Werewolf Wednesday: Wagner, the Wehr-Wolf by George W. M. Reynolds (1846-7) Part 28, the Grand Finale

Part 1 • Part 2 • Part 3 • Part 4 • Part 5  • Part 6 • Part 7 • Part 8 • Part 9 • Part 10 • Part 11 • Part 12 • Part 13 • Part 14 • Part 15 • Part 16 • Part 17 • Part 18 • Part 19 • Part 20 • Part 21 • Part 22 • Part 23 • Part 24 • Part 25 • Part 26 • Part 27

And here we go: the final chapter of Wagner, the Wehr-Wolf. While the events of the previous chapter were occurring, Grand Vizier Ibrahim has been meeting with the aristocracy of Florence to conduct diplomatic business. To the dismay of the Florentines, Ibrahim demands a hundred thousand pistoles by sunset, or else his troops will destroy the city. He also orders that the Inquisition’s prisoners to be freed, two of the novel’s minor characters — Manuel d’Orsini and Isaachar ben Solomon – are duly led into the room in chains.

Manuel’s experiences turn out to have soured him towards Christianity, so much so that he offers to become a slave to Ibrahim, “a Mussulman who can teach the Christians such a fine lesson of mercy and forgiveness.” Ibrahim declines to enslave Manuel, but concedes to allow both Manuel and Isaachar to become his travelling companions back to Constantinople. Finally, the grand Inquisitor is fined, and the 100,000 pistoles required for Ibrahim’s ransom are obtained.

Back in the palace, Francisco and his new wife Flora look down at the bodies of Wagner and the recently-departed Nisida. They are reassured by none other than Christian Rosencrux, who tells him that the two souls have gone to a better place. The deceased receive funerals, and the forbidden chamber is walled up.

The final stretch of the novel wraps up the characters’ fates. Isachaar passes away as a result of the torture he endured; Ibrahim heads back to Constantinople accompanied by Manuel, who renounces Christianity and joins the Ottoman army under the name of Mustapha Pasha; years later, Ibrahim is finally killed by Demetrius and the four black slaves to avenge Calanthe; Francisco and Flora, meanwhile, each live to a ripe old age before dying in the arms of their children.

So concludes Wagner, the Wehr-Wolf. And I have to admit that, even though it shows many signs of having been made up on the fly, this is a more coherent piece of work than its fellow penny dreadful Varney the Vampire. However, anybody expecting a novel that does for werewolves what Varney did for vampires may well be disappointed, as there is very little lycanthropy in Wagner. The werewolf is but an occasional motif in what is ultimately a riff on the Faust narrative that periodically gets distracted and goes to Constantinople.

Werewolf Wednesday: Wagner, the Wehr-Wolf by George W. M. Reynolds (1846-7) Part 27

Chapte 63 opens with Francisco marrying Flora, after which he remembers a plot thread introduced near the start of the novel but long absent from its narrative: that is, the one dealing with Francisco’s oath to his dying father that, on his wedding day, he should retrieve a certain manuscript from a forbidden chamber.

Reynolds really does seem to be in a hurry at this point. as he has a major series of events — including the death of his title character — occur off-page before being described to the reader past-tense:

Nisida was now acquainted with the marriage of her brother, the secret chamber had been visited, the manuscript brought forth to be read; but one of the party that but a few moments before occupied that room was no more—Fernand Wagner was dead! True to the letter were the words of the founder of the order of the Rosy Cross, that “the spell which the Evil One hath cast upon thee, Fernand Wagner, shall be broken only on that day and that hour when thine eyes shall behold the bleached skeletons of two innocent victims suspended to the same beam.”

Flora and Francisco had visited the secret chamber alone, but the scream of horror which came from the bride on seeing the spectacle which there presented itself to her, brought Wagner and Nisida to their side. Instantly on seeing the skeletons, the prophecy of Rosencrux rushed on the mind of Wagner; a complete revolution came over his whole frame, beautiful visions floated before his eyes, as of angels waiting to receive him and herald him to eternal glory; then stretching forth his arms, as if to embrace something immaterial, he fell heavily to the earth, and in a few moments he had breathed his last in the arms of Nisida.

