Read Penny Dreadful Multipack Vol. 1 (Illustrated. Annotated. 'Wagner The Wehr-Wolf,' 'Varney The Vampire,' 'The Mysteries of London Vol. 1' + Bonus Features) (Penny Dreadful Multipacks) Online
Authors: George W. M. Reynolds,James Malcolm Rymer
This interchange of signs of such
deep mystery scarcely occupied a moment, and was altogether unobserved by
Dr. Duras proceeded to administer
restoratives to the dying nobleman—but in vain!
The count had fallen into a
lethargic stupor, which lasted until four in the morning, when his spirit
passed gently away.
The moment Francisco and Nisida
became aware that they were orphans, they threw themselves into each other’s
arms, and renewed by that tender embrace the tacit compact of sincere affection
which had ever existed between them.
Francisco’s tears flowed freely;
but Nisida did not weep!
A strange—an almost portentous
light shone in her brilliant black eyes; and though that wild gleaming denoted
emotions, yet it
shed no luster upon the depths of her soul—afforded no clew to the real nature
of these agitated feelings.
Suddenly withdrawing himself from
his sister’s arms, Francisco conveyed to her by the language of the fingers the
following tender sentiment:—“You have lost a father, beloved Nisida, but you
have a devoted and affectionate brother left to you!”
And Nisida replied through the
same medium, “Your happiness, dearest brother, has ever been my only study, and
shall continue so.”
The physician and Father Marco,
the priest, now advanced, and taking the brother and sister by the hands, led
them from the chamber of death.
“Kind friends,” said Francisco,
now Count of Riverola, “I understand you. You would withdraw my sister and
myself from a scene too mournful to contemplate. Alas! it is hard to lose a
father; but especially so at my age, inexperienced as I am in the ways of the
“The world is indeed made up of
thorny paths and devious ways, my dear young friend,” returned the physician;
“but a stout heart and integrity of purpose will ever be found faithful guides.
The more exalted and the wealthier the individual, the greater the temptations
he will have to encounter. Reflect upon this, Francisco: it is advice which I,
as an old—indeed, the oldest friend of your family—take the liberty to offer.”
With these words, the venerable
physician wrung the hands of the brother and sister, and hurried from the
house, followed by the priest.
The orphans embraced each other,
and retired to their respective apartments.
room to which Nisida withdrew,
between four and five o’clock on that mournful winter’s morning, was one of a
suit entirely appropriated to her own use.
This suit consisted of three
apartments, communicating with each other, and all furnished in the elegant and
tasteful manner of that age.
The innermost of the three rooms
was used as her bed-chamber, and when she now entered it, a young girl of
seventeen, beautiful as an angel, but dressed in the attire of a dependent,
instantly arose from a seat near the fire that blazed on the hearth, and cast a
respectful but inquiring glance toward her mistress.
Nisida gave her to understand, by
a sign, that all was over.
The girl started, as if surprised
that her lady indicated so little grief; but the latter motioned her, with an
impatient gesture, to leave the room.
When Flora—such was the name of
the dependent—had retired Nisida threw herself into a large arm-chair near the
fire, and immediately became buried in a deep reverie. With her splendid
hair flowing upon her white
shoulders—her proud forehead supported on her delicate hand—her lips apart, and
revealing the pearly teeth—her lids with their long black fringes half-closed
over the brilliant eyes—and her fine form cast in voluptuous abandonment upon
the soft cushions of the chair—she indeed seemed a magnificent creature!
But when, suddenly awaking from
that profound meditation, she started from her seat with flashing eyes—heaving
bosom—and an expression of countenance denoting a fixed determination to
accomplish some deed from which her better feelings vainly bade her to
abstain:—when she drew her tall—her even majestic form up to its full height,
the drapery shadowing forth every contour of undulating bust and exquisitely
modeled limb—while her haughty lip curled in contempt of any consideration save
her own indomitable will—she appeared rather a heroine capable of leading an
Amazonian army, than a woman to whom the sighing swain might venture to offer
up the incense of love.
There was something awful in the
aspect of this mysterious being—something ineffably grand and imposing in her
demeanor—as she thus suddenly rose from her almost recumbent posture, and burst
into the attitude of a resolute and energetic woman.
Drawing the wrapper around her
form, she lighted a lamp, and was about to quit the chamber, when her eyes
suddenly encountered the mild and benignant glance which the portrait of a lady
appeared to cast upon her.
