Edward Bulwer Lytton
Part 7 out of 9
the world was contemptible and base.
"Ah!" he exclaimed, "how right you were to tell me to marry
respectably; to have a solid position; to live in decorous fear
of the world and one's wife; and to command the envy of the poor,
the good opinion of the rich. You have practised what you
preach. Delicious existence! The merchant's desk and the
curtain lecture! Ha! ha! Shall we have another night of it?"
Mervale, embarrassed and irritated, turned the conversation upon
Glyndon's affairs. He was surprised at the knowledge of the
world which the artist seemed to have suddenly acquired,
surprised still more at the acuteness and energy with which he
spoke of the speculations most in vogue at the market. Yes;
Glyndon was certainly in earnest: he desired to be rich and
respectable,--and to make at least ten per cent for his money!
After spending some days with the merchant, during which time he
contrived to disorganise all the mechanism of the house, to turn
night into day, harmony into discord, to drive poor Mrs. Mervale
half-distracted, and to convince her husband that he was horribly
hen-pecked, the ill-omened visitor left them as suddenly as he
had arrived. He took a house of his own; he sought the society
of persons of substance; he devoted himself to the money-market;
he seemed to have become a man of business; his schemes were bold
and colossal; his calculations rapid and profound. He startled
Mervale by his energy, and dazzled him by his success. Mervale
began to envy him,--to be discontented with his own regular and
slow gains. When Glyndon bought or sold in the funds, wealth
rolled upon him like the tide of a sea; what years of toil could
not have done for him in art, a few months, by a succession of
lucky chances, did for him in speculation. Suddenly, however, he
relaxed his exertions; new objects of ambition seemed to attract
him. If he heard a drum in the streets, what glory like the
soldier's? If a new poem were published, what renown like the
poet's? He began works in literature, which promised great
excellence, to throw them aside in disgust. All at once he
abandoned the decorous and formal society he had courted; he
joined himself, with young and riotous associates; he plunged
into the wildest excesses of the great city, where Gold reigns
alike over Toil and Pleasure. Through all he carried with him a
certain power and heat of soul. In all society he aspired to
command,--in all pursuits to excel. Yet whatever the passion of
the moment, the reaction was terrible in its gloom. He sank, at
times, into the most profound and the darkest reveries. His
fever was that of a mind that would escape memory,--his repose,
that of a mind which the memory seizes again, and devours as a
prey. Mervale now saw little of him; they shunned each other.
Glyndon had no confidant, and no friend.
Ich fuhle Dich mir nahe;
Die Einsamkeit belebt;
Wie uber seinen Welten
Der Unsichtbare schwebt.
(I feel thee near to me,
The loneliness takes life,--
As over its world
The Invisible hovers.)
From this state of restlessness and agitation rather than
continuous action, Glyndon was aroused by a visitor who seemed to
exercise the most salutary influence over him. His sister, an
orphan with himself, had resided in the country with her aunt.
In the early years of hope and home he had loved this girl, much
younger than himself, with all a brother's tenderness. On his
return to England, he had seemed to forget her existence. She
recalled herself to him on her aunt's death by a touching and
melancholy letter: she had now no home but his,--no dependence
save on his affection; he wept when he read it, and was impatient
till Adela arrived.
This girl, then about eighteen, concerned beneath a gentle and
calm exterior much of the romance or enthusiasm that had, at her
own age, characterised her brother. But her enthusiasm was of a
far purer order, and was restrained within proper bounds, partly
by the sweetness of a very feminine nature, and partly by a
strict and methodical education. She differed from him
especially in a timidity of character which exceeded that usual
at her age, but which the habit of self-command concealed no less
carefully than that timidity itself concealed the romance I have
ascribed to her.
Adela was not handsome: she had the complexion and the form of
delicate health; and too fine an organisation of the nerves
rendered her susceptible to every impression that could influence
the health of the frame through the sympathy of the mind. But as
she never complained, and as the singular serenity of her manners
seemed to betoken an equanimity of temperament which, with the
vulgar, might have passed for indifference, her sufferings had so
long been borne unnoticed that it ceased to be an effort to
disguise them. Though, as I have said, not handsome, her
countenance was interesting and pleasing; and there was that
caressing kindness, that winning charm about her smile, her
manners, her anxiety to please, to comfort, and to soothe which
went at once to the heart, and made her lovely,--because so
Such was the sister whom Glyndon had so long neglected, and whom
he now so cordially welcomed. Adela had passed many years a
victim to the caprices, and a nurse to the maladies, of a selfish
and exacting relation. The delicate and generous and respectful
affection of her brother was no less new to her than delightful.
He took pleasure in the happiness he created; he gradually weaned
himself from other society; he felt the charm of home. It is not
surprising, then, that this young creature, free and virgin from
every more ardent attachment, concentrated all her grateful love
on this cherished and protecting relative. Her study by day, her
dream by night, was to repay him for his affection. She was
proud of his talents, devoted to his welfare; the smallest trifle
that could interest him swelled in her eyes to the gravest
affairs of life. In short, all the long-hoarded enthusiasm,
which was her perilous and only heritage, she invested in this
one object of her holy tenderness, her pure ambition.
But in proportion as Glyndon shunned those excitements by which
he had so long sought to occupy his time or distract his
thoughts, the gloom of his calmer hours became deeper and more
continuous. He ever and especially dreaded to be alone; he could
not bear his new companion to be absent from his eyes: he rode
with her, walked with her, and it was with visible reluctance,
which almost partook of horror, that he retired to rest at an
hour when even revel grows fatigued. This gloom was not that
which could be called by the soft name of melancholy,--it was far
more intense; it seemed rather like despair. Often after a
silence as of death--so heavy, abstracted, motionless, did it
appear--he would start abruptly, and cast hurried glances around
him,--his limbs trembling, his lips livid, his brows bathed in
dew. Convinced that some secret sorrow preyed upon his mind, and
would consume his health, it was the dearest as the most natural
desire of Adela to become his confidant and consoler. She
observed, with the quick tact of the delicate, that he disliked
her to seem affected by, or even sensible of, his darker moods.
She schooled herself to suppress her fears and her feelings. She
would not ask his confidence,--she sought to steal into it. By
little and little she felt that she was succeeding. Too wrapped
in his own strange existence to be acutely observant of the
character of others, Glyndon mistook the self-content of a
generous and humble affection for constitutional fortitude; and
this quality pleased and soothed him. It is fortitude that the
diseased mind requires in the confidant whom it selects as its
physician. And how irresistible is that desire to communicate!
How often the lonely man thought to himself, "My heart would be
lightened of its misery, if once confessed!" He felt, too, that
in the very youth, the inexperience, the poetical temperament of
Adela, he could find one who would comprehend and bear with him
better than any sterner and more practical nature. Mervale would
have looked on his revelations as the ravings of madness, and
most men, at best, as the sicklied chimeras, the optical
delusions, of disease. Thus gradually preparing himself for that
relief for which he yearned, the moment for his disclosure
One evening, as they sat alone together, Adela, who inherited
some portion of her brother's talent in art, was employed in
drawing, and Glyndon, rousing himself from meditations less
gloomy than usual, rose, and affectionately passing his arm round
her waist, looked over her as she sat. An exclamation of dismay
broke from his lips,--he snatched the drawing from her hand:
"What are you about?--what portrait is this?"
"Dear Clarence, do you not remember the original?--it is a copy
from that portrait of our wise ancestor which our poor mother
used to say so strongly resembled you. I thought it would please
you if I copied it from memory."
"Accursed was the likeness!" said Glyndon, gloomily. "Guess you
not the reason why I have shunned to return to the home of my
fathers!--because I dreaded to meet that portrait!--because--
because--but pardon me; I alarm you!"
"Ah, no,--no, Clarence, you never alarm me when you speak: only
when you are silent! Oh, if you thought me worthy of your trust;
oh, if you had given me the right to reason with you in the
sorrows that I yearn to share!"
Glyndon made no answer, but paced the room for some moments with
disordered strides. He stopped at last, and gazed at her
earnestly. "Yes, you, too, are his descendant; you know that
such men have lived and suffered; you will not mock me,-- you
will not disbelieve! Listen! hark!--what sound is that?"
"But the wind on the house-top, Clarence,--but the wind."
"Give me your hand; let me feel its living clasp; and when I have
told you, never revert to the tale again. Conceal it from all:
swear that it shall die with us,--the last of our predestined
"Never will I betray your trust; I swear it,--never!" said Adela,
firmly; and she drew closer to his side. Then Glyndon commenced
his story. That which, perhaps, in writing, and to minds
prepared to question and disbelieve, may seem cold and
terrorless, became far different when told by those blanched
lips, with all that truth of suffering which convinces and
appalls. Much, indeed, he concealed, much he involuntarily
softened; but he revealed enough to make his tale intelligible
and distinct to his pale and trembling listener. "At daybreak,"
he said, "I left that unhallowed and abhorred abode. I had one
hope still,--I would seek Mejnour through the world. I would
force him to lay at rest the fiend that haunted my soul. With
this intent I journeyed from city to city. I instituted the most
vigilant researches through the police of Italy. I even employed
the services of the Inquisition at Rome, which had lately
asserted its ancient powers in the trial of the less dangerous
Cagliostro. All was in vain; not a trace of him could be
discovered. I was not alone, Adela." Here Glyndon paused a
moment, as if embarrassed; for in his recital, I need scarcely
say that he had only indistinctly alluded to Fillide, whom the
reader may surmise to be his companion. "I was not alone, but
the associate of my wanderings was not one in whom my soul could
confide,--faithful and affectionate, but without education,
without faculties to comprehend me, with natural instincts rather
than cultivated reason; one in whom the heart might lean in its
careless hours, but with whom the mind could have no commune, in
whom the bewildered spirit could seek no guide. Yet in the
society of this person the demon troubled me not. Let me explain
yet more fully the dread conditions of its presence. In coarse
excitement, in commonplace life, in the wild riot, in the fierce
excess, in the torpid lethargy of that animal existence which we
share with the brutes, its eyes were invisible, its whisper was
unheard. But whenever the soul would aspire, whenever the
imagination kindled to the loftier ends, whenever the
consciousness of our proper destiny struggled against the
unworthy life I pursued, then, Adela--then, it cowered by my side
in the light of noon, or sat by my bed,--a Darkness visible
through the Dark. If, in the galleries of Divine Art, the dreams
of my youth woke the early emulation,--if I turned to the
thoughts of sages; if the example of the great, if the converse
of the wise, aroused the silenced intellect, the demon was with
me as by a spell. At last, one evening, at Genoa, to which city
I had travelled in pursuit of the mystic, suddenly, and when
least expected, he appeared before me. It was the time of the
Carnival. It was in one of those half-frantic scenes of noise
and revel, call it not gayety, which establish a heathen
saturnalia in the midst of a Christian festival. Wearied with
the dance, I had entered a room in which several revellers were
seated, drinking, singing, shouting; and in their fantastic
dresses and hideous masks, their orgy seemed scarcely human. I
placed myself amongst them, and in that fearful excitement of the
spirits which the happy never know, I was soon the most riotous
of all. The conversation fell on the Revolution of France, which
had always possessed for me an absorbing fascination. The masks
spoke of the millennium it was to bring on earth, not as
philosophers rejoicing in the advent of light, but as ruffians
exulting in the annihilation of law. I know not why it was, but
their licentious language infected myself; and, always desirous
to be foremost in every circle, I soon exceeded even these
rioters in declamations on the nature of the liberty which was
about to embrace all the families of the globe,--a liberty that
should pervade not only public legislation, but domestic life; an
emancipation from every fetter that men had forged for
themselves. In the midst of this tirade one of the masks
"'Take care. One listens to you who seems to be a spy!'
