“But he will,” said the girl, with a worried look. “He shall embrace me—he shall, or—or I will bid my brother kill him. Oh, wretch!” She jumped to her feet with a merry cry. “I have an idea,” she added, clapping her hands. “When the sunlight falls on the floor yonder, I will get up and dance in it.”
“A pretty trick!” said her mother.
“Oh, son of Varro! why do you not come?” said the girl, impatiently. “I love him so I could die for him—I could die for him! Perhaps he loves me not and I shall never see him again.”
She hurried to the outer court, whispering anxiously:
“Come, son of
Varro. Oh, come quickly, son of Varro!”
When Vergilius arrived Arria was waiting for him there in the court of the palace. Her white silk rustled as she ran to meet him. Her cheeks had the pink of roses and her eyes a glow in them like that of diamonds. She stopped as he came near, and turned away.
“Tears?” said he, leaning down, with his arms about her. “Oh, love, let me see your face!”
She turned quickly with a little toss of her head and took a step backward.
“You shall not call me love,” said she—“not yet. You have not told me that you love me.”
“I told all who were at the palace of the great father.”
“But you have not told me, son of Varro.”
“I do love you.” He was approaching.
“Hush! Not now,” she answered, taking his hand in hers—temporizing. “Come, I will race with you.”
She ran, leading him, with quick, pattering feet through an inner hall and up the long triclinium. There, presently, she threw herself upon the heap of cushions.
“Now, sit,” said she, draping her robe and then feeling her hair that was aglow with jewels.
A graceful and charming creature was this child of the new empire, a noble beauty in her face and form, the value of a small kingdom on her body. “Not so near,” said she, as he complied. “Now, son of my father’s friend, say what you will and quickly.”
“I love you,” he began to say.
“Wait,” she whispered, stopping him as she turned, looking up and down the great hall. “It is for me alone. I will not share the words with any other. Now tell me—tell me, son of Varro,” she whispered, moving nearer; “tell me at once.”
“I love you, sweet girl, above gods and men. You are more to me than crowns of laurel and gold, more than all that is in the earth and heavens. My heart burns when I look at you.”
He hesitated, pressing her hand upon his lips.
“Is that all?” said she, with a pretty sadness, looking down at the golden braces on her fan. “Now, say it again, all, slowly.”
She might as well have told a bird how he should sing.
He went on all unconscious of her command, his words lighted by the fire in his heart. They were as waters rippling in the sun-glow.