"Et fraternite," answered the speaker.
"You, then, are the brave Dandolo with whom the Comite deputed me to correspond? And this citizen—"
"Is Cottalto, whom my letters have so often mentioned." (I know not if the author of the original MSS. designs, under these names, to introduce the real Cottalto and the true Dandolo, who, in 1797, distinguished themselves by their sympathy with the French, and their democratic ardor.—Ed.)
"Health and brotherhood to him! I have much to impart to you both. I will meet you at night, Dandolo. But in the streets we may be observed."
"And I dare not appoint my own house; tyranny makes spies of our very walls. But the place herein designated is secure;" and he slipped an address into the hand of his correspondent.
"To-night, then, at nine! Meanwhile I have other business." The man paused, his colour changed, and it was with an eager and passionate voice that he resumed,—
"Your last letter mentioned this wealthy and mysterious visitor,—this Zanoni. He is still at Venice?"
"I heard that he had left this morning; but his wife is still here."
"His wife!—that is well!"
"What know you of him? Think you that he would join us? His wealth would be—"
"His house, his address,—quick!" interrupted the man.
"The Palazzo di —, on the Grand Canal."
"I thank you,—at nine we meet."
The man hurried on through the street from which he had emerged; and, passing by the house in which he had taken up his lodging (he had arrived at Venice the night before), a woman who stood by the door caught his arm.
"Monsieur," she said in French, "I have been watching for your return. Do you understand me? I will brave all, risk all, to go back with you to France,—to stand, through life or in death, by my husband's side!"
"Citoyenne, I promised your husband that, if such your choice, I would hazard my own safety to aid it. But think again! Your husband is one of the faction which Robespierre's eyes have already marked; he cannot fly. All France is become a prison to the 'suspect.' You do not endanger yourself by return. Frankly, citoyenne, the fate you would share may be the guillotine. I speak (as you know by his letter) as your husband bade me."
"Monsieur, I will return with you," said the woman, with a smile upon her pale face.
"And yet you deserted your husband in the fair sunshine of the Revolution, to return to him amidst its storms and thunder," said the man, in a tone half of wonder, half rebuke.
"Because my father's days were doomed; because he had no safety but in flight to a foreign land; because he was old and penniless, and had none but me to work for him; because my husband was not then in danger, and my father was! HE is dead—dead! My husband is in danger now. The daughter's duties are no more,—the wife's return!"
"Be it so, citoyenne; on the third night I depart. Before then you may retract your choice."
A dark smile passed over the man's face.
"O guillotine!" he said, "how many virtues hast thou brought to light! Well may they call thee 'A Holy Mother!' O gory guillotine!"
He passed on muttering to himself, hailed a gondola, and was soon amidst the crowded waters of the Grand Canal.
Ce que j'ignore Est plus triste peut-etre et plus affreux encore. La Harpe, "Le Comte de Warwick," Act 5, sc. 1.
(That which I know not is, perhaps, more sad and fearful still.)
The casement stood open, and Viola was seated by it. Beneath sparkled the broad waters in the cold but cloudless sunlight; and to that fair form, that half-averted face, turned the eyes of many a gallant cavalier, as their gondolas glided by.
But at last, in the centre of the canal, one of these dark vessels halted motionless, as a man fixed his gaze from its lattice upon that stately palace. He gave the word to the rowers,—the vessel approached the marge. The stranger quitted the gondola; he passed up the broad stairs; he entered the palace. Weep on, smile no more, young mother!—the last page is turned!
An attendant entered the room, and gave to Viola a card, with these words in English, "Viola, I must see you! Clarence Glyndon."
Oh, yes, how gladly Viola would see him; how gladly speak to him of her happiness, of Zanoni!—how gladly show to him her child! Poor Clarence! she had forgotten him till now, as she had all the fever of her earlier life,—its dreams, its vanities, its poor excitement, the lamps of the gaudy theatre, the applause of the noisy crowd.
He entered. She started to behold him, so changed were his gloomy brow, his resolute, careworn features, from the graceful form and careless countenance of the artist-lover. His dress, though not mean, was rude, neglected, and disordered. A wild, desperate, half-savage air had supplanted that ingenuous mien, diffident in its grace, earnest in its diffidence, which had once characterised the young worshipper of Art, the dreaming aspirant after some starrier lore.
"Is it you?" she said at last. "Poor Clarence, how changed!"
"Changed!" he said abruptly, as he placed himself by her side. "And whom am I to thank, but the fiends—the sorcerers—who have seized upon thy existence, as upon mine? Viola, hear me. A few weeks since the news reached me that you were in Venice. Under other pretences, and through innumerable dangers, I have come hither, risking liberty, perhaps life, if my name and career are known in Venice, to warn and save you. Changed, you call me!—changed without; but what is that to the ravages within? Be warned, be warned in time!"
The voice of Glyndon, sounding hollow and sepulchral, alarmed Viola even more than his words. Pale, haggard, emaciated, he seemed almost as one risen from the dead, to appall and awe her. "What," she said, at last, in a faltering voice,—"what wild words do you utter! Can you—"
"Listen!" interrupted Glyndon, laying his hand upon her arm, and its touch was as cold as death,—"listen! You have heard of the old stories of men who have leagued themselves with devils for the attainment of preternatural powers. Those stories are not fables. Such men live. Their delight is to increase the unhallowed circle of wretches like themselves. If their proselytes fail in the ordeal, the demon seizes them, even in this life, as it hath seized me!—if they succeed, woe, yea, a more lasting woe! There is another life, where no spells can charm the evil one, or allay the torture. I have come from a scene where blood flows in rivers,—where Death stands by the side of the bravest and the highest, and the one monarch is the Guillotine; but all the mortal perils with which men can be beset, are nothing to the dreariness of the chamber where the Horror that passes death moves and stirs!"
