Edward Bulwer Lytton
Part 5 out of 9
is common amongst the languid pleasure-hunters of the South; for
the prince, himself accomplished, sought his acquaintance not
only amongst the beaux esprits of his own country, but amongst
the gay foreigners who adorned and relieved the monotony of the
Neapolitan circles. There were present two or three of the
brilliant Frenchmen of the old regime, who had already emigrated
from the advancing Revolution; and their peculiar turn of thought
and wit was well calculated for the meridian of a society that
made the dolce far niente at once its philosophy and its faith.
The prince, however, was more silent than usual; and when he
sought to rouse himself, his spirits were forced and exaggerated.
To the manners of his host, those of Zanoni afforded a striking
contrast. The bearing of this singular person was at all times
characterised by a calm and polished ease, which was attributed
by the courtiers to the long habit of society. He could scarcely
be called gay; yet few persons more tended to animate the general
spirits of a convivial circle. He seemed, by a kind of
intuition, to elicit from each companion the qualities in which
he most excelled; and if occasionally a certain tone of latent
mockery characterised his remarks upon the topics on which the
conversation fell, it appeared to men who took nothing in earnest
to be the language both of wit and wisdom. To the Frenchmen, in
particular, there was something startling in his intimate
knowledge of the minutest events in their own capital and
country, and his profound penetration (evinced but in epigrams
and sarcasms) into the eminent characters who were then playing a
part upon the great stage of continental intrigue.
It was while this conversation grew animated, and the feast was
at its height, that Glyndon arrived at the palace. The porter,
perceiving by his dress that he was not one of the invited
guests, told him that his Excellency was engaged, and on no
account could be disturbed; and Glyndon then, for the first time,
became aware how strange and embarrassing was the duty he had
taken on himself. To force an entrance into the banquet-hall of
a great and powerful noble, surrounded by the rank of Naples, and
to arraign him for what to his boon-companions would appear but
an act of gallantry, was an exploit that could not fail to be at
once ludicrous and impotent. He mused a moment, and, slipping a
piece of gold into the porter's hand, said that he was
commissioned to seek the Signor Zanoni upon an errand of life and
death, and easily won his way across the court, and into the
interior building. He passed up the broad staircase, and the
voices and merriment of the revellers smote his ear at a
distance. At the entrance of the reception-rooms he found a
page, whom he despatched with a message to Zanoni. The page did
the errand; and Zanoni, on hearing the whispered name of Glyndon,
turned to his host.
"Pardon me, my lord; an English friend of mine, the Signor
Glyndon (not unknown by name to your Excellency) waits without,--
the business must indeed be urgent on which he has sought me in
such an hour. You will forgive my momentary absence."
"Nay, signor," answered the prince, courteously, but with a
sinister smile on his countenance, "would it not be better for
your friend to join us? An Englishman is welcome everywhere; and
even were he a Dutchman, your friendship would invest his
presence with attraction. Pray his attendance; we would not
spare you even for a moment."
Zanoni bowed; the page was despatched with all flattering
messages to Glyndon,--a seat next to Zanoni was placed for him,
and the young Englishman entered.
"You are most welcome, sir. I trust your business to our
illustrious guest is of good omen and pleasant import. If you
bring evil news, defer it, I pray you."
Glyndon's brow was sullen; and he was about to startle the guests
by his reply, when Zanoni, touching his arm significantly,
whispered in English, "I know why you have sought me. Be silent,
and witness what ensues."
"You know then that Viola, whom you boasted you had the power to
save from danger--"
"Is in this house!--yes. I know also that Murder sits at the
right hand of our host. But his fate is now separated from hers
forever; and the mirror which glasses it to my eye is clear
through the streams of blood. Be still, and learn the fate that
awaits the wicked!
"My lord," said Zanoni, speaking aloud, "the Signor Glyndon has
indeed brought me tidings not wholly unexpected. I am compelled
to leave Naples,--an additional motive to make the most of the
"And what, if I may venture to ask, may be the cause that brings
such affliction on the fair dames of Naples?"
"It is the approaching death of one who honoured me with most
loyal friendship," replied Zanoni, gravely. "Let us not speak of
it; grief cannot put back the dial. As we supply by new flowers
those that fade in our vases, so it is the secret of worldly
wisdom to replace by fresh friendships those that fade from our
"True philosophy!" exclaimed the prince. "'Not to admire,' was
the Roman's maxim; 'Never to mourn,' is mine. There is nothing
in life to grieve for, save, indeed, Signor Zanoni, when some
young beauty, on whom we have set our hearts, slips from our
grasp. In such a moment we have need of all our wisdom, not to
succumb to despair, and shake hands with death. What say you,
signor? You smile! Such never could be your lot. Pledge me in
a sentiment, 'Long life to the fortunate lover,--a quick release
to the baffled suitor'?"
"I pledge you," said Zanoni; and, as the fatal wine was poured
into his glass, he repeated, fixing his eyes on the prince, "I
pledge you even in this wine!"
He lifted the glass to his lips. The prince seemed ghastly pale,
while the gaze of his guest bent upon him, with an intent and
stern brightness, beneath which the conscience-stricken host
cowered and quailed. Not till he had drained his draft, and
replaced the glass upon the board, did Zanoni turn his eyes from
the prince; and he then said, "Your wine has been kept too long;
it has lost its virtues. It might disagree with many, but do not
fear: it will not harm me, prince, Signor Mascari, you are a
judge of the grape; will you favour us with your opinion?"
"Nay," answered Mascari, with well-affected composure, "I like
not the wines of Cyprus; they are heating. Perhaps Signor
Glyndon may not have the same distaste? The English are said to
love their potations warm and pungent."
"Do you wish my friend also to taste the wine, prince?" said
Zanoni. "Recollect, all cannot drink it with the same impunity
"No," said the prince, hastily; "if you do not recommend the
wine, Heaven forbid that we should constrain our guests! My lord
duke," turning to one of the Frenchmen, "yours is the true soil
of Bacchus. What think you of this cask from Burgundy? Has it
borne the journey?"
"Ah," said Zanoni, "let us change both the wine and the theme."
With that, Zanoni grew yet more animated and brilliant. Never
did wit more sparkling, airy, exhilarating, flash from the lips
of reveller. His spirits fascinated all present--even the prince
himself, even Glyndon--with a strange and wild contagion. The
former, indeed, whom the words and gaze of Zanoni, when he
drained the poison, had filled with fearful misgivings, now
hailed in the brilliant eloquence of his wit a certain sign of
the operation of the bane. The wine circulated fast; but none
seemed conscious of its effects. One by one the rest of the
party fell into a charmed and spellbound silence, as Zanoni
continued to pour forth sally upon sally, tale upon tale. They
hung on his words, they almost held their breath to listen. Yet,
how bitter was his mirth; how full of contempt for the triflers
present, and for the trifles which made their life!
Night came on; the room grew dim, and the feast had lasted
several hours longer than was the customary duration of similar
entertainments at that day. Still the guests stirred not, and
still Zanoni continued, with glittering eye and mocking lip, to
lavish his stores of intellect and anecdote; when suddenly the
moon rose, and shed its rays over the flowers and fountains in
the court without, leaving the room itself half in shadow, and
half tinged by a quiet and ghostly light.
It was then that Zanoni rose. "Well, gentlemen," said he, "we
have not yet wearied our host, I hope; and his garden offers a
new temptation to protract our stay. Have you no musicians among
your train, prince, that might regale our ears while we inhale
the fragrance of your orange-trees?"
"An excellent thought!" said the prince. "Mascari, see to the
The party rose simultaneously to adjourn to the garden; and then,
for the first time, the effect of the wine they had drunk seemed
to make itself felt.
With flushed cheeks and unsteady steps they came into the open
air, which tended yet more to stimulate that glowing fever of the
grape. As if to make up for the silence with which the guests
had hitherto listened to Zanoni, every tongue was now loosened,--
every man talked, no man listened. There was something wild and
fearful in the contrast between the calm beauty of the night and
scene, and the hubbub and clamour of these disorderly roysters.
One of the Frenchmen, in especial, the young Duc de R--, a
nobleman of the highest rank, and of all the quick, vivacious,
and irascible temperament of his countrymen, was particularly
noisy and excited. And as circumstances, the remembrance of
which is still preserved among certain circles of Naples,
rendered it afterwards necessary that the duc should himself give
evidence of what occurred, I will here translate the short
account he drew up, and which was kindly submitted to me some few
years ago by my accomplished and lively friend, Il Cavaliere di
"I never remember," writes the duc, "to have felt my spirits so
excited as on that evening; we were like so many boys released
from school, jostling each other as we reeled or ran down the
flight of seven or eight stairs that led from the colonnade into
the garden,--some laughing, some whooping, some scolding, some
babbling. The wine had brought out, as it were, each man's
inmost character. Some were loud and quarrelsome, others
sentimental and whining; some, whom we had hitherto thought dull,
most mirthful; some, whom we had ever regarded as discreet and
taciturn, most garrulous and uproarious. I remember that in the
midst of our clamorous gayety, my eye fell upon the cavalier
Signor Zanoni, whose conversation had so enchanted us all; and I
felt a certain chill come over me to perceive that he wore the
same calm and unsympathising smile upon his countenance which had
characterised it in his singular and curious stories of the court
of Louis XIV. I felt, indeed, half-inclined to seek a quarrel
with one whose composure was almost an insult to our disorder.
Nor was such an effect of this irritating and mocking
tranquillity confined to myself alone. Several of the party have
told me since, that on looking at Zanoni they felt their blood
yet more heated, and gayety change to resentment. There seemed
in his icy smile a very charm to wound vanity and provoke rage.
It was at this moment that the prince came up to me, and, passing
his arm into mine, led me a little apart from the rest. He had
certainly indulged in the same excess as ourselves, but it did
not produce the same effect of noisy excitement. There was, on
the contrary, a certain cold arrogance and supercilious scorn in
his bearing and language, which, even while affecting so much
caressing courtesy towards me, roused my self-love against him.
He seemed as if Zanoni had infected him; and in imitating the
manner of his guest, he surpassed the original. He rallied me on
some court gossip, which had honoured my name by associating it
with a certain beautiful and distinguished Sicilian lady, and
affected to treat with contempt that which, had it been true, I
should have regarded as a boast. He spoke, indeed, as if he
himself had gathered all the flowers of Naples, and left us
foreigners only the gleanings he had scorned. At this my natural
and national gallantry was piqued, and I retorted by some
sarcasms that I should certainly have spared had my blood been
cooler. He laughed heartily, and left me in a strange fit of
resentment and anger. Perhaps (I must own the truth) the wine
had produced in me a wild disposition to take offence and provoke
quarrel. As the prince left me, I turned, and saw Zanoni at my
"'The prince is a braggart,' said he, with the same smile that
displeased me before. 'He would monopolize all fortune and all
love. Let us take our revenge.'
"'He has at this moment, in his house, the most enchanting singer
in Naples,--the celebrated Viola Pisani. She is here, it is
true, not by her own choice; he carried her hither by force, but
he will pretend that she adores him. Let us insist on his
producing this secret treasure, and when she enters, the Duc de
R-- can have no doubt that his flatteries and attentions will
charm the lady, and provoke all the jealous fears of our host.
