Page images

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

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

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

panied his cousin back to Naples. When they arrived, they hastened to the signor, but the countenance of the domestic who received them destroyed the hope that D'Rosonio had entertained of his friend's recovery; Montalva was indeed yet alive, but hope was extinct.

Stephano heard this intelligence with affected dejection, but in reality he was far from grieved. Tenderly affection

ate as the behaviour of the count had ever been to him, Stephano did not love his father; their characters were indeed totally dissimilar. Frank, open, and unsuspecting, the elder Montalva was in the truest sense of the word a good man; and hypocrisy, which formed so striking a trait in the character of the son, was of all vices the most opposite to the open and noble nature of the father. The detection of Stephano's intrigue with Lauretta, though it could not wholly destroy Montalva's affection for his son, yet in a great measure les

[ocr errors]

sened it; and the naturally vindictive temper of Stephano was roused to its utmost pitch of acrimony, by what he thought the unnecessary severity of his father's behaviour at that time.

To his son therefore, the death of Montalva would be a source of pleasure, rather than regret; but veiling these reflections under an assumed sorrow, he hastened to his father's apartment; as Montalva had desired to see him the moment he arrived.

Unfeeling as he was, Stephano received a momentary shock from the appearance of his father, on whose countenance death had evidently set his seal; the Signora Montalva sat by the bedside of her husband, and held one of his hands in her's; the other Montalva feebly extended to his son; Stephano pressed it to his lips.

"I rejoice that I am spared to see you once more my son, (cried Montalva,) I have much to say to you."

"Not once but many times more,

my father, heaven will yet restore you to our prayers, said Stephano.

"Do not deceive yourself, (replied his father), I have an internal monitor that tells me I am hastening to the tomb. Clara, my beloved, (cried he, turning to the signora, whose tears flowed in silence,) repress this grief, my life I trust has not been wholly unworthy of the angelic purity of thine, and in that blessed abode which will doubtless be the reward of thy virtues, we shall I hope meet again."

The signora gave her beloved husband a look that seemed to say their meeting would not be long delayed; and Stephano observed with surprise the ravages that grief had made in her still lovely countenance. She was pale and thin, and the fire that had once sparkled in her brilliant black eye was almost ex tinguished by tears.

Stephano listened with feigned humility to the long and pathetic remonstrance which his father made on his

« PreviousContinue »