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


It was about an hour past daybreak on the 1st of October, five days after the incidents related in the three preceding chapters. Nisida, worn out with long watchings and vigils in her brother’s chamber, had retired to her own apartment; but not before she had seen Francisco fall into a sleep which, under the influence of a narcotic ordered by the physician, promised to be long and soothing. The lady had not quitted the chamber of the invalid ten minutes, when the door was slightly opened; and some one’s looks were plunged rapidly and searchingly into the room: then the visitor, doubtless satisfied by the result of his survey, stole cautiously in.

He advanced straight up to the table which stood near the bed, drew a small vial from the bosom of his doublet and poured its crystal contents into the beverage prepared to quench the thirst of the invalid. Then, as he again secured the vial about his person, he murmured, “The medicament of Christian Rosencrux will doubtless work greater wonders than those of Dr. Duras, skilled though the latter be!”

Having thus mused to himself, the visitor shook Francisco gently; and the young count awoke, exclaiming petulantly that he was athirst. A goblet of the beverage containing the Rosicrucian fluid, was immediately conveyed to his lips, and he drank the refreshing draught with eagerness.

The effect was marvelous, indeed; a sudden tinge of healthy red appeared upon the cheeks a moment before so ashy pale and fire once more animated the blue eyes and Francisco recovered complete consciousness and self-possession for the first time since the dread morning when he was attacked with a dangerous illness.

He closed his eyes for a few minutes; and when he opened them again, he was surprised to perceive by his bedside a young, well-attired, and very handsome man, whose countenance appeared to be familiar to him.

“Count of Riverola,” said the visitor, bending over him, and speaking in a low but kind tone, “despair not! Succor is at hand and ere forty-eight hours shall have passed away, your well-beloved Flora will be free!”

Joy lighted up the countenance of the young nobleman, as these delightful words met his ears; and, seizing his consoler’s hand, he exclaimed:

“A thousand thanks for this assurance! But, have we not met before? or was it in those wild dreams which have haunted my imagination that I have seen thee?”

“Yes we have met before, count,” was the reply. “Dost thou not remember Fernand Wagner?”

Francisco passed his hand across his brow, as if to settle his scattered thoughts: then, at the expiration of a few moments, he said: “Oh! yes I recollect you I know that I had conceived a great friendship for you, when some strange incident I cannot remember what, and it is of no matter parted us!”

“Do not excite yourself too much by racking your memory to decipher the details of the past,” returned Wagner. “I dare not stay another minute with you now: therefore listen attentively to what more I have to say. Yield yourself not up to despondency on the contrary, cherish every hope that is dear to you. Within a few days Flora shall be yours! Yes solemnly do I assure you that all shall take place as I affirm. But YOUR agency is not needed to insure her liberation: Heaven will make use of OTHER means. Compose your mind, then, and suffer not yourself to be tortured by vain fears as to the future. Above all, keep my visit to thee a profound secret intimate not to thy sister Nisida that thou hast seen me. Follow my counsel in all these respects and happiness is in store for thee!”

Fernand pressed the young count’s hand warmly as he terminated these rapidly delivered injunctions, and then retreated from the chamber ere the invalid had time to utter a syllable indicative of his gratitude.

But how different was Francisco now how different did Nisida find him, on her return to his room, from what he was when she had left him two hours before! Nor less was Dr. Duras astonished, at his next visit, to perceive that his patient had made in those two hours as rapid strides toward convalescence as he could barely have hoped to see accomplished in a week.

In obedience to a hint rapidly conveyed by a signal from Nisida to the physician, the latter touched gently upon the subject of Flora Francatelli; but Francisco, resolute in his endeavors to follow the advice of Fernand Wagner, and to avoid all topics calculated to excite, responded briefly, and immediately spoke on another matter.

But he did not think the less deeply on that interesting subject. No; he cherished the image of his Flora, and the hope of being yet united to her, with an enthusiasm which a love so ardent as his passion alone could feel.

