Edward Bulwer Lytton
Part 4 out of 9
"Often, when the air is calm, I have thought that I hear the
strains of my father's music; often, though long stilled in the
grave, have they waked me from the dreams of the solemn night.
Methinks, ere thou comest to me that I hear them herald thy
approach. Methinks I hear them wail and moan, when I sink back
into myself on seeing thee depart. Thou art OF that music,--its
spirit, its genius. My father must have guessed at thee and thy
native regions, when the winds hushed to listen to his tones, and
the world deemed him mad! I hear where I sit, the far murmur of
the sea. Murmur on, ye blessed waters! The waves are the pulses
of the shore. They beat with the gladness of the morning wind,--
so beats my heart in the freshness and light that make up the
thoughts of thee!
"Often in my childhood I have mused and asked for what I was
born; and my soul answered my heart and said, 'THOU WERT BORN TO
WORSHIP!' Yes; I know why the real world has ever seemed to me
so false and cold. I know why the world of the stage charmed and
dazzled me. I know why it was so sweet to sit apart and gaze my
whole being into the distant heavens. My nature is not formed
for this life, happy though that life seem to others. It is its
very want to have ever before it some image loftier than itself!
Stranger, in what realm above, when the grave is past, shall my
soul, hour after hour, worship at the same source as thine?
"In the gardens of my neighbour there is a small fountain. I
stood by it this morning after sunrise. How it sprung up, with
its eager spray, to the sunbeams! And then I thought that I
should see thee again this day, and so sprung my heart to the new
morning which thou bringest me from the skies.
"I HAVE seen, I have LISTENED to thee again. How bold I have
become! I ran on with my childlike thoughts and stories, my
recollections of the past, as if I had known thee from an infant.
Suddenly the idea of my presumption struck me. I stopped, and
timidly sought thine eyes.
"'Well, and when you found that the nightingale refused to
"'Ah!' I said, 'what to thee this history of the heart of a
"'Viola,' didst thou answer, with that voice, so inexpressibly
calm and earnest!--'Viola, the darkness of a child's heart is
often but the shadow of a star. Speak on! And thy nightingale,
when they caught and caged it, refused to sing?'
"'And I placed the cage yonder, amidst the vine-leaves, and took
up my lute, and spoke to it on the strings; for I thought that
all music was its native language, and it would understand that I
sought to comfort it.'
"'Yes,' saidst thou. 'And at last it answered thee, but not with
song,--in a sharp, brief cry; so mournful, that thy hands let
fall the lute, and the tears gushed from thine eyes. So softly
didst thou unbar the cage, and the nightingale flew into yonder
thicket; and thou heardst the foliage rustle, and, looking
through the moonlight, thine eyes saw that it had found its mate.
It sang to thee then from the boughs a long, loud, joyous
jubilee. And musing, thou didst feel that it was not the vine-
leaves or the moonlight that made the bird give melody to night,
and that the secret of its music was the presence of a thing
"How didst thou know my thoughts in that childlike time better
than I knew myself! How is the humble life of my past years,
with its mean events, so mysteriously familiar to thee, bright
stranger! I wonder,--but I do not again dare to fear thee!
"Once the thought of him oppressed and weighed me down. As an
infant that longs for the moon, my being was one vague desire for
something never to be attained. Now I feel rather as if to think
of thee sufficed to remove every fetter from my spirit. I float
in the still seas of light, and nothing seems too high for my
wings, too glorious for my eyes. It was mine ignorance that made
me fear thee. A knowledge that is not in books seems to breathe
around thee as an atmosphere. How little have I read!--how
little have I learned! Yet when thou art by my side, it seems as
if the veil were lifted from all wisdom and all Nature. I
startle when I look even at the words I have written; they seem
not to come from myself, but are the signs of another language
which thou hast taught my heart, and which my hand traces
rapidly, as at thy dictation. Sometimes, while I write or muse,
I could fancy that I heard light wings hovering around me, and
saw dim shapes of beauty floating round, and vanishing as they
smiled upon me. No unquiet and fearful dream ever comes to me
now in sleep, yet sleep and waking are alike but as one dream.
In sleep I wander with thee, not through the paths of earth, but
through impalpable air--an air which seems a music--upward and
upward, as the soul mounts on the tones of a lyre! Till I knew
thee, I was as a slave to the earth. Thou hast given to me the
liberty of the universe! Before, it was life; it seems to me now
as if I had commenced eternity!
"Formerly, when I was to appear upon the stage, my heart beat
more loudly. I trembled to encounter the audience, whose breath
gave shame or renown; and now I have no fear of them. I see
them, heed them, hear them not! I know that there will be music
in my voice, for it is a hymn that I pour to thee. Thou never
comest to the theatre; and that no longer grieves me. Thou art
become too sacred to appear a part of the common world, and I
feel glad that thou art not by when crowds have a right to judge
"And he spoke to me of ANOTHER: to another he would consign me!
No, it is not love that I feel for thee, Zanoni; or why did I
hear thee without anger, why did thy command seem to me not a
thing impossible? As the strings of the instrument obey the hand
of the master, thy look modulates the wildest chords of my heart
to thy will. If it please thee,--yes, let it be so. Thou art
lord of my destinies; they cannot rebel against thee! I almost
think I could love him, whoever it be, on whom thou wouldst shed
the rays that circumfuse thyself. Whatever thou hast touched, I
love; whatever thou speakest of, I love. Thy hand played with
these vine leaves; I wear them in my bosom. Thou seemest to me
the source of all love; too high and too bright to be loved
thyself, but darting light into other objects, on which the eye
can gaze less dazzled. No, no; it is not love that I feel for
thee, and therefore it is that I do not blush to nourish and
confess it. Shame on me if I loved, knowing myself so worthless
a thing to thee!
"ANOTHER!--my memory echoes back that word. Another! Dost thou
mean that I shall see thee no more? It is not sadness,--it is
not despair that seizes me. I cannot weep. It is an utter sense
of desolation. I am plunged back into the common life; and I
shudder coldly at the solitude. But I will obey thee, if thou
wilt. Shall I not see thee again beyond the grave? O how sweet
it were to die!
"Why do I not struggle from the web in which my will is thus
entangled? Hast thou a right to dispose of me thus? Give me
back--give me back the life I knew before I gave life itself away
to thee. Give me back the careless dreams of my youth,---my
liberty of heart that sung aloud as it walked the earth. Thou
hast disenchanted me of everything that is not of thyself. Where
was the sin, at least, to think of thee,--to see thee? Thy kiss
still glows upon my hand; is that hand mine to bestow? Thy kiss
claimed and hallowed it to thyself. Stranger, I will NOT obey
"Another day,--one day of the fatal three is gone! It is strange
to me that since the sleep of the last night, a deep calm has
settled upon my breast. I feel so assured that my very being is
become a part of thee, that I cannot believe that my life can be
separated from thine; and in this conviction I repose, and smile
even at thy words and my own fears. Thou art fond of one maxim,
which thou repeatest in a thousand forms,--that the beauty of the
soul is faith; that as ideal loveliness to the sculptor, faith is
to the heart; that faith, rightly understood, extends over all
the works of the Creator, whom we can know but through belief;
that it embraces a tranquil confidence in ourselves, and a serene
repose as to our future; that it is the moonlight that sways the
tides of the human sea. That faith I comprehend now. I reject
all doubt, all fear. I know that I have inextricably linked the
whole that makes the inner life to thee; and thou canst not tear
me from thee, if thou wouldst! And this change from struggle
into calm came to me with sleep,--a sleep without a dream; but
when I woke, it was with a mysterious sense of happiness,--an
indistinct memory of something blessed,--as if thou hadst cast
from afar off a smile upon my slumber. At night I was so sad;
not a blossom that had not closed itself up, as if never more to
open to the sun; and the night itself, in the heart as on the
earth, has ripened the blossoms into flowers. The world is
beautiful once more, but beautiful in repose,--not a breeze stirs
thy tree, not a doubt my soul!"
Tu vegga o per violenzia o per inganno
Patire o disonore o mortal danno.
"Orlando Furioso," Cant. xlii. i.
(Thou art about, either through violence or artifice, to suffer
either dishonour or mortal loss.)
It was a small cabinet; the walls were covered with pictures, one
of which was worth more than the whole lineage of the owner of
the palace. Oh, yes! Zanoni was right. The painter IS a
magician; the gold he at least wrings from his crucible is no
delusion. A Venetian noble might be a fribble, or an assassin,--
a scoundrel, or a dolt; worthless, or worse than worthless, yet
he might have sat to Titian, and his portrait may be
inestimable,--a few inches of painted canvas a thousand times
more valuable than a man with his veins and muscles, brain, will,
heart, and intellect!
In this cabinet sat a man of about three-and-forty,--dark-eyed,
sallow, with short, prominent features, a massive conformation of
jaw, and thick, sensual, but resolute lips; this man was the
Prince di --. His form, above the middle height, and rather
inclined to corpulence, was clad in a loose dressing-robe of rich
brocade. On a table before him lay an old-fashioned sword and
hat, a mask, dice and dice-box, a portfolio, and an inkstand of
silver curiously carved.
"Well, Mascari," said the prince, looking up towards his
parasite, who stood by the embrasure of the deep-set barricadoed
window,--"well! the Cardinal sleeps with his fathers. I require
comfort for the loss of so excellent a relation; and where a more
dulcet voice than Viola Pisani's?"
"Is your Excellency serious? So soon after the death of his
"It will be the less talked of, and I the less suspected. Hast
thou ascertained the name of the insolent who baffled us that
night, and advised the Cardinal the next day?"
"Sapient Mascari! I will inform thee. It was the strange
"The Signor Zanoni! Are you sure, my prince?"
"Mascari, yes. There is a tone in that man's voice that I never
can mistake; so clear, and so commanding, when I hear it I almost
fancy there is such a thing as conscience. However, we must rid
ourselves of an impertinent. Mascari, Signor Zanoni hath not yet
honoured our poor house with his presence. He is a distinguished
stranger,--we must give a banquet in his honour."
"Ah, and the Cyprus wine! The cypress is a proper emblem of the
"But this anon. I am superstitious; there are strange stories of
Zanoni's power and foresight; remember the death of Ughelli. No
matter, though the Fiend were his ally, he should not rob me of
my prize; no, nor my revenge."
"Your Excellency is infatuated; the actress has bewitched you."
