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Title: Zicci — Complete
Author: Lytton, Edward Bulwer Lytton, Baron, 1803-1873
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Zicci — Complete" ***

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ZICCI

A Tale



BOOK I.


CHAPTER I.

In the gardens at Naples, one summer evening in the last century, some
four or five gentlemen were seated under a tree drinking their sherbet
and listening, in the intervals of conversation, to the music which
enlivened that gay and favorite resort of an indolent population. One of
this little party was a young Englishman who had been the life of the
whole group, but who for the last few moments had sunk into a gloomy and
abstracted revery. One of his countrymen observed this sudden gloom, and
tapping him on the back, said, "Glyndon, why, what ails you? Are you ill?
You have grown quite pale; you tremble: is it a sudden chill? You had
better go home; these Italian nights are often dangerous to our English
constitutions."

"No, I am well now,--it was but a passing shudder; I cannot account for
it myself."

A man apparently of about thirty years of age, and of a mien and
countenance strikingly superior to those around him, turned abruptly, and
looked steadfastly at Glyndon.

"I think I understand what you mean," said he,--"and perhaps," he added,
with a grave smile, "I could explain it better than yourself." Here,
turning to the others, he added, "You must often have felt,
gentlemen,--each and all of you,--especially when sitting alone at night,
a strange and unaccountable sensation of coldness and awe creep over you;
your blood curdles, and the heart stands still; the limbs shiver, the
hair bristles; you are afraid to look up, to turn your eyes to the darker
corners of the room; you have a horrible fancy that something unearthly
is at hand. Presently the whole spell, if I may so call it, passes away,
and you are ready to laugh at your own weakness. Have you not often felt
what I have thus imperfectly described? If so, you can understand what
our young friend has just experienced, even amidst the delights of this
magical scene, and amidst the balmy whispers of a July night."

"Sir," replied Glyndon, evidently much surprised, "you have defined
exactly the nature of that shudder which came over me. But how could my
manner be so faithful an index to my impressions?"

"I know the signs of the visitation," returned the stranger, gravely;
"they are not to be mistaken by one of my experience."

All the gentlemen present then declared that they could comprehend, and
had felt, what the stranger had described. "According to one of our
national superstitions," said Merton, the Englishman who had first
addressed Glyndon, "the moment you so feel your blood creep, and your
hair stand on end, some one is walking over the spot which shall be your
grave."

"There are in all lands different superstitions to account for so common
an occurrence," replied the stranger; "one sect among the Arabians hold
that at that instant God is deciding the hour either of your death or
that of some one dear to you. The African savage, whose imagination is
darkened by the hideous rites of his gloomy idolatry, believes that the
Evil Spirit is pulling you towards him by the hair. So do the Grotesque
and the Terrible mingle with each other."

"It is evidently a mere physical accident,--a derangement of the stomach;
a chill of the blood," said a young Neapolitan.

"Then why is it always coupled, in all nations, with some superstitious
presentiment or terror,--some connection between the material frame and
the supposed world without us?" asked the stranger. "For my part, I
think--"

"What do you think, sir?" asked Glyndon, curiously.

"I think," continued the stranger, "that it is the repugnance and horror
of that which is human about us to something indeed invisible, but
antipathetic to our own nature, and from a knowledge of which we are
happily secured by the imperfection of our senses."

"You are a believer in spirits, then?" asked Merton, with an incredulous
smile.

"Nay, I said not so. I can form no notion of a spirit, as the
metaphysicians do, and certainly have no fear of one; but there may be
forms of matter as invisible and impalpable to us as the animalculae to
which I have compared them. The monster that lives and dies in a drop of
water, carniverous, insatiable, subsisting on the creatures minuter than
himself, is not less deadly in his wrath, less ferocious in his nature,
than the tiger of the desert. There may be things around us malignant and
hostile to men, if Providence had not placed a wall between them and us,
merely by different modifications of matter."

"And could that wall never be removed?" asked young Glyndon, abruptly.
"Are the traditions of sorcerer and wizard, universal and immemorial as
they are, merely fables?"

"Perhaps yes; perhaps no," answered the stranger, indifferently. "But
who, in an age in which the reason has chosen its proper bounds, would be
mad enough to break the partition that divides him from the boa and the
lion, to repine at and rebel against the law of nature which confines the
shark to the great deep? Enough of these idle speculations."

Here the stranger rose, summoned the attendant, paid for his sherbet,
and, bowing slightly to the company, soon disappeared among the trees.

"Who is that gentleman?" asked Glyndon, eagerly.

The rest looked at each other, without replying, for some moments.

"I never saw him before," said Merton, at last.

"Nor I."

"Nor I."

"I have met him often," said the Neapolitan, who was named Count Cetoxa;
"it was, if you remember, as my companion that he joined you. He has been
some months at Naples; he is very rich,--indeed enormously so. Our
acquaintance commenced in a strange way."

"How was it?"

"I had been playing at a public gaming-house, and had lost considerably.
I rose from the table, resolved no longer to tempt Fortune, when this
gentleman, who had hitherto been a spectator, laying his hand on my arm,
said with politeness, 'Sir, I see you enjoy play,--I dislike it; but I
yet wish to have some interest in what is going on. Will you play this
sum for me? The risk is mine,--the half-profits yours.' I was startled,
as you may suppose, at such an address; but the stranger had an air and
tone with him it was impossible to resist. Besides, I was burning to
recover my losses, and should not have risen had I had any money left
about me. I told him I would accept his offer, provided we shared the
risk as well as profits. 'As you will,' said he, smiling, 'we need have
no scruple, for you will be sure to win.' I sat down, the stranger stood
behind me; my luck rose, I invariably won. In fact, I rose from the table
a rich man."

"There can be no foul play at the public tables, especially when foul
play would make against the bank."

"Certainly not," replied the count. "But our good fortune was indeed
marvellous,--so extraordinary that a Sicilian (the Sicilians are all
ill-bred, bad-tempered fellows) grew angry and insolent. 'Sir,' said he,
turning to my new friend, 'you have no business to stand so near to the
table. I do not understand this; you have not acted fairly.' The
spectator replied, with great composure, that he had done nothing against
the rules; that he was very sorry that one man could not win without
another man losing; and that he could not act unfairly even if disposed
to do so. The Sicilian took the stranger's mildness for
apprehension,--blustered more loudly, and at length fairly challenged
him. 'I never seek a quarrel, and I never shun a danger,' returned my
partner; and six or seven of us adjourned to the garden behind the house.
I was of course my partner's second. He took me aside. 'This man will
die,' said he; 'see that he is buried privately in the church of St.
Januario, by the side of his father.'

"'Did you know his family?' I asked with great surprise. He made no
answer, but drew his sword and walked deliberately to the spot we had
selected. The Sicilian was a renowned swordsman; nevertheless, in the
third pass he was run through the body. I went up to him; he could
scarcely speak. 'Have you any request to make,--any affairs to settle?'
He shook his head. 'Where would you wish to be interred?' He pointed
towards the Sicilian coast. 'What!' said I, in surprise, 'not by the side
of your father?' As I spoke, his face altered terribly, he uttered a
piercing shriek; the blood gushed from his mouth, and he fell dead. The
most strange part of the story is to come. We buried him in the church of
St. Januario. In doing so, we took up his father's coffin; the lid came
off in moving it, and the skeleton was visible. In the hollow of the
skull we found a very slender wire of sharp steel; this caused great
surprise and inquiry. The father, who was rich and a miser, had died
suddenly and been buried in haste, owing, it was said, to the heat of the
weather. Suspicion once awakened, the examination became minute. The old
man's servant was questioned, and at last confessed that the son had
murdered the sire. The contrivance was ingenious; the wire was so slender
that it pierced to the brain and drew but one drop of blood, which the
gray hairs concealed. The accomplice was executed."

"And this stranger, did he give evidence? Did he account for--"

"No," interrupted the count, "he declared that he had by accident visited
the church that morning; that he had observed the tombstone of the Count
Salvolio; that his guide had told him the count's son was in Naples,--a
spendthrift and a gambler. While we were at play, he had heard the count
mentioned by name at the table; and when the challenge was given and
accepted, it had occured to him to name the place of burial, by an
instinct he could not account for."

"A very lame story," said Merton.

"Yes, but we Italians are superstitious. The alleged instinct was
regarded as the whisper of Providence; the stranger became an object of
universal interest and curiosity. His wealth, his manner of living, his
extraordinary personal beauty, have assisted also to make him the rage."

"What is his name?" asked Glyndon.

"Zicci. Signor Zicci."

"Is it not an Italian name? He speaks English like a native."

"So he does French and German, as well as Italian, to my knowledge. But
he declares himself a Corsican by birth, though I cannot hear of any
eminent Corsican family of that name. However, what matters his birth or
parentage? He is rich, generous, and the best swordsman I ever saw in my
life. Who would affront him?"

"Not I, certainly," said Merton, rising. "Come, Glyndon, shall we seek
our hotel? It is almost daylight. Adieu, signor."

"What think you of this story?" said Glyndon as the young men walked
homeward.

"Why, it is very clear that this Zicci is some impostor, some clever
rogue; and the Neapolitan shares booty, and puffs him off with all the
hackneyed charlatanism of the marvellous. An unknown adventurer gets into
society by being made an object of awe and curiosity; he is devilish
handsome; and the women are quite content to receive him without any
other recommendation than his own face and Cetoxa's fables."

"I cannot agree with you. Cetoxa, though a gambler and a rake, is a
nobleman of birth and high repute for courage and honor. Besides, this
stranger, with his grand features and lofty air,--so calm, so
unobtrusive,--has nothing in common with the forward garrulity of an
impostor."

"My dear Glyndon, pardon me, but you have not yet acquired any knowledge
of the world; the stranger makes the best of a fine person, and his grand
air is but a trick of the trade. But to change the subject: how gets on
the love affair?"

"Oh! Isabel could not see me to-night. The old woman gave me a note of
excuse."

"You must not marry her; what would they all say at home?"

"Let us enjoy the present," said Glyndon, with vivacity; "we are young,
rich, good-looking: let us not think of to-morrow."

"Bravo, Glyndon! Here we are at the hotel. Sleep sound, and don't dream
of Signor Zicci."



CHAPTER II.

Clarence Glyndon was a young man of small but independent fortune. He
had, early in life, evinced considerable promise in the art of painting,
and rather from enthusiasm than the want of a profession, he had resolved
to devote himself to a career which in England has been seldom entered
upon by persons who can live on their own means. Without being a poet,
Glyndon had also manifested a graceful faculty for verse, which had
contributed to win his entry into society above his birth. Spoiled and
flattered from his youth upward, his natural talents were in some measure
relaxed by indolence and that worldly and selfish habit of thought which
frivolous companionship often engenders, and which is withering alike to
stern virtue and high genius. The luxuriance of his fancy was unabated;
but the affections, which are the life of fancy, had grown languid and
inactive. His youth, his vanity, and a restless daring and thirst of
adventure had from time to time involved him in dangers and dilemmas, out
of which, of late, he had always extricated himself with the ingenious
felicity of a clever head and cool heart. He had left England for Rome
with the avowed purpose and sincere resolution of studying the divine
masterpieces of art; but pleasure had soon allured him from ambition, and
he quitted the gloomy palaces of Rome for the gay shores and animated
revelries of Naples. Here he had fallen in love--deeply in love, as he
said and thought--with a young person celebrated at Naples, Isabel di
Pisani. She was the only daughter of an Italian by an English mother. The
father had known better days; in his prosperity he had travelled, and won
in England the affections of a lady of some fortune. He had been induced
to speculate; he lost his all; he settled at Naples, and taught languages
and music. His wife died when Isabel, christened from her mother, was ten
years old. At sixteen she came out on the stage; two years afterwards her
father departed this life, and Isabel was an orphan.

Glyndon, a man of pleasure and a regular attendant at the theatre, had
remarked the young actress behind the scenes; he fell in love with her,
and he told her so. The girl listened to him, perhaps from vanity,
perhaps from ambition, perhaps from coquetry; she listened, and allowed
but few stolen interviews, in which she permitted no favor to the
Englishman it was one reason why he loved her so much.

The day following that on which our story opens, Glyndon was riding alone
by the shores of the Neapolitan sea, on the other side of the Cavern of
Pausilippo. It was past noon; the sun had lost its early fervor, and a
cool breeze sprang voluptuously from the sparkling sea. Bending over a
fragment of stone near the roadside, he perceived the form of a man; and
when he approached he recognized Zicci.

The Englishman saluted him courteously. "Have you discovered some
antique?" said he, with a smile; "they are as common as pebbles on this
road."

"No," replied Zicci; "it was but one of those antiques that have their
date, indeed, from the beginning of the world, but which Nature eternally
withers and renews." So saying, he showed Glyndon a small herb with a
pale blue flower, and then placed it carefully in his bosom.

"You are an herbalist?"

"I am."

"It is, I am told, a study full of interest."

"To those who understand it, doubtless. But," continued Zicci, looking up
with a slight and cold smile, "why do you linger on your way to converse
with me on matters in which you neither have knowledge nor desire to
obtain it? I read your heart, young Englishman: your curiosity is
excited; you wish to know me, and not this humble herb. Pass on; your
desire never can be satisfied."

"You have not the politeness of your countrymen," said Glyndon, somewhat
discomposed. "Suppose I were desirous to cultivate your acquaintance, why
should you reject my advances?"

"I reject no man's advances," answered Zicci. "I must know them, if they
so desire; but me, in return, they can never comprehend. If you ask my
acquaintance, it is yours; but I would warn you to shun me."

"And why are you then so dangerous?"

"Some have found me so; if I were to predict your fortune by the vain
calculations of the astrologer, I should tell you, in their despicable
jargon, that my planet sat darkly in your house of life. Cross me not, if
you can avoid it. I warn you now for the first time and last."

"You despise the astrologers, yet you utter a jargon as mysterious as
theirs. I neither gamble nor quarrel: why then should I fear you?"

"As you will; I have done."

"Let me speak frankly: your conversation last night interested and amused
me."

"I know it; minds like yours are attracted by mystery."

Glyndon was piqued at those words, though in the tone in which they were
spoken there was no contempt.

"I see you do not consider me worthy of your friendship be it so. Good
day."

Zicci coldly replied to the salutation, and as the Englishman rode on,
returned to his botanical employment.

The same night Glyndon went, as usual, to the theatre. He was standing
behind the scenes watching Isabel, who was on the stage in one of her
most brilliant parts. The house resounded with applause. Glyndon was
transported with a young man's passion and a young man's pride. "This
glorious creature," thought he, "may yet be mine."

He felt, while thus rapt in delicious revery, a slight touch upon his
shoulder; he turned, and beheld Zicci. "You are in danger," said the
latter. "Do not walk home to-night; or if you do, go not alone."

Before Glyndon recovered from his surprise, Zicci disappeared; and when
the Englishman saw him again, he was in the box of one of the Neapolitan
ministers, where Glyndon could not follow him.

Isabel now left the stage, and Glyndon accosted her with impassioned
gallantry. The actress was surprisingly beautiful; of fair complexion and
golden hair, her countenance was relieved from the tame and gentle
loveliness which the Italians suppose to be the characteristics of
English beauty, by the contrast of dark eyes and lashes, by a forehead of
great height, to which the dark outline of the eyebrows gave some thing
of majesty and command. In spite of the slightness of virgin youth, her
proportions had the nobleness, blent with the delicacy, that belongs to
the masterpieces of ancient sculpture; and there was a conscious pride in
her step, and in the swanlike bend of her stately head, as she turned
with an evident impatience from the address of her lover. Taking aside an
old woman, who was her constant and confidential attendant at the
theatre, she said, in an earnest whisper,--

"Oh, Gionetta, he is here again! I have seen him again! And again, he
alone of the whole theatre withholds from me his applause. He scarcely
seems to notice me; his indifference mortifies me to the soul,--I could
weep for rage and sorrow."

"Which is he, my darling?" said the old woman, with fondness in her
voice. "He must be dull,--not worth thy thoughts."

The actress drew Gionetta nearer to the stage, and pointed out to her a
man in one of the nearer boxes, conspicuous amongst all else by the
simplicity of his dress and the extraordinary beauty of his features.

"Not worth a thought, Gionetta," repeated Isabel,--"not worth a thought!
Saw you ever one so noble, so godlike?"

"By the Holy Mother!" answered Gionetta, "he is a proper man, and has the
air of a prince."

The prompter summoned the Signora Pisani. "Find out his name, Gionetta,"
said she, sweeping on to the stage, and passing by Glyndon, who gazed at
her with a look of sorrowful reproach.

The scene on which the actress now entered was that of the final
catastrophe, wherein all her remarkable powers of voice and art were
pre-eminently called forth. The house hung on every word with breathless
worship, but the eyes of Isabel sought only those of one calm and unmoved
spectator; she exerted herself as if inspired. The stranger listened, and
observed her with an attentive gaze, but no approval escaped his lips, no
emotion changed the expression of his cold and half-disdainful aspect.
Isabel, who was in the character of a jealous and abandoned mistress,
never felt so acutely the part she played. Her tears were truthful; her
passion that of nature: it was almost too terrible to behold. She was
borne from the stage, exhausted and insensible, amidst such a tempest of
admiring rapture as Continental audiences alone can raise. The crowd
stood up, handkerchiefs waved, garlands and flowers were thrown on the
stage, men wiped their eyes, and women sobbed aloud.

"By heavens!" said a Neapolitan of great rank, "she has fired me beyond
endurance. To-night, this very night, she shall be mine! You have
arranged all, Mascari?"

"All, signor. And if this young Englishman should accompany her home?"

"The presuming barbarian! At all events let him bleed for his folly. I
hear that she admits him to secret interviews. I will have no rival."

"But an Englishman! There is always a search after the bodies of the
English."

"Fool! Is not the sea deep enough, or the earth secret enough, to hide
one dead man? Our ruffians are silent as the grave itself. And I,--who
would dare to suspect, to arraign, the Prince di--? See to it,--let him
be watched, and the fitting occasion taken. I trust him to you,--robbers
murder him; you understand: the country swarms with them. Plunder and
strip him. Take three men; the rest shall be my escort."

Mascari shrugged his shoulders, and bowed submissively. Meanwhile Glyndon
besought Isabel, who recovered but slowly, to return home in his
carriage. (1) She had done so once or twice before, though she had never
permitted him to accompany her. This time she refused, and with some
petulance. Glyndon, offended, was retiring sullenly, when Gionetta
stopped him. "Stay, signor," said she, coaxingly, "the dear signora is
not well: do not be angry with her; I will make her accept your offer."

Glyndon stayed, and after a few moments spent in expostulation on the
part of Gionetta, and resistance on that of Isabel, the offer was
accepted; the actress, with a mixture of naivete and coquetry, gave her
handy to her lover, who kissed it with delight. Gionetta and her charge
entered the carriage, and Glyndon was left at the door of the theatre, to
return home on foot. The mysterious warning of Zicci then suddenly
occurred to him; he had forgotten it in the interest of his lover's
quarrel with Isabel. He thought it now advisable to guard against danger
foretold by lips so mysterious; he looked round for some one he knew. The
theatre was disgorging its crowds, who hustled and jostled and pressed
upon him; but he recognized no familiar countenances. While pausing
irresolute, he heard Merton's voice calling on him, and to his great
relief discovered his friend making his way through the throng.

"I have secured you a place in the Count Cetoxa's carriage," said he.
"Come along, he is waiting for us."

"How kind in you! How did you find me out?"

"I met Zicci in the passage. 'Your friend is at the door of the theatre,'
said he; 'do not let him go home alone to-night the streets of Naples are
not always safe.' I immediately remembered that some of the Calabrian
bravos had been busy within the city the last few weeks, and asked
Cetoxa, who was with me, to accompany you."

