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


In the meantime Ibrahim had ordered his prisoner, the young Italian chieftain, to be conveyed to his tent; and when the renegade’s slaves had disencumbered the Christian of his armor, he began to revive. As Ibrahim bent over him, administering restoratives, a suspicion, which had already struck him the moment he first beheld his face, grew stronger and stronger; and the apostate at length became convinced that he had seen that countenance on some former occasion.

Ordering his slaves to withdraw, Ibrahim remained alone with his prisoner, who was now able to sit up on the sofa and gaze around him.

“I understand it all!” he exclaimed, the blood rushing back to his pale cheek; “I am in the power of the barbarians!”

“Nay, call us not harsh names, brave chieftain,” said Ibrahim, “seeing that we do not treat you unworthily.”

“I was wrong!” cried the prisoner; then, fixing his fine blue eyes upon the renegade, he added, “Were you not habited as a Moslem, I should conceive, by the purity with which you speak my native language, that you were a Christian, and an Italian.”

“I can speak many languages with equal fluency,” said Ibrahim, evasively, as a pang shot through his heart. “But tell me thy name, Christian for thou art a brave man, although so young.”

“In my own country,” answered the youth, proudly, “I am called the Count of Riverola.”

We have before stated that Ibrahim was the complete master of his emotions: but it required all his powers of self-possession to subdue them now, when the name of that family into which he was well aware his sister had entered fell upon his ears. His suspicion was well founded; he had indeed seen Francisco before this day had seen him when he was a mere boy, in Florence, for Alessandro was three or four years older than the young count. But he had never, in his native land, exchanged a word with Francisco; he had merely, occasionally, seen him in public; and it was quite evident that even if Francisco had ever noticed him at that time, he did not recollect him now. Neither did Ibrahim wish the young count to ascertain who he was; for the only thing which the renegade ever feared was the encounter of any one who had known him as a Christian, and who might justly reproach him for that apostasy which had led him to profess Mohammedanism.

“Lord Count of Riverola,” said Ibrahim, after a short pause, “you shall be treated in a manner becoming your rank and your bravery. Such, indeed, was the command of my imperial master, the most glorious sultan; but even had no such order been issued, my admiration of your gallant deportment in this day’s strife would lead to the same result.”

“My best thanks are due for these assurances,” returned Francisco. “But tell me how fares the war without?”

“The grand master has proffered a capitulation, which has been accepted,” answered Ibrahim.

“A capitulation!” exclaimed Francisco. “Oh! it were better to die in defense of the cross, than live to behold the crescent triumphant on the walls of Rhodes!”

“The motive of the grand master was a humane one,” observed Ibrahim; “he has agreed to capitulate, to put an end to the terrific slaughter that is going on.”

“Doubtless the lord general acts in accordance with the dictates of a matured wisdom!” exclaimed the Count of Riverola.

“Your lordship was the leader of the Italian auxiliaries?” said Ibrahim, interrogatively.

“Such was the honorable office intrusted to me,” was the reply. “When messengers from Villiers of Isle-Adam arrived in Florence, beseeching succor against this invasion, which has, alas! proved too successful, I panted for occupation to distract my mind from ever pondering on the heavy misfortunes which had overtaken me.”

“Misfortunes!” exclaimed Ibrahim.

“Yes misfortunes of such a nature that the mere thought of them is madness!” cried Francisco, in an excited tone. “First, a beauteous and amiable girl one who, though of humble origin, was endowed with virtues and qualifications that might have fitted her to adorn a palace, and whom I fondly, devotedly loved was-snatched from me. She disappeared I know not how! All trace of her was suddenly lost, as if the earth had swallowed her up and closed over her again! This blow was in itself terrible. But it came not alone. A few days elapsed, and my sister my dearly beloved sister also disappeared, and in the same mysterious manner. Not a trace of her remained and what makes this second affliction the more crushing the more overwhelming, is that she is deaf and dumb! Oh! Heaven grant me the power to resist, to bear up against these crowning miseries! Vain were all my inquiries useless was all the search I instituted to discover whither had gone the being whom I would have made my wife, and the sister who was ever so devoted to me! At length, driven to desperation, when weeks had passed and they returned not goaded on to madness by bitter, bitter memories I resolved to devote myself to the service of the cross. With my gold I raised and equipped a gallant band; and a favoring breeze wafted us from Leghorn to this island. The grand master received me with open arms; and, forming an estimation of my capacities far above my deserts, placed me in command of all the Italian auxiliaries. You know the rest; I fought with all my energy, and your sultan was within the grasp of death, when you rushed forward and saved him. The result is that I am your prisoner.”

