Edward Bulwer Lytton
Part 6 out of 9
by those delusions which Mejnour had taught him to despise,--a
shadowy lion,--a chemical phantasm! Tush! he lost half his awe
of Mejnour, when he thought that by such tricks the sage could
practise upon the very intellect he had awakened and instructed!
Still he resisted the impulses of his curiosity and his pride,
and, to escape from their dictation, he took long rambles on the
hills, or amidst the valleys that surrounded the castle,--seeking
by bodily fatigue to subdue the unreposing mind. One day
suddenly emerging from a dark ravine, he came upon one of those
Italian scenes of rural festivity and mirth in which the classic
age appears to revive. It was a festival, partly agricultural,
partly religious, held yearly by the peasants of that district.
Assembled at the outskirts of a village, animated crowds, just
returned from a procession to a neighbouring chapel, were now
forming themselves into groups: the old to taste the vintage,
the young to dance,--all to be gay and happy. This sudden
picture of easy joy and careless ignorance, contrasting so
forcibly with the intense studies and that parching desire for
wisdom which had so long made up his own life, and burned at his
own heart, sensibly affected Glyndon. As he stood aloof and
gazing on them, the young man felt once more that he was young.
The memory of all he had been content to sacrifice spoke to him
like the sharp voice of remorse. The flitting forms of the women
in their picturesque attire, their happy laughter ringing through
the cool, still air of the autumn noon, brought back to the
heart, or rather perhaps to the senses, the images of his past
time, the "golden shepherd hours," when to live was but to enjoy.
He approached nearer and nearer to the scene, and suddenly a
noisy group swept round him; and Maestro Paolo, tapping him
familiarly on the shoulder, exclaimed in a hearty voice,
"Welcome, Excellency!--we are rejoiced to see you amongst us."
Glyndon was about to reply to this salutation, when his eyes
rested upon the face of a young girl leaning on Paolo's arm, of a
beauty so attractive that his colour rose and his heart beat as
he encountered her gaze. Her eyes sparkled with a roguish and
petulant mirth, her parted lips showed teeth like pearls; as if
impatient at the pause of her companion from the revel of the
rest, her little foot beat the ground to a measure that she
half-hummed, half-chanted. Paolo laughed as he saw the effect
the girl had produced upon the young foreigner.
"Will you not dance, Excellency? Come, lay aside your greatness,
and be merry, like us poor devils. See how our pretty Fillide is
longing for a partner. Take compassion on her."
Fillide pouted at this speech, and, disengaging her arm from
Paolo's, turned away, but threw over her shoulder a glance half
inviting, half defying. Glyndon, almost involuntarily, advanced
to her, and addressed her.
Oh, yes; he addresses her! She looks down, and smiles. Paolo
leaves them to themselves, sauntering off with a devil-me-carish
air. Fillide speaks now, and looks up at the scholar's face with
arch invitation. He shakes his head; Fillide laughs, and her
laugh is silvery. She points to a gay mountaineer, who is
tripping up to her merrily. Why does Glyndon feel jealous? Why,
when she speaks again, does he shake his head no more? He offers
his hand; Fillide blushes, and takes it with a demure coquetry.
What! is it so, indeed! They whirl into the noisy circle of the
revellers. Ha! ha! is not this better than distilling herbs, and
breaking thy brains on Pythagorean numbers? How lightly Fillide
bounds along! How her lithesome waist supples itself to thy
circling arm! Tara-ra-tara, ta-tara, rara-ra! What the devil is
in the measure that it makes the blood course like quicksilver
through the veins? Was there ever a pair of eyes like Fillide's?
Nothing of the cold stars there! Yet how they twinkle and laugh
at thee! And that rosy, pursed-up mouth that will answer so
sparingly to thy flatteries, as if words were a waste of time,
and kisses were their proper language. Oh, pupil of Mejnour!
Oh, would-be Rosicrucian, Platonist, Magian, I know not what! I
am ashamed of thee! What, in the names of Averroes and Burri and
Agrippa and Hermes have become of thy austere contemplations?
Was it for this thou didst resign Viola? I don't think thou hast
the smallest recollection of the elixir or the Cabala. Take
care! What are you about, sir? Why do you clasp that small hand
locked within your own? Why do you--Tara-rara tara-ra tara-rara-
ra, rarara, ta-ra, a-ra! Keep your eyes off those slender ankles
and that crimson bodice! Tara-rara-ra! There they go again!
And now they rest under the broad trees. The revel has whirled
away from them. They hear--or do they not hear--the laughter at
the distance? They see--or if they have their eyes about them,
they SHOULD see--couple after couple gliding by, love-talking and
love-looking. But I will lay a wager, as they sit under that
tree, and the round sun goes down behind the mountains, that they
see or hear very little except themselves.
"Hollo, Signor Excellency! and how does your partner please you?
Come and join our feast, loiterers; one dances more merrily after
Down goes the round sun; up comes the autumn moon. Tara, tara,
rarara, rarara, tarara-ra! Dancing again; is it a dance, or some
movement gayer, noisier, wilder still? How they glance and gleam
through the night shadows, those flitting forms! What
confusion!--what order! Ha, that is the Tarantula dance; Maestro
Paolo foots it bravely! Diavolo, what fury! the Tarantula has
stung them all. Dance or die; it is fury,--the Corybantes, the
Maenads, the--Ho, ho! more wine! the Sabbat of the Witches at
Benevento is a joke to this! From cloud to cloud wanders the
moon,--now shining, now lost. Dimness while the maiden blushes;
light when the maiden smiles.
"Fillide, thou art an enchantress!"
"Buona notte, Excellency; you will see me again!"
"Ah, young man," said an old, decrepit, hollow-eyed octogenarian,
leaning on his staff, "make the best of your youth. I, too, once
had a Fillide! I was handsomer than you then! Alas! if we could
be always young!"
"Always young!" Glyndon started, as he turned his gaze from the
fresh, fair, rosy face of the girl, and saw the eyes dropping
rheum, the yellow wrinkled skin, the tottering frame of the old
"Ha, ha!" said the decrepit creature, hobbling near to him, and
with a malicious laugh. "Yet I, too, was young once! Give me a
baioccho for a glass of aqua vitae!"
Tara, rara, ra-rara, tara, rara-ra! There dances Youth! Wrap
thy rags round thee, and totter off, Old Age!
Whilest Calidore does follow that faire mayd,
Unmindful of his vow and high beheast
Which by the Faerie Queene was on him layd.
Spenser, "Faerie Queene," cant. x. s. 1.
It was that grey, indistinct, struggling interval between the
night and the dawn, when Clarence stood once more in his chamber.
The abstruse calculations lying on his table caught his eye, and
filled him with a sentiment of weariness and distaste. But--
"Alas, if we could be always young! Oh, thou horrid spectre of
the old, rheum-eyed man! What apparition can the mystic chamber
shadow forth more ugly and more hateful than thou? Oh, yes, if
we could be always young! But not [thinks the neophyte now]--not
to labour forever at these crabbed figures and these cold
compounds of herbs and drugs. No; but to enjoy, to love, to
revel! What should be the companion of youth but pleasure? And
the gift of eternal youth may be mine this very hour! What means
this prohibition of Mejnour's? Is it not of the same complexion
as his ungenerous reserve even in the minutest secrets of
chemistry, or the numbers of his Cabala?--compelling me to
perform all the toils, and yet withholding from me the knowledge
of the crowning result? No doubt he will still, on his return,
show me that the great mystery CAN be attained; but will still
forbid ME to attain it. Is it not as if he desired to keep my
youth the slave to his age; to make me dependent solely on
himself; to bind me to a journeyman's service by perpetual
excitement to curiosity, and the sight of the fruits he places
beyond my lips?" These, and many reflections still more
repining, disturbed and irritated him. Heated with wine--excited
by the wild revels he had left--he was unable to sleep. The
image of that revolting Old Age which Time, unless defeated, must
bring upon himself, quickened the eagerness of his desire for the
dazzling and imperishable Youth he ascribed to Zanoni. The
prohibition only served to create a spirit of defiance. The
reviving day, laughing jocundly through his lattice, dispelled
all the fears and superstitions that belong to night. The mystic
chamber presented to his imagination nothing to differ from any
other apartment in the castle. What foul or malignant apparition
could harm him in the light of that blessed sun! It was the
peculiar, and on the whole most unhappy, contradiction in
Glyndon's nature, that while his reasonings led him to doubt,--
and doubt rendered him in MORAL conduct irresolute and unsteady;
he was PHYSICALLY brave to rashness. Nor is this uncommon:
scepticism and presumption are often twins. When a man of this
character determines upon any action, personal fear never deters
him; and for the moral fear, any sophistry suffices to self-will.
Almost without analysing himself the mental process by which his
nerves hardened themselves and his limbs moved, he traversed the
corridor, gained Mejnour's apartment, and opened the forbidden
door. All was as he had been accustomed to see it, save that on
a table in the centre of the room lay open a large volume. He
approached, and gazed on the characters on the page; they were in
a cipher, the study of which had made a part of his labours.
With but slight difficulty he imagined that he interpreted the
meaning of the first sentences, and that they ran thus:--
"To quaff the inner life, is to see the outer life: to live in
defiance of time, is to live in the whole. He who discovers the
elixir discovers what lies in space; for the spirit that vivifies
the frame strengthens the senses. There is attraction in the
elementary principle of light. In the lamps of Rosicrucius the
fire is the pure elementary principle. Kindle the lamps while
thou openst the vessel that contains the elixir, and the light
attracts towards thee those beings whose life is that light.
Beware of Fear. Fear is the deadliest enemy to Knowledge." Here
the ciphers changed their character, and became incomprehensible.
But had he not read enough? Did not the last sentence suffice?--
"Beware of Fear!" It was as if Mejnour had purposely left the
page open,--as if the trial was, in truth, the reverse of the one
pretended; as if the mystic had designed to make experiment of
his COURAGE while affecting but that of his FORBEARANCE. Not
Boldness, but Fear, was the deadliest enemy to Knowledge. He
moved to the shelves on which the crystal vases were placed; with
an untrembling hand he took from one of them the stopper, and a
delicious odor suddenly diffused itself through the room. The
air sparkled as if with a diamond-dust. A sense of unearthly
delight,--of an existence that seemed all spirit, flashed through
his whole frame; and a faint, low, but exquisite music crept,
thrilling, through the chamber. At this moment he heard a voice
in the corridor calling on his name; and presently there was a
knock at the door without. "Are you there, signor?" said the
clear tones of Maestro Paolo. Glyndon hastily reclosed and
replaced the vial, and bidding Paolo await him in his own
apartment, tarried till he heard the intruder's steps depart; he
then reluctantly quitted the room. As he locked the door, he
still heard the dying strain of that fairy music; and with a
light step and a joyous heart he repaired to Paolo, inly
resolving to visit again the chamber at an hour when his
experiment would be safe from interruption.
