ZANONI: A ROSICRUCIAN TALE
The next day Glyndon bent his steps towards Zanoni's palace. The young man's imagination, naturally inflammable, was singularly excited by the little he had seen and heard of this strange being, -- a spell, he could neither master nor account for, attracted him towards the stranger. Zanoni's power seemed mysterious and great, his motives kindly and benevolent, yet his manners chilling and repellent. Why at one moment reject Glyndon's acquaintance, at another save him from danger? How had Zanoni thus acquired the knowledge of enemies unknown to Glyndon himself? His interest was deeply roused, his gratitude appealed to; he resolved to make another effort to conciliate the ungracious herbalist.
The signor was at home, and Glyndon was admitted into a lofty saloon, where in a few moments Zanoni joined him.
"I am come to thank you for your warning last night," said he, "and to entreat you to complete my obligation by informing me of the quarter to which I may look for enmity and peril."
"You are a gallant," said Zanoni, with a smile, and in the English language, "and do you know so little of the South as not to be aware that gallants have always rivals?"
"Are you serious?" said Glyndon, colouring.
"Most serious. You love Viola Pisani; you have for rival one of the most powerful and relentless of the Neapolitan princes. Your danger is indeed great."
"But pardon me! -- how came it known to you?"
"I give no account of myself to mortal man," replied Zanoni, haughtily; "and to me it matters nothing whether you regard or scorn my warning."
"Well, if I may not question you, be it so; but at least advise me what to do."
"Would you follow my advice?"
"Because you are constitutionally brave; you are fond of excitement and mystery; you like to be the hero of a romance. Were I to advise you to leave Naples, would you do so while Naples contains a foe to confront or a mistress to pursue?"
"You are right," said the young Englishman, with energy. "No! and you cannot reproach me for such a resolution."
"But there is another course left to you: do you love Viola Pisani truly and fervently? -- if so, marry her, and take a bride to your native land."
"Nay," answered Glyndon, embarrassed; "Viola is not of my rank. Her profession, too, is -- in short, I am enslaved by her beauty, but I cannot wed her."
"Your love, then, is but selfish lust, and I advise you to your own happiness no more. Young man, Destiny is less inexorable than it appears. The resources of the great Ruler of the Universe are not so scanty and so stern as to deny to men the divine privilege of Free Will; all of us can carve out our own way, and God can make our very contradictions harmonise with His solemn ends. You have before you an option. Honourable and generous love may even now work out your happiness, and effect your escape; a frantic and selfish passion will but lead you to misery and doom."
"Do you pretend, then, to read the future?"
"I have said all that it pleases me to utter."
"While you assume the moralist to me, Signor Zanoni," said Glyndon, with a smile, "are you yourself so indifferent to youth and beauty as to act the stoic to its allurements?"
"If it were necessary that practice square with precept," said Zanoni, with a bitter smile, "our monitors would be but few. The conduct of the individual can affect but a small circle beyond himself; the permanent good or evil that he works to others lies rather in the sentiments he can diffuse. His acts are limited and momentary; his sentiments may pervade the universe, and inspire generations till the day of doom. All our virtues, all our laws, are drawn from books and maxims, which ARE sentiments, not from deeds. In conduct, Julian had the virtues of a Christian, and Constantine the vices of a Pagan. The sentiments of Julian reconverted thousands to Paganism; those of Constantine helped, under Heaven's will, to bow to Christianity the nations of the earth. In conduct, the humblest fisherman on yonder sea, who believes in the miracles of San Gennaro, may be a better man than Luther; to the sentiments of Luther the mind of modern Europe is indebted for the noblest revolution it has known. Our opinions, young Englishman, are the angel part of us; our acts, the earthly."
"You have reflected deeply for an Italian," said Glyndon.
"Who told you that I was an Italian?"
"Are you not? And yet, when I hear you speak my own language as a native, I -- "
"Tush!" interrupted Zanoni, impatiently turning away. Then, after a pause, he resumed in a mild voice, "Glyndon, do you renounce Viola Pisani? Will you take some days to consider what I have said?"
"Renounce her, -- never!"
"Then you will marry her?"
"Be it so; she will then renounce you. I tell you that you have rivals."
"Yes; the Prince di -- ; but I do not fear him."
"You have another whom you will fear more."
"And who is he?"
Glyndon turned pale, and started from his seat.
"You, Signor Zanoni! -- you, -- and you dare to tell me so?"
"Dare! Alas! there are times when I wish that I could fear."
These arrogant words were not uttered arrogantly, but in a tone of the most mournful dejection. Glyndon was enraged, confounded, and yet awed. However, he had a brave English heart within his breast, and he recovered himself quickly.
"Signor," said he, calmly, "I am not to be duped by these solemn phrases and these mystical assumptions. You may have powers which I cannot comprehend or emulate, or you may be but a keen imposter."
"I mean, then," continued Glyndon, resolutely, though somewhat disconcerted, -- "I mean you to understand, that, though I am not to be persuaded or compelled by a stranger to marry Viola Pisani, I am not the less determined never tamely to yield her to another."
Zanoni looked gravely at the young man, whose sparkling eyes and heightened colour testified the spirit to support his words, and replied, "So bold! well; it becomes you. But take my advice; wait yet nine days, and tell me then if you will marry the fairest and the purest creature that ever crossed your path."
"But if you love her, why -- why -- "
"Why am I anxious that she should wed another? -- to save her from myself! Listen to me. That girl, humble and uneducated though she be, has in her the seeds of the most lofty qualities and virtues. She can be all to the man she loves, -- all that man can desire in wife. Her soul, developed by affection, will elevate your own; it will influence your fortunes, exalt your destiny; you will become a great and a prosperous man. If, on the contrary, she fall to me, I know not what may be her lot; but I know that there is an ordeal which few can pass, and which hitherto no woman has survived."
As Zanoni spoke, his face became colourless, and there was something in his voice that froze the warm blood of the listener.
"What is this mystery which surrounds you?" exclaimed Glyndon, unable to repress his emotion. "Are you, in truth, different from other men? Have you passed the boundary of lawful knowledge? Are you, as some declare, a sorcerer, or only a -- "
"Hush!" interrupted Zanoni, gently, and with a smile of singular but melancholy sweetness; "have you earned the right to ask me these questions? Though Italy still boast an Inquisition, its power is rivelled as a leaf which the first wind shall scatter. The days of torture and persecution are over; and a man may live as he pleases, and talk as it suits him, without fear of the stake and the rack. Since I can defy persecution, pardon me if I do not yield to curiosity."
Glyndon blushed, and rose. In spite of his love for Viola, and his natural terror of such a rival, he felt himself irresistibly drawn towards the very man he had most cause to suspect and dread. He held out his hand to Zanoni, saying, "Well, then, if we are to be rivals, our swords must settle our rights; till then I would fain be friends."
"Friends! You know not what you ask."
"Enigmas!" cried Zanoni, passionately; "ay! can you dare to solve them? Not till then could I give you my right hand, and call you friend."
"I could dare everything and all things for the attainment of superhuman wisdom," said Glyndon, and his countenance was lighted up with wild and intense enthusiasm.
Zanoni observed him in thoughtful silence.
"The seeds of the ancestor live in the son," he muttered; "he may -- yet -- " He broke off abruptly; then, speaking aloud, "Go, Glyndon," said he; "we shall meet again, but I will not ask your answer till the hour presses for decision."