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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 456 pages of information about Zanoni.

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.  Oh, yes!  Zanoni was right.  The painter is a magician; the gold he at least wrings from his crucible is no delusion.  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, above the middle height, and rather inclined to corpulence, was clad in a loose dressing-robe of rich brocade.  On a table before him lay an old-fashioned 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 barricadoed window,—­“well! the Cardinal sleeps with his fathers.  I require comfort for the loss of so excellent a relation; and where a more dulcet voice than Viola Pisani’s?”

“Is your Excellency serious?  So soon after the death of his Eminence?”

“It will be the less talked of, and I the less suspected.  Hast thou ascertained the name of the insolent who baffled us that night, and advised the Cardinal the next day?”

“Not yet.”

“Sapient Mascari!  I will inform thee.  It was the strange Unknown.”

“The Signor Zanoni!  Are you sure, my prince?”

“Mascari, yes.  There is a tone in that man’s voice that I never can mistake; so clear, and so commanding, when I hear it I almost fancy there is such a thing as conscience.  However, we must rid ourselves of an impertinent.  Mascari, Signor Zanoni hath not yet honoured our poor house with his presence.  He is a distinguished stranger,—­we must give a banquet in his honour.”

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

“But this anon.  I am superstitious; there are strange stories of Zanoni’s power and foresight; remember the death of Ughelli.  No matter, though the Fiend were his ally, he should not rob me of my prize; no, nor my revenge.”

“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 honour is now enlisted in this pursuit,—­Viola must be mine!”

“Another ambuscade?” said Mascari, inquiringly.

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