Extracts from Letter II.
Deeming myself not pure enough to initiate so pure a heart, I invoke to her trance those fairest and most tender inhabitants of space that have furnished to poetry, which is the instinctive guess into creation, the ideas of the Glendoveer and Sylph. And these were less pure than her own thoughts, and less tender than her own love! They could not raise her above her human heart, for THAT has a heaven of its own.
I have just looked on her in sleep,—I have heard her breathe my name. Alas! that which is so sweet to others has its bitterness to me; for I think how soon the time may come when that sleep will be without a dream,—when the heart that dictates the name will be cold, and the lips that utter it be dumb. What a twofold shape there is in love! If we examine it coarsely,—if we look but on its fleshy ties, its enjoyments of a moment, its turbulent fever and its dull reaction,—how strange it seems that this passion should be the supreme mover of the world; that it is this which has dictated the greatest sacrifices, and influenced all societies and all times; that to this the loftiest and loveliest genius has ever consecrated its devotion; that, but for love, there were no civilisation, no music, no poetry, no beauty, no life beyond the brute's.
But examine it in its heavenlier shape,—in its utter abnegation of self; in its intimate connection with all that is most delicate and subtle in the spirit,—its power above all that is sordid in existence; its mastery over the idols of the baser worship; its ability to create a palace of the cottage, an oasis in the desert, a summer in the Iceland,—where it breathes, and fertilises, and glows; and the wonder rather becomes how so few regard it in its holiest nature. What the sensual call its enjoyments, are the least of its joys. True love is less a passion than a symbol. Mejnour, shall the time come when I can speak to thee of Viola as a thing that was?
Extract from Letter III.
Knowest thou that of late I have sometimes asked myself, "Is there no guilt in the knowledge that has so divided us from our race?" It is true that the higher we ascend the more hateful seem to us the vices of the short-lived creepers of the earth,—the more the sense of the goodness of the All-good penetrates and suffuses us, and the more immediately does our happiness seem to emanate from him. But, on the other hand, how many virtues must lie dead in those who live in the world of death, and refuse to die! Is not this sublime egotism, this state of abstraction and reverie,—this self-wrapped and self-dependent majesty of existence, a resignation of that nobility which incorporates our own welfare, our joys, our hopes, our fears with others? To live on in no dread of foes, undegraded by infirmity, secure through the cares, and free from the disease of flesh, is a spectacle that captivates our pride. And yet dost thou not more admire him who dies for another? Since I have loved her, Mejnour, it seems almost cowardice to elude the grave which devours the hearts that wrap us in their folds. I feel it,—the earth grows upon my spirit. Thou wert right; eternal age, serene and passionless, is a happier boon than eternal youth, with its yearnings and desires. Until we can be all spirit, the tranquillity of solitude must be indifference.
Extracts from Letter IV.
I have received thy communication. What! is it so? Has thy pupil disappointed thee? Alas, poor pupil! But—
(Here follow comments on those passages in Glyndon's life already known to the reader, or about to be made so, with earnest adjurations to Mejnour to watch yet over the fate of his scholar.)
But I cherish the same desire, with a warmer heart. My pupil! how the terrors that shall encompass thine ordeal warn me from the task! Once more I will seek the Son of Light.
Yes; Adon-Ai, long deaf to my call, at last has descended to my vision, and left behind him the glory of his presence in the shape of Hope. Oh, not impossible, Viola,—not impossible, that we yet may be united, soul with soul!
Extract from Letter V.—(Many months after the last.)
Mejnour, awake from thine apathy,—rejoice! A new soul will be born to the world,—a new soul that shall call me father. Ah, if they for whom exist all the occupations and resources of human life,—if they can thrill with exquisite emotion at the thought of hailing again their own childhood in the faces of their children; if in that birth they are born once more into the holy Innocence which is the first state of existence; if they can feel that on man devolves almost an angel's duty, when he has a life to guide from the cradle, and a soul to nurture for the heaven,—what to me must be the rapture to welcome an inheritor of all the gifts which double themselves in being shared! How sweet the power to watch, and to guard,—to instil the knowledge, to avert the evil, and to guide back the river of life in a richer and broader and deeper stream to the paradise from which it flows! And beside that river our souls shall meet, sweet mother. Our child shall supply the sympathy that fails as yet; and what shape shall haunt thee, what terror shall dismay, when thy initiation is beside the cradle of thy child!
They thus beguile the way Untill the blustring storme is overblowne, When weening to returne whence they did stray, They cannot finde that path which first was showne, But wander to and fro in waies unknowne. —Spenser's "Faerie Queene," book i. canto i. st. x.
Yes, Viola, thou art another being than when, by the threshold of thy Italian home, thou didst follow thy dim fancies through the Land of Shadow; or when thou didst vainly seek to give voice to an ideal beauty, on the boards where illusion counterfeits earth and heaven for an hour, till the weary sense, awaking, sees but the tinsel and the scene-shifter. Thy spirit reposes in its own happiness. Its wanderings have found a goal. In a moment there often dwells the sense of eternity; for when profoundly happy, we know that it is impossible to die. Whenever the soul FEELS ITSELF, it feels everlasting life.
The initiation is deferred,—thy days and nights are left to no other visions than those with which a contented heart enchants a guileless fancy. Glendoveers and Sylphs, pardon me if I question whether those visions are not lovelier than yourselves.
They stand by the beach, and see the sun sinking into the sea. How long now have they dwelt on that island? What matters!—it may be months, or years—what matters! Why should I, or they, keep account of that happy time? As in the dream of a moment ages may seem to pass, so shall we measure transport or woe,—by the length of the dream, or the number of emotions that the dream involves?
The sun sinks slowly down; the air is arid and oppressive; on the sea, the stately vessel lies motionless; on the shore, no leaf trembles on the trees.
Viola drew nearer to Zanoni. A presentiment she could not define made her heart beat more quickly; and, looking into his face, she was struck with its expression: it was anxious, abstracted, perturbed. "This stillness awes me," she whispered.
Zanoni did not seem to hear her. He muttered to himself, and his eyes gazed round restlessly. She knew not why, but that gaze, which seemed to pierce into space,—that muttered voice in some foreign language—revived dimly her earlier superstitions. She was more fearful since the hour when she knew that she was to be a mother. Strange crisis in the life of woman, and in her love! Something yet unborn begins already to divide her heart with that which had been before its only monarch.
"Look on me, Zanoni," she said, pressing his hand.
He turned: "Thou art pale, Viola; thy hand trembles!"
"It is true. I feel as if some enemy were creeping near us."
"And the instinct deceives thee not. An enemy is indeed at hand. I see it through the heavy air; I hear it through the silence: the Ghostly One,—the Destroyer, the PESTILENCE! Ah, seest thou how the leaves swarm with insects, only by an effort visible to the eye. They follow the breath of the plague!" As he spoke, a bird fell from the boughs at Viola's feet; it fluttered, it writhed an instant, and was dead.
"Oh, Viola!" cried Zanoni, passionately, "that is death. Dost thou not fear to die?"
"To leave thee? Ah, yes!"
"And if I could teach thee how Death may be defied; if I could arrest for thy youth the course of time; if I could—"
He paused abruptly, for Viola's eyes spoke only terror; her cheek and lips were pale.
"Speak not thus,—look not thus," she said, recoiling from him. "You dismay me. Ah, speak not thus, or I should tremble,—no, not for myself, but for thy child."
"Thy child! But wouldst thou reject for thy child the same glorious boon?"
"The sun has sunk from our eyes, but to rise on those of others. To disappear from this world is to live in the world afar. Oh, lover,—oh, husband!" she continued, with sudden energy, "tell me that thou didst but jest,—that thou didst but trifle with my folly! There is less terror in the pestilence than in thy words."
Zanoni's brow darkened; he looked at her in silence for some moments, and then said, almost severely,—
"What hast thou known of me to distrust?"
"Oh, pardon, pardon!—nothing!" cried Viola, throwing herself on his breast, and bursting into tears. "I will not believe even thine own words, if they seem to wrong thee!" He kissed the tears from her eyes, but made no answer.
"And ah!" she resumed, with an enchanting and child-like smile, "if thou wouldst give me a charm against the pestilence! see, I will take it from thee." And she laid her hand on a small, antique amulet that he wore on his breast.
"Thou knowest how often this has made me jealous of the past; surely some love-gift, Zanoni? But no, thou didst not love the giver as thou dost me. Shall I steal thine amulet?"
"Infant!" said Zanoni, tenderly; "she who placed this round my neck deemed it indeed a charm, for she had superstitions like thyself; but to me it is more than the wizard's spell,—it is the relic of a sweet vanished time when none who loved me could distrust."
He said these words in a tone of such melancholy reproach that it went to the heart of Viola; but the tone changed into a solemnity which chilled back the gush of her feelings as he resumed: "And this, Viola, one day, perhaps, I will transfer from my breast to thine; yes, whenever thou shalt comprehend me better,—WHENEVER THE LAWS OF OUR BEING SHALL BE THE SAME!"
He moved on gently. They returned slowly home; but fear still was in the heart of Viola, though she strove to shake it off. Italian and Catholic she was, with all the superstitions of land and sect. She stole to her chamber and prayed before a little relic of San Gennaro, which the priest of her house had given to her in childhood, and which had accompanied her in all her wanderings. She had never deemed it possible to part with it before. Now, if there was a charm against the pestilence, did she fear the pestilence for herself? The next morning, when he awoke, Zanoni found the relic of the saint suspended with his mystic amulet round his neck.
"Ah! thou wilt have nothing to fear from the pestilence now," said Viola, between tears and smiles; "and when thou wouldst talk to me again as thou didst last night, the saint shall rebuke thee."
Well, Zanoni, can there ever indeed be commune of thought and spirit, except with equals?