And Nisida congratulated herself on the conviction which she now very naturally entertained, that he had resigned himself to the loss of the young maiden, and was exerting his utmost to banish her altogether from his memory!

Throughout the day Francisco continued to improve rapidly, and on the following morning he was enabled to leave his couch. Indeed, his recovery was so marvelously quick that Dr. Duras considered it to be a perfect phenomenon in the history of medicine; and Nisida looked upon the physician, whom she conceived to be the author of this remarkable change, with unfeigned admiration.

It was verging toward the hour of sunset, the 2d of October, when a rumor of a most alarming nature circulated with the celerity of wild-fire through the city of Florence. At first the report was received with contemptuous incredulity; but by degrees as circumstances tended to confirm it as affrighted peasants came flying into the town from their country homes, bearing the dread tidings, the degenerate and voluptuous Florentines gave way to all the terrors which, in such cases, were too well adapted to fill the hearts of an emasculated people with dismay.

For, while the dwellers of the City of Flowers were thinking only of the gay festival which invariably commenced their winter season, while the nobles and wealthy burghers were whiling their time pleasantly in the regilding and decoration of their palaces or mansions, while the duke was projecting splendid banquets, and the members of the council of state were dreaming of recreation and enjoyment, rather than of the duties of office, while, too, preparations were being made for the approaching auto-da-fe that terrible spectacle which the inquisition annually offered to the morbid tastes of a priest-ridden people while, in a word, Florence seemed wrapped up in security and peace at such a moment the astounding intelligence arrived, that a mighty army was within a few hours’ march of the sovereign city of Tuscany!

Yes; this was the news that suddenly spread confusion and dismay throughout Florence, the news which told how the Ottoman fleet, for some days past moored off the port of Leghorn, had vomited forth legions, and how the formidable force was approaching at a rapid rate, under the command of the grand vizier in person, the seraskier and sipehsalar of the armies of the sultan!

The moment these things were bruited abroad in the city, Demetrius, the Greek, fled secretly; for he too well understood that his treacherous intentions had, in some unaccountable manner, transpired, and reached the ears of Ibrahim Pasha. Nisida was perfectly astounded; and, for the first time in her life, she felt her energies paralyzed all her powers of combination suddenly laid prostrate. As for Francisco, he could not help thinking that the invasion of Italy by the Turks was connected with the succor so mysteriously, but confidently promised by Wagner; although he was not only ignorant of the relationship subsisting between the grand vizier and his beloved Flora, but was even unaware of the fact that this high functionary was the same Ibrahim whose prisoner he had been for a few hours on a former occasion in the Island of Rhodes.

The council of state assembled to deliberate upon the proper course which should be adopted at so critical a moment; but when the resources of Florence and the means of resisting the invaders were scrutinized, when it was discovered that there were not three thousand soldiers to defend the place, nor arms sufficient to equip more than fifteen hundred volunteers in addition to the regular force, all idea of attempting to make a stand against an army which was in reality twenty thousand strong, but which the exaggerations of fear had trebled in amount, was ultimately abandoned.

The sun went down, and was succeeded by no illuminations that night. Florence was in mourning. A spell had fallen upon the City of Flowers; her streets were deserted; and within the houses, those who possessed wealth were busily engaged in concealing their gold and jewels in cellars, holes dug in the ground, or at the bottom of wells. The general consternation was terrific indeed; and the solemn stillness which prevailed throughout the town so lately full of animation and happiness was even more dreadful than that which had accompanied the plague two centuries before.

It was near midnight when messengers from the grand vizier, who was now within three miles’ march of the city, arrived at the western gate, and demanded admission, that they might obtain an immediate audience of the duke. The request was directly complied with, and the envoys were conducted to the palazzo, where the prince immediately assembled the council of state to receive them, himself presiding.

The audience was in other respects strictly private; but the nature of the interview was soon proved to have been most unexpectedly pacific; for two hours after the reception of the envoys, criers proceeded throughout the city, proclaiming the joyful news that the grand vizier had of his own accord proposed such terms as the council of state had not hesitated to accept.

