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


It was originally Stephano Verrina’s intention to observe good faith with Nisida in respect to the service on which she had intimated her desire to employ him and his band. But so dazzled was he by her almost supernatural majesty of beauty on that night when he and his companions encountered her in the Riverola palace, that he would have promised, or indeed undertaken, anything calculated to please or benefit her.

When, however, he came to reflect calmly upon the service in which Nisida had enlisted him, he began to suspect that some motive more powerful than the mere desire to effect the liberation of an innocent man influenced that lady. Had she not put to death a beautiful creature who had resided in the same dwelling with Fernand Wagner? and did not that deed bear upon its aspect the stamp of an Italian woman’s vengeance? Thus thought Stephano, and he soon arrived at the very natural conclusion that Nisida loved Fernand Wagner. Wagner was therefore his rival; and Verrina did not consider it at all in accordance with his own particular views in respect to Nisida, to aid in effecting that rival’s liberation, should he be condemned by the tribunal.

Again Stephano reflected that as Wagner’s acquittal was within the range of probability, it would be expedient to possess himself of Nisida before the trial took place; and what opportunity could be more favorable than the one which that lady herself afforded by the appointment she had given him for the Sunday evening at the gate of Saint Mary’s Cathedral?

All these considerations had determined the bandit to adopt speedy and strenuous measures to possess himself of Nisida, of whom he was so madly enamored that the hope of gratifying his passion predominated even over the pride and delight he had hitherto experienced in commanding the Florentine robbers.

The appointed evening came; and Stephano, disguised in his black mask, repaired a few minutes before ten to the immediate vicinity of the old cathedral. At the corner of an adjacent street, two men, mounted on powerful horses, and holding a third steed by the bridle, were in readiness; and, crouched in the black darkness formed by the shade of a huge buttress of the cathedral, two members of the troop which Lomellino now commanded lay concealed for the new captain of banditti had lent some of his stanchest followers to further the designs of the ex-chieftain.

A heavy rain had fallen in the early part of the day; but it ceased ere the sun went down; and the stars shone forth like beauty’s eyes when the tears of grief have been wiped away by the lips of the lover.

Stephano paced the arena in front of the sacred edifice; and at length a gentle tread and a rustling of velvet met his ears. Then, in a few moments, as if emerging from the darkness, the majestic form of Nisida appeared; and when Stephano approached her, she drew aside her veil for an instant only for a single instant, that he might convince himself of her identity with the lady for whom he was waiting.

But as the light of the silver stars beamed for a moment on the countenance of Nisida, that mild and placid luster was out-vied by the dazzling brilliancy of her large black eyes: and mental excitement had imparted a rich carnation hue to her cheek, rendering her so surpassingly beautiful that Stephano could almost have fallen on his knees to worship and adore her. But, oh! what lovely skins do some snakes wear! and into what charming shapes does satán often get!

Nisida had replaced her veil while yet Verrina’s eyes were fixed on her bewitching countenance; then, placing her finger lightly upon his arm oh! how that gentle touch thrilled through him! she made a sign for him to follow her toward a niche in the deep gateway of the cathedral: for in that niche was an image of the Madonna, and before it burnt a lamp night and day. To gain that spot it was necessary to pass the buttress in whose shade the two banditti lay concealed.

Stephano trembled as he followed that lady whom he knew to be as intrepid, bold, and desperate as she was beautiful: he trembled, perhaps for the first time in his life, because never until now had he felt himself overawed by the majesty of loveliness and the resolute mind of a woman. But he had gone too far to retreat even if that temporary and almost unaccountable timidity had prompted him to abandon his present design; yes, he had gone too far for at that moment when Nisida was passing the huge buttress, the two brigands sprung forth: and though her hand instantly grasped her dagger, yet so suddenly and effectually was she overpowered that she had not even time to draw it from its sheath.

Fortunately for the scheme of Stephano, the great square in front of the cathedral was at that moment completely deserted by the usual evening loungers; and thus did he and his companions experience not the slightest interruption as they bore Nisida firmly and rapidly along to the corner of the street where the horses were in attendance.

The lady’s hands were already bound, and her dagger had been taken from her; and thus the resistance she was enabled to make was very slight, when Stephano, having sprung upon one of the horses, received the charming burden from the banditti, and embraced that fine voluptuous form in his powerful arms.

The two men who had waited with Stephano’s horse were already mounted on their own, as before stated, and the little party was now in readiness to start.

“No further commands, signor?” said one of the banditti who had first seized upon Nisida.

“None, my brave fellow. Tell Lomellino that I sent him my best wishes for his prosperity. And now for a rapid journey to Leghorn!”

“Good-night, signor.”

“Good-night. Farewell farewell, my friends!” cried Verrina; and clapping spurs to his steed, he struck into a quick gallop, his two mounted companions keeping pace with him, and riding one on either side, so as to prevent any possibility of escape on the part of Donna Nisida of Riverola.

In a few minutes the little party gained the bank of the Arno, along which they pursued their rapid way, lighted by the lovely moon, which now broke forth from the purple sky, and seemed, with its chaste beams playing on the surface of the water, to put a soul into the very river as it ran!