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


Nisida regained her apartment, by the private staircase, without any molestation. Having laid aside her male attire, she assumed a loose wrapper, and then, throwing herself into an armchair, gave way to her reflections.

These were apparently of no pleasurable nature; for they were frequently interrupted by convulsive starts and rapid glancings around the room as if she were fearful lest some terrible specter were present to scare her.

Once or twice her eyes lingered on her mother’s portrait; and then profound sighs escaped her bosom.

Presently the beautiful Flora Francatelli entered the apartment; but Nisida made her a sign of dismissal.

The maiden withdrew; and we must now follow her to her own chamber.

On reaching her bedroom, Flora did not immediately retire to rest. She felt that she should not sleep, even were she to seek her pillow: for she had much very much to ponder upon!

There was a marked, undisguised reserve about her mistress which materially affected her. Although she could not control her affections, yet she felt as if she were acting with duplicity toward the Lady Nisida in having listened to the love-tale of Francisco, and, retaining that revelation of his affection a secret in her own breast.

Yet had he not implored, had he not enjoined her to keep that avowal to herself? Yes, and when she looked at the matter, as it were, face to face, she could not justly reproach herself: nevertheless, that secret love weighed upon her conscience like a crime!

She could not understand wherefore Nisida’s manner had changed toward her. Francisco had assuredly made no communication to his sister; and nothing had transpired to excite a suspicion of the real truth in her mind. Still there was a coolness on the part of that lady: or might it not be that Flora’s imagination deceived her?

There was another, and even a more serious cause of grief weighing upon her mind. Dispatches had been received from the nobleman in whose suit her brother Alessandro had repaired to Constantinople; and the secretary of the council of Florence had intimated to Signora Francatelli (Flora’s aunt) that Alessandro had abjured the faith of his forefathers and had embraced the Mussulman creed. It was also stated that the young man had entered the service of grand vizier; but whether he had become a renegade through love for some Turkish maiden, or with the hope of ameliorating his condition in a worldly point of view, whether, indeed, self-interest or a conscientious belief in the superiority of the Moslem doctrines over those of Christianity, had swayed Alessandro, no one could say.

His aunt was almost heart-broken at the news. Father Marco, through whose influence he had obtained the post of secretary to the Florentine Envoy, was shocked and grieved; and Flora was not the less afflicted at an event which, as she had been taught to believe, must inevitably place her much-loved brother beyond the hope of spiritual salvation.

Amidst the gloomy reflections excited by the Lady Nisida’s coolness, and the disagreeable tidings which had been received concerning her brother, there was nevertheless one gleam of consolation for Flora Francatelli.

This was the love which Francisco entertained for her, and which she so tenderly, so sincerely reciprocated.

Yes, a maiden’s first love is ever a source of solace amidst the gloom of affliction; because it is so intimately intertwined with hope! For the soul of the innocent, artless girl who fondly loves, soars aloft in a heaven of her own creation, dove-like on the wings of faith!

It was already late when Flora began to unbraid and set at liberty her dark brown tresses, preparatory to retiring to rest, when a low knock at the chamber-door startled her in the midst of her occupation.

Thinking it might be the Lady Nisida who required her attendance she hastened to open the door; and immediately three women, dressed in religious habits and having black veils thrown over their heads so as completely to conceal their faces, entered the room.

Flora uttered a faint scream for the sudden apparition of those specter-like figures, at such a late hour of the night, was well calculated to alarm even a person of maturer age and stronger mind than Signora Francatelli.

“You must accompany us, young lady,” said the foremost nun, advancing toward her. “And beware how you create any disturbance for it will avail you nothing.”

“Whither am I to be conducted?” asked Flora, trembling from head to foot.

“That we cannot inform you,” was the reply. “Neither must you know at present; and therefore our first duty is to blindfold you.”

