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


On the ensuing evening, Francisco, Count of Riverola, was seated in one of the splendid saloons of his palace, pondering upon the strange injunction which he had received from his deceased father, relative to the mysterious closet, when Wagner was announced.

Francisco rose to receive him, saying in a cordial though melancholy tone, “Signor, I expected you.”

“And let me hasten to express the regret which I experienced at having addressed your lordship coldly and haughtily last night,” exclaimed Wagner. “But, at the moment, I only beheld in you the son of him who had dishonored a being very dear to my heart.”

“I can well understand your feelings on that occasion, signor,” replied Francisco. “Alas! the sins of the fathers are too often visited upon the children in this world. But, in whatever direction our present conversation may turn, I implore you to spare as much as possible the memory of my sire.”

“Think not, my lord,” said Wagner, “that I should be so ungenerous as to reproach you for a deed in which you had no concern, and over which you exercised no control. Nor should I inflict so deep an injury upon you, as to speak in disrespectful terms of him who was the author of your being, but who is now no more.”

“Your kind language has already made me your friend,” exclaimed Francisco. “And now point out to me in what manner I can in any way repair or mitigate the wrong done to that fair creature in whom you express yourself interested.”

“That young lady is my sister,” said Wagner, emphatically.

“Your sister, signor! And yet, meseems, she recognized you not ”

“Long years have passed since we saw each other,” interrupted Fernand; “for we were separated in our childhood.”

“And did you not both speak of some relative an old man who once dwelt on the confines of the Black Forest of Germany, but who is now in Florence?” asked Francisco.

“Alas! that old man is no more,” returned Wagner. “I did but use his name to induce Agnes to place confidence in me, and allow me to withdraw her from a scene which her wild grief so unpleasantly interrupted; for I thought that were I then and there to announce myself as her brother, she might not believe me she might suspect some treachery or snare in a city so notoriously profligate as Florence. But the subsequent explanations which took place between us cleared up all doubts on that subject.”

“I am well pleased to hear that the poor girl has found so near a relative and so dear a friend, signor,” said Francisco. “And now acquaint me, I pray thee, with the means whereby I may, to some extent, repair the injury your sister has sustained at the hands of him whose memory I implore you to spare!”

“Wealth I possess in abundance oh! far greater abundance than is necessary to satisfy all my wants!” exclaimed Wagner, with something of bitterness and regret in his tone; “but, even were I poor, gold would not restore my sister’s honor. No let that subject, however, pass. I would only ask you, count, whether there be any scion of your family any lady connected with you who answers this description?”

And Wagner proceeded to delineate, in minute terms, the portraiture of the mysterious lady who had inspired Agnes on three occasions with so much terror, and whom Agnes herself had depicted in such glowing language.

“Signor! you are describing the Lady Nisida, my sister!” exclaimed Francisco, struck with astonishment at the fidelity of the portrait thus verbally drawn.

“Your sister, my lord!” cried Wagner. “Then has Dame Margaretha deceived Agnes in representing the Lady Nisida to be rather a beauty of the cold north than of the sunny south.”

“Dame Margaretha!” said Francisco; “do you allude, signor, to the mother of my late father’s confidential dependent, Antonio?”

“The same,” was the answer. “It was at Dame Margaretha’s house that your father placed my sister Agnes, who has resided there nearly four years.”

“But wherefore have you made those inquiries relative to the Lady Nisida?” inquired Francisco.

“I will explain the motive with frankness,” responded Wagner.

He then related to the young count all those particulars relative to the mysterious lady and Agnes, with which the reader is already acquainted.

“There must be some extraordinary mistake some strange error, signor, in all this,” observed Francisco. “My poor sister is, as you seem to be aware, so deeply afflicted that she possesses not faculties calculated to make her aware of that amour which even I, who possess those faculties in which she is deficient, never suspected, and concerning which no hint ever reached me, until the whole truth burst suddenly upon me last night at the funeral of my sire. Moreover, had accident revealed to Nisida the existence of the connection between my father and your sister, signor, she would have imparted the discovery to me, such is the confidence and so great is the love that exists between us. For habit has rendered us so skillful and quick in conversing with the language of the deaf and dumb, that no impediment ever exists to the free interchange of our thoughts.”

“And yet, if the Lady Nisida had made such a discovery, her hatred of Agnes may be well understood,” said Wagner; “for her ladyship must naturally look upon my sister as the partner of her father’s weakness the dishonored slave of his passions.”