"Mascari," said the prince, with a haughty smile, "through these
veins rolls the blood of the old Visconti--of those who boasted
that no woman ever escaped their lust, and no man their
resentment. The crown of my fathers has shrunk into a gewgaw and
a toy,--their ambition and their spirit are undecayed! My honour
is now enlisted in this pursuit,--Viola must be mine!"
"Another ambuscade?" said Mascari, inquiringly.
"Nay, why not enter the house itself?--the situation is lonely,
and the door is not made of iron."
"But what if, on her return home, she tell the tale of our
violence? A house forced,--a virgin stolen! Reflect; though the
feudal privileges are not destroyed, even a Visconti is not now
above the law."
"Is he not, Mascari? Fool! in what age of the world, even if the
Madmen of France succeed in their chimeras, will the iron of law
not bend itself, like an osier twig, to the strong hand of power
and gold? But look not so pale, Mascari; I have foreplanned all
things. The day that she leaves this palace, she will leave it
for France, with Monsieur Jean Nicot."
Before Mascari could reply, the gentleman of the chamber
announced the Signor Zanoni.
The prince involuntarily laid his hand upon the sword placed on
the table, then with a smile at his own impulse, rose, and met
his visitor at the threshold, with all the profuse and respectful
courtesy of Italian simulation.
"This is an honour highly prized," said the prince. "I have long
desired to clasp the hand of one so distinguished."
"And I give it in the spirit with which you seek it," replied
The Neapolitan bowed over the hand he pressed; but as he touched
it a shiver came over him, and his heart stood still. Zanoni
bent on him his dark, smiling eyes, and then seated himself with
a familiar air.
"Thus it is signed and sealed; I mean our friendship, noble
prince. And now I will tell you the object of my visit. I find,
Excellency, that, unconsciously perhaps, we are rivals. Can we
not accommodate out pretensions!"
"Ah!" said the prince, carelessly, "you, then, were the cavalier
who robbed me of the reward of my chase. All stratagems fair in
love, as in war. Reconcile our pretensions! Well, here is the
dice-box; let us throw for her. He who casts the lowest shall
resign his claim."
"Is this a decision by which you will promise to be bound?"
"Yes, on my faith."
"And for him who breaks his word so plighted, what shall be the
"The sword lies next to the dice-box, Signor Zanoni. Let him who
stands not by his honour fall by the sword."
"And you invoke that sentence if either of us fail his word? Be
it so; let Signor Mascari cast for us."
"Well said!--Mascari, the dice!"
The prince threw himself back in his chair; and, world-hardened
as he was, could not suppress the glow of triumph and
satisfaction that spread itself over his features. Mascari took
up the three dice, and rattled them noisily in the box. Zanoni,
leaning his cheek on his hand, and bending over the table, fixed
his eyes steadfastly on the parasite; Mascari in vain struggled
to extricate from that searching gaze; he grew pale, and
trembled, he put down the box.
"I give the first throw to your Excellency. Signor Mascari, be
pleased to terminate our suspense."
Again Mascari took up the box; again his hand shook so that the
dice rattled within. He threw; the numbers were sixteen.
"It is a high throw," said Zanoni, calmly; "nevertheless, Signor
Mascari, I do not despond."
Mascari gathered up the dice, shook the box, and rolled the
contents once more on the table: the number was the highest that
can be thrown,--eighteen.
The prince darted a glance of fire at his minion, who stood with
gaping mouth, staring at the dice, and trembling from head to
"I have won, you see," said Zanoni; "may we be friends still?"
"Signor," said the prince, obviously struggling with anger and
confusion, "the victory is yours. But pardon me, you have spoken
lightly of this young girl,--will anything tempt you to yield
"Ah, do not think so ill of my gallantry; and," resumed Zanoni,
with a stern meaning in his voice, "forget not the forfeit your
own lips have named."
The prince knit his brow, but constrained the haughty answer that
was his first impulse.
"Enough!" he said, forcing a smile; "I yield. Let me prove that
I do not yield ungraciously; will you favour me with your
presence at a little feast I propose to give in honour," he
added, with a sardonic mockery, "of the elevation of my kinsman,
the late Cardinal, of pious memory, to the true seat of St.
"It is, indeed, a happiness to hear one command of yours I can
Zanoni then turned the conversation, talked lightly and gayly,
and soon afterwards departed.
"Villain!" then exclaimed the prince, grasping Mascari by the
collar, "you betrayed me!"
"I assure your Excellency that the dice were properly arranged;
he should have thrown twelve; but he is the Devil, and that's the
end of it."
"There is no time to be lost," said the prince, quitting his hold
of his parasite, who quietly resettled his cravat.
"My blood is up,--I will win this girl, if I die for it! What
noise is that?"
"It is but the sword of your illustrious ancestor that has fallen
from the table."
Il ne faut appeler aucun ordre si ce n'est en tems clair et
"Les Clavicules du Rabbi Salomon."
(No order of spirits must be invoked unless the weather be clear
Letter from Zanoni to Mejnour.
My art is already dim and troubled. I have lost the tranquillity
which is power. I cannot influence the decisions of those whom I
would most guide to the shore; I see them wander farther and
deeper into the infinite ocean where our barks sail evermore to
the horizon that flies before us! Amazed and awed to find that I
can only warn where I would control, I have looked into my own
soul. It is true that the desires of earth chain me to the
present, and shut me from the solemn secrets which Intellect,
purified from all the dross of the clay, alone can examine and
survey. The stern condition on which we hold our nobler and
diviner gifts darkens our vision towards the future of those for
whom we know the human infirmities of jealousy or hate or love.
Mejnour, all around me is mist and haze; I have gone back in our
sublime existence; and from the bosom of the imperishable youth
that blooms only in the spirit, springs up the dark poison-flower
of human love.
This man is not worthy of her,--I know that truth; yet in his
nature are the seeds of good and greatness, if the tares and
weeds of worldly vanities and fears would suffer them to grow.
If she were his, and I had thus transplanted to another soil the
passion that obscures my gaze and disarms my power, unseen,
unheard, unrecognised, I could watch over his fate, and secretly
prompt his deeds, and minister to her welfare through his own.
But time rushes on! Through the shadows that encircle me, I see,
gathering round her, the darkest dangers. No choice but flight,
--no escape save with him or me. With me!--the rapturous
thought,--the terrible conviction! With me! Mejnour, canst thou
wonder that I would save her from myself? A moment in the life
of ages,--a bubble on the shoreless sea. What else to me can be
human love? And in this exquisite nature of hers,--more pure,
more spiritual, even in its young affections than ever heretofore
the countless volumes of the heart, race after race, have given
to my gaze: there is yet a deep-buried feeling that warns me of
inevitable woe. Thou austere and remorseless Hierophant,--thou
who hast sought to convert to our brotherhood every spirit that
seemed to thee most high and bold,--even thou knowest, by
horrible experience, how vain the hope to banish FEAR from the
heart of woman.
My life would be to her one marvel. Even if, on the other hand,
I sought to guide her path through the realms of terror to the
light, think of the Haunter of the Threshold, and shudder with me
at the awful hazard! I have endeavoured to fill the Englishman's
ambition with the true glory of his art; but the restless spirit
of his ancestor still seems to whisper in him, and to attract to
the spheres in which it lost its own wandering way. There is a
mystery in man's inheritance from his fathers. Peculiarities of
the mind, as diseases of the body, rest dormant for generations,
to revive in some distant descendant, baffle all treatment and
elude all skill. Come to me from thy solitude amidst the wrecks
of Rome! I pant for a living confidant,--for one who in the old
time has himself known jealousy and love. I have sought commune
with Adon-Ai; but his presence, that once inspired such heavenly
content with knowledge, and so serene a confidence in destiny,
now only troubles and perplexes me. From the height from which I
strive to search into the shadows of things to come, I see
confused spectres of menace and wrath. Methinks I behold a
ghastly limit to the wondrous existence I have held,--methinks
that, after ages of the Ideal Life, I see my course merge into
the most stormy whirlpool of the Real. Where the stars opened to
me their gates, there looms a scaffold,--thick steams of blood
rise as from a shambles. What is more strange to me, a creature
here, a very type of the false ideal of common men,--body and
mind, a hideous mockery of the art that shapes the Beautiful, and
the desires that seek the Perfect, ever haunts my vision amidst
these perturbed and broken clouds of the fate to be. By that
shadowy scaffold it stands and gibbers at me, with lips dropping
slime and gore. Come, O friend of the far-time; for me, at
least, thy wisdom has not purged away thy human affections.
According to the bonds of our solemn order, reduced now to thee
and myself, lone survivors of so many haughty and glorious
aspirants, thou art pledged, too, to warn the descendant of those
whom thy counsels sought to initiate into the great secret in a
former age. The last of that bold Visconti who was once thy
pupil is the relentless persecutor of this fair child. With
thoughts of lust and murder, he is digging his own grave; thou
mayest yet daunt him from his doom. And I also mysteriously, by
the same bond, am pledged to obey, if he so command, a less
guilty descendant of a baffled but nobler student. If he reject
my counsel, and insist upon the pledge, Mejnour, thou wilt have
another neophyte. Beware of another victim! Come to me! This
will reach thee with all speed. Answer it by the pressure of one
hand that I can dare to clasp!
Ferito, credo, mi conobbe e 'ncontro
Mi venne con la bocca sanguinosa.
"Aminta," At. iv. Sc. i.
(The wounded wolf, I think, knew me, and came to meet me with its
At Naples, the tomb of Virgil, beetling over the cave of
Posilipo, is reverenced, not with the feelings that should hallow
the memory of the poet, but the awe that wraps the memory of the
magician. To his charms they ascribe the hollowing of that
mountain passage; and tradition yet guards his tomb by the
spirits he had raised to construct the cavern. This spot, in the
immediate vicinity of Viola's home, had often attracted her
solitary footsteps. She had loved the dim and solemn fancies
that beset her as she looked into the lengthened gloom of the
grotto, or, ascending to the tomb, gazed from the rock on the
dwarfed figures of the busy crowd that seemed to creep like
insects along the windings of the soil below; and now, at noon,
she bent thither her thoughtful way. She threaded the narrow
path, she passed the gloomy vineyard that clambers up the rock,
and gained the lofty spot, green with moss and luxuriant foliage,
where the dust of him who yet soothes and elevates the minds of
men is believed to rest. From afar rose the huge fortress of St.
