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me to enter; he placed wine and refreshments before me; when I had satisfied my thirst, I asked him, who inhabited the cottage besides himself.
"Two ladies, signor, whom I have the honour to serve," (was his reply); and as he spoke, they entered. I rose, and apologized for my intrusion.
"You are welcome, signor, (said the eldest), to what our cottage affords; its fare, though homely, may be acceptable to a weary traveller."
While I replied to this speech, I gazed attentively on the signora; she was upwards of fifty, but never did I behold a form so noble or so dignified; time had indeed stolen from her cheek its freshness, and from her eye some portion of its lustre; but he had no power over the graces of her countenance, and her figure was symmetry itself.
In thanking the signora for her hospitality, I requested permission to rest a few minutes longer; which she readily granted. Her young companion now
spoke to the domestic, and the melody of her voice attracted my attention; her figure was small, but beautifully formed; · and her countenance, though not striking, was rendered inexpressibly interesting, by the most expressive dark blue I ever beheld.
"Retire to your chamber, Viola, and finish the drawing which you began this morning," (said the elder signora); and the fair Viola, timidly bowing to me, retired. Notwithstanding the noble frankness of the signora's air and manner, there was a dignity about her that forbade familiarity, and after I had rested for a short time, I again thanked her and retired.
"Strange, (thought I), that two women, whose appearance bespeaks them of a rank far superior to the vulgar, should be the inhabitants of so recluse a spot. The curiosity which I felt was but of short duration; new schemes of pleasure put the adventure out of my thoughts, and in a few days it was forgotten.
Want of money soon drove me again to the house of Isaac Mendez, and I found him as ready as before to accommodate me, but what was my surprise at beholding Viola under his roof; I almost thought my eyes deceived me, but the heightened colour of Viola, and the timid glance of recognition which she cast at me, convinced me I was right; she quitted the room, and I asked Mendez, carelessly, whether she was any relation?
"None (replied he); she is my ward;' and he tried to change the subject; but my curiosity was now so much raised, that I was determined to gratify it if I could; I therefore mentioned to the jew my having before seen Viola at the cottage, and expressed the surprise I felt at seeing her in so obscure a situation. 'She then resided with her aunt, Signora Velloni, (cried he), but the signora has quitted Naples, and Viola is entrusted to my guardianship, 'till her
"Will her absence from Naples be of long continuance, said I?
"Tis uncertain,' (replied he); and as I could not press the subject further, it dropped.
"Again did I agree to pay the most extravagant price for the money I received, and again it was squandered in the wildest dissipation; a third visit to Mendez became necessary, but he did not receive me as he had done when I went to borrow from him before."
"This sum, signor (cried he, when I had told him what I wanted), and what you have had before, will make your debt to me so large, that'
"Are you not certain of being amply repaid, interrupted I.
"How can I be certain of it, signor, (cried he), your aunt may outlive you, or if she does not, she may change her mind; and your hopes of inheriting her property may be vain.'
"I tried to persuade him that he was mistaken, and that there was not the
least probability that my aunt would alter her avowed resolution of bequeathing me her fortune, but he appeared to listen to me with an air of sullen dissatisfaction. I cannot at this moment give you a positive answer, signor (cried he); I am sorry that it is not in my power directly to oblige you, but I must not utterly lose sight of my own interest.'
"My blood boiled with indignation, when I recollected the sum I had agreed to pay him for his compliance with my demands, but I was obliged to suppress it.
"When can I have your positive answer, said I ?——————I will send to you in a day or two, signor, cried he; and with this promise I was obliged to be content. That evening I received a note which contained the following lines:
"You are in the hands of a fiend: the writer of this wishes to save you, and will run every risk to do so: be at the church of St. Giovanni this evening at vespers, and you shall know more.'