That evening, after an hour’s close colloquy with Leander, he betook himself by circuitous way to the dwelling of Pelagius, and with him again held long talk. Then went home, through the dark, still streets, to such slumber as his conscience might permit.
THE PRISONER OF PRAENESTE
On the morrow of St. Laurentius, at that point of dawn when a man can recognise the face of one who passes, there issued from the Lateran a silent company equipped for travel. In a covered carriage drawn by two horses sat the Pope, beside him a churchman of his household; a second carriage conveyed the deacon Leander and another ecclesiastic; servants and a baggage vehicle brought up the rear. With what speed it could over the ill-paved roads, this procession made for the bank of the Tiber below the Aventine, where, hard by the empty public granaries, a ship lay ready to drop down stream. It was a flight rather than a departure. Having at length made up his mind to obey the Emperor’s summons, Vigilius endeavoured to steal away whilst the Romans slept off their day of festival. But he was not suffered to escape thus. Before he had reached the place of embarkation, folk began to run shouting behind his carriage. Ere he could set foot on board the vessel a crowd had gathered. The farewell of the people to their supreme Pontiff was given in a volley of stones and potsherds, whilst the air rang with maledictions.
Notwithstanding his secret hostility, Leander had of late crept into Vigilius’ confidence, thus protecting himself against his formidable adversary Pelagius. He was now the Pope’s travelling companion as far as Sicily. Had he remained in Rome, the authority of Pelagius would have fallen heavily upon him, and he could scarce have escaped the humiliation of yielding his Gothic captive to Justinian’s friend. Apprised only a day before of Vigilius’ purpose, he had barely time to plot with Marcian for the conveyance of Veranilda to Totila’s camp. This had long been his intention, for, convinced that Totila would rule over Italy, he saw in the favour of the king not only a personal advantage, but the hope of the Western Church in its struggle with Byzantium. Driven at length to act hurriedly, he persuaded himself that he could use no better agent than Marcian, who had so deeply pledged himself to the Gothic cause. Of what had passed between Marcian and Pelagius he of course knew nothing. So, as the ship moved seaward upon tawny Tiber, and day flamed upon the Alban hills, Leander laughed within himself. He enjoyed a plot for its own sake, and a plot, long savoured, which gave him triumph over ecclesiastical rivals, and even over the Emperor Justinian, was well worth the little risk that might ensue When he returned to Rome, it would doubtless be with the victorious Goth—safe, jubilant, and ere long to be seated in the chair of the Apostle.