Yes, the plague broke out,—the island home must be abandoned. Mighty Seer, THOU HAST NO POWER TO SAVE THOSE WHOM THOU LOVEST! Farewell, thou bridal roof!—sweet resting-place from care, farewell! Climates as soft may greet ye, O lovers,—skies as serene, and waters as blue and calm; but THAT TIME,—can it ever more return? Who shall say that the heart does not change with the scene,—the place where we first dwelt with the beloved one? Every spot THERE has so many memories which the place only can recall. The past that haunts it seems to command such constancy in the future. If a thought less kind, less trustful, enter within us, the sight of a tree under which a vow has been exchanged, a tear has been kissed away, restores us again to the hours of the first divine illusion. But in a home where nothing speaks of the first nuptials, where there is no eloquence of association, no holy burial-places of emotions, whose ghosts are angels!—yes, who that has gone through the sad history of affection will tell us that the heart changes not with the scene! Blow fair, ye favouring winds; cheerily swell, ye sails; away from the land where death has come to snatch the sceptre of Love! The shores glide by; new coasts succeed to the green hills and orange-groves of the Bridal Isle. From afar now gleam in the moonlight the columns, yet extant, of a temple which the Athenian dedicated to wisdom; and, standing on the bark that bounded on in the freshening gale, the votary who had survived the goddess murmured to himself,—
"Has the wisdom of ages brought me no happier hours than those common to the shepherd and the herdsman, with no world beyond their village, no aspiration beyond the kiss and the smile of home?"
And the moon, resting alike over the ruins of the temple of the departed creed, over the hut of the living peasant, over the immemorial mountain-top, and the perishable herbage that clothed its sides, seemed to smile back its answer of calm disdain to the being who, perchance, might have seen the temple built, and who, in his inscrutable existence, might behold the mountain shattered from its base.
BOOK V. — THE EFFECTS OF THE ELIXIR.
Frommet's den Schleier aufzuheben, Wo das nahe Schreckness droht? Nur das Irrthum ist das Leben Und das Wissen ist der Tod,
Delusion is the life we live And knowledge death; oh wherefore, then, To sight the coming evils give And lift the veil of Fate to Man?
Zwei Seelen wohnen, ach! in meiner Brust.
(Two souls dwell, alas! in my breast.)
Was stehst du so, und blickst erstaunt hinaus?
(Why standest thou so, and lookest out astonished?)
It will be remembered that we left Master Paolo by the bedside of Glyndon; and as, waking from that profound slumber, the recollections of the past night came horribly back to his mind, the Englishman uttered a cry, and covered his face with his hands.
"Good morrow, Excellency!" said Paolo, gayly. "Corpo di Bacco, you have slept soundly!"
The sound of this man's voice, so lusty, ringing, and healthful, served to scatter before it the phantasma that yet haunted Glyndon's memory.
He rose erect in his bed. "And where did you find me? Why are you here?"
"Where did I find you!" repeated Paolo, in surprise,—"in your bed, to be sure. Why am I here!—because the Padrone bade me await your waking, and attend your commands."
"The Padrone, Mejnour!—is he arrived?"
"Arrived and departed, signor. He has left this letter for you."
"Give it me, and wait without till I am dressed."
"At your service. I have bespoke an excellent breakfast: you must be hungry. I am a very tolerable cook; a monk's son ought to be! You will be startled at my genius in the dressing of fish. My singing, I trust, will not disturb you. I always sing while I prepare a salad; it harmonises the ingredients." And slinging his carbine over his shoulder, Paolo sauntered from the room, and closed the door.
Glyndon was already deep in the contents of the following letter:—
"When I first received thee as my pupil, I promised Zanoni, if convinced by thy first trials that thou couldst but swell, not the number of our order, but the list of the victims who have aspired to it in vain, I would not rear thee to thine own wretchedness and doom,—I would dismiss thee back to the world. I fulfil my promise. Thine ordeal has been the easiest that neophyte ever knew. I asked for nothing but abstinence from the sensual, and a brief experiment of thy patience and thy faith. Go back to thine own world; thou hast no nature to aspire to ours!
"It was I who prepared Paolo to receive thee at the revel. It was I who instigated the old beggar to ask thee for alms. It was I who left open the book that thou couldst not read without violating my command. Well, thou hast seen what awaits thee at the threshold of knowledge. Thou hast confronted the first foe that menaces him whom the senses yet grasp and inthrall. Dost thou wonder that I close upon thee the gates forever? Dost thou not comprehend, at last, that it needs a soul tempered and purified and raised, not by external spells, but by its own sublimity and valour, to pass the threshold and disdain the foe? Wretch! all my silence avails nothing for the rash, for the sensual,—for him who desires our secrets but to pollute them to gross enjoyments and selfish vice. How have the imposters and sorcerers of the earlier times perished by their very attempt to penetrate the mysteries that should purify, and not deprave! They have boasted of the Philosopher's Stone, and died in rags; of the immortal elixir, and sunk to their grave, grey before their time. Legends tell you that the fiend rent them into fragments. Yes; the fiend of their own unholy desires and criminal designs! What they coveted, thou covetest; and if thou hadst the wings of a seraph thou couldst soar not from the slough of thy mortality. Thy desire for knowledge, but petulant presumption; thy thirst for happiness, but the diseased longing for the unclean and muddied waters of corporeal pleasure; thy very love, which usually elevates even the mean, a passion that calculates treason amidst the first glow of lust. THOU one of us; thou a brother of the August Order; thou an Aspirant to the Stars that shine in the Shemaia of the Chaldean lore! The eagle can raise but the eaglet to the sun. I abandon thee to thy twilight!
"But, alas for thee, disobedient and profane! thou hast inhaled the elixir; thou hast attracted to thy presence a ghastly and remorseless foe. Thou thyself must exorcise the phantom thou hast raised. Thou must return to the world; but not without punishment and strong effort canst thou regain the calm and the joy of the life thou hast left behind. This, for thy comfort, will I tell thee: he who has drawn into his frame even so little of the volatile and vital energy of the aerial juices as thyself, has awakened faculties that cannot sleep,—faculties that may yet, with patient humility, with sound faith, and the courage that is not of the body like thine, but of the resolute and virtuous mind, attain, if not to the knowledge that reigns above, to high achievement in the career of men. Thou wilt find the restless influence in all that thou wouldst undertake. Thy heart, amidst vulgar joys will aspire to something holier; thy ambition, amidst coarse excitement, to something beyond thy reach. But deem not that this of itself will suffice for glory. Equally may the craving lead thee to shame and guilt. It is but an imperfect and new-born energy which will not suffer thee to repose. As thou directest it, must thou believe it to be the emanation of thine evil genius or thy good.
"But woe to thee! insect meshed in the web in which thou hast entangled limbs and wings! Thou hast not only inhaled the elixir, thou hast conjured the spectre; of all the tribes of the space, no foe is so malignant to man,—and thou hast lifted the veil from thy gaze. I cannot restore to thee the happy dimness of thy vision. Know, at least, that all of us—the highest and the wisest—who have, in sober truth, passed beyond the threshold, have had, as our first fearful task, to master and subdue its grisly and appalling guardian. Know that thou CANST deliver thyself from those livid eyes,—know that, while they haunt, they cannot harm, if thou resistest the thoughts to which they tempt, and the horror they engender. DREAD THEM MOST WHEN THOU BEHOLDEST THEM NOT. And thus, son of the worm, we part! All that I can tell thee to encourage, yet to warn and to guide, I have told thee in these lines. Not from me, from thyself has come the gloomy trial from which I yet trust thou wilt emerge into peace. Type of the knowledge that I serve, I withhold no lesson from the pure aspirant; I am a dark enigma to the general seeker. As man's only indestructible possession is his memory, so it is not in mine art to crumble into matter the immaterial thoughts that have sprung up within thy breast. The tyro might shatter this castle to the dust, and topple down the mountain to the plain. The master has no power to say, 'Exist no more,' to one THOUGHT that his knowledge has inspired. Thou mayst change the thoughts into new forms; thou mayst rarefy and sublimate it into a finer spirit,—but thou canst not annihilate that which has no home but in the memory, no substance but the idea. EVERY THOUGHT IS A SOUL! Vainly, therefore, would I or thou undo the past, or restore to thee the gay blindness of thy youth. Thou must endure the influence of the elixir thou hast inhaled; thou must wrestle with the spectre thou hast invoked!"
The letter fell from Glyndon's hand. A sort of stupor succeeded to the various emotions which had chased each other in the perusal,—a stupor resembling that which follows the sudden destruction of any ardent and long-nursed hope in the human heart, whether it be of love, of avarice, of ambition. The loftier world for which he had so thirsted, sacrificed, and toiled, was closed upon him "forever," and by his own faults of rashness and presumption. But Glyndon's was not of that nature which submits long to condemn itself. His indignation began to kindle against Mejnour, who owned he had tempted, and who now abandoned him,—abandoned him to the presence of a spectre. The mystic's reproaches stung rather than humbled him. What crime had he committed to deserve language so harsh and disdainful? Was it so deep a debasement to feel pleasure in the smile and the eyes of Fillide? Had not Zanoni himself confessed love for Viola; had he not fled with her as his companion? Glyndon never paused to consider if there are no distinctions between one kind of love and another. Where, too, was the great offence of yielding to a temptation which only existed for the brave? Had not the mystic volume which Mejnour had purposely left open, bid him but "Beware of fear"? Was not, then, every wilful provocative held out to the strongest influences of the human mind, in the prohibition to enter the chamber, in the possession of the key which excited his curiosity, in the volume which seemed to dictate the mode by which the curiosity was to be gratified? As rapidly these thoughts passed over him, he began to consider the whole conduct of Mejnour either as a perfidious design to entrap him to his own misery, or as the trick of an imposter, who knew that he could not realise the great professions he had made. On glancing again over the more mysterious threats and warnings in Mejnour's letter, they seemed to assume the language of mere parable and allegory,—the jargon of the Platonists and Pythagoreans. By little and little, he began to consider that the very spectra he had seen—even that one phantom so horrid in its aspect—were but the delusions which Mejnour's science had enable him to raise. The healthful sunlight, filling up every cranny in his chamber, seemed to laugh away the terrors of the past night. His pride and his resentment nerved his habitual courage; and when, having hastily dressed himself, he rejoined Paolo, it was with a flushed cheek and a haughty step.
