Edward Bulwer Lytton
Part 2 out of 9
A convulsive tremor shook the involuntary prophet,--it passed,
and left his countenance elevated by an expression of resignation
and calm. "Madame," said he, after a long pause, "during the
siege of Jerusalem, we are told by its historian that a man, for
seven successive days, went round the ramparts, exclaiming, 'Woe
to thee, Jerusalem,--woe to myself!'"
"Well, Cazotte, well?"
"And on the seventh day, while he thus spoke, a stone from the
machines of the Romans dashed him into atoms!"
With these words, Cazotte rose; and the guests, awed in spite of
themselves, shortly afterwards broke up and retired.
Qui donc t'a donne la mission s'annoncer au peuple que la
divinite n'existe pas? Quel avantage trouves-tu a persuader a
l'homme qu'une force aveugle preside a ses destinees et frappe au
hasard le crime et la vertu?--Robespierre, "Discours," Mai 7,
(Who then invested you with the mission to announce to the people
that there is no God? What advantage find you in persuading man
that nothing but blind force presides over his destinies, and
strikes haphazard both crime and virtue?)
It was some time before midnight when the stranger returned home.
His apartments were situated in one of those vast abodes which
may be called an epitome of Paris itself,--the cellars rented by
mechanics, scarcely removed a step from paupers, often by
outcasts and fugitives from the law, often by some daring writer,
who, after scattering amongst the people doctrines the most
subversive of order, or the most libellous on the characters of
priest, minister, and king, retired amongst the rats, to escape
the persecution that attends the virtuous; the ground-floor
occupied by shops; the entresol by artists; the principal stories
by nobles; and the garrets by journeymen or grisettes.
As the stranger passed up the stairs, a young man of a form and
countenance singularly unprepossessing emerged from a door in the
entresol, and brushed beside him. His glance was furtive,
sinister, savage, and yet timorous; the man's face was of an
ashen paleness, and the features worked convulsively. The
stranger paused, and observed him with thoughtful looks, as he
hurried down the stairs. While he thus stood, he heard a groan
from the room which the young man had just quitted; the latter
had pulled to the door with hasty vehemence, but some fragment,
probably of fuel, had prevented its closing, and it now stood
slightly ajar; the stranger pushed it open and entered. He
passed a small anteroom, meanly furnished, and stood in a
bedchamber of meagre and sordid discomfort. Stretched on the
bed, and writhing in pain, lay an old man; a single candle lit
the room, and threw its feeble ray over the furrowed and
death-like face of the sick person. No attendant was by; he
seemed left alone, to breathe his last. "Water," he moaned
feebly,--"water:--I parch,--I burn!" The intruder approached the
bed, bent over him, and took his hand. "Oh, bless thee, Jean,
bless thee!" said the sufferer; "hast thou brought back the
physician already? Sir, I am poor, but I can pay you well. I
would not die yet, for that young man's sake." And he sat
upright in his bed, and fixed his dim eyes anxiously on his
"What are your symptoms, your disease?"
"Fire, fire, fire in the heart, the entrails: I burn!"
"How long is it since you have taken food?"
"Food! only this broth. There is the basin, all I have taken
these six hours. I had scarce drunk it ere these pains began."
The stranger looked at the basin; some portion of the contents
was yet left there.
"Who administered this to you?"
"Who? Jean! Who else should? I have no servant,--none! I am
poor, very poor, sir. But no! you physicians do not care for the
poor. I AM RICH! can you cure me?"
"Yes, if Heaven permit. Wait but a few moments."
The old man was fast sinking under the rapid effects of poison.
The stranger repaired to his own apartments, and returned in a
few moments with some preparation that had the instant result of
an antidote. The pain ceased, the blue and livid colour receded
from the lips; the old man fell into a profound sleep. The
stranger drew the curtains round the bed, took up the light, and
inspected the apartment. The walls of both rooms were hung with
drawings of masterly excellence. A portfolio was filled with
sketches of equal skill,--but these last were mostly subjects
that appalled the eye and revolted the taste: they displayed the
human figure in every variety of suffering,--the rack, the wheel,
the gibbet; all that cruelty has invented to sharpen the pangs of
death seemed yet more dreadful from the passionate gusto and
earnest force of the designer. And some of the countenances of
those thus delineated were sufficiently removed from the ideal to
show that they were portraits; in a large, bold, irregular hand
was written beneath these drawings, "The Future of the
Aristocrats." In a corner of the room, and close by an old
bureau, was a small bundle, over which, as if to hide it, a cloak
was thrown carelessly. Several shelves were filled with books;
these were almost entirely the works of the philosophers of the
time,--the philosophers of the material school, especially the
Encyclopedistes, whom Robespierre afterwards so singularly
attacked when the coward deemed it unsafe to leave his reign
without a God.
("Cette secte (les Encyclopedistes) propagea avec beaucoup de
zele l'opinion du materialisme, qui prevalut parmi les grands et
parmi les beaux esprits; on lui doit en partie cette espece de
philosophie pratique qui, reduisant l'Egoisme en systeme regarde
la societe humaine comme une guerre de ruse, le succes comme la
regle du juste et de l'injuste, la probite comme une affaire de
gout, ou de bienseance, le monde comme le patrimoine des fripons
adroits."--"Discours de Robespierre," Mai 7, 1794. (This sect
(the Encyclopaedists) propagate with much zeal the doctrine of
materialism, which prevails among the great and the wits; we owe
to it partly that kind of practical philosophy which, reducing
Egotism to a system, looks upon society as a war of cunning;
success the rule of right and wrong, honesty as an affair of
taste or decency: and the world as the patrimony of clever
A volume lay on a table,--it was one of Voltaire, and the page
was opened at his argumentative assertion of the existence of the
Supreme Being. ("Histoire de Jenni.") The margin was covered
with pencilled notes, in the stiff but tremulous hand of old age;
all in attempt to refute or to ridicule the logic of the sage of
Ferney: Voltaire did not go far enough for the annotator! The
clock struck two, when the sound of steps was heard without. The
stranger silently seated himself on the farther side of the bed,
and its drapery screened him, as he sat, from the eyes of a man
who now entered on tiptoe; it was the same person who had passed
him on the stairs. The new-comer took up the candle and
approached the bed. The old man's face was turned to the pillow;
but he lay so still, and his breathing was so inaudible, that his
sleep might well, by that hasty, shrinking, guilty glance, be
mistaken for the repose of death. The new-comer drew back, and a
grim smile passed over his face: he replaced the candle on the
table, opened the bureau with a key which he took from his
pocket, and loaded himself with several rouleaus of gold that he
found in the drawers. At this time the old man began to wake.
He stirred, he looked up; he turned his eyes towards the light
now waning in its socket; he saw the robber at his work; he sat
erect for an instant, as if transfixed, more even by astonishment
than terror. At last he sprang from his bed.
"Just Heaven! do I dream! Thou--thou--thou, for whom I toiled
The robber started; the gold fell from his hand, and rolled on
"What!" he said, "art thou not dead yet? Has the poison failed?"
"Poison, boy! Ah!" shrieked the old man, and covered his face
with his hands; then, with sudden energy, he exclaimed, "Jean!
Jean! recall that word. Rob, plunder me if thou wilt, but do not
say thou couldst murder one who only lived for thee! There,
there, take the gold; I hoarded it but for thee. Go! go!" and
the old man, who in his passion had quitted his bed, fell at the
feet of the foiled assassin, and writhed on the ground,--the
mental agony more intolerable than that of the body, which he had
so lately undergone. The robber looked at him with a hard
"What have I ever done to thee, wretch?" cried the old man,--
"what but loved and cherished thee? Thou wert an orphan,--an
outcast. I nurtured, nursed, adopted thee as my son. If men
call me a miser, it was but that none might despise thee, my
heir, because Nature has stunted and deformed thee, when I was no
more. Thou wouldst have had all when I was dead. Couldst thou
not spare me a few months or days,--nothing to thy youth, all
that is left to my age? What have I done to thee?"
"Thou hast continued to live, and thou wouldst make no will."
"Mon Dieu! Mon Dieu!"
"TON DIEU! Thy God! Fool! Hast thou not told me, from my
childhood, that there is NO God? Hast thou not fed me on
philosophy? Hast thou not said, 'Be virtuous, be good, be just,
for the sake of mankind: but there is no life after this life'?
Mankind! why should I love mankind? Hideous and misshapen,
mankind jeer at me as I pass the streets. What hast thou done to
me? Thou hast taken away from me, who am the scoff of this
world, the hopes of another! Is there no other life? Well,
then, I want thy gold, that at least I may hasten to make the
best of this!"
"Monster! Curses light on thy ingratitude, thy--"
"And who hears thy curses? Thou knowest there is no God! Mark
me; I have prepared all to fly. See,--I have my passport; my
horses wait without; relays are ordered. I have thy gold." (And
the wretch, as he spoke, continued coldly to load his person with
the rouleaus). "And now, if I spare thy life, how shall I be
sure that thou wilt not inform against mine?" He advanced with a
gloomy scowl and a menacing gesture as he spoke.
The old man's anger changed to fear. He cowered before the
savage. "Let me live! let me live!--that--that--"
"I may pardon thee! Yes, thou hast nothing to fear from me. I
"Swear! But by whom and what, old man? I cannot believe thee,
if thou believest not in any God! Ha, ha! behold the result of
Another moment and those murderous fingers would have strangled
their prey. But between the assassin and his victim rose a form
that seemed almost to both a visitor from the world that both
denied,--stately with majestic strength, glorious with awful
The ruffian recoiled, looked, trembled, and then turned and fled
from the chamber. The old man fell again to the ground
To know how a bad man will act when in power, reverse all the
doctrines he preaches when obscure.--S. Montague.
Antipathies also form a part of magic (falsely) so-called. Man
naturally has the same instinct as the animals, which warns them
involuntarily against the creatures that are hostile or fatal to
their existence. But HE so often neglects it, that it becomes
dormant. Not so the true cultivator of the Great Science, etc.--
Trismegistus the Fourth (a Rosicrucian).
When he again saw the old man the next day, the stranger found
him calm, and surprisingly recovered from the scene and
sufferings of the night. He expressed his gratitude to his
preserver with tearful fervour, and stated that he had already
sent for a relation who would make arrangements for his future
safety and mode of life. "For I have money yet left," said the
old man; "and henceforth have no motive to be a miser." He
proceeded then briefly to relate the origin and circumstances of
his connection with his intended murderer.
