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


When the mourners reached the palace, Francisco led the way to an apartment where Nisida was awaiting their coming.

Francisco kissed her affectionately upon the forehead; and then took his seat at the head of the table, his sister placing herself on his right hand.

Dressed in deep mourning, and with her countenance unusually pale, Nisida’s appearance inspired a feeling of profound interest in the minds of those who did not perceive that, beneath her calm and mournful demeanor, feelings of painful intensity agitated within her breast. But Dr. Duras, who knew her well better, far better than even her own brother noticed an occasional wild flashing of the eye, a nervous motion of the lips, and a degree of forced tranquillity of mien, which proved how acute was the suspense she in reality endured.

On Francisco’s left hand the notary-general, who had acted as one of the chief mourners, took a seat. He was a short, thin, middle-aged man, with a pale complexion, twinkling gray eyes, and a sharp expression of countenance. Before him lay a sealed packet, on which the eyes of Nisida darted, at short intervals, looks, the burning impatience of which were comprehended by Dr. Duras alone; for next to Signor Vivaldi, the notary-general and consequently opposite to Nisida sat the physician.

The remainder of the company consisted of Father Marco and those most intimate friends of the family who had been invited to the funeral; but whom it is unnecessary to describe more particularly.

Father Marco having recited a short prayer, in obedience to the custom of the age, and the occasion, the notary-general proceeded to break the seals of the large packet which lay before him: then, in a precise and methodical manner, he drew forth a sheet of parchment, closely written on.

Nisida leaned her right arm upon the table, and half-buried her countenance in the snowy cambric handkerchief which she held.

The notary-general commenced the reading of the will.

After bestowing a few legacies, one of which was in favor of Dr. Duras, and another in that of Signor Vivaldi himself, the testamentary document ordained that the estates of the late Andrea, Count of Riverola, should be held in trust by the notary-general and the physician, for the benefit of Francisco, who was merely to enjoy the revenues produced by the same until the age of thirty, at which period the guardianship was to cease, and Francisco was then to enter into full and uncontrolled possession of those immense estates.

But to this clause there was an important condition attached; for the testamentary document ordained that should the Lady Nisida either by medical skill, or the interposition of Heaven recover the faculties of hearing and speaking at any time during the interval which was to elapse ere Francisco would attain the age of thirty, then the whole of the estates, with the exception of a very small one in the northern part of Tuscany, were to be immediately made over to her; but without the power of alienation on her part.

It must be observed that, in the middle ages many titles of nobility depended only on the feudal possession of a particular property. This was the case with the Riverola estates; and the title of Count of Riverola was conferred simply by the fact of the ownership of the landed property. Thus, supposing that Nisida became possessed of the estates, she would have enjoyed the title of countess, while her brother Francisco would have lost that of count.

We may also remind our readers that Francisco was now nineteen; and eleven years must consequently elapse ere he could become the lord and master of the vast territorial possessions of Riverola.

Great was the astonishment experienced by all who heard the provisions of this strange will with the exception of the notary-general and Father Marco, the former of whom had drawn it up, and the latter of whom was privy to its contents (though under a vow of secrecy) in his capacity of father-confessor to the late count.

Francisco was himself surprised, and, in one sense, hurt; because the nature of the testamentary document seemed to imply that the property would have been inevitably left to his sister, with but a very small provision for himself, had she not been so sorely afflicted as she was; and this fact forced upon him the painful conviction that even when contemplating his departure to another world, his father had not softened toward his son!

But, on the other hand, Francisco was pleased that such consideration had been shown toward a sister whom he so devotedly loved; and he hastened, as soon as he could conquer his first emotions, to request the notary-general to permit Nisida to peruse the will, adding, in a mournful tone, “For all that your excellency has read has been, alas! unavailing in respect to her.”

Signor Vivaldi handed the document to the young count, who gently touched his sister’s shoulder and placed the parchment before her.

Nisida started as if convulsively, and raised from her handkerchief a countenance so pale, so deadly pale, that Francisco shrank back in alarm.

But instantly reflecting that the process of reading aloud a paper had been as it were a kind of mockery in respect to his afflicted sister, he pressed her hand tenderly, and made a sign for her to peruse the document.

She mechanically addressed herself to the task; but ere her eyes now of burning, unearthly brilliancy fell upon the parchment, they darted one rapid, electric glance of ineffable anguish toward Dr. Duras, adown whose cheeks large tears were trickling.

In a few minutes Nisida appeared to be absorbed in the perusal of the will; and the most solemn silence prevailed throughout the apartment!

At length she started violently, tossed the paper indignantly to the notary-general, and hastily wrote on a slip of paper these words:

“Should medical skill or the mercy of Heaven restore my speech and faculty of hearing, I will abandon all claim to the estates and title of Riverola to my dear brother Francisco.”

She then handed the slip of paper to the notary-general, who read the contents aloud.

Francisco darted upon his sister a look of ineffable gratitude and love, but shook his head, as much as to imply that he could not accept the boon even if circumstances enabled her to confer it!

She returned the look with another, expressive of impatience at his refusal: and her eyes seemed to say, as eyes never yet spoke, “Oh, that I had the power to give verbal utterance to my feelings!”

Meantime the notary-general had written a few words beneath those penned by Nisida, to whom he had handed back the slip; and she hastened to read them, thus: “Your ladyship has no power to alienate the estates, should they come into your possession.”

Nisida burst into an agony of tears and rushed from the room.

Her brother immediately followed to console her; and the company retired, each individual to his own abode.

But of all that company who had been present at the reading of the will, none experienced such painful emotions as Dr. Duras.