"So, Paolo," said he, "the Padrone, as you call him, told you to expect and welcome me at your village feast?"
"He did so by a message from a wretched old cripple. This surprised me at the time, for I thought he was far distant; but these great philosophers make a joke of two or three hundred leagues."
"Why did you not tell me you had heard from Mejnour?"
"Because the old cripple forbade me."
"Did you not see the man afterwards during the dance?"
"Allow me to serve you," said Paolo, piling Glyndon's plate, and then filling his glass. "I wish, signor, now the Padrone is gone,—not," added Paolo, as he cast rather a frightened and suspicious glance round the room, "that I mean to say anything disrespectful of him,—I wish, I say, now that he is gone, that you would take pity on yourself, and ask your own heart what your youth was meant for? Not to bury yourself alive in these old ruins, and endanger body and soul by studies which I am sure no saint could approve of."
"Are the saints so partial, then, to your own occupations, Master Paolo?"
"Why," answered the bandit, a little confused, "a gentleman with plenty of pistoles in his purse need not, of necessity, make it his profession to take away the pistoles of other people! It is a different thing for us poor rogues. After all, too, I always devote a tithe of my gains to the Virgin; and I share the rest charitably with the poor. But eat, drink, enjoy yourself; be absolved by your confessor for any little peccadilloes and don't run too long scores at a time,—that's my advice. Your health, Excellency! Pshaw, signor, fasting, except on the days prescribed to a good Catholic, only engenders phantoms."
"Yes; the devil always tempts the empty stomach. To covet, to hate, to thieve, to rob, and to murder,—these are the natural desires of a man who is famishing. With a full belly, signor, we are at peace with all the world. That's right; you like the partridge! Cospetto! when I myself have passed two or three days in the mountains, with nothing from sunset to sunrise but a black crust and an onion, I grow as fierce as a wolf. That's not the worst, too. In these times I see little imps dancing before me. Oh, yes; fasting is as full of spectres as a field of battle."
Glyndon thought there was some sound philosophy in the reasoning of his companion; and certainly the more he ate and drank, the more the recollection of the past night and of Mejnour's desertion faded from his mind. The casement was open, the breeze blew, the sun shone,—all Nature was merry; and merry as Nature herself grew Maestro Paolo. He talked of adventures, of travel, of women, with a hearty gusto that had its infection. But Glyndon listened yet more complacently when Paolo turned with an arch smile to praises of the eye, the teeth, the ankles, and the shape of the handsome Fillide.
This man, indeed, seemed the very personation of animal sensual life. He would have been to Faust a more dangerous tempter than Mephistopheles. There was no sneer on HIS lip at the pleasures which animated his voice. To one awaking to a sense of the vanities in knowledge, this reckless ignorant joyousness of temper was a worse corrupter than all the icy mockeries of a learned Fiend. But when Paolo took his leave, with a promise to return the next day, the mind of the Englishman again settled back to a graver and more thoughtful mood. The elixir seemed, in truth, to have left the refining effects Mejnour had ascribed to it. As Glyndon paced to and fro the solitary corridor, or, pausing, gazed upon the extended and glorious scenery that stretched below, high thoughts of enterprise and ambition—bright visions of glory—passed in rapid succession through his soul.
"Mejnour denies me his science. Well," said the painter, proudly, "he has not robbed me of my art."
What! Clarence Glyndon, dost thou return to that from which thy career commenced? Was Zanoni right after all?
He found himself in the chamber of the mystic; not a vessel,—not an herb! the solemn volume is vanished,—the elixir shall sparkle for him no more! But still in the room itself seems to linger the atmosphere of a charm. Faster and fiercer it burns within thee, the desire to achieve, to create! Thou longest for a life beyond the sensual!—but the life that is permitted to all genius,—that which breathes through the immortal work, and endures in the imperishable name.
Where are the implements for thine art? Tush!—when did the true workman ever fail to find his tools? Thou art again in thine own chamber,—the white wall thy canvas, a fragment of charcoal for thy pencil. They suffice, at least, to give outline to the conception that may otherwise vanish with the morrow.
The idea that thus excited the imagination of the artist was unquestionably noble and august. It was derived from that Egyptian ceremonial which Diodorus has recorded,—the Judgment of the Dead by the Living (Diod., lib. i.): when the corpse, duly embalmed, is placed by the margin of the Acherusian Lake; and before it may be consigned to the bark which is to bear it across the waters to its final resting-place, it is permitted to the appointed judges to hear all accusations of the past life of the deceased, and, if proved, to deprive the corpse of the rites of sepulture.
Unconsciously to himself, it was Mejnour's description of this custom, which he had illustrated by several anecdotes not to be found in books, that now suggested the design to the artist, and gave it reality and force. He supposed a powerful and guilty king whom in life scarce a whisper had dared to arraign, but against whom, now the breath was gone, came the slave from his fetters, the mutilated victim from his dungeon, livid and squalid as if dead themselves, invoking with parched lips the justice that outlives the grave.
Strange fervour this, O artist! breaking suddenly forth from the mists and darkness which the occult science had spread so long over thy fancies,—strange that the reaction of the night's terror and the day's disappointment should be back to thine holy art! Oh, how freely goes the bold hand over the large outline! How, despite those rude materials, speaks forth no more the pupil, but the master! Fresh yet from the glorious elixir, how thou givest to thy creatures the finer life denied to thyself!—some power not thine own writes the grand symbols on the wall. Behind rises the mighty sepulchre, on the building of which repose to the dead the lives of thousands had been consumed. There sit in a semicircle the solemn judges. Black and sluggish flows the lake. There lies the mummied and royal dead. Dost thou quail at the frown on his lifelike brow? Ha!—bravely done, O artist!—up rise the haggard forms!—pale speak the ghastly faces! Shall not Humanity after death avenge itself on Power? Thy conception, Clarence Glyndon, is a sublime truth; thy design promises renown to genius. Better this magic than the charms of the volume and the vessel. Hour after hour has gone; thou hast lighted the lamp; night sees thee yet at thy labour. Merciful Heaven! what chills the atmosphere; why does the lamp grow wan; why does thy hair bristle? There!—there!—there! at the casement! It gazes on thee, the dark, mantled, loathsome thing! There, with their devilish mockery and hateful craft, glare on thee those horrid eyes!
He stood and gazed,—it was no delusion. It spoke not, moved not, till, unable to bear longer that steady and burning look, he covered his face with his hands. With a start, with a thrill, he removed them; he felt the nearer presence of the nameless. There it cowered on the floor beside his design; and lo! the figures seemed to start from the wall! Those pale accusing figures, the shapes he himself had raised, frowned at him, and gibbered. With a violent effort that convulsed his whole being, and bathed his body in the sweat of agony, the young man mastered his horror. He strode towards the phantom; he endured its eyes; he accosted it with a steady voice; he demanded its purpose and defied its power.
And then, as a wind from a charnel, was heard its voice. What it said, what revealed, it is forbidden the lips to repeat, the hand to record. Nothing save the subtle life that yet animated the frame to which the inhalations of the elixir had given vigour and energy beyond the strength of the strongest, could have survived that awful hour. Better to wake in the catacombs and see the buried rise from their cerements, and hear the ghouls, in their horrid orgies, amongst the festering ghastliness of corruption, than to front those features when the veil was lifted, and listen to that whispered voice!
The next day Glyndon fled from the ruined castle. With what hopes of starry light had he crossed the threshold; with what memories to shudder evermore at the darkness did he look back at the frown of its time-worn towers!
Faust: Wohin soll es nun gehm? Mephist: Wohin es Dir gefallt. Wir sehn die kleine, dann die grosse Welt. "Faust."
(Faust: Whither go now! Mephist: Whither it pleases thee. We see the small world, then the great.)
Draw your chair to the fireside, brush clean the hearth, and trim the lights. Oh, home of sleekness, order, substance, comfort! Oh, excellent thing art thou, Matter of Fact!
It is some time after the date of the last chapter. Here we are, not in moonlit islands or mouldering castles, but in a room twenty-six feet by twenty-two,—well carpeted, well cushioned, solid arm-chairs and eight such bad pictures, in such fine frames, upon the walls! Thomas Mervale, Esq., merchant, of London, you are an enviable dog!
It was the easiest thing in the world for Mervale, on returning from his Continental episode of life, to settle down to his desk,—his heart had been always there. The death of his father gave him, as a birthright, a high position in a respectable though second-rate firm. To make this establishment first-rate was an honourable ambition,—it was his! He had lately married, not entirely for money,—no! he was worldly rather than mercenary. He had no romantic ideas of love; but he was too sensible a man not to know that a wife should be a companion,—not merely a speculation. He did not care for beauty and genius, but he liked health and good temper, and a certain proportion of useful understanding. He chose a wife from his reason, not his heart, and a very good choice he made. Mrs. Mervale was an excellent young woman,—bustling, managing, economical, but affectionate and good. She had a will of her own, but was no shrew. She had a great notion of the rights of a wife, and a strong perception of the qualities that insure comfort. She would never have forgiven her husband, had she found him guilty of the most passing fancy for another; but, in return, she had the most admirable sense of propriety herself. She held in abhorrence all levity, all flirtation, all coquetry,—small vices which often ruin domestic happiness, but which a giddy nature incurs without consideration. But she did not think it right to love a husband over much. She left a surplus of affection, for all her relations, all her friends, some of her acquaintances, and the possibility of a second marriage, should any accident happen to Mr. M. She kept a good table, for it suited their station; and her temper was considered even, though firm; but she could say a sharp thing or two, if Mr. Mervale was not punctual to a moment. She was very particular that he should change his shoes on coming home,—the carpets were new and expensive. She was not sulky, nor passionate,—Heaven bless her for that!—but when displeased she showed it, administered a dignified rebuke, alluded to her own virtues, to her uncle who was an admiral, and to the thirty thousand pounds which she had brought to the object of her choice. But as Mr. Mervale was a good-humoured man, owned his faults, and subscribed to her excellence, the displeasure was soon over.
