According to the order of the events related in this narrative, the departure of Zanoni and Viola from the Greek isle, in which two happy years appear to have been passed, must have been somewhat later in date than the arrival of Glyndon at Marseilles. It must have been in the course of the year 1791 when Viola fled from Naples with her mysterious lover, and when Glyndon sought Mejnour in the fatal castle. It is now towards the close of 1793, when our story again returns to Zanoni. The stars of winter shone down on the lagunes of Venice. The hum of the Rialto was hushed,—the last loiterers had deserted the Place of St. Mark’s, and only at distant intervals might be heard the oars of the rapid gondolas, bearing reveller or lover to his home. But lights still flitted to and fro across the windows of one of the Palladian palaces, whose shadow slept in the great canal; and within the palace watched the twin Eumenides that never sleep for Man,—Fear and Pain.
“I will make thee the richest man in all Venice, if thou savest her.”
“Signor,” said the leech; “your gold cannot control death, and the will of Heaven, signor, unless within the next hour there is some blessed change, prepare your courage.”
Ho—ho, Zanoni! man of mystery and might, who hast walked amidst the passions of the world, with no changes on thy brow, art thou tossed at last upon the billows of tempestuous fear? Does thy spirit reel to and fro?—knowest thou at last the strength and the majesty of Death?
He fled, trembling, from the pale-faced man of art,—fled through stately hall and long-drawn corridor, and gained a remote chamber in the palace, which other step than his was not permitted to profane. Out with thy herbs and vessels. Break from the enchanted elements, O silvery-azure flame! Why comes he not,—the Son of the Starbeam! Why is Adon-Ai deaf to thy solemn call? It comes not,—the luminous and delightsome Presence! Cabalist! are thy charms in vain? Has thy throne vanished from the realms of space? Thou standest pale and trembling. Pale trembler! not thus didst thou look when the things of glory gathered at thy spell. Never to the pale trembler bow the things of glory: the soul, and not the herbs, nor the silvery-azure flame, nor the spells of the Cabala, commands the children of the air; and thy soul, by Love and Death, is made sceptreless and discrowned!
At length the flame quivers,—the air grows cold as the wind in charnels. A thing not of earth is present,—a mistlike, formless thing. It cowers in the distance,—a silent Horror! it rises; it creeps; it nears thee—dark in its mantle of dusky haze; and under its veil it looks on thee with its livid, malignant eyes,—the thing of malignant eyes!
“Ha, young Chaldean! young in thy countless ages,—young as when, cold to pleasure and to beauty, thou stoodest on the old Firetower, and heardest the starry silence whisper to thee the last mystery that baffles Death,—fearest thou Death at length? Is thy knowledge but a circle that brings thee back whence thy wanderings began! Generations on generations have withered since we two met! Lo! thou beholdest me now!”