Elmo, frowning darkly amidst spires and domes that glittered in
the sun. Lulled in its azure splendour lay the Siren's sea; and
the grey smoke of Vesuvius, in the clear distance, soared like a
moving pillar into the lucid sky. Motionless on the brink of the
precipice, Viola looked upon the lovely and living world that
stretched below; and the sullen vapour of Vesuvius fascinated her
eye yet more than the scattered gardens, or the gleaming Caprea,
smiling amidst the smiles of the sea. She heard not a step that
had followed her on her path and started to hear a voice at hand.
So sudden was the apparition of the form that stood by her side,
emerging from the bushes that clad the crags, and so singularly
did it harmonise in its uncouth ugliness with the wild nature of
the scene immediately around her, and the wizard traditions of
the place, that the colour left her cheek, and a faint cry broke
from her lips.
"Tush, pretty trembler!--do not be frightened at my face," said
the man, with a bitter smile. "After three months' marriage,
there is no different between ugliness and beauty. Custom is a
great leveller. I was coming to your house when I saw you leave
it; so, as I have matters of importance to communicate, I
ventured to follow your footsteps. My name is Jean Nicot, a name
already favourably known as a French artist. The art of painting
and the art of music are nearly connected, and the stage is an
altar that unites the two."
There was something frank and unembarrassed in the man's address
that served to dispel the fear his appearance had occasioned. He
seated himself, as he spoke, on a crag beside her, and, looking
up steadily into her face, continued:--
"You are very beautiful, Viola Pisani, and I am not surprised at
the number of your admirers. If I presume to place myself in the
list, it is because I am the only one who loves thee honestly,
and woos thee fairly. Nay, look not so indignant! Listen to me.
Has the Prince di -- ever spoken to thee of marriage; or the
beautiful imposter Zanoni, or the young blue-eyed Englishman,
Clarence Glyndon? It is marriage,--it is a home, it is safety,
it is reputation, that I offer to thee; and these last when the
straight form grows crooked, and the bright eyes dim. What say
you?" and he attempted to seize her hand.
Viola shrunk from him, and silently turned to depart. He rose
abruptly and placed himself on her path.
"Actress, you must hear me! Do you know what this calling of the
stage is in the eyes of prejudice,--that is, of the common
opinion of mankind? It is to be a princess before the lamps, and
a Pariah before the day. No man believes in your virtue, no man
credits your vows; you are the puppet that they consent to trick
out with tinsel for their amusement, not an idol for their
worship. Are you so enamoured of this career that you scorn even
to think of security and honour? Perhaps you are different from
what you seem. Perhaps you laugh at the prejudice that would
degrade you, and would wisely turn it to advantage. Speak
frankly to me; I have no prejudice either. Sweet one, I am sure
we should agree. Now, this Prince di --, I have a message from
him. Shall I deliver it?"
Never had Viola felt as she felt then, never had she so
thoroughly seen all the perils of her forelorn condition and her
fearful renown. Nicot continued:--
"Zanoni would but amuse himself with thy vanity; Glyndon would
despise himself, if he offered thee his name, and thee, if thou
wouldst accept it; but the Prince di -- is in earnest, and he is
And Nicot approached his lips to her, and hissed a sentence which
she did not suffer him to complete. She darted from him with one
glance of unutterable disdain. As he strove to regain his hold
of her arm, he lost his footing, and fell down the sides of the
rock till, bruised and lacerated, a pine-branch saved him from
the yawning abyss below. She heard his exclamation of rage and
pain as she bounded down the path, and, without once turning to
look behind, regained her home. By the porch stood Glyndon,
conversing with Gionetta. She passed him abruptly, entered the
house, and, sinking on the floor, wept loud and passionately.
Glyndon, who had followed her in surprise, vainly sought to
soothe and calm her. She would not reply to his questions; she
did not seem to listen to his protestations of love, till
suddenly, as Nicot's terrible picture of the world's judgment of
that profession which to her younger thoughts had seemed the
service of Song and the Beautiful, forced itself upon her, she
raised her face from her hands, and, looking steadily upon the
Englishman, said, "False one, dost thou talk of me of love?"
"By my honour, words fail to tell thee how I love!"
"Wilt thou give me thy home, thy name? Dost thou woo me as thy
wife?" And at that moment, had Glyndon answered as his better
angel would have counselled, perhaps, in that revolution of her
whole mind which the words of Nicot had effected, which made her
despise her very self, sicken of her lofty dreams, despair of the
future, and distrust her whole ideal,--perhaps, I say, in
restoring her self-esteem,--he would have won her confidence, and
ultimately secured her love. But against the prompting of his
nobler nature rose up at that sudden question all those doubts
which, as Zanoni had so well implied, made the true enemies of
his soul. Was he thus suddenly to be entangled into a snare laid
for his credulity by deceivers? Was she not instructed to seize
the moment to force him into an avowal which prudence must
repent? Was not the great actress rehearsing a premeditated
part? He turned round, as these thoughts, the children of the
world, passed across him, for he literally fancied that he heard
the sarcastic laugh of Mervale without. Nor was he deceived.
Mervale was passing by the threshold, and Gionetta had told him
his friend was within. Who does not know the effect of the
world's laugh? Mervale was the personation of the world. The
whole world seemed to shout derision in those ringing tones. He
drew back,--he recoiled. Viola followed him with her earnest,
impatient eyes. At last, he faltered forth, "Do all of thy
profession, beautiful Viola, exact marriage as the sole condition
of love?" Oh, bitter question! Oh, poisoned taunt! He repented
it the moment after. He was seized with remorse of reason, of
feeling, and of conscience. He saw her form shrink, as it were,
at his cruel words. He saw the colour come and go, to leave the
writhing lips like marble; and then, with a sad, gentle look of
self-pity, rather than reproach, she pressed her hands tightly to
her bosom, and said,--
"He was right! Pardon me, Englishman; I see now, indeed, that I
am the Pariah and the outcast."
"Hear me. I retract. Viola, Viola! it is for you to forgive!"
But Viola waved him from her, and, smiling mournfully as she
passed him by, glided from the chamber; and he did not dare to
Dafne: Ma, chi lung' e d'Amor?
Tirsi: Chi teme e fugge.
Dafne: E che giova fuggir da lui ch' ha l' ali?
Tirsi: AMOR NASCENTE HA CORTE L' ALI!
"Aminta," At. ii. Sc. ii.
(Dafne: But, who is far from Love?
Tirsi: He who fears and flies.
Dafne: What use to flee from one who has wings?
Tirsi: The wings of Love, while he yet grows, are short.)
When Glyndon found himself without Viola's house, Mervale, still
loitering at the door, seized his arm. Glyndon shook him off
"Thou and thy counsels," said he, bitterly, "have made me a
coward and a wretch. But I will go home,--I will write to her.
I will pour out my whole soul; she will forgive me yet."
Mervale, who was a man of imperturbable temper, arranged his
ruffles, which his friend's angry gesture had a little
discomposed, and not till Glyndon had exhausted himself awhile by
passionate exclamations and reproaches, did the experienced
angler begin to tighten the line. He then drew from Glyndon the
explanation of what had passed, and artfully sought not to
irritate, but soothe him. Mervale, indeed, was by no means a bad
man; he had stronger moral notions than are common amongst the
young. He sincerely reproved his friend for harbouring
dishonourable intentions with regard to the actress. "Because I
would not have her thy wife, I never dreamed that thou shouldst
degrade her to thy mistress. Better of the two an imprudent
match than an illicit connection. But pause yet, do not act on
the impulse of the moment."
"But there is no time to lose. I have promised to Zanoni to give
him my answer by to-morrow night. Later than that time, all
"Ah!" said Mervale, "this seems suspicious. Explain yourself."
And Glyndon, in the earnestness of his passion, told his friend
what had passed between himself and Zanoni,--suppressing only, he
scarce knew why, the reference to his ancestor and the mysterious
This recital gave to Mervale all the advantage he could desire.
Heavens! with what sound, shrewd common-sense he talked. How
evidently some charlatanic coalition between the actress, and
perhaps,--who knows?--her clandestine protector, sated with
possession! How equivocal the character of one,--the position of
the other! What cunning in the question of the actress! How
profoundly had Glyndon, at the first suggestion of his sober
reason, seen through the snare. What! was he to be thus
mystically cajoled and hurried into a rash marriage, because
Zanoni, a mere stranger, told him with a grave face that he must
decide before the clock struck a certain hour?
"Do this at least," said Mervale, reasonably enough,--"wait till
the time expires; it is but another day. Baffle Zanoni. He
tells thee that he will meet thee before midnight to-morrow, and
defies thee to avoid him. Pooh! let us quit Naples for some
neighbouring place, where, unless he be indeed the Devil, he
cannot possibly find us. Show him that you will not be led
blindfold even into an act that you meditate yourself. Defer to
write to her, or to see her, till after to-morrow. This is all I
ask. Then visit her, and decide for yourself."
Glyndon was staggered. He could not combat the reasonings of his
friend; he was not convinced, but he hesitated; and at that
moment Nicot passed them. He turned round, and stopped, as he
"Well, and do you think still of the Pisani?"
"Yes; and you--"
"Have seen and conversed with her. She shall be Madame Nicot
before this day week! I am going to the cafe, in the Toledo; and
hark ye, when next you meet your friend Signor Zanoni, tell him
that he has twice crossed my path. Jean Nicot, though a painter,
is a plain, honest man, and always pays his debts."
"It is a good doctrine in money matters," said Mervale; "as to
revenge, it is not so moral, and certainly not so wise. But is
it in your love that Zanoni has crossed your path? How that, if
your suit prosper so well?"
"Ask Viola Pisani that question. Bah! Glyndon, she is a prude
only to thee. But I have no prejudices. Once more, farewell."
"Rouse thyself, man!" said Mervale, slapping Glyndon on the
shoulder. "What think you of your fair one now?"
"This man must lie."
"Will you write to her at once?"
"No; if she be really playing a game, I could renounce her
without a sigh. I will watch her closely; and, at all events,
Zanoni shall not be the master of my fate. Let us, as you
advise, leave Naples at daybreak to-morrow."
O chiunque tu sia, che fuor d'ogni uso
Pieghi Natura ad opre altere e strane,
E, spiando i segreti, entri al piu chiuso
Spazi' a tua voglia delle menti umane--
"Gerus. Lib.," Cant. x. xviii.
(O thou, whoever thou art, who through every use bendest Nature
to works foreign and strange; and by spying into her secrets,
enterest at thy will into the closest recesses of the human
mind,--O speak! O tell me!)
