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Title: Zicci: A Tale — Volume 02
Author: Lytton, Edward Bulwer Lytton, Baron
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: A Tale — Volume 02" ***

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                                  ZICCI

                                 A Tale

                          By Edward Bulwer-Lytton



                                 BOOK 2.


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 laughing, 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 hast 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 spirting 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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