Every household has its little disagreements, none fewer than that of Mr. and Mrs. Mervale. Mrs. Mervale, without being improperly fond of dress, paid due attention to it. She was never seen out of her chamber with papers in her hair, nor in that worst of dis-illusions,—a morning wrapper. At half-past eight every morning Mrs. Mervale was dressed for the day,—that is, till she re-dressed for dinner,—her stays well laced, her cap prim, her gowns, winter and summer, of a thick, handsome silk. Ladies at that time wore very short waists; so did Mrs. Mervale. Her morning ornaments were a thick, gold chain, to which was suspended a gold watch,—none of those fragile dwarfs of mechanism that look so pretty and go so ill, but a handsome repeater which chronicled Father Time to a moment; also a mosaic brooch; also a miniature of her uncle, the admiral, set in a bracelet. For the evening she had two handsome sets,—necklace, earrings, and bracelets complete,—one of amethysts, the other topazes. With these, her costume for the most part was a gold-coloured satin and a turban, in which last her picture had been taken. Mrs. Mervale had an aquiline nose, good teeth, fair hair, and light eyelashes, rather a high complexion, what is generally called a fine bust; full cheeks; large useful feet made for walking; large, white hands with filbert nails, on which not a speck of dust had, even in childhood, ever been known to a light. She looked a little older than she really was; but that might arise from a certain air of dignity and the aforesaid aquiline nose. She generally wore short mittens. She never read any poetry but Goldsmith's and Cowper's. She was not amused by novels, though she had no prejudice against them. She liked a play and a pantomime, with a slight supper afterwards. She did not like concerts nor operas. At the beginning of the winter she selected some book to read, and some piece of work to commence. The two lasted her till the spring, when, though she continued to work, she left off reading. Her favourite study was history, which she read through the medium of Dr. Goldsmith. Her favourite author in the belles lettres was, of course, Dr. Johnson. A worthier woman, or one more respected, was not to be found, except in an epitaph!
It was an autumn night. Mr. and Mrs. Mervale, lately returned from an excursion to Weymouth, are in the drawing-room,—"the dame sat on this side, the man sat on that."
"Yes, I assure you, my dear, that Glyndon, with all his eccentricities, was a very engaging, amiable fellow. You would certainly have liked him,—all the women did."
"My dear Thomas, you will forgive the remark,—but that expression of yours, 'all the WOMEN'—"
"I beg your pardon,—you are right. I meant to say that he was a general favourite with your charming sex."
"I understand,—rather a frivolous character."
"Frivolous! no, not exactly; a little unsteady,—very odd, but certainly not frivolous; presumptuous and headstrong in character, but modest and shy in his manners, rather too much so,—just what you like. However, to return; I am seriously uneasy at the accounts I have heard of him to-day. He has been living, it seems, a very strange and irregular life, travelling from place to place, and must have spent already a great deal of money."
"Apropos of money," said Mrs. Mervale; "I fear we must change our butcher; he is certainly in league with the cook."
"That is a pity; his beef is remarkably fine. These London servants are as bad as the Carbonari. But, as I was saying, poor Glyndon—"
Here a knock was heard at the door. "Bless me," said Mrs. Mervale, "it is past ten! Who can that possibly be?"
"Perhaps your uncle, the admiral," said the husband, with a slight peevishness in his accent. "He generally favours us about this hour."
"I hope, my love, that none of my relations are unwelcome visitors at your house. The admiral is a most entertaining man, and his fortune is entirely at his own disposal."
"No one I respect more," said Mr. Mervale, with emphasis.
The servant threw open the door, and announced Mr. Glyndon.
"Mr. Glyndon!—what an extraordinary—" exclaimed Mrs. Mervale; but before she could conclude the sentence, Glyndon was in the room.
The two friends greeted each other with all the warmth of early recollection and long absence. An appropriate and proud presentation to Mrs. Mervale ensued; and Mrs. Mervale, with a dignified smile, and a furtive glance at his boots, bade her husband's friend welcome to England.
Glyndon was greatly altered since Mervale had seen him last. Though less than two years had elapsed since then, his fair complexion was more bronzed and manly. Deep lines of care, or thought, or dissipation, had replaced the smooth contour of happy youth. To a manner once gentle and polished had succeeded a certain recklessness of mien, tone, and bearing, which bespoke the habits of a society that cared little for the calm decorums of conventional ease. Still a kind of wild nobleness, not before apparent in him, characterised his aspect, and gave something of dignity to the freedom of his language and gestures.
"So, then, you are settled, Mervale,—I need not ask you if you are happy. Worth, sense, wealth, character, and so fair a companion deserve happiness, and command it."
"Would you like some tea, Mr. Glyndon?" asked Mrs. Mervale, kindly.
"Thank you,—no. I propose a more convivial stimulus to my old friend. Wine, Mervale,—wine, eh!—or a bowl of old English punch. Your wife will excuse us,—we will make a night of it!"
Mrs. Mervale drew back her chair, and tried not to look aghast. Glyndon did not give his friend time to reply.
"So at last I am in England," he said, looking round the room, with a slight sneer on his lips; "surely this sober air must have its influence; surely here I shall be like the rest."
"Have you been ill, Glyndon?"
"Ill, yes. Humph! you have a fine house. Does it contain a spare room for a solitary wanderer?"
Mr. Mervale glanced at his wife, and his wife looked steadily on the carpet. "Modest and shy in his manners—rather too much so!" Mrs. Mervale was in the seventh heaven of indignation and amaze!
"My dear?" said Mr. Mervale at last, meekly and interogatingly.
"My dear!" returned Mrs. Mervale, innocently and sourly.
"We can make up a room for my old friend, Sarah?"
The old friend had sunk back on his chair, and, gazing intently on the fire, with his feet at ease upon the fender, seemed to have forgotten his question.
Mrs. Mervale bit her lips, looked thoughtful, and at last coldly replied, "Certainly, Mr. Mervale; your friends do right to make themselves at home."
With that she lighted a candle, and moved majestically from the room. When she returned, the two friends had vanished into Mr. Mervale's study.
Twelve o'clock struck,—one o'clock, two! Thrice had Mrs. Mervale sent into the room to know,—first, if they wanted anything; secondly, if Mr. Glyndon slept on a mattress or feather-bed; thirdly, to inquire if Mr. Glyndon's trunk, which he had brought with him, should be unpacked. And to the answer to all these questions was added, in a loud voice from the visitor,—a voice that pierced from the kitchen to the attic,—"Another bowl! stronger, if you please, and be quick with it!"
At last Mr. Mervale appeared in the conjugal chamber, not penitent, nor apologetic,—no, not a bit of it. His eyes twinkled, his cheek flushed, his feet reeled; he sang,—Mr. Thomas Mervale positively sang!
"Mr. Mervale! is it possible, sir—"
"'Old King Cole was a merry old soul—'"
"Mr. Mervale! sir!—leave me alone, sir!"
"'And a merry old soul was he—'"
"What an example to the servants!"
"'And he called for his pipe, and he called for his bowl—'"
"If you don't behave yourself, sir, I shall call—"
"'Call for his fiddlers three!'"
In der Welt weit Aus der Einsamkeit Wollen sie Dich locken. —"Faust."
(In the wide world, out of the solitude, will these allure thee.)
The next morning, at breakfast, Mrs. Mervale looked as if all the wrongs of injured woman sat upon her brow. Mr. Mervale seemed the picture of remorseful guilt and avenging bile. He said little, except to complain of headache, and to request the eggs to be removed from the table. Clarence Glyndon—impervious, unconscious, unailing, impenitent—was in noisy spirits, and talked for three.
"Poor Mervale! he has lost the habit of good-fellowship, madam. Another night or two, and he will be himself again!"
"Sir," said Mrs. Mervale, launching a premeditated sentence with more than Johnsonian dignity, "permit me to remind you that Mr. Mervale is now a married man, the destined father of a family, and the present master of a household."
"Precisely the reasons why I envy him so much. I myself have a great mind to marry. Happiness is contagious."
"Do you still take to painting?" asked Mervale, languidly, endeavouring to turn the tables on his guest.
"Oh, no; I have adopted your advice. No art, no ideal,—nothing loftier than Commonplace for me now. If I were to paint again, I positively think YOU would purchase my pictures. Make haste and finish your breakfast, man; I wish to consult you. I have come to England to see after my affairs. My ambition is to make money; your counsels and experience cannot fail to assist me here."
"Ah, you were soon disenchanted of your Philosopher's Stone! You must know, Sarah, that when I last left Glyndon, he was bent upon turning alchemist and magician."
"You are witty to-day, Mr. Mervale."
"Upon my honour it is true, I told you so before."
Glyndon rose abruptly.
"Why revive those recollections of folly and presumption? Have I not said that I have returned to my native land to pursue the healthful avocations of my kind! Oh, yes! what so healthful, so noble, so fitted to our nature, as what you call the Practical Life? If we have faculties, what is their use, but to sell them to advantage! Buy knowledge as we do our goods; buy it at the cheapest market, sell it at the dearest. Have you not breakfasted yet?"