Early the next morning the young Englishmen mounted their horses,
and took the road towards Baiae. Glyndon left word at his hotel,
that if Signor Zanoni sought him, it was in the neighbourhood of
that once celebrated watering-place of the ancients that he
should be found.
They passed by Viola's house, but Glyndon resisted the temptation
of pausing there; and after threading the grotto of Posilipo,
they wound by a circuitous route back into the suburbs of the
city, and took the opposite road, which conducts to Portici and
Pompeii. It was late at noon when they arrived at the former of
these places. Here they halted to dine; for Mervale had heard
much of the excellence of the macaroni at Portici, and Mervale
was a bon vivant.
They put up at an inn of very humble pretensions, and dined under
an awning. Mervale was more than usually gay; he pressed the
lacrima upon his friend, and conversed gayly.
"Well, my dear friend, we have foiled Signor Zanoni in one of his
predictions at least. You will have no faith in him hereafter."
"The ides are come, not gone."
"Tush! If he be the soothsayer, you are not the Caesar. It is
your vanity that makes you credulous. Thank Heaven, I do not
think myself of such importance that the operations of Nature
should be changed in order to frighten me."
"But why should the operations of Nature be changed? There may
be a deeper philosophy than we dream of,--a philosophy that
discovers the secrets of Nature, but does not alter, by
penetrating, its courses."
"Ah, you relapse into your heretical credulity; you seriously
suppose Zanoni to be a prophet,--a reader of the future; perhaps
an associate of genii and spirits!"
Here the landlord, a little, fat, oily fellow, came up with a
fresh bottle of lacrima. He hoped their Excellencies were
pleased. He was most touched--touched to the heart, that they
liked the macaroni. Were their Excellencies going to Vesuvius?
There was a slight eruption; they could not see it where they
were, but it was pretty, and would be prettier still after
"A capital idea!" cried Mervale. "What say you, Glyndon?"
"I have not yet seen an eruption; I should like it much."
"But is there no danger?" asked the prudent Mervale.
"Oh, not at all; the mountain is very civil at present. It only
plays a little, just to amuse their Excellencies the English."
"Well, order the horses, and bring the bill; we will go before it
is dark. Clarence, my friend,--nunc est bibendum; but take care
of the pede libero, which will scarce do for walking on lava!"
The bottle was finished, the bill paid; the gentlemen mounted,
the landlord bowed, and they bent their way, in the cool of the
delightful evening, towards Resina.
The wine, perhaps the excitement of his thoughts, animated
Glyndon, whose unequal spirits were, at times, high and brilliant
as those of a schoolboy released; and the laughter of the
Northern tourists sounded oft and merrily along the melancholy
domains of buried cities.
Hesperus had lighted his lamp amidst the rosy skies as they
arrived at Resina. Here they quitted their horses, and took
mules and a guide. As the sky grew darker and more dark, the
mountain fire burned with an intense lustre. In various streaks
and streamlets, the fountain of flame rolled down the dark
summit, and the Englishmen began to feel increase upon them, as
they ascended, that sensation of solemnity and awe which makes
the very atmosphere that surrounds the Giant of the Plains of the
It was night, when, leaving the mules, they ascended on foot,
accompanied by their guide, and a peasant who bore a rude torch.
The guide was a conversable, garrulous fellow, like most of his
country and his calling; and Mervale, who possessed a sociable
temper, loved to amuse or to instruct himself on every incidental
"Ah, Excellency," said the guide, "your countrymen have a strong
passion for the volcano. Long life to them, they bring us plenty
of money! If our fortunes depended on the Neapolitans, we should
"True, they have no curiosity," said Mervale. "Do you remember,
Glyndon, the contempt with which that old count said to us, 'You
will go to Vesuvius, I suppose? I have never been; why should I
go? You have cold, you have hunger, you have fatigue, you have
danger, and all for nothing but to see fire, which looks just as
well in a brazier as on a mountain.' Ha! ha! the old fellow was
"But, Excellency," said the guide, "that is not all: some
cavaliers think to ascend the mountain without our help. I am
sure they deserve to tumble into the crater."
"They must be bold fellows to go alone; you don't often find
"Sometimes among the French, signor. But the other night--I
never was so frightened--I had been with an English party, and a
lady had left a pocket-book on the mountain, where she had been
sketching. She offered me a handsome sum to return for it, and
bring it to her at Naples. So I went in the evening. I found
it, sure enough, and was about to return, when I saw a figure
that seemed to emerge from the crater itself. The air there was
so pestiferous that I could not have conceived a human creature
could breathe it, and live. I was so astounded that I stood
still as a stone, till the figure came over the hot ashes, and
stood before me, face to face. Santa Maria, what a head!"
"No; so beautiful, but so terrible. It had nothing human in its
"And what said the salamander?"
"Nothing! It did not even seem to perceive me, though I was near
as I am to you; but its eyes seemed to emerge prying into the
air. It passed by me quickly, and, walking across a stream of
burning lava, soon vanished on the other side of the mountain. I
was curious and foolhardy, and resolved to see if I could bear
the atmosphere which this visitor had left; but though I did not
advance within thirty yards of the spot at which he had first
appeared, I was driven back by a vapour that wellnigh stifled me.
Cospetto! I have spat blood ever since."
"Now will I lay a wager that you fancy this fire-king must be
Zanoni," whispered Mervale, laughing.
The little party had now arrived nearly at the summit of the
mountain; and unspeakably grand was the spectacle on which they
gazed. From the crater arose a vapour, intensely dark, that
overspread the whole background of the heavens; in the centre
whereof rose a flame that assumed a form singularly beautiful.
It might have been compared to a crest of gigantic feathers, the
diadem of the mountain, high-arched, and drooping downward, with
the hues delicately shaded off, and the whole shifting and
tremulous as the plumage on a warrior's helmet.
The glare of the flame spread, luminous and crimson, over the
dark and rugged ground on which they stood, and drew an
innumerable variety of shadows from crag and hollow. An
oppressive and sulphureous exhalation served to increase the
gloomy and sublime terror of the place. But on turning from the
mountain, and towards the distant and unseen ocean, the contrast
was wonderfully great; the heavens serene and blue, the stars
still and calm as the eyes of Divine Love. It was as if the
realms of the opposing principles of Evil and of Good were
brought in one view before the gaze of man! Glyndon--once more
the enthusiast, the artist--was enchained and entranced by
emotions vague and undefinable, half of delight and half of pain.
Leaning on the shoulder of his friend, he gazed around him, and
heard with deepening awe the rumbling of the earth below, the
wheels and voices of the Ministry of Nature in her darkest and
most inscrutable recess. Suddenly, as a bomb from a shell, a
huge stone was flung hundreds of yards up from the jaws of the
crater, and falling with a mighty crash upon the rock below,
split into ten thousand fragments, which bounded down the sides
of the mountain, sparkling and groaning as they went. One of
these, the largest fragment, struck the narrow space of soil
between the Englishmen and the guide, not three feet from the
spot where the former stood. Mervale uttered an exclamation of
terror, and Glyndon held his breath, and shuddered.
"Diavolo!" cried the guide. "Descend, Excellencies,--descend! we
have not a moment to lose; follow me close!"
So saying, the guide and the peasant fled with as much swiftness
as they were able to bring to bear. Mervale, ever more prompt
and ready than his friend, imitated their example; and Glyndon,
more confused than alarmed, followed close. But they had not
gone many yards, before, with a rushing and sudden blast, came
from the crater an enormous volume of vapour. It pursued,--it
overtook, it overspread them. It swept the light from the
heavens. All was abrupt and utter darkness; and through the
gloom was heard the shout of the guide, already distant, and lost
in an instant amidst the sound of the rushing gust and the groans
of the earth beneath. Glyndon paused. He was separated from his
friend, from the guide. He was alone,--with the Darkness and the
Terror. The vapour rolled sullenly away; the form of the plumed
fire was again dimly visible, and its struggling and perturbed
reflection again shed a glow over the horrors of the path.
Glyndon recovered himself, and sped onward. Below, he heard the
voice of Mervale calling on him, though he no longer saw his
form. The sound served as a guide. Dizzy and breathless, he
bounded forward; when--hark!--a sullen, slow rolling sounded in
his ear! He halted,--and turned back to gaze. The fire had
overflowed its course; it had opened itself a channel amidst the
furrows of the mountain. The stream pursued him fast--fast; and
the hot breath of the chasing and preternatural foe came closer
and closer upon his cheek! He turned aside; he climbed
desperately with hands and feet upon a crag that, to the right,
broke the scathed and blasted level of the soil. The stream
rolled beside and beneath him, and then taking a sudden wind
round the spot on which he stood, interposed its liquid fire,--a
broad and impassable barrier between his resting-place and
escape. There he stood, cut off from descent, and with no
alternative but to retrace his steps towards the crater, and
thence seek, without guide or clew, some other pathway.
For a moment his courage left him; he cried in despair, and in
that overstrained pitch of voice which is never heard afar off,
to the guide, to Mervale, to return to aid him.
No answer came; and the Englishman, thus abandoned solely to his
own resources, felt his spirit and energy rise against the
danger. He turned back, and ventured as far towards the crater
as the noxious exhalation would permit; then, gazing below,
carefully and deliberately he chalked out for himself a path by
which he trusted to shun the direction the fire-stream had taken,
and trod firmly and quickly over the crumbling and heated strata.
He had proceeded about fifty yards, when he halted abruptly; an
unspeakable and unaccountable horror, not hitherto experienced
amidst all his peril, came over him. He shook in every limb; his
muscles refused his will,--he felt, as it were, palsied and
death-stricken. The horror, I say, was unaccountable, for the
path seemed clear and safe. The fire, above and behind, burned
clear and far; and beyond, the stars lent him their cheering
guidance. No obstacle was visible,--no danger seemed at hand.
As thus, spell-bound, and panic-stricken, he stood chained to the
soil,--his breast heaving, large drops rolling down his brow, and
his eyes starting wildly from their sockets,--he saw before him,
at some distance, gradually shaping itself more and more
distinctly to his gaze, a colossal shadow; a shadow that seemed
partially borrowed from the human shape, but immeasurably above
the human stature; vague, dark, almost formless; and differing,
he could not tell where or why, not only from the proportions,
but also from the limbs and outline of man.