"My eyes followed those of the mask, and I observed a man who
took no part in the conversation, but whose gaze was bent upon
me. He was disguised like the rest, yet I found by a general
whisper that none had observed him enter. His silence, his
attention, had alarmed the fears of the other revellers,--they
only excited me the more. Rapt in my subject, I pursued it,
insensible to the signs of those about me; and, addressing myself
only to the silent mask who sat alone, apart from the group, I
did not even observe that, one by one, the revellers slunk off,
and that I and the silent listener were left alone, until,
pausing from my heated and impetuous declamations, I said,--
"'And you, signor,--what is your view of this mighty era?
Opinion without persecution; brotherhood without jealousy; love
"'And life without God,' added the mask as I hesitated for new
"The sound of that well-known voice changed the current of my
thought. I sprang forward, and cried,--
"'Imposter or Fiend, we meet at last!'
"The figure rose as I advanced, and, unmasking, showed the
features of Mejnour. His fixed eye, his majestic aspect, awed
and repelled me. I stood rooted to the ground.
"'Yes,' he said solemnly, 'we meet, and it is this meeting that I
have sought. How hast thou followed my admonitions! Are these
the scenes in which the Aspirant for the Serene Science thinks to
escape the Ghastly Enemy? Do the thoughts thou hast uttered--
thoughts that would strike all order from the universe--express
the hopes of the sage who would rise to the Harmony of the
"'It is thy fault,--it is thine!' I exclaimed. 'Exorcise the
phantom! Take the haunting terror from my soul!'
Mejnour looked at me a moment with a cold and cynical disdain
which provoked at once my fear and rage, and replied,--
"'No; fool of thine own senses! No; thou must have full and
entire experience of the illusions to which the Knowledge that is
without Faith climbs its Titan way. Thou pantest for this
Millennium,--thou shalt behold it! Thou shalt be one of the
agents of the era of Light and Reason. I see, while I speak, the
Phantom thou fliest, by thy side; it marshals thy path; it has
power over thee as yet,--a power that defies my own. In the last
days of that Revolution which thou hailest, amidst the wrecks of
the Order thou cursest as Oppression, seek the fulfilment of thy
destiny, and await thy cure.'
"At that instant a troop of masks, clamorous, intoxicated,
reeling, and rushing, as they reeled, poured into the room, and
separated me from the mystic. I broke through them, and sought
him everywhere, but in vain. All my researches the next day were
equally fruitless. Weeks were consumed in the same pursuit,--not
a trace of Mejnour could be discovered. Wearied with false
pleasures, roused by reproaches I had deserved, recoiling from
Mejnour's prophecy of the scene in which I was to seek
deliverance, it occurred to me, at last, that in the sober air of
my native country, and amidst its orderly and vigorous pursuits,
I might work out my own emancipation from the spectre. I left
all whom I had before courted and clung to,--I came hither.
Amidst mercenary schemes and selfish speculations, I found the
same relief as in debauch and excess. The Phantom was invisible;
but these pursuits soon became to me distasteful as the rest.
Ever and ever I felt that I was born for something nobler than
the greed of gain,--that life may be made equally worthless, and
the soul equally degraded by the icy lust of avarice, as by the
noisier passions. A higher ambition never ceased to torment me.
But, but," continued Glyndon, with a whitening lip and a visible
shudder, "at every attempt to rise into loftier existence, came
that hideous form. It gloomed beside me at the easel. Before
the volumes of poet and sage it stood with its burning eyes in
the stillness of night, and I thought I heard its horrible
whispers uttering temptations never to be divulged." He paused,
and the drops stood upon his brow.
"But I," said Adela, mastering her fears and throwing her arms
around him,--"but I henceforth will have no life but in thine.
And in this love so pure, so holy, thy terror shall fade away."
"No, no!" exclaimed Glyndon, starting from her. "The worst
revelation is to come. Since thou hast been here, since I have
sternly and resolutely refrained from every haunt, every scene in
which this preternatural enemy troubled me not, I--I--have-- Oh,
Heaven! Mercy--mercy! There it stands,--there, by thy side,--
there, there!" And he fell to the ground insensible.
Doch wunderbar ergriff mich's diese Nacht;
Die Glieder schienen schon in Todes Macht.
(This night it fearfully seized on me; my limbs appeared already
in the power of death.)
A fever, attended with delirium, for several days deprived
Glyndon of consciousness; and when, by Adela's care more than the
skill of the physicians, he was restored to life and reason, he
was unutterably shocked by the change in his sister's appearance;
at first, he fondly imagined that her health, affected by her
vigils, would recover with his own. But he soon saw, with an
anguish which partook of remorse, that the malady was deep-
seated,--deep, deep, beyond the reach of Aesculapius and his
drugs. Her imagination, little less lively than his own, was
awfully impressed by the strange confessions she had heard,--by
the ravings of his delirium. Again and again had he shrieked
forth, "It is there,--there, by thy side, my sister!" He had
transferred to her fancy the spectre, and the horror that cursed
himself. He perceived this, not by her words, but her silence;
by the eyes that strained into space; by the shiver that came
over her frame; by the start of terror; by the look that did not
dare to turn behind. Bitterly he repented his confession;
bitterly he felt that between his sufferings and human sympathy
there could be no gentle and holy commune; vainly he sought to
retract,--to undo what he had done, to declare all was but the
chimera of an overheated brain!
And brave and generous was this denial of himself; for, often and
often, as he thus spoke, he saw the Thing of Dread gliding to her
side, and glaring at him as he disowned its being. But what
chilled him, if possible, yet more than her wasting form and
trembling nerves, was the change in her love for him; a natural
terror had replaced it. She turned paler if he approached,--she
shuddered if he took her hand. Divided from the rest of earth,
the gulf of the foul remembrance yawned now between his sister
and himself. He could endure no more the presence of the one
whose life HIS life had embittered. He made some excuses for
departure, and writhed to see that they were greeted eagerly.
The first gleam of joy he had detected since that fatal night, on
Adela's face, he beheld when he murmured "Farewell." He
travelled for some weeks through the wildest parts of Scotland;
scenery which MAKES the artist, was loveless to his haggard eyes.
A letter recalled him to London on the wings of new agony and
fear; he arrived to find his sister in a condition both of mind
and health which exceeded his worst apprehensions.
Her vacant look, her lifeless posture, appalled him; it was as
one who gazed on the Medusa's head, and felt, without a struggle,
the human being gradually harden to the statue. It was not
frenzy, it was not idiocy,--it was an abstraction, an apathy, a
sleep in waking. Only as the night advanced towards the eleventh
hour--the hour in which Glyndon had concluded his tale--she grew
visibly uneasy, anxious, and perturbed. Then her lips muttered;
her hands writhed; she looked round with a look of unspeakable
appeal for succour, for protection, and suddenly, as the clock
struck, fell with a shriek to the ground, cold and lifeless.
With difficulty, and not until after the most earnest prayers,
did she answer the agonised questions of Glyndon; at last she
owned that at that hour, and that hour alone, wherever she was
placed, however occupied, she distinctly beheld the apparition of
an old hag, who, after thrice knocking at the door, entered the
room, and hobbling up to her with a countenance distorted by
hideous rage and menace, laid its icy fingers on her forehead:
from that moment she declared that sense forsook her; and when
she woke again, it was only to wait, in suspense that froze up
her blood, the repetition of the ghastly visitation.
The physician who had been summoned before Glyndon's return, and
whose letter had recalled him to London, was a commonplace
practitioner, ignorant of the case, and honestly anxious that one
more experienced should be employed. Clarence called in one of
the most eminent of the faculty, and to him he recited the
optical delusion of his sister. The physician listened
attentively, and seemed sanguine in his hopes of cure. He came
to the house two hours before the one so dreaded by the patient.
He had quietly arranged that the clocks should be put forward
half an hour, unknown to Adela, and even to her brother. He was
a man of the most extraordinary powers of conversation, of
surpassing wit, of all the faculties that interest and amuse. He
first administered to the patient a harmless potion, which he
pledged himself would dispel the delusion. His confident tone
woke her own hopes,-- he continued to excite her attention, to
rouse her lethargy; he jested, he laughed away the time. The
hour struck. "Joy, my brother!" she exclaimed, throwing herself
in his arms; "the time is past!" And then, like one released
from a spell, she suddenly assumed more than her ancient
cheerfulness. "Ah, Clarence!" she whispered, "forgive me for my
former desertion,--forgive me that I feared YOU. I shall live!--
I shall live! in my turn to banish the spectre that haunts my
brother!" And Clarence smiled and wiped the tears from his
burning eyes. The physician renewed his stories, his jests. In
the midst of a stream of rich humour that seemed to carry away
both brother and sister, Glyndon suddenly saw over Adela's face
the same fearful change, the same anxious look, the same
restless, straining eye, he had beheld the night before. He
rose,--he approached her. Adela started up. "look--look--look!"
she exclaimed. "She comes! Save me,--save me!" and she fell at
his feet in strong convulsions as the clock, falsely and in vain
put forward, struck the half-hour.
The physician lifted her in his arms. "My worst fears are
confirmed," he said gravely; "the disease is epilepsy." (The
most celebrated practitioner in Dublin related to the editor a
story of optical delusion precisely similar in its circumstances
and its physical cause to the one here narrated.)
The next night, at the same hour, Adela Glyndon died.
La loi, dont le regne vous epouvante, a son glaive leve sur vous:
elle vous frappera tous: le genre humain a besoin de cet
(The law, whose reign terrifies you, has its sword raised against
you; it will strike you all: humanity has need of this example.)
"Oh, joy, joy!--thou art come again! This is thy hand--these thy
lips. Say that thou didst not desert me from the love of
another; say it again,--say it ever!--and I will pardon thee all
"So thou hast mourned for me?"
"Mourned!--and thou wert cruel enough to leave me gold; there it
"Poor child of Nature! how, then, in this strange town of
Marseilles, hast thou found bread and shelter?"
"Honestly, soul of my soul! honestly, but yet by the face thou
didst once think so fair; thinkest thou THAT now?"
"Yes, Fillide, more fair than ever. But what meanest thou?"
