee an open ignominy, that thereby thou. Take heed how thou deniest to him--who,. The young pastor's voice was tremulously sweet, rich, deep, and. The feeling that it so evidently manifested, rather than. Even the poor baby at Hester's bosom was affected by the same. Dimmesdale, and held up its little arms with a half-pleased,.
So powerful seemed the minister's appeal. Wilson, more harshly than before. Speak out the name! That, and. Wilson, but. Ye cannot take it off. And would that I. Dimmesdale, who, leaning over. He now drew back with a long respiration. She will. Discerning the impracticable state of the poor culprit's mind,. So forcibly did he dwell upon this symbol, for the hour. Hester Prynne, meanwhile, kept her place upon the pedestal. She had borne that morning all that nature could endure; and as. In this state, the.
The infant, during the latter portion of her. With the same hard demeanour, she. It was whispered by those who peered. After her return to the prison, Hester Prynne was found to be in. As night. He described him as a man. It now writhed in. Closely following the jailer into the dismal apartment, appeared. He was lodged in the prison, not as suspected of any. His name was. The jailer, after ushering him. Brackett, "I shall own you for a man of skill, indeed!
The stranger had entered the room with the characteristic. Nor did his demeanour change when the withdrawal of. His first care was given to. He examined the. It appeared to contain. Here, woman! The child is. Administer this draught, therefore,. Hester repelled the offered medicine, at the same time gazing.
The medicine is potent for good, and were it my. I could do no better for. As she still hesitated, being, in fact, in no reasonable state. It soon proved its efficacy, and. The moans of the little patient. The physician,. With calm and intent scrutiny, he felt her pulse,. Drink it! That I cannot. But it will calm the swell and heaving of thy.
He presented the cup to Hester, who received it with a slow,. She looked also at her slumbering child. Yet, if death be in this cup, I bid thee think. Are my purposes. Even if I imagine a scheme of vengeance,. He noticed her involuntary gesture, and smiled. And, that thou mayest. Without further expostulation or delay, Hester Prynne drained. She could not but tremble at these preparations; for she felt.
The reason is not far. It was my folly, and thy weakness. I--a man of. Misshapen from my birth-hour, how could I delude myself. Men call me wise. If sages. I might have known that, as I came out of the vast and. Prynne, standing up, a statue of ignominy, before the people.
Nay, from the moment when we came down the old church-steps. I felt no love,. I have said it. But, up. The world had. My heart was a habitation large enough for. I longed to kindle one! It seemed not so wild a dream--old as I. And so, Hester, I drew thee. Therefore, as a man who has. Between thee and me, the scale hangs.
But, Hester, the man lives who has wronged us. Believe me, Hester,. Thou mayest cover up. Thou mayest conceal it,. But, as for me, I come to. I shall seek. There is a sympathy that will make me conscious of. I shall see him tremble. I shall feel myself shudder,. Sooner or later, he must needs be mine. The eyes of the wrinkled scholar glowed so intensely upon her,. Not the less he is mine,". Think not that I shall interfere with Heaven's. Neither do thou imagine that I shall.
I judge, he be a man of fair repute. Let him live! Let him hide. Not the less he shall be. Keep, likewise, mine! There are none in this land that. Breathe not to any human soul that thou didst ever call. Here, on this wild outskirt of the earth, I shall. No matter. Thou and thine, Hester Prynne, belong to me. My home is where. But betray me not! Enough, it is my purpose to live and. Let, therefore, thy husband be to the world as one. Breathe not the secret, above. Shouldst thou fail me in this,.
His fame, his position, his life will be in my hands. How is it, Hester? Doth thy. Art thou not. Hast thou enticed me into a bond that. Hester Prynne's term of confinement was now at an end. Perhaps there was a more real. Then, she was. It was, moreover, a. The very law that condemned her--a giant of stern.
But now, with this unattended walk from her prison. She could no longer borrow from the future to. Tomorrow would bring its own. The days of the far-off future. Throughout them all, giving up her. Thus the young and pure would be taught to look at her,. And over her grave, the. It may seem marvellous that, with the world before her--kept by. But there is a fatality, a. It was as if a new birth, with stronger assimilations than. All other scenes of earth--even. The chain that bound her here was of iron links, and galling to. It might be, too--doubtless it was so, although she hid the.
There dwelt, there trode, the feet of one with. Over and over again, the. What she compelled herself to believe--what,. Here, she said to herself had been the scene of. Hester Prynne, therefore, did not flee. On the outskirts of the. It had been built by an earlier settler, and abandoned,. It stood on the shore, looking across a basin of the. A clump of. In this little lonesome dwelling, with some. Hester established herself, with her infant child. A mystic. Children, too young to comprehend wherefore this woman should be. Lonely as was Hester's situation, and without a friend on earth.
She possessed an art that sufficed, even in a land that. It was the art, then,. She bore on her breast, in the curiously. Here, indeed,. Puritanic modes of dress, there might be an infrequent call for. Yet the taste of the. Public ceremonies, such as ordinations, the installation of. In the array of funerals, too--whether for the apparel of. Hester Prynne could supply. Baby-linen--for babies then wore. By degrees, not very slowly, her handiwork became what would now. Whether from commiseration for a woman of. Vanity, it may be, chose to mortify. But it is not recorded. The exception indicated the ever relentless vigour with which.
Hester sought not to acquire anything beyond a subsistence, of. Her own dress was of the. We may speak further of it hereafter. Except for that small expenditure in the decoration of her. Much of the time, which she. It is probable. She had in her. Women derive. To Hester Prynne it might have been a mode. Like all other joys, she rejected it as sin. This morbid. In this manner, Hester Prynne came to have a part to perform in. With her native energy of character and rare.
In all her intercourse with. Every gesture, every word, and even the silence. These emotions, in fact, and its bitterest. It was not an age of delicacy; and her. The poor, as we have already said, whom she. Dames of elevated. Hester had schooled herself long and well; and. She was patient--a martyr, indeed. Continually, and in a thousand other ways, did she feel the.
Clergymen paused in the streets, to. If she. Universal Father, it was often her mishap to find herself the. She grew to have a dread of children; for. Therefore, first. Another peculiar torture was felt in the gaze of a new. When strangers looked curiously at the scarlet letter and. Its cool stare of familiarity was intolerable. But sometimes, once in many days, or perchance in many months,. The next instant, back it all rushed again, with still a. Had Hester sinned alone? Her imagination was somewhat affected, and, had she been of a.
