Page images

public, with which he readily complied. I now protest, solemnly protest, that I would prefer death a thousand times to the misery of being his if I am not allowed to unite myself with the man of my heart, I ask only to be permitted to spend the rest of my days in the retirement of a cloister; where, in the duties of religion, I may, perhaps, obtain that peace which, as the wife of Don Juan, I should never again taste."

"I cannot proceed with the ceremony (said the bishop to Don Juan), and I could wish, sir, to speak to you in private."

Don Juan and Donna Clara left the church, accompanied by the father; and Montalva and his friend quitted it at the same time.

The signor returned home with very different sensations to what he felt when he repaired to the church. Hope, which was then extinct, now revived in his heart, and whispered, that Clara might yet be his.

Nor were her whispers false, the good bishop represented the matter in such colours to Don Juan, that he consented, though with difficulty, to the union of the lovers: he would rather indeed that Clara had taken the veil, but this the father strenuously opposed.

"To offer to Heaven (said he), a heart that is already fixed upon an earthly lover, is a profanation that frequently calls down the Divine vengeance. In the gloom and solitude of a cloister, where no objects occur to interest or amuse, the remembrance of an adored object is involuntarily cherished, until every effort to banish it becomes vain; and the heart corroded by the most bitter and unavailing regrets, is incessantly torn by a struggle to perform those duties to which it is unequal.

"To voluntarily doom a fellow being to such a state of misery, is an act of cruelty of which a generous mind must

surely be incapable; and in this case your wish to do so would be a vain one; that interest which you well know I possess at court, and which I have never yet exerted for myself, shall be strained to the utmost in behalf of Clara; nor will our gracious sovereign suffer the orphan of a noble and loyal subject to sink beneath evident injustice and oppression."

It is probable that the threats of the bishop had more weight with Don Juan than his arguments or intreaties; but the lovers cared little to what motives they owed the consent, which he so reluctantly and ungraciously gave to their union.

Her guardian's consent once obtained, Clara did not delay the happiness of her lover, and their marriage was celebrated with a splendour befitting their rank and birth.

In the possession of his Clara, Montalva thought himself the happiest of men. The Spanish ladies are in gene

ral far from accomplished, but the retirement in which she had always lived, had been favourable to the mind of Signora Montalva. Naturally of an active temper, she had, instead of passing her time like the gencrality of her countrywomen, in indolence and luxury, sedulously cultivated her natural talents; and as she possessed a genius equally strong and brilliant, she had not contented herself with the usual acquire ments of her sex, and Montalva found in her a companion capable of sharing in those literary pursuits, of which he was himself passionately fond.

In the felicity enjoyed by his friends, D'Rosonio would have found a balm for his own unhappiness, had not the accounts he received from Naples excited at once his grief and his indignation. The duke gave the most scandalous publicity to his amour with Claudia, and the Signor D'Albici, unable to bear the injuries that were daily offered to his daughter, had come to an open rupture

[blocks in formation]

with his son-in-law, and the amiable and suffering duchess was forbade to see her father.

This last cruel restriction was the death blow to the peace of the unfor tunate signor though he had sacrificed his daughter to his ambition, yet, he tenderly loved her; and the knowledge, that in the midst of pomp and splendour, she was more miserable than she could have been in the most humble situation, stung him to the soul; but when he reflected that her misery was solely owing to himself, the torments of his mind became insupportable, and he took the rash resolution of ending them by suicide. Previous to his death he wrote to the duke, and in the most affecting and solemn manner, besought him to change his conduct to his wife; he painted in the most energetic terms, the mildness, the angelic forbearance of Clementina; he assured him that not a single murmur had ever passed her lips, and that on the subject


« PreviousContinue »