"There is a painter here--a great man, one of their great men at
Paris, I know not what they call them; but he rules over all
here,--life and death; and he has paid me largely but to sit for
my portrait. It is for a picture to be given to the Nation, for
he paints only for glory. Think of thy Fillide's renown!" And
the girl's wild eyes sparkled; her vanity was roused. "And he
would have married me if I would!--divorced his wife to marry me!
But I waited for thee, ungrateful!"
A knock at the door was heard,--a man entered.
"Ah, Glyndon!--hum!--welcome! What! thou art twice my rival!
But Jean Nicot bears no malice. Virtue is my dream,--my country,
my mistress. Serve my country, citizen; and I forgive thee the
preference of beauty. Ca ira! ca ira!"
But as the painter spoke, it hymned, it rolled through the
streets,--the fiery song of the Marseillaise! There was a crowd,
a multitude, a people up, abroad, with colours and arms,
enthusiasm and song,--with song, with enthusiasm, with colours
and arms! And who could guess that that martial movement was
one, not of war, but massacre,--Frenchmen against Frenchmen? For
there are two parties in Marseilles,--and ample work for Jourdan
Coupe-tete! But this, the Englishman, just arrived, a stranger
to all factions, did not as yet comprehend. He comprehended
nothing but the song, the enthusiasm, the arms, and the colours
that lifted to the sun the glorious lie, "Le peuple Francais,
debout contre les tyrans!" (Up, Frenchmen, against tyrants!)
The dark brow of the wretched wanderer grew animated; he gazed
from the window on the throng that marched below, beneath their
waving Oriflamme. They shouted as they beheld the patriot Nicot,
the friend of Liberty and relentless Hebert, by the stranger's
side, at the casement.
"Ay, shout again!" cried the painter,--"shout for the brave
Englishman who abjures his Pitts and his Coburgs to be a citizen
of Liberty and France!"
A thousand voices rent the air, and the hymn of the Marseillaise
rose in majesty again.
"Well, and if it be among these high hopes and this brave people
that the phantom is to vanish, and the cure to come!" muttered
Glyndon; and he thought he felt again the elixir sparkling
through his veins.
"Thou shalt be one of the Convention with Paine and Clootz,--I
will manage it all for thee!" cried Nicot, slapping him on the
shoulder: "and Paris--"
"Ah, if I could but see Paris!" cried Fillide, in her joyous
voice. Joyous! the whole time, the town, the air--save where,
unheard, rose the cry of agony and the yell of murder--were joy!
Sleep unhaunting in thy grave, cold Adela. Joy, joy! In the
Jubilee of Humanity all private griefs should cease! Behold,
wild mariner, the vast whirlpool draws thee to its stormy bosom!
There the individual is not. All things are of the whole! Open
thy gates, fair Paris, for the stranger-citizen! Receive in your
ranks, O meek Republicans, the new champion of liberty, of
reason, of mankind! "Mejnour is right; it was in virtue, in
valour, in glorious struggle for the human race, that the spectre
was to shrink to her kindred darkness."
And Nicot's shrill voice praised him; and lean Robespierre--
"Flambeau, colonne, pierre angulaire de l'edifice de la
Republique!" ("The light, column, and keystone of the
Republic."--"Lettre du Citoyen P--; Papiers inedits trouves chez
Robespierre," tom 11, page 127.)--smiled ominously on him from
his bloodshot eyes; and Fillide clasped him with passionate arms
to her tender breast. And at his up-rising and down-sitting, at
board and in bed, though he saw it not, the Nameless One guided
him with the demon eyes to the sea whose waves were gore.
SUPERSTITION DESERTING FAITH.
Why do I yield to that suggestion, Whose horrid image doth unfix
Therefore the Genii were painted with a platter full of garlands
and flowers in one hand, and a whip in the other.--Alexander
Ross, "Mystag. Poet."
According to the order of the events related in this narrative,
the departure of Zanoni and Viola from the Greek isle, in which
two happy years appear to have been passed, must have been
somewhat later in date than the arrival of Glyndon at Marseilles.
It must have been in the course of the year 1791 when Viola fled
from Naples with her mysterious lover, and when Glyndon sought
Mejnour in the fatal castle. It is now towards the close of
1793, when our story again returns to Zanoni. The stars of
winter shone down on the lagunes of Venice. The hum of the
Rialto was hushed,--the last loiterers had deserted the Place of
St. Mark's, and only at distant intervals might be heard the oars
of the rapid gondolas, bearing reveller or lover to his home.
But lights still flitted to and fro across the windows of one of
the Palladian palaces, whose shadow slept in the great canal; and
within the palace watched the twin Eumenides that never sleep for
Man,--Fear and Pain.
"I will make thee the richest man in all Venice, if thou savest
"Signor," said the leech; "your gold cannot control death, and
the will of Heaven, signor, unless within the next hour there is
some blessed change, prepare your courage."
Ho--ho, Zanoni! man of mystery and might, who hast walked amidst
the passions of the world, with no changes on thy brow, art thou
tossed at last upon the billows of tempestuous fear? Does thy
spirit reel to and fro?--knowest thou at last the strength and
the majesty of Death?
He fled, trembling, from the pale-faced man of art,--fled through
stately hall and long-drawn corridor, and gained a remote chamber
in the palace, which other step than his was not permitted to
profane. Out with thy herbs and vessels. Break from the
enchanted elements, O silvery-azure flame! Why comes he not,--
the Son of the Starbeam! Why is Adon-Ai deaf to thy solemn call?
It comes not,--the luminous and delightsome Presence! Cabalist!
are thy charms in vain? Has thy throne vanished from the realms
of space? Thou standest pale and trembling. Pale trembler! not
thus didst thou look when the things of glory gathered at thy
spell. Never to the pale trembler bow the things of glory: the
soul, and not the herbs, nor the silvery-azure flame, nor the
spells of the Cabala, commands the children of the air; and THY
soul, by Love and Death, is made sceptreless and discrowned!
At length the flame quivers,--the air grows cold as the wind in
charnels. A thing not of earth is present,--a mistlike, formless
thing. It cowers in the distance,--a silent Horror! it rises; it
creeps; it nears thee--dark in its mantle of dusky haze; and
under its veil it looks on thee with its livid, malignant eyes,--
the thing of malignant eyes!
"Ha, young Chaldean! young in thy countless ages,--young as when,
cold to pleasure and to beauty, thou stoodest on the old Fire-
tower, and heardest the starry silence whisper to thee the last
mystery that baffles Death,--fearest thou Death at length? Is
thy knowledge but a circle that brings thee back whence thy
wanderings began! Generations on generations have withered since
we two met! Lo! thou beholdest me now!"
"But I behold thee without fear! Though beneath thine eyes
thousands have perished; though, where they burn, spring up the
foul poisons of the human heart, and to those whom thou canst
subject to thy will, thy presence glares in the dreams of the
raving maniac, or blackens the dungeon of despairing crime, thou
art not my vanquisher, but my slave!"
"And as a slave will I serve thee! Command thy slave, O
beautiful Chaldean! Hark, the wail of women!--hark, the sharp
shriek of thy beloved one! Death is in thy palace! Adon-Ai
comes not to thy call. Only where no cloud of the passion and
the flesh veils the eye of the Serene Intelligence can the Sons
of the Starbeam glide to man. But _I_ can aid thee!--hark!" And
Zanoni heard distinctly in his heart, even at that distance from
the chamber, the voice of Viola calling in delirium on her
"Oh, Viola, I can save thee not!" exclaimed the seer,
passionately; "my love for thee has made me powerless!"
"Not powerless; I can gift thee with the art to save her,--I can
place healing in thy hand!"
"For both?--child and mother,--for both?"
A convulsion shook the limbs of the seer,--a mighty struggle
shook him as a child: the Humanity and the Hour conquered the
"I yield! Mother and child--save both!"
In the dark chamber lay Viola, in the sharpest agonies of
travail; life seemed rending itself away in the groans and cries
that spoke of pain in the midst of frenzy; and still, in groan
and cry, she called on Zanoni, her beloved. The physician looked
to the clock; on it beat: the Heart of Time,--regularly and
slowly,--Heart that never sympathised with Life, and never
flagged for Death! "The cries are fainter," said the leech; "in
ten minutes more all will be past."
Fool! the minutes laugh at thee; Nature, even now, like a blue
sky through a shattered temple, is smiling through the tortured
frame. The breathing grows more calm and hushed; the voice of
delirium is dumb,--a sweet dream has come to Viola. Is it a
dream, or is it the soul that sees? She thinks suddenly that she
is with Zanoni, that her burning head is pillowed on his bosom;
she thinks, as he gazes on her, that his eyes dispel the tortures
that prey upon her,--the touch of his hand cools the fever on her
brow; she hears his voice in murmurs,--it is a music from which
the fiends fly. Where is the mountain that seemed to press upon
her temples? Like a vapour, it rolls away. In the frosts of the
winter night, she sees the sun laughing in luxurious heaven,--she
hears the whisper of green leaves; the beautiful world, valley
and stream and woodland, lie before, and with a common voice
speak to her, "We are not yet past for thee!" Fool of drugs and
formula, look to thy dial-plate!--the hand has moved on; the
minutes are with Eternity; the soul thy sentence would have
dismissed, still dwells on the shores of Time. She sleeps: the
fever abates; the convulsions are gone; the living rose blooms
upon her cheek; the crisis is past! Husband, thy wife lives;
lover, thy universe is no solitude! Heart of Time, beat on! A
while, a little while,--joy! joy! joy!--father, embrace thy
Praetulit infaustas sanguinolenta faces.
(Erinnys, doleful and bloody, extends the unblessed torches.)
And they placed the child in the father's arms! As silently he
bent over it, tears--tears, how human!--fell from his eyes like
rain! And the little one smiled through the tears that bathed
its cheeks! Ah, with what happy tears we welcome the stranger
into our sorrowing world! With what agonising tears we dismiss
the stranger back to the angels! Unselfish joy; but how selfish
is the sorrow!
And now through the silent chamber a faint sweet voice is heard,
--the young mother's voice.
"I am here: I am by thy side!" murmured Zanoni.
The mother smiled, and clasped his hand, and asked no more; she
Viola recovered with a rapidity that startled the physician; and
the young stranger thrived as if it already loved the world to
which it had descended. From that hour Zanoni seemed to live in
the infant's life, and in that life the souls of mother and
father met as in a new bond. Nothing more beautiful than this
infant had eye ever dwelt upon. It was strange to the nurses
that it came not wailing to the light, but smiled to the light as
a thing familiar to it before. It never uttered one cry of
childish pain. In its very repose it seemed to be listening to
some happy voice within its heart: it seemed itself so happy. In
its eyes you would have thought intellect already kindled, though
it had not yet found a language. Already it seemed to recognise
its parents; already it stretched forth its arms when Zanoni bent
over the bed, in which it breathed and bloomed,--the budding
flower! And from that bed he was rarely absent: gazing upon it
with his serene, delighted eyes, his soul seemed to feed its own.
At night and in utter darkness he was still there; and Viola
often heard him murmuring over it as she lay in a half-sleep.