It would be a fair revenge upon his imperious self-conceit.'
"This suggestion delighted me. I hastened to the prince. At
that instant the musicians had just commenced; I waved my hand,
ordered the music to stop, and, addressing the prince, who was
standing in the centre of one of the gayest groups, complained of
his want of hospitality in affording to us such poor proficients
in the art, while he reserved for his own solace the lute and
voice of the first performer in Naples. I demanded,
half-laughingly, half-seriously, that he should produce the
Pisani. My demand was received with shouts of applause by the
rest. We drowned the replies of our host with uproar, and would
hear no denial. 'Gentlemen,' at last said the prince, when he
could obtain an audience, 'even were I to assent to your
proposal, I could not induce the signora to present herself
before an assemblage as riotous as they are noble. You have too
much chivalry to use compulsion with her, though the Duc de R--
forgets himself sufficiently to administer it to me.'
"I was stung by this taunt, however well deserved. 'Prince,'
said I, 'I have for the indelicacy of compulsion so illustrious
an example that I cannot hesitate to pursue the path honoured by
your own footsteps. All Naples knows that the Pisani despises at
once your gold and your love; that force alone could have brought
her under your roof; and that you refuse to produce her, because
you fear her complaints, and know enough of the chivalry your
vanity sneers at to feel assured that the gentlemen of France are
not more disposed to worship beauty than to defend it from
"'You speak well, sir,' said Zanoni, gravely. 'The prince dares
not produce his prize!'
"The prince remained speechless for a few moments, as if with
indignation. At last he broke out into expressions the most
injurious and insulting against Signor Zanoni and myself. Zanoni
replied not; I was more hot and hasty. The guests appeared to
delight in our dispute. None, except Mascari, whom we pushed
aside and disdained to hear, strove to conciliate; some took one
side, some another. The issue may be well foreseen. Swords were
called for and procured. Two were offered me by one of the
party. I was about to choose one, when Zanoni placed in my hand
the other, which, from its hilt, appeared of antiquated
workmanship. At the same moment, looking towards the prince, he
said, smilingly, 'The duc takes your grandsire's sword. Prince,
you are too brave a man for superstition; you have forgot the
forfeit!' Our host seemed to me to recoil and turn pale at those
words; nevertheless, he returned Zanoni's smile with a look of
defiance. The next moment all was broil and disorder. There
might be some six or eight persons engaged in a strange and
confused kind of melee, but the prince and myself only sought
each other. The noise around us, the confusion of the guests,
the cries of the musicians, the clash of our own swords, only
served to stimulate our unhappy fury. We feared to be
interrupted by the attendants, and fought like madmen, without
skill or method. I thrust and parried mechanically, blind and
frantic, as if a demon had entered into me, till I saw the prince
stretched at my feet, bathed in his blood, and Zanoni bending
over him, and whispering in his ear. That sight cooled us all.
The strife ceased; we gathered, in shame, remorse, and horror,
round our ill-fated host; but it was too late,--his eyes rolled
fearfully in his head. I have seen many men die, but never one
who wore such horror on his countenance. At last all was over!
Zanoni rose from the corpse, and, taking, with great composure,
the sword from my hand, said calmly, 'Ye are witnesses,
gentlemen, that the prince brought his fate upon himself. The
last of that illustrious house has perished in a brawl.'
"I saw no more of Zanoni. I hastened to our envoy to narrate the
event, and abide the issue. I am grateful to the Neapolitan
government, and to the illustrious heir of the unfortunate
nobleman, for the lenient and generous, yet just, interpretation
put upon a misfortune the memory of which will afflict me to the
last hour of my life.
(Signed) "Louis Victor, Duc de R."
In the above memorial, the reader will find the most exact and
minute account yet given of an event which created the most
lively sensation at Naples in that day.
Glyndon had taken no part in the affray, neither had he
participated largely in the excesses of the revel. For his
exemption from both he was perhaps indebted to the whispered
exhortations of Zanoni. When the last rose from the corpse, and
withdrew from that scene of confusion, Glyndon remarked that in
passing the crowd he touched Mascari on the shoulder, and said
something which the Englishman did not overhear. Glyndon
followed Zanoni into the banquet-room, which, save where the
moonlight slept on the marble floor, was wrapped in the sad and
gloomy shadows of the advancing night.
"How could you foretell this fearful event? He fell not by your
arm!" said Glyndon, in a tremulous and hollow tone.
"The general who calculates on the victory does not fight in
person," answered Zanoni; "let the past sleep with the dead.
Meet me at midnight by the sea-shore, half a mile to the left of
your hotel. You will know the spot by a rude pillar--the only
one near--to which a broken chain is attached. There and then,
if thou wouldst learn our lore, thou shalt find the master. Go;
I have business here yet. Remember, Viola is still in the house
of the dead man!"
Here Mascari approached, and Zanoni, turning to the Italian, and
waving his hand to Glyndon, drew the former aside. Glyndon
"Mascari," said Zanoni, "your patron is no more; your services
will be valueless to his heir,--a sober man whom poverty has
preserved from vice. For yourself, thank me that I do not give
you up to the executioner; recollect the wine of Cyprus. Well,
never tremble, man; it could not act on me, though it might react
on others; in that it is a common type of crime. I forgive you;
and if the wine should kill me, I promise you that my ghost shall
not haunt so worshipful a penitent. Enough of this; conduct me
to the chamber of Viola Pisani. You have no further need of her.
The death of the jailer opens the cell of the captive. Be quick;
I would be gone."
Mascari muttered some inaudible words, bowed low, and led the way
to the chamber in which Viola was confined.
Merc: Tell me, therefore, what thou seekest after, and what thou
wilt have. What dost thou desire to make?
Alch: The Philosopher's Stone.
It wanted several minutes of midnight, and Glyndon repaired to
the appointed spot. The mysterious empire which Zanoni had
acquired over him, was still more solemnly confirmed by the
events of the last few hours; the sudden fate of the prince, so
deliberately foreshadowed, and yet so seemingly accidental,
brought out by causes the most commonplace, and yet associated
with words the most prophetic, impressed him with the deepest
sentiments of admiration and awe. It was as if this dark and
wondrous being could convert the most ordinary events and the
meanest instruments into the agencies of his inscrutable will;
yet, if so, why have permitted the capture of Viola? Why not
have prevented the crime rather than punish the criminal? And
did Zanoni really feel love for Viola? Love, and yet offer to
resign her to himself,--to a rival whom his arts could not have
failed to baffle. He no longer reverted to the belief that
Zanoni or Viola had sought to dupe him into marriage. His fear
and reverence for the former now forbade the notion of so poor an
imposture. Did he any longer love Viola himself? No; when that
morning he had heard of her danger, he had, it is true, returned
to the sympathies and the fears of affection; but with the death
of the prince her image faded from his heart, and he felt no
jealous pang at the thought that she had been saved by Zanoni,--
that at that moment she was perhaps beneath his roof. Whoever
has, in the course of his life, indulged the absorbing passion of
the gamester, will remember how all other pursuits and objects
vanished from his mind; how solely he was wrapped in the one wild
delusion; with what a sceptre of magic power the despot-demon
ruled every feeling and every thought. Far more intense than the
passion of the gamester was the frantic yet sublime desire that
mastered the breast of Glyndon. He would be the rival of Zanoni,
not in human and perishable affections, but in preternatural and
eternal lore. He would have laid down life with content--nay,
rapture--as the price of learning those solemn secrets which
separated the stranger from mankind. Enamoured of the goddess of
goddesses, he stretched forth his arms--the wild Ixion--and
embraced a cloud!
The night was most lovely and serene, and the waves scarcely
rippled at his feet as the Englishman glided on by the cool and
starry beach. At length he arrived at the spot, and there,
leaning against the broken pillar, he beheld a man wrapped in a
long mantle, and in an attitude of profound repose. He
approached, and uttered the name of Zanoni. The figure turned,
and he saw the face of a stranger: a face not stamped by the
glorious beauty of Zanoni, but equally majestic in its aspect,
and perhaps still more impressive from the mature age and the
passionless depth of thought that characterised the expanded
forehead, and deep-set but piercing eyes.
"You seek Zanoni," said the stranger; "he will be here anon; but,
perhaps, he whom you see before you is more connected with your
destiny, and more disposed to realise your dreams."
"Hath the earth, then, another Zanoni?"
"If not," replied the stranger, "why do you cherish the hope and
the wild faith to be yourself a Zanoni? Think you that none
others have burned with the same godlike dream? Who, indeed in
his first youth,--youth when the soul is nearer to the heaven
from which it sprang, and its divine and primal longings are not
all effaced by the sordid passions and petty cares that are begot
in time,--who is there in youth that has not nourished the belief
that the universe has secrets not known to the common herd, and
panted, as the hart for the water-springs, for the fountains that
lie hid and far away amidst the broad wilderness of trackless
science? The music of the fountain is heard in the soul WITHIN,
till the steps, deceived and erring, rove away from its waters,
and the wanderer dies in the mighty desert. Think you that none
who have cherished the hope have found the truth, or that the
yearning after the Ineffable Knowledge was given to us utterly in
vain? No! Every desire in human hearts is but a glimpse of
things that exist, alike distant and divine. No! in the world
there have been from age to age some brighter and happier spirits
who have attained to the air in which the beings above mankind
move and breathe. Zanoni, great though he be, stands not alone.
He has had his predecessors, and long lines of successors may be
yet to come."
"And will you tell me," said Glyndon, "that in yourself I behold
one of that mighty few over whom Zanoni has no superiority in
power and wisdom?"
"In me," answered the stranger, "you see one from whom Zanoni
himself learned some of his loftiest secrets. On these shores,
on this spot, have I stood in ages that your chroniclers but
feebly reach. The Phoenician, the Greek, the Oscan, the Roman,
the Lombard, I have seen them all!--leaves gay and glittering on
the trunk of the universal life, scattered in due season and
again renewed; till, indeed, the same race that gave its glory to
the ancient world bestowed a second youth upon the new. For the
pure Greeks, the Hellenes, whose origin has bewildered your
dreaming scholars, were of the same great family as the Norman
tribe, born to be the lords of the universe, and in no land on
earth destined to become the hewers of wood. Even the dim
traditions of the learned, which bring the sons of Hellas from
the vast and undetermined territories of Northern Thrace, to be
the victors of the pastoral Pelasgi, and the founders of the line
of demi-gods; which assign to a population bronzed beneath the
suns of the West, the blue-eyed Minerva and the yellow-haired
Achilles (physical characteristics of the North); which
introduce, amongst a pastoral people, warlike aristocracies and
limited monarchies, the feudalism of the classic time,--even
these might serve you to trace back the primeval settlements of
the Hellenes to the same region whence, in later times, the
Norman warriors broke on the dull and savage hordes of the Celt,
and became the Greeks of the Christian world. But this interests
you not, and you are wise in your indifference. Not in the
knowledge of things without, but in the perfection of the soul
within, lies the empire of man aspiring to be more than man."