It was then that Glyndon, with a cold and distinct precision, detailed, as he had done to Adela, the initiation through which he had gone. He described, in words that froze the blood of his listener, the appearance of that formless phantom, with the eyes that seared the brain and congealed the marrow of those who beheld. Once seen, it never was to be exorcised. It came at its own will, prompting black thoughts,—whispering strange temptations. Only in scenes of turbulent excitement was it absent! Solitude, serenity, the struggling desires after peace and virtue,—THESE were the elements it loved to haunt! Bewildered, terror-stricken, the wild account confirmed by the dim impressions that never, in the depth and confidence of affection, had been closely examined, but rather banished as soon as felt,—that the life and attributes of Zanoni were not like those of mortals,—impressions which her own love had made her hitherto censure as suspicions that wronged, and which, thus mitigated, had perhaps only served to rivet the fascinated chains in which he bound her heart and senses, but which now, as Glyndon's awful narrative filled her with contagious dread, half unbound the very spells they had woven before,—Viola started up in fear, not for HERSELF, and clasped her child in her arms!
"Unhappiest one!" cried Glyndon, shuddering, "hast thou indeed given birth to a victim thou canst not save? Refuse it sustenance,—let it look to thee in vain for food! In the grave, at least, there are repose and peace!"
Then there came back to Viola's mind the remembrance of Zanoni's night-long watches by that cradle, and the fear which even then had crept over her as she heard his murmured half-chanted words. And as the child looked at her with its clear, steadfast eye, in the strange intelligence of that look there was something that only confirmed her awe. So there both Mother and Forewarner stood in silence,—the sun smiling upon them through the casement, and dark by the cradle, though they saw it not, sat the motionless, veiled Thing!
But by degrees better and juster and more grateful memories of the past returned to the young mother. The features of the infant, as she gazed, took the aspect of the absent father. A voice seemed to break from those rosy lips, and say, mournfully, "I speak to thee in thy child. In return for all my love for thee and thine, dost thou distrust me, at the first sentence of a maniac who accuses?"
Her breast heaved, her stature rose, her eyes shone with a serene and holy light.
"Go, poor victim of thine own delusions," she said to Glyndon; "I would not believe mine own senses, if they accused ITS father! And what knowest thou of Zanoni? What relation have Mejnour and the grisly spectres he invoked, with the radiant image with which thou wouldst connect them?"
"Thou wilt learn too soon," replied Glyndon, gloomily. "And the very phantom that haunts me, whispers, with its bloodless lips, that its horrors await both thine and thee! I take not thy decision yet; before I leave Venice we shall meet again."
He said, and departed.
Quel est l'egarement ou ton ame se livre? La Harpe, "Le Comte de Warwick," Act 4, sc. 4.
(To what delusion does thy soul abandon itself?)
Alas, Zanoni! the aspirer, the dark, bright one!—didst thou think that the bond between the survivor of ages and the daughter of a day could endure? Didst thou not foresee that, until the ordeal was past, there could be no equality between thy wisdom and her love? Art thou absent now seeking amidst thy solemn secrets the solemn safeguards for child and mother, and forgettest thou that the phantom that served thee hath power over its own gifts,—over the lives it taught thee to rescue from the grave? Dost thou not know that Fear and Distrust, once sown in the heart of Love, spring up from the seed into a forest that excludes the stars? Dark, bright one! the hateful eyes glare beside the mother and the child!
All that day Viola was distracted by a thousand thoughts and terrors, which fled as she examined them to settle back the darklier. She remembered that, as she had once said to Glyndon, her very childhood had been haunted with strange forebodings, that she was ordained for some preternatural doom. She remembered that, as she had told him this, sitting by the seas that slumbered in the arms of the Bay of Naples, he, too, had acknowledged the same forebodings, and a mysterious sympathy had appeared to unite their fates. She remembered, above all, that, comparing their entangled thoughts, both had then said, that with the first sight of Zanoni the foreboding, the instinct, had spoken to their hearts more audibly than before, whispering that "with HIM was connected the secret of the unconjectured life."
And now, when Glyndon and Viola met again, the haunting fears of childhood, thus referred to, woke from their enchanted sleep. With Glyndon's terror she felt a sympathy, against which her reason and her love struggled in vain. And still, when she turned her looks upon her child, it watched her with that steady, earnest eye, and its lips moved as if it sought to speak to her,—but no sound came. The infant refused to sleep. Whenever she gazed upon its face, still those wakeful, watchful eyes!—and in their earnestness, there spoke something of pain, of upbraiding, of accusation. They chilled her as she looked. Unable to endure, of herself, this sudden and complete revulsion of all the feelings which had hitherto made up her life, she formed the resolution natural to her land and creed; she sent for the priest who had habitually attended her at Venice, and to him she confessed, with passionate sobs and intense terror, the doubts that had broken upon her. The good father, a worthy and pious man, but with little education and less sense, one who held (as many of the lower Italians do to this day) even a poet to be a sort of sorcerer, seemed to shut the gates of hope upon her heart. His remonstrances were urgent, for his horror was unfeigned. He joined with Glyndon in imploring her to fly, if she felt the smallest doubt that her husband's pursuits were of the nature which the Roman Church had benevolently burned so many scholars for adopting. And even the little that Viola could communicate seemed, to the ignorant ascetic, irrefragable proof of sorcery and witchcraft; he had, indeed, previously heard some of the strange rumours which followed the path of Zanoni, and was therefore prepared to believe the worst; the worthy Bartolomeo would have made no bones of sending Watt to the stake, had he heard him speak of the steam-engine. But Viola, as untutored as himself, was terrified by his rough and vehement eloquence,—terrified, for by that penetration which Catholic priests, however dull, generally acquire, in their vast experience of the human heart hourly exposed to their probe, Bartolomeo spoke less of danger to herself than to her child. "Sorcerers," said he, "have ever sought the most to decoy and seduce the souls of the young,—nay, the infant;" and therewith he entered into a long catalogue of legendary fables, which he quoted as historical facts. All at which an English woman would have smiled, appalled the tender but superstitious Neapolitan; and when the priest left her, with solemn rebukes and grave accusations of a dereliction of her duties to her child, if she hesitated to fly with it from an abode polluted by the darker powers and unhallowed arts, Viola, still clinging to the image of Zanoni, sank into a passive lethargy which held her very reason in suspense.