The friends walked into the streets, and Mervale shrank from the irony with which Glyndon complimented him on his respectability, his station, his pursuits, his happy marriage, and his eight pictures in their handsome frames. Formerly the sober Mervale had commanded an influence over his friend: HIS had been the sarcasm; Glyndon's the irresolute shame at his own peculiarities. Now this position was reversed. There was a fierce earnestness in Glyndon's altered temper which awed and silenced the quiet commonplace of his friend's character. He seemed to take a malignant delight in persuading himself that the sober life of the world was contemptible and base.
"Ah!" he exclaimed, "how right you were to tell me to marry respectably; to have a solid position; to live in decorous fear of the world and one's wife; and to command the envy of the poor, the good opinion of the rich. You have practised what you preach. Delicious existence! The merchant's desk and the curtain lecture! Ha! ha! Shall we have another night of it?"
Mervale, embarrassed and irritated, turned the conversation upon Glyndon's affairs. He was surprised at the knowledge of the world which the artist seemed to have suddenly acquired, surprised still more at the acuteness and energy with which he spoke of the speculations most in vogue at the market. Yes; Glyndon was certainly in earnest: he desired to be rich and respectable,—and to make at least ten per cent for his money!
After spending some days with the merchant, during which time he contrived to disorganise all the mechanism of the house, to turn night into day, harmony into discord, to drive poor Mrs. Mervale half-distracted, and to convince her husband that he was horribly hen-pecked, the ill-omened visitor left them as suddenly as he had arrived. He took a house of his own; he sought the society of persons of substance; he devoted himself to the money-market; he seemed to have become a man of business; his schemes were bold and colossal; his calculations rapid and profound. He startled Mervale by his energy, and dazzled him by his success. Mervale began to envy him,—to be discontented with his own regular and slow gains. When Glyndon bought or sold in the funds, wealth rolled upon him like the tide of a sea; what years of toil could not have done for him in art, a few months, by a succession of lucky chances, did for him in speculation. Suddenly, however, he relaxed his exertions; new objects of ambition seemed to attract him. If he heard a drum in the streets, what glory like the soldier's? If a new poem were published, what renown like the poet's? He began works in literature, which promised great excellence, to throw them aside in disgust. All at once he abandoned the decorous and formal society he had courted; he joined himself, with young and riotous associates; he plunged into the wildest excesses of the great city, where Gold reigns alike over Toil and Pleasure. Through all he carried with him a certain power and heat of soul. In all society he aspired to command,—in all pursuits to excel. Yet whatever the passion of the moment, the reaction was terrible in its gloom. He sank, at times, into the most profound and the darkest reveries. His fever was that of a mind that would escape memory,—his repose, that of a mind which the memory seizes again, and devours as a prey. Mervale now saw little of him; they shunned each other. Glyndon had no confidant, and no friend.
Ich fuhle Dich mir nahe; Die Einsamkeit belebt; Wie uber seinen Welten Der Unsichtbare schwebt. Uhland.
(I feel thee near to me, The loneliness takes life,—As over its world The Invisible hovers.)
From this state of restlessness and agitation rather than continuous action, Glyndon was aroused by a visitor who seemed to exercise the most salutary influence over him. His sister, an orphan with himself, had resided in the country with her aunt. In the early years of hope and home he had loved this girl, much younger than himself, with all a brother's tenderness. On his return to England, he had seemed to forget her existence. She recalled herself to him on her aunt's death by a touching and melancholy letter: she had now no home but his,—no dependence save on his affection; he wept when he read it, and was impatient till Adela arrived.
This girl, then about eighteen, concerned beneath a gentle and calm exterior much of the romance or enthusiasm that had, at her own age, characterised her brother. But her enthusiasm was of a far purer order, and was restrained within proper bounds, partly by the sweetness of a very feminine nature, and partly by a strict and methodical education. She differed from him especially in a timidity of character which exceeded that usual at her age, but which the habit of self-command concealed no less carefully than that timidity itself concealed the romance I have ascribed to her.
Adela was not handsome: she had the complexion and the form of delicate health; and too fine an organisation of the nerves rendered her susceptible to every impression that could influence the health of the frame through the sympathy of the mind. But as she never complained, and as the singular serenity of her manners seemed to betoken an equanimity of temperament which, with the vulgar, might have passed for indifference, her sufferings had so long been borne unnoticed that it ceased to be an effort to disguise them. Though, as I have said, not handsome, her countenance was interesting and pleasing; and there was that caressing kindness, that winning charm about her smile, her manners, her anxiety to please, to comfort, and to soothe which went at once to the heart, and made her lovely,—because so loving.
Such was the sister whom Glyndon had so long neglected, and whom he now so cordially welcomed. Adela had passed many years a victim to the caprices, and a nurse to the maladies, of a selfish and exacting relation. The delicate and generous and respectful affection of her brother was no less new to her than delightful. He took pleasure in the happiness he created; he gradually weaned himself from other society; he felt the charm of home. It is not surprising, then, that this young creature, free and virgin from every more ardent attachment, concentrated all her grateful love on this cherished and protecting relative. Her study by day, her dream by night, was to repay him for his affection. She was proud of his talents, devoted to his welfare; the smallest trifle that could interest him swelled in her eyes to the gravest affairs of life. In short, all the long-hoarded enthusiasm, which was her perilous and only heritage, she invested in this one object of her holy tenderness, her pure ambition.
But in proportion as Glyndon shunned those excitements by which he had so long sought to occupy his time or distract his thoughts, the gloom of his calmer hours became deeper and more continuous. He ever and especially dreaded to be alone; he could not bear his new companion to be absent from his eyes: he rode with her, walked with her, and it was with visible reluctance, which almost partook of horror, that he retired to rest at an hour when even revel grows fatigued. This gloom was not that which could be called by the soft name of melancholy,—it was far more intense; it seemed rather like despair. Often after a silence as of death—so heavy, abstracted, motionless, did it appear—he would start abruptly, and cast hurried glances around him,—his limbs trembling, his lips livid, his brows bathed in dew. Convinced that some secret sorrow preyed upon his mind, and would consume his health, it was the dearest as the most natural desire of Adela to become his confidant and consoler. She observed, with the quick tact of the delicate, that he disliked her to seem affected by, or even sensible of, his darker moods. She schooled herself to suppress her fears and her feelings. She would not ask his confidence,—she sought to steal into it. By little and little she felt that she was succeeding. Too wrapped in his own strange existence to be acutely observant of the character of others, Glyndon mistook the self-content of a generous and humble affection for constitutional fortitude; and this quality pleased and soothed him. It is fortitude that the diseased mind requires in the confidant whom it selects as its physician. And how irresistible is that desire to communicate! How often the lonely man thought to himself, "My heart would be lightened of its misery, if once confessed!" He felt, too, that in the very youth, the inexperience, the poetical temperament of Adela, he could find one who would comprehend and bear with him better than any sterner and more practical nature. Mervale would have looked on his revelations as the ravings of madness, and most men, at best, as the sicklied chimeras, the optical delusions, of disease. Thus gradually preparing himself for that relief for which he yearned, the moment for his disclosure arrived thus:—
One evening, as they sat alone together, Adela, who inherited some portion of her brother's talent in art, was employed in drawing, and Glyndon, rousing himself from meditations less gloomy than usual, rose, and affectionately passing his arm round her waist, looked over her as she sat. An exclamation of dismay broke from his lips,—he snatched the drawing from her hand: "What are you about?—what portrait is this?"
"Dear Clarence, do you not remember the original?—it is a copy from that portrait of our wise ancestor which our poor mother used to say so strongly resembled you. I thought it would please you if I copied it from memory."
"Accursed was the likeness!" said Glyndon, gloomily. "Guess you not the reason why I have shunned to return to the home of my fathers!—because I dreaded to meet that portrait!—because—because—but pardon me; I alarm you!"
"Ah, no,—no, Clarence, you never alarm me when you speak: only when you are silent! Oh, if you thought me worthy of your trust; oh, if you had given me the right to reason with you in the sorrows that I yearn to share!"
Glyndon made no answer, but paced the room for some moments with disordered strides. He stopped at last, and gazed at her earnestly. "Yes, you, too, are his descendant; you know that such men have lived and suffered; you will not mock me,—you will not disbelieve! Listen! hark!—what sound is that?"
"But the wind on the house-top, Clarence,—but the wind."
"Give me your hand; let me feel its living clasp; and when I have told you, never revert to the tale again. Conceal it from all: swear that it shall die with us,—the last of our predestined race!"