“So young and yet so early acquainted with such deep affliction!” exclaimed Ibrahim. “But can you form no idea, Christian, of the cause of that double disappearance? Had your sister no attendants who could throw the least light upon the subject?” he asked, with the hope of eliciting some tidings relative to his own sister, the beauteous Flora.

“I dare not reflect thereon!” cried Francisco, the tears starting into his eyes. “For, alas! Florence has long been infested by a desperate band of lawless wretches and my God! I apprehend the worst the very worst.”

Thus speaking, he rose and paced the spacious tent with agitated steps; for this conversation had awakened in his mind all the bitter thoughts and dreadful alarms which he had essayed to subdue amidst the excitement and peril of war. A slave now entered to inform Ibrahim that the sultan commanded his immediate presence in the imperial pavilion.

“Christian,” said Ibrahim, as he rose to obey this mandate, “wilt thou pledge me thy word, as a noble and a knight, not to attempt to escape from this tent?”

“I pledge my word,” answered Francisco, “seeing that thou thyself art so generous to me.”

Ibrahim then went forth; but he paused for a few moments outside the tent to command his slaves to serve up choice refreshments to the prisoner. He then hastened to the pavilion of the sultan, whom he found seated upon a throne, surrounded by the beglerbegs, the councilors of state, the viziers, the lieutenant-generals of the army, and all the high dignitaries who had accompanied him on his expedition. Ibrahim advanced and prostrated himself at the foot of his throne; and at the same moment two of the high functionaries present threw a caftan of honor over his shoulders a ceremony which signified that the sultan had conferred upon him the title of beglerbeg, or “prince of princes.”

“Rise, Ibrahim Pasha!” exclaimed Solyman, “and take thy place in our councils, for Allah and his prophet have this day made thee their instrument to save the life of thy sovereign.”

The newly-created pasha touched the imperial slipper with his lips, and then rising from his prostrate position, received the congratulations of the high functionaries assembled.

Thus it was that in a few months, protected by that secret influence which was hurrying him so rapidly along in his ambitious career, the Italian apostate attained to a high rank in the Ottoman Empire; but he was yet to reach the highest, next to that of the sovereign, ere he could hope to receive the fair hand of his mysterious patroness as the crowning joy of his prosperity, for her image, her charming image, ever dwelt in his mind, and an ardent fancy often depicted her as she appeared, in all the splendor of her beauty, reclining on the sofa at the dwelling to which he had been conducted with so much precaution, as detailed in a preceding chapter. On the following day peace was formally concluded between the Ottomans and the knights of Rhodes, the latter consenting to surrender the island to the formidable invaders. An exchange of prisoners was the result, and Francisco, Count of Riverola, again found himself free within twenty-four hours after his capture.

“Your lordship is now about to sail for your own clime,” said Ibrahim, when the moment of separation came. “Is there aught within my power that I can do to testify my friendship for one so brave and chivalrous as thou art?”

“Nothing, great pasha!” exclaimed Francisco, who felt his sympathy irresistibly attracted toward Ibrahim, he knew not why, “but, on the other hand, receive my heartfelt thanks for the kindness which I have experienced during the few hours I have been thy guest.”

“The history of thy afflictions has so much moved me,” said Ibrahim Pasha, after a brief pause, “that the interest I experience in your behalf will not cease when you shall be no longer here. If then you would bear in mind the request I am about to make, gallant Christian ”

“Name it!” cried Francisco; “’tis already granted!”

