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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 340 pages of information about Veranilda.
being responsible for the taxes payable by their colleagues, as well as for the dues on any estate in their district which might be abandoned, and, in brief, for whatsoever deficiencies of local revenue.  Gravity and sincerity appeared in his countenance; he seldom smiled, spoke in a subdued voice, and often kept his eyes on the ground; but his service was performed with rare conscientiousness, and he had often given proof of affection for his master.  Sagaris, a Syrian slave, less than thirty years old, had a comely visage which ever seemed to shine with contentment, and often twinkled with a sort of roguish mirth.  Tall and of graceful bearing, the man’s every movement betrayed personal vanity; his speech had the note of facile obsequiousness; he talked whenever occasion offered, and was fond of airing his views on political and other high matters.  Therewithal, he was the most superstitious of mortals; wore amulets, phylacteries, charms of all sorts, and secretly prayed to many strange gods.  When he had nothing else to do, and could find a genial companion, his delight was to play by the hour at micare digitis; but, in spite of his master’s good opinion, not to Sagaris would have applied the proverb that you might play that game with him in the dark.

‘Take my word for it,’ he whispered to Felix, with his most important air, ’we shall see strange things ere long.  Last night I counted seven shooting stars.’

‘What does that argue?’ asked the other soberly.

’More than I care to put into Latin.  At Capua, three days ago, a woman gave birth to a serpent, a winged dragon, which flew away towards Rome.  I talked at Neapolis with a man who saw it.’

‘Strange, indeed,’ murmured Felix, with raised eyebrows.  ’I have often heard of such portents, but never had the luck to behold one of them.  Yet,’ he added gravely, ’I have received a sign.  When my father died, I was far away from him, and at that very hour, as I prayed in the church of Holy Clement at Rome, I heard a voice that said in my ear, Vale! three times.’

‘Oh, I have had signs far more wonderful than that,’ exclaimed the Syrian.  ’I was at sea, between Alexandria and Berytus—­for you must know that in my boyhood I passed three years at Berytus, and there obtained that knowledge of law which you may have remarked in talking with me—­well, I was at sea—­’

‘Peace!’ interposed Felix.  ‘We are summoned.’

Sagaris sighed, and became the obsequious attendant.

CHAPTER V

BASIL AND VERANILDA

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