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


The night of which we are speaking was destined to be one pregnant with alarms for the Countess of Arestino and Signora Francatelli.

Scarcely had they recovered from the effects of the appalling tragedy which had just been enacted, when their attention was drawn to a strange noise on one side of the cell.

They listened, and the noise continued resembling an attempt to remove the massive masonry at that part of the stone chamber.

“Merciful heavens!” said Flora, in a subdued whisper; “what new terror can now be in store for us!”

But scarcely were these words uttered, when a considerable portion of the masonry fell in with a loud crash; and had not the countess and Flora already withdrawn to the vicinity of the door, when the mysterious sound first began, they would either have been killed or seriously hurt by the falling of the huge stones.

A faint scream burst from Flora’s lips, and she would have rushed from the cell, had not an ejaculation of joy escaped the countess.

For at the aperture formed by the falling in of the masonry, and by the glare of the light that shone on the other side, as well as by the dim taper that burnt before the crucifix in the cell, Giulia had in an instant recognized the countenance of the Marquis of Orsini.

“Manuel! dearest Manuel!” she exclaimed, rushing toward the aperture: “art thou come to save me?”

“Yes, Giulia,” replied the marquis. “But by what good fortune art thou the very first whom it is my destiny to encounter? and who is thy companion?”

“A good a generous-hearted girl, whom you must save also from this dreadful place,” answered the countess. “And as for this accidental, but most fortunate encounter, I can tell you no more than that this is our cell. It is rather for me to ask ”

“We have no time to waste in idle talk, my lord,” said Stephano, who now appeared at the aperture. “Pardon my roughness, noble lady but every moment is precious. Is there any danger of an alarm being given?”

“None that I am aware of,” returned the countess. “The place where we now are must be a hundred yards below the surface of the earth ”

“No, my lady that is impossible,” interrupted Stephano; “a hundred feet at the most and even that is above the mark. But stand back, my lady, while we remove some more of this solid masonry.”

Giulia obeyed the robber-chief, and turned to embrace Flora with the liveliest manifestations of joy, which the young maiden sincerely shared for escape now appeared to be at hand.

The aperture was rapidly enlarged by those who worked on the other side, and in a few minutes it was spacious enough to admit the passage of a human form. Then Giulia and Flora quitted their dismal cell, and entered the innermost chamber of the robbers’ hold, but from which the treasures described in a previous chapter had all been removed away.

Giulia embraced the marquis with grateful affection; but Stephano exclaimed, “Come, my lord! Remember your oath, and join us in this expedition to the end!”

At that moment the awful tragedy of the night flashed back to Flora’s memory, from which nothing could have dispelled it even for an instant, save the thrilling excitement attendant on the escape from the convent; and in a few hurried words, she told the dreadful tale.

But what was the astonishment of all present, when Piero, one of the banditti, exclaimed in a tone of mingled rage and grief, “’Tis Carlotta! the victim can be none other the dates you have mentioned, signora, convince me! Yes five months ago she fled from that accursed convent and yesterday she disappeared. Ah! my poor Carlotta!”

And the rude but handsome brigand wept.

Flora, forgetting the danger of re-entering the walls of the terrible institution, exclaimed, “Follow me it may not be too late I will show you the cell ”

And she once more passed through the aperture, closely followed by Stephano, Piero, Lomellino, and a dozen other banditti. The Marquis of Orsini stayed behind a few moments, to breathe a reassuring word to Giulia, whom he left in the treasure chamber (as that apartment of the robbers’ hold was called), and then hastened after those who had penetrated into the subterrane of the convent.

The party entered the chamber of penitence, where the long wax candles were still burning before the altar; and Flora having hastily given Stephano as much information as she could relative to the geography of the place, that chieftain placed sentinels around. Flora had already pointed out the door of the dungeon to which Carlotta had been consigned; and Piero hastened to call upon his mistress to answer him.

It was a touching spectacle to behold that lawless and bold, bad man melting into tenderness beneath the influence of love!

But no reply came from within that dungeon; and though the bolts were easily drawn back, yet the lock was strong, and the key was not there!

By this time the penitents, who slept in the various cells adjoining the chamber, had become alarmed by the heavy tread and the voices of men, and had opened their doors. But they were desired to keep back by the sentinels, whom Stephano had posted around to maintain order and prevent a premature alarm, but who, nevertheless, gave assurances of speedy escape to those who might choose to profit by the opportunity.

Suddenly a door, which Flora had never noticed before in the chamber of penitence, opened, and two recluses appeared on the threshold.

“The abbess!” ejaculated Flora, yielding to a sudden impulse of alarm.

But almost at the same instant Stephano sprung forward, caught the abbess by the arm, and dragged her into the chamber; then rushing up a flight of narrow stone steps, with which that door communicated, and which the other recluse had already turned to ascend, he brought her forcibly back also. This latter nun was Sister Alba, the presiding authority of the chamber of penitence.

Her astonishment, as well as that of the lady abbess, at the spectacle of a number of armed men in the most private part of the entire establishment, may well be conceived; nor was this disagreeable surprise unmixed with intense alarm. But they had little time for reflection.

“The key of that door!” cried Stephano in a fierce and menacing tone, as he pointed toward Carlotta’s dungeon.

The abbess mechanically drew forth the key from beneath her convent-habit, and Piero, rushing forward, clutched it eagerly. In a few moments it turned in the lock the next moment the door stood open.

But what a spectacle met the view of Piero, Flora, and those who were near enough to glance within! Stretched upon the stone floor of the narrow cell lay the victim motionless and still! Drops of gore hung to her lips; in the agony of her grief she had burst a blood-vessel and death must have been almost instantaneous.

Flora staggered back sick at the dreadful sight; and she would have fallen to the ground had not the Marquis of Orsini suddenly sprung forward to sustain her.

“This is no place for you, young lady,” he said. “Permit me to conduct you back to the companionship of the Countess of Arestino.”

Flora leant upon his arm, and he half carried, rather than led her away from the chamber of penitence into the robbers’ hold. But as they passed through the aperture formed by the removal of the masonry, a terrible menace met their ears.

“Vengeance!” cried Piero, furiously; “vengeance on the murderess of Carlotta!”

“Yes vengeance shalt thou have, comrade,” returned the deep, sonorous voice of Stephano.

But scarcely were those words uttered, when the loud clanging of the bell struck up; and the abbess exclaimed joyfully, “We are saved! we are saved!”