Edward Bulwer Lytton
Part 8 out of 9
Camille Desmoulins, had fascinated Glyndon more than the
qualities of any other agent in the Revolution. And when (for
Camille Desmoulins had a heart, which seemed dead or dormant in
most of his contemporaries) that vivid child of genius and of
error, shocked at the massacre of the Girondins, and repentant of
his own efforts against them, began to rouse the serpent malice
of Robespierre by new doctrines of mercy and toleration, Glyndon
espoused his views with his whole strength and soul. Camille
Desmoulins perished, and Glyndon, hopeless at once of his own
life and the cause of humanity, from that time sought only the
occasion of flight from the devouring Golgotha. He had two lives
to heed besides his own; for them he trembled, and for them he
schemed and plotted the means of escape. Though Glyndon hated
the principles, the party (None were more opposed to the
Hebertists than Camille Desmoulins and his friends. It is
curious and amusing to see these leaders of the mob, calling the
mob "the people" one day, and the "canaille" the next, according
as it suits them. "I know," says Camille, "that they (the
Hebertists) have all the canaille with them."--(Ils ont toute la
canaille pour eux.)), and the vices of Nicot, he yet extended to
the painter's penury the means of subsistence; and Jean Nicot, in
return, designed to exalt Glyndon to that very immortality of a
Brutus from which he modestly recoiled himself. He founded his
designs on the physical courage, on the wild and unsettled
fancies of the English artist, and on the vehement hate and
indignant loathing with which he openly regarded the government
At the same hour, on the same day in July, in which Robespierre
conferred (as we have seen) with his allies, two persons were
seated in a small room in one of the streets leading out of the
Rue St. Honore; the one, a man, appeared listening impatiently,
and with a sullen brow, to his companion, a woman of singular
beauty, but with a bold and reckless expression, and her face as
she spoke was animated by the passions of a half-savage and
"Englishman," said the woman, "beware!--you know that, whether in
flight or at the place of death, I would brave all to be by your
side,--you know THAT! Speak!"
"Well, Fillide; did I ever doubt your fidelity?"
"Doubt it you cannot,-- betray it you may. You tell me that in
flight you must have a companion besides myself, and that
companion is a female. It shall not be!"
"It shall not!" repeated Fillide, firmly, and folding her arms
across her breast. Before Glyndon could reply, a slight knock at
the door was heard, and Nicot opened the latch and entered.
Fillide sank into her chair, and, leaning her face on her hands,
appeared unheeding of the intruder and the conversation that
"I cannot bid thee good-day, Glyndon," said Nicot, as in his
sans-culotte fashion he strode towards the artist, his ragged hat
on his head, his hands in his pockets, and the beard of a week's
growth upon his chin,--"I cannot bid thee good-day; for while the
tyrant lives, evil is every sun that sheds its beams on France."
"It is true; what then? We have sown the wind, we must reap the
"And yet," said Nicot, apparently not heeding the reply, and as
if musingly to himself, "it is strange to think that the butcher
is as mortal as the butchered; that his life hangs on as slight a
thread; that between the cuticle and the heart there is as short
a passage,--that, in short, one blow can free France and redeem
Glyndon surveyed the speaker with a careless and haughty scorn,
and made no answer.
"And," proceeded Nicot, "I have sometimes looked round for the
man born for this destiny, and whenever I have done so, my steps
have led me hither!"
"Should they not rather have led thee to the side of Maximilien
Robespierre?" said Glyndon, with a sneer.
"No," returned Nicot, coldly,--"no; for I am a 'suspect:' I
could not mix with his train; I could not approach within a
hundred yards of his person, but I should be seized; YOU, as yet,
are safe. Hear me!"--and his voice became earnest and
expressive,--"hear me! There seems danger in this action; there
is none. I have been with Collot d'Herbois and Bilaud-Varennes;
they will hold him harmless who strikes the blow; the populace
would run to thy support; the Convention would hail thee as their
"Hold, man! How darest thou couple my name with the act of an
assassin? Let the tocsin sound from yonder tower, to a war
between Humanity and the Tyrant, and I will not be the last in
the field; but liberty never yet acknowledged a defender in a
There was something so brave and noble in Glyndon's voice, mien,
and manner, as he thus spoke, that Nicot at once was silenced; at
once he saw that he had misjudged the man.
"No," said Fillide, lifting her face from her hands,--"no! your
friend has a wiser scheme in preparation; he would leave you
wolves to mangle each other. He is right; but--"
"Flight!" exclaimed Nicot; "is it possible? Flight; how?--when?
--by what means? All France begirt with spies and guards!
Flight! would to Heaven it were in our power!"
"Dost thou, too, desire to escape the blessed Revolution?"
"Desire! Oh!" cried Nicot, suddenly, and, falling down, he
clasped Glyndon's knees,--"oh, save me with thyself! My life is
a torture; every moment the guillotine frowns before me. I know
that my hours are numbered; I know that the tyrant waits but his
time to write my name in his inexorable list; I know that Rene
Dumas, the judge who never pardons, has, from the first, resolved
upon my death. Oh, Glyndon, by our old friendship, by our common
art, by thy loyal English faith and good English heart, let me
share thy flight!"
"If thou wilt, so be it."
"Thanks!--my whole life shall thank thee. But how hast thou
prepared the means, the passports, the disguise, the--"
"I will tell thee. Thou knowest C--, of the Convention,--he has
power, and he is covetous. 'Qu'on me meprise, pourvu que je
dine' (Let them despise me, provided that I dine.), said he, when
reproached for his avarice."
"By the help of this sturdy republican, who has friends enough in
the Comite, I have obtained the means necessary for flight; I
have purchased them. For a consideration I can procure thy
"Thy riches, then, are not in assignats?"
"No; I have gold enough for us all."
And here Glyndon, beckoning Nicot into the next room, first
briefly and rapidly detailed to him the plan proposed, and the
disguises to be assumed conformably to the passports, and then
added, "In return for the service I render thee, grant me one
favour, which I think is in thy power. Thou rememberest Viola
"Ah,--remember, yes!--and the lover with whom she fled."
"And FROM whom she is a fugitive now."
"Indeed--what!--I understand. Sacre bleu! but you are a lucky
fellow, cher confrere."
"Silence, man! with thy eternal prate of brotherhood and virtue,
thou seemest never to believe in one kindly action, or one
Nicot bit his lip, and replied sullenly, "Experience is a great
undeceiver. Humph! What service can I do thee with regard to
"I have been accessory to her arrival in this city of snares and
pitfalls. I cannot leave her alone amidst dangers from which
neither innocence nor obscurity is a safeguard. In your blessed
Republic, a good and unsuspected citizen, who casts a desire on
any woman, maid or wife, has but to say, 'Be mine, or I denounce
you!' In a word, Viola must share our flight."
"What so easy? I see your passports provide for her."
"What so easy? What so difficult? This Fillide--would that I
had never seen her!--would that I had never enslaved my soul to
my senses! The love of an uneducated, violent, unprincipled
woman, opens with a heaven, to merge in a hell! She is jealous
as all the Furies; she will not hear of a female companion; and
when once she sees the beauty of Viola!--I tremble to think of
it. She is capable of any excess in the storm of her passions."
"Aha, I know what such women are! My wife, Beatrice Sacchini,
whom I took from Naples, when I failed with this very Viola,
divorced me when my money failed, and, as the mistress of a
judge, passes me in her carriage while I crawl through the
streets. Plague on her!--but patience, patience! such is the lot
of virtue. Would I were Robespierre for a day!"
"Cease these tirades!" exclaimed Glyndon, impatiently; "and to
the point. What would you advise?"
"Leave your Fillide behind."
"Leave her to her own ignorance; leave her unprotected even by
the mind; leave her in the Saturnalia of Rape and Murder? No! I
have sinned against her once. But come what may, I will not so
basely desert one who, with all her errors, trusted her fate to
"You deserted her at Marseilles."
"True; but I left her in safety, and I did not then believe her
love to be so deep and faithful. I left her gold, and I imagined
she would be easily consoled; but since THEN WE HAVE KNOWN DANGER
TOGETHER! And now to leave her alone to that danger which she
would never have incurred but for devotion to me!--no, that is
impossible. A project occurs to me. Canst thou not say that
thou hast a sister, a relative, or a benefactress, whom thou
wouldst save? Can we not--till we have left France--make Fillide
believe that Viola is one in whom THOU only art interested; and
whom, for thy sake only, I permit to share in our escape?"
"Ha, well thought of!--certainly!"
"I will then appear to yield to Fillide's wishes, and resign the
project, which she so resents, of saving the innocent object of
her frantic jealousy. You, meanwhile, shall yourself entreat
Fillide to intercede with me to extend the means of escape to--"
"To a lady (she knows I have no sister) who has aided me in my
distress. Yes, I will manage all, never fear. One word more,--
what has become of that Zanoni?"
"Talk not of him,--I know not."
"Does he love this girl still?"
"It would seem so. She is his wife, the mother of his infant,
who is with her."
"Wife!--mother! He loves her. Aha! And why--"
"No questions now. I will go and prepare Viola for the flight;
you, meanwhile, return to Fillide."
"But the address of the Neapolitan? It is necessary I should
know, lest Fillide inquire."
"Rue M-- T--, No. 27. Adieu."
Glyndon seized his hat and hastened from the house.
Nicot, left alone, seemed for a few moments buried in thought.
"Oho," he muttered to himself, "can I not turn all this to my
account? Can I not avenge myself on thee, Zanoni, as I have so
often sworn,--through thy wife and child? Can I not possess
myself of thy gold, thy passports, and thy Fillide, hot
Englishman, who wouldst humble me with thy loathed benefits, and
who hast chucked me thine alms as to a beggar? And Fillide, I
love her: and thy gold, I love THAT more! Puppets, I move your
He passed slowly into the chamber where Fillide yet sat, with
gloomy thought on her brow and tears standing in her dark eyes.
She looked up eagerly as the door opened, and turned from the
rugged face of Nicot with an impatient movement of
"Glyndon," said the painter, drawing a chair to Fillide's, "has
left me to enliven your solitude, fair Italian. He is not
jealous of the ugly Nicot!--ha, ha!--yet Nicot loved thee well
once, when his fortunes were more fair. But enough of such past
"Your friend, then, has left the house. Whither? Ah, you look
away; you falter,--you cannot meet my eyes! Speak! I implore, I
command thee, speak!"
"Enfant! And what dost thou fear?"