It seems that in earlier life he had quarrelled with his
relations,--from a difference in opinions of belief. Rejecting
all religion as a fable, he yet cultivated feelings that inclined
him--for though his intellect was weak, his dispositions were
good--to that false and exaggerated sensibility which its dupes
so often mistake for benevolence. He had no children; he
resolved to adopt an enfant du peuple. He resolved to educate
this boy according to "reason." He selected an orphan of the
lowest extraction, whose defects of person and constitution only
yet the more moved his pity, and finally engrossed his affection.
In this outcast he not only loved a son, he loved a theory! He
brought him up most philosophically. Helvetius had proved to him
that education can do all; and before he was eight years old, the
little Jean's favourite expressions were, "La lumiere et la
vertu." (Light and virtue.) The boy showed talents, especially
The protector sought for a master who was as free from
"superstition" as himself, and selected the painter David. That
person, as hideous as his pupil, and whose dispositions were as
vicious as his professional abilities were undeniable, was
certainly as free from "superstition" as the protector could
desire. It was reserved for Robespierre hereafter to make the
sanguinary painter believe in the Etre Supreme. The boy was
early sensible of his ugliness, which was almost preternatural.
His benefactor found it in vain to reconcile him to the malice of
Nature by his philosophical aphorisms; but when he pointed out to
him that in this world money, like charity, covers a multitude of
defects, the boy listened eagerly and was consoled. To save
money for his protege,--for the only thing in the world he
loved,--this became the patron's passion. Verily, he had met
with his reward.
"But I am thankful he has escaped," said the old man, wiping his
eyes. "Had he left me a beggar, I could never have accused him."
"No, for you are the author of his crimes."
"How! I, who never ceased to inculcate the beauty of virtue?
"Alas! if thy pupil did not make this clear to thee last night
from his own lips, an angel might come from heaven to preach to
thee in vain."
The old man moved uneasily, and was about to reply, when the
relative he had sent for--and who, a native of Nancy, happened to
be at Paris at the time--entered the room. He was a man somewhat
past thirty, and of a dry, saturnine, meagre countenance,
restless eyes, and compressed lips. He listened, with many
ejaculations of horror, to his relation's recital, and sought
earnestly, but in vain, to induce him to give information against
"Tush, tush, Rene Dumas!" said the old man, "you are a lawyer.
You are bred to regard human life with contempt. Let any man
break a law, and you shout, 'Execute him!'"
"I!" cried Dumas, lifting up his hands and eyes: "venerable
sage, how you misjudge me! I lament more than any one the
severity of our code. I think the state never should take away
life,--no, not even the life of a murderer. I agree with that
young statesman,--Maximilien Robespierre,--that the executioner
is the invention of the tyrant. My very attachment to our
advancing revolution is, that it must sweep away this legal
The lawyer paused, out of breath. The stranger regarded him
fixedly and turned pale.
"You change countenance, sir," said Dumas; "you do not agree with
"Pardon me, I was at that moment repressing a vague fear which
"Was that we should meet again, when your opinions on Death and
the philosophy of Revolutions might be different."
"You enchant me, Cousin Rene," said the old man, who had listened
to his relation with delight. "Ah, I see you have proper
sentiments of justice and philanthropy. Why did I not seek to
know you before? You admire the Revolution;--you, equally with
me, detest the barbarity of kings and the fraud of priests?"
"Detest! How could I love mankind if I did not?"
"And," said the old man, hesitatingly, "you do not think, with
this noble gentleman, that I erred in the precepts I instilled
into that wretched man?"
"Erred! Was Socrates to blame if Alcibiades was an adulterer and
"You hear him, you hear him! But Socrates had also a Plato;
henceforth you shall be a Plato to me. You hear him?" exclaimed
the old man, turning to the stranger.
But the latter was at the threshold. Who shall argue with the
most stubborn of all bigotries,--the fanaticism of unbelief?
"Are you going?" exclaimed Dumas, "and before I have thanked you,
blessed you, for the life of this dear and venerable man? Oh, if
ever I can repay you,--if ever you want the heart's blood of Rene
Dumas!" Thus volubly delivering himself, he followed the
stranger to the threshold of the second chamber, and there,
gently detaining him, and after looking over his shoulder, to be
sure that he was not heard by the owner, he whispered, "I ought
to return to Nancy. One would not lose one's time,--you don't
think, sir, that that scoundrel took away ALL the old fool's
"Was it thus Plato spoke of Socrates, Monsieur Dumas?"
"Ha, ha!--you are caustic. Well, you have a right. Sir, we
shall meet again."
"AGAIN!" muttered the stranger, and his brow darkened. He
hastened to his chamber; he passed the day and the night alone,
and in studies, no matter of what nature,--they served to
increase his gloom.
What could ever connect his fate with Rene Dumas, or the fugitive
assassin? Why did the buoyant air of Paris seem to him heavy
with the steams of blood; why did an instinct urge him to fly
from those sparkling circles, from that focus of the world's
awakened hopes, warning him from return?--he, whose lofty
existence defied--but away these dreams and omens! He leaves
France behind. Back, O Italy, to thy majestic wrecks! On the
Alps his soul breathes the free air once more. Free air! Alas!
let the world-healers exhaust their chemistry; man never shall be
as free in the marketplace as on the mountain. But we, reader,
we too escape from these scenes of false wisdom clothing godless
crime. Away, once more
"In den heitern Regionen
Wo die reinen Formen wohnen."
Away, to the loftier realm where the pure dwellers are.
Unpolluted by the Actual, the Ideal lives only with Art and
Beauty. Sweet Viola, by the shores of the blue Parthenope, by
Virgil's tomb, and the Cimmerian cavern, we return to thee once
Che non vuol che 'l destrier piu vada in alto,
Poi lo lega nel margine marino
A un verde mirto in mezzo un lauro E UN PINO.
"Orlando Furioso," c. vi. xxiii.
(As he did not wish that his charger (the hippogriff) should take
any further excursions into the higher regions for the present,
he bound him at the sea-shore to a green myrtle between a laurel
and a pine.)
O Musician! art thou happy now? Thou art reinstalled at thy
stately desk,--thy faithful barbiton has its share in the
triumph. It is thy masterpiece which fills thy ear; it is thy
daughter who fills the scene,--the music, the actress, so united,
that applause to one is applause to both. They make way for
thee, at the orchestra,--they no longer jeer and wink, when, with
a fierce fondness, thou dost caress thy Familiar, that plains,
and wails, and chides, and growls, under thy remorseless hand.
They understand now how irregular is ever the symmetry of real
genius. The inequalities in its surface make the moon luminous
to man. Giovanni Paisiello, Maestro di Capella, if thy gentle
soul could know envy, thou must sicken to see thy Elfrida and thy
Pirro laid aside, and all Naples turned fanatic to the Siren, at
whose measures shook querulously thy gentle head! But thou,
Paisiello, calm in the long prosperity of fame, knowest that the
New will have its day, and comfortest thyself that the Elfrida
and the Pirro will live forever. Perhaps a mistake, but it is by
such mistakes that true genius conquers envy. "To be immortal,"
says Schiller, "live in the whole." To be superior to the hour,
live in thy self-esteem. The audience now would give their ears
for those variations and flights they were once wont to hiss.
No!--Pisani has been two-thirds of a life at silent work on his
masterpiece: there is nothing he can add to THAT, however he
might have sought to improve on the masterpieces of others. Is
not this common? The least little critic, in reviewing some work
of art, will say, "pity this, and pity that;" "this should have
been altered,--that omitted." Yea, with his wiry fiddlestring
will he creak out his accursed variations. But let him sit down
and compose himself. He sees no improvement in variations THEN!
Every man can control his fiddle when it is his own work with
which its vagaries would play the devil.
And Viola is the idol, the theme of Naples. She is the spoiled
sultana of the boards. To spoil her acting may be easy enough,--
shall they spoil her nature? No, I think not. There, at home,
she is still good and simple; and there, under the awning by the
doorway,--there she still sits, divinely musing. How often,
crook-trunked tree, she looks to thy green boughs; how often,
like thee, in her dreams, and fancies, does she struggle for the
light,--not the light of the stage-lamps. Pooh, child! be
contented with the lamps, even with the rush-lights. A farthing
candle is more convenient for household purposes than the stars.
Weeks passed, and the stranger did not reappear; months had
passed, and his prophecy of sorrow was not yet fulfilled. One
evening Pisani was taken ill. His success had brought on the
long-neglected composer pressing applications for concerti and
sonata, adapted to his more peculiar science on the violin. He
had been employed for some weeks, day and night, on a piece in
which he hoped to excel himself. He took, as usual, one of those
seemingly impracticable subjects which it was his pride to
subject to the expressive powers of his art,--the terrible legend
connected with the transformation of Philomel. The pantomime of
sound opened with the gay merriment of a feast. The monarch of
Thrace is at his banquet; a sudden discord brays through the
joyous notes,--the string seems to screech with horror. The king
learns the murder of his son by the hands of the avenging
sisters. Swift rage the chords, through the passions of fear, of
horror, of fury, and dismay. The father pursues the sisters.
Hark! what changes the dread--the discord--into that long,
silvery, mournful music? The transformation is completed; and
Philomel, now the nightingale, pours from the myrtle-bough the
full, liquid, subduing notes that are to tell evermore to the
world the history of her woes and wrongs. Now, it was in the
midst of this complicated and difficult attempt that the health
of the over-tasked musician, excited alike by past triumph and
new ambition, suddenly gave way. He was taken ill at night. The
next morning the doctor pronounced that his disease was a
malignant and infectious fever. His wife and Viola shared in
their tender watch; but soon that task was left to the last
alone. The Signora Pisani caught the infection, and in a few
hours was even in a state more alarming than that of her husband.
The Neapolitans, in common with the inhabitants of all warm
climates, are apt to become selfish and brutal in their dread of
infectious disorders. Gionetta herself pretended to be ill, to
avoid the sick-chamber. The whole labour of love and sorrow fell
on Viola. It was a terrible trial,--I am willing to hurry over
the details. The wife died first!
One day, a little before sunset, Pisani woke partially recovered
from the delirium which had preyed upon him, with few intervals,
since the second day of the disease; and casting about him his
dizzy and feeble eyes, he recognised Viola, and smiled. He
faltered her name as he rose and stretched his arms. She fell
upon his breast, and strove to suppress her tears.
"Thy mother?" he said. "Does she sleep?"