Walking to. Hester--if altogether fancy, it was nevertheless too potent to. She shuddered to believe, yet. She was. What were. Could they be other than the insidious whispers of the bad. Or, must she receive those intimations--so obscure,. In all her miserable experience,. It perplexed, as well as shocked her, by the irreverent. Sometimes the red infamy upon her breast would give a. Lifting her reluctant eyes, there would be nothing. Again a mystic sisterhood would contumaciously assert. That unsunned snow in the. Or, once more, the electric thrill would. O Fiend, whose. Be it. The vulgar, who, in those dreary old times, were always.
They averred that. And we must needs say it seared Hester's bosom so. We have as yet hardly spoken of the infant; that little. How strange it seemed to. Pearl--for so had Hester called her; not as a name expressive of. But she named. How strange, indeed! God, as a direct. Yet these. She knew that her deed had been evil; she could. Certainly there was no physical defect. By its perfect shape,. But little Pearl was not clad in rustic weeds. So magnificent was the small figure. Pearl's aspect was imbued. Throughout all, however, there.
This outward mutability indicated, and did not more than fairly. Her nature. Hester's fears deceived her--it lacked reference and adaptation. The child could not be. In giving her existence a great law had. Hester could only account for the child's character--and even.
The mother's impassioned state had been the. Above all, the warfare of Hester's spirit. She could recognize her. They were now illuminated by the. The discipline of the family in those days was of a far more. The frown, the harsh rebuke, the frequent. Hester Prynne, nevertheless, the loving mother. Mindful, however, of her own errors and. But the task was beyond her skill. After testing both.
Physical compulsion or restraint was. As to any other kind of. Her mother, while Pearl was yet. It was a look so intelligent, yet inexplicable, perverse,. She seemed rather an. Whenever that look appeared in her wild, bright,. Beholding it, Hester was. But Pearl's laugh, when she was. Heart-smitten at this bewildering and baffling spell, that so. Then, perhaps--for there was no. Not seldom she would. Or--but this more rarely. Yet Hester was. Brooding over all these matters,. Her only real comfort was when. Then she was sure of. How soon--with what strange rapidity, indeed did Pearl arrive at.
And then what a. But this could never be. Pearl was a born. An imp of evil, emblem and. Nothing was more remarkable than the instinct, as it seemed,. Never since her release from prison had Hester met the. In all her walks about the town, Pearl,. She saw the children of the. Pearl saw, and gazed intently,. If spoken to, she would. If the children gathered about her, as they. The truth was, that the little Puritans, being of the most. Pearl felt the sentiment, and requited it with the. These outbreaks of a fierce temper had a kind of value,.
It appalled her, nevertheless, to discern here,. All this enmity and passion had Pearl inherited, by. Mother and daughter. Pearl's birth, but had since begun to be soothed away by the. At home, within and around her mother's cottage, Pearl wanted. The spell of life. The unlikeliest materials--a stick,. Her one baby-voice served a multitude of imaginary. The pine-trees, aged,. It was wonderful, the vast variety of forms into which she threw. In the mere exercise of the fancy, however, and. It was inexpressibly. Gazing at Pearl, Hester Prynne often dropped her work upon her.
One peculiarity of the child's deportment remains yet to be. The very first thing which she had noticed in her life,. By no means! But that. One day, as her. Then, gasping for breath,. From that epoch, except when the child was asleep, Hester had. Weeks, it is true, would sometimes elapse, during which. Pearl's gaze might never once be fixed upon the scarlet letter;. Once this freakish, elvish cast came into the child's eyes while.
Hester was looking at her own image in them, as mothers are fond. It was a face,. It was as if an evil. Many a time afterwards had Hester been tortured, though. In the afternoon of a certain summer's day, after Pearl grew big. Hester's first motion had been to cover her. But whether from pride or. Still came the battery of flowers, almost invariably.
At last, her shot being all expended, the. But while she said it, Pearl laughed, and began to dance up and. Nor did she put the question altogether idly, but, for the. Pearl's wonderful intelligence, that her mother half doubted. Thou art no Pearl of mine! Hester, and pressing herself close to her knees. But she said it with a hesitation that did not escape the. Whether moved only by her ordinary. Thou must not talk so! Then, much more thee!
Or, if not, thou. Tell me! But Hester could not resolve the query, being herself in a. She remembered--betwixt a smile and a. Luther, according to the scandal of his monkish enemies, was a. Hester Prynne went one day to the mansion of Governor. Bellingham, with a pair of gloves which she had fringed and. He would have done the same where no eye beheld him. And he need not win the favor of the people: he has long possessed it.
The senators, it is true, are different! Those who still live in Africa hate all who bear the name of Vandal; they have good reason for it, too. But Gelimer has a heart to feel for us; he helps wherever he can, and often opposes his own people; they are almost all violent, prone to sudden anger, and in their rage savagely cruel.
I above all others have cause to thank him. Into what a lovely girl the frail child whom you brought from Syracuse a few years ago has blossomed! Thrasaric, the giant, the most turbulent of all the nobles, snatched her from my side here in the open street at noonday, and carried the shrieking girl away in his arms.
I could not follow as swiftly as he ran. Gelimer, attracted by our screams, rushed up, and, as the savage would not release her, struck him down with a single blow and gave my terrified child back to me. He, the richest noble of his nation, wishes to become my son-in-law. But I hesitate; I will not force her on any account. I almost believe—I fear—she likes him. But something holds her back. Who can read a girl's heart? Look, the leaders of the horsemen are dismounting—Gelimer too—in front of the basilica. He is the hero,—the square echoes with his name,—and he looks so grave, so sad. But did you see how kindly his eyes shone as he soothed the frightened child?
There are all sorts of rumors about it among the people. Some say he has a demon; others that he is often out of his mind. Our priests whisper that it is pangs of conscience for secret crimes. But I will never believe that of Gelimer. Satanas—Saint Cyprian protect us—is said to have appeared to him in the solitude of the desert. Since that time he has been even more devout than before. See, his most intimate friend is greeting him at the basilica.
Curses on the traitor! He descends from an ancient Roman senatorial family which has given the Church many a bishop. His great-uncle was Bishop Laetus of Nepte, who died a martyr. But his father, his mother, and seven brothers and sisters died under a former king amid the most cruel tortures, rather than abjure their holy Catholic religion.
This man, too,—he was then a youth of twenty,—was tortured until he fell as if dead. When he recovered consciousness, he abjured his faith and became an Arian, a priest,—the wretch! Soon—for Satan has bestowed great intellectual gifts upon him—he rose from step to step, became the favorite of the Asdings, of the court, suddenly even the friend of the noble Gelimer, who had long kept him coldly and contemptuously at a distance.