Thus, at two o’clock in the morning, were the Florentines at first alarmed by hearing the monotonous voices of the criers breaking upon the solemn stillness; but their fear changed into gladness ineffable, ere those functionaries had uttered a dozen words of the proclamation which they were intrusted to make.

What the terms were did not immediately transpire; but two circumstances which occurred ere it was daybreak, and which, though conducted with considerable secrecy, nevertheless soon became generally known these circumstances, we say, afforded ample scope for comment and gossip.

The first was the occupation of the Riverola Palace by the Ottoman soldiers who had accompanied Demetrius as an escort, and whom he had left in Florence; and the second was the fact that two females, closely muffled up, were removed from the prison of the inquisition, and delivered over to the charge of the grand vizier’s messengers, who conveyed them out of the city.

But the curiosity excited by these incidents was absorbed in the general anxiety that was evinced by the Florentine people to feast their eyes with the grand, interesting, and imposing spectacle which the dawn of day revealed to their view.

For, far as the eye could reach, on the western side of Florence, and commencing at the distance of about a quarter of a mile from the city, a mass of innumerable tents and pavilions showed where the Ottoman army was encamped! Myriads of banners, of all colors, floated from the tall javelins to which they were affixed before the entrance of the chief officers’ tents, and in front of the entire encampment waved, at the summit of a spear planted in the ground, the three crescents, which invariably accompany the march of a Turkish army. The sunbeams glittered on thousands of bright crescents; and the brazen pommels of the mounted sentinels’ saddles shone like burnished gold. It was, indeed, a grand and imposing spectacle: and the din of innumerable voices mingling with the sounds of martial music, reached the ears of those Florentines who, more daring than the rest, advanced nearly up to the outposts of the encampment.

But in the meantime, a scene of profound and touching interest had taken place in the gorgeous pavilion of the grand vizier.

While it was yet dark and ere that martial panorama of tents and pavilions developed itself to the admiring and astonished eyes of the Florentines two females, closely muffled in handsome cashmere shawls, which had been presented to them for the purpose, were treading the Ottoman encampment, under the guidance of the messengers to whom they had been consigned.

It is hardly necessary to inform the reader that these females were the elder Signora Francatelli and her beautiful niece Flora.

Their sudden and most unexpected deliverance from the terrible dungeons of the inquisition, and the profound respect with which they were treated by those into whose charge the familiars of the holy office had surrendered them, inspired them with the most lively joy; and their congratulations were expressed by frequent pressures of each other’s hands as they proceeded in company with their guides. But they knew not by whom, or how, nor wherefore they had been released and yet a vague suspicion, founded solely on the fact that their conductors wore the Ottoman garb, that Alessandro must be in some way connected with the matter, had entered their minds. It was, at all events, clear that no harm was intended them, for they were not treated as prisoners, and thus they hastened on in confidence and hope.

It was not until they had left the city some distance behind, that the bright moon showed them a confused mass of white objects in front; and they were both marveling what the strange and unknown spectacle could be, when their party was suddenly challenged by the sentries of an outpost. The leader of the little escort gave the watchword; and now, as the two females drew nearer to the encampment, the mass of white objects became more shapely, until, in a few minutes, the pointed tops of the tents and pavilions stood out in strong relief against the now purple sky.

What could this unusual spectacle mean? They were still in the dungeons of the inquisition when the alarm, caused by an approaching army, had circulated through Florence; and the rumor had not reached their ears. For the first time since the moment of their release they now hung back, and manifested signs of fear.

“Be not terrified, ladies,” said the chief of the escort, speaking in excellent Italian; “ye have no cause for apprehension! Before you spread the innumerable tents of the Ottoman army; and it is to the presence of this mighty host that ye are indebted for your freedom.”

“But whither are you taking us?” inquired Flora, scarcely reassured.

