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


We must now return to Nisida, whom we left gazing from the window of the Riverola mansion, at the moment when Wagner rushed away from the vicinity of his lady-love on the approach of sunset.

The singularity of his conduct the look of ineffable horror and anguish which he cast upon her, ere he parted from her presence and the abruptness of his departure, filled her mind with the most torturing misgivings, and with a thousand wild fears.

Had his senses suddenly left him? was he the prey to fits of mental aberration which would produce so extraordinary an effect upon him? had he taken a sudden loathing and disgust to herself? or had he discovered anything in respect to her which had converted his love into hatred?

She knew not and conjecture was vain! To a woman of her excitable temperament, the occurrence was particularly painful. She had never known the passion of love until she had seen Wagner; and the moment she did see him, she loved him. The sentiment on her part originated altogether in the natural sensuality of her disposition; there was nothing pure nothing holy nothing refined in her affection for him; it was his wonderful personal beauty that had made so immediate and profound an impression upon her heart.

There was consequently something furious and raging in that passion which she experienced for Fernand Wagner a passion capable of every extreme the largest sacrifices, or infuriate jealousies the most implicit confidence, or the maddest suspicion! It was a passion which would induce her to ascend the scaffold to save him; or to plunge the vengeful dagger into his heart did she fancy that he deceived her!

To one, then, whose soul was animated by such a love, the conduct of Fernand was well adapted to wear even an exaggerated appearance of singularity; and as each different conjecture swept through her imagination, her emotions were excited to an extent which caused her countenance to vary its expressions a hundred times in a minute.

The fury of the desolating torrent, the rage of the terrific volcano, the sky cradled in the blackest clouds, the ocean heaving tempestuously in its mighty bed, the chafing of a tremendous flood against an embankment which seems ready every moment to give way, and allow the collected waters to burst forth upon the broad plains and into the peaceful valleys all these occurrences in the physical world were imagined by the emotions that now agitated within the breast of the Italian lady.

Her mind was like the sea put in motion by the wind; and her eyes flashed fire, her lips quivered, her bosom heaved convulsively, her neck arched proudly, as if she were struggling against ideas that forced themselves upon her and painfully wounded her boundless patrician pride.

For the thought that rose uppermost amidst all the conjectures which rushed to her imagination, was that Fernand had conceived an invincible dislike toward her.

Wherefore did he fly thus as if eager to place the greatest possible distance between herself and him?

Then did she recall to mind every interchange of thought that had passed between them through the language of the fingers; and she could fix upon nothing which, emanating from herself, had given him offense.

Had he then really lost his senses?

Madly did he seem to be rushing toward the Arno, on whose dark tide the departing rays of the setting sun glinted with oscillating and dying power.

She still continued to gaze from the window long after he had disappeared; obscurity was gathering rapidly around; but, even had it been noonday, she would have seen nothing. Her ideas grew bewildered: mortification, grief, anger, suspicion, burning desire, all mingled together and at length produced a species of stunning effect upon her, so that the past appeared to be a dream, and the future was wrapt in the darkest gloom and uncertainty.

This strange condition of her mind did not, however, last long; the natural energy of her character speedily asserted its empire over the intellectual lethargy which had seized upon her, and, awakening from her stupor, she resolved to waste not another instant in useless conjecture as to the cause of her lover’s conduct.

Hastening to her own apartments, she dismissed Flora Francatelli, whom she found there, with an abruptness of gesture and a frowning expression of countenance amounting to an act of cruelty toward that resigned and charming girl; so that as the latter hastened from the room, tears started from her eyes, and she murmured to herself, “Can it be possible that Donna Nisida suspects the attachment her brother has formed toward me? Oh! if she do, the star of an evil destiny seems already to rule my horoscope!”

Scarcely had Flora disappeared in this sorrowing manner, when Nisida secured the outer door of her own suit of apartments, and hurried to her bed-chamber. There she threw aside the garb belonging to her sex, and assumed that of a cavalier, which she took from a press opening with a secret spring. Then, having arranged her hair beneath a velvet tocque shaded with waving black plumes, in such a manner that the disguise was as complete as she could render it, she girt on a long rapier of finest Milan steel, and throwing the short cloak edged with costly fur, gracefully over her left shoulder, she quitted her chamber by a private door opening behind the folds of the bed curtains.

A narrow and dark staircase admitted her into the gardens of the Riverola mansion. These she crossed with a step so light and free, that had it been possible to observe her in the darkness of the evening, she would have been taken for the most elegant and charming cavalier that ever honored the Florentine Republic with his presence.

In about a quarter of an hour she reached the abode of Dr. Duras; but instead of entering it, she passed round one of its angles, and opening a wicket by means of a key which she had about her, gained access to the gardens in the rear of the mansion.

She traversed these grounds with hasty steps, passing the boundary which separated them from the gardens of Wagner’s dwelling, and then relaxing her pace, advanced with more caution to the windows of this very apartment where Agnes had been so alarmed two months previously, by observing the countenance at the casement.

But all was now dark within. Wagner was not in his favorite room for Nisida knew that this was her lover’s favorite apartment.

Perhaps he had not yet returned?

Thus thought the lady; and she walked slowly round the spacious dwelling, which, like the generality of the patrician mansions of Florence in those times as indeed is now the case to a considerable extent stood in the midst of extensive gardens.

There were lights in the servants’ offices; but every other room seemed dark. No; one window in the front, on the ground-floor, shone with the luster of a lamp.

