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“Pardon me for interrupting you, signor (said the mother of St. Teresa). Retire my child (added she, turning to Isabel), I wish to speak to the signor in private."
Isabel curtsied in silence, and obeyed.
"CAN you, madam (cried Montalva), as soon as they were alone, inform me whence springs the reluctance which Isabel expresses to a destiny for which she has been intended from the first moment she saw the light; a destiny which she must embrace?"
"I regret to hear you say so, signor (replied the lady abbess), for it is one, at which the soul of Isabel recoils; but, perhaps, when you have heard what I am authorized to propose, you may change your purpose. Alberto Sforza, of a noble Neapolitan family,
and possessed of a princely fortune, solicits in marriage the hand of your ward."
The abbess paused, and looked earnestly at the signor, but no expression of pleasure animated his countenance; his features were convulsed, and he vainly strove to hide his agitation under an appearance of anger.
"I know not (continued she), what the family of Isabel may be, but she is the child of my fondest affection; and Signor Sforza has my warmest wishes for his success."
"Isabel then loses the signor," (interrupted Montalva).
"A confession of her affection for him has never yet passed her lips (said. the abbess), but her heart may be read. in her expressive countenance; and that heart I am convinced is Sforza's."
'Tis well, madam (haughtily replied the count); a convent is the last place where I should have supposed an amour would be carried on, and a girl
destined to the veil, I had thought you would have secluded from every eye."
"Hear me, signor (mildly interrupted the lady abbess), when you placed Isabel under my care, you told me that it was your wish she should, "at a proper age, become a member of our sisterhood, but you represented her as an orplan with out fortune. The Signor Sforza might aspire to a rich and highly-born bride; how then could
I suppose it wrong to sanction his passion for your ward? yet Isabel has not violated the duty which she may owe you; that she is decidedly against a monastic life, I am well convinced: but I also know, that she will not become. the wife of any man in defiance of your wish, if you have a right to insist upon.
The abbess ceased, and Montalva knew not how to reply; at length, he said,. "there are many reasons whyIsabel must take the veil, what those
reasons are, I will acquaint you to-morrow, if you will then allow me the honour of seeing you." The abbess acquiesced, and the count took his
When he returned to the inn, where he intended to remain during the few days of his stay, he shut himself in his apartment, to consider what measures he should take.
Minstrel, I fear thou wast right," (burst involuntarily from his lips, and in an instant the form of the minstrel appeared before him.)
"The art now convinced, Montalva (cried he, while the astonished count sunk motionless on a couch), that I told thee truth, wouldst thou wish to know more?"
"First tell me, I beseech thee (said Montalva), to what, or whom I speak ; art thou indeed of earthly mold, or Why this enquiry (cried the
minstrel), thinkest thou not I am thy