ZANONI: A ROSICRUCIAN TALE
The next morning, at breakfast, Mrs. Mervale looked as if all the wrongs of injured woman sat upon her brow. Mr. Mervale seemed the picture of remorseful guilt and avenging bile. He said little, except to complain of headache, and to request the eggs to be removed from the table. Clarence Glyndon -- impervious, unconscious, unailing, impenitent -- was in noisy spirits, and talked for three.
"Poor Mervale! he has lost the habit of good-fellowship, madam. Another night or two, and he will be himself again!"
"Sir," said Mrs. Mervale, launching a premeditated sentence with more than Johnsonian dignity, "permit me to remind you that Mr. Mervale is now a married man, the destined father of a family, and the present master of a household."
"Precisely the reasons why I envy him so much. I myself have a great mind to marry. Happiness is contagious."
"Do you still take to painting?" asked Mervale, languidly, endeavouring to turn the tables on his guest.
"Oh, no; I have adopted your advice. No art, no ideal, -- nothing loftier than Commonplace for me now. If I were to paint again, I positively think YOU would purchase my pictures. Make haste and finish your breakfast, man; I wish to consult you. I have come to England to see after my affairs. My ambition is to make money; your counsels and experience cannot fail to assist me here."
"Ah, you were soon disenchanted of your Philosopher's Stone! You must know, Sarah, that when I last left Glyndon, he was bent upon turning alchemist and magician."
"You are witty to-day, Mr. Mervale."
"Upon my honour it is true, I told you so before."
Glyndon rose abruptly.
"Why revive those recollections of folly and presumption? Have I not said that I have returned to my native land to pursue the healthful avocations of my kind! Oh, yes! what so healthful, so noble, so fitted to our nature, as what you call the Practical Life? If we have faculties, what is their use, but to sell them to advantage! Buy knowledge as we do our goods; buy it at the cheapest market, sell it at the dearest. Have you not breakfasted yet?"
The friends walked into the streets, and Mervale shrank from the irony with which Glyndon complimented him on his respectability, his station, his pursuits, his happy marriage, and his eight pictures in their handsome frames. Formerly the sober Mervale had commanded an influence over his friend: HIS had been the sarcasm; Glyndon's the irresolute shame at his own peculiarities. Now this position was reversed. There was a fierce earnestness in Glyndon's altered temper which awed and silenced the quiet commonplace of his friend's character. He seemed to take a malignant delight in persuading himself that the sober life of the world was contemptible and base.
"Ah!" he exclaimed, "how right you were to tell me to marry respectably; to have a solid position; to live in decorous fear of the world and one's wife; and to command the envy of the poor, the good opinion of the rich. You have practised what you preach. Delicious existence! The merchant's desk and the curtain lecture! Ha! ha! Shall we have another night of it?"
Mervale, embarrassed and irritated, turned the conversation upon Glyndon's affairs. He was surprised at the knowledge of the world which the artist seemed to have suddenly acquired, surprised still more at the acuteness and energy with which he spoke of the speculations most in vogue at the market. Yes; Glyndon was certainly in earnest: he desired to be rich and respectable, -- and to make at least ten per cent for his money!
After spending some days with the merchant, during which time he contrived to disorganise all the mechanism of the house, to turn night into day, harmony into discord, to drive poor Mrs. Mervale half-distracted, and to convince her husband that he was horribly hen-pecked, the ill-omened visitor left them as suddenly as he had arrived. He took a house of his own; he sought the society of persons of substance; he devoted himself to the money-market; he seemed to have become a man of business; his schemes were bold and colossal; his calculations rapid and profound. He startled Mervale by his energy, and dazzled him by his success. Mervale began to envy him, -- to be discontented with his own regular and slow gains. When Glyndon bought or sold in the funds, wealth rolled upon him like the tide of a sea; what years of toil could not have done for him in art, a few months, by a succession of lucky chances, did for him in speculation. Suddenly, however, he relaxed his exertions; new objects of ambition seemed to attract him. If he heard a drum in the streets, what glory like the soldier's? If a new poem were published, what renown like the poet's? He began works in literature, which promised great excellence, to throw them aside in disgust. All at once he abandoned the decorous and formal society he had courted; he joined himself, with young and riotous associates; he plunged into the wildest excesses of the great city, where Gold reigns alike over Toil and Pleasure. Through all he carried with him a certain power and heat of soul. In all society he aspired to command, -- in all pursuits to excel. Yet whatever the passion of the moment, the reaction was terrible in its gloom. He sank, at times, into the most profound and the darkest reveries. His fever was that of a mind that would escape memory, -- his repose, that of a mind which the memory seizes again, and devours as a prey. Mervale now saw little of him; they shunned each other. Glyndon had no confidant, and no friend.