And the court gave him this basilica, our highest sanctuary, dedicated to the great Cyprian, which, like almost all the churches in Carthage, the heretics have wrested from us. He is kneeling on the upper step of the church. Now he is taking off his helmet. He is very devout and very humble. Or shall I say he humiliates himself? He shuts himself up for days with the monks to do penance by scourging.
He is rising. Do you see how his helmet—now he is putting it on again—is hacked by fresh blows? One of the two black vulture wings on the crest is cut through. The strangest thing is,—this warrior is also a bookworm, a delver into mystic lore; he has attended the lectures of Athenian philosophers. He is a theologian and—". How his Germans shout! They are striking their spears on their shields.
Now he is descending the steps. Without entering the church, as the others did? He vowed, when he shed blood, to shun the saint's threshold for three days. Now the horsemen are all mounting again. They have none, or scarcely any: they have grown not only so proud, but so effeminate and lazy that they disdain to serve on foot. Only the very poorest and lowest of the population will do it.
Most of the foot soldiers are Moorish mercenaries, obtained for each campaign from friendly tribes. They plundered our frontiers for a long time. Gelimer attacked their camp and captured their chief Antalla's three daughters, whom he returned unharmed, without ransom. Then Antalla invited the Asding to his tent to thank him; they concluded a friendship of hospitality,—the most sacred bond to the Moors,—and since then they have rendered faithful service even against other Moors. The parade is over. See, the ranks are breaking. The leaders are going to the Capitol to convey to King Hilderic the report of the campaign and the booty.
Look, the crowd is dispersing. Let us go too. Come back to my house; Eugenia is waiting to serve the evening meal. Come, Hegelochus. I fear I may burden you a long time. Business with the corn-dealers is slow. Only I must see this Gelimer's face once more. I shall never forget those features, and all the strange, contradictory things which you have told me about him. He is mysterious, incomprehensible,—'daimonios,' as the Greeks say.
Let us go now! To the left—down the steps. High above, on the Capitolium of the city, towered the Palatium, the royal residence of the Asdings; not a single dwelling, but a whole group of buildings. Originally planned as an acropolis, a fortress to rule the lower city and afford a view over both harbors across the sea, the encircling structures had been but slightly changed by Genseric and his successors; the palace remained a citadel and was well suited to hold the Carthaginians in check.
A narrow ascent led up from the quay to a small gateway enclosed between solid walls and surmounted by a tower. This gateway opened into a large square resembling a courtyard, inclosed on all sides by the buildings belonging to the palace; the northern one, facing the sea, was occupied by the King's House, where the ruler himself lived with his family.
The cellars extended deep into the rocks; they had often been used as dungeons, especially for state criminals. On the eastern side of the King's House, separated from it only by a narrow space, was the Princes' House, and opposite to this, the arsenal; the southern side, sloping toward the city, was closed by the fortress wall, its gateway and tower. The handsomest room on the ground-floor of the Princes' House was a splendidly decorated, pillared hall. In the centre, on a table of citrus wood, stood a tall, richly gilded jug with handles, and several goblets of different forms; the dark-red wine exhaled a strong fragrance.
A couch, covered with a zebra skin, was beside it, on which, clinging together in the most tender embrace, sat "the handsomest of the Vandals" and a no less beautiful young woman. The youth had laid aside his helmet, adorned with the silvery wing-feathers of the white heron; his long locks fell in waves upon his shoulders and mingled with the light golden hair of his young wife, who was eagerly trying to unclasp the heavy breast-plate; at last she let it fall clanking beside the helmet and sword-belt upon the marble floor.
Then, gazing lovingly at his noble face, she stroked back, with both soft hands, the clustering locks that curled around his temples, looking radiantly into his merry, laughing eyes. Do I hold you in my embrace? How I longed for you—night and day—always! To be ever on the move with your brother, your comrades, to ride swiftly and fight gayly in the land of the foe. While I—I was forced to sit here in the women's rooms; to sit and weave and wait inactive! Oh, if I could only have been there too! To dash onward by your side upon a fiery horse, ride, fight, and at last—fall, with you.
After a hero's life—a hero's death! She started up; her gray-blue eyes flashed with a wonderful light, and tossing back her waving hair she raised both arms enthusiastically. Her husband gently drew her down again. How much I owe old Hildebrand, the master at arms of the great King of the Goths! With the name the nature came to you. And his training and teaching probably did the rest. Hilda nodded. Ever since I could remember I was under the charge and protection of the white-bearded hero.
In the palace at Ravenna he locked me in his apartments, keeping me jealously away from the pious Sisters, the nuns, and from the priests who educated my playmates,—among them the beautiful Mataswintha. I grew up with his other foster-child, dark-haired Teja. My friend Teja taught me to play the harp, but also to hurl spears and catch them on the shield.
Later, when the king, and still more his daughter, the learned Amalaswintha, insisted that I must study with the women and the priests, how sullenly,"—she smiled at the remembrance,—"how angrily the old great-grandfather questioned me in the evening about what the nuns had taught me during the day! If I had recited the proverbs and Latin hymns, the Deus pater ingenite or Salve sancta parens by Sedulius—I scarcely knew more than the beginning!
Let's get out of doors. Come on the sea. There I will tell you about the ancient gods and heroes of our people. And what tales old Hildebrand could tell! My eyes rested intently on his lips as, with my elbows propped on his knee, I gazed into his face. How his sea-gray eyes sparkled! His voice trembled with enthusiasm; he no longer knew where he was; he saw everything he related, or often—in disconnected words—sang. When the tale ended, he waked as if from a dream, started up and laughed, stroking my head: 'There! Now I've once more blown those saints, with their dull, mawkish gentleness, out of your soul, as the north wind, sweeping through the church windows, drives out the smoke of the incense.
But as it is, to see you was to love you. I owe all my happiness to Gelimer! I will always remember it: it shall bind me to him when otherwise," she added slowly and thoughtfully, "many things might repel me. It did not succeed! He united only us, not our nations. He is full of heavy cares and gloomy thoughts. He alone—not even Brother Zazo—can bend my outstretched sword-arm. But hush! Here he comes.
See how sorrowful, how gloomy he looks. Is that the brow, the face, of a conqueror? A tall figure appeared in the colonnade leading from the interior of the dwelling to the open doorway of the hall. This man without helmet, breastplate, or sword-belt wore a tight-fitting dark-gray robe, destitute of color or ornament. He often paused in his slow advance as if lost in meditation, with hands clasped behind his back; his head drooped forward a little, as though burdened by anxious thought.