Further explanation was forbidden, for they now joined the count. As
Glyndon entered the carriage and drew up the glass, he saw four men
standing apart by the pavement, who seemed to eye him with attention.

"Cospetto!" cried one; "ecco Inglese!" Glyndon imperfectly heard the
exclamation as the carriage drove on. He reached home in safety.

"Have you discovered who he is?" asked the actress, as she was now alone
in the carriage with Gionetta.

"Yes, he is the celebrated Signor Zicci, about whom the court has run
mad. They say he is so rich,--oh, so much richer than any of the Inglese!
But a bird in the hand, my angel, is better than--"

"Cease," interrupted the young actress. "Zicci! Speak of the Englishman
no more."

The carriage was now entering that more lonely and remote part of the
city in which Isabel's house was situated, when it suddenly stopped.

Gionetta, in alarm, thrust her head out of window, and perceived by the
pale light of the moon that the driver, torn from his seat, was already
pinioned in the arms of two men; the next moment the door was opened
violently, and a tall figure, masked and mantled, appeared.

"Fear not, fairest Pisani," said he, gently, "no ill shall befall you."
As he spoke, he wound his arms round the form of the fair actress, and
endeavored to lift her from the carriage. But the Signora Pisani was not
an ordinary person; she had been before exposed to all the dangers to
which the beauty of the low-born was subjected amongst a lawless and
profligate nobility. She thrust back the assailant with a power that
surprised him, and in the next moment the blade of a dagger gleamed
before his eyes. "Touch me," said she, drawing herself to the farther end
of the carriage, "and I strike!"

The mask drew back.

"By the body of Bacchus, a bold spirit!" said he, half laughing and half
alarmed. "Here, Luigi, Giovanni! disarm and seize her. Harm her not."

The mask retired from the door, and another and yet taller form presented
itself. "Be calm, Isabel di Pisani," said he, in a low voice; "with me
you are indeed safe!" He lifted his mask as he spoke, and showed the
noble features of Zicci. "Be calm, be hushed; I can save you." He
vanished, leaving Isabel lost in surprise, agitation, and delight. There
were in all nine masks: two were engaged with the driver; one stood at
the head of the carriage-horses; a third guarded the well-trained steeds
of the party; three others, besides Zicci and the one who had first
accosted Isabel, stood apart by a carriage drawn to the side of the road.
To these Zicci motioned: they advanced; he pointed towards the first
mask, who was in fact the Prince di--, and to his unspeakable
astonishment the Prince was suddenly seized from behind.

"Treason," he cried, "treason among my own men! What means this?"

"Place him in his carriage. If he resist, shoot him!" said Zicci, calmly.

He approached the men who had detained the coachman. "You are outnumbered
and outwitted," said he. "Join your lord; you are three men,--we six,
armed to the teeth. Thank our mercy that we spare your lives. Go!"

The men gave way, dismayed. The driver remounted. "Cut the traces of
their carriage and the bridles of their horses," said Zicci, as he
entered the vehicle containing Isabel, and which now drove on rapidly,
leaving the discomfited ravisher in a state of rage and stupor impossible
to describe.

"Allow me to explain this mystery to you," said Zicci. "I discovered the
plot against you,--no matter how. I frustrated it thus: the head of this
design is a nobleman who has long persecuted you in vain. He and two of
his creatures watched you from the entrance of the theatre, having
directed six others to await him on the spot where you were attacked;
myself and five of my servants supplied their place, and were mistaken
for his own followers. I had previously ridden alone to the spot where
the men were waiting, and informed them that their master would not
require their services that night. They believed me, for I showed them
his signet-ring, and accordingly dispersed; I then joined my own band,
whom I had left in the rear. You know all. We are at your door."

(1) At that time in Naples carriages were both cheaper to hire, and more
necessary for strangers than they are now.



CHAPTER III.

Zicci was left alone with the young Italian. She had thrown aside her
cloak and head-gear; her hair, somewhat dishevelled, fell down her ivory
neck, which the dress partially displayed; she seemed, as she sat in that
low and humble chamber, a very vision of light and glory.

Zicci gazed at her with an admiration mingled with compassion; he
muttered a few words to himself, and then addressed her aloud:--

"Isabel di Pisani, I have saved you from a great peril,--not from
dishonor only, but perhaps from death. The Prince di--, under the weak
government of a royal child and a venal administration, is a man above
the law. He is capable of every crime; but amongst his passions he has
such prudence as belongs to ambition: if you were not to reconcile
yourself to your shame, you would never enter the world again to tell
your tale. The ravisher has no heart for repentance, but he has a hand
that can murder. I have saved thee, Isabel di Pisani. Perhaps you would
ask me wherefore?" Zicci paused, and smiled mournfully as he added: "My
life is not that of others, but I am still human,--I know pity; and more,
Isabel, I can feel gratitude for affection. You love me; it was my fate
to fascinate your eye, to arouse your vanity, to inflame your
imagination. It was to warn you from this folly that I consented for a
few minutes to become your guest. The Englishman, Glyndon, loves thee
well,--better than I can ever love; he may wed thee, he may bear thee to
his own free and happy land,--the land of thy mother's kin. Forget me,
teach thyself to return and to deserve his love; and I tell thee that
thou wilt be honored and be happy."

Isabel listened with silent wonder and deep blushes to this strange
address; and when the voice ceased, she covered her face with her hands
and wept.

Zicci rose. "I have fulfilled my duty to you, and I depart. Remember that
you are still in danger from the prince; be wary, and be cautious. Your
best precaution is in flight; farewell."

"Oh, do not leave me yet! You have read a secret of which I myself was
scarcely conscious: you despise me,--you, my preserver! Ah! do not
misjudge me; I am better, higher than I seem. Since I saw thee I have
been a new being." The poor girl clasped her hands passionately as she
spoke, and her tears streamed down her cheeks.

"What would you that I should answer?" said Zicci, pausing, but with a
cold severity in his eye.

"Say that you do not despise,--say that you do not think me light and
shameless."

"Willingly, Isabel. I know your heart and your history you are capable of
great virtues; you have the seeds of a rare and powerful genius. You may
pass through the brief period of your human life with a proud step and a
cheerful heart, if you listen to my advice. You have been neglected from
your childhood; you have been thrown among nations at once frivolous and
coarse; your nobler dispositions, your higher qualities, are not
developed. You were pleased with the admiration of Glyndon; you thought
that the passionate stranger might marry you, while others had only
uttered the vows that dishonor. Poor child, it was the instinctive desire
of right within thee that made thee listen to him; and if my fatal shadow
had not crossed thy path, thou wouldst have loved him well enough, at
least, for content. Return to that hope, and nurse again that innocent
affection: this is my answer to thee. Art thou contented?"

"No! ah, no! Severe as thou art, I love better to hear thee than,
than--What am I saying? And now you have saved me, I shall pray for you,
bless you, think of you; and am I never to see you more? Alas! the moment
you leave me, danger and dread will darken round me. Let me be your
servant, your slave; with you I should have no fear."

A dark shade fell over Zicci's brow; he looked from the ground, on which
his eyes had rested while she spoke, upon the earnest and imploring face
of the beautiful creature that now knelt before him, with all the
passions of an ardent and pure, but wholly untutored and half-savage,
nature speaking from the tearful eyes and trembling lips. He looked at
her with an aspect she could not interpret; in his eyes were kindness,
sorrow, and even something, she thought, of love: yet the brow frowned,
and the lip was stern.

"It is in vain that we struggle with our doom," said he, calmly; "listen
to me yet. I am a man, Isabel, in whom there are some good impulses yet
left, but whose life is, on the whole, devoted to a systematic and
selfish desire to enjoy whatever life can afford. To me it is given to
warn: the warning neglected, I interfere no more; I leave her victories
to that Fate that I cannot baffle of her prey. You do not understand me;
no matter: what I am now about to say will be more easy to comprehend. I
tell thee to tear from thy heart all thought of me: thou hast yet the
power. If thou wilt not obey me, thou must reap the seeds that thou wilt
sow. Glyndon, if thou acceptest his homage, will love thee throughout
life; I, too, can love thee."

"You, you--"

"But with a lukewarm and selfish love, and one that cannot last. Thou
wilt be a flower in my path; I inhale thy sweetness and pass on, caring
not what wind shall sup thee, or what step shall tread thee to the dust.
Which is the love thou wouldst prefer?"

"But do you, can you love me,--you, you, Zicci,--even for an hour? Say it
again."

"Yes, Isabel; I am not dead to beauty, and yours is that rarely given to
the daughters of men. Yes, Isabel, I could love thee!"

Isabel uttered a cry of joy, seized his hand, and kissed it through
burning and impassioned tears. Zicci raised her in his arms and imprinted
one kiss upon her forehead.

"Do not deceive thyself," he said; "consider well. I tell thee again that
my love is subjected to the certain curse of change. For my part, I shall
seek thee no more. Thy fate shall be thine own, and not mine. For the
rest, fear not the Prince di--. At present, I can save thee from every
harm." With these words he withdrew himself from her embrace, and had
gained the outer door just as Gionetta came from the kitchen with her
hands full of such cheer as she had managed to collect together. Zicci
laid his hand on the old woman's arm.

"Signor Glyndon," said he, "loves Isabel; he may wed her. You love your
mistress: plead for him. Disabuse her, if you can, of any caprice for me.
I am a bird ever on the wing." He dropped a purse, heavy with gold, into
Gionetta's bosom, and was gone.



CHAPTER IV.

The palace of Zicci was among the noblest in Naples. It still stands,
though ruined and dismantled, in one of those antique streets from which
the old races of the Norman and the Spaniard have long since vanished.

He ascended the vast staircase, and entered the rooms reserved for his
private hours. They were no wise remarkable except for their luxury and
splendor, and the absence of what men so learned as Zicci was reputed,
generally prize, namely, books. Zicci seemed to know everything that
books can teach; yet of books themselves he spoke and thought with the
most profound contempt.

He threw himself on a sofa, and dismissed his attendants for the night;
and here it may be observed that Zicci had no one servant who knew
anything of his origin, birth, or history. Some of his attendants he had
brought with him from other cities; the rest he had engaged at Naples. He
hired those only whom wealth can make subservient. His expenditure was
most lavish, his generosity, regal; but his orders were ever given as
those of a general to his army. The least disobedience, the least
hesitation, and the offender was at once dismissed. He was a man who
sought tools, and never made confidants.

Zicci remained for a considerable time motionless and thoughtful. The
hand of the clock before him pointed to the first hour of morning. The
solemn voice of the timepiece aroused him from his revery.

"One sand more out of the mighty hour-glass," said he, rising; "one hour
nearer to the last! I am weary of humanity. I will enter into one of the
countless worlds around me." He lifted the arras that clothed the walls,
and touching a strong iron door (then made visible) with a minute key
which he wore in a ring, passed into an inner apartment lighted by a
single lamp of extraordinary lustre. The room was small; a few phials and
some dried herbs were ranged in shelves on the wall, which was hung with
snow-white cloth of coarse texture. From the shelves Zicci selected one
of the phials, and poured the contents into a crystal cup. The liquid was
colorless, and sparkled rapidly up in bubbles of light; it almost seemed
to evaporate ere it reached his lips. But when the strange beverage was
quaffed, a sudden change was visible in the countenance of Zicci: his
beauty became yet more dazzling, his eyes shone with intense fire, and
his form seemed to grow more youthful and ethereal.



CHAPTER V.

The next day, Glyndon bent his steps towards Zicci'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.
Zicci's power seemed mysterious and great, his motives kindly and
benevolent, yet his manners chilling and repellant. Why at one moment
reject Glyndon's acquaintance, at another save him from danger? How had
Zicci 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 Zicci.

The signor was at home, and Glyndon was admitted into a lofty saloon,
where in a few moments Zicci 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, Mr. Glyndon," said Zicci, with a smile; "and do you
know so little of the South as not to be aware that gallants have always
rivals?"

"Are you serious?" said Glyndon, coloring.

"Most serious. You love Isabel di 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 Zicci, haughtily;
"and to me it matters not 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."

"You will not follow my advice."

"You wrong me! Why?"

"Because you are constitutionally brave; you are fond of excitement and
mystery; you like to be the hero of a romance. I should advise you to
leave Naples, and you will disdain to do so while Naples contains a foe
to shun or a mistress to pursue."

"You are right," said the young Englishman, with energy; "and you cannot
reproach me for such a resolution."

"No, there is another course left to you. Do you love Isabel di Pisani
truly and fervently? If so, marry her, and take a bride to your native
land."

"Nay," answered Glyndon, embarrassed. "Isabel is not of my rank; her
character is strange and self-willed; her education neglected. I am
enslaved by her beauty, but I cannot wed her."

Zicci frowned.

"Your love, then, is but selfish lust; and by that love you will be
betrayed. 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 harmonize
with His solemn ends. You have before you an option. Honorable and
generous love may even now work out your happiness and effect your
escape; a frantic and interested 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 Zicci," said Glyndon, with a
smile, "if report says true you do not yourself reject the allurements of
unfettered love."

"If it were necessary that practice square with precept," said Zicci,
with a sneer, "our pulpits would be empty. Do you think it matters, in
the great aggregate of human destinies, what one man's conduct may be?
Nothing,--not a grain of dust; but it matters much what are the
sentiments he propagates. 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. 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 I was an Italian?"

"Are you not of Corsica?"

"Tush!" said Zicci, impatiently turning away. Then, after a pause, he
resumed, in a mild voice: "Glyndon, do you renounce Isabel di Pisani?
Will you take three days to consider of what I have said?"

"Renounce her,--never!"

"Then you will marry her?"

"Impossible."

"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?"

"Myself."

Glyndon turned pale, and started from his seat.

"You, Signor Zicci, you,--and you dare to tell me so?"

"Dare! Alas! you know there is nothing on earth left me to fear!"

These 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 sympathies. You may have power which I cannot
comprehend or emulate, or you may be but a keen impostor."

"Well, sir, your logical position is not ill-taken; proceed."

"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 Isabel di Pisani, I am not
the less determined never tamely to yield her to another."

Zicci looked gravely at the young man, whose sparkling eyes and
heightened color testified the spirit to support his words, and replied:
"So bold! well, it becomes you. You have courage, then; I thought it.
Perhaps it may be put to a sharper test than you dream of. But take my
advice: wait three days, and tell me then if you will marry this young
person."

"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 or mistress. Her soul,
developed by affection, will elevate your own; it will influence your
fortunes, exalt your destiny; you will become a great and prosperous man.
If, on the contrary, she fall to me, I know not what may be her lot; but
I know that few can pass the ordeal, and hitherto no woman has survived
the struggle."

As Zicci spoke, his face became livid, and there was something in his
voice that froze the warm blood of his 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, only a--"

"Hush!" interrupted Zicci, gently, and with a smile of singular but
melancholy sweetness: "have you earned the right to ask me these
questions? The clays 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 succumb
to curiosity."

Glyndon blushed, and rose. In spite of his love for Isabel, 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. It was like
the fascination of the basilisk. He held out his hand to Zicci, saying,
"Well, then, if we are to be rivals, our swords must settle our rights;
till then I would fain be friends."

"Friends! Pardon me, I like you too well to give you my friendship. You
know not what you ask."

"Enigmas again!"

"Enigmas!" cried Zicci, passionately, "Nay: can you dare to solve them!
Would you brave all that human heart can conceive of peril and of horror,
so that you at last might stand separated from this visible universe side
by side with me? When you can dare this, and when you are fit to dare it,
I may 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.

Zicci observed him in thoughtful silence.

"He may be worthy," he muttered; "he may, yet--" He broke off abruptly;
then, speaking aloud, "Go, Glyndon," said he; "in three days we shall
meet again."

"Where?"

"Perhaps where you can least anticipate. In any case, we shall meet."



CHAPTER VI.

Glyndon thought seriously and deeply over all that the mysterious Zicci
had said to him relative to Isabel. His imagination was inflamed by the
vague and splendid promises that were connected with his marriage with
the poor actress. His fears, too, were naturally aroused by the threat
that by marriage alone could he save himself from the rivalry of
Zicci,--Zicci, born to dazzle and command; Zicci, who united to the
apparent wealth of a monarch the beauty of a god; Zicci, whose eye seemed
to foresee, whose hand to frustrate, every danger. What a rival, and what
a foe!

But Glyndon's pride, as well as jealousy, was aroused. He was brave comme
son epee. Should he shrink from the power or the enmity of a man mortal
as himself? And why should Zicci desire him to give his name and station
to one of a calling so equivocal? Might there not be motives he could not
fathom? Might not the actress and the Corsican be in league with each
other? Might not all this jargon of prophecy--and menace be but artifices
to dupe him,--the tool, perhaps, of a mountebank and his mistress!
Mistress,--ah, no! If ever maidenhood wrote its modest characters
externally, that pure eye, that noble forehead, that mien and manner so
ingenuous even in their coquetry, their pride, assured him that Isabel
was not the base and guilty thing he had dared for a moment to suspect
her. Lost in a labyrinth of doubts and surmises, Glyndon turned on the
practical sense of the sober Merton to assist and enlighten him.

As may be well supposed, his friend listened to his account of his
interview with Zicci with a half-suppressed and ironical smile.

"Excellent, my dear friend! This Zicci is another Apollonius of
Tyana,--nothing less will satisfy you. What! is it possible that you are
the Clarence Glyndon of whose career such glowing hopes are
entertained,--you the man whose genius has been extolled by all the
graybeards? Not a boy turned out from a village school but would laugh
you to scorn. And so because Signor Zicci tells you that you will be a
marvellously great man if you revolt all your friends and blight all your
prospects by marrying a Neapolitan actress, you begin already to think
of--By Jupiter! I cannot talk patiently on the subject. Let the girl
alone,--that would be the proper plan; or else--"

"You talk very sensibly," interrupted Glyndon, "but you distract me. I
will go to Isabel's house; I will see her; I will judge for myself."

"That is certainly the best way to forget her," said Merton. Glyndon
seized his hat and sword, and was gone.



CHAPTER VII.

She was seated outside her door, the young actress. The sea, which in
that heavenly bay literally seems to sleep in the arms of the shore,
bounded the view in front; while to the right, not far off, rose the dark
and tangled crags to which the traveller of to-day is daily brought to
gaze on the tomb of Virgil, or compare with the Cavern of Pausilippo the
archway of Highgate Hill. There were a few fishermen loitering by the
cliffs, on which their nets were hung up to dry; and, at a distance, the
sound of some rustic pipe (more common at that day than in this), mingled
now and then with the bells of the lazy mules, broke the voluptuous
silence,--the silence of declining noon on the shores of Naples. Never
till you have enjoyed it, never till you have felt its enervating but
delicious charm, believe that you can comprehend all the meaning of the
dolce far niente; and when that luxury has been known, when you have
breathed the atmosphere of fairy land, then you will no longer wonder why
the heart ripens with so sudden and wild a power beneath the rosy skies
and amidst the glorious foliage of the South.

The young actress was seated by the door of her house; overhead a rude
canvas awning sheltered her from the sun; on her lap lay the manuscript
of a new part in which she was shortly to appear. By her side was the
guitar on which she had been practising the airs that were to ravish the
ears of the cognoscenti. But the guitar had been thrown aside in despair;
her voice this morning did not obey her will. The manuscript lay
unheeded, and the eyes of the actress were fixed on the broad, blue deep
beyond. In the unwonted negligence of her dress might be traced the
abstraction of her mind. Her beautiful hair was gathered up loosely, and
partially bandaged by a kerchief, whose purple color seemed to deepen the
golden hue of the tresses. A stray curl escaped, and fell down the
graceful neck. A loose morning robe, girded by a sash, left the breeze
that came ever and anon from the sea to die upon the bust half disclosed,
and the tiny slipper, that Cinderella might have worn, seemed a world too
wide for the tiny foot which it scarcely covered. It might be the heat of
the day that deepened the soft bloom of the cheeks and gave an unwonted
languor to the large dark eyes. In all the pomp of her stage attire, in
all the flush of excitement before the intoxicating lamps, never had
Isabel looked so lovely.