As he crossed his threshold, Paolo started back, and exclaimed,
"Why, Excellency! I scarcely recognise you! Amusement, I see,
is a great beautifier to the young. Yesterday you looked so pale
and haggard; but Fillide's merry eyes have done more for you than
the Philosopher's Stone (saints forgive me for naming it) ever
did for the wizards." And Glyndon, glancing at the old Venetian
mirror as Paolo spoke, was scarcely less startled than Paolo
himself at the change in his own mien and bearing. His form,
before bent with thought, seemed to him taller by half the head,
so lithesome and erect rose his slender stature; his eyes glowed,
his cheeks bloomed with health and the innate and pervading
pleasure. If the mere fragrance of the elixir was thus potent,
well might the alchemists have ascribed life and youth to the
"You must forgive me, Excellency, for disturbing you," said
Paolo, producing a letter from his pouch; "but our Patron has
just written to me to say that he will be here to-morrow, and
desired me to lose not a moment in giving to yourself this
billet, which he enclosed."
"Who brought the letter?"
"A horseman, who did not wait for any reply."
Glyndon opened the letter, and read as follows:--
"I return a week sooner than I had intended, and you will expect
me to-morrow. You will then enter on the ordeal you desire, but
remember that, in doing so, you must reduce Being as far as
possible into Mind. The senses must be mortified and subdued,--
not the whisper of one passion heard. Thou mayst be master of
the Cabala and the Chemistry; but thou must be master also over
the Flesh and the Blood,--over Love and Vanity, Ambition and
Hate. I will trust to find thee so. Fast and meditate till we
Glyndon crumpled the letter in his hand with a smile of disdain.
What! more drudgery,--more abstinence! Youth without love and
pleasure! Ha, ha! baffled Mejnour, thy pupil shall gain thy
secrets without thine aid!
"And Fillide! I passed her cottage in my way,--she blushed and
sighed when I jested her about you, Excellency!"
"Well, Paolo! I thank thee for so charming an introduction.
Thine must be a rare life."
"Ah, Excellency, while we are young, nothing like adventure,--
except love, wine, and laughter!"
"Very true. Farewell, Maestro Paolo; we will talk more with each
other in a few days."
All that morning Glyndon was almost overpowered with the new
sentiment of happiness that had entered into him. He roamed into
the woods, and he felt a pleasure that resembled his earlier life
of an artist, but a pleasure yet more subtle and vivid, in the
various colours of the autumn foliage. Certainly Nature seemed
to be brought closer to him; he comprehended better all that
Mejnour had often preached to him of the mystery of sympathies
and attractions. He was about to enter into the same law as
those mute children of the forests. He was to know THE RENEWAL
OF LIFE; the seasons that chilled to winter should yet bring
again the bloom and the mirth of spring. Man's common existence
is as one year to the vegetable world: he has his spring, his
summer, his autumn, and winter,--but only ONCE. But the giant
oaks round him go through a revolving series of verdure and
youth, and the green of the centenarian is as vivid in the beams
of May as that of the sapling by its side. "Mine shall be your
spring, but not your winter!" exclaimed the aspirant.
Wrapped in these sanguine and joyous reveries, Glyndon, quitting
the woods, found himself amidst cultivated fields and vineyards
to which his footstep had not before wandered; and there stood,
by the skirts of a green lane that reminded him of verdant
England, a modest house,--half cottage, half farm. The door was
open, and he saw a girl at work with her distaff. She looked up,
uttered a slight cry, and, tripping gayly into the lane to his
side, he recognised the dark-eyed Fillide.
"Hist!" she said, archly putting her finger to her lip; "do not
speak loud,--my mother is asleep within; and I knew you would
come to see me. It is kind!"
Glyndon, with a little embarrassment, accepted the compliment to
his kindness, which he did not exactly deserve. "You have
thought, then, of me, fair Fillide?"
"Yes," answered the girl, colouring, but with that frank, bold
ingenuousness, which characterises the females of Italy,
especially of the lower class, and in the southern provinces,--
"oh, yes! I have thought of little else. Paolo said he knew you
would visit me."
"And what relation is Paolo to you?"
"None; but a good friend to us all. My brother is one of his
"One of his band!--a robber?"
"We of the mountains do not call a mountaineer 'a robber,'
"I ask pardon. Do you not tremble sometimes for your brother's
life? The law--"
"Law never ventures into these defiles. Tremble for him! No.
My father and grandsire were of the same calling. I often wish I
were a man!"
"By these lips, I am enchanted that your wish cannot be
"Fie, signor! And do you really love me?"
"With my whole heart!"
"And I thee!" said the girl, with a candour that seemed innocent,
as she suffered him to clasp her hand.
"But," she added, "thou wilt soon leave us; and I--" She stopped
short, and the tears stood in her eyes.
There was something dangerous in this, it must be confessed.
Certainly Fillide had not the seraphic loveliness of Viola; but
hers was a beauty that equally at least touched the senses.
Perhaps Glyndon had never really loved Viola; perhaps the
feelings with which she had inspired him were not of that ardent
character which deserves the name of love. However that be, he
thought, as he gazed on those dark eyes, that he had never loved
"And couldst thou not leave thy mountains?" he whispered, as he
drew yet nearer to her.
"Dost thou ask me?" she said, retreating, and looking him
steadfastly in the face. "Dost thou know what we daughters of
the mountains are? You gay, smooth cavaliers of cities seldom
mean what you speak. With you, love is amusement; with us, it is
life. Leave these mountains! Well! I should not leave my
"Keep thy nature ever,--it is a sweet one."
"Yes, sweet while thou art true; stern, if thou art faithless.
Shall I tell thee what I--what the girls of this country are?
Daughters of men whom you call robbers, we aspire to be the
companions of our lovers or our husbands. We love ardently; we
own it boldly. We stand by your side in danger; we serve you as
slaves in safety: we never change, and we resent change. You
may reproach, strike us, trample us as a dog,--we bear all
without a murmur; betray us, and no tiger is more relentless. Be
true, and our hearts reward you; be false, and our hands revenge!
Dost thou love me now?"
During this speech the Italian's countenance had most eloquently
aided her words,--by turns soft, frank, fierce,--and at the last
question she inclined her head humbly, and stood, as in fear of
his reply, before him. The stern, brave, wild spirit, in which
what seemed unfeminine was yet, if I may so say, still womanly,
did not recoil, it rather captivated Glyndon. He answered
readily, briefly, and freely, "Fillide,--yes!"
Oh, "yes!" forsooth, Clarence Glyndon! Every light nature
answers "yes" lightly to such a question from lips so rosy! Have
a care,--have a care! Why the deuce, Mejnour, do you leave your
pupil of four-and-twenty to the mercy of these wild cats-a-
mountain! Preach fast, and abstinence, and sublime renunciation
of the cheats of the senses! Very well in you, sir, Heaven knows
how many ages old; but at four-and-twenty, your Hierophant would
have kept you out of Fillide's way, or you would have had small
taste for the Cabala.
And so they stood, and talked, and vowed, and whispered, till the
girl's mother made some noise within the house, and Fillide
bounded back to the distaff, her finger once more on her lip.
"There is more magic in Fillide than in Mejnour," said Glyndon to
himself, walking gayly home; "yet on second thoughts, I know not
if I quite so well like a character so ready for revenge. But he
who has the real secret can baffle even the vengeance of a woman,
and disarm all danger!"
Sirrah! dost thou even already meditate the possibility of
treason? Oh, well said Zanoni, "to pour pure water into the
muddy well does but disturb the mud."
Cernis, custodia qualis
Vestibulo sedeat? facies quae limina servet?
"Aeneid," lib. vi. 574.
(See you what porter sits within the vestibule?--what face
watches at the threshold?)
And it is profound night. All is at rest within the old castle,
--all is breathless under the melancholy stars. Now is the time.
Mejnour with his austere wisdom,--Mejnour the enemy to love;
Mejnour, whose eye will read thy heart, and refuse thee the
promised secrets because the sunny face of Fillide disturbs the
lifeless shadow that he calls repose,--Mejnour comes to-morrow!
Seize the night! Beware of fear! Never, or this hour! So,
brave youth,--brave despite all thy errors,--so, with a steady
pulse, thy hand unlocks once more the forbidden door.
He placed his lamp on the table beside the book, which still lay
there opened; he turned over the leaves, but could not decipher
their meaning till he came to the following passage:--
"When, then, the pupil is thus initiated and prepared, let him
open the casement, light the lamps, and bathe his temples with
the elixir. He must beware how he presume yet to quaff the
volatile and fiery spirit. To taste till repeated inhalations
have accustomed the frame gradually to the ecstatic liquid, is to
know not life, but death."
He could penetrate no farther into the instructions; the cipher
again changed. He now looked steadily and earnestly round the
chamber. The moonlight came quietly through the lattice as his
hand opened it, and seemed, as it rested on the floor, and filled
the walls, like the presence of some ghostly and mournful Power.
He ranged the mystic lamps (nine in number) round the centre of
the room, and lighted them one by one. A flame of silvery and
azure tints sprung up from each, and lighted the apartment with a
calm and yet most dazzling splendour; but presently this light
grew more soft and dim, as a thin, grey cloud, like a mist,
gradually spread over the room; and an icy thrill shot through
the heart of the Englishman, and quickly gathered over him like
the coldness of death. Instinctively aware of his danger, he
tottered, though with difficulty, for his limbs seemed rigid and
stone-like, to the shelf that contained the crystal vials;
hastily he inhaled the spirit, and laved his temples with the
sparkling liquid. The same sensation of vigour and youth, and
joy and airy lightness, that he had felt in the morning,
instantaneously replaced the deadly numbness that just before had
invaded the citadel of life. He stood, with his arms folded on
his bosom erect and dauntless, to watch what should ensue.
The vapour had now assumed almost the thickness and seeming
consistency of a snow-cloud; the lamps piercing it like stars.
And now he distinctly saw shapes, somewhat resembling in outline
those of the human form, gliding slowly and with regular
evolutions through the cloud. They appeared bloodless; their
bodies were transparent, and contracted or expanded like the
folds of a serpent. As they moved in majestic order, he heard a
low sound--the ghost, as it were, of voice--which each caught and
echoed from the other; a low sound, but musical, which seemed the
chant of some unspeakably tranquil joy. None of these
apparitions heeded him. His intense longing to accost them, to
be of them, to make one of this movement of aerial happiness,--
for such it seemed to him,--made him stretch forth his arms and
seek to cry aloud, but only an inarticulate whisper passed his
lips; and the movement and the music went on the same as if the
mortal were not there. Slowly they glided round and aloft, till,
in the same majestic order, one after one, they floated through
the casement and were lost in the moonlight; then, as his eyes
followed them, the casement became darkened with some object
undistinguishable at the first gaze, but which sufficed
mysteriously to change into ineffable horror the delight he had
before experienced. By degrees this object shaped itself to his
sight. It was as that of a human head covered with a dark veil
through which glared, with livid and demoniac fire, eyes that
froze the marrow of his bones. Nothing else of the face was
distinguishable,--nothing but those intolerable eyes; but his
terror, that even at the first seemed beyond nature to endure,
was increased a thousand-fold, when, after a pause, the phantom
glided slowly into the chamber.