"She sleeps,--ah, yes!" and the tears gushed forth.
"I thought--eh! I know not WHAT I have thought. But do not
weep: I shall be well now,--quite well. She will come to me
when she wakes,--will she?"
Viola could not speak; but she busied herself in pouring forth an
anodyne, which she had been directed to give the sufferer as soon
as the delirium should cease. The doctor had told her, too, to
send for him the instant so important a change should occur.
She went to the door and called to the woman who, during
Gionetta's pretended illness, had been induced to supply her
place; but the hireling answered not. She flew through the
chambers to search for her in vain,--the hireling had caught
Gionetta's fears, and vanished. What was to be done? The case
was urgent,--the doctor had declared not a moment should be lost
in obtaining his attendance; she must leave her father,--she must
go herself! She crept back into the room,--the anodyne seemed
already to have taken benign effect; the patient's eyes were
closed, and he breathed regularly, as in sleep. She stole away,
threw her veil over her face, and hurried from the house.
Now the anodyne had not produced the effect which it appeared to
have done; instead of healthful sleep, it had brought on a kind
of light-headed somnolence, in which the mind, preternaturally
restless, wandered about its accustomed haunts, waking up its old
familiar instincts and inclinations. It was not sleep,--it was
not delirium; it was the dream-wakefulness which opium sometimes
induces, when every nerve grows tremulously alive, and creates a
corresponding activity in the frame, to which it gives a false
and hectic vigour. Pisani missed something,--what, he scarcely
knew; it was a combination of the two wants most essential to his
mental life,--the voice of his wife, the touch of his Familiar.
He rose,--he left his bed, he leisurely put on his old
dressing-robe, in which he had been wont to compose. He smiled
complacently as the associations connected with the garment came
over his memory; he walked tremulously across the room, and
entered the small cabinet next to his chamber, in which his wife
had been accustomed more often to watch than sleep, when illness
separated her from his side. The room was desolate and void. He
looked round wistfully, and muttered to himself, and then
proceeded regularly, and with a noiseless step, through the
chambers of the silent house, one by one.
He came at last to that in which old Gionetta--faithful to her
own safety, if nothing else--nursed herself, in the remotest
corner of the house, from the danger of infection. As he glided
in,--wan, emaciated, with an uneasy, anxious, searching look in
his haggard eyes,--the old woman shrieked aloud, and fell at his
feet. He bent over her, passed his thin hands along her averted
face, shook his head, and said in a hollow voice,--
"I cannot find them; where are they?"
"Who, dear master? Oh, have compassion on yourself; they are not
here. Blessed saints! this is terrible; he has touched me; I am
"Dead! who is dead? Is any one dead?"
"Ah! don't talk so; you must know it well: my poor mistress,--
she caught the fever from you; it is infectious enough to kill a
whole city. San Gennaro protect me! My poor mistress, she is
dead,--buried, too; and I, your faithful Gionetta, woe is me!
Go, go--to--to bed again, dearest master,--go!"
The poor musician stood for one moment mute and unmoving, then a
slight shiver ran through his frame; he turned and glided back,
silent and spectre-like, as he had entered. He came into the
room where he had been accustomed to compose,--where his wife, in
her sweet patience, had so often sat by his side, and praised and
flattered when the world had but jeered and scorned. In one
corner he found the laurel-wreath she had placed on his brows
that happy night of fame and triumph; and near it, half hid by
her mantilla, lay in its case the neglected instrument.
Viola was not long gone: she had found the physician; she
returned with him; and as they gained the threshold, they heard a
strain of music from within,--a strain of piercing, heart-rending
anguish. It was not like some senseless instrument, mechanical
in its obedience to a human hand,--it was as some spirit calling,
in wail and agony from the forlorn shades, to the angels it
beheld afar beyond the Eternal Gulf. They exchanged glances of
dismay. They hurried into the house; they hastened into the
room. Pisani turned, and his look, full of ghastly intelligence
and stern command, awed them back. The black mantilla, the faded
laurel-leaf, lay there before him. Viola's heart guessed all at
a single glance; she sprung to his knees; she clasped them,--
"Father, father, _I_ am left thee still!"
The wail ceased,--the note changed; with a confused association--
half of the man, half of the artist--the anguish, still a melody,
was connected with sweeter sounds and thoughts. The nightingale
had escaped the pursuit,--soft, airy, bird-like, thrilled the
delicious notes a moment, and then died away. The instrument
fell to the floor, and its chords snapped. You heard that sound
through the silence. The artist looked on his kneeling child,
and then on the broken chords..."Bury me by her side," he said,
in a very calm, low voice; "and THAT by mine." And with these
words his whole frame became rigid, as if turned to stone. The
last change passed over his face. He fell to the ground, sudden
and heavy. The chords THERE, too,--the chords of the human
instrument were snapped asunder. As he fell, his robe brushed
the laurel-wreath, and that fell also, near but not in reach of
the dead man's nerveless hand.
Broken instrument, broken heart, withered laurel-wreath!--the
setting sun through the vine-clad lattice streamed on all! So
smiles the eternal Nature on the wrecks of all that make life
glorious! And not a sun that sets not somewhere on the silenced
music,--on the faded laurel!
Che difesa miglior ch' usbergo e scudo,
E la santa innocenza al petto ignudo!
"Ger. Lib.," c. viii. xli.
(Better defence than shield or breastplate is holy innocence
to the naked breast.)
And they buried the musician and his barbiton together, in the
same coffin. That famous Steiner--primeval Titan of the great
Tyrolese race--often hast thou sought to scale the heavens, and
therefore must thou, like the meaner children of men, descend to
the dismal Hades! Harder fate for thee than thy mortal master.
For THY soul sleeps with thee in the coffin. And the music that
belongs to HIS, separate from the instrument, ascends on high, to
be heard often by a daughter's pious ears when the heaven is
serene and the earth sad. For there is a sense of hearing that
the vulgar know not. And the voices of the dead breathe soft and
frequent to those who can unite the memory with the faith.
And now Viola is alone in the world,--alone in the home where
loneliness had seemed from the cradle a thing that was not of
nature. And at first the solitude and the stillness were
insupportable. Have you, ye mourners, to whom these sibyl
leaves, weird with many a dark enigma, shall be borne, have you
not felt that when the death of some best-loved one has made the
hearth desolate,--have you not felt as if the gloom of the
altered home was too heavy for thought to bear?--you would leave
it, though a palace, even for a cabin. And yet,--sad to say,--
when you obey the impulse, when you fly from the walls, when in
the strange place in which you seek your refuge nothing speaks to
you of the lost, have ye not felt again a yearning for that very
food to memory which was just before but bitterness and gall? Is
it not almost impious and profane to abandon that dear hearth to
strangers? And the desertion of the home where your parents
dwelt, and blessed you, upbraids your conscience as if you had
sold their tombs.
Beautiful was the Etruscan superstition that the ancestors become
the household gods. Deaf is the heart to which the Lares call
from the desolate floors in vain. At first Viola had, in her
intolerable anguish, gratefully welcomed the refuge which the
house and family of a kindly neighbour, much attached to her
father, and who was one of the orchestra that Pisani shall
perplex no more, had proffered to the orphan. But the company of
the unfamiliar in our grief, the consolation of the stranger, how
it irritates the wound! And then, to hear elsewhere the name of
father, mother, child,--as if death came alone to you,--to see
elsewhere the calm regularity of those lives united in love and
order, keeping account of happy hours, the unbroken timepiece of
home, as if nowhere else the wheels were arrested, the chain
shattered, the hands motionless, the chime still! No, the grave
itself does not remind us of our loss like the company of those
who have no loss to mourn. Go back to thy solitude, young
orphan,--go back to thy home: the sorrow that meets thee on the
threshold can greet thee, even in its sadness, like the smile
upon the face of the dead. And there, from thy casement, and
there, from without thy door, thou seest still the tree, solitary
as thyself, and springing from the clefts of the rock, but
forcing its way to light,--as, through all sorrow, while the
seasons yet can renew the verdure and bloom of youth, strives the
instinct of the human heart! Only when the sap is dried up, only
when age comes on, does the sun shine in vain for man and for the
Weeks and months--months sad and many--again passed, and Naples
will not longer suffer its idol to seclude itself from homage.
The world ever plucks us back from ourselves with a thousand
arms. And again Viola's voice is heard upon the stage, which,
mystically faithful to life, is in nought more faithful than
this, that it is the appearances that fill the scene; and we
pause not to ask of what realities they are the proxies. When
the actor of Athens moved all hearts as he clasped the burial
urn, and burst into broken sobs; how few, there, knew that it
held the ashes of his son! Gold, as well as fame, was showered
upon the young actress; but she still kept to her simple mode of
life, to her lowly home, to the one servant whose faults, selfish
as they were, Viola was too inexperienced to perceive. And it
was Gionetta who had placed her when first born in her father's
arms! She was surrounded by every snare, wooed by every
solicitation that could beset her unguarded beauty and her
dangerous calling. But her modest virtue passed unsullied
through them all. It is true that she had been taught by lips
now mute the maiden duties enjoined by honour and religion. And
all love that spoke not of the altar only shocked and repelled
her. But besides that, as grief and solitude ripened her heart,
and made her tremble at times to think how deeply it could feel,
her vague and early visions shaped themselves into an ideal of
love. And till the ideal is found, how the shadow that it throws
before it chills us to the actual! With that ideal, ever and
ever, unconsciously, and with a certain awe and shrinking, came
the shape and voice of the warning stranger. Nearly two years
had passed since he had appeared at Naples. Nothing had been
heard of him, save that his vessel had been directed, some months
after his departure, to sail for Leghorn. By the gossips of
Naples, his existence, supposed so extraordinary, was wellnigh
forgotten; but the heart of Viola was more faithful. Often he
glided through her dreams, and when the wind sighed through that
fantastic tree, associated with his remembrance, she started with
a tremor and a blush, as if she had heard him speak.
But amongst the train of her suitors was one to whom she listened
more gently than to the rest; partly because, perhaps, he spoke
in her mother's native tongue; partly because in his diffidence
there was little to alarm and displease; partly because his rank,
nearer to her own than that of lordlier wooers, prevented his
admiration from appearing insult; partly because he himself,
eloquent and a dreamer, often uttered thoughts that were kindred
to those buried deepest in her mind. She began to like, perhaps
to love him, but as a sister loves; a sort of privileged
familiarity sprung up between them. If in the Englishman's
breast arose wild and unworthy hopes, he had not yet expressed
them. Is there danger to thee here, lone Viola, or is the danger
greater in thy unfound ideal?
