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

Let us now return to Fernand Wagner, whom we left flying from his Nisida, flying in horror and alarm from her whom he nevertheless loved so tenderly and devotedly. He fled as if from the brink of the yawning pit of hell, into which the malignant fiend who coveted his soul was about to plunge him. Nor once did he look back. Absorbed as his feelings were in the full conviction of the tremendous peril from which he had just escaped, he still found room for the reflection that were he to turn and catch but one glimpse of the beauteous, oh! too beauteous creature from whom he had torn himself away, he should be lost. His mind was bent upon the salvation of his immortal soul; and he knew that the enemy of mankind was assailing him with a power and with an energy which nothing save the assistance of Heaven could enable him to resist. He knew also that Heaven helps only those who are willing and anxious to help themselves; and of this doctrine he had received a striking and triumphant proof in the sudden and evanescent appearance of his guardian angel at the instant when, overpowered by the strong, the earnest, and the pathetic pleading of the siren Nisida, he was about to proclaim his readiness to effect the crowning sacrifice. And it was to avoid the chance of that direful yielding to fly from a temptation which became irresistible when embellished with all the eloquence of a woman on whom he doted, that Wagner sped with lightning rapidity toward the mountains.

But the beauteous form of Nisida met not now his eyes; and deeply, profoundly, ardently as he still loved her, and felt that he must ever love her, yet, to speak soothly, he deplored not that she was no longer there. The vision of the previous night had so firmly established hope in his soul, that he had prepared and tutored himself, during his journey across the mountains, to sacrifice all his happiness on earth to insure the eternal felicity of heaven.

No. Nisida was not there. But as he drew closer to the shore, he beheld, to his ineffable joy, the dark spot gradually assume that defined shape which left no room to doubt the truth of his vision, even were he inclined to be skeptical. For there, indeed, touching the strand, but still so far in the water that a slight exertion would send it completely afloat, was a large boat, curiously shaped, and painted in a variety of fantastic colors. It had a mast standing, but the sail was lowered and, on a closer inspection, the boat proved to be altogether unimpaired.

“Heaven delights to effect its wise intentions by natural means,” thought Wagner within himself. “But surely it could not have been through the agency of Nisida that this boat was left upon the shore? No,” he added aloud, after a still closer inspection; “the rope fastened to the prow has been snapped asunder! Doubtless the boat became detached from one of the ships which appeared off the island yesterday, and which,” he said in a low murmuring voice, and with an ill-subdued sigh, “have afforded Nisida the means of departure hence.”

He sat down, exhausted; and as he found leisure for recollection as his thoughts composed themselves and settled down into something like collected calmness he felt a sensation of indescribable joy at having triumphed over the appalling temptations which had beset him. And in his soul a voice seemed to be singing an anthem of delight and gratitude; and he soon experienced a serenity of mind such as he had not known for many hours past! When man, having yielded to temptation, succeeds in escaping the perils of the consequences, he beholds a strong motive for self-gratulation; but how ineffably more sweet is it to be able to reflect that the temptation itself has been avoided in the first instance, and that the dangers of the results have never even been risked.

Thus thought Wagner: but not for a moment did he attribute to any strength of mind on his own part, the escape which had just been effected from the snares set by the evil one. No; he acknowledged within himself, and with all due humility, that the hand of the Almighty had sustained him in his most trying moments of peril; and ere he thought of resuming his journey to that side of the island on which Nisida was not, he knelt in fervent prayer. Rising from his knees, his eyes accidentally swept the sea: and he was riveted to the spot from which he was about to turn away for the white sails of the Ottoman fleet met his astonished view. He remained gazing on those objects for some time, until he was convinced they were nearing the island. For a few moments a deep regret took possession of him: he should lose his Nisida irrevocably! But his next impulse was to wrestle with this feeling to combat this weakness. How could he have hoped ever to rejoin her without rendering himself again liable to the witchery of her siren tongue the eloquence of her silver-toned voice the persuasiveness of her graceful manners? No; it were better that she should depart; it were preferable that he should lose her and preserve his immortal soul. Thus reasoned he; and that reasoning was effectual. He waited only long enough to assure himself that the fleet was positively approaching the island: he then knew that she would depart; and, without permitting himself to yield again to the weakness which had for a few moments threatened to send him back within the sphere of Nisida’s fatal influence, he tore himself away from that point amongst the heights which commanded the view of the side of the island where she was. Hastening around the base of the volcano, he reached the defiles leading to that part of the isle where he had periodically fulfilled his dreadful destiny as a Wehr-Wolf. Carefully avoiding the outskirts of the forest and the knots of large trees, he proceeded toward the shore; and his heart was rent with feelings of deep anguish as he everywhere beheld the traces of destruction left behind him by his recent run in the horrible form of a savage monster. Then, too, when melancholy thoughts had once again entered his soul, the image of Nisida appeared to flit before him in the most tempting manner; and the more he endeavored to banish from his memory the recollection of her charms, the more vividly delineated did they become.

At length jealousy took possession of him; and suddenly stopping short in his progress toward the shore, he exclaimed aloud, “What if she should be wooed and won by another? If she return to her native land, as assuredly she now will, she may meet some handsome and elegant cavalier who will succeed in winning her passions: and I I, who love her so well shall be forgotten! Oh! this is madness! To think that another may possess her, clasp her in his arms, press his lips to hers, feel her fragrant breath fan his cheek, play with the rich tresses of her beauteous hair, oh! no, no, the bare thought is enough to goad me to despair! She must not depart thus, we have separated, if not in anger at least abruptly, too abruptly, considering how we have loved, and that we have wedded each other in the sight of Heaven! Heaven!” repeated Wagner, his tone changing from despair to a deep solemnity; “heaven! Oh! I rejoice that I gave utterance to the word; for it reminds me that to regain my Nisida I must lose heaven!”

And, as if to fly from his own reflections, he rushed on toward the sea; and there he stopped to gaze, as oft before he had gazed, on the mighty expanse, seeming, in the liquid sunlight, as it stretched away from the yellow sand, a resplendent lake of molten silver bounded by a golden shore.