His lofty brow was deeply furrowed; his light-brown hair and beard were thickly sprinkled with gray, which formed a strange contrast to his otherwise youthful appearance. His eyes were fixed steadily on the floor,—their color and expression were still unrecognizable,—and pausing again under the pillared arch of the entrance, he sighed heavily. A slight but expressive wave of the hand stopped her. But you less than others. Are we never to rejoice? When the hero spirit comes, when the whirl of battle surrounds you, with loud shouts I heard it myself and my heart exulted in your delight , you dashed before us all into the thickest throng of the Moorish riders.
And you cried aloud from sheer joy when you tore the banner from the hand of the fallen bearer; you had ridden him down by the mere shock of your charger's rush. He overthrows everything. He bears victory. And how I envy you!
But on the next pursuit of the Moors you must take me with you, or I will go against your will. I thought of you the instant it was led before me. And you, fair sister-in-law, forgive me. I was unkind when I came in; I was foil of heavy cares. For I came—". Features of noble mould, a sharp but finely modelled nose, broad brow, and yellow, fiery eyes set almost too deeply beneath arched brows were peculiar to all these royal Asdings, the descendants of the sun-god Frey. Gelimer's glance alone was usually subdued as if veiled, dreamy as if lost in uncertainty; but when it suddenly flashed with enthusiasm or wrath its mighty glow was startling; and the narrow oval of the face, which in all was far removed from roundness, in Gelimer seemed almost too thin.
The man who had just entered was somewhat shorter than the latter, but much broader-chested and larger-limbed. His head, surrounded with short, close-curling brown hair, rested on a strong neck; the cheeks were reddened by health and robust vitality, and now by fierce anger. Although only a year younger than Gelimer, he seemed still a fiery youth beside his prematurely aged brother. In furious indignation he flung the heavy helmet, from which the crooked horns of the African bull buffalo threatened, upon the table, making the wine splash over the glasses.
What was the hero's reward for the new victory? Fear of rousing jealousy in Constantinople! The coward! My beautiful sister-in-law, you have more courage in your little finger than this King of the Vandals in his heart and his sword-hand.
The Seventh Commandment:
Give me a cup of wine to wash down my rage. Hilda quickly sprang up, filled the goblet, and offered it to him. Hail to you and all heroes, and—". He'll suit that far better than the throne of the sea-king Genseric. As I stood there while he questioned you so ungraciously, I could have—But reviling him is useless. Something must be done. I remained at home this time for a good reason: it was hard enough for me to let you go forth to victory alone! But I secretly kept a sharp watch on this fox in the purple, and have discovered his tricks.
Send away this pair of wedded lovers, I think they have much to say to each other alone; the child Ammata, too; and listen to my report, my suspicion, my accusation: not only against the King, but others also. Gibamund threw his arm tenderly around his slender wife, and the boy ran out of the hall in front of them.
Gelimer sat down on the couch; Zazo stood before him, leaning on his long sword, and began,—. Or with Euages and Hoamer, the King's nephews, our beloved cousins. The latter, arrogant blockhead, can't keep silent after wine. In a drunken revel he told the secret. But he never lies. And he would die for the Vandal nation; especially for you, whom he calls his tutor. You begin education with blows. In the grove of Venus—". But it does the Virgin little honor, so long as the old customs remain.
So, at a banquet in the shell grotto of that grove, Thrasaric was praising you, and said you would restore the warlike fame of the Vandals as soon as you were king, when Hoamer shouted angrily: 'Never! That will never be! Constantinople has forbidden it. Gelimer is the Emperor's foe. When my uncle dies, I shall be king; or the Emperor will appoint Pudentius Regent of the kingdom. So it has been discussed and settled among us. Just at that moment Pudentius came into the grotto. But wait: there is more to come!
This Pudentius—do you believe him our friend? How should the son and grandson love us? Zazo went close up to his brother, laid his hand heavily on his shoulder, and said slowly: "And Verus? Is he to love us? Have you forgotten how his whole family—? Gelimer shook his head mournfully: "Forget that?
Then, rousing himself by a violent effort from the burden of his gloomy thoughts, he went on: "Still your firmly rooted delusion! Always this distrust of the most faithful among all who love me! But I will not upbraid you; your clear mind is blinded, blinded by this priest! It seems as if there were some miracle at work—". By Verus, your bosom friend! He told me—he was the first one of you all to greet me at the parade—that he longed to see me, he must speak to me at once. I appointed this place; as soon as the King dismissed me I would be here.
Do you see? He is already coming down the colonnade. The tall, haggard priest who now came slowly into the hall was several years older than Gelimer. A wide, dark-brown upper garment fell in mantle-like folds from his broad shoulders: his figure, and still more his unusually striking face, produced an impression of the most tenacious will. The features, it is true, were too sharply cut to be handsome; but no one who saw them ever forgot them. Strongly marked thick black brows shaded penetrating black eyes, which, evidently by design, were always cast down; the eagle nose, the firmly closed thin lips, the sunken cheeks, the pallid complexion, whose dull lustre resembled light yellow marble, combined to give the countenance remarkable character.
Lips, cheeks, and chin were smoothly shaven, and so, too, was the black hair, more thickly mingled with gray than seemed quite suited to his age,—little more than forty years. Each of his rare gestures was so slow, so measured, that it revealed the rigid self-control practised for decades, by which this impenetrable man ruled himself—and others.
His voice sounded expressionless, as if from deep sadness or profound weariness, but one felt that it was repressed; it was a rare thing to meet his eyes, but they often flashed with a sudden fire, and then intense passion glowed in their depths. Nothing that passed in this man's soul was recognizable in his features; only the thin lips, firmly as he closed them, sometimes betrayed by a slight, involuntary quiver that this rigid, corpse-like face was not a death-mask.
Gelimer had started up the instant he saw the priest, and now, hurrying toward him, clasped the motionless figure, which stood with arms hanging loosely before him, ardently to his heart. And you! Really, brother, the stars would sooner change from God's eternal order in the heavens than this man fail in his fidelity to me. Verus remained perfectly unmoved. Zazo watched the pair wrathfully. Gelimer's eyes rested lovingly on his friend, and, smiling faintly, he shook his head. Verus was silent.
You did not suspect that I was watching in the tower after I had relieved the guard. I had long suspected the gate-keeper; he was once a slave of Pudentius. You bought and freed him. Do you see, brother? He is silent! I will arrest him at once. We will search for secret letters his house, his chest, the altars, the sarcophagi of his church, nay, even his clothes. Now Verus's black eyes suddenly blazed upon the bold soldier, then after a swift side-glance at Gelimer were again bent calmly on the floor.