"And what books contain that science; from what laboratory is it
"Nature supplies the materials; they are around you in your daily
walks. In the herbs that the beast devours and the chemist
disdains to cull; in the elements from which matter in its
meanest and its mightiest shapes is deduced; in the wide bosom of
the air; in the black abysses of the earth; everywhere are given
to mortals the resources and libraries of immortal lore. But as
the simplest problems in the simplest of all studies are obscure
to one who braces not his mind to their comprehension; as the
rower in yonder vessel cannot tell you why two circles can touch
each other only in one point,--so though all earth were carved
over and inscribed with the letters of diviner knowledge, the
characters would be valueless to him who does not pause to
inquire the language and meditate the truth. Young man, if thy
imagination is vivid, if thy heart is daring, if thy curiosity is
insatiate, I will accept thee as my pupil. But the first
lessons are stern and dread."
"If thou hast mastered them, why not I?" answered Glyndon,
boldly. "I have felt from my boyhood that strange mysteries were
reserved for my career; and from the proudest ends of ordinary
ambition I have carried my gaze into the cloud and darkness that
stretch beyond. The instant I beheld Zanoni, I felt as if I had
discovered the guide and the tutor for which my youth had idly
languished and vainly burned."
"And to me his duty is transferred," replied the stranger.
"Yonder lies, anchored in the bay, the vessel in which Zanoni
seeks a fairer home; a little while and the breeze will rise, the
sail will swell; and the stranger will have passed, like a wind,
away. Still, like the wind, he leaves in thy heart the seeds
that may bear the blossom and the fruit. Zanoni hath performed
his task,--he is wanted no more; the perfecter of his work is at
thy side. He comes! I hear the dash of the oar. You will have
your choice submitted to you. According as you decide we shall
meet again." With these words the stranger moved slowly away,
and disappeared beneath the shadow of the cliffs. A boat glided
rapidly across the waters: it touched land; a man leaped on
shore, and Glyndon recognised Zanoni.
"I give thee, Glyndon,--I give thee no more the option of happy
love and serene enjoyment. That hour is past, and fate has
linked the hand that might have been thine own to mine. But I
have ample gifts to bestow upon thee, if thou wilt abandon the
hope that gnaws thy heart, and the realisation of which even _I_
have not the power to foresee. Be thine ambition human, and I
can gratify it to the full. Men desire four things in life,--
love, wealth, fame, power. The first I cannot give thee, the
rest are at my disposal. Select which of them thou wilt, and let
us part in peace."
"Such are not the gifts I covet. I choose knowledge; that
knowledge must be thine own. For this, and for this alone, I
surrendered the love of Viola; this, and this alone, must be my
"I cannot gain say thee, though I can warn. The desire to learn
does not always contain the faculty to acquire. I can give thee,
it is true, the teacher,--the rest must depend on thee. Be wise
in time, and take that which I can assure to thee."
"Answer me but these questions, and according to your answer I
will decide. Is it in the power of man to attain intercourse
with the beings of other worlds? Is it in the power of man to
influence the elements, and to insure life against the sword and
"All this may be possible," answered Zanoni, evasively, "to the
few; but for one who attains such secrets, millions may perish in
"One question more. Thou--"
"Beware! Of myself, as I have said before, I render no account."
"Well, then, the stranger I have met this night,--are his boasts
to be believed? Is he in truth one of the chosen seers whom you
allow to have mastered the mysteries I yearn to fathom?"
"Rash man," said Zanoni, in a tone of compassion, "thy crisis is
past, and thy choice made! I can only bid thee be bold and
prosper; yes, I resign thee to a master who HAS the power and the
will to open to thee the gates of an awful world. Thy weal or
woe are as nought in the eyes of his relentless wisdom. I would
bid him spare thee, but he will heed me not. Mejnour, receive
thy pupil!" Glyndon turned, and his heart beat when he perceived
that the stranger, whose footsteps he had not heard upon the
pebbles, whose approach he had not beheld in the moonlight, was
once more by his side.
"Farewell," resumed Zanoni; "thy trial commences. When next we
meet, thou wilt be the victim or the victor."
Glyndon's eyes followed the receding form of the mysterious
stranger. He saw him enter the boat, and he then for the first
time noticed that besides the rowers there was a female, who
stood up as Zanoni gained the boat. Even at the distance he
recognised the once-adored form of Viola. She waved her hand to
him, and across the still and shining air came her voice,
mournfully and sweetly, in her mother's tongue, "Farewell,
Clarence,--I forgive thee!--farewell, farewell!"
He strove to answer; but the voice touched a chord at his heart,
and the words failed him. Viola was then lost forever, gone with
this dread stranger; darkness was round her lot! And he himself
had decided her fate and his own! The boat bounded on, the soft
waves flashed and sparkled beneath the oars, and it was along one
sapphire track of moonlight that the frail vessel bore away the
lovers. Farther and farther from his gaze sped the boat, till at
last the speck, scarcely visible, touched the side of the ship
that lay lifeless in the glorious bay. At that instant, as if by
magic, up sprang, with a glad murmur, the playful and freshening
wind: and Glyndon turned to Mejnour and broke the silence.
"Tell me--if thou canst read the future--tell me that HER lot
will be fair, and that HER choice at least is wise?"
"My pupil!" answered Mejnour, in a voice the calmness of which
well accorded with the chilling words, "thy first task must be to
withdraw all thought, feeling, sympathy from others. The
elementary stage of knowledge is to make self, and self alone,
thy study and thy world. Thou hast decided thine own career;
thou hast renounced love; thou hast rejected wealth, fame, and
the vulgar pomps of power. What, then, are all mankind to thee?
To perfect thy faculties, and concentrate thy emotions, is
henceforth thy only aim!"
"And will happiness be the end?"
"If happiness exist," answered Mejnour, "it must be centred in a
SELF to which all passion is unknown. But happiness is the last
state of being; and as yet thou art on the threshold of the
As Mejnour spoke, the distant vessel spread its sails to the
wind, and moved slowly along the deep. Glyndon sighed, and the
pupil and the master retraced their steps towards the city.
THE DWELLER OF THE THRESHOLD.
Bey hinter ihm was will! Ich heb ihn auf.
"Das Verschleierte Bildzu Sais"
(Be behind what there may, - I raise the veil.)
Come vittima io vengo all' ara.
"Metast.," At. ii. Sc. 7.
(As a victim I go to the altar.)
It was about a month after the date of Zanoni's departure and
Glyndon's introduction to Mejnour, when two Englishmen were
walking, arm-in-arm, through the Toledo.
"I tell you," said one (who spoke warmly), "that if you have a
particle of common-sense left in you, you will accompany me to
England. This Mejnour is an imposter more dangerous, because
more in earnest, than Zanoni. After all, what do his promises
amount to? You allow that nothing can be more equivocal. You
say that he has left Naples,--that he has selected a retreat more
congenial than the crowded thoroughfares of men to the studies in
which he is to initiate you; and this retreat is among the haunts
of the fiercest bandits of Italy,--haunts which justice itself
dares not penetrate. Fitting hermitage for a sage! I tremble
for you. What if this stranger--of whom nothing is known--be
leagued with the robbers; and these lures for your credulity bait
but the traps for your property,--perhaps your life? You might
come off cheaply by a ransom of half your fortune. You smile
indignantly! Well, put common-sense out of the question; take
your own view of the matter. You are to undergo an ordeal which
Mejnour himself does not profess to describe as a very tempting
one. It may, or it may not, succeed: if it does not, you are
menaced with the darkest evils; and if it does, you cannot be
better off than the dull and joyless mystic whom you have taken
for a master. Away with this folly; enjoy youth while it is left
to you; return with me to England; forget these dreams; enter
your proper career; form affections more respectable than those
which lured you awhile to an Italian adventuress. Attend to your
fortune, make money, and become a happy and distinguished man.
This is the advice of sober friendship; yet the promises I hold
out to you are fairer than those of Mejnour."
"Mervale," said Glyndon, doggedly, "I cannot, if I would, yield
to your wishes. A power that is above me urges me on; I cannot
resist its influence. I will proceed to the last in the strange
career I have commenced. Think of me no more. Follow yourself
the advice you give to me, and be happy."
"This is madness," said Mervale; "your health is already failing;
you are so changed I should scarcely know you. Come; I have
already had your name entered in my passport; in another hour I
shall be gone, and you, boy that you are, will be left, without a
friend, to the deceits of your own fancy and the machinations of
this relentless mountebank."
"Enough," said Glyndon, coldly; "you cease to be an effective
counsellor when you suffer your prejudices to be thus evident. I
have already had ample proof," added the Englishman, and his pale
cheek grew more pale, "of the power of this man,--if man he be,
which I sometimes doubt,--and, come life, come death, I will not
shrink from the paths that allure me. Farewell, Mervale; if we
never meet again,--if you hear, amidst our old and cheerful
haunts, that Clarence Glyndon sleeps the last sleep by the shores
of Naples, or amidst yon distant hills, say to the friends of our
youth, 'He died worthily, as thousands of martyr-students have
died before him, in the pursuit of knowledge.'"
He wrung Mervale's hand as he spoke, darted from his side, and
disappeared amidst the crowd.
By the corner of the Toledo he was arrested by Nicot.
"Ah, Glyndon! I have not seen you this month. Where have you
hid yourself? Have you been absorbed in your studies?"
"I am about to leave Naples for Paris. Will you accompany me?
Talent of all order is eagerly sought for there, and will be sure
"I thank you; I have other schemes for the present."
"So laconic!--what ails you? Do you grieve for the loss of the
Pisani? Take example by me. I have already consoled myself with
Bianca Sacchini,--a handsome woman, enlightened, no prejudices.
A valuable creature I shall find her, no doubt. But as for this
"What of him?"
"If ever I paint an allegorical subject, I will take his likeness
as Satan. Ha, ha! a true painter's revenge,--eh? And the way of
the world, too! When we can do nothing else against a man whom
we hate, we can at least paint his effigies as the Devil's.
Seriously, though: I abhor that man."
"Wherefore! Has he not carried off the wife and the dowry I had
marked for myself! Yet, after all," added Nicot, musingly, "had
he served instead of injured me, I should have hated him all the
same. His very form, and his very face, made me at once envy and
detest him. I felt that there is something antipathetic in our
natures. I feel, too, that we shall meet again, when Jean
Nicot's hate may be less impotent. We, too, cher confrere,--we,
too, may meet again! Vive la Republique! I to my new world!"
"And I to mine. Farewell!"
