The cloud retreated from it as it advanced; the bright lamps grew wan, and flickered restlessly as at the breath of its presence. Its form was veiled as the face, but the outline was that of a female; yet it moved not as move even the ghosts that simulate the living. It seemed rather to crawl as some vast misshapen reptile; and pausing, at length it cowered beside the table which held the mystic volume, and again fixed its eyes through the filmy veil on the rash invoker. All fancies, the most grotesque, of monk or painter in the early North, would have failed to give to the visage of imp or fiend that aspect of deadly malignity which spoke to the shuddering nature in those eyes alone. All else so dark,—shrouded, veiled and larva-like. But that burning glare so intense, so livid, yet so living, had in it something that was almost human in its passion of hate and mockery,—something that served to show that the shadowy Horror was not all a spirit, but partook of matter enough, at least, to make it more deadly and fearful an enemy to material forms. As, clinging with the grasp of agony to the wall,—his hair erect, his eyeballs starting, he still gazed back upon that appalling gaze,—the Image spoke to him: his soul rather than his ear comprehended the words it said.
“Thou hast entered the immeasurable region. I am the Dweller of the Threshold. What wouldst thou with me? Silent? Dost thou fear me? Am I not thy beloved? Is it not for me that thou hast rendered up the delights of thy race? Wouldst thou be wise? Mine is the wisdom of the countless ages. Kiss me, my mortal lover.” And the Horror crawled near and nearer to him; it crept to his side, its breath breathed upon his cheek! With a sharp cry he fell to the earth insensible, and knew no more till, far in the noon of the next day, he opened his eyes and found himself in his bed,—the glorious sun streaming through his lattice, and the bandit Paolo by his side, engaged in polishing his carbine, and whistling a Calabrian love-air.
Thus man pursues his
And wrings the hard life from the sky,
While happiness unseen is falling
Down from God’s bosom silently.
In one of those islands whose history the imperishable literature and renown of Athens yet invest with melancholy interest, and on which Nature, in whom “there is nothing melancholy,” still bestows a glory of scenery and climate equally radiant for the freeman or the slave,—the Ionian, the Venetian, the Gaul, the Turk, or the restless Briton,—Zanoni had fixed his bridal home. There the air carries with it the perfumes of the plains for miles along the blue, translucent deep. (See Dr. Holland’s “Travels to the Ionian Isles,” etc., page 18.) Seen from one of its green sloping heights, the island he had selected seemed one delicious garden.