“How like to the human countenance art thou, oh mighty sea!” thought Wagner, as he stood with folded arms on the brink of the eternal waters. “Now thou hast smiles as soft and dimples as beautiful as ever appeared in the face of innocence and youth, while the joyous sunlight is on thee. But if the dark clouds gather in the heaven above thee, thou straightway assumed a mournful and a gloomy aspect, and thou growest threatening and somber. And in how many varied voices dost thou speak. Oh, treacherous and changeful sea! Now thou whisperest softly as if thy ripples conveyed faint murmurs of love; but, if the gale arise, thou canst burst forth into notes of laughter as thy waters leap to the shore with bounding mirth; and, if the wind grow higher, thou canst speak louder and more menacingly; till, when the storm comes on, thou lashest thyself into a fury, thou boilest with rage, and thy wrathful voice vies with the rush of the tempest and the roar of the thunder! Deceitful sea imaging the beauties, thoughts, and passions of the earth! Within thy mighty depths, too, thou hast gems to deck the crowns of kings and the brows of loveliness; and yet thou cravest for more more and engulfest rich argosies with all their treasures thou insatiate sea! And in thy dark caverns are the skeletons of the myriads of human beings whom thou hast swallowed up in thy fury; and whose bones are trophies which thou retainest in thy fathomless depths, as the heart of man enshrineth the relics of those hopes which have wasted away and perished!”

Thus thought Wagner, as he stood gazing upon the sea, then so calm and beautiful, but which he knew to be so treacherous. When wearied of the reflections which that scene inspired, and not daring to allow his mind to dwell upon the image of Nisida, he repaired to the nearest grove and refreshed himself with the cooling fruits which he plucked. Then he extended his rambles amongst the verdant plains, and strove strenuously to divert his thoughts as much as possible from the one grand and mournful idea the departure of Nisida from the island! But vainly did he endeavor to fix his attention upon the enchanting characteristics of that clime; the flowers appeared to him less brilliant in hue than they were wont to be the fruits were less inviting the verdure was of a less lively green and the plumage of the birds seemed to have lost the bright gloss that rendered its colors so gorgeous in the sunlight. For, oh! the powers of his vision were almost completely absorbed in his mind; and that mind was a mirror wherein was now reflected with a painful vividness all the incidents of the last few hours.

But still he was sustained in his determination not to retrace his way to the spot where he had left Nisida; and when several hours had passed, and the sun was drawing near the western horizon, he exclaimed, in a moment of holy triumph, “She has doubtless by this time quitted the island, and I have been enabled to resist those anxious longings which prompted me to return and clasp her in my arms! O God! I thank thee that thou hast given me this strength!”

Wagner now felt so overcome with weariness after his wanderings and roamings of so many hours, especially as the two preceding nights had been sleepless for him that he sat down upon a piece of low rock near the shore. A quiet, dreamy repose insensibly stole over him: in a few minutes his slumber was profound. And now he beheld a strange vision. Gradually the darkness which appeared to surround him grew less intense; and a gauzy vapor that rose in the midst, at first of the palest bluish tint possible, by degrees obtained more consistency, when its nature began to undergo a sudden change, assuming the semblance of a luminous mist. Wagner’s heart seemed to flutter and leap in his breast, as if with a presentiment of coming joy; for the luminous mist became a glorious halo, surrounding the beauteous and holy form of a protecting angel, clad in white and shining garments, and with snowy wings drooping slowly from her shoulders! And ineffably supernally benign and reassuring was the look which the angel bent upon the sleeping Wagner, as she said in the softest, most melodious tones, “The choir of the heavenly host has hymned thanks for thy salvation! After thou hadst resisted the temptations of the enemy of mankind when he spoke to thee with his own lips, an angel came to thee in a dream to give thee assurance that thou hadst already done much in atonement for the crime that endangered thy soul; but he warned thee then that much more remained to be done ere that atonement would be complete. And the rest is now accomplished; for thou hast resisted the temptations of the evil one when urged by the tongue and in the melodious voice of lovely woman! This was thy crowning triumph: and the day when thou shalt reap thy reward is near at hand; for the bonds which connect thee with the destiny of a Wehr-Wolf shall be broken, and thy name shall be inscribed in Heaven’s own Book of Life! And I will give thee a sign, that what thou seest and hearest now in thy slumber is no idle and delusive vision conjured up by a fevered brain. The sign shall be this: On awaking from thy sleep, retrace thy way to the spot where this morning thou didst separate from her whom thou lovest; and there shalt thou find a boat upon the sand. The boat will waft thee to Sicily; and there, in the town of Syracuse, thou must inquire for a man whose years have numbered one hundred and sixty-two; for that man it is who will teach thee how the spell which has made thee a Wehr-Wolf may be broken.”

Scarcely had the angel finished speaking, when a dark form rose suddenly near that heavenly being; and Wagner had no difficulty in recognizing the demon. But the enemy of mankind appeared not armed with terrors of countenance, nor with the withering scorn of infernal triumph; for a moment his features denoted ineffable rage and then that expression yielded to one of the profoundest melancholy, as if he were saying within himself, “There is salvation for repentant man, but none for me!” A cloud now seemed to sweep before Wagner’s eyes; denser and more dense it grew first absorbing in its increasing obscurity the form of the demon, and then enveloping the radiant being who still continued to smile sweetly and benignly upon the sleeping mortal until the glorious countenance and the shining garments were no longer visible, but all was black darkness around. And Fernand Wagner continued to sleep profoundly.

Many hours elapsed ere he woke; and his slumber was serene and soothing. At length when he opened his eyes and slowly raised his head from the hard pillow which a mass of rock had formed, he beheld the rich red streaks in the eastern horizon, heralding the advent of the sun; and as the various features of the island gradually developed themselves to his view, as if breaking slowly from a mist, he collected and rearranged in his mind all the details of the strange vision which he had seen. For a few minutes he was oppressed with a fear that his vision would indeed prove the delusive sport of his fevered brain; for there seemed to be in its component parts a wild admixture of the sublime and the fantastic. The solemn language of the angel appeared strangely diversified by the intimation that he would find a boat upon the shore, that this boat would convey him to a place where he was to inquire for a man whose age was one hundred and sixty-two years, and that this man was the being destined to save him from the doom of a Wehr-Wolf.

