Antonina, by Wilkie Collins

Chapter 26.

Retribution.

As, in the progress of Life, each man pursues his course with the passions, good and evil, set, as it were, on either side of him; and viewing their results in the actions of his fellow-men, finds his attention, while still attracted by the spectacle of what is noble and virtuous, suddenly challenged by the opposite display of what is mean and criminal — so, in the progress of this narrative, which aims to be the reflection of Life, the reader who has journeyed with us thus far, and who may now be inclined to follow the little procession of Christian devotees, to walk by the side of the afflicted father, and to hold with him the hand of his ill-fated child, is yet, in obedience to the conditions of the story, required to turn back for awhile to the contemplation of its darker passages of guilt and terror — he must enter the temple again; but he will enter it for the last time.

The scene before the altar of idols was fast proceeding to its fatal climax.

The Pagan’s frenzy had exhausted itself in its own fury — his insanity was assuming a quieter and a more dangerous form; his eye grew cunning and suspicious; a stealthy deliberation and watchfulness appeared in all his actions. He now slowly lifted his foot from Goisvintha’s breast, and raised his hands at the same time to strike her back if she should attempt to escape. Seeing that she lay senseless from her fall, he left her; retired to one of the corners of the temple, took from it a rope that lay there, and returning, bound her arms behind her at the hands and wrists. The rope cut deep through the skin — the pain restored her to her senses; she suffered the sharp agony in her own body, in the same place where she had inflicted it on the young chieftain at the farm-house beyond the suburbs.

The minute after, she felt herself dragged along the ground, farther into the interior of the building. The madman drew her up to the iron gates of the passage through the partition, and fastening the end of the rope to them, left her there. This part of the temple was enveloped in total darkness — her assailant addressed not a word to her — she could not obtain even a glimpse of his form, but she could hear him still laughing to himself in hoarse, monotonous tones, that sounded now near, and now distant again.

She abandoned herself as lost — prematurely devoted to the torment and death that she had anticipated; but, as yet, her masculine resolution and energy did not decline. The very intensity of the anguish she suffered from the bindings at her wrists, producing a fierce bodily effort to resist it, strengthened her iron-strung nerves. She neither cried for help nor appealed to the Pagan for pity. The gloomy fatalism which she had inherited from her savage ancestors sustained her in a suicide-pride.

Ere long the laughter of Ulpius, while he moved slowly hither and thither in the darkness of the temple, was overpowered by the sound of her voice — deep, groaning, but yet steady — as she uttered her last words — words poured forth like the wild dirges, the fierce death-songs of the old Goths when they died deserted on the bloody battle-field, or were cast bound into deep dungeons, a prey to the viper and the asp. Thus she spoke:— ‘I swore to be avenged! while I went forth from Aquileia with the child that was killed and the child that was wounded; while I climbed the high wall in the night-time, and heard the tumult of the beating waves near the bank where I buried the dead; while I wandered in the darkness over the naked heath and through the lonely forest; while I climbed the pathless sides of the mountains, and made my refuge in the cavern by the waters of the dark lake.

‘I swore to be avenged! while the warriors approached me on their march, and the roaring of the trumpets and the clash of the armour sounded in my ears; while I greeted my kinsman, Hermanric, a mighty chieftain, at the king’s side, among the invading hosts; while I looked on my last child, dead like the rest, and knew that he was buried afar from the land of his people, and from the others that the Romans had slain before him.

‘I swore to be avenged! while the army encamped before Rome, and I stood with Hermanric, looking on the great walls in the misty evening; while the daughter of the Roman was a prisoner in our tent, and I eyed her as she lay on my knees; while for her sake my kinsman turned traitor, and withheld my hand from the blow; while I passed unseen into the lonely farm-house to deal judgment on him with my knife; while I saw him die the death of a deserter at my feet, and knew that it was a Roman who had lured him from his people, and blinded him to the righteousness of revenge.

‘I swore to be avenged! while I walked round the grave of the chieftain who was the last of my race; while I stood alone out of the army of my people in the city of the slayers of my babes; while I tracked the footsteps of the Roman who had twice escaped me, as she fled through the street; while I watched and was patient among the pillars of the temple, and waited till the sun went down, and the victim was unshielded for the moment to strike.