The hours passed: night came on; the house was hushed; and Viola, slowly awakened from the numbness and torpor which had usurped her faculties, tossed to and fro on her couch, restless and perturbed. The stillness became intolerable; yet more intolerable the sound that alone broke it, the voice of the clock, knelling moment after moment to its grave. The moments, at last, seemed themselves to find voice,—to gain shape. She thought she beheld them springing, wan and fairy-like, from the womb of darkness; and ere they fell again, extinguished, into that womb, their grave, their low small voices murmured, "Woman, we report to eternity all that is done in time! What shall we report of thee, O guardian of a new-born soul?" She became sensible that her fancies had brought a sort of partial delirium, that she was in a state between sleep and waking, when suddenly one thought became more predominant than the rest. The chamber which, in that and every house they had inhabited, even that in the Greek isles, Zanoni had set apart to a solitude on which none might intrude, the threshold of which even Viola's step was forbid to cross, and never, hitherto, in that sweet repose of confidence which belongs to contented love, had she even felt the curious desire to disobey,—now, that chamber drew her towards it. Perhaps THERE might be found a somewhat to solve the riddle, to dispel or confirm the doubt: that thought grew and deepened in its intenseness; it fastened on her as with a palpable and irresistible grasp; it seemed to raise her limbs without her will.
And now, through the chamber, along the galleries thou glidest, O lovely shape! sleep-walking, yet awake. The moon shines on thee as thou glidest by, casement after casement, white-robed and wandering spirit!—thine arms crossed upon thy bosom, thine eyes fixed and open, with a calm unfearing awe. Mother, it is thy child that leads thee on! The fairy moments go before thee; thou hearest still the clock-knell tolling them to their graves behind. On, gliding on, thou hast gained the door; no lock bars thee, no magic spell drives thee back. Daughter of the dust, thou standest alone with night in the chamber where, pale and numberless, the hosts of space have gathered round the seer!
Des Erdenlebens Schweres Traumbild sinkt, und sinkt, und sinkt. "Das Ideal und das Lebens."
(The Dream Shape of the heavy earthly life sinks, and sinks, and sinks.)
She stood within the chamber, and gazed around her; no signs by which an inquisitor of old could have detected the scholar of the Black Art were visible. No crucibles and caldrons, no brass-bound volumes and ciphered girdles, no skulls and cross-bones. Quietly streamed the broad moonlight through the desolate chamber with its bare, white walls. A few bunches of withered herbs, a few antique vessels of bronze, placed carelessly on a wooden form, were all which that curious gaze could identify with the pursuits of the absent owner. The magic, if it existed, dwelt in the artificer, and the materials, to other hands, were but herbs and bronze. So is it ever with thy works and wonders, O Genius,—Seeker of the Stars! Words themselves are the common property of all men; yet, from words themselves, Thou Architect of Immortalities, pilest up temples that shall outlive the Pyramids, and the very leaf of the Papyrus becomes a Shinar, stately with towers, round which the Deluge of Ages, shall roar in vain!
But in that solitude has the Presence that there had invoked its wonders left no enchantment of its own? It seemed so; for as Viola stood in the chamber, she became sensible that some mysterious change was at work within herself. Her blood coursed rapidly, and with a sensation of delight, through her veins,—she felt as if chains were falling from her limbs, as if cloud after cloud was rolling from her gaze. All the confused thoughts which had moved through her trance settled and centred themselves in one intense desire to see the Absent One,—to be with him. The monads that make up space and air seemed charged with a spiritual attraction,—to become a medium through which her spirit could pass from its clay, and confer with the spirit to which the unutterable desire compelled it. A faintness seized her; she tottered to the seat on which the vessels and herbs were placed, and, as she bent down, she saw in one of the vessels a small vase of crystal. By a mechanical and involuntary impulse, her hand seized the vase; she opened it, and the volatile essence it contained sparkled up, and spread through the room a powerful and delicious fragrance. She inhaled the odour, she laved her temples with the liquid, and suddenly her life seemed to spring up from the previous faintness,—to spring, to soar, to float, to dilate upon the wings of a bird. The room vanished from her eyes. Away, away, over lands and seas and space on the rushing desire flies the disprisoned mind!
Upon a stratum, not of this world, stood the world-born shapes of the sons of Science, upon an embryo world, upon a crude, wan, attenuated mass of matter, one of the Nebulae, which the suns of the myriad systems throw off as they roll round the Creator's throne*, to become themselves new worlds of symmetry and glory,—planets and suns that forever and forever shall in their turn multiply their shining race, and be the fathers of suns and planets yet to come.
(*"Astronomy instructs us that, in the original condition of the solar system, the sun was the nucleus of a nebulosity or luminous mass which revolved on its axis, and extended far beyond the orbits of all the planets,—the planets as yet having no existence. Its temperature gradually diminished, and, becoming contracted by cooling, the rotation increased in rapidity, and zones of nebulosity were successively thrown off, in consequence of the centrifugal force overpowering the central attraction. The condensation of these separate masses constituted the planets and satellites. But this view of the conversion of gaseous matter into planetary bodies is not limited to our own system; it extends to the formation of the innumerable suns and worlds which are distributed throughout the universe. The sublime discoveries of modern astronomers have shown that every part of the realms of space abounds in large expansions of attenuated matter termed nebulae, which are irregularly reflective of light, of various figures, and in different states of condensation, from that of a diffused, luminous mass to suns and planets like our own."—From Mantell's eloquent and delightful work, entitled "The Wonders of Geology," volume i. page 22.)
