‘It is not enough,’ asked Basil harshly, ‘that I tell you he lied?’
She did not on the instant reply, and he, possessed with unreasoning bitterness, talked wildly on.
’No! You believed him, and believe him still. I can well fancy that he spoke honestly at first; but when he had looked into your face, when he had talked with you, something tempted him to villainy. Go! Your tears and your lamentations betray you. It is not of me that you think, but of him, him, only him! “Oh, were he alive!” Ay, keep your face bidden; you know too well it could not bear my eyes upon it.’
Veranilda threw back the long veil, and stood looking at him.
‘Eyes red with weeping,’ he exclaimed, ’and for whom? If you were true to me, would you not rejoice that I had slain my enemy? You say you were joyful in the thought of seeing me again? You see me—and with what countenance?’
‘I see not Basil,’ she murmured, her hands upon her breast.
’You see a false lover, an ignoble traitor—the Basil shown you by Marcian. What would it avail me to speak in my own defence? His voice is in your ears, its lightest tone outweighing my most solemn oath. “Oh, that he were alive!” That is all you find to say to me.’
‘I know you not,’ sobbed Veranilda. ‘Alas, I know you not!’
’Nor I you. I dreamt of a Veranilda who loved so purely and so constantly that not a thousand slanderers could have touched her heart with a shadow of mistrust. But who are you—you whom the first gross lie of a man lusting for your beauty utterly estranges from your faith? Who are you—who wail for the liar’s death, and shrink in horror from the hand that slew him? I ever heard that the daughters of the Goths were chaste and true and fearless. So they may be—all but one, whose birth marked her for faithlessness.’
As though smitten by a brutal blow, Veranilda bowed her head, shuddering. Once more she looked at Basil, for an instant, with wide eyes of fear; then hid herself beneath the veil, and was gone.
THE MOUNT OF THE MONK
Basil rode with his own man apart from Venantius and the soldiers who guarded the conveyance in which sat Veranilda. Venantius, for his part, would fain have lightened the way with friendly talk, but finding Basil irresponsive, he left him to his gloomy meditations. And so they came to Aquinum, where they passed the night.
By way of precaution, the captain set a guard before the house in which his fellow-traveller slept, and at daybreak, as soon as he had risen, one of the soldiers thus employed reported to him that the young Roman had fallen into such distemper that it seemed doubtful whether he could continue the journey; a servant who had slept at Basil’s door declared that all through the night his master had talked wildly, like one fever-frenzied. Venantius visited the sick man, and found him risen, but plainly in poor case for travel.