Veranilda eBook

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

CHAPTER VIII

THE SNARE

Meanwhile all was made ready for the sailing of the ship.  Coffined in lead, the body of Maximus awaited only a return of fine weather for its conveyance to the vessel.  When at length calm fell upon the sea, and after a still night of gentle rain the day broke radiantly, all Surrentum was in movement between church and harbour.  Mass having been said, the bishop himself led the procession down the hollow way and through the chasm in the cliffs seaward, whilst psalms were chanted and incense burnt.  Carried in her litter, Petronilla followed the bier; beside her walked Basil and Decius.  Only by conscious effort could these two subdue their visages to a becoming sadness; for Basil thought of his marriage, Decius of Rome and his library.  Nor did Petronilla wear an aspect of very profound gloom; at moments she forgot herself, and a singular animation appeared on her proud features; it was as though some exultancy took hold of her mind.

That Aurelia held apart, that the daughter gave no testimony of reverence for a father’s remains, caused such murmuring in the crowd of Surrentines:  her heresy seemed to be made more notorious, more abominable, by this neglect.  At Surrentum, Arianism had never been known; no Goth had ever dwelt here; and since Aurelia’s arrival public opinion had had time to gather force against her.  It was believed that she had driven forth with insults the most noble Petronilla, that exemplar of charity and of a saintly life.  Worse still was the rumour, now generally believed, that the Senator’s daughter had obtained her inheritance by wicked hypocrisy, by a false show of return to the true faith.  Being herself so evil, it was not to be wondered that she corrupted those who fell under her influence; the young lord Basil, for instance, who, incredible as it sounded, was said to be on the point of espousing a Gothic damsel, a mysterious attendant upon Aurelia, of whom strange stories were rife.  Talk of these things made no little agitation in the town when ceremonies were over and the coffin had been embarked.  The generality threw up their hands, and cried shame, and asked why the bishop did not take some action in so grave a scandal.  But here and there folk whispered together in a different tone, with winkings and lips compressed, and nods significant of menace.  Patience!  Wait a day or two, and they would see what they would see.  Heaven was not regardless of iniquity.

Scarce had the ship weighed anchor, to be wafted across the bay by a gentle wind, when Petronilla started on her land journey for Rome.  The great chariot, the baggage, the servants riding, made fresh commotion in Surrentum; many accompanied the great lady along the winding road until they were weary and their curiosity satisfied.  To this obsequious escort Petronilla uttered certain words which before evening were repeated throughout the town.  ’Let us forgive our enemies,’ she said, with that air of hers, at once so grand and so devout—­’let us forgive our enemies, but let us omit no means, however rigorous, of saving their souls’; and of those who reported the saying, some winked and nodded more significantly than ever.

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Veranilda from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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