As though this conversation had relieved him, the sick man at once began to mend. But with his recovery came another torment. Lying in fear of death and hell, he had opened his soul to Pelagius, and had revealed secrets upon which depended all he cared for in this world. Not only he himself was ruined, but the lives of those he had betrayed were in jeopardy. That suspicion was busy with him he knew; the keen-sighted deacon had once already held long talk with him, whereupon followed troublesome interrogation by Bessas, who had since regarded him with somewhat a sullen eye. How would Pelagius use the knowledge he had gained? Even when quite recovered from the fever, Marcian did not venture to go forth, lest an enemy should be waiting for him without. In his weak, dejected and humbled state he thought of the peace of a monastery, and passed most of his time in prayer.
But when a few days had passed without event, and increasing strength enabled him to think less brain-sickly, he began to ask whether he himself had not peradventure been betrayed It was a long time since he had seen Heliodora, who appeared to be making no effort for the conquest of the Greek commander; had she merely failed, and lost courage, or did the change in her mean treachery? To trust Heliodora was to take a fool’s risk; even a little wound to her vanity might suffice to turn her against him. At their last meeting she had sat with furrowed brows, brooding as if over some wrong, and when he urged her for an explanation of her mood, she was first petulant, then fiery, so that he took umbrage and left her. Happily she knew none of his graver secrets, much though she had tried to discover them. Were she traitorous, she could betray him alone.
But he, in the wreck of his manhood, had uttered many names besides hers—that of Basil, from whom he had recently heard news, that of the politic Leander, those of several nobles engaged in the Gothic cause. Scarcely could he believe that he had been guilty of such baseness; he would fain have persuaded himself that it was but a memory of delirium. He cursed the subtlety of Pelagius, which had led him on till everything was uttered. Pelagius, the bosom friend of Justinian, would know how to deal with plotters against the Empire. Why had he not already struck? What cunning held his hand?
Unable at length to sit in idleness, he tried to ease his conscience by sending a warning to Basil, using for this purpose the trustworthy slave who, in many disguises, was wont to travel with his secret messages. This man wore false hair so well fixed upon his head that it could not attract attention; the letter he had to deliver was laid beneath an artificial scalp.
‘Be on your guard,’ thus Marcian wrote. ’Some one has made known to the Greeks that you are arming men, and for what purpose. Delay no longer than you must in joining the King. In him is your only hope, if hope there still can be. I, too, shall soon be in the camp.’