“To the pavilion of his Highness, Ibrahim-Pasha, the grand vizier of the glorious Sultan Solyman,” answered the Turk; “and at the hands of that powerful minister ye will receive naught but honorable and kind treatment.”

“Know you, signor,” inquired Flora, “if there be in the Ottoman camp a young man who, when a Christian,” she added, with a profound sigh, “bore the name of Alessandro Francatelli?”

“There is such a young man,” responded the Turkish messenger; “and you will see him presently.”

“Oh! is it then to him that we owe our deliverance?” demanded the beauteous maiden, her heart fluttering with varied emotions at the idea of meeting her brother. “Is he attached to the person of that mighty man whom you denominate the grand vizier? and shall we see him in the pavilion of his highness?”

“You will see him in the pavilion of his highness,” answered the Turk.

“And the grand vizier himself is he a good, kind man?” asked Flora. “Is my brother I mean Alessandro a favorite with him?”

“I believe that the mighty Ibrahim loves no man more than Alessandro Francatelli, lady,” said the Turk, highly amused by these questions which were put to him, although his manner was respectful and calm.

“Then there is a chance that Alessandro will rise in the service of the sultan?” continued Flora, naturally anxious to glean all the information she could respecting her brother.

“There is not a more enviable personage in the imperial service than he whom you style Alessandro Francatelli.”

“Heaven be thanked that he is so prosperous, poor boy!” exclaimed the aunt, who had been an attentive listener to the preceding discourse. “But your grand vizier, signor, must be very powerful to have a great army at his disposal.”

“The grand vizier, lady,” returned the Ottoman envoy, “is second only to the sultan, and in him we see a reflection of the imperial majesty. At a sign from the great and potent Ibrahim every scimiter throughout this host of twenty thousand men would leap from its sheath in readiness to strike where and at whom he might choose to order. Nay, more, lady he has the power to gather together mighty armies, so numerous that they would inundate Christendom as with a desolating sea. Allah be thanked! there is no limit to the power of the mighty Ibrahim so long as he holdeth the seals of his great office.”

The two females made no further observation aloud; but they thought profoundly on all that they had just heard. For in a short time they were to stand in the presence of this puissant chief whom the Ottomans seemed to worship as a god, and who wielded a power which placed him on a level with the proudest potentates in the Christian world.

In the meantime the little party had entered the precincts of the Ottoman encampment, a complete city of tents and pavilions, ranged in the most admirable order, and with all the regularity of streets.

A solemn silence prevailed throughout the camp, interrupted only by the measured pace and the occasional challenge of sentinels.

At length Flora and her aunt perceived, in the clear moonlight, a pavilion loftier, larger, and more magnificent than any they had yet seen. The pinnacle glittered as if it were tipped with a bright star; the roof was of dazzling whiteness; and the sides were of dark velvet, richly embroidered with gold. It stood in the midst of a wide space, the circumjacent tents forming a complete circle about it. Within this inclosure of tents the sentries were posted at very short intervals; and instead of walking up and down, they stood motionless as statues, their mighty scimiters gloaming in the moonlight.

In profound silence did the little party proceed toward the entrance of the vast pavilion, which the females had no difficulty in discerning to be the habitation of the potent and dreaded chief into whose presence they were now repairing.

In front of this splendid tent floated two large banners, each from the summit of a tall javelin, the head of which was of burnished gold. One of these enormous flags was green; the other was blood-red. The first was the sacred standard of the Prophet Mohammed, and accompanied the grand vizier in his capacity of representative and vice-regent of the sultan; and the latter was the banner which was always planted in front of the pavilion inhabited by the seraskier, or commander-in-chief of the Ottoman army.

At the entrance of the vast tent stood four mounted sentinels, horses and men alike so motionless that they seemed to be as many equestrian statues.

“In a few moments,” whispered the leader of the little escort to the two females, “you will be in the presence of the grand vizier, who will receive you alone.”

“And Alessandro Francatelli?” inquired Flora, in a tone of disappointment, “will he not be there also?”

