Read CHAPTER IV of Wagner‚ the Wehr-Wolf , free online book, by George W. M. Reynolds, on


Eight days after the death of the Count of Riverola, the funeral took place.

The obsequies were celebrated at night, with all the pomp observed amongst noble families on such occasions. The church in which the corpse was buried, was hung with black cloth; and even the innumerable wax tapers which burned upon the altar and around the coffin failed to diminish the lugubrious aspect of the scene.

At the head of the bier stood the youthful heir of Riverola; his pale countenance of even feminine beauty contrasting strangely with the mourning garments which he wore, and his eyes bent upon the dark chasm that formed the family vault into which the remains of his sire were about to be lowered.

Around the coffin stood Dr. Duras and other male friends of the deceased: for the females of the family were not permitted, by the custom of the age and the religion, to be present on occasions of this kind.

It was eleven o’clock at night: and the weather without was stormy and tempestuous.

The wind moaned through the long aisles, raising strange and ominous echoes, and making the vast folds of sable drapery wave slowly backward and forward, as if agitated by unseen hands. A few spectators, standing in the background, appeared like grim figures on a black tapestry; and the gleam of the wax tapers, oscillating on their countenances, made them seem death-like and ghastly.

From time to time the shrill wail of the shriek-owl, and the flapping of its wings against the diamond-paned windows of the church, added to the awful gloom of the funeral scene.

And now suddenly arose the chant of the priests the parting hymn for the dead!

Francisco wept, for though his father had never manifested toward him an affection of the slightest endearing nature, yet the disposition of the young count was excellent; and, when he gazed upon the coffin, he remembered not the coldness with which its inmate in his lifetime had treated him he thought only of a parent whom he had lost, and whose remains were there!

And truly, on the brink of the tomb no animosity should ever find a resting-place in the human heart. Though elsewhere men yield to the influence of their passions and their feelings, in pursuing each his separate interests though, in the great world, we push and jostle each other, as if the earth were not large enough to allow us to follow our separate ways yet, when we meet around the grave, to consign a fellow creature to his last resting-place, let peace and holy forgiveness occupy our souls. There let the clash of interests and the war of jealousies be forgotten; and let us endeavor to persuade ourselves that, as all the conflicting pursuits of life must terminate at this point at last, so should our feelings converge to the one focus of amenity and Christian love. And, after all, how many who have considered themselves to be antagonists must, during a moment of solemn reflection, become convinced that, when toiling in the great workshop of the world, they have been engaged, in unconscious fraternity, in building up the same fabric!

The priests were in the midst of their solemn chant a deathlike silence and complete immovability prevailed among the mourners and the spectators and the wind was moaning beneath the vaulted roofs, awaking those strange and tomb-like sounds which are only heard in large churches, when light but rushing footsteps were heard on the marble pavement; and in another minute a female, not clothed in a mourning garb, but splendidly as for a festival, precipitated herself toward the bier.

There her strength suddenly seemed to be exhausted; and, with a piercing scream, she sank senseless on the cold stones.

The chant of the priest was immediately stilled; and Francisco hurrying forward, raised the female in his arms, while Dr. Duras asked for water to sprinkle on her countenance.

Over her head the stranger wore a white veil of rich material, which was fastened above her brow by a single diamond of unusual size and brilliant luster. When the veil was drawn aside, shining auburn tresses were seen depending in wanton luxuriance over shoulders of alabaster whiteness: a beautiful but deadly pale countenance was revealed; and a splendid purple velvet dress delineated the soft and flowing outlines of a form modeled to the most perfect symmetry.

She seemed to be about twenty years of age, in the full splendor of loveliness, and endowed with charms which presented to the gaze of those around a very incarnation of the ideal beauty which forms the theme of raptured poets.

And now, as the vacillating and uncertain light of the wax-candles beamed upon her, as she lay senseless in the arms of the Count Riverola, her pale, placid face appeared that of a classic marble statue; but nothing could surpass the splendid effects which the funeral tapers produced on the rich redundancy of her hair, which seemed dark where the shadows rested on it, but glittering as with a bright glory where the luster played on its shining masses.

In spite of the solemnity of the place and the occasion, the mourners were struck by the dazzling beauty of that young female, who had thus appeared so strangely amongst them; but respect still retained at a distance those persons who were merely present from curiosity to witness the obsequies of one of the proudest nobles of Florence.

At length the lady opened her large hazel eyes, and glanced wildly around, a quick spasm passing like an electric shock over her frame at the same instant; for the funeral scene burst upon her view, and reminded her where she was, and why she was there.