The cloud retreated from it as it advanced; the bright lamps grew
wan, and flickered restlessly as at the breath of its presence.
Its form was veiled as the face, but the outline was that of a
female; yet it moved not as move even the ghosts that simulate
the living. It seemed rather to crawl as some vast misshapen
reptile; and pausing, at length it cowered beside the table which
held the mystic volume, and again fixed its eyes through the
filmy veil on the rash invoker. All fancies, the most grotesque,
of monk or painter in the early North, would have failed to give
to the visage of imp or fiend that aspect of deadly malignity
which spoke to the shuddering nature in those eyes alone. All
else so dark,--shrouded, veiled and larva-like. But that burning
glare so intense, so livid, yet so living, had in it something
that was almost HUMAN in its passion of hate and mockery,--
something that served to show that the shadowy Horror was not all
a spirit, but partook of matter enough, at least, to make it more
deadly and fearful an enemy to material forms. As, clinging with
the grasp of agony to the wall,--his hair erect, his eyeballs
starting, he still gazed back upon that appalling gaze,--the
Image spoke to him: his soul rather than his ear comprehended
the words it said.
"Thou hast entered the immeasurable region. I am the Dweller of
the Threshold. What wouldst thou with me? Silent? Dost thou
fear me? Am I not thy beloved? Is it not for me that thou hast
rendered up the delights of thy race? Wouldst thou be wise?
Mine is the wisdom of the countless ages. Kiss me, my mortal
lover." And the Horror crawled near and nearer to him; it crept
to his side, its breath breathed upon his cheek! With a sharp
cry he fell to the earth insensible, and knew no more till, far
in the noon of the next day, he opened his eyes and found himself
in his bed,--the glorious sun streaming through his lattice, and
the bandit Paolo by his side, engaged in polishing his carbine,
and whistling a Calabrian love-air.
Thus man pursues his weary calling,
And wrings the hard life from the sky,
While happiness unseen is falling
Down from God's bosom silently.
In one of those islands whose history the imperishable literature
and renown of Athens yet invest with melancholy interest, and on
which Nature, in whom "there is nothing melancholy," still
bestows a glory of scenery and climate equally radiant for the
freeman or the slave,--the Ionian, the Venetian, the Gaul, the
Turk, or the restless Briton,--Zanoni had fixed his bridal home.
There the air carries with it the perfumes of the plains for
miles along the blue, translucent deep. (See Dr. Holland's
"Travels to the Ionian Isles," etc., page 18.) Seen from one of
its green sloping heights, the island he had selected seemed one
delicious garden. The towers and turrets of its capital gleaming
amidst groves of oranges and lemons; vineyards and olive-woods
filling up the valleys, and clambering along the hill-sides; and
villa, farm, and cottage covered with luxuriant trellises of
dark-green leaves and purple fruit. For there the prodigal
beauty yet seems half to justify those graceful superstitions of
a creed that, too enamoured of earth, rather brought the deities
to man, than raised the man to their less alluring and less
And still to the fishermen, weaving yet their antique dances on
the sand; to the maiden, adorning yet, with many a silver fibula,
her glossy tresses under the tree that overshadows her tranquil
cot,--the same Great Mother that watched over the wise of Samos,
the democracy of Corcyra, the graceful and deep-taught loveliness
of Miletus, smiles as graciously as of yore. For the North,
philosophy and freedom are essentials to human happiness; in the
lands which Aphrodite rose from the waves to govern, as the
Seasons, hand in hand, stood to welcome her on the shores, Nature
is all sufficient. (Homeric Hymn.)
The isle which Zanoni had selected was one of the loveliest in
that divine sea. His abode, at some distance from the city, but
near one of the creeks on the shore, belonged to a Venetian, and,
though small, had more of elegance than the natives ordinarily
cared for. On the seas, and in sight, rode his vessel. His
Indians, as before, ministered in mute gravity to the service of
the household. No spot could be more beautiful,--no solitude
less invaded. To the mysterious knowledge of Zanoni, to the
harmless ignorance of Viola, the babbling and garish world of
civilised man was alike unheeded. The loving sky and the lovely
earth are companions enough to Wisdom and to Ignorance while they
Although, as I have before said, there was nothing in the visible
occupations of Zanoni that betrayed a cultivator of the occult
sciences, his habits were those of a man who remembers or
reflects. He loved to roam alone, chiefly at dawn, or at night,
when the moon was clear (especially in each month, at its rise
and full), miles and miles away over the rich inlands of the
island, and to cull herbs and flowers, which he hoarded with
jealous care. Sometimes, at the dead of night, Viola would wake
by an instinct that told her he was not by her side, and,
stretching out her arms, find that the instinct had not deceived
her. But she early saw that he was reserved on his peculiar
habits; and if at times a chill, a foreboding, a suspicious awe
crept over her, she forebore to question him.
But his rambles were not always unaccompanied,--he took pleasure
in excursions less solitary. Often, when the sea lay before them
like a lake, the barren dreariness of the opposite coast of
Cephallenia contrasting the smiling shores on which they dwelt,
Viola and himself would pass days in cruising slowly around the
coast, or in visits to the neighbouring isles. Every spot of
the Greek soil, "that fair Fable-Land," seemed to him familiar;
and as he conversed of the past and its exquisite traditions, he
taught Viola to love the race from which have descended the
poetry and the wisdom of the world. There was much in Zanoni, as
she knew him better, that deepened the fascination in which Viola
was from the first enthralled. His love for herself was so
tender, so vigilant, and had that best and most enduring
attribute, that it seemed rather grateful for the happiness in
its own cares than vain of the happiness it created. His
habitual mood with all who approached him was calm and gentle,
almost to apathy. An angry word never passed his lips,--an angry
gleam never shot from his eyes. Once they had been exposed to
the danger not uncommon in those then half-savage lands. Some
pirates who infested the neighbouring coasts had heard of the
arrival of the strangers, and the seamen Zanoni employed had
gossiped of their master's wealth. One night, after Viola had
retired to rest, she was awakened by a slight noise below.
Zanoni was not by her side; she listened in some alarm. Was that
a groan that came upon her ear? She started up, she went to the
door; all was still. A footstep now slowly approached, and
Zanoni entered calm as usual, and seemed unconscious of her
The next morning three men were found dead at the threshold of
the principal entrance, the door of which had been forced. They
were recognised in the neighbourhood as the most sanguinary and
terrible marauders of the coasts,--men stained with a thousand
murders, and who had never hitherto failed in any attempt to
which the lust of rapine had impelled them. The footsteps of
many others were tracked to the seashore. It seemed that their
accomplices must have fled on the death of their leaders. But
when the Venetian Proveditore, or authority, of the island, came
to examine into the matter, the most unaccountable mystery was
the manner in which these ruffians had met their fate. Zanoni
had not stirred from the apartment in which he ordinarily pursued
his chemical studies. None of the servants had even been
disturbed from their slumbers. No marks of human violence were
on the bodies of the dead. They died, and made no sign. From
that moment Zanoni's house--nay, the whole vicinity--was sacred.
The neighbouring villages, rejoiced to be delivered from a
scourge, regarded the stranger as one whom the Pagiana (or
Virgin) held under her especial protection.
In truth, the lively Greeks around, facile to all external
impressions, and struck with the singular and majestic beauty of
the man who knew their language as a native, whose voice often
cheered them in their humble sorrows, and whose hand was never
closed to their wants, long after he had left their shore
preserved his memory by grateful traditions, and still point to
the lofty platanus beneath which they had often seen him seated,
alone and thoughtful, in the heats of noon. But Zanoni had
haunts less open to the gaze than the shade of the platanus. In
that isle there are the bituminous springs which Herodotus has
commemorated. Often at night, the moon, at least, beheld him
emerging from the myrtle and cystus that clothe the hillocks
around the marsh that imbeds the pools containing the inflammable
materia, all the medical uses of which, as applied to the nerves
of organic life, modern science has not yet perhaps explored.
Yet more often would he pass his hours in a cavern, by the
loneliest part of the beach, where the stalactites seem almost
arranged by the hand of art, and which the superstition of the
peasants associates, in some ancient legends, with the numerous
and almost incessant earthquakes to which the island is so
Whatever the pursuits that instigated these wanderings and
favoured these haunts, either they were linked with, or else
subordinate to, one main and master desire, which every fresh day
passed in the sweet human company of Viola confirmed and
The scene that Glyndon had witnessed in his trance was faithful
to truth. And some little time after the date of that night,
Viola was dimly aware that an influence, she knew not of what
nature, was struggling to establish itself over her happy life.
Visions indistinct and beautiful, such as those she had known in
her earlier days, but more constant and impressive, began to
haunt her night and day when Zanoni was absent, to fade in his
presence, and seem less fair than THAT. Zanoni questioned her
eagerly and minutely of these visitations, but seemed
dissatisfied, and at times perplexed, by her answers.
"Tell me not," he said, one day, "of those unconnected images,
those evolutions of starry shapes in a choral dance, or those
delicious melodies that seem to thee of the music and the
language of the distant spheres. Has no ONE shape been to thee
more distinct and more beautiful than the rest,--no voice
uttering, or seeming to utter, thine own tongue, and whispering
to thee of strange secrets and solemn knowledge?"
"No; all is confused in these dreams, whether of day or night;
and when at the sound of thy footsteps I recover, my memory
retains nothing but a vague impression of happiness. How
different--how cold--to the rapture of hanging on thy smile, and
listening to thy voice, when it says, 'I love thee!'"
"Yet, how is it that visions less fair than these once seemed to
thee so alluring? How is it that they then stirred thy fancies
and filled thy heart? Once thou didst desire a fairy-land, and
now thou seemest so contented with common life."
"Have I not explained it to thee before? Is it common life,
then, to love, and to live with the one we love? My true
fairy-land is won! Speak to me of no other."
And so night surprised them by the lonely beach; and Zanoni,
allured from his sublimer projects, and bending over that tender
face, forgot that, in the Harmonious Infinite which spread
around, there were other worlds than that one human heart.
There is a principle of the soul, superior to all nature, through
which we are capable of surpassing the order and systems of the
world. When the soul is elevated to natures better than itself,
THEN it is entirely separated from subordinate natures, exchanges
this for another life, and, deserting the order of things with
which it was connected, links and mingles itself with another.--
"Adon-Ai! Adon-Ai!--appear, appear!"