The glare of the volcano, that seemed to shrink and collapse from
this gigantic and appalling apparition, nevertheless threw its
light, redly and steadily, upon another shape that stood beside,
quiet and motionless; and it was, perhaps, the contrast of these
two things--the Being and the Shadow--that impressed the beholder
with the difference between them,--the Man and the Superhuman.
It was but for a moment--nay, for the tenth part of a moment--
that this sight was permitted to the wanderer. A second eddy of
sulphureous vapours from the volcano, yet more rapidly, yet more
densely than its predecessor, rolled over the mountain; and
either the nature of the exhalation, or the excess of his own
dread, was such, that Glyndon, after one wild gasp for breath,
fell senseless on the earth.
Wenn ich nicht Alles habe?--sprach der Jungling.
"Das Verschleierte Bild zu Sais."
("What have I, if I possess not All?" said the youth.)
Mervale and the Italians arrived in safety at the spot where they
had left the mules; and not till they had recovered their own
alarm and breath did they think of Glyndon. But then, as the
minutes passed, and he appeared not, Mervale, whose heart was as
good at least as human hearts are in general, grew seriously
alarmed. He insisted on returning to search for his friend; and
by dint of prodigal promises prevailed at last on the guide to
accompany him. The lower part of the mountain lay calm and white
in the starlight; and the guide's practised eye could discern all
objects on the surface at a considerable distance. They had not,
however, gone very far, before they perceived two forms slowly
As they came near, Mervale recognised the form of his friend.
"Thank Heaven, he is safe!" he cried, turning to the guide.
"Holy angels befriend us!" said the Italian, trembling,--"behold
the very being that crossed me last Friday night. It is he, but
his face is human now!"
"Signor Inglese," said the voice of Zanoni, as Glyndon--pale,
wan, and silent--returned passively the joyous greeting of
Mervale,--"Signor Inglese, I told your friend that we should meet
to-night. You see you have NOT foiled my prediction."
"But how?--but where?" stammered Mervale, in great confusion and
"I found your friend stretched on the ground, overpowered by the
mephitic exhalation of the crater. I bore him to a purer
atmosphere; and as I know the mountain well, I have conducted him
safely to you. This is all our history. You see, sir, that were
it not for that prophecy which you desired to frustrate, your
friend would ere this time have been a corpse; one minute more,
and the vapour had done its work. Adieu; goodnight, and pleasant
"But, my preserver, you will not leave us?" said Glyndon,
anxiously, and speaking for the first time. "Will you not return
Zanoni paused, and drew Glyndon aside. "Young man," said he,
gravely, "it is necessary that we should again meet to-night. It
is necessary that you should, ere the first hour of morning,
decide on your own fate. I know that you have insulted her whom
you profess to love. It is not too late to repent. Consult not
your friend: he is sensible and wise; but not now is his wisdom
needed. There are times in life when, from the imagination, and
not the reason, should wisdom come,--this, for you, is one of
them. I ask not your answer now. Collect your thoughts,--
recover your jaded and scattered spirits. It wants two hours of
midnight. Before midnight I will be with you."
"Incomprehensible being!" replied the Englishman, "I would leave
the life you have preserved in your own hands; but what I have
seen this night has swept even Viola from my thoughts. A fiercer
desire than that of love burns in my veins,--the desire not to
resemble but to surpass my kind; the desire to penetrate and to
share the secret of your own existence--the desire of a
preternatural knowledge and unearthly power. I make my choice.
In my ancestor's name, I adjure and remind thee of thy pledge.
Instruct me; school me; make me thine; and I surrender to thee
at once, and without a murmur, the woman whom, till I saw thee, I
would have defied a world to obtain."
"I bid thee consider well: on the one hand, Viola, a tranquil
home, a happy and serene life; on the other hand, all is
darkness,--darkness, that even these eyes cannot penetrate."
"But thou hast told me, that if I wed Viola, I must be contented
with the common existence,--if I refuse, it is to aspire to thy
knowledge and thy power."
"Vain man, knowledge and power are not happiness."
"But they are better than happiness. Say!--if I marry Viola,
wilt thou be my master,--my guide? Say this, and I am resolved.
"It were impossible."
"Then I renounce her? I renounce love. I renounce happiness.
Welcome solitude,--welcome despair; if they are the entrances to
thy dark and sublime secret."
"I will not take thy answer now. Before the last hour of night
thou shalt give it in one word,--ay or no! Farewell till then."
Zanoni waved his hand, and, descending rapidly, was seen no more.
Glyndon rejoined his impatient and wondering friend; but Mervale,
gazing on his face, saw that a great change had passed there.
The flexile and dubious expression of youth was forever gone.
The features were locked, rigid, and stern; and so faded was the
natural bloom, that an hour seemed to have done the work of
Das hinter diesem Schleier sich verbirgt?
"Das Verschleierte Bild zu Sais."
(What is it that conceals itself behind this veil?)
On returning from Vesuvius or Pompeii, you enter Naples through
its most animated, its most Neapolitan quarter,--through that
quarter in which modern life most closely resembles the ancient;
and in which, when, on a fair-day, the thoroughfare swarms alike
with Indolence and Trade, you are impressed at once with the
recollection of that restless, lively race from which the
population of Naples derives its origin; so that in one day you
may see at Pompeii the habitations of a remote age; and on the
Mole, at Naples, you may imagine you behold the very beings with
whom those habitations had been peopled.
But now, as the Englishmen rode slowly through the deserted
streets, lighted but by the lamps of heaven, all the gayety of
day was hushed and breathless. Here and there, stretched under a
portico or a dingy booth, were sleeping groups of houseless
Lazzaroni,--a tribe now merging its indolent individuality amidst
an energetic and active population.
The Englishman rode on in silence; for Glyndon neither appeared
to heed nor hear the questions and comments of Mervale, and
Mervale himself was almost as weary as the jaded animal he
Suddenly the silence of earth and ocean was broken by the sound
of a distant clock that proclaimed the quarter preceding the last
hour of night. Glyndon started from his reverie, and looked
anxiously round. As the final stroke died, the noise of hoofs
rung on the broad stones of the pavement, and from a narrow
street to the right emerged the form of a solitary horseman. He
neared the Englishmen, and Glyndon recognised the features and
mien of Zanoni.
"What! do we meet again, signor?" said Mervale, in a vexed but
"Your friend and I have business together," replied Zanoni, as he
wheeled his steed to the side of Glyndon. "But it will be soon
transacted. Perhaps you, sir, will ride on to your hotel."
"There is no danger!" returned Zanoni, with a slight expression
of disdain in his voice.
"None to me; but to Glyndon?"
"Danger from me! Ah, perhaps you are right."
"Go on, my dear Mervale," said Glyndon; "I will join you before
you reach the hotel."
Mervale nodded, whistled, and pushed his horse into a kind of
"Now your answer,--quick?"
"I have decided. The love of Viola has vanished from my heart.
The pursuit is over."
"You have decided?"
"I have; and now my reward."
"Thy reward! Well; ere this hour to-morrow it shall await thee."
Zanoni gave the rein to his horse; it sprang forward with a
bound: the sparks flew from its hoofs, and horse and rider
disappeared amidst the shadows of the street whence they had
Mervale was surprised to see his friend by his side, a minute
after they had parted.
"What has passed between you and Zanoni?"
"Mervale, do not ask me to-night! I am in a dream."
"I do not wonder at it, for even I am in a sleep. Let us push
In the retirement of his chamber, Glyndon sought to recollect his
thoughts. He sat down on the foot of his bed, and pressed his
hands tightly to his throbbing temples. The events of the last
few hours; the apparition of the gigantic and shadowy Companion
of the Mystic, amidst the fires and clouds of Vesuvius; the
strange encounter with Zanoni himself, on a spot in which he
could never, by ordinary reasoning, have calculated on finding
Glyndon, filled his mind with emotions, in which terror and awe
the least prevailed. A fire, the train of which had been long
laid, was lighted at his heart,--the asbestos-fire that, once
lit, is never to be quenched. All his early aspirations--his
young ambition, his longings for the laurel--were merged in one
passionate yearning to surpass the bounds of the common knowledge
of man, and reach that solemn spot, between two worlds, on which
the mysterious stranger appeared to have fixed his home.
Far from recalling with renewed affright the remembrance of the
apparition that had so appalled him, the recollection only served
to kindle and concentrate his curiosity into a burning focus. He
had said aright,--LOVE HAD VANISHED FROM HIS HEART; there was no
longer a serene space amidst its disordered elements for human
affection to move and breathe. The enthusiast was rapt from this
earth; and he would have surrendered all that mortal beauty ever
promised, that mortal hope ever whispered, for one hour with
Zanoni beyond the portals of the visible world.
He rose, oppressed and fevered with the new thoughts that raged
within him, and threw open his casement for air. The ocean lay
suffused in the starry light, and the stillness of the heavens
never more eloquently preached the morality of repose to the
madness of earthly passions. But such was Glyndon's mood that
their very hush only served to deepen the wild desires that
preyed upon his soul; and the solemn stars, that are mysteries in
themselves, seemed, by a kindred sympathy, to agitate the wings
of the spirit no longer contented with its cage. As he gazed, a
star shot from its brethren, and vanished from the depth of
O, be gone!
By Heaven, I love thee better than myself,
For I came hither armed against myself.
"Romeo and Juliet."
The young actress and Gionetta had returned from the theatre; and
Viola fatigued and exhausted, had thrown herself on a sofa, while
Gionetta busied herself with the long tresses which, released
from the fillet that bound them, half-concealed the form of the
actress, like a veil of threads of gold. As she smoothed the
luxuriant locks, the old nurse ran gossiping on about the little
events of the night, the scandal and politics of the scenes and
the tireroom. Gionetta was a worthy soul. Almanzor, in Dryden's
tragedy of "Almahide," did not change sides with more gallant
indifference than the exemplary nurse. She was at last grieved
and scandalised that Viola had not selected one chosen cavalier.
But the choice she left wholly to her fair charge. Zegri or
Abencerrage, Glyndon or Zanoni, it had been the same to her,
except that the rumours she had collected respecting the latter,
combined with his own recommendations of his rival, had given her
preference to the Englishman. She interpreted ill the impatient
and heavy sigh with which Viola greeted her praises of Glyndon,
and her wonder that he had of late so neglected his attentions
behind the scenes, and she exhausted all her powers of panegyric
upon the supposed object of the sigh. "And then, too," she said,
"if nothing else were to be said against the other signor, it is
enough that he is about to leave Naples."