But the murmur was in a language strange to her; and sometimes
when she heard she feared, and vague, undefined superstitions
came back to her,--the superstitions of earlier youth. A mother
fears everything, even the gods, for her new-born. The mortals
shrieked aloud when of old they saw the great Demeter seeking to
make their child immortal.
But Zanoni, wrapped in the sublime designs that animated the
human love to which he was now awakened, forgot all, even all he
had forfeited or incurred, in the love that blinded him.
But the dark, formless thing, though he nor invoked nor saw it,
crept, often, round and round him, and often sat by the infant's
couch, with its hateful eyes.
Fuscis tellurem amplectitur alis.
(Embraces the Earth with gloomy wings.)
Letter from Zanoni to Mejnour.
Mejnour, Humanity, with all its sorrows and its joys, is mine
once more. Day by day, I am forging my own fetters. I live in
other lives than my own, and in them I have lost more than half
my empire. Not lifting them aloft, they drag me by the strong
bands of the affections to their own earth. Exiled from the
beings only visible to the most abstract sense, the grim Enemy
that guards the Threshold has entangled me in its web. Canst
thou credit me, when I tell thee that I have accepted its gifts,
and endure the forfeit? Ages must pass ere the brighter beings
can again obey the spirit that has bowed to the ghastly one!
In this hope, then, Mejnour, I triumph still; I yet have supreme
power over this young life. Insensibly and inaudibly my soul
speaks to its own, and prepares it even now. Thou knowest that
for the pure and unsullied infant spirit, the ordeal has no
terror and no peril. Thus unceasingly I nourish it with no
unholy light; and ere it yet be conscious of the gift, it will
gain the privileges it has been mine to attain: the child, by
slow and scarce-seen degrees, will communicate its own attributes
to the mother; and content to see Youth forever radiant on the
brows of the two that now suffice to fill up my whole infinity of
thought, shall I regret the airier kingdom that vanishes hourly
from my grasp? But thou, whose vision is still clear and serene,
look into the far deeps shut from my gaze, and counsel me, or
forewarn! I know that the gifts of the Being whose race is so
hostile to our own are, to the ccommon seeker, fatal and
perfidious as itself. And hence, when, at the outskirts of
knowledge, which in earlier ages men called Magic, they
encountered the things of the hostile tribes, they believed the
apparitions to be fiends, and, by fancied compacts, imagined they
had signed away their souls; as if man could give for an eternity
that over which he has control but while he lives! Dark, and
shrouded forever from human sight, dwell the demon rebels, in
their impenetrable realm; in them is no breath of the Divine One.
In every human creature the Divine One breathes; and He alone can
judge His own hereafter, and allot its new career and home.
Could man sell himself to the fiend, man could prejudge himself,
and arrogate the disposal of eternity! But these creatures,
modifications as they are of matter, and some with more than the
malignanty of man, may well seem, to fear and unreasoning
superstition, the representatives of fiends. And from the
darkest and mightiest of them I have accepted a boon,--the secret
that startled Death from those so dear to me. Can I not trust
that enough of power yet remains to me to baffle or to daunt the
Phantom, if it seek to pervert the gift? Answer me, Mejnour, for
in the darkness that veils me, I see only the pure eyes of the
new-born; I hear only the low beating of my heart. Answer me,
thou whose wisdom is without love!
Mejnour to Zanoni.
Fallen One!--I see before thee Evil and Death and Woe! Thou to
have relinquished Adon-Ai for the nameless Terror,--the heavenly
stars for those fearful eyes! Thou, at the last to be the victim
of the Larva of the dreary Threshold, that, in thy first
novitiate, fled, withered and shrivelled, from thy kingly brow!
When, at the primary grades of initiation, the pupil I took from
thee on the shores of the changed Parthenope, fell senseless and
cowering before that Phantom-Darkness, I knew that his spirit was
not formed to front the worlds beyond; for FEAR is the attraction
of man to earthiest earth, and while he fears, he cannot soar.
But THOU, seest thou not that to love is but to fear; seest thou
not that the power of which thou boastest over the malignant one
is already gone? It awes, it masters thee; it will mock thee and
betray. Lose not a moment; come to me. If there can yet be
sufficient sympathy between us, through MY eyes shalt thou see,
and perhaps guard against the perils that, shapeless yet, and
looming through the shadow, marshal themselves around thee and
those whom thy very love has doomed. Come from all the ties of
thy fond humanity; they will but obscure thy vision! Come forth
from thy fears and hopes, thy desires and passions. Come, as
alone Mind can be the monarch and the seer, shining through the
home it tenants,--a pure, impressionless, sublime intelligence!
Plus que vous ne pensez ce moment est terrible.
La Harpe, "Le Comte de Warwick," Act 3, sc. 5.
(The moment is more terrible than you think.)
For the first time since their union, Zanoni and Viola were
separated,--Zanoni went to Rome on important business. "It was,"
he said, "but for a few days;" and he went so suddenly that there
was little time either for surprise or sorrow. But first parting
is always more melancholy than it need be: it seems an
interruption to the existence which Love shares with Love; it
makes the heart feel what a void life will be when the last
parting shall succeed, as succeed it must, the first. But Viola
had a new companion; she was enjoying that most delicious novelty
which ever renews the youth and dazzles the eyes of woman. As
the mistress--the wife--she leans on another; from another are
reflected her happiness, her being,--as an orb that takes light
from its sun. But now, in turn, as the mother, she is raised
from dependence into power; it is another that leans on her,--a
star has sprung into space, to which she herself has become the
A few days,--but they will be sweet through the sorrow! A few
days,--every hour of which seems an era to the infant, over whom
bend watchful the eyes and the heart. From its waking to its
sleep, from its sleep to its waking, is a revolution in Time.
Every gesture to be noted,--every smile to seem a new progress
into the world it has come to bless! Zanoni has gone,--the last
dash of the oar is lost, the last speck of the gondola has
vanished from the ocean-streets of Venice! Her infant is
sleeping in the cradle at the mother's feet; and she thinks
through her tears what tales of the fairy-land, that spreads far
and wide, with a thousand wonders, in that narrow bed, she shall
have to tell the father! Smile on, weep on, young mother!
Already the fairest leaf in the wild volume is closed for thee,
and the invisible finger turns the page!
By the bridge of the Rialto stood two Venetians--ardent
Republicans and Democrats--looking to the Revolution of France as
the earthquake which must shatter their own expiring and vicious
constitution, and give equality of ranks and rights to Venice.
"Yes, Cottalto," said one; "my correspondent of Paris has
promised to elude all obstacles, and baffle all danger. He will
arrange with us the hour of revolt, when the legions of France
shall be within hearing of our guns. One day in this week, at
this hour, he is to meet me here. This is but the fourth day."
He had scarce said these words before a man, wrapped in his
roquelaire, emerging from one of the narrow streets to the left,
halted opposite the pair, and eying them for a few moments with
an earnest scrutiny, whispered, "Salut!"
"Et fraternite," answered the speaker.
"You, then, are the brave Dandolo with whom the Comite deputed me
to correspond? And this citizen--"
"Is Cottalto, whom my letters have so often mentioned." (I know
not if the author of the original MSS. designs, under these
names, to introduce the real Cottalto and the true Dandolo, who,
in 1797, distinguished themselves by their sympathy with the
French, and their democratic ardor.--Ed.)
"Health and brotherhood to him! I have much to impart to you
both. I will meet you at night, Dandolo. But in the streets we
may be observed."
"And I dare not appoint my own house; tyranny makes spies of our
very walls. But the place herein designated is secure;" and he
slipped an address into the hand of his correspondent.
"To-night, then, at nine! Meanwhile I have other business." The
man paused, his colour changed, and it was with an eager and
passionate voice that he resumed,--
"Your last letter mentioned this wealthy and mysterious visitor,
--this Zanoni. He is still at Venice?"
"I heard that he had left this morning; but his wife is still
"His wife!--that is well!"
"What know you of him? Think you that he would join us? His
wealth would be--"
"His house, his address,--quick!" interrupted the man.
"The Palazzo di --, on the Grand Canal."
"I thank you,--at nine we meet."
The man hurried on through the street from which he had emerged;
and, passing by the house in which he had taken up his lodging
(he had arrived at Venice the night before), a woman who stood by
the door caught his arm.
"Monsieur," she said in French, "I have been watching for your
return. Do you understand me? I will brave all, risk all, to go
back with you to France,--to stand, through life or in death, by
my husband's side!"
"Citoyenne, I promised your husband that, if such your choice, I
would hazard my own safety to aid it. But think again! Your
husband is one of the faction which Robespierre's eyes have
already marked; he cannot fly. All France is become a prison to
the 'suspect.' You do not endanger yourself by return. Frankly,
citoyenne, the fate you would share may be the guillotine. I
speak (as you know by his letter) as your husband bade me."
"Monsieur, I will return with you," said the woman, with a smile
upon her pale face.
"And yet you deserted your husband in the fair sunshine of the
Revolution, to return to him amidst its storms and thunder," said
the man, in a tone half of wonder, half rebuke.
"Because my father's days were doomed; because he had no safety
but in flight to a foreign land; because he was old and
penniless, and had none but me to work for him; because my
husband was not then in danger, and my father was! HE is dead--
dead! My husband is in danger now. The daughter's duties are no
more,--the wife's return!"
"Be it so, citoyenne; on the third night I depart. Before then
you may retract your choice."
A dark smile passed over the man's face.
"O guillotine!" he said, "how many virtues hast thou brought to
light! Well may they call thee 'A Holy Mother!' O gory
He passed on muttering to himself, hailed a gondola, and was soon
amidst the crowded waters of the Grand Canal.
Ce que j'ignore
Est plus triste peut-etre et plus affreux encore.
La Harpe, "Le Comte de Warwick," Act 5, sc. 1.
(That which I know not is, perhaps, more sad and fearful still.)
The casement stood open, and Viola was seated by it. Beneath
sparkled the broad waters in the cold but cloudless sunlight; and
to that fair form, that half-averted face, turned the eyes of
many a gallant cavalier, as their gondolas glided by.
But at last, in the centre of the canal, one of these dark
vessels halted motionless, as a man fixed his gaze from its
lattice upon that stately palace. He gave the word to the
rowers,--the vessel approached the marge. The stranger quitted
the gondola; he passed up the broad stairs; he entered the
palace. Weep on, smile no more, young mother!--the last page is
An attendant entered the room, and gave to Viola a card, with
these words in English, "Viola, I must see you! Clarence
Oh, yes, how gladly Viola would see him; how gladly speak to him
of her happiness, of Zanoni!--how gladly show to him her child!
Poor Clarence! she had forgotten him till now, as she had all the
fever of her earlier life,--its dreams, its vanities, its poor
excitement, the lamps of the gaudy theatre, the applause of the
He entered. She started to behold him, so changed were his
gloomy brow, his resolute, careworn features, from the graceful
form and careless countenance of the artist-lover. His dress,
though not mean, was rude, neglected, and disordered. A wild,
desperate, half-savage air had supplanted that ingenuous mien,
diffident in its grace, earnest in its diffidence, which had once
characterised the young worshipper of Art, the dreaming aspirant
after some starrier lore.
