“And these things are whispered of Zanoni!” said Viola, half to herself, and unheeding Gionetta’s eulogies on Glyndon and the English.
“Blessed Maria! do not talk of this terrible Zanoni. You may be sure that his beautiful face, like his yet more beautiful pistoles, is only witchcraft. I look at the money he gave me the other night, every quarter of an hour, to see whether it has not turned into pebbles.”
“Do you then really believe,” said Viola, with timid earnestness, “that sorcery still exists?”
“Believe! Do I believe in the blessed San Gennaro? How do you think he cured old Filippo the fisherman, when the doctor gave him up? How do you think he has managed himself to live at least these three hundred years? How do you think he fascinates every one to his bidding with a look, as the vampires do?”
“Ah, is this only witchcraft? It is like it,—it must be!” murmured Viola, turning very pale. Gionetta herself was scarcely more superstitious than the daughter of the musician. And her very innocence, chilled at the strangeness of virgin passion, might well ascribe to magic what hearts more experienced would have resolved to love.
“And then, why has this great Prince di — been so terrified by him? Why has he ceased to persecute us? Why has he been so quiet and still? Is there no sorcery in all that?”
“Think you, then,” said Viola, with sweet inconsistency, “that I owe that happiness and safety to his protection? Oh, let me so believe! Be silent, Gionetta! Why have I only thee and my own terrors to consult? O beautiful sun!” and the girl pressed her hand to her heart with wild energy; “thou lightest every spot but this. Go, Gionetta! leave me alone,—leave me!”
“And indeed it is time I should leave you; for the polenta will be spoiled, and you have eat nothing all day. If you don’t eat you will lose your beauty, my darling, and then nobody will care for you. Nobody cares for us when we grow ugly,—I know that; and then you must, like old Gionetta, get some Viola of your own to spoil. I’ll go and see to the polenta.”
“Since I have known this man,” said the girl, half aloud,—“since his dark eyes have haunted me, I am no longer the same. I long to escape from myself,—to glide with the sunbeam over the hill-tops; to become something that is not of earth. Phantoms float before me at night; and a fluttering, like the wing of a bird, within my heart, seems as if the spirit were terrified, and would break its cage.”
While murmuring these incoherent rhapsodies, a step that she did not hear approached the actress, and a light hand touched her arm.
She turned, and saw Glyndon. The sight of his fair young face calmed her at once. His presence gave her pleasure.