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) (6 page)

BOOK: 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)
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Agnes awoke from the state of
stupor in which she had been conveyed from the church, she found herself lying
upon an ottoman, in a large and elegantly furnished apartment.

The room was lighted by two
silver lamps suspended to the ceiling, and which, being fed with aromatic oil
of the purest quality, imparted a delicious perfume to the atmosphere.

The walls were hung with
paintings representing scenes of strange variety and interest, and connected
with lands far—far away. Thus, one depicted a council of red men assembled
around a blazing fire, on the border of one of the great forests of North
America; another showed the interior of an Esquimaux hut amidst the eternal ice
of the Pole;—a third delineated, with fearfully graphic truth, the writhing of
a human victim in the folds of the terrific anaconda in the island of Ceylon; a
fourth exhibited a pleasing contrast to the one previously cited, by having for
its subject a family meeting of Chinese on the terraced roof of a high
functionary’s palace at Perkin; a fifth represented the splendid court of King
Henry the Eighth in London; a sixth showed the interior of the harem of the
Ottoman Sultan.

But there were two portraits
amongst this beautiful and varied collection of pictures, all of which, we
should observe, appeared to have been very recently executed—two portraits
which we must pause to describe. One represented a tall man of about forty
years of age, with magnificent light hair—fine blue eyes, but terrible in
expression—a countenance indisputably handsome, though every lineament denoted
horror and alarm—and a symmetrical form, bowed by the weight of sorrow. Beneath
this portrait was the following inscription:—“
F., Count of A., terminated his career on the 1st of August,

The other portrait alluded to was
that of an old—old man, who had apparently numbered ninety winters. He was
represented as cowering over a few embers in a miserable hovel, while the most
profound sorrow was depicted on his countenance. Beneath this picture was the
ensuing inscription:—“
F. W.,
January 7th, 1516. His last day thus.

There was another feature in that
apartment to which we must likewise direct our reader’s attention, ere we
pursue the thread of our narrative. This was an object hanging against the
wall, next to the second portrait just now described. It also had the
appearance of being a picture—or at all events a frame of the same dimensions
as the others; but whether that frame contained a painting, or whether it were
empty, it was impossible to say, so long as it remained concealed by the large
black cloth which covered it, and which was carefully fastened by small silver
nails at each corner.

This strange object gave a
lugubrious and sinister appearance to a room in other respects cheerful, gay,
and elegant.

 But to resume our tale.

When Agnes awoke from her stupor,
she found herself reclining on a soft ottoman of purple velvet, fringed with
gold; and the handsome stranger, who had borne her from the church, was bathing
her brow with water which he took from a crystal vase on a marble table.

As she slowly and languidly
opened her large hazel eyes, her thoughts collected themselves in the gradient
manner; and when her glance encountered that of her unknown friend, who was
bending over her with an expression of deep interest on his features, there
flashed upon her mind a recollection of all that had so recently taken place.

“Where am I?” she demanded,
starting up, and casting her eyes wildly around her.

“In the abode of one who will not
injure you,” answered the stranger, in a kind and melodious tone.

“But who are you? and wherefore
have you brought me hither?” exclaimed Agnes. “Oh! remember—you spoke of that
old man—my grandfather—the shepherd of the Black Forest——”

“You shall see him—you shall be
restored to him,” answered the stranger.

“But will he receive me—will he
not spurn me from him?” asked Agnes, in a wildly impassioned—almost hysterical

“The voice of pity cannot refuse to
heave a sigh for thy fall,” was the response. “If thou wast guilty in
abandoning one who loved thee so tenderly, and whose earthly reliance was on
thee, he, whom you did so abandon, has not the less need to ask pardon of thee.
For he speedily forgot his darling Agnes—he traveled the world over, yet sought
her not—her image was, as it were, effaced from his memory. But when

“Oh! signor, you are mistaken—you
know not the old man whom I deserted, and who was a shepherd on the verge of
the Black Forest!” interrupted Agnes, in a tone expressive of bitter
disappointment, “for he, who loved me so well, was old—very old, and could not
possibly accomplish those long wanderings of which you speak. Indeed, if he be
still alive—but that is scarcely possible——”

And she burst into tears.

“Agnes,” cried the stranger, “the
venerable shepherd of whom you speak accomplished those wanderings in spite of
the ninety winters which marked his age. He is alive, too——”

“He is alive!” ejaculated the
lady, with reviving hopes.

“He is alive—and at this moment
in Florence!” was the emphatic answer. “Did I not ere now tell thee as much in
the church?”