‘I swore to be avenged! and my oath has been fulfilled — the knife that still bleeds drops with her blood; the chief vengeance has been wreaked! The rest that were to be slain remain for others, and not for me! For now I go to my husband and my children; now the hour is near at hand when I shall herd with their spirits in the Twilight World of Shadows, and make my long-abiding place with them in the Valley of Eternal Repose! The Destinies have willed it — it is enough!’

Her voice trembled and grew faint as she pronounced the last words. The anguish of the fastenings at her wrists was at last overpowering her senses — conquering, in spite of all resistance, her stubborn endurance. For a little while yet she spoke at intervals, but her speech was fragmentary and incoherent. At one moment she still gloried in her revenge, at another she exulted in the fancied contemplation of the girl’s body still lying before her, and her hands writhed beneath their bonds in the effort to repossess themselves of the knife and strike again. But soon all sounds ceased to proceed from her lips, save the loud, thick, irregular breathings, which showed that she was yet conscious and yet lived.

Meanwhile the madman had passed into the inner recess of the temple, and had drawn the shutter over the opening in the wall, through which light had been admitted into the place when Numerian and Antonina first entered it. Even the black chasm formed by the mouth of the vault of the dragon now disappeared, with all other objects, in the thick darkness. But no obscurity could confuse the senses of Ulpius in the temple, whose every corner he visited in his restless wanderings by night and by day alike. Led as if by a mysterious penetration of sight, he traced his way unerringly to the entrance of the vault, knelt down before it, and placing his hands on the first of the steps by which it was descended, listened, breathless and attentive, to the sounds that rose from the abyss — listened, rapt and unmoving, a formidable and unearthly figure — like a magician waiting for a voice from the oracles of Hell — like a spirit of Night looking down into the mid-caverns of the earth, and watching the mysteries of subterranean creation, the giant pulses of Action and Heat, which are the life-springs of the rolling world.

The fitful wind whistled up, wild and plaintive; the river chafed and bubbled through the iron grating below; the loose scales of the dragon clashed as the night breezes reached them: and these sounds were still to him as the language of his gods, which filled him with a fearful rapture, and inspired him, in the terrible degradation of his being, as with a new soul. He listened and listened yet. Fragments of wild fancies — the vain yearnings of the disinherited mind to recover its divine birthright of boundless thought — now thrilled through him, and held him still and speechless where he knelt.

But at length, through the gloomy silence of the recess, he heard the voice of Goisvintha raised once more, and in hoarse, wild tones calling aloud for light and help. The agony of pain and suspense, the awful sense of darkness and stillness, of solitary bondage and slow torment, had at last effected that which no open peril, no common menace of violent death could have produced. She yielded to fear and despair — sank prostrate under a paralysing, superstitious dread. The misery that she had inflicted on others recoiled in retribution on herself, as she now shuddered under the consciousness of the first emotions of helpless terror that she had ever felt.

Ulpius instantly rose from the vault, and advanced straight through the darkness to the gates of the partition; but he passed his prisoner without stopping for an instant, and hastening into the outer apartment of the temple, began to grope over the floor for the knife which the woman had dropped when he bound her. He was laughing to himself once more, for the evil spirit was prompting him to a new project, tempting him to a pitiless refinement of cruelty and deceit.

He found the knife, and returning with it to Goisvintha, cut the rope that confined her wrists. Then she became silent when the first sharpness of her suffering was assuaged; he whispered softly in her ear, ‘Follow me, and escape!’

Bewildered and daunted by the darkness and mystery around her, she vainly strained her eyes to look through the obscurity as Ulpius drew her on into the recess. He placed her at the mouth of the vault, and here she strove to speak; but low, inarticulate sounds alone proceeded from her powerless utterance. Still there was no light; still the burning, gnawing agony at her wrists (relieved but for an instant when the rope was cut) continued and increased; and still she felt the presence of the unseen being at her side, whom no darkness could blind, and who bound and loosed at his arbitrary will.

By nature fierce, resolute, and vindictive under injury, she was a terrible evidence of the debasing power of crime, as she now stood, enfeebled by the weight of her own avenging guilt, upraised to crush her in the hour of her pride; by the agency of Darkness, whose perils the innocent and the weak have been known to brave; by Suspense, whose agony they have resisted; by Pain, whose infliction they have endured in patience.

‘Go down, far down the steep steps, and escape!’ whispered the madman, in soft, beguiling tones. ‘The darkness above leads to the light below! Go down, far down!’