This portrait, which hung against
the wall precisely opposite to the bed, represented a woman of about thirty
years of age—a woman of a beauty much in the same style as that of Nisida, but
not marred by anything approaching to a sternness of expression. On the
contrary, if an angel had looked through those mild black eyes, their glances
could not have been endowed with a holier kindness; the smiles of good spirits
could not be more plaintively sweet than those which the artist had made to
play upon the lips of that portrait.
Yet, in spite of this discrepancy
between the expression of Nisida’s countenance and that of the lady who had
formed the subject of the picture, it was not difficult to perceive a certain
physical likeness between the two; nor will the reader be surprised when we
state that Nisida was gazing on the portrait of her deceased mother.
And that gaze—oh! how intent, how
earnest, how enthusiastic it was! It manifested something more than
love—something more impassioned and ardent than the affection which a daughter
might exhibit toward even a living mother; it showed a complete devotion—an
Long and fixedly did Nisida gaze
upon that portrait; till suddenly from her eyes, which shot forth such burning
glances, gushed a torrent of tears.
Then—probably fearful lest this
weakness on her part might impair the resolution necessary to execute the
purpose which she had in view—Nisida dashed away the tears from her long
lashes, hastily quitted the room.
Having traversed the other
two apartments of her own suit, she cast a searching glance along the passage
which she now entered; and, satisfied that none of the domestics were about,
for it was not yet six o’clock on that winter’s morning, she hastened to the
end of the corridor.
The lamp flared with the speed at
which she walked; and its uncertain light enhanced the pallor that now covered
At the bottom of the passage she
cautiously opened the door, and entered the room with which it communicated.
This was the sleeping apartment
of her brother.
A single glance convinced her
that he was wrapt in the arms of slumber.
He slept soundly too—for he was
wearied with the vigil which he had passed by the death-bed of his father—worn
out also by the thousand conflicting and unsatisfactory conjectures that the
last instructions of his parent had naturally excited in his mind.
He had not, however, been asleep
a quarter of an hour when Nisida stole, in the manner described, into his
A smile of mingled joy and
triumph animated her countenance, and a carnation tinge flushed her cheeks when
she found he was fast locked in the embrace of slumber.
Without a moment’s hesitation,
she examined his doublet, and clutched the key that his father had given to him
scarcely six hours before.
Then, light as the fawn, she left
Having retraced her steps
half-way up the passage, she paused at the door of the chamber in which the
corpse of her father lay.
For an instant—a single
instant—she seemed to revolt from the prosecution of her design, then, with a
stern contraction of the brows, and an imperious curl of the lip—as if she said
within herself, “
Fool that I am to
”—she entered the room.
Without fear—without compunction,
she approached the bed. The body was laid out: stretched in its winding sheet,
stiff and stark did it seem to repose on the mattress—the countenance rendered
more ghastly than even death could make it, by the white band which tied up the
The nurse who had thus disposed
the corpse, had retired to snatch a few hours of rest; and there was
consequently no spy upon Nisida’s actions.
With a fearless step she advanced
toward the closet—the mysterious closet relative to which such strange
injunctions had been given.
THE MANUSCRIPT—FLORA FRANCATELLI
hand trembled not as she placed
the key in the lock; but when it turned, and she knew that in another instant
she might open that door if she chose, she compressed her lips firmly
together—she called all her courage to her aid—for she seemed
to imagine that it was necessary
to prepare herself to behold something frightfully appalling.
And now again her cheeks were
deadly pale; but the light that burned in her eyes was brilliant in the
White as was her countenance, her
large black orbs appeared to shine—to glow—to burn, as if with a violent fever.
Advancing with her left hand, she
half-opened the door of the closet with her right.
Then she plunged her glances with
rapidity into the recess.
But, holy God! what a start that
courageous, bold, and energetic woman gave—a start as if the cold hand of a
corpse had been suddenly thrust forth to grasp her.
And oh! what horror convulsed her
countenance—while her lips were compressed as tightly as if they were an iron
Rapidly and instantly recoiling
as that glance was, it had nevertheless revealed to her an object of interest
as well as of horror; for with eyes now averted, she seized something within
the closet, and thrust it into her bosom.
Then, hastily closing the door,
she retraced her way to her brother’s chamber.
He still slept soundly; Nisida
returned the key to the pocket whence she had taken it, and hurried back to her
own room, from which she had scarcely been absent five minutes.
And did she seek her couch? did
she repair to rest?
No; that energetic woman
experienced no weariness—yielded to no lassitude.
Carefully bolting the door of her
innermost chamber, she seated herself in the arm-chair and drew from her bosom
the object which she had taken from the mysterious closet.
It was a manuscript, consisting
of several small slips of paper, somewhat closely written upon.
