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قراءة كتاب The Continental Monthly, Vol. 6, No. 6, December 1864 Devoted To Literature And National Policy

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‏اللغة: English
The Continental Monthly, Vol. 6, No. 6, December 1864
Devoted To Literature And National Policy

The Continental Monthly, Vol. 6, No. 6, December 1864 Devoted To Literature And National Policy

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
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would be but a slender hope to lean upon. In that boiling, seething world of Rome, now more than ever disturbed by the inroads of strangers eagerly looking forward to the excitements of the amphitheatre, it would be in vain to make even deliberate and careful search for a lost slave, unless some clew should be left behind. Yes, she must surely have that clew; and doubtless she purposed to use it as soon as daylight came. Let her go now, therefore. It were idle to call her back only for new flight in a few hours hence.

Still with his hand resting upon the bolt as these reflections passed through his mind, Sergius glanced keenly at Leta, as though possessed with some dim suspicion that she had meant her words to be overheard. Then, feeling reassured by her composed attitude, he turned away, muttered something to himself the import of which she could not catch, dropped his hand from the undrawn bolt to his side, stood for a moment in a kind of maze of confusion, and finally left the prison, and staggered through the garden to the house.

CHAPTER XVII.

Stunned and confused by her sudden exclusion, and naturally believing that it was the result of deliberate action upon her husband's part, Ænone now felt all her sudden inspiration of courage deserting her, and sank half fainting against the outside wall. For a moment it seemed to her like a dream. She could realize suspicion, harsh language, and even cruel treatment within a certain limit, for these were all within the scope of her late experience; but it was hard to comprehend this unlooked-for and apparently deliberate excess of degradation. But gradually the mist cleared away from her bewildered mind, and she recognized the reality of what had befallen her. Still, however, her thoughts could not at once grapple with the overwhelming sense of the indignity and suffering cast upon her. She could not doubt that she had been expelled from her lord's house—cast out unprotected and friendless in the midst of night, with undeserved reproaches. But, for all that, a delusive hope clung to her. He could not mean that this should last. It was but an impulse of sudden anger. He would repent of it in a moment, and would call upon her to return to him. He would shed tears of bitter shame, perhaps, and would beg that she would forgive him. And she would be foolish enough to do so, she felt, at the very first pleading word from him; though at the same time feeling that her own self-respect should prompt her to show more lasting resentment. If thus easily forgot the past, what security could she feel that, in some future transport of rage, he might not repeat the act? But for all that, she felt that she would weakly too soon forgive him.

Sliding her trembling hand down the damp wall, she found along its foot a ledge of stone more or less projecting in different sections, in accordance with the architectural requirements of the building. Seating herself upon the widest portion of this ledge, she now waited to hear the key again turned in the lock and the door swung open upon its creaking hinges, and to see loving arms extended with repentant words of self-reproach. Once or twice she fancied that she heard the key softly fitted into its place, but it was only the abrasion of two contiguous branches of a plane tree overhead. Once again she felt certain that she heard the sound of persons approaching through the garden, but it was the voice of men in the street—two slaves coming around the corner and drawing near, speaking some harsh northern dialect which she knew not. As the men approached, she endeavored to shrink out of sight behind a perpendicular projection of the wall, and nearly succeeded. They had passed, indeed, before they noticed her. Then they turned and gazed curiously at her; and one of them made some remark, apparently of a jesting nature, for they both laughed. Then again they turned and moved on out of sight without attempting further molestation.

But the incident alarmed her, and caused her to realize yet more vividly than before the exceeding unprotectedness of her situation. These men had not sought to injure her, but how could she answer for the next who might approach? It was a lonely, dark street, narrow, and comparatively seldom used, and but little built upon, being mainly flanked by garden walls. Upon the side where she sat there were no buildings at all, excepting low prison houses for slaves, similar to that belonging to the Vanno palace—for the street ran along an inner slope of the Cœlian Mount and parallel to the Triumphal Way, and thus naturally served as a rear boundary to the gardens of the palaces and villas which fronted upon the latter avenue. This very loneliness, therefore, added to her insecurity; for though it was possible that no one else might pass by for hours, there was the equal chance that if any one came with evil intent, she might be murdered before help could be summoned. And at a time when the broadest streets were never entirely safe even for armed men, a weak woman, with tempting jewelry upon her person, might well shudder at being left alone in a narrow alley.

Slowly and painfully—for the night was cool, and she had now been sitting long in one position—Ænone raised herself and stood up, looking hither and thither for some place of refuge. She had now waited more than an hour, and if her husband had been inclined to recall her from her exclusion, his repentance would scarcely have tarried so long. His anger was generally fierce, but of short duration; could it be that in this case his sense of injury was so great as to make him more unreasoning than usual? Her heart sank yet lower with a new weight of despair; but again hope whispered alleviation. He had been drinking deeply—she said to herself—and had not clearly comprehended what he had done. And afterward he had probably forgotten all about it, and had fallen off into sleep. Upon the morrow he would be himself again. Perhaps he would not then remember the outrage he had committed against her. Certainly his anger would not still burn when corrected by returning reason. She must therefore endeavor to gain access again to the palace, and there avoid his presence, until the morrow brought to him fresher reflection and a better inclination to listen to explanation.

And accordingly she commenced her departure from her hiding place, and slowly crept along the blank flanking wall of the little street, hoping soon to gain the palace front. At first it seemed a very easy thing to do so. Though she had never before been in that portion of the city, she knew enough of its geography to feel certain that if she followed the street in either direction, she could not fail to come to some intersecting alley, through which she could reach the Triumphal Way. Once there, the route was familiar to her, and she could arrive at her home in a few minutes. But as she advanced, she found that what had appeared to be an easy stroll, seemed converted into a toilsome and perplexing journey. Confused and terrified, the coolness necessary to pursue in safety even so short a route began to fail her. At times she imagined that she heard strangers approaching, and then it became needful to conceal herself again, as well as she could, behind projections or in recesses of the wall. Then, when once more venturing out, the shadows of the wall itself or of neighboring buildings would terrify her into seeking other concealments. And once, after having resumed her course, she discovered that she had mistaken the direction, and was retracing her steps.

At last, after a journey of nearly an hour, during which she had only advanced as far as a resolute person might have gone in a few minutes, she reached an intersecting street leading to the Triumphal Way. It was a wider passage than that which she was leaving, and this fact added to her dismay. For though she had at first feared the narrower street for its loneliness, yet now

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