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spoke the concern which her illness had occasioned him; the presence of the count and countess rendered him guarded, but the signora hoped every thing from his honour and his love. Minds of a delicate and susceptible nature, (and such was Valeria's), while under the influence of passion, deck the object of their love with every virtue; and it is only the bitterest experience that can dispel an illusion, of all others the most delightful.
"The signor is the friend of the count, (thought she); Maria too, speaks highly of him; he loves me, and he would not, he could not, be so cruel as to abandon me to misery and disgrace." She ventured to meet the eyes of Montalva; they spoke the tenderest affection, and Valeria endeavoured to calm her spirits, and appear cheerful.
Three days passed, and Montalva did not seek to speak to the signora in private; though Valeria would have given
the universe to know when he meant to perform his promise, yet she was too timid to throw herself in his way. On the morning of the fourth he had letters from Naples, and he directly announced his departure must be immediate. This news was like the sentence of death to Valeria; he took an opportunity to assure her, "that she might depend on his return the moment that he could escape from business of the most unpleasant nature; he besought her to make her mind easy, and to rely upon his honour."
"I do, signor (cried she); Oh, how miserable should I be if I doubted it!" She wept as she spoke; yet the perfect confidence which her look and manner expressed, gave a momentary pang to the heart of Montalva.
" "Tis barbarous to deceive her, (thought he), and he renewed his protestations; but when he quitted the castle, his dislike to the idea of marry
ing her, returned; ambition and insensibility resumed their influence over his mind, and the wrongs and sufferings of Valeria were forgotten.
WEEKS passed away, and though the Signor Montalva corresponded regularly with the count, yet there was not a hint given by him of an intention to return to the castle D'Rosonio.
Stephano's absence is unusually long, Maria (said the count to his wife one day, in the presence of the Signora Di Soranzo): he has boasted so long of escaping the power of Cupid, that I should not wonder if he was caught at last, and a reluctance to leave the object of his passion prevented him from seeing us." The heart of Valeria beat at these
words, and fearing that her emotion would be visible to her friends, she left
"I fear, my dear lord (cried the countess), that your friend has unconsciously robbed my poor Valeria of her heart; I have observed that since he left us she has appeared melancholy and dejected.
"I hope you are mistaken (replied the count), for I much fear that Montalva is not likely to return her affection; and to a heart like her's, no torment could be equal to a hopeless pas
"I have thought (replied the countess), that he regarded her with tenderness; but his long absence, for which he does not assign any sufficient reason, makes me fear I was mistaken."
Every day increased the dejection of Valeria; but what words can paint the distraction of her mind, when in a short time she had reason to believe herself pregnant? Despair and horror took pos