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at last, "I must be plain with you, signor (cried she), I see that I have excited your curiosity, but my vanity forbids me to gratify it. My face has, in truth, not a single charm to boast of; and after all the professions of admiration, which you have lavished upon me,
think how my pride would be mortified to behold you erect your eyes with disgust, from that countenance which are now so anxious to behold."
For some time the duke pleaded in vain; at length half-willing, half-reluctant, she suffered him to take off her mask; never had he beheld a countenance so fascinating, her features indeed were not regular, but her dark and brilliant eyes, her small ruby mouth, and the animated expression which constituted the principal charm of her face, struck the duke with the utmost admiration.
Well, signor (cried she with a gay air), does your violence proceed from terror?" He caught her in his arms.
«Hold (said she, resentfully), if my favours are to be repaid with insult." "Pardon me, lovely signora (cried the duke, interrupting her), and allow for the force of your charms on a susceptible heart; I thought indeed to have seen beauty, but I did not expect to have beheld such uncommon loveliness; wonder not then, that taken by surprise, I forgot for a single moment, that respect which is your due."
"Did you then really suppose (said she smiling), that I was the frightful creature, I represented myself to be? Oh, signor, how little do you know of our sex; had that been the case, believe me it is the last thing I should have avowed. Beauty is the gift of all others which our sex most wish to be thought possessed of it, nor is there any woman, who would chuse to own herself destitute of all pretensions to it, if she was conscious that she was speaking the truth. You will think me a strange
mad creature, for thus betraying to you the secrets of the sex, but
"I think you are altogether the loveliest, the most fascinating angel that I ever beheld (exclaimed the duke), let me know, I beseech you, who and never shall you have cause to repent your confidence."
A long conversation ensued, but the sylph was determined to preserve her incognito. She gave the duke hopes of seeing her again, and when they parted, she strictly charged him not to follow or endeavour to trace her.
"Your doing so (said she), will be vain, for you will find it impossible to discover who I am; and should I learn that you have disobeyed my commands, you will never behold me again."
"That threat is sufficient to make me all obedience" (cried the duke).
"Your obedience shall be rewarded (returned she), and now, signor, farewel."
She quitted him as she spoke, and for a moment he was tempted to transgress the promise which he had just given, and follow her; but the dread of losing her prevented him; he had never before seen a woman that interested him so much; the voluptuous graces of her person, made a strong impression upon his senses; while the apparent levity of her manners, promised success to his designs upon her, and the air of elegance that accompanied her every word and action, convinced him that his adventure was not a common
In this respect, he was indeed right, for he was about to become the victim of a deeply laid plot, and those arts which he had without scruple employed for the destruction of many unfortunate females, who had caught his light and fickle fancy, were speedily to be retorted upon himself; but wholly unsuspicious of the snare that was laid for him, he ran into it with avidity.
CLAUDIA FENINI (the enchantress who had fascinated the duke), was the daughter of a peasant, and her early days were spent in the most sordid poverty, and the grossest ignorance. Nature, which had been liberal to the person of Claudia, had also given her the strongest mental powers; but even from her birth her heart was depraved, and her vicious and ungovernable temper was a source of continual uneasiness to her parents. At a very early age, Claudia was sensible how much she was superior to her rustic companions, and her heart