The paper was doubtless familiar
to her; for she paused not to consider its nature, but greedily addressed
herself to the study of the meaning which it conveyed. And of terrible import
seemed that manuscript to be; for while Nisida read, her countenance underwent
many and awful changes—and her bosom heaved convulsively at one instant, while
at another it remained motionless, as if respiration were suspended.
At length the perusal was
completed; and grinding her teeth with demoniac rage, she threw the manuscript
upon the floor. But at the same moment her eyes, which she cast wildly about
her, caught the mild and benign countenance of her mother’s portrait; and, as
oil stills the fury of the boiling billows, did the influence of that picture
calm in an instant the tremendous emotions of Nisida’s soul.
Tears burst from her eyes, and
she suddenly relapsed from the incarnate fiend into the subdued woman.
Then stooping down, she picked up
the papers that lay scattered on the floor: but as she did so she averted her
looks, with loathing and disgust, as much as possible from the pages that her
hands collected almost at random.
And now another idea struck
her—an idea the propriety of which evidently warred against her inclination.
She was not a woman of mere
impulses—although she often acted speedily after a thought had entered her
brain. But she was wondrously quick at weighing all reasons for or against the
suggestions of her imagination; and thus, to any one who was not acquainted
with her character, she might frequently appear to obey the first dictates of
her impetuous passions.
Scarcely three minutes after the
new idea had struck her, her resolution was fixed.
Once more concealing the papers
in her bosom, she repaired with the lamp to her brother’s room—purloined the
key a second time—hastened to the chamber of death—opened the closet again—and
again sustained the shock of a single glance at its horrors, as she returned
the manuscript to the place whence she had originally taken it.
Then, having once more retraced
her way to Francisco’s chamber, she restored the key to the folds of his
doublet—for he continued to sleep soundly; and Nisida succeeded in regaining
her own apartments just in time to avoid the observation of the domestics, who
were now beginning to move about.
Nisida sought her couch and slept
until nearly ten o’clock, when she awoke with a start—doubtless caused by some
Having ascertained the hour by
reference to a water-clock, or clepsydra, which stood on a marble pedestal near
the head of the bed, she arose—unlocked the door of her apartment—rang a silver
bell—and then returned to her bed.
In a few minutes Flora, who had
been waiting in the adjoining room, entered the chamber.
Nisida, on regaining her couch,
had turned her face toward the wall, and was therefore unable to perceive
anything that took place in the apartment.
The mere mention of such a
circumstance would be trivial in the extreme, were it not necessary to record
it in consequence of an event which now occurred.
For, as Flora advanced into the
room, her eyes fell on a written paper that lay immediately beneath the
arm-chair; and conceiving from its appearance that it had not been thrown down
on purpose, as it was in nowise crushed nor torn, she mechanically picked it up
and placed it on the table.
She then proceeded to arrange the
toilet table of her mistress, preparatory to that lady’s rising; and while she
is thus employed, we will endeavor to make our readers a little better
acquainted with her than they can possibly yet be.
Flora Francatelli was the orphan
daughter of parents who had suddenly been reduced from a state of affluence to
a condition of extreme poverty. Signor Francatelli could not survive this blow:
he died of a broken heart; and his wife shortly afterward followed him to the
tomb—also the victim of grief. They left two children behind them: Flora, who
was then an infant, and a little boy, named Alessandro, who was five years old.
The orphans were entirely dependent upon the kindness of a maiden aunt—their
departed father’s sister. This relative, whose name was, of course, also
Francatelli, performed a mother’s part toward
children: and deprived herself, not only of comforts, but at times even of
necessaries, in order that they should not want. Father Marco, a priest
belonging to one of the numerous monasteries of Florence, and who was a worthy
man, took compassion upon this little family; and not only devoted his
attention to teach the orphans to read and write—great accomplishments among
the middle classes in those days—but also procured from a fund at the disposal
of his abbot, certain pecuniary assistance for the aunt.
The care which this good relative
took of the orphans, and the kindness of Father Marco, were well rewarded by
the veneration and attachment which Alessandro and Flora manifested toward
them. When Alessandro had numbered eighteen summers, he was fortunate enough to
procure, through the interest of Father Marco, the situation of secretary to a
Florentine noble, who was charged with a diplomatic mission to the Ottoman
Porte; and the young man proceeded to Leghorn, whence he embarked for
Constantinople, attended by the prayers, blessings, and hopes of the aunt and
sister, and of the good priest, whom he left behind.