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Werewolf Wednesday: Wagner, the Wehr-Wolf by George W. M. Reynolds (1846-7) Part 26

Chaptee 62 of Wagner, the Wehr-Wolf opens with the poorly Francisco being given a goblet containing the “medicament of Christian Rosencrux”, which does a good job of improving his health. He feels better still when Fernand Wagner turns up to inform him that his beloved Flora shall soon be rescued. The mood around the city, however, is generally less bright:

It was verging toward the hour of sunset, the 2d of October, when a rumor of a most alarming nature circulated with the celerity of wild-fire through the city of Florence. At first the report was received with contemptuous incredulity; but by degrees—as circumstances tended to confirm it—as affrighted peasants came flying into the town from their country homes, bearing the dread tidings, the degenerate and voluptuous Florentines gave way to all the terrors which, in such cases, were too well adapted to fill the hearts of an emasculated people with dismay.

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Werewolf Wednesday: Wagner, the Wehr-Wolf by George W. M. Reynolds (1846-7) Part 25

Chapter 61 of Wagner, the Wehr-Wolf opens with Demetrius carrying out the scheems arranged by Wagner’s lover, Nisida. He sends hsi Ottoman allies into the lair of the brigands, where they throttle Antonio and his bandits with bowstrings: “Thus perished the wretch Antonio — one of those trecherous, malignant and avaricious Italians who bring dishonor on their noble nation”. In the process, they rescue Nisida’s brother Francisco; he is unaware of the fact that his lover Flora is also a target of Nisida’s scheming.

Francisco then accompanies the Ottomans on a scuffle with anotehr group of bandits, personally slaying Lomellino (as the novel reaches its end, the author appears eager to clear out excess members of the cast list). This job done, Francisco is finally reunited with Nisida — who, shortly afterwards, puts on male clothes and dashes off into the shadows. “Whither was the lady Nisida now hurrying through the dark streets of Florence?” asks the not-quite-omniscient narrator.

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Werewolf Wednesday: Wagner, the Wehr-Wolf by George W. M. Reynolds (1846-7) Part 24

ReynoldsMiscChapter 60 opens with Wagner arriving in Florence and taking a peek at the painting of a werewolf “which he had painted when in a strangely morbid state of mind” only to find that the painting has disappeared, leaving only a blank canvas; he takes this as a sign of divine mercy upon his soul. He then learns that his lover Nisida has arrived in the city, and he’s naturally anxious to meet her. He has to be careful, though: she’s pretending to be deaf-mute, and if he startles her with his appearance, this “might evoke a sudden ejaculation, and thus betray her secret.”

Wagner finally catches sight of Nisida, and is unnerved to find her in the company of another man (Demetrius, the Grand Vizier’s Greek servant). As Wagner eavesdrops, Nisida reveals all to Demetrius: that his sister Calanthe was executed after the Grand Vizier had an adulterous affair with her. “Is it possible that I have served so faithfully a man possessed of such a demon-heart?” asks Demetrius. Nisida is also angry, partly because the Grand Vizier wants to marry his “low-born” sister to Nisida’s own brother Francisco, who is held captive by the bandit gang of Antonio.

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Werewolf Wednesday: Wagner, the Wehr-Wolf by George W. M. Reynolds (1846-7) Part 23

Chapter 58 opens with Grand Vizier Ibrahim and Lady Nisida still on board a ship. Ibrahim has fallen in love with Nisida, prompting one of the slaves on the vessel to offer a grave warning: if he is unfaithful to his wife, Princess Aischa, then Nisida will be killed, just as the Greek maiden Calanthe had been. They have this conversation right in earshot of Nisida, wrongly believing her to be deaf. While pondering this development, Nisida catches sight of a passing boat which — to her delight — contains her beloved Fernand Wagner.

The chapter then skips to Wagner’s arrival in Syracuse, following the directions given to him by an angel in the previous chapter. His next goal is to find a 162-tear-old man, and he asks a barber for help:

“Naturally enough,” said Fernand. “But I have heard that there are some very extraordinary personages in Syracuse; indeed, there is one who has lived to a remarkable age——”
“The oldest person I know of, is the Abbot of St. Mary’s,” interrupted the barber, “and he——”
“And he——” repeated Wagner, with feverish impatience.
“Is ninety-seven and three months, signor; a great age, truly,” responded the barber-surgeon.
Fernand’s hopes were immediately cooled down; but thinking that he ought to put his inquiry in a direct manner, he said: “Then it is not true that you have in Syracuse an individual who has reached the wondrous age of a century three-score and two?”
“Holy Virgin have mercy upon you, signor!” ejaculated the barber, “if you really put faith in the absurd stories that people tell about the Rosicrucians!”

