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"Oh! would to heaven (cried she) that you were indeed my brother; how blest should I have been, and how different would my feelings be, if”. She paused; but enough had escaped to dye her lovely countenance with crimson, and she hastily averted it from the ardent gaze of the count.
Shocked at what she had said, her agitation became excessive, and unable to restrain her emotions, she burst into tears. With the most soothing gentleness, D'Rosonio endeavoured to console her.
"Oh, my lord (cried she) speak not thus kindly to me--I know, I feel that you must despise me. Weak, unhappy creature that I am."
"Despise thee, dearest Victoria? (said the count, thrown off his guard by the softness of her tone). No; Heaven
my witness how dear you are to me; and was it in my power to call you mine, I should esteem myself the happiest of men."
long and severe were her struggles, but they were ultimately successful.
D'Rosonio was convinced that for. him the only chance of safety was in flight, and he quitted Naples for a short time. To give up the pleasure which the society of Victoria afforded him, caused him indeed a painful effort; but it was one that every principle of honour and prudence demanded him to make, and never had he been deaf to their suggestions.
He made an excursion to Rome, in which he was accompanied by Stephano, who was happy in escaping from a home that was now become peculiarly unpleasant to him. Lodovic had never been heard of since he fled in consequence of his wife's infidelity; and old Pedro had from that time drooped, till at last he had sunk into the grave. His death, even depressed as he was with the weight of years, would have been regretted by the signor and his lady; but when they re
flected that their son had most probably hastened it, their feelings were doubly keen. Stephano would have been perfectly unmoved at the decease of the old man, whose life or death was not in his eyes of consequence; but the coldness, and even severity with which he found himself treated by his parents, who were shocked at his evident want of feeling, rendered him anxious to escape from their from their presence for some time.
Lauretta had, upon the death of her grandfather, been placed by the signora in a secure and humble asylum; she appeared very penitent for her crime, and to penitence the heart of Signora Montalva was at all times accessible, She did not reproach the unhappy girl for the past; she only exacted from her a solemn promise to avoid future errors; and grateful for kindness, where she had expected only to meet with reproach, Lauretta readily
made, and solemnly kept the promise which her benefactress desired.
The gaieties of Rome soon chased all care and gloom from the mind of Montalva. Free from all restraint, and liberally supplied by the count with the means of indulging his natural propensity to pleasure, he soon became distinguished amongst the gay and dissipated, and frequently laughed ́at his cousin, whose gravity he asserted was inconsistent with his years.
The pursuits of D'Rosonio were indeed widely dissimilar; not that he wholly turned from the cup of pleasure, but he quaffed the intoxicating beverage with moderation, nor did the morning ever bring him cause to reproach himself for the excesses of the night.
The fairest and the noblest of the Roman dames, did not disdain to distinguish the cousins; but the remembrance of Victoria acted as a talisman in steeling the heart of the count, and
the brightest eyes in Italy strove to pierce it in vain.
Licentious amours only had charms for Montalva; and with them he was too much engrossed to have leisure, or indeed inclination for any others. Devoid of delicacy, and a slave to sensual appetite, the most celebrated courtezans of Rome were by turns his favorites. D'Rosonio would have, expostulated with him on his conduct, but delicacy sealed his lips: he had supplied Montalva with money, and he feared that remonstrance from him might appear to his cousin impertinent or ill-judged.
Stephano therefore pursued with avidity his career of dissipation, when an event happened that for some time put a stop to it. This was the illness of the elder Signor Montalva, in consequence of which Stephano received a summons to return home.
Greatly shocked at the illness of Montalva, whom he loved and revered as a second father, the count accom