Nisida approached it, and beheld Agnes reclining in a pensive manner on a sofa in a small but elegantly-furnished apartment. Her countenance was immediately overclouded; and for an instant she lingered to gaze upon the sylph-like form that was stretched upon that ottoman. Then she hastily pursued her way; and, having perfected the round of the building, once more reached the windows of her lover’s favorite room.

Convinced that he had not returned, and fearful of being observed by any of the domestics who might happen to pass through the gardens, Nisida retraced her way toward the dwelling of Dr. Duras. But her heart was now heavy, for she knew not how to act.

Her original object was to obtain an interview with Wagner that very night, and learn, if possible, the reason of his extraordinary conduct toward her: for the idea of remaining in suspense for many long, long hours, was painful in the extreme to a woman of her excitable nature.

She was, however, compelled to resign herself to this alternative; and, having let herself through the wicket belonging to the physician’s gardens, she directed her steps homeward.

On her way she passed by the gate of the Convent of Carmelite Nuns one of the wealthiest, most strictly disciplined, and celebrated monastic establishments in the Florentine Republic.

It appeared that a sudden thought here struck her; for ascending to the steep leading to the gate, she paused beneath the lamp of the deep Gothic portico, took out her tablets, and hastily wrote the following words:

“Donna Nisida of Riverola requests an interview with the Lady Abbess Maria to-morrow at midday, on a matter seriously regarding the spiritual welfare of a young female who has shown great and signal disregard for the rites and ordinances of the most Holy Catholic Church: and in respect to whom the most severe measures must be adopted. Donna Nisida will visit the holy mother to-morrow at midday.”

Having written these words, Nisida tore off the leaf and thrust it through a small square grating set in the massive door of the convent. Then ringing the bell to call attention to the gate, she hastily pursued her way homeward.

She had gained the gardens of the Riverola mansion, and was advancing toward the door of the private staircase leading to her chamber, when she suddenly perceived two dark figures standing within a few yards of her. Fearful that they might be domestics belonging to the household, she hastily and noiselessly retreated within the deep shade of the wall of the mansion, and there she remained motionless.

We must now detail the conversation which passed between the two individuals whose presence in the garden had thus alarmed the Lady Nisida.

“But are you sure of what you say, Antonio?” demanded one of the men.

“By Saint Jacopo! I cannot be mistaken,” was the reply. “The closet has been locked up for years and years, and the old count always used to keep the keys in an iron chest, which was also carefully locked and chained round. What can the place possibly contain but a treasure?”

“After all it is only conjecture on your part; and that being the case, it is not worth while to risk one’s life ”

“You are a coward, Stephano!” exclaimed Antonio, angrily. “The closet has got a heavy, massive door, and a prodigiously strong lock; and if these precautions were not adopted to protect a hoard of wealth, why were they taken at all, let me ask you?”

“There is something in what you say,” replied Stephano; “but you do wrong to call me a coward. If it were not that we were cousins, and linked by a bond of long maintained friendship, I would send my rapier through your doublet in a twinkling.”

“Nay; I do not mean to anger thee, Stephano,” cried the valet. “But let us speak lower: chafe not, I pray thee!”

“Well well!” said the other, gloomily; “go on, in the name of your patron saint! Only keep a guard upon your tongue, for it wags somewhat too freely; and remember that a man who has been for fifteen years the captain of as gallant a band as ever levied contributions on the lièges of the republic, is not to have ‘coward’ thrown in his teeth.”

“Let it pass, good Stephano!” urged the valet. “I tell thee that a closet whereof I have spoken, can contain naught save a treasure perhaps in gold perhaps in massive plate.”

“We can dispose of either to our advantage,” observed the bandit, with a coarse chuckle.

“Will you undertake the business?” demanded Antonio.

“I will,” was the resolute answer; “and as much to convince you that Stephano is not a coward, as for any other reason. But when is it to be done? and why did you make an appointment to meet me here, of all places in Florence?”

“It can be done when you choose,” replied Antonio; “and as for the other questions, I desired you to meet me here, because I knew that you would not refuse a fine chance; and, suspecting this much it was necessary to show you the geography of the place.”

“Good!” observed the robber-chief. “To-morrow night I have a little affair in hand for a reverend and holy father, who is sure to be chosen superior of his order if his rival in the candidature be removed; and in four-and-twenty hours the said rival must be food for the fishes of the Arno.”

“Then the night after that?” suggested Antonio.

“Pre-engaged again,” returned the bandit-captain coolly. “A wealthy countess has been compelled to pledge her diamonds to a Jew; on Sunday next she must appear with her husband at the palace of the Medici; and on Saturday night, therefore, the diamonds must be recovered from the Jew.”

“Then the husband knows not that they are so pledged?” said Antonio.

“Scarcely,” answered the brigand. “They were deposited with the Jew for a loan which the countess raised to accommodate her lover. Now do you understand?”

“Perfectly. What say you to next Monday night?”

“I am at your service,” responded Stephano. “Monday will suit me admirably, and midnight shall be the hour. And now instruct me in the nature of the locality.”

“Come with me, and I will show you by which way you and your comrades must effect an entry,” said Antonio.

The valet and the robber-chief now moved away from the spot where they had stood to hold the above conversation; and the moment they had turned the adjacent angle of the mansion, Nisida hastened to regain her apartment by the private staircase resolving, however, to see Wagner as early as possible in the morning.