“Yes—I remember—but my brain is
confused!” murmured Agnes, pressing her beautiful white hands upon her polished
brow. “Oh, if he be indeed alive—and so near me as you say—delay not in
conducting me to him; for he is now the only being on earth to whom I dare look
for solace and sympathy.”

“You are even now beneath the
roof of your grandfather’s dwelling,” said the stranger, speaking slowly and
 watching the
effect which this announcement was calculated to produce upon her to whom he
addressed himself.

“Here!—this my grandsire’s
abode!” she exclaimed, clasping her hands together, and glancing upward, as if
to express her gratitude to Heaven for this welcome intelligence. “But how can
that old man, whom I left so poor, have become the owner of this lordly palace?
Speak, signor!—all you have told me seems to involve some strange mystery,” she
added with breathless rapidity. “Those wanderings of which you ere now
spoke—wanderings over the world, performed by a man bent down by age; and then
this noble dwelling—the appearances of wealth which present themselves
around—the splendor—the magnificence——”

“All—all are the old man’s,”
answered the stranger, “and may some day become thine!”

“Holy Virgin!” exclaimed Agnes,
sinking upon the ottoman from which she had ere now risen, “I thank thee that
thou hast bestowed these blessings on my relative in his old age. And yet,” she
added, again overwhelmed by doubts, “it is scarcely possible—no, it is too
romantic to be true! Signor, thou art of a surety mistaken in him whom thou
supposes to be my grandsire?”

“Give me thine hand, Agnes—and I
will convince thee,” said the stranger.

The young lady complied
mechanically; and her unknown friend led her toward the portrait of the old man
of ninety.

Agnes recognized the countenance
at a single glance, and would have fallen upon the floor had not her companion
supported her in his arms.

Tears again came to her relief;
but hastily wiping them away, she extended her arms passionately toward the
portrait, exclaiming, “Oh! now I comprehend you, signor! my grandsire lives in
this dwelling indeed—beneath this roof; but lives only in that picture! Alas! alas!
It was thus, no doubt, that the poor old man seemed when he was abandoned by
me—the lost, the guilty Agnes! It was thus that he sat in his lonely
dwelling—crushed and overwhelmed by the black ingratitude of his granddaughter!
Oh! that I had never seen this portrait—this perpetuation of so much loneliness
and so much grief! Ah! too faithful delineation of that sad scene which was
wrought by me—vainly penitent that I am!”

And covering her face with her
hands she threw herself on her knees before the portrait, and gave way to all
the bitterness and all the wildness of her grief.

The stranger interrupted her not
for some minutes: he allowed the flood of that anguish to have its full vent:
but when it was partially subsiding he approached the kneeling penitent, raised
her gently, and said, “Despair not! your grandsire lives.”

“He lives!” she repeated, her
countenance once more expressing radiant hope, as the sudden gleam of sunshine
bursts forth amidst the last drops of the April shower.

But, almost at the same instant
that she uttered those words,
eyes caught sight of the inscription at the foot of the picture; and, bounding
forward she read it aloud.

“Holy Virgin! I am
deceived—basely, vilely deceived!” she continued, all the violence of her
grief, which had begun to ebb so rapidly, now flowing back upon her soul; then
turning abruptly round upon the stranger, she said in a hoarse hollow tone:
“Signor, wherefore thus ungenerously trifle with my feelings—my best feelings?
Who art thou? what would’st thou with me? and wherefore is that portrait here?”

“Agnes—Agnes!” exclaimed her
companion, “compose yourself, I implore you! I do not trifle with you—I do not
deceive you! Your grandsire, Fernand Wagner, is alive—and in this house. You
shall see him presently; but in the meantime, listen to what I am about to

Agnes placed her finger
impatiently upon the inscription at the bottom of the portrait, and exclaimed
in a wild, hysterical tone, “Canst thou explain this, signor? ‘January 7th,
1516,’—that was about a week after I abandoned him; and, oh! well indeed might
those words be added—‘His last day thus!’”

“You comprehend not the meaning
of that inscription!” ejaculated the stranger, in an imploring tone, as if to
beseech her to have patience to listen to him. “There is a dreadful mystery
connected with Fernand Wagner—connected with me—connected with these two
portraits—connected also with——”

He checked himself suddenly, and
his whole form seemed convulsed with horror as he glanced toward the black
cloth covering the neighboring frame.

“A mystery?” repeated Agnes.
“Yes—all is mystery: and vague and undefinable terrors oppress my soul!”

