He moved on gently. They returned slowly home; but fear still was in the heart of Viola, though she strove to shake it off. Italian and Catholic she was, with all the superstitions of land and sect. She stole to her chamber and prayed before a little relic of San Gennaro, which the priest of her house had given to her in childhood, and which had accompanied her in all her wanderings. She had never deemed it possible to part with it before. Now, if there was a charm against the pestilence, did she fear the pestilence for herself? The next morning, when he awoke, Zanoni found the relic of the saint suspended with his mystic amulet round his neck.
“Ah! thou wilt have nothing to fear from the pestilence now,” said Viola, between tears and smiles; “and when thou wouldst talk to me again as thou didst last night, the saint shall rebuke thee.”
Well, Zanoni, can there ever indeed be commune of thought and spirit, except with equals?
Yes, the plague broke out,—the island home must be abandoned. Mighty Seer, thou hast no power to save those whom thou lovest! Farewell, thou bridal roof!—sweet resting-place from care, farewell! Climates as soft may greet ye, O lovers,—skies as serene, and waters as blue and calm; but that time,—can it ever more return? Who shall say that the heart does not change with the scene,—the place where we first dwelt with the beloved one? Every spot there has so many memories which the place only can recall. The past that haunts it seems to command such constancy in the future. If a thought less kind, less trustful, enter within us, the sight of a tree under which a vow has been exchanged, a tear has been kissed away, restores us again to the hours of the first divine illusion. But in a home where nothing speaks of the first nuptials, where there is no eloquence of association, no holy burial-places of emotions, whose ghosts are angels!—yes, who that has gone through the sad history of affection will tell us that the heart changes not with the scene! Blow fair, ye favouring winds; cheerily swell, ye sails; away from the land where death has come to snatch the sceptre of Love! The shores glide by; new coasts succeed to the green hills and orange-groves of the Bridal Isle. From afar now gleam in the moonlight the columns, yet extant, of a temple which the Athenian dedicated to wisdom; and, standing on the bark that bounded on in the freshening gale, the votary who had survived the goddess murmured to himself,—
“Has the wisdom of ages brought me no happier hours than those common to the shepherd and the herdsman, with no world beyond their village, no aspiration beyond the kiss and the smile of home?”
And the moon, resting alike over the ruins of the temple of the departed creed, over the hut of the living peasant, over the immemorial mountain-top, and the perishable herbage that clothed its sides, seemed to smile back its answer of calm disdain to the being who, perchance, might have seen the temple built, and who, in his inscrutable existence, might behold the mountain shattered from its base.