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When the funeral obsequies were performed, Montalva took upon himself, as the late count had willed, the guardianship of the little Isabel; but the sight of the child was hateful to him. young to be sensible of her irreparable loss, she lavished, unconsciously, on the destroyer of her father all the fond caresses of infancy. To remove her from the possession of her inheritance, without taking her life, occupied all his thoughts. When once that was done, he flattered himself he should be happy; he affected an uncommon attachment to the child, and pretending business at Naples, took her with him to a magnificent palazzo which he purchased there.
To the murder of the count no one was privy, but to remove Isabel without a confidant would be impossible; but in whom could he confide? No servant of the late count would, he was conscious, assist in wronging his orphan, and there was no domestic about his
own person whom he thought it would be prudent to trust. While he was in this perplexed and anxious state, as he was one day rambling in a wood at some distance from his palazzo, a stranger, meanly habited, approached him, and solicited his charity: Montalva, whose thoughts were busily employed on Isabel, repulsed him with harshness; again he supplicated, and was again denied. "Nay then (cried he), there is but one means," and he drew a stiletto from his bosom; the eye of Montalva followed, with the quickness of lightning, the motion of his arm; and at the moment when he was about to plunge the stiletto into his heart, Montalva arrested the blow.
"Miscreant! (exclaimed he), what could tempt thee to this atrocious act?" "What tempts many to similar deeds (replied the assassin, sullenly)-poverty: brought up to the prospect of a splendid inheritance, of which one rash act has deprived me, I perish for want; but no
friendly hand is held out to succour or to save me; I thought I could have perished ere I could have stooped to beg relief, yet I was mistaken; I did beg it, and it was denied me."
Montalva's eyes were rivetted upon the face of his intended murderer; his features, which were strongly marked, bore the traces of care and disappointment; and the fire of despair sparkled in his eye.
"Thy life (cried the signor), is forfeited to the laws of Naples, and thou hast deserved to lose it; yet I wish to spare thee."
"I will not thank you for your intended mercy, signor (replied the stranger), to me 'tis cruelty; life, to a wretch who has no means to support it, is a gift not worth accepting; pursue, therefore, the advantage which my folly has given thee, and deliver me into the hands of justice."
"I would fain know thy story (cried Montalva); perhaps I may befriend thee;
but be sincere; the slightest deviation from truth will for ever lose thee my
"Your caution is needless, signor (said he, proudly); after what is past, I can have no wish to conceal from you any thing I have ever done; but dissimulation (added he, sarcastically), is natural to man, and therefore I am not surprised at your suspecting me."
"My birth is noble, but the name of my family, signor, you must excuse my divulging; the patrimony I inherited from my parents, was small; but a maiden aunt, whose fortune was immense, adopted me; and from an early age, I was considered as her heir; I had the usual faults of young men, but my partial aunt saw them not; and to her blind indulgence, I owe all my misfortunes. The death of my father placed my little fortune in my own power, and I soon dissipated it in riot and extravagance. Though my aunt had avowed that I was