And in the lonely cave, whence once had gone forth the oracles of
a heathen god, there emerged from the shadows of fantastic rocks
a luminous and gigantic column, glittering and shifting. It
resembled the shining but misty spray which, seen afar off, a
fountain seems to send up on a starry night. The radiance lit
the stalactites, the crags, the arches of the cave, and shed a
pale and tremulous splendour on the features of Zanoni.
"Son of Eternal Light," said the invoker, "thou to whose
knowledge, grade after grade, race after race, I attained at
last, on the broad Chaldean plains; thou from whom I have drawn
so largely of the unutterable knowledge that yet eternity alone
can suffice to drain; thou who, congenial with myself, so far as
our various beings will permit, hast been for centuries my
familiar and my friend,--answer me and counsel!"
From the column there emerged a shape of unimaginable glory. Its
face was that of a man in its first youth, but solemn, as with
the consciousness of eternity and the tranquillity of wisdom;
light, like starbeams, flowed through its transparent veins;
light made its limbs themselves, and undulated, in restless
sparkles, through the waves of its dazzling hair. With its arms
folded on its breast, it stood distant a few feet from Zanoni,
and its low voice murmured gently, "My counsels were sweet to
thee once; and once, night after night, thy soul could follow my
wings through the untroubled splendours of the Infinite. Now
thou hast bound thyself back to the earth by its strongest
chains, and the attraction to the clay is more potent than the
sympathies that drew to thy charms the Dweller of the Starbeam
and the Air. When last thy soul hearkened to me, the senses
already troubled thine intellect and obscured thy vision. Once
again I come to thee; but thy power even to summon me to thy side
is fading from thy spirit, as sunshine fades from the wave when
the winds drive the cloud between the ocean and the sky."
"Alas, Adon-Ai!" answered the seer, mournfully, "I know too well
the conditions of the being which thy presence was wont to
rejoice. I know that our wisdom comes but from the indifference
to the things of the world which the wisdom masters. The mirror
of the soul cannot reflect both earth and heaven; and the one
vanishes from the surface as the other is glassed upon its deeps.
But it is not to restore me to that sublime abstraction in which
the intellect, free and disembodied, rises, region after region,
to the spheres,--that once again, and with the agony and travail
of enfeebled power I have called thee to mine aid. I love; and
in love I begin to live in the sweet humanities of another. If
wise, yet in all which makes danger powerless against myself, or
those on whom I can gaze from the calm height of indifferent
science, I am blind as the merest mortal to the destinies of the
creature that makes my heart beat with the passions which obscure
"What matter!" answered Adon-Ai. "Thy love must be but a mockery
of the name; thou canst not love as they do for whom there are
death and the grave. A short time,--like a day in thy
incalculable life,--and the form thou dotest on is dust! Others
of the nether world go hand in hand, each with each, unto the
tomb; hand in hand they ascend from the worm to new cycles of
existence. For thee, below are ages; for her, but hours. And
for her and thee--O poor, but mighty one!--will there be even a
joint hereafter! Through what grades and heavens of
spiritualised being will her soul have passed when thou, the
solitary loiterer, comest from the vapours of the earth to the
gates of light!"
"Son of the Starbeam, thinkest thou that this thought is not with
me forever; and seest thou not that I have invoked thee to
hearken and minister to my design? Readest thou not my desire
and dream to raise the conditions of her being to my own? Thou,
Adon-Ai, bathing the celestial joy that makes thy life in the
oceans of eternal splendour,--thou, save by the sympathies of
knowledge, canst conjecture not what I, the offspring of mortals,
feel--debarred yet from the objects of the tremendous and sublime
ambition that first winged my desires above the clay--when I see
myself compelled to stand in this low world alone. I have sought
amongst my tribe for comrades, and in vain. At last I have found
a mate. The wild bird and the wild beast have theirs; and my
mastery over the malignant tribes of terror can banish their
larvae from the path that shall lead her upward, till the air of
eternity fits the frame for the elixir that baffles death."
"And thou hast begun the initiation, and thou art foiled! I know
it. Thou hast conjured to her sleep the fairest visions; thou
hast invoked the loveliest children of the air to murmur their
music to her trance, and her soul heeds them not, and, returning
to the earth, escapes from their control. Blind one, wherefore?
canst thou not perceive? Because in her soul all is love. There
is no intermediate passion with which the things thou wouldst
charm to her have association and affinities. Their attraction
is but to the desires and cravings of the INTELLECT. What have
they with the PASSION that is of earth, and the HOPE that goes
direct to heaven?"
"But can there be no medium--no link--in which our souls, as our
hearts, can be united, and so mine may have influence over her
"Ask me not,--thou wilt not comprehend me!"
"I adjure thee!--speak!"
"When two souls are divided, knowest thou not that a third in
which both meet and live is the link between them!"
"I do comprehend thee, Adon-Ai," said Zanoni, with a light of
more human joy upon his face than it had ever before been seen to
wear; "and if my destiny, which here is dark to mine eyes,
vouchsafes to me the happy lot of the humble,--if ever there be a
child that I may clasp to my bosom and call my own--"
"And is it to be man at last, that thou hast aspired to be more
"But a child,--a second Viola!" murmured Zanoni, scarcely heeding
the Son of Light; "a young soul fresh from heaven, that I may
rear from the first moment it touches earth,--whose wings I may
train to follow mine through the glories of creation; and through
whom the mother herself may be led upward over the realm of
"Beware,--reflect! Knowest thou not that thy darkest enemy
dwells in the Real? Thy wishes bring thee near and nearer to
"Ah, humanity is sweet!" answered Zanoni.
And as the seer spoke, on the glorious face of Adon-Ai there
broke a smile.
Aeterna aeternus tribuit, mortalia confert
Mortalis; divina Deus, peritura caducus.
"Aurel. Prud. contra Symmachum," lib. ii.
(The Eternal gives eternal things, the Mortal gathers mortal
things: God, that which is divine, and the perishable that which
EXTRACTS FROM THE LETTERS OF ZANONI TO MEJNOUR.
Thou hast not informed me of the progress of thy pupil; and I
fear that so differently does circumstance shape the minds of the
generations to which we are descended, from the intense and
earnest children of the earlier world, that even thy most careful
and elaborate guidance would fail, with loftier and purer natures
than that of the neophyte thou hast admitted within thy gates.
Even that third state of being, which the Indian sage (The
Brahmins, speaking of Brahm, say, "To the Omniscient the three
modes of being--sleep, waking, and trance--are not;" distinctly
recognising trance as a third and coequal condition of being.)
rightly recognises as being between the sleep and the waking, and
describes imperfectly by the name of TRANCE, is unknown to the
children of the Northern world; and few but would recoil to
indulge it, regarding its peopled calm as maya and delusion of
the mind. Instead of ripening and culturing that airy soil, from
which Nature, duly known, can evoke fruits so rich and flowers so
fair, they strive but to exclude it from their gaze; they esteem
that struggle of the intellect from men's narrow world to the
spirit's infinite home, as a disease which the leech must
extirpate with pharmacy and drugs, and know not even that it is
from this condition of their being, in its most imperfect and
infant form, that poetry, music, art--all that belong to an Idea
of Beauty to which neither SLEEPING nor WAKING can furnish
archetype and actual semblance--take their immortal birth. When
we, O Mejnour in the far time, were ourselves the neophytes and
aspirants, we were of a class to which the actual world was shut
and barred. Our forefathers had no object in life but knowledge.
From the cradle we were predestined and reared to wisdom as to a
priesthood. We commenced research where modern Conjecture closes
its faithless wings. And with us, those were common elements of
science which the sages of to-day disdain as wild chimeras, or
despair of as unfathomable mysteries. Even the fundamental
principles, the large yet simple theories of electricity and
magnetism, rest obscure and dim in the disputes of their blinded
schools; yet, even in our youth, how few ever attained to the
first circle of the brotherhood, and, after wearily enjoying the
sublime privileges they sought, they voluntarily abandoned the
light of the sun, and sunk, without effort, to the grave, like
pilgrims in a trackless desert, overawed by the stillness of
their solitude, and appalled by the absence of a goal. Thou, in
whom nothing seems to live BUT THE DESIRE TO KNOW; thou, who,
indifferent whether it leads to weal or to woe, lendest thyself
to all who would tread the path of mysterious science, a human
book, insensate to the precepts it enounces,--thou hast ever
sought, and often made additions to our number. But to these
have only been vouchsafed partial secrets; vanity and passion
unfitted them for the rest; and now, without other interest than
that of an experiment in science, without love, and without pity,
thou exposest this new soul to the hazards of the tremendous
ordeal! Thou thinkest that a zeal so inquisitive, a courage so
absolute and dauntless, may suffice to conquer, where austerer
intellect and purer virtue have so often failed. Thou thinkest,
too, that the germ of art that lies in the painter's mind, as it
comprehends in itself the entire embryo of power and beauty, may
be expanded into the stately flower of the Golden Science. It is
a new experiment to thee. Be gentle with thy neophyte, and if
his nature disappoint thee in the first stages of the process,
dismiss him back to the Real while it is yet time to enjoy the
brief and outward life which dwells in the senses, and closes
with the tomb. And as I thus admonish thee, O Mejnour, wilt thou
smile at my inconsistent hopes? I, who have so invariably
refused to initiate others into our mysteries,--I begin at last
to comprehend why the great law, which binds man to his kind,
even when seeking most to set himself aloof from their condition,
has made thy cold and bloodless science the link between thyself
and thy race; why, THOU has sought converts and pupils; why, in
seeing life after life voluntarily dropping from our starry
order, thou still aspirest to renew the vanished, and repair the
lost; why, amidst thy calculations, restless and unceasing as the
wheels of Nature herself, thou recoilest from the THOUGHT TO BE
ALONE! So with myself; at last I, too, seek a convert, an
equal,--I, too, shudder to be alone! What thou hast warned me of
has come to pass. Love reduces all things to itself. Either
must I be drawn down to the nature of the beloved, or hers must
be lifted to my own. As whatever belongs to true Art has always
necessarily had attraction for US, whose very being is in the
ideal whence Art descends, so in this fair creature I have
learned, at last, the secret that bound me to her at the first
glance. The daughter of music,--music, passing into her being,
became poetry. It was not the stage that attracted her, with its
hollow falsehoods; it was the land in her own fancy which the
stage seemed to centre and represent. There the poetry found a
voice,--there it struggled into imperfect shape; and then (that
land insufficient for it) it fell back upon itself. It coloured
her thoughts, it suffused her soul; it asked not words, it
created not things; it gave birth but to emotions, and lavished
itself on dreams. At last came love; and there, as a river into
the sea, it poured its restless waves, to become mute and deep
and still,--the everlasting mirror of the heavens.
