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nal perdition? wouldst thou commit a crime so black as murder?"
"Not willingly, De Laney (said she, terrified at the sternness of his looks), but think, how wholly my heart is: thine, and then ask thyself, whether I could bear the thought of resigning. thee?" "Thy heart (cried the marquis);: oh, Heaven! is it possible that such depravity can exist in human shape; but mark me, Claudia, I do not ask thy promise (for I would not trust it), not to harm the life of Montoni; but I swear by every thing most sacred, that if thou dost, my vengeance shall pursue thee; thou shalt expiate thy crime in torments, of which thou canst not conceive an idea; for thy own sake. then, respect the life of a man, whose generosity raised thee from beggary."
The natural haughtiness of Claudia overcame her terror, and she reproached. the marquis with pusillanimity: "Had fear no greater influence on thy coward soul than conscience (cried she), thy
hand would readily strike the blow, but thou disguisest apprehension under the shew of humanity; fool that I have been to bestow my affections so unworthily."
The marquis deigned not to reply. He again repeated his threats of punishment, and left her. The behaviour of De Laney had converted her love for him into hatred, and the furies of rage and disappointment darted their scorpion stings into her heart. She impiously execrated herself and De Laney in the same breath; now she vowed that both Montoni and the marquis, should perish; and the next moment the fear of punishment staggered her resolution.
Practised as she was in dissimulation, she could not bear to meet the
Montoni, and on her return she feigned illness, and retired to bed; had she. possessed the smallest spark of feeling, the kindness of the signor would have wrung her heart. The agitation of her
spirits had produced a slight degree of fever, which the tenderness of Montoni magnified; the first physicians in Rome were summoned, and the signor hung over the couch of this bosom serpent with the fondest solicitude. For some days, the baleful passions which tormented this woman's mind prevented her recovery; and she was still an invalid, when the illness of his favourite nephew,' whose recovery was very doubtful, obliged Montoni to leave her for a few days. Never was news so welcome to Claudia. The absence of the signor, would (she thought), afford her leisure to devise some plan to rid herself both of him and De Laney, who was now more odious to her than even Montoni; she was, however, spared the commission of the crime which she meditated; the illness of Montoni's nephew was a pestilential fever, the signor caught it, and his recovery was in a few days declared impossible.
Montoni met death with the firm
ness of a christian. One only sin of magnitude hung upon his mind; this was the injury that he had (as he supposed) done to Claudia, to whom he dictated a letter, in which, in the most affecting terms, he bade her farewel; and while he supplicated her to pardon him, he besought her not to let any temptation plunge her into a similar error in future; he painted in the liveliest colours, the remorse that he felt for having caused her fall, from virtue; and he concluded by an assurance, that his only consolation was, the having it in his power to provide amply for her.
The conclusion of his letter was indeed the only part of it to which Claudia attended; her joy at his death was excessive; "liberty, and independence (said she) are now my own, and happiness awaits me.”
It was not without some regret that she relinquished the idea of taking vengeance upon De Laney, but self was
nexion be productive of to her? All that love and splendour can bestow she shall command.” "Can either compensate for loss of innocence ?" whispered Conscience; but her voice was. drowned by the stronger one of passion, and Montoni made Claudia an offer of becoming his mistress. She accepted it. with the greatest satisfaction; and the deceived Montoni thought that her love for him had reconciled her to a life of infamy.
The first masters in Rome were engaged by the signor for the instruction of his Claudia, whose progress in every accomplishment was his pride and delight. Well had it been for this evilminded woman, had her natural disposition been capable of cultivation, but she was a rare example of inherent depravity; the benefits which Montoni lavished upon her, made not the smallest impression on her heart; she had never liked the signor, and a new passion, which superseded even avarice