There, in that enormous solitude of an infant world, which thousands and thousands of years can alone ripen into form, the spirit of Viola beheld the shape of Zanoni, or rather the likeness, the simulacrun, the LEMUR of his shape, not its human and corporeal substance,—as if, like hers, the Intelligence was parted from the Clay,—and as the sun, while it revolves and glows, had cast off into remotest space that nebular image of itself, so the thing of earth, in the action of its more luminous and enduring being, had thrown its likeness into that new-born stranger of the heavens. There stood the phantom,—a phantom Mejnour, by its side. In the gigantic chaos around raved and struggled the kindling elements; water and fire, darkness and light, at war,—vapour and cloud hardening into mountains, and the Breath of Life moving like a steadfast splendour over all.
As the dreamer looked, and shivered, she beheld that even there the two phantoms of humanity were not alone. Dim monster-forms that that disordered chaos alone could engender, the first reptile Colossal race that wreathe and crawl through the earliest stratum of a world labouring into life, coiled in the oozing matter or hovered through the meteorous vapours. But these the two seekers seemed not to heed; their gaze was fixed intent upon an object in the farthest space. With the eyes of the spirit, Viola followed theirs; with a terror far greater than the chaos and its hideous inhabitants produced, she beheld a shadowy likeness of the very room in which her form yet dwelt, its white walls, the moonshine sleeping on its floor, its open casement, with the quiet roofs and domes of Venice looming over the sea that sighed below,—and in that room the ghost-like image of herself! This double phantom—here herself a phantom, gazing there upon a phantom-self—had in it a horror which no words can tell, no length of life forego.
But presently she saw this image of herself rise slowly, leave the room with its noiseless feet: it passes the corridor, it kneels by a cradle! Heaven of Heaven! She beholds her child!—still with its wondrous, child-like beauty and its silent, wakeful eyes. But beside that cradle there sits cowering a mantled, shadowy form,—the more fearful and ghastly from its indistinct and unsubstantial gloom. The walls of that chamber seem to open as the scene of a theatre. A grim dungeon; streets through which pour shadowy crowds; wrath and hatred, and the aspect of demons in their ghastly visages; a place of death; a murderous instrument; a shamble-house of human flesh; herself; her child;—all, all, rapid phantasmagoria, chased each other. Suddenly the phantom-Zanoni turned, it seemed to perceive herself,—her second self. It sprang towards her; her spirit could bear no more. She shrieked, she woke. She found that in truth she had left that dismal chamber; the cradle was before her, the child! all—all as that trance had seen it; and, vanishing into air, even that dark, formless Thing!
"My child! my child! thy mother shall save thee yet!"
Qui? Toi m'abandonner! Ou vas-tu? Non! demeure, Demeure! La Harpe, "Le Comte de Warwick," Act 3, sc. 5.
(Who? THOU abandon me!—where goest thou? No! stay, stay!)
Letter from Viola to Zanoni.
"It has come to this!—I am the first to part! I, the unfaithful one, bid thee farewell forever. When thine eyes fall upon this writing thou wilt know me as one of the dead. For thou that wert, and still art my life,—I am lost to thee! O lover! O husband! O still worshipped and adored! if thou hast ever loved me, if thou canst still pity, seek not to discover the steps that fly thee. If thy charms can detect and tract me, spare me, spare our child! Zanoni, I will rear it to love thee, to call thee father! Zanoni, its young lips shall pray for thee! Ah, spare thy child, for infants are the saints of earth, and their mediation may be heard on high! Shall I tell thee why I part? No; thou, the wisely-terrible, canst divine what the hand trembles to record; and while I shudder at thy power,—while it is thy power I fly (our child upon my bosom),—it comforts me still to think that thy power can read the heart! Thou knowest that it is the faithful mother that writes to thee, it is not the faithless wife! Is there sin in thy knowledge, Zanoni? Sin must have sorrow: and it were sweet—oh, how sweet—to be thy comforter. But the child, the infant, the soul that looks to mine for its shield!—magician, I wrest from thee that soul! Pardon, pardon, if my words wrong thee. See, I fall on my knees to write the rest!
"Why did I never recoil before from thy mysterious lore; why did the very strangeness of thine unearthly life only fascinate me with a delightful fear? Because, if thou wert sorcerer or angel-demon, there was no peril to other but myself: and none to me, for my love was my heavenliest part; and my ignorance in all things, except the art to love thee, repelled every thought that was not bright and glorious as thine image to my eyes. But NOW there is another! Look! why does it watch me thus,—why that never-sleeping, earnest, rebuking gaze? Have thy spells encompassed it already? Hast thou marked it, cruel one, for the terrors of thy unutterable art? Do not madden me,—do not madden me!—unbind the spell!
"Hark! the oars without! They come,—they come, to bear me from thee! I look round, and methinks that I see thee everywhere. Thou speakest to me from every shadow, from every star. There, by the casement, thy lips last pressed mine; there, there by that threshold didst thou turn again, and thy smile seemed so trustingly to confide in me! Zanoni—husband!—I will stay! I cannot part from thee! No, no! I will go to the room where thy dear voice, with its gentle music, assuaged the pangs of travail!—where, heard through the thrilling darkness, it first whispered to my ear, 'Viola, thou art a mother!' A mother!—yes, I rise from my knees,—I AM a mother! They come! I am firm; farewell!"
Yes; thus suddenly, thus cruelly, whether in the delirium of blind and unreasoning superstition, or in the resolve of that conviction which springs from duty, the being for whom he had resigned so much of empire and of glory forsook Zanoni. This desertion, never foreseen, never anticipated, was yet but the constant fate that attends those who would place Mind BEYOND the earth, and yet treasure the Heart WITHIN it. Ignorance everlastingly shall recoil from knowledge. But never yet, from nobler and purer motives of self-sacrifice, did human love link itself to another, than did the forsaking wife now abandon the absent. For rightly had she said that it was not the faithless wife, it WAS the faithful mother that fled from all in which her earthly happiness was centred.
As long as the passion and fervour that impelled the act animated her with false fever, she clasped her infant to her breast, and was consoled,—resigned. But what bitter doubt of her own conduct, what icy pang of remorse shot through her heart, when, as they rested for a few hours on the road to Leghorn, she heard the woman who accompanied herself and Glyndon pray for safety to reach her husband's side, and strength to share the perils that would meet her there! Terrible contrast to her own desertion! She shrunk into the darkness of her own heart,—and then no voice from within consoled her.
