‘Are we not to have a look at the Gothic beauty?’ cried one fellow, when the litter was passing.
‘Peace!’ answered the priest sternly; and nothing more was said.
Through the streets they were followed by a few persons. These, calling to each other, collected at length a small crowd, which hung about the litter when it reached the place of embarkation. Here torches were burning; their red glare fell upon angry or mocking faces, and every moment the crowd increased. With utmost speed the prisoners were passed into a little boat, then rowed to a vessel lying at the harbour mouth. As the ship hoisted sail, dawn began to glimmer over the flank of Vesuvius.
Fearful of sleeping till after sunrise, Basil had bidden Felix arouse him this morning; and, as he had much to talk of with Veranilda, he betook himself to the garden very early.
Aurelia’s watchman was standing without, gazing anxiously now this way, now that, surprised by his mistress’s failure to return; on the appearance of Basil he withdrew, but only to a spot whence he could survey the garden. All impatience, the lover waited, as minute after minute slowly passed. Dawn was broadening to day, but Veranilda came not. An agony of disappointment seized upon him, and he stood at length in the attitude of one sickening with despair. Then a footstep approached, and he saw the slave whose watch he had relieved come forward with so strange a look that Basil could only stare at him.
‘My lord,’ said the man, ’there is one at the gate of the villa who brings I know not what news for you.’
‘One at the gate? News?’ echoed Basil, his heart sinking with dread anticipation. ‘What mean you, fellow?’
‘Most noble, I know nothing,’ stammered the frightened slave ’I beseech your greatness to inquire. They say—I know not what—’
Basil sped across the garden and into Aurelia’s dwelling. Here he found a group of servants talking excitedly together; at view of him, they fell back as if fear-stricken. From one, Aurelia’s old nurse, rose a wail of distress; upon her Basil rushed, grasped her by the arm, and sternly demanded what had happened. Dropping to her knees with a shrill cry, the woman declared that Aurelia had vanished, that some one from the city had seen her carried away before dawn.
‘Alone?’ asked Basil in a terrible voice.
‘Lord, I know not,’ wailed the woman, grovelling at his feet.
‘Is Veranilda in her chamber?’ he asked violently.
‘Gone!’ replied a faint voice from amid the group of servants.
‘Where is this messenger?’
Without waiting for a reply, he sprang forward. In the portico which led to the villa he heard his name shouted, and he knew the voice for Marcian’s; another moment and Marcian himself appeared, pale, agitated.