Page images

believed Montalva's grief for the countess was inferior only to his own. A summons, as the signor pretended, from Naples, compelled him to quit the castle, and he bade the count adieu, with a promise speedily to return. The letter was from the abbess of St. Sabastian's; she informed him that Valeria's death was every day expected, and begged him if he wished to see her alive, to lose no time in hastening to the convent.

He travelled with the utmost expedition, but he came too late, for when he arrived, he learned that Valeria had just breathed her last. Conscience for a moment blanched the cheek of Montalva, at this intelligence; he could not conceal from himself that his hand had

conducted the poor lost one to the tomb; her lovely form drooping in silent and uncomplaining anguish was before him, and he vainly strove to stifle the anguish which the fate of his victim had occasioned him. A few days before her death Valeria had written to him: no

reproach for lost fame or happiness escaped her; she merely conjured him to be a father to his child. "I do not know what request that letter contains, signor, (said the abbess, as she delivered it to him); but I think if you had seen the writer when she had delivered it to me, you would not hesitate to grant it."

"I will grant it, (replied Montalva earnestly), I swear by heaven! that her request shall be complied with. Yes, Valeria, (added he mentally), I will indeed be a father to thy infant." He hastened to the cottage where he had placed the babe, and his mind was a little soothed, by the thought of atoning to her, for the wrongs he had done her unfortunate mother; but his purpose was vain, the child had died in convulsions a week before his arrival. He returned to Naples and strove to banish reflection by plunging into dissipation; but the image of Valeria was before him, and bitter remembrance mingled the cup of pleasure with gall. A letter

Twenty more,

from D'Rosonio recalled him to the cas tle, and his soul sickened at finding the count more tranquil; the loss of his Maria still sat heavy upon his spirits, but he sought for and found consolation in the caresses of his child: the little Isabel and her nurse had during Montalva's absence, become inmates at the castle. She was now nearly a year old, and when one day D'Rosonio thankedthat almighty power, which in depriving him of his wife, had spared to him his child, the bitterest reflections swelled the heart of Montalva almost to bursting.

"Yes, (thought he), thou art indeed the favourite of fortune, but no happiness is reserved for me; I have caused: the death of an innocent girl, and the only means of atonement: I had in my power is wrested from me, and thou D'Rosonio art the cause of all; hadst thou not gained the affections of the weak and wavering Bianca, I had now been affluent and happy; no curses.

would have corroded my bosom, no remorse poisoned my enjoyments."

Thoughts like these cast an unusual gloom over the countenance of Montalva; he shortened his visit and returned to Naples; restless and unhappy, he sought in vain to drown reflection in wine. The Neapolitans are strongly addicted to gaming, but though dissipated, this was a vice from which Montalva had hitherto refrained; he now, fatally for himself, sought to find în it a refuge from thought; this destructive habit soon grew into a passion; his success was various, but for some time his Josses and his gains were nearly equal; this however was not long the case, fortune seemed to have set her face against him, and he lost continually; he applied under different pretexts to D'Rosonio, 'till he had drawn from him a very large sum, and he feared that generous as he knew the count to be, prudence would at length stop his hand. While he was in this embarrassed and unhap

py state, D'Rosonio was taken suddenly ill, and a messenger from him summoned Montalva to the castle. The countenances of the domestics on his arrival sufficiently informed him of their master's danger.

"How is the count?" said Montalva to the old steward, who came to receive him.

"Alas! signor, (replied Pietro) we fear he cannot recover. The loss of our dear lady was a heavy blow, but should heaven take his excellenza, what will become of those who owe their subsistence to his bounty, he is perfectly sensible, and I know that he will rejoice to see you, signor; for he has mentioned you several times."

[ocr errors]

"Will you then, my good Pietro, enquire whether I can be immediately admitted to his chamber?" said Montal


Pietro obeyed, but returned to say. that the count had fallen into a dose. "It is the first sieep, signor, (cried

« PreviousContinue »