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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 doniestics 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
listened to the sweet strains of his harp; they were indeed such as:
"Take prisoner the wrapt soul and lap it in elysium."
"Go on," At length they ceased. (said the count). "Would not your lordship wish to hear a sprightlier strain," demanded the minstrel.
"No (replied the count), I have no relish for the sound of joy."
" 'Tis strange, (said the minstrel), the wretch oppressed by poverty or guilt, may indeed be deaf to the voice of joy, but why should the lord of these rich domains be a prey to gloom? why should the brow of the noble Montalva be overcast with care?"
"What! (haughtily exclaimed the count), darest thou enquire into the cause of my sorrows? rash presumptuous man, retire, and thank the obscurity that shields thee from my resentment; a lowly minstrel is beneath the notice. of the Count Montalva."
"The lowly minstrel need not thank
the clemency of the proud Montalvą; I am surrounded by agents most potent, though to thee invisible (cried he), I came here thy friend, but these taunts have changed my purpose. Know, that thou standest in the presence of one to whom every action of thy life is known. Yes, thou can'st insult a lowly minstrel; thou can'st boast thy rank and power; say how acquired?-The murdered D'Rosonio-The infant Isabel-."
"Astonishment and horror rendered Montalva motionless; he gazed in silence on the minstrel, whose countenance might have dismayed even a heart unappalled by guilt; his large dark eyes were rivetted on Montalva, while round his mouth played a smile of demoniac joy at witnessing the agony he
"I know not (at length exclaimed Montalva), by what means my crimes. are discovered, nor wherefore thou thus rendest my heart, by recalling to my mind what I thought hidden from every