“And to me his duty is transferred,” replied the stranger. “Yonder lies, anchored in the bay, the vessel in which Zanoni 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. Zanoni 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 leaped on shore, and Glyndon recognised Zanoni.
“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 realisation 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, 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; that knowledge must be thine own. For this, and for this alone, I surrendered the love of Viola; this, and this alone, must be my recompense.”
“I cannot gain say 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 influence the elements, and to insure life against the sword and against disease?”
“All this may be possible,” answered Zanoni, 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 Zanoni, 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 an 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 upon the pebbles, whose approach he had not beheld in the moonlight, was once more by his side.