Werewolf Week: Wagner, the Wehr-Wolf by George W. M. Reynolds (1846-7) Part 16

ReynoldsMiscChapter 43 of Wagner the Wehr-Wolf opens with werewolf Wagner and bandit-chief Stephano looking on as Lady Nisida is caught in the coils of an anaconda. This turns out to be a Solomon-and-the-baby test for the two men, each of whom are after Nisida’s affections: Stephano responds by running away while Wagner valiantly slays the serpent.

The two lovers then begin talking, which surprises Wagner as Nisida has supposedly been deaf-mute for the entirety of the story. She admits that her disability was all an act, one maintained since she was fifteen years old. Why? Well, apparently some “solemnly grave and strongly important” forced her to spend ten years pretending to be deaf-mute as penance.

After a short scuffle with Stephano — who makes a last-ditch effort to take Nisida for himself, only to end up drowned — the couple set about building a cottage on the island using material from the shipwreck. An idyllic scene, although the reader will presently be wondering what will happen when that-time-of-the-month arrives for our lycanthropic anti-hero.

The story then turns its attention to a character who had been mentioned earlier but never seen onstage: Alessandro Francatelli, brother of Flora (Flora being Francisco’s lover [Francisco being Nisida’s brother]). A potted biography tells us how Alessandro headed to Constantinople as a Christian envoy, where we was confronted with the fact that Christians who converted to Islam rose to higher social positions. He then became captivated by the sight of a Muslim woman:

He was one afternoon lounging through the principal bezestein or bazaar, when he was struck by the elegant form, imposing air, and rich apparel of a lady who rode slowly along upon a mule, attended by four female slaves on foot. The outlines of her figure shaped the most admirable symmetry he had ever beheld; and though her countenance was concealed by a thick veil, in accordance with the custom of the East, yet he seemed to have been impressed with an instinctive conviction that the face beneath that invidious covering was eminently beautiful. Moreover, the eyes whose glances flashed through the two holes which were formed in the veil so as to permit the enjoyment of the faculty of sight, were gloriously brilliant, yet black as jet. Once, too, when the lady raised her delicate white hand, sparkling with jewels, to arrange the folds of that hated veil, Alessandro caught a rapid, evanescent glimpse of a neck as white as snow.

When the woman trips up, Alessandro catches her and, in the process, glimpses her face:

And no wonder that he stood thus rooted to the spot, following her with his eyes; for the countenance which accident had revealed to him was already impressed upon his heart. It was one of those lovely Georgian faces, oval in shape, and with a complexion formed of milk and roses, which have at all times been prized in the East, as the very perfection of female beauty; a face which, without intellectual expression, possesses an ineffable witchery, and all the charms calculated to fascinate the beholder. The eyes were black as jet, the hair of a dark auburn, and luxuriantly rich in its massive beauty; the lips were of bright vermilion, and between them were two rows of pearl, small and even. The forehead was high and broad, and white as marble, with the delicate blue veins visible through the transparent complexion.

The two part their ways, but Alessandro is then visited by a spy who reveals that the woman is interested in meeting him, so long as he consents to be blindfolded and led to her home. He goes ahead with this scheme… and so ends Part the First of Wagner, the Wehr-Wolf.

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