“Nisida has no secret from me,” observed the young count, firmly.

“But wherefore did Dame Margaretha deceive my sister in respect to the personal appearance of the Lady Nisida?” inquired Wagner.

“I know not. At the same time ”

The door opened, and Nisida entered the apartment.

She was attired in deep black; her luxuriant raven hair, no longer depending in shining curls, was gathered up in massy bands at the sides, and a knot behind, whence hung a rich veil that meandered over her body’s splendidly symmetrical length of limb in such a manner as to aid her attire in shaping rather than hiding the contours of that matchless form. The voluptuous development of her bust was shrouded, not concealed, by the stomacher of black velvet which she wore, and which set off in strong relief the dazzling whiteness of her neck.

The moment her lustrous dark eyes fell upon Fernand Wagner, she started slightly; but this movement was imperceptible alike to him whose presence caused it, and to her brother.

Francisco conveyed to her, by the rapid language of the fingers, the name of their visitor, and at the same time intimated to her that he was the brother of Agnes, the young and lovely female whose strange appearance at the funeral, and avowed connection with the late noble, had not been concealed from the haughty lady.

Nisida’s eyes seemed to gleam with pleasure when she understood in what degree of relationship Wagner stood toward Agnes; and she bowed to him with a degree of courtesy seldom displayed by her to strangers.

Francisco then conveyed to her in the language of the dumb, all those details already related in respect to the “mysterious lady” who had so haunted the unfortunate Agnes.

A glow of indignation mounted to the cheeks of Nisida; and more than usually rapid was the reply she made through the medium of the alphabet of the fingers.

“My sister desires me to express to you, signor,” said Francisco, turning toward Wagner, “that she is not the person whom the Lady Agnes has to complain against. My sister,” he continued, “has never to her knowledge seen the Lady Agnes; much less has she ever penetrated into her chamber; and indignantly does she repel the accusation relative to the abstraction of the jewels. She also desires me to inform you that last night after reading of our father’s last testament, she retired to her chamber, which she did not quit until this morning at the usual hour; and that therefore it was not her countenance which the Lady Agnes beheld at the casement of your saloon.”

“I pray you, my lord, to let the subject drop now, and forever!” said Wagner, who was struck with profound admiration almost amounting to love for the Lady Nisida: “there is some strange mystery in all this, which time alone can clear up. Will your lordship express to your sister how grieved I am that any suspicion should have originated against her in respect to Agnes?”

Francisco signaled these remarks to Nisida; and the latter, rising from her seat, advanced toward Wagner, and presented him her hand in token of her readiness to forget the injurious imputations thrown out against her.

Fernand raised that fair hand to his lips, and respectfully kissed it; but the hand seemed to burn as he held it, and when he raised his eyes toward the lady’s countenance, she darted on him a look so ardent and impassioned that it penetrated into his very soul.

That rapid interchange of glances seemed immediately to establish a kind of understanding a species of intimacy between those extraordinary beings; for on the one side, Nisida read in the fine eyes of the handsome Fernand all the admiration expressed there, and he, on his part, instinctively understood that he was far from disagreeable to the proud sister of the young Count of Riverola. While he was ready to fall at her feet and do homage to her beauty, she experienced the kindling of all the fierce fires of sensuality in her breast.

But the unsophisticated and innocent-minded Francisco observed not the expression of these emotions on either side, for their manifestation occupied not a moment. The interchange of such feelings is ever too vivid and electric to attract the notice of the unsuspecting observer.

When Wagner was about to retire, Nisida made the following signal to her brother: “Express to the signor that he will ever be a welcome guest at the palace of Riverola; for we owe kindness and friendship to the brother of her whom our father dishonored.”

But, to the astonishment of both the count and the Lady Nisida, Wagner raised his hands, and displayed as perfect a knowledge of the language of the dumb as they themselves possessed.

“I thank your ladyship for this unexpected condescension,” he signaled by the rapid play of his fingers; “and I shall not forget to avail myself of this most courteous invitation.”

It were impossible to describe the sudden glow of pleasure and delight which animated Nisida’s splendid countenance, when she thus discovered that Wagner was able to hold converse with her, and she hastened to reply thus: “We shall expect you to revisit us soon.”

Wagner bowed low and took his departure, his mind full of the beautiful Nisida.