And is it not through this poetry which lies within her that she
may be led into the large poetry of the universe! Often I listen
to her careless talk, and find oracles in its unconscious beauty,
as we find strange virtues in some lonely flower. I see her mind
ripening under my eyes; and in its fair fertility what ever-
teeming novelties of thought! O Mejnour! how many of our tribe
have unravelled the laws of the universe,--have solved the
riddles of the exterior nature, and deduced the light from
darkness! And is not the POET, who studies nothing but the human
heart, a greater philosopher than all? Knowledge and atheism are
incompatible. To know Nature is to know that there must be a
God. But does it require this to examine the method and
architecture of creation? Methinks, when I look upon a pure
mind, however ignorant and childlike, that I see the August and
Immaterial One more clearly than in all the orbs of matter which
career at His bidding through space.
Rightly is it the fundamental decree of our order, that we must
impart our secrets only to the pure. The most terrible part of
the ordeal is in the temptations that our power affords to the
criminal. If it were possible that a malevolent being could
attain to our faculties, what disorder it might introduce into
the globe! Happy that it is NOT possible; the malevolence would
disarm the power. It is in the purity of Viola that I rely, as
thou more vainly hast relied on the courage or the genius of thy
pupils. Bear me witness, Mejnour! Never since the distant day
in which I pierced the Arcana of our knowledge, have I ever
sought to make its mysteries subservient to unworthy objects;
though, alas! the extension of our existence robs us of a country
and a home; though the law that places all science, as all art,
in the abstraction from the noisy passions and turbulent ambition
of actual life, forbids us to influence the destinies of nations,
for which Heaven selects ruder and blinder agencies; yet,
wherever have been my wanderings, I have sought to soften
distress, and to convert from sin. My power has been hostile
only to the guilty; and yet with all our lore, how in each step
we are reduced to be but the permitted instruments of the Power
that vouchsafes our own, but only to direct it. How all our
wisdom shrinks into nought, compared with that which gives the
meanest herb its virtues, and peoples the smallest globule with
its appropriate world. And while we are allowed at times to
influence the happiness of others, how mysteriously the shadows
thicken round our own future doom! We cannot be prophets to
ourselves! With what trembling hope I nurse the thought that I
may preserve to my solitude the light of a living smile!
Extracts from Letter II.
Deeming myself not pure enough to initiate so pure a heart, I
invoke to her trance those fairest and most tender inhabitants of
space that have furnished to poetry, which is the instinctive
guess into creation, the ideas of the Glendoveer and Sylph. And
these were less pure than her own thoughts, and less tender than
her own love! They could not raise her above her human heart,
for THAT has a heaven of its own.
I have just looked on her in sleep,--I have heard her breathe my
name. Alas! that which is so sweet to others has its bitterness
to me; for I think how soon the time may come when that sleep
will be without a dream,--when the heart that dictates the name
will be cold, and the lips that utter it be dumb. What a twofold
shape there is in love! If we examine it coarsely,--if we look
but on its fleshy ties, its enjoyments of a moment, its turbulent
fever and its dull reaction,--how strange it seems that this
passion should be the supreme mover of the world; that it is this
which has dictated the greatest sacrifices, and influenced all
societies and all times; that to this the loftiest and loveliest
genius has ever consecrated its devotion; that, but for love,
there were no civilisation, no music, no poetry, no beauty, no
life beyond the brute's.
But examine it in its heavenlier shape,--in its utter abnegation
of self; in its intimate connection with all that is most
delicate and subtle in the spirit,--its power above all that is
sordid in existence; its mastery over the idols of the baser
worship; its ability to create a palace of the cottage, an oasis
in the desert, a summer in the Iceland,--where it breathes, and
fertilises, and glows; and the wonder rather becomes how so few
regard it in its holiest nature. What the sensual call its
enjoyments, are the least of its joys. True love is less a
passion than a symbol. Mejnour, shall the time come when I can
speak to thee of Viola as a thing that was?
Extract from Letter III.
Knowest thou that of late I have sometimes asked myself, "Is
there no guilt in the knowledge that has so divided us from our
race?" It is true that the higher we ascend the more hateful
seem to us the vices of the short-lived creepers of the earth,--
the more the sense of the goodness of the All-good penetrates and
suffuses us, and the more immediately does our happiness seem to
emanate from him. But, on the other hand, how many virtues must
lie dead in those who live in the world of death, and refuse to
die! Is not this sublime egotism, this state of abstraction and
reverie,--this self-wrapped and self-dependent majesty of
existence, a resignation of that nobility which incorporates our
own welfare, our joys, our hopes, our fears with others? To live
on in no dread of foes, undegraded by infirmity, secure through
the cares, and free from the disease of flesh, is a spectacle
that captivates our pride. And yet dost thou not more admire him
who dies for another? Since I have loved her, Mejnour, it seems
almost cowardice to elude the grave which devours the hearts that
wrap us in their folds. I feel it,--the earth grows upon my
spirit. Thou wert right; eternal age, serene and passionless, is
a happier boon than eternal youth, with its yearnings and
desires. Until we can be all spirit, the tranquillity of
solitude must be indifference.
Extracts from Letter IV.
I have received thy communication. What! is it so? Has thy
pupil disappointed thee? Alas, poor pupil! But--
(Here follow comments on those passages in Glyndon's life already
known to the reader, or about to be made so, with earnest
adjurations to Mejnour to watch yet over the fate of his
But I cherish the same desire, with a warmer heart. My pupil!
how the terrors that shall encompass thine ordeal warn me from
the task! Once more I will seek the Son of Light.
Yes; Adon-Ai, long deaf to my call, at last has descended to my
vision, and left behind him the glory of his presence in the
shape of Hope. Oh, not impossible, Viola,--not impossible, that
we yet may be united, soul with soul!
Extract from Letter V.--(Many months after the last.)
Mejnour, awake from thine apathy,--rejoice! A new soul will be
born to the world,--a new soul that shall call me father. Ah, if
they for whom exist all the occupations and resources of human
life,--if they can thrill with exquisite emotion at the thought
of hailing again their own childhood in the faces of their
children; if in that birth they are born once more into the holy
Innocence which is the first state of existence; if they can feel
that on man devolves almost an angel's duty, when he has a life
to guide from the cradle, and a soul to nurture for the heaven,--
what to me must be the rapture to welcome an inheritor of all the
gifts which double themselves in being shared! How sweet the
power to watch, and to guard,--to instil the knowledge, to avert
the evil, and to guide back the river of life in a richer and
broader and deeper stream to the paradise from which it flows!
And beside that river our souls shall meet, sweet mother. Our
child shall supply the sympathy that fails as yet; and what shape
shall haunt thee, what terror shall dismay, when thy initiation
is beside the cradle of thy child!
They thus beguile the way
Untill the blustring storme is overblowne,
When weening to returne whence they did stray,
They cannot finde that path which first was showne,
But wander to and fro in waies unknowne.
Spenser's "Faerie Queene," book i. canto i. st. x.
Yes, Viola, thou art another being than when, by the threshold of
thy Italian home, thou didst follow thy dim fancies through the
Land of Shadow; or when thou didst vainly seek to give voice to
an ideal beauty, on the boards where illusion counterfeits earth
and heaven for an hour, till the weary sense, awaking, sees but
the tinsel and the scene-shifter. Thy spirit reposes in its own
happiness. Its wanderings have found a goal. In a moment there
often dwells the sense of eternity; for when profoundly happy, we
know that it is impossible to die. Whenever the soul FEELS
ITSELF, it feels everlasting life.
The initiation is deferred,--thy days and nights are left to no
other visions than those with which a contented heart enchants a
guileless fancy. Glendoveers and Sylphs, pardon me if I question
whether those visions are not lovelier than yourselves.
They stand by the beach, and see the sun sinking into the sea.
How long now have they dwelt on that island? What matters!--it
may be months, or years--what matters! Why should I, or they,
keep account of that happy time? As in the dream of a moment
ages may seem to pass, so shall we measure transport or woe,--by
the length of the dream, or the number of emotions that the dream
The sun sinks slowly down; the air is arid and oppressive; on the
sea, the stately vessel lies motionless; on the shore, no leaf
trembles on the trees.
Viola drew nearer to Zanoni. A presentiment she could not define
made her heart beat more quickly; and, looking into his face, she
was struck with its expression: it was anxious, abstracted,
perturbed. "This stillness awes me," she whispered.
Zanoni did not seem to hear her. He muttered to himself, and his
eyes gazed round restlessly. She knew not why, but that gaze,
which seemed to pierce into space,--that muttered voice in some
foreign language--revived dimly her earlier superstitions. She
was more fearful since the hour when she knew that she was to be
a mother. Strange crisis in the life of woman, and in her love!
Something yet unborn begins already to divide her heart with
that which had been before its only monarch.
"Look on me, Zanoni," she said, pressing his hand.
He turned: "Thou art pale, Viola; thy hand trembles!"
"It is true. I feel as if some enemy were creeping near us."
"And the instinct deceives thee not. An enemy is indeed at hand.
I see it through the heavy air; I hear it through the silence:
the Ghostly One,--the Destroyer, the PESTILENCE! Ah, seest thou
how the leaves swarm with insects, only by an effort visible to
the eye. They follow the breath of the plague!" As he spoke, a
bird fell from the boughs at Viola's feet; it fluttered, it
writhed an instant, and was dead.
"Oh, Viola!" cried Zanoni, passionately, "that is death. Dost
thou not fear to die?"
"To leave thee? Ah, yes!"
"And if I could teach thee how Death may be defied; if I could
arrest for thy youth the course of time; if I could--"
He paused abruptly, for Viola's eyes spoke only terror; her cheek
and lips were pale.
"Speak not thus,--look not thus," she said, recoiling from him.
"You dismay me. Ah, speak not thus, or I should tremble,--no,
not for myself, but for thy child."
"Thy child! But wouldst thou reject for thy child the same
"The sun has sunk from our eyes, but to rise on those of others.
To disappear from this world is to live in the world afar. Oh,
lover,--oh, husband!" she continued, with sudden energy, "tell me
that thou didst but jest,--that thou didst but trifle with my
folly! There is less terror in the pestilence than in thy
Zanoni's brow darkened; he looked at her in silence for some
moments, and then said, almost severely ,--
"What hast thou known of me to distrust?"
"Oh, pardon, pardon!--nothing!" cried Viola, throwing herself on
his breast, and bursting into tears. "I will not believe even
thine own words, if they seem to wrong thee!" He kissed the
tears from her eyes, but made no answer.
"And ah!" she resumed, with an enchanting and child-like smile,
"if thou wouldst give me a charm against the pestilence! see, I
will take it from thee." And she laid her hand on a small,
antique amulet that he wore on his breast.
