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


Three months had now elapsed since Ibrahim-Pasha had risen to the exalted rank of grand vizier, and had married the sister of Solyman the Magnificent. The sultan daily became more attached to him; and he, on his part, acquired influence over his imperial master. Vested with a power so nearly absolute that Solyman signed without ever perusing the hatti-sheriffs, or decrees, drawn up by Ibrahim, and enjoying the confidence of the divan, all the members of which were devoted to his interests, the renegade administered according to his own discretion, the affairs of that mighty empire. Avaricious, and ever intent upon the aggrandizement of his own fortunes, he accumulated vast treasures; but he also maintained a household and lived in a style unequaled by any of his predecessors in office. Having married a sister of the sultan, he was not permitted a plurality of wives; but he purchased the most beauteous slaves for his harem, and plunged headlong into a vortex of dissipation and pleasure.

For some weeks he had manifested the most ardent and impassioned attachment toward Aischa, who, during that period, was happy in the belief that she alone possessed his heart. But the customs of the East, as well as the duties of his office, kept them so much apart, that he had no leisure to discover the graces of her mind, nor to appreciate all the powers of her naturally fine, and indeed well-cultivated intellect; so that the beauty of her person constituted the only basis on which his affection was maintained. The fervor of such a love soon cooled with satiety: and those female slaves whom he had at first procured as indispensable appendages to his rank and station, were not long in becoming the sources of new pleasure and voluptuous enjoyment. Aischa beheld his increasing indifference, and strove to bind him to her by representing all she had done for him. He listened coldly at first; but when, on several occasions, the same remonstrances were repeated, he answered angrily.

“Had it not been for my influence,” she said to him one day, when the dispute had become more serious than preceding quarrels of the kind, “you might still have been an humble secretary to a Christian noble.”

“Not so,” replied the grand vizier; “for at the very time when I first beheld thee in the Bezestein, certain offers had been secretly conveyed to me from the reis-effendi.”

“In whose service you would have lingered as a mere subordinate for long, long years,” returned Aischa. “It was I who urged you on. Have I not often assured you that your image dwelt in my memory after the accident which first led to our meeting that one of my faithful women noticed my thoughtful mood and that when I confessed to her the truth, she stated to me that, by a singular coincidence, her own brother was employed by the reis-effendi as an agent to tempt you with the offers to which you have alluded? Then, inquiries which my slave instituted, brought to my ears the flattering tidings that you also thought of me, and I resolved to grant you an interview. From that moment my influence hurried you on to power and when you became the favorite of the mighty Solyman, I confessed to him that I had seen and that I loved you. His fraternal attachment to me is great greater than to any other of his sisters, seeing that himself and I were born of the same mother, though at a long interval. Thus was it that my persuasion made him think higher and oftener of you than he would else have done and now that you have attained the summit of glory and power, she who has helped to raise you is neglected and loved no longer.”

“Cease these reproaches, Aischa,” exclaimed Ibrahim, who had listened impatiently to her long address, “or I will give thee less of my company than heretofore. See that the next time I visit thee my reception may be with smiles instead of tears with sweet words instead of reproaches.” And in this cruel manner the heartless renegade quitted his beauteous wife, leaving her plunged in the most profound affliction.

But as Ibrahim traversed the corridors leading to his own apartments, his heart smote him for the harshness and unfeeling nature of his conduct; and as one disagreeable idea, by disposing the spirits to melancholy, usually arouses others that were previously slumbering in the cells of the brain, all the turpitude of his apostasy was recalled with new force to his mind.

Repairing to a small but magnificently furnished saloon in a retired part of the palace, he dismissed the slaves who were waiting at the door, ordering them, however, to send into his presence a young Greek page who had recently entered his service. In a few minutes the youth made his appearance, and stood in a respectful attitude near the door.

“Come and sit at my feet, Constantine,” said the grand vizier, “and thou shalt sing to me one of those airs of thy native Greece with which thou hast occasionally delighted mine ears. I know not how it is, boy but thy presence pleases me, and thy voice soothes my soul, when oppressed with the cares of my high office.”

Joy flashed from the bright black eyes of the young Greek page as he glided noiselessly over the thick carpet, but that emotion of pleasure was instantly changed to one of deep deference.

“Proceed,” said his master, “and sing me that plaintive song which is supposed to depict the woes of one of the unhappy sons of Greece.”

“But may not its sentiments offend your highness?” asked the page.

