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"We must not (said Isabel), 'till I actually have left the convent, let Signora Sforza, know what has passed; to see her would add fresh pangs to those which I suffer; when I am gone, you, dear mother, willwill." She -paused, but the abbess understood her.
"Yes (replied she), the signora and
Alberto shall then know all."
On the second morning Montalva came at an early hour to take Isabel from the convent; bitter were the tears which she shed in the bosom of the lady abbess, whose sorrow equalled her own; the whole sisterhood indeed deeply regretted her departure, and with an almost breaking heart she left the scene of all her infant pleasures. Montalva handed her into a carriage, which waited to receive them, and for some hours they travelled in silence; it was at last broken by Isabel.
"May I hope to see my mother,
when we reach our journey's end, signor?" (timidly enquired she).
"No, not immediately (replied Montalva), but probably soon."
"After so long supposing myself an orphan (cried Isabel), I feel most anxious to be clasped, if but for a moment, to the bosom of a parent; perhaps my father would deign to see his
"Perhaps he may" (said Montalva, hesitatingly), and the idea which at the moment crossed his mind, how soon, through his means, the innocent Isabel would be sent to join her murdered parent, blanched the crimson of his cheek, and gave to his countenance an expression of horror, which Isabel, absorbed in her own thoughts, did not notice.
A large mansion, situate at some distance from Naples, and which was a part of the small hereditary possessions of Montalva, would, he thought, be a place well suited to his cruel purpose.
Montalva's bride had hitherto prevented him from parting with this half-ruined edifice; and he now rejoiced that it was still in his possession. One old domestie only resided there, and of him the count thought there would be no necessity to make a confidant. When they stopped for the night, he told Isabel, that they were going to, a castle which belonged to a friend of her father's, and where her parent would probably soon join them; but for fear of any possibility of discovery, she must consent to appear in a masculine habit.
"The lovely face of Isabel was dyed with blushes at this proposal; but as she supposed it was her father's wish, she did not venture to express any reluctance; she longed to reach the end of her journey, for though Montalva laboured to appear at ease, yet the manner in which he sometimes fixed his eyes upon her, gave a sensation of fear to the heart of Isabel, to which it had till now been a stranger. When
they reached the castle, Isabel shuddered at its gloomy and ruinous appearance; and in the welcome which Montalva gave her, there was something that chilled her blood; she strove to appear calm, but her agitation was evident to the count: nor was his, though from a different cause, much inferior. Determined as he was to sacrifice her, he almost forgot his purpose, when he gazed upon her as she sat at supper; she may yet be saved, thought he; I will make one effort to induce her to take the veil."
"I regret, signora (said he, endeavouring to assume an insinuating accent), the destiny which you are preparing for yourself."
fate will be,
signor?" (cried Isabel).
"Yes (answered he), perpetual im
Isabel turned pale.
"I wonder not, (cried Montalva), you should be shocked at such a
ot; 'tis indeed a dreary one, but it is your fatlier's positive determination. 'Tell her (cried he, to me), that no chance shall ever publish to the world, a secret on which the peace and honour, nay, more, the life of her mother depends; if she selfishly prefers the indulgence of her own wishes to the duty that she owes her parents, they have at least, the power to punish her obstinacy; in a convent she may, if it be not her own fault, be happy; but should she reject a life, to which she was destined, even before her birth, should she presumptuously insist in mixing with that world, which she is doomed never to enter, perpetual and solitary imprisonment will be her portion. Tell her this, Valdorno, and should she then refuse, what, as a father, I have a right to demand, her fate be upon her own head'."
"'Tis well, signor (cried Isabel, whose spirit, though the meekest under Heaven, was roused by this injurious