He quitted his hold of her as he spoke. She hesitated, shuddered, and drew back; but again she was urged forward, and again she heard the whisper, ‘The darkness above leads to the light below! Go down, far down!’

Despair gave the firmness to proceed, and dread the hope to escape. Her wounded arms trembled as she now stretched them out and felt for the walls of the vault on either side of her. The horror of death in utter darkness, from unseen hands, and the last longing aspiration to behold the light of heaven once more, were at their strongest within her as she began slowly and cautiously to tread the fatal stairs.

While she descended, the Pagan dropped into his former attitude at the month of the vault, and listened breathlessly. Minutes seemed to elapse between each step as she went lower and lower down. Suddenly he heard her pause, as if panic-stricken in the darkness, and her voice ascended to him, groaning, ‘Light! light! oh, where is the light!’ He rose up, and stretched out his hands to hurl her back if she should attempt to return; but she descended again. Twice he heard her heavy footfall on the steps — then there was an interval of deep silence — then a sharp, grinding clash of metal echoed piercingly through the vault, followed by the noise of a dull, heavy fall, faintly audible far beneath — and then the old familiar sounds of the place were heard again, and were not interrupted more. The sacrifice to the Dragon was achieved!

The madman stood on the steps of the sacred building, and looked out on the street shining before him in the bright Italian moonlight. No remembrance of Numerian and Antonina, and of the earlier events in the temple, remained within him. He was pondering imperfectly, in vague pride and triumph, over the sacrifice that he had offered up at the shrine of the Dragon of brass. Thus secretly exulting, he now remained inactive. Absorbed in his wandering meditations, he delayed to trace the subterranean passages leading to the iron grating where the corpse of Goisvintha lay washed by the waters, as they struggled onward through the bars, and waiting but his hand to be cast into the river, where all past sacrifices had been engulphed before it.

His tall solitary figure was lit by the moonlight streaming through the pillars of the portico; his loose robes waved slowly about him in the wind, as he stood firm and erect before the door of the temple: he looked more like the spectral genius of departed Paganism than a living man. But, lifeless though he seemed, his quick eye was still on the watch, still directed by the restless suspicion of insanity. Minute after minute quietly elapsed, and as yet nothing was presented to his rapid observation but the desolate roadway, and the high, gloomy houses that bounded it on either side. It was soon, however, destined to be attracted by objects which startled the repose of the tranquil street with the tumult of action and life.

He was still gazing earnestly on the narrow view before him, vaguely imagining to himself, the while, Goisvintha’s fatal descent into the vault, and thinking triumphantly of her dead body that now lay on the grating beneath it, when a red glare of torchlight, thrown wildly on the moon-brightened pavement, whose purity it seemed to stain, caught his eye.

The light appeared at the end of the street leading from the more central portion of the city, and ere long displayed clearly a body of forty or fifty people advancing towards the temple. The Pagan looked eagerly on them as they came nearer and nearer. The assembly was composed of priests, soldiers, and citizens — the priests bearing torches, the soldiers carrying hammers, crowbars, and other similar tools, or bending under the weight of large chests secured with iron fastenings, close to which the populace walked, as if guarding them with jealous care. This strange procession was preceded by two men, who were considerably in advance of it — a priest and soldier. An expression of impatience and exultation appeared on their pale, famine-wasted countenances, as they approached the temple with rapid steps.

Ulpius never moved from his position, but fixed his piercing eyes on them as they advanced. Not vainly did he now stand, watchful and menacing, before the entrance of his gloomy shrine. He had seen the first degradations heaped on fallen Paganism, and he was now to see the last. He had immolated all his affections and all his hopes, all his faculties of body and mind, his happiness in boyhood, his enthusiasm in youth, his courage in manhood, his reason in old age, at the altar of his gods; and now they were to exact from him, in their defence, lonely criminal, maddened, as he already was in their cause, more than all this! The decree had gone forth from the Senate which devoted to legalised pillage the treasures in the temples of Rome.

Rulers of a people impoverished by former exactions, and comptrollers only of an exhausted treasury, the government of the city had searched vainly among all ordinary resources for the means of paying the heavy ransom exacted by Alaric as the price of peace. The one chance of meeting the emergency that remained was to strip the Pagan temples of the mass of jewelled ornaments and utensils, the costly robes, the idols of gold and silver which they were known to contain, and which, under that mysterious hereditary influence of superstition, whose power it is the longest labour of truth to destroy, had remained untouched and respected, alike by the people and the senate, after the worship that they represented had been interdicted by the laws, and abandoned by the nation.

