An attendant entered the room, and gave to Viola a card, with these words in English, “Viola, I must see you! Clarence Glyndon.”
Oh, yes, how gladly Viola would see him; how gladly speak to him of her happiness, of Zanoni!—how gladly show to him her child! Poor Clarence! she had forgotten him till now, as she had all the fever of her earlier life,—its dreams, its vanities, its poor excitement, the lamps of the gaudy theatre, the applause of the noisy crowd.
He entered. She started to behold him, so changed were his gloomy brow, his resolute, careworn features, from the graceful form and careless countenance of the artist-lover. His dress, though not mean, was rude, neglected, and disordered. A wild, desperate, half-savage air had supplanted that ingenuous mien, diffident in its grace, earnest in its diffidence, which had once characterised the young worshipper of Art, the dreaming aspirant after some starrier lore.
“Is it you?” she said at last. “Poor Clarence, how changed!”
“Changed!” he said abruptly, as he placed himself by her side. “And whom am I to thank, but the fiends—the sorcerers—who have seized upon thy existence, as upon mine? Viola, hear me. A few weeks since the news reached me that you were in Venice. Under other pretences, and through innumerable dangers, I have come hither, risking liberty, perhaps life, if my name and career are known in Venice, to warn and save you. Changed, you call me!—changed without; but what is that to the ravages within? Be warned, be warned in time!”
The voice of Glyndon, sounding hollow and sepulchral, alarmed Viola even more than his words. Pale, haggard, emaciated, he seemed almost as one risen from the dead, to appall and awe her. “What,” she said, at last, in a faltering voice,—“what wild words do you utter! Can you—”
“Listen!” interrupted Glyndon, laying his hand upon her arm, and its touch was as cold as death,—“listen! You have heard of the old stories of men who have leagued themselves with devils for the attainment of preternatural powers. Those stories are not fables. Such men live. Their delight is to increase the unhallowed circle of wretches like themselves. If their proselytes fail in the ordeal, the demon seizes them, even in this life, as it hath seized me!—if they succeed, woe, yea, a more lasting woe! There is another life, where no spells can charm the evil one, or allay the torture. I have come from a scene where blood flows in rivers,—where Death stands by the side of the bravest and the highest, and the one monarch is the Guillotine; but all the mortal perils with which men can be beset, are nothing to the dreariness of the chamber where the Horror that passes death moves and stirs!”