That day Mervale left Naples; the next morning Glyndon also
quitted the City of Delight alone, and on horseback. He bent his
way into those picturesque but dangerous parts of the country
which at that time were infested by banditti, and which few
travellers dared to pass, even in broad daylight, without a
strong escort. A road more lonely cannot well be conceived than
that on which the hoofs of his steed, striking upon the fragments
of rock that encumbered the neglected way, woke a dull and
melancholy echo. Large tracts of waste land, varied by the rank
and profuse foliage of the South, lay before him; occasionally a
wild goat peeped down from some rocky crag, or the discordant cry
of a bird of prey, startled in its sombre haunt, was heard above
the hills. These were the only signs of life; not a human being
was met,--not a hut was visible. Wrapped in his own ardent and
solemn thoughts, the young man continued his way, till the sun
had spent its noonday heat, and a breeze that announced the
approach of eve sprung up from the unseen ocean which lay far
distant to his right. It was then that a turn in the road
brought before him one of those long, desolate, gloomy villages
which are found in the interior of the Neapolitan dominions: and
now he came upon a small chapel on one side the road, with a
gaudily painted image of the Virgin in the open shrine. Around
this spot, which, in the heart of a Christian land, retained the
vestige of the old idolatry (for just such were the chapels that
in the pagan age were dedicated to the demon-saints of
mythology), gathered six or seven miserable and squalid wretches,
whom the curse of the leper had cut off from mankind. They set
up a shrill cry as they turned their ghastly visages towards the
horseman; and, without stirring from the spot, stretched out
their gaunt arms, and implored charity in the name of the
Merciful Mother! Glyndon hastily threw them some small coins,
and, turning away his face, clapped spurs to his horse, and
relaxed not his speed till he entered the village. On either
side the narrow and miry street, fierce and haggard forms--some
leaning against the ruined walls of blackened huts, some seated
at the threshold, some lying at full length in the mud--presented
groups that at once invoked pity and aroused alarm: pity for
their squalor, alarm for the ferocity imprinted on their savage
aspects. They gazed at him, grim and sullen, as he rode slowly
up the rugged street; sometimes whispering significantly to each
other, but without attempting to stop his way. Even the children
hushed their babble, and ragged urchins, devouring him with
sparkling eyes, muttered to their mothers; "We shall feast well
to-morrow!" It was, indeed, one of those hamlets in which Law
sets not its sober step, in which Violence and Murder house
secure,--hamlets common then in the wilder parts of Italy, in
which the peasant was but the gentler name for the robber.
Glyndon's heart somewhat failed him as he looked around, and the
question he desired to ask died upon his lips. At length from
one of the dismal cabins emerged a form superior to the rest.
Instead of the patched and ragged over-all, which made the only
garment of the men he had hitherto seen, the dress of this person
was characterised by all the trappings of the national bravery.
Upon his raven hair, the glossy curls of which made a notable
contrast to the matted and elfin locks of the savages around, was
placed a cloth cap, with a gold tassel that hung down to his
shoulder; his mustaches were trimmed with care, and a silk
kerchief of gay hues was twisted round a well-shaped but sinewy
throat; a short jacket of rough cloth was decorated with several
rows of gilt filagree buttons; his nether garments fitted tight
to his limbs, and were curiously braided; while in a broad parti-
coloured sash were placed two silver-hilted pistols, and the
sheathed knife, usually worn by Italians of the lower order,
mounted in ivory elaborately carved. A small carbine of handsome
workmanship was slung across his shoulder and completed his
costume. The man himself was of middle size, athletic yet
slender, with straight and regular features, sunburnt, but not
swarthy; and an expression of countenance which, though reckless
and bold, had in it frankness rather than ferocity, and, if
defying, was not altogether unprepossessing.
Glyndon, after eyeing this figure for some moments with great
attention, checked his rein, and asked the way to the "Castle of
The man lifted his cap as he heard the question, and, approaching
Glyndon, laid his hand upon the neck of the horse, and said, in a
low voice, "Then you are the cavalier whom our patron the signor
expected. He bade me wait for you here, and lead you to the
castle. And indeed, signor, it might have been unfortunate if I
had neglected to obey the command."
The man then, drawing a little aside, called out to the
bystanders in a loud voice, "Ho, ho! my friends, pay henceforth
and forever all respect to this worshipful cavalier. He is the
expected guest of our blessed patron of the Castle of the
Mountain. Long life to him! May he, like his host, be safe by
day and by night; on the hill and in the waste; against the
dagger and the bullet,--in limb and in life! Cursed be he who
touches a hair of his head, or a baioccho in his pouch. Now and
forever we will protect and honour him,--for the law or against
the law; with the faith and to the death. Amen! Amen!"
"Amen!" responded, in wild chorus, a hundred voices; and the
scattered and straggling groups pressed up the street, nearer and
nearer to the horseman.
"And that he may be known," continued the Englishman's strange
protector, "to the eye and to the ear, I place around him the
white sash, and I give him the sacred watchword, 'Peace to the
Brave.' Signor, when you wear this sash, the proudest in these
parts will bare the head and bend the knee. Signor, when you
utter this watchword, the bravest hearts will be bound to your
bidding. Desire you safety, or ask you revenge--to gain a
beauty, or to lose a foe,--speak but the word, and we are yours:
we are yours! Is it not so, comrades?"
And again the hoarse voices shouted, "Amen, Amen!"
"Now, signor," whispered the bravo, "if you have a few coins to
spare, scatter them amongst the crowd, and let us be gone."
Glyndon, not displeased at the concluding sentence, emptied his
purse in the streets; and while, with mingled oaths, blessings,
shrieks, and yells, men, women, and children scrambled for the
money, the bravo, taking the rein of the horse, led it a few
paces through the village at a brisk trot, and then, turning up a
narrow lane to the left, in a few minutes neither houses nor men
were visible, and the mountains closed their path on either side.
It was then that, releasing the bridle and slackening his pace,
the guide turned his dark eyes on Glyndon with an arch
expression, and said,--
"Your Excellency was not, perhaps, prepared for the hearty
welcome we have given you."
"Why, in truth, I OUGHT to have been prepared for it, since the
signor, to whose house I am bound, did not disguise from me the
character of the neighbourhood. And your name, my friend, if I
may so call you?"
"Oh, no ceremonies with me, Excellency. In the village I am
generally called Maestro Paolo. I had a surname once, though a
very equivocal one; and I have forgotten THAT since I retired
from the world."
"And was it from disgust, from poverty, or from some--some
ebullition of passion which entailed punishment, that you betook
yourself to the mountains?"
"Why, signor," said the bravo, with a gay laugh, "hermits of my
class seldom love the confessional. However, I have no secrets
while my step is in these defiles, my whistle in my pouch, and my
carbine at my back." With that the robber, as if he loved
permission to talk at his will, hemmed thrice, and began with
much humour; though, as his tale proceeded, the memories it
roused seemed to carry him farther than he at first intended, and
reckless and light-hearted ease gave way to that fierce and
varied play of countenance and passion of gesture which
characterise the emotions of his countrymen.
"I was born at Terracina,--a fair spot, is it not? My father was
a learned monk of high birth; my mother--Heaven rest her!--an
innkeeper's pretty daughter. Of course there could be no
marriage in the case; and when I was born, the monk gravely
declared my appearance to be miraculous. I was dedicated from my
cradle to the altar; and my head was universally declared to be
the orthodox shape for a cowl. As I grew up, the monk took great
pains with my education; and I learned Latin and psalmody as soon
as less miraculous infants learn crowing. Nor did the holy man's
care stint itself to my interior accomplishments. Although vowed
to poverty, he always contrived that my mother should have her
pockets full; and between her pockets and mine there was soon
established a clandestine communication; accordingly, at
fourteen, I wore my cap on one side, stuck pistols in my belt,
and assumed the swagger of a cavalier and a gallant. At that age
my poor mother died; and about the same period my father, having
written a History of the Pontifical Bulls, in forty volumes, and
being, as I said, of high birth, obtained a cardinal's hat. From
that time he thought fit to disown your humble servant. He bound
me over to an honest notary at Naples, and gave me two hundred
crowns by way of provision. Well, signor, I saw enough of the
law to convince me that I should never be rogue enough to shine
in the profession. So, instead of spoiling parchment, I made
love to the notary's daughter. My master discovered our innocent
amusement, and turned me out of doors; that was disagreeable.
But my Ninetta loved me, and took care that I should not lie out
in the streets with the Lazzaroni. Little jade! I think I see
her now with her bare feet, and her finger to her lips, opening
the door in the summer nights, and bidding me creep softly into
the kitchen, where, praised be the saints! a flask and a manchet
always awaited the hungry amoroso. At last, however, Ninetta
grew cold. It is the way of the sex, signor. Her father found
her an excellent marriage in the person of a withered old
picture-dealer. She took the spouse, and very properly clapped
the door in the face of the lover. I was not disheartened,
Excellency; no, not I. Women are plentiful while we are young.
So, without a ducat in my pocket or a crust for my teeth, I set
out to seek my fortune on board of a Spanish merchantman. That
was duller work than I expected; but luckily we were attacked by
a pirate,--half the crew were butchered, the rest captured. I
was one of the last: always in luck, you see, signor,--monks'
sons have a knack that way! The captain of the pirates took a
fancy to me. 'Serve with us?' said he. 'Too happy,' said I.
Behold me, then, a pirate! O jolly life! how I blessed the old
notary for turning me out of doors! What feasting, what
fighting, what wooing, what quarrelling! Sometimes we ran ashore
and enjoyed ourselves like princes; sometimes we lay in a calm
for days together on the loveliest sea that man ever traversed.
And then, if the breeze rose and a sail came in sight, who so
merry as we? I passed three years in that charming profession,
and then, signor, I grew ambitious. I caballed against the
captain; I wanted his post. One still night we struck the blow.
The ship was like a log in the sea, no land to be seen from the
mast-head, the waves like glass, and the moon at its full. Up we
rose, thirty of us and more. Up we rose with a shout; we poured
into the captain's cabin, I at the head. The brave old boy had
caught the alarm, and there he stood at the doorway, a pistol in
each hand; and his one eye (he had only one) worse to meet than
the pistols were.
"'Yield!' cried I; 'your life shall be safe.'
"'Take that,' said he, and whiz went the pistol; but the saints
took care of their own, and the ball passed by my cheek, and shot
the boatswain behind me. I closed with the captain, and the
other pistol went off without mischief in the struggle. Such a
fellow he was,--six feet four without his shoes! Over we went,
rolling each on the other. Santa Maria! no time to get hold of
one's knife. Meanwhile all the crew were up, some for the
captain, some for me,--clashing and firing, and swearing and
groaning, and now and then a heavy splash in the sea. Fine
supper for the sharks that night! At last old Bilboa got
uppermost; out flashed his knife; down it came, but not in my
heart. No! I gave my left arm as a shield; and the blade went
through to the hilt, with the blood spurting up like the rain
from a whale's nostril! With the weight of the blow the stout
fellow came down so that his face touched mine; with my right
hand I caught him by the throat, turned him over like a lamb,
signor, and faith it was soon all up with him: the boatswain's
brother, a fat Dutchman, ran him through with a pike.