“It is but a song,” responded Ibrahim. “I give thee full permission to sing those verses, and I should be sorry were you to subdue aught of the impassioned feelings which they are well calculated to excite within thee.”

The page turned his handsome countenance up toward the grand vizier, and commenced in melodious, liquid tones, the following song


“Oh, are there not beings condemned from their birth,
To drag, without solace or hope o’er the earth,
The burden of grief and of sorrow?
Doomed wretches who know, while they tremblingly say,
‘The star of my fate appears brighter to-day,’
That it is but a brief and a mocking ray,
To make darkness darker to-morrow.

“And ’tis not to the vile and base alone
That unchanging grief and sorrow are known,
But as oft to the pure and guileless;
And he, from whose fervid and generous lip,
Gush words of the kindest fellowship,
Of the same pure fountain may not sip
In return, but it is sad and smileless!

“Yes; such doomed mortals, alas! there be
And mine is that self-same destiny;
The fate of the lorn and lonely;
For e’en in my childhood’s early day,
The comrades I sought would turn away;
And of all the band, from the sportive play
Was I thrust and excluded only.

“When fifteen summers had passed o’er my head,
I stood on the battle-field strewn with the dead.
For the day of the Moslem’s glory
Had made me an orphan child, and there
My sire was stretched; and his bosom bare
Showed a gaping wound; and the flowing hair
Of his head was damp and gory.

“My sire was the chief of the patriot band,
That had fought and died for their native land,
When her rightful prince betrayed her;
On his kith and kin did the vengeance fall
Of the Mussulman foes and each and all
Were swept from the old ancestral hall,
Save myself, by the fierce invader!

“And I was spared from that blood-stained grave
To be dragged away as the Moslem’s slave,
And bend to the foe victorious,
But, O Greece! to thee does my memory turn
Its longing eyes and my heart-strings yearn
To behold thee rise in thy might and spurn,
As of yore, thy yoke inglorious!

“But oh! whither has Spartan courage fled?
And why, proud Athens! above thine head
Is the Mussulman crescent gleaming?
Have thine ancient memories no avail?
And art thou not fired at the legend tale
Which reminds thee how the whole world grew pale,
And recoiled from thy banners streaming?”

“Enough, boy,” exclaimed Ibrahim: then in a low tone, he murmured to himself, “The Christians have indeed much cause to anathematize the encroachments and tyranny of the Moslems.”

There was a short pause, during which the grand vizier was absorbed in profound meditation, while the Greek page never once withdrew his eyes from the countenance of that high functionary.

“Boy,” at length said Ibrahim, “you appear attached to me. I have observed many proofs of your devotion during the few months that you have been in my service. Speak is there aught that I can do to make you happy? Have you relations or friends who need protection? If they be poor, I will relieve their necessities.”

“My lips cannot express the gratitude which my heart feels toward your highness,” returned the page, “but I have no friends in behalf of whom I might supplicate the bounty of your highness.”

“Are you yourself happy, Constantine?” asked Ibrahim.

“Happy in being permitted to attend upon your highness,” was the reply, delivered in a soft and tremulous tone.

“But is it in my power to render you happier?” demanded the grand vizier.

Constantine hung down his head reflected for a few moments, and then murmured “Yes.”

“Then, by Heaven!” exclaimed Ibrahim Pasha, “thou hast only to name thy request, and it will be granted. I know not wherefore, but I am attached to thee much. I feel interested in thy welfare, and I would be rejoiced to minister to thy happiness.”

“I am already happier than I was happier, because my lips have drunk in such words flowing from the lips of one who is exalted as highly as I am insignificant and humble.” said the page, in a voice tremulous with emotion, but sweetly musical. “Yes, I am happier,” he continued “and yet my soul is filled with the image of a dear, a well-beloved sister, who pines in loneliness and solitude, ever dwelling on a hapless love which she has formed for one who knows not that he is so loved, and who perhaps may never never know it.”

“Ah, thou hast a sister, Constantine?” exclaimed the grand vizier. “And is she as lovely as a sister of a youth so handsome as thou art ought to be?”

“She has been assured by those who have sought her hand, that she is indeed beautiful,” answered Constantine. “But of what avail are her charms, since he whom she loves may never whisper in her ear the delicious words, ‘I love thee in return.’”

“Does the object of her affections possess so obdurate a heart?” inquired the grand vizier, strangely interested in the discourse of his youthful page.

