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Title: Zicci: A Tale — Complete
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 — Complete" ***

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ZICCI

A Tale



BOOK I.



CHAPTER I.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What do you think, sir?” asked Glyndon, curiously.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Who is that gentleman?” asked Glyndon, eagerly.

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

“I never saw him before,” said Merton, at last.

“Nor I.”

“Nor I.”

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

“How was it?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“A very lame story,” said Merton.

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

“What is his name?” asked Glyndon.

“Zicci. Signor Zicci.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



CHAPTER II.

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

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

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

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

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

“You are an herbalist?”

“I am.”

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

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

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

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

“And why are you then so dangerous?”

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

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

“As you will; I have done.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How kind in you! How did you find me out?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The mask drew back.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



CHAPTER III.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You, you--”

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

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

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

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

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

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



CHAPTER IV.

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

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

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

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

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



CHAPTER V.

The next day, Glyndon bent his steps towards Zicci’s palace. The young
man’s imagination, naturally inflammable, was singularly excited by the
little he had seen and heard of this strange being; a spell he could
neither master nor account for, attracted him towards the stranger.
Zicci’s power seemed mysterious and great, his motives kindly and
benevolent, yet his manners chilling and repellant. Why at one moment
reject Glyndon’s acquaintance, at another save him from danger? How had
Zicci thus acquired the knowledge of enemies unknown to Glyndon himself?
His interest was deeply roused, his gratitude appealed to; he resolved
to make another effort to conciliate Zicci.

The signor was at home, and Glyndon was admitted into a lofty saloon,
where in a few moments Zicci joined him.

“I am come to thank you for your warning last night,” said he, “and to
entreat you to complete my obligation by informing me of the quarter to
which I may look for enmity and peril.”

“You are a gallant, Mr. Glyndon,” said Zicci, with a smile; “and do you
know so little of the South as not to be aware that gallants have always
rivals?”

“Are you serious?” said Glyndon, coloring.

“Most serious. You love Isabel di Pisani; you have for rival one of the
most powerful and relentless of the Neapolitan princes. Your danger is
indeed great.”

“But, pardon me, how came it known to you?”

“I give no account of myself to mortal man,” replied Zicci, haughtily;
“and to me it matters not whether you regard or scorn my warning.”

“Well, if I may not question you, be it so; but at least advise me what
to do.”

“You will not follow my advice.”

“You wrong me! Why?”

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

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

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

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

Zicci frowned.

“Your love, then, is but selfish lust; and by that love you will be
betrayed. Young man, Destiny is less inexorable than it appears. The
resources of the great Ruler of the Universe are not so scanty and so
stern as to deny to men the divine privilege of Free Will; all of us
can carve out our own way, and God can make our very contradictions
harmonize with His solemn ends. You have before you an option. Honorable
and generous love may even now work out your happiness and effect your
escape; a frantic and interested passion will but lead you to misery and
doom.”

“Do you pretend, then, to read the Future?”

“I have said all that it pleases me to utter.”

“While you assume the moralist to me, Signor Zicci,” said Glyndon, with
a smile, “if report says true you do not yourself reject the allurements
of unfettered love.”

“If it were necessary that practice square with precept,” said Zicci,
with a sneer, “our pulpits would be empty. Do you think it matters, in
the great aggregate of human destinies, what one man’s conduct may
be? Nothing,--not a grain of dust; but it matters much what are the
sentiments he propagates. His acts are limited and momentary; his
sentiments may pervade the universe, and inspire generations till the
day of doom. All our virtues, all our laws, are drawn from books and
maxims, which are sentiments, not from deeds. Our opinions, young
Englishman, are the angel part of us; our acts the earthly.”

“You have reflected deeply, for an Italian,” said Glyndon.

“Who told you I was an Italian?”

“Are you not of Corsica?”

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

“Renounce her,--never!”

“Then you will marry her?”

“Impossible.”

“Be it so; she will then renounce you. I tell you that you have rivals.”

“Yes, the Prince di--; but I do not fear him.”

“You have another, whom you will fear more.”

“And who is he?”

“Myself.”

Glyndon turned pale, and started from his seat.

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

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

These words were not uttered arrogantly, but in a tone of the most
mournful dejection. Glyndon was enraged, confounded, and yet awed.
However, he had a brave English heart within his breast, and he
recovered himself quickly.

“Signor,” said he, calmly, “I am not to be duped by these solemn
phrases and these mystical sympathies. You may have power which I cannot
comprehend or emulate, or you may be but a keen impostor.”

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

“I mean then,” continued Glyndon, resolutely, though somewhat
disconcerted, “I mean you to understand, that, though I am not to be
persuaded or compelled by a stranger to marry Isabel di Pisani, I am not
the less determined never tamely to yield her to another.”

