‘Had you seen her!’ exclaimed Basil, and grew rapturous again. Whilst he exhausted language in the effort to prove how remote was Veranilda from any shape of loveliness easily presented by memory or imagination, Marcian pondered.
‘I can think of but one likelihood,’ was his quiet remark, when his friend had become silent. ’King Theodahad had a daughter, who married the Gothic captain, Ebrimut.’
‘The traitor,’ murmured Basil uneasily.
’Or friend of the Romans, as you will. He delivered Rhegium to Belisarius, and enjoys his reward at Byzantium. What if he left a child behind him?’
Basil repulsed the suggestion vehemently.
’Not that! I had half thought of it myself; but no. Aurelia said of the house of Theodoric.’
’Why so would be a daughter of Ebrimut, through her mother—who was the daughter of Theodahad, who was the son of Amalafrida, who was the sister of Theodoric himself.’
‘She could not have meant that,’ protested Basil. ’Child of a mercenary traitor, who opened Italy to his people’s foe! Not that! Had you seen her, you would not believe it.’
‘Oh, my good Basil,’ laughed the other, ’do you think I should see her with your eyes? But perhaps we conjecture idly quite missing the mark. What does it matter? You have no intention, I hope, of returning to Cumae?’
Basil opened his lips to reply, but thought better of it, and said nothing. Then his friend turned to speak of the ecclesiastical visitor who had that evening arrived, and, the subject not proving very fruitful, each presently betook himself to his night’s repose.
THE DEACON LEANDER
The deacon Leander was some forty years of age, stoutish, a trifle asthmatic, with a long visage expressive of much shrewdness, and bushy eyebrows, which lent themselves at will to a look of genial condescension, of pious austerity, or of stern command. His dark hair and reddish beard were carefully trimmed; so were the nails of his shapely, delicate hands. His voice, now subject to huskiness, had until a few years ago been remarkably powerful and melodious; no deacon in Rome was wont to excite more admiration by his chanting of the Gradual; but that glory had passed away, and at the present time Leander’s spiritual activity was less prominent than his services as a most capable steward of the patrimony of St. Peter. He travelled much, had an extensive correspondence, and was probably rather respected than reverenced by most lay folk with whom he came in contact.