"Is it you?" she said at last. "Poor Clarence, how changed!"
"Changed!" he said abruptly, as he placed himself by her side.
"And whom am I to thank, but the fiends--the sorcerers--who have
seized upon thy existence, as upon mine? Viola, hear me. A few
weeks since the news reached me that you were in Venice. Under
other pretences, and through innumerable dangers, I have come
hither, risking liberty, perhaps life, if my name and career are
known in Venice, to warn and save you. Changed, you call me!--
changed without; but what is that to the ravages within? Be
warned, be warned in time!"
The voice of Glyndon, sounding hollow and sepulchral, alarmed
Viola even more than his words. Pale, haggard, emaciated, he
seemed almost as one risen from the dead, to appall and awe her.
"What," she said, at last, in a faltering voice,--"what wild
words do you utter! Can you--"
"Listen!" interrupted Glyndon, laying his hand upon her arm, and
its touch was as cold as death,--"listen! You have heard of the
old stories of men who have leagued themselves with devils for
the attainment of preternatural powers. Those stories are not
fables. Such men live. Their delight is to increase the
unhallowed circle of wretches like themselves. If their
proselytes fail in the ordeal, the demon seizes them, even in
this life, as it hath seized me!--if they succeed, woe, yea, a
more lasting woe! There is another life, where no spells can
charm the evil one, or allay the torture. I have come from a
scene where blood flows in rivers,--where Death stands by the
side of the bravest and the highest, and the one monarch is the
Guillotine; but all the mortal perils with which men can be
beset, are nothing to the dreariness of the chamber where the
Horror that passes death moves and stirs!"
It was then that Glyndon, with a cold and distinct precision,
detailed, as he had done to Adela, the initiation through which
he had gone. He described, in words that froze the blood of his
listener, the appearance of that formless phantom, with the eyes
that seared the brain and congealed the marrow of those who
beheld. Once seen, it never was to be exorcised. It came at its
own will, prompting black thoughts,--whispering strange
temptations. Only in scenes of turbulent excitement was it
absent! Solitude, serenity, the struggling desires after peace
and virtue,--THESE were the elements it loved to haunt!
Bewildered, terror-stricken, the wild account confirmed by the
dim impressions that never, in the depth and confidence of
affection, had been closely examined, but rather banished as soon
as felt,--that the life and attributes of Zanoni were not like
those of mortals,--impressions which her own love had made her
hitherto censure as suspicions that wronged, and which, thus
mitigated, had perhaps only served to rivet the fascinated chains
in which he bound her heart and senses, but which now, as
Glyndon's awful narrative filled her with contagious dread, half
unbound the very spells they had woven before,--Viola started up
in fear, not for HERSELF, and clasped her child in her arms!
"Unhappiest one!" cried Glyndon, shuddering, "hast thou indeed
given birth to a victim thou canst not save? Refuse it
sustenance,--let it look to thee in vain for food! In the grave,
at least, there are repose and peace!"
Then there came back to Viola's mind the remembrance of Zanoni's
night-long watches by that cradle, and the fear which even then
had crept over her as she heard his murmured half-chanted words.
And as the child looked at her with its clear, steadfast eye, in
the strange intelligence of that look there was something that
only confirmed her awe. So there both Mother and Forewarner
stood in silence,--the sun smiling upon them through the
casement, and dark by the cradle, though they saw it not, sat the
motionless, veiled Thing!
But by degrees better and juster and more grateful memories of
the past returned to the young mother. The features of the
infant, as she gazed, took the aspect of the absent father. A
voice seemed to break from those rosy lips, and say, mournfully,
"I speak to thee in thy child. In return for all my love for
thee and thine, dost thou distrust me, at the first sentence of a
maniac who accuses?"
Her breast heaved, her stature rose, her eyes shone with a serene
and holy light.
"Go, poor victim of thine own delusions," she said to Glyndon; "I
would not believe mine own senses, if they accused ITS father!
And what knowest thou of Zanoni? What relation have Mejnour and
the grisly spectres he invoked, with the radiant image with which
thou wouldst connect them?"
"Thou wilt learn too soon," replied Glyndon, gloomily. "And the
very phantom that haunts me, whispers, with its bloodless lips,
that its horrors await both thine and thee! I take not thy
decision yet; before I leave Venice we shall meet again."
He said, and departed.
Quel est l'egarement ou ton ame se livre?
La Harpe, "Le Comte de Warwick," Act 4, sc. 4.
(To what delusion does thy soul abandon itself?)
Alas, Zanoni! the aspirer, the dark, bright one!--didst thou
think that the bond between the survivor of ages and the daughter
of a day could endure? Didst thou not foresee that, until the
ordeal was past, there could be no equality between thy wisdom
and her love? Art thou absent now seeking amidst thy solemn
secrets the solemn safeguards for child and mother, and
forgettest thou that the phantom that served thee hath power over
its own gifts,--over the lives it taught thee to rescue from the
grave? Dost thou not know that Fear and Distrust, once sown in
the heart of Love, spring up from the seed into a forest that
excludes the stars? Dark, bright one! the hateful eyes glare
beside the mother and the child!
All that day Viola was distracted by a thousand thoughts and
terrors, which fled as she examined them to settle back the
darklier. She remembered that, as she had once said to Glyndon,
her very childhood had been haunted with strange forebodings,
that she was ordained for some preternatural doom. She
remembered that, as she had told him this, sitting by the seas
that slumbered in the arms of the Bay of Naples, he, too, had
acknowledged the same forebodings, and a mysterious sympathy had
appeared to unite their fates. She remembered, above all, that,
comparing their entangled thoughts, both had then said, that with
the first sight of Zanoni the foreboding, the instinct, had
spoken to their hearts more audibly than before, whispering that
"with HIM was connected the secret of the unconjectured life."
And now, when Glyndon and Viola met again, the haunting fears of
childhood, thus referred to, woke from their enchanted sleep.
With Glyndon's terror she felt a sympathy, against which her
reason and her love struggled in vain. And still, when she
turned her looks upon her child, it watched her with that steady,
earnest eye, and its lips moved as if it sought to speak to her,
--but no sound came. The infant refused to sleep. Whenever she
gazed upon its face, still those wakeful, watchful eyes!--and in
their earnestness, there spoke something of pain, of upbraiding,
of accusation. They chilled her as she looked. Unable to
endure, of herself, this sudden and complete revulsion of all the
feelings which had hitherto made up her life, she formed the
resolution natural to her land and creed; she sent for the priest
who had habitually attended her at Venice, and to him she
confessed, with passionate sobs and intense terror, the doubts
that had broken upon her. The good father, a worthy and pious
man, but with little education and less sense, one who held (as
many of the lower Italians do to this day) even a poet to be a
sort of sorcerer, seemed to shut the gates of hope upon her
heart. His remonstrances were urgent, for his horror was
unfeigned. He joined with Glyndon in imploring her to fly, if
she felt the smallest doubt that her husband's pursuits were of
the nature which the Roman Church had benevolently burned so many
scholars for adopting. And even the little that Viola could
communicate seemed, to the ignorant ascetic, irrefragable proof
of sorcery and witchcraft; he had, indeed, previously heard some
of the strange rumours which followed the path of Zanoni, and was
therefore prepared to believe the worst; the worthy Bartolomeo
would have made no bones of sending Watt to the stake, had he
heard him speak of the steam-engine. But Viola, as untutored as
himself, was terrified by his rough and vehement eloquence,--
terrified, for by that penetration which Catholic priests,
however dull, generally acquire, in their vast experience of the
human heart hourly exposed to their probe, Bartolomeo spoke less
of danger to herself than to her child. "Sorcerers," said he,
"have ever sought the most to decoy and seduce the souls of the
young,--nay, the infant;" and therewith he entered into a long
catalogue of legendary fables, which he quoted as historical
facts. All at which an English woman would have smiled, appalled
the tender but superstitious Neapolitan; and when the priest left
her, with solemn rebukes and grave accusations of a dereliction
of her duties to her child, if she hesitated to fly with it from
an abode polluted by the darker powers and unhallowed arts,
Viola, still clinging to the image of Zanoni, sank into a passive
lethargy which held her very reason in suspense.
The hours passed: night came on; the house was hushed; and
Viola, slowly awakened from the numbness and torpor which had
usurped her faculties, tossed to and fro on her couch, restless
and perturbed. The stillness became intolerable; yet more
intolerable the sound that alone broke it, the voice of the
clock, knelling moment after moment to its grave. The moments,
at last, seemed themselves to find voice,--to gain shape. She
thought she beheld them springing, wan and fairy-like, from the
womb of darkness; and ere they fell again, extinguished, into
that womb, their grave, their low small voices murmured, "Woman,
we report to eternity all that is done in time! What shall we
report of thee, O guardian of a new-born soul?" She became
sensible that her fancies had brought a sort of partial delirium,
that she was in a state between sleep and waking, when suddenly
one thought became more predominant than the rest. The chamber
which, in that and every house they had inhabited, even that in
the Greek isles, Zanoni had set apart to a solitude on which none
might intrude, the threshold of which even Viola's step was
forbid to cross, and never, hitherto, in that sweet repose of
confidence which belongs to contented love, had she even felt the
curious desire to disobey,--now, that chamber drew her towards
it. Perhaps THERE might be found a somewhat to solve the riddle,
to dispel or confirm the doubt: that thought grew and deepened
in its intenseness; it fastened on her as with a palpable and
irresistible grasp; it seemed to raise her limbs without her
And now, through the chamber, along the galleries thou glidest, O
lovely shape! sleep-walking, yet awake. The moon shines on thee
as thou glidest by, casement after casement, white-robed and
wandering spirit!--thine arms crossed upon thy bosom, thine eyes
fixed and open, with a calm unfearing awe. Mother, it is thy
child that leads thee on! The fairy moments go before thee; thou
hearest still the clock-knell tolling them to their graves
behind. On, gliding on, thou hast gained the door; no lock bars
thee, no magic spell drives thee back. Daughter of the dust,
thou standest alone with night in the chamber where, pale and
numberless, the hosts of space have gathered round the seer!
Schweres Traumbild sinkt, und sinkt, und sinkt.
"Das Ideal und das Lebens."
(The Dream Shape of the heavy earthly life sinks, and sinks, and
She stood within the chamber, and gazed around her; no signs by
which an inquisitor of old could have detected the scholar of the
Black Art were visible. No crucibles and caldrons, no brass-
bound volumes and ciphered girdles, no skulls and cross-bones.
Quietly streamed the broad moonlight through the desolate chamber
with its bare, white walls. A few bunches of withered herbs, a
few antique vessels of bronze, placed carelessly on a wooden
form, were all which that curious gaze could identify with the
pursuits of the absent owner. The magic, if it existed, dwelt in
the artificer, and the materials, to other hands, were but herbs
and bronze. So is it ever with thy works and wonders, O Genius,
--Seeker of the Stars! Words themselves are the common property
of all men; yet, from words themselves, Thou Architect of
Immortalities, pilest up temples that shall outlive the Pyramids,
and the very leaf of the Papyrus becomes a Shinar, stately with
towers, round which the Deluge of Ages, shall roar in vain!