This last expedient for freeing Rome from the blockade was adopted almost as soon as imagined. The impatience of the starved populace for the immediate collection of the ransom allowed the government little time for the tedious preliminaries of deliberation. The soldiers were provided at once with the necessary implements for the task imposed on them; certain chosen members of the senate and the people followed them, to see that they honestly gathered in the public spoil; and the priests of the Christian churches volunteered to hallow the expedition by their presence, and led the way with their torches into every secret apartment of the temples where treasure might be contained. At the close of the day, immediately after it had been authorised, this strange search for the ransom was hurriedly commenced. Already much had been collected; votive offerings of price had been snatched from the altars, where they had so long hung undisturbed; hidden treasure-chests of sacred utensils had been discovered and broken open; idols had been stripped of their precious ornaments and torn from their massive pedestals; and now the procession of gold-seekers, proceeding along the banks of the Tiber, had come in sight of the little temple of Serapis, and were hastening forward to empty it, in its turn, of every valuable that it contained.

The priest and the soldier, calling to their companions behind to hurry on, had now arrived opposite the temple steps, and saw confronting them in the pale moonlight, from the eminence on which he stood, the weird and solitary figure of Ulpius — the apparition of a Pagan in the gorgeous robes of his priesthood, bidden back from the tombs to stay the hand of the spoiler before the shrine of his gods.

The soldier dropped his weapon to the ground, and, trembling in every limb, refused to proceed. But the priest, a tall, stern, emaciated man, went on defenceless and undaunted. He signed himself solemnly with the cross as he slowly ascended the steps; fixed his unflinching eyes on the madman, who glared back on him in return; and called aloud in a harsh, steady voice: ‘Man or demon! in the name of Christ, whom thou deniest, stand back!’

For an instant, as the priest approached him, the Pagan averted his eyes and looked on the concourse of people and the armed soldiers rapidly advancing. His fingers closed round the hilt of Goisvintha’s knife, which he had hitherto held loosely in his hand, as he exclaimed in low, concentrated tones, ‘Aha! the siege — the siege of Serapis!’ The priest, now standing on the same step with him, stretched out his arm to thrust him back, and at that moment received the stroke of the knife. He staggered, lifted his hand again to sign his forehead with the cross, and, as he raised it, rolled back dead on the pavement of the street.

The soldier, standing motionless with superstitious terror a few feet from the corpse, called to his companions for help. Hurling his bloody weapon at them in defiance, as they ran in confusion to the base of the temple steps, Ulpius entered the building, and locked and chained the gates.

Then the assembled people thronging round the corpse of the priest, heard the madman shouting in his frenzy, as if to a great body of adherents round him, to pour down the molten lead and the scorching sand; to hurl back every scaling ladder planted against the walls; to massacre each prisoner who was seized mounting the ramparts to the assault; and as they looked up to the building from the street, they saw at intervals, through the bars of the closed gates, the figure of Ulpius passing swift and shadowy, his arms extended, his long grey hair and white robes streaming behind him, as he rushed round and round the temple reiterating his wild Pagan war-cries as he went. The enfeebled, superstitious populace trembled while they gazed — a spectre driven on a whirlwind would not have been more terrible to their eyes.

But the priest among the crowd, roused to fury by the murder of one of their own body, revived the courage of those around them. Even the shouts of Ulpius were now overpowered by the sound of their voices, raised to the highest pitch, promising heavenly and earthly rewards — salvation, money, absolution, promotion — to all who would follow them up the steps and burst their way into the temple. Animated by the words of the priests, and growing gradually confident in their own numbers, the boldest in the throng seized a piece of timber lying by the river side, and using it as a battering-ram, assailed the gate. But they were weakened with famine; they could gain little impetus, from the necessity of ascending the temple steps to the attack; the iron quivered as they struck it, but hinge and lock remained firm alike. They were preparing to renew the attempt, when a tremendous shock — a crash as if the whole heavy roof of the building had fallen in — drove them back in terror to the street.