By the side of the actress, and filling up the threshold, stood Gionetta,
with her hands thrust up to the elbow in two huge recesses on either side
her gown,--pockets, indeed, they might be called by courtesy; such
pockets as Beelzebub's grandmother might have shaped for herself,
bottomless pits in miniature.

"But I assure you," said the nurse, in that sharp, quick, earsplitting
tone in which the old women of the South are more than a match for those
of the North,--"but I assure you, my darling, that there is not a finer
cavalier in all Naples, nor a more beautiful, than this Inglese; and I am
told that all the Inglesi are much richer than they seem. Though they
have no trees in their country, poor people, and instead of twenty-four
they have only twelve hours to the day, yet I hear, cospetto! that they
shoe their horses with steak; and since they cannot (the poor heretics!)
turn grapes into wine, for they have no grapes, they turn gold into
physic, and take a glass or two of pistoles whenever they are troubled
with the colic. But you don't hear me! Little pupil of my eyes, you don't
hear me!"

"Gionetta, is he not god-like?"

"Sancta Maria! he is handsome, bellissimo; and when you are his
wife,--for they say these English are never satisfied unless they
marry--"

"Wife! English! Whom are you talking of?"

"Why, the young English signor, to be sure."

"Chut! I thought you spoke of Zicci."

"Oh! Signor Zicci is very rich and very generous; but he wants to be your
cavalier, not your husband. I see that,--leave me alone. When you are
married, then you will see how amiable Signor Zicci will be. Oh, per
fede! but he will be as close to your husband as the yolk to the white;
that he will.

"Silence, Gionetta! How wretched I am to have no one else to speak to--to
advise me. Oh, beautiful sun!" and the girl pressed her hand to her heart
with wild energy, "why do you light every spot but this? Dark, dark! And
a little while ago I was so calm, so innocent, so gay. I did not hate you
then, Gionetta, hateful as your talk was; I hate you now. Go in; leave me
alone--leave me."

"And indeed it is time I should leave you, for the polenta will be
spoiled, and you have eaten nothing all day. If you don't eat you will
lose your beauty, my darling, and then nobody will care for you. Nobody
cares for us when we grow ugly,--I know that; and then you must, like old
Gionetta, get some Isabel of your own to spoil. I'll go and see to the
polenta."

"Since I have known this man," said the actress, half aloud, "since his
dark eyes have fascinated me, I am no longer the same. I long to escape
from myself,--to glide with the sunbeam over the hill-tops; to become
something that is not of earth. Is it, indeed, that he is a sorcerer, as
I have heard? Phantoms float before me at night, and a fluttering like
the wing of a bird within my heart seems as if the spirit were terrified,
and would break its cage."

While murmuring these incoherent rhapsodies, a step that she did not hear
approached the actress, and a light hand touched her arm.

"Isabella! carissima! Isabella!"

She turned, and saw Glyndon. The sight of his fair young face calmed her
at once. She did not love him, yet his sight gave her pleasure. She had
for him a kind and grateful feeling. Ah, if she had never beheld Zicci!

"Isabel," said the Englishman, drawing her again to the bench from which
she had risen, and seating himself beside her, "you know how passionately
I love thee. Hitherto thou hast played with my impatience and my ardor,
thou hast sometimes smiled, sometimes frowned away my importunities for a
reply to my suit; but this day--I know not how it is--I feel a more
sustained and settled courage to address thee, and learn the happiest or
the worst. I have rivals, I know,--rivals who are more powerful than the
poor artist. Are they also more favored?"

Isabel blushed faintly, but her countenance was grave and distressed.
Looking down, and marking some hieroglyphical figures in the dust with
the point of her slipper, she said, with some hesitation and a vain
attempt to be gay, "Signor, whoever wastes his thoughts on an actress
must submit to have rivals. It is our unhappy destiny not to be sacred
even to ourselves."

"But you have told me, Isabel, that you do not love this destiny,
glittering though it seem,--that your heart is not in the vocation which
your talents adorn."

"Ah, no!" said the actress, her eyes filling with tears, "it is a
miserable lot to be slave to a multitude."

"Fly then with me," said the artist, passionately. "Quit forever the
calling that divides that heart I would have all my own. Share my fate
now and forever,--my pride, my delight, my ideal! Thou shalt inspire my
canvas and my song, thy beauty shall be made at once holy and renowned.
In the galleries of princes crowds shall gather round the effigy of a
Venus or a saint, and a whisper shall break forth, 'It is Isabel di
Pisani!' Ah! Isabel, I adore thee: tell me that I do not worship in
vain."

"Thou art good and fair," said Isabel, gazing on her lover as he pressed
his cheek nearer to hers, and clasped her hand in his. "But what should I
give thee in return?"

"Love, love; only love!"

"A sister's love?"

"Ah, speak not with such cruel coldness!"

"It is all I have for thee. Listen to me, signor. When I look on your
face, when I hear your voice, a certain serene and tranquil calm creeps
over and lulls thoughts, oh, how feverish, how wild! When thou art gone,
the day seems a shade more dark; but the shadow soon flies. I miss thee
not, I think not of thee,--no, I love thee not; and I will give myself
only where I love."

"But I would teach thee to love me,--fear it not. Nay, such love as thou
now describest in our tranquil climates is the love of innocence and
youth."

"And it is the innocence he would destroy," said Isabel, rather to
herself than to him.

Glyndon drew back, conscience-stricken.

"No, it may not be!" she said, rising, and extricating her hand gently
from his grasp. "Leave me, and forget me. You do not understand, you
could not comprehend, the nature of her whom you think to love. From my
childhood upward, I have felt as if I were marked out for some strange
and preternatural doom; as if I were singled from my kind. This feeling
(and, oh! at times it is one of delirious and vague delight, at others of
the darkest gloom) deepens with me day by day. It is like the shadow of
twilight, spreading slowly and solemnly round. My hour approaches; a
little while, and it will be night!"

As she spoke, Glyndon listened with visible emotion and perturbation.
"Isabel!" he exclaimed, as she ceased, "your words more than ever enchain
me to you. As you feel, I feel. I, too, have been ever haunted with a
chill and unearthly foreboding. Amidst the crowds of men I have felt
alone. In all my pleasures, my toils, my pursuits, a warning voice has
murmured in my ear, 'Time has a dark mystery in store for thy manhood.'
When you spoke it was as the voice of my own soul."

Isabel gazed upon him in wonder and fear. Her countenance was as white as
marble, and those features, so divine in their rare symmetry, might have
served the Greek with a study for the Pythoness when, from the mystic
cavern and the bubbling spring, she first hears the voice of the
inspiring god. Gradually the rigor and tension of that wonderful face
relaxed, the color returned, the pulse beat, the heart animated the
frame.

"Tell me," she said, turning partially aside, "tell me, have you seen, do
you know, a stranger in this city,--one of whom wild stories are afloat?"

"You speak of Zicci. I have seen him; I know him! And you? Ah! he, too,
would be my rival,--he, too, would bear thee from me!"

"You err," said Isabel, hastily and with a deep sigh,--"he pleads for
you; he informed me of your love; he besought me not--not to reject it."

"Strange being, incomprehensible enigma, why did you name him?"

"Why? Ah! I would have asked whether, when you first saw him, the
foreboding, the instinct, of which you spoke came on you more fearfully,
more intelligibly than before; whether you felt at once repelled from
him, yet attracted towards him; whether you felt [and the actress spoke
with hurried animation] that with Him was connected the secret of your
life!"

"All this I felt," answered Glyndon, in a trembling voice, "the first
time I was in his presence. Though all around me was gay,--music, amidst
lamp-lit trees, light converse near, and heaven without a cloud
above,--my knees knocked together, my hair bristled, and my blood curdled
like ice; since then he has divided my thoughts with thee."

"No more, no more," said Isabel, in a stifled tone; "there must be the
hand of Fate in this. I can speak no more to you now; farewell."

She sprang past him into the house and closed the door. Glyndon did not
dare to follow her, nor, strange as it may seem, was he so inclined. The
thought and recollection of that moonlight hour in the gardens, of the
strange address of Zicci, froze up all human passion; Isabel herself, if
not forgotten, shrank back like a shadow into the recesses of his breast.
He shivered as he stepped into the sunlight, and musingly retraced his
steps into the more populous parts of that liveliest of Italian cities.



CHAPTER VIII.

It was a small cabinet; the walls were covered with pictures, one of
which was worth more than the whole lineage of the owner of the palace.
Is not Art a wonderful thing? A Venetian noble might be a fribble or an
assassin, a scoundrel, or a dolt, worthless, or worse than worthless; yet
he might have sat to Titian, and his portrait may be inestimable,--a few
inches of painted canvas a thousand times more valuable than a man with
his veins and muscles, brain, will, heart, and intellect!

In this cabinet sat a man of about three and forty,--dark-eyed, sallow,
with short, prominent features, a massive conformation of jaw, and thick,
sensual, but resolute lips; this man was the Prince di--. His form,
middle-sized, but rather inclined to corpulence, was clothed in a loose
dressing-robe of rich brocade; on a table before him lay his sword and
hat, a mask, dice and dice-box, a portfolio, and an inkstand of silver
curiously carved.

"Well, Mascari," said the Prince, looking up towards his parasite, who
stood by the embrasure of the deep-set barricaded window, "well, you
cannot even guess who this insolent meddler was? A pretty person you to
act the part of a Prince's Ruffiano!"

"Am I to be blamed for dulness in not being able to conjecture who had
the courage to thwart the projects of the Prince di--. As well blame me
for not accounting for miracles."

"I will tell thee who it was, most sapient Mascari."

"Who, your Excellency?"

"Zicci."

"Ah! he has the daring of the devil. But why does your Excellency feel so
assured,--does he court the actress?"

"I know not; but there is a tone in that foreigner's voice that I never
can mistake,--so clear, and yet so hollow; when I hear it I almost fancy
there is such a thing as conscience. However, we must rid ourselves of an
impertinent. Mascari, Signor Zicci hath not yet honored our poor house
with his presence. He is a distinguished stranger,--we must give a
banquet in his honor."

"Ah! and the cypress wine! The cypress is the proper emblem of the
grave."

"But this anon. I am superstitious; there are strange stories of his
power and foresight,--remember the Sicilian quackery! But meanwhile the
Pisani--"

"Your Excellency is infatuated. The actress has bewitched you."

"Mascari," said the Prince, with a haughty smile, "through these veins
rolls the blood of the old Visconti,--of those who boasted that no woman
ever escaped their lust, and no man their resentment. The crown of my
fathers has shrunk into a gewgaw and a toy,--their ambition and their
spirit are undecayed. My honor is now enlisted in this pursuit: Isabel
must be mine."

"Another ambuscade?" said Mascari, inquiringly.

"Nay, why not enter the house itself? The situation is lonely, and the
door is not made of iron."

Before Mascari could reply, the gentleman of the chamber announced the
Signor Zicci.

The Prince involuntarily laid his hand on the sword placed on the table;
then, with a smile at his own impulse, rose, and met the foreigner at the
threshold with all the profuse and respectful courtesy of Italian
simulation.

"This is an honor highly prized," said the Prince; "I have long desired
the friendship of one so distinguished--"

"And I have come to give you that friendship," replied Zicci, in a sweet
but chilling voice. "To no man yet in Naples have I extended this hand:
permit it, Prince, to grasp your own."

The Neapolitan bowed over the hand he pressed; but as he touched it, a
shiver came over him, and his heart stood still.

Zicci bent on him his dark, smiling eyes, and then seated himself with a
familiar air.

"Thus it is signed and sealed,--I mean our friendship, noble Prince. And
now I will tell you the object of my visit. I find, your Excellency,
that, unconsciously perhaps, we are rivals. Can we not accommodate our
pretensions? A girl of no moment, an actress, bah! it is not worth a
quarrel. Shall we throw for her? He who casts the lowest shall resign his
claim?"

Mascari opened his small eyes to their widest extent; the Prince, no less
surprised, but far too well world-read even to show what he felt, laughed
aloud.

"And were you, then, the cavalier who spoiled my night's chase and robbed
me of my white doe? By Bacchus, it was prettily done."

"You must forgive me, my Prince; I knew not who it was, or my respect
would have silenced my gallantry."

"All stratagems fair in love, as in war. Of course you profited by my
defeat, and did not content yourself with leaving the little actress at
her threshold?"

"She is Diana for me," answered Zicci, lightly; "whoever wins the wreath
will not find a flower faded."

"And now you would cast for her,--well; but they tell me you are ever a
sure player."

"Let Signor Mascari cast for us."

"Be it so. Mascari, the dice."

Surprised and perplexed, the parasite took up the three dice, deposited
them gravely in the box, and rattled them noisily, while Zicci threw
himself back carelessly in his chair and said, "I give the first chance
to your Excellency."

Mascari interchanged a glance with his patron and threw the numbers were
sixteen.

"It is a high throw," said Zicci, calmly; "nevertheless, Signor Mascari,
I do not despond."

Mascari gathered up the dice, shook the box, and rolled the contents once
more upon the table; the number was the highest that can be
thrown,--eighteen.

The Prince darted a glance of fire at his minion, who stood with gaping
mouth staring at the dice, and shaking his head in puzzled wonder.

"I have won, you see," said Zicci: "may we be friends still?"

"Signor," said the Prince, obviously struggling with angel and confusion,
"the victory is already yours. But, pardon me, you have spoken lightly of
this young girl,--will anything tempt you to yield your claim?"

"Ah, do not think so ill of my gallantry."

"Enough," said the Prince, forcing a smile, "I yield. Let me prove that I
do not yield ungraciously: will you honor me with your presence at a
little feast I propose to give on the royal birthday?"

"It is indeed a happiness to hear one command of yours which I can obey."

Zicci then turned the conversation, talked lightly and gayly and soon
afterwards departed.

"Villain," then exclaimed the Prince, grasping Mascari by the collar,
"you have betrayed me!"

"I assure your Excellency that the dice were properly arranged,--he
should have thrown twelve; but he is the Devil, and that's the end of
it."

"There is no time to be lost," said the Prince, quitting hold of his
parasite, who quietly resettled his cravat.

"My blood is up! I will win this girl, if I die for it. Who laughed?
Mascari, didst thou laugh?"

"I, your Excellency,--I laugh?"

"It sounded behind me," said the Prince, gazing round.



CHAPTER IX.

It was the day on which Zicci had told Glyndon that he should ask for his
decision in respect to Isabel,--the third day since their last meeting.
The Englishman could not come to a resolution. Ambition, hitherto the
leading passion of his soul, could not yet be silenced by love, and that
love, such as it was, unreturned, beset by suspicions and doubts which
vanished in the presence of Isabel, and returned when her bright face
shone on his eyes no more, for les absents ont toujours tort. Perhaps had
he been quite alone, his feelings of honor, of compassion, of virtue,
might have triumphed, and he would have resolved either to fly from
Isabel or to offer the love that has no shame. But Merton, cold,
cautious, experienced, wary (such a nature has ever power over the
imaginative and the impassioned), was at hand to ridicule the impression
produced by Zicci, and the notion of delicacy and honor towards an
Italian actress. It is true that Merton, who was no profligate, advised
him to quit all pursuit of Isabel; but then the advice was precisely of
that character which, if it deadens love, stimulates passion. By
representing Isabel as one who sought to play a part with him, he excused
to Glyndon his own selfishness,--he enlisted the Englishman's vanity and
pride on the side of his pursuit. Why should not he beat an adventuress
at her own weapons?

Glyndon not only felt indisposed on that day to meet Zicci, but he felt
also a strong desire to defeat the mysterious prophecy that the meeting
should take place. Into this wish Merton readily entered. The young men
agreed to be absent from Naples that day. Early in the morning they
mounted their horses and took the road to Baiae. Glyndon left word at his
hotel that if Signor Zicci sought him, it was in the neighborhood of the
once celebrated watering-place of the ancients that he should be found.

They passed by Isabel's house; but Glyndon resisted the temptation of
pausing there, and threading the grotto of Pausilippo, they wound by a
circuitous route back into the suburbs of the city, and took the opposite
road, which conducts to Portici and Pompeii. It was late at noon when
they arrived at the former of these places. Here they halted to dine; for
Merton had heard much of the excellence of the macaroni at Portici, and
Merton was a bon vivant.

They put up at an inn of very humble pretensions, and dined under an
awning. Merton was more than usually gay; he pressed the lacryma upon his
friend, and conversed gayly. "Well, my dear friend, we have foiled Signor
Zicci in one of his predictions at least. You will have no faith in him
hereafter."

"The Ides are come, not gone."

"Tush! if he is a soothsayer, you are not Caesar. It is your vanity that
makes you credulous. Thank Heaven, I do not think myself of such
importance that the operations of Nature should be changed in order to
frighten me."

"But why should the operations of Nature be changed? There may be a
deeper philosophy than we dream of,--a philosophy that discovers the
secrets of Nature, but does not alter, by penetrating, its courses."

"Ah! you suppose Zicci to be a prophet,--a reader of the future; perhaps
an associate of Genii and Spirits!"

"I know not what to conjecture; but I see no reason why he should seek,
even if an impostor, to impose on me. An impostor must have some motive
for deluding us,--either ambition or avarice. I am neither rich nor
powerful; Zicci spends more in a week than I do in a year. Nay, a
Neapolitan banker told me that the sums invested by Zicci in his hands,
were enough to purchase half the lands of the Neapolitan noblesse."

"Grant this to be true: do you suppose the love to dazzle and mystify is
not as strong with some natures as that of gold and power with others?
Zicci has a moral ostentation; and the same character that makes him
rival kings in expenditure makes him not disdain to be wondered at even
by a humble Englishman."

Here the landlord, a little, fat, oily fellow, came up with a fresh
bottle of lacryma. He hoped their Excellencies were pleased. He was most
touched,--touched to the heart that they liked the macaroni. Were their
Excellencies going to Vesuvius? There was a slight eruption; they could
not see it where they were, but it was pretty, and would be prettier
still after sunset.

"A capital idea," cried Merton. "What say you, Glyndon?"

"I have not yet seen an eruption; I should like it much."

"But is there no danger?" said the prudent Merton.

"Oh! not at all; the mountain is very civil at present. It only plays a
little, just to amuse their Excellencies the English."

"Well, order the horses, and bring the bill; we will go before it is
dark. Clarence, my friend, nunc est bibendum; but take care of the pede
libero, which won't do for walking on lava!"

The bottle was finished, the bill paid, the gentlemen mounted, the
landlord bowed, and they bent their way in the cool of the delightful
evening towards Resina.

The wine animated Glyndon, whose unequal spirits were at times high and
brilliant as those of a school-boy released; and the laughter of the
Northern tourists sounded oft and merrily along the melancholy domains of
buried cities.

Hesperus had lighted his lamp amidst the rosy skies as they arrived at
Resina. Here they quitted their horses and took mules and a guide. As the
sky grew darker and more dark, the Mountain Fire burned with an intense
lustre. In various streaks and streamlets the fountain of flame rolled
down the dark summit, then undiminished by the eruption of 1822, and the
Englishmen began to feel increase upon them, as they ascended, that
sensation of solemnity and awe which makes the very atmosphere that
surrounds the giant of the Plains of the Antique Hades.

