Chapter 57 sees Wagner in a state of despair, his wife Nisida having left aboard an Ottoman ship while he remains stranded on the Island of Snakes, having resisted an offer to go with her in exchange for selling his soul to Satan. He receives comfort from a vision of a guardian angel:
And now he beheld a strange vision. Gradually the darkness which appeared to surround him grew less intense; and a gauzy vapor that rose in the midst, at first of the palest bluish tint possible, by degrees obtained more consistency, when its nature began to undergo a sudden change, assuming the semblance of a luminous mist. Wagner’s heart seemed to flutter and leap in his breast, as if with a presentiment of coming joy; for the luminous mist became a glorious halo, surrounding the beauteous and holy form of a protecting angel, clad in white and shining garments, and with snowy wings drooping slowly from her shoulders!
And ineffably—supernally benign and reassuring was the look which the angel bent upon the sleeping Wagner, as she said in the softest, most melodious tones, “The choir of the heavenly host has hymned thanks for thy salvation! After thou hadst resisted the temptations of the enemy of mankind when he spoke to thee with his own lips, an angel came to thee in a dream to give thee assurance that thou hadst already done much in atonement for the crime that endangered thy soul; but he warned thee then that much more remained to be done ere that atonement would be complete. And the rest is now accomplished; for thou hast resisted the temptations of the evil one when urged by the tongue and in the melodious voice of lovely woman! This was thy crowning triumph: and the day when thou shalt reap thy reward is near at hand; for the bonds which connect thee with the destiny of a Wehr-Wolf shall be broken, and thy name shall be inscribed in Heaven’s own Book of Life!
The angel proceeds to give him a detailed set of instructions that involve finding a boat left behind by the Ottoman fleet, allowing it to carry him to Sicily, and meeting a 162-year-old man in Syracuse who will show him how to break the curse of lycanthropy.
After finding a note by Nisida apologising for her hasty departure — and then leaving a note off his own for her, on the offchance that she ever return to the island — Wagner sets sail. Meanwhile, Nisida is still at sea herself, surrounded by the luxurious trappings of an Ottoman ship. Here, she is surprised to learn that her traelling companion, Grand Vizier Ibrahim, is actually the brother of her sometime househol servant Flora. Continuing to eavesdrop, she learns something rather more disturbing: Ibrahim has deduced that Nisida was responsible for handing Flora over to the convent of sadistic nuns.
All of this is delivered in a mighty infodump, which goes on to include an infodump-within-an-infodrump as Ibrahim’s companion Demetrius recounts a conversation he overheard previously — a conversation between the caddish valet Antonio and his accomplices. Here, the villains discussed a plot to raid the palace belonging to Nisida and her brother Francisco, wrenching the novel’s tangled family drama into the foreground:
‘Why is the Count of Arestino so hostile to young Riverola?’ demanded the man who had answered to the name of Lomellino.
‘He cares nothing about young Riverola, either one way or the other,’ replied Antonio, ‘but I have persuaded his lordship that if Francisco be left at large, he will only use his influence to mitigate the vengeance of the law against the Countess Giulia, who is the friend of Flora Francatelli: and so the Count of Arestino has consented to follow my advice and have Francisco locked up until the inquisition has dealt with the countess, her lover, the Marquis of Orsini, and the Francatellis, aunt and niece.’
‘Then you have a spite against this man,’ said Lomellino. ‘Truly have I,’ responded Antonio. ‘You remember that night when you, with Stephano Verrina and Piero, got into the Riverola Palace some months ago? Well, I don’t know who discovered the plot, but I was locked in my room, and next morning young Francisco dismissed me in a way that made me his mortal enemy: and I must have vengeance. For this purpose I have urged on the count to cause Flora Francatelli, whom Francisco loves and wishes to marry, to be included in the proceedings taken by the inquisition at his lordship’s instigation against the Countess Giulia and the Marquis d’Orsini; and the old aunt must necessarily be thrown in, into the bargain, for harboring sacrilegious persons.’
‘And so young Francisco is to lose his mistress, Flora, and be kept a prisoner in the cavern till he has been condemned along with the others?’ said Lomellino.
‘Neither more nor less than what you imagine, and I only wish I had the Lady Nisida also in my power, for I have no doubt she instigated her brother to turn me off suddenly like a common thief, because from all you have since told me, Lomellino, I dare swear it was she who got an inkling of our intentions to plunder the Riverola Palace; though how she could have done so, being deaf and dumb, passes my understanding.’
Of course, Nisida is merely pretending to be deaf and dumb. and so she hears all of this harrowing news (“Ominous were the fires which flashed in her large dark eyes, and powerful were the workings of those emotions which caused her heaving bosom to swell as if about to burst the bodice which confined it”).