Recalled by the sight of the armed men, the priests and the attendant crowd of people who were advancing to invade his sanctuary, to the days when he had defended the great Temple of Serapis at Alexandria, against enemies similar in appearance, though far superior in numbers; persuaded in the revival of these, the most sanguinary visions of his insanity, that he was still resisting the Christian fanatics, supported by his adherents in his sacred fortress of former years, the Pagan displayed none of his accustomed cunning and care in moving through the darkness around him. He hurried hither and thither, encouraging his imaginary followers, and glorying in his dreams of slaughter and success, forgetful in his frenzy of all that the temple contained.

As he pursued his wild course round and round the altar of idols, his robe became entangled, and was torn by the projecting substances at one corner of it. The whole overhanging mass tottered at the moment, but did not yet fall. A few of the smaller idols, however, at the outside dropped to the ground, and with them an image of Serapis, which they happened partially to support — a heavy monstrous figure, carved life-size in wood, and studded with gold, silver, and precious stones — fell at the Pagan’s feet. But this was all — the outer materials of the perilous structure had been detached only at one point; the pile itself still remained in its place.

The madman seized the image of Serapis in his arms, and passed blindly onward with it through the passage in the partition into the recess beyond. At that instant the shock of the first attack on the gates resounded through the building. Shouting, as he heard it, ‘A sally! a sally! men of the Temple, the gods and the high priest lead you on!’ and still holding the idol before him, he rushed straight forward to the entrance, and struck in violent collision against the backward part of the pile.

The ill-balanced, top-heavy mass of images and furniture of many temples swayed, parted, and fell over against the gates and the wall on either side of them. Maimed and bleeding, struck down by the lower part of the pile, as it was forced back against the partition when the upper part fell, the fury of Ulpius was but increased by the crashing ruin around him. He struggled up again into an erect position; mounted on the top of the fallen mass — now spread out at the sides over the floor of the building, but confined at one end by the partition, and at the other by the opposite wall and the gates — and still clasping the image of Serapis in his arms, called louder and louder to ‘the men of the Temple’ to mount with him the highest ramparts and pour down on the besiegers the molten lead!

The priests were again the first men to approach the gates of the building after the shock that had been heard within it. The struggle for the possession of the temple had assumed to them the character of a holy warfare against heathenism and magic — a sacred conflict to be sustained by the Church, for the sake of her servant who had fallen a martyr at the outset of the strife. Strong in their fanatical boldness, they advanced with one accord close to the gates. Some of the smaller images of the fallen pile had been forced through the bars, behind which appeared the great idols, the broken masses of furniture, the long robes and costly hangings, all locked together in every wild variety of position — a chaos of distorted objects heaped up by an earthquake! Above and further inward, the lower part of the Pagan’s robe was faintly discernible through the upper interstices in the gate, as he stood, commanding, on the summit of his prostrate altar, with his idol in his arms.

The priests felt an instant conviction of certain triumph when they discerned the cause of the shock that had been heard within the temple. One of their number snatched up a small image that had fallen through to the pavement where he stood, and holding it before the people below, exclaimed exultingly —

‘Children of the Church! the mystery is revealed! Idols more precious than this lie by hundreds on the floor of the temple! It is no demon, but a man, one man, who still defies us within! — a robber who would defraud the Romans of the ransom of their lives! — the pillage of many temples is around him. Remember now, that the nearer we came to this place the fewer were the spoils of idolatry that we gathered in; the treasure which is yours, the treasure which is to free you from the famine, has been seized by the assassin of our holy brother; it is there scattered at his feet! To the gates! To the gates again! Absolution for all their sins to the men who burst in the gates!’

Again the mass of timber was taken up; again the gates were assailed; and again they stood firm — they were now strengthened, barricaded by the fallen pile. It seemed hopeless to attempt to break them down without a reinforcement of men, without employing against them the heaviest missiles, the strongest engines of war.

The people gave vent to a cry of fury as they heard from the temple the hollow laughter of the madman triumphing in their defeat. The words of the priest, in allaying their superstitious fears, had aroused the deadly passions that superstition brings forth. A few among the throng hurried to the nearest guard-house for assistance, but the greater part pressed closely round the temple — some pouring forth impotent execrations against the robber of the public spoil, some joining the priests in calling on him to yield. But the clamour lasted not long; it was suddenly and strangely stilled by the voice of one man in the crowd, calling loudly to the rest to fire the temple!

The words were hardly spoken ere they were repeated triumphantly on all sides. ‘Fire the temple!’ cried the people ferociously. ‘Burn it over the robber’s head! A furnace — a furnace! to melt down the gold and silver ready to our hands! Fire the temple! Fire the temple!’