"Yes, darling! In passing by the Mole to-day, there was a crowd
round some outlandish-looking sailors. His ship arrived this
morning, and anchors in the bay. The sailors say that they are
to be prepared to sail with the first wind; they were taking in
fresh stores. They--"
"Leave me, Gionetta! Leave me!"
The time had already passed when the girl could confide in
Gionetta. Her thoughts had advanced to that point when the heart
recoils from all confidence, and feels that it cannot be
comprehended. Alone now, in the principal apartment of the
house, she paced its narrow boundaries with tremulous and
agitated steps: she recalled the frightful suit of Nicot,--the
injurious taunt of Glyndon; and she sickened at the remembrance
of the hollow applauses which, bestowed on the actress, not the
woman, only subjected her to contumely and insult. In that room
the recollection of her father's death, the withered laurel and
the broken chords, rose chillingly before her. Hers, she felt,
was a yet gloomier fate,--the chords may break while the laurel
is yet green. The lamp, waning in its socket, burned pale and
dim, and her eyes instinctively turned from the darker corner of
the room. Orphan, by the hearth of thy parent, dost thou fear
the presence of the dead!
And was Zanoni indeed about to quit Naples? Should she see him
no more? Oh, fool, to think that there was grief in any other
thought! The past!--that was gone! The future!--there was no
future to her, Zanoni absent! But this was the night of the
third day on which Zanoni had told her that, come what might, he
would visit her again. It was, then, if she might believe him,
some appointed crisis in her fate; and how should she tell him of
Glyndon's hateful words? The pure and the proud mind can never
confide its wrongs to another, only its triumphs and its
happiness. But at that late hour would Zanoni visit her,--could
she receive him? Midnight was at hand. Still in undefined
suspense, in intense anxiety, she lingered in the room. The
quarter before midnight sounded, dull and distant. All was
still, and she was about to pass to her sleeping-room, when she
heard the hoofs of a horse at full speed; the sound ceased, there
was a knock at the door. Her heart beat violently; but fear gave
way to another sentiment when she heard a voice, too well known,
calling on her name. She paused, and then, with the fearlessness
of innocence, descended and unbarred the door.
Zanoni entered with a light and hasty step. His horseman's cloak
fitted tightly to his noble form, and his broad hat threw a
gloomy shade over his commanding features.
The girl followed him into the room she had just left, trembling
and blushing deeply, and stood before him with the lamp she held
shining upward on her cheek and the long hair that fell like a
shower of light over the half-clad shoulders and heaving bust.
"Viola," said Zanoni, in a voice that spoke deep emotion, "I am
by thy side once more to save thee. Not a moment is to be lost.
Thou must fly with me, or remain the victim of the Prince di --.
I would have made the charge I now undertake another's; thou
knowest I would,--thou knowest it!--but he is not worthy of thee,
the cold Englishman! I throw myself at thy feet; have trust in
me, and fly."
He grasped her hand passionately as he dropped on his knee, and
looked up into her face with his bright, beseeching eyes.
"Fly with thee!" said Viola, scarce believing her senses.
"With me. Name, fame, honour,--all will be sacrificed if thou
"Then--then," said the wild girl, falteringly, and turning aside
her face,--"then I am not indifferent to thee; thou wouldst not
give me to another?"
Zanoni was silent; but his breast heaved, his cheeks flushed, his
eyes darted dark and impassioned fire.
"Speak!" exclaimed Viola, in jealous suspicion of his silence.
"Indifferent to me! No; but I dare not yet say that I love
"Then what matters my fate?" said Viola, turning pale, and
shrinking from his side; "leave me,--I fear no danger. My life,
and therefore my honour, is in mine own hands."
"Be not so mad," said Zanoni. "Hark! do you hear the neigh of my
steed?--it is an alarm that warns us of the approaching peril.
Haste, or you are lost!"
"Why dost thou care for me?" said the girl, bitterly. "Thou hast
read my heart; thou knowest that thou art become the lord of my
destiny. But to be bound beneath the weight of a cold
obligation; to be the beggar on the eyes of indifference; to cast
myself on one who loves me not,--THAT were indeed the vilest sin
of my sex. Ah, Zanoni, rather let me die!"
She had thrown back her clustering hair from her face while she
spoke; and as she now stood, with her arms drooping mournfully,
and her hands clasped together with the proud bitterness of her
wayward spirit, giving new zest and charm to her singular beauty,
it was impossible to conceive a sight more irresistible to the
eye and the heart.
"Tempt me not to thine own danger,--perhaps destruction!"
exclaimed Zanoni, in faltering accents. "Thou canst not dream of
what thou wouldst demand,--come!" and, advancing, he wound his
arm round her waist. "Come, Viola; believe at least in my
friendship, my honour, my protection--"
"And not thy love," said the Italian, turning on him her
reproachful eyes. Those eyes met his, and he could not withdraw
from the charm of their gaze. He felt her heart throbbing
beneath his own; her breath came warm upon his cheek. He
trembled,--HE! the lofty, the mysterious Zanoni, who seemed to
stand aloof from his race. With a deep and burning sigh, he
murmured, "Viola, I love thee! Oh!" he continued passionately,
and, releasing his hold, he threw himself abruptly at her feet,
"I no more command,--as woman should be wooed, I woo thee. From
the first glance of those eyes, from the first sound of thy
voice, thou becamest too fatally dear to me. Thou speakest of
fascination,--it lives and it breathes in thee! I fled from
Naples to fly from thy presence,--it pursued me. Months, years
passed, and thy sweet face still shone upon my heart. I
returned, because I pictured thee alone and sorrowful in the
world, and knew that dangers, from which I might save thee, were
gathering near thee and around. Beautiful Soul! whose leaves I
have read with reverence, it was for thy sake, thine alone, that
I would have given thee to one who might make thee happier on
earth than I can. Viola! Viola! thou knowest not--never canst
thou know--how dear thou art to me!"
It is in vain to seek for words to describe the delight--the
proud, the full, the complete, and the entire delight--that
filled the heart of the Neapolitan. He whom she had considered
too lofty even for love,--more humble to her than those she had
half-despised! She was silent, but her eyes spoke to him; and
then slowly, as aware, at last, that the human love had advanced
on the ideal, she shrank into the terrors of a modest and
virtuous nature. She did not dare,--she did not dream to ask him
the question she had so fearlessly made to Glyndon; but she felt
a sudden coldness,--a sense that a barrier was yet between love
and love. "Oh, Zanoni!" she murmured, with downcast eyes, "ask
me not to fly with thee; tempt me not to my shame. Thou wouldst
protect me from others. Oh, protect me from thyself!"
"Poor orphan!" said he, tenderly, "and canst thou think that I
ask from thee one sacrifice,--still less the greatest that woman
can give to love? As my wife I woo thee, and by every tie, and
by every vow that can hallow and endear affection. Alas! they
have belied love to thee indeed, if thou dost not know the
religion that belongs to it! They who truly love would seek, for
the treasure they obtain, every bond that can make it lasting and
secure. Viola, weep not, unless thou givest me the holy right to
kiss away thy tears!"
And that beautiful face, no more averted, drooped upon his bosom;
and as he bent down, his lips sought the rosy mouth: a long and
burning kiss,--danger, life, the world was forgotten! Suddenly
Zanoni tore himself from her.
"Hearest thou the wind that sighs, and dies away? As that wind,
my power to preserve thee, to guard thee, to foresee the storm in
thy skies, is gone. No matter. Haste, haste; and may love
supply the loss of all that it has dared to sacrifice! Come."
Viola hesitated no more. She threw her mantle over her
shoulders, and gathered up her dishevelled hair; a moment, and
she was prepared, when a sudden crash was heard below.
"Too late!--fool that I was, too late!" cried Zanoni, in a sharp
tone of agony, as he hurried to the door. He opened it, only to
be borne back by the press of armed men. The room literally
swarmed with the followers of the ravisher, masked, and armed to
Viola was already in the grasp of two of the myrmidons. Her
shriek smote the ear of Zanoni. He sprang forward; and Viola
heard his wild cry in a foreign tongue. She saw the blades of
the ruffians pointed at his breast! She lost her senses; and
when she recovered, she found herself gagged, and in a carriage
that was driven rapidly, by the side of a masked and motionless
figure. The carriage stopped at the portals of a gloomy mansion.
The gates opened noiselessly; a broad flight of steps,
brilliantly illumined, was before her. She was in the palace of
the Prince di --.
Ma lasciamo, per Dio, Signore, ormai
Di parlar d' ira, e di cantar di morte.
"Orlando Furioso," Canto xvii. xvii.
(But leave me, I solemnly conjure thee, signor, to speak of
wrath, and to sing of death.)
The young actress was led to, and left alone in a chamber adorned
with all the luxurious and half-Eastern taste that at one time
characterised the palaces of the great seigneurs of Italy. Her
first thought was for Zanoni. Was he yet living? Had he escaped
unscathed the blades of the foe,--her new treasure, the new light
of her life, her lord, at last her lover?
She had short time for reflection. She heard steps approaching
the chamber; she drew back, but trembled not. A courage not of
herself, never known before, sparkled in her eyes, and dilated
her stature. Living or dead, she would be faithful still to
Zanoni! There was a new motive to the preservation of honour.
The door opened, and the prince entered in the gorgeous and gaudy
custume still worn at that time in Naples.
"Fair and cruel one," said he, advancing with a half-sneer upon
his lip, "thou wilt not too harshly blame the violence of love."
He attempted to take her hand as he spoke.
"Nay," said he, as she recoiled, "reflect that thou art now in
the power of one that never faltered in the pursuit of an object
less dear to him than thou art. Thy lover, presumptuous though
he be, is not by to save thee. Mine thou art; but instead of thy
master, suffer me to be thy slave."
"Prince," said Viola, with a stern gravity, "your boast is in
vain. Your power! I am NOT in your power. Life and death are
in my own hands. I will not defy; but I do not fear you. I
feel--and in some feelings," added Viola, with a solemnity almost
thrilling, "there is all the strength, and all the divinity of
knowledge--I feel that I am safe even here; but you--you, Prince
di --, have brought danger to your home and hearth!"
The Neapolitan seemed startled by an earnestness and boldness he
was but little prepared for. He was not, however, a man easily
intimidated or deterred from any purpose he had formed; and,
approaching Viola, he was about to reply with much warmth, real
or affected, when a knock was heard at the door of the chamber.
