Zanoni, by Edward Bulwer-Lytton

Chapter 9

Dafne: Ma, chi lung’ e d’Amor?

Tirsi: Chi teme e fugge.

Dafne: E che giova fuggir da lui ch’ ha l’ ali?

Tirsi: Amor Nascente Ha Corte L’ Ali!

“Aminta,” At. ii. Sc. ii.

(Dafne: But, who is far from Love?

Tirsi: He who fears and flies.

Dafne: What use to flee from one who has wings?

Tirsi: The wings of Love, while he yet grows, are short.)

When Glyndon found himself without Viola’s house, Mervale, still loitering at the door, seized his arm. Glyndon shook him off abruptly.

“Thou and thy counsels,” said he, bitterly, “have made me a coward and a wretch. But I will go home — I will write to her. I will pour out my whole soul; she will forgive me yet.”

Mervale, who was a man of imperturbable temper, arranged his ruffles, which his friend’s angry gesture had a little discomposed, and not till Glyndon had exhausted himself awhile by passionate exclamations and reproaches, did the experienced angler begin to tighten the line. He then drew from Glyndon the explanation of what had passed, and artfully sought not to irritate, but soothe him. Mervale, indeed, was by no means a bad man; he had stronger moral notions than are common amongst the young. He sincerely reproved his friend for harbouring dishonourable intentions with regard to the actress. “Because I would not have her thy wife, I never dreamed that thou shouldst degrade her to thy mistress. Better of the two an imprudent match than an illicit connection. But pause yet, do not act on the impulse of the moment.”

“But there is no time to lose. I have promised to Zanoni to give him my answer by tomorrow night. Later than that time, all option ceases.”

“Ah!” said Mervale, “this seems suspicious. Explain yourself.”

And Glyndon, in the earnestness of his passion, told his friend what had passed between himself and Zanoni — suppressing only, he scarce knew why, the reference to his ancestor and the mysterious brotherhood.

This recital gave to Mervale all the advantage he could desire. Heavens! with what sound, shrewd common-sense he talked. How evidently some charlatanic coalition between the actress, and perhaps — who knows? — her clandestine protector, sated with possession! How equivocal the character of one — the position of the other! What cunning in the question of the actress! How profoundly had Glyndon, at the first suggestion of his sober reason, seen through the snare. What! was he to be thus mystically cajoled and hurried into a rash marriage, because Zanoni, a mere stranger, told him with a grave face that he must decide before the clock struck a certain hour?

“Do this at least,” said Mervale, reasonably enough — “wait till the time expires; it is but another day. Baffle Zanoni. He tells thee that he will meet thee before midnight tomorrow, and defies thee to avoid him. Pooh! let us quit Naples for some neighbouring place, where, unless he be indeed the Devil, he cannot possibly find us. Show him that you will not be led blindfold even into an act that you meditate yourself. Defer to write to her, or to see her, till after tomorrow. This is all I ask. Then visit her, and decide for yourself.”

Glyndon was staggered. He could not combat the reasonings of his friend; he was not convinced, but he hesitated; and at that moment Nicot passed them. He turned round, and stopped, as he saw Glyndon.

“Well, and do you think still of the Pisani?”

“Yes; and you —”

“Have seen and conversed with her. She shall be Madame Nicot before this day week! I am going to the cafe, in the Toledo; and hark ye, when next you meet your friend Signor Zanoni, tell him that he has twice crossed my path. Jean Nicot, though a painter, is a plain, honest man, and always pays his debts.”

“It is a good doctrine in money matters,” said Mervale; “as to revenge, it is not so moral, and certainly not so wise. But is it in your love that Zanoni has crossed your path? How that, if your suit prosper so well?”

“Ask Viola Pisani that question. Bah! Glyndon, she is a prude only to thee. But I have no prejudices. Once more, farewell.”

“Rouse thyself, man!” said Mervale, slapping Glyndon on the shoulder. “What think you of your fair one now?”

“This man must lie.”

“Will you write to her at once?”

“No; if she be really playing a game, I could renounce her without a sigh. I will watch her closely; and, at all events, Zanoni shall not be the master of my fate. Let us, as you advise, leave Naples at daybreak tomorrow.”

Last updated Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 13:31