Werewolf Wednesday: Wagner, the Wehr-Wolf by George W. M. Reynolds (1846-7) Part 17

Chapter 45 opens what is officially the second part of Wagner, the Wehr-Wolf, although Reynolds didn’t exactly choose a natural break in the story: this is the second chapter of a new plot thread involving Alessandro’s meeting with a beautiful Turkish woman. The novel plunges headlong into Arabian Nights territory with its description of the woman’s exotic attire:

Half seated, half lying upon cushions of scarlet brocade, the glossy bright hue of which was mellowed by the muslin spread over it, appeared the beauteous creature whose image was so faithfully delineated in his memory. She was attired in the graceful and becoming dualma, a purple vest which set close to her form, and with a species of elasticity shaped itself so as to develop every contour.

But in accordance with the custom of the clime and age, the dualma was open at the bosom, sloping from each lovely white shoulder to the waist, where the two folds joining, formed an angle, at which the purple vest was fastened by a diamond worth a monarch’s ransom. The sleeves were wide, but short, scarcely reaching to the elbow, and leaving all the lower part of the snowy arms completely bare. Her ample trousers were of purple silk, covered with the finest muslin, and drawn in tight a little above the ankles, which were naked. On her feet she wore crimson slippers cut very low, and each ornamented with a diamond. Round her person below the waist she wore a magnificent shawl, rolled up, as it were, negligently, so as to form a girdle or zone, and fastened in front with two large tassels of pearls.

Diamond bracelets adorned her fair arms; and her head-dress consisted of a turban or shawl of light but rich material, fastened with golden bodkins, the head of each being a pearl of the best water. Beneath this turban, her rich auburn hair, glowing like gold in the light of the perfumed lamps, and amidst the blaze of diamonds which adorned her, was parted in massive bands, sweeping gracefully over her temples and gathered behind the ears, then falling in all the luxuriance of its rich clustering folds over the cushion whereon she reclined. Her finger-nails were slightly tinged with henna, the rosy hue the more effectually setting off the lily whiteness of her delicate hand and full round arm.

But no need had she to dye the lashes of her eyes with the famous kohol, so much used by Oriental ladies, for those lashes were by nature formed of the deepest jet—a somewhat unusual but beauteous contrast with the color of her hair. The cheeks of the lovely creature were slightly flushed, or it might have been a reflection of the scarlet brocade of the cushion on which, as we have said, she was half-seated, half-lying, when Alessandro appeared in her presence

The woman declares that she fell in love with Alessandro upon seeing him at the bazaar, and will consent to accept him into her life so long as he converts to Islam. He agrees to this arrangement, adopting the name Ibrahim. From here he becomes a private secretary to Piri Pasha, “the grand vizier–that high functionary who exercised a power almost as extensive and as despotic as that wielded by the sultan himself” and is even given an audience with said sultan, Solyman the Magnificent.

All of this is merely a facade, however, and deep down Ibrahim remains a Christian: “think not, reader, that in his heart he was a Mussulman, or that he had extinguished the light of Christianity within his soul. No—oh! no; the more he read on the subject of the Mohammedan system of theology, the more he became convinced not only of its utter falsity, but also of its incompatibility with the progress of civilization.”

Chapter 46 concludes by recapping the whereabouts of the novel’s cast while pushing ibrahim towards a real-life historical event — the 1522 siege of Rhodes, which Reynolds relocates to 1521:

Thus, at the very time when Nisida and Wagner were united in the bonds of love on the island of which they were the possessors—while, too, Isaachar the Jew languished in the prisons of the Inquisition of Florence, at which city the chivalrous-hearted Manuel d’Orsini tarried to hasten on the trial and give his testimony in favor of the Israelite—and moreover while Flora, and the Countess Giulia dwelt in the strictest retirement with the young maiden’s aunt—at this period, we say, a fleet of three hundred sail quitted Constantinople under the command of the kapitan-pasha, or lord high admiral, and proceeded toward the Island of Rhodes.

At the same time, Solyman the Magnificent crossed into Asia Minor, and placing himself at the head of an army of a hundred thousand men, commenced his march toward the coast facing the island, and where he intended to embark on his warlike expedition. His favorite Ibrahim accompanied him, as did also the Grand Vizier Piri Pasha, and the principal dignitaries of the empire. It was in the spring of 1521 that the Ottoman fleet received the army on board at the Cape in the Gulf of Macri, which is only separated by a very narrow strait from the Island of Rhodes; and in the evening of the same day on which the troops had thus embarked, the mighty armament appeared off the capital city of the Knights of St. John.

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