But in that solitude has the Presence that there had invoked its
wonders left no enchantment of its own? It seemed so; for as
Viola stood in the chamber, she became sensible that some
mysterious change was at work within herself. Her blood coursed
rapidly, and with a sensation of delight, through her veins,--she
felt as if chains were falling from her limbs, as if cloud after
cloud was rolling from her gaze. All the confused thoughts which
had moved through her trance settled and centred themselves in
one intense desire to see the Absent One,--to be with him. The
monads that make up space and air seemed charged with a spiritual
attraction,--to become a medium through which her spirit could
pass from its clay, and confer with the spirit to which the
unutterable desire compelled it. A faintness seized her; she
tottered to the seat on which the vessels and herbs were placed,
and, as she bent down, she saw in one of the vessels a small vase
of crystal. By a mechanical and involuntary impulse, her hand
seized the vase; she opened it, and the volatile essence it
contained sparkled up, and spread through the room a powerful and
delicious fragrance. She inhaled the odour, she laved her
temples with the liquid, and suddenly her life seemed to spring
up from the previous faintness,--to spring, to soar, to float, to
dilate upon the wings of a bird. The room vanished from her
eyes. Away, away, over lands and seas and space on the rushing
desire flies the disprisoned mind!
Upon a stratum, not of this world, stood the world-born shapes of
the sons of Science, upon an embryo world, upon a crude, wan,
attenuated mass of matter, one of the Nebulae, which the suns of
the myriad systems throw off as they roll round the Creator's
throne*, to become themselves new worlds of symmetry and glory,--
planets and suns that forever and forever shall in their turn
multiply their shining race, and be the fathers of suns and
planets yet to come.
(*"Astronomy instructs us that, in the original condition of the
solar system, the sun was the nucleus of a nebulosity or luminous
mass which revolved on its axis, and extended far beyond the
orbits of all the planets,--the planets as yet having no
existence. Its temperature gradually diminished, and, becoming
contracted by cooling, the rotation increased in rapidity, and
zones of nebulosity were successively thrown off, in consequence
of the centrifugal force overpowering the central attraction.
The condensation of these separate masses constituted the planets
and satellites. But this view of the conversion of gaseous
matter into planetary bodies is not limited to our own system; it
extends to the formation of the innumerable suns and worlds which
are distributed throughout the universe. The sublime discoveries
of modern astronomers have shown that every part of the realms of
space abounds in large expansions of attenuated matter termed
nebulae, which are irregularly reflective of light, of various
figures, and in different states of condensation, from that of a
diffused, luminous mass to suns and planets like our own."--From
Mantell's eloquent and delightful work, entitled "The Wonders of
Geology," volume i. page 22.)
There, in that enormous solitude of an infant world, which
thousands and thousands of years can alone ripen into form, the
spirit of Viola beheld the shape of Zanoni, or rather the
likeness, the simulacrun, the LEMUR of his shape, not its human
and corporeal substance,--as if, like hers, the Intelligence was
parted from the Clay,--and as the sun, while it revolves and
glows, had cast off into remotest space that nebular image of
itself, so the thing of earth, in the action of its more luminous
and enduring being, had thrown its likeness into that new-born
stranger of the heavens. There stood the phantom,--a phantom
Mejnour, by its side. In the gigantic chaos around raved and
struggled the kindling elements; water and fire, darkness and
light, at war,--vapour and cloud hardening into mountains, and
the Breath of Life moving like a steadfast splendour over all.
As the dreamer looked, and shivered, she beheld that even there
the two phantoms of humanity were not alone. Dim monster-forms
that that disordered chaos alone could engender, the first
reptile Colossal race that wreathe and crawl through the earliest
stratum of a world labouring into life, coiled in the oozing
matter or hovered through the meteorous vapours. But these the
two seekers seemed not to heed; their gaze was fixed intent upon
an object in the farthest space. With the eyes of the spirit,
Viola followed theirs; with a terror far greater than the chaos
and its hideous inhabitants produced, she beheld a shadowy
likeness of the very room in which her form yet dwelt, its white
walls, the moonshine sleeping on its floor, its open casement,
with the quiet roofs and domes of Venice looming over the sea
that sighed below,--and in that room the ghost-like image of
herself! This double phantom--here herself a phantom, gazing
there upon a phantom-self--had in it a horror which no words can
tell, no length of life forego.
But presently she saw this image of herself rise slowly, leave
the room with its noiseless feet: it passes the corridor, it
kneels by a cradle! Heaven of Heaven! She beholds her child!--
still with its wondrous, child-like beauty and its silent,
wakeful eyes. But beside that cradle there sits cowering a
mantled, shadowy form,--the more fearful and ghastly from its
indistinct and unsubstantial gloom. The walls of that chamber
seem to open as the scene of a theatre. A grim dungeon; streets
through which pour shadowy crowds; wrath and hatred, and the
aspect of demons in their ghastly visages; a place of death; a
murderous instrument; a shamble-house of human flesh; herself;
her child;--all, all, rapid phantasmagoria, chased each other.
Suddenly the phantom-Zanoni turned, it seemed to perceive
herself,--her second self. It sprang towards her; her spirit
could bear no more. She shrieked, she woke. She found that in
truth she had left that dismal chamber; the cradle was before
her, the child! all--all as that trance had seen it; and,
vanishing into air, even that dark, formless Thing!
"My child! my child! thy mother shall save thee yet!"
Qui? Toi m'abandonner! Ou vas-tu? Non! demeure,
La Harpe, "Le Comte de Warwick," Act 3, sc. 5.
(Who? THOU abandon me!--where goest thou? No! stay, stay!)
Letter from Viola to Zanoni.
"It has come to this!--I am the first to part! I, the unfaithful
one, bid thee farewell forever. When thine eyes fall upon this
writing thou wilt know me as one of the dead. For thou that
wert, and still art my life,--I am lost to thee! O lover! O
husband! O still worshipped and adored! if thou hast ever loved
me, if thou canst still pity, seek not to discover the steps that
fly thee. If thy charms can detect and tract me, spare me, spare
our child! Zanoni, I will rear it to love thee, to call thee
father! Zanoni, its young lips shall pray for thee! Ah, spare
thy child, for infants are the saints of earth, and their
mediation may be heard on high! Shall I tell thee why I part?
No; thou, the wisely-terrible, canst divine what the hand
trembles to record; and while I shudder at thy power,--while it
is thy power I fly (our child upon my bosom),--it comforts me
still to think that thy power can read the heart! Thou knowest
that it is the faithful mother that writes to thee, it is not the
faithless wife! Is there sin in thy knowledge, Zanoni? Sin must
have sorrow: and it were sweet--oh, how sweet--to be thy
comforter. But the child, the infant, the soul that looks to
mine for its shield!--magician, I wrest from thee that soul!
Pardon, pardon, if my words wrong thee. See, I fall on my knees
to write the rest!
"Why did I never recoil before from thy mysterious lore; why did
the very strangeness of thine unearthly life only fascinate me
with a delightful fear? Because, if thou wert sorcerer or angel-
demon, there was no peril to other but myself: and none to me,
for my love was my heavenliest part; and my ignorance in all
things, except the art to love thee, repelled every thought that
was not bright and glorious as thine image to my eyes. But NOW
there is another! Look! why does it watch me thus,--why that
never-sleeping, earnest, rebuking gaze? Have thy spells
encompassed it already? Hast thou marked it, cruel one, for the
terrors of thy unutterable art? Do not madden me,--do not madden
me!--unbind the spell!
"Hark! the oars without! They come,--they come, to bear me from
thee! I look round, and methinks that I see thee everywhere.
Thou speakest to me from every shadow, from every star. There,
by the casement, thy lips last pressed mine; there, there by that
threshold didst thou turn again, and thy smile seemed so
trustingly to confide in me! Zanoni--husband!--I will stay! I
cannot part from thee! No, no! I will go to the room where thy
dear voice, with its gentle music, assuaged the pangs of
travail!--where, heard through the thrilling darkness, it first
whispered to my ear, 'Viola, thou art a mother!' A mother!--yes,
I rise from my knees,--I AM a mother! They come! I am firm;
Yes; thus suddenly, thus cruelly, whether in the delirium of
blind and unreasoning superstition, or in the resolve of that
conviction which springs from duty, the being for whom he had
resigned so much of empire and of glory forsook Zanoni. This
desertion, never foreseen, never anticipated, was yet but the
constant fate that attends those who would place Mind BEYOND the
earth, and yet treasure the Heart WITHIN it. Ignorance
everlastingly shall recoil from knowledge. But never yet, from
nobler and purer motives of self-sacrifice, did human love link
itself to another, than did the forsaking wife now abandon the
absent. For rightly had she said that it was not the faithless
wife, it WAS the faithful mother that fled from all in which her
earthly happiness was centred.
As long as the passion and fervour that impelled the act animated
her with false fever, she clasped her infant to her breast, and
was consoled,--resigned. But what bitter doubt of her own
conduct, what icy pang of remorse shot through her heart, when,
as they rested for a few hours on the road to Leghorn, she heard
the woman who accompanied herself and Glyndon pray for safety to
reach her husband's side, and strength to share the perils that
would meet her there! Terrible contrast to her own desertion!
She shrunk into the darkness of her own heart,--and then no voice
from within consoled her.
Zukunft hast du mir gegeben,
Doch du nehmst den Augenblick.
(Futurity hast thou given to me,--yet takest from me the Moment.)
"Mejnour, behold thy work! Out, out upon our little vanities of
wisdom!--out upon our ages of lore and life! To save her from
Peril I left her presence, and the Peril has seized her in its
"Chide not thy wisdom but thy passions! Abandon thine idle hope
of the love of woman. See, for those who would unite the lofty
with the lowly, the inevitable curse; thy very nature
uncomprehended,--thy sacrifices unguessed. The lowly one views
but in the lofty a necromancer or a fiend. Titan, canst thou
"I know it now, I see it all! It WAS her spirit that stood
beside our own, and escaped my airy clasp! O strong desire of
motherhood and nature! unveiling all our secrets, piercing space
and traversing worlds!--Mejnour, what awful learning lies hid in
the ignorance of the heart that loves!"
"The heart," answered the mystic, coldly; "ay, for five thousand
years I have ransacked the mysteries of creation, but I have not
yet discovered all the wonders in the heart of the simplest
"Yet our solemn rites deceived us not; the prophet-shadows, dark
with terror and red with blood, still foretold that, even in the
dungeon, and before the deathsman, I,--I had the power to save
"But at some unconjectured and most fatal sacrifice to thyself."
