“To the man who aspires to know, no man who has been the meanest student of knowledge should be unknown. You ask me why I have shown this interest in your fate? There is one reason which I have not yet told you. There is a fraternity as to whose laws and whose mysteries the most inquisitive schoolmen are in the dark. By those laws all are pledged to warn, to aid, and to guide even the remotest descendants of men who have toiled, though vainly, like your ancestor, in the mysteries of the Order. We are bound to advise them to their welfare; nay, more,—if they command us to it, we must accept them as our pupils. I am a survivor of that most ancient and immemorial union. This it was that bound me to thee at the first; this, perhaps, attracted thyself unconsciously, Son of our Brotherhood, to me.”
“If this be so, I command thee, in the name of the laws thou obeyest, to receive me as thy pupil!”
“What do you ask?” said Zanoni, passionately. “Learn, first, the conditions. No neophyte must have, at his initiation, one affection or desire that chains him to the world. He must be pure from the love of woman, free from avarice and ambition, free from the dreams even of art, or the hope of earthly fame. The first sacrifice thou must make is—Viola herself. And for what? For an ordeal that the most daring courage only can encounter, the most ethereal natures alone survive! Thou art unfit for the science that has made me and others what we are or have been; for thy whole nature is one fear!”
“Fear!” cried Glyndon, colouring with resentment, and rising to the full height of his stature.
“Fear! and the worst fear,—fear of the world’s opinion; fear of the Nicots and the Mervales; fear of thine own impulses when most generous; fear of thine own powers when thy genius is most bold; fear that virtue is not eternal; fear that God does not live in heaven to keep watch on earth; fear, the fear of little men; and that fear is never known to the great.”
With these words Zanoni abruptly left the artist, humbled, bewildered, and not convinced. He remained alone with his thoughts till he was aroused by the striking of the clock; he then suddenly remembered Zanoni’s prediction of the Cardinal’s death; and, seized with an intense desire to learn its truth, he hurried into the streets,—he gained the Cardinal’s palace. Five minutes before noon his Eminence had expired, after an illness of less than an hour. Zanoni’s visit had occupied more time than the illness of the Cardinal. Awed and perplexed, he turned from the palace, and as he walked through the Chiaja, he saw Jean Nicot emerge from the portals of the Prince di —.
Two loves I have of
comfort and despair,
Which like two spirits do suggest me still.