And now, as the overture to some strange and wizard spectacle,
closes this opening prelude. Wilt thou hear more? Come with thy
faith prepared. I ask not the blinded eyes, but the awakened
sense. As the enchanted Isle, remote from the homes of men,--
"Ove alcun legno
Rado, o non mai va dalle nostre sponde,"--
"Ger.Lib.," cant. xiv. 69.
(Where ship seldom or never comes from our coasts.)
is the space in the weary ocean of actual life to which the Muse
or Sibyl (ancient in years, but ever young in aspect), offers
thee no unhallowed sail,--
"Quinci ella in cima a una montagna ascende
Disabitata, e d' ombre oscura e bruna;
E par incanto a lei nevose rende
Le spalle e i fianchi; e sensa neve alcuna
Gli lascia il capo verdeggiante e vago;
E vi fonda un palagio appresso un lago."
(There, she a mountain's lofty peak ascends,
Unpeopled, shady, shagg'd with forests brown,
Whose sides, by power of magic, half-way down
She heaps with slippery ice and frost and snow,
But sunshiny and verdant leaves the crown
With orange-woods and myrtles,--speaks, and lo!
Rich from the bordering lake a palace rises slow.
ART, LOVE, AND WONDER.
Diversi aspetti in un confusi e misti.
"Ger. Lib," cant. iv. 7.
Different appearances, confused and mixt in one.
Centauri, e Sfingi, e pallide Gorgoni.
"Ger. Lib.," c. iv. v.
(Centaurs and Sphinxes and pallid Gorgons.)
One moonlit night, in the Gardens at Naples, some four or five
gentleman were seated under a tree, drinking their sherbet, and
listening, in the intervals of conversation, to the music which
enlivened that gay and favourite resort of an indolent
population. One of this little party was a young Englishman, who
had been the life of the whole group, but who, for the last few
moments, had sunk into a gloomy and abstracted reverie. One of
his countrymen observed this sudden gloom, and, tapping him on
the back, said, "What ails you, Glyndon? Are you ill? You have
grown quite pale,--you tremble. Is it a sudden chill? You had
better go home: these Italian nights are often dangerous to our
"No, I am well now; it was a passing shudder. I cannot account
for it myself."
A man, apparently of about thirty years of age, and of a mien and
countenance strikingly superior to those around him, turned
abruptly, and looked steadfastly at Glyndon.
"I think I understand what you mean," said he; "and perhaps," he
added, with a grave smile, "I could explain it better than
yourself." Here, turning to the others, he added, "You must
often have felt, gentlemen, each and all of you, especially when
sitting alone at night, a strange and unaccountable sensation of
coldness and awe creep over you; your blood curdles, and the
heart stands still; the limbs shiver; the hair bristles; you are
afraid to look up, to turn your eyes to the darker corners of the
room; you have a horrible fancy that something unearthly is at
hand; presently the whole spell, if I may so call it, passes
away, and you are ready to laugh at your own weakness. Have you
not often felt what I have thus imperfectly described?--if so,
you can understand what our young friend has just experienced,
even amidst the delights of this magical scene, and amidst the
balmy whispers of a July night."
"Sir," replied Glyndon, evidently much surprised, "you have
defined exactly the nature of that shudder which came over me.
But how could my manner be so faithful an index to my
"I know the signs of the visitation," returned the stranger,
gravely; "they are not to be mistaken by one of my experience."
All the gentleman present then declared that they could
comprehend, and had felt, what the stranger had described.
"According to one of our national superstitions," said Mervale,
the Englishman who had first addressed Glyndon, "the moment you
so feel your blood creep, and your hair stand on end, some one is
walking over the spot which shall be your grave."
"There are in all lands different superstitions to account for so
common an occurrence," replied the stranger: "one sect among the
Arabians holds that at that instant God is deciding the hour
either of your death, or of some one dear to you. The African
savage, whose imagination is darkened by the hideous rites of his
gloomy idolatry, believes that the Evil Spirit is pulling you
towards him by the hair: so do the Grotesque and the Terrible
mingle with each other."
"It is evidently a mere physical accident,--a derangement of the
stomach, a chill of the blood," said a young Neapolitan, with
whom Glyndon had formed a slight acquaintance.
"Then why is it always coupled in all nations with some
superstitious presentiment or terror,--some connection between
the material frame and the supposed world without us? For my
part, I think--"
"Ay, what do you think, sir?" asked Glyndon, curiously.
"I think," continued the stranger, "that it is the repugnance and
horror with which our more human elements recoil from something,
indeed, invisible, but antipathetic to our own nature; and from a
knowledge of which we are happily secured by the imperfection of
"You are a believer in spirits, then?" said Mervale, with an
"Nay, it was not precisely of spirits that I spoke; but there may
be forms of matter as invisible and impalpable to us as the
animalculae in the air we breathe,--in the water that plays in
yonder basin. Such beings may have passions and powers like our
own--as the animalculae to which I have compared them. The
monster that lives and dies in a drop of water--carnivorous,
insatiable, subsisting on the creatures minuter than himself--is
not less deadly in his wrath, less ferocious in his nature, than
the tiger of the desert. There may be things around us that would
be dangerous and hostile to men, if Providence had not placed a
wall between them and us, merely by different modifications of
"And think you that wall never can be removed?" asked young
Glyndon, abruptly. "Are the traditions of sorcerer and wizard,
universal and immemorial as they are, merely fables?"
"Perhaps yes,--perhaps no," answered the stranger, indifferently.
"But who, in an age in which the reason has chosen its proper
bounds, would be mad enough to break the partition that divides
him from the boa and the lion,--to repine at and rebel against
the law which confines the shark to the great deep? Enough of
these idle speculations."
Here the stranger rose, summoned the attendant, paid for his
sherbet, and, bowing slightly to the company, soon disappeared
among the trees.
"Who is that gentleman?" asked Glyndon, eagerly.
The rest looked at each other, without replying, for some
"I never saw him before," said Mervale, at last.
"I know him well," said the Neapolitan, who was, indeed, the
Count Cetoxa. "If you remember, it was as my companion that he
joined you. He visited Naples about two years ago, and has
recently returned; he is very rich,--indeed, enormously so. A
most agreeable person. I am sorry to hear him talk so strangely
to-night; it serves to encourage the various foolish reports that
are circulated concerning him."
"And surely," said another Neapolitan, "the circumstance that
occurred but the other day, so well known to yourself, Cetoxa,
justifies the reports you pretend to deprecate."
"Myself and my countryman," said Glyndon, "mix so little in
Neapolitan society, that we lose much that appears well worthy of
lively interest. May I enquire what are the reports, and what is
the circumstance you refer to?"
"As to the reports, gentlemen," said Cetoxa, courteously,
addressing himself to the two Englishmen, "it may suffice to
observe, that they attribute to the Signor Zanoni certain
qualities which everybody desires for himself, but damns any one
else for possessing. The incident Signor Belgioso alludes to,
illustrates these qualities, and is, I must own, somewhat
startling. You probably play, gentlemen?" (Here Cetoxa paused;
and as both Englishmen had occasionally staked a few scudi at
the public gaming-tables, they bowed assent to the conjecture.)
Cetoxa continued. "Well, then, not many days since, and on the
very day that Zanoni returned to Naples, it so happened that I
had been playing pretty high, and had lost considerably. I rose
from the table, resolved no longer to tempt fortune, when I
suddenly perceived Zanoni, whose acquaintance I had before made
(and who, I may say, was under some slight obligation to me),
standing by, a spectator. Ere I could express my gratification
at this unexpected recognition, he laid his hand on my arm. 'You
have lost much,' said he; 'more than you can afford. For my
part, I dislike play; yet I wish to have some interest in what is
going on. Will you play this sum for me? the risk is mine,--the
half profits yours.' I was startled, as you may suppose, at such
an address; but Zanoni had an air and tone with him it was
impossible to resist; besides, I was burning to recover my
losses, and should not have risen had I had any money left about
me. I told him I would accept his offer, provided we shared the
risk as well as profits. 'As you will,' said he, smiling; 'we
need have no scruple, for you will be sure to win.' I sat down;
Zanoni stood behind me; my luck rose,--I invariably won. In
fact, I rose from the table a rich man."
"There can be no foul play at the public tables, especially when
foul play would make against the bank?" This question was put by
"Certainly not," replied the count. "But our good fortune was,
indeed, marvellous,--so extraordinary that a Sicilian (the
Sicilians are all ill-bred, bad-tempered fellows) grew angry and
insolent. 'Sir,' said he, turning to my new friend, 'you have no
business to stand so near to the table. I do not understand
this; you have not acted fairly.' Zanoni replied, with great
composure, that he had done nothing against the rules,--that he
was very sorry that one man could not win without another man
losing; and that he could not act unfairly, even if disposed to
do so. The Sicilian took the stranger's mildness for
apprehension, and blustered more loudly. In fact, he rose from
the table, and confronted Zanoni in a manner that, to say the
least of it, was provoking to any gentleman who has some
quickness of temper, or some skill with the small-sword."
"And," interrupted Belgioso, "the most singular part of the whole
to me was, that this Zanoni, who stood opposite to where I sat,
and whose face I distinctly saw, made no remark, showed no
resentment. He fixed his eyes steadfastly on the Sicilian; never
shall I forget that look! it is impossible to describe it,--it
froze the blood in my veins. The Sicilian staggered back as if
struck. I saw him tremble; he sank on the bench. And then--"
"Yes, then," said Cetoxa, "to my infinite surprise, our
gentleman, thus disarmed by a look from Zanoni, turned his whole
anger upon me, THE -- but perhaps you do not know, gentlemen,
that I have some repute with my weapon?"
"The best swordsman in Italy," said Belgioso.
