Chapter 23 of Wagner, the Wehr-Wolf stays with the newly-introduced character of Giulia Arestino and her lover Manuel, Marquis of Orsini. After a series of flowery paragraphs about the sea, we learn that Giulia’s husband — the Count of Arestino — is spying upon this adulterous affair. After a few more paragraphs of purple prose, this time waxing poetic about love and jealousy, Manuel admits to having indulged his gambling problem again (“This habit of gaming entraps me as the wine cup fascinates the bibber who would avoid it”). So distraught is he that Giulia has to talk him out of fleeing Florence in disgrace — at which point her husband barges into the room, “in the midst of his Italian ire”. He is most displeased:
Oh! fool—dotard—idiot that I was to think that a young girl could love an aged man like me! For old age is a weed, which, when twined round the plant of love, becomes like the deadly nightshade, and robs the rose-bush of its health! Alas! alas! I thought that in my declining years, I should have one to cheer me, one who might respect me, if she could not love me—one who would manifest some gratitude for the proud position I have given her—and the boundless wealth that it would have been my joy to leave her. And now that hope is gone—withered—crushed—blighted, woman, by thy perfidy! Oh! wherefore did you accompany the old man to the altar, if only to deceive him? Wherefore did you consent to become his bride, if but to plunge him into the depth of misery? You weep! Ah! weep on; and all those tears, be they even so scalding as to make seams on that too fair face, cannot wipe away the stain which is now affixed to the haughty name of Arestino! Weep on, Giulia; but thy tears cannot move me now!”
He threatens to send his wife to the convent of the Carmelites, the same sadistic nuns who abducted Flora earlier in the book. as if by magic, three sadistic nuns appear and dutifully spirit her away. Meanwhile, the bandit Stephano was also spying on the whole affair, and vows to rescue her.
By that point, Manuel has been sent packing and is left to face his gambling debts. He visits the usurer Isaachar and warns him that, unless he coughs up the countess’ diamonds, he might end up in the dungeons of the inquisition which “receive the heretic or the Jew”; the poor fellow is forced to explain that the diamonds have already been taken by Stephano.
Stephano then turns up at the premises (speak of the devil and all that) and Manuel recognises him as a man who had bested him at the casino — just as he proceeds to best Manuel in a swordfight, leaving the latter with a “tolerably severe gash”. Isaachar tends to the wound, prompting Manuel to reconsider his antisemitic prejudices.
The altercation over, Stephano is able to explain that he had tried to pass the diamonds back to Giulia, only to find that the stones given to him by Isaachar were counterfeits. The usurer apologises for his subterfuge:
“Did I not lend my good golden ducats upon those diamonds? and must I be blamed, if knowing—ah! knowing too well, the base artifices of which many of even the best-born Florentine nobles and great ladies are capable, must I be blamed, I say, if aware of all this, I adopted a device which the wickedness of others, and not our own, has rendered common amongst those of our race who traffic in loans upon jewels and precious stones.”
“Isaachar speaks naught save the pure truth,” remarked Orsini, blushing at the justice which dictated these reproaches against the aristocracy whereof he was a member.
He offers to hand over the real diamonds if Giulia needs them — but Stephano makes the enigmatic statement that she can wait. And so ends another werewolf-free stretch of this rather convoluted melodrama.