"Never will I betray your trust; I swear it,—never!" said Adela, firmly; and she drew closer to his side. Then Glyndon commenced his story. That which, perhaps, in writing, and to minds prepared to question and disbelieve, may seem cold and terrorless, became far different when told by those blanched lips, with all that truth of suffering which convinces and appalls. Much, indeed, he concealed, much he involuntarily softened; but he revealed enough to make his tale intelligible and distinct to his pale and trembling listener. "At daybreak," he said, "I left that unhallowed and abhorred abode. I had one hope still,—I would seek Mejnour through the world. I would force him to lay at rest the fiend that haunted my soul. With this intent I journeyed from city to city. I instituted the most vigilant researches through the police of Italy. I even employed the services of the Inquisition at Rome, which had lately asserted its ancient powers in the trial of the less dangerous Cagliostro. All was in vain; not a trace of him could be discovered. I was not alone, Adela." Here Glyndon paused a moment, as if embarrassed; for in his recital, I need scarcely say that he had only indistinctly alluded to Fillide, whom the reader may surmise to be his companion. "I was not alone, but the associate of my wanderings was not one in whom my soul could confide,—faithful and affectionate, but without education, without faculties to comprehend me, with natural instincts rather than cultivated reason; one in whom the heart might lean in its careless hours, but with whom the mind could have no commune, in whom the bewildered spirit could seek no guide. Yet in the society of this person the demon troubled me not. Let me explain yet more fully the dread conditions of its presence. In coarse excitement, in commonplace life, in the wild riot, in the fierce excess, in the torpid lethargy of that animal existence which we share with the brutes, its eyes were invisible, its whisper was unheard. But whenever the soul would aspire, whenever the imagination kindled to the loftier ends, whenever the consciousness of our proper destiny struggled against the unworthy life I pursued, then, Adela—then, it cowered by my side in the light of noon, or sat by my bed,—a Darkness visible through the Dark. If, in the galleries of Divine Art, the dreams of my youth woke the early emulation,—if I turned to the thoughts of sages; if the example of the great, if the converse of the wise, aroused the silenced intellect, the demon was with me as by a spell. At last, one evening, at Genoa, to which city I had travelled in pursuit of the mystic, suddenly, and when least expected, he appeared before me. It was the time of the Carnival. It was in one of those half-frantic scenes of noise and revel, call it not gayety, which establish a heathen saturnalia in the midst of a Christian festival. Wearied with the dance, I had entered a room in which several revellers were seated, drinking, singing, shouting; and in their fantastic dresses and hideous masks, their orgy seemed scarcely human. I placed myself amongst them, and in that fearful excitement of the spirits which the happy never know, I was soon the most riotous of all. The conversation fell on the Revolution of France, which had always possessed for me an absorbing fascination. The masks spoke of the millennium it was to bring on earth, not as philosophers rejoicing in the advent of light, but as ruffians exulting in the annihilation of law. I know not why it was, but their licentious language infected myself; and, always desirous to be foremost in every circle, I soon exceeded even these rioters in declamations on the nature of the liberty which was about to embrace all the families of the globe,—a liberty that should pervade not only public legislation, but domestic life; an emancipation from every fetter that men had forged for themselves. In the midst of this tirade one of the masks whispered me,—
"'Take care. One listens to you who seems to be a spy!'
"My eyes followed those of the mask, and I observed a man who took no part in the conversation, but whose gaze was bent upon me. He was disguised like the rest, yet I found by a general whisper that none had observed him enter. His silence, his attention, had alarmed the fears of the other revellers,—they only excited me the more. Rapt in my subject, I pursued it, insensible to the signs of those about me; and, addressing myself only to the silent mask who sat alone, apart from the group, I did not even observe that, one by one, the revellers slunk off, and that I and the silent listener were left alone, until, pausing from my heated and impetuous declamations, I said,—
"'And you, signor,—what is your view of this mighty era? Opinion without persecution; brotherhood without jealousy; love without bondage—'
"'And life without God,' added the mask as I hesitated for new images.
"The sound of that well-known voice changed the current of my thought. I sprang forward, and cried,—
"'Imposter or Fiend, we meet at last!'
"The figure rose as I advanced, and, unmasking, showed the features of Mejnour. His fixed eye, his majestic aspect, awed and repelled me. I stood rooted to the ground.
"'Yes,' he said solemnly, 'we meet, and it is this meeting that I have sought. How hast thou followed my admonitions! Are these the scenes in which the Aspirant for the Serene Science thinks to escape the Ghastly Enemy? Do the thoughts thou hast uttered—thoughts that would strike all order from the universe—express the hopes of the sage who would rise to the Harmony of the Eternal Spheres?'
"'It is thy fault,—it is thine!' I exclaimed. 'Exorcise the phantom! Take the haunting terror from my soul!'
"Mejnour looked at me a moment with a cold and cynical disdain which provoked at once my fear and rage, and replied,—
"'No; fool of thine own senses! No; thou must have full and entire experience of the illusions to which the Knowledge that is without Faith climbs its Titan way. Thou pantest for this Millennium,—thou shalt behold it! Thou shalt be one of the agents of the era of Light and Reason. I see, while I speak, the Phantom thou fliest, by thy side; it marshals thy path; it has power over thee as yet,—a power that defies my own. In the last days of that Revolution which thou hailest, amidst the wrecks of the Order thou cursest as Oppression, seek the fulfilment of thy destiny, and await thy cure.'
"At that instant a troop of masks, clamorous, intoxicated, reeling, and rushing, as they reeled, poured into the room, and separated me from the mystic. I broke through them, and sought him everywhere, but in vain. All my researches the next day were equally fruitless. Weeks were consumed in the same pursuit,—not a trace of Mejnour could be discovered. Wearied with false pleasures, roused by reproaches I had deserved, recoiling from Mejnour's prophecy of the scene in which I was to seek deliverance, it occurred to me, at last, that in the sober air of my native country, and amidst its orderly and vigorous pursuits, I might work out my own emancipation from the spectre. I left all whom I had before courted and clung to,—I came hither. Amidst mercenary schemes and selfish speculations, I found the same relief as in debauch and excess. The Phantom was invisible; but these pursuits soon became to me distasteful as the rest. Ever and ever I felt that I was born for something nobler than the greed of gain,—that life may be made equally worthless, and the soul equally degraded by the icy lust of avarice, as by the noisier passions. A higher ambition never ceased to torment me. But, but," continued Glyndon, with a whitening lip and a visible shudder, "at every attempt to rise into loftier existence, came that hideous form. It gloomed beside me at the easel. Before the volumes of poet and sage it stood with its burning eyes in the stillness of night, and I thought I heard its horrible whispers uttering temptations never to be divulged." He paused, and the drops stood upon his brow.
"But I," said Adela, mastering her fears and throwing her arms around him,—"but I henceforth will have no life but in thine. And in this love so pure, so holy, thy terror shall fade away."
"No, no!" exclaimed Glyndon, starting from her. "The worst revelation is to come. Since thou hast been here, since I have sternly and resolutely refrained from every haunt, every scene in which this preternatural enemy troubled me not, I—I—have—Oh, Heaven! Mercy—mercy! There it stands,—there, by thy side,—there, there!" And he fell to the ground insensible.
Doch wunderbar ergriff mich's diese Nacht; Die Glieder schienen schon in Todes Macht. Uhland.
(This night it fearfully seized on me; my limbs appeared already in the power of death.)
A fever, attended with delirium, for several days deprived Glyndon of consciousness; and when, by Adela's care more than the skill of the physicians, he was restored to life and reason, he was unutterably shocked by the change in his sister's appearance; at first, he fondly imagined that her health, affected by her vigils, would recover with his own. But he soon saw, with an anguish which partook of remorse, that the malady was deep-seated,—deep, deep, beyond the reach of Aesculapius and his drugs. Her imagination, little less lively than his own, was awfully impressed by the strange confessions she had heard,—by the ravings of his delirium. Again and again had he shrieked forth, "It is there,—there, by thy side, my sister!" He had transferred to her fancy the spectre, and the horror that cursed himself. He perceived this, not by her words, but her silence; by the eyes that strained into space; by the shiver that came over her frame; by the start of terror; by the look that did not dare to turn behind. Bitterly he repented his confession; bitterly he felt that between his sufferings and human sympathy there could be no gentle and holy commune; vainly he sought to retract,—to undo what he had done, to declare all was but the chimera of an overheated brain!
And brave and generous was this denial of himself; for, often and often, as he thus spoke, he saw the Thing of Dread gliding to her side, and glaring at him as he disowned its being. But what chilled him, if possible, yet more than her wasting form and trembling nerves, was the change in her love for him; a natural terror had replaced it. She turned paler if he approached,—she shuddered if he took her hand. Divided from the rest of earth, the gulf of the foul remembrance yawned now between his sister and himself. He could endure no more the presence of the one whose life HIS life had embittered. He made some excuses for departure, and writhed to see that they were greeted eagerly. The first gleam of joy he had detected since that fatal night, on Adela's face, he beheld when he murmured "Farewell." He travelled for some weeks through the wildest parts of Scotland; scenery which MAKES the artist, was loveless to his haggard eyes. A letter recalled him to London on the wings of new agony and fear; he arrived to find his sister in a condition both of mind and health which exceeded his worst apprehensions.
Her vacant look, her lifeless posture, appalled him; it was as one who gazed on the Medusa's head, and felt, without a struggle, the human being gradually harden to the statue. It was not frenzy, it was not idiocy,—it was an abstraction, an apathy, a sleep in waking. Only as the night advanced towards the eleventh hour—the hour in which Glyndon had concluded his tale—she grew visibly uneasy, anxious, and perturbed. Then her lips muttered; her hands writhed; she looked round with a look of unspeakable appeal for succour, for protection, and suddenly, as the clock struck, fell with a shriek to the ground, cold and lifeless. With difficulty, and not until after the most earnest prayers, did she answer the agonised questions of Glyndon; at last she owned that at that hour, and that hour alone, wherever she was placed, however occupied, she distinctly beheld the apparition of an old hag, who, after thrice knocking at the door, entered the room, and hobbling up to her with a countenance distorted by hideous rage and menace, laid its icy fingers on her forehead: from that moment she declared that sense forsook her; and when she woke again, it was only to wait, in suspense that froze up her blood, the repetition of the ghastly visitation.
