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


“When you, dear brother for so I shall henceforth call you commenced your strange and wondrous revelations ere now, you painted in vivid colors the happiness which dwelt in our poor cottage on the borders of the Black Forest. You saw how deeply your words affected me I could not restrain my tears. Let me not, however, dwell upon this subject; but rather hasten to explain those powerful causes which induced me to quit that happy home.

“It was about six weeks before my flight that I went into the forest to gather wood. I was in the midst of my occupation, gayly thrilling a native song, when the sound of a horse’s feet upon the hard soil of the beaten path suddenly interrupted me. I turned around, seeing a cavalier of strikingly handsome countenance though somewhat stern withal, and of noble mien. He was in reality forty-four years of age as I afterward learnt; but he seemed scarcely forty, so light did time sit upon his brow. His dress was elegant, though of some strange fashion; for it was Italian costume that he wore. The moment he was close to the spot where I stood he considered me for a short while, till I felt my cheeks glowing beneath his ardent gaze. I cast down my eyes; and the next instant he had leapt from his horse and was by my side. He addressed me in gentle terms; and when again I looked at him his countenance no more seemed stern. It appeared that he was staying with the Baron von Nauemberg, with whom he had been out hunting in the Black Forest, and from whom and his suite he was separated in the ardor of the chase. Being a total stranger in those parts, he had lost his way. I immediately described to him the proper path for him to pursue; and he offered me gold as a recompense. I declined the guerdon; and he questioned me concerning my family and my position. I told him that I lived hard-by, with an only relative a grandsire, to whom I was devotedly attached. He lingered long in conversation with me; and his manner was so kind, so condescending, and so respectful, that I thought not I was doing wrong to listen to him. At length he requested me to be on the same spot at the same hour on the morrow; and he departed.

“I was struck by his appearance dazzled by the brilliancy of his discourse; for he spoke German fluently, although an Italian. He had made a deep impression on my mind; and I felt a secret longing to meet him again. Suddenly it occurred to me that I was acting with impropriety, and that you would be angry with me. I therefore resolved not to mention to you my accidental encounter with the handsome cavalier; but I determined at the same time not to repair to the forest next day. When the appointed hour drew near, my good genius deserted me; and I went. He was there, and he seemed pleased at my punctuality. I need not detail to you the nature of the discourse which he held toward me. Suffice it to say, that he declared how much he had been struck with my beauty, and how fondly he would love me; and he dazzled me still more by revealing his haughty name; and I found that I was beloved by the Count of Riverola.

“You can understand how a poor girl, who had hitherto dwelt in the seclusion of a cottage on the border of a vast wood, and who seldom saw any person of higher rank than herself, was likely to be dazzled by the fine things which that great nobleman breathed in her ear.

“And I was dazzled flattered excited bewildered. I consented to meet him again: interview followed interview, until I no longer required any persuasion to induce me to keep the appointments thus given. But there were times when my conscience reproached me for conduct which I knew you would blame; and yet I dared not unburden my soul to you!

“Six weeks thus passed away; I was still innocent but madly in love with the Count of Riverola. He was the subject of my thoughts by day of my dreams by night; and I felt that I could make any sacrifice to retain his affection. That sacrifice was too soon demanded! At the expiration of the six weeks he informed me that on the following day he must return to Italy, whither important affairs called him sooner than he had anticipated. He urged me to accompany him; I was bewildered maddened by the contemplation of my duty on the one hand, of my love on the other. My guardian saint deserted me; I yielded to the persuasion of the count I became guilty and there was now no alternative save to fly with him!

“Oh! believe me when I declare that this decision cost me a dreadful pang; but the count would not leave me time for reflection. He bore me away on his fleet steed, and halted not until the tall towers of Nauemberg Castle appeared in the distance. Then he stopped at a poor peasant’s cottage, where his gold insured me a welcome reception. Having communicated the plan which he proposed to adopt respecting our journey to Florence, he took an affectionate leave of me, with a promise to return on the ensuing morning. The remainder of the day was passed wretchedly enough by me; and I already began to repent of the step I had taken. The peasants who occupied the cottage vainly endeavored to cheer me; my heart was too full to admit of consolation. Night came at length, and I retired to rest; but my dreams were of so unpleasant a nature so filled with frightful images that never did I welcome the dawn with more enthusiastic joy. Shortly after daybreak the count appeared at the cottage, attended by one of his numerous suite a faithful attendant on whom he could rely implicitly. They were mounted on good steeds; and Antonio such was the name of the servitor led a third by the bridle. This one the count had purchased at an adjacent hamlet, expressly for my use. He had also procured a page’s attire; for in such disguise was it agreed that I should accompany the count to Italy.

“I should observe that the nobleman, in order to screen our amour as much as possible, had set out from Nauemberg Castle, attended by Antonio alone, alleging as an excuse that certain affairs compelled him to travel homeward with as much celerity as possible. The remainder of his suit were therefore ordered to follow at their leisure.

“Oh! with what agonizing emotion did my heart beat, as, in a private chamber of the cottage, I laid aside my peasant’s garb and donned the doublet, hose, cap and cloak of a youthful page. I thought of you of your helplessness your age, and also of my native land, which I was about to quit perhaps forever! Still I had gone too far to retreat, and regrets were useless. I must also confess that when I returned to the room where the count was waiting for me, and heard the flattering compliments which he paid me on my appearance in that disguise, I smiled yes, I smiled, and much of my remorse vanished!

“We set out upon our journey toward the Alps; and the count exerted all his powers of conversation to chase away from my mind any regrets or repinings that might linger there. Though cold and stern forbidding and reserved haughty and austere in his bearing toward others, to me he was affectionate and tender. To be brief, yet with sorrow must I confess it, at the expiration of a few days I could bear to think, without weeping, of the fond relative whom I had left behind in the cottage of the Black Forest!

“We crossed the Alps in safety, but not without experiencing much peril; and in a short time glorious Italy spread itself out at our feet. The conversation of the count had already prepared me to admire ”

At this moment, Agnes’ narrative was interrupted by a piercing shriek which burst from her lips; and extending her arms toward the window of the apartment, she screamed hysterically, “Again that countenance!” and fell back on the ottoman.