Then, again, he thought that heaven worked out its designs by means often inscrutable to human comprehension: and he blamed himself for having doubted the truth of the vision. Feelings of joy therefore accompanied the reassurance of his soul; and, having poured forth his thanksgivings for the merciful intervention of Providence in his behalf, he tarried not even to break his fast with the fruits clustering at a short distance from him, but hastened to retrace his way across the mountains, no longer doubting to find the sign fulfilled and the boat upon the shore. And now these thoughts rose within him. Should he again behold Nisida? Was the fleet, which he had seen on the previous day, still off the island? Or had it departed, bearing Nisida away to another clime?

He expected not to behold either the fleet or his loved one; for he felt convinced that the angel would not send him back within the influence of her temptations. Nor was he mistaken, for having traversed the volcanic range of heights, he beheld naught to break the uniform and monotonous aspect of the sunlit sea. But, on drawing nearer to the shore, he saw a dark spot almost immediately in front of the little hut which Nisida and himself had constructed, and wherein they had passed so many, many happy hours.

He now advanced with a beating heart to the hut. The door was closed. Was it possible that Nisida might be within? Oh, how weak in purpose is the strongest minded of mortals. For an instant a pleasing hope filled Wagner’s breast; and then, again summoning all his resolutions to his aid, he opened the door, resolved, should she indeed be there, to remain proof against all the appeals she might make to induce him to sacrifice to their mundane prosperity his immortal soul. But the hut was empty. He lingered in it for a few moments; and the reminiscences of happy hours passed therein swept across his brain. Suddenly the note which Nisida had left for him met his eyes; and it would be representing him as something far more or else far less than human, were we to declare he did not experience a feeling of intense pleasure at beholding the memorial of her love. The tears flowed down his cheeks as he read the following lines:

“The hour approaches, dearest Fernand, when, in all probability, I shall quit the island. But think not that this hope is unaccompanied by severe pangs. Oh, thou knowest that I love thee, and I will return to thee, my own adored Fernand, so soon as my presence shall be no longer needed at Florence. Yes, I will come back to thee, and we will not part until death shall deprive thee of me for I must perish first, and while thou still remainest in all the glory of regenerated youth. Alas, thou hast fled from me this morning in anger perhaps in disgust. But thou wilt forgive me, Fernand, if, yielding to some strange influence which I could not control, I urged an appeal so well calculated to strike terror into thy soul. Oh, that I could embrace thee ere I leave this isle; but alas! thou comest not back thou hast fled to the mountains. It is, however, in the ardent hope of thy return to this spot, that I leave these few lines to assure thee of my undying affection, to pledge to thee my intention to hasten back to thine arms as soon as possible, and to implore thee not to nourish anger against thy devoted NISIDA.”

Wagner placed the letter to his lips, exclaiming, “Oh, wherefore did an evil influence ever prove its power on thee, thou loving, loved, and beauteous being. Why was thy hand raised against the hapless Agnes? wherefore did fate make thee a murderess and why, oh, why didst thou assail me with prayers, tears, reproaches, menaces, to induce me to consign my soul to Satan? Nisida, may Heaven manifest its merciful goodness unto thee, even as that same benign care has been extended to me.”

Fernand then placed the letter in his bosom, next to his heart, and dashing away the tears from his long lashes, began to turn his attention toward the preparation for his own departure from the island. As he approached the pile of stores, he beheld the light drapery which Nisida had lately worn, but which she had laid aside previous to leaving the island; and he also observed that the rich dress, which he had often seen her examine with care, was no longer there.

“How beautiful she must have appeared in the garb!” he murmured to himself. “But, alas! she returns to the great world to resume her former character of the deaf and dumb.”

Nisida and himself had often employed themselves in gathering quantities of those fruits which form an excellent aliment when dried in the sun; and there was a large supply of these comestibles now at his disposal. He accordingly transferred them to the boat; then he procured a quantity of fresh fruits; and lastly he filled with pure water a cask which had been saved by Nisida from the corsair-wreck. His preparations were speedily completed; and he was about to depart, when it struck him that he might never behold Nisida again, and that she might perform her promise of returning to the island sooner or later. He accordingly availed himself of the writing materials left amongst the stores, to pen a brief but affectionate note, couched in the following terms:

“DEAREST NISIDA, I have found, read, and wept over thy letter. Thou hast my sincerest forgiveness, because I love thee more than man ever before loved woman. Heaven has sent me the means of escape from this island and the doom at which my regenerated existence was purchased, will shortly lose its spell. But perhaps my life may be surrendered up at the same time; at all events, everything is dark and mysterious in respect to means by which that spell is to be broken. Should we never meet again, but shouldst thou return hither and find this note, receive it as a proof of the unchanging affection of thy


The letter was placed in the hut, in precisely the same spot where the one written by Nisida had been left; and Wagner then hastened to the boat, which he had no difficulty in pushing away from the shore. Without being able to form any idea of the direction in which the island of Sicily lay, but trusting entirely to the aid of Heaven to guide him to the coast whither his destiny now required him to proceed, he hoisted the sail and abandoned the boat to the gentle breeze which swept the surface of the Mediterranean.

The state-cabins they might more properly be called spacious apartments occupied by the Grand Vizier Ibrahim Pasha, on board the ship of the lord high admiral, were fitted up in a most sumptuous and luxurious manner. They consisted of two large saloons in a suit, and from each of which opened, on either side, a number of small cabins, tenanted by the officers immediately attached to the grand vizier’s person, and the page and slaves in attendance on him.

The first of the two large saloons was lighted by a handsome conical skylight on the deck: the innermost had the advantage of the stern windows. The drapery the curtains, the carpets, the sofas, and the hangings were all of the richest materials; the sides and ceilings of the cabin were beautifully painted and elaborately gilded, and the wood-work of the windows was incrusted with thin slabs of variously-colored marbles, on which were engraved the ciphers of the different lord high admirals who had hoisted their flags at any time on board that ship. For the state-apartments which we are describing properly belonged to the kapitan-pasha himself; but they had been surrendered to the grand vizier, as a mark of respect to the superior rank of this minister, during his stay on board.

The little cabins communicating with the large saloons were in reality intended to accomodate the ladies of the kapitan-pasha’s harem; but Ibrahim did not turn them to a similar use, because it was contrary to Ottoman usage for the Princess Aischa, being the sultan’s sister, to accompany her husband on any expedition; and he had received so menacing a warning in the fate of Calanthe not to provoke the jealousy of Aischa or the vengeance of her mother, the Sultana Valida, that he had brought none of the ladies of his own harem with him. Indeed, since the violent death of Calanthe the harem had been maintained at Constantinople rather as an appendage of high rank than as a source of sensual enjoyment.