It was night when, leaving the mules, they ascended on foot, accompanied
by their guide and a peasant, who bore a rude torch. Their guide was a
conversable, garrulous fellow, like most of his country and his calling;
and Merton, whose chief characteristics were a sociable temper and a
hardy commonsense, loved to amuse or to instruct himself on every
incidental occasion.

"Ah, Excellency," said the guide, "your countrymen have a strong passion
for the volcano. Long life to them; they bring us plenty of money. If our
fortunes depended on the Neapolitans, we should starve."

"True, they have no curiosity," said Merton. "Do you remember, Glyndon,
the contempt with which that old count said to us, 'You will go to
Vesuvius, I suppose. I have never been: why should I go? You have cold,
you have hunger, you have fatigue, you have danger, and all for nothing
but to see fire, which looks just as well in a brazier as a mountain.'
Ha! ha! the old fellow was right."

"But, Excellency," said the guide, "that is not all: some cavaliers think
to ascend the mountain without our help. I am sure they deserve to tumble
into the crater."

"They must be bold fellows to go alone: you don't often find such?"

"Sometimes among the French, signor. But the other night--I never was so
frightened. I had been with an English party, and a lady had left a
pocket-book on the mountain where she had been sketching. She offered me
a handsome sum to return for it, and bring it to her at Naples; so I went
in the evening. I found it sure enough, and was about to return, when I
saw a figure that seemed to emerge from the crater itself. The air was so
pestiferous that I could not have conceived a human creature could
breathe it and live. I was so astounded that I stood as still as a stone,
till the figure came over the hot ashes and stood before me face to face.
Sancta Maria, what a head!"

"What, hideous?"

"No, so beautiful, but so terrible. It had nothing human in its aspect."

"And what said the salamander?"

"Nothing! It did not even seem to perceive me, though I was as near as I
am to you; but its eyes seemed prying into the air. It passed by me
quickly, and, walking across a stream of burning lava, soon vanished on
the other side of the mountain. I was curious and foolhardy, and resolved
to see if I could bear the atmosphere which this visitor had left; but
though I did not advance within thirty yards of the spot at which he had
first appeared, I was driven back by a vapor that well-nigh stifled me.
Cospetto! I have spit blood ever since."

"It must be Zicci," whispered Glyndon.

"I knew you would say so," returned Merton, laughing.

The little party had now arrived nearly at the summit of the mountain;
and unspeakably grand was the spectacle on which they gazed. From the
crater arose a vapor, intensely dark, that overspread the whole
background of the heavens, in the centre whereof rose a flame that
assumed a form singularly beautiful. It might have been compared to a
crest of gigantic feathers, the diadem of the mountain, high arched, and
drooping downward, with the hues delicately shaded off, and the whole
shifting and tremulous as the plumage on a warrior's helm. The glare of
the flame spread, luminous and crimson, over the dark and rugged ground
on which they stood, and drew an innumerable variety of shadows from crag
and hollow. An oppressive and sulphureous exhalation served to increase
the gloomy and sublime terror of the place. But on turning from the
mountain, and towards the distant and unseen ocean, the contrast was
wonderfully great: the heavens serene and blue, the stars still and calm
as the eyes of Divine Love. It was as if the realms of the opposing
principles of Evil and Good were brought in one view before the gaze of
man! Glyndon--the enthusiast, the poet, the artist, the dreamer--was
enchained and entranced by emotions vague and undefinable, half of
delight and half of pain. Leaning on the shoulder of his friend, he gazed
around him, and heard, with deepening awe, the rumbling of the earth
below, the wheels and voices of the Ministry of Nature in her darkest and
most inscrutable recess. Suddenly, as a bomb from a shell, a huge stone
was flung hundreds of yards up from the jaws of the crater, and falling
with a mighty crash upon the rock below, split into ten thousand
fragments, which bounded down the sides of the mountain, sparkling and
groaning as they went. One of these, the largest fragment, struck the
narrow space of soil between the Englishman and the guide, not three feet
from the spot where the former stood. Merton uttered an exclamation of
terror, and Glyndon held his breath and shuddered. "Diavolo!" cried the
guide; "descend, Excellencies, descend! We have not a moment to lose;
follow me close."

So saying, the guide and the peasant fled with as much swiftness as they
were able to bring to bear. Merton, ever more prompt and ready than his
friend, imitated their example; and Glyndon, more confused than alarmed,
followed close. But they had not gone many yards before, with a rushing
and sudden blast, came from the crater an enormous volume of vapor. It
pursued, it overtook, it overspread them; it swept the light from the
heavens. All was abrupt and utter darkness, and through the gloom was
heard the shout of the guide, already distant, and lost in an instant
amidst the sound of the rushing gust and the groans of the earth beneath.
Glyndon paused. He was separated from his friend, from the guide. He was
alone with the Darkness and the Terror. The vapor rolled sullenly away;
the form of the plumed fire was again dimly visible, and its struggling
and perturbed reflection again shed a glow over the horrors of the path.
Glyndon recovered himself, and sped onward. Below, he heard the voice of
Merton calling on him, though he no longer saw his form. The sound served
as a guide. Dizzy and breathless, he bounded forward, when hark! a
sullen, slow, rolling sound in his ear! He halted, and turned back to
gaze. The fire had overflowed its course; it had opened itself a channel
amidst the furrows of the mountain. The stream pursued him fast, fast,
and the hot breath of the chasing and preternatural foe came closer and
closer upon his cheek. He turned aside; he climbed desperately, with
hands and feet, upon a crag that, to the right, broke the scathed and
blasted level of the soil. The stream rolled beside and beneath him, and
then, taking a sudden wind round the spot on which he stood, interposed
its liquid fire--a broad and impassable barrier--between his
resting-place and escape. There he stood, cut off from descent, and with
no alternative but to retrace his steps towards the crater, and thence
seek--without guide or clew--some other pathway.

For a moment his courage left him; he cried in despair, and in that
over-strained pitch of voice which is never heard afar off, to the guide,
to Merton, to return, to aid him.

No answer came; and the Englishman, thus abandoned solely to his own
resources, felt his spirit and energy rise against the danger. He turned
back, and ventured as far towards the crater as the noxious exhalation
would permit; then, gazing below, carefully and deliberately he chalked
out for himself a path, by which he trusted to shun the direction the
fire-stream had taken, and trod firmly and quickly over the crumbling and
heated strata.

He had proceeded about fifty yards when he halted abruptly: an
unspeakable and unaccountable horror, not hitherto felt amidst all his
peril, came over him. He shook in every limb; his muscles refused his
will; he felt, as it were, palsied and death-stricken. The horror, I say,
was unaccountable, for the path seemed clear and safe. The fire, above
and behind, burned out clear and far; and beyond, the stars lent him
their cheering guidance. No obstacle was visible, no danger seemed at
hand. As thus, spell-bound and panic-stricken, he stood chained to the
soil--his breast heaving, large drops rolling down his brow, and his eyes
starting wildly from their sockets--he saw before him, at some distance,
gradually shaping itself more and more distinctly to his gaze, a Colossal
Shadow,--a shadow that seemed partially borrowed from the human shape,
but immeasurably above the human stature, vague, dark, almost formless
and differing--he could not tell where or why--not only from the
proportions, but also from the limbs and outline of man.

The glare of the volcano, that seemed to shrink and collapse from this
gigantic and appalling apparition, nevertheless threw its light, redly
and steadily, upon another shape that stood beside, quiet and motionless;
and it was perhaps the contrast of these two things--the Being and the
Shadow--that impressed the beholder with the difference between
them,--the Man and the Superhuman. It was but for a moment, nay, for the
tenth part of a moment, that this sight was permitted to the wanderer. A
second eddy of sulphureous vapors from the volcano, yet more rapidly, yet
more densely than its predecessor, rolled over the mountain; and either
the nature of the exhalation, or the excess of his own dread, was such
that Glyndon, after one wild gasp for breath, fell senseless on the
earth.



CHAPTER X.

Merton and the Italians arrived in safety at the spot where they had left
the mules; and not till they had recovered their own alarm and breath did
they think of Glyndon. But then, as the minutes passed and he appeared
not, Merton--whose heart was as good, at least, as human hearts are in
general--grew seriously alarmed. He insisted on returning to search for
his friend, and by dint of prodigal promises prevailed at last on the
guide to accompany him. The lower part of the mountain lay calm and white
in the starlight; and the guide's practised eye could discern all objects
on the surface, at a considerable distance. They had not, however, gone
very far before they perceived two forms slowly approaching towards them.

As they came near, Merton recognized the form of his friend. "Thank
Heaven, he is safe!" he cried, turning to the guide.

"Holy angels befriend us!" said the Italian, trembling; "behold the very
being that crossed me last Sabbath night. It is he, but his face is human
now!"

"Signor Inglese," said the voice of Zicci as Glyndon, pale, wan, and
silent, returned passively the joyous greeting of Merton,--"Signor
Inglese, I told your friend we should meet to-night; you see you have not
foiled my prediction."

"But how, but where?" stammered Merton, in great confusion and surprise.

"I found your friend stretched on the ground, overpowered by the mephitic
exhalation of the crater. I bore him to a purer atmosphere; and as I know
the mountain well, I have conducted him safely to you. This is all our
history. You see, sir, that were it not for that prophecy which you
desired to frustrate, your friend would, ere this time, have been a
corpse; one minute more, and the vapor had done its work. Adieu! good
night and pleasant dreams."

"But, my preserver, you will not leave us," said Glyndon, anxiously, and
speaking for the first time. "Will you not return with us?"

Zicci paused, and drew Glyndon aside. "Young man," said he, gravely, "it
is necessary that we should again meet to-night. It is necessary that you
should, ere the first hour of morning, decide on your fate. Will you
marry Isabel di Pisani, or lose her forever? Consult not your friend; he
is sensible and wise, but not now is his wisdom needed. There are times
in life when from the imagination, and not the reason, should wisdom
come,--this for you is one of them. I ask not your answer now. Collect
your thoughts, recover your jaded and scattered spirits. It wants two
hours of midnight: at midnight I will be with you!"

"Incomprehensible being," replied the Englishman, "I would leave the life
you have preserved in your own hands. But since I have known you, my
whole nature has changed. A fiercer desire than that of love burns in my
veins,--the desire, not to resemble, but to surpass my kind; the desire
to penetrate and to share the secret of your own existence; the desire of
a preternatural knowledge and unearthly power. Instruct me, school me,
make me thine; and I surrender to thee at once, and without a murmur, the
woman that, till I saw thee, I would have defied a world to obtain."

"I ask not the sacrifice, Glyndon," replied Zicci, coldly, yet mildly,
"yet--shall I own it to thee?--I am touched by the devotion I have
inspired. I sicken for human companionship, sympathy, and friendship; yet
I dread to share them, for bold must be the man who can partake my
existence and enjoy my confidence. Once more I say to thee, in compassion
and in warning, the choice of life is in thy hands,--to-morrow it will be
too late. On the one hand, Isabel, a tranquil home, a happy and serene
life; on the other hand all is darkness, darkness that even this eye
cannot penetrate."

"But thou hast told me that if I wed Isabel I must be contented to be
obscure; and if I refuse, that knowledge and power may be mine."

"Vain man! knowledge and power are not happiness."

"But they are better than happiness. Say, if I marry Isabel, wilt thou be
my master, my guide? Say this, and I am resolved."

"Never! It is only the lonely at heart, the restless, the desperate, that
may be my pupils."

"Then I renounce her! I renounce love, I renounce happiness. Welcome
solitude, welcome despair, if they are the entrances to thy dark and
sublime secret."

"I will not take thy answer now; at midnight thou shalt give it in one
word,--ay, or no! Farewell till then!"

The mystic waved his hand, and descending rapidly, was seen no more.

Glyndon rejoined his impatient and wondering friend; but Merton, gazing
on his face, saw that a great change had passed there. The flexile and
dubious expression of youth was forever gone; the features were locked,
rigid, and stern; and so faded was the natural bloom that an hour seemed
to have done the work of years.



CHAPTER, XI.

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 which
those habitations had been peopled. The language of words is dead, but
the language of gestures remains little impaired. A fisherman,--peasant,
of Naples will explain to you the motions, the attitudes, the gestures of
the figures painted on the antique vases better than the most learned
antiquary of Gottingen or Leipsic.

But now, as the Englishmen rode slowly through the deserted streets,
lighted but by the lamps of heaven, all the gayety of the 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 happily
merging this indolent individuality amidst an energetic and active
population.

The Englishmen rode on in silence, for Glyndon neither appeared to heed
or hear the questions and comments of Merton, and Merton 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 last hour of night. Glyndon started
from his revery, and looked anxiously around. As the final stroke died,
the noise of hoofs rang 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 recognized the features and mien of
Zicci.

"What! do we meet again, signor?" said Merton, in a vexed but drowsy
tone.

"Your friend and I have business together," replied Zicci, as he wheeled
his powerful and fiery steed to the side of Glyndon; "but it will be soon
transacted. Perhaps you, sir, will ride on to your hotel."

"Alone?"

"There is no danger," returned Zicci, 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 Merton," said Glyndon. "I will join you before you reach
the hotel."

Merton nodded, whistled, and pushed his horse into a kind of amble.

"Now your answer,--quick."

"I have decided: the love of Isabel has vanished from my heart. The
pursuit is over."

"You have decided?"

"I have."

"Adieu! join your friend."

Zicci 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.

Merton was surprised to see his friend by his side, a minute after they
had parted.

"What business can you have with Zicci? Will you not confide in me?"

"Merton, 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 Zicci himself on
a spot in which he could never 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 long been laid, was lighted at his
heart,--the asbestos fire that, once lit, is never to be quenched. All
his early aspiration, his young ambition, his longings for the laurel,
were mingled in one passionate yearning to overpass 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 beauty ever promised, that mortal hope ever
whispered, for one hour with Zicci 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!



CHAPTER XII.

The sleep of Glyndon that night was unusually profound, and the sun
streamed full upon his eyes as he opened them to the day. He rose
refreshed, and with a strange sentiment of calmness, that seemed more the
result of resolution than exhaustion. The incidents and emotions of the
past night had settled into distinct and clear impressions. He thought of
them but slightly,--he thought rather of the future. He was as one of the
Initiated in the old Egyptian Mysteries, who have crossed the Gate only
to look more ardently for the Penetralia.

He dressed himself, and was relieved to find that Merton had joined a
party of his countrymen on an excursion to Ischia. He spent the heat of
noon in thoughtful solitude, and gradually the image of Isabel returned
to his heart. It was a holy--for it was a human--image; he had resigned
her, and he repented. The light of day served, if not to dissipate, at
least to sober, the turbulence and fervor of the preceding night. But was
it indeed too late to retract his resolve? "Too late!" terrible words! Of
what do we not repent, when the Ghost of the Deed returns to us to say,
"Thou hast no recall?"

He started impatiently from his seat, seized his hat and sword, and
strode with rapid steps to the humble abode of the actress.

The distance was considerable, and the air oppressive. Glyndon arrived at
the door breathless and heated he knocked, no answer came; he lifted the
latch and entered. No sound, no sight of life, met his ear and eye. In
the front chamber, on a table, lay the guitar of the actress and some
manuscript parts in plays. He paused, and summoning courage, tapped at
the door which seemed to lead into the inner apartment. The door was
ajar; and hearing no sound within, he pushed it open. It was the sleeping
chamber of the young actress,--that holiest ground to a lover. And well
did the place become the presiding deity: none of the tawdry finery of
the Profession was visible on the one hand, none of the slovenly disorder
common to the humbler classes of the South on the other. All was pure and
simple; even the ornaments were those of an innocent refinement,--a few
books placed carefully on shelves, a few half-faded flowers in an earthen
vase which was modelled and painted in the Etruscan fashion. The sunlight
streamed over the snowy draperies of the bed, and a few articles of
clothing, neatly folded, on the chair beside it. Isabel was not there;
and Glyndon, as he gazed around, observed that the casement which opened
to the ground was wrenched and broken, and several fragments of the
shattered glass lay below. The light flashed at once upon Glyndon's
mind,--the ravisher had borne away his prize. The ominous words of Zicci
were fulfilled: it was too late! Wretch that he was, perhaps he might
have saved her! But the nurse,--was she gone also? He made the house
resound with the name of Gionetta, but there was not even an echo to
reply. He resolved to repair at once to the abode of Zicci. On arriving
at the palace of the Corsican, he was informed that the signor was gone
to the banquet of the Prince di--, and would not return until late. He
turned in dismay from the door, and perceived the heavy carriage of the
Count Cetoxa rolling along the narrow street. Cetoxa recognized him and
stopped the carriage.

"Ah my dear Signor Glyndon," said he, leaning out of the window, "and how
goes your health? You heard the news?"

"What news?" asked Glyndon, mechanically.

"Why, the beautiful actress,--the wonder of Naples! I always thought she
would have good luck."

"Well, well, what of her?"

"The Prince di--has taken a prodigious fancy to her, and has carried her
to his own palace. The Court is a little scandalized."

"The villain! by force?"

"Force! Ha! ha! my dear signor, what need of force to persuade an actress
to accept the splendid protection of one of the wealthiest noblemen in
Italy? Oh, no! you may be sure she went willingly enough. I only just
heard the news: the prince himself proclaimed his triumph this morning,
and the accommodating Mascari has been permitted to circulate it. I hope
the connection will not last long, or we shall lose our best singer.
Addio!"

Glyndon stood mute and motionless. He knew not what to think, to believe,
or how to act. Even Merton was not at hand to advise him. His conscience
smote him bitterly; and half in despair, half in the courageous wrath of
jealousy, he resolved to repair to the palace of the prince himself, and
demand his captive in the face of his assembled guests.



CHAPTER XIII.

We must go back to the preceding night. The actress and her nurse had
returned from the theatre; and Isabel, fatigued and exhausted, had thrown
herself on a sofa, while Gionetta busied herself with the long tresses
which, released from the fillet that bound them, half concealed the form
of the actress, like a veil of threads of gold; and while she smoothed
the luxuriant locks, the old nurse ran gossiping on about the little
events of the night,--the scandal and politics of the scenes and the
tire-room.

The clock sounded the hour of midnight, and still Isabel detained the
nurse; for a vague and foreboding fear, she could not account for, made
her seek to protract the time of solitude and rest.

At length Gionetta's voice was swallowed up in successive yawns. She took
her lamp and departed to her own room, which was placed in the upper
story of the house. Isabel was alone. The half-hour after midnight
sounded dull and distant, all was still, and she was about to enter her
sleeping-room, when she heard the hoofs of a horse at full speed. The
sound ceased; there was a knock at the door. Her heart beat violently;
but fear gave way to another sentiment when she heard a voice, too well
known, calling on her name. She went to the door.

"Open, Isabel,--it is Zicci," said the voice again.

And why did the actress feel fear no more, and why did that virgin hand
unbar the door to admit, without a scruple or, a doubt, at that late
hour, the visit of the fairest cavalier of Naples? I know not; but Zicci
had become her destiny, and she obeyed the voice of her preserver as if
it were the command of Fate.

Zicci entered with a light and hasty step. His horseman's cloak fitted
tightly to his noble form, and the raven plumes of his broad hat threw a
gloomy shade over his commanding features.

The girl followed him into the room, trembling and blushing deeply, and
stood before him with the lamp she held shining upward on her cheek, and
the long hair that fell like a shower of light over the bare shoulders
and heaving bust.

"Isabel," said Zicci, in a voice that spoke deep emotion, "I am by thy
side once more to save thee. Not a moment is to be lost. Thou must fly
with me, or remain the victim of the Prince di--. I would have made the
charge I now undertake another's,--thou knowest I would, thou knowest it;
but he is not worthy of thee, the cold Englishman! I throw myself at thy
feet; have trust in me, and fly."

He grasped her hand passionately as he dropped on his knee, and looked up
into her face with his bright, beseeching eyes.