"Before I could guess why or wherefore," resumed Cetoxa, "I found
myself in the garden behind the house, with Ughelli (that was the
Sicilian's name) facing me, and five or six gentlemen, the
witnesses of the duel about to take place, around. Zanoni
beckoned me aside. 'This man will fall,' said he. 'When he is
on the ground, go to him, and ask whether he will be buried by
the side of his father in the church of San Gennaro?' 'Do you
then know his family?' I asked with great surprise. Zanoni made
me no answer, and the next moment I was engaged with the
Sicilian. To do him justice, his imbrogliato was magnificent,
and a swifter lounger never crossed a sword; nevertheless," added
Cetoxa, with a pleasing modesty, "he was run through the body. I
went up to him; he could scarcely speak. 'Have you any request
to make,--any affairs to settle?' He shook his head. 'Where
would you wish to be interred?' He pointed towards the Sicilian
coast. 'What!' said I, in surprise, 'NOT by the side of your
father, in the church of San Gennaro?' As I spoke, his face
altered terribly; he uttered a piercing shriek,--the blood gushed
from his mouth, and he fell dead. The most strange part of the
story is to come. We buried him in the church of San Gennaro.
In doing so, we took up his father's coffin; the lid came off in
moving it, and the skeleton was visible. In the hollow of the
skull we found a very slender wire of sharp steel; this caused
surprise and inquiry. The father, who was rich and a miser, had
died suddenly, and been buried in haste, owing, it was said, to
the heat of the weather. Suspicion once awakened, the
examination became minute. The old man's servant was questioned,
and at last confessed that the son had murdered the sire. The
contrivance was ingenious: the wire was so slender that it
pierced to the brain, and drew but one drop of blood, which the
grey hairs concealed. The accomplice will be executed."
"And Zanoni,--did he give evidence, did he account for--"
"No," interrupted the count: "he declared that he had by
accident visited the church that morning; that he had observed
the tombstone of the Count Ughelli; that his guide had told him
the count's son was in Naples,--a spendthrift and a gambler.
While we were at play, he had heard the count mentioned by name
at the table; and when the challenge was given and accepted, it
had occurred to him to name the place of burial, by an instinct
which he either could not or would not account for."
"A very lame story," said Mervale.
"Yes! but we Italians are superstitious,--the alleged instinct
was regarded by many as the whisper of Providence. The next day
the stranger became an object of universal interest and
curiosity. His wealth, his manner of living, his extraordinary
personal beauty, have assisted also to make him the rage;
besides, I have had the pleasure in introducing so eminent a
person to our gayest cavaliers and our fairest ladies."
"A most interesting narrative," said Mervale, rising. "Come,
Glyndon; shall we seek our hotel? It is almost daylight. Adieu,
"What think you of this story?" said Glyndon, as the young men
"Why, it is very clear that this Zanoni is some imposter,--some
clever rogue; and the Neapolitan shares the booty, and puffs him
off with all the hackneyed charlatanism of the marvellous. An
unknown adventurer gets into society by being made an object of
awe and curiosity; he is more than ordinarily handsome, and the
women are quite content to receive him without any other
recommendation than his own face and Cetoxa's fables."
"I cannot agree with you. Cetoxa, though a gambler and a rake,
is a nobleman of birth and high repute for courage and honour.
Besides, this stranger, with his noble presence and lofty air,--
so calm, so unobtrusive,--has nothing in common with the forward
garrulity of an imposter."
"My dear Glyndon, pardon me; but you have not yet acquired any
knowledge of the world! The stranger makes the best of a fine
person, and his grand air is but a trick of the trade. But to
change the subject,--how advances the love affair?"
"Oh, Viola could not see me to-day."
"You must not marry her. What would they all say at home?"
"Let us enjoy the present," said Glyndon, with vivacity; "we are
young, rich, good-looking; let us not think of to-morrow."
"Bravo, Glyndon! Here we are at the hotel. Sleep sound, and
don't dream of Signor Zanoni."
Prende, giovine audace e impaziente,
L'occasione offerta avidamente.
"Ger. Lib.," c. vi. xxix.
(Take, youth, bold and impatient, the offered occasion eagerly.)
Clarence Glyndon was a young man of fortune, not large, but easy
and independent. His parents were dead, and his nearest relation
was an only sister, left in England under the care of her aunt,
and many years younger than himself. Early in life he had
evinced considerable promise in the art of painting, and rather
from enthusiasm than any pecuniary necessity for a profession, he
determined to devote himself to a career in which the English
artist generally commences with rapture and historical
composition, to conclude with avaricious calculation and
portraits of Alderman Simpkins. Glyndon was supposed by his
friends to possess no inconsiderable genius; but it was of a rash
and presumptuous order. He was averse from continuous and steady
labour, and his ambition rather sought to gather the fruit than
to plant the tree. In common with many artists in their youth,
he was fond of pleasure and excitement, yielding with little
forethought to whatever impressed his fancy or appealed to his
passions. He had travelled through the more celebrated cities of
Europe, with the avowed purpose and sincere resolution of
studying the divine masterpieces of his art. But in each,
pleasure had too often allured him from ambition, and living
beauty distracted his worship from the senseless canvas. Brave,
adventurous, vain, restless, inquisitive, he was ever involved in
wild projects and pleasant dangers,--the creature of impulse and
the slave of imagination.
It was then the period when a feverish spirit of change was
working its way to that hideous mockery of human aspirations, the
Revolution of France; and from the chaos into which were already
jarring the sanctities of the World's Venerable Belief, arose
many shapeless and unformed chimeras. Need I remind the reader
that, while that was the day for polished scepticism and affected
wisdom, it was the day also for the most egregious credulity and
the most mystical superstitions,--the day in which magnetism and
magic found converts amongst the disciples of Diderot; when
prophecies were current in every mouth; when the salon of a
philosophical deist was converted into an Heraclea, in which
necromancy professed to conjure up the shadows of the dead; when
the Crosier and the Book were ridiculed, and Mesmer and
Cagliostro were believed. In that Heliacal Rising, heralding the
new sun before which all vapours were to vanish, stalked from
their graves in the feudal ages all the phantoms that had flitted
before the eyes of Paracelsus and Agrippa. Dazzled by the dawn
of the Revolution, Glyndon was yet more attracted by its strange
accompaniments; and natural it was with him, as with others, that
the fancy which ran riot amidst the hopes of a social Utopia,
should grasp with avidity all that promised, out of the dusty
tracks of the beaten science, the bold discoveries of some
In his travels he had listened with vivid interest, at least, if
not with implicit belief, to the wonders told of each more
renowned Ghost-seer, and his mind was therefore prepared for the
impression which the mysterious Zanoni at first sight had
produced upon it.
There might be another cause for this disposition to credulity.
A remote ancestor of Glyndon's on the mother's side, had achieved
no inconsiderable reputation as a philosopher and alchemist.
Strange stories were afloat concerning this wise progenitor. He
was said to have lived to an age far exceeding the allotted
boundaries of mortal existence, and to have preserved to the last
the appearance of middle life. He had died at length, it was
supposed, of grief for the sudden death of a great-grandchild,
the only creature he had ever appeared to love. The works of
this philosopher, though rare, were extant, and found in the
library of Glyndon's home. Their Platonic mysticism, their bold
assertions, the high promises that might be detected through
their figurative and typical phraseology, had early made a deep
impression on the young imagination of Clarence Glyndon. His
parents, not alive to the consequences of encouraging fancies
which the very enlightenment of the age appeared to them
sufficient to prevent or dispel, were fond, in the long winter
nights, of conversing on the traditional history of this
distinguished progenitor. And Clarence thrilled with a fearful
pleasure when his mother playfully detected a striking likeness
between the features of the young heir and the faded portrait of
the alchemist that overhung their mantelpiece, and was the boast
of their household and the admiration of their friends,--the
child is, indeed, more often than we think for, "the father of
I have said that Glyndon was fond of pleasure. Facile, as genius
ever must be, to cheerful impression, his careless artist-life,
ere artist-life settles down to labour, had wandered from flower
to flower. He had enjoyed, almost to the reaction of satiety,
the gay revelries of Naples, when he fell in love with the face
and voice of Viola Pisani. But his love, like his ambition, was
vague and desultory. It did not satisfy his whole heart and fill
up his whole nature; not from want of strong and noble passions,
but because his mind was not yet matured and settled enough for
their development. As there is one season for the blossom,
another for the fruit; so it is not till the bloom of fancy
begins to fade, that the heart ripens to the passions that the
bloom precedes and foretells. Joyous alike at his lonely easel
or amidst his boon companions, he had not yet known enough of
sorrow to love deeply. For man must be disappointed with the
lesser things of life before he can comprehend the full value of
the greatest. It is the shallow sensualists of France, who, in
their salon-language, call love "a folly,"--love, better
understood, is wisdom. Besides, the world was too much with
Clarence Glyndon. His ambition of art was associated with the
applause and estimation of that miserable minority of the surface
that we call the Public.
Like those who deceive, he was ever fearful of being himself the
dupe. He distrusted the sweet innocence of Viola. He could not
venture the hazard of seriously proposing marriage to an Italian
actress; but the modest dignity of the girl, and something good
and generous in his own nature, had hitherto made him shrink from
any more worldly but less honourable designs. Thus the
familiarity between them seemed rather that of kindness and
regard than passion. He attended the theatre; he stole behind
the scenes to converse with her; he filled his portfolio with
countless sketches of a beauty that charmed him as an artist as
well as lover; and day after day he floated on through a changing
sea of doubt and irresolution, of affection and distrust. The
last, indeed, constantly sustained against his better reason by
the sober admonitions of Mervale, a matter-of-fact man!
The day following that eve on which this section of my story
opens, Glyndon was riding alone by the shores of the Neapolitan
sea, on the other side of the Cavern of Posilipo. It was past
noon; the sun had lost its early fervour, and a cool breeze
sprung up voluptuously from the sparkling sea. Bending over a
fragment of stone near the roadside, he perceived the form of a
man; and when he approached, he recognised Zanoni.
The Englishman saluted him courteously. "Have you discovered
some antique?" said he, with a smile; "they are common as pebbles
on this road."
"No," replied Zanoni; "it was but one of those antiques that have
their date, indeed, from the beginning of the world, but which
Nature eternally withers and renews." So saying, he showed
Glyndon a small herb with a pale-blue flower, and then placed it
carefully in his bosom.
"You are an herbalist?"
"It is, I am told, a study full of interest."
"To those who understand it, doubtless."
"Is the knowledge, then, so rare?"