Nisida of Riverola was treated with the utmost deference and attention by the Grand Vizier, Ibrahim Pasha; and on reaching the lord high admiral’s ship, she was instantly conducted to the innermost saloon, which she was given to understand by signs would be exclusively appropriated to her own use. The slaves occupying the small cabins opening therefrom were removed to another part of the ship; and the key of the door connecting the two saloons was handed by the polite Ibrahim to the lady as a guaranty, or at least an apparent one, of the respect with which she should be treated and the security she might hope to enjoy.

The fleet weighed anchor and set sail again almost immediately after the return of the grand vizier to the admiral’s ship; and as she was wafted away from the Island of Snakes, Nisida sat at the window of her splendid saloon gazing at the receding shores, and so strangely balancing between her anxiety to revisit Florence and her regrets at abandoning Fernand Wagner, that while smiles were on her lips, tears were in her eyes, and if her bosom palpitated with joy at one moment it would heave with profound sighs at the next.

In the afternoon four male slaves entered Nisida’s cabin, and spread upon the table a magnificent repast, accompanied with the most delicious wines of Cyprus and Greece and while the lady partook slightly of the banquet, two other slaves appeared and danced in a pleasing style for several minutes. They retired, but shortly returned, carrying in their hands massive silver censers, in which burnt aloes, cinnamon and other odoriferous woods diffused a delicious perfume around. The four slaves who attended at table removed the dishes on splendid silver salvers, and then served sherbet and a variety of delicious fruits; and when the repast was terminated, they all withdrew, leaving Nisida once more alone. The Island of Snakes had been lost sight of for some hours, and the fresh breeze of evening was playing upon the cheeks of the Lady Nisida as she sat at the open casement of her splendid saloon, watching the ships that followed in the wake of that in which she was, when the sounds of voices in the adjacent cabin attracted her attention; and as the partition was but slight, and the persons discoursing spoke Italian, she could not help overhearing the conversation which there look place, even if she had possessed any punctilious feelings to have prevented her from becoming a willing listener.

“The Lady Nisida is a magnificent woman, Demetrius,” observed a voice which our heroine immediately recognized to be that of the grand vizier. “Such a splendid aquiline countenance I never before beheld! Such eyes, too, such a delicious mouth, and such brilliant teeth! What a pity ’tis that she has not the use of her tongue! The voice of such a glorious creature, speaking mine own dear Italian language, would be music itself. And how admirably is she formed upon somewhat too large a Scale, perhaps, to precisely suit my taste, and yet the contours of her shape are so well rounded so perfectly proportioned in the most harmonious symmetry, that were she less of the Hebe she would be less charming.”

“Is your highness already enamored of Donna Nisida?” asked the person to whom the grand vizier had addressed the preceding observations.

“I must confess that I am, Demetrius,” replied Ibrahim; “I would give a year of my life to become her favored lover for one day. But considering that I hope to see my sister Flora become the wife of Donna Nisida’s brother Francisco, I must restrain this passion of mine within due bounds. But wherefore do you sigh thus heavily, Demetrius?”

“Alas! my lord, the mention you make of your sister reminded me that I once possessed a sister also,” returned the Greek in a plaintive tone. “But when I returned to Constantinople, I sought vainly for her, and Heaven knows what has become of her, and whether I shall ever see her more. Poor Calanthe! some treachery has doubtless been practiced toward thee!”

“Don’t give way to despair, Demetrius,” said the grand vizier. “Who knows but Calanthe may have espoused some youth on whom her affections were set ”

“Ah! my lord!” interrupted the Greek, “it is considerate it is kind on the part of your highness to suggest such a consolatory belief; but Calanthe would not keep an honorable bridal secret. Yet better were it that she should be dead that she should have been basely murdered by some ruthless robber, than that she should live dishonored. However, I will not intrude my griefs upon your highness, although the friendship and the condescension which your highness manifests toward me, emboldens me to mention these sorrows in your presence.”

“Would that I could really console thee, Demetrius,” answered Ibrahim, with well-affected sincerity; “for thou hast shown thyself a sincere friend to my poor sister Flora. And now that we are alone together, Demetrius, for almost the first time since this hastily undertaken voyage began, let us recapitulate in detail all the occurrences which have led me to enter upon the present expedition the real nature of which you alone know, save my imperial master. And, moreover, let us continue to discourse in Italian; for thou canst speak that language more fluently than I can express myself in thy native Greek; besides, it rejoices my heart,” he added with a sigh, “to converse in a tongue so dear as that of the land which gave me birth. And, if Donna Nisida only knew that in the representative of the mighty Solyman she had beholden the brother of her late menial, Flora, how surprised would she be!”

“And it were not prudent that she should learn that fact, my lord!” observed Demetrius, “for more reasons than one; since from sundry hints which the Signora Francatelli, your lordship’s worthy aunt, dropped to me, it is easy to believe that the Donna Nisida was averse to the attachment which her brother Francisco had formed, and that her ladyship indeed was the means of consigning your highness’ sister to the convent of the Carmélites.”

“Albeit I shall not treat Count Francisco’s sister the less worthily, now that she is in my power,” said Ibrahim Pasha; “indeed, her matchless beauty would command my forbearance, were I inclined to be vindictive. Moreover, deaf and dumb as she is, she could not obtain the least insight into my plans; and therefore she is unable to thwart them.”

The reader may suppose that not one single word of all this conversation was lost upon Nisida, who had indeed learnt, with the most unbounded wonderment, that the high and mighty grand vizier of the Ottoman Empire a man enjoying an almost sovereign rank, and who bore a title which placed him on a level with the greatest princes of Christendom, was the brother of the detested Flora Francatelli! During a short pause which ensued in the dialogue between Ibrahim Pasha and his Greek confidant, Nisida stole gently up to the door in the partitions between the two saloons, so fearful was she of losing a single word of a discourse that so deeply interested and nearly concerned her.