"'Old fellow,' said I, as he turned his terrible eye to me, 'I
bear you no malice, but we must try to get on in the world, you
know.' The captain grinned and gave up the ghost. I went upon
deck,--what a sight! Twenty bold fellows stark and cold, and the
moon sparkling on the puddles of blood as calmly as if it were
water. Well, signor, the victory was ours, and the ship mine; I
ruled merrily enough for six months. We then attacked a French
ship twice our size; what sport it was! And we had not had a
good fight so long, we were quite like virgins at it! We got the
best of it, and won ship and cargo. They wanted to pistol the
captain, but that was against my laws: so we gagged him, for he
scolded as loud as if we were married to him; left him and the
rest of his crew on board our own vessel, which was terribly
battered; clapped our black flag on the Frenchman's, and set off
merrily, with a brisk wind in our favour. But luck deserted us
on forsaking our own dear old ship. A storm came on, a plank
struck; several of us escaped in a boat; we had lots of gold with
us, but no water. For two days and two nights we suffered
horribly; but at last we ran ashore near a French seaport. Our
sorry plight moved compassion, and as we had money, we were not
suspected,--people only suspect the poor. Here we soon recovered
our fatigues, rigged ourselves out gayly, and your humble servant
was considered as noble a captain as ever walked deck. But now,
alas! my fate would have it that I should fall in love with a
silk-mercer's daughter. Ah, how I loved her!--the pretty Clara!
Yes, I loved her so well that I was seized with horror at my past
life! I resolved to repent, to marry her, and settle down into
an honest man. Accordingly, I summoned my messmates, told them
my resolution, resigned my command, and persuaded them to depart.
They were good fellows, engaged with a Dutchman, against whom I
heard afterwards they made a successful mutiny, but I never saw
them more. I had two thousand crowns still left; with this sum I
obtained the consent of the silk-mercer, and it was agreed that I
should become a partner in the firm. I need not say that no one
suspected that I had been so great a man, and I passed for a
Neapolitan goldsmith's son instead of a cardinal's. I was very
happy then, signor, very,--I could not have harmed a fly! Had I
married Clara, I had been as gentle a mercer as ever handled a
The bravo paused a moment, and it was easy to see that he felt
more than his words and tone betokened. "Well, well, we must not
look back at the past too earnestly,--the sunlight upon it makes
one's eyes water. The day was fixed for our wedding,--it
approached. On the evening before the appointed day, Clara, her
mother, her little sister, and myself, were walking by the port;
and as we looked on the sea, I was telling them old gossip-tales
of mermaids and sea-serpents, when a red-faced, bottle-nosed
Frenchman clapped himself right before me, and, placing his
spectacles very deliberately astride his proboscis, echoed out,
'Sacre, mille tonnerres! this is the damned pirate who boarded
"'None of your jests,' said I, mildly. 'Ho, ho!' said he; 'I
can't be mistaken; help there!' and he griped me by the collar.
I replied, as you may suppose, by laying him in the kennel; but
it would not do. The French captain had a French lieutenant at
his back, whose memory was as good as his chief's. A crowd
assembled; other sailors came up: the odds were against me. I
slept that night in prison; and in a few weeks afterwards I was
sent to the galleys. They spared my life, because the old
Frenchman politely averred that I had made my crew spare his.
You may believe that the oar and the chain were not to my taste.
I and two others escaped; they took to the road, and have, no
doubt, been long since broken on the wheel. I, soft soul, would
not commit another crime to gain my bread, for Clara was still at
my heart with her sweet eyes; so, limiting my rogueries to the
theft of a beggar's rags, which I compensated by leaving him my
galley attire instead, I begged my way to the town where I left
Clara. It was a clear winter's day when I approached the
outskirts of the town. I had no fear of detection, for my beard
and hair were as good as a mask. Oh, Mother of Mercy! there came
across my way a funeral procession! There, now you know it; I
can tell you no more. She had died, perhaps of love, more likely
of shame. Can you guess how I spent that night?--I stole a
pickaxe from a mason's shed, and all alone and unseen, under the
frosty heavens, I dug the fresh mould from the grave; I lifted
the coffin, I wrenched the lid, I saw her again--again! Decay
had not touched her. She was always pale in life! I could have
sworn she lived! It was a blessed thing to see her once more,
and all alone too! But then, at dawn, to give her back to the
earth,--to close the lid, to throw down the mould, to hear the
pebbles rattle on the coffin: that was dreadful! Signor, I
never knew before, and I don't wish to think now, how valuable a
thing human life is. At sunrise I was again a wanderer; but now
that Clara was gone, my scruples vanished, and again I was at war
with my betters. I contrived at last, at O--, to get taken on
board a vessel bound to Leghorn, working out my passage. From
Leghorn I went to Rome, and stationed myself at the door of the
cardinal's palace. Out he came, his gilded coach at the gate.
"'Ho, father!' said I; 'don't you know me?'
"'Who are you?'
"'Your son,' said I, in a whisper.
"The cardinal drew back, looked at me earnestly, and mused a
moment. 'All men are my sons,' quoth he then, very mildly;
'there is gold for thee! To him who begs once, alms are due; to
him who begs twice, jails are open. Take the hint and molest me
no more. Heaven bless thee!' With that he got into his coach,
and drove off to the Vatican. His purse which he had left behind
was well supplied. I was grateful and contented, and took my way
to Terracina. I had not long passed the marshes when I saw two
horsemen approach at a canter.
"'You look poor, friend,' said one of them, halting; 'yet you are
"'Poor men and strong are both serviceable and dangerous, Signor
"'Well said; follow us.'
"I obeyed, and became a bandit. I rose by degrees; and as I have
always been mild in my calling, and have taken purses without
cutting throats, I bear an excellent character, and can eat my
macaroni at Naples without any danger to life and limb. For the
last two years I have settled in these parts, where I hold sway,
and where I have purchased land. I am called a farmer, signor;
and I myself now only rob for amusement, and to keep my hand in.
I trust I have satisfied your curiosity. We are within a hundred
yards of the castle."
"And how," asked the Englishman, whose interest had been much
excited by his companion's narrative,--"and how came you
acquainted with my host?--and by what means has he so well
conciliated the goodwill of yourself and friends?"
Maestro Paolo turned his black eyes very gravely towards his
questioner. "Why, signor," said he, "you must surely know more
of the foreign cavalier with the hard name than I do. All I can
say is, that about a fortnight ago I chanced to be standing by a
booth in the Toledo at Naples, when a sober-looking gentleman
touched me by the arm, and said, 'Maestro Paolo, I want to make
your acquaintance; do me the favour to come into yonder tavern,
and drink a flask of lacrima.' 'Willingly,' said I. So we
entered the tavern. When we were seated, my new acquaintance
thus accosted me: 'The Count d'O-- has offered to let me hire
his old castle near B--. You know the spot?'
"'Extremely well; no one has inhabited it for a century at least;
it is half in ruins, signor. A queer place to hire; I hope the
rent is not heavy.'
"'Maestro Paolo,' said he, 'I am a philosopher, and don't care
for luxuries. I want a quiet retreat for some scientific
experiments. The castle will suit me very well, provided you
will accept me as a neighbour, and place me and my friends under
your special protection. I am rich; but I shall take nothing to
the castle worth robbing. I will pay one rent to the count, and
another to you.'
"With that we soon came to terms; and as the strange signor
doubled the sum I myself proposed, he is in high favour with all
his neighbours. We would guard the whole castle against an army.
And now, signor, that I have been thus frank, be frank with me.
Who is this singular cavalier?"
"Who?--he himself told you, a philosopher."
"Hem! searching for the Philosopher's Stone,--eh, a bit of a
magician; afraid of the priests?"
"Precisely; you have hit it."
"I thought so; and you are his pupil?"
"I wish you well through it," said the robber, seriously, and
crossing himself with much devotion; "I am not much better than
other people, but one's soul is one's soul. I do not mind a
little honest robbery, or knocking a man on the head if need be,
--but to make a bargain with the devil! Ah, take care, young
gentleman, take care!"
"You need not fear," said Glyndon, smiling; "my preceptor is too
wise and too good for such a compact. But here we are, I
suppose. A noble ruin,--a glorious prospect!"
Glyndon paused delightedly, and surveyed the scene before and
below with the eye of a painter. Insensibly, while listening to
the bandit, he had wound up a considerable ascent, and now he was
upon a broad ledge of rock covered with mosses and dwarf shrubs.
Between this eminence and another of equal height, upon which the
castle was built, there was a deep but narrow fissure, overgrown
with the most profuse foliage, so that the eye could not
penetrate many yards below the rugged surface of the abyss; but
the profoundness might be well conjectured by the hoarse, low,
monotonous roar of waters unseen that rolled below, and the
subsequent course of which was visible at a distance in a
perturbed and rapid stream that intersected the waste and
To the left, the prospect seemed almost boundless,--the extreme
clearness of the purple air serving to render distinct the
features of a range of country that a conqueror of old might have
deemed in itself a kingdom. Lonely and desolate as the road
which Glyndon had passed that day had appeared, the landscape now
seemed studded with castles, spires, and villages. Afar off,
Naples gleamed whitely in the last rays of the sun, and the
rose-tints of the horizon melted into the azure of her glorious
bay. Yet more remote, and in another part of the prospect, might
be caught, dim and shadowy, and backed by the darkest foliage,
the ruined pillars of the ancient Posidonia. There, in the midst
of his blackened and sterile realms, rose the dismal Mount of
Fire; while on the other hand, winding through variegated plains,
to which distance lent all its magic, glittered many and many a
stream by which Etruscan and Sybarite, Roman and Saracen and
Norman had, at intervals of ages, pitched the invading tent. All
the visions of the past--the stormy and dazzling histories of
Southern Italy--rushed over the artist's mind as he gazed below.
And then, slowly turning to look behind, he saw the grey and
mouldering walls of the castle in which he sought the secrets
that were to give to hope in the future a mightier empire than
memory owns in the past. It was one of those baronial fortresses
with which Italy was studded in the earlier middle ages, having
but little of the Gothic grace or grandeur which belongs to the
ecclesiastical architecture of the same time, but rude, vast, and
menacing, even in decay. A wooden bridge was thrown over the
chasm, wide enough to admit two horsemen abreast; and the planks
trembled and gave back a hollow sound as Glyndon urged his jaded
A road which had once been broad and paved with rough flags, but
which now was half-obliterated by long grass and rank weeds,
conducted to the outer court of the castle hard by; the gates
were open, and half the building in this part was dismantled; the
ruins partially hid by ivy that was the growth of centuries. But
on entering the inner court, Glyndon was not sorry to notice that
there was less appearance of neglect and decay; some wild roses
gave a smile to the grey walls, and in the centre there was a
fountain in which the waters still trickled coolly, and with a
pleasing murmur, from the jaws of a gigantic Triton. Here he was
met by Mejnour with a smile.
"Welcome, my friend and pupil," said he: "he who seeks for Truth
can find in these solitudes an immortal Academe."
And Abaris, so far from esteeming Pythagoras, who taught these
things, a necromancer or wizard, rather revered and admired him
as something divine.--Iamblich., "Vit. Pythag."
The attendants whom Mejnour had engaged for his strange abode
were such as might suit a philosopher of few wants. An old
Armenian whom Glyndon recognised as in the mystic's service at
Naples, a tall, hard-featured woman from the village, recommended
by Maestro Paolo, and two long-haired, smooth-spoken, but
fierce-visaged youths from the same place, and honoured by the
same sponsorship, constituted the establishment. The rooms used
by the sage were commodious and weather-proof, with some remains
of ancient splendour in the faded arras that clothed the walls,
and the huge tables of costly marble and elaborate carving.
