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


Upward of two months had passed away since the occurrences related in the preceding chapter, and it was now the 31st of January, 1521.

The sun was verging toward the western hemisphere, but the rapid flight of the hours was unnoticed by Nisida and Fernand Wagner, as they were seated together in one of the splendid saloons of the Riverola mansion.

Their looks were fixed on each other’s countenance; the eyes of Fernand expressing tenderness and admiration, those of Nisida beaming with all the passions of her ardent and sensual soul.

Suddenly the lady raised her hands, and by the rapid play of the fingers, asked, “Fernand, do you indeed love me as much as you would have me believe I am beloved?”

“Never in this world was woman so loved as you,” he replied, by the aid of the same language.

“And yet I am an unfortunate being deprived of those qualities which give the greatest charm to the companionship of those who love.”

“But you are eminently beautiful, my Nisida; and I can fancy how sweet, how rich-toned would be your voice, could your lips frame the words, ’I love thee!’”

A profound sigh agitated the breast of the lady; and at the same time her lips quivered strangely, as if she were essaying to speak.

Wagner caught her to his breast; and she wept long and plenteously. Those tears relieved her; and she returned his warm, impassioned kisses with an ardor that convinced him how dear he had become to that afflicted, but transcendently beautiful being. On her side, the blood in her veins appeared to circulate like molten lead; and her face, her neck, her bosom were suffused with burning blushes.

At length, raising her head, she conveyed this wish to her companion: “Thou hast given me an idea which may render me ridiculous in your estimation; but it is a whim, a fancy, a caprice, engendered only by the profound affection I entertain for thee. I would that thou shouldst say, in thy softest, tenderest tones, the words ‘I love thee!’ and, by the wreathing of thy lips, I shall see enough to enable my imagination to persuade itself that those words have really fallen upon my ears.”

Fernand smiled assent; and, while Nisida’s eyes were fixed upon him with the most enthusiastic interest, he said, “I love thee!”

The sovereign beauty of her countenance was suddenly lighted up with an expression of ineffable joy, of indescribable delight; and, signaling the assurance, “I love thee, dearest, dearest Fernand!” she threw herself into his arms.

But almost at the same moment voices were heard in the adjacent room: and Wagner, gently disengaging himself from Nisida’s embrace, hastily conveyed to her an intimation of the vicinity of others.

The lady gave him to understand by a glance that she comprehended him; and they remained motionless, fondly gazing upon each other.

“I know not how it has occurred, Flora,” said the voice of Francisco, speaking in a tender tone, in the adjoining room “I know not how it has occurred that I should have addressed you in this manner so soon, too, after the death of my lamented father, and while these mourning garments yet denote the loss which myself and sister have sustained ”

“Oh! my lord, suffer me to retire,” exclaimed Flora Francatelli, in a tone of beseeching earnestness; “I should not have listened to your lordship so long in the gallery of pictures, much less have accompanied your lordship hither.”

“I requested thee to come with me to this apartment, Flora, that I might declare, without fear of our interview being interrupted, how dear, how very dear, thou art to me, and how honorable is the passion with which thou hast inspired me. Oh, Flora,” exclaimed the young count, “I could no longer conceal my love for thee! My heart was bursting to reveal its secret; and when I discovered thee alone, ere now, in the gallery of pictures, I could not resist the favorable opportunity accident seemed to have afforded for this avowal.”

“Alas! my lord,” murmured Flora, “I know not whether to rejoice or be sorrowful at the revelation which has this day met my ears.”

“And yet you said ere now that you could love me, that you did love me in return,” ejaculated Francisco.

“I spoke truly, my lord,” answered the bashful maiden; “but, alas! how can the humble, obscure, portionless Flora become the wife of the rich, powerful and honored Count of Riverola? There is an inseparable gulf fixed between us, my lord.”

“Am I not my own master? Can I not consult my own happiness in that most solemn and serious of the world’s duties marriage?” cried Francisco, with all the generous ardor of youth and his own noble disposition.

“Your lordship is free and independent in point of fact,” said Flora, in a low, tender and yet impressive tone; “but your lordship has relations friends.”

“My relations will not thwart the wishes of him whom they love,” answered Francisco; “and those who place obstacles in the way of my felicity cannot be denominated my friends.”

“Oh! my lord could I yield myself up to the hopes which your language inspires!” cried Flora.