"Fly with thee!" said Isabel, tenderly.

"Thou knowest the penalty,--name, fame, honor, all will be sacrificed if
thou dost not."

"Then, then," said the wild girl, falteringly, and turning aside her
face, "then I am not indifferent to thee. Thou wouldest not give me to
another; thou lovest me?"

Zicci was silent; but his breast heaved, his cheeks flushed, his eyes
darted dark but impassioned fire.

"Speak!" exclaimed Isabel, in jealous suspicion of his silence. "Speak,
if thou lovest me."

"I dare not tell thee so; I will not yet say I love thee."

"Then what matter my fate?" said Isabel, turning pale and shrinking from
his side. "Leave me; I fear no danger. My life, and therefore my honor,
is in mine own hands."

"Be not so mad!" said Zicci. "Hark! do you hear the neigh of my steed? It
is an alarm that warns us of the approaching peril. Haste, or you are
lost."

"Why do you care for me?" said the girl, bitterly. "Thou hast read my
heart; thou knowest that I would fly with thee to the end of the world,
if I were but sure of thy love; that all sacrifice of womanhood's repute
were sweet to me, if regarded as the proof and seal of affection. But to
be bound beneath the weight of a cold obligation; to be the beggar on the
eyes of Indifference; to throw myself on one who loves me not,--that were
indeed the vilest sin of my sex. Ah! Zicci, rather let me die."

She had thrown back her clustering hair from her face as she spoke; and
as she now stood, with her arms drooping mournfully, and her hands
clasped together with the proud bitterness of her wayward spirit, giving
new zest and charm to her singular beauty, it was impossible to conceive
a sight more irresistible to the senses and the heart.

"Tempt me not to thine own danger, perhaps destruction," exclaimed Zicci,
in faltering accents; "thou canst not dream of what thou wouldest demand.
Come," and, advancing, he wound his arm round her waist, "come, Isabel!
Believe at least in my friendship, my protection--"

"And not thy love," said the Italian, turning on him her hurried and
reproachful eyes. Those eyes met his, and he could not withdraw from the
charm of their gaze. He felt her heart throbbing beneath his own; her
breath came warm upon his cheek. He trembled,--he, the lofty, the
mysterious Zicci,--who seemed to stand aloof from his race. With a deep
and burning sigh he murmured, "Isabel, I love thee!" That beautiful face,
bathed in blushes, drooped upon his bosom; and as he bent down, his lips
sought the rosy mouth,--a long and burning kiss. Danger, life, the world
were forgotten! Suddenly Zicci tore himself from her.

"Oh! what have I said? It is gone,--my power to preserve thee, to guard
thee, to foresee the storm in thy skies, is gone forever. No matter!
Haste, haste; and may love supply the loss of prophecy and power!"

Isabel hesitated no more. She threw her mantle over her shoulders and
gathered up her dishevelled hair; a moment, and she was prepared,--when a
sudden crash was heard in the inner room.

"Too late!--fool that I was--too late!" cried Zicci, in a sharp tone of
agony as he hurried to the outer door. He opened it, only to be borne
back by the press of armed men.

Behind, before, escape was cut off. The room literally swarmed with the
followers of the ravisher, masked, mailed, armed to the teeth.

Isabel was already in the grasp of two of the myrmidons; her shriek smote
the ear of Zicci. He sprang forward, and Isabel heard his wild cry in a
foreign tongue,--the gleam, the clash of swords. She lost her senses; and
when she recovered, she found herself gagged, and in a carriage that was
driven rapidly, by the side of a masked and motionless figure. The
carriage stopped at the portals of a gloomy mansion. The gates opened
noiselessly, a broad flight of steps, brilliantly illumined, was before
her,--she was in the palace of the Prince di--.



CHAPTER XIV.

The young actress was led to and left alone in a chamber adorned with all
the luxurious and half-Eastern taste that at one time characterized the
palaces of the great seigneurs of Italy. Her first thought was for
Zicci,--was he yet living? Had he escaped unscathed the blades of the
foe,--her new treasure, the new light of her life, her lord, at last her
lover?

She had short time for reflection. She heard steps approaching the
chamber; she drew back. She placed her hand on the dagger that at all
hours she wore concealed in her bosom. Living or dead, she would be
faithful still to Zicci There was a new motive to the preservation of
honor. The door opened, and the Prince entered, in a dress that sparkled
with jewels.

"Fair and cruel one," said he, advancing, with a half-sneer upon his lip,
"thou wilt not too harshly blame the violence of love." He attempted to
take her hand as he spoke.

"Nay," said he, as she recoiled, "reflect that thou art now in the power
of one that never faltered in the pursuit of an object less dear to him
than thou art. Thy lover, presumptuous though he be, is not by to save
thee. Mine thou art; but instead of thy master, suffer me to be thy
slave."

"My lord," said Isabel, with a stern gravity which perhaps the Stage had
conspired with Nature, to bestow upon her, "your boast is in vain. Your
power,--I am not in your power! Life and death are in my own hands. I
will not defy, but I do not fear you. I feel--and in some feelings,"
added Isabel, with a solemnity almost thrilling, "there is all the
strength and all the divinity of knowledge--I feel that I am safe even
here; but you, you, Prince di--, have brought danger to your home and
hearth!"

The Neapolitan seemed startled by an earnestness and a boldness he was
but little prepared for. He was not, however, a man easily intimidated or
deterred from any purpose he had formed; and approaching Isabel, he was
about to reply with much warmth, real or affected, when a knock was
heard at the door of the chamber. The sound was repeated, and the Prince,
chafed at the interruption, opened the door and demanded impatiently who
had ventured to disobey his orders and invade his leisure. Mascari
presented himself, pale and agitated. "My lord," said he, in a whisper,
"pardon me, but a stranger is below who insists on seeing you; and from
some words he let fall, I judged it advisable even to infringe your
commands."

"A stranger, and at this hour! What business can he pretend? Why was he
even admitted?"

"He asserts that your life is in imminent danger. The source whence it
proceeds he will relate to your Excellency alone."

The Prince frowned, but his color changed. He mused a moment, and then,
re-entering the chamber and advancing towards Isabel, he said,--

"Believe me, fair creature, I have no wish to take advantage of my power.
I would fain trust alone to the gentler authorities of affection. Hold
yourself queen within these walls more absolutely than you have ever
enacted that part on the stage. To-night, farewell! May your sleep
becalm, and your dreams propitious to my hopes!"

With these words he retired, and in a few moments Isabel was surrounded
by officious attendants, whom she at length, with some difficulty,
dismissed; and refusing to retire to rest, she spent the night in
examining the chamber, which she found was secured, and in thoughts of
Zicci, in whose power she felt an almost preternatural confidence.

Meanwhile the Prince descended the stairs, and sought the room into which
the stranger had been shown.

He found him wrapped from head to foot in a long robe,--half gown, half
mantle,--such as was sometimes worn by ecclesiastics. The face of this
stranger was remarkable; so sunburnt and swarthy were his hues that he
must, apparently, have derived his origin amongst the races of the
farthest East. His--forehead was lofty, and his eyes so penetrating, yet
so calm, in their gaze that the Prince shrank from them as we shrink from
a questioner who is drawing forth the guiltiest secrets of our hearts.

"What would you with me?" asked the Prince, motioning his visitor to a
seat.

"Prince di--," said the stranger, in a voice deep and sweet, but foreign
in its accent, "son of the most energetic and masculine race that ever
applied godlike genius to the service of the Human Will, with its winding
wickedness and its stubborn grandeur; descendant of the great Visconti,
in whose chronicles lies the History of Italy in her palmy day, and in
whose rise was the development of the mightiest intellect ripened by the
most relentless ambition,--I come to gaze upon the last star in a
darkening firmament. By this hour to-morrow space shall know it not. Man,
thy days are cumbered!"

"What means this jargon?" said the Prince, in visible astonishment and
secret awe. "Comest thou to menace me in my own halls, or wouldest thou
warn me of a danger? Art thou some itinerant mountebank, or some
unguessed of friend? Speak out, and plainly. What danger threatens me?"

"Zicci!" replied the stranger.

"Ha! ha!" said the Prince, laughing scornfully; "I half suspected thee
from the first. Thou art, then, the accomplice or the tool of that most
dexterous, but, at present, defeated charlatan. And I suppose thou wilt
tell me that if I were to release a certain captive I have made, the
danger would vanish and the hand of the dial would be put back?"

"Judge of me as thou wilt, Prince di--. I confess my knowledge of
Zicci,--a knowledge shared but by a few, who--But this touches thee not.
I would save, therefore I warn thee. Dost thou ask me why? I will tell
thee. Canst thou remember to have heard wild tales of thy grandsire,--of
his desire for a knowledge that passes that of the schools and cloisters;
of a strange man from the East, who was his familiar and master in lore,
against which the Vatican has from age to age launched its mimic thunder?
Dost thou call to mind the fortunes of thy ancestor,--how he succeeded in
youth to little but a name; how, after a career wild and dissolute as
thine, he disappeared from Milan, a pauper and a self-exile; how, after
years spent none knew in what climes or in what pursuits, he again
revisited the city where his progenitors had reigned; how with him came
this wise man of the East, the mystic Mejnour; how they who beheld him,
beheld with amaze and fear that time had ploughed no furrow on his
brow,--that youth seemed fixed as by a spell upon his face and form? Dost
thou know that from that hour his fortunes rose? Kinsmen the most remote
died, estate upon estate fell into the hands of the ruined noble. He
allied himself with the royalty of Austria, he became the guide of
princes, the first magnate of Italy. He founded anew the house of which
thou art the last lineal upholder, and transferred its splendor from
Milan to the Sicilian realms. Visions of high ambition were then present
with him nightly and daily. Had he lived, Italy would have known a new
dynasty, and the Visconti would have reigned over Magna Graecia. He was a
man such as the world rarely sees; he was worthy to be of us, worthy to
be the pupil of Mejnour,--whom you now see before you."

The Prince, who had listened with deep and breathless attention to the
words of his singular guest, started from his seat at his last words.
"Impostor!" he cried, "can you dare thus to play with my credulity? Sixty
years have passed since my grandsire died; and you, a man younger
apparently than myself, have the assurance to pretend to have been his
contemporary! But you have imperfectly learned your tale. You know not,
it seems, that my grandsire--wise and illustrious, indeed, in all save
his faith in a charlatan--was found dead in his bed in the very hour when
his colossal plans were ripe for execution, and that Mejnour was guilty
of his murder?"

"Alas!" answered the stranger, in a voice of great sadness, "had he but
listened to Mejnour, had he delayed the last and most perilous ordeal of
daring wisdom until the requisite training and initiation had been
completed, your ancestor would have stood with me upon an eminence which
the waters of Death itself wash everlastingly, but cannot overflow. Your
grandsire resisted my fervent prayers, disobeyed my most absolute
commands, and in the sublime rashness of a soul that panted for the last
secrets, perished,--the victim of his own frenzy."

"He was poisoned, and Mejnour fled."

"Mejnour fled not," answered the stranger, quickly and proudly.

"Mejnour could not fly from danger, for to him danger is a thing long
left behind. It was the day before the duke took the fatal draught which
he believed was to confer on the mortal the immortal boon that, finding
my power over him was gone, I abandoned him to his doom.

"On the night on which your grandsire breathed his last, I was standing
alone at moonlight on the ruins of Persepolis,--for my wanderings, space
hath no obstacle. But a truce with this: I loved your grandsire; I would
save the last of his race. Oppose not thyself to Zicci. Oppose not
thyself to thine evil passions. Draw back from the precipice while there
is yet time. In thy front and in thine eyes I detect some of that diviner
glory which belonged to thy race. Thou hast in thee some germs of their
hereditary genius, but they are choked up by worse than thy hereditary
vices. Recollect, by genius thy house rose,--by vice it ever failed to
perpetuate its power. In the laws which regulate the Universe it is
decreed that nothing wicked can long endure. Be wise, and let history
warn thee. Thou standest on the verge of two worlds,--the Past and the
Future; and voices from either shriek omen in thy ear. I have done. I bid
thee farewell."

"Not so; thou shalt not quit these walls. I will make experiment of thy
boasted power. What ho there! ho!" The Prince shouted; the room was
filled with his minions. "Seize that man!" he cried, pointing to the spot
which had been filled by the form of Mejnour. To his inconceivable amaze
and horror, the spot was vacant. The mysterious stranger had vanished
like a dream.



CHAPTER XV.

It was the first faint and gradual break of the summer dawn; and two men
stood in a balcony overhanging a garden fragrant with the scents of the
awakening flowers. The stars had not left the sky, the birds were yet
silent on the boughs; all was still, hushed, and tranquil. But how
different the tranquillity of reviving day from the solemn repose of
night.

In the music of silence there are a thousand variations. These men, who
alone seemed awake in Naples, were Zicci and the mysterious stranger, who
had but an hour or two ago startled the Prince di--in his voluptuous
palace.

"No," said the latter, "hadst thou delayed the acceptance of the Arch
Gift until thou hadst attained to the years and passed through all the
desolate bereavements that chilled and scared myself ere my researches
had made it mine, thou wouldest have escaped the curse of which thou
complainest now. Thou wouldest not have mourned over the brevity of human
affection as compared to the duration of thine own existence, for thou
wouldest have survived the very desire and dream of the love of woman.
Brightest, and but for that error perhaps the loftiest, of the secret and
solemn race that fills up the interval in creation between mankind and
the demons, age after age wilt thou rue the splendid folly which made
thee ask to carry the beauty and the passions of youth into the dreary
grandeur of earthly immortality."

"I do not repent, nor shall I," answered Zicci, coldly. "The transport
and the sorrow, so wildly blended, which diversify my doom, are better
than the calm and bloodless tenor of thy solitary way. Thou, who lovest
nothing, hatest nothing,--feelest nothing, and walkest the world with the
noiseless and joyless footsteps of a dream!"

"You mistake," replied he who had owned the name of Mejnour; "though I
care not for love, and am dead to every passion that agitates the sons of
clay, I am not dead to their more serene enjoyments. I have still left to
me the sublime pleasures of wisdom and of friendship. I carry down the
Stream of the countless years, not the turbulent desires of youth, but
the calm and spiritual delights of age. Wisely and deliberately I
abandoned youth forever when I separated my lot from men. Let us not envy
or reproach each other. I would have saved this Neapolitan, Zicci (since
so it now pleases thee to be called), partly because his grandsire was
but divided by the last airy barrier from our own brotherhood, partly
because I know that in the man himself lurk the elements of ancestral
courage and power, which in earlier life would have fitted him for one of
us. Earth holds but few to whom nature has given the qualities that can
bear the ordeal! But time and excess, that have thickened the grosser
senses, have blunted the imagination. I relinquish him to his doom."

"And still then, Mejnour, you cherish the desire to increase our scanty
and scattered host by new converts and allies; Surely, surely, thy
experience might have taught thee that scarcely once in a thousand years
is born the being who can pass through the horrible gates that lead into
the worlds without. Is not thy path already strewed with thy victims? Do
not their ghastly faces of agony and fear,--the blood-stained suicide,
the raving maniac,--rise before thee and warn what is yet left to thee of
human sympathy from thy insane ambition?"

"Nay," answered Mejnour, "have I not had success to counterbalance
failure? And can I forego this lofty and august hope, worthy alone of our
high condition,--the hope to form a mighty and numerous race, with a
force and power sufficient to permit them to acknowledge to mankind their
majestic conquests and dominion; to become the true lords of this planet,
invaders perchance of others, masters of the inimical and malignant
tribes by which at this moment we are surrounded,--a race that may
proceed, in their deathless destinies, from stage to stage of celestial
glory, and rank at last among the nearest ministrants and agents gathered
round the Throne of Thrones? What matter a thousand victims for one
convert to our band? And you, Zicci," continued Mejnour, after a pause,
"you, even you, should this affection for a mortal beauty that you have
dared, despite yourself, to cherish, be more than a passing fancy; should
it, once admitted into your inmost nature, partake of its bright and
enduring essence,--even you may brave all things to raise the beloved one
into your equal. Nay, interrupt me not. Can you see sickness menace her,
danger hover around, years creep on, the eyes grow dim, the beauty fade,
while the heart, youthful still, clings and fastens round your own,--can
you see this, and know it is yours to--"

"Cease," cried Zicci, fiercely. "What is all other fate as compared to
the death of terror? What! when the coldest sage, the most heated
enthusiast, the hardiest warrior, with his nerves of iron, have been
found dead in their beds, with straining eyeballs and horrent hair, at
the first step of the Dread Progress, thinkest thou that this weak
woman--from whose cheek a sound at the window, the screech of the
night-owl, the sight of a drop of blood on a man's sword, would start the
color--could brave one glance of--Away! the very thought of such sights
for her makes even myself a coward!"

"When you told her you loved her, when you clasped her to your breast,
you renounced all power to prophesy her future lot or protect her from
harm. Henceforth to her you are human, and human only. How know you,
then, to what you may be tempted? How know you what her curiosity may
learn and her courage brave? But enough of this,--you are bent on your
pursuit?"

"The fiat has gone forth."

"And to-morrow?"

"To-morrow at this hour our bark will be bounding over yonder ocean, and
the weight of ages will have fallen from my heart! Fool, thou hast given
up thy youth!"



CHAPTER XVI.

The Prince di--was not a man whom Naples could suppose to be addicted to
superstitious fancies, neither was the age one in which the belief of
sorcery was prevalent. Still, in the South of Italy there was then, and
there still lingers, a certain spirit of credulity, which may, ever and
anon, be visible amidst the boldest dogmas of their philosophers and
sceptics. In his childhood the Prince had learned strange tales of the
ambition, the genius, and the career of his grandsire; and secretly,
perhaps influenced by ancestral example, in earlier youth he himself had
followed alchemy, not only through her legitimate course, but her
antiquated and erratic windings. I have, indeed, been shown in Naples a
little volume blazoned with the arms of the Visconti, and ascribed to the
nobleman I refer to, which treats of alchemy in a spirit half mocking and
half reverential.

Pleasure soon distracted him from such speculations, and his talents,
which were unquestionably great, were wholly perverted to extravagant
intrigues or to the embellishment of a gorgeous ostentation with
something of classic grace. His immense wealth, his imperious pride, his
unscrupulous and daring character, made him an object of no
inconsiderable fear to a feeble and timid court; and the ministers of the
indolent government willingly connived at excesses--, which allured him
at least from ambition. The strange visit and yet more strange departure
of Mejnour filled the breast of the Neapolitan with awe and wonder,
against which all the haughty arrogance and learned scepticism of his
maturer manhood combated in vain. The apparition of--Mejnour served,
indeed, to invest Zicci with a character in which the Prince had not
hitherto regarded him. He felt a strange alarm at the rival he had
braved, at the foe he had provoked. His night was sleepless, and the next
morning he came to the resolution of leaving Isabel in peace until after
the banquet of that day, to which he had invited Zicci. He felt as if the
death of the mysterious Corsican were necessary for the preservation of
his own life; and if at an earlier period of their rivalry he had
determined on the fate of Zicci, the warnings of--Mejnour only served to
confirm his resolve.

"We will try if his magic can invent an antidote to the bane," said he,
half aloud and with a gloomy smile, as he summoned Mascari to his
presence. The poison which the Prince, with his own hands, mixed into the
wine intended for his guest was compounded from materials the secret of
which had been one of the proudest heir-looms of that able and evil race
which gave to Italy her wisest and fellest tyrants. Its operation was
quick, not sudden; it produced no pain, it left on the form no grim
convulsion, on the skin no purpling spot, to arouse suspicion; you might
have cut and carved every membrane and fibre of the corpse, but the
sharpest eyes of the leech would not have detected the presence of the
subtle life-queller. For twelve hours the victim felt nothing, save a
joyous and elated exhilaration of the blood; a delicious languor
followed,--the sure forerunner of apoplexy. No lancet then could save!
Apoplexy had run much in the families of the enemies of the Visconti!