Glyndon's sleeping apartment communicated with a kind of
belvedere, or terrace, that commanded prospects of unrivalled
beauty and extent, and was separated on the other side by a long
gallery, and a flight of ten or a dozen stairs, from the private
chambers of the mystic. There was about the whole place a sombre
and yet not displeasing depth of repose. It suited well with the
studies to which it was now to be appropriated.
For several days Mejnour refused to confer with Glyndon on the
subjects nearest to his heart.
"All without," said he, "is prepared, but not all within; your
own soul must grow accustomed to the spot, and filled with the
surrounding nature; for Nature is the source of all inspiration."
With these words Mejnour turned to lighter topics. He made the
Englishman accompany him in long rambles through the wild scenes
around, and he smiled approvingly when the young artist gave way
to the enthusiasm which their fearful beauty could not have
failed to rouse in a duller breast; and then Mejnour poured forth
to his wondering pupil the stores of a knowledge that seemed
inexhaustible and boundless. He gave accounts the most curious,
graphic, and minute of the various races (their characters,
habits, creeds, and manners) by which that fair land had been
successively overrun. It is true that his descriptions could not
be found in books, and were unsupported by learned authorities;
but he possessed the true charm of the tale-teller, and spoke of
all with the animated confidence of a personal witness.
Sometimes, too, he would converse upon the more durable and the
loftier mysteries of Nature with an eloquence and a research
which invested them with all the colours rather of poetry than
science. Insensibly the young artist found himself elevated and
soothed by the lore of his companion; the fever of his wild
desires was slaked. His mind became more and more lulled into
the divine tranquillity of contemplation; he felt himself a
nobler being, and in the silence of his senses he imagined that
he heard the voice of his soul.
It was to this state that Mejnour evidently sought to bring the
neophyte, and in this elementary initiation the mystic was like
every more ordinary sage. For he who seeks to DISCOVER must
first reduce himself into a kind of abstract idealism, and be
rendered up, in solemn and sweet bondage, to the faculties which
CONTEMPLATE and IMAGINE.
Glyndon noticed that, in their rambles, Mejnour often paused,
where the foliage was rifest, to gather some herb or flower; and
this reminded him that he had seen Zanoni similarly occupied.
"Can these humble children of Nature," said he one day to
Mejnour,--"things that bloom and wither in a day, be serviceable
to the science of the higher secrets? Is there a pharmacy for
the soul as well as the body, and do the nurslings of the summer
minister not only to human health but spiritual immortality?"
"If," answered Mejnour, "a stranger had visited a wandering tribe
before one property of herbalism was known to them; if he had
told the savages that the herbs which every day they trampled
under foot were endowed with the most potent virtues; that one
would restore to health a brother on the verge of death; that
another would paralyse into idiocy their wisest sage; that a
third would strike lifeless to the dust their most stalwart
champion; that tears and laughter, vigour and disease, madness
and reason, wakefulness and sleep, existence and dissolution,
were coiled up in those unregarded leaves,--would they not have
held him a sorcerer or a liar? To half the virtues of the
vegetable world mankind are yet in the darkness of the savages I
have supposed. There are faculties within us with which certain
herbs have affinity, and over which they have power. The moly of
the ancients is not all a fable."
The apparent character of Mejnour differed in much from that of
Zanoni; and while it fascinated Glyndon less, it subdued and
impressed him more. The conversation of Zanoni evinced a deep
and general interest for mankind,--a feeling approaching to
enthusiasm for art and beauty. The stories circulated concerning
his habits elevated the mystery of his life by actions of charity
and beneficence. And in all this there was something genial and
humane that softened the awe he created, and tended, perhaps, to
raise suspicions as to the loftier secrets that he arrogated to
himself. But Mejnour seemed wholly indifferent to all the actual
world. If he committed no evil, he seemed equally apathetic to
good. His deeds relieved no want, his words pitied no distress.
What we call the heart appeared to have merged into the
intellect. He moved, thought, and lived like some regular and
calm abstraction, rather than one who yet retained, with the
form, the feelings and sympathies of his kind.
Glyndon once, observing the tone of supreme indifference with
which he spoke of those changes on the face of earth which he
asserted he had witnessed, ventured to remark to him the
distinction he had noted.
"It is true," said Mejnour, coldly. "My life is the life that
contemplates,--Zanoni's is the life that enjoys: when I gather
the herb, I think but of its uses; Zanoni will pause to admire
"And you deem your own the superior and the loftier existence?"
"No. His is the existence of youth,--mine of age. We have
cultivated different faculties. Each has powers the other cannot
aspire to. Those with whom he associates live better,--those who
associate with me know more."
"I have heard, in truth," said Glyndon, "that his companions at
Naples were observed to lead purer and nobler lives after
intercourse with Zanoni; yet were they not strange companions, at
the best, for a sage? This terrible power, too, that he
exercises at will, as in the death of the Prince di --, and that
of the Count Ughelli, scarcely becomes the tranquil seeker after
"True," said Mejnour, with an icy smile; "such must ever be the
error of those philosophers who would meddle with the active life
of mankind. You cannot serve some without injuring others; you
cannot protect the good without warring on the bad; and if you
desire to reform the faulty, why, you must lower yourself to live
with the faulty to know their faults. Even so saith Paracelsus,
a great man, though often wrong. ("It is as necessary to know
evil things as good; for who can know what is good without the
knowing what is evil?" etc.--Paracelsus, "De Nat. Rer.," lib. 3.)
Not mine this folly; I live but in knowledge,--I have no life in
Another time Glyndon questioned the mystic as to the nature of
that union or fraternity to which Zanoni had once referred.
"I am right, I suppose," said he, "in conjecturing that you and
himself profess to be the brothers of the Rosy Cross?"
"Do you imagine," answered Mejnour, "that there were no mystic
and solemn unions of men seeking the same end through the same
means before the Arabians of Damus, in 1378, taught to a
wandering German the secrets which founded the Institution of the
Rosicrucians? I allow, however, that the Rosicrucians formed a
sect descended from the greater and earlier school. They were
wiser than the Alchemists,--their masters are wiser than they."
"And of this early and primary order how many still exist?"
"Zanoni and myself."
"What, two only!--and you profess the power to teach to all the
secret that baffles Death?"
"Your ancestor attained that secret; he died rather than survive
the only thing he loved. We have, my pupil, no arts by which we
CAN PUT DEATH OUT OF OUR OPTION, or out of the will of Heaven.
These walls may crush me as I stand. All that we profess to do
is but this,--to find out the secrets of the human frame; to know
why the parts ossify and the blood stagnates, and to apply
continual preventives to the effects of time. This is not magic;
it is the art of medicine rightly understood. In our order we
hold most noble,--first, that knowledge which elevates the
intellect; secondly, that which preserves the body. But the mere
art (extracted from the juices and simples) which recruits the
animal vigour and arrests the progress of decay, or that more
noble secret, which I will only hint to thee at present, by which
HEAT, or CALORIC, as ye call it, being, as Heraclitus wisely
taught, the primordial principle of life, can be made its
perpetual renovater,--these I say, would not suffice for safety.
It is ours also to disarm and elude the wrath of men, to turn the
swords of our foes against each other, to glide (if not
incorporeal) invisible to eyes over which we can throw a mist and
darkness. And this some seers have professed to be the virtue of
a stone of agate. Abaris placed it in his arrow. I will find
you an herb in yon valley that will give a surer charm than the
agate and the arrow. In one word, know this, that the humblest
and meanest products of Nature are those from which the sublimest
properties are to be drawn."
"But," said Glyndon, "if possessed of these great secrets, why so
churlish in withholding their diffusion? Does not the false or
charlatanic science differ in this from the true and
indisputable,--that the last communicates to the world the
process by which it attains its discoveries; the first boasts of
marvellous results, and refuses to explain the causes?"
"Well said, O Logician of the Schools; but think again. Suppose
we were to impart all our knowledge to all mankind
indiscriminately,--alike to the vicious and the virtuous,--should
we be benefactors or scourges? Imagine the tyrant, the
sensualist, the evil and corrupted being possessed of these
tremendous powers; would he not be a demon let loose on earth?
Grant that the same privilege be accorded also to the good; and
in what state would be society? Engaged in a Titan war,--the
good forever on the defensive, the bad forever in assault. In
the present condition of the earth, evil is a more active
principle than good, and the evil would prevail. It is for these
reasons that we are not only solemnly bound to administer our
lore only to those who will not misuse and pervert it, but that
we place our ordeal in tests that purify the passions and elevate
the desires. And Nature in this controls and assists us: for it
places awful guardians and insurmountable barriers between the
ambition of vice and the heaven of the loftier science."
Such made a small part of the numerous conversations Mejnour held
with his pupil,--conversations that, while they appeared to
address themselves to the reason, inflamed yet more the fancy.
It was the very disclaiming of all powers which Nature, properly
investigated, did not suffice to create, that gave an air of
probability to those which Mejnour asserted Nature might bestow.
Thus days and weeks rolled on; and the mind of Glyndon, gradually
fitted to this sequestered and musing life, forgot at last the
vanities and chimeras of the world without.
One evening he had lingered alone and late upon the ramparts,
watching the stars as, one by one, they broke upon the twilight.
Never had he felt so sensibly the mighty power of the heavens and
the earth upon man; how much the springs of our intellectual
being are moved and acted upon by the solemn influences of
Nature. As a patient on whom, slowly and by degrees, the
agencies of mesmerism are brought to bear, he acknowledged to his
heart the growing force of that vast and universal magnetism
which is the life of creation, and binds the atom to the whole.
A strange and ineffable consciousness of power, of the SOMETHING
GREAT within the perishable clay, appealed to feelings at once
dim and glorious,--like the faint recognitions of a holier and
former being. An impulse, that he could not resist, led him to
seek the mystic. He would demand, that hour, his initiation into
the worlds beyond our world,--he was prepared to breathe a
diviner air. He entered the castle, and strode the shadowy and
starlit gallery which conducted to Mejnour's apartment.
Man is the eye of things.--Euryph, "de Vit. Hum."
...There is, therefore, a certain ecstatical or transporting
power, which, if at any time it shall be excited or stirred up by
an ardent desire and most strong imagination, is able to conduct
the spirit of the more outward even to some absent and
far-distant object.--Von Helmont.
The rooms that Mejnour occupied consisted of two chambers
communicating with each other, and a third in which he slept.