Recovering herself almost as rapidly as she had succumbed beneath physical and mental exhaustion, she started from Francisco’s arms; and turning upon him a beseeching, inquiring glance, exclaimed in a voice which ineffable anguish could not rob of its melody: “Is it true oh, tell me is it true that the Count Riverola is no more?”

“It is, alas! too true, lady,” answered Francisco, in a tone of the deepest melancholy.

The heart of the fair stranger rebounded at the words which thus seemed to destroy a last hope that lingered in her soul; and a hysterical shriek burst from her lips as she threw her snow-white arms, bare to the shoulders, around the head of the pall-covered coffin.

“Oh! my much-loved my noble Andrea!” she exclaimed, a torrent of tears now gushing from her eyes.

“That voice! is it possible?” cried one of the spectators who had been hitherto standing, as before said, at a respectful distance: and the speaker a man of tall, commanding form, graceful demeanor, wondrously handsome countenance, and rich attire immediately hurried toward the spot where the young female still clung to the coffin, no one having the heart to remove her.

The individual who had thus stepped forward, gave one rapid but searching glance at the lady’s countenance; and, yielding to the surprise and joy which suddenly animated him, he exclaimed: “Yes it is, indeed, the lost Agnes!”

The young female started when she heard her name thus pronounced in a place where she believed herself to be entirely unknown; and astonishment for an instant triumphed over the anguish of her heart.

Hastily withdrawing her snow-white arms from the head of the coffin, she turned toward the individual who had uttered her name, and he instantly clasped her in his arms, murmuring, “Dearest dearest Agnes, art thou restored ”

But the lady shrieked, and struggled to escape from that tender embrace, exclaiming, “What means this insolence? will no one protect me?”

“That will I,” said Francisco, darting forward, and tearing her away from the stranger’s arms. “But, in the name of Heaven! let this misunderstanding be cleared up elsewhere. Lady and you, signor I call on you to remember where you are, and how solemn a ceremony you have both aided to interrupt.”

“I know not that man!” ejaculated Agnes, indicating the stranger. “I come hither, because I heard but an hour ago that my noble Andrea was no more. And I would not believe those who told me. Oh! no I could not think that Heaven had thus deprived me of all I loved on earth!”

“Lady, you are speaking of my father,” said Francisco, in a somewhat severe tone.

“Your father!” cried Agnes, now surveying the young count with interest and curiosity. “Oh! then, my lord, you can pity you can feel for me, who in losing your father have lost all that could render existence sweet!”

“No you have not lost all!” exclaimed the handsome stranger, advancing toward Agnes, and speaking in a profoundly impressive tone. “Have you not one single relative left in the world? Consider, lady an old, old man a shepherd in the Black Forest of Germany ”

“Speak not of him!” cried Agnes, wildly. “Did he know all, he would curse me he would spurn me from him he would discard me forever! Oh! when I think of that poor old man, with his venerable white hair, that aged, helpless man, who was so kind to me, who loved me so well, and whom I so cruelly abandoned. But tell me, signor,” she exclaimed, in suddenly altered tone, while her breath came with the difficulty of acute suspense, “tell me, signor, does that old man still live?”

“He lives, Agnes,” was the reply. “I know him well; at this moment he is in Florence!”

“In Florence!” repeated Agnes; and so unexpectedly came this announcement, that her limbs seemed to give way under her, and she would have fallen on the marble pavement, had not the stranger caught her in his arms.

“I will bear her away,” he said; “she has a true friend in me.”

And he was moving off with his senseless burden, when Francisco, struck by a sudden idea, caught him by the elegantly slashed sleeve of his doublet, and whispered thus, in a rapid tone: “From the few, but significant words which fell from that lady’s lips, and from her still more impressive conduct, it would appear, alas! that my deceased father had wronged her. If so, signor, it will be my duty to make her all the reparation that can be afforded in such a case.”

“’Tis well, my lord,” answered the stranger, in a cold and haughty tone. “To-morrow evening I will call upon you at your palace.”

He then hurried on with the still senseless Agnes in his arms; and the Count of Riverola retraced his steps to the immediate vicinity of the coffin.

This scene, which so strangely interrupted the funeral ceremony, and which has taken so much space to describe, did not actually occupy ten minutes from the moment when the young lady first appeared in the church, until that when she was borne away by the handsome stranger. The funeral obsequies were completed; the coffin was lowered into the family vault; the spectators dispersed, and the mourners, headed by the young count, returned in procession to the Riverola mansion, which was situated at no great distance.