He slowly threw back his cloak, passed his hand through the folds of his under garment, and after a short search drew from his breast a small, crumpled strip of papyrus, which he handed to Gelimer, who hurriedly unfolded it, and read,—. Belisarius is perhaps already on the way. Give this to the King. You remember, long ago I warned you that the King and his nephews were negotiating with Constantinople. I gained his confidence. My family, like his, had by your kings—" he interrupted himself abruptly. Woe betide us, with justice! He initiated me into the conspiracy. I was startled; for, in truth, unless God worked a miracle to blind him, the Vandal kingdom was hopelessly lost.
I warned him—to gain time until your return—of the cruel vengeance you would take upon all Romans if the insurrection should be suppressed. He hesitated, promised to consider everything again, to discuss the matter once more with the King. There—this note, brought to me by a stranger to-day in the basilica, contains the decision. Act quickly, or it may be too late. The grasp was so firm, so powerful, that the Vandal could not shake it off. To the King! To cut down the traitor and his allies! Then assemble the army and—Hail to King Gelimer!
Would you add to all the sins which already burden the Vandal race—especially our generation—the crime of dethronement, regicide, the murder of a kinsman? Where is the proof of Hilderic's guilt? Was my long-cherished distrust not merely the fruit, but the pretext,—inspired by my own impatient desire for the throne? Pudentius may lie—exaggerate. Where is the proof that treason is planned? Listen, I have reason to believe that Pudentius is in the city now. He steals into the palace only by night.
But I know his hiding-place. In the grove of the Holy Virgin—the warm baths. Shall I owe you the rescue of my people, as well as the deliverance of my own poor life from the most horrible death? I am only the tool of His will, from the hour I assumed the garb of this priesthood. But listen: to you alone dare I confide the whole truth; yonder blockhead would ruin everything by his blind impetuosity.
Your life is threatened. That does not alarm the hero! Yet you must preserve it for your people. Fall if fall you must, in battle, under the sword of Belisarius" Gelimer's eyes sparkled, and a noble enthusiasm transfigured his face , "but do not perish miserably by murder.
No, do not doubt. Pudentius told me. The nephews overruled his opposition. They know that you will baffle their plans so long as you live. You must never be permitted to become King of the Vandals. Here he stopped suddenly. His breath came and went quickly. After a pause, repressing his vehemence, he asked humbly,—. So they have persuaded the King to invite you on the day of your return to a secret interview in the palace—entirely alone—and there murder you. I have already seen the King. He received me ungraciously, ungratefully; but," he smiled, "as you see, I am still alive.
But beware that he does not summon you again alone. At that instant steps echoed in the corridor. A negro slave handed Gelimer a letter. The hero tore the cord that fastened the little wax tablet, glanced at the contents, and turned pale. It is true. Come at the tenth hour in the evening to my sleeping room, with no companion. I have a secret matter to discuss with you. I will not believe it. It may be accident.
Hilderic is weak; he hates me; but he is no murderer. But it is the duty of the friend to warn. Do not go there! And no one is permitted to have a private interview with the King except unarmed. And the short-sword? Cannot you conceal it in your sleeve or girdle? However, I will consider; there is one way of helping you in case of need. Yes, that will do.
I will pray that my thoughts may be fulfilled. You, too, my brother, pray. For you, we all, are to meet great dangers; and God alone sees the—". Here he stopped suddenly, clasped both hands around his head, and with a hoarse cry sank upon the couch. But the strain of this hour—was probably—too much. I will go—no, I need no support—to the basilica, to pray. Send Zazo there as soon as he returns—before you go to the King; do you hear? God grant my ardent desire! The Vandal war has been given up, and for what pitiable reasons! You know that I have thought it far wiser for our rulers to attend to the matters immediately around us than to meddle with the Barbarians.
For so long as this unbearable burden of taxation and abuse of official power continues in the Roman Empire, so long every conquest, every increase in the number of our subjects, will merely swell the list of unfortunates. Yet if Africa could be restored to the Empire, we ought not to relinquish the proud thought from sheer cowardice! There stands the ugly word,—unhappily a true one. From cowardice? Not Theodora's. Indeed, that is not one of the faults of this delicate, otherwise womanly woman.
Two years ago, when the terrible insurrection of the Greens and Blues in the Circus swept victoriously over the whole city, when Justinian despaired and wished to fly, Theodora's courage kept him in the palace, and Belisarius's fidelity saved him. But this time the blame does not rest upon the Emperor; it is the cowardice of the Roman army, or especially, the fleet. True, Justinian's zeal has cooled considerably since the failure of the crafty plan to destroy Genseric's kingdom; almost without a battle, principally by "arts,"—treachery, ordinary people term them.
Hilderic, at an appointed time, was to send his whole army into the interior for a great campaign against the Moors; our fleet was to run into the unprotected harbors of Carthage, land the army, occupy the city, and make Hilderic, Hoamer, and a Senator the Emperor's three governors of the recovered province of Africa. But this time we crafty ones were outwitted by a brain still more subtle. Our friend from Tripolis writes that he was deceived in the Arian priest whom he believed he had won for our cause.
This man, at first well disposed, afterwards became wavering, warned, dissuaded—nay, perhaps even betrayed the plan to the Vandals. So an open attack must be made. This pleased Belisarius, but not the Emperor. He hesitated. Meanwhile—Heaven knows through whom—the rumor of the coming Vandal war spread through the court, into the city, among the soldiers and sailors; and—disgrace and shame on us—nearly all the greatest dignitaries, the generals, and also the army and the fleet were seized with terror.
All remembered the last great campaign against this dreaded foe, when, two generations ago—it was under the Emperor Leo—the full strength of the whole empire was employed. Constantinople accomplished magnificent deeds. One hundred and thirty thousand pounds of gold were used; Basiliscus, the Emperor's brother-in-law, led a hundred thousand warriors to the Carthaginian coast.
All were destroyed in a single night. Genseric attacked with firebrands the triremes packed too closely together at the Promontory of Mercury, while his swift horsemen at the same time assailed the camp on the shore; fleet and army were routed in blood and flame. Even to the present day do the Prefect and the Treasurer lament the loss. The last money in the almost empty coffers will be flung into the sea! Each fears that the Emperor will choose him. And how, even if they overcome the terrors of the ocean, is a landing to be made upon a hostile coast defended by the dreaded Germans? The soldiers, who have just returned from the Persian War, have barely tasted the joys of home.