"To myself! Icy sage, there is no self in love! I go. Nay,
alone: I want thee not. I want now no other guide but the human
instincts of affection. No cave so dark, no solitude so vast, as
to conceal her. Though mine art fail me; though the stars heed
me not; though space, with its shining myriads, is again to me
but the azure void,--I return but to love and youth and hope!
When have they ever failed to triumph and to save!"
THE REIGN OF TERROR.
Orrida maesta nei fero aspetto
Terrore accresce, e piu superbo il rende;
Rosseggian gli occhi, e di veneno infetto
Come infausta cometa, il guardo splende,
Gil involve il mento, e sull 'irsuto petto
Ispida efoita la gran barbe scende;
E IN GUISA DE VORAGINE PROFONDA
SAPRE LA BOCCA A'ATRO SANGUE IMMONDA.
(Ger. Lib., Cant. iv. 7.)
A horrible majesty in the fierce aspect increases it terror, and
renders it more superb. Red glow the eyes, and the aspect
infected, like a baleful comet, with envenomed influences,
glares around. A vast beard covers the chin--and, rough and
thick, descends over the shaggy breast.--And like a profound gulf
expand the jaws, foul with black gore.
Qui suis-je, moi qu'on accuse? Un esclave de la Liberte, un
martyr vivant de la Republique.
"Discours de Robespierre, 8 Thermidor."
(Who am I,--_I_ whom they accuse? A slave of Liberty,--a living
martyr for the Republic.)
It roars,--The River of Hell, whose first outbreak was chanted as
the gush of a channel to Elysium. How burst into blossoming
hopes fair hearts that had nourished themselves on the diamond
dews of the rosy dawn, when Liberty came from the dark ocean, and
the arms of decrepit Thraldom--Aurora from the bed of Tithon!
Hopes! ye have ripened into fruit, and the fruit is gore and
ashes! Beautiful Roland, eloquent Vergniaud, visionary
Condorcet, high-hearted Malesherbes!--wits, philosophers,
statesmen, patriots, dreamers! behold the millennium for which ye
dared and laboured!
I invoke the ghosts! Saturn hath devoured his children ("La
Revolution est comme Saturne, elle devorera tous ses enfans."--
Vergniaud.), and lives alone,--I his true name of Moloch!
It is the Reign of Terror, with Robespierre the king. The
struggles between the boa and the lion are past: the boa has
consumed the lion, and is heavy with the gorge,--Danton has
fallen, and Camille Desmoulins. Danton had said before his
death, "The poltroon Robespierre,--I alone could have saved him."
From that hour, indeed, the blood of the dead giant clouded the
craft of "Maximilien the Incorruptible," as at last, amidst the
din of the roused Convention, it choked his voice. (Le sang de
Danton t'etouffe!" (the blood of Danton chokes thee!) said
Garnier de l'Aube, when on the fatal 9th of Thermidor,
Robespierre gasped feebly forth, "Pour la derniere fois,
President des Assassins, je te demande la parole." (For the last
time, President of Assassins, I demand to speak.)) If, after
that last sacrifice, essential, perhaps, to his safety,
Robespierre had proclaimed the close of the Reign of Terror, and
acted upon the mercy which Danton had begun to preach, he might
have lived and died a monarch. But the prisons continued to
reek,--the glaive to fall; and Robespierre perceived not that his
mobs were glutted to satiety with death, and the strongest
excitement a chief could give would be a return from devils into
We are transported to a room in the house of Citizen Dupleix, the
menuisier, in the month of July, 1794; or, in the calendar of the
Revolutionists, it was the Thermidor of the Second Year of the
Republic, One and Indivisible! Though the room was small, it was
furnished and decorated with a minute and careful effort at
elegance and refinement. It seemed, indeed, the desire of the
owner to avoid at once what was mean and rude, and what was
luxurious and voluptuous. It was a trim, orderly, precise grace
that shaped the classic chairs, arranged the ample draperies,
sank the frameless mirrors into the wall, placed bust and bronze
on their pedestals, and filled up the niches here and there with
well-bound books, filed regularly in their appointed ranks. An
observer would have said, "This man wishes to imply to you,--I am
not rich; I am not ostentatious; I am not luxurious; I am no
indolent Sybarite, with couches of down, and pictures that
provoke the sense; I am no haughty noble, with spacious halls,
and galleries that awe the echo. But so much the greater is my
merit if I disdain these excesses of the ease or the pride, since
I love the elegant, and have a taste! Others may be simple and
honest, from the very coarseness of their habits; if I, with so
much refinement and delicacy, am simple and honest,--reflect, and
On the walls of this chamber hung many portraits, most of them
represented but one face; on the formal pedestals were grouped
many busts, most of them sculptured but one head. In that small
chamber Egotism sat supreme, and made the Arts its looking-
glasses. Erect in a chair, before a large table spread with
letters, sat the original of bust and canvas, the owner of the
apartment. He was alone, yet he sat erect, formal, stiff,
precise, as if in his very home he was not at ease. His dress
was in harmony with his posture and his chamber; it affected a
neatness of its own,--foreign both to the sumptuous fashions of
the deposed nobles, and the filthy ruggedness of the sans-
culottes. Frizzled and coiffe, not a hair was out of order, not
a speck lodged on the sleek surface of the blue coat, not a
wrinkle crumpled the snowy vest, with its under-relief of
delicate pink. At the first glance, you might have seen in that
face nothing but the ill-favoured features of a sickly
countenance; at a second glance, you would have perceived that it
had a power, a character of its own. The forehead, though low
and compressed, was not without that appearance of thought and
intelligence which, it may be observed, that breadth between the
eyebrows almost invariably gives; the lips were firm and tightly
drawn together, yet ever and anon they trembled, and writhed
restlessly. The eyes, sullen and gloomy, were yet piercing, and
full of a concentrated vigour that did not seem supported by the
thin, feeble frame, or the green lividness of the hues, which
told of anxiety and disease.
Such was Maximilien Robespierre; such the chamber over the
menuisier's shop, whence issued the edicts that launched armies
on their career of glory, and ordained an artificial conduit to
carry off the blood that deluged the metropolis of the most
martial people in the globe! Such was the man who had resigned a
judicial appointment (the early object of his ambition) rather
than violate his philanthropical principles by subscribing to the
death of a single fellow-creature; such was the virgin enemy to
capital punishments; and such, Butcher-Dictator now, was the man
whose pure and rigid manners, whose incorruptible honesty, whose
hatred of the excesses that tempt to love and wine, would, had he
died five years earlier, have left him the model for prudent
fathers and careful citizens to place before their sons. Such
was the man who seemed to have no vice, till circumstance, that
hotbed, brought forth the two which, in ordinary times, lie ever
the deepest and most latent in a man's heart,--Cowardice and
Envy. To one of these sources is to be traced every murder that
master-fiend committed. His cowardice was of a peculiar and
strange sort; for it was accompanied with the most unscrupulous
and determined WILL,--a will that Napoleon reverenced; a will of
iron, and yet nerves of aspen. Mentally, he was a hero,--
physically, a dastard. When the veriest shadow of danger
threatened his person, the frame cowered, but the will swept the
danger to the slaughter-house. So there he sat, bolt upright,--
his small, lean fingers clenched convulsively; his sullen eyes
straining into space, their whites yellowed with streaks of
corrupt blood; his ears literally moving to and fro, like the
ignobler animals', to catch every sound,--a Dionysius in his
cave; but his posture decorous and collected, and every formal
hair in its frizzled place.
"Yes, yes," he said in a muttered tone, "I hear them; my good
Jacobins are at their post on the stairs. Pity they swear so! I
have a law against oaths,--the manners of the poor and virtuous
people must be reformed. When all is safe, an example or two
amongst those good Jacobins would make effect. Faithful fellows,
how they love me! Hum!--what an oath was that!--they need not
swear so loud,--upon the very staircase, too! It detracts from
my reputation. Ha! steps!"
The soliloquist glanced at the opposite mirror, and took up a
volume; he seemed absorbed in its contents, as a tall fellow, a
bludgeon in his hand, a girdle adorned with pistols round his
waist, opened the door, and announced two visitors. The one was
a young man, said to resemble Robespierre in person, but of a far
more decided and resolute expression of countenance. He entered
first, and, looking over the volume in Robespierre's hand, for
the latter seemed still intent on his lecture, exclaimed,--
"What! Rousseau's Heloise? A love-tale!"
"Dear Payan, it is not the love,--it is the philosophy that
charms me. What noble sentiments!--what ardour of virtue! If
Jean Jacques had but lived to see this day!"
While the Dictator thus commented on his favourite author, whom
in his orations he laboured hard to imitate, the second visitor
was wheeled into the room in a chair. This man was also in what,
to most, is the prime of life,--namely, about thirty-eight; but
he was literally dead in the lower limbs: crippled, paralytic,
distorted, he was yet, as the time soon came to tell him,--a
Hercules in Crime! But the sweetest of human smiles dwelt upon
his lips; a beauty almost angelic characterised his features
("Figure d'ange," says one of his contemporaries, in describing
Couthon. The address, drawn up most probably by Payan (Thermidor
9), after the arrest of Robespierre, thus mentions his crippled
colleague: "Couthon, ce citoyen vertueux, QUI N'A QUE LE COEUR
ET LA TETE DE VIVANS, mais qui les a brulants de patriotisme"
(Couthon, that virtuous citizen, who has but the head and the
heart of the living, yet possesses these all on flame with
patriotism.)); an inexpressible aspect of kindness, and the
resignation of suffering but cheerful benignity, stole into the
hearts of those who for the first time beheld him. With the most
caressing, silver, flute-like voice, Citizen Couthon saluted the
admirer of Jean Jacques.
"Nay,--do not say that it is not the LOVE that attracts thee; it
IS the love! but not the gross, sensual attachment of man for
woman. No! the sublime affection for the whole human race, and
indeed, for all that lives!"
And Citizen Couthon, bending down, fondled the little spaniel
that he invariably carried in his bosom, even to the Convention,
as a vent for the exuberant sensibilities which overflowed his
affectionate heart. (This tenderness for some pet animal was by
no means peculiar to Couthon; it seems rather a common fashion
with the gentle butchers of the Revolution. M. George Duval
informs us ("Souvenirs de la Terreur," volume iii page 183) that
Chaumette had an aviary, to which he devoted his harmless
leisure; the murderous Fournier carried on his shoulders a pretty
little squirrel, attached by a silver chain; Panis bestowed the
superfluity of his affections upon two gold pheasants; and Marat,
who would not abate one of the three hundred thousand heads he
demanded, REARED DOVES! Apropos of the spaniel of Couthon, Duval
gives us an amusing anecdote of Sergent, not one of the least
relentless agents of the massacre of September. A lady came to
implore his protection for one of her relations confined in the
Abbaye. He scarcely deigned to speak to her. As she retired in
despair, she trod by accident on the paw of his favourite
spaniel. Sergent, turning round, enraged and furious, exclaimed,
"MADAM, HAVE YOU NO HUMANITY?")