“Pity me have mercy upon me!” exclaimed Flora, throwing herself on her knees before the nun who addressed her in so harsh, so stern a manner. “I am a poor, unprotected girl: have mercy upon me!”

But the three nuns seized upon her; and while one held the palm of her hand forcibly over her mouth so as to check her utterance, the others hastily blindfolded her.

Flora was so overcome by this alarming proceeding, that she fainted.

When she came to her senses, she found herself lying on a hard and sorry couch in a large apartment, almost entirely denuded of furniture and lighted by a feebly-burning lamp suspended to the low ceiling.

For a moment she thought she was laboring under the influence of a hideous dream; but, glancing around, she started with affright, and a scream burst from her lips, when she beheld the three nuns standing by the bed.

“Why have you brought me hither?” she demanded, springing from the couch, and addressing the recluses with frantic wildness.

“To benefit you in a spiritual sense,” replied the one who had before acted as spokeswoman: “to purge your mind of those mundane vanities which have seized upon it, and to render you worthy of salvation. Pray, sisters pray for this at present benighted creature!”

Then, to the surprise of the young maiden, the three nuns all fell upon their knees around her, and began to chant a solemn hymn in most lugubrious notes.

They had thrown aside their veils, and the flickering light of the dim lamp gave a ghastly and unearthly appearance to their pale and severe countenances. They were all three elderly persons: and their aspect was of that cold, forbidding nature, which precludes hope on the part of any one who might have to implore mercy.

The young maiden was astounded stupefied she knew not what to conjecture. Where was she? who were those nuns that had treated her so harshly? why was she brought to that cold, cheerless apartment? what meant the hymn that seemed chanted expressly on her account?

She could not bear up against the bewilderment and alarm produced by these questions which she asked herself, and none of which she could solve. An oppressive sensation came over her; and she was about to sink back upon the couch from which she had risen, when the hymn suddenly ceased the nuns rose from their suppliant posture and the foremost, addressing the poor girl in a reproachful tone, exclaimed, “Oh! wicked worldly-minded creature, repent repent repent!”

There was something so awful so appalling in this strange conduct on the part of the nuns, that Flora began to doubt whether she were not laboring under some terrible delusion. She feared lest her senses were leaving her: and, covering her face with her hands, so as to close her eyes against external objects, she endeavored to look inward, as it were, and scrutinize her own soul.

But she was not allowed time to reflect; for the three nuns seized upon her, the foremost saying, “You must come with us!”

“Mercy! mercy!” screamed the wretched girl, vainly struggling in the powerful grasp of the recluses.

Her long hair, which she had unbraided before she was carried off from the Riverola mansion, floated over her shoulders, and enhanced the expression of ineffable despair which her pallid countenance now wore.

Wildly she glanced around, as she was being hurried from the room; and frantic screams escaped her lips. But there was no one nigh to succor no one to melt at the outbursts of her anguish!

The three nuns dragged, rather than conducted her to an adjacent apartment, which was lighted by a lamp of astonishing brilliancy, and hung in a skylight raised above the roof.

On the floor, immediately beneath this lamp, stood an armchair of wicker-work; and from this chair two stout cords ascended to the ceiling, through which they passed by means of two holes perforated for the purpose.

When Flora was dragged by the nuns to the immediate vicinity of the chair, which her excited imagination instantly converted into an engine of torture, that part of the floor on which the chair stood seemed to tremble and oscillate beneath her feet, as if it were a trap-door.

The most dreadful sensations now came over her: she felt as if her brain was reeling as if she must go mad.

A fearful scream burst from her lips, and she struggled with the energy of desperation, as the nuns endeavored to thrust her into the chair.

“No no!” she exclaimed, frantically; “you shall not torture me you dare not murder me! What have I done to merit this treatment! Mercy! mercy!”

But her cries and her struggles were alike useless; for she was now firmly bound to the chair, into which the nuns had forced her to seat herself.

Then commenced the maddening scene which will be found in the ensuing chapter.