"Rare! The deeper knowledge is perhaps rather, among the arts,
LOST to the modern philosophy of commonplace and surface! Do you
imagine there was no foundation for those traditions which come
dimly down from remoter ages,--as shells now found on the
mountain-tops inform us where the seas have been? What was the
old Colchian magic, but the minute study of Nature in her
lowliest works? What the fable of Medea, but a proof of the
powers that may be extracted from the germ and leaf? The most
gifted of all the Priestcrafts, the mysterious sisterhoods of
Cuth, concerning whose incantations Learning vainly bewilders
itself amidst the maze of legends, sought in the meanest herbs
what, perhaps, the Babylonian Sages explored in vain amidst the
loftiest stars. Tradition yet tells you that there existed a
race ("Plut. Symp." l. 5. c. 7.) who could slay their enemies
from afar, without weapon, without movement. The herb that ye
tread on may have deadlier powers than your engineers can give to
their mightiest instruments of war. Can you guess that to these
Italian shores, to the old Circaean Promontory, came the Wise
from the farthest East, to search for plants and simples which
your Pharmacists of the Counter would fling from them as weeds?
The first herbalists--the master chemists of the world--were the
tribe that the ancient reverence called by the name of Titans.
(Syncellus, page 14.--"Chemistry the Invention of the Giants.")
I remember once, by the Hebrus, in the reign of -- But this
talk," said Zanoni, checking himself abruptly, and with a cold
smile, "serves only to waste your time and my own." He paused,
looked steadily at Glyndon, and continued, "Young man, think you
that vague curiosity will supply the place of earnest labour? I
read your heart. You wish to know me, and not this humble herb:
but pass on; your desire cannot be satisfied."
"You have not the politeness of your countrymen," said Glyndon,
somewhat discomposed. "Suppose I were desirous to cultivate your
acquaintance, why should you reject my advances?"
"I reject no man's advances," answered Zanoni; "I must know them
if they so desire; but ME, in return, they can never comprehend.
If you ask my acquaintance, it is yours; but I would warn you to
"And why are you, then, so dangerous?"
"On this earth, men are often, without their own agency, fated to
be dangerous to others. If I were to predict your fortune by the
vain calculations of the astrologer, I should tell you, in their
despicable jargon, that my planet sat darkly in your house of
life. Cross me not, if you can avoid it. I warn you now for the
first time and last."
"You despise the astrologers, yet you utter a jargon as
mysterious as theirs. I neither gamble nor quarrel; why, then,
should I fear you?"
"As you will; I have done."
"Let me speak frankly,--your conversation last night interested
and perplexed me."
"I know it: minds like yours are attracted by mystery."
Glyndon was piqued at these words, though in the tone in which
they were spoken there was no contempt.
"I see you do not consider me worthy of your friendship. Be it
Zanoni coldly replied to the salutation; and as the Englishman
rode on, returned to his botanical employment.
The same night, Glyndon went, as usual, to the theatre. He was
standing behind the scenes watching Viola, who was on the stage
in one of her most brilliant parts. The house resounded with
applause. Glyndon was transported with a young man's passion and
a young man's pride: "This glorious creature," thought he, "may
yet be mine."
He felt, while thus wrapped in delicious reverie, a slight touch
upon his shoulder; he turned, and beheld Zanoni. "You are in
danger," said the latter. "Do not walk home to-night; or if you
do, go not alone."
Before Glyndon recovered from his surprise, Zanoni disappeared;
and when the Englishman saw him again, he was in the box of one
of the Neapolitan nobles, where Glyndon could not follow him.
Viola now left the stage, and Glyndon accosted her with an
unaccustomed warmth of gallantry. But Viola, contrary to her
gentle habit, turned with an evident impatience from the address
of her lover. Taking aside Gionetta, who was her constant
attendant at the theatre, she said, in an earnest whisper,--
"Oh, Gionetta! He is here again!--the stranger of whom I spoke
to thee!--and again, he alone, of the whole theatre, withholds
from me his applause."
"Which is he, my darling?" said the old woman, with fondness in
her voice. "He must indeed be dull--not worth a thought."
The actress drew Gionetta nearer to the stage, and pointed out to
her a man in one of the boxes, conspicuous amongst all else by
the simplicity of his dress, and the extraordinary beauty of his
"Not worth a thought, Gionetta!" repeated Viola,--"Not worth a
thought! Alas, not to think of him, seems the absence of thought
The prompter summoned the Signora Pisani. "Find out his name,
Gionetta," said she, moving slowly to the stage, and passing by
Glyndon, who gazed at her with a look of sorrowful reproach.
The scene on which the actress now entered was that of the final
catastrophe, wherein all her remarkable powers of voice and art
were pre-eminently called forth. The house hung on every word
with breathless worship; but the eyes of Viola sought only those
of one calm and unmoved spectator; she exerted herself as if
inspired. Zanoni listened, and observed her with an attentive
gaze, but no approval escaped his lips; no emotion changed the
expression of his cold and half-disdainful aspect. Viola, who
was in the character of one who loved, but without return, never
felt so acutely the part she played. Her tears were truthful;
her passion that of nature: it was almost too terrible to
behold. She was borne from the stage exhausted and insensible,
amidst such a tempest of admiring rapture as Continental
audiences alone can raise. The crowd stood up, handkerchiefs
waved, garlands and flowers were thrown on the stage,--men wiped
their eyes, and women sobbed aloud.
"By heavens!" said a Neapolitan of great rank, "She has fired me
beyond endurance. To-night--this very night--she shall be mine!
You have arranged all, Mascari?"
"All, signor. And the young Englishman?"
"The presuming barbarian! As I before told thee, let him bleed
for his folly. I will have no rival."
"But an Englishman! There is always a search after the bodies of
"Fool! is not the sea deep enough, or the earth secret enough, to
hide one dead man? Our ruffians are silent as the grave itself;
and I!--who would dare to suspect, to arraign the Prince di --?
See to it,--this night. I trust him to you. Robbers murder him,
you understand,--the country swarms with them; plunder and strip
him, the better to favour such report. Take three men; the rest
shall be my escort."
Mascari shrugged his shoulders, and bowed submissively.
The streets of Naples were not then so safe as now, and carriages
were both less expensive and more necessary. The vehicle which
was regularly engaged by the young actress was not to be found.
Gionetta, too aware of the beauty of her mistress and the number
of her admirers to contemplate without alarm the idea of their
return on foot, communicated her distress to Glyndon, and he
besought Viola, who recovered but slowly, to accept his own
carriage. Perhaps before that night she would not have rejected
so slight a service. Now, for some reason or other, she refused.
Glyndon, offended, was retiring sullenly, when Gionetta stopped
him. "Stay, signor," said she, coaxingly: "the dear signora is
not well,--do not be angry with her; I will make her accept your
Glyndon stayed, and after a few moments spent in expostulation on
the part of Gionetta, and resistance on that of Viola, the offer
was accepted. Gionetta and her charge entered the carriage, and
Glyndon was left at the door of the theatre to return home on
foot. The mysterious warning of Zanoni then suddenly occurred to
him; he had forgotten it in the interest of his lover's quarrel
with Viola. He thought it now advisable to guard against danger
foretold by lips so mysterious. He looked round for some one he
knew: the theatre was disgorging its crowds; they hustled, and
jostled, and pressed upon him; but he recognised no familiar
countenance. While pausing irresolute, he heard Mervale's voice
calling on him, and, to his great relief, discovered his friend
making his way through the throng.
"I have secured you," said he, "a place in the Count Cetoxa's
carriage. Come along, he is waiting for us."
"How kind in you! how did you find me out?"
"I met Zanoni in the passage,--'Your friend is at the door of the
theatre,' said he; 'do not let him go home on foot to-night; the
streets of Naples are not always safe.' I immediately remembered
that some of the Calabrian bravos had been busy within the city
the last few weeks, and suddenly meeting Cetoxa--but here he is."
Further explanation was forbidden, for they now joined the count.
As Glyndon entered the carriage and drew up the glass, he saw
four men standing apart by the pavement, who seemed to eye him
"Cospetto!" cried one; "that is the Englishman!" Glyndon
imperfectly heard the exclamation as the carriage drove on. He
reached home in safety.
The familiar and endearing intimacy which always exists in Italy
between the nurse and the child she has reared, and which the
"Romeo and Juliet" of Shakespeare in no way exaggerates, could
not but be drawn yet closer than usual, in a situation so
friendless as that of the orphan-actress. In all that concerned
the weaknesses of the heart, Gionetta had large experience; and
when, three nights before, Viola, on returning from the theatre,
had wept bitterly, the nurse had succeeded in extracting from her
a confession that she had seen one,--not seen for two weary and
eventful years,--but never forgotten, and who, alas! had not
evinced the slightest recognition of herself. Gionetta could not
comprehend all the vague and innocent emotions that swelled this
sorrow; but she resolved them all, with her plain, blunt
understanding, to the one sentiment of love. And here, she was
well fitted to sympathise and console. Confidante to Viola's
entire and deep heart she never could be,--for that heart never
could have words for all its secrets. But such confidence as she
could obtain, she was ready to repay by the most unreproving pity
and the most ready service.
"Have you discovered who he is?" asked Viola, as she was now
alone in the carriage with Gionetta.
"Yes; he is the celebrated Signor Zanoni, about whom all the
great ladies have gone mad. They say he is so rich!--oh! so much
richer than any of the Inglesi!--not but what the Signor
"Cease!" interrupted the young actress. "Zanoni! Speak of the
Englishman no more."
The carriage was now entering that more lonely and remote part of
the city in which Viola's house was situated, when it suddenly
Gionetta, in alarm, thrust her head out of the window, and
perceived, by the pale light of the moon, that the driver, torn
from his seat, was already pinioned in the arms of two men; the
next moment the door was opened violently, and a tall figure,
masked and mantled, appeared.
"Fear not, fairest Pisani," said he, gently; "no ill shall befall
you." As he spoke, he wound his arm round the form of the fair
actress, and endeavoured to lift her from the carriage. But
Gionetta was no ordinary ally,--she thrust back the assailant
with a force that astonished him, and followed the shock by a
volley of the most energetic reprobation.
The mask drew back, and composed his disordered mantle.
"By the body of Bacchus!" said he, half laughing, "she is well
protected. Here, Luigi, Giovanni! seize the hag!--quick!--why
The mask retired from the door, and another and yet taller form
presented itself. "Be calm, Viola Pisani," said he, in a low
voice; "with me you are indeed safe!" He lifted his mask as he
spoke, and showed the noble features of Zanoni.
"Be calm, be hushed,--I can save you." He vanished, leaving
Viola lost in surprise, agitation, and delight. There were, in
all, nine masks: two were engaged with the driver; one stood at
the head of the carriage-horses; a fourth guarded the
well-trained steeds of the party; three others (besides Zanoni
and the one who had first accosted Viola) stood apart by a
carriage drawn to the side of the road. To these three Zanoni
motioned; they advanced; he pointed towards the first mask, who
was in fact the Prince di --, and to his unspeakable astonishment
the prince was suddenly seized from behind.
