“Be comforted,” he said, gently turning to the old man, “the danger is not beyond the reach of human skill;” and, taking from his bosom a small crystal vase, he mingled a few drops with water. No sooner did this medicine moisten the infant’s lips, than it seemed to produce an astonishing effect. The colour revived rapidly on the lips and cheeks; in a few moments the sufferer slept calmly, and with the regular breathing of painless sleep. And then the old man rose, rigidly, as a corpse might rise,—looked down, listened, and creeping gently away, stole to the corner of the room, and wept, and thanked Heaven!
Now, old Bernardi had been, hitherto, but a cold believer; sorrow had never before led him aloft from earth. Old as he was, he had never before thought as the old should think of death,—that endangered life of the young had wakened up the careless soul of age. Zanoni whispered to the wife, and she drew the old man quietly from the room.
“Dost thou fear to leave me an hour with thy charge, Viola? Thinkest thou still that this knowledge is of the Fiend?”
“Ah,” said Viola, humbled and yet rejoiced, “forgive me, forgive me, signor. Thou biddest the young live and the old pray. My thoughts never shall wrong thee more!”
Before the sun rose, Beatrice was out of danger; at noon Zanoni escaped from the blessings of the aged pair, and as he closed the door of the house, he found Viola awaiting him without.
She stood before him timidly, her hands crossed meekly on her bosom, her downcast eyes swimming with tears.
“Do not let me be the only one you leave unhappy!”
“And what cure can the herbs and anodynes effect for thee? If thou canst so readily believe ill of those who have aided and yet would serve thee, thy disease is of the heart; and—nay, weep not! nurse of the sick, and comforter of the sad, I should rather approve than chide thee. Forgive thee! Life, that ever needs forgiveness, has, for its first duty, to forgive.”
“No, do not forgive me yet. I do not deserve a pardon; for even now, while I feel how ungrateful I was to believe, suspect, aught injurious and false to my preserver, my tears flow from happiness, not remorse. Oh!” she continued, with a simple fervour, unconscious, in her innocence and her generous emotions, of all the secrets she betrayed,—“thou knowest not how bitter it was to believe thee not more good, more pure, more sacred than all the world. And when I saw thee,—the wealthy, the noble, coming from thy palace to minister to the sufferings of the hovel,—when I heard those blessings of the poor breathed upon thy parting footsteps, I felt my very self exalted,—good in thy goodness, noble at least in those thoughts that did not wrong thee.”
“And thinkest thou, Viola, that in a mere act of science there is so much virtue? The commonest leech will tend the sick for his fee. Are prayers and blessings a less reward than gold?”