Those who were most active among the crowd (which was now greatly increased by stragglers from all parts of the city) entered the houses behind them, and returned in a few minutes with every inflammable substance that they could collect in their hands. A heap of fuel, two or three feet in height, was raised against the gates immediately, and soldiers and people pressed forward with torches to light it. But the priest who had before spoken waved them back. ‘Wait!’ he cried; ‘the fate of his body is with the people, but the fate of his soul is with the Church!’

Then, turning to the temple, he called solemnly and sternly to the madman, ‘Thy hour is come! repent, confess, and save thy soul!’

‘Slay on! slay on!’ answered the raving voice from within. ‘Slay, till not a Christian is left! Victory! Serapis! See, they drop from our walls! — they writhe bleeding on the earth beneath us! There is no worship but the worship of the gods! Slay! Slay on!’

‘Light!’ cried the priest. ‘His damnation be on his own head! Anathema! Maranatha! Let him die accursed!’

The dry fuel was fired at once at all points — it was an anticipation of an ‘Auto da Fe’, a burning of a heretic, in the fifth century! As the flames rose, the people fell back and watched their rapid progress. The priests, standing before them in a line, stretched out their hands in denunciation against the temple, and repeated together the awful excommunication service of the Roman Church.

The fire at the gates had communicated with the idols inside. It was no longer on his prostrate altar, but on his funeral pile that Ulpius now stood; and the image that he clasped was the stake to which he was bound. A red glare, dull at first, was now brightening and brightening below him; flames, quick and noiseless, rose and fell, and rose again, at different points, illuminating the interior of the temple with fitful and changing light. The grim, swarthy forms of the idols seemed to sway and writhe like living things in torment, as fire and smoke alternately displayed and concealed them. A deadly stillness now overspread the face and form of the Pagan, as he looked down steadfastly on the deities of his worship engendering his destruction beneath him. His cheek — the cheek which had rested in boyhood on his mother’s bosom — was pressed against the gilded breast of the god Serapis, his taskmaster in life — his pillow in death!

‘I rise! I rise to the world of light, with my deities whom I have served!’ he murmured; ‘the brightness of their presence is like a flaming fire; the smoke of their breath pours forth around me like the smoke of incense! I minister in the Temples of the Clouds; and the glory of eternal sunlight shines round me while I adore! I rise! I rise!’

The smoke whirled in black volumes over his head; the fierce voice of the fast-spreading fire roared on him; the flames leapt up at his feet — his robes kindled, burst into radiant light, as the pile yawned and opened under him.

Time had passed. The strife between the Temple and the Church was ended. The priests and the people had formed a wider circle round the devoted building; all that was inflammable in it had been burnt; smoke and flame now burst only at intervals through the gates, and gradually both ceased to appear. Then the crowd approached nearer to the temple, and felt the heat of the furnace they had kindled, as they looked in.

The iron gates were red hot — from the great mass behind (still glowing bright in some places, and heaving and quivering with its own heat) a thin, transparent vapour rose slowly to the stone roof of the building, now blackened with smoke. The priests looked eagerly for the corpse of the Pagan; they saw two dark, charred objects closely united together, lying in a chasm of ashes near the gate, at a spot where the fire had already exhausted itself, but it was impossible to discern which was the man and which was the idol.

The necessity of providing means for entering the temple had not been forgotten while the flames were raging. Proper implements for forcing open the gates were now at hand, and already the mob began to dip their buckets in the Tiber, and pour water wherever any traces of the fire remained. Soon all obstacles were removed; the soldiers crowded into the building with spades in their hands, trampled on the black, watery mire of cinders which covered what had once been the altar of idols, and throwing out into the street the refuse ashes and the stone images which had remained unconsumed, dug in what was left, as in a new mine, for the gold and silver which the fire could not destroy.

The Pagan had lived with his idols, had perished with his idols! — and now where they were cast away, there he was cast away with them. The soldiers, as they dug into fragments the black ruins of his altar, mingled him in fragments with it! The people, as they cast the refuse thrown out to them into the river, cast what remained of him with what remained of his gods! And when the temple was deserted, when the citizens had borne off all the treasure they could collect, when nothing but a few heaps of dust was left of all that had been burnt, the night-wind blew away before it the ashes of Ulpius with the ashes of the deities that Ulpius had served!

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Last updated Thursday, March 13, 2014 at 21:30