Zukunft hast du mir gegeben, Doch du nehmst den Augenblick. "Kassandra."
(Futurity hast thou given to me,—yet takest from me the Moment.)
"Mejnour, behold thy work! Out, out upon our little vanities of wisdom!—out upon our ages of lore and life! To save her from Peril I left her presence, and the Peril has seized her in its grasp!"
"Chide not thy wisdom but thy passions! Abandon thine idle hope of the love of woman. See, for those who would unite the lofty with the lowly, the inevitable curse; thy very nature uncomprehended,—thy sacrifices unguessed. The lowly one views but in the lofty a necromancer or a fiend. Titan, canst thou weep?"
"I know it now, I see it all! It WAS her spirit that stood beside our own, and escaped my airy clasp! O strong desire of motherhood and nature! unveiling all our secrets, piercing space and traversing worlds!—Mejnour, what awful learning lies hid in the ignorance of the heart that loves!"
"The heart," answered the mystic, coldly; "ay, for five thousand years I have ransacked the mysteries of creation, but I have not yet discovered all the wonders in the heart of the simplest boor!"
"Yet our solemn rites deceived us not; the prophet-shadows, dark with terror and red with blood, still foretold that, even in the dungeon, and before the deathsman, I,—I had the power to save them both!"
"But at some unconjectured and most fatal sacrifice to thyself."
"To myself! Icy sage, there is no self in love! I go. Nay, alone: I want thee not. I want now no other guide but the human instincts of affection. No cave so dark, no solitude so vast, as to conceal her. Though mine art fail me; though the stars heed me not; though space, with its shining myriads, is again to me but the azure void,—I return but to love and youth and hope! When have they ever failed to triumph and to save!"
BOOK VII. — THE REIGN OF TERROR.
Orrida maesta nei fero aspetto Terrore accresce, e piu superbo il rende; Rosseggian gli occhi, e di veneno infetto Come infausta cometa, il guardo splende, Gil involve il mento, e sull 'irsuto petto Ispida efoita la gran barbe scende; E IN GUISA DE VORAGINE PROFONDA SAPRE LA BOCCA A'ATRO SANGUE IMMONDA. (Ger. Lib., Cant. iv. 7.)
A horrible majesty in the fierce aspect increases it terror, and renders it more superb. Red glow the eyes, and the aspect infected, like a baleful comet, with envenomed influences, glares around. A vast beard covers the chin—and, rough and thick, descends over the shaggy breast.—And like a profound gulf expand the jaws, foul with black gore.
Qui suis-je, moi qu'on accuse? Un esclave de la Liberte, un martyr vivant de la Republique. —"Discours de Robespierre, 8 Thermidor."
(Who am I,—I whom they accuse? A slave of Liberty,—a living martyr for the Republic.)
It roars,—The River of Hell, whose first outbreak was chanted as the gush of a channel to Elysium. How burst into blossoming hopes fair hearts that had nourished themselves on the diamond dews of the rosy dawn, when Liberty came from the dark ocean, and the arms of decrepit Thraldom—Aurora from the bed of Tithon! Hopes! ye have ripened into fruit, and the fruit is gore and ashes! Beautiful Roland, eloquent Vergniaud, visionary Condorcet, high-hearted Malesherbes!—wits, philosophers, statesmen, patriots, dreamers! behold the millennium for which ye dared and laboured!
I invoke the ghosts! Saturn hath devoured his children ("La Revolution est comme Saturne, elle devorera tous ses enfans."—Vergniaud.), and lives alone,—I his true name of Moloch!
It is the Reign of Terror, with Robespierre the king. The struggles between the boa and the lion are past: the boa has consumed the lion, and is heavy with the gorge,—Danton has fallen, and Camille Desmoulins. Danton had said before his death, "The poltroon Robespierre,—I alone could have saved him." From that hour, indeed, the blood of the dead giant clouded the craft of "Maximilien the Incorruptible," as at last, amidst the din of the roused Convention, it choked his voice. ("Le sang de Danton t'etouffe!" (the blood of Danton chokes thee!) said Garnier de l'Aube, when on the fatal 9th of Thermidor, Robespierre gasped feebly forth, "Pour la derniere fois, President des Assassins, je te demande la parole." (For the last time, President of Assassins, I demand to speak.)) If, after that last sacrifice, essential, perhaps, to his safety, Robespierre had proclaimed the close of the Reign of Terror, and acted upon the mercy which Danton had begun to preach, he might have lived and died a monarch. But the prisons continued to reek,—the glaive to fall; and Robespierre perceived not that his mobs were glutted to satiety with death, and the strongest excitement a chief could give would be a return from devils into men.
We are transported to a room in the house of Citizen Dupleix, the menuisier, in the month of July, 1794; or, in the calendar of the Revolutionists, it was the Thermidor of the Second Year of the Republic, One and Indivisible! Though the room was small, it was furnished and decorated with a minute and careful effort at elegance and refinement. It seemed, indeed, the desire of the owner to avoid at once what was mean and rude, and what was luxurious and voluptuous. It was a trim, orderly, precise grace that shaped the classic chairs, arranged the ample draperies, sank the frameless mirrors into the wall, placed bust and bronze on their pedestals, and filled up the niches here and there with well-bound books, filed regularly in their appointed ranks. An observer would have said, "This man wishes to imply to you,—I am not rich; I am not ostentatious; I am not luxurious; I am no indolent Sybarite, with couches of down, and pictures that provoke the sense; I am no haughty noble, with spacious halls, and galleries that awe the echo. But so much the greater is my merit if I disdain these excesses of the ease or the pride, since I love the elegant, and have a taste! Others may be simple and honest, from the very coarseness of their habits; if I, with so much refinement and delicacy, am simple and honest,—reflect, and admire me!"