“But, as I was saying ere now, Demetrius,” resumed the grand vizier, who, young as he was, had acquired all the methodical habits of a wise statesman, “let us examine in detail the whole posture of affairs in Florence, so that I may maturely consider the precise bearings of the case, and finally determine how to act. For, although I have at my disposal a fleet which might cope with even that of enterprising England or imperious France, though twenty thousand well-disciplined soldiers on board these ships are ready to draw the sword at my nod, and though, as the seraskier and sipehsalar of the armies of the sultan, I am responsible for my actions to his majesty alone, yet it is not a small thing, Demetrius, to march an invading force into the heart of Italy, and thereby risk a war with all Christendom. Therefore, let us pause to reflect upon every detail of all those incidents which occurred two months ago at Florence.”

“Good, my lord,” said Demetrius. “I will therefore begin with my arrival in that fair city, to which I repaired with all possible dispatch, as soon as I had received the instructions of your highness. It would appear that the Lord Count of Riverola reached Florence the same day as myself, he having been detained at the outset of his voyage home from Rhodes by contrary winds and a severe storm. It was somewhat late in the evening when I called at the cottage of the Signora Francatelli, your highness’ worthy aunt; for I previously passed a few hours in instituting by indirect means as many inquiries concerning her circumstances and welfare as could be prudently made. To my grief, however, I could not ascertain any tidings concerning your highness’ sister; and I therefore came to the mournful conclusion that her disappearance still remained unaccounted for. Pondering upon the sad tidings which, in this respect, I should have to forward to your highness, and having already devised a fitting tale whereby to introduce myself to your lordship’s aunt, I went to the cottage, which, as I heard in the course of a subsequent conversation, Don Francisco of Riverola had just quitted. Your highness’ aunt received me with as much cordiality as she could well show toward a stranger. Then, in accordance with my pre-arranged method of procedure, I stated I was sent by a son of a debtor to the estate of the late Signor Francatelli, to repay to any of his surviving relations a large sum of money which had been so long so very long owing, and the loss of which at the time had mainly contributed to plunge Signor Francatelli into embarrassment. I added that the son of the debtor having grown rich, had deemed it an act of duty and honor to liquidate this liability on the part of his deceased father. My tale was believed; the case of jewels, which I had previously caused to be estimated by a goldsmith in Florence, was received as the means of settling the fictitious debt; and I was forthwith a welcome friend at the worthy lady’s table.”

“The stratagem was a good one, Demetrius,” observed the grand vizier. “But proceed, and fear not that thou wilt weary me with lengthened details.”

“I stayed to partake of the evening repast,” continued the Greek; “and the Signora Francatelli grew confiding and communicative, as was nothing more than natural, inasmuch as I necessarily appeared in the light of the agent of a worthy and honorable man who had not forgotten the obligation to a family that had suffered by his father’s conduct. I assured the signora that the person by whom I was employed to liquidate that debt, would be rejoiced to hear of the success of the Francatellis, and I ventured to make inquiries concerning the orphan children of the late merchant.”

“Proceed, Demetrius,” said the grand vizier, “spare not a single detail.”

“Your highness shall be obeyed,” returned the Greek, though now speaking with considerable diffidence. “The worthy lady shook her head mournfully, observing that Alessandro, the son of the late merchant, was in Turkey, she believed; and then she rose hastily, and opening a door leading to a staircase, called her niece to descend, as ’there was only a friend present.’ I was overjoyed to learn thus unexpectedly, that the Signora Flora had reappeared; and when she entered the room, could scarcely conceal my delight beneath that aspect of mere cold courtesy which it became a stranger to wear. The young lady appeared perfectly happy, and no wonder! For when she had retired, after staying a few minutes in the room, her good aunt, in the fullness of her confidence in me, not only related all the particulars of the Signora Flora’s immurement in the Carmelite Convent, but also explained to me her motives for so long concealing the young lady’s return home, as I have heretofore narrated to your highness. The worthy aunt then informed me that the Count of Riverola had only returned that day from the wars that he had made honorable proposals to her on behalf of the Signora Flora and that it was intended to sustain the mystery which veiled the young lady’s existence and safety in the cottage, until the marriage should have been privately effected, when it would be too late for the count’s friends to interfere or renew their persécutions against your lordship’s sister. Your highness’ aunt dropped hints intimating her suspicion that the Lady Nisida was the principal, if not indeed the sole means of those persécutions which had consigned the innocent young maiden to the Carmelite Convent. And the more I reflect on this point, in view of all I know of the affairs, and of Donna Nisida’s strange and resolute character, the more I am convinced that she really perpetrated that diabolical outrage.”

“Were it not for young Francisco’s sake, and that I should bring dishonor into a family with which my sister will, I hope, be soon connected with marriage ties,” exclaimed Ibrahim, “I would avenge myself and my sister’s wrongs by forcing the cruel Nisida to yield herself to my arms. But no, it must not be.”

And Nisida, who overheard every syllable, curled her lips, while her eyes flashed fire at the dark menace which the renegade had dared to utter, qualified though it were by the avowal of the motive which would prevent him from putting it into execution.

“No, it must not be,” repeated Ibrahim. “And yet, she is so wondrously beautiful that I would risk a great deal to win her love. But proceed, Demetrius we now come to that portion of the narrative which so nearly concerns my present proceedings.”

“Yes, my lord, and God give your highness success!” exclaimed the young Greek. “Having taken leave of your excellent aunt, who invited me to visit her again, as I had casually observed that business would detain me in Florence for some time, and having promised the strictest secrecy relative to all she had told me, I repaired to the inn at which I had put up, intending to devote the next day to writing the details of all those particulars which I have just related, and which I purposed to send by some special messenger to your highness. But it then struck me that I should only attract undue attention to myself by conducting at a public tavern a correspondence having so important an aspect, and I accordingly rose very early in the morning to sally forth to seek after a secluded but respectable lodging, I eventually obtained suitable apartments in the house of a widow named Dame Margaretha, and there I immediately took up my abode. Having written my letters to your highness, I was anxious to get them expedited to Constantinople, for I was well aware that your highness would be rejoiced to hear that your beloved sister was indeed in the land of the living, that she was in good health, and that a brilliant marriage was in store for her. I accordingly spoke to Dame Margaretha relative to the means of obtaining a trusty messenger who would undertake a journey to Constantinople. The old woman assured me that her son Antonio, who was a valet in the service of the Count of Arestino, would be able to procure me such a messenger as I desired, and in the course of the day that individual was fetched by his mother to speak to me on the subject. Having repeated my wishes to him, he asked me several questions which seemed to indicate a prying disposition, and a curiosity as impertinent as it was inconvenient. In fact, I did not like his manner at all; but conceiving that his conduct might arise from sheer ignorance, and from no sinister motive, I still felt inclined to avail myself of his assistance to procure a messenger. Finding that he could not sift me, he at length said that he had no doubt a friend of his, whom he named Venturo, would undertake my commission, and he promised to return with that individual in the evening. He then left me, and true to his promise, he came back shortly after dusk, accompanied by this same Venturo. The bargain was soon struck between us, and he promised to set off that very night for Rimini, whence vessels were constantly sailing for Constantinople. I gave him a handsome sum in advance, and also a sealed packet, addressed to your highness’ private secretary, but containing an inclosure, also well sealed, directed to your highness, for I did not choose to excite the curiosity of these Italians by allowing them to discover that I was corresponding with the grand vizier of the Ottoman Empire, Venturo accordingly left me, promising to acquit himself faithfully of his mission.”