The hour of the feast arrived, the guests assembled. There were the
flower of the Neapolitan seigneurie,--the descendants of the Norman, the
Teuton, the Goth; for Naples had then a nobility, but derived it from the
North, which has indeed been the Nutrix Leonum, the nurse of the
lion-hearted chivalry of the world.

Last of the guests came Zicci, and the crowd gave way as the dazzling
foreigner moved along to the lord of the palace. The Prince greeted him
with a meaning smile, to which Zicci answered by a whisper: "He who plays
with loaded dice does not always win."

The Prince bit his lip; and Zicci, passing on, seemed deep in
conversation with the fawning Mascari.

"Who is the Prince's heir?" asked the Corsican.

"A distant relation on the mother's side; with his Excellency dies the
male line."

"Is the heir present at our host's banquet?"

"No; they are not friends."

"No matter; he will be here to-morrow!"

Mascari stared in surprise; but the signal for the banquet was given, and
the guests were marshalled to the board. As was the custom, the feast
took place at midday. It was a long oval hall, the whole of one side
opening by a marble colonnade upon a court or garden, in which the eye
rested gratefully upon cool fountains and statues of whitest marble, half
sheltered by orange-trees. Every art that luxury could invent to give
freshness and coolness to the languid and breezeless heat of the day
without (a day on which the breath of the sirocco was abroad) had been
called into existence. Artificial currents of air through invisible
tubes, silken blinds waving to and fro as if to cheat the senses into the
belief of an April wind, and miniature jets d'eau in each corner of the
apartment gave to the Italians the same sense of exhilaration and comfort
(if I may use the word) which the well-drawn curtains and the blazing
hearth afford to the children of colder climes.

The conversation was somewhat more lively and intellectual than is common
among the languid pleasure-hunters of the South; for the Prince, himself
accomplished, sought his acquaintance not only amongst the beaux esprits
of his own country, but amongst the gay foreigners who adorned and
relieved the monotony of the Neapolitan circles. There were present two
or three of the brilliant Frenchmen of the old regime, and their peculiar
turn of thought and wit was well calculated for the meridian of a society
that made the dolce far niente at once its philosophy and its faith. The
Prince, however, was more silent than usual, and when he sought to rouse
himself, his spirits were forced and exaggerated. To the manners of his
host, those of Zicci afforded a striking contrast. The bearing of this
singular person was at all times characterized by a calm and polished
ease which was attributed by the courtiers to the long habit of society.
He could scarcely be called gay, yet few persons more tended to animate
the general spirits of a convivial circle. He seemed, by a kind of
intuition, to elicit from each companion the qualities in which he most
excelled; and a certain tone of latent mockery that characterized his
remarks upon the topics on which the conversation fell, seemed to men who
took nothing in earnest to be the language both of wit and wisdom. To the
Frenchmen in particular there was something startling in his intimate
knowledge of the minutest events in their own capital and country, and
his profound penetration (evinced but in epigrams and sarcasms) into the
eminent characters who were then playing a part upon the great stage of
Continental intrigue. It was while this conversation grew animated, and
the feast was at its height, that Glyndon (who, as the reader will
recollect, had resolved, on learning from Cetoxa the capture of the
actress, to seek the Prince himself) arrived at the palace. The porter,
perceiving by his dress that he was not one of the invited guests, told
him that his Excellency was engaged, and on no account could be
disturbed; and Glyndon then, for the first time, became aware of how
strange and embarrassing was the duty he had taken on himself. To force
an entrance into the banquet-hall of a great and powerful noble
surrounded by the rank of Naples, and to arraign him for what to his boon
companions would appear but an act of gallantry, was an exploit that
could not fail to be at once ludicrous and impotent. He mused a moment;
and remembering that Zicci was among the guests, determined to apply
himself to the Corsican. He therefore, slipping a few crowns into the
porter's hand, said that he was commissioned to seek the Signor Zicci
upon an errand of life and death, and easily won his way across the court
and into the interior building. He passed up the broad staircase, and the
voices and merriment of the revellers smote his ear at a distance. At the
entrance of the reception-rooms he found a page, whom he despatched with
a message to Zicci. The page did the errand; and the Corsican, on hearing
the whispered name of Glyndon, turned to his host.

"Pardon me, my lord, an English friend of mine, the Signor Glyndon (not
unknown by name to your Excellency), waits without. The business must
indeed be urgent on which he has sought me in such an hour. You will
forgive my momentary absence."

"Nay, signor," answered the Prince, courteously, but with a sinister
smile on his countenance, "would it not be better for your friend to join
us? An Englishman is welcome everywhere; and even were he a Dutchman,
your friendship would invest his presence with attraction. Pray his
attendance,--we would not spare you even for a moment."

Zicci bowed. The page was despatched with all flattering messages to
Glyndon, a seat next to Zicci was placed for him, and the young
Englishman entered.

"You are most welcome, sir. I trust your business to our illustrious
guest is of good omen and pleasant import. If you bring evil news, defer
it, I pray you."

Glyndon's brow was sullen, and he was about to startle the guests by his
reply, when Zicci, touching his arm significantly, whispered in English,
"I know why you have sought me. Be silent, and witness what ensues."

"You know, then, that Isabel, whom you boasted you had the power to save
from danger--"

"Is in this house? Yes. I know also that Murder sits at the right hand of
our host. Be still, and learn the fate that awaits the foes of Zicci."

"My lord," said the Corsican, speaking aloud, "the Signor Glyndon has
indeed brought me tidings which, though not unexpected, are unwelcome. I
learn that which will oblige me to leave Naples to-morrow, though I trust
but for a short time. I have now a new motive to make the most of the
present hour."

"And what, if I may venture to ask, may be the cause which brings such
affliction on the fair dames of Naples?"

"It is the approaching death of one who honored me with most loyal
friendship," replied Zicci, gravely. "Let us not speak of it,--Grief
cannot put back the dial. As we supply by new flowers those that fade in
our vases, so it is the secret of worldly wisdom to replace by fresh
friendships those that fade from our path."

"True philosophy," exclaimed the Prince. "'Not to admire' was the Roman's
maxim; never to mourn is mine. There is nothing in life to grieve
for,--save, indeed, Signor Zicci, when some beauty on whom we have set
our heart slips from our grasp. In such a moment we have need of all our
wisdom not to succumb to despair and shake hands with death. What say
you, signor? You smile. Such never could be your lot. Pledge me in a
sentiment: 'Long life; to the fortunate lover; a quick release to the
baffled suitor!'"

"I pledge you," said Zicci. And as the fatal wine was poured into his
glass, he repeated, fixing his eyes on the Prince, "I pledge you even in
this wine!"

He lifted the glass to his lips. The Prince seemed ghastly pale, while
the gaze of the Corsican bent upon him with an intent and stern
brightness that the conscience-stricken host cowered and quailed beneath.
Not till he had drained the draught and replaced the glass upon the board
did Zicci turn his eyes from the Prince; and he then said, "Your wine has
been kept too long,--it has lost its virtues. It might disagree with
many; but do not fear, it will not harm me, Prince. Signor Mascari, you
are a judge of the grape, will you favor us with your opinion?"

"Nay," answered Mascari, with well-affected composure, "I like not the
wines of Cyprus, they are heating. Perhaps Signor Glyndon may not have
the same distaste. The English are said to love their potations warm and
pungent."

"Do you wish my friend also to taste the wine, Prince?" said Zicci.
"Recollect all cannot drink it with the same impunity as myself."

"No," said the Prince, hastily; "if you do not recommend the wine, Heaven
forbid that we should constrain our guests! My Lord Duke," turning to one
of the Frenchmen, "yours is the true soil of Bacchus. What think you of
this cask from Burgundy,--has it borne the journey?"

"Ah!" said Zicci, "let us change both the wine and the theme." With that
the Corsican grew more animated and brilliant. Never did wit more
sparkling, airy, exhilarating, flash from the lips of reveller. His
spirits fascinated all present, even the Prince himself, even Glyndon,
with a strange and wild contagion. The former, indeed, whom the words and
gaze of Zicci, when he drained the poison, had filled with fearful
misgivings, now hailed in the brilliant eloquence of his wit a certain
sign of the operation of the bane. The wine circulated fast, but none
seemed conscious of its effects. One by one the rest of the party fell
into a charmed and spell-bound silence as Zicci continued to pour forth
sally upon sally, tale upon tale. They hung on his words, they almost
held their breath to listen. Yet how bitter was his mirth; how full of
contempt for all things; how deeply steeped in the coldness of the
derision that makes sport of life itself!

Night came on; the room grew dim, and the feast had lasted several hours
longer than was the customary duration of similar entertainments at that
day. Still the guests stirred not, and still Zicci continued, with
glittering eye and mocking lip, to lavish his stores of intellect and
anecdote, when suddenly the moon rose, and shed its rays over the flowers
and fountains in the court without, leaving the room itself half in
shadow and half tinged by a quiet and ghostly light.

It was then that Zicci rose. "Well, gentlemen," said he, "we have not yet
wearied our host, I hope, and his garden offers a new temptation to
protract our stay. Have you no musicians among your train, Prince, that
might regale our ears while we inhale the fragrance of your
orange-trees?"

"An excellent thought," said the Prince. "Mascari, see to the music."

The party rose simultaneously to adjourn to the garden; and then, for the
first time, the effect of the wine they had drunk seemed to make itself
felt.

With flushed cheeks and unsteady steps they came into the open air, which
tended yet more to stimulate that glowing fever of the grape. As if to
make up for the silence with which the guests had hitherto listened to
Zicci, every tongue was now loosened; every man talked, no man listened.
In the serene beauty of the night and scene there was something wild and
fearful in the contrast of the hubbub and Babel of these disorderly
roysterers. One of the Frenchmen in especial, the young Due de R--,--a
nobleman of the highest rank, and of all the quick, vivacious, and
irascible temperament of his countrymen,--was particularly noisy and
excited. And as circumstances, the remembrance of which is still
preserved among certain circles of Naples, rendered it afterwards
necessary that the Due should himself give evidence of what occurred, I
will here translate the short account he drew up, and which was kindly
submitted to me some few years ago by my accomplished and lively friend,
il Cavaliere di B--.

   I never remember [writes the Due] to have felt my spirits so
   excited as on that evening; we were like so many boys released from
   school, jostling each other as we reeled or ran down the flight of
   seven or eight stairs that led from the colonnade into the garden,
   --some lambing, some whooping, some scolding, some babbling. The
   wine had brought out, as it were, each man's inmost character.
   Some were loud and quarrelsome, others sentimental and whining;
   some, whom we had hitherto thought dull, most mirthful; some, whom
   we had ever regarded as discreet and taciturn, most garrulous and
   uproarious. I remember that in the midst of our most clamorous
   gayety my eye fell upon the foreign cavalier, Signor Zicci, whose
   conversation had so enchanted us all, and I felt a certain chill
   come over me to perceive that he bore the same calm and
   unsympathizing smile upon his countenance which had characterized
   it in his singular and curious stories of the court of Louis XV. I
   felt, indeed, half inclined to seek a quarrel with one whose
   composure was almost an insult to our disorder. Nor was such an
   effect of this irritating and mocking tranquillity confined to
   myself alone. Several of the party have told me since that on
   looking at Zicci they felt their blood rise and their hands wander
   to their sword-hilts. There seemed in the icy smile a very charm
   to wound vanity and provoke rage. It was at this moment that the
   Prince came up to me, and, passing his arm into mine, led me a
   little apart from the rest he had certainly indulged in the same
   excess as ourselves, but it did not produce the same effect of
   noisy excitement. There was, on the contrary a certain cold
   arrogance and supercilious scorn in his bearing and language,
   which, even while affecting so much caressing courtesy towards me,
   roused my self-love against him. He seemed as if Zicci had
   infected him, and that in imitating the manner of his guest he
   surpassed the original, he rallied me on some court gossip which
   had honored my name by associating it with a certain beautiful and
   distinguished Sicilian lady, and affected to treat with contempt
   that which, had it been true, I should have regarded as a boast.
   He spoke, indeed, as if he himself had gathered all the flowers of
   Naples, and left us foreigners only the gleanings he had scorned;
   at this my natural and national gallantry was piqued, and I
   retorted by some sarcasms that I should certainly have spared had
   my blood been cooler. He laughed heartily, and left me in a
   strange fit of resentment and anger. Perhaps (I must own the
   truth) the wine had produced in me a wild disposition to take
   offence and provoke quarrel. As the Prince left me, I turned, and
   saw Zicci at my side.

   "The Prince is a braggart," said he, with the same smile that
   displeased me before. "He would monopolize all fortune and all
   love. Let us take our revenge."

   "And how?"

   "He has at this moment in his house the most enchanting singer in
   Naples,--the celebrated Isabel di Pisani. She is here, it is true,
   not by her own choice,--he carried her hither by force; but he will
   pretend to swear that she adores him. Let us insist on his
   producing the secret treasure; and when she enters, the Duc de Lt----
   can have no doubt that his flatteries and attentions will charm the
   lady and provoke all the jealous fears of our host. It would be a
   fair revenge upon his imperious self conceit."

   This suggestion delighted me. I hastened to the Prince. At that
   instant the musicians had just commenced. I waved my hand, ordered
   the music to stop, and addressing the Prince, who was standing in
   the centre of one of the gayest groups, complained of his want of
   hospitality in affording to us such poor proficients in the art
   while he reserved for his own solace the lute and voice of the
   first performer in Naples. I demanded, half laughingly, half
   seriously, that he should produce the Pisani. My demand was
   received with shouts of applause by the rest. We drowned the
   replies of our host with uproar, and would hear no denial.
   "Gentlemen," at last said the Prince, when he could obtain an
   audience, "even were I to assent to your proposal, I could not
   induce the signora to present herself before an assemblage as
   riotous as they are noble. You have too much chivalry to use
   compulsion with her, though the Due de R--forgets himself
   sufficiently to administer it to inc."

   I was stung by this taunt, however well deserved. "Prince," said
   I, "I have for the indelicacy of compulsion so illustrious an
   example that I cannot hesitate to pursue the path honored by your
   own footsteps. All Naples knows that the Pisani despises at once
   your gold and your love; that force alone could have brought her
   under your roof; and that you refuse to produce her because you
   fear her complaints, and know enough of the chivalry your vanity
   sneers at to feel assured that the gentlemen of France are not more
   disposed to worship beauty than to defend it from wrong."

   "You speak well, sir," said Zicci, gravely;--"the Prince dare not
   produce his prize."

   The Prince remained speechless for a few moments, as if with
   indignation. At last he broke out into expressions the most
   injurious and insulting against Signor Zicci and myself. Zicci
   replied not; I was more hot and hasty. The guests appeared to
   delight in our dispute. None except Mascari, whom we pushed aside
   and disdained to hear, strove to conciliate; some took one side,
   some another. The issue may be well foreseen. Swords were drawn.
   I had left mine in the ante room; Zicci offered me his own,--I
   seized it eagerly. There might be some six or eight persons
   engaged in a strange and confused kind of melee, but the Prince and
   myself only sought each other. The noise around us, the confusion
   of the guests, the cries of the musicians, the clash of our own
   swords, only served to stimulate our unhappy fury. We feared to be
   interrupted by the attendants and fought like madmen, without skill
   or method. I thrust and parried mechanically, blind and frantic as
   if a demon had entered into me, till I saw the Prince stretched at
   my feet, bathed in his blood, and Zicci bending over him and
   whispering in his ear. The sight cooled us all; the strife ceased.
   We gathered in shame, remorse, and horror round our ill-fated host;
   but it was too late, his eyes rolled fearfully in his head, and
   still he struggled to release himself from Zicci's arms, who
   continued to whisper (I trust divine comfort) in his ear. I have
   seen men die, but, never one who wore such horror on his
   countenance. At last all was over; Zicci rose from the corpse, and
   taking, with great composure, his sword from my hand,--"Ye are
   witnesses, gentlemen," said he, calmly, "that the Prince brought
   his fate upon himself. The last of that illustrious house has
   perished in a brawl."

   I saw no more of Zicci. I hastened to the French ambassador to
   narrate the event and abide the issue. I am grateful to the
   Neapolitan government and to the illustrious heir of the
   unfortunate nobleman for the lenient and generous, yet just,
   interpretation put upon a misfortune the memory of which will
   afflict me to the last hour of my life. (Signed) Louis Victor,
   Duc de R.

In the above memorial the reader will find the most exact and minute
account yet given of an event which created the most lively sensation at
Naples in that day, and the narration of which first induced me to
collect the materials of this history, which the reader will perceive, as
it advances, is altogether different in its nature, its agencies, and its
aims from those tales of external terror, whether derived from ingenious
imposture or supernatural mystery, that have given life to French
melodrama or German romance.



CHAPTER XVII.

Glyndon had taken no part in the affray, neither had he participated
largely in the excesses of the revel. For his exemption from both he was
perhaps indebted to the whispered exhortations of Zicci. When the last
rose from the corpse and withdrew from that scene of confusion, Glyndon
remarked that in passing the crowd he touched Mascari on the shoulder,
and said something which the Englishman did not overhear. Glyndon
followed Zicci into the banquet-room, which, save where the moonlight
slept on the marble floor, was wrapped in the sad and gloomy shadows of
the advancing night.

"How could you foretell this fearful event? He fell not by your arm,"
said Glyndon, in a tremulous and hollow tone.

"The general who calculates on the victory does not fight in person,"
answered Zicci. "But enough of this. Meet me at midnight by the seashore,
half a mile to the left of your hotel,--you will know the spot by a rude
pillar, the only one near--, to which a broken chain is attached. There
and then will be the crisis of your fate; go. I have business here
yet,--remember, Isabel is still in the house of the dead man."

As Glyndon yet hesitated, strange thoughts, doubts, and fears that longed
for speech crowding within him, Mascari approached; and Zicci, turning to
the Italian and waving his hand to Glyndon, drew the former aside.
Glyndon slowly departed.

"Mascari," said Zicci, "your patron is no more. Your services will be
valueless to his heir,--a sober man, whom poverty has preserved from
vice. For yourself, thank me that I do not give you up to the
executioner,--recollect the wine of Cyprus. Well, never tremble, man, it
could not act on me, though it might re-act on others,--in that it is a
common type of crime. I forgive you; and if the wine should kill me, I
promise you that my ghost shall not haunt so worshipful a penitent.
Enough of this. Conduct me to the chamber of Isabel di Pisani; you have
no further need of her. The death of the jailer opens the cell of the
captive. Be quick,--I would be gone." Mascari muttered some inaudible
words, bowed low, and led the way to the chamber in which Isabel was
confined.



CHAPTER XVIII.