"Thou knowest how often this has made me jealous of the past;
surely some love-gift, Zanoni? But no, thou didst not love the
giver as thou dost me. Shall I steal thine amulet?"
"Infant!" said Zanoni, tenderly; "she who placed this round my
neck deemed it indeed a charm, for she had superstitions like
thyself; but to me it is more than the wizard's spell,--it is the
relic of a sweet vanished time when none who loved me could
He said these words in a tone of such melancholy reproach that it
went to the heart of Viola; but the tone changed into a solemnity
which chilled back the gush of her feelings as he resumed: "And
this, Viola, one day, perhaps, I will transfer from my breast to
thine; yes, whenever thou shalt comprehend me better,--WHENEVER
THE LAWS OF OUR BEING SHALL BE THE SAME!"
He moved on gently. They returned slowly home; but fear still
was in the heart of Viola, though she strove to shake it off.
Italian and Catholic she was, with all the superstitions of land
and sect. She stole to her chamber and prayed before a little
relic of San Gennaro, which the priest of her house had given to
her in childhood, and which had accompanied her in all her
wanderings. She had never deemed it possible to part with it
before. Now, if there was a charm against the pestilence, did
she fear the pestilence for herself? The next morning, when he
awoke, Zanoni found the relic of the saint suspended with his
mystic amulet round his neck.
"Ah! thou wilt have nothing to fear from the pestilence now,"
said Viola, between tears and smiles; "and when thou wouldst talk
to me again as thou didst last night, the saint shall rebuke
Well, Zanoni, can there ever indeed be commune of thought and
spirit, except with equals?
Yes, the plague broke out,--the island home must be abandoned.
Mighty Seer, THOU HAST NO POWER TO SAVE THOSE WHOM THOU LOVEST!
Farewell, thou bridal roof!--sweet resting-place from care,
farewell! Climates as soft may greet ye, O lovers,--skies as
serene, and waters as blue and calm; but THAT TIME,--can it ever
more return? Who shall say that the heart does not change with
the scene,--the place where we first dwelt with the beloved one?
Every spot THERE has so many memories which the place only can
recall. The past that haunts it seems to command such constancy
in the future. If a thought less kind, less trustful, enter
within us, the sight of a tree under which a vow has been
exchanged, a tear has been kissed away, restores us again to the
hours of the first divine illusion. But in a home where nothing
speaks of the first nuptials, where there is no eloquence of
association, no holy burial-places of emotions, whose ghosts are
angels!--yes, who that has gone through the sad history of
affection will tell us that the heart changes not with the scene!
Blow fair, ye favouring winds; cheerily swell, ye sails; away
from the land where death has come to snatch the sceptre of Love!
The shores glide by; new coasts succeed to the green hills and
orange-groves of the Bridal Isle. From afar now gleam in the
moonlight the columns, yet extant, of a temple which the Athenian
dedicated to wisdom; and, standing on the bark that bounded on in
the freshening gale, the votary who had survived the goddess
murmured to himself,--
"Has the wisdom of ages brought me no happier hours than those
common to the shepherd and the herdsman, with no world beyond
their village, no aspiration beyond the kiss and the smile of
And the moon, resting alike over the ruins of the temple of the
departed creed, over the hut of the living peasant, over the
immemorial mountain-top, and the perishable herbage that clothed
its sides, seemed to smile back its answer of calm disdain to the
being who, perchance, might have seen the temple built, and who,
in his inscrutable existence, might behold the mountain shattered
from its base.
THE EFFECTS OF THE ELIXIR.
Frommet's den Schleier aufzuheben,
Wo das nahe Schreckness droht?
Nur das Irrthum ist das Leben
Und das Wissen ist der Tod,
Delusion is the life we live
And knowledge death; oh wherefore, then,
To sight the coming evils give
And lift the veil of Fate to Man?
Zwei Seelen wohnen, ach! in meiner Brust.
(Two souls dwell, alas! in my breast.)
Was stehst du so, und blickst erstaunt hinaus?
(Why standest thou so, and lookest out astonished?)
It will be remembered that we left Master Paolo by the bedside of
Glyndon; and as, waking from that profound slumber, the
recollections of the past night came horribly back to his mind,
the Englishman uttered a cry, and covered his face with his
"Good morrow, Excellency!" said Paolo, gayly. "Corpo di Bacco,
you have slept soundly!"
The sound of this man's voice, so lusty, ringing, and healthful,
served to scatter before it the phantasma that yet haunted
He rose erect in his bed. "And where did you find me? Why are
"Where did I find you!" repeated Paolo, in surprise,--"in your
bed, to be sure. Why am I here!--because the Padrone bade me
await your waking, and attend your commands."
"The Padrone, Mejnour!--is he arrived?"
"Arrived and departed, signor. He has left this letter for you."
"Give it me, and wait without till I am dressed."
"At your service. I have bespoke an excellent breakfast: you
must be hungry. I am a very tolerable cook; a monk's son ought
to be! You will be startled at my genius in the dressing of
fish. My singing, I trust, will not disturb you. I always sing
while I prepare a salad; it harmonises the ingredients." And
slinging his carbine over his shoulder, Paolo sauntered from the
room, and closed the door.
Glyndon was already deep in the contents of the following
"When I first received thee as my pupil, I promised Zanoni, if
convinced by thy first trials that thou couldst but swell, not
the number of our order, but the list of the victims who have
aspired to it in vain, I would not rear thee to thine own
wretchedness and doom,--I would dismiss thee back to the world.
I fulfil my promise. Thine ordeal has been the easiest that
neophyte ever knew. I asked for nothing but abstinence from the
sensual, and a brief experiment of thy patience and thy faith.
Go back to thine own world; thou hast no nature to aspire to
"It was I who prepared Paolo to receive thee at the revel. It
was I who instigated the old beggar to ask thee for alms. It was
I who left open the book that thou couldst not read without
violating my command. Well, thou hast seen what awaits thee at
the threshold of knowledge. Thou hast confronted the first foe
that menaces him whom the senses yet grasp and inthrall. Dost
thou wonder that I close upon thee the gates forever? Dost thou
not comprehend, at last, that it needs a soul tempered and
purified and raised, not by external spells, but by its own
sublimity and valour, to pass the threshold and disdain the foe?
Wretch! all my silence avails nothing for the rash, for the
sensual,--for him who desires our secrets but to pollute them to
gross enjoyments and selfish vice. How have the imposters and
sorcerers of the earlier times perished by their very attempt to
penetrate the mysteries that should purify, and not deprave!
They have boasted of the Philosopher's Stone, and died in rags;
of the immortal elixir, and sunk to their grave, grey before
their time. Legends tell you that the fiend rent them into
fragments. Yes; the fiend of their own unholy desires and
criminal designs! What they coveted, thou covetest; and if thou
hadst the wings of a seraph thou couldst soar not from the slough
of thy mortality. Thy desire for knowledge, but petulant
presumption; thy thirst for happiness, but the diseased longing
for the unclean and muddied waters of corporeal pleasure; thy
very love, which usually elevates even the mean, a passion that
calculates treason amidst the first glow of lust. THOU one of
us; thou a brother of the August Order; thou an Aspirant to the
Stars that shine in the Shemaia of the Chaldean lore! The eagle
can raise but the eaglet to the sun. I abandon thee to thy
"But, alas for thee, disobedient and profane! thou hast inhaled
the elixir; thou hast attracted to thy presence a ghastly and
remorseless foe. Thou thyself must exorcise the phantom thou
hast raised. Thou must return to the world; but not without
punishment and strong effort canst thou regain the calm and the
joy of the life thou hast left behind. This, for thy comfort,
will I tell thee: he who has drawn into his frame even so little
of the volatile and vital energy of the aerial juices as thyself,
has awakened faculties that cannot sleep,--faculties that may
yet, with patient humility, with sound faith, and the courage
that is not of the body like thine, but of the resolute and
virtuous mind, attain, if not to the knowledge that reigns above,
to high achievement in the career of men. Thou wilt find the
restless influence in all that thou wouldst undertake. Thy
heart, amidst vulgar joys will aspire to something holier; thy
ambition, amidst coarse excitement, to something beyond thy
reach. But deem not that this of itself will suffice for glory.
Equally may the craving lead thee to shame and guilt. It is but
an imperfect and new-born energy which will not suffer thee to
repose. As thou directest it, must thou believe it to be the
emanation of thine evil genius or thy good.
"But woe to thee! insect meshed in the web in which thou hast
entangled limbs and wings! Thou hast not only inhaled the
elixir, thou hast conjured the spectre; of all the tribes of the
space, no foe is so malignant to man,--and thou hast lifted the
veil from thy gaze. I cannot restore to thee the happy dimness
of thy vision. Know, at least, that all of us--the highest and
the wisest--who have, in sober truth, passed beyond the
threshold, have had, as our first fearful task, to master and
subdue its grisly and appalling guardian. Know that thou CANST
deliver thyself from those livid eyes,--know that, while they
haunt, they cannot harm, if thou resistest the thoughts to which
they tempt, and the horror they engender. DREAD THEM MOST WHEN
THOU BEHOLDEST THEM NOT. And thus, son of the worm, we part!
All that I can tell thee to encourage, yet to warn and to guide,
I have told thee in these lines. Not from me, from thyself has
come the gloomy trial from which I yet trust thou wilt emerge
into peace. Type of the knowledge that I serve, I withhold no
lesson from the pure aspirant; I am a dark enigma to the general
seeker. As man's only indestructible possession is his memory,
so it is not in mine art to crumble into matter the immaterial
thoughts that have sprung up within thy breast. The tyro might
shatter this castle to the dust, and topple down the mountain to
the plain. The master has no power to say, 'Exist no more,' to
one THOUGHT that his knowledge has inspired. Thou mayst change
the thoughts into new forms; thou mayst rarefy and sublimate it
into a finer spirit,--but thou canst not annihilate that which
has no home but in the memory, no substance but the idea. EVERY
THOUGHT IS A SOUL! Vainly, therefore, would I or thou undo the
past, or restore to thee the gay blindness of thy youth. Thou
must endure the influence of the elixir thou hast inhaled; thou
must wrestle with the spectre thou hast invoked!"
The letter fell from Glyndon's hand. A sort of stupor succeeded
to the various emotions which had chased each other in the
perusal,--a stupor resembling that which follows the sudden
destruction of any ardent and long-nursed hope in the human
heart, whether it be of love, of avarice, of ambition. The
loftier world for which he had so thirsted, sacrificed, and
toiled, was closed upon him "forever," and by his own faults of
rashness and presumption. But Glyndon's was not of that nature
which submits long to condemn itself. His indignation began to
kindle against Mejnour, who owned he had tempted, and who now
abandoned him,--abandoned him to the presence of a spectre. The
mystic's reproaches stung rather than humbled him. What crime
had he committed to deserve language so harsh and disdainful?