"Treason!" he cried. "Treason among my own men! What means
"Place him in his carriage! If he resist, his blood be on his
own head!" said Zanoni, calmly.
He approached the men who had detained the coachman.
"You are outnumbered and outwitted," said he; "join your lord;
you are three men,--we six, armed to the teeth. Thank our mercy
that we spare your lives. Go!"
The men gave way, dismayed. The driver remounted.
"Cut the traces of their carriage and the bridles of their
horses," said Zanoni, as he entered the vehicle containing Viola,
which now drove on rapidly, leaving the discomfited ravisher in a
state of rage and stupor impossible to describe.
"Allow me to explain this mystery to you," said Zanoni. "I
discovered the plot against you,--no matter how; I frustrated it
thus: The head of this design is a nobleman, who has long
persecuted you in vain. He and two of his creatures watched you
from the entrance of the theatre, having directed six others to
await him on the spot where you were attacked; myself and five of
my servants supplied their place, and were mistaken for his own
followers. I had previously ridden alone to the spot where the
men were waiting, and informed them that their master would not
require their services that night. They believed me, and
accordingly dispersed. I then joined my own band, whom I had
left in the rear; you know all. We are at your door."
When most I wink, then do mine eyes best see,
For all the day they view things unrespected;
But when I sleep, in dreams they look on thee,
And, darkly bright, are bright in dark directed.
Zanoni followed the young Neapolitan into her house; Gionetta
vanished,--they were left alone.
Alone, in that room so often filled, in the old happy days, with
the wild melodies of Pisani; and now, as she saw this mysterious,
haunting, yet beautiful and stately stranger, standing on the
very spot where she had sat at her father's feet, thrilled and
spellbound,--she almost thought, in her fantastic way of
personifying her own airy notions, that that spiritual Music had
taken shape and life, and stood before her glorious in the image
it assumed. She was unconscious all the while of her own
loveliness. She had thrown aside her hood and veil; her hair,
somewhat disordered, fell over the ivory neck which the dress
partially displayed; and as her dark eyes swam with grateful
tears, and her cheek flushed with its late excitement, the god of
light and music himself never, amidst his Arcadian valleys,
wooed, in his mortal guise, maiden or nymph more fair.
Zanoni gazed at her with a look in which admiration seemed not
unmingled with compassion. He muttered a few words to himself,
and then addressed her aloud.
"Viola, I have saved you from a great peril; not from dishonour
only, but perhaps from death. The Prince di --, under a weak
despot and a venal administration, is a man above the law. He is
capable of every crime; but amongst his passions he has such
prudence as belongs to ambition; if you were not to reconcile
yourself to your shame, you would never enter the world again to
tell your tale. The ravisher has no heart for repentance, but he
has a hand that can murder. I have saved you, Viola. Perhaps
you would ask me wherefore?" Zanoni paused, and smiled
mournfully, as he added, "You will not wrong me by the thought
that he who has preserved is not less selfish than he who would
have injured. Orphan, I do not speak to you in the language of
your wooers; enough that I know pity, and am not ungrateful for
affection. Why blush, why tremble at the word? I read your
heart while I speak, and I see not one thought that should give
you shame. I say not that you love me yet; happily, the fancy
may be roused long before the heart is touched. But it has been
my fate to fascinate your eye, to influence your imagination. It
is to warn you against what could bring you but sorrow, as I
warned you once to prepare for sorrow itself, that I am now your
guest. The Englishman, Glyndon, loves thee well,--better,
perhaps, than I can ever love; if not worthy of thee, yet, he has
but to know thee more to deserve thee better. He may wed thee,
he may bear thee to his own free and happy land,--the land of thy
mother's kin. Forget me; teach thyself to return and deserve his
love; and I tell thee that thou wilt be honoured and be happy."
Viola listened with silent, inexpressible emotion, and burning
blushes, to this strange address, and when he had concluded, she
covered her face with her hands, and wept. And yet, much as his
words were calculated to humble or irritate, to produce
indignation or excite shame, those were not the feelings with
which her eyes streamed and her heart swelled. The woman at that
moment was lost in the child; and AS a child, with all its
exacting, craving, yet innocent desire to be loved, weeps in
unrebuking sadness when its affection is thrown austerely back
upon itself,--so, without anger and without shame, wept Viola.
Zanoni contemplated her thus, as her graceful head, shadowed by
its redundant tresses, bent before him; and after a moment's
pause he drew near to her, and said, in a voice of the most
soothing sweetness, and with a half smile upon his lip,--
"Do you remember, when I told you to struggle for the light, that
I pointed for example to the resolute and earnest tree? I did
not tell you, fair child, to take example by the moth, that would
soar to the star, but falls scorched beside the lamp. Come, I
will talk to thee. This Englishman--"
Viola drew herself away, and wept yet more passionately.
"This Englishman is of thine own years, not far above thine own
rank. Thou mayst share his thoughts in life,--thou mayst sleep
beside him in the same grave in death! And I--but THAT view of
the future should concern us not. Look into thy heart, and thou
wilt see that till again my shadow crossed thy path, there had
grown up for this thine equal a pure and calm affection that
would have ripened into love. Hast thou never pictured to
thyself a home in which thy partner was thy young wooer?"
"Never!" said Viola, with sudden energy,--"never but to feel that
such was not the fate ordained me. And, oh!" she continued,
rising suddenly, and, putting aside the tresses that veiled her
face, she fixed her eyes upon the questioner,--"and, oh! whoever
thou art that thus wouldst read my soul and shape my future, do
not mistake the sentiment that, that--" she faltered an instant,
and went on with downcast eyes,--"that has fascinated my thoughts
to thee. Do not think that I could nourish a love unsought and
unreturned. It is not love that I feel for thee, stranger. Why
should I? Thou hast never spoken to me but to admonish,--and
now, to wound!" Again she paused, again her voice faltered; the
tears trembled on her eyelids; she brushed them away and resumed.
"No, not love,--if that be love which I have heard and read of,
and sought to simulate on the stage,--but a more solemn, fearful,
and, it seems to me, almost preternatural attraction, which makes
me associate thee, waking or dreaming, with images that at once
charm and awe. Thinkest thou, if it were love, that I could
speak to thee thus; that," she raised her looks suddenly to his,
"mine eyes could thus search and confront thine own? Stranger, I
ask but at times to see, to hear thee! Stranger, talk not to me
of others. Forewarn, rebuke, bruise my heart, reject the not
unworthy gratitude it offers thee, if thou wilt, but come not
always to me as an omen of grief and trouble. Sometimes have I
seen thee in my dreams surrounded by shapes of glory and light;
thy looks radiant with a celestial joy which they wear not now.
Stranger, thou hast saved me, and I thank and bless thee! Is
that also a homage thou wouldst reject?" With these words, she
crossed her arms meekly on her bosom, and inclined lowlily before
him. Nor did her humility seem unwomanly or abject, nor that of
mistress to lover, of slave to master, but rather of a child to
its guardian, of a neophyte of the old religion to her priest.
Zanoni's brow was melancholy and thoughtful. He looked at her
with a strange expression of kindness, of sorrow, yet of tender
affection, in his eyes; but his lips were stern, and his voice
cold, as he replied,--
"Do you know what you ask, Viola? Do you guess the danger to
yourself--perhaps to both of us--which you court? Do you know
that my life, separated from the turbulent herd of men, is one
worship of the Beautiful, from which I seek to banish what the
Beautiful inspires in most? As a calamity, I shun what to man
seems the fairest fate,--the love of the daughters of earth. At
present I can warn and save thee from many evils; if I saw more
of thee, would the power still be mine? You understand me not.
What I am about to add, it will be easier to comprehend. I bid
thee banish from thy heart all thought of me, but as one whom the
Future cries aloud to thee to avoid. Glyndon, if thou acceptest
his homage, will love thee till the tomb closes upon both. I,
too," he added with emotion,--"I, too, might love thee!"
"You!" cried Viola, with the vehemence of a sudden impulse of
delight, of rapture, which she could not suppress; but the
instant after, she would have given worlds to recall the
"Yes, Viola, I might love thee; but in that love what sorrow and
what change! The flower gives perfume to the rock on whose heart
it grows. A little while, and the flower is dead; but the rock
still endures,--the snow at its breast, the sunshine on its
summit. Pause,--think well. Danger besets thee yet. For some
days thou shalt be safe from thy remorseless persecutor; but the
hour soon comes when thy only security will be in flight. If the
Englishman love thee worthily, thy honour will be dear to him as
his own; if not, there are yet other lands where love will be
truer, and virtue less in danger from fraud and force. Farewell;
my own destiny I cannot foresee except through cloud and shadow.
I know, at least, that we shall meet again; but learn ere then,
sweet flower, that there are more genial resting-places than the
He turned as he spoke, and gained the outer door where Gionetta
discreetly stood. Zanoni lightly laid his hand on her arm. With
the gay accent of a jesting cavalier, he said,--
"The Signor Glyndon woos your mistress; he may wed her. I know
your love for her. Disabuse her of any caprice for me. I am a
bird ever on the wing."
He dropped a purse into Gionetta's hand as he spoke, and was
Les Intelligences Celestes se font voir, et see communiquent plus
volontiers, dans le silence et dans la tranquillite de la
solitude. On aura donc une petite chambre ou un cabinet secret,
"Les Clavicules de Rabbi Salomon," chapter 3; traduites
exactement du texte Hebreu par M. Pierre Morissoneau, Professeur
des Langues Orientales, et Sectateur de la Philosophie des Sages
Cabalistes. (Manuscript Translation.)
(The Celestial Intelligences exhibit and explain themselves most
freely in silence and the tranquillity of solitude. One will
have then a little chamber, or a secret cabinet, etc.)
