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Mendez had pressed me for the money, and that she feared a wish to be revenged on me for the disappointment I had occasioned him, would make him apply to my aunt. • Pardon me, signor (continued she, blushing), but from what Mendez said, I thought it might be inconvenient to you to settle with him. Should that be the case, perhaps it might be in my power to be of some service to you. My little fortune is at my own disposal, and if any part of it can be of use in this affair, you may command it freely.'
"I thanked the generous Viola in the warmest terms, but I declined accepting her offer; she was, however, peremptory in pressing it; she represented to me that it was but exchanging one creditor for another, and that if I did not do so, my aunt must inevitably know all, that I was so much interested to conceal from her. She added, that Fiametta had at last consented to her
escape, and had agreed to accompany her.
"The beauty and generosity of this lovely girl sensibly touched me, and I told her that, upon one condition, I was willing to become her debtor.• Situated as I now am (signora, cried I), I cannot ask you to accept my hand, but if you thought me worthy of your esteem, and would promise hereafter to become mine; ny aunt's health is precarious, and from that circumstance, and ner time of life, her dissolution may be speedily looked for; aud what transport would it give me to repay my beloved Viola, by sharing with her the noble fortune of which I shall then become possessed.'
"The blushes and the downcast eyes of Viola convinced me that my proposal was not displeasing to her; and, after some hesitation, she agreed to it. I found out a retreat, which, though humble, was not devoid of comfort, and
thither, in a few days, she fled, accompanied by Fiametta. The sum which
I wanted to discharge the usurer's debt was, as I afterwards learned, nearly the whole of what my Viola possessed. She gave it to me chearfully, and I dis-. charged the debt, much to the surprise of Mendez.
"My aunt grew daily weaker, and I own I anticipated with pleasure, that the time would soon arrive when I could reward the generous conduct of my Viola, whom I now visited almost daily, and of whom every hour rendered me more enamoured. In an accursed moment, heated with wine, I presumed upon her apparent fondness, to take liberties, which she ought to have repulsed with indignation; she did not repulse them, and her compliance with my desires plunged us both into misery.
"I soothed the mind of Viola with assurances of eternal love and constancy; but in my heart I solemnly abjured
the thought of making her my wife; to return tenfold the pecuniary obligation I was under to her, and to love and protect her, as a mistress, I was resolved; but to marry her, after what had passed, was impossible. I still continued to visit her as frequently as ever, for my inclination for her person rather increased than diminished; but our connection had a consequence which, though natural, I had not foreseen: she proved with child; and when she revealed the circumstance to me, she claimed, though in the most gentle terms, my promise to make her mine by the rights of the church. I pleaded the ruin that would attend us both, if the marriage was discovered; but Viola, who had hitherto appeared the gentlest of her sex, and whom I thought I could at any time persuade into a compliance with my wishes, whatever they might be, now firmly insisted on my making her my wife. It was, she said, the only way to save her from that disgrace
which must otherwise overwhelm her. After endeavouring in vain to evade an immediate compliance with her request, I was obliged positively to refuse her, and we parted, for the first time, in
"When I again visited her, I saw only Fiametta, who told me that Viola was ill; I desired to see her instantly. Pardon me, signor, (cried she), but before you do, have you made up your mind to grant her request?'
'Nay, (continued she, seeing me look surprised) it was impossible for the signora to keep her situation a secret from me; and why indeed should she try to do so, since a confidant would be necessary, and she has experienced my fidelity.'
"I began to use to Fiametta the same arguments which I had before tried with Viola, but she did not allow me to proceed.
"Your marriage may be kept secret as long as you please, signor (said she),