“Write me from Florence,” added Ibrahim, “and acquaint me with the success of thy researches after thy lost sister and the maiden whom thou lovest. The ships of Leghorn trade to Constantinople, whither I shall speedily return, and it will not be a difficult matter to forward a letter to me occasionally.”

“I should be unworthy of the kind interest you take in my behalf, great pasha, were I to neglect this request,” answered Francisco. “Oh! may the good angels grant that I may yet recover my beloved sister Nisida, and that sweetest of maidens Flora Francatelli!”

Francisco was too overpowered by his own emotions to observe the sudden start which Ibrahim gave, and the pallor which instantaneously overspread his cheeks as the name of his sister thus burst upon his ears that sister who, beyond doubt, had disappeared most strangely.

But, with an almost superhuman effort, he subdued any further expression of the agony of his feelings, and, taking Francisco’s hand, said, in a low, deep tone: “Count of Riverola, I rely upon your solemn promise to write me, and write soon and often. I shall experience a lively pleasure in receiving and responding to your letters.”

“Fear not that I shall forget my promise, your highness,” responded Francisco.

He then took leave of Ibrahim Pasha, and returned to the city of Rhodes, whence he embarked on the same day for Italy, accompanied by the few Florentine auxiliaries who had survived the dreadful slaughter on the ramparts. The hustle and excitement attending the departure from Rhodes somewhat absorbed the grief which Ibrahim felt on account of the mysterious disappearance of his sister Flora.

Solyman left a sufficient force, under an able commander, to garrison the island, which was speedily evacuated by Villiers of Isle Adam and his knights; and by the middle of May the sultan, attended by Ibrahim and the other dignitaries of the empire, once more entered the gates of Constantinople.

Not many days had elapsed when, at a divan or state council, at which Solyman the Magnificent himself presided, Ibrahim Pasha was desired to give his opinion upon a particular question then under discussion. The renegade expressed his sentiments in a manner at variance with the policy recommended by the grand vizier; and this high functionary replied, in terms of bitterness and even grossness, at the same time reproaching Ibrahim with ingratitude. The apostate delivered a rejoinder which completely electrified the divan. He repudiated the charge of ingratitude on the ground of being influenced only by his duty toward the sultan; and he entered upon a complete review of the policy of the Grand Vizier Piri Pasha. He proved that the commerce of the country had greatly fallen off that the revenues had diminished that arrears were due to the army and navy that several minor powers had not paid their usual tribute for some years past and, in a word, drew such a frightful picture of the maladministration and misrule, that the grand vizier was overwhelmed with confusion, and the sultan and other listeners were struck with the lamentable truth of all which had fallen from the lips of Ibrahim Pasha. Nor less were they astonished at the wonderful intimacy which he displayed with even the minutest details of the machinery of the government; in a word, his triumph was complete.

Solyman the Magnificent broke up the divan in haste, ordering the members of the council to return each immediately to his own abode. In the evening a functionary of the imperial household was sent to the palace of the grand vizier to demand the seals of office; and thus fell Piri Pasha.

It was midnight when the sultan sent to order Ibrahim Pasha to wait upon him without delay. The conference that ensued was long and interesting, and it was already near daybreak when messengers were dispatched to the various members of the divan to summon them to the seraglio. Then, in the presence of all the rank and talent in the capital, the sultan demanded of Ibrahim whether he felt sufficient confidence in himself to undertake the weight and responsibility of office. All eyes were fixed earnestly upon that mere youth of scarcely twenty-three, who was thus solemnly adjured.

In a firm voice he replied that with the favor of the sultan and the blessing of the Most High, he did not despair of being enabled to restore the Ottoman Empire to its late prosperity and glory. The astronomer of the court declared that the hour was favorable to invest the new grand vizier with the insignia of office; and at the moment when the call to prayer, “God is great!” sounded from every minaret in Constantinople, Ibrahim Pasha received the imperial seals from the hand of the sultan.