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


Stephano Verrina was not the man to allow his energies to be paralyzed by the reverse he had just sustained. He immediately commanded a general muster of his men to be held in the banqueting-hall, that he might accurately ascertain the loss his corps had sustained.

Giulia and Flora were left in the treasure-chamber to snatch a few hours’ repose, if they could, as it was now past two o’clock in the morning, and the marquis accompanied Stephano to the banqueting-hall. Scarcely were the men mustered, when the usual signals announcing the approach of a member of the band were heard, and in a few moments Lomellino appeared amongst the troop.

All crowded round him to hear the account which he had to give of his expedition and its failure.

His tale was soon told. It seemed that on reaching what might be properly termed the main building of the convent, he found the greatest alarm and confusion prevailing amongst the nuns, the shrieks of the abbess, Sister Alba, and the penitents, and the alarm of the bell, having reached the ears of the recluses. Their consternation was increased almost to madness when they suddenly perceived several armed men emerging from the private staircase leading to the subterranean department, and Lomellino found it impossible to tranquilize them either by threats or fair speaking. A guard of sbirri must have been passing at the time, for loud knocks resounded at the gate, which the old portress immediately opened before Lomellino or any of his men could interfere to prevent her. A number of police officers rushed in, and then commenced a terrific combat between the banditti and the sbirri, the former of whom were forced into an apartment, the door of which was originally locked, but was burst open in the deadly struggle. There the strife was continued, when suddenly the cry of “Fire” arose, and the flames, which had caught a bed in the apartment, spread rapidly to the cumbrous and time-worn woodwork that supported the ceiling. How the fire originated, Lomellino knew not, but as some of the nuns carried lamps in their hands, and rushed wildly about in all directions in their terror, it was not very difficult to hazard a conjecture as to the cause of the conflagration. From that apartment, where the fire began, the flames drove the combatants into an inner room, and there Lomellino saw his comrade Piero hurled down some steep place, he himself being too sorely pressed by his assailants to be able to repair to his assistance.

At length, seeing that all his companions were slain, Lomellino had fought his way desperately through the police-officers, and had succeeded in escaping from the convent, though closely pursued by three of the sbirri. They were rapidly gaining upon him, when an awful crash suddenly met their ears, as they were hurrying along the street leading to the wood; and, looking back, Lomellino beheld a tremendous pillar of flame shoot up from the place where the convent had stood, to the very sky, rendering for the space of a minute everything as light as day around. The building had fallen in, and Heaven only knows how many of the nuns and sbirri had escaped, or how many had perished beneath the ruins! Those officers who were in pursuit of Lomellino were so astounded by the sudden din and the column of flame, that they remained rooted to the spot where they had turned to gaze on the evidence of the catastrophe: and Lomellino had succeeded in effecting a safe and unobserved return to the stronghold.

This account was particularly welcome to the robbers, inasmuch as it convinced them that the sbirri had no clew to the secret entrance of their stronghold, and that none of their band had been captured in the conflict: for they would rather hear of the death of their comrades than that they had been taken prisoners; because, were the latter the case, the tortures of the rack or the exhortations of the priest might elicit confessions hostile to the interests of the corps.

Stephano Verrina now proceeded to count his men, who had mustered fifty strong previously to the expedition of that fatal night, which, it was ascertained, had reduced the number to thirty-six seven, including Piero, having been slain by the sbirri, and as many having perished by the falling in of the chamber of penitence.

The captain then addressed the troop in the following manner:

“Worthy comrades, our number is sadly reduced; but regrets will not bring back those gallant fellows who are gone. It, therefore, behooves us to attend to our own interests; and, for that purpose, I demand your attention for a few minutes. In pursuance of the resolution to which we came the night before last at the general council that was held, the treasures and possessions amassed during many years of adventure and peril have been fairly divided, and each man’s portion has been settled by lot. The fourteen shares that revert to us by the death of our comrades shall be equally subdivided to-morrow; and the superintendence of that duty, my friends, will be the last act in my chieftainship. Yes, brave comrades, I shall then leave you, in accordance with the announcement I made the night before last. It will grieve me to part with you; but you will choose another captain ”

“Lomellino! Lomellino!” exclaimed the banditti with one accord; “he shall succeed our gallant Verrina!”

“And you could not make a better choice,” continued Stephano. “Lomellino ”

“Pardon me, captain,” interrupted the individual thus alluded to: “but is not that little expedition to take place on Monday, in case the lady requires it? We have received her gold as an earnest ”

“And double that amount was promised if the affair should turn out successful,” added Stephano. “But I have reasons of my own, which you may perhaps understand, Lomellino, for desiring that all idea of that business should be abandoned. And in order that the band may not be losers by this change of intentions, I will give you from my own share of our long accumulated treasures ”

“No! no!” cried the banditti, enthusiastically; “we will not receive our gallant Stephano’s gold! Let him act according to his own wishes!”