Two years after his departure,
Father Marco obtained for Flora a situation about the person of the Lady
Nisida; for the monk was confessor to the family of Riverola, and his influence
was sufficient to secure that place for the young maiden.
We have already said that Flora
was sweetly beautiful. Her large blue eyes were fringed with dark lashes, which
gave them an expression of the most melting softness; her dark brown hair,
arranged in the modest bands, seemed of even a darker hue when contrasted with
the brilliant and transparent clearness of her complexion, and though her
forehead was white and polished as alabaster, yet the rose-tint of health was
upon her cheeks, and her lips had the rich redness of coral. Her nose was
perfectly straight; her teeth were white and even, and the graceful arching of
her swan-neck imparted something of nobility to her tall, sylph-like, and
exquisitely proportioned figure.
Retiring and bashful in her
manners, every look which fell from her eyes—every smile which wreathed her
lips, denoted the chaste purity of her soul. With all her readiness to
oblige—with all her anxiety to do her duty as she ought, she frequently
incurred the anger of the irascible Nisida; but Flora supported those
manifestations of wrath with the sweetest resignation, because the excellence
of her disposition taught her to make every allowance for one so deeply
afflicted as her mistress.
Such was the young maiden whom
the nature of the present tale compels us thus particularly to introduce to our
Having carefully arranged the
boudoir, so that its strict neatness might be welcome to her mistress when that
lady chose to rise from her couch, Flora seated herself near the table, and
gave way to her reflections.
She thought of her aunt, who
inhabited a neat little cottage on the banks of the Arno, and whom she was
usually permitted to visit every Sabbath afternoon—she thought of her absent
brother, who was still in the service of the Florentine Envoy to
the Ottomon Porte, where that
diplomatist was detained by the tardiness that marked the negotiations with
which he was charged; and then she thought—thought too, with an involuntary
sigh—of Francisco, Count of Riverola.
She perceived that she had
sighed—and, without knowing precisely wherefore, she was angry with herself.
Anxious to turn the channel of
her meditations in another direction, she rose from her seat to examine the
clepsydra. That movement caused her eyes to fall upon the paper which she had
picked up a quarter of an hour previously.
In spite of herself the image of
Francisco was still uppermost in her thoughts; and, in the contemplative vein
thus encouraged, her eyes lingered, unwittingly—and through no base motive of
curiosity—upon the writing which that paper contained.
Thus she actually found herself
reading the first four lines of the writing, before she recollected what she
The act was a purely mechanical
one, which not the most rigid moralist could blame.
And had the contents of the paper
been of no interest, she might even have continued to read more in that same
abstracted mood; but those four first lines were of a nature which sent a
thrilling sensation of horror through her entire frame; the feeling terminating
with an icy coldness of the heart.
She shuddered without
starting—shuddered as she stood; and not even a murmur escaped her lips.
The intenseness of that sudden
pang of horror deprived her alike of speech and motion during the instant that
And those lines, which produced
so strange an impression upon the young maiden, ran thus:
hacked and hewed away at the still almost palpitating flesh of the murdered
man, in whose breast the dagger remained buried—a ferocious joy—a savage
Flora read no more; she could
not—even if she had wished.
For a minute she remained rooted
to the spot; then she threw herself into the chair, bewildered and dismayed at
the terrible words which had met her eyes.
She thought that the handwriting
was not unknown to her; but she could not recollect whose it was. One fact was,
however, certain—it was not the writing of her mistress.
She was musing upon the horrible
and mysterious contents of the paper, when Nisida rose from her couch.
Acknowledging with a slight nod
of the head the respectful salutation of her attendant, she hastily slipped on
a loose wrapper, and seated herself in the arm-chair which Flora had just
The young girl then proceeded to
comb out the long raven hair of her mistress.
But this occupation was most
rudely interrupted: for Nisida’s eyes suddenly fell upon the manuscript page on
the table; and she started up in a paroxysm of mingled rage and alarm.
Having assured herself by a
second glance that it was indeed
portion of the writings which had produced so strange an effect upon her a few
hours previously, she turned abruptly toward Flora; and, imperiously
confronting the young maiden, pointed to the paper in a significant manner.
Flora immediately indicated by a
sign that she had found it on the floor, beneath the arm-chair.
“And you have read it!” was the
accusation which, with wonderful rapidity, Nisida conveyed by means of her
fingers—fixing her piercing, penetrating eyes on Flora’s countenance at the
The young maiden scorned the idea
of a falsehood; although she perceived that her reply would prove far from
agreeable to her mistress, she unhesitatingly admitted, by the language of the
hands. “I read the first four lines, and no more.”