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

“But if you love her, why, why--”

“Why am I anxious that she should wed another? To save her from myself!
Listen to me. That girl, humble and uneducated though she be, has in her
the seeds of the most lofty qualities and virtues. She can be all to the
man she loves,--all that man can desire in wife or mistress. Her soul,
developed by affection, will elevate your own; it will influence your
fortunes, exalt your destiny; you will become a great and prosperous
man. If, on the contrary, she fall to me, I know not what may be her
lot; but I know that few can pass the ordeal, and hitherto no woman has
survived the struggle.”

As Zicci spoke, his face became livid, and there was something in his
voice that froze the warm blood of his listener.

“What is this mystery which surrounds you?” exclaimed Glyndon, unable to
repress his emotion. “Are you, in truth, different from other men? Have
you passed the boundary of lawful knowledge? Are you, as some declare, a
sorcerer, only a--”

“Hush!” interrupted Zicci, gently, and with a smile of singular but
melancholy sweetness: “have you earned the right to ask me these
questions? The clays of torture and persecution are over; and a man may
live as he pleases, and talk as it suits him, without fear of the
stake and the rack. Since I can defy persecution, pardon me if I do not
succumb to curiosity.”

Glyndon blushed, and rose. In spite of his love for Isabel, and his
natural terror of such a rival, he felt himself irresistibly drawn
towards the very man he had most cause to suspect and dread. It was like
the fascination of the basilisk. He held out his hand to Zicci, saying,
“Well, then, if we are to be rivals, our swords must settle our rights;
till then I would fain be friends.”

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

“Enigmas again!”

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

“I could dare everything and all things for the attainment of superhuman
wisdom,” said Glyndon; and his countenance was lighted up with wild and
intense enthusiasm.

Zicci observed him in thoughtful silence.

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

“Where?”

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



CHAPTER VI.

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

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

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

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

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

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



CHAPTER VII.

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

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

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

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

“Gionetta, is he not god-like?”

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

“Wife! English! Whom are you talking of?”

“Why, the young English signor, to be sure.”

“Chut! I thought you spoke of Zicci.”

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

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

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

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

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

“Isabella! carissima! Isabella!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Love, love; only love!”

“A sister’s love?”

“Ah, speak not with such cruel coldness!”

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

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

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

Glyndon drew back, conscience-stricken.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Strange being, incomprehensible enigma, why did you name him?”

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

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

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

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



CHAPTER VIII.

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

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

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

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

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

“Who, your Excellency?”

“Zicci.”

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

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

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

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

“Your Excellency is infatuated. The actress has bewitched you.”

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

“Another ambuscade?” said Mascari, inquiringly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Let Signor Mascari cast for us.”

“Be it so. Mascari, the dice.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Ah, do not think so ill of my gallantry.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I, your Excellency,--I laugh?”

“It sounded behind me,” said the Prince, gazing round.



CHAPTER IX.

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

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

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

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

“The Ides are come, not gone.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“But is there no danger?” said the prudent Merton.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“They must be bold fellows to go alone: you don’t often find such?”

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

“What, hideous?”

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

“And what said the salamander?”

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

“It must be Zicci,” whispered Glyndon.

“I knew you would say so,” returned Merton, laughing.

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

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

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

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

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

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



CHAPTER X.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Vain man! knowledge and power are not happiness.”

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

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

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

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

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

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



CHAPTER, XI.

On returning from Vesuvius or Pompeii you enter Naples through its most
animated, its most Neapolitan quarter, through that quarter in which
Modern life most closely resembles the Ancient, and in which, when, on
a fair day, the thoroughfare swarms alike with Indolence and Trade, you
are impressed at once with the recollection of that restless, lively
race from which the population of Naples derives its origin; so that in
one day you may see at Pompeii the habitations of a remote age, and on
the Mole at Naples you may imagine you behold the very beings with which
those habitations had been peopled. The language of words is dead, but
the language of gestures remains little impaired. A fisherman,--peasant,
of Naples will explain to you the motions, the attitudes, the gestures
of the figures painted on the antique vases better than the most learned
antiquary of Gottingen or Leipsic.

But now, as the Englishmen rode slowly through the deserted streets,
lighted but by the lamps of heaven, all the gayety of the day was hushed
and breathless. Here and there, stretched under a portico or a dingy
booth, were sleeping groups of houseless lazzaroni,--a tribe now happily
merging this indolent individuality amidst an energetic and active
population.

The Englishmen rode on in silence, for Glyndon neither appeared to heed
or hear the questions and comments of Merton, and Merton himself was
almost as weary as the jaded animal he bestrode.

