‘No,’ answered Basil, his voice subdued. ’A Goth; and, she says, of the royal blood, of the line of Theodoric.’
His friend became attentive. ’A Gothic princess? Whose daughter, then?’ asked Marcian. And Basil, who desired nothing more than to speak on this subject, little by little threw off his hesitancy, grew rapid and eager in narration. He told how, on his first introduction to Aurelia’s presence, he had found. sitting with her a young girl, whose aspect proclaimed her of the Gothic race. In a second interview with his cousin, alone, Aurelia had spoken of this companion, bestowing much praise upon her, and declaring that they were united by an affection which nothing could diminish. She was of Amal blood; more than that Aurelia seemed unwilling to reveal.
‘Did you not learn her name?’ asked the listener.
Marcian echoed the melodious syllables, but they told him nothing.
‘And did you make no inquiry of those with whom you spoke?’
’I conversed as little as might be with strangers, and purposely held apart from our acquaintances in the town; this was my uncle’s express command.’
‘You had no second sight of her?’
’Indeed I had; and talked with her moreover. Marcian, how can I describe her to you? The words which suffice for common beauty sound meaningless when I would use them to depict Veranilda. Shall I tell you that she has hair of the purest gold, eyes brighter than the sky at noon, lips like the flower of the pomegranate, a cheek so fair, so soft—nay, you may well laugh at these idle phrases—’
‘Not your phrases,’ said Marcian, ’but your voice as it utters them sets me smiling. Talk on. The chaste goddess who beams above us inspire you with worthy terms!’
‘There you speak to the point,’ pursued Basil ardently. ’For Veranilda is chaste as she is beautiful. Blessed saints! how my heart shrank in abhorrence when I saw that letter this morning; and how fain I would blot from my memory that baseness of the past! O Marcian, truest of friends, I slighted your counsel, scoffed at your warnings, but now I know how wisely and how honestly you spoke.’
‘Be that as it may,’ said the other. ’But is it possible that, on a mere glimpse, this Gothic maiden should so have vanquished you?’
’It had been more prudent to hold my peace. But you know me of old. When I am moved, I must needs unbosom myself; happy that I have one whom I can trust. Her voice, Marcian! This whisper of the night breeze in the laurels falls rudely upon the ear after Veranilda’s speech. Never have I heard a tone so soft, so gentle. The first word she spoke thrilled through me, as never did voice before; and I listened, listened, hoping she would speak again.’
’Who may she be? Has not the lady Aurelia adorned her origin? Golden hair and blue eyes are no rarity among daughters of the Goths.’