The palace retained by Zanoni was in one of the less frequented
quarters of the city. It still stands, now ruined and
dismantled, a monument of the splendour of a chivalry long since
vanished from Naples, with the lordly races of the Norman and the
As he entered the rooms reserved for his private hours, two
Indians, in the dress of their country, received him at the
threshold with the grave salutations of the East. They had
accompanied him from the far lands in which, according to rumour,
he had for many years fixed his home. But they could communicate
nothing to gratify curiosity or justify suspicion. They spoke no
language but their own. With the exception of these two his
princely retinue was composed of the native hirelings of the
city, whom his lavish but imperious generosity made the implicit
creatures of his will. In his house, and in his habits, so far
as they were seen, there was nothing to account for the rumours
which were circulated abroad. He was not, as we are told of
Albertus Magnus or the great Leonardo da Vinci, served by airy
forms; and no brazen image, the invention of magic mechanism,
communicated to him the influences of the stars. None of the
apparatus of the alchemist--the crucible and the metals--gave
solemnity to his chambers, or accounted for his wealth; nor did
he even seem to interest himself in those serener studies which
might be supposed to colour his peculiar conversation with
abstract notions, and often with recondite learning. No books
spoke to him in his solitude; and if ever he had drawn from them
his knowledge, it seemed now that the only page he read was the
wide one of Nature, and that a capacious and startling memory
supplied the rest. Yet was there one exception to what in all
else seemed customary and commonplace, and which, according to
the authority we have prefixed to this chapter, might indicate
the follower of the occult sciences. Whether at Rome or Naples,
or, in fact, wherever his abode, he selected one room remote from
the rest of the house, which was fastened by a lock scarcely
larger than the seal of a ring, yet which sufficed to baffle the
most cunning instruments of the locksmith: at least, one of his
servants, prompted by irresistible curiosity, had made the
attempt in vain; and though he had fancied it was tried in the
most favourable time for secrecy,--not a soul near, in the dead
of night, Zanoni himself absent from home,--yet his superstition,
or his conscience, told him the reason why the next day the Major
Domo quietly dismissed him. He compensated himself for this
misfortune by spreading his own story, with a thousand amusing
exaggerations. He declared that, as he approached the door,
invisible hands seemed to pluck him away; and that when he
touched the lock, he was struck, as by a palsy, to the ground.
One surgeon, who heard the tale, observed, to the distaste of the
wonder-mongers, that possibly Zanoni made a dexterous use of
electricity. Howbeit, this room, once so secured, was never
entered save by Zanoni himself.
The solemn voice of Time, from the neighbouring church at last
aroused the lord of the palace from the deep and motionless
reverie, rather resembling a trance than thought, in which his
mind was absorbed.
"It is one more sand out of the mighty hour-glass," said he,
murmuringly, "and yet time neither adds to, nor steals from, an
atom in the Infinite! Soul of mine, the luminous, the Augoeides
(Augoeides,--a word favoured by the mystical Platonists, sphaira
psuches augoeides, otan mete ekteinetai epi ti, mete eso
suntreche mete sunizane, alla photi lampetai, o ten aletheian opa
ten panton, kai ten en aute.--Marc. Ant., lib. 2.--The sense of
which beautiful sentence of the old philosophy, which, as Bayle
well observes, in his article on Cornelius Agrippa, the modern
Quietists have (however impotently) sought to imitate, is to the
effect that "the sphere of the soul is luminous when nothing
external has contact with the soul itself; but when lit by its
own light, it sees the truth of all things and the truth centred
in itself."), why descendest thou from thy sphere,--why from the
eternal, starlike, and passionless Serene, shrinkest thou back to
the mists of the dark sarcophagus? How long, too austerely
taught that companionship with the things that die brings with it
but sorrow in its sweetness, hast thou dwelt contented with thy
As he thus murmured, one of the earliest birds that salute the
dawn broke into sudden song from amidst the orange-trees in the
garden below his casement; and as suddenly, song answered song;
the mate, awakened at the note, gave back its happy answer to the
bird. He listened; and not the soul he had questioned, but the
heart replied. He rose, and with restless strides paced the
narrow floor. "Away from this world!" he exclaimed at length,
with an impatient tone. "Can no time loosen its fatal ties? As
the attraction that holds the earth in space, is the attraction
that fixes the soul to earth. Away from the dark grey planet!
Break, ye fetters: arise, ye wings!"
He passed through the silent galleries, and up the lofty stairs,
and entered the secret chamber.
I and my fellows
Are ministers of Fate.
The next day Glyndon bent his steps towards Zanoni's palace. The
young man's imagination, naturally inflammable, was singularly
excited by the little he had seen and heard of this strange
being,--a spell, he could neither master nor account for,
attracted him towards the stranger. Zanoni's power seemed
mysterious and great, his motives kindly and benevolent, yet his
manners chilling and repellent. Why at one moment reject
Glyndon's acquaintance, at another save him from danger? How had
Zanoni thus acquired the knowledge of enemies unknown to Glyndon
himself? His interest was deeply roused, his gratitude appealed
to; he resolved to make another effort to conciliate the
The signor was at home, and Glyndon was admitted into a lofty
saloon, where in a few moments Zanoni joined him.
"I am come to thank you for your warning last night," said he,
"and to entreat you to complete my obligation by informing me of
the quarter to which I may look for enmity and peril."
"You are a gallant," said Zanoni, with a smile, and in the
English language, "and do you know so little of the South as not
to be aware that gallants have always rivals?"
"Are you serious?" said Glyndon, colouring.
"Most serious. You love Viola Pisani; you have for rival one of
the most powerful and relentless of the Neapolitan princes. Your
danger is indeed great."
"But pardon me!--how came it known to you?"
"I give no account of myself to mortal man," replied Zanoni,
haughtily; "and to me it matters nothing whether you regard or
scorn my warning."
"Well, if I may not question you, be it so; but at least advise
me what to do."
"Would you follow my advice?"
"Because you are constitutionally brave; you are fond of
excitement and mystery; you like to be the hero of a romance.
Were I to advise you to leave Naples, would you do so while
Naples contains a foe to confront or a mistress to pursue?"
"You are right," said the young Englishman, with energy. "No!
and you cannot reproach me for such a resolution."
"But there is another course left to you: do you love Viola
Pisani truly and fervently?--if so, marry her, and take a bride
to your native land."
"Nay," answered Glyndon, embarrassed; "Viola is not of my rank.
Her profession, too, is--in short, I am enslaved by her beauty,
but I cannot wed her."
"Your love, then, is but selfish lust, and I advise you to your
own happiness no more. Young man, Destiny is less inexorable
than it appears. The resources of the great Ruler of the
Universe are not so scanty and so stern as to deny to men the
divine privilege of Free Will; all of us can carve out our own
way, and God can make our very contradictions harmonise with His
solemn ends. You have before you an option. Honourable and
generous love may even now work out your happiness, and effect
your escape; a frantic and selfish passion will but lead you to
misery and doom."
"Do you pretend, then, to read the future?"
"I have said all that it pleases me to utter."
"While you assume the moralist to me, Signor Zanoni," said
Glyndon, with a smile, "are you yourself so indifferent to youth
and beauty as to act the stoic to its allurements?"
"If it were necessary that practice square with precept," said
Zanoni, with a bitter smile, "our monitors would be but few. The
conduct of the individual can affect but a small circle beyond
himself; the permanent good or evil that he works to others lies
rather in the sentiments he can diffuse. His acts are limited
and momentary; his sentiments may pervade the universe, and
inspire generations till the day of doom. All our virtues, all
our laws, are drawn from books and maxims, which ARE sentiments,
not from deeds. In conduct, Julian had the virtues of a
Christian, and Constantine the vices of a Pagan. The sentiments
of Julian reconverted thousands to Paganism; those of Constantine
helped, under Heaven's will, to bow to Christianity the nations
of the earth. In conduct, the humblest fisherman on yonder sea,
who believes in the miracles of San Gennaro, may be a better man
than Luther; to the sentiments of Luther the mind of modern
Europe is indebted for the noblest revolution it has known. Our
opinions, young Englishman, are the angel part of us; our acts,
"You have reflected deeply for an Italian," said Glyndon.
"Who told you that I was an Italian?"
"Are you not? And yet, when I hear you speak my own language as
a native, I--"
"Tush!" interrupted Zanoni, impatiently turning away. Then,
after a pause, he resumed in a mild voice, "Glyndon, do you
renounce Viola Pisani? Will you take some days to consider what
I have said?"
"Then you will marry her?"
"Be it so; she will then renounce you. I tell you that you have
"Yes; the Prince di --; but I do not fear him."
"You have another whom you will fear more."
"And who is he?"
Glyndon turned pale, and started from his seat.
"You, Signor Zanoni!--you,--and you dare to tell me so?"
"Dare! Alas! there are times when I wish that I could fear."
These arrogant words were not uttered arrogantly, but in a tone
of the most mournful dejection. Glyndon was enraged, confounded,
and yet awed. However, he had a brave English heart within his
breast, and he recovered himself quickly.
"Signor," said he, calmly, "I am not to be duped by these solemn
phrases and these mystical assumptions. You may have powers
which I cannot comprehend or emulate, or you may be but a keen
"I mean, then," continued Glyndon, resolutely, though somewhat
disconcerted,--"I mean you to understand, that, though I am not
to be persuaded or compelled by a stranger to marry Viola Pisani,
I am not the less determined never tamely to yield her to
Zanoni looked gravely at the young man, whose sparkling eyes and
heightened colour testified the spirit to support his words, and
replied, "So bold! well; it becomes you. But take my advice;
wait yet nine days, and tell me then if you will marry the
fairest and the purest creature that ever crossed your path."
"But if you love her, why--why--"
"Why am I anxious that she should wed another?--to save her from
myself! Listen to me. That girl, humble and uneducated though
she be, has in her the seeds of the most lofty qualities and
virtues. She can be all to the man she loves,--all that man can
desire in wife. Her soul, developed by affection, will elevate
your own; it will influence your fortunes, exalt your destiny;
you will become a great and a prosperous man. If, on the
contrary, she fall to me, I know not what may be her lot; but I
know that there is an ordeal which few can pass, and which
hitherto no woman has survived."
As Zanoni spoke, his face became colourless, and there was
something in his voice that froze the warm blood of the listener.
"What is this mystery which surrounds you?" exclaimed Glyndon,
unable to repress his emotion. "Are you, in truth, different
from other men? Have you passed the boundary of lawful
knowledge? Are you, as some declare, a sorcerer, or only a--"
"Hush!" interrupted Zanoni, gently, and with a smile of singular
but melancholy sweetness; "have you earned the right to ask me
these questions? Though Italy still boast an Inquisition, its
power is rivelled as a leaf which the first wind shall scatter.
The days of torture and persecution are over; and a man may live
as he pleases, and talk as it suits him, without fear of the
stake and the rack. Since I can defy persecution, pardon me if I
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