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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 456 pages of information about Zanoni.
however he might have sought to improve on the masterpieces of others.  Is not this common?  The least little critic, in reviewing some work of art, will say, “pity this, and pity that;” “this should have been altered,—­that omitted.”  Yea, with his wiry fiddlestring will he creak out his accursed variations.  But let him sit down and compose himself.  He sees no improvement in variations then!  Every man can control his fiddle when it is his own work with which its vagaries would play the devil.

And Viola is the idol, the theme of Naples.  She is the spoiled sultana of the boards.  To spoil her acting may be easy enough,—­shall they spoil her nature?  No, I think not.  There, at home, she is still good and simple; and there, under the awning by the doorway,—­there she still sits, divinely musing.  How often, crook-trunked tree, she looks to thy green boughs; how often, like thee, in her dreams, and fancies, does she struggle for the light,—­not the light of the stage-lamps.  Pooh, child! be contented with the lamps, even with the rush-lights.  A farthing candle is more convenient for household purposes than the stars.

Weeks passed, and the stranger did not reappear; months had passed, and his prophecy of sorrow was not yet fulfilled.  One evening Pisani was taken ill.  His success had brought on the long-neglected composer pressing applications for concerti and sonata, adapted to his more peculiar science on the violin.  He had been employed for some weeks, day and night, on a piece in which he hoped to excel himself.  He took, as usual, one of those seemingly impracticable subjects which it was his pride to subject to the expressive powers of his art,—­the terrible legend connected with the transformation of Philomel.  The pantomime of sound opened with the gay merriment of a feast.  The monarch of Thrace is at his banquet; a sudden discord brays through the joyous notes,—­the string seems to screech with horror.  The king learns the murder of his son by the hands of the avenging sisters.  Swift rage the chords, through the passions of fear, of horror, of fury, and dismay.  The father pursues the sisters.  Hark! what changes the dread—­the discord—­into that long, silvery, mournful music?  The transformation is completed; and Philomel, now the nightingale, pours from the myrtle-bough the full, liquid, subduing notes that are to tell evermore to the world the history of her woes and wrongs.  Now, it was in the midst of this complicated and difficult attempt that the health of the over-tasked musician, excited alike by past triumph and new ambition, suddenly gave way.  He was taken ill at night.  The next morning the doctor pronounced that his disease was a malignant and infectious fever.  His wife and Viola shared in their tender watch; but soon that task was left to the last alone.  The Signora Pisani caught the infection, and in a few hours was even in a state more alarming than that of her husband.  The Neapolitans, in common with the inhabitants of all warm climates, are apt to become selfish and brutal in their dread of infectious disorders.  Gionetta herself pretended to be ill, to avoid the sick-chamber.  The whole labour of love and sorrow fell on Viola.  It was a terrible trial,—­I am willing to hurry over the details.  The wife died first!

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