It wanted several minutes of midnight, and Glyndon repaired to the
appointed spot. The mysterious empire which Zicci had acquired over him
was still more solemnly confirmed by the events of the last few hours;
the sudden fate of the Prince, so deliberately foreshadowed, and yet so
seemingly accidental--brought out by causes the most commonplace, and yet
associated with words the most prophetic,--impressed him with the deepest
sentiments of admiration and awe. It was as if this dark and wondrous
being would convert the most ordinary events and the meanest instruments
into the agencies of his inscrutable will; yet, if so, why have permitted
the capture of Isabel? Why not have prevented the crime rather than
punished the criminal? And did Zicci really feel love for Isabel? Love,
and yet offer to resign her to himself,--to a rival whom his arts could
not fail to baffle? He no longer reverted to the belief that Zicci or
Isabel had sought to dupe him into marriage. His fear and reverence for
the former now forbade the notion of so poor an imposture. Did he any
longer love Isabel himself? No. When, that morning, he heard of her
danger, he had, it is true, returned to the sympathies and the fears of
affection; but with the death of the Prince her image faded again from
his heart, and he felt no jealous pang at the thought that she had been
saved by Zicci,--that at that moment she was perhaps beneath his roof.
Whoever has, in the course of his life, indulged the absorbing passion of
the gamester, will remember bow all other pursuits and objects vanished
from his mind, how solely he was wrapped in the one wild delusion; with
what a sceptre of magic power the despot demon ruled every feeling and
every thought. Far more intense than the passion of the gamester was the
frantic yet sublime desire that mastered the breast of Glyndon. He would
be the rival of Zicci, not in human and perishable affections, but in
preternatural and eternal lore. He would have laid down life with
content, nay, rapture, as the price of learning those solemn secrets
which separated the stranger from mankind.. Such fools are we when we
aspire to be over-wise! To be enamoured too madly of the goddess of
goddesses is only to embrace a cloud, and to forfeit alike heaven and
earth.

The night was most lovely and serene, and the waves scarcely rippled at
his feet as the Englishman glided on by the cool and starry beach. At
length he arrived at the spot, and there, leaning against the broken
pillar, he beheld a man wrapped in a long mantle and in an attitude of
profound repose. He approached, and uttered the name of Zicci. The figure
turned, and he saw the face of a stranger,--a face not stamped by the
glorious beauty of the Corsican, but equally majestic in its aspect, and
perhaps still more impressive from the mature age and the passionless
depth of thought that characterized the expanded forehead and deep-set
but piercing eyes.

"You seek Zicci," said the stranger,--"he will be here anon; but perhaps
he whom you see before you is more connected with your destiny, and more
disposed to realize your dreams."

"Hath the earth then another Zicci?"

"If not," replied the stranger, "why do you cherish the hope and the wild
faith to be yourself a Zicci? Think you that none others have burned with
the same godlike dream? Who, indeed, in his first youth;--youth, when the
soul is nearer to the heaven from which it sprang, and its divine and
primal longings are not all effaced by the sordid passions and petty
cares that are begot in time?--who is there in youth that has not
nourished the belief that the universe has secrets not known to the
common herd, and panted, as the hart for the water-springs, for the
fountains that he hid and far away amidst the broad wilderness of
trackless science? The music of the fountain is heard in the soul within
till the steps, deceived and erring, rove away from its waters, and the
wanderer dies in the mighty desert. Think you that none who have
cherished the hope have found the truth, or that the yearning after the
Ineffable Knowledge was given to us utterly in vain? No. Every desire in
human hearts is but a glimpse of things that exist, alike distant and
divine. No! in the world there have been, from age to age, some brighter
and happier spirits who have won to the air in which the beings above
mankind move and breathe. Zicci, great though he be, stands not alone; he
has his predecessors, his contemporary rivals, and long lines of
successors are yet to come!"

"And will you tell me," said Glyndon, "that in yourself I behold one of
that mighty few over whom Zicci has no superiority in power and wisdom?"

"In me," answered the stranger, "you see one from whom Zicci himself
learned many of his loftiest secrets. Before his birth my wisdom was! On
these shores, on this spot, have I stood in ages that your chronicles but
feebly reach. The Phoenician, the Greek, the Oscan, the Roman, the
Lombard,--I have seen them all!--leaves gay and glittering on the trunk
of the universal life--scattered in due season and again renewed; till,
indeed, the same race that gave its glory to the ancient world bestowed a
second youth on the new. For the pure Greeks--the Hellenes, whose origin
has bewildered your dreaming scholars--were of the same great family as
the Norman tribe, born to be the lords of the universe, and in no land on
earth destined to be the hewers of wood. Even the dim traditions of the
learned that bring the sons of Hellas from the vast and undetermined
territories of Northern Thrace, to be the victors of the pastoral
Pelasgi, and the founders of the line of demi-gods, might serve you to
trace back their primeval settlements to the same region whence, in later
times, the Norman warriors broke on the dull and savage hordes of the
Celt, and became the Greeks of the Christian world. But this interests
you not, and you are wise in your indifference. Not in the knowledge of
things without, but in the perfection of the soul within, lies the empire
of man aspiring to be more than men."

"And what books contain that science; from what laboratory is it
wrought?"

"Nature supplies the materials: they are around you in your daily walks;
in the herbs that the beast devours and the chemist disdains to cull; in
the elements, from which matter in its meanest and its mightiest shapes
is deduced; in the wide bosom of the air; in the black abysses of the
earth,--everywhere are given to mortals the resources and libraries of
immortal lore. But as the simplest problems in the simplest of all
studies are obscure to one who braces not his mind to their
comprehension; as the rower in yonder vessel cannot tell you why two
circles can touch each other only in one point,--so, though all earth
were carved over and inscribed with the letters of diviner knowledge, the
characters would be valueless to him who does not pause to inquire the
language and meditate the truth. Young man, if thy imagination is vivid;
if thy heart is daring, if thy curiosity is insatiate, I will accept thee
as my pupil. But the first lessons are stern and dread."

"If thou hast mastered them, why not I?" answered Glyndon, boldly. "I
have felt from my boyhood that strange mysteries were reserved for my
career, and from the proudest ends of ordinary ambition I have carried my
gaze into the cloud and darkness that stretch beyond. The instant I
beheld Zicci, I felt as if I had discovered the guide and the tutor for
which my youth had idly languished and vainly burned."

"And to me his duty can be transferred," replied the stranger. "Yonder
lies, anchored in the bay, the vessel in which Zicci seeks a fairer home;
a little while and the breeze will rise, the sail will swell, and the
stranger will have passed like a wind away. Still, like the wind, he
leaves in thy heart the seeds that may bear the blossom and the fruit.
Zicci hath performed his task--he is wanted no more; the perfecter of his
work is at thy side. He comes--I hear the dash of the oar. You will have
your choice submitted to you. According as you decide, we shall meet
again." With these words the stranger moved slowly away, and disappeared
beneath the shadow of the cliffs. A boat glided rapidly across the
waters; it touched land, a man leapt on shore, and Glyndon recognized
Zicci.

"I give thee, Glyndon, I give thee no more the option of happy love and
serene enjoyment. That hour is past, and fate has linked the hand that
might have been thine own to mine. But I have ample gifts to bestow upon
thee if thou wilt abandon the hope that gnaws thy heart, and the
realization of which even I have not the power to foresee. Be thine
ambition human, and I can gratify it to the full. Men desire four things
in life,--love, wealth, fame, power. The first I cannot give thee,--no
matter why; the rest are at my disposal. Select which of them thou wilt,
and let us part in peace."

"Such are not the gifts I covet: I choose knowledge, which indeed, as the
schoolman said, is power, and the loftiest; that knowledge must be thine
own. For this, and for this alone, I surrendered the love of Isabel;
this, and this alone, must be any recompense."

"I cannot gainsay thee, though I can warn. The desire to learn does not
always contain the faculty to acquire. I can give thee, it is true, the
teacher; the rest must depend on thee. Be wise in time, and take that
which I can assure to thee."

"Answer me but these questions, and according to your answer I will
decide. Is it in the power of man to attain intercourse with the beings
of other worlds? Is it in the power of man to read the past and the
future, and to insure life against the sword and against disease?"

"All this may be possible," answered Zicci evasively, "to the few. But
for one who attains such secrets, millions may perish in the attempt."

"One question more. Thou--"

"Beware! Of myself, as I have said before, I render no account."

"Well, then, the stranger I have met this night--are his boasts to be
believed? Is he in truth one of the chosen seers whom you allow to have
mastered the mysteries I yearn to fathom?"

"Rash man," said Zicci, in a tone of compassion, "thy crisis is past, and
thy choice made. I can only bid thee be bold and prosper. Yes, I resign
thee to a master who has the power and the will to open to thee the gates
of the awful world. Thy weal or woe are as nought in the eyes of his
relentless wisdom. I would bid him spare thee, but he will heed me not.
Mejnour, receive thy pupil!" Glyndon turned, and his heart beat when he
perceived that the stranger, whose footsteps he had not heard on the
pebbles, whose approach he had not beheld in the moonlight, was once more
by his side.

Glyndon's eyes followed the receding form of the mysterious Corsican. He
saw him enter the boat, and he then for the first time noticed that
besides the rowers there was a female, who stood up as Zicci gained the
boat. Even at this distance he recognized the once-adored form of Isabel.
She waved her hand to him, and across the still and shining air came her
voice, mournfully and sweetly in her native tongue, "Farewell,
Clarence--farewell, farewell."

He strove to answer, but the voice touched a chord at his heart, and the
words failed him. Isabel was then lost forever,--gone with this dread
stranger,--darkness was round her lot. And he himself had decided her
fate and his own! The boat bounded on, the soft waves flashed and
sparkled beneath the oars, and it was along one sapphire track of
moonlight that the frail vessel bore away the lovers. Farther and farther
from his gaze sped the boat, till at last the speck, scarcely visible,
touched the side of the ship that lay lifeless in the glorious bay. At
that instant, as if by magic, up sprang with a glad murmur the playful
and refreshing wind. And Glyndon turned to Mejnour, and broke the
silence.

"Tell me,--if thou canst read the future,--tell me that her lot will be
fair, and that her choice at least is wise."

"My pupil," answered Mejnour, in a voice the calmness of which well
accorded with the chilling words, "thy first task must be to withdraw all
thought, feeling, sympathy from others. The elementary stage of knowledge
is to make self, and self alone, thy study and thy world. Thou bast
decided thine own career; thou hast renounced love; thou hast rejected
wealth, fame, and the vulgar pomps of power. What, then, are all mankind
to thee? To perfect thy faculties and concentrate thy emotions is
henceforth thy only aim."

"And will happiness be the end?"

"If happiness exist," answered Mejnour, "it must be centred in A Self to
which all passion is unknown. But happiness is the last state of being,
and as yet thou art on the threshold of the first!"

As Mejnour spoke, the distant vessel spread its sails to the wind, and
moved slowly along the deep. Glyndon sighed, and the pupil and the master
retraced their steps towards the city.



BOOK II.



CHAPTER I.

It was about a month after the date of Zicci's departure and Glyndon's
introduction to Mejnour, when two Englishmen were walking arm-in-arm
through the Toledo.

"I tell you," said one (who spoke warmly), "that if you have a particle
of common-sense left in you, you will accompany me to England. This
Mejnour is an impostor more dangerous--because more in earnest--than
Zicci. After all, what do his promises amount to? You allow that nothing
can be more equivocal. You say that he has left Naples, that he has
selected a retreat more genial than the crowded thoroughfares of men to
the studies in which he is to initiate you; and this retreat is among the
haunts of the fiercest bandits of Italy,--haunts which Justice itself
dare not penetrate; fitting hermitage for a sage! I tremble for you. What
if this stranger, of whom nothing is known, be leagued with the robbers;
and these lures for your credulity bait but the traps for your
property,--perhaps your life? You might come off cheaply by a ransom of
half your fortune; you smile indignantly well! put common-sense out of
the question; take your own view of the matter. You are to undergo an
ordeal which Mejnour himself does not profess to describe as a very
tempting one. It may, or it may not, succeed; if it does not, you are
menaced with the darkest evils; and if it does, you cannot be better off
than the dull and joyless mystic whom you have taken for a master. Away
with this folly! Enjoy youth while it is left to you. Return with me to
England; forget these dreams. Enter your proper career; form affections
more respectable than those which lured you a while to an Italian
adventuress, and become a happy and distinguished man. This is the advice
of sober friendship; yet the promises I hold out to you are fairer than
those of Mejnour."

"Merton," said Glyndon, doggedly, "I cannot, if I would, yield to your
wishes. A power that is above me urges me on; I cannot resist its
fascination. I will proceed to the last in the strange career I have
commenced. Think of me no more. Follow yourself the advice you give to
me, and be happy."

"This is madness," said Merton, passionately, but with a tear in his eye;
"your health is already failing; you are so changed I should scarcely
know you: come, I have already had your name entered in my passport; in
another hour I shall be gone, and you, boy that you are, will be left
without a friend to the deceits of your own fancy and the machinations of
this relentless mountebank."

"Enough," said Glyndon, coldly; "you cease to be an effective counsellor
when you suffer your prejudices to be thus evident. I have already had
ample proof," added the Englishman, and his pale cheek grew more pale,
"of the power of this man,--if man he be, which I sometimes doubt; and,
come life, come death, I will not shrink from the paths that allure me.
Farewell, Merton: if we never meet again; if you hear amidst our old and
cheerful haunts that Clarence Glyndon sleeps the last sleep by the shores
of Naples, or amidst the Calabrian hills,--say to the friends of our
youth, 'He died worthily, as thousands of martyr-students have died
before him, in the pursuit of knowledge.'"

He wrung Merton's hand as he spoke, darted from his side, and disappeared
amidst the crowd.

That day Merton left Naples; the next morning Glyndon also quitted the
City of Delight, alone and on horseback. He bent his way into those
picturesque but dangerous parts of the country which at that time were
infested by banditti, and which few travellers dared to pass, even in
broad daylight, without a strong escort. A road more lonely cannot well
be conceived than that on which the hoofs of his steed, striking upon the
fragments of rock that encumbered the neglected way, woke a dull and
melancholy echo. Large tracts of waste land, varied by the rank and
profuse foliage of the South, lay before him; occasionally a wild goat
peeped down from some rocky crag, or the discordant cry of a bird of
prey, startled in its sombre haunt, was heard above the hills. These were
the only signs of life; not a human being was met, not a hut was visible.
Wrapped in his own ardent and solemn thoughts, the young man continued
his way, till the sun had spent its noonday heat, and a breeze that
announced the approach of eve sprung up from the unseen ocean that lay
far distant to his sight. It was then that a turn in the road brought
before him one of those long, desolate, gloomy villages which are found
in the interior of the Neapolitan dominions; and now he came upon a small
chapel on one side of the road, with a gaudily painted image of the
Virgin in the open shrine. Around this spot, which in the heart of a
Christian land retained the vestige of the old idolatry (for just such
were the chapels that in the Pagan age were dedicated to the demon-saints
of mythology), gathered six or seven miserable and squalid wretches, whom
the Curse of the Leper had cut off from mankind. They set up a shrill cry
as they turned their ghastly visages towards the horseman; and, without
stirring from the spot, stretched out their gaunt arms, and implored
charity in the name of the Merciful Mother. Glyndon hastily threw them
some small coins, and, turning away his face, clapped spurs to his horse,
and relaxed not his speed till he entered the village. On either side the
narrow and miry street, fierce and haggard forms--some leaning against
the ruined walls of blackened huts, some seated at the threshold, some
lying at full length in the mud--presented groups that at once invoked
pity and aroused alarm; pity for their squalor,--alarm for the ferocity
imprinted on their savage aspects. They gazed at him, grim and sullen, as
he rode slowly up the rugged street; sometimes whispering significantly
to each other, but without attempting to stop his way. Even the children
hushed their babble, and ragged urchins, devouring him with sparkling
eyes, muttered to their mothers, "We shall feast well to-morrow!" It was,
indeed, one of those hamlets in which Law sets not its sober step, in
which Violence and Murder house secure,--hamlets common then in the
wilder parts of Italy, in which the peasant was but the gentler name for
the robber.

Glyndon's heart somewhat failed him as he looked around, and the question
he desired to ask died upon his lips. At length, from one of the dismal
cabins emerged a form superior to the rest. Instead of the patched and
ragged overall which made the only garment of the men he had hitherto
seen, the dress of this person was characterized by all the trappings of
Calabrian bravery. Upon his raven hair, the glossy curls of which made a
notable contrast to the matted and elfin locks of the savages around, was
placed a cloth cap with a gold tassel that hung down to his shoulder; his
mustaches were trimmed with care, and a silk kerchief of gay lines was
twisted round a well-shaped but sinewy throat; a short jacket of rough
cloth was decorated with several rows of gilt filagree buttons; his
nether garments fitted tight to his limbs, and were curiously braided;
while in a broad, party-colored sash were placed four silver-hilted
pistols; and the sheathed knife, usually worn by Italians of the lower
order, was mounted in ivory elaborately carved. A small carbine of
handsome workmanship was slung across his shoulder, and completed his
costume. The man himself was of middle size, athletic, yet slender; with
straight and regular features,--sunburnt, but not swarthy; and an
expression of countenance which, though reckless and bold, had in it
frankness rather than ferocity, and, if defying, was not altogether
unprepossessing.

Glyndon, after eyeing this figure for some moments with great attention,
checked his rein, and asked in the provincial patois, with which he was
tolerably familiar, the way to the "Castle of the Mountain."

The man lifted his cap as he heard the question, and, approaching
Glyndon, laid his hand upon the neck of the horse, and said in a low
voice, "Then you are the cavalier whom our patron the signor expected. He
bade me wait for you here, and lead you to the castle. And indeed,
signor, it might have been unfortunate if I had neglected to obey the
command." The man then, drawing a little aside, called out to the
bystanders in a loud voice, "Ho, ho, my friends, pay henceforth and
forever all respect to this worshipful cavalier. He is the accepted guest
of our blessed patron of the Castle of the Mountain. Long life to him!
May he, like his host, be safe by day and by night, in the hill and on
the waste, against the dagger and the bullet, in limb and in life! Cursed
be he who touches a hair of his head, or a baioccho in his pouch. Now and
forever we will protect and honor him; for the law or against the law;
with the faith, and to the death. Amen. Amen!"

"Amen!" responded in wild chorus a hundred voices, and the scattered and
straggling groups pressed up the street, nearer and nearer to the
horseman.

"And that he may be known," continued the Englishman's strange protector,
"to the eye and to the ear, I place around him the white sash, and I give
him the sacred watchword,--'Peace to the Brave.' Signor, when you wear
this sash, the proudest in these parts will bare the head and bend the
knee. Signor, when you utter this watchword, the bravest hearts will be
bound to your bidding. Desire you safety, or ask you revenge; to gain a
beauty, or to lose a foe, speak but the word, and we are yours, we are
yours! Is it not so, comrades?" And again the hoarse voices shouted,
"Amen, amen!"

"Now, signor," whispered the bravo, in good Italian, "if you have a few
coins to spare, scatter them amongst the crowd, and let us be gone."

Glyndon, not displeased at the concluding sentence, emptied his purse in
the street; and while, with mingled oaths, blessings, shrieks, and yells,
men, women, and children scrambled for the money, the bravo, taking the
rein of the horse, led it a few paces through the village at a brisk
trot, and then turning up a narrow lane to the left, in a few minutes
neither houses nor men were visible, and the mountains closed their path
on either side. It was then that, releasing the bridle and slackening his
pace, the guide turned his dark eyes on Glyndon with an arch expression,
and said,--

"Your Excellency was not, perhaps, prepared for the hearty welcome we
have given you."

"Why, in truth, I ought to have been prepared for it, since my friend, to
whose house I am bound, did not disguise from me the character of the
neighborhood. And your name, my friend, if I may call you so?"

"Oh, no ceremonies with me, Excellency. In the village I am generally
called Maestro Paulo. I had a surname once, though a very equivocal one;
and I have forgotten that since I retired from the world."

"And was it from disgust, from poverty, or from some some ebullition of
passion which entailed punishment, that you betook yourself to the
mountains?"

"Why, signor," said the bravo, with a gay laugh, "hermits of my class
seldom love the confessional. However, I have no secrets while my step is
in these defiles, my whistle in my pouch, and my carbine at my back."
With that the robber, as if he loved permission to talk at his will,
hemmed thrice, and began with much humor; though, as his tale proceeded,
the memories it roused seemed to carry him further than he at first
intended, and reckless and light-hearted ease gave way to that fierce and
varied play of countenance and passion of gesture which characterize the
emotions of his countrymen.