"Yes, for all that lives," repeated Robespierre, tenderly. "Good
Couthon,--poor Couthon! Ah, the malice of men!--how we are
misrepresented! To be calumniated as the executioners of our
colleagues! Ah, it is THAT which pierces the heart! To be an
object of terror to the enemies of our country,--THAT is noble;
but to be an object of terror to the good, the patriotic, to
those one loves and reveres,--THAT is the most terrible of human
tortures at least, to a susceptible and honest heart!" (Not to
fatigue the reader with annotations, I may here observe that
nearly every sentiment ascribed in the text to Robespierre is to
be found expressed in his various discourses.)
"How I love to hear him!" ejaculated Couthon.
"Hem!" said Payan, with some impatience. "But now to business!"
"Ah, to business!" said Robespierre, with a sinister glance from
his bloodshot eyes.
"The time has come," said Payan, "when the safety of the Republic
demands a complete concentration of its power. These brawlers of
the Comite du Salut Public can only destroy; they cannot
construct. They hated you, Maximilien, from the moment you
attempted to replace anarcy by institutions. How they mock at
the festival which proclaimed the acknowledgment of a Supreme
Being: they would have no ruler, even in heaven! Your clear and
vigorous intellect saw that, having wrecked an old world, it
became necessary to shape a new one. The first step towards
construction must be to destroy the destroyers. While we
deliberate, your enemies act. Better this very night to attack
the handful of gensdarmes that guard them, than to confront the
battalions they may raise to-morrow."
"No," said Robespierre, who recoiled before the determined spirit
of Payan; "I have a better and safer plan. This is the 6th of
Thermidor; on the 10th--on the 10th, the Convention go in a body
to the Fete Decadaire. A mob shall form; the canonniers, the
troops of Henriot, the young pupils de l'Ecole de Mars, shall mix
in the crowd. Easy, then, to strike the conspirators whom we
shall designate to our agents. On the same day, too, Fouquier
and Dumas shall not rest; and a sufficient number of 'the
suspect' to maintain salutary awe, and keep up the revolutionary
excitement, shall perish by the glaive of the law. The 10th
shall be the great day of action. Payan, of these last culprits,
have you prepared a list?"
"It is here," returned Payan, laconically, presenting a paper.
Robespierre glanced over it rapidly. "Collot d'Herbois!--good!
Barrere!--ay, it was Barrere who said, 'Let us strike: the dead
alone never return.' ("Frappons! il n'y a que les morts qui ne
revient pas."--Barrere.) Vadier, the savage jester!--good--good!
Vadier of the Mountain. He has called me 'Mahomet!' Scelerat!
"Mahomet is coming to the Mountain," said Couthon, with his
silvery accent, as he caressed his spaniel.
"But how is this? I do not see the name of Tallien? Tallien,--I
hate that man; that is," said Robespierre, correcting himself
with the hypocrisy or self-deceit which those who formed the
council of this phrase-monger exhibited habitually, even among
themselves,--"that is, Virtue and our Country hate him! There is
no man in the whole Convention who inspires me with the same
horror as Tallien. Couthon, I see a thousand Dantons where
"Tallien has the only head that belongs to this deformed body,"
said Payan, whose ferocity and crime, like those of St. Just,
were not unaccompanied by talents of no common order. "Were it
not better to draw away the head, to win, to buy him, for the
time, and dispose of him better when left alone? He may hate
YOU, but he loves MONEY!"
"No," said Robespierre, writing down the name of Jean Lambert
Tallien, with a slow hand that shaped each letter with stern
distinctness; "that one head IS MY NECESSITY!"
"I have a SMALL list here," said Couthon, sweetly,--"a VERY small
list. You are dealing with the Mountain; it is necessary to make
a few examples in the Plain. These moderates are as straws which
follow the wind. They turned against us yesterday in the
Convention. A little terror will correct the weathercocks. Poor
creatures! I owe them no ill-will; I could weep for them. But
before all, la chere patrie!"
The terrible glance of Robespierre devoured the list which the
man of sensibility submitted to him. "Ah, these are well chosen;
men not of mark enough to be regretted, which is the best policy
with the relics of that party; some foreigners too,--yes, THEY
have no parents in Paris. These wives and parents are beginning
to plead against us. Their complaints demoralise the
"Couthon is right," said Payan; "MY list contains those whom it
will be safer to despatch en masse in the crowd assembled at the
Fete. HIS list selects those whom we may prudently consign to
the law. Shall it not be signed at once?"
"It IS signed," said Robespierre, formally replacing his pen upon
the inkstand. "Now to more important matters. These deaths will
create no excitement; but Collot d'Herbois, Bourdon De l'Oise,
Tallien," the last name Robespierre gasped as he pronounced,
"THEY are the heads of parties. This is life or death to us as
well as them."
"Their heads are the footstools to your curule chair," said
Payan, in a half whisper. "There is no danger if we are bold.
Judges, juries, all have been your selection. You seize with one
hand the army, with the other, the law. Your voice yet commands
"The poor and virtuous people," murmured Robespierre.
"And even," continued Payan, "if our design at the Fete fail us,
we must not shrink from the resources still at our command.
Reflect! Henriot, the general of the Parisian army, furnishes
you with troops to arrest; the Jacobin Club with a public to
approve; inexorable Dumas with judges who never acquit. We must
"And we ARE bold," exclaimed Robespierre, with sudden passion,
and striking his hand on the table as he rose, with his crest
erect, as a serpent in the act to strike. "In seeing the
multitude of vices that the revolutionary torrent mingles with
civic virtues, I tremble to be sullied in the eyes of posterity
by the impure neighbourhood of these perverse men who thrust
themselves among the sincere defenders of humanity. What!--they
think to divide the country like a booty! I thank them for their
hatred to all that is virtuous and worthy! These men,"--and he
grasped the list of Payan in his hand,--"these!--not WE--have
drawn the line of demarcation between themselves and the lovers
"True, we must reign alone!" muttered Payan; "in other words, the
state needs unity of will;" working, with his strong practical
mind, the corollary from the logic of his word-compelling
"I will go to the Convention," continued Robespierre. "I have
absented myself too long,--lest I might seem to overawe the
Republic that I have created. Away with such scruples! I will
prepare the people! I will blast the traitors with a look!"
He spoke with the terrible firmness of the orator that had never
failed,--of the moral will that marched like a warrior on the
cannon. At that instant he was interrupted; a letter was brought
to him: he opened it,--his face fell, he shook from limb to
limb; it was one of the anonymous warnings by which the hate and
revenge of those yet left alive to threaten tortured the death-
"Thou art smeared," ran the lines, "with the best blood of
France. Read thy sentence! I await the hour when the people
shall knell thee to the doomsman. If my hope deceive me, if
deferred too long,--hearken, read! This hand, which thine eyes
shall search in vain to discover, shall pierce thy heart. I see
thee every day,--I am with thee every day. At each hour my arm
rises against thy breast. Wretch! live yet awhile, though but
for few and miserable days--live to think of me; sleep to dream
of me! Thy terror and thy thought of me are the heralds of thy
doom. Adieu! this day itself I go forth to riot on thy fears!"
(See "Papiers inedits trouves chez Robespierre," etc., volume ii.
page 155. (No. lx.))
"Your lists are not full enough!" said the tyrant, with a hollow
voice, as the paper dropped from his trembling hand. "Give them
to me!--give them to me! Think again, think again! Barrere is
right--right! 'Frappons! il n'y a que les morts qui ne revient
La haine, dans ces lieux, n'a qu'un glaive assassin.
Elle marche dans l'ombre.
La Harpe, "Jeanne de Naples," Act iv. sc. 1.
(Hate, in these regions, has but the sword of the assassin. She
moves in the shade.)
While such the designs and fears of Maximilien Robespierre,
common danger, common hatred, whatever was yet left of mercy or
of virtue in the agents of the Revolution, served to unite
strange opposites in hostility to the universal death-dealer.
There was, indeed, an actual conspiracy at work against him among
men little less bespattered than himself with innocent blood.
But that conspiracy would have been idle of itself, despite the
abilities of Tallien and Barras (the only men whom it comprised,
worthy, by foresight and energy, the names of "leaders"). The
sure and destroying elements that gathered round the tyrant were
Time and Nature; the one, which he no longer suited; the other,
which he had outraged and stirred up in the human breast. The
most atrocious party of the Revolution, the followers of Hebert,
gone to his last account, the butcher-atheists, who, in
desecrating heaven and earth, still arrogated inviolable sanctity
to themselves, were equally enraged at the execution of their
filthy chief, and the proclamation of a Supreme Being. The
populace, brutal as it had been, started as from a dream of
blood, when their huge idol, Danton, no longer filled the stage
of terror, rendering crime popular by that combination of
careless frankness and eloquent energy which endears their heroes
to the herd. The glaive of the guillotine had turned against
THEMSELVES. They had yelled and shouted, and sung and danced,
when the venerable age, or the gallant youth, of aristocracy or
letters, passed by their streets in the dismal tumbrils; but they
shut up their shops, and murmured to each other, when their own
order was invaded, and tailors and cobblers, and journeymen and
labourers, were huddled off to the embraces of the "Holy Mother
Guillotine," with as little ceremony as if they had been the
Montmorencies or the La Tremouilles, the Malesherbes or the
Lavoisiers. "At this time," said Couthon, justly, "Les ombres de
Danton, d'Hebert, de Chaumette, se promenent parmi nous!" (The
shades of Danton, Hebert, and Chaumette walk amongst us.)
Among those who had shared the doctrines, and who now dreaded the
fate of the atheist Hebert, was the painter, Jean Nicot.
Mortified and enraged to find that, by the death of his patron,
his career was closed; and that, in the zenith of the Revolution
for which he had laboured, he was lurking in caves and cellars,
more poor, more obscure, more despicable than he had been at the
commencement,--not daring to exercise even his art, and fearful
every hour that his name would swell the lists of the condemned,
--he was naturally one of the bitterest enemies of Robespierre
and his government. He held secret meetings with Collot
d'Herbois, who was animated by the same spirit; and with the
creeping and furtive craft that characterised his abilities, he
contrived, undetected, to disseminate tracts and invectives
against the Dictator, and to prepare, amidst "the poor and
virtuous people," the train for the grand explosion. But still
so firm to the eyes, even of profounder politicians than Jean
Nicot, appeared the sullen power of the incorruptible Maximilien;
so timorous was the movement against him,--that Nicot, in common
with many others, placed his hopes rather in the dagger of the
assassin than the revolt of the multitude. But Nicot, though not
actually a coward, shrunk himself from braving the fate of the
martyr; he had sense enough to see that, though all parties might
rejoice in the assassination, all parties would probably concur
in beheading the assassin. He had not the virtue to become a
Brutus. His object was to inspire a proxy-Brutus; and in the
centre of that inflammable population this was no improbable
Amongst those loudest and sternest against the reign of blood;
amongst those most disenchanted of the Revolution; amongst those
most appalled by its excesses,--was, as might be expected, the
Englishman, Clarence Glyndon. The wit and accomplishments, the
uncertain virtues that had lighted with fitful gleams the mind of
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