Was it so deep a debasement to feel pleasure in the smile and the
eyes of Fillide? Had not Zanoni himself confessed love for
Viola; had he not fled with her as his companion? Glyndon never
paused to consider if there are no distinctions between one kind
of love and another. Where, too, was the great offence of
yielding to a temptation which only existed for the brave? Had
not the mystic volume which Mejnour had purposely left open, bid
him but "Beware of fear"? Was not, then, every wilful
provocative held out to the strongest influences of the human
mind, in the prohibition to enter the chamber, in the possession
of the key which excited his curiosity, in the volume which
seemed to dictate the mode by which the curiosity was to be
gratified? As rapidly these thoughts passed over him, he began
to consider the whole conduct of Mejnour either as a perfidious
design to entrap him to his own misery, or as the trick of an
imposter, who knew that he could not realise the great
professions he had made. On glancing again over the more
mysterious threats and warnings in Mejnour's letter, they seemed
to assume the language of mere parable and allegory,--the jargon
of the Platonists and Pythagoreans. By little and little, he
began to consider that the very spectra he had seen--even that
one phantom so horrid in its aspect--were but the delusions which
Mejnour's science had enable him to raise. The healthful
sunlight, filling up every cranny in his chamber, seemed to laugh
away the terrors of the past night. His pride and his resentment
nerved his habitual courage; and when, having hastily dressed
himself, he rejoined Paolo, it was with a flushed cheek and a
"So, Paolo," said he, "the Padrone, as you call him, told you to
expect and welcome me at your village feast?"
"He did so by a message from a wretched old cripple. This
surprised me at the time, for I thought he was far distant; but
these great philosophers make a joke of two or three hundred
"Why did you not tell me you had heard from Mejnour?"
"Because the old cripple forbade me."
"Did you not see the man afterwards during the dance?"
"Allow me to serve you," said Paolo, piling Glyndon's plate, and
then filling his glass. "I wish, signor, now the Padrone is
gone,--not," added Paolo, as he cast rather a frightened and
suspicious glance round the room, "that I mean to say anything
disrespectful of him,--I wish, I say, now that he is gone, that
you would take pity on yourself, and ask your own heart what your
youth was meant for? Not to bury yourself alive in these old
ruins, and endanger body and soul by studies which I am sure no
saint could approve of."
"Are the saints so partial, then, to your own occupations, Master
"Why," answered the bandit, a little confused, "a gentleman with
plenty of pistoles in his purse need not, of necessity, make it
his profession to take away the pistoles of other people! It is
a different thing for us poor rogues. After all, too, I always
devote a tithe of my gains to the Virgin; and I share the rest
charitably with the poor. But eat, drink, enjoy yourself; be
absolved by your confessor for any little peccadilloes and don't
run too long scores at a time,--that's my advice. Your health,
Excellency! Pshaw, signor, fasting, except on the days
prescribed to a good Catholic, only engenders phantoms."
"Yes; the devil always tempts the empty stomach. To covet, to
hate, to thieve, to rob, and to murder,--these are the natural
desires of a man who is famishing. With a full belly, signor, we
are at peace with all the world. That's right; you like the
partridge! Cospetto! when I myself have passed two or three days
in the mountains, with nothing from sunset to sunrise but a black
crust and an onion, I grow as fierce as a wolf. That's not the
worst, too. In these times I see little imps dancing before me.
Oh, yes; fasting is as full of spectres as a field of battle."
Glyndon thought there was some sound philosophy in the reasoning
of his companion; and certainly the more he ate and drank, the
more the recollection of the past night and of Mejnour's
desertion faded from his mind. The casement was open, the breeze
blew, the sun shone,--all Nature was merry; and merry as Nature
herself grew Maestro Paolo. He talked of adventures, of travel,
of women, with a hearty gusto that had its infection. But
Glyndon listened yet more complacently when Paolo turned with an
arch smile to praises of the eye, the teeth, the ankles, and the
shape of the handsome Fillide.
This man, indeed, seemed the very personation of animal sensual
life. He would have been to Faust a more dangerous tempter than
Mephistopheles. There was no sneer on HIS lip at the pleasures
which animated his voice. To one awaking to a sense of the
vanities in knowledge, this reckless ignorant joyousness of
temper was a worse corrupter than all the icy mockeries of a
learned Fiend. But when Paolo took his leave, with a promise to
return the next day, the mind of the Englishman again settled
back to a graver and more thoughtful mood. The elixir seemed, in
truth, to have left the refining effects Mejnour had ascribed to
it. As Glyndon paced to and fro the solitary corridor, or,
pausing, gazed upon the extended and glorious scenery that
stretched below, high thoughts of enterprise and ambition--bright
visions of glory--passed in rapid succession through his soul.
"Mejnour denies me his science. Well," said the painter,
proudly, "he has not robbed me of my art."
What! Clarence Glyndon, dost thou return to that from which thy
career commenced? Was Zanoni right after all?
He found himself in the chamber of the mystic; not a vessel,--not
an herb! the solemn volume is vanished,--the elixir shall sparkle
for him no more! But still in the room itself seems to linger
the atmosphere of a charm. Faster and fiercer it burns within
thee, the desire to achieve, to create! Thou longest for a life
beyond the sensual!--but the life that is permitted to all
genius,--that which breathes through the immortal work, and
endures in the imperishable name.
Where are the implements for thine art? Tush!--when did the true
workman ever fail to find his tools? Thou art again in thine own
chamber,--the white wall thy canvas, a fragment of charcoal for
thy pencil. They suffice, at least, to give outline to the
conception that may otherwise vanish with the morrow.
The idea that thus excited the imagination of the artist was
unquestionably noble and august. It was derived from that
Egyptian ceremonial which Diodorus has recorded,--the Judgment of
the Dead by the Living (Diod., lib. i.): when the corpse, duly
embalmed, is placed by the margin of the Acherusian Lake; and
before it may be consigned to the bark which is to bear it across
the waters to its final resting-place, it is permitted to the
appointed judges to hear all accusations of the past life of the
deceased, and, if proved, to deprive the corpse of the rites of
Unconsciously to himself, it was Mejnour's description of this
custom, which he had illustrated by several anecdotes not to be
found in books, that now suggested the design to the artist, and
gave it reality and force. He supposed a powerful and guilty
king whom in life scarce a whisper had dared to arraign, but
against whom, now the breath was gone, came the slave from his
fetters, the mutilated victim from his dungeon, livid and squalid
as if dead themselves, invoking with parched lips the justice
that outlives the grave.
Strange fervour this, O artist! breaking suddenly forth from the
mists and darkness which the occult science had spread so long
over thy fancies,--strange that the reaction of the night's
terror and the day's disappointment should be back to thine holy
art! Oh, how freely goes the bold hand over the large outline!
How, despite those rude materials, speaks forth no more the
pupil, but the master! Fresh yet from the glorious elixir, how
thou givest to thy creatures the finer life denied to thyself!--
some power not thine own writes the grand symbols on the wall.
Behind rises the mighty sepulchre, on the building of which
repose to the dead the lives of thousands had been consumed.
There sit in a semicircle the solemn judges. Black and sluggish
flows the lake. There lies the mummied and royal dead. Dost
thou quail at the frown on his lifelike brow? Ha!--bravely done,
O artist!--up rise the haggard forms!--pale speak the ghastly
faces! Shall not Humanity after death avenge itself on Power?
Thy conception, Clarence Glyndon, is a sublime truth; thy design
promises renown to genius. Better this magic than the charms of
the volume and the vessel. Hour after hour has gone; thou hast
lighted the lamp; night sees thee yet at thy labour. Merciful
Heaven! what chills the atmosphere; why does the lamp grow wan;
why does thy hair bristle? There!--there!--there! at the
casement! It gazes on thee, the dark, mantled, loathsome thing!
There, with their devilish mockery and hateful craft, glare on
thee those horrid eyes!
He stood and gazed,--it was no delusion. It spoke not, moved
not, till, unable to bear longer that steady and burning look, he
covered his face with his hands. With a start, with a thrill, he
removed them; he felt the nearer presence of the nameless. There
it cowered on the floor beside his design; and lo! the figures
seemed to start from the wall! Those pale accusing figures, the
shapes he himself had raised, frowned at him, and gibbered. With
a violent effort that convulsed his whole being, and bathed his
body in the sweat of agony, the young man mastered his horror.
He strode towards the phantom; he endured its eyes; he accosted
it with a steady voice; he demanded its purpose and defied its
And then, as a wind from a charnel, was heard its voice. What it
said, what revealed, it is forbidden the lips to repeat, the hand
to record. Nothing save the subtle life that yet animated the
frame to which the inhalations of the elixir had given vigour and
energy beyond the strength of the strongest, could have survived
that awful hour. Better to wake in the catacombs and see the
buried rise from their cerements, and hear the ghouls, in their
horrid orgies, amongst the festering ghastliness of corruption,
than to front those features when the veil was lifted, and listen
to that whispered voice!
The next day Glyndon fled from the ruined castle. With what
hopes of starry light had he crossed the threshold; with what
memories to shudder evermore at the darkness did he look back at
the frown of its time-worn towers!
Faust: Wohin soll es nun gehm?
Mephist: Wohin es Dir gefallt.
Wir sehn die kleine, dann die grosse Welt.
(Faust: Whither go now!
Mephist: Whither it pleases thee.
We see the small world, then the great.)
Draw your chair to the fireside, brush clean the hearth, and trim
the lights. Oh, home of sleekness, order, substance, comfort!
Oh, excellent thing art thou, Matter of Fact!
It is some time after the date of the last chapter. Here we are,
not in moonlit islands or mouldering castles, but in a room
twenty-six feet by twenty-two,--well carpeted, well cushioned,
solid arm-chairs and eight such bad pictures, in such fine
frames, upon the walls! Thomas Mervale, Esq., merchant, of
London, you are an enviable dog!
