Zanoni, by Edward Bulwer Lytton, , at sacred-texts.com
To know how a bad man will act when in power, reverse all the
doctrines he preaches when obscure.—S. Montague.
Antipathies also form a part of magic (falsely) so-called. Man
naturally has the same instinct as the animals, which warns them
involuntarily against the creatures that are hostile or fatal to
their existence. But HE so often neglects it, that it becomes
dormant. Not so the true cultivator of the Great Science, etc.
—Trismegistus the Fourth (a Rosicrucian).
When he again saw the old man the next day, the stranger found him calm, and surprisingly recovered from the scene and sufferings of the night. He expressed his gratitude to his preserver with tearful fervour, and stated that he had already sent for a relation who would make arrangements for his future safety and mode of life. "For I have money yet left," said the old man; "and henceforth have no motive to be a miser." He proceeded then briefly to relate the origin and circumstances of his connection with his intended murderer.
It seems that in earlier life he had quarrelled with his relations,—from a difference in opinions of belief. Rejecting all religion as a fable, he yet cultivated feelings that inclined him—for though his intellect was weak, his dispositions were good—to that false and exaggerated sensibility which its dupes so often mistake for benevolence. He had no children; he resolved to adopt an enfant du peuple. He resolved to educate this boy according to "reason." He selected an orphan of the lowest extraction, whose defects of person and constitution only yet the more moved his pity, and finally engrossed his affection. In this outcast he not only loved a son, he loved a theory! He brought him up most philosophically. Helvetius had proved to him that education can do all; and before he was eight years old, the little Jean's favourite expressions were, "La lumiere et la vertu." (Light and virtue.) The boy showed talents, especially in art.
The protector sought for a master who was as free from "superstition" as himself, and selected the painter David. That person, as hideous as his pupil, and whose dispositions were as vicious as his professional abilities were undeniable, was certainly as free from "superstition" as the protector could desire. It was reserved for Robespierre hereafter to make the sanguinary painter believe in the Etre Supreme. The boy was early sensible of his ugliness, which was almost preternatural. His benefactor found it in vain to reconcile him to the malice of Nature by his philosophical aphorisms; but when he pointed out to him that in this world money, like charity, covers a multitude of defects, the boy listened eagerly and was consoled. To save money for his protege,—for the only thing in the world he loved,—this became the patron's passion. Verily, he had met with his reward.
"But I am thankful he has escaped," said the old man, wiping his eyes. "Had he left me a beggar, I could never have accused him."
"No, for you are the author of his crimes."
"How! I, who never ceased to inculcate the beauty of virtue? Explain yourself."
"Alas! if thy pupil did not make this clear to thee last night from his own lips, an angel might come from heaven to preach to thee in vain."
The old man moved uneasily, and was about to reply, when the relative he had sent for—and who, a native of Nancy, happened to be at Paris at the time—entered the room. He was a man somewhat past thirty, and of a dry, saturnine, meagre countenance, restless eyes, and compressed lips. He listened, with many ejaculations of horror, to his relation's recital, and sought earnestly, but in vain, to induce him to give information against his protege.
"Tush, tush, Rene Dumas!" said the old man, "you are a lawyer. You are bred to regard human life with contempt. Let any man break a law, and you shout, 'Execute him!'"
"I!" cried Dumas, lifting up his hands and eyes: "venerable sage, how you misjudge me! I lament more than any one the severity of our code. I think the state never should take away life,—no, not even the life of a murderer. I agree with that young statesman,—Maximilien Robespierre,—that the executioner is the invention of the tyrant. My very attachment to our advancing revolution is, that it must sweep away this legal butchery."
The lawyer paused, out of breath. The stranger regarded him fixedly and turned pale.
"You change countenance, sir," said Dumas; "you do not agree with me."
"Pardon me, I was at that moment repressing a vague fear which seemed prophetic."
"Was that we should meet again, when your opinions on Death and the philosophy of Revolutions might be different."
"You enchant me, Cousin Rene," said the old man, who had listened to his relation with delight. "Ah, I see you have proper sentiments of justice and philanthropy. Why did I not seek to know you before? You admire the Revolution;—you, equally with me, detest the barbarity of kings and the fraud of priests?"
"Detest! How could I love mankind if I did not?"
"And," said the old man, hesitatingly, "you do not think, with this noble gentleman, that I erred in the precepts I instilled into that wretched man?"
"Erred! Was Socrates to blame if Alcibiades was an adulterer and a traitor?"
"You hear him, you hear him! But Socrates had also a Plato; henceforth you shall be a Plato to me. You hear him?" exclaimed the old man, turning to the stranger.
But the latter was at the threshold. Who shall argue with the most stubborn of all bigotries,—the fanaticism of unbelief?
"Are you going?" exclaimed Dumas, "and before I have thanked you, blessed you, for the life of this dear and venerable man? Oh, if ever I can repay you,—if ever you want the heart's blood of Rene Dumas!" Thus volubly delivering himself, he followed the stranger to the threshold of the second chamber, and there, gently detaining him, and after looking over his shoulder, to be sure that he was not heard by the owner, he whispered, "I ought to return to Nancy. One would not lose one's time,—you don't think, sir, that that scoundrel took away ALL the old fool's money?"
"Was it thus Plato spoke of Socrates, Monsieur Dumas?"
"Ha, ha!—you are caustic. Well, you have a right. Sir, we shall meet again."
"AGAIN!" muttered the stranger, and his brow darkened. He hastened to his chamber; he passed the day and the night alone, and in studies, no matter of what nature,—they served to increase his gloom.
What could ever connect his fate with Rene Dumas, or the fugitive assassin? Why did the buoyant air of Paris seem to him heavy with the steams of blood; why did an instinct urge him to fly from those sparkling circles, from that focus of the world's awakened hopes, warning him from return?—he, whose lofty existence defied—but away these dreams and omens! He leaves France behind. Back, O Italy, to thy majestic wrecks! On the Alps his soul breathes the free air once more. Free air! Alas! let the world-healers exhaust their chemistry; man never shall be as free in the marketplace as on the mountain. But we, reader, we too escape from these scenes of false wisdom clothing godless crime. Away, once more
"In den heitern Regionen Wo die reinen Formen wohnen."
Away, to the loftier realm where the pure dwellers are. Unpolluted by the Actual, the Ideal lives only with Art and Beauty. Sweet Viola, by the shores of the blue Parthenope, by Virgil's tomb, and the Cimmerian cavern, we return to thee once more.