Wlliam Gilmore Simms
Count Julian; or, The Last Days of the Goth >> Chapter III >> Page 12

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Novel (Romance) | William Taylor & Co. | 1845 - 1846
Transcription 12 COUNT JULIAN; OR,

CHAPTER III.

LET us now penetrate the royal palace of Toledo, at present in the occupation of the usurper Roderick, and that incomparable woman, Egilona, his wife ; a woman superior to her time, in sense and in virtue—but one whose charms, though great enough to win her the homage of a Moorish not less than a Gothic monarch, were yet not equal to the task of securing the affections of one so capricious and reckless as king Roderick.
The palace of Roderick—king of the Romans, as the late Gothic sovereigns were pleased to style themselves—had become the dwelling-place of Roman ostentation and Asiatic luxury. The throne blazed with gold and jewels of immense value ; the commonest utensils of the household were formed of the most costly materials ; the robes, dresses, and equipment were of a texture which the early Goths would have laughed to scorn for their silken effeminacy ; and all objects of contemplation and enjoyment, announced that rapid progress from the extreme of savage privation and necessity to the refinements—so called—of civilization, to which the Goths may ascribe the downfall of their mighty empire. The luxuries which enervated them, at the same time invited the invader; and both the Moors who succeeded, and the Goths whom they overthrew, learned in due season to deplore the wooing and too well beloved possessions, which, however willing they might have been to die for, they had not the strength or courage to defend.
King Roderick sat upon his blazing throne, having on his head the horned crown of Gothic royalty, and covered with robes richly embroidered from the neck to the heels, the folds of which swept the floor in a long train behind him. He was a monarch of a noble and imposing presence, with a face full of authority, an eye haughty and commanding, and a lip that curled with an imperious and stern expression. Egilona,, his queen, sat below him, upon an inferior seat, and her eyes were turned up and watchful of his features with a fond but earnest look, which at moments grew even into sadness. Her features were very beautiful, and not less amiable than beautiful. In the midst of a court where all was vicious, and where sensual indulgence had a full guaranty in the universal practices of all, not the slightest suspicion had ever assailed her purity ; and though Roderick had ceased to love her with that regard which so much beauty might well have awakened in any but a blunted sense, he at least never ceased to respect her in consideration of her many virtues and her gentle bearing.
On either hand of the king stood an espatorio, or sword-bearer, of whom there were four, one of whom always kept guard in the ante-chamber of the Gothic monarch. The espatorios on the present occasion were Edeco and Favila—the former, a favorite of the monarch who contributed greatly to his debasing passions by ministering, as his creature, to those sensual indulgences to which, in his hour of prosperity, Roderick had unhappily given himself up. Edeco was a servile minister, a fop, a thing of feather and pretence, who spoke after a manner of his own, and whose ambition was to emulate the effeminacies not less than the extravagances of the other sex. Favila was a simple noble, having the royal blood of the old stock in his veins, but without much character of any sort, and one who would readily fall in with the prevailing influences of the time, good or bad. There were many ladies and nobles in attendance, all richly attired ; for Roderick was a monarch to whom the glitter of jewels and the glow of silks and costly embroidery were grateful beyond all reasonable measure, But the archbishop Oppas was absent from the assembly, and it was for his presence that the king most earnestly looked.