“But if you love her, why—why—”
“Why am I anxious that she should wed another?—to save her from myself! Listen to me. That girl, humble and uneducated though she be, has in her the seeds of the most lofty qualities and virtues. She can be all to the man she loves,—all that man can desire in wife. Her soul, developed by affection, will elevate your own; it will influence your fortunes, exalt your destiny; you will become a great and a prosperous man. If, on the contrary, she fall to me, I know not what may be her lot; but I know that there is an ordeal which few can pass, and which hitherto no woman has survived.”
As Zanoni spoke, his face became colourless, and there was something in his voice that froze the warm blood of the listener.
“What is this mystery which surrounds you?” exclaimed Glyndon, unable to repress his emotion. “Are you, in truth, different from other men? Have you passed the boundary of lawful knowledge? Are you, as some declare, a sorcerer, or only a—”
“Hush!” interrupted Zanoni, gently, and with a smile of singular but melancholy sweetness; “have you earned the right to ask me these questions? Though Italy still boast an Inquisition, its power is rivelled as a leaf which the first wind shall scatter. The days of torture and persecution are over; and a man may live as he pleases, and talk as it suits him, without fear of the stake and the rack. Since I can defy persecution, pardon me if I do not yield to curiosity.”
Glyndon blushed, and rose. In spite of his love for Viola, and his natural terror of such a rival, he felt himself irresistibly drawn towards the very man he had most cause to suspect and dread. He held out his hand to Zanoni, saying, “Well, then, if we are to be rivals, our swords must settle our rights; till then I would fain be friends.”
“Friends! You know not what you ask.”
“Enigmas!” cried Zanoni, passionately; “ay! can you dare to solve them? Not till then could I give you my right hand, and call you friend.”
“I could dare everything and all things for the attainment of superhuman wisdom,” said Glyndon, and his countenance was lighted up with wild and intense enthusiasm.
Zanoni observed him in thoughtful silence.
“The seeds of the ancestor live in the son,” he muttered; “he may—yet—” He broke off abruptly; then, speaking aloud, “Go, Glyndon,” said he; “we shall meet again, but I will not ask your answer till the hour presses for decision.”
’Tis certain that this man has an estate of fifty thousand livres, and seems to be a person of very great accomplishments. But, then, if he’s a wizard, are wizards so devoutly given as this man seems to be? In short, I could make neither head nor tail on’t
de Gabalis, Translation affixed to the
second edition of the “Rape of the Lock.”