Wlliam Gilmore Simms
Count Julian; or, The Last Days of the Goth >> Chapter VII >> Page 185

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Novel (Romance) | William Taylor & Co. | 1845 - 1846
Transcription THE LAST DAYS OF THE GOTH. 185

with all diligence, nor did they avoid the encounter with an enemy fully twice their number. This inequality of number was more than compensated by the wild enthusiasm of the Arabians, by the vindictive fury of the apostate Christian leader, and by the superior skill and hardihood of their soldiers. The Gothic warriors fought gallantly, for they still cherished a portion of that valor, which, from immemorial time, had conducted their sires through successful conflict. But they strove against the fates. The stars in their courses fought against Roderick as they did against Sisera. In the midst of the conflict, when the troops of Taric were about to recoil from the stern and determined ranks of the Christians, Julian of Consuegra, at the head of a select body of horsemen, charging upon the centre where Ataulpho fought, turned instantly the fortune of the day. Ataulpho fell, but not before the weapon of the apostate. His arm struck no blow in the perilous conflict. His judgment led, his sword pointed out the way to victory, which his. soldiers successfully pursued ; but he kept his own weapon unstained, reserving his personal valor for a nobler victim. Grimly and coldly did he gaze upon the havoc of the field. His emotions were all still and silent as the storm, when marshalling its tempests for the sea. He beheld, with no exultation, the great banner of the cross go down in dust and blood—beheld, with scarce a mood, whether of pain or pride, the noble features of Ataulpho, as pale and ghastly, smeared with dust and blood, and looking still terrible from the conflict, his head, smitten from the trunk, was lifted high upon a lance in the presence of the triumphant armies. It was necessary that Ataulpho should be slain—that his army should be annihilated—if only that his path should be laid open to his own particular enemy. But not for him to feel emotion of any description, whether of gladness or of grief, but in that one event. The passions of his heart were not now to be awakened until his weapon crossed in mortal conflict with that of Roderick the Goth. He reserved the prowess of his arm—matchless at any weapon—only for this single foe. What to him was the constant progress which the Arabian made ? What to him were the armies which he overthrew ? save that each advancing step, and each successive victory brought him so much nigher to his enemy. Well he knew that it was not possible for Roderick to forbear much longer to appear at the head of his armies. Shame, and the absolute necessity of addressing all his military skill and valor to the exigency, (and Roderick was not without high reputation for both,) would, he well knew, soon bring the tyrant into the field. But he did not allow for the cowardice of a guilty conscience. From the moment when tidings were brought to Roderick that Count Julian fought with the invader and against his Christian countrymen, he shrunk from the necessity of meeting with the foe. He had no fear of the armies of the Moslem—would probably have joyed in the encounter with the foreign enemy—but his heart failed him when he thought of meeting in battle with the proud and mighty noble whom he had so deeply injurea. What were his feelings when the tidings reached him of the successive defeats and destruction of his army—of his kinsman's fate--the slaughter of his bravest leaders, the veterans and the nobles of his kingdom—for it had been the policy of Taric, counselled by Julian, to single out for slaughter the distinguished persons, suffering the hirelings and the common herd to escape with little notice. The infidels in growing numbers overspread the country. Host after host from Africa, hearing of, the successes of Taric, followed in his footsteps ; and the smokes of their devastation, rising up everywhere from the plains of Sidonia to the fertile waters of the Guadiana, called reproachfully upon the imbecile sovereign to shake off his lethargy, and to lead his mightiest force against the infidel, Nor did they summon him in vain. His old courage was gradually reviving in his heart—