Zanoni eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 456 pages of information about Zanoni.

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She was placed in her gloomy cell, to await the morrow.  But the child was still spared her; and she thought it seemed as if conscious of the awful present.  In their way to the prison it had not moaned or wept.  It had looked with its clear eyes, unshrinking, on the gleaming pikes and savage brows of the huissiers.  And now, alone in the dungeon, it put its arms round her neck, and murmured its indistinct sounds, low and sweet as some unknown language of consolation and of heaven.  And of heaven it was!—­for, at the murmur, the terror melted from her soul; upward, from the dungeon and the death,—­upward, where the happy cherubim chant the mercy of the All-loving, whispered that cherub’s voice.  She fell upon her knees and prayed.  The despoilers of all that beautifies and hallows life had desecrated the altar, and denied the God!—­they had removed from the last hour of their victims the Priest, the Scripture, and the Cross!  But Faith builds in the dungeon and the lazar-house its sublimest shrines; and up, through roofs of stone, that shut out the eye of Heaven, ascends the ladder where the angels glide to and fro,—­prayer.

And there, in the very cell beside her own, the atheist Nicot sits stolid amidst the darkness, and hugs the thought of Danton, that death is nothingness. ("Ma demeure sera bientot le NEANT” (My abode will soon be nothingness), said Danton before his judges.)) His, no spectacle of an appalled and perturbed conscience!  Remorse is the echo of a lost virtue, and virtue he never knew.  Had he to live again, he would live the same.  But more terrible than the death-bed of a believing and despairing sinner that blank gloom of apathy,—­that contemplation of the worm and the rat of the charnel-house; that grim and loathsome nothingness which, for his eye, falls like a pall over the universe of life.  Still, staring into space, gnawing his livid lip, he looks upon the darkness, convinced that darkness is forever and forever!

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Place, there! place!  Room yet in your crowded cells.  Another has come to the slaughter-house.

As the jailer, lamp in hand, ushered in the stranger, the latter touched him and whispered.  The stranger drew a jewel from his finger.  Diantre, how the diamond flashed in the ray of the lamp!  Value each head of your eighty at a thousand francs, and the jewel is more worth than all!  The jailer paused, and the diamond laughed in his dazzled eyes.  O thou Cerberus, thou hast mastered all else that seems human in that fell employ!  Thou hast no pity, no love, and no remorse.  But Avarice survives the rest, and the foul heart’s master-serpent swallows up the tribe.  Ha! ha! crafty stranger, thou hast conquered!  They tread the gloomy corridor; they arrive at the door where the jailer has placed the fatal mark, now to be erased, for the prisoner within is to be reprieved a day.  The key grates in the lock; the door yawns,—­the stranger takes the lamp and enters.

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Project Gutenberg
Zanoni from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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