It was the easiest thing in the world for Mervale, on returning
from his Continental episode of life, to settle down to his
desk,--his heart had been always there. The death of his father
gave him, as a birthright, a high position in a respectable
though second-rate firm. To make this establishment first-rate
was an honourable ambition,--it was his! He had lately married,
not entirely for money,--no! he was worldly rather than
mercenary. He had no romantic ideas of love; but he was too
sensible a man not to know that a wife should be a companion,--
not merely a speculation. He did not care for beauty and genius,
but he liked health and good temper, and a certain proportion of
useful understanding. He chose a wife from his reason, not his
heart, and a very good choice he made. Mrs. Mervale was an
excellent young woman,--bustling, managing, economical, but
affectionate and good. She had a will of her own, but was no
shrew. She had a great notion of the rights of a wife, and a
strong perception of the qualities that insure comfort. She
would never have forgiven her husband, had she found him guilty
of the most passing fancy for another; but, in return, she had
the most admirable sense of propriety herself. She held in
abhorrence all levity, all flirtation, all coquetry,--small vices
which often ruin domestic happiness, but which a giddy nature
incurs without consideration. But she did not think it right to
love a husband over much. She left a surplus of affection, for
all her relations, all her friends, some of her acquaintances,
and the possibility of a second marriage, should any accident
happen to Mr. M. She kept a good table, for it suited their
station; and her temper was considered even, though firm; but she
could say a sharp thing or two, if Mr. Mervale was not punctual
to a moment. She was very particular that he should change his
shoes on coming home,--the carpets were new and expensive. She
was not sulky, nor passionate,--Heaven bless her for that!--but
when displeased she showed it, administered a dignified rebuke,
alluded to her own virtues, to her uncle who was an admiral, and
to the thirty thousand pounds which she had brought to the object
of her choice. But as Mr. Mervale was a good-humoured man, owned
his faults, and subscribed to her excellence, the displeasure was
Every household has its little disagreements, none fewer than
that of Mr. and Mrs. Mervale. Mrs. Mervale, without being
improperly fond of dress, paid due attention to it. She was
never seen out of her chamber with papers in her hair, nor in
that worst of dis-illusions,--a morning wrapper. At half-past
eight every morning Mrs. Mervale was dressed for the day,--that
is, till she re-dressed for dinner,--her stays well laced, her
cap prim, her gowns, winter and summer, of a thick, handsome
silk. Ladies at that time wore very short waists; so did Mrs.
Mervale. Her morning ornaments were a thick, gold chain, to
which was suspended a gold watch,--none of those fragile dwarfs
of mechanism that look so pretty and go so ill, but a handsome
repeater which chronicled Father Time to a moment; also a mosaic
brooch; also a miniature of her uncle, the admiral, set in a
bracelet. For the evening she had two handsome sets,--necklace,
earrings, and bracelets complete,--one of amethysts, the other
topazes. With these, her costume for the most part was a gold-
coloured satin and a turban, in which last her picture had been
taken. Mrs. Mervale had an aquiline nose, good teeth, fair hair,
and light eyelashes, rather a high complexion, what is generally
called a fine bust; full cheeks; large useful feet made for
walking; large, white hands with filbert nails, on which not a
speck of dust had, even in childhood, ever been known to a light.
She looked a little older than she really was; but that might
arise from a certain air of dignity and the aforesaid aquiline
nose. She generally wore short mittens. She never read any
poetry but Goldsmith's and Cowper's. She was not amused by
novels, though she had no prejudice against them. She liked a
play and a pantomime, with a slight supper afterwards. She did
not like concerts nor operas. At the beginning of the winter she
selected some book to read, and some piece of work to commence.
The two lasted her till the spring, when, though she continued to
work, she left off reading. Her favourite study was history,
which she read through the medium of Dr. Goldsmith. Her
favourite author in the belles lettres was, of course, Dr.
Johnson. A worthier woman, or one more respected, was not to be
found, except in an epitaph!
It was an autumn night. Mr. and Mrs. Mervale, lately returned
from an excursion to Weymouth, are in the drawing-room,--"the
dame sat on this side, the man sat on that."
"Yes, I assure you, my dear, that Glyndon, with all his
eccentricities, was a very engaging, amiable fellow. You would
certainly have liked him,--all the women did."
"My dear Thomas, you will forgive the remark,--but that
expression of yours, 'all the WOMEN'--"
"I beg your pardon,--you are right. I meant to say that he was a
general favourite with your charming sex."
"I understand,--rather a frivolous character."
"Frivolous! no, not exactly; a little unsteady,--very odd, but
certainly not frivolous; presumptuous and headstrong in
character, but modest and shy in his manners, rather too much
so,--just what you like. However, to return; I am seriously
uneasy at the accounts I have heard of him to-day. He has been
living, it seems, a very strange and irregular life, travelling
from place to place, and must have spent already a great deal of
"Apropos of money," said Mrs. Mervale; "I fear we must change our
butcher; he is certainly in league with the cook."
"That is a pity; his beef is remarkably fine. These London
servants are as bad as the Carbonari. But, as I was saying, poor
Here a knock was heard at the door. "Bless me," said Mrs.
Mervale, "it is past ten! Who can that possibly be?"
"Perhaps your uncle, the admiral," said the husband, with a
slight peevishness in his accent. "He generally favours us about
"I hope, my love, that none of my relations are unwelcome
visitors at your house. The admiral is a most entertaining man,
and his fortune is entirely at his own disposal."
"No one I respect more," said Mr. Mervale, with emphasis.
The servant threw open the door, and announced Mr. Glyndon.
"Mr. Glyndon!--what an extraordinary--" exclaimed Mrs. Mervale;
but before she could conclude the sentence, Glyndon was in the
The two friends greeted each other with all the warmth of early
recollection and long absence. An appropriate and proud
presentation to Mrs. Mervale ensued; and Mrs. Mervale, with a
dignified smile, and a furtive glance at his boots, bade her
husband's friend welcome to England.
Glyndon was greatly altered since Mervale had seen him last.
Though less than two years had elapsed since then, his fair
complexion was more bronzed and manly. Deep lines of care, or
thought, or dissipation, had replaced the smooth contour of happy
youth. To a manner once gentle and polished had succeeded a
certain recklessness of mien, tone, and bearing, which bespoke
the habits of a society that cared little for the calm decorums
of conventional ease. Still a kind of wild nobleness, not before
apparent in him, characterised his aspect, and gave something of
dignity to the freedom of his language and gestures.
"So, then, you are settled, Mervale,--I need not ask you if you
are happy. Worth, sense, wealth, character, and so fair a
companion deserve happiness, and command it."
"Would you like some tea, Mr. Glyndon?" asked Mrs. Mervale,
"Thank you,--no. I propose a more convivial stimulus to my old
friend. Wine, Mervale,--wine, eh!--or a bowl of old English
punch. Your wife will excuse us,--we will make a night of it!"
Mrs. Mervale drew back her chair, and tried not to look aghast.
Glyndon did not give his friend time to reply.
"So at last I am in England," he said, looking round the room,
with a slight sneer on his lips; "surely this sober air must have
its influence; surely here I shall be like the rest."
"Have you been ill, Glyndon?"
"Ill, yes. Humph! you have a fine house. Does it contain a
spare room for a solitary wanderer?"
Mr. Mervale glanced at his wife, and his wife looked steadily on
the carpet. "Modest and shy in his manners--rather too much so!"
Mrs. Mervale was in the seventh heaven of indignation and amaze!
"My dear?" said Mr. Mervale at last, meekly and interogatingly.
"My dear!" returned Mrs. Mervale, innocently and sourly.
"We can make up a room for my old friend, Sarah?"
The old friend had sunk back on his chair, and, gazing intently
on the fire, with his feet at ease upon the fender, seemed to
have forgotten his question.
Mrs. Mervale bit her lips, looked thoughtful, and at last coldly
replied, "Certainly, Mr. Mervale; your friends do right to make
themselves at home."
With that she lighted a candle, and moved majestically from the
room. When she returned, the two friends had vanished into Mr.
Twelve o'clock struck,--one o'clock, two! Thrice had Mrs.
Mervale sent into the room to know,--first, if they wanted
anything; secondly, if Mr. Glyndon slept on a mattress or
feather-bed; thirdly, to inquire if Mr. Glyndon's trunk, which he
had brought with him, should be unpacked. And to the answer to
all these questions was added, in a loud voice from the visitor,
--a voice that pierced from the kitchen to the attic,--"Another
bowl! stronger, if you please, and be quick with it!"
At last Mr. Mervale appeared in the conjugal chamber, not
penitent, nor apologetic,--no, not a bit of it. His eyes
twinkled, his cheek flushed, his feet reeled; he sang,--Mr.
Thomas Mervale positively sang!
"Mr. Mervale! is it possible, sir--"
"'Old King Cole was a merry old soul--'"
"Mr. Mervale! sir!--leave me alone, sir!"
"'And a merry old soul was he--'"
"What an example to the servants!"
"'And he called for his pipe, and he called for his bowl--'"
"If you don't behave yourself, sir, I shall call--"
"'Call for his fiddlers three!'"
In der Welt weit
Aus der Einsamkeit
Wollen sie Dich locken.
(In the wide world, out of the solitude, will these allure thee.)
The next morning, at breakfast, Mrs. Mervale looked as if all the
wrongs of injured woman sat upon her brow. Mr. Mervale seemed
the picture of remorseful guilt and avenging bile. He said
little, except to complain of headache, and to request the eggs
to be removed from the table. Clarence Glyndon--impervious,
unconscious, unailing, impenitent--was in noisy spirits, and
talked for three.
"Poor Mervale! he has lost the habit of good-fellowship, madam.
Another night or two, and he will be himself again!"
"Sir," said Mrs. Mervale, launching a premeditated sentence with
more than Johnsonian dignity, "permit me to remind you that Mr.
Mervale is now a married man, the destined father of a family,
and the present master of a household."
"Precisely the reasons why I envy him so much. I myself have a
great mind to marry. Happiness is contagious."
"Do you still take to painting?" asked Mervale, languidly,
endeavouring to turn the tables on his guest.
"Oh, no; I have adopted your advice. No art, no ideal,-- nothing
loftier than Commonplace for me now. If I were to paint again, I
positively think YOU would purchase my pictures. Make haste and
finish your breakfast, man; I wish to consult you. I have come
to England to see after my affairs. My ambition is to make
money; your counsels and experience cannot fail to assist me
"Ah, you were soon disenchanted of your Philosopher's Stone! You
must know, Sarah, that when I last left Glyndon, he was bent upon
turning alchemist and magician."
"You are witty to-day, Mr. Mervale."
"Upon my honour it is true, I told you so before."
Glyndon rose abruptly.
"Why revive those recollections of folly and presumption? Have I
not said that I have returned to my native land to pursue the
healthful avocations of my kind! Oh, yes! what so healthful, so
noble, so fitted to our nature, as what you call the Practical
Life? If we have faculties, what is their use, but to sell them
to advantage! Buy knowledge as we do our goods; buy it at the
cheapest market, sell it at the dearest. Have you not
The friends walked into the streets, and Mervale shrank from the
irony with which Glyndon complimented him on his respectability,
his station, his pursuits, his happy marriage, and his eight
pictures in their handsome frames. Formerly the sober Mervale
had commanded an influence over his friend: HIS had been the
sarcasm; Glyndon's the irresolute shame at his own peculiarities.
Now this position was reversed. There was a fierce earnestness
in Glyndon's altered temper which awed and silenced the quiet
commonplace of his friend's character. He seemed to take a
malignant delight in persuading himself that the sober life of
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