“Look on me, Zanoni,” she said, pressing his hand.
He turned: “Thou art pale, Viola; thy hand trembles!”
“It is true. I feel as if some enemy were creeping near us.”
“And the instinct deceives thee not. An enemy is indeed at hand. I see it through the heavy air; I hear it through the silence: the Ghostly One,—the Destroyer, the pestilence! Ah, seest thou how the leaves swarm with insects, only by an effort visible to the eye. They follow the breath of the plague!” As he spoke, a bird fell from the boughs at Viola’s feet; it fluttered, it writhed an instant, and was dead.
“Oh, Viola!” cried Zanoni, passionately, “that is death. Dost thou not fear to die?”
“To leave thee? Ah, yes!”
“And if I could teach thee how Death may be defied; if I could arrest for thy youth the course of time; if I could—”
He paused abruptly, for Viola’s eyes spoke only terror; her cheek and lips were pale.
“Speak not thus,—look not thus,” she said, recoiling from him. “You dismay me. Ah, speak not thus, or I should tremble,—no, not for myself, but for thy child.”
“Thy child! But wouldst thou reject for thy child the same glorious boon?”
“The sun has sunk from our eyes, but to rise on those of others. To disappear from this world is to live in the world afar. Oh, lover,—oh, husband!” she continued, with sudden energy, “tell me that thou didst but jest,—that thou didst but trifle with my folly! There is less terror in the pestilence than in thy words.”
Zanoni’s brow darkened; he looked at her in silence for some moments, and then said, almost severely,—
“What hast thou known of me to distrust?”
“Oh, pardon, pardon!—nothing!” cried Viola, throwing herself on his breast, and bursting into tears. “I will not believe even thine own words, if they seem to wrong thee!” He kissed the tears from her eyes, but made no answer.
“And ah!” she resumed, with an enchanting and child-like smile, “if thou wouldst give me a charm against the pestilence! see, I will take it from thee.” And she laid her hand on a small, antique amulet that he wore on his breast.
“Thou knowest how often this has made me jealous of the past; surely some love-gift, Zanoni? But no, thou didst not love the giver as thou dost me. Shall I steal thine amulet?”
“Infant!” said Zanoni, tenderly; “she who placed this round my neck deemed it indeed a charm, for she had superstitions like thyself; but to me it is more than the wizard’s spell,—it is the relic of a sweet vanished time when none who loved me could distrust.”
He said these words in a tone of such melancholy reproach that it went to the heart of Viola; but the tone changed into a solemnity which chilled back the gush of her feelings as he resumed: “And this, Viola, one day, perhaps, I will transfer from my breast to thine; yes, whenever thou shalt comprehend me better,—whenever the laws of our being shall be the same!”