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Werewolf Wednesday: Wagner, the Wehr-Wolf by George W. M. Reynolds (1846-7) Part 22

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.

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Werewolf Wednesday: Wagner, the Wehr-Wolf by George W. M. Reynolds (1846-7) Part 21

Chapter 55 opens with Wagner bemoaning his decision to make a deal with the Devil, before turning into a wolf and going off on his third rampage of the novel. Since he’s trapped on an unpopulated island, he doesn’t get any bystanders to trample, only the local fauna:

Scarcely have its feet touched the verge of the water, when the monster wheels round and continues its whirlwind way without for an instant relaxing one tittle of its speed. Away—away, through the fruit-bearing groves, clearing for itself a path of ruin and havoc,—scattering the gems of the trees, and breaking down the richly-laden vines; away—away flies the monster, hideous howls bursting from its foaming mouth. The birds scream and whistle wildly, as startled from their usual tranquil retreats, they spread their gay and gaudy plumage, and go with gushing sound through the evening air. He reaches the bank of a stream, and bounds along its pleasant margin, trampling to death noble swans which vainly seek to evade the fury of the rushing monster.

Not all of the wildlife is as defenceless as these unfortunate swans, however, and the lupine Wagner runs into trouble when he crosses paths with a snake (“in an instant its hideous coils are wound round the foaming, steaming, palpitating body of the wolf”). Even here, though, the wolf overpowers the boa and drags it “as if by a thousand horses” onto the ground, where it is consumed by nameless vermin. When Wagner has returned to his human form, Satan pops up to gloat:

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Werewolf Wednesday: Wagner, the Wehr-Wolf by George W. M. Reynolds (1846-7) Part 19

Chapter 50 of Wagner, the Wehr-Wolf takes us back to Florence, where the Count of Arestino frets over the whereabouts of his adulterous wife Giulia. The whole scurrilous saga appears to have turned him into a Dalek:

All my life have I been a just—a humane—a merciful man; I will be so no more. The world’s doings are adverse to generosity and fair-dealing. In my old age have I learnt this! Oh! the perfidy of women toward a doting—a confiding—a fond heart, works strange alterations in the heart of the deceived one! I, who but a year—nay, six months ago—would not harm the meanest reptile that crawls, now thirst for vengeance—vengeance,” repeated the old man, in a shrieking, hysterical tone, “upon those who have wronged me! I will exterminate them at one fell swoop—exterminate them all—all!” And his voice rang screechingly and wildly through the lofty room of that splendid mansion.

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Werewolf Wednesday: Wagner, the Wehr-Wolf by George W. M. Reynolds (1846-7) Part 18

Chapter 47 is given over to describing the Siege of Rhodes, with such tragic scenes as this:

Oh! it was a glorious, but a sad and mournful sight—that death-struggle of the valiant Christians against the barbarism of the East. And many touching proofs of woman’s courage and daring characterized that memorable siege. Especially does this fact merit our attention:—The wife of a Christian captain, seeing her husband slain, and the enemy gaining ground rapidly, embraced her two children tenderly, made the sign of the cross upon their brows, and then, having stabbed them to the heart, threw them into the midst of a burning building near, exclaiming, “The infidels will not now be able, my poor darlings, to wreak their vengeance on you, alive or dead!” In another moment she seized her dead husband’s sword, and plunging into the thickest of the fight, met a death worthy of a heroine.

More scuffles follow, including one in which protagonist du jour Ibrahim personally saves the life of the Sultan. The attacker, an Italian chieftain, ends up as Ibrahim’s captive — and Ibrahim recognises him as none other than Francisco, Count of Riverola, a character established earlier in the novel (he’s the lover of Ibrahim’s sister Flora, and the brother of Wagner’s lover Nisida). The two get on well despite the unfortuante circumstances, and when the conflcit is over and Francisco freed, he agrees to keep Ingrahim updated on his search for both Flora and Nisida.

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