The physician who had been summoned before Glyndon's return, and whose letter had recalled him to London, was a commonplace practitioner, ignorant of the case, and honestly anxious that one more experienced should be employed. Clarence called in one of the most eminent of the faculty, and to him he recited the optical delusion of his sister. The physician listened attentively, and seemed sanguine in his hopes of cure. He came to the house two hours before the one so dreaded by the patient. He had quietly arranged that the clocks should be put forward half an hour, unknown to Adela, and even to her brother. He was a man of the most extraordinary powers of conversation, of surpassing wit, of all the faculties that interest and amuse. He first administered to the patient a harmless potion, which he pledged himself would dispel the delusion. His confident tone woke her own hopes,—he continued to excite her attention, to rouse her lethargy; he jested, he laughed away the time. The hour struck. "Joy, my brother!" she exclaimed, throwing herself in his arms; "the time is past!" And then, like one released from a spell, she suddenly assumed more than her ancient cheerfulness. "Ah, Clarence!" she whispered, "forgive me for my former desertion,—forgive me that I feared YOU. I shall live!—I shall live! in my turn to banish the spectre that haunts my brother!" And Clarence smiled and wiped the tears from his burning eyes. The physician renewed his stories, his jests. In the midst of a stream of rich humour that seemed to carry away both brother and sister, Glyndon suddenly saw over Adela's face the same fearful change, the same anxious look, the same restless, straining eye, he had beheld the night before. He rose,—he approached her. Adela started up, "look—look—look!" she exclaimed. "She comes! Save me,—save me!" and she fell at his feet in strong convulsions as the clock, falsely and in vain put forward, struck the half-hour.
The physician lifted her in his arms. "My worst fears are confirmed," he said gravely; "the disease is epilepsy." (The most celebrated practitioner in Dublin related to the editor a story of optical delusion precisely similar in its circumstances and its physical cause to the one here narrated.)
The next night, at the same hour, Adela Glyndon died.
La loi, dont le regne vous epouvante, a son glaive leve sur vous: elle vous frappera tous: le genre humain a besoin de cet exemple.—Couthon.
(The law, whose reign terrifies you, has its sword raised against you; it will strike you all: humanity has need of this example.)
"Oh, joy, joy!—thou art come again! This is thy hand—these thy lips. Say that thou didst not desert me from the love of another; say it again,—say it ever!—and I will pardon thee all the rest!"
"So thou hast mourned for me?"
"Mourned!—and thou wert cruel enough to leave me gold; there it is,—there, untouched!"
"Poor child of Nature! how, then, in this strange town of Marseilles, hast thou found bread and shelter?"
"Honestly, soul of my soul! honestly, but yet by the face thou didst once think so fair; thinkest thou THAT now?"
"Yes, Fillide, more fair than ever. But what meanest thou?"
"There is a painter here—a great man, one of their great men at Paris, I know not what they call them; but he rules over all here,—life and death; and he has paid me largely but to sit for my portrait. It is for a picture to be given to the Nation, for he paints only for glory. Think of thy Fillide's renown!" And the girl's wild eyes sparkled; her vanity was roused. "And he would have married me if I would!—divorced his wife to marry me! But I waited for thee, ungrateful!"
A knock at the door was heard,—a man entered.
"Ah, Glyndon!—hum!—welcome! What! thou art twice my rival! But Jean Nicot bears no malice. Virtue is my dream,—my country, my mistress. Serve my country, citizen; and I forgive thee the preference of beauty. Ca ira! ca ira!"
But as the painter spoke, it hymned, it rolled through the streets,—the fiery song of the Marseillaise! There was a crowd, a multitude, a people up, abroad, with colours and arms, enthusiasm and song,—with song, with enthusiasm, with colours and arms! And who could guess that that martial movement was one, not of war, but massacre,—Frenchmen against Frenchmen? For there are two parties in Marseilles,—and ample work for Jourdan Coupe-tete! But this, the Englishman, just arrived, a stranger to all factions, did not as yet comprehend. He comprehended nothing but the song, the enthusiasm, the arms, and the colours that lifted to the sun the glorious lie, "Le peuple Francais, debout contre les tyrans!" (Up, Frenchmen, against tyrants!)
The dark brow of the wretched wanderer grew animated; he gazed from the window on the throng that marched below, beneath their waving Oriflamme. They shouted as they beheld the patriot Nicot, the friend of Liberty and relentless Hebert, by the stranger's side, at the casement.
"Ay, shout again!" cried the painter,—"shout for the brave Englishman who abjures his Pitts and his Coburgs to be a citizen of Liberty and France!"
A thousand voices rent the air, and the hymn of the Marseillaise rose in majesty again.
"Well, and if it be among these high hopes and this brave people that the phantom is to vanish, and the cure to come!" muttered Glyndon; and he thought he felt again the elixir sparkling through his veins.
"Thou shalt be one of the Convention with Paine and Clootz,—I will manage it all for thee!" cried Nicot, slapping him on the shoulder: "and Paris—"
"Ah, if I could but see Paris!" cried Fillide, in her joyous voice. Joyous! the whole time, the town, the air—save where, unheard, rose the cry of agony and the yell of murder—were joy! Sleep unhaunting in thy grave, cold Adela. Joy, joy! In the Jubilee of Humanity all private griefs should cease! Behold, wild mariner, the vast whirlpool draws thee to its stormy bosom! There the individual is not. All things are of the whole! Open thy gates, fair Paris, for the stranger-citizen! Receive in your ranks, O meek Republicans, the new champion of liberty, of reason, of mankind! "Mejnour is right; it was in virtue, in valour, in glorious struggle for the human race, that the spectre was to shrink to her kindred darkness."
And Nicot's shrill voice praised him; and lean Robespierre—"Flambeau, colonne, pierre angulaire de l'edifice de la Republique!" ("The light, column, and keystone of the Republic."—"Lettre du Citoyen P—; Papiers inedits trouves chez Robespierre," tom 11, page 127.)—smiled ominously on him from his bloodshot eyes; and Fillide clasped him with passionate arms to her tender breast. And at his up-rising and down-sitting, at board and in bed, though he saw it not, the Nameless One guided him with the demon eyes to the sea whose waves were gore.
BOOK VI. — SUPERSTITION DESERTING FAITH.
Why do I yield to that suggestion, Whose horrid image doth unfix my hair.—Shakespeare
Therefore the Genii were painted with a platter full of garlands and flowers in one hand, and a whip in the other.—Alexander Ross, "Mystag. Poet."
According to the order of the events related in this narrative, the departure of Zanoni and Viola from the Greek isle, in which two happy years appear to have been passed, must have been somewhat later in date than the arrival of Glyndon at Marseilles. It must have been in the course of the year 1791 when Viola fled from Naples with her mysterious lover, and when Glyndon sought Mejnour in the fatal castle. It is now towards the close of 1793, when our story again returns to Zanoni. The stars of winter shone down on the lagunes of Venice. The hum of the Rialto was hushed,—the last loiterers had deserted the Place of St. Mark's, and only at distant intervals might be heard the oars of the rapid gondolas, bearing reveller or lover to his home. But lights still flitted to and fro across the windows of one of the Palladian palaces, whose shadow slept in the great canal; and within the palace watched the twin Eumenides that never sleep for Man,—Fear and Pain.
"I will make thee the richest man in all Venice, if thou savest her."
"Signor," said the leech; "your gold cannot control death, and the will of Heaven, signor, unless within the next hour there is some blessed change, prepare your courage."
Ho—ho, Zanoni! man of mystery and might, who hast walked amidst the passions of the world, with no changes on thy brow, art thou tossed at last upon the billows of tempestuous fear? Does thy spirit reel to and fro?—knowest thou at last the strength and the majesty of Death?
He fled, trembling, from the pale-faced man of art,—fled through stately hall and long-drawn corridor, and gained a remote chamber in the palace, which other step than his was not permitted to profane. Out with thy herbs and vessels. Break from the enchanted elements, O silvery-azure flame! Why comes he not,—the Son of the Starbeam! Why is Adon-Ai deaf to thy solemn call? It comes not,—the luminous and delightsome Presence! Cabalist! are thy charms in vain? Has thy throne vanished from the realms of space? Thou standest pale and trembling. Pale trembler! not thus didst thou look when the things of glory gathered at thy spell. Never to the pale trembler bow the things of glory: the soul, and not the herbs, nor the silvery-azure flame, nor the spells of the Cabala, commands the children of the air; and THY soul, by Love and Death, is made sceptreless and discrowned!
At length the flame quivers,—the air grows cold as the wind in charnels. A thing not of earth is present,—a mistlike, formless thing. It cowers in the distance,—a silent Horror! it rises; it creeps; it nears thee—dark in its mantle of dusky haze; and under its veil it looks on thee with its livid, malignant eyes,—the thing of malignant eyes!
"Ha, young Chaldean! young in thy countless ages,—young as when, cold to pleasure and to beauty, thou stoodest on the old Firetower, and heardest the starry silence whisper to thee the last mystery that baffles Death,—fearest thou Death at length? Is thy knowledge but a circle that brings thee back whence thy wanderings began! Generations on generations have withered since we two met! Lo! thou beholdest me now!"
"But I behold thee without fear! Though beneath thine eyes thousands have perished; though, where they burn, spring up the foul poisons of the human heart, and to those whom thou canst subject to thy will, thy presence glares in the dreams of the raving maniac, or blackens the dungeon of despairing crime, thou art not my vanquisher, but my slave!"
"And as a slave will I serve thee! Command thy slave, O beautiful Chaldean! Hark, the wail of women!—hark, the sharp shriek of thy beloved one! Death is in thy palace! Adon-Ai comes not to thy call. Only where no cloud of the passion and the flesh veils the eye of the Serene Intelligence can the Sons of the Starbeam glide to man. But I can aid thee!—hark!" And Zanoni heard distinctly in his heart, even at that distance from the chamber, the voice of Viola calling in delirium on her beloved one.
"Oh, Viola, I can save thee not!" exclaimed the seer, passionately; "my love for thee has made me powerless!"
"Not powerless; I can gift thee with the art to save her,—I can place healing in thy hand!"
"For both?—child and mother,—for both?"
A convulsion shook the limbs of the seer,—a mighty struggle shook him as a child: the Humanity and the Hour conquered the repugnant spirit.
"I yield! Mother and child—save both!"