They are talking mutinously in every street; no sooner returned from the extreme East, they must be sent to the farthest West, to the Pillars of Hercules, to fight with Moors and Vandals. They were not used to sea-battles, were not trained for them, were not enlisted for the purpose, and therefore were under no obligations. The Prefect, especially, represented to the Emperor that Carthage was a hundred and fifty days' march by land from Egypt, while the sea was barred by the invincible fleet of the Vandals.
The Emperor has changed his mind. How the hero Belisarius fumes and rages! Theodora resents—in silence. But she vehemently desired this war! I am really no favorite of hers. I am far too independent, too much the master of my own thoughts, and my conscience pricks me often enough for my insincerity. She certainly has the best—that is, the best trained—conscience: it no longer disturbs her. Doubtless she smoothed down its pricks long ago. But I have repeatedly received the dainty little papyrus rolls whose seal bears a scorpion surrounded by flames,—little notes in which she earnestly urged me to the "war spirit," if I desired to retain her friendship.
Since I wrote this—a few days ago—new and important tidings have come from Africa. Great changes have taken place there, which perhaps may force the vacillating Emperor to go to war. What our statecraft had striven in the most eager and crafty manner to prevent has already happened in spite of this effort, perhaps in consequence of it. Gelimer is King of the Vandals! The archdeacon Verus—all names can be mentioned now—had really spun webs against, not for us.
He betrayed everything to Gelimer! Pudentius of Tripolis, who was secretly living in Carthage, was to have been seized; Verus had betrayed his hiding-place. It is remarkable, by the way, that Pudentius hastily fled from the city a short time before, on the priest's swiftest horse. That same day a mysterious event occurred in the palace, of which nothing is known definitely except the result—for Gelimer is King of the Vandals; but the connection, the causes, are very differently told.
Some say that Gelimer wanted to murder the King, others that the King tried to kill Gelimer. Others again whisper—so Pudentius writes—of a secret warning which reached the King: a stranger informed him by letter that Gelimer meant to murder him at their next private interview. The sovereign, to convince himself, must instantly summon him to one; the assassin would either refuse to come, from fear awakened by an evil conscience, or he would appear—contrary to the strict prohibition of court laws—secretly armed.
Hilderic must provide himself with a coat of mail and a dagger, and have help close at hand. The King obeyed this counsel. It is certain that he summoned Gelimer on the evening of that very day to an interview in his bedroom on the ground-floor of the palace. Gelimer came. The King embraced him, and in doing so, discovered the armor under his robe and called for help. The ruler's two nephews, Hoamer and Euages, rushed with drawn swords from the next room to kill the assassin.
But at the same moment Gelimer's two brothers, whom Verus had concealed amid the shrubbery in the garden, sprang through the low windows of the ground-floor. The King and Euages were disarmed and taken prisoners; Hoamer escaped. Hastening into the courtyard of the Capitol, he called the Vandals to arms to rescue their King, who had been murderously attacked by Gelimer. The Barbarians hesitated: Hilderic was unpopular, Gelimer a great favorite, and the people did not believe him capable of such a crime.
The latter now appeared, gave the lie to his accuser, and charged Hilderic and his nephews with the attempt at assassination. To decide the question he challenged Hoamer to single combat in the presence of the whole populace, and killed him at the first blow. The Vandals tumultuously applauded him, at once declared Hilderic deposed, and proclaimed Gelimer, who was the legal heir, their King. It was with the utmost difficulty that his intercession saved the lives of the two captives.
Verus is said to have been made prothonotary and chancellor, Gelimer's chief councillor, since he saved his life! We know better, we who were betrayed, how this priest earned his reward at our expense. But I believe that this change of ruler will compel the war. It is now a point of honor with Justinian to save or avenge his dethroned and imprisoned friend. I have already composed a wonderful letter to the "Tyrant" Gelimer which closes thus: "So, contrary to justice and duty, you are keeping your cousin, the rightful King of the Vandals, in chains, and robbing him of the crown.
Replace him on the throne, or know that we will march against you, and in so doing this sentence the Emperor of the Pandects dictated word for word —in so doing we shall not break the compact of perpetual peace formerly concluded with Genseric, for we shall not be fighting against Genseric's lawful successor, but to avenge him. The Emperor is more proud of that sentence than Belisarius of his great Persian victory at Dara.
If this Gelimer should actually do what we ask, the avengers of justice would be most horribly embarrassed. For we desire this war; that is, we wanted Africa long before the occurrence of the crime which we shall march to avenge—unless we prefer, with wise economy and caution, to remain at home. We have received the Vandal's answer. A right royal reply for a Barbarian and tyrant. But the Vandal people deposed Hilderic because he himself was planning evil against the Asding race, against the rightful heir to the throne, against our kingdom.
The law of succession summoned me, as the oldest of the Asding family after Hilderic, to the empty throne. If you break the peace guarded by sacred oaths, and attack us, we shall manfully defend ourselves, and appeal to God, who punishes perjury and wrong. I like you. King Gelimer! I am glad to have our Emperor of lawyers told that he must not blow what is not burning him: a proverb which to me seems a tolerably fair embodiment of all legal wisdom.
True, I have my own thoughts concerning the divine punishment of all earthly injustice. The Barbarian's letter has highly incensed Justinian, another proof that the Barbarian is right.
Java/The Scarlet gunyrojupa.tk at master · yx/Java · GitHub
But I believe we shall put this answer in our pockets just as quietly as we returned to its sheath the sword we had already drawn. The Emperor inveighs loudly against the Tyrant, but the army shouts still more loudly that it will not fight. And the Empress—is silent. Meanwhile King Gelimer was moving forward with all his power to preparations for the threatening conflict. He found much, very much, to be done. The King, assuming the chief direction, and working wherever he was needed, had given Zazo charge of the fleet and Gibamund that of the army.
One sultry August evening he received their reports. The three brothers had met in the great throne-room and armory of the palace, into which Gelimer had now moved; the open windows afforded a magnificent view of the harbors and the sea beyond them; the north wind brought a refreshing breath from the salt tide.
This portion of the ancient citadel had been rebuilt by the Vandal kings, changed to suit the necessities of life in a German palace. The round column of the Greeks had been replaced, in imitation of the wood used in the construction of the German halls, by huge square pillars of brown and red marble, which Africa produced in the richest variety. The ceiling was wainscoted with gayly painted or burned wood, and, on both stone and timber, besides the house-mark of the Asdings,—an A transfixed by an arrow,—many another rune, even many a short motto, was inscribed in Gothic characters.
