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ISABEL now approached her sixteenth year, and Montalva had signified to the lady abbess at that age she was to commence her noviciate.
"In three months Isabel takes the white veil (said the signora, to her daughter Julia, in the presence of Alberto). How is it that there are moments when the mind shrinks from those truths, which it has been accustomed to hear? Alberto Sforza had known for years that Isabel was destined to the veil, he had loved her as a sister, but how he might bear the loss of her so
ciety was a question that he had never asked himself; now, the conviction burst upon him, that she was dearer to his heart than the life-blood that flowed within it. His instant change of countenance caught the signora's attention, and she tenderly enquired whether he was well? he answered, yes; and left her that he might ruminate in silence on the discovery that he had made.
"And, why (thought he, when he was alone), why dearest Isabel, should I lose you? beloved as you are by my mother, surely she will not object to receive you as a daughter, and what objection can be made to your choice by your friends? Friends, they do not deserve the name, for so many years to let a lovely orphan remain unnoticed; what hearts must they have, but thou wast not formed, sweet Isabel, to whither in the gloom of a convent; thy mild virtues are fitted to adorn a worthier lot; and oh! how blest, how transcendently
blest, shall I be, if it is my fate to rescue thee from the one for which thou art designed!"
Such were the thoughts and wishes of Alberto; nor did he hesitate to disclose them to his mother. Signora Sforza had some of the pride of blood, which distinguishes most noble Neapolitans; she loved Isabel, fondly loved her, yet, could she have wished that Alberto's choice had fallen elsewhere; but when her son, her beloved son, knelt at her feet and implored her not to destroy the happiness of his life; her pride gave way to her maternal tenderness, and she consented to his espousing Isabel, if the consent of her protector could be obtained. The sig nora wished Isabel to remain ignorant of their intentions, till the lady abbess should have heard from Montalva, who had assumed to her the name of Valdorno. It was now near the time when the abbess expected a remittance, which he always took care punctually to send,
and by his messenger, the signora proposed making known to him her wish. to call Isabel by the tender name of daughter.
"I do not (cried she) think that he will object to such an union for his ward, since he seemed to say that motives of prudence influenced Isabel's: friends in chusing that lot for her, which you are so anxious to rescue her from; but as it is possible that they may object to her marrying, and as in that case”
"Dearest mother (interrupted Alberto), do not, I beseech you, conjure up so terrible a phantom; you will not grant my wishes by halves; how know I that Alberto's hand would be preferred. by Isabel to a monastic life? my mother, I beseech you, suffer me but to receive from her own dear lips, a confession that I am not indifferent to her, and I will then cheerfully submit to wait any time that you please for this man's approbation."
"You are unreasonable, (said the signora), but such is always the case. If our wishes are granted in one point, we know not how to restrain them in any other; I will, myself speak to Isabel, and then if you must plead your own cause, I shall not prevent you."
Sforza rapturously thanked his mother, who soon after this conversation opened her heart to the lady abbess. "I own to you my friend (cried she), that as the last male representative of a noble family, I could have wished that Alberto's choice, had fallen elsewhere, yet Isabel is very dear to me, but I - much fear that there are circumstances attending her birth, which may render the alliance, in the eye of the world, degrading to Alberto; yet, to cross his affections, fixed as they are on Isabel, would be cruel; and when I think of her gentleness, her sweetness of temper, and the thousand graces of her mind