“Thou shalt soon—too soon—be
enlightened!” said the stranger, in a voice of profound melancholy; “at least,
to a certain extent,” he added, murmuringly. “But contemplate that other
portrait for a few moments—that you may make yourself acquainted with the
countenance of a wretch who, in conferring a fearful boon upon your grandsire,
has plunged him into an abyss of unredeemable horror!”

Agnes cast her looks toward the
portrait of the tall man with the magnificent hair, the flashing blue eyes, the
wildly expressive countenance, and the symmetrical form bowed with affliction;
and, having surveyed it for some time with repugnance strongly mingled with an
invincible interest and curiosity, she suddenly pointed toward the inscription.

“Yes, yes; there is another
terrible memorial!” cried the stranger. “But art thou now prepared to listen to
a wondrous—an astonishing tale—such a tale as even nurses would scarcely dare
narrate to lull children——”

prepared,” answered Agnes. “I perceive
there is a dreadful mystery connected with my grandsire—with you, also—and
perhaps with me;—and better learn at once the truth, than remain in this state of
intolerable suspense.”

Her unknown friend conducted her
back to the ottoman, whereon she placed herself.

 He took a seat by her side,
and, after a few moments’ profound meditation, addressed her in the following



remember, Agnes, how happily the
times passed when you were the darling of the old man in his poor cottage. All
the other members of his once numerous family had been swept away by
pestilence, malady, accident, or violence; and you only were left to him. When
the trees of this great Black Forest were full of life and vegetable blood, in
the genial warmth of summer, you gathered flowers which you arranged tastefully
in the little hut; and those gifts of nature, so culled and so dispensed by
your hands, gave the dwelling a more cheerful air than if it had been hung with
tapestry richly fringed. Of an evening, with the setting sun, glowing gold, you
were wont to kneel by the side of that old shepherd; and together ye chanted a
hymn giving thanks for the mercies of the day, and imploring the renewal of
them for the morrow. Then did the music of your sweet voice, as it flowed upon
the old man’s ears in its melting, silvery tones, possess a charm for his
senses which taught him to rejoice and be grateful that, though the rest of his
race was swept away, thou, Agnes, was left!

“When the winter came, and the
trees were stripped of their verdure, the poor cottage had still its
enjoyments; for though the cold was intense without, yet there were warm hearts
within; and the cheerful fire of an evening, when the labors of the day were
passed, seemed to make gay and joyous companionship.

“But suddenly you disappeared;
and the old man found himself deserted. You left him, too, in the midst of
winter—at a time when his age and infirmities demanded additional attentions.
For two or three days he sped wearily about, seeking you everywhere in the
neighboring district of the Black Forest. His aching limbs were dragged up rude
heights, that he might plunge his glances down into the hollow chasms; but
still not a trace of Agnes! He roved along the precipices overlooking the
rustling streams, and searched—diligently searched the mazes of the dark wood;
but still not a trace of Agnes! At length the painful conviction broke upon him
that he was deserted—abandoned; and he would sooner have found thee a mangled
and disfigured corpse in the forest than have adopted that belief. Nay—weep not
now; it is all past; and if I recapitulate these incidents, it is but to
convince thee how wretched the old man was, and how great is the extenuation
for the course which he was so soon persuaded to adopt.”

“Then, who art thou that knowest
all this?” exclaimed Agnes, casting looks of alarm upon her companion.

“Thou shalt soon learn who I am,”
was the reply.

Agnes still gazed upon him in
mingled terror and wonder; for
words had gone to her heart, and she remembered how he had embraced her when
she first encountered him in the church. His manners, too, were so mild, so
kind, so paternal toward her; and yet he seemed but a few years older than

“You have gazed upon the portrait
of the old man,” he continued, “as he appeared on that memorable evening which
sealed his fate!”

Agnes started wildly.

“Yes, sealed his fate, but spared
him his life!” said the unknown, emphatically. “As he is represented in that
picture, so was he sitting mournfully over the sorry fire, for the morrow’s
renewal of which there was no wood! At that hour a man appeared—appeared in the
midst of the dreadful storm which burst over the Black Forest. This man’s
countenance is now known to thee; it is perpetuated in the other portrait to
which I directed thine attention.”

