The mask drew back, and composed his disordered mantle.
“By the body of Bacchus!” said he, half laughing, “she is well protected. Here, Luigi, Giovanni! seize the hag!—quick!—why loiter ye?”
The mask retired from the door, and another and yet taller form presented itself. “Be calm, Viola Pisani,” said he, in a low voice; “with me you are indeed safe!” He lifted his mask as he spoke, and showed the noble features of Zanoni.
“Be calm, be hushed,—I can save you.” He vanished, leaving Viola lost in surprise, agitation, and delight. There were, in all, nine masks: two were engaged with the driver; one stood at the head of the carriage-horses; a fourth guarded the well-trained steeds of the party; three others (besides Zanoni and the one who had first accosted Viola) stood apart by a carriage drawn to the side of the road. To these three Zanoni motioned; they advanced; he pointed towards the first mask, who was in fact the Prince di —, and to his unspeakable astonishment the prince was suddenly seized from behind.
“Treason!” he cried. “Treason among my own men! What means this?”
“Place him in his carriage! If he resist, his blood be on his own head!” said Zanoni, calmly.
He approached the men who had detained the coachman.
“You are outnumbered and outwitted,” said he; “join your lord; you are three men,—we six, armed to the teeth. Thank our mercy that we spare your lives. Go!”
The men gave way, dismayed. The driver remounted.
“Cut the traces of their carriage and the bridles of their horses,” said Zanoni, as he entered the vehicle containing Viola, which now drove on rapidly, leaving the discomfited ravisher in a state of rage and stupor impossible to describe.
“Allow me to explain this mystery to you,” said Zanoni. “I discovered the plot against you,—no matter how; I frustrated it thus: The head of this design is a nobleman, who has long persecuted you in vain. He and two of his creatures watched you from the entrance of the theatre, having directed six others to await him on the spot where you were attacked; myself and five of my servants supplied their place, and were mistaken for his own followers. I had previously ridden alone to the spot where the men were waiting, and informed them that their master would not require their services that night. They believed me, and accordingly dispersed. I then joined my own band, whom I had left in the rear; you know all. We are at your door.”
When most I wink, then
do mine eyes best see,
For all the day they view things unrespected;
But when I sleep, in dreams they look on thee,
And, darkly bright, are bright in dark directed.
Zanoni followed the
young Neapolitan into her house; Gionetta
vanished,—they were left alone.