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"You thought yourself secure of Anselmo's fidelity" (replied the demon).
"I knew myself so" (interrupted the count), "thou art mistaken (said the fiend), the secret of thy design to remove the Lady Isabel, was intrusted by -him to a woman now in the service of Signor Sforza's mother, through her will Isabel's birth become known, and thy injustice to the orphan of D'Rosonio, will excite suspicion of her father's fate. When groaning on the rack, an acknowledgment of thy crime shall burst from thy lips; thou wilt then wish that thou hadst taken my counsel; thou wilt then own, that the death of Isabel D'Rosonio would have insured the life of Montalva."
"She shall perish!" (exclaimed the almost frantic count).
"Thou speakest now like the undaunted Montalva (cried the fiend); away with the girlish weakness, called compassion. If Isabel dies, thou art
secure; if she lives, a disgraceful death awaits thee: thou can'st not hesitate."
"I will not (returned Montalva), would she had perished with her father."
Aye (cried the demon), that would have been indeed a secure blow, but it is not yet too late. Farewel, Montalva, my friendship thou mayest command."
"The minstrel vanished, and fain would Montalva have persuaded himself that what he had seen was fancy; the distracting images which the minstrel had conjured up of destruction to himself, seemed but too probable, and to remove and sacrifice the hapless Isabel was, he persuaded himself, the only step that could insure his safety: yet, how to take her immediately from the convent without exciting suspicion, he knew not. How did he now wish (as in an agony of despair he execrated the past) that he could recal the life of D'Rosonio; yet, it was not remorse, it
was not a recollection of the noble and disinterested friendship of the count, which racked the breast of his assassin; from selfish motives alone would he have recalled the murdered count to life."
"Never (exclaimed he), since his death have I known a moment's peace; and now to perish ignominiously! No, by Heaven! that at least shall be prevented-Isabel shall die; her death will secure my life and honour. And why should I feel reluctant to destroy her? one of us must perish, and can I submit to be that one? No, self-defence authorizes the act?"
With this wretched sophistry did the unhappy count try to reconcile himself to the murder of Isabel; but it was sometime before he could fabricate a tale to impose upon the lady abbess; at length he thought of one, that would, he hoped, lull suspicion to sleep, and early the next morning he repaired to the convent.
With well-dissembled reluctance he told the abbess that he felt himself compelled to divulge the secret of Isabel's birth: she was, he said, the daughter of a noble Neapolitan lady, who, during the absence of her husband, had an intrigue with a man of high rank, the fruit of which was Isabel; as the lady dreaded that her husband might discover her infidelity, she had, as soon as Isabel was born, placed her with a nurse in an obscure situation. The father of the child, who, he added, was his particular friend, had, when she was nearly four years of age, intrusted him with the secret, for the purpose of getting him to place her in the convent of St. Teresa.
"It is (continued he), the will of both her parents that she shall be professed as soon as the term of her noviciate expires, and it was their desire that she should instantly enter upon it; if she consents it is well; if not, my orders are to remove her immediately."
"But surely, signor (cried the abbess), if the secret of Isabel's birth is still preserved inviolate, if the Signora Sforza and her son are still anxious for her alliance, and that I am sure they will be, the parents of Isabel cannot object to -
"I can only tell you, madam (interrupted Montalva), that were a prince to seek in marriage the hand of Isabel, her parents would refuse him: her destiny is fixed, and no power on earth can change it."
The abbess, dearly as she loved the interesting girl, could not oppose the will of her parents. With tears did she reveal to Isabel what she had heard, and with a firmness, which to the abbess appeared surprising, did she refuse the veil.
"I cannot now, dearest mother (cried she), ever hope to be the wife of Sforza, even were my parents to con sent to our union, and his noble mother and himself would deign to over