“There is something of a wild and
fearful interest in the aspect of that man,” said Agnes, casting a shuddering
glance behind her, and trembling lest the canvas had burst into life, and the
countenance whose lineaments were depicted thereon was peering over her

“Yes, and there was much of wild
and fearful interest in his history,” was the reply; “but of that I cannot
speak—no, I dare not. Suffice it to say that he was a being possessed of
superhuman powers, and that he proffered his services to the wretched—the
abandoned—the deserted Wagner. He proposed to endow him with a new existence—to
restore him to youth and manly beauty—to make him rich—to embellish his mind
with wondrous attainments—to enable him to cast off the wrinkles of age——”

“Holy Virgin! now I comprehend it
all!” shrieked Agnes, throwing herself at the feet of her companion: “and you—

“I am Fernand Wagner!” he
exclaimed, folding her in his embrace.

“And can you pardon me, can you
forgive my deep—deep ingratitude?” cried Agnes.

“Let us forgive each other!” said
Wagner. “You can now understand the meaning of the inscription beneath my
portrait. ‘His last day thus’ signifies that it was the last day on which I
wore that aged, decrepit, and sinking form.”

“But wherefore do you say, ‘Let
us forgive each other?’” demanded Agnes, scarcely knowing whether to rejoice or
weep at the marvelous transformation of her grandsire.

“Did I not ere now inform thee
that thou wast forgotten until accident threw thee in my way to-night?”
exclaimed Fernand. “I have wandered about the earth and beheld all the scenes
which are represented in those pictures—ay, and many others equally remarkable.
For eighteen months I was the servant—and slave of him who conferred upon me
this fatal boon——”

“At what price, then, have you
purchased it?” asked Agnes, with a cold shudder.

 “Seek not to learn my
secret, girl!” cried Wagner, almost sternly; then, in a milder tone, he added,
“By all you deem holy and sacred, I conjure you, Agnes, never again to question
me on that head! I have told thee as much as it is necessary for thee to

“One word—only one word!”
exclaimed Agnes in an imploring voice. “Hast thou bartered thine immortal

“No—no!” responded Wagner,
emphatically. “My fate is terrible indeed—but I am not beyond the pale of
salvation. See! Agnes—I kiss the crucifix—the symbol of faith and hope!”

And, as he uttered these words,
he pressed to his lips an ivory crucifix of exquisite workmanship, which he
took from the table.

“The Virgin be thanked that my
fearful suspicion should prove unfounded!” ejaculated Agnes.

“Yes—I am not altogether lost,”
answered Wagner. “But
—the unhappy man who made me
what I am—— And yet I dare not say more,” he added, suddenly checking himself.
“For one year and a half did I follow him as his servitor—profiting by his
knowledge—gaining varied information from his experience—passing with the
rapidity of thought from clime to clime—surveying scenes of ineffable bliss,
and studying all the varieties of misery that fall to the lot of human nature.
When he—my master—passed away——”

“On the 1st of August, 1517,”
observed Agnes, quoting from the inscription beneath the portrait of the
individual alluded to.

“Yes; when he passed away,”
continued Wagner, “I continued my wanderings alone until the commencement of
last year, when I settled myself in Florence. The mansion to which I have
brought you is mine. It is in a somewhat secluded spot on the banks of the
Arno, and is surrounded by gardens. My household consists of but few retainers;
and they are elderly persons—docile and obedient. The moment that I entered
this abode, I set to work to paint those portraits to which I have directed
your attention—likewise these pictures,” he added, glancing around, “and in
which I have represented scenes that my own eyes have witnessed. Here,
henceforth, Agnes, shalt thou dwell; and let the past be forgotten. But there
are three conditions which I must impose upon thee.”

“Name them,” said Agnes; “I
promise obedience beforehand.”

“The first,” returned Fernand,
“is that you henceforth look upon me as your brother, and call me such when we
are alone together or in the presence of strangers. The second is that you
never seek to remove the black cloth which covers yon place——”

Agnes glanced toward the object
alluded to and shuddered—as if the veil concealed some new mystery.

“And the third condition is that
you revive not on any future occasion the subject of our present conversation,
nor even question me in respect to those secrets which it may suit me to retain
within my own breast.”

Agnes promised obedience, and,
embracing Wagner, said,
has been merciful to me, in my present affliction, in that it has given me

“Thou speakest of thine
afflictions, Agnes!” exclaimed Wagner; “this is the night of revelations and
mutual confidences—and this night once passed, we will never again allude to
the present topics, unless events should render their revival necessary. It now
remains for thee to narrate to me all that has befallen thee since the winter
of 1516.”

Agnes hastened to comply with
Fernand’s request, and commenced her history in the following manner:

BOOK: 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)
13.97Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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