"FEAR!--yes, alas, I fear!" said the Italian; and her whole frame
seemed to shrink into itself as she fell once more back into her
Then, after a pause, she tossed the long hair from her eyes, and,
starting up abruptly, paced the room with disordered strides. At
length she stopped opposite to Nicot, laid her hand on his arm,
drew him towards an escritoire, which she unlocked, and, opening
a well, pointed to the gold that lay within, and said, "Thou art
poor,--thou lovest money; take what thou wilt, but undeceive me.
Who is this woman whom thy friend visits,--and does he love her?"
Nicot's eyes sparkled, and his hands opened and clenched, and
clenched and opened, as he gazed upon the coins. But reluctantly
resisting the impulse, he said, with an affected bitterness,
"Thinkest thou to bribe me?--if so, it cannot be with gold. But
what if he does love a rival; what if he betrays thee; what if,
wearied by thy jealousies, he designs in his flight to leave thee
behind,--would such knowledge make thee happier?"
"Yes!" exclaimed the Italian, fiercely; "yes, for it would be
happiness to hate and to be avenged! Oh, thou knowest not how
sweet is hatred to those who have really loved!"
"But wilt thou swear, if I reveal to thee the secret, that thou
wilt not betray me,--that thou wilt not fall, as women do, into
weak tears and fond reproaches, when thy betrayer returns?"
"Tears, reproaches! Revenge hides itself in smiles!"
"Thou art a brave creature!" said Nicot, almost admiringly. "One
condition more: thy lover designs to fly with his new love, to
leave thee to thy fate; if I prove this to thee, and if I give
thee revenge against thy rival, wilt thou fly with me? I love
thee!--I will wed thee!"
Fillide's eyes flashed fire; she looked at him with unutterable
disdain, and was silent.
Nicot felt he had gone too far; and with that knowledge of the
evil part of our nature which his own heart and association with
crime had taught him, he resolved to trust the rest to the
passions of the Italian, when raised to the height to which he
was prepared to lead them.
"Pardon me," he said; "my love made me too presumptuous; and yet
it is only that love,--my sympathy for thee, beautiful and
betrayed, that can induce me to wrong, with my revelations, one
whom I have regarded as a brother. I can depend upon thine oath
to conceal all from Glyndon?"
"On my oath and my wrongs and my mountain blood!"
"Enough! get thy hat and mantle, and follow me."
As Fillide left the room, Nicot's eyes again rested on the gold;
it was much,--much more than he had dared to hope for; and as he
peered into the well and opened the drawers, he perceived a
packet of letters in the well-known hand of Camille Desmoulins.
He seized--he opened the packet; his looks brightened as he
glanced over a few sentences. "This would give fifty Glyndons to
the guillotine!" he muttered, and thrust the packet into his
O artist!--O haunted one!--O erring genius!--behold the two worst
foes,--the False Ideal that knows no God, and the False Love that
burns from the corruption of the senses, and takes no lustre from
Liebe sonnt das Reich der Nacht.
"Der Triumph der Liebe."
(Love illumes the realm of Night.)
Letter from Zanoni to Mejnour.
Dost thou remember in the old time, when the Beautiful yet dwelt
in Greece, how we two, in the vast Athenian Theatre, witnessed
the birth of Words as undying as ourselves? Dost thou remember
the thrill of terror that ran through that mighty audience, when
the wild Cassandra burst from her awful silence to shriek to her
relentless god! How ghastly, at the entrance of the House of
Atreus, about to become her tomb, rang out her exclamations of
foreboding woe: "Dwelling abhorred of heaven!--human shamble-
house and floor blood-bespattered!" (Aesch. "Agam." 1098.) Dost
thou remember how, amidst the breathless awe of those assembled
thousands, I drew close to thee, and whispered, "Verily, no
prophet like the poet! This scene of fabled horror comes to me
as a dream, shadowing forth some likeness in my own remoter
future!" As I enter this slaughter-house that scene returns to
me, and I hearken to the voice of Cassandra ringing in my ears.
A solemn and warning dread gathers round me, as if I too were
come to find a grave, and "the Net of Hades" had already
entangled me in its web! What dark treasure-houses of
vicissitude and woe are our memories become! What our lives, but
the chronicles of unrelenting death! It seems to me as yesterday
when I stood in the streets of this city of the Gaul, as they
shone with plumed chivalry, and the air rustled with silken
braveries. Young Louis, the monarch and the lover, was victor of
the Tournament at the Carousel; and all France felt herself
splendid in the splendour of her gorgeous chief! Now there is
neither throne nor altar; and what is in their stead? I see it
yonder--the GUILLOTINE! It is dismal to stand amidst the ruins
of mouldering cities, to startle the serpent and the lizard
amidst the wrecks of Persepolis and Thebes; but more dismal still
to stand as I--the stranger from Empires that have ceased to be--
stand now amidst the yet ghastlier ruins of Law and Order, the
shattering of mankind themselves! Yet here, even here, Love, the
Beautifier, that hath led my steps, can walk with unshrinking
hope through the wilderness of Death. Strange is the passion
that makes a world in itself, that individualises the One amidst
the Multitude; that, through all the changes of my solemn life,
yet survives, though ambition and hate and anger are dead; the
one solitary angel, hovering over a universe of tombs on its two
tremulous and human wings,--Hope and Fear!
How is it, Mejnour, that, as my diviner art abandoned me,--as, in
my search for Viola, I was aided but by the ordinary instincts of
the merest mortal,--how is it that I have never desponded, that I
have felt in every difficulty the prevailing prescience that we
should meet at last? So cruelly was every vestige of her flight
concealed from me,--so suddenly, so secretly had she fled, that
all the spies, all the authorities of Venice, could give me no
clew. All Italy I searched in vain! Her young home at Naples!--
how still, in its humble chambers, there seemed to linger the
fragrance of her presence! All the sublimest secrets of our lore
failed me,--failed to bring her soul visible to mine; yet morning
and night, thou lone and childless one, morning and night,
detached from myself, I can commune with my child! There in that
most blessed, typical, and mysterious of all relations, Nature
herself appears to supply what Science would refuse. Space
cannot separate the father's watchful soul from the cradle of his
first-born! I know not of its resting-place and home,--my
visions picture not the land,--only the small and tender life to
which all space is as yet the heritage! For to the infant,
before reason dawns,--before man's bad passions can dim the
essence that it takes from the element it hath left, there is no
peculiar country, no native city, and no mortal language. Its
soul as yet is the denizen of all airs and of every world; and in
space its soul meets with mine,--the child communes with the
father! Cruel and forsaking one,--thou for whom I left the
wisdom of the spheres; thou whose fatal dower has been the
weakness and terrors of humanity,--couldst thou think that young
soul less safe on earth because I would lead it ever more up to
heaven! Didst thou think that I could have wronged mine own?
Didst thou not know that in its serenest eyes the life that I
gave it spoke to warn, to upbraid the mother who would bind it to
the darkness and pangs of the prison-house of clay? Didst thou
not feel that it was I who, permitted by the Heavens, shielded it
from suffering and disease? And in its wondrous beauty, I
blessed the holy medium through which, at last, my spirit might
confer with thine!
And how have I tracked them hither? I learned that thy pupil had
been at Venice. I could not trace the young and gentle neophyte
of Parthenope in the description of the haggard and savage
visitor who had come to Viola before she fled; but when I would
have summoned his IDEA before me, it refused to obey; and I knew
then that his fate had become entwined with Viola's. I have
tracked him, then, to this Lazar House. I arrived but yesterday;
I have not yet discovered him.
I have just returned from their courts of justice,--dens where
tigers arraign their prey. I find not whom I would seek. They
are saved as yet; but I recognise in the crimes of mortals the
dark wisdom of the Everlasting. Mejnour, I see here, for the
first time, how majestic and beauteous a thing is death! Of what
sublime virtues we robbed ourselves, when, in the thirst for
virtue, we attained the art by which we can refuse to die! When
in some happy clime, where to breathe is to enjoy, the charnel-
house swallows up the young and fair; when in the noble pursuit
of knowledge, Death comes to the student, and shuts out the
enchanted land which was opening to his gaze,--how natural for us
to desire to live; how natural to make perpetual life the first
object of research! But here, from my tower of time, looking
over the darksome past, and into the starry future, I learn how
great hearts feel what sweetness and glory there is to die for
the things they love! I saw a father sacrificing himself for his
son; he was subjected to charges which a word of his could
dispel,--he was mistaken for his boy. With what joy he seized
the error, confessed the noble crimes of valour and fidelity
which the son had indeed committed, and went to the doom,
exulting that his death saved the life he had given, not in vain!
I saw women, young, delicate, in the bloom of their beauty; they
had vowed themselves to the cloister. Hands smeared with the
blood of saints opened the gate that had shut them from the
world, and bade them go forth, forget their vows, forswear the
Divine one these demons would depose, find lovers and helpmates,
and be free. And some of these young hearts had loved, and even,
though in struggles, loved yet. Did they forswear the vow? Did
they abandon the faith? Did even love allure them? Mejnour,
with one voice, they preferred to die. And whence comes this
courage?--because such HEARTS LIVE IN SOME MORE ABSTRACT AND
HOLIER LIFE THAN THEIR OWN. BUT TO LIVE FOREVER UPON THIS EARTH
IS TO LIVE IN NOTHING DIVINER THAN OURSELVES. Yes, even amidst
this gory butcherdom, God, the Ever-living, vindicates to man the
sanctity of His servant, Death!
Again I have seen thee in spirit; I have seen and blessed thee,
my sweet child! Dost thou not know me also in thy dreams? Dost
thou not feel the beating of my heart through the veil of thy
rosy slumbers? Dost thou not hear the wings of the brighter
beings that I yet can conjure around thee, to watch, to nourish,
and to save? And when the spell fades at thy waking, when thine
eyes open to the day, will they not look round for me, and ask
thy mother, with their mute eloquence, "Why she has robbed thee
of a father?"
Woman, dost thou not repent thee? Flying from imaginary fears,
hast thou not come to the very lair of terror, where Danger sits
visible and incarnate? Oh, if we could but meet, wouldst thou
not fall upon the bosom thou hast so wronged, and feel, poor
wanderer amidst the storms, as if thou hadst regained the
shelter? Mejnour, still my researches fail me. I mingle with
all men, even their judges and their spies, but I cannot yet gain
the clew. I know that she is here. I know it by an instinct;
the breath of my child seems warmer and more familiar.