“I thank you, my friends, for this generosity on your part,” said Stephano.

Their meeting then broke up; and the robbers sat down to the banqueting table, to luxuriate in the rich wines with which the stronghold was well stored.

The Marquis of Orsini was compelled, through fear of giving offense, to share in the festival.

“This resolution to abandon the command of your gallant band is somewhat sudden, meseems, Signor Stephano,” he said: for not having been present at the council held two nights previously, he was unaware of the captain’s intention until it was alluded to in that individual’s speech on the present occasion.

“Yes, my lord,” was the reply; “the resolution is sudden, But,” he added, sinking his voice to a whisper, “a certain little blind god is at the bottom of it.”

“Ah! signor, you are in love!” said the marquis, laughing.

“And therefore, I mean to turn honest man,” observed Verrina, also laughing. “In truth, I am not sorry to have found a good excuse to quit a mode of life which the headsman yearns to cut short. Not that I reck for peril; but, methinks, twenty years of danger and adventure ought to be succeeded by a season of tranquillity.”

“Love has a marvelous influence over you, Signor Verrina,” said the marquis; “for love alone could have inspired such sentiments in your breast.”

“I am fain to confess that your lordship is not far wrong,” returned the bandit. “I have discovered a woman who is worthy of me although she may not consider me to be altogether deserving of her. But of that no matter; for I am not accustomed to consult the inclinations of others, when mine own are concerned. And now a word in respect to yourself, my lord. When do you propose to quit this place? for according to my promise, you are now the master of your own actions.”

“The mysterious assault made upon the convent the destruction of the entire establishment and the lives that have been lost, will doubtless create a terrible sensation in Florence,” replied the nobleman; “and should it transpire that I was in any way implicated ”

“That is impossible, my lord,” interrupted Stephano. “These men whom you behold around you could alone betray that secret; and you must have seen enough of them ”

“To know that they are stanch and true,” added the marquis. “Yes, on reflection, I perceive that I have nothing to fear; and therefore, with your leave, the countess, her young companion, and myself will take our departure to-morrow.”

“In the evening, when it is dusk,” said Stephano. “But your lordship will not remain in Florence?”

“The news which you brought me, a few days ago, of the arrest of that poor Israelite on a ridiculous but most monstrous charge, has affected me strangely,” observed Manuel; “and as it is in my power to explain away that charge, I must tarry in Florence the necessary time to accomplish this object. The Count of Arestino will imagine that his wife has perished in the ruins of the convent; and hence her temporary concealment in the city will be easily effected.”

“Well, my lord,” said Stephano, “it is not for me to dictate nor to advise. But as I always entertain an esteem for a man with whom I have measured weapons and as I have somehow formed a liking for your lordship pardon my boldness I should recommend you not to remain in Florence on account of the Jew. The Lady Giulia might be discovered by her husband, and you would lose her again. To tell your lordship the truth,” he added, in a low and confidential tone, “a friend of mine, who commands a trading vessel, sails in a few days from Leghorn for the Levant; and I intend to be a passenger on board, in company with the sweet lady whom I have honored with my affections. What says your lordship? will it suit you to embark in that vessel?”

“A thousand thanks, Signor Verrina,” replied the marquis; “but I must remain at Florence to prove the innocence of that poor, persecuted Jew.”

Stephano offered no further remonstrance; and the conversation which ensued possessed not the least interest for our readers.

On the following evening the Marquis, Giulia, and Flora quitted the robbers’ stronghold all three were carefully blindfolded, and safely conducted amidst the dangers of the egress by Stephano, Lomellino, and another bandit. When in the grove with which the entrance of the stronghold communicated, the bandages were removed from their eyes, and the two ladies, as well as the marquis, were once more enabled to rejoice in their freedom.

According to a previous arrangement between them, and in consequence of the intention of the marquis to remain a few days in Florence, Giulia accompanied Flora to the dwelling of the young maiden’s aunt, who was rejoiced to behold the reappearance of her niece, and who willingly afforded an asylum to the countess.

The marquis, having conducted the two ladies to the hospitable cottage of this good woman, returned to his own dwelling, his protracted absence from which had caused serious apprehensions amongst the few domestics whom his means permitted him to maintain. Ere we conclude this chapter, we shall observe in a few words that the greatest excitement prevailed in Florence relative to the attack on the convent and its destruction. Many of the nuns had escaped from the building at the commencement of the fire; and these took up their abode in another institution of the same order. But the thrilling events which occurred in the chamber of penitence did not transpire; nor was it ascertained who were the sacrilegious invaders of the establishment, nor by what means they had obtained an entry.