On the walls of this chamber hung many portraits, most of them represented but one face; on the formal pedestals were grouped many busts, most of them sculptured but one head. In that small chamber Egotism sat supreme, and made the Arts its looking-glasses. Erect in a chair, before a large table spread with letters, sat the original of bust and canvas, the owner of the apartment. He was alone, yet he sat erect, formal, stiff, precise, as if in his very home he was not at ease. His dress was in harmony with his posture and his chamber; it affected a neatness of its own,—foreign both to the sumptuous fashions of the deposed nobles, and the filthy ruggedness of the sans-culottes. Frizzled and coiffe, not a hair was out of order, not a speck lodged on the sleek surface of the blue coat, not a wrinkle crumpled the snowy vest, with its under-relief of delicate pink. At the first glance, you might have seen in that face nothing but the ill-favoured features of a sickly countenance; at a second glance, you would have perceived that it had a power, a character of its own. The forehead, though low and compressed, was not without that appearance of thought and intelligence which, it may be observed, that breadth between the eyebrows almost invariably gives; the lips were firm and tightly drawn together, yet ever and anon they trembled, and writhed restlessly. The eyes, sullen and gloomy, were yet piercing, and full of a concentrated vigour that did not seem supported by the thin, feeble frame, or the green lividness of the hues, which told of anxiety and disease.
Such was Maximilien Robespierre; such the chamber over the menuisier's shop, whence issued the edicts that launched armies on their career of glory, and ordained an artificial conduit to carry off the blood that deluged the metropolis of the most martial people in the globe! Such was the man who had resigned a judicial appointment (the early object of his ambition) rather than violate his philanthropical principles by subscribing to the death of a single fellow-creature; such was the virgin enemy to capital punishments; and such, Butcher-Dictator now, was the man whose pure and rigid manners, whose incorruptible honesty, whose hatred of the excesses that tempt to love and wine, would, had he died five years earlier, have left him the model for prudent fathers and careful citizens to place before their sons. Such was the man who seemed to have no vice, till circumstance, that hotbed, brought forth the two which, in ordinary times, lie ever the deepest and most latent in a man's heart,—Cowardice and Envy. To one of these sources is to be traced every murder that master-fiend committed. His cowardice was of a peculiar and strange sort; for it was accompanied with the most unscrupulous and determined WILL,—a will that Napoleon reverenced; a will of iron, and yet nerves of aspen. Mentally, he was a hero,—physically, a dastard. When the veriest shadow of danger threatened his person, the frame cowered, but the will swept the danger to the slaughter-house. So there he sat, bolt upright,—his small, lean fingers clenched convulsively; his sullen eyes straining into space, their whites yellowed with streaks of corrupt blood; his ears literally moving to and fro, like the ignobler animals', to catch every sound,—a Dionysius in his cave; but his posture decorous and collected, and every formal hair in its frizzled place.
"Yes, yes," he said in a muttered tone, "I hear them; my good Jacobins are at their post on the stairs. Pity they swear so! I have a law against oaths,—the manners of the poor and virtuous people must be reformed. When all is safe, an example or two amongst those good Jacobins would make effect. Faithful fellows, how they love me! Hum!—what an oath was that!—they need not swear so loud,—upon the very staircase, too! It detracts from my reputation. Ha! steps!"
The soliloquist glanced at the opposite mirror, and took up a volume; he seemed absorbed in its contents, as a tall fellow, a bludgeon in his hand, a girdle adorned with pistols round his waist, opened the door, and announced two visitors. The one was a young man, said to resemble Robespierre in person, but of a far more decided and resolute expression of countenance. He entered first, and, looking over the volume in Robespierre's hand, for the latter seemed still intent on his lecture, exclaimed,—
"What! Rousseau's Heloise? A love-tale!"
"Dear Payan, it is not the love,—it is the philosophy that charms me. What noble sentiments!—what ardour of virtue! If Jean Jacques had but lived to see this day!"
While the Dictator thus commented on his favourite author, whom in his orations he laboured hard to imitate, the second visitor was wheeled into the room in a chair. This man was also in what, to most, is the prime of life,—namely, about thirty-eight; but he was literally dead in the lower limbs: crippled, paralytic, distorted, he was yet, as the time soon came to tell him,—a Hercules in Crime! But the sweetest of human smiles dwelt upon his lips; a beauty almost angelic characterised his features ("Figure d'ange," says one of his contemporaries, in describing Couthon. The address, drawn up most probably by Payan (Thermidor 9), after the arrest of Robespierre, thus mentions his crippled colleague: "Couthon, ce citoyen vertueux, QUI N'A QUE LE COEUR ET LA TETE DE VIVANS, mais qui les a brulants de patriotisme" (Couthon, that virtuous citizen, who has but the head and the heart of the living, yet possesses these all on flame with patriotism.)); an inexpressible aspect of kindness, and the resignation of suffering but cheerful benignity, stole into the hearts of those who for the first time beheld him. With the most caressing, silver, flute-like voice, Citizen Couthon saluted the admirer of Jean Jacques.
"Nay,—do not say that it is not the LOVE that attracts thee; it IS the love! but not the gross, sensual attachment of man for woman. No! the sublime affection for the whole human race, and indeed, for all that lives!"
And Citizen Couthon, bending down, fondled the little spaniel that he invariably carried in his bosom, even to the Convention, as a vent for the exuberant sensibilities which overflowed his affectionate heart. (This tenderness for some pet animal was by no means peculiar to Couthon; it seems rather a common fashion with the gentle butchers of the Revolution. M. George Duval informs us ("Souvenirs de la Terreur," volume iii page 183) that Chaumette had an aviary, to which he devoted his harmless leisure; the murderous Fournier carried on his shoulders a pretty little squirrel, attached by a silver chain; Panis bestowed the superfluity of his affections upon two gold pheasants; and Marat, who would not abate one of the three hundred thousand heads he demanded, REARED DOVES! Apropos of the spaniel of Couthon, Duval gives us an amusing anecdote of Sergent, not one of the least relentless agents of the massacre of September. A lady came to implore his protection for one of her relations confined in the Abbaye. He scarcely deigned to speak to her. As she retired in despair, she trod by accident on the paw of his favourite spaniel. Sergent, turning round, enraged and furious, exclaimed, "MADAM, HAVE YOU NO HUMANITY?")