“Your plans were all wisely taken,” said the grand vizier, “and no human foresight could have anticipated other than successful results. Proceed, for although you have hastily sketched all these particulars to me before, yet I am anxious to consider them in more attentive detail.”

“Having thus disposed of that important business,” resumed the young Greek, “I went out to saunter through the streets of Florence, and while away an hour or two in viewing the splendid appearance of that charming city, when lighted up with the innumerable lamps of its palaces and casinos. At length I entered a dark and obscure street, which I knew must lead toward the river. I had not proceeded far down the street when I heard the sound of many steps rapidly approaching, as if of a patrol. I stepped aside under a deep archway, but as chance would have it, they stopped short within a few paces of the spot where I was shrouded in the utter obscurity of the arch. I should have immediately passed on my way, but was induced to stop by hearing a voice which I recognized to be that of Venturo, whom I believed to be already some miles away from Florence. I was perfectly astounded at this discovery, and if I had entertained any doubts as to the identity of that voice, they were speedily cleared up by the conversation between the men. ‘We had better separate here,’ said Venturo, ’and break into at least two parties, as at the bottom of this street we shall come within the blaze of the lights of the casinos on the Arno’s bank.’ ‘Well spoken,’ returned a voice which, to my increasing wonder, I recognized to be that of Antonio, my landlady’s son; ’you and I, Venturo, will keep together, and our friends can go on first. We will follow them in a few minutes, and then unite again at the angle of the grove nearest to Dame Francatelli’s cottage. What say you, Lomellino?’ ‘Just as you think fit, Antonio,’ returned a third person, whom I naturally concluded to be the individual addressed as Lomellino. ’You, or rather your master, the Count of Arestino, pays for this business, and so I am bound to obey you.’ ‘Listen, then,’ resumed Antonio, ’the young Count of Riverola, whom I have traced to the cottage this evening, will no doubt be coming away about the time we shall all meet down there; and therefore we shall have nothing to do but to carry him off to the cave.’ ’Why is the Count of Arestino so hostile to young Riverola?’ demanded the man who had answered to the name of Lomellino. ‘He cares nothing about young Riverola, either one way or the other,’ replied Antonio, ’but I have persuaded his lordship that if Francisco be left at large, he will only use his influence to mitigate the vengeance of the law against the Countess Giulia, who is the friend of Flora Francatelli: and so the Count of Arestino has consented to follow my advice and have Francisco locked up until the inquisition has dealt with the countess, her lover, the Marquis of Orsini, and the Francatellis, aunt and niece.’ ‘Then you have a spite against this man,’ said Lomellino. ‘Truly have I,’ responded Antonio. ’You remember that night when you, with Stephano Verrina and Piero, got into the Riverola Palace some months ago? Well, I don’t know who discovered the plot, but I was locked in my room, and next morning young Francisco dismissed me in a way that made me his mortal enemy: and I must have vengeance. For this purpose I have urged on the count to cause Flora Francatelli, whom Francisco loves and wishes to marry, to be included in the proceedings taken by the inquisition at his lordship’s instigation against the Countess Giulia and the Marquis d’Orsini; and the old aunt must necessarily be thrown in, into the bargain, for harboring sacrilegious persons.’ ’And so young Francisco is to lose his mistress, Flora, and be kept a prisoner in the cavern till he has been condemned along with the others?’ said Lomellino. ’Neither more nor less than what you imagine, and I only wish I had the Lady Nisida also in my power, for I have no doubt she instigated her brother to turn me off suddenly like a common thief, because from all you have since told me, Lomellino, I dare swear it was she who got an inkling of our intentions to plunder the Riverola Palace; though how she could have done so, being deaf and dumb, passes my understanding.’ ‘Well, well,’ growled Lomellino, ’it is no use to waste time talking of the past: let us only think of the present. Come, my men, we will go on first, as already agreed.’ Three or four armed ruffians then put themselves in motion, passing close by the place where I was concealed, but fortunately without discovering my presence.”

“Oh! those miscreants would have assuredly murdered you, my faithful Demetrius,” said the grand vizier.

“Of that, my lord, there is little doubt,” returned the young Greek; “and I must confess that I shuddered more than once while listening to the discourse of the cold-blooded monsters. But Venturo and Antonio still remained behind for a few minutes, and the discourse which took place between them, gave me a still further insight into the characters of the gang. ‘Well, Venturo,’ said Antonio, after a short pause, ’have you examined the packet which was intrusted to you?’ ’I have, and the contents are written in Greek or Arabic, or some such outlandish tongue, for I could not read a word of them,’ answered Venturo; ’and so I thought the best plan was to destroy them.’ ‘You acted wisely,’ observed Antonio; ’by the saints! it was a good thought of mine to introduce you to my mother’s lodger as a trustworthy messenger! If he only knew that we had shared his gold, and were laughing at him for his credulity, he would not be over well pleased. His purse appears to be pretty well lined, and when we have got all our present business off our hands we will devote our attention to the lodger. The Arno is deep and a foreigner the less in the city will not be noticed.’ ‘Not at all,’ answered Venturo; ’but let us now hasten to join our companions. At what time are the officers of the inquisition to visit the cottage?’ ’They are no doubt already in the neighborhood,’ replied Antonio, ’and will pounce upon their victims as soon as young Francisco leaves the place. Another set of officers are after the Marquis of Orsini.’ The two miscreants then departed, continuing their conversation in a low tone as they went along the street, but I overheard no more.”

