(This is the sixth part in a series; see also parts one, two, three, four and five)
Chapter 12 saw Wagner run away from Nisida to turn into a wolf; chapter 13 returns to Nisida, who is understandably bewildered by the sudden departure of the man she has found herself passionately attracted to. Reynolds spares few words in describing her emotional state:
Her mind was like the sea put in motion by the wind; and her eyes flashed fire, her lips quivered, her bosom heaved convulsively, her neck arched proudly, as if she were struggling against ideas that forced themselves upon her and painfully wounded her boundless patrician pride. For the thought that rose uppermost amidst all the conjectures which rushed to her imagination, was that Fernand had conceived an invincible dislike toward her.
(This is, incidentally, the second of four passages in the novel containing the phrase “her bosom heaved”, and one of two in which the adverb “convulsively” follows).
While dealing with Wagner’s departure, Nisida catches sight of two men named Antonio and Stephano plotting to rob the forbidden closet containing her brother’s mysterious inheritance — although, being deaf, she is unable to hear the conversation in which they pointedly spell out not only their scheme bu their names.
In the next chapter Wagner — back in human form — is reunited with his granddaughter Agnes. This turns out to be another encounter cut short, as when Wagner’s back is turned the mysterious woman who has appeared to Agnes in the past pops up once again: “those basilisk-eyes darted forth shafts of fire and flame, and the red lips quivered violently, and the haughty brow contracted menacingly”. The woman then stabs Agnes to death:
But only a few moments lasted that dreadful scene; for the lady, whose entire appearance was that of an avenging fiend in the guise of a beauteous woman, suddenly drew a sharp poniard from its sheath in her bodice, and plunged it into the bosom of the hapless Agnes. The victim fell back; but not a shriek—not a sound escaped her lips. The blow was well aimed, the poniard was sharp and went deep, and death followed instantaneously. For nearly a minute did the murderess stand gazing on the corpse—the corpse of one erst so beautiful; and her countenance, gradually relaxing from its stern, implacable expression, assumed an air of deep remorse—of bitter, bitter compunction.
In chapter 15, a group of policemen pursuing the aforementioned Stephano chance upon Agnes’ body. They examine Wagner’s property and, upon finding his bloodstained clothes, move to arrest him. Wagner is scarcely given time to lament his granddaughter’s death (“Oh! is it possible that thou art no more, my poor Agnes!”) before being thrown in the dungeon.
Will Wagner remain imprisoned for the only homicide in the story thus far that he didn’t commit? Who was the woman who killed Agnes? Will Stephano and Antonio discover the secret of the mysterious closet? Will anybody uncover the portrait that Agnes was forbidden from examining? Tune in next time…