"Yes, for all that lives," repeated Robespierre, tenderly. "Good Couthon,—poor Couthon! Ah, the malice of men!—how we are misrepresented! To be calumniated as the executioners of our colleagues! Ah, it is THAT which pierces the heart! To be an object of terror to the enemies of our country,—THAT is noble; but to be an object of terror to the good, the patriotic, to those one loves and reveres,—THAT is the most terrible of human tortures at least, to a susceptible and honest heart!" (Not to fatigue the reader with annotations, I may here observe that nearly every sentiment ascribed in the text to Robespierre is to be found expressed in his various discourses.)
"How I love to hear him!" ejaculated Couthon.
"Hem!" said Payan, with some impatience. "But now to business!"
"Ah, to business!" said Robespierre, with a sinister glance from his bloodshot eyes.
"The time has come," said Payan, "when the safety of the Republic demands a complete concentration of its power. These brawlers of the Comite du Salut Public can only destroy; they cannot construct. They hated you, Maximilien, from the moment you attempted to replace anarcy by institutions. How they mock at the festival which proclaimed the acknowledgment of a Supreme Being: they would have no ruler, even in heaven! Your clear and vigorous intellect saw that, having wrecked an old world, it became necessary to shape a new one. The first step towards construction must be to destroy the destroyers. While we deliberate, your enemies act. Better this very night to attack the handful of gensdarmes that guard them, than to confront the battalions they may raise to-morrow."
"No," said Robespierre, who recoiled before the determined spirit of Payan; "I have a better and safer plan. This is the 6th of Thermidor; on the 10th—on the 10th, the Convention go in a body to the Fete Decadaire. A mob shall form; the canonniers, the troops of Henriot, the young pupils de l'Ecole de Mars, shall mix in the crowd. Easy, then, to strike the conspirators whom we shall designate to our agents. On the same day, too, Fouquier and Dumas shall not rest; and a sufficient number of 'the suspect' to maintain salutary awe, and keep up the revolutionary excitement, shall perish by the glaive of the law. The 10th shall be the great day of action. Payan, of these last culprits, have you prepared a list?"
"It is here," returned Payan, laconically, presenting a paper.
Robespierre glanced over it rapidly. "Collot d'Herbois!—good! Barrere!—ay, it was Barrere who said, 'Let us strike: the dead alone never return.' ('Frappons! il n'y a que les morts qui ne revient pas.'—Barrere.) Vadier, the savage jester!—good—good! Vadier of the Mountain. He has called me 'Mahomet!' Scelerat! blasphemer!"
"Mahomet is coming to the Mountain," said Couthon, with his silvery accent, as he caressed his spaniel.
"But how is this? I do not see the name of Tallien? Tallien,—I hate that man; that is," said Robespierre, correcting himself with the hypocrisy or self-deceit which those who formed the council of this phrase-monger exhibited habitually, even among themselves,—"that is, Virtue and our Country hate him! There is no man in the whole Convention who inspires me with the same horror as Tallien. Couthon, I see a thousand Dantons where Tallien sits!"
"Tallien has the only head that belongs to this deformed body," said Payan, whose ferocity and crime, like those of St. Just, were not unaccompanied by talents of no common order. "Were it not better to draw away the head, to win, to buy him, for the time, and dispose of him better when left alone? He may hate YOU, but he loves MONEY!"
"No," said Robespierre, writing down the name of Jean Lambert Tallien, with a slow hand that shaped each letter with stern distinctness; "that one head IS MY NECESSITY!"
"I have a SMALL list here," said Couthon, sweetly,—"a VERY small list. You are dealing with the Mountain; it is necessary to make a few examples in the Plain. These moderates are as straws which follow the wind. They turned against us yesterday in the Convention. A little terror will correct the weathercocks. Poor creatures! I owe them no ill-will; I could weep for them. But before all, la chere patrie!"
The terrible glance of Robespierre devoured the list which the man of sensibility submitted to him. "Ah, these are well chosen; men not of mark enough to be regretted, which is the best policy with the relics of that party; some foreigners too,—yes, THEY have no parents in Paris. These wives and parents are beginning to plead against us. Their complaints demoralise the guillotine!"
"Couthon is right," said Payan; "MY list contains those whom it will be safer to despatch en masse in the crowd assembled at the Fete. HIS list selects those whom we may prudently consign to the law. Shall it not be signed at once?"
"It IS signed," said Robespierre, formally replacing his pen upon the inkstand. "Now to more important matters. These deaths will create no excitement; but Collot d'Herbois, Bourdon De l'Oise, Tallien," the last name Robespierre gasped as he pronounced, "THEY are the heads of parties. This is life or death to us as well as them."
"Their heads are the footstools to your curule chair," said Payan, in a half whisper. "There is no danger if we are bold. Judges, juries, all have been your selection. You seize with one hand the army, with the other, the law. Your voice yet commands the people—"
"The poor and virtuous people," murmured Robespierre.
"And even," continued Payan, "if our design at the Fete fail us, we must not shrink from the resources still at our command. Reflect! Henriot, the general of the Parisian army, furnishes you with troops to arrest; the Jacobin Club with a public to approve; inexorable Dumas with judges who never acquit. We must be bold!"
"And we ARE bold," exclaimed Robespierre, with sudden passion, and striking his hand on the table as he rose, with his crest erect, as a serpent in the act to strike. "In seeing the multitude of vices that the revolutionary torrent mingles with civic virtues, I tremble to be sullied in the eyes of posterity by the impure neighbourhood of these perverse men who thrust themselves among the sincere defenders of humanity. What!—they think to divide the country like a booty! I thank them for their hatred to all that is virtuous and worthy! These men,"—and he grasped the list of Payan in his hand,—"these!—not WE—have drawn the line of demarcation between themselves and the lovers of France!"
