ZANONI: A ROSICRUCIAN TALE
On returning from Vesuvius or Pompeii, you enter Naples through its most animated, its most Neapolitan quarter, -- through that quarter in which modern life most closely resembles the ancient; and in which, when, on a fair-day, the thoroughfare swarms alike with Indolence and Trade, you are impressed at once with the recollection of that restless, lively race from which the population of Naples derives its origin; so that in one day you may see at Pompeii the habitations of a remote age; and on the Mole, at Naples, you may imagine you behold the very beings with whom those habitations had been peopled.
But now, as the Englishmen rode slowly through the deserted streets, lighted but by the lamps of heaven, all the gayety of day was hushed and breathless. Here and there, stretched under a portico or a dingy booth, were sleeping groups of houseless Lazzaroni, -- a tribe now merging its indolent individuality amidst an energetic and active population.
The Englishman rode on in silence; for Glyndon neither appeared to heed nor hear the questions and comments of Mervale, and Mervale himself was almost as weary as the jaded animal he bestrode.
Suddenly the silence of earth and ocean was broken by the sound of a distant clock that proclaimed the quarter preceding the last hour of night. Glyndon started from his reverie, and looked anxiously round. As the final stroke died, the noise of hoofs rung on the broad stones of the pavement, and from a narrow street to the right emerged the form of a solitary horseman. He neared the Englishmen, and Glyndon recognised the features and mien of Zanoni.
"What! do we meet again, signor?" said Mervale, in a vexed but drowsy tone.
"Your friend and I have business together," replied Zanoni, as he wheeled his steed to the side of Glyndon. "But it will be soon transacted. Perhaps you, sir, will ride on to your hotel."
"There is no danger!" returned Zanoni, with a slight expression of disdain in his voice.
"None to me; but to Glyndon?"
"Danger from me! Ah, perhaps you are right."
"Go on, my dear Mervale," said Glyndon; "I will join you before you reach the hotel."
Mervale nodded, whistled, and pushed his horse into a kind of amble.
"Now your answer, -- quick?"
"I have decided. The love of Viola has vanished from my heart. The pursuit is over."
"You have decided?"
"I have; and now my reward."
"Thy reward! Well; ere this hour to-morrow it shall await thee."
Zanoni gave the rein to his horse; it sprang forward with a bound: the sparks flew from its hoofs, and horse and rider disappeared amidst the shadows of the street whence they had emerged.
Mervale was surprised to see his friend by his side, a minute after they had parted.
"What has passed between you and Zanoni?"
"Mervale, do not ask me to-night! I am in a dream."
"I do not wonder at it, for even I am in a sleep. Let us push on."
In the retirement of his chamber, Glyndon sought to recollect his thoughts. He sat down on the foot of his bed, and pressed his hands tightly to his throbbing temples. The events of the last few hours; the apparition of the gigantic and shadowy Companion of the Mystic, amidst the fires and clouds of Vesuvius; the strange encounter with Zanoni himself, on a spot in which he could never, by ordinary reasoning, have calculated on finding Glyndon, filled his mind with emotions, in which terror and awe the least prevailed. A fire, the train of which had been long laid, was lighted at his heart, -- the asbestos-fire that, once lit, is never to be quenched. All his early aspirations -- his young ambition, his longings for the laurel -- were merged in one passionate yearning to surpass the bounds of the common knowledge of man, and reach that solemn spot, between two worlds, on which the mysterious stranger appeared to have fixed his home.
Far from recalling with renewed affright the remembrance of the apparition that had so appalled him, the recollection only served to kindle and concentrate his curiosity into a burning focus. He had said aright, -- LOVE HAD VANISHED FROM HIS HEART; there was no longer a serene space amidst its disordered elements for human affection to move and breathe. The enthusiast was rapt from this earth; and he would have surrendered all that mortal beauty ever promised, that mortal hope ever whispered, for one hour with Zanoni beyond the portals of the visible world.
He rose, oppressed and fevered with the new thoughts that raged within him, and threw open his casement for air. The ocean lay suffused in the starry light, and the stillness of the heavens never more eloquently preached the morality of repose to the madness of earthly passions. But such was Glyndon's mood that their very hush only served to deepen the wild desires that preyed upon his soul; and the solemn stars, that are mysteries in themselves, seemed, by a kindred sympathy, to agitate the wings of the spirit no longer contented with its cage. As he gazed, a star shot from its brethren, and vanished from the depth of space!