Suddenly the silence of earth and ocean was broken by the sound of a
distant clock, that proclaimed the last hour of night. Glyndon started
from his revery, and looked anxiously around. As the final stroke died,
the noise of hoofs rang on the broad stones of the pavement, and from a
narrow street to the right emerged the form of a solitary horseman. He
neared the Englishmen, and Glyndon recognized the features and mien of
Zicci.

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

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

“Alone?”

“There is no danger,” returned Zicci, with a slight expression of
disdain in his voice.

“None to me, but to Glyndon?”

“Danger from me? Ah! perhaps you are right.”

“Go on, my dear Merton,” said Glyndon. “I will join you before you reach
the hotel.”

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

“Now your answer,--quick.”

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

“You have decided?”

“I have.”

“Adieu! join your friend.”

Zicci gave the rein to his horse; it sprang forward with a bound; the
sparks flew from its hoofs, and horse and rider disappeared amidst the
shadows of the street whence they had emerged.

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

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

“Merton, do not ask me to-night; I am in a dream.”

“I do not wonder at it, for even I am in a sleep. Let us push on.”

In the retirement of his chamber, Glyndon sought to recollect his
thoughts. He sat down on the foot of his bed and pressed his hands
tightly to his throbbing temples. The events of the last few hours, the
apparition of the gigantic and shadowy Companion of the Mystic amidst
the fires and clouds of Vesuvius, the strange encounter with Zicci
himself on a spot in which he could never have calculated on finding
Glyndon, filled his mind with emotions, in which terror and awe the
least prevailed. A fire, the train of which had long been laid, was
lighted at his heart,--the asbestos fire that, once lit, is never to be
quenched. All his early aspiration, his young ambition, his longings
for the laurel, were mingled in one passionate yearning to overpass
the bounds of the common knowledge of man, and reach that solemn spot,
between two worlds, on which the mysterious stranger appeared to have
fixed his home.

Far from recalling with renewed affright the remembrance of the
apparition that had so appalled him, the recollection only served to
kindle and concentrate his curiosity into a burning focus. He had said
aright,--love had vanished from his heart; there was no longer a serene
space amidst its disordered elements for human affection to move and
breathe. The enthusiast was rapt from this earth; and he would have
surrendered all that beauty ever promised, that mortal hope ever
whispered, for one hour with Zicci beyond the portals of the visible
world.

He rose, oppressed and fevered with the new thoughts that raged within
him, and threw open his casement for air. The ocean lay suffused in the
starry light, and the stillness of the heavens never more eloquently
preached the morality of repose to the madness of earthly passions. But
such was Glyndon’s mood that their very hush only served to deepen the
wild desires that preyed upon his soul. And the solemn stars, that are
mysteries in themselves, seemed by a kindred sympathy to agitate the
wings of the spirit no longer contented with its cage. As he gazed, a
star shot from its brethren and vanished from the depth of space!



CHAPTER XII.

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

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

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

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

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

“What news?” asked Glyndon, mechanically.

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

“Well, well, what of her?”

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

“The villain! by force?”

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

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



CHAPTER XIII.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Fly with thee!” said Isabel, tenderly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



CHAPTER XIV.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Zicci!” replied the stranger.

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

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

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

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

“He was poisoned, and Mejnour fled.”

“Mejnour fled not,” answered the stranger, quickly and proudly.

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

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

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



CHAPTER XV.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The fiat has gone forth.”

“And to-morrow?”

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



CHAPTER XVI.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Who is the Prince’s heir?” asked the Corsican.

“A distant relation on the mother’s side; with his Excellency dies the
male line.”

“Is the heir present at our host’s banquet?”

“No; they are not friends.”

“No matter; he will be here to-morrow!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   I never remember [writes the Due] to have felt my spirits so
   excited as on that evening; we were like so many boys released from
   school, jostling each other as we reeled or ran down the flight of
   seven or eight stairs that led from the colonnade into the garden,
   --some 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 spurting up like the rain from a whale’s nostril.
With the weight of the blow the stout fellow came down, so that his face
touched mine; with my right hand I caught him by the throat, turned him
over like a lamb, signor, and faith it was soon all up with him; the
boatswain’s brother, a fat Dutchman, ran him through with a pike.

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

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

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

“‘Who are you?’

“‘Your son,’ said I, in a whisper.

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

“‘You look poor, friend,’ said one of them, halting; ‘yet you are
strong.’

“‘Poor men and strong are both serviceable and dangerous, Signor
Cavalier.’

“‘Well said! follow us.’

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Who?--he himself told you, a philosopher.”

“Hem! Searching for the philosopher’s stone, eh? A bit of a magician;
afraid of the priests?”

“Precisely. You have hit it.”

“I thought so; and you are his pupil?”

“I am.”

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

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

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

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

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



CHAPTER. II.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


THE END. (1)


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





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