“The wretches!” exclaimed the grand vizier, in an excited voice. “But vengeance will light upon them yet!”

“Heaven grant that they may not go unpunished!” said Demetrius. “Your highness may imagine the consternation with which I had listened to the development of the damnable plots then in progress; but I nevertheless experienced a material solace in the fact that accident had thus revealed to me the whole extent of the danger which menaced those whom your highness held dear. Without pausing to deliberate, I resolved, at all risks, to proceed at once to the cottage, and, if not too late, warn your aunt and lovely sister of the terrible danger which menaced them. Nay, more I determined to remove them immediately from Florence that very night without an unnecessary moment’s delay. Darting along the streets, as if my speed involved matters of life and death, I succeeded in passing the two villains, Venturo and Antonio, before they had entered the sphere of the brilliant illuminations of the casinos in the vale of Arno; and I beard one say to the other, ’There’s some cowardly knave who has just done a deed of which he is no doubt afraid.’ Convinced by this remark that they suspected not who the person that passed them so rapidly was, I hurried on with increasing speed, and likewise with augmented hope to be enabled to save not only your lordship’s aunt and sister from the officers of the inquisition, but also the young Count of Riverola from the power of his miscreant enemies. Alas! my anticipations were not to be fulfilled! I lost my way amongst a maze of gardens connected with the villas bordering on the Arno; and much valuable time at such a crisis was wasted in the circuits which I had to make to extricate myself from the labyrinth and reach the bank of the river. At length I drew within sight of the cottage; but my heart beat with terrible alarms as I beheld lights moving rapidly about the house. ‘It is too late,’ I thought: and yet I rushed on toward the place. But suddenly the door opened, and by a glare of light within, I saw three females closely muffled in veils, led forth by several armed men. It instantly struck me that the third must be the Countess Giulia of Arestino to whom I heard the miscreants allude. I stopped short for I knew that any violent demonstration or interference on my part would be useless, and that measures of another kind must be adopted on behalf of the victims. As the procession now advanced from a cottage, I concealed myself in the adjacent grove, wondering whether Count Francisco had been already arrested or whether he had managed to elude his enemies. The procession, consisting of the officers of the inquisition with their three female prisoners, who were dragged rather than led along, passed by the spot where I lay concealed; and the deep sobs which came from the unfortunate ladies, gagged though they evidently were, filled my heart with horror and anguish. As soon as they had disappeared I struck further into the grove, knowing by its situation that the outlet on the other side would conduct me to the nearest road to that quarter of the city in which I lodged. But scarcely had I reached the outskirts of the little wood in the direction which I have named, when I saw a party of men moving on in front of me, through the obscurity of the night. It struck me that this party might consist of Antonio, Venturo, and other worthies, and I determined to ascertain whether Count Francisco had fallen into their hands. I accordingly followed them as cautiously as possible, taking care to skirt the grove in such a manner that I was concealed by its deep shade, whereas those whom I was watching proceeded further away from the trees. Thus the party in advance and myself continued our respective paths for nearly a quarter of an hour, during which I ascertained beyond all doubt that the men whom I was following were really the villains of the Antonio gang, and that they had a prisoner with them who could be no other than the Count of Riverola.

“At length the grove terminated, and I was about to abandon further pursuit as dangerous, when it struck me that I should be acting in a cowardly and unworthy manner not to endeavor to ascertain the locality of the cave of which I had heard the miscreants speak, and to which they were most probably conveying him who was so dear to the beautiful Signora Flora. Accordingly I managed to track the party across several fields to a grove of evergreens. But as they advanced without caring how they broke through the crackling thickets, the noise of their movements absorbed the far fainter sounds which accompanied my progress. So successful was my undertaking that I was soon within twenty paces of them. But it was profoundly dark, and I was unable to observe their movements. I computed the distance they were from me, and calculated so as to form an idea of the exact spot where they were standing; for, by an observation which one of the villains let drop, I learnt that they had reached the entrance of their cavern. It also struck me that I heard a bell ring as if in the depths of the earth, and I concluded that this was a signal to obtain admittance. While I was weighing these matters in my mind, Lomellino suddenly exclaimed, ’Let the prisoner be taken down first; and have a care, Venturo, that the bandage is well fastened.’ ‘All right, captain,’ was the reply; and thus I ascertained that Lomellino was the chief of some band most probably, I thought, of robbers; for I remembered the allusions which had been made that evening by Antonio to a certain predatory visit some months previously to the Riverola mansion. ‘God help Francisco,’ I said within myself, as I reflected upon the desperate character of the men who had him in their power; and then I was consoled by the remembrance that he was merely to be detained as a prisoner for a period, and not harmed.”

“Unfortunately such demons as those Florentine banditti are capable of every atrocity,” observed the grand vizier.

“True, my lord,” observed Demetrius; “but let us hope that all those in whom your highness is interested, will yet be saved. I shall, however, continue my narrative. Three or four minutes had elapsed since the robbers had come to a full stop, when I knew by the observations made amongst them, that they were descending into some subterranean place. I accordingly waited with the utmost anxiety until I was convinced that they had all disappeared with their prisoner; and then I crept cautiously along to the place at which I had already reckoned them to have paused. I stooped down, and carefully felt upon the ground, until I was enabled to ascertain the precise point at which the marks of their footsteps had ceased. At this moment the moon shone forth with such extreme brilliancy, that its beams penetrated the thick foliage; and I now observed with horror that I had advanced to the very verge of a steep precipice, on the brink of which the grove suddenly ceased. Had not the moon thus providentially appeared at that instant, I should have continued to grope about in the utter darkness, and have assuredly fallen into the abyss. I breathed a fervent prayer for this signal deliverance. But not a trace of any secret entrance to a cavern could I find no steps, no trap-door! Well aware that it would be dangerous for me to be caught in that spot, should any of the banditti emerge suddenly from their cave, I was reluctantly compelled to depart. But before I quitted the place, I studied it so well that I should have no difficulty in recognizing it again. In fact, just at the precise spot where the footsteps of the banditti ceased, an enormous chestnut tree, which for more than a century must have continued to draw from the earth its nourishment, slopes completely over the precipice, while on the right of this tree, as you face the abyss, is a knot of olives, and on the left an umbrageous lime. These features of the spot I committed to memory, with the idea that such a clew to the robbers’ retreat might not eventually prove useless.

