“If it were necessary that practice square with precept,” said Zanoni, with a bitter smile, “our monitors would be but few. The conduct of the individual can affect but a small circle beyond himself; the permanent good or evil that he works to others lies rather in the sentiments he can diffuse. His acts are limited and momentary; his sentiments may pervade the universe, and inspire generations till the day of doom. All our virtues, all our laws, are drawn from books and maxims, which are sentiments, not from deeds. In conduct, Julian had the virtues of a Christian, and Constantine the vices of a Pagan. The sentiments of Julian reconverted thousands to Paganism; those of Constantine helped, under Heaven’s will, to bow to Christianity the nations of the earth. In conduct, the humblest fisherman on yonder sea, who believes in the miracles of San Gennaro, may be a better man than Luther; to the sentiments of Luther the mind of modern Europe is indebted for the noblest revolution it has known. Our opinions, young Englishman, are the angel part of us; our acts, the earthly.”
“You have reflected deeply for an Italian,” said Glyndon.
“Who told you that I was an Italian?”
“Are you not? And yet, when I hear you speak my own language as a native, I—”
“Tush!” interrupted Zanoni, impatiently turning away. Then, after a pause, he resumed in a mild voice, “Glyndon, do you renounce Viola Pisani? Will you take some days to consider what I have said?”
“Then you will marry her?”
“Be it so; she will then renounce you. I tell you that you have rivals.”
“Yes; the Prince di —; but I do not fear him.”
“You have another whom you will fear more.”
“And who is he?”
Glyndon turned pale, and started from his seat.
“You, Signor Zanoni!—you,—and you dare to tell me so?”
“Dare! Alas! there are times when I wish that I could fear.”
These arrogant words were not uttered arrogantly, but in a tone of the most mournful dejection. Glyndon was enraged, confounded, and yet awed. However, he had a brave English heart within his breast, and he recovered himself quickly.
“Signor,” said he, calmly, “I am not to be duped by these solemn phrases and these mystical assumptions. You may have powers which I cannot comprehend or emulate, or you may be but a keen imposter.”
“I mean, then,” continued Glyndon, resolutely, though somewhat disconcerted,—“I mean you to understand, that, though I am not to be persuaded or compelled by a stranger to marry Viola Pisani, I am not the less determined never tamely to yield her to another.”
Zanoni looked gravely at the young man, whose sparkling eyes and heightened colour testified the spirit to support his words, and replied, “So bold! well; it becomes you. But take my advice; wait yet nine days, and tell me then if you will marry the fairest and the purest creature that ever crossed your path.”