The sound was repeated, and the prince, chafed at the
interruption, opened the door and demanded impatiently who had
ventured to disobey his orders, and invade his leisure. Mascari
presented himself, pale and agitated: "My lord," said he, in a
whisper, "pardon me; but a stranger is below, who insists on
seeing you; and, from some words he let fall, I judged it
advisable even to infringe your commands."
"A stranger!--and at this hour! What business can he pretend?
Why was he even admitted?"
"He asserts that your life is in imminent danger. The source
whence it proceeds he will relate to your Excellency alone."
The prince frowned; but his colour changed. He mused a moment,
and then, re-entering the chamber and advancing towards Viola, he
"Believe me, fair creature, I have no wish to take advantage of
my power. I would fain trust alone to the gentler authorities of
affection. Hold yourself queen within these walls more
absolutely than you have ever enacted that part on the stage.
To-night, farewell! May your sleep be calm, and your dreams
propitious to my hopes."
With these words he retired, and in a few moments Viola was
surrounded by officious attendants, whom she at length, with some
difficulty, dismissed; and, refusing to retire to rest, she spent
the night in examining the chamber, which she found was secured,
and in thoughts of Zanoni, in whose power she felt an almost
Meanwhile the prince descended the stairs and sought the room
into which the stranger had been shown.
He found the visitor wrapped from head to foot in a long robe,
half-gown, half-mantle, such as was sometimes worn by
ecclesiastics. The face of this stranger was remarkable. So
sunburnt and swarthy were his hues, that he must, apparently,
have derived his origin amongst the races of the farthest East.
His forehead was lofty, and his eyes so penetrating yet so calm
in their gaze that the prince shrank from them as we shrink from
a questioner who is drawing forth the guiltiest secret of our
"What would you with me?" asked the prince, motioning his visitor
to a seat.
"Prince of --," said the stranger, in a voice deep and sweet, but
foreign in its accent,--"son of the most energetic and masculine
race that ever applied godlike genius to the service of Human
Will, with its winding wickedness and its stubborn grandeur;
descendant of the great Visconti in whose chronicles lies the
history of Italy in her palmy day, and in whose rise was the
development of the mightiest intellect, ripened by the most
restless ambition,--I come to gaze upon the last star in a
darkening firmament. By this hour to-morrow space shall know it
not. Man, unless thy whole nature change, thy days are
"What means this jargon?" said the prince, in visible
astonishment and secret awe. "Comest thou to menace me in my own
halls, or wouldst thou warn me of a danger? Art thou some
itinerant mountebank, or some unguessed-of friend? Speak out,
and plainly. What danger threatens me?"
"Zanoni and thy ancestor's sword," replied the stranger.
"Ha! ha!" said the prince, laughing scournfully; "I
half-suspected thee from the first. Thou art then the accomplice
or the tool of that most dexterous, but, at present, defeated
charlatan? And I suppose thou wilt tell me that if I were to
release a certain captive I have made, the danger would vanish,
and the hand of the dial would be put back?"
"Judge of me as thou wilt, Prince di --. I confess my knowledge
of Zanoni. Thou, too, wilt know his power, but not till it
consume thee. I would save, therefore I warn thee. Dost thou
ask me why? I will tell thee. Canst thou remember to have heard
wild tales of thy grandsire; of his desire for a knowledge that
passes that of the schools and cloisters; of a strange man from
the East who was his familiar and master in lore against which
the Vatican has, from age to age, launched its mimic thunder?
Dost thou call to mind the fortunes of thy ancestor?--how he
succeeded in youth to little but a name; how, after a career wild
and dissolute as thine, he disappeared from Milan, a pauper, and
a self-exile; how, after years spent, none knew in what climes or
in what pursuits, he again revisited the city where his
progenitors had reigned; how with him came the wise man of the
East, the mystic Mejnour; how they who beheld him, beheld with
amaze and fear that time had ploughed no furrow on his brow; that
youth seemed fixed, as by a spell, upon his face and form? Dost
thou not know that from that hour his fortunes rose? Kinsmen the
most remote died; estate upon estate fell into the hands of the
ruined noble. He became the guide of princes, the first magnate
of Italy. He founded anew the house of which thou art the last
lineal upholder, and transferred his splendour from Milan to the
Sicilian realms. Visions of high ambition were then present with
him nightly and daily. Had he lived, Italy would have known a
new dynasty, and the Visconti would have reigned over Magna-
Graecia. He was a man such as the world rarely sees; but his
ends, too earthly, were at war with the means he sought. Had his
ambition been more or less, he had been worthy of a realm
mightier than the Caesars swayed; worthy of our solemn order;
worthy of the fellowship of Mejnour, whom you now behold before
The prince, who had listened with deep and breathless attention
to the words of his singular guest, started from his seat at his
last words. "Imposter!" he cried, "can you dare thus to play
with my credulity? Sixty years have flown since my grandsire
died; were he living, he had passed his hundred and twentieth
year; and you, whose old age is erect and vigorous, have the
assurance to pretend to have been his contemporary! But you have
imperfectly learned your tale. You know not, it seems, that my
grandsire, wise and illustrious indeed, in all save his faith in
a charlatan, was found dead in his bed, in the very hour when his
colossal plans were ripe for execution, and that Mejnour was
guilty of his murder."
"Alas!" answered the stranger, in a voice of great sadness, "had
he but listened to Mejnour,--had he but delayed the last and most
perilous ordeal of daring wisdom until the requisite training and
initiation had been completed,--your ancestor would have stood
with me upon an eminence which the waters of Death itself wash
everlastingly, but cannot overflow. Your grandsire resisted my
fervent prayers, disobeyed my most absolute commands, and in the
sublime rashness of a soul that panted for secrets, which he who
desires orbs and sceptres never can obtain, perished, the victim
of his own frenzy."
"He was poisoned, and Mejnour fled."
"Mejnour fled not," answered the stranger, proudly--"Mejnour
could not fly from danger; for to him danger is a thing long left
behind. It was the day before the duke took the fatal draft
which he believed was to confer on the mortal the immortal boon,
that, finding my power over him was gone, I abandoned him to his
doom. But a truce with this: I loved your grandsire! I would
save the last of his race. Oppose not thyself to Zanoni. Yield
not thy soul to thine evil passions. Draw back from the
precipice while there is yet time. In thy front, and in thine
eyes, I detect some of that diviner glory which belonged to thy
race. Thou hast in thee some germs of their hereditary genius,
but they are choked up by worse than thy hereditary vices.
Recollect that by genius thy house rose; by vice it ever failed
to perpetuate its power. In the laws which regulate the
universe, it is decreed that nothing wicked can long endure. Be
wise, and let history warn thee. Thou standest on the verge of
two worlds, the past and the future; and voices from either
shriek omen in thy ear. I have done. I bid thee farewell!"
"Not so; thou shalt not quit these walls. I will make experiment
of thy boasted power. What, ho there!--ho!"
The prince shouted; the room was filled with his minions.
"Seize that man!" he cried, pointing to the spot which had been
filled by the form of Mejnour. To his inconceivable amaze and
horror, the spot was vacant. The mysterious stranger had
vanished like a dream; but a thin and fragrant mist undulated, in
pale volumes, round the walls of the chamber. "Look to my lord,"
cried Mascari. The prince had fallen to the floor insensible.
For many hours he seemed in a kind of trance. When he recovered,
he dismissed his attendants, and his step was heard in his
chamber, pacing to and fro, with heavy and disordered strides.
Not till an hour before his banquet the next day did he seem
restored to his wonted self.
Oime! come poss' io
Altri trovar, se me trovar non posso.
"Amint.," At. i. Sc. ii.
(Alas! how can I find another when I cannot find myself?)
The sleep of Glyndon, the night after his last interview with
Zanoni, was unusually profound; and the sun streamed full upon
his eyes as he opened them to the day. He rose refreshed, and
with a strange sentiment of calmness that seemed more the result
of resolution than exhaustion. The incidents and emotions of the
past night had settled into distinct and clear impressions. He
thought of them but slightly,--he thought rather of the future.
He was as one of the initiated in the old Egyptian mysteries who
have crossed the gate only to long more ardently for the
He dressed himself, and was relieved to find that Mervale had
joined a party of his countrymen on an excursion to Ischia. He
spent the heat of noon in thoughtful solitude, and gradually the
image of Viola returned to his heart. It was a holy--for it was
a HUMAN--image. He had resigned her; and though he repented not,
he was troubled at the thought that repentance would have come
He started impatiently from his seat, and strode with rapid steps
to the humble abode of the actress.
The distance was considerable, and the air oppressive. Glyndon
arrived at the door breathless and heated. He knocked; no answer
came. He lifted the latch and entered. He ascended the stairs;
no sound, no sight of life met his ear and eye. In the front
chamber, on a table, lay the guitar of the actress, and some
manuscript parts in the favourite operas. He paused, and,
summoning courage, tapped at the door which seemed to lead into
the inner apartment. The door was ajar; and, hearing no sound
within, he pushed it open. It was the sleeping-chamber of the
young actress, that holiest ground to a lover; and well did the
place become the presiding deity: none of the tawdry finery of
the profession was visible, on the one hand; none of the slovenly
disorder common to the humbler classes of the South, on the
other. All was pure and simple; even the ornaments were those of
an innocent refinement,--a few books, placed carefully on
shelves, a few half-faded flowers in an earthen vase, which was
modelled and painted in the Etruscan fashion. The sunlight
streamed over the snowy draperies of the bed, and a few articles
of clothing on the chair beside it. Viola was not there; but the
nurse!--was she gone also? He made the house resound with the
name of Gionetta, but there was not even an echo to reply. At
last, as he reluctantly quitted the desolate abode, he perceived
Gionetta coming towards him from the street.
The poor old woman uttered an exclamation of joy on seeing him;
but, to their mutual disappointment, neither had any cheerful
tidings or satisfactory explanation to afford the other.
Gionetta had been aroused from her slumber the night before by
the noise in the rooms below; but ere she could muster courage to
descend, Viola was gone! She found the marks of violence on the
door without; and all she had since been able to learn in the
neighbourhood was, that a Lazzarone, from his nocturnal resting-
place on the Chiaja, had seen by the moonlight a carriage, which
he recognised as belonging to the Prince di --, pass and repass
that road about the first hour of morning. Glyndon, on gathering
from the confused words and broken sobs of the old nurse the
heads of this account, abruptly left her, and repaired to the
palace of Zanoni. There he was informed that the signor was gone
to the banquet of the Prince di --, and would not return till
late. Glyndon stood motionless with perplexity and dismay; he
knew not what to believe, or how to act. Even Mervale was not at
hand to advise him. His conscience smote him bitterly. He had
had the power to save the woman he had loved, and had foregone
that power; but how was it that in this Zanoni himself had
failed? How was it that he was gone to the very banquet of the
ravisher? Could Zanoni be aware of what had passed? If not,
should he lose a moment in apprising him? Though mentally
irresolute, no man was more physically brave. He would repair at
once to the palace of the prince himself; and if Zanoni failed in
the trust he had half-appeared to arrogate, he, the humble
foreigner, would demand the captive of fraud and force, in the
very halls and before the assembled guests of the Prince di --.
