It was then that Glyndon, with a cold and distinct precision, detailed, as he had done to Adela, the initiation through which he had gone. He described, in words that froze the blood of his listener, the appearance of that formless phantom, with the eyes that seared the brain and congealed the marrow of those who beheld. Once seen, it never was to be exorcised. It came at its own will, prompting black thoughts,—whispering strange temptations. Only in scenes of turbulent excitement was it absent! Solitude, serenity, the struggling desires after peace and virtue,—these were the elements it loved to haunt! Bewildered, terror-stricken, the wild account confirmed by the dim impressions that never, in the depth and confidence of affection, had been closely examined, but rather banished as soon as felt,—that the life and attributes of Zanoni were not like those of mortals,—impressions which her own love had made her hitherto censure as suspicions that wronged, and which, thus mitigated, had perhaps only served to rivet the fascinated chains in which he bound her heart and senses, but which now, as Glyndon’s awful narrative filled her with contagious dread, half unbound the very spells they had woven before,—Viola started up in fear, not for herself, and clasped her child in her arms!
“Unhappiest one!” cried Glyndon, shuddering, “hast thou indeed given birth to a victim thou canst not save? Refuse it sustenance,—let it look to thee in vain for food! In the grave, at least, there are repose and peace!”
Then there came back to Viola’s mind the remembrance of Zanoni’s night-long watches by that cradle, and the fear which even then had crept over her as she heard his murmured half-chanted words. And as the child looked at her with its clear, steadfast eye, in the strange intelligence of that look there was something that only confirmed her awe. So there both Mother and Forewarner stood in silence,—the sun smiling upon them through the casement, and dark by the cradle, though they saw it not, sat the motionless, veiled Thing!
But by degrees better and juster and more grateful memories of the past returned to the young mother. The features of the infant, as she gazed, took the aspect of the absent father. A voice seemed to break from those rosy lips, and say, mournfully, “I speak to thee in thy child. In return for all my love for thee and thine, dost thou distrust me, at the first sentence of a maniac who accuses?”
Her breast heaved, her stature rose, her eyes shone with a serene and holy light.
“Go, poor victim of thine own delusions,” she said to Glyndon; “I would not believe mine own senses, if they accused its father! And what knowest thou of Zanoni? What relation have Mejnour and the grisly spectres he invoked, with the radiant image with which thou wouldst connect them?”
“Thou wilt learn too soon,” replied Glyndon, gloomily. “And the very phantom that haunts me, whispers, with its bloodless lips, that its horrors await both thine and thee! I take not thy decision yet; before I leave Venice we shall meet again.”