All these rooms were placed in the huge square tower that beetled
over the dark and bush-grown precipice. The first chamber which
Glyndon entered was empty. With a noiseless step he passed on,
and opened the door that admitted into the inner one. He drew
back at the threshold, overpowered by a strong fragrance which
filled the chamber: a kind of mist thickened the air rather than
obscured it, for this vapour was not dark, but resembled a snow-
cloud moving slowly, and in heavy undulations, wave upon wave
regularly over the space. A mortal cold struck to the
Englishman's heart, and his blood froze. He stood rooted to the
spot; and as his eyes strained involuntarily through the vapour,
he fancied (for he could not be sure that it was not the trick of
his imagination) that he saw dim, spectre-like, but gigantic
forms floating through the mist; or was it not rather the mist
itself that formed its vapours fantastically into those moving,
impalpable, and bodiless apparitions? A great painter of
antiquity is said, in a picture of Hades, to have represented the
monsters that glide through the ghostly River of the Dead, so
artfully, that the eye perceived at once that the river itself
was but a spectre, and the bloodless things that tenanted it had
no life, their forms blending with the dead waters till, as the
eye continued to gaze, it ceased to discern them from the
preternatural element they were supposed to inhabit. Such were
the moving outlines that coiled and floated through the mist; but
before Glyndon had even drawn breath in this atmosphere--for his
life itself seemed arrested or changed into a kind of horrid
trance--he felt his hand seized, and he was led from that room
into the outer one. He heard the door close,--his blood rushed
again through his veins, and he saw Mejnour by his side. Strong
convulsions then suddenly seized his whole frame,--he fell to the
ground insensible. When he recovered, he found himself in the
open air in a rude balcony of stone that jutted from the chamber,
the stars shining serenely over the dark abyss below, and resting
calmly upon the face of the mystic, who stood beside him with
"Young man," said Mejnour, "judge by what you have just felt, how
dangerous it is to seek knowledge until prepared to receive it.
Another moment in the air of that chamber and you had been a
"Then of what nature was the knowledge that you, once mortal like
myself, could safely have sought in that icy atmosphere, which it
was death for me to breathe? Mejnour," continued Glyndon, and
his wild desire, sharpened by the very danger he had passed, once
more animated and nerved him, "I am prepared at least for the
first steps. I come to you as of old the pupil to the
Hierophant, and demand the initiation."
Mejnour passed his hand over the young man's heart,--it beat
loud, regularly, and boldly. He looked at him with something
almost like admiration in his passionless and frigid features,
and muttered, half to himself, "Surely, in so much courage the
true disciple is found at last." Then, speaking aloud, he added,
"Be it so; man's first initiation is in TRANCE. In dreams
commences all human knowledge; in dreams hovers over measureless
space the first faint bridge between spirit and spirit,--this
world and the worlds beyond! Look steadfastly on yonder star!"
Glyndon obeyed, and Mejnour retired into the chamber, from which
there then slowly emerged a vapour, somewhat paler and of fainter
odour than that which had nearly produced so fatal an effect on
his frame. This, on the contrary, as it coiled around him, and
then melted in thin spires into the air, breathed a refreshing
and healthful fragrance. He still kept his eyes on the star, and
the star seemed gradually to fix and command his gaze. A sort of
languor next seized his frame, but without, as he thought,
communicating itself to the mind; and as this crept over him, he
felt his temples sprinkled with some volatile and fiery essence.
At the same moment a slight tremor shook his limbs and thrilled
through his veins. The languor increased, still he kept his gaze
upon the star, and now its luminous circumference seemed to
expand and dilate. It became gradually softer and clearer in its
light; spreading wider and broader, it diffused all space,--all
space seemed swallowed up in it. And at last, in the midst of a
silver shining atmosphere, he felt as if something burst within
his brain,--as if a strong chain were broken; and at that moment
a sense of heavenly liberty, of unutterable delight, of freedom
from the body, of birdlike lightness, seemed to float him into
the space itself. "Whom, now upon earth, dost thou wish to see?"
whispered the voice of Mejnour. "Viola and Zanoni!" answered
Glyndon, in his heart; but he felt that his lips moved not.
Suddenly at that thought,--through this space, in which nothing
save one mellow translucent light had been discernible,--a swift
succession of shadowy landscapes seemed to roll: trees,
mountains, cities, seas, glided along like the changes of a
phantasmagoria; and at last, settled and stationary, he saw a
cave by the gradual marge of an ocean shore,--myrtles and
orange-trees clothing the gentle banks. On a height, at a
distance, gleamed the white but shattered relics of some ruined
heathen edifice; and the moon, in calm splendour, shining over
all, literally bathed with its light two forms without the cave,
at whose feet the blue waters crept, and he thought that he even
heard them murmur. He recognised both the figures. Zanoni was
seated on a fragment of stone; Viola, half-reclining by his side,
was looking into his face, which was bent down to her, and in her
countenance was the expression of that perfect happiness which
belongs to perfect love. "Wouldst thou hear them speak?"
whispered Mejnour; and again, without sound, Glyndon inly
answered, "Yes!" Their voices then came to his ear, but in tones
that seemed to him strange; so subdued were they, and sounding,
as it were, so far off, that they were as voices heard in the
visions of some holier men from a distant sphere.
"And how is it," said Viola, "that thou canst find pleasure in
listening to the ignorant?"
"Because the heart is never ignorant; because the mysteries of
the feelings are as full of wonder as those of the intellect. If
at times thou canst not comprehend the language of my thoughts,
at times also I hear sweet enigmas in that of thy emotions."
"Ah, say not so!" said Viola, winding her arm tenderly round his
neck, and under that heavenly light her face seemed lovelier for
its blushes. "For the enigmas are but love's common language,
and love should solve them. Till I knew thee,--till I lived with
thee; till I learned to watch for thy footstep when absent: yet
even in absence to see thee everywhere!--I dreamed not how strong
and all-pervading is the connection between nature and the human
"And yet," she continued, "I am now assured of what I at first
believed,--that the feelings which attracted me towards thee at
first were not those of love. I know THAT, by comparing the
present with the past,--it was a sentiment then wholly of the
mind or the spirit! I could not hear thee now say, 'Viola, be
happy with another!'"
"And I could not now tell thee so! Ah, Viola, never be weary of
assuring me that thou art happy!"
"Happy while thou art so. Yet at times, Zanoni, thou art so
"Because human life is so short; because we must part at last;
because yon moon shines on when the nightingale sings to it no
more! A little while, and thine eyes will grow dim, and thy
beauty haggard, and these locks that I toy with now will be grey
"And thou, cruel one!" said Viola, touchingly, "I shall never see
the signs of age in thee! But shall we not grow old together,
and our eyes be accustomed to a change which the heart shall not
Zanoni sighed. He turned away, and seemed to commune with
Glyndon's attention grew yet more earnest.
"But were it so," muttered Zanoni; and then looking steadfastly
at Viola, he said, with a half-smile, "Hast thou no curiosity to
learn more of the lover thou once couldst believe the agent of
the Evil One?"
"None; all that one wishes to know of the beloved one, I know--
THAT THOU LOVEST ME!"
"I have told thee that my life is apart from others. Wouldst
thou not seek to share it?"
"I share it now!"
"But were it possible to be thus young and fair forever, till the
world blazes round us as one funeral pyre!"
"We shall be so, when we leave the world!"
Zanoni was mute for some moments, and at length he said,--
"Canst thou recall those brilliant and aerial dreams which once
visited thee, when thou didst fancy that thou wert preordained to
some fate aloof and afar from the common children of the earth?"
"Zanoni, the fate is found."
"And hast thou no terror of the future?"
"The future! I forget it! Time past and present and to come
reposes in thy smile. Ah, Zanoni, play not with the foolish
credulities of my youth! I have been better and humbler since
thy presence has dispelled the mist of the air. The future!--
well, when I have cause to dread it, I will look up to heaven,
and remember who guides our fate!"
As she lifted her eyes above, a dark cloud swept suddenly over
the scene. It wrapped the orange-trees, the azure ocean, the
dense sands; but still the last images that it veiled from the
charmed eyes of Glyndon were the forms of Viola and Zanoni. The
face of the one rapt, serene, and radiant; the face of the other,
dark, thoughtful, and locked in more than its usual rigidness of
melancholy beauty and profound repose.
"Rouse thyself," said Mejnour; "thy ordeal has commenced! There
are pretenders to the solemn science who could have shown thee
the absent, and prated to thee, in their charlatanic jargon, of
the secret electricities and the magnetic fluid of whose true
properties they know but the germs and elements. I will lend
thee the books of those glorious dupes, and thou wilt find, in
the dark ages, how many erring steps have stumbled upon the
threshold of the mighty learning, and fancied they had pierced
the temple. Hermes and Albert and Paracelsus, I knew ye all;
but, noble as ye were, ye were fated to be deceived. Ye had not
souls of faith, and daring fitted for the destinies at which ye
aimed! Yet Paracelsus--modest Paracelsus--had an arrogance that
soared higher than all our knowledge. Ho, ho!--he thought he
could make a race of men from chemistry; he arrogated to himself
the Divine gift,--the breath of life. (Paracelsus, "De Nat.
Rer.," lib. i.)
He would have made men, and, after all, confessed that they could
be but pygmies! My art is to make men above mankind. But you
are impatient of my digressions. Forgive me. All these men
(they were great dreamers, as you desire to be) were intimate
friends of mine. But they are dead and rotten. They talked of
spirits,--but they dreaded to be in other company than that of
men. Like orators whom I have heard, when I stood by the Pnyx of
Athens, blazing with words like comets in the assembly, and
extinguishing their ardour like holiday rockets when they were in
the field. Ho, ho! Demosthenes, my hero-coward, how nimble were
thy heels at Chaeronea! And thou art impatient still! Boy, I
could tell thee such truths of the past as would make thee the
luminary of schools. But thou lustest only for the shadows of
the future. Thou shalt have thy wish. But the mind must be
first exercised and trained. Go to thy room, and sleep; fast
austerely, read no books; meditate, imagine, dream, bewilder
thyself if thou wilt. Thought shapes out its own chaos at last.
Before midnight, seek me again!"
It is fit that we who endeavour to rise to an elevation so
sublime, should study first to leave behind carnal affections,
the frailty of the senses, the passions that belong to matter;
secondly, to learn by what means we may ascend to the climax of
pure intellect, united with the powers above, without which never
can we gain the lore of secret things, nor the magic that effects
true wonders.--Tritemius "On Secret Things and Secret Spirits."
It wanted still many minutes of midnight, and Glyndon was once
more in the apartment of the mystic. He had rigidly observed the
fast ordained to him; and in the rapt and intense reveries into
which his excited fancy had plunged him, he was not only
insensible to the wants of the flesh,--he felt above them.
Mejnour, seated beside his disciple, thus addressed him:--
"Man is arrogant in proportion to his ignorance. Man's natural
tendency is to egotism. Man, in his infancy of knowledge, thinks
that all creation was formed for him. For several ages he saw in
the countless worlds that sparkle through space like the bubbles
of a shoreless ocean only the petty candles, the household
torches, that Providence had been pleased to light for no other
purpose but to make the night more agreeable to man. Astronomy
has corrected this delusion of human vanity; and man now
reluctantly confesses that the stars are worlds larger and more
glorious than his own,--that the earth on which he crawls is a
scarce visible speck on the vast chart of creation. But in the
small as in the vast, God is equally profuse of life. The
traveller looks upon the tree, and fancies its boughs were formed
for his shelter in the summer sun, or his fuel in the winter
frosts. But in each leaf of these boughs the Creator has made a
world; it swarms with innumerable races. Each drop of the water
in yon moat is an orb more populous than a kingdom is of men.