In the dark chamber lay Viola, in the sharpest agonies of travail; life seemed rending itself away in the groans and cries that spoke of pain in the midst of frenzy; and still, in groan and cry, she called on Zanoni, her beloved. The physician looked to the clock; on it beat: the Heart of Time,—regularly and slowly,—Heart that never sympathised with Life, and never flagged for Death! "The cries are fainter," said the leech; "in ten minutes more all will be past."
Fool! the minutes laugh at thee; Nature, even now, like a blue sky through a shattered temple, is smiling through the tortured frame. The breathing grows more calm and hushed; the voice of delirium is dumb,—a sweet dream has come to Viola. Is it a dream, or is it the soul that sees? She thinks suddenly that she is with Zanoni, that her burning head is pillowed on his bosom; she thinks, as he gazes on her, that his eyes dispel the tortures that prey upon her,—the touch of his hand cools the fever on her brow; she hears his voice in murmurs,—it is a music from which the fiends fly. Where is the mountain that seemed to press upon her temples? Like a vapour, it rolls away. In the frosts of the winter night, she sees the sun laughing in luxurious heaven,—she hears the whisper of green leaves; the beautiful world, valley and stream and woodland, lie before, and with a common voice speak to her, "We are not yet past for thee!" Fool of drugs and formula, look to thy dial-plate!—the hand has moved on; the minutes are with Eternity; the soul thy sentence would have dismissed, still dwells on the shores of Time. She sleeps: the fever abates; the convulsions are gone; the living rose blooms upon her cheek; the crisis is past! Husband, thy wife lives; lover, thy universe is no solitude! Heart of Time, beat on! A while, a little while,—joy! joy! joy!—father, embrace thy child!
Tristis Erinnys Praetulit infaustas sanguinolenta faces. Ovid.
(Erinnys, doleful and bloody, extends the unblessed torches.)
And they placed the child in the father's arms! As silently he bent over it, tears—tears, how human!—fell from his eyes like rain! And the little one smiled through the tears that bathed its cheeks! Ah, with what happy tears we welcome the stranger into our sorrowing world! With what agonising tears we dismiss the stranger back to the angels! Unselfish joy; but how selfish is the sorrow!
And now through the silent chamber a faint sweet voice is heard,—the young mother's voice.
"I am here: I am by thy side!" murmured Zanoni.
The mother smiled, and clasped his hand, and asked no more; she was contented.
Viola recovered with a rapidity that startled the physician; and the young stranger thrived as if it already loved the world to which it had descended. From that hour Zanoni seemed to live in the infant's life, and in that life the souls of mother and father met as in a new bond. Nothing more beautiful than this infant had eye ever dwelt upon. It was strange to the nurses that it came not wailing to the light, but smiled to the light as a thing familiar to it before. It never uttered one cry of childish pain. In its very repose it seemed to be listening to some happy voice within its heart: it seemed itself so happy. In its eyes you would have thought intellect already kindled, though it had not yet found a language. Already it seemed to recognise its parents; already it stretched forth its arms when Zanoni bent over the bed, in which it breathed and bloomed,—the budding flower! And from that bed he was rarely absent: gazing upon it with his serene, delighted eyes, his soul seemed to feed its own. At night and in utter darkness he was still there; and Viola often heard him murmuring over it as she lay in a half-sleep. But the murmur was in a language strange to her; and sometimes when she heard she feared, and vague, undefined superstitions came back to her,—the superstitions of earlier youth. A mother fears everything, even the gods, for her new-born. The mortals shrieked aloud when of old they saw the great Demeter seeking to make their child immortal.
But Zanoni, wrapped in the sublime designs that animated the human love to which he was now awakened, forgot all, even all he had forfeited or incurred, in the love that blinded him.
But the dark, formless thing, though he nor invoked nor saw it, crept, often, round and round him, and often sat by the infant's couch, with its hateful eyes.
Fuscis tellurem amplectitur alis. Virgil.
(Embraces the Earth with gloomy wings.)
Letter from Zanoni to Mejnour.
Mejnour, Humanity, with all its sorrows and its joys, is mine once more. Day by day, I am forging my own fetters. I live in other lives than my own, and in them I have lost more than half my empire. Not lifting them aloft, they drag me by the strong bands of the affections to their own earth. Exiled from the beings only visible to the most abstract sense, the grim Enemy that guards the Threshold has entangled me in its web. Canst thou credit me, when I tell thee that I have accepted its gifts, and endure the forfeit? Ages must pass ere the brighter beings can again obey the spirit that has bowed to the ghastly one! And—
In this hope, then, Mejnour, I triumph still; I yet have supreme power over this young life. Insensibly and inaudibly my soul speaks to its own, and prepares it even now. Thou knowest that for the pure and unsullied infant spirit, the ordeal has no terror and no peril. Thus unceasingly I nourish it with no unholy light; and ere it yet be conscious of the gift, it will gain the privileges it has been mine to attain: the child, by slow and scarce-seen degrees, will communicate its own attributes to the mother; and content to see Youth forever radiant on the brows of the two that now suffice to fill up my whole infinity of thought, shall I regret the airier kingdom that vanishes hourly from my grasp? But thou, whose vision is still clear and serene, look into the far deeps shut from my gaze, and counsel me, or forewarn! I know that the gifts of the Being whose race is so hostile to our own are, to the common seeker, fatal and perfidious as itself. And hence, when, at the outskirts of knowledge, which in earlier ages men called Magic, they encountered the things of the hostile tribes, they believed the apparitions to be fiends, and, by fancied compacts, imagined they had signed away their souls; as if man could give for an eternity that over which he has control but while he lives! Dark, and shrouded forever from human sight, dwell the demon rebels, in their impenetrable realm; in them is no breath of the Divine One. In every human creature the Divine One breathes; and He alone can judge His own hereafter, and allot its new career and home. Could man sell himself to the fiend, man could prejudge himself, and arrogate the disposal of eternity! But these creatures, modifications as they are of matter, and some with more than the malignanty of man, may well seem, to fear and unreasoning superstition, the representatives of fiends. And from the darkest and mightiest of them I have accepted a boon,—the secret that startled Death from those so dear to me. Can I not trust that enough of power yet remains to me to baffle or to daunt the Phantom, if it seek to pervert the gift? Answer me, Mejnour, for in the darkness that veils me, I see only the pure eyes of the new-born; I hear only the low beating of my heart. Answer me, thou whose wisdom is without love!
Mejnour to Zanoni.
Fallen One!—I see before thee Evil and Death and Woe! Thou to have relinquished Adon-Ai for the nameless Terror,—the heavenly stars for those fearful eyes! Thou, at the last to be the victim of the Larva of the dreary Threshold, that, in thy first novitiate, fled, withered and shrivelled, from thy kingly brow! When, at the primary grades of initiation, the pupil I took from thee on the shores of the changed Parthenope, fell senseless and cowering before that Phantom-Darkness, I knew that his spirit was not formed to front the worlds beyond; for FEAR is the attraction of man to earthiest earth, and while he fears, he cannot soar. But THOU, seest thou not that to love is but to fear; seest thou not that the power of which thou boastest over the malignant one is already gone? It awes, it masters thee; it will mock thee and betray. Lose not a moment; come to me. If there can yet be sufficient sympathy between us, through MY eyes shalt thou see, and perhaps guard against the perils that, shapeless yet, and looming through the shadow, marshal themselves around thee and those whom thy very love has doomed. Come from all the ties of thy fond humanity; they will but obscure thy vision! Come forth from thy fears and hopes, thy desires and passions. Come, as alone Mind can be the monarch and the seer, shining through the home it tenants,—a pure, impressionless, sublime intelligence!
Plus que vous ne pensez ce moment est terrible. La Harpe, "Le Comte de Warwick," Act 3, sc. 5.
(The moment is more terrible than you think.)
For the first time since their union, Zanoni and Viola were separated,—Zanoni went to Rome on important business. "It was," he said, "but for a few days;" and he went so suddenly that there was little time either for surprise or sorrow. But first parting is always more melancholy than it need be: it seems an interruption to the existence which Love shares with Love; it makes the heart feel what a void life will be when the last parting shall succeed, as succeed it must, the first. But Viola had a new companion; she was enjoying that most delicious novelty which ever renews the youth and dazzles the eyes of woman. As the mistress—the wife—she leans on another; from another are reflected her happiness, her being,—as an orb that takes light from its sun. But now, in turn, as the mother, she is raised from dependence into power; it is another that leans on her,—a star has sprung into space, to which she herself has become the sun!
A few days,—but they will be sweet through the sorrow! A few days,—every hour of which seems an era to the infant, over whom bend watchful the eyes and the heart. From its waking to its sleep, from its sleep to its waking, is a revolution in Time. Every gesture to be noted,—every smile to seem a new progress into the world it has come to bless! Zanoni has gone,—the last dash of the oar is lost, the last speck of the gondola has vanished from the ocean-streets of Venice! Her infant is sleeping in the cradle at the mother's feet; and she thinks through her tears what tales of the fairy-land, that spreads far and wide, with a thousand wonders, in that narrow bed, she shall have to tell the father! Smile on, weep on, young mother! Already the fairest leaf in the wild volume is closed for thee, and the invisible finger turns the page!
By the bridge of the Rialto stood two Venetians—ardent Republicans and Democrats—looking to the Revolution of France as the earthquake which must shatter their own expiring and vicious constitution, and give equality of ranks and rights to Venice.
"Yes, Cottalto," said one; "my correspondent of Paris has promised to elude all obstacles, and baffle all danger. He will arrange with us the hour of revolt, when the legions of France shall be within hearing of our guns. One day in this week, at this hour, he is to meet me here. This is but the fourth day."
He had scarce said these words before a man, wrapped in his roquelaire, emerging from one of the narrow streets to the left, halted opposite the pair, and eying them for a few moments with an earnest scrutiny, whispered, "Salut!"