“Well,” he said then, forcing a smile to his lips, “I promised I would serve you; see, I am faithful to my word. I suppose that you are one of those fools of feeling,—those professors of anti-revolutionary virtue, of whom I have seen not a few before my Bar. Faugh! it sickens me to see those who make a merit of incivism, and perish to save some bad patriot, because it is a son, or a father, or a wife, or a daughter, who is saved.”
“I am one of those fools of feeling,” said the stranger, rising. “You have divined aright.”
“And wilt thou not, in return for my mercy, utter to-night the revelations thou wouldst proclaim to-morrow? Come; and perhaps thou too—nay, the woman also—may receive, not reprieve, but pardon.”
“Before your tribunal, and there alone! Nor will I deceive you, president. My information may avail you not; and even while I show the cloud, the bolt may fall.”
“Tush! prophet, look to thyself! Go, madman, go. I know too well the contumacious obstinacy of the class to which I suspect thou belongest, to waste further words. Diable! but ye grow so accustomed to look on death, that ye forget the respect ye owe to it. Since thou offerest me thy head, I accept it. To-morrow thou mayst repent; it will be too late.”
“Ay, too late, president!” echoed the calm visitor.
“But, remember, it is not pardon, it is but a day’s reprieve, I have promised to this woman. According as thou dost satisfy me to-morrow, she lives or dies. I am frank, citizen; thy ghost shall not haunt me for want of faith.”
“It is but a day that I have asked; the rest I leave to justice and to Heaven. Your huissiers wait below.”
Und den Mordstahl seh’
Und das Morderauge gluhn!
(And I see the steel
of Murder glitter,
And the eye of Murder glow.)
Viola was in the prison that opened not but for those already condemned before adjudged. Since her exile from Zanoni, her very intellect had seemed paralysed. All that beautiful exuberance of fancy which, if not the fruit of genius, seemed its blossoms; all that gush of exquisite thought which Zanoni had justly told her flowed with mysteries and subtleties ever new to him, the wise one,—all were gone, annihilated; the blossom withered, the fount dried up. From something almost above womanhood, she seemed listlessly to sink into something below childhood. With the inspirer the inspirations had ceased; and, in deserting love, genius also was left behind.