“I will extirpate that nest of vipers that horde of remorseless banditti!” exclaimed Ibrahim Pasha, in a tone indicative of strong excitement.

“Your highness has the power,” responded Demetrius; “but the Florentine authorities must be completely impotent in respect to such a formidable horde of lawless men. The remainder of my narrative is soon told, my lord,” returned the young Greek. “I returned to my lodgings in safety, but determined not to remain there a single hour longer than necessary. For apart from the resolve which I had formed already, in consequence of the various and unforeseen incidents which had occurred, to return to Constantinople, the murderous designs of Antonio and Venturo in respect to myself, would have hastened my removal at all events to another lodging. That night sleep never visited my eyes so amazed and grieved was I at the calamities which had befallen those who were so dear to your highness. Very early in the morning I arose from a feverish bed and sallied forth to learn tidings of the Marquis of Orsini. ‘For,’ thought I, ’if this nobleman has escaped arrest by the officers of the inquisition, he might be enabled to effect somewhat in aiding the female victims.’ But I heard at his dwelling that he had been arrested the previous evening on a charge of sacrilege, perpetrated with others, in respect to the Carmelite Convent. Frustrated in this quarter, I repaired to the principal clerk of the criminal tribunal, and inquired the name and address of a lawyer of eminence and repute. The clerk complied with my demand, and recommended me to Angelo Duras, the brother of a celebrated Florentine physician.”

“Both of whom are known to me by name,” observed the grand vizier; “and Angelo Duras is a man of unblemished integrity. It delights me much to know you employed him.”

“I found him, too,” continued Demetrius, “a kind-hearted and benevolent man. He received me with affability; and I narrated to him as much as necessary of the particulars which I have detailed to your highness. Without stating by whom I was employed, I merely represented to him that I was deeply interested in the Francatelli family, and that it was of the utmost importance to obtain a delay for two or three months in the criminal proceedings instituted against those innocent females, as, in the meantime, I should undertake a journey to a place at some considerable distance, but the result of which would prove materially beneficial to the cause of the accused. He observed that the interest of the Count of Arestino, who would doubtless endeavor to hasten the proceedings in order to wreak speedy vengeance upon his wife and the Marquis of Orsini, was very powerful to contend against; but that gold could accomplish much. I assured him that there would be no lack of funds to sustain even the most expensive process; and I threw down a heavy purse as an earnest of my ability to bear the cost of the suit. He committed to paper all the particulars that I had thought it prudent to reveal to him, and after some consideration, said, ’I now see my way clearly. I will undertake that the final hearing of this case, at least so far as it regards the Francatellis, shall be postponed for three months. You may rely upon the fulfillment of this promise, let the Count of Arestino do his worst.’ Thus assured, I quitted the worthy pleader, and proceeded to visit Father Marco, who, as I had happened to learn when in conversation with your highness’ aunt, was the family confessor. I found that excellent man overwhelmed with grief at the calamities which had occurred; and to him I confided, under a solemn promise of inviolable secrecy, who the present grand vizier of the Ottoman Empire really was, and how I had been employed by you to visit Florence for the purpose of watching over the safety of your relatives. I however explained to Father Marco that his vow of secrecy was to cease to be binding at any moment when the lives of the Francatellis should be menaced by circumstances that might possibly arise in spite of all the precautions that I had adopted to postpone the final hearing of their case; and that should imminent peril menace those lives, he was immediately to reveal to the Duke of Florence the fact of the relationship of the Francatellis with one who has power to punish any injury that might be done to them. Though well knowing, my lord, the obstinancy of the Christian states in venturing to beard Ottoman might, I considered this precaution to be at all events a prudent one; and Father Marco promised to obey my injunctions in all respects.”

“I was not mistaken in thee, Demetrius,” said the grand vizier, “when I chose thee for that mission on account of thy discreetness and foresight.”

“Your highness’ praises are my best reward,” answered the Greek. “I have now done all that I could possibly effect or devise under the circumstances which prompted me to think or act; and it grieved me that I was unable to afford the slightest assistance to the young Count of Riverola. But I dare not wait longer in Italy; and I was convinced that the authorities in Florence were too inefficient to root out the horde of banditti, even had I explained to them the clew which I myself obtained to the stronghold of those miscreants. I accordingly quitted Florence in the afternoon of the day following the numerous arrests which I have mentioned; and had I not been detained so long at Rimini, by adverse winds, your highness would not have been kept for so many weeks without the mournful tidings which it was at length my painful duty to communicate in person to your lordship.”

“That delay, my faithful Demetrius,” said the grand vizier, “was no fault of thine. Fortunately the squadron was already equipped for sea; and, instead of repairing to the African frontier to chastise the daring pirates, it is on its way to the Tuscan coast, where, if need be, it will land twenty thousand soldiers to liberate my relations and the young Count of Riverola. A pretext for making war upon the Italian states has been afforded by their recent conduct in sending auxiliaries to the succor of Rhodes; and of that excuse I shall not hesitate to avail myself to commence hostilities against the proud Florentines should a secret and peaceful negotiation fail. But now that thou hast recapitulated to me all those particulars which thou didst merely sketch forth at first, it seems to me fitting that I anchor the fleet at the mouth of the Arno, and that I send thee, Demetrius, as an envoy in a public capacity, but in reality to stipulate privately for the release of those in whom I am interested.”

Thus terminated the conference between Ibrahim Pasha and his Greek dependent a conference which had revealed manifold and astounding occurrences to the ears of the Lady Nisida of Riverola. Astounding indeed! Francisco in the hands of the formidable banditti Flora in the prison of the inquisition and the Ottoman grand vizier bent upon effecting the marriage which Nisida abhorred these tidings were sufficient to arouse all the wondrous energies of that mind which was so prompt in combining intrigues and plots, so resolute in carrying them out, and so indomitable when it had formed a will of its own.

Ominous were the fires which flashed in her large dark eyes, and powerful were the workings of those emotions which caused her heaving bosom to swell as if about to burst the bodice which confined it, when, retreating from the partition floor between the two saloons, and resuming her seat at the cabin-windows to permit the evening breeze to fan her fevered cheek, Nisida thought within herself, “It was indeed time that I should quit that accursed island, and return to Italy!”