"True, we must reign alone!" muttered Payan; "in other words, the state needs unity of will;" working, with his strong practical mind, the corollary from the logic of his word-compelling colleague.
"I will go to the Convention," continued Robespierre. "I have absented myself too long,—lest I might seem to overawe the Republic that I have created. Away with such scruples! I will prepare the people! I will blast the traitors with a look!"
He spoke with the terrible firmness of the orator that had never failed,—of the moral will that marched like a warrior on the cannon. At that instant he was interrupted; a letter was brought to him: he opened it,—his face fell, he shook from limb to limb; it was one of the anonymous warnings by which the hate and revenge of those yet left alive to threaten tortured the death-giver.
"Thou art smeared," ran the lines, "with the best blood of France. Read thy sentence! I await the hour when the people shall knell thee to the doomsman. If my hope deceive me, if deferred too long,—hearken, read! This hand, which thine eyes shall search in vain to discover, shall pierce thy heart. I see thee every day,—I am with thee every day. At each hour my arm rises against thy breast. Wretch! live yet awhile, though but for few and miserable days—live to think of me; sleep to dream of me! Thy terror and thy thought of me are the heralds of thy doom. Adieu! this day itself I go forth to riot on thy fears!" (See "Papiers inedits trouves chez Robespierre," etc., volume ii. page 155. (No. lx.))
"Your lists are not full enough!" said the tyrant, with a hollow voice, as the paper dropped from his trembling hand. "Give them to me!—give them to me! Think again, think again! Barrere is right—right! 'Frappons! il n'y a que les morts qui ne revient pas!'"
La haine, dans ces lieux, n'a qu'un glaive assassin. Elle marche dans l'ombre. La Harpe, "Jeanne de Naples," Act iv. sc. 1.
(Hate, in these regions, has but the sword of the assassin. She moves in the shade.)
While such the designs and fears of Maximilien Robespierre, common danger, common hatred, whatever was yet left of mercy or of virtue in the agents of the Revolution, served to unite strange opposites in hostility to the universal death-dealer. There was, indeed, an actual conspiracy at work against him among men little less bespattered than himself with innocent blood. But that conspiracy would have been idle of itself, despite the abilities of Tallien and Barras (the only men whom it comprised, worthy, by foresight and energy, the names of "leaders"). The sure and destroying elements that gathered round the tyrant were Time and Nature; the one, which he no longer suited; the other, which he had outraged and stirred up in the human breast. The most atrocious party of the Revolution, the followers of Hebert, gone to his last account, the butcher-atheists, who, in desecrating heaven and earth, still arrogated inviolable sanctity to themselves, were equally enraged at the execution of their filthy chief, and the proclamation of a Supreme Being. The populace, brutal as it had been, started as from a dream of blood, when their huge idol, Danton, no longer filled the stage of terror, rendering crime popular by that combination of careless frankness and eloquent energy which endears their heroes to the herd. The glaive of the guillotine had turned against THEMSELVES. They had yelled and shouted, and sung and danced, when the venerable age, or the gallant youth, of aristocracy or letters, passed by their streets in the dismal tumbrils; but they shut up their shops, and murmured to each other, when their own order was invaded, and tailors and cobblers, and journeymen and labourers, were huddled off to the embraces of the "Holy Mother Guillotine," with as little ceremony as if they had been the Montmorencies or the La Tremouilles, the Malesherbes or the Lavoisiers. "At this time," said Couthon, justly, "Les ombres de Danton, d'Hebert, de Chaumette, se promenent parmi nous!" (The shades of Danton, Hebert, and Chaumette walk amongst us.)
Among those who had shared the doctrines, and who now dreaded the fate of the atheist Hebert, was the painter, Jean Nicot. Mortified and enraged to find that, by the death of his patron, his career was closed; and that, in the zenith of the Revolution for which he had laboured, he was lurking in caves and cellars, more poor, more obscure, more despicable than he had been at the commencement,—not daring to exercise even his art, and fearful every hour that his name would swell the lists of the condemned,—he was naturally one of the bitterest enemies of Robespierre and his government. He held secret meetings with Collot d'Herbois, who was animated by the same spirit; and with the creeping and furtive craft that characterised his abilities, he contrived, undetected, to disseminate tracts and invectives against the Dictator, and to prepare, amidst "the poor and virtuous people," the train for the grand explosion. But still so firm to the eyes, even of profounder politicians than Jean Nicot, appeared the sullen power of the incorruptible Maximilien; so timorous was the movement against him,—that Nicot, in common with many others, placed his hopes rather in the dagger of the assassin than the revolt of the multitude. But Nicot, though not actually a coward, shrunk himself from braving the fate of the martyr; he had sense enough to see that, though all parties might rejoice in the assassination, all parties would probably concur in beheading the assassin. He had not the virtue to become a Brutus. His object was to inspire a proxy-Brutus; and in the centre of that inflammable population this was no improbable hope.
Amongst those loudest and sternest against the reign of blood; amongst those most disenchanted of the Revolution; amongst those most appalled by its excesses,—was, as might be expected, the Englishman, Clarence Glyndon. The wit and accomplishments, the uncertain virtues that had lighted with fitful gleams the mind of 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 of Maximilien.
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 vehement nature.
"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 ensued.
"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 whirlwind."
"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 mankind!"
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 deliverer, the—"
"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 felon."
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 passport also."
"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 Pisani?"
"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 virtuous thought!"
Nicot bit his lip, and replied sullenly, "Experience is a great undeceiver. Humph! What service can I do thee with regard to the Italian?"
"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 my love."
"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 strings!"
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 disappointment.
"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 follies."
"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 seat.
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 bosom.
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 the soul!
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 massacre!"
"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 feels old.
"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 the past."
"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 necessary disguises."
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 retreating footsteps.
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 aristocrat!"
"No, indeed; it was but an old bad habit, and escaped me unawares."
"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 price!"
"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 for her?"
Fillide turned upon him her eyes, and their dark glance was sufficient answer.
In poppa quella Che guidar gli dovea, fatal Donsella. "Ger. Lib." cant. xv. 3.