“You can you may, dearest girl!” exclaimed the young count. “And now I know that you love me! But many months must elapse ere I can call thee mine; and, indeed, a remorse smites my heart that I have dared to think of my own happiness, so soon after a mournful ceremony has consigned a parent to the tomb. Heaven knows that I do not the less deplore his loss but wherefore art thou so pale, so trembling, Flora?”

“Meseems that a superstitious awe of evil omens has seized upon my soul,” returned the maiden, in a tremulous tone. “Let us retire, my lord; the Lady Nisida may require my services elsewhere.”

“Nisida!” repeated Francisco, as if the mention of his sister’s name had suddenly awakened new ideas in his mind.

“Ah! my lord,” said Flora, sorrowfully, “you now perceive that there is at least one who may not learn with satisfaction the alliance which your lordship would form with the poor and humble dependent.”

“Nay, by my patron saint, thou hast misunderstood me!” exclaimed the young count warmly. “Nisida will not oppose her brother’s happiness; and her strong mind will know how to despise those conventional usages which require that high birth should mate with high birth, and wealth ally itself to wealth. Yes; Nisida will consult my felicity alone; and when I ere now repeated her name as it fell from your lips, it was in a manner reproachful to myself, because I have retained my love for thee a secret from her. A secret from Nisida! Oh! I have been cruel, unjust, not to have confided in my sister long ago! And yet,” he added more slowly, “she might reproach me for my selfishness in bestowing a thought on marriage soon, so very soon, after a funeral! Flora, dearest maiden, circumstances demand that the avowal which accident and opportunity have led me this day to make, should exist as a secret, known only unto yourself and me. But, in a few months I will explain all to my sister, and she will greet thee as her brother’s chosen bride. Are thou content, Flora, that our mutual love should remain thus concealed until the proper time shall come for its revelation?”

“Yes, my lord, and for many reasons,” was the answer.

“For many reasons, Flora!” exclaimed the young count.

“At least for more than one,” rejoined the maiden. “In the first instance, it is expedient your lordship should have due leisure to reflect upon the important step which you propose to take a step conferring so much honor on myself, but which may not insure your happiness.”

“If this be a specimen of thy reasons, dear maiden,” exclaimed Francisco, laughing, “I need hear no more. Be well assured,” he added seriously, “that time will not impair the love I experience for you.”

Flora murmured a reply which did not reach Wagner, and immediately afterward the sound of her light steps was heard retreating from the adjacent room. A profound silence of a few minutes occurred; and then Francisco also withdrew.

Wagner had been an unwilling listener to the preceding conversation; but while it was in progress, he from time to time threw looks of love and tenderness on his beautiful companion, who returned them with impassioned ardor.

Whether it were that her irritable temper was impatient of the restraint imposed upon herself and her lover by the vicinity of others, or whether she was annoyed at the fact of her brother and Flora being so long together (for Wagner had intimated to her who their neighbors were, the moment he had recognized their voices), we cannot say; but Nisida showed an occasional uneasiness of manner, which she, however, studied to subdue as much as possible, during the scene that took place in the adjoining apartment.

Fernand did not offer to convey to her any idea of the nature of the conversation which occupied her brother and Flora Francatelli; neither did she manifest the least curiosity to be enlightened on that head.

The moment the young lovers had quitted the next room Wagner intimated the fact to Nisida; but at the same instant, just as he was about to bestow upon her a tender caress, a dreadful, an appalling reminiscence burst upon him with such overwhelming force that he fell back stupefied on the sofa.

Nisida’s countenance assumed an expression of the deepest solicitude, and her eloquent, sparkling eyes, implored him to intimate to her what ailed him.

But, starting wildly from his seat, and casting on her a look of such bitter, bitter anguish, that the appalling emotions thus expressed struck terror to her soul Fernand rushed from the room.

Nisida sprung to the window; and, though the obscurity of the evening now announced the last flickerings of the setting sunbeams in the west, she could perceive her lover dashing furiously on through the spacious gardens that surrounded the Riverola Palace.

On on he went toward the River Arno; and in a few minutes was out of sight.

Alas! intoxicated with love, and giving himself up to the one delightful idea that he was with the beauteous Nisida then, absorbed in the interest of the conversation which he had overheard between Francisco and Flora Wagner had forgotten until it was nearly too late, that the sun was about to set on the last day of the month.