Everywhere, then, in this immense design, science brings new life
to light. Life is the one pervading principle, and even the
thing that seems to die and putrify but engenders new life, and
changes to fresh forms of matter. Reasoning, then, by evident
analogy: if not a leaf, if not a drop of water, but is, no less
than yonder star, a habitable and breathing world,--nay, if even
man himself is a world to other lives, and millions and myriads
dwell in the rivers of his blood, and inhabit man's frame as man
inhabits earth, commonsense (if your schoolmen had it) would
suffice to teach that the circumfluent infinite which you call
space--the countless Impalpable which divides earth from the moon
and stars--is filled also with its correspondent and appropriate
life. Is it not a visible absurdity to suppose that being is
crowded upon every leaf, and yet absent from the immensities of
space? The law of the Great System forbids the waste even of an
atom; it knows no spot where something of life does not breathe.
In the very charnel-house is the nursery of production and
animation. Is that true? Well, then, can you conceive that
space, which is the Infinite itself, is alone a waste, is alone
lifeless, is less useful to the one design of universal being
than the dead carcass of a dog, than the peopled leaf, than the
swarming globule? The microscope shows you the creatures on the
leaf; no mechanical tube is yet invented to discover the nobler
and more gifted things that hover in the illimitable air. Yet
between these last and man is a mysterious and terrible affinity.
And hence, by tales and legends, not wholly false nor wholly
true, have arisen from time to time, beliefs in apparitions and
spectres. If more common to the earlier and simpler tribes than
to the men of your duller age, it is but that, with the first,
the senses are more keen and quick. And as the savage can see or
scent miles away the traces of a foe, invisible to the gross
sense of the civilised animal, so the barrier itself between him
and the creatures of the airy world is less thickened and
obscured. Do you listen?"
"With my soul!"
"But first, to penetrate this barrier, the soul with which you
listen must be sharpened by intense enthusiasm, purified from all
earthlier desires. Not without reason have the so-styled
magicians, in all lands and times, insisted on chastity and
abstemious reverie as the communicants of inspiration. When thus
prepared, science can be brought to aid it; the sight itself may
be rendered more subtle, the nerves more acute, the spirit more
alive and outward, and the element itself--the air, the space--
may be made, by certain secrets of the higher chemistry, more
palpable and clear. And this, too, is not magic, as the
credulous call it; as I have so often said before, magic (or
science that violates Nature) exists not: it is but the science
by which Nature can be controlled. Now, in space there are
millions of beings not literally spiritual, for they have all,
like the animalculae unseen by the naked eye, certain forms of
matter, though matter so delicate, air-drawn, and subtle, that it
is, as it were, but a film, a gossamer that clothes the spirit.
Hence the Rosicrucian's lovely phantoms of sylph and gnome. Yet,
in truth, these races and tribes differ more widely, each from
each, than the Calmuc from the Greek,--differ in attributes and
powers. In the drop of water you see how the animalculae vary,
how vast and terrible are some of those monster mites as compared
with others. Equally so with the inhabitants of the atmosphere:
some of surpassing wisdom, some of horrible malignity; some
hostile as fiends to men, others gentle as messengers between
earth and heaven.
He who would establish intercourse with these varying beings
resembles the traveller who would penetrate into unknown lands.
He is exposed to strange dangers and unconjectured terrors. THAT
INTERCOURSE ONCE GAINED, I CANNOT SECURE THEE FROM THE CHANCES TO
WHICH THY JOURNEY IS EXPOSED. I cannot direct thee to paths free
from the wanderings of the deadliest foes. Thou must alone, and
of thyself, face and hazard all. But if thou art so enamoured of
life as to care only to live on, no matter for what ends,
recruiting the nerves and veins with the alchemist's vivifying
elixir, why seek these dangers from the intermediate tribes?
Because the very elixir that pours a more glorious life into the
frame, so sharpens the senses that those larvae of the air become
to thee audible and apparent; so that, unless trained by degrees
to endure the phantoms and subdue their malice, a life thus
gifted would be the most awful doom man could bring upon himself.
Hence it is, that though the elixir be compounded of the simplest
herbs, his frame only is prepared to receive it who has gone
through the subtlest trials. Nay, some, scared and daunted into
the most intolerable horror by the sights that burst upon their
eyes at the first draft, have found the potion less powerful to
save than the agony and travail of Nature to destroy. To the
unprepared the elixir is thus but the deadliest poison. Amidst
the dwellers of the threshold is ONE, too, surpassing in
malignity and hatred all her tribe,--one whose eyes have
paralyzed the bravest, and whose power increases over the spirit
precisely in proportion to its fear. Does thy courage falter?"
"Nay; thy words but kindle it."
"Follow me, then, and submit to the initiatory labours."
With that, Mejnour led him into the interior chamber, and
proceeded to explain to him certain chemical operations which,
though extremely simple in themselves, Glyndon soon perceived
were capable of very extraordinary results.
"In the remoter times," said Mejnour, smiling, "our brotherhood
were often compelled to recur to delusions to protect realities;
and, as dexterous mechanicians or expert chemists, they obtained
the name of sorcerers. Observe how easy to construct is the
Spectre Lion that attended the renowned Leonardo da Vinci!"
And Glyndon beheld with delighted surprise the simple means by
which the wildest cheats of the imagination can be formed. The
magical landscapes in which Baptista Porta rejoiced; the apparent
change of the seasons with which Albertus Magnus startled the
Earl of Holland; nay, even those more dread delusions of the
Ghost and Image with which the necromancers of Heraclea woke the
conscience of the conqueror of Plataea (Pausanias,--see
Plutarch.),--all these, as the showman enchants some trembling
children on a Christmas Eve with his lantern and phantasmagoria,
Mejnour exhibited to his pupil.
"And now laugh forever at magic! when these, the very tricks, the
very sports and frivolities of science, were the very acts which
men viewed with abhorrence, and inquisitors and kings rewarded
with the rack and the stake."
"But the alchemist's transmutation of metals--"
"Nature herself is a laboratory in which metals, and all
elements, are forever at change. Easy to make gold,--easier,
more commodious, and cheaper still, to make the pearl, the
diamond, and the ruby. Oh, yes; wise men found sorcery in this
too; but they found no sorcery in the discovery that by the
simplest combination of things of every-day use they could raise
a devil that would sweep away thousands of their kind by the
breath of consuming fire. Discover what will destroy life, and
you are a great man!--what will prolong it, and you are an
imposter! Discover some invention in machinery that will make
the rich more rich and the poor more poor, and they will build
you a statue! Discover some mystery in art that will equalise
physical disparities, and they will pull down their own houses to
stone you! Ha, ha, my pupil! such is the world Zanoni still
cares for!--you and I will leave this world to itself. And now
that you have seen some few of the effects of science, begin to
learn its grammar."
Mejnour then set before his pupil certain tasks, in which the
rest of the night wore itself away.
Great travell hath the gentle Calidore
And toyle endured...
There on a day,--
He chaunst to spy a sort of shepheard groomes,
Playing on pipes and caroling apace.
...He, there besyde
Saw a faire damzell.
Spenser, "Faerie Queene," cant. ix.
For a considerable period the pupil of Mejnour was now absorbed
in labour dependent on the most vigilant attention, on the most
minute and subtle calculation. Results astonishing and various
rewarded his toils and stimulated his interest. Nor were these
studies limited to chemical discovery,--in which it is permitted
me to say that the greatest marvels upon the organisation of
physical life seemed wrought by experiments of the vivifying
influence of heat. Mejnour professed to find a link between all
intellectual beings in the existence of a certain all-pervading
and invisible fluid resembling electricity, yet distinct from the
known operations of that mysterious agency--a fluid that
connected thought to thought with the rapidity and precision of
the modern telegraph, and the influence of this fluid, according
to Mejnour, extended to the remotest past,--that is to say,
whenever and wheresoever man had thought. Thus, if the doctrine
were true, all human knowledge became attainable through a medium
established between the brain of the individual inquirer and all
the farthest and obscurest regions in the universe of ideas.
Glyndon was surprised to find Mejnour attached to the abstruse
mysteries which the Pythagoreans ascribed to the occult science
of NUMBERS. In this last, new lights glimmered dimly on his
eyes; and he began to perceive that even the power to predict, or
rather to calculate, results, might by-- (Here there is an
erasure in the MS.)
But he observed that the last brief process by which, in each of
these experiments, the wonder was achieved, Mejnour reserved for
himself, and refused to communicate the secret. The answer he
obtained to his remonstrances on this head was more stern than
"Dost thou think," said Mejnour, "that I would give to the mere
pupil, whose qualities are not yet tried, powers that might
change the face of the social world? The last secrets are
intrusted only to him of whose virtue the Master is convinced.
Patience! It is labour itself that is the great purifier of the
mind; and by degrees the secrets will grow upon thyself as thy
mind becomes riper to receive them."
At last Mejnour professed himself satisfied with the progress
made by his pupil. "The hour now arrives," he said, "when thou
mayst pass the great but airy barrier,--when thou mayst gradually
confront the terrible Dweller of the Threshold. Continue thy
labours--continue to surpass thine impatience for results until
thou canst fathom the causes. I leave thee for one month; if at
the end of that period, when I return, the tasks set thee are
completed, and thy mind prepared by contemplation and austere
thought for the ordeal, I promise thee the ordeal shall commence.
One caution alone I give thee: regard it as a peremptory
command, enter not this chamber!" (They were then standing in
the room where their experiments had been chiefly made, and in
which Glyndon, on the night he had sought the solitude of the
mystic, had nearly fallen a victim to his intrusion.)
"Enter not this chamber till my return; or, above all, if by any
search for materials necessary to thy toils thou shouldst venture
hither, forbear to light the naphtha in those vessels, and to
open the vases on yonder shelves. I leave the key of the room in
thy keeping, in order to try thy abstinence and self-control.
Young man, this very temptation is a part of thy trial."
With that, Mejnour placed the key in his hands; and at sunset he
left the castle.
For several days Glyndon continued immersed in employments which
strained to the utmost all the faculties of his intellect. Even
the most partial success depended so entirely on the abstraction
of the mind, and the minuteness of its calculations, that there
was scarcely room for any other thought than those absorbed in
the occupation. And doubtless this perpetual strain of the
faculties was the object of Mejnour in works that did not seem
exactly pertinent to the purposes in view. As the study of the
elementary mathematics, for example, is not so profitable in the
solving of problems, useless in our after-callings, as it is
serviceable in training the intellect to the comprehension and
analysis of general truths.
But in less than half the time which Mejnour had stated for the
duration of his absence, all that the mystic had appointed to his
toils was completed by the pupil; and then his mind, thus
relieved from the drudgery and mechanism of employment, once more
sought occupation in dim conjecture and restless fancies. His
inquisitive and rash nature grew excited by the prohibition of
Mejnour, and he found himself gazing too often, with perturbed
and daring curiosity, upon the key of the forbidden chamber. He
began to feel indignant at a trial of constancy which he deemed
frivolous and puerile. What nursery tales of Bluebeard and his
closet were revived to daunt and terrify him! How could the mere
walls of a chamber, in which he had so often securely pursued his
labours, start into living danger? If haunted, it could be but
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