They peer at me with venomous looks, as I pass through their
streets. With a glance I disarm their malice, and fascinate the
basilisks. Everywhere I see the track and scent the presence of
the Ghostly One that dwells on the Threshold, and whose victims
are the souls that would ASPIRE, and can only FEAR. I see its
dim shapelessness going before the men of blood, and marshalling
their way. Robespierre passed me with his furtive step. Those
eyes of horror were gnawing into his heart. I looked down upon
their senate; the grim Phantom sat cowering on its floor. It
hath taken up its abode in the city of Dread. And what in truth
are these would-be builders of a new world? Like the students
who have vainly struggled after our supreme science, they have
attempted what is beyond their power; they have passed from this
solid earth of usages and forms into the land of shadow, and its
loathsome keeper has seized them as its prey. I looked into the
tyrant's shuddering soul, as it trembled past me. There, amidst
the ruins of a thousand systems which aimed at virtue, sat Crime,
and shivered at its desolation. Yet this man is the only
Thinker, the only Aspirant, amongst them all. He still looks for
a future of peace and mercy, to begin,--ay! at what date? When
he has swept away every foe. Fool! new foes spring from every
drop of blood. Led by the eyes of the Unutterable, he is walking
to his doom.
O Viola, thy innocence protects thee! Thou whom the sweet
humanities of love shut out even from the dreams of aerial and
spiritual beauty, making thy heart a universe of visions fairer
than the wanderer over the rosy Hesperus can survey,--shall not
the same pure affection encompass thee, even here, with a charmed
atmosphere, and terror itself fall harmless on a life too
innocent for wisdom?
Ombra piu che di notte, in cui di luce
Raggio misto non e;
Ne piu il palagio appar, ne piu le sue
Vestigia; ne dir puossi--egli qui fue.
"Ger. Lib., canto xvi.-lxix.
(Darkness greater than of night, in which not a ray of light is
mixed;...The palace appears no more: not even a vestige,--nor
can one say that it has been.)
The clubs are noisy with clamorous frenzy; the leaders are grim
with schemes. Black Henriot flies here and there, muttering to
his armed troops, "Robespierre, your beloved, is in danger!"
Robespierre stalks perturbed, his list of victims swelling every
hour. Tallien, the Macduff to the doomed Macbeth, is whispering
courage to his pale conspirators. Along the streets heavily roll
the tumbrils. The shops are closed,--the people are gorged with
gore, and will lap no more. And night after night, to the eighty
theatres flock the children of the Revolution, to laugh at the
quips of comedy, and weep gentle tears over imaginary woes!
In a small chamber, in the heart of the city, sits the mother,
watching over her child. It is quiet, happy noon; the sunlight,
broken by the tall roofs in the narrow street, comes yet through
the open casement, the impartial playfellow of the air, gleesome
alike in temple and prison, hall and hovel; as golden and as
blithe, whether it laugh over the first hour of life, or quiver
in its gay delight on the terror and agony of the last! The
child, where it lay at the feet of Viola, stretched out its
dimpled hands as if to clasp the dancing motes that revelled in
the beam. The mother turned her eyes from the glory; it saddened
her yet more. She turned and sighed.
Is this the same Viola who bloomed fairer than their own Idalia
under the skies of Greece? How changed! How pale and worn! She
sat listlessly, her arms dropping on her knee; the smile that was
habitual to her lips was gone. A heavy, dull despondency, as if
the life of life were no more, seemed to weigh down her youth,
and make it weary of that happy sun! In truth, her existence had
languished away since it had wandered, as some melancholy stream,
from the source that fed it. The sudden enthusiasm of fear or
superstition that had almost, as if still in the unconscious
movements of a dream, led her to fly from Zanoni, had ceased from
the day which dawned upon her in a foreign land. Then--there--
she felt that in the smile she had evermore abandoned lived her
life. She did not repent,--she would not have recalled the
impulse that winged her flight. Though the enthusiasm was gone,
the superstition yet remained; she still believed she had saved
her child from that dark and guilty sorcery, concerning which the
traditions of all lands are prodigal, but in none do they find
such credulity, or excite such dread, as in the South of Italy.
This impression was confirmed by the mysterious conversations of
Glyndon, and by her own perception of the fearful change that had
passed over one who represented himself as the victim of the
enchanters. She did not, therefore, repent; but her very
volition seemed gone.
On their arrival at Paris, Viola saw her companion--the faithful
wife--no more. Ere three weeks were passed, husband and wife had
ceased to live.
And now, for the first time, the drudgeries of this hard earth
claimed the beautiful Neapolitan. In that profession, giving
voice and shape to poetry and song, in which her first years were
passed, there is, while it lasts, an excitement in the art that
lifts it from the labour of a calling. Hovering between two
lives, the Real and Ideal, dwells the life of music and the
stage. But that life was lost evermore to the idol of the eyes
and ears of Naples. Lifted to the higher realm of passionate
love, it seemed as if the fictitious genius which represents the
thoughts of others was merged in the genius that grows all
thought itself. It had been the worst infidelity to the Lost, to
have descended again to live on the applause of others. And so--
for she would not accept alms from Glyndon--so, by the commonest
arts, the humblest industry which the sex knows, alone and
unseen, she who had slept on the breast of Zanoni found a shelter
for their child. As when, in the noble verse prefixed to this
chapter, Armida herself has destroyed her enchanted palace,--not
a vestige of that bower, raised of old by Poetry and Love,
remained to say, "It had been!"
And the child avenged the father; it bloomed, it thrived,--it
waxed strong in the light of life. But still it seemed haunted
and preserved by some other being than her own. In its sleep
there was that slumber, so deep and rigid, which a thunderbolt
could not have disturbed; and in such sleep often it moved its
arms, as to embrace the air: often its lips stirred with
murmured sounds of indistinct affection,--NOT FOR HER; and all
the while upon its cheeks a hue of such celestial bloom, upon its
lips a smile of such mysterious joy! Then, when it waked, its
eyes did not turn first to HER,--wistful, earnest, wandering,
they roved around, to fix on her pale face, at last, in mute
sorrow and reproach.
Never had Viola felt before how mighty was her love for Zanoni;
how thought, feeling, heart, soul, life,--all lay crushed and
dormant in the icy absence to which she had doomed herself! She
heard not the roar without, she felt not one amidst those stormy
millions,--worlds of excitement labouring through every hour.
Only when Glyndon, haggard, wan, and spectre-like, glided in, day
after day, to visit her, did the fair daughter of the careless
South know how heavy and universal was the Death-Air that girt
her round. Sublime in her passive unconsciousness,--her mechanic
life,--she sat, and feared not, in the den of the Beasts of Prey.
The door of the room opened abruptly, and Glyndon entered. His
manner was more agitated than usual.
"Is it you, Clarence?" she said in her soft, languid tones. "You
are before the hour I expected you."
"Who can count on his hours at Paris?" returned Glyndon, with a
frightful smile. "Is it not enough that I am here! Your apathy
in the midst of these sorrows appalls me. You say calmly,
'Farewell;' calmly you bid me, 'Welcome!'--as if in every corner
there was not a spy, and as if with every day there was not a
"Pardon me! But in these walls lies my world. I can hardly
credit all the tales you tell me. Everything here, save THAT,"
and she pointed to the infant, "seems already so lifeless, that
in the tomb itself one could scarcely less heed the crimes that
are done without."
Glyndon paused for a few moments, and gazed with strange and
mingled feelings upon that face and form, still so young, and yet
so invested with that saddest of all repose,--when the heart
"O Viola," said he, at last, and in a voice of suppressed
passion, "was it thus I ever thought to see you,--ever thought to
feel for you, when we two first met in the gay haunts of Naples?
Ah, why then did you refuse my love; or why was mine not worthy
of you? Nay, shrink not!--let me touch your hand. No passion so
sweet as that youthful love can return to me again. I feel for
you but as a brother for some younger and lonely sister. With
you, in your presence, sad though it be, I seem to breathe back
the purer air of my early life. Here alone, except in scenes of
turbulence and tempest, the Phantom ceases to pursue me. I
forget even the Death that stalks behind, and haunts me as my
shadow. But better days may be in store for us yet. Viola, I at
last begin dimly to perceive how to baffle and subdue the Phantom
that has cursed my life,--it is to brave, and defy it. In sin
and in riot, as I have told thee, it haunts me not. But I
comprehend now what Mejnour said in his dark apothegms, 'that I
should dread the spectre most WHEN UNSEEN.' In virtuous and calm
resolution it appears,--ay, I behold it now; there, there, with
its livid eyes!"--and the drops fell from his brow. "But it
shall no longer daunt me from that resolution. I face it, and it
gradually darkens back into the shade." He paused, and his eyes
dwelt with a terrible exultation upon the sunlit space; then,
with a heavy and deep-drawn breath, he resumed, "Viola, I have
found the means of escape. We will leave this city. In some
other land we will endeavour to comfort each other, and forget
"No," said Viola, calmly; "I have no further wish to stir, till I
am born hence to the last resting-place. I dreamed of him last
night, Clarence!--dreamed of him for the first time since we
parted; and, do not mock me, methought that he forgave the
deserter, and called me 'Wife.' That dream hallows the room.
Perhaps it will visit me again before I die."
"Talk not of him,--of the demi-fiend!" cried Glyndon, fiercely,
and stamping his foot. "Thank the Heavens for any fate that hath
rescued thee from him!"
"Hush!" said Viola, gravely. And as she was about to proceed,
her eye fell upon the child. It was standing in the very centre
of that slanting column of light which the sun poured into the
chamber; and the rays seemed to surround it as a halo, and
settled, crown-like, on the gold of its shining hair. In its
small shape, so exquisitely modelled, in its large, steady,
tranquil eyes, there was something that awed, while it charmed
the mother's pride. It gazed on Glyndon as he spoke, with a look
which almost might have seemed disdain, and which Viola, at
least, interpreted as a defence of the Absent, stronger than her
own lips could frame.
Glyndon broke the pause.
"Thou wouldst stay, for what? To betray a mother's duty! If any
evil happen to thee here, what becomes of thine infant? Shall it
be brought up an orphan, in a country that has desecrated thy
religion, and where human charity exists no more? Ah, weep, and
clasp it to thy bosom; but tears do not protect and save."
"Thou hast conquered, my friend, I will fly with thee."
"To-morrow night, then, be prepared. I will bring thee the
And Glyndon then proceeded to sketch rapidly the outline of the
path they were to take, and the story they were to tell. Viola
listened, but scarcely comprehended; he pressed her hand to his
heart and departed.
Van seco pur anco
Sdegno ed Amor, quasi due Veltri al fianco.
"Ger. Lib." cant. xx. cxvii.
(There went with him still Disdain and Love, like two greyhounds
side by side.)
Glyndon did not perceive, as he hurried from the house, two forms
crouching by the angle of the wall. He saw still the spectre
gliding by his side; but he beheld not the yet more poisonous
eyes of human envy and woman's jealousy that glared on his
Nicot advanced to the house; Fillide followed him in silence.
The painter, an old sans-culotte, knew well what language to
assume to the porter. He beckoned the latter from his lodge,
"How is this, citizen? Thou harbourest a 'suspect.'"