“Fear not, you shall behold him shortly,” answered the Turk; and passing behind the mounted sentinels, he drew aside the velvet curtain, at the same time bidding Flora and her aunt enter the pavilion.

A blaze of light bursting forth from the interior of the magnificent tent dazzled and bewildered them, as the Ottoman gently gushed them onward for they hung back in vague and groundless alarm.

The curtain was instantly closed behind them; and they now found themselves inside the gorgeous abode of the grand vizier. The pavilion was decorated in the most sumptuous manner. Crystal chandeliers were suspended to the spars which supported the canvas ceiling; and the pillars which supported those spars were gilt and inlaid with mother-of-pearl. Rich sofas placed around the sides vases, some containing flowers and others delicious perfumes tables laden with refreshments of the most exquisite kind, in a word, all the evidences of enormous wealth and all the accessories of luxurious splendor were displayed in this sumptuous abode.

At the further end of the pavilion was seated an individual, whom, by the intimation they had already received, and by the magnificence of his attire, Flora and her aunt immediately knew to be the grand vizier. He soon granted them the opportunity they so anxiously awaited, and it was not a great while ere they found themselves completely reassured, and conversing with a freedom which they had hardly hoped would characterize their interview.

But who can describe the wonder and amazement which overwhelmed Flora and her aunt, when, in the person of the grand vizier, was revealed to them the long absent brother and nephew, Alessandro Francatelli!

It is needless to give in detail the events which were narrated in their conversation. After a long and interesting recapitulation of the thrilling events which had attended them thus far, they turned to that more immediate matter which lay nearest their hearts.

When the Count of Riverola at length joined the party, the young nobleman, taking Flora’s hand, exclaimed:

“I am anxious to secure this jewel as soon as possible. Our union may be celebrated privately and without useless pomp and ceremony; a few hours hence may see us allied to part no more. I have a friend in Florence Fernand Wagner ”

“And if he be your friend, count, you cannot possess one more likely to be sincere!” exclaimed the vizier.

“He has, indeed, proved a warm friend to me,” continued Francisco. “Two days ago I was stretched upon a bed of sickness delirious, my mind wandering, and my reason gone ”

“Merciful heavens!” cried Flora, shuddering from head to foot, and contemplating her intended husband with the deepest solicitude.

“Yes, I was in a desperate state,” said the count. “But Wagner came he breathed words of hope in my ears, and I recovered rapidly; so rapidly and so completely that I feel not as if I had ever known indisposition save by name. I was, however, about to observe that there is an oratory in Signor Wagner’s mansion; and there may the ceremony be performed. Fernand is, moreover, well acquainted with the language by which the deaf and dumb communicate their ideas; and through friendship for me he will break the tidings of my marriage to my sister.”

“Be it as you propose,” said the grand vizier; then, after a moment’s pause, he added, speaking in a low and mysterious whisper: “and if you will not shrink from the contact of the renegade at the altar of God a renegade in name only, and not in heart a renegade to suit his worldly purposes, and not from conviction then shall I be present at the ceremony. Yes,” he continued, perceiving that his aunt, his sister, and the young count surveyed him with mingled pleasure and amazement “yes, in a deep disguise I will quit the encampment and enter Florence, for it would grieve me deeply to be excluded from the solemn scene.”

“Dearest Alessandro for thus you will permit me still to call you,” exclaimed his aunt, “your words have made my happiness complete. Oh! you are still a Christian in heart, thank God!”

“Not for worlds would I that you should be absent from the ceremony which makes your sister the Countess of Riverola!” exclaimed Francisco.

The arrangements so happily come to and so amicably digested, were now to be carried into effect. The expectant bridegroom accordingly took a temporary leave of the vizier, Flora and the aunt, and returned to the city to seek his friend Fernand Wagner, it being understood that those whom he had just left should meet him at that signor’s mansion by mid-day.

The morning was now breaking: and every roof top in Florence was crowded with persons anxious to obtain a view of the encampment, as we have stated at the close of the preceding chapter.