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for Valeria's flight, but fear of being suspected as the cause of it forbade his accompanying her. Nothing could exceed the consternation of the count and countess when she was missed; the most diligent search was made for her, but in vain; and grieved as D'Rosonio was at her loss, he was doubly so from the fear that her flight would injure the countess's health. Neither D'Rosonio nor his Maria had the slightest suspicion of Montalva, who remained at the castle for some days after Valeria left it.
From the castle, he returned to Naples; and stopped there for some time before he ventured to join Valeria, whom he had placed in a retired situation some miles distant from thence; callous as his heart was, he felt shocked and surprised at the alteration which so short a time had made in the victim of his arts; her hollow eye, for ever dimmed by tears; her pallid cheek, from whence the rose of youth and health had van. ished; spoke volumes of reproaches,
though her tongue uttered none. It wanted yet some months to that time, which Valeria so much dreaded; but though Montalva saw her frequently, he did not again mention the performance of his promise, and every day diminished her faith in his word; slowly, and reluctantly, did she acknowledge to her own heart, the unworthiness of a man, who spite of reason, she still loved; and as the time of her becoming a mother approached, the idea of what would be the future destiny of herself and her in fant, almost distracted her.
At last the moment to which she looked forward with so much terror arrived; and she gave birth to a lovely girl. Oh, nature, how sweet is thy power over the heart of a mother! all that the unfortunate Valeria had suffered, all that she might suffer, was forgotten, when she pressed her babe to her bosom, and wetted its little face with tears of delight.
Montalva was at Naples, when the ac
couchement of Valeria took place, and nearly a month elaspsed before he saw her; but what a revolution had that time created in the mind of Valeria; the birth of her child had opened to her a source of happiness, the most unhoped for ; she was never tired of caressing it, of gazing on its little features, and tracing in them her own likeness, and that of Montalva. Of his making her his wife, she did not now retain a hope, but she had determined on a plan that would, she thought, meet with his approbation; and she longed impatiently for his return that she might communicate it to him.
Montalva's resolution in respect to the future destination of Valeria, had long been fixed; and he purposely refrained from seeing her 'till he thought she had regained sufficient strength to hear her fate without danger to her life; as soon as he thought that was the case, he resolved to lose no time in announcing to her his determination.
. He found her, with her infant in her arms; she presented it to him, and he coldly kissed its cheek." I have much to say to you Valeria, (cried he); will you dismiss your child, and hear me?" His words and still more the manner in which they were uttered fell like a bolt of ice upon the heart of Valeria; she gave the infant to her attendant, who left the room, and Montalva proceeded.
"I have unfortunately, Valeria, injured my estate, which was never large, by some youthful errors, and I have not at this time the means to support a wife in the manner which my rank demands; this is the only excuse I have to offer, for the non-performance of my promise to you; but it is an excuse which when you reflect upon the miseries that attend a union where prudence is not consulted, you will, I think admit the justice of.” He paused, but Valeria replied not, and he continued. "After what has passed, there is but one step which you can take with propriety; but one safe and
honourable asylum, to which you can resort;a convent."
"A convent! exclaimed Valeria; what then becomes of my child?” "I will see that it is properly taken care of," cried Montalva.
"Oh no, no, (said Valeria), never will I consent to part with my babe; I can remain in obscurity; I had determined to do so; you have nothing, indeed you have not, to apprehend from me; but I will lose my life sooner than my child."
The emotion of Valeria, for a moment staggered the cruel resolution which Montalva had formed; but it was only for a moment.
"Check these wild emotions Valeria, (said he sternly); every consideration of reason and prudence, calls imperiously upon you to part with the infant, whom it would be madness to keep."
The tears, the distraction of the unfortunate Valeria, could not prevent her child being torn from her arms, and for