"Citizen, you terrify me!--if so, name him."
"It is not a man; a refugee, an Italian woman, lodges here."
"Yes, au troisieme,--the door to the left. But what of her?--she
cannot be dangerous, poor child!"
"Citizen, beware! Dost thou dare to pity her?"
"I? No, no, indeed. But--"
"Speak the truth! Who visits her?"
"No one but an Englishman."
"That is it,--an Englishman, a spy of Pitt and Coburg."
"Just Heaven! is it possible?"
"How, citizen! dost thou speak of Heaven? Thou must be an
"No, indeed; it was but an old bad habit, and escaped me
"How often does the Englishman visit her?"
Fillide uttered an exclamation.
She never stirs out," said the porter. "Her sole occupations are
in work, and care of her infant."
Fillide made a bound forward. Nicot in vain endeavoured to
arrest her. She sprang up the stairs; she paused not till she
was before the door indicated by the porter; it stood ajar, she
entered, she stood at the threshold, and beheld that face, still
so lovely! The sight of so much beauty left her hopeless. And
the child, over whom the mother bent!--she who had never been a
mother!--she uttered no sound; the furies were at work within her
breast. Viola turned, and saw her, and, terrified by the strange
apparition, with features that expressed the deadliest hate and
scorn and vengeance, uttered a cry, and snatched the child to her
bosom. The Italian laughed aloud,--turned, descended, and,
gaining the spot where Nicot still conversed with the frightened
porter drew him from the house. When they were in the open
street, she halted abruptly, and said, "Avenge me, and name thy
"My price, sweet one! is but permission to love thee. Thou wilt
fly with me to-morrow night; thou wilt possess thyself of the
passports and the plan."
"Shall, before then, find their asylum in the Conciergerie. The
guillotine shall requite thy wrongs."
"Do this, and I am satisfied," said Fillide, firmly.
And they spoke no more till they regained the house. But when
she there, looking up to the dull building, saw the windows of
the room which the belief of Glyndon's love had once made a
paradise, the tiger relented at the heart; something of the woman
gushed back upon her nature, dark and savage as it was. She
pressed the arm on which she leaned convulsively, and exclaimed,
"No, no! not him! denounce her,--let her perish; but I have slept
on HIS bosom,--not HIM!"
"It shall be as thou wilt," said Nicot, with a devil's sneer;
"but he must be arrested for the moment. No harm shall happen to
him, for no accuser shall appear. But her,--thou wilt not relent
Fillide turned upon him her eyes, and their dark glance was
In poppa quella
Che guidar gli dovea, fatal Donsella.
"Ger. Lib." cant. xv. 3.
(By the prow was the fatal lady ordained to be the guide.)
The Italian did not overrate that craft of simulation proverbial
with her country and her sex. Not a word, not a look, that day
revealed to Glyndon the deadly change that had converted devotion
into hate. He himself, indeed, absorbed in his own schemes, and
in reflections on his own strange destiny, was no nice observer.
But her manner, milder and more subdued than usual, produced a
softening effect upon his meditations towards the evening; and he
then began to converse with her on the certain hope of escape,
and on the future that would await them in less unhallowed lands.
"And thy fair friend," said Fillide, with an averted eye and a
false smile, "who was to be our companion?--thou hast resigned
her, Nicot tells me, in favour of one in whom he is interested.
Is it so?"
"He told thee this!" returned Glyndon, evasively. "Well! does
the change content thee?"
"Traitor!" muttered Fillide; and she rose suddenly, approached
him, parted the long hair from his forehead caressingly, and
pressed her lips convulsively on his brow.
"This were too fair a head for the doomsman," said she, with a
slight laugh, and, turning away, appeared occupied in
preparations for their departure.
The next morning, when he rose, Glyndon did not see the Italian;
she was absent from the house when he left it. It was necessary
that he should once more visit C-- before his final Departure,
not only to arrange for Nicot's participation in the flight, but
lest any suspicion should have arisen to thwart or endanger the
plan he had adopted. C--, though not one of the immediate
coterie of Robespierre, and indeed secretly hostile to him, had
possessed the art of keeping well with each faction as it rose to
power. Sprung from the dregs of the populace, he had,
nevertheless, the grace and vivacity so often found impartially
amongst every class in France. He had contrived to enrich
himself--none knew how--in the course of his rapid career. He
became, indeed, ultimately one of the wealthiest proprietors of
Paris, and at that time kept a splendid and hospitable mansion.
He was one of those whom, from various reasons, Robespierre
deigned to favour; and he had often saved the proscribed and
suspected, by procuring them passports under disguised names, and
advising their method of escape. But C-- was a man who took this
trouble only for the rich. "The incorruptible Maximilien," who
did not want the tyrant's faculty of penetration, probably saw
through all his manoeuvres, and the avarice which he cloaked
beneath his charity. But it was noticeable that Robespierre
frequently seemed to wink at--nay, partially to encourage--such
vice in men whom he meant hereafter to destroy, as would tend to
lower them in the public estimation, and to contrast with his own
austere and unassailable integrity and PURISM. And, doubtless,
he often grimly smiled in his sleeve at the sumptuous mansion and
the griping covetousness of the worthy Citizen C--.
To this personage, then, Glyndon musingly bent his way. It was
true, as he had darkly said to Viola, that in proportion as he
had resisted the spectre, its terrors had lost their influence.
The time had come at last, when, seeing crime and vice in all
their hideousness, and in so vast a theatre, he had found that in
vice and crime there are deadlier horrors than in the eyes of a
phantom-fear. His native nobleness began to return to him. As
he passed the streets, he revolved in his mind projects of future
repentance and reformation. He even meditated, as a just return
for Fillide's devotion, the sacrifice of all the reasonings of
his birth and education. He would repair whatever errors he had
committed against her, by the self-immolation of marriage with
one little congenial with himself. He who had once revolted from
marriage with the noble and gentle Viola!--he had learned in that
world of wrong to know that right is right, and that Heaven did
not make the one sex to be the victim of the other. The young
visions of the Beautiful and the Good rose once more before him;
and along the dark ocean of his mind lay the smile of reawakening
virtue, as a path of moonlight. Never, perhaps, had the
condition of his soul been so elevated and unselfish.
In the meanwhile Jean Nicot, equally absorbed in dreams of the
future, and already in his own mind laying out to the best
advantage the gold of the friend he was about to betray, took his
way to the house honoured by the residence of Robespierre. He
had no intention to comply with the relenting prayer of Fillide,
that the life of Glyndon should be spared. He thought with
Barrere, "Il n'y a que les morts qui ne revient pas." In all men
who have devoted themselves to any study, or any art, with
sufficient pains to attain a certain degree of excellence, there
must be a fund of energy immeasurably above that of the ordinary
herd. Usually this energy is concentrated on the objects of
their professional ambition, and leaves them, therefore,
apathetic to the other pursuits of men. But where those objects
are denied, where the stream has not its legitimate vent, the
energy, irritated and aroused, possesses the whole being, and if
not wasted on desultory schemes, or if not purified by conscience
and principle, becomes a dangerous and destructive element in the
social system, through which it wanders in riot and disorder.
Hence, in all wise monarchies,--nay, in all well-constituted
states,--the peculiar care with which channels are opened for
every art and every science; hence the honour paid to their
cultivators by subtle and thoughtful statesmen, who, perhaps, for
themselves, see nothing in a picture but coloured canvas,--
nothing in a problem but an ingenious puzzle. No state is ever
more in danger than when the talent that should be consecrated to
peace has no occupation but political intrigue or personal
advancement. Talent unhonoured is talent at war with men. And
here it is noticeable, that the class of actors having been the
most degraded by the public opinion of the old regime, their very
dust deprived of Christian burial, no men (with certain
exceptions in the company especially favoured by the Court) were
more relentless and revengeful among the scourges of the
Revolution. In the savage Collot d'Herbois, mauvais comedien,
were embodied the wrongs and the vengeance of a class.
Now the energy of Jean Nicot had never been sufficiently directed
to the art he professed. Even in his earliest youth, the
political disquisitions of his master, David, had distracted him
from the more tedious labours of the easel. The defects of his
person had embittered his mind; the atheism of his benefactor had
deadened his conscience. For one great excellence of religion--
above all, the Religion of the Cross--is, that it raises PATIENCE
first into a virtue, and next into a hope. Take away the
doctrine of another life, of requital hereafter, of the smile of
a Father upon our sufferings and trials in our ordeal here, and
what becomes of patience? But without patience, what is man?--
and what a people? Without patience, art never can be high;
without patience, liberty never can be perfected. By wild
throes, and impetuous, aimless struggles, Intellect seeks to soar
from Penury, and a nation to struggle into Freedom. And woe,
thus unfortified, guideless, and unenduring,--woe to both!
Nicot was a villain as a boy. In most criminals, however
abandoned, there are touches of humanity,--relics of virtue; and
the true delineator of mankind often incurs the taunt of bad
hearts and dull minds, for showing that even the worst alloy has
some particles of gold, and even the best that come stamped from
the mint of Nature have some adulteration of the dross. But
there are exceptions, though few, to the general rule,--
exceptions, when the conscience lies utterly dead, and when good
or bad are things indifferent but as means to some selfish end.
So was it with the protege of the atheist. Envy and hate filled
up his whole being, and the consciousness of superior talent only
made him curse the more all who passed him in the sunlight with a
fairer form or happier fortunes. But, monster though he was,
when his murderous fingers griped the throat of his benefactor,
Time, and that ferment of all evil passions--the Reign of Blood--
had made in the deep hell of his heart a deeper still. Unable to
exercise his calling (for even had he dared to make his name
prominent, revolutions are no season for painters; and no man--
no! not the richest and proudest magnate of the land, has so
great an interest in peace and order, has so high and essential a
stake in the well being of society, as the poet and the artist),
his whole intellect, ever restless and unguided, was left to
ponder over the images of guilt most congenial to it. He had no
future but in this life; and how in this life had the men of
power around him, the great wrestlers for dominion, thriven? All
that was good, pure, unselfish,--whether among Royalists or
Republicans,--swept to the shambles, and the deathsmen left alone
in the pomp and purple of their victims! Nobler paupers than
Jean Nicot would despair; and Poverty would rise in its ghastly
multitudes to cut the throat of Wealth, and then gash itself limb
by limb, if Patience, the Angel of the Poor, sat not by its side,
pointing with solemn finger to the life to come! And now, as
Nicot neared the house of the Dictator, he began to meditate a
reversal of his plans of the previous day: not that he faltered
in his resolution to denounce Glyndon, and Viola would
necessarily share his fate, as a companion and accomplice,--no,
THERE he was resolved! for he hated both (to say nothing of his
old but never-to-be-forgotten grudge against Zanoni). Viola had
scorned him, Glyndon had served, and the thought of gratitude was
as intolerable to him as the memory of insult. But why, now,
should he fly from France?--he could possess himself of Glyndon's
gold; he doubted not that he could so master Fillide by her wrath
and jealousy that he could command her acquiescence in all he
proposed. The papers he had purloined--Desmoulins'
correspondence with Glyndon--while it insured the fate of the
latter, might be eminently serviceable to Robespierre, might
induce the tyrant to forget his own old liaisons with Hebert, and
enlist him among the allies and tools of the King of Terror.
