Veranilda eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 340 pages of information about Veranilda.
the Lay of the Decii—­felt content to owe his sustenance to the delicate and respectful kindness of Maximus, who sympathised with the great wrong he had suffered early in life.  This was no less than wilful impoverishment by his father, who, seeking to atone for sins by fanaticism, had sold the little he possessed to found a pilgrims’ hospice at Portus, whither, accompanied by the twelve-year-old boy, he went to live as monk-servitor In a year or two the penitent died; Decius, in revolt against the tasks to which he was subjected, managed to escape, made his way to Rome, and appealed to Maximus.  Nominally he still held the post of secretary to his benefactor, but for many years he had enjoyed entire leisure, all of it devoted to study.  Several times illness had brought him to the threshold of death, yet it had never conquered his love of letters, his enthusiasm for his country’s past.  Few liked him only one or two understood him:  Decius was content that it should be so.

‘Let us speak of it,’ he continued, unrolling a manuscript of Virgil some two hundred years old, a gift to him from Maximus.  ’Tell me, dear lord, your true thought:  is it indeed a prophecy of the Divine Birth?  To you’—­he smiled his gentle, beautiful smile—­’may I not confess that I have doubted this interpretation?  Yet’—­he cast his eyes down—­’the doubt is perhaps a prompting of the spirit of evil.’

‘I know not, Decius, I know not,’ replied the sick man with thoughtful melancholy.  ’My father held it a prophecy his father before him.—­But forgive me, I am expecting anxiously the return of Basil; yonder sail—­is it his?  Your eyes see further than mine.’

Decius at once put aside his own reflections, and watched the oncoming bark.  Before long there was an end of doubt.  Rising in agitation to his feet, Maximus gave orders that the litter, which since yesterday morning had been in readiness, should at once be borne with all speed down to the landing-place.  Sail and oars soon brought the boat so near that Decius was able to descry certain female figures and that of a man, doubtless Basil, who stood up and waved his arms shoreward.

‘She has come,’ broke from Maximus; and, in reply to his kinsman’s face of inquiry, he told of whom it was he spoke.

The landing-place was not visible from here.  As soon as the boat disappeared beneath the buildings of the town, Maximus requested of his companion a service which asked some courage in the performance:  it was, to wait forthwith upon the Lady Petronilla, to inform her that Aurelia had just disembarked, to require that three female slaves should be selected to attend upon the visitor.  This mission Decius discharged, not without trembling; he then walked to the main entrance of the villa, and stood there, the roll of Virgil still in his hand, until the sound of a horse’s hoofs on the upward road announced the arrival of the travellers.  The horseman, who came some yards in advance of the slave-borne litter, was Basil.  At sight of Decius, he dismounted, and asked in an undertone:  ‘You know?’ The other replied with the instructions given by Maximus, that the litter, which was closed against curious eyes, should be straightway conveyed to the Senator’s presence, Basil himself to hold apart until summoned.

Copyrights
Project Gutenberg
Veranilda from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
Follow Us on Facebook