Veranilda eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 340 pages of information about Veranilda.

The household comprised his unwedded sister Petronilla, a lady in middle age, his nephew Basil, and another kinsman, Decius, a student and an invalid; together with a physician, certain freedmen who rendered services of trust, a eunuch at the Command of Petronilla, and the usual body of male and female slaves.  Some score of glebe-bound peasants cultivated the large estate for their lord’s behoof.  Notwithstanding the distress that had fallen upon the Roman nobility, many of whom were sunk into indigence, the chief of the Anicii still controlled large means; and the disposal of these possessions at his death was matter of interest to many persons—­ not least to the clergy of Rome, who found in the dying man’s sister a piously tenacious advocate.  Children had been born to Maximus, but the only son who reached mature years fell a victim to pestilence when Vitiges was camped about the City.  There survived one daughter, Aurelia.  Her the father had not seen for years; her he longed to see and to pardon ere he died.  For Aurelia, widowed of her first husband in early youth, had used her liberty to love and wed a flaxen-haired barbarian, a lord of the Goths; and, worse still, had renounced the Catholic faith for the religion of the Gothic people, that heresy of Arianism condemned and abhorred by Rome.  In Consequence she became an outcast from her kith and kin.  Her husband commanded in the city of Cumae, hard by Neapolis.  When this stronghold fell before the advance of Belisarius, the Goth escaped, soon after to die in battle; Aurelia, a captive of the Conquerors, remained at Cumae, and still was living there, though no longer under restraint.  Because of its strength, this ancient city became the retreat of many ladies who fled from Rome before the hardships and perils of the siege; from them the proud and unhappy woman. ever held apart, yet she refused to quit the town when she would have been permitted to do so.  From his terrace above the Surrentine shore, Maximus gazed across the broad gulf to the hills that concealed Cumae, yearning for the last of his children.  When at length he wrote her a letter, a letter of sad kindness, inviting rather than beseeching her to visit him, Aurelia made no reply.  Wounded, he sunk again into silence, until his heart could no longer bear its secret burden, and he spoke—­not to Petronilla, from whose austere orthodoxy little sympathy was to be expected—­but to his nephew Basil, whose generous mettle willingly lent itself to such a service as was proposed.  On his delicate mission, the young man set forth without delay.  To Cumae, whether by sea or land, was but a short journey:  starting at daybreak, Basil might have given ample time to his embassy, and have been back again early on the morrow.  But the second day passed, and he did not return.  Though harassed by the delay, Maximus tried to deem it of good omen, and nursed his hope through another sleepless night.

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Veranilda from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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