Costly crimson silk hangings waved at the open arched windows; the walls were set with slabs of polished marble in the most varied contrast of often vivid colors, for the Barbarian taste loved bright hues. The floor was composed of polished mosaic, but it was rough and not well fitted. Genseric had simply brought whole shiploads of the brightest hues he could drag from the palaces of plundered Rome, with statues and bas-reliefs, which were put together here with little choice. Opposite to the side facing the sea, rose, at the summit of five steps, a stately structure, the throne of Genseric.
The steps were very broad; they were intended to accommodate the King's enormous train, the Palatines and Gardings, the leaders of the thousands and hundreds, stationed according to their rank and the ruler's favor. In their rich fantastic costumes and armor, a combination of German and Roman taste, they often gathered closely around the sovereign and stood crowding together; the scarlet silk Vandal banners fluttered above them, and a golden dragon swung by a rope from the tent-like canopy of the lofty purple throne.
When from this throne, at whose feet, as a symbolical tribute from conquered Moorish princes, lion and tiger skins lay piled a foot high, the mighty sea-king arose, swinging around his head with angry, threatening words the seven-lashed scourge a gift from his friend Attila , many an envoy of the Emperor forgot the arrogant speech he had prepared.
The wonderful splendor of this hall fairly bewildered the eye; but its richest ornament was the countless number of weapons of every variety, and of every nation, principally German, Roman, and Moorish; but also from all the other coasts and islands which the sea-king's corsair ships could visit. They covered all the pillars and walls; nay, the shields and breastplates were even spread over the entire ceiling.
A strange, dazzling light now poured over all this bronze, silver, and gold, as the slanting rays of the setting sun streamed from the northwest into the hall. A broad white marble table was completely covered with parchment and papyrus rolls, containing lists of the bodies of troops, by thousands and hundreds, drawings of ships, maps of the Vandal kingdom, charts of the Bay of Gades and the Tyrrhenian Sea.
But these hundred and fifty will be amply sufficient, and more than sufficient, to defend our own coast and to prevent a landing, if behind the fleet there stands a body of foot soldiers on the shore. No matter what I do, they will not drill. They want to drink and bathe and carouse and ride and see the games in the Circus, indulge in everything that consumes a man's marrow in that accursed grove of Venus.
They refuse to fight on foot, to take part in the drill of the foot soldiers. You know how much we need them. They appeal to the privileges bestowed by weak Sovereigns; they say they are no longer obliged to enter the ranks of the foot soldiers! Hilderic permitted every Vandal to buy freedom from it, if he would hire in his place two Moorish or other mercenaries.
And during your absence there was open rebellion; blood flowed on that account in the streets of Carthage. But the worst thing is, that these effeminate nobles and the richer citizens can no longer fight on foot. They say—and unfortunately it is true—that they can no longer bear the weight of the heavy helmets, breastplates, shields, and spears, no longer hurl the lances which I had brought out again from Genseric's arsenal.
I allow no one to enter the army with this rubbish; and before they are properly equipped, the victory and the Empire might be lost. But it is true: they can no longer carry Genseric's armor.
They would fall in a short time. They are swearing because we are now in the very hottest months. But I have gained twenty chiefs with about ten thousand men. He is the most powerful of them all! And his prophetic renown extends far beyond his tribe," observed Zazo. King Theudis is shrewd and cautious. I urged upon him earnestly I wrote the letter myself; I did not leave it to Verus that Constantinople was not threatening us Vandals solely; that the imperial troops could easily cross the narrow straits from Ceuta, if we were once vanquished.
I offered him an alliance. He answered evasively: he must first be sure of what we could accomplish in the war. Whether we conquer or are vanquished, we shall no longer need him! I warned her against Justinian, who was threatening her no less than us; I reminded her of the close kinship of our nations—". I besought nothing. I merely requested, as our just right, that the Ostrogoths at least would not aid our foes. As yet I have had no answer. But worse than the lack of allies, the most perilous thing is the utter, foolish undervaluation of the enemy among our own people," added the King.
They say, Why should we weary ourselves with drilling and arming? The little Greeks won't dare to attack us! And if they really do come, the grandsons of Genseric will destroy the grandsons of Basiliscus just as Genseric destroyed him. He closed the houses of Roman pleasure in Carthage; he compelled all women of light fame to marry or enter convents. To the cruelty of the fathers"—the King sighed deeply—"is added the dissipation, the intemperance, the effeminate indolence of the sons.
How can such a nation endure? It must succumb. Do we not bear the curse which—But hush! Not a word of that! It is the last straw of my hope that I, the King, at least wear this crown without guilt. Were I obliged to accuse myself of that, woe betide me! Oh—whose is this cold hand? You, Verus? You startled me. The priest—he had retained, even as chancellor, the ecclesiastical robe—had entered unobserved; how long before, no one knew. His eyes were fixed intently upon Gelimer, as he slowly withdrew the hand he had laid upon his friend's bare arm.
Guard your soul from guilt. I know your nature; it would crush you. You are infected also; not by Roman vices, but by Roman or Greek or Christian brooding over subtle questions. To put it more courteously: gnosticism, theosophy, or mysticism? I know nothing about it, cannot even think of it. How glad I am that our father did not send me to be educated by the priests and philosophers!
He soon discovered that Zazo's hard skull was fit only for the helmet, not to carry a reed behind the ear. But you! I always felt as though I were going into a dungeon when I visited you in your gloomy, high-walled monastery, in the solitude of the desert. Many, many years you dreamed away there among the books—lost. On him rests the hope of the Vandals.
We are not degenerates," answered the King. Uplift one that has fallen so low? And," he added slowly, suddenly raising his eyes and fixing them full upon Gelimer, "the sins of the fathers—". It will paralyze me. It cries aloud to Heaven for vengeance. Just now I was obliged, to comfort a dying man—". Again, from that grove devoted to every vice, there fell upon my ear the uproar, the infernal jubilee of evil revel.
Those shameless songs—". Did I not order, before my departure for Hippo, that all these games and festivals should cease? Did I not fix yesterday as the final limit, after which the grove must be cleared and all its houses closed? I sent three hundred lancers to see that my commands were obeyed. What are they doing? I saw a little group snoring under the archway of the gate. Up, follow me, my brothers! For the Vandals no longer obey the King's word unless at the same time they see the glitter of the King's sword.
The archdeacon, muttering softly to himself and shaking his head, slowly followed the three Asdings. The "lower city" of Carthage extended northward to the harbor, westward to the suburb of Aklas, the Numidian, and eastward to the Tripolitan suburb. Directly beyond its southern gate, covering a space more than two leagues long and a league wide, lay the oft-mentioned "Grove of Venus" or "Grove of the Holy Virgin.
