Romans there were, however, who heard all this in another spirit. The ill-fed populace had long ago become ready for any change which might benefit their stomachs, and the name of Totila was to them significant of all they lacked under the Greeks. ’Let the Goth come quickly!’ passed from mouth to mouth wherever the vulgar durst speak what they thought. Among the nobles, prejudice of race and religion and immemorial pride ensured predominance to the Imperialists, but even here a Gothic party existed, and imprudent utterances had brought certain senators into suspicion. The most active friend of Totila, however, was one whom Bessas never thought of suspecting, having, as he thought, such evidence of the man’s devotion to the Greek cause. Marcian had played his double part with extraordinary skill and with boldness which dared every risk. He was now exerting himself in manifold ways, subtly, persistently, for the supreme achievement of his intrigue, the delivery of Rome from Byzantine tyranny.
Among the many persons whom he made to serve his ends without admitting them to his confidence was Galla, the wife of a noble whom Amalasuntha had employed in her secret communications with Byzantium, and who was now one of the intimates of Bessas. A light woman, living as she pleased because of her husband’s indifference, Galla knew and cared nothing about affairs of state, and on that account was the more useful to Marcian. She believed him in love with her, and he encouraged the belief; flattering her with pretence at timidity, as though he would fain have spoken but durst not. Regarding him as her slave, Galla amused herself by sometimes coming to his house, where, as if in the pride of chastity, she received his devotion, and meanwhile told him things he was glad to know. And thus it happened on that day of the quarrel between Heliodora and Muscula, wherein Galla unexpectedly found herself involved. Bubbling over with wrath against Heliodora, she at once sought out Marcian, acquainted him with all that had happened, and made evident her desire to be in some way avenged. Marcian saw in this trivial affair the opportunity for a scheme of the gravest import; difficult, perilous, perhaps impracticable, but so tempting in its possibilities that he soon resolved to hazard everything on the