"I was born at Terracina,--a fair spot, is it not? My father was a
learned monk, of high birth; my mother--Heaven rest her!--an innkeeper's
pretty daughter. Of course there was no marriage in the case; and when I
was born, the monk gravely declared my appearance to be miraculous. I was
dedicated from my cradle to the altar; and my head was universally
declared to be the orthodox shape for a cowl. As I grew up, the monk took
great pains with my education, and I learned Latin and psalmody as soon
as less miraculous infants learn crowing. Nor did the holy man's care
stint itself to my interior accomplishments. Although vowed to poverty,
he always contrived that my mother should have her pockets full; and
between her pockets and mine there was soon established a clandestine
communication; accordingly, at fourteen, I wore my cap on one side, stuck
pistols in my belt, and assumed the swagger of a cavalier and a gallant.
At that age my poor mother died; and about the same period, my father,
having written a 'History of the Pontifical Bulls,' in forty volumes, and
being, as I said, of high birth, obtained a cardinal's hat. From that
time he thought fit to disown your humble servant. He bound me over to an
honest notary at Naples, and gave me two hundred crowns by way of
provision. Well, signor, I saw enough of the law to convince me that I
should never be rogue enough to shine in the profession. So instead of
spoiling parchment, I made love to the notary's daughter. My master
discovered our innocent amusement, and turned me out of doors,--that was
disagreeable. But my Ninetta loved me, and took care that I should not
lie out in the streets with the lazzaroni. Little jade, I think I see her
now, with her bare feet, and her finger to her lips, opening the door in
the summer nights, and bidding me creep softly into the kitchen,
where--praised be the saints!--a flask and a manchet always awaited the
hungry amoroso. At last, however, Ninetta grew cold. It is the way of the
sex, signor. Her father found her an excellent marriage in the person of
a withered picture-dealer. She took the spouse, and very properly clapped
the door in the face of the lover. I was not disheartened, Excellency;
no, not I. Women are plentiful while we are young. So, without a ducat in
my pocket, or a crust for my teeth, I set out to seek my fortune on board
of a Spanish merchantman. That was duller work than I expected: but
luckily we were attacked by a pirate; half the crew were butchered, the
rest captured. I was one of the last,--always in luck, you see, signor,
monks' sons have a knack that way! The captain of the pirate took a fancy
to me. 'Serve with us,' said he. 'Too happy,' said I. Behold me then a
pirate. Oh jolly life! how I blest the old notary for turning me out of
doors! What feasting! what fighting! what wooing! what quarreling!
Sometimes we ran ashore and enjoyed ourselves like princes; sometimes we
lay in a calm for days together, on the loveliest sea that man ever
traversed. And then, if the breeze rose, and a sail came in sight, who so
merry as we? I passed three years in that charming profession, and then,
signor, I grew ambitious. I caballed against the captain; I wanted his
post. One still night we struck the blow. The ship was like a log in the
sea,--no land to be seen from the mast-head, the waves like glass, and
the moon at its full. Up we rose,--thirty of us and more. Up we rose with
a shout; we poured into the captain's cabin,--I at the head. The brave
old boy had caught the alarm, and there he stood at the doorway, a pistol
in each hand; and his one eye (he had only one) worse to meet than the
pistols were.

"'Yield,' cried I, 'your life shall be safe.'

"'Take that,' said he, and whiz went the pistol; but the saints took care
of their own, and the ball passed by my cheek, and shot the boatswain
behind me. I closed with the captain, and the other pistol went off
without mischief in the struggle; such a fellow he was, six feet four
without his shoes! Over we went, rolling each on the other. Santa
Maria!--no time to get hold of one's knife. Meanwhile, all the crew were
up, some for the captain, some for me; clashing and firing, and swearing
and groaning, and now and then a heavy splash in the sea! Fine supper for
the sharks that night! At last old Bilboa got uppermost: out flashed his
knife; down it came, but not in my heart. No! I gave my left arm as a
shield, and the blade went through and through up to the hilt, with the
blood spurting up like the rain from a whale's nostril. With the weight
of the blow the stout fellow came down, so that his face touched mine;
with my right hand I caught him by the throat, turned him over like a
lamb, signor, and faith it was soon all up with him; the boatswain's
brother, a fat Dutchman, ran him through with a pike.

"'Old fellow,' said I, as he turned up his terrible eye to me, 'I bear
you no malice, but we must try to get on in the world, you know.' The
captain grinned and gave up the ghost. I went upon deck; what a sight!
Twenty bold fellows stark and cold, and the moon sparkling on the puddles
of blood as calmly as if it were water. Well, signor, the victory was
ours, and the ship mine; I ruled merrily enough for six months. We then
attacked a French ship twice our size; what sport it was! And we had not
had a good fight so long we were quite like virgins at it! We got the
best of it, and won ship and cargo. They wanted to pistol the captain:
but that was against my laws; so we gagged him, for he scolded as loud as
if we were married to him; left him and the rest of his crew on board our
own vessel, which was terribly battered: clapped our black flag on the
Frenchman's, and set off merrily, with a brisk wind in our favor. But
luck deserted us on forsaking our own dear old ship. A storm came on; a
plank struck; several of us escaped in the boats; we had lots of gold
with us, but no water. For two days and two nights we suffered horribly:
but at last we ran ashore near a French seaport; our sorry plight moved
compassion, and as we had money we were not suspected; people only
suspect the poor. Here we soon recovered our fatigues, rigged ourselves
out gayly, and your humble servant was considered as noble a captain as
ever walked deck. But now, alas, my fate would have it that I should fall
in love with a silk-mercer's daughter. Ah! how I loved her,--the pretty
Clara! Yes, I loved her so well, that I was seized with horror at my past
life; I resolved to repent, to marry her, and settle down into an honest
man. Accordingly, I summoned my messmates, told them my resolution,
resigned my command, and persuaded them to depart. They were good
fellows; engaged with a Dutchman, against whom I heard afterwards they
made a successful mutiny, but I never saw them more. I had two thousand
crowns still left; with this sum I obtained the consent of the
silk-mercer, and it was agreed that I should become a partner in the
firm. I need not say that no one suspected I had been so great a man, and
I passed for a Neapolitan goldsmith's son instead of a cardinal's. I was
very happy then, signor, very,--I could not have harmed a fly. Had I
married Clara I had been as gentle a mercer as ever handled a measure."

The bravo paused a moment, and it was easy to see that he felt more than
his words and tone betokened. "Well, well, we must not look back at the
Past too earnestly,--the sun light upon it makes one's eyes water. The
day was fixed for our wedding, it approached; on the evening before the
appointed day, Clara, her mother, her little sister, and myself were
walking by the port, and as we looked on the sea I was telling them old
gossip tales of mermaids and sea-serpents,--when a red-faced bottle-nosed
Frenchman clapped himself right before me, and placing his spectacles
very deliberately astride his proboscis, echoed out, 'Sacre, mille
tonnerres! This is the damned pirate that boarded the "Niobe"!'"

"None of your jests,' said I, mildly. 'Ho, ho,' said he. 'I can't be
mistaken. Help there,' and he gripped me by the collar. I replied, as you
may suppose, by laying him in the kennel; but it would not do. The French
captain had a French lieutenant at his back, whose memory was as good as
his master's. A crowd assembled; other sailors came up; the odds were
against me. I slept that night in prison; and, in a few weeks afterwards,
I was sent to the galleys. They had spared my life because the old
Frenchman politely averred that I had made my crew spare his. You may
believe that the oar and the chain were not to my taste. I, and two
others, escaped; they took to the road, and have, no doubt, been long
since broken on the wheel. I, soft soul, would not commit another crime
to gain my bread, for Clara was still at my heart with her soft eyes; so,
limiting my rogueries to the theft of a beggar's rags, which I
compensated him by leaving my galley attire instead, I begged my way to
the town where I left Clara. It was a clear winter's day when I
approached the outskirts of the town. I had no fear of detection, for my
beard and hair were as good as a mask. Oh, Mother of Mercy! there came
across my way a funeral procession! There, now, you know it. I can tell
you no more. She had died, perhaps of love, more likely of shame. Do you
know how I spent that night? I will tell you; I stole a pickaxe from a
mason's shed, and, all alone and unseen, under the frosty heavens I dug
the fresh mould from the grave; I lifted the coffin; I wrenched the lid,
I saw her again--again. Decay had not touched her. She was always pale in
her life! I could have sworn she lived! It was a blessed thing to see her
once more,--and all alone too! But then at dawn, to give her back to the
earth,--to close the lid, to throw down the mould, to hear the pebbles
rattle on the coffin,--that was dreadful! Signor, I never knew before,
and I don't wish to think now, how valuable a thing human life is. At
sunrise I was again a wanderer; but now that Clara was gone my scruples
vanished, and again I was at war with my betters. I contrived, at last,
at O--, to get taken on board a vessel bound to Leghorn, working out my
passage. From Leghorn I went to Rome, and stationed myself at the door of
the cardinal's palace. Out he came,--his gilded coach at the gate. "'Ho,
father,' said I, 'don't you know me?'

"'Who are you?'

"'Your son,' said I, in a whisper.

"The cardinal drew back, looked at me earnestly, and mused a moment. 'All
men are my sons,' quoth he then, very mildly; 'there is gold for thee. To
him who begs once, alms are due; to him who begs twice, jails are open.
Take the hint and molest me no more. Heaven bless thee!' With that he got
into his coach and drove off to the Vatican. His purse, which he had left
behind, was well supplied. I was grateful and contented, and took my way
to Terracina. I had not long passed the marshes, when I saw two horsemen
approach at a canter.

"'You look poor, friend,' said one of them, halting; 'yet you are
strong.'

"'Poor men and strong are both serviceable and dangerous, Signor
Cavalier.'

"'Well said! follow us.'

"I obeyed and became a bandit. I rose by degrees; and as I have always
been mild in my calling, and have taken purses without cutting throats,
bear an excellent character, and can eat my macaroni at Naples without
any danger to life and limbs. For the last two years I have settled in
these parts, where I hold sway, and where I have purchased land. I am
called a farmer, signor; and I myself now only rob for amusement, and to
keep my hand in. I trust I have satisfied your curiosity. We are within a
hundred yards of the castle."

"And how," asked the Englishman, whose interest had been much excited by
his companion's narrative, "and how came you acquainted with my host? and
by what means has he so well conciliated the goodwill of yourself and
your friends?"

Maestro Paulo turned his black eyes gravely towards his questioner. "Why,
signor," said he, "you must surely know more of the foreign cavalier with
the hard name than I do. All I can say is, that about a fortnight ago I
chanced to be standing by a booth in the Toledo at Naples, when a
sober-looking gentleman touched me by the arm, and said, 'Maestro Paulo,
I want to make your acquaintance; do me the favor to come into yonder
tavern.' When we were seated, my new acquaintance thus accosted me: 'The
Count d' O--has offered to let me hire his old castle near B----.
You know the spot?'

"'Extremely well; no one has inhabited it for a century at least; it is
half in ruins, signor. A queer place to hire; I hope the rent is not
heavy.'

"'Maestro Paulo,' said he, 'I am a philosopher, and don't care for
luxuries. I want a quiet retreat for some scientific experiments. The
castle will suit me very well, provided you will accept me as a neighbor,
and place me and my friends under your special protection. I am rich; but
I shall take nothing to the castle worth robbing. I will pay one rent to
the count, and another to you.'

"With that we soon came to terms, and as the strange signor doubled the
sum I myself proposed, he is in high favor with all his neighbors. We
would guard the old castle against an army. And now, signor, that I have
been thus frank, be frank with me. Who is this singular cavalier?"

"Who?--he himself told you, a philosopher."

"Hem! Searching for the philosopher's stone, eh? A bit of a magician;
afraid of the priests?"

"Precisely. You have hit it."

"I thought so; and you are his pupil?"

"I am."

"I wish you well through it," said the robber, seriously, and crossing
himself with much devotion; "I am not much better than other people, but
one's soul is one's soul. I do not mind a little honest robbery, or
knocking a man on the head if need be,--but to make a bargain with the
devil!--Ah! take care, young gentleman, take care."

"You need not fear," said Glyndon, smiling; "my preceptor is too wise and
too good for such a compact. But here we are, I suppose. A noble ruin! A
glorious prospect!"

Glyndon paused delightedly, and surveyed the scene before and below with
the eye of a poet and a painter. Insensibly, while listening to the
bandit, he had wound up a considerable ascent, and now he was upon a
broad ledge of rock covered with mosses and dwarf shrubs. Between this
eminence and another of equal height, upon which the castle was built,
there was a deep but narrow fissure, overgrown with the most profuse
foliage, so that the eye could not penetrate many yards below the rugged
surface of the abyss; but the profoundness might well be conjectured by
the hoarse, low, monotonous sound of waters unseen that rolled below, and
the subsequent course of which was visible at a distance in a perturbed
and rapid stream that intersected the waste and desolate valleys. To the
left, the prospect seemed almost boundless; the extreme clearness of the
purple air serving to render distinct the features of a range of country
that a conqueror of old might have deemed in itself a kingdom. Lonely and
desolate as the road which Glyndon had passed that day had appeared, the
landscape now seemed studded with castles, spires, and villages. Afar
off, Naples gleamed whitely in the last rays of the sun, and the
rose-tints of the horizon melted into the azure of her glorious bay. Yet
more remote, and in another part of the prospect, might be caught, dim
and shadowy, and backed by the darkest foliage, the ruined village of the
ancient Possidonia. There, in the midst of his blackened and sterile
realms, rose the dismal Mount of Fire; while, on the other hand, winding
through variegated plains, to which distance lent all its magic,
glittered many a stream, by which Etruscan and Sybarite, Roman and
Saracen and Norman, had, at intervals of ages, pitched the invading tent.
All the visions of the past the stormy and dazzling histories of Southern
Italy--rushed over the artist's mind as he gazed below. And then, slowly
turning to look behind, he saw the gray and mouldering walls of the
castle in which he sought the secrets that were to give to hope in the
Future a mightier empire than memory owns in the Past. It was one of
those baronial fortresses with which Italy was studded in the earlier
middle ages, having but little of the Gothic grace of grandeur which
belongs to the ecclesiastical architecture of the same time; but rude,
vast, and menacing even in decay. A wooden bridge was thrown over the
chasm, wide enough to admit two horsemen abreast; and the planks trembled
and gave back a hollow sound as Glyndon urged his jaded steed across.

A road that had once been broad, and paved with rough flags, but which
now was half obliterated by long grass and rank weeds, conducted to the
outer court of the castle hard by; the gates were open, and half the
building in this part was dismantled, the ruins partially hid by ivy that
was the growth of centuries. But on entering the inner court, Glyndon was
not sorry to notice that there was less appearance of neglect and decay:
some wild roses gave a smile to the gray walls; and in the centre there
was a fountain, in which the waters still trickled coolly, and with a
pleasing murmur, from the jaws of a gigantic triton. Here he was met by
Mejnour with a smile.

"Welcome, my friend and pupil," said he; "he who seeks for Truth can find
in these solitudes an immortal Academe."



CHAPTER. II.

The attendants which Mejnour had engaged for his strange abode were such
as might suit a philosopher of few wants. An old Armenian, whom Glyndon
recognized as in the mystic's service at Naples; a tall, hard-featured
woman from the village, recommended by Maestro Paulo; and two
long-haired, smooth-spoken, but fierce-visaged youths, from the same
place, and honored by the same sponsorship,--constituted the
establishment. The rooms used by the sage were commodious and
weather-proof, with some remains of ancient splendor in the faded arras
that clothed the walls and the huge tables of costly marble and elaborate
carving. Glyndon's sleeping apartment communicated with a kind of
belvidere or terrace that commanded prospects of unrivalled beauty and
extent, and was separated, on the other side, by a long gallery and a
flight of ten or a dozen stairs, from the private chambers of the mystic.
There was about the whole place a sombre, and yet not displeasing, depth
of repose. It suited well with the studies to which it was now to be
appropriated.

For several days Mejnour refused to confer with Glyndon on the subjects
nearest to his heart.

"All without," said he, "is prepared, but not all within. Your own soul
must grow accustomed to the spot, and filled with the surrounding Nature;
for Nature is the source of all inspiration."

With these words, which savored a little of jargon, Mejnour turned to
lighter topics. He made the Englishman accompany him in long rambles
through the wild scenes around, and he smiled approvingly when the young
artist gave way to the enthusiasm which their fearful beauty could not
have failed to rouse in a duller breast; and then Mejnour poured forth to
his wondering pupil the stores of a knowledge that seemed inexhaustible
and boundless. He gave accounts the most curious, graphic, and minute, of
the various races--their characters, habits, creeds, and manners--by
which that fair land had been successively overrun. It is true that his
descriptions could not be found in books, and were unsupported by learned
authorities; but he possessed the true charm of the tale-teller, and
spoke of all with the animated confidence of a personal witness.
Sometimes, too, he would converse upon the more durable and the loftier
mysteries of Nature with an eloquence and a research which invested them
with all the colors rather of poetry than science. Insensibly the young
artist found himself elevated and soothed by the lore of his companion;
the fever of his wild desires was slaked. His mind became more and more
lulled into the divine tranquillity of contemplation; he felt himself a
nobler being; and in the silence of his senses he imagined that he heard
the voice of his soul.

It was to this state that Mejnour sought to bring the Neophyte, and in
this elementary initiation the mystic was like every more ordinary sage.
For he who seeks to discover must first reduce himself into a kind of
abstract idealism, and be rendered up; in solemn and sweet bondage, to
the faculties which contemplate and imagine.

Glyndon noticed that, in their rambles, Mejnour often paused where the
foliage was rifest, to gather some herb or flower; and this reminded him
that he had seen Zicci similarly occupied. "Can these humble children of
Nature," said he one day to Mejnour, "things that bloom and wither in a
day, be serviceable to the science of the higher secrets? Is there a
pharmacy for the soul as well as the body, and do the nurslings of the
summer minister not only to human health but spiritual immortality?"

"If," answered Mejnour, "before one property of herbalism was known to
them, a stranger had visited a wandering tribe,--if he had told the
savages that the herbs, which every day they trampled underfoot, were
endowed with the most potent virtues; that one would restore to health a
brother on the verge of death; that another would paralyze into idiocy
their wisest sage; that a third would strike lifeless to the dust their
most stalwart champion; that tears and laughter, vigor and disease,
madness and reason, wakefulness and sleep, existence and dissolution,
were coiled up in those unregarded leaves,--would they not have held him
a sorcerer or a liar? To half the virtues of the vegetable world mankind
are yet in the darkness of the savages I have supposed. There are
faculties within us with which certain herbs have affinity, and over
which they have power. The moly of the ancients was not all a fable."

One evening, Glyndon had lingered alone and late upon the
ramparts,--watching the stars as, one by one, they broke upon the
twilight. Never had he felt so sensibly the mighty power of the heavens
and the earth upon man! how much the springs of our intellectual being
are moved and acted upon by the solemn influences of Nature! As a patient
on whom, slowly and by degrees, the agencies of mesmerism are brought to
bear, he acknowledged to his heart the growing force of that vast and
universal magnetism which is the life of creation, and binds the atom to
the whole. A strange and ineffable consciousness of power, of the
something great within the perishable clay, appealed to feelings at once
dim and glorious,--rather faintly recognized than all unknown. An impulse
that he could not resist led him to seek the mystic. He would demand,
that hour, his initiation into the worlds beyond our world; he was
prepared to breathe a diviner air. He entered the castle, and strode
through the shadowy and star-lit gallery which conducted to Mejnour's
apartment.


THE END. (1)


(1) [So far as Zicci was ever finished.]





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