Hopes of advancement, of wealth, of a career, again rose before
him. This correspondence, dated shortly before Camille
Desmoulins' death, was written with that careless and daring
imprudence which characterised the spoiled child of Danton. It
spoke openly of designs against Robespierre; it named
confederates whom the tyrant desired only a popular pretext to
crush. It was a new instrument of death in the hands of the
Death-compeller. What greater gift could he bestow on Maximilien
Nursing these thoughts, he arrived at last before the door of
Citizen Dupleix. Around the threshold were grouped, in admired
confusion, some eight or ten sturdy Jacobins, the voluntary body-
guard of Robespierre,--tall fellows, well armed, and insolent
with the power that reflects power, mingled with women, young and
fair, and gayly dressed, who had come, upon the rumour that
Maximilien had had an attack of bile, to inquire tenderly of his
health; for Robespierre, strange though it seem, was the idol of
Through this cortege stationed without the door, and reaching up
the stairs to the landing-place,--for Robespierre's apartments
were not spacious enough to afford sufficient antechamber for
levees so numerous and miscellaneous,--Nicot forced his way; and
far from friendly or flattering were the expressions that regaled
"Aha, le joli Polichinelle!" said a comely matron, whose robe his
obtrusive and angular elbows cruelly discomposed. "But how could
one expect gallantry from such a scarecrow!"
"Citizen, I beg to advise thee (The courteous use of the plural
was proscribed at Paris. The Societies Populaires had decided
that whoever used it should be prosecuted as suspect et
adulateur! At the door of the public administrations and popular
societies was written up, "Ici on s'honore du Citoyen, et on se
tutoye"!!! ("Here they respect the title of Citizen, and they
'thee' and 'thou' one another.") Take away Murder from the
French Revolution and it becomes the greatest farce ever played
before the angels!) that thou art treading on my feet. I beg thy
pardon, but now I look at thine, I see the hall is not wide
enough for them."
"Ho! Citizen Nicot," cried a Jacobin, shouldering his formidable
bludgeon, "and what brings thee hither?--thinkest thou that
Hebert's crimes are forgotten already? Off, sport of Nature! and
thank the Etre Supreme that he made thee insignificant enough to
"A pretty face to look out of the National Window" (The
Guillotine.), said the woman whose robe the painter had ruffled.
"Citizens," said Nicot, white with passion, but constraining
himself so that his words seemed to come from grinded teeth, "I
have the honour to inform you that I seek the Representant upon
business of the utmost importance to the public and himself;
and," he added slowly and malignantly, glaring round, "I call all
good citizens to be my witnesses when I shall complain to
Robespierre of the reception bestowed on me by some amongst you."
There was in the man's look and his tone of voice so much of deep
and concentrated malignity, that the idlers drew back, and as the
remembrance of the sudden ups and downs of revolutionary life
occurred to them, several voices were lifted to assure the
squalid and ragged painter that nothing was farther from their
thoughts than to offer affront to a citizen whose very appearance
proved him to be an exemplary sans-culotte. Nicot received these
apologies in sullen silence, and, folding his arms, leaned
against the wall, waiting in grim patience for his admission.
The loiterers talked to each other in separate knots of two and
three; and through the general hum rang the clear, loud, careless
whistle of the tall Jacobin who stood guard by the stairs. Next
to Nicot, an old woman and a young virgin were muttering in
earnest whispers, and the atheist painter chuckled inly to
overhear their discourse.
"I assure thee, my dear," said the crone, with a mysterious shake
of head, "that the divine Catherine Theot, whom the impious now
persecute, is really inspired. There can be no doubt that the
elect, of whom Dom Gerle and the virtuous Robespierre are
destined to be the two grand prophets, will enjoy eternal life
here, and exterminate all their enemies. There is no doubt of
it,--not the least!"
"How delightful!" said the girl; "ce cher Robespierre!--he does
not look very long-lived either!"
"The greater the miracle," said the old woman. "I am just
eighty-one, and I don't feel a day older since Catherine Theot
promised me I should be one of the elect!"
Here the women were jostled aside by some newcomers, who talked
loud and eagerly.
"Yes," cried a brawny man, whose garb denoted him to be a
butcher, with bare arms, and a cap of liberty on his head; "I am
come to warn Robespierre. They lay a snare for him; they offer
him the Palais National. 'On ne peut etre ami du peuple et
habiter un palais.'" ("No one can be a friend of the people, and
dwell in a palace."--"Papiers inedits trouves chez Robespierre,"
etc., volume ii. page 132.)
"No, indeed," answered a cordonnier; "I like him best in his
little lodging with the menuisier: it looks like one of US."
Another rush of the crowd, and a new group were thrown forward in
the vicinity of Nicot. And these men gabbled and chattered
faster and louder than the rest.
"But my plan is--"
"Au diable with YOUR plan! I tell you MY scheme is--"
"Nonsense!" cried a third. "When Robespierre understands MY new
method of making gunpowder, the enemies of France shall--"
"Bah! who fears foreign enemies?" interrupted a fourth; "the
enemies to be feared are at home. MY new guillotine takes off
fifty heads at a time!"
"But MY new Constitution!" exclaimed a fifth.
"MY new Religion, citizen!" murmured, complacently, a sixth.
"Sacre mille tonnerres, silence!" roared forth one of the Jacobin
And the crowd suddenly parted as a fierce-looking man, buttoned
up to the chin, his sword rattling by his side, his spurs
clinking at his heel, descended the stairs,--his cheeks swollen
and purple with intemperance, his eyes dead and savage as a
vulture's. There was a still pause, as all, with pale cheeks,
made way for the relentless Henriot. (Or H_a_nriot. It is
singular how undetermined are not only the characters of the
French Revolution, but even the spelling of their names. With
the historians it is Vergniau_d_,--with the journalists of the
time it is Vorgniau_x_. With one authority it is Robespierre,--
with another Robe_r_spierre.) Scarce had this gruff and iron
minion of the tyrant stalked through the throng, than a new
movement of respect and agitation and fear swayed the increasing
crowd, as there glided in, with the noiselessness of a shadow, a
smiling, sober citizen, plainly but neatly clad, with a downcast
humble eye. A milder, meeker face no pastoral poet could assign
to Corydon or Thyrsis,--why did the crowd shrink and hold their
breath? As the ferret in a burrow crept that slight form amongst
the larger and rougher creatures that huddled and pressed back on
each other as he passed. A wink of his stealthy eye, and the
huge Jacobins left the passage clear, without sound or question.
On he went to the apartment of the tyrant, and thither will we
Constitutum est, ut quisquis eum HOMINEM dixisset fuisse,
capitalem penderet poenam.
St. Augustine, "Of the God Serapis," l. 18, "de Civ. Dei," c. 5.)
(It was decreed, that whoso should say that he had been a MAN,
should suffer the punishment of a capital offence.)
Robespierre was reclining languidly in his fauteuil, his
cadaverous countenance more jaded and fatigued than usual. He to
whom Catherine Theot assured immortal life, looked, indeed, like
a man at death's door. On the table before him was a dish heaped
with oranges, with the juice of which it is said that he could
alone assuage the acrid bile that overflowed his system; and an
old woman, richly dressed (she had been a Marquise in the old
regime) was employed in peeling the Hesperian fruits for the sick
Dragon, with delicate fingers covered with jewels. I have before
said that Robespierre was the idol of the women. Strange
certainly!--but then they were French women! The old Marquise,
who, like Catherine Theot, called him "son," really seemed to
love him piously and disinterestedly as a mother; and as she
peeled the oranges, and heaped on him the most caressing and
soothing expressions, the livid ghost of a smile fluttered about
his meagre lips. At a distance, Payan and Couthon, seated at
another table, were writing rapidly, and occasionally pausing
from their work to consult with each other in brief whispers.
Suddenly one of the Jacobins opened the door, and, approaching
Robespierre, whispered to him the name of Guerin. (See for the
espionage on which Guerin was employed, "Les Papiers inedits,"
etc., volume i. page 366, No. xxviii.) At that word the sick man
started up, as if new life were in the sound.
"My kind friend," he said to the Marquise, "forgive me; I must
dispense with thy tender cares. France demands me. I am never
ill when I can serve my country!"
The old Marquise lifted up her eyes to heaven and murmured, "Quel
Robespierre waved his hand impatiently; and the old woman, with a
sigh, patted his pale cheek, kissed his forehead, and
submissively withdrew. The next moment, the smiling, sober man
we have before described, stood, bending low, before the tyrant.
And well might Robespierre welcome one of the subtlest agents of
his power,--one on whom he relied more than the clubs of his
Jacobins, the tongues of his orators, the bayonets of his armies;
Guerin, the most renowned of his ecouteurs,--the searching,
prying, universal, omnipresent spy, who glided like a sunbeam
through chink and crevice, and brought to him intelligence not
only of the deeds, but the hearts of men!
"Well, citizen, well!--and what of Tallien?"
"This morning, early, two minutes after eight, he went out."
"He passed Rue des Quatre Fils, Rue de Temple, Rue de la Reunion,
au Marais, Rue Martin; nothing observable, except that--"
"He amused himself at a stall in bargaining for some books."
"Bargaining for books! Aha, the charlatan!--he would cloak the
intriguant under the savant! Well!"
"At last, in the Rue des Fosses Montmartre, an individual in a
blue surtout (unknown) accosted him. They walked together about
the street some minutes, and were joined by Legendre."
"Legendre! approach, Payan! Legendre, thou hearest!"
"I went into a fruit-stall, and hired two little girls to go and
play at ball within hearing. They heard Legendre say, 'I believe
his power is wearing itself out.' And Tallien answered, 'And
HIMSELF too. I would not give three months' purchase for his
life.' I do not know, citizen, if they meant THEE?"
"Nor I, citizen," answered Robespierre, with a fell smile,
succeeded by an expression of gloomy thought. "Ha!" he muttered;
"I am young yet,--in the prime of life. I commit no excess. No;
my constitution is sound, sound. Anything farther of Tallien?"