“It is not that he scorns my sister’s love,” replied Constantine; “but it is that he knows not of its existence. It is true that he has seen her once yet ’twere probable that he remembers not there is such a being in the world. Thus came it to pass, my lord an officer, holding a high rank in the service of his imperial majesty, the great Solyman, had occasion to visit a humble dwelling wherein my sister resided. She poor silly maiden! was so struck by his almost god-like beauty so dazzled by his fascinating address so enchanted by the sound of his voice, that she surrendered up her heart suddenly and secretly surrendered it beyond all power of reclamation. Since then she has never ceased to ponder upon this fatal passion this unhappy love; she has nursed his image in her mind, until her reason has rocked with the wild thoughts, the ardent hopes, the emotions of despair all the conflicting sentiments of feeling, in a word, which so ardent and so strange a love must naturally engender. Enthusiastic, yet tender; fervent, yet melting in her soul; and while she does not attempt to close her eyes to the conviction that she is cherishing a passion which is preying upon her very vitals, she nevertheless clings to it as a martyr to the stake! Oh! my lord, canst thou marvel if I feel deeply for my unhappy sister?”

“But wherefore doth she remain thus unhappy?” demanded Ibrahim-Pasha. “Surely there are means of conveying to the object of her attachment an intimation how deeply he is beloved? and he must be something more than human,” he added, in an impassioned tone, “if he can remain obdurate to the tears and sighs of a beauteous creature, such as thy sister doubtless is.”

“And were he to spurn her from him oh! your highness, it would kill her!” said the page, fixing his large, eloquent eyes upon the countenance of the grand vizier. “Consider his exalted rank and her humble position ”

“Doth she aspire to become his wife?” asked Ibrahim.

“She would be contented to serve him as his veriest slave,” responded Constantine, now strangely excited, “were he but to look kindly upon her: she would deem herself blest in receiving a smile from his lips, so long as it was bestowed as a reward for all the tender love she bears him.”

“Who is this man that is so fortunate as to have excited so profound an interest in the heart of one so beautiful?” demanded the grand vizier. “Name him to me I will order him to appear before me and, for thy sake, I will become an eloquent pleader on behalf of thy sister.”

Words cannot express the joy which flashed from the eyes of the page, and animated his handsome though softly feminine countenance, as, casting himself on his knees at the feet of Ibrahim Pasha, he murmured, “Great lord, that man whom my sister loves, and for whom she would lay down her life, is thyself!”

Ibrahim was for some minutes too much overcome by astonishment to offer an observation to utter a word; while the page remained kneeling at his feet. Then suddenly it flashed to the mind of the grand vizier that the only humble abode which he had entered since he had become an officer holding a high rank in the service of Solyman, was that of his Greek emissary, Demetrius; and it now occurred to him, that there was a striking likeness between the young page and the beautiful Calanthe: whom he had seen on that occasion.

“Constantine,” he said, at length, “art thou, then, the brother of that Demetrius whom I dispatched some three months ago to Florence?”

“I am, my lord and ’tis our sister Calanthe of whom I have spoken,” was the reply. “Oh! pardon my arrogance my presumption, great vizier!” he continued, suddenly rising from his kneeling position, and now standing with his arms meekly folded across his breast “pardon the arrogance, the insolence of my conduct,” he exclaimed; “but it was for the sake of my sister that I sought service in the household of your highness. I thought that if I could succeed in gaining your notice if in any way I could obtain such favor in your eyes as to be admitted to speak with one so highly raised above me as thou art, I fancied that some opportunity would enable me to make those representations which have issued from my lips this day. How patiently I have waited that occasion, Heaven knows! how ardent have been my hopes of success, when from time to time your highness singled me out from amongst the numerous free pages of your princely household to attend upon your privacy how ardent, I say, these hopes have been, your highness may possibly divine. And now, my lord, that I have succeeded in gaining your attention and pouring this secret into your ears, I will away to Calanthe and impart all the happiness that is in store for her. Though the flowers may hold up their heads high in the light of the glorious sun, yet she shall hold hers higher in the favor of your smile. Generous master,” he added, suddenly sinking his voice to a lower tone and reassuming the deferential air which he had partially lost in the excitement of speaking, “permit me now to depart.”

“This evening, Constantine,” said the grand vizier, fixing his dark eyes significantly upon the page, “let your sister enter the harem by the private door in the garden. Here is a key; I will give the necessary instructions to the female slaves to welcome her.”

Constantine received the key, made a low obeisance, and withdrew, leaving the grand vizier to feast his voluptuous imagination with delicious thoughts of the beauteous Calanthe.