The whole coast of the bay in this neighborhood, kept moist by the damp sea-air, had originally been covered with dense woods. The larger portion had long since yielded to the growth of the city; but, by the Emperor's order, a considerable part was retained and transformed into a magnificent park, adorned with all the skill and the lavish expenditure which characterized the time of the Caesars.
The main portion of this grove consisted of date palms. These were introduced by the Phoenicians. The palm, say the Arabs, gladly sets her feet as queen of the desert into damp sand, but lifts her head into the glow of the sun. It thrived magnificently here, and in centuries of growth the slender columns of the trunks attained a height of fifty feet; no sunbeam could penetrate vertically through the roof of drooping leaves of those thick crowns, which rustled and nodded dreamily in the wind, wooing, inviting to sleep, to unresisting indolence, to drowsy thoughts.
But they stood sufficiently far apart to allow the light and air to enter from the sides and to permit smaller trees dwarf palms , bushes, and flowers to grow luxuriantly beneath the shelter of the lofty crowns. Besides the palms, other noble trees had been first planted and fostered by human hands, then had increased through the peerless fertility of nature: the plane-tree, with its lustrous light bark; the pine, the cypress, and the laurel; the olive, which loves the salt breath of the sea; the pomegranate, so naturalized here that its fruit was called "the Carthaginian apple"; while figs, citrus-trees, apricots, peaches, almonds, chestnuts, pistachios, terebinths, oleanders, and myrtles,—sometimes as large trees, sometimes as shrubs,—formed, as it were, the undergrowth of the glorious palm forest.
And the skill in gardening of the Roman imperial days, which has scarcely been equalled since, aided by irrigation from the immense aqueducts, had created here, on the edge of the desert, marvels of beauty. First there was a thick luxuriant green turf, which, even in the hottest days of the year, had hardly a single sunburnt patch. The wind had borne the flower-seeds from the numerous beds, and now everywhere amid the grass blossoms shone in the vivid, glowing hues with which the African sun loves to paint. The parterres of flowers which were scattered through the entire grove suffered, it is true, from a certain monotony.
The variety that now adorns our gardens was absent: the rose, the narcissus, the violet, and the anemone stood almost alone; but these appeared in countless varieties, in colors artificially produced, and were often made to blossom before or after their regular season. In this world of trees, bushes, and flowers the lavishness of the emperors who had formerly often resided here , the munificence of the governors, and still more the endowments of wealthy citizens of Carthage had erected an immense number of buildings of every variety.
For centuries patriotism, a certain sense of honor, and often vanity, boastfulness, and a desire to perpetuate a name, had induced wealthy citizens to keep themselves in remembrance by erecting structures for the public benefit, laying out pleasure-grounds, and putting up monuments. This local patriotism of the former citizens, both in its praiseworthy and its petty motives, had by no means died out. Solemn tombs separated by very narrow spaces lined both sides of the broad Street of Legions, which ran straight through the grove from north to south. Besides these there were buildings of every description, and also baths, ponds, little lakes with waterworks, marble quays, and dainty harbors for the light pleasure-boats, circus buildings, amphitheatres, stages, stadia for athletic sports, hippodromes, open colonnades, temples with all their numerous and extensive outbuildings scattered everywhere through the grounds of the whole park.
The grove had originally been dedicated to Aphrodite Venus , therefore statues of this goddess and of Eros Cupid appeared most frequently in the wide grounds, though Christian zeal had shattered the heads, breasts, and noses of many such figures and broken the bow of many a Cupid. Since the reign of Constantine, most of the pagan temples had been converted into Christian oratories and churches, but by no means all; and those that had been withdrawn from the service of the pagan religion and not used for the Christian one had now for two centuries, with their special gardens, arbors, and grottoes, been the scenes of much vice, gambling, drunkenness, and matters even worse.
The gods had been driven out; the demons had entered. Among more than a hundred buildings in the grove, two near the Southern Gate of the city were specially conspicuous: the Old Circus and the Amphitheatre of Theodosius. The Old Circus had been erected in the period of the greatest prosperity of Carthage, the whole spacious structure, with its eighty thousand seats, was planned to accommodate its great population.
Now most of the rows stood empty; many of the Roman families, since the Vandal conquest, had moved away, been driven forth, exiled. The rich bronze ornaments of numerous single seats, rows, and boxes had been broken off. This was done not by the Vandals, who did not concern themselves about such trifles, but by the Roman inhabitants of the city and by the neighboring peasants; they even wrenched off and carried away the marble blocks from the buildings in the grove. The granite lower story, a double row of arches, supported the rows of marble seats, which rose from within like an amphitheatre.
Outside, the Circus was surrounded by numerous entrances and outside staircases, besides niches occupied as shops, especially workshops, cookshops, taverns, and fruit booths. Here, by night and day, many evil-minded people were always lounging; from the larger ones, hidden by curtains from the eyes of the passing throng, cymbals and drums clashed, in token that, within, Syrian and Egyptian girls were performing their voluptuous dances for a few copper coins.
South of the Circus was a large lake, fed with sea-water from the "Stagnum," whose whole contents could be turned into the amphitheatre directly adjoining it. The sultry heat of an African summer day still brooded over the whole grove, although the sun had long since sunk into the sea, and the brief twilight had passed into the darkness of night. But the full moon was already rising above the palm-trees, pouring her magical light over trees, bushes, meadows, and water; over the marble statues which gleamed fantastically out of the darkest, blackish-green masses of shrubbery; and over the buildings, which were principally of white or light-colored stone.
BOOK ONE. — BEFORE THE WAR
In the more distant portions of the grove Diana's soft silvery light ruled alone, and here deep, chaste silence reigned, interrupted only here and there by the note of some night bird. But near the gate, in the two great main buildings, and on the turf and in the gardens surrounding them, the noisy uproar of many thousands filled the air. All the instruments known at the time were playing discordantly, drowning one another. Cries of pleasure, drunkenness, even rage and angry conflict, were heard in the Roman, the Greek, the Moorish, and especially the Vandal tongue; for perhaps the largest and certainly the noisiest "guests of the grove," as the companions in these pleasures called themselves, belonged to the race of conquerors, who here gave vent to all their longing and capacity for pleasure.
Two men, wearing the German costume, were walking down the broad street to the Circus. The dress was conspicuous here, for nearly all the Vandals, except the royal family, had either exchanged the German garb, nay, even the German weapons, for Roman ones, or for convenience, effeminacy, love of finery, adopted one or another article of Roman attire. These two men, however, had German cloaks, helmets, and weapons.