"Yes. The woman whom he loves--Teresa de Fontenai--who lies in
prison, still continues to correspond with him; to urge him to
save her by thy destruction: this my listeners overheard. His
servant is the messenger between the prisoner and himself."
"So! The servant shall be seized in the open streets of Paris.
The Reign of Terror is not over yet. With the letters found on
him, if such their context, I will pluck Tallien from his benches
in the Convention."
Robespierre rose, and after walking a few moments to and fro the
room in thought, opened the door and summoned one of the Jacobins
without. To him he gave his orders for the watch and arrest of
Tallien's servant, and then threw himself again into his chair.
As the Jacobin departed, Guerin whispered,--
"Is not that the Citizen Aristides?"
"Yes; a faithful fellow, if he would wash himself, and not swear
"Didst thou not guillotine his brother?"
"But Aristides denounced him."
"Nevertheless, are such men safe about thy person?"
"Humph! that is true." And Robespierre, drawing out his pocket-
book, wrote a memorandum in it, replaced it in his vest, and
"What else of Tallien?"
"Nothing more. He and Legendre, with the unknown, walked to the
Jardin Egalite, and there parted. I saw Tallien to his house.
But I have other news. Thou badest me watch for those who
threaten thee in secret letters."
"Guerin! hast thou detected them? Hast thou--hast thou--"
And the tyrant, as he spoke, opened and shut both his hands, as
if already grasping the lives of the writers, and one of those
convulsive grimaces that seemed like an epileptic affection, to
which he was subject, distorted his features.
"Citizen, I think I have found one. Thou must know that amongst
those most disaffected is the painter Nicot."
"Stay, stay!" said Robespierre, opening a manuscript book, bound
in red morocco (for Robespierre was neat and precise, even in his
death-lists), and turning to an alphabetical index,--"Nicot!--I
have him,--atheist, sans-culotte (I hate slovens), friend of
Hebert! Aha! N.B.--Rene Dumas knows of his early career and
"This Nicot has been suspected of diffusing tracts and pamphlets
against thyself and the Comite. Yesterday evening, when he was
out, his porter admitted me into his apartment, Rue Beau Repaire.
With my master-key I opened his desk and escritoire. I found
herein a drawing of thyself at the guillotine; and underneath was
written, 'Bourreau de ton pays, lis l'arret de ton chatiment!'
(Executioner of thy country, read the decree of thy punishment!)
I compared the words with the fragments of the various letters
thou gavest me: the handwriting tallies with one. See, I tore
off the writing."
Robespierre looked, smiled, and, as if his vengeance were already
satisfied, threw himself on his chair. "It is well! I feared it
was a more powerful enemy. This man must be arrested at once."
"And he waits below. I brushed by him as I ascended the stairs."
"Does he so?--admit!--nay,--hold! hold! Guerin, withdraw into
the inner chamber till I summon thee again. Dear Payan, see that
this Nicot conceals no weapons."
Payan, who was as brave as Robespierre was pusillanimous,
repressed the smile of disdain that quivered on his lips a
moment, and left the room.
Meanwhile Robespierre, with his head buried in his bosom, seemed
plunged in deep thought. "Life is a melancholy thing, Couthon!"
said he, suddenly.
"Begging your pardon, I think death worse," answered the
Robespierre made no rejoinder, but took from his portefeuille
that singular letter, which was found afterwards amongst his
papers, and is marked LXI. in the published collection.
("Papiers inedits,' etc., volume ii. page 156.)
"Without doubt," it began, "you are uneasy at not having earlier
received news from me. Be not alarmed; you know that I ought
only to reply by our ordinary courier; and as he has been
interrupted, dans sa derniere course, that is the cause of my
delay. When you receive this, employ all diligence to fly a
theatre where you are about to appear and disappear for the last
time. It were idle to recall to you all the reasons that expose
you to peril. The last step that should place you sur le sopha
de la presidence, but brings you to the scaffold; and the mob
will spit on your face as it has spat on those whom you have
judged. Since, then, you have accumulated here a sufficient
treasure for existence, I await you with great impatience, to
laugh with you at the part you have played in the troubles of a
nation as credulous as it is avid of novelties. Take your part
according to our arrangements,--all is prepared. I conclude,--
our courier waits. I expect your reply."
Musingly and slowly the Dictator devoured the contents of this
epistle. "No," he said to himself,--"no; he who has tasted power
can no longer enjoy repose. Yet, Danton, Danton! thou wert
right; better to be a poor fisherman than to govern men." ("Il
vaudrait mieux," said Danton, in his dungeon, "etre un pauvre
pecheur que de gouverner les hommes.")
The door opened, and Payan reappeared and whispered Robespierre,
"All is safe! See the man."
The Dictator, satisfied, summoned his attendant Jacobin to
conduct Nicot to his presence. The painter entered with a
fearless expression in his deformed features, and stood erect
before Robespierre, who scanned him with a sidelong eye.
It is remarkable that most of the principal actors of the
Revolution were singularly hideous in appearance,--from the
colossal ugliness of Mirabeau and Danton, or the villanous
ferocity in the countenances of David and Simon, to the filthy
squalor of Marat, the sinister and bilious meanness of the
Dictator's features. But Robespierre, who was said to resemble a
cat, had also a cat's cleanness; and his prim and dainty dress,
his shaven smoothness, the womanly whiteness of his lean hands,
made yet more remarkable the disorderly ruffianism that
characterised the attire and mien of the painter-sans-culotte.
"And so, citizen," said Robespierre, mildly, "thou wouldst speak
with me? I know thy merits and civism have been overlooked too
long. Thou wouldst ask some suitable provision in the state?
Scruple not--say on!"
"Virtuous Robespierre, toi qui eclaires l'univers (Thou who
enlightenest the world.), I come not to ask a favour, but to
render service to the state. I have discovered a correspondence
that lays open a conspiracy of which many of the actors are yet
unsuspected." And he placed the papers on the table.
Robespierre seized, and ran his eye over them rapidly and
"Good!--good!" he muttered to himself: "this is all I wanted.
Barrere, Legendre! I have them! Camille Desmoulins was but
their dupe. I loved him once; I never loved them! Citizen
Nicot, I thank thee. I observe these letters are addressed to an
Englishman. What Frenchman but must distrust these English
wolves in sheep's clothing! France wants no longer citizens of
the world; that farce ended with Anarcharsis Clootz. I beg
pardon, Citizen Nicot; but Clootz and Hebert were THY friends."
"Nay," said Nicot, apologetically, "we are all liable to be
deceived. I ceased to honour them whom thou didst declare
against; for I disown my own senses rather than thy justice."
"Yes, I pretend to justice; that IS the virtue I affect," said
Robespierre, meekly; and with his feline propensities he enjoyed,
even in that critical hour of vast schemes, of imminent danger,
of meditated revenge, the pleasure of playing with a solitary
victim. (The most detestable anecdote of this peculiar hypocrisy
in Robespierre is that in which he is recorded to have tenderly
pressed the hand of his old school-friend, Camille Desmoulins,
the day that he signed the warrant for his arrest.) "And my
justice shall no longer be blind to thy services, good Nicot.
Thou knowest this Glyndon?"
"Yes, well,--intimately. He WAS my friend, but I would give up
my brother if he were one of the 'indulgents.' I am not ashamed
to say that I have received favours from this man."
"Aha!--and thou dost honestly hold the doctrine that where a man
threatens my life all personal favours are to be forgotten?"
"Good citizen!--kind Nicot!--oblige me by writing the address of
Nicot stooped to the table; and suddenly when the pen was in his
hand, a thought flashed across him, and he paused, embarrassed
"Write on, KIND Nicot!"
The painter slowly obeyed.
"Who are the other familiars of Glyndon?"
"It was on that point I was about to speak to thee,
Representant," said Nicot. "He visits daily a woman, a
foreigner, who knows all his secrets; she affects to be poor, and
to support her child by industry. But she is the wife of an
Italian of immense wealth, and there is no doubt that she has
moneys which are spent in corrupting the citizens. She should be
seized and arrested."
"Write down her name also."
"But no time is to be lost; for I know that both have a design to
escape from Paris this very night."
"Our government is prompt, good Nicot,--never fear. Humph!--
humph!" and Robespierre took the paper on which Nicot had
written, and stooping over it--for he was near-sighted--added,
smilingly, "Dost thou always write the same hand, citizen? This
seems almost like a disguised character."
"I should not like them to know who denounced them,
"Good! good! Thy virtue shall be rewarded, trust me. Salut et
Robespierre half rose as he spoke, and Nicot withdrew.
"Ho, there!--without!" cried the Dictator, ringing his bell; and
as the ready Jacobin attended the summons, "Follow that man, Jean
Nicot. The instant he has cleared the house seize him. At once
to the Conciergerie with him. Stay!--nothing against the law;
there is thy warrant. The public accuser shall have my
The Jacobin vanished. All trace of illness, of infirmity, had
gone from the valetudinarian; he stood erect on the floor, his
face twitching convulsively, and his arms folded. "Ho! Guerin!"
the spy reappeared--"take these addresses! Within an hour this
Englishman and his woman must be in prison; their revelations
will aid me against worthier foes. They shall die: they shall
perish with the rest on the 10th,--the third day from this.
There!" and he wrote hastily,--"there, also, is thy warrant!
"And now, Couthon, Payan, we will dally no longer with Tallien
and his crew. I have information that the Convention will NOT
attend the Fete on the 10th. We must trust only to the sword of
the law. I must compose my thoughts,--prepare my harangue. To-
morrow, I will reappear at the Convention; to-morrow, bold St.
Just joins us, fresh from our victorious armies; to-morrow, from
the tribune, I will dart the thunderbolt on the masked enemies of
France; to-morrow, I will demand, in the face of the country, the
heads of the conspirators."
Le glaive est contre toi tourne de toutes parties.
La Harpe, "Jeanne de Naples," Act iv. sc. 4.
(The sword is raised against you on all sides.)
