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dulge, and her secret was for the first time known to herself.
The abbess (without seeming to notice her confusion) continued "A berto Sforza loves you." The blood rushed tumultuously into the fair face and neck of Isabel, while in low, but delighted accents, she exclaimed, "good Heavens! is it possible?" "His passion I perceive is not displeasing to you (said the abbess), but this, dear Isabel, is a subject on which you must not indulge too much hope; recollect the power which the Signor Valdorno possesses, and remember that we know not how he may exert it." The flush of hope and exultation gave place to a deadly paleness, but Isabel continued
"On your prudence, my beloved child (said the lady abbess), Signora Sforza and myself rely; Alberto has received from his mother permission to open to you his heart, but my Isabel must not let him see her's; if he is
once assured of being beloved; reason and prudence will plead in vain, and should Valdorno refuse his consent, we shall have, from the impetuosity of Alberto, much to fear; remember then dear Isabel, that on your guardian's decision every thing must depend.”
Isabel promised an implicit compli ance with the wishes of her friend, and the lady abbess left her to her own reflections; she could not for some time arrange her thoughts. Alberto's passion, his mother's goodness in sanctioning it, and the strong probability, which to her appeared almost a certainty, that her guardian would rejoice in such an offer for her, formed altogether such a picture of enchanting, unhoped for happiness, that she could scarcely believe it real, and it was not till tears relieved her full heart, that she became sufficiently calm to pour out her whole soul in prayer before the throne of grace. Though educated in a convent, the piety of Isabel was free from supersti
tion, but not wholly untinctured by enthusiasm; with the most fervent devotion did she beseech the assistance of her patroness, the Virgin, and she arose from prayer with a mind soothed and relieved.
Hard, however, was her task when Alberto opened to her his whole heart; the secret of hers, hovered on her lips, but prudence suppressed it; yet had Alberto no reason to complain of her behaviour, she did not indeed own her passion; but her varying countenance, her eyes, in which every emotion of her soul was painted, told a tale that her tongue refused to utter; and Sforza quitted her happiest of the happy.
Twelve years nearly had elapsed since Montalva had placed Isabel in the solitude of St. Teresa: and vainly had he sought in every pursuit an antidote for the remorse which preyed upon his life. For years past he had resided at the castle of D'Rosonio, and lost in gloom and despondeney, he renounced
all idea of ever again mixing with the world. One evening, as he sat lost in melancholy musing, the distant sound of laughter struck his ear, he listened, and heard it more distinctly; he summoned one of his domestics, and sternly enquired the cause of their riotous meriment.
"So please you my lord (replied Antonio), a wandering minstrel besought from us a shelter for the night, he is in truth not meanly skilled in melody, and it was one of his romances that caused the laughter which has disturbed your excellenza."
A low, but sweetly plaintive strain, at this moment arrested the count's attention; he waved his hand as a signal for Antonio to throw open the folding-doors -again the strain vibrated on his ear. "Thou art right, Antonio, this minstrel is indeed a master of his art (said he), bring him before me."
"The delighted Antonio flew to obey the orders of his lord. From the
habitual sternness of the count, he had feared a severe reprimand, for the voice of mirth was rarely heard in Montalva's castle; and never had one of his doníestics seen his cheek dimpled by a smile. The minstrel now entered thei chamber, and for a moment the eye of Montalva rested upon him with curios sity and surprise. He appeared of middle age, his countenance was fine, though pale; and there was an indescribable expression in his dark and pierc. ing eye, that rivetted the attention of the count. Antonio, in a low voice, bade him make his obeisance, and he obeyed; but the bow of the minstrel was not the. lowly bend of a vassal to his lord, it was slight and haughty.
"Montalva motioned Antonio to leave them, and then desired the minstrel to play again the plaintive air that had caught his ear before he saw him; the minstrel began, and with an attention the most profound, Montalva