Ardua vallatur duris sapientia scrupis.
Hadr. Jun., "Emblem." xxxvii.
(Lofty wisdom is circled round with rugged rocks.)
We must go back some hours in the progress of this narrative. It
was the first faint and gradual break of the summer dawn; and two
men stood in a balcony overhanging a garden fragrant with the
scents of the awakening flowers. The stars had not yet left the
sky,--the birds were yet silent on the boughs: all was still,
hushed, and tranquil; but how different the tranquillity of
reviving day from the solemn repose of night! In the music of
silence there are a thousand variations. These men, who alone
seemed awake in Naples, were Zanoni and the mysterious stranger
who had but an hour or two ago startled the Prince di -- in his
"No," said the latter; "hadst thou delayed the acceptance of the
Arch-gift until thou hadst attained to the years, and passed
through all the desolate bereavements that chilled and seared
myself ere my researches had made it mine, thou wouldst have
escaped the curse of which thou complainest now,--thou wouldst
not have mourned over the brevity of human affection as compared
to the duration of thine own existence; for thou wouldst have
survived the very desire and dream of the love of woman.
Brightest, and, but for that error, perhaps the loftiest, of the
secret and solemn race that fills up the interval in creation
between mankind and the children of the Empyreal, age after age
wilt thou rue the splendid folly which made thee ask to carry the
beauty and the passions of youth into the dreary grandeur of
"I do not repent, nor shall I," answered Zanoni. "The transport
and the sorrow, so wildly blended, which have at intervals
diversified my doom, are better than the calm and bloodless tenor
of thy solitary way--thou, who lovest nothing, hatest nothing,
feelest nothing, and walkest the world with the noiseless and
joyless footsteps of a dream!"
"You mistake," replied he who had owned the name of Mejnour,--
"though I care not for love, and am dead to every PASSION that
agitates the sons of clay, I am not dead to their more serene
enjoyments. I carry down the stream of the countless years, not
the turbulent desires of youth, but the calm and spiritual
delights of age. Wisely and deliberately I abandoned youth
forever when I separated my lot from men. Let us not envy or
reproach each other. I would have saved this Neapolitan, Zanoni
(since so it now pleases thee to be called), partly because his
grandsire was but divided by the last airy barrier from our own
brotherhood, partly because I know that in the man himself lurk
the elements of ancestral courage and power, which in earlier
life would have fitted him for one of us. Earth holds but few to
whom Nature has given the qualities that can bear the ordeal.
But time and excess, that have quickened his grosser senses, have
blunted his imagination. I relinquish him to his doom."
"And still, then, Mejnour, you cherish the desire to revive our
order, limited now to ourselves alone, by new converts and
allies. Surely--surely--thy experience might have taught thee,
that scarcely once in a thousand years is born the being who can
pass through the horrible gates that lead into the worlds
without! Is not thy path already strewed with thy victims? Do
not their ghastly faces of agony and fear--the blood-stained
suicide, the raving maniac--rise before thee, and warn what is
yet left to thee of human sympathy from thy insane ambition?"
"Nay," answered Mejnour; "have I not had success to
counterbalance failure? And can I forego this lofty and august
hope, worthy alone of our high condition,--the hope to form a
mighty and numerous race with a force and power sufficient to
permit them to acknowledge to mankind their majestic conquests
and dominion, to become the true lords of this planet, invaders,
perchance, of others, masters of the inimical and malignant
tribes by which at this moment we are surrounded: a race that
may proceed, in their deathless destinies, from stage to stage of
celestial glory, and rank at last amongst the nearest ministrants
and agents gathered round the Throne of Thrones? What matter a
thousand victims for one convert to our band? And you, Zanoni,"
continued Mejnour, after a pause,--"you, even you, should this
affection for a mortal beauty that you have dared, despite
yourself, to cherish, be more than a passing fancy; should it,
once admitted into your inmost nature, partake of its bright and
enduring essence,--even you may brave all things to raise the
beloved one into your equal. Nay, interrupt me not. Can you see
sickness menace her; danger hover around; years creep on; the
eyes grow dim; the beauty fade, while the heart, youthful still,
clings and fastens round your own,--can you see this, and know it
is yours to--"
"Cease!" cried Zanoni, fiercely. "What is all other fate as
compared to the death of terror? What, when the coldest sage,
the most heated enthusiast, the hardiest warrior with his nerves
of iron, have been found dead in their beds, with straining
eyeballs and horrent hair, at the first step of the Dread
Progress,--thinkest thou that this weak woman--from whose cheek a
sound at the window, the screech of the night-owl, the sight of a
drop of blood on a man's sword, would start the colour--could
brave one glance of--Away! the very thought of such sights for
her makes even myself a coward!"
"When you told her you loved her,--when you clasped her to your
breast, you renounced all power to foresee her future lot, or
protect her from harm. Henceforth to her you are human, and
human only. How know you, then, to what you may be tempted; how
know you what her curiosity may learn and her courage brave? But
enough of this,--you are bent on your pursuit?"
"The fiat has gone forth."
"To-morrow, at this hour, our bark will be bounding over yonder
ocean, and the weight of ages will have fallen from my heart! I
compassionate thee, O foolish sage,--THOU hast given up THY
Alch: Thou always speakest riddles. Tell me if thou art that
fountain of which Bernard Lord Trevizan writ?
Merc: I am not that fountain, but I am the water. The fountain
compasseth me about.
Sandivogius, "New Light of Alchymy."
The Prince di -- was not a man whom Naples could suppose to be
addicted to superstitious fancies. Still, in the South of Italy,
there was then, and there still lingers a certain spirit of
credulity, which may, ever and anon, be visible amidst the
boldest dogmas of their philosophers and sceptics. In his
childhood, the prince had learned strange tales of the ambition,
the genius, and the career of his grandsire,--and secretly,
perhaps influenced by ancestral example, in earlier youth he
himself had followed science, not only through her legitimate
course, but her antiquated and erratic windings. I have, indeed,
been shown in Naples a little volume, blazoned with the arms of
the Visconti, and ascribed to the nobleman I refer to, which
treats of alchemy in a spirit half-mocking and half-reverential.
Pleasure soon distracted him from such speculations, and his
talents, which were unquestionably great, were wholly perverted
to extravagant intrigues, or to the embellishment of a gorgeous
ostentation with something of classic grace. His immense wealth,
his imperious pride, his unscrupulous and daring character, made
him an object of no inconsiderable fear to a feeble and timid
court; and the ministers of the indolent government willingly
connived at excesses which allured him at least from ambition.
The strange visit and yet more strange departure of Mejnour
filled the breast of the Neapolitan with awe and wonder, against
which all the haughty arrogance and learned scepticism of his
maturer manhood combated in vain. The apparition of Mejnour
served, indeed, to invest Zanoni with a character in which the
prince had not hitherto regarded him. He felt a strange alarm at
the rival he had braved,--at the foe he had provoked. When, a
little before his banquet, he had resumed his self-possession, it
was with a fell and gloomy resolution that he brooded over the
perfidious schemes he had previously formed. He felt as if the
death of the mysterious Zanoni were necessary for the
preservation of his own life; and if at an earlier period of
their rivalry he had determined on the fate of Zanoni, the
warnings of Mejnour only served to confirm his resolve.
"We will try if his magic can invent an antidote to the bane,"
said he, half-aloud, and with a stern smile, as he summoned
Mascari to his presence. The poison which the prince, with his
own hands, mixed into the wine intended for his guest, was
compounded from materials, the secret of which had been one of
the proudest heir-looms of that able and evil race which gave to
Italy her wisest and guiltiest tyrants. Its operation was quick
yet not sudden: it produced no pain,--it left on the form no
grim convulsion, on the skin no purpling spot, to arouse
suspicion; you might have cut and carved every membrane and fibre
of the corpse, but the sharpest eyes of the leech would not have
detected the presence of the subtle life-queller. For twelve
hours the victim felt nothing save a joyous and elated
exhilaration of the blood; a delicious languor followed, the sure
forerunner of apoplexy. No lancet then could save! Apoplexy had
run much in the families of the enemies of the Visconti!
The hour of the feast arrived,--the guests assembled. There were
the flower of the Neapolitan seignorie, the descendants of the
Norman, the Teuton, the Goth; for Naples had then a nobility, but
derived it from the North, which has indeed been the Nutrix
Leonum,--the nurse of the lion-hearted chivalry of the world.
Last of the guests came Zanoni; and the crowd gave way as the
dazzling foreigner moved along to the lord of the palace. The
prince greeted him with a meaning smile, to which Zanoni answered
by a whisper, "He who plays with loaded dice does not always
The prince bit his lip, and Zanoni, passing on, seemed deep in
conversation with the fawning Mascari.
"Who is the prince's heir?" asked the guest.
"A distant relation on the mother's side; with his Excellency
dies the male line."
"Is the heir present at our host's banquet?"
"No; they are not friends."
"No matter; he will be here to-morrow."
Mascari stared in surprise; but the signal for the banquet was
given, and the guests were marshalled to the board. As was the
custom then, the feast took place not long after mid-day. It was
a long, oval hall, the whole of one side opening by a marble
colonnade upon a court or garden, in which the eye rested
gratefully upon cool fountains and statues of whitest marble,
half-sheltered by orange-trees. Every art that luxury could
invent to give freshness and coolness to the languid and
breezeless heat of the day without (a day on which the breath of
the sirocco was abroad) had been called into existence.
Artificial currents of air through invisible tubes, silken blinds
waving to and fro, as if to cheat the senses into the belief of
an April wind, and miniature jets d'eau in each corner of the
apartment, gave to the Italians the same sense of exhilaration
and COMFORT (if I may use the word) which the well-drawn curtains
and the blazing hearth afford to the children of colder climes.
The conversation was somewhat more lively and intellectual than
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