In the mean time Glyndon, after an audience of some length with
C--, in which the final preparations were arranged, sanguine of
safety, and foreseeing no obstacle to escape, bent his way back
to Fillide. Suddenly, in the midst of his cheerful thoughts, he
fancied he heard a voice too well and too terribly recognised,
hissing in his ear, "What! thou wouldst defy and escape me! thou
wouldst go back to virtue and content. It is in vain,--it is too
late. No, _I_ will not haunt thee; HUMAN footsteps, no less
inexorable, dog thee now. Me thou shalt not see again till in
the dungeon, at midnight, before thy doom! Behold--"
And Glyndon, mechanically turning his head, saw, close behind
him, the stealthy figure of a man whom he had observed before,
but with little heed, pass and repass him, as he quitted the
house of Citizen C--. Instantly and instinctively he knew that
he was watched,--that he was pursued. The street he was in was
obscure and deserted, for the day was oppressively sultry, and it
was the hour when few were abroad, either on business or
pleasure. Bold as he was, an icy chill shot through his heart,
he knew too well the tremendous system that then reigned in Paris
not to be aware of his danger. As the sight of the first plague-
boil to the victim of the pestilence, was the first sight of the
shadowy spy to that of the Revolution: the watch, the arrest,
the trial, the guillotine,--these made the regular and rapid
steps of the monster that the anarchists called Law! He breathed
hard, he heard distinctly the loud beating of his heart. And so
he paused, still and motionless, gazing upon the shadow that
halted also behind him.
Presently, the absence of all allies to the spy, the solitude of
the streets, reanimated his courage; he made a step towards his
pursuer, who retreated as he advanced. "Citizen, thou followest
me," he said. "Thy business?"
"Surely," answered the man, with a deprecating smile, "the
streets are broad enough for both? Thou art not so bad a
republican as to arrogate all Paris to thyself!"
"Go on first, then. I make way for thee."
The man bowed, doffed his hat politely, and passed forward. The
next moment Glyndon plunged into a winding lane, and fled fast
through a labyrinth of streets, passages, and alleys. By degrees
he composed himself, and, looking behind, imagined that he had
baffled the pursuer; he then, by a circuitous route, bent his way
once more to his home. As he emerged into one of the broader
streets, a passenger, wrapped in a mantle, brushing so quickly by
him that he did not observe his countenance, whispered, "Clarence
Glyndon, you are dogged,--follow me!" and the stranger walked
quickly before him. Clarence turned, and sickened once more to
see at his heels, with the same servile smile on his face, the
pursuer he fancied he had escaped. He forgot the injunction of
the stranger to follow him, and perceiving a crowd gathered close
at hand, round a caricature-shop, dived amidst them, and, gaining
another street, altered the direction he had before taken, and,
after a long and breathless course, gained without once more
seeing the spy, a distant quartier of the city.
Here, indeed, all seemed so serene and fair that his artist eye,
even in that imminent hour, rested with pleasure on the scene.
It was a comparatively broad space, formed by one of the noble
quays. The Seine flowed majestically along, with boats and craft
resting on its surface. The sun gilt a thousand spires and
domes, and gleamed on the white palaces of a fallen chivalry.
Here fatigued and panting, he paused an instant, and a cooler air
from the river fanned his brow. "Awhile, at least, I am safe
here," he murmured; and as he spoke, some thirty paces behind
him, he beheld the spy. He stood rooted to the spot; wearied
and spent as he was, escape seemed no longer possible,--the river
on one side (no bridge at hand), and the long row of mansions
closing up the other. As he halted, he heard laughter and
obscene songs from a house a little in his rear, between himself
and the spy. It was a cafe fearfully known in that quarter.
Hither often resorted the black troop of Henriot,--the minions
and huissiers of Robespierre. The spy, then, had hunted the
victim within the jaws of the hounds. The man slowly advanced,
and, pausing before the open window of the cafe, put his head
through the aperture, as to address and summon forth its armed
At that very instant, and while the spy's head was thus turned
from him, standing in the half-open gateway of the house
immediately before him, he perceived the stranger who had warned;
the figure, scarcely distinguishable through the mantle that
wrapped it, motioned to him to enter. He sprang noiselessly
through the friendly opening: the door closed; breathlessly he
followed the stranger up a flight of broad stairs and through a
suite of empty rooms, until, having gained a small cabinet, his
conductor doffed the large hat and the long mantle that had
hitherto concealed his shape and features, and Glyndon beheld
Think not my magic wonders wrought by aid
Of Stygian angels summoned up from hell;
Scorned and accursed be those who have essayed
Her gloomy Dives and Afrites to compel.
But by perception of the secret powers
Of mineral springs in Nature's inmost cell,
Of herbs in curtain of her greenest bowers,
And of the moving stars o'er mountain tops and towers.
Wiffen's "Translation of Tasso," cant. xiv. xliii.
"You are safe here, young Englishman!" said Zanoni, motioning
Glyndon to a seat. "Fortunate for you that I come on your track
"Far happier had it been if we had never met! Yet even in these
last hours of my fate, I rejoice to look once more on the face of
that ominous and mysterious being to whom I can ascribe all the
sufferings I have known. Here, then, thou shalt not palter with
or elude me. Here, before we part, thou shalt unravel to me the
dark enigma, if not of thy life, of my own!"
"Hast thou suffered? Poor neophyte!" said Zanoni, pityingly.
"Yes; I see it on thy brow. But wherefore wouldst thou blame me?
Did I not warn thee against the whispers of thy spirit; did I not
warn thee to forbear? Did I not tell thee that the ordeal was
one of awful hazard and tremendous fears,--nay, did I not offer
to resign to thee the heart that was mighty enough, while mine,
Glyndon, to content me? Was it not thine own daring and resolute
choice to brave the initiation! Of thine own free will didst
thou make Mejnour thy master, and his lore thy study!"
"But whence came the irresistible desires of that wild and unholy
knowledge? I knew them not till thine evil eye fell upon me, and
I was drawn into the magic atmosphere of thy being!"
"Thou errest!--the desires were in thee; and, whether in one
direction or the other, would have forced their way! Man! thou
askest me the enigma of thy fate and my own! Look round all
being, is there not mystery everywhere? Can thine eye trace the
ripening of the grain beneath the earth? In the moral and the
physical world alike, lie dark portents, far more wondrous than
the powers thou wouldst ascribe to me!"
"Dost thou disown those powers; dost thou confess thyself an
imposter?--or wilt thou dare to tell me that thou art indeed sold
to the Evil one,--a magician whose familiar has haunted me night
"It matters not what I am," returned Zanoni; "it matters only
whether I can aid thee to exorcise thy dismal phantom, and return
once more to the wholesome air of this common life. Something,
however, will I tell thee, not to vindicate myself, but the
Heaven and the Nature that thy doubts malign."
Zanoni paused a moment, and resumed with a slight smile,--
"In thy younger days thou hast doubtless read with delight the
great Christian poet, whose muse, like the morning it celebrated,
came to earth, 'crowned with flowers culled in Paradise.'
Di rose colte in Paradiso infiora.'
Tasso, "Ger. Lib." iv. l.)
"No spirit was more imbued with the knightly superstitions of the
time; and surely the Poet of Jerusalem hath sufficiently, to
satisfy even the Inquisitor he consulted, execrated all the
practitioners of the unlawful spells invoked,--
'Per isforzar Cocito o Flegetonte.'
(To constrain Cocytus or Phlegethon.)
But in his sorrows and his wrongs, in the prison of his madhouse,
know you not that Tasso himself found his solace, his escape, in
the recognition of a holy and spiritual Theurgia,--of a magic
that could summon the Angel, or the Good Genius, not the Fiend?
And do you not remember how he, deeply versed as he was for his
age, in the mysteries of the nobler Platonism, which hints at the
secrets of all the starry brotherhoods, from the Chaldean to the
later Rosicrucian, discriminates in his lovely verse, between the
black art of Ismeno and the glorious lore of the Enchanter who
counsels and guides upon their errand the champions of the Holy
Land? HIS, not the charms wrought by the aid of the Stygian
Rebels (See this remarkable passage, which does indeed not
unfaithfully represent the doctrine of the Pythagorean and the
Platonist, in Tasso, cant. xiv. stanzas xli. to xlvii. ("Ger.
Lib.") They are beautifully translated by Wiffen.), but the
perception of the secret powers of the fountain and the herb,--
the Arcana of the unknown nature and the various motions of the
stars. His, the holy haunts of Lebanon and Carmel,--beneath his
feet he saw the clouds, the snows, the hues of Iris, the
generations of the rains and dews. Did the Christian Hermit who
converted that Enchanter (no fabulous being, but the type of all
spirit that would aspire through Nature up to God) command him to
lay aside these sublime studies, 'Le solite arte e l' uso mio'?
No! but to cherish and direct them to worthy ends. And in this
grand conception of the poet lies the secret of the true
Theurgia, which startles your ignorance in a more learned day
with puerile apprehensions, and the nightmares of a sick man's
Again Zanoni paused, and again resumed:--
"In ages far remote,--of a civilisation far different from that
which now merges the individual in the state,--there existed men
of ardent minds, and an intense desire of knowledge. In the
mighty and solemn kingdoms in which they dwelt, there were no
turbulent and earthly channels to work off the fever of their
minds. Set in the antique mould of casts through which no
intellect could pierce, no valour could force its way, the thirst
for wisdom alone reigned in the hearts of those who received its
study as a heritage from sire to son. Hence, even in your
imperfect records of the progress of human knowledge, you find
that, in the earliest ages, Philosophy descended not to the
business and homes of men. It dwelt amidst the wonders of the
loftier creation; it sought to analyse the formation of matter,--
the essentials of the prevailing soul; to read the mysteries of
the starry orbs; to dive into those depths of Nature in which
Zoroaster is said by the schoolmen first to have discovered the
arts which your ignorance classes under the name of magic. In
such an age, then, arose some men, who, amidst the vanities and
delusions of their class, imagined that they detected gleams of a
brighter and steadier lore. They fancied an affinity existing
among all the works of Nature, and that in the lowliest lay the
secret attraction that might conduct them upward to the loftiest.
(Agreeably, it would seem, to the notion of Iamblichus and
Plotinus, that the universe is as an animal; so that there is
sympathy and communication between one part and the other; in the
smallest part may be the subtlest nerve. And hence the universal
magnetism of Nature. But man contemplates the universe as an
animalcule would an elephant. The animalcule, seeing scarcely
the tip of the hoof, would be incapable of comprehending that the
trunk belonged to the same creature,--that the effect produced
upon one extremity would be felt in an instant by the other.)
Centuries passed, and lives were wasted in these discoveries; but
step after step was chronicled and marked, and became the guide
to the few who alone had the hereditary privilege to track their
At last from this dimness upon some eyes the light broke; but
think not, young visionary, that to those who nursed unholy
thoughts, over whom the Origin of Evil held a sway, that dawning
was vouchsafed. It could be given then, as now, only to the
purest ecstasies of imagination and intellect, undistracted by
the cares of a vulgar life, or the appetites of the common clay.
