This recital gave to Mervale all the advantage he could desire. Heavens! with what sound, shrewd common-sense he talked. How evidently some charlatanic coalition between the actress, and perhaps,—who knows?—her clandestine protector, sated with possession! How equivocal the character of one,—the position of the other! What cunning in the question of the actress! How profoundly had Glyndon, at the first suggestion of his sober reason, seen through the snare. What! was he to be thus mystically cajoled and hurried into a rash marriage, because Zanoni, a mere stranger, told him with a grave face that he must decide before the clock struck a certain hour?
“Do this at least,” said Mervale, reasonably enough,—“wait till the time expires; it is but another day. Baffle Zanoni. He tells thee that he will meet thee before midnight to-morrow, and defies thee to avoid him. Pooh! let us quit Naples for some neighbouring place, where, unless he be indeed the Devil, he cannot possibly find us. Show him that you will not be led blindfold even into an act that you meditate yourself. Defer to write to her, or to see her, till after to-morrow. This is all I ask. Then visit her, and decide for yourself.”
Glyndon was staggered. He could not combat the reasonings of his friend; he was not convinced, but he hesitated; and at that moment Nicot passed them. He turned round, and stopped, as he saw Glyndon.
“Well, and do you think still of the Pisani?”
“Yes; and you—”
“Have seen and conversed with her. She shall be Madame Nicot before this day week! I am going to the cafe, in the Toledo; and hark ye, when next you meet your friend Signor Zanoni, tell him that he has twice crossed my path. Jean Nicot, though a painter, is a plain, honest man, and always pays his debts.”
“It is a good doctrine in money matters,” said Mervale; “as to revenge, it is not so moral, and certainly not so wise. But is it in your love that Zanoni has crossed your path? How that, if your suit prosper so well?”
“Ask Viola Pisani that question. Bah! Glyndon, she is a prude only to thee. But I have no prejudices. Once more, farewell.”
“Rouse thyself, man!” said Mervale, slapping Glyndon on the shoulder. “What think you of your fair one now?”
“This man must lie.”
“Will you write to her at once?”
“No; if she be really playing a game, I could renounce her without a sigh. I will watch her closely; and, at all events, Zanoni shall not be the master of my fate. Let us, as you advise, leave Naples at daybreak to-morrow.”
O chiunque tu sia, che
fuor d’ogni uso
Pieghi Natura ad opre altere e strane,
E, spiando i segreti, entri al piu chiuso
Spazi’ a tua voglia delle menti umane—Deh, Dimmi!
“Gerus. Lib.,” Cant. x. xviii.