Far from descending to the assistance of a fiend, theirs was but
the august ambition to approach nearer to the Fount of Good; the
more they emancipated themselves from this limbo of the planets,
the more they were penetrated by the splendour and beneficence of
God. And if they sought, and at last discovered, how to the eye
of the Spirit all the subtler modifications of being and of
matter might be made apparent; if they discovered how, for the
wings of the Spirit, all space might be annihilated, and while
the body stood heavy and solid here, as a deserted tomb, the
freed IDEA might wander from star to star,--if such discoveries
became in truth their own, the sublimest luxury of their
knowledge was but this, to wonder, to venerate, and adore! For,
as one not unlearned in these high matters has expressed it,
'There is a principle of the soul superior to all external
nature, and through this principle we are capable of surpassing
the order and systems of the world, and participating the
immortal life and the energy of the Sublime Celestials. When the
soul is elevated to natures above itself, it deserts the order to
which it is awhile compelled, and by a religious magnetism is
attracted to another and a loftier, with which it blends and
mingles.' (From Iamblichus, "On the Mysteries," c. 7, sect. 7.)
Grant, then, that such beings found at last the secret to arrest
death; to fascinate danger and the foe; to walk the revolutions
of the earth unharmed,--think you that this life could teach them
other desire than to yearn the more for the Immortal, and to fit
their intellect the better for the higher being to which they
might, when Time and Death exist no longer, be transferred? Away
with your gloomy fantasies of sorcerer and demon!--the soul can
aspire only to the light; and even the error of our lofty
knowledge was but the forgetfulness of the weakness, the
passions, and the bonds which the death we so vainly conquered
only can purge away!"
This address was so different from what Glyndon had anticipated,
that he remained for some moments speechless, and at length
"But why, then, to me--"
"Why," added Zanoni,--"why to thee have been only the penance and
the terror,--the Threshold and the Phantom? Vain man! look to
the commonest elements of the common learning. Can every tyro at
his mere wish and will become the master; can the student, when
he has bought his Euclid, become a Newton; can the youth whom the
Muses haunt, say, 'I will equal Homer;' yea, can yon pale tyrant,
with all the parchment laws of a hundred system-shapers, and the
pikes of his dauntless multitude, carve, at his will, a
constitution not more vicious than the one which the madness of a
mob could overthrow? When, in that far time to which I have
referred, the student aspired to the heights to which thou
wouldst have sprung at a single bound, he was trained from his
very cradle to the career he was to run. The internal and the
outward nature were made clear to his eyes, year after year, as
they opened on the day. He was not admitted to the practical
initiation till not one earthly wish chained that sublimest
faculty which you call the IMAGINATION, one carnal desire clouded
the penetrative essence that you call the INTELLECT. And even
then, and at the best, how few attained to the last mystery!
Happier inasmuch as they attained the earlier to the holy glories
for which Death is the heavenliest gate."
Zanoni paused, and a shade of thought and sorrow darkened his
"And are there, indeed, others, besides thee and Mejnour, who lay
claim to thine attributes, and have attained to thy secrets?"
"Others there have been before us, but we two now are alone on
"Imposter, thou betrayest thyself! If they could conquer Death,
why live they not yet?" (Glyndon appears to forget that Mejnour
had before answered the very question which his doubts here a
second time suggest.)
"Child of a day!" answered Zanoni, mournfully, "have I not told
thee the error of our knowledge was the forgetfulness of the
desires and passions which the spirit never can wholly and
permanently conquer while this matter cloaks it? Canst thou
think that it is no sorrow, either to reject all human ties, all
friendship, and all love, or to see, day after day, friendship
and love wither from our life, as blossoms from the stem? Canst
thou wonder how, with the power to live while the world shall
last, ere even our ordinary date be finished we yet may prefer to
die? Wonder rather that there are two who have clung so
faithfully to earth! Me, I confess, that earth can enamour yet.
Attaining to the last secret while youth was in its bloom, youth
still colours all around me with its own luxuriant beauty; to me,
yet, to breathe is to enjoy. The freshness has not faded from
the face of Nature, and not an herb in which I cannot discover a
new charm,--an undetected wonder.
As with my youth, so with Mejnour's age: he will tell you that
life to him is but a power to examine; and not till he has
exhausted all the marvels which the Creator has sown on earth,
would he desire new habitations for the renewed Spirit to
explore. We are the types of the two essences of what is
imperishable,--'ART, that enjoys; and SCIENCE, that
contemplates!' And now, that thou mayest be contented that the
secrets are not vouchsafed to thee, learn that so utterly must
the idea detach itself from what makes up the occupation and
excitement of men; so must it be void of whatever would covet, or
love, or hate,--that for the ambitious man, for the lover, the
hater, the power avails not. And I, at last, bound and blinded
by the most common of household ties; I, darkened and helpless,
adjure thee, the baffled and discontented,--I adjure thee to
direct, to guide me; where are they? Oh, tell me,--speak! My
wife,--my child? Silent!--oh, thou knowest now that I am no
sorcerer, no enemy. I cannot give thee what thy faculties deny,
--I cannot achieve what the passionless Mejnour failed to
accomplish; but I can give thee the next-best boon, perhaps the
fairest,--I can reconcile thee to the daily world, and place
peace between thy conscience and thyself."
"Wilt thou promise?"
"By their sweet lives, I promise!"
Glyndon looked and believed. He whispered the address to the
house whither his fatal step already had brought woe and doom.
"Bless thee for this," exclaimed Zanoni, passionately, "and thou
shalt be blessed! What! couldst thou not perceive that at the
entrance to all the grander worlds dwell the race that intimidate
and awe? Who in thy daily world ever left the old regions of
Custom and Prescription, and felt not the first seizure of the
shapeless and nameless Fear? Everywhere around thee where men
aspire and labour, though they see it not,--in the closet of the
sage, in the council of the demagogue, in the camp of the
warrior,--everywhere cowers and darkens the Unutterable Horror.
But there, where thou hast ventured, alone is the Phantom
VISIBLE; and never will it cease to haunt, till thou canst pass
to the Infinite, as the seraph; or return to the Familiar, as a
child! But answer me this: when, seeking to adhere to some calm
resolve of virtue, the Phantom hath stalked suddenly to thy side;
when its voice hath whispered thee despair; when its ghastly eyes
would scare thee back to those scenes of earthly craft or riotous
excitement from which, as it leaves thee to worse foes to the
soul, its presence is ever absent,--hast thou never bravely
resisted the spectre and thine own horror; hast thou never said,
'Come what may, to Virtue I will cling?'"
"Alas!" answered Glyndon, "only of late have I dared to do so."
"And thou hast felt then that the Phantom grew more dim and its
power more faint?"
"It is true."
"Rejoice, then!--thou hast overcome the true terror and mystery
of the ordeal. Resolve is the first success. Rejoice, for the
exorcism is sure! Thou art not of those who, denying a life to
come, are the victims of the Inexorable Horror. Oh, when shall
men learn, at last, that if the Great Religion inculcates so
rigidly the necessity of FAITH, it is not alone that FAITH leads
to the world to be; but that without faith there is no excellence
in this,--faith in something wiser, happier, diviner, than we see
on earth!--the artist calls it the Ideal,--the priest, Faith.
The Ideal and Faith are one and the same. Return, O wanderer,
return! Feel what beauty and holiness dwell in the Customary and
the Old. Back to thy gateway glide, thou Horror! and calm, on
the childlike heart, smile again, O azure Heaven, with thy night
and thy morning star but as one, though under its double name of
Memory and Hope!"
As he thus spoke, Zanoni laid his hand gently on the burning
temples of his excited and wondering listener; and presently a
sort of trance came over him: he imagined that he was returned
to the home of his infancy; that he was in the small chamber
where, over his early slumbers, his mother had watched and
prayed. There it was,--visible, palpable, solitary, unaltered.
In the recess, the homely bed; on the walls, the shelves filled
with holy books; the very easel on which he had first sought to
call the ideal to the canvas, dust-covered, broken, in the
corner. Below the window lay the old churchyard: he saw it
green in the distance, the sun glancing through the yew-trees; he
saw the tomb where father and mother lay united, and the spire
pointing up to heaven, the symbol of the hopes of those who
consigned the ashes to the dust; in his ear rang the bells,
pealing, as on a Sabbath day. Far fled all the visions of
anxiety and awe that had haunted and convulsed; youth, boyhood,
childhood came back to him with innocent desires and hopes; he
thought he fell upon his knees to pray. He woke,--he woke in
delicious tears, he felt that the Phantom was fled forever. He
looked round,--Zanoni was gone. On the table lay these lines,
the ink yet wet:--
"I will find ways and means for thy escape. At nightfall, as the
clock strikes nine, a boat shall wait thee on the river before
this house; the boatman will guide thee to a retreat where thou
mayst rest in safety till the Reign of Terror, which nears its
close, be past. Think no more of the sensual love that lured,
and wellnigh lost thee. It betrayed, and would have destroyed.
Thou wilt regain thy land in safety,--long years yet spared to
thee to muse over the past, and to redeem it. For thy future, be
thy dream thy guide, and thy tears thy baptism."
The Englishman obeyed the injunctions of the letter, and found
Quid mirare meas tot in uno corpore formas?
(Why wonder that I have so many forms in a single body?)
Zanoni to Mejnour.
"She is in one of their prisons,--their inexorable prisons. It
is Robespierre's order,--I have tracked the cause to Glyndon.
This, then, made that terrible connection between their fates
which I could not unravel, but which (till severed as it now is)
wrapped Glyndon himself in the same cloud that concealed her. In
prison,--in prison!--it is the gate of the grave! Her trial, and
the inevitable execution that follows such trial, is the third
day from this. The tyrant has fixed all his schemes of slaughter
for the 10th of Thermidor. While the deaths of the unoffending
strike awe to the city, his satellites are to massacre his foes.
There is but one hope left,--that the Power which now dooms the
doomer, may render me an instrument to expedite his fall. But
two days left,--two days! In all my wealth of time I see but two
days; all beyond,--darkness, solitude. I may save her yet. The
tyrant shall fall the day before that which he has set apart for
slaughter! For the first time I mix among the broils and
stratagems of men, and my mind leaps up from my despair, armed
and eager for the contest."
A crowd had gathered round the Rue St. Honore; a young man was
just arrested by the order of Robespierre. He was known to be in
the service of Tallien, that hostile leader in the Convention,
whom the tyrant had hitherto trembled to attack. This incident
had therefore produced a greater excitement than a circumstance
so customary as an arrest in the Reign of Terror might be
supposed to create. Amongst the crowd were many friends of
Tallien, many foes to the tyrant, many weary of beholding the
tiger dragging victim after victim to its den. Hoarse,
foreboding murmurs were heard; fierce eyes glared upon the
officers as they seized their prisoner; and though they did not
yet dare openly to resist, those in the rear pressed on those
behind, and encumbered the path of the captive and his captors.
The young man struggled hard for escape, and, by a violent
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