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decision. Ah! need I say more to influence that best, and most gentle of human hearts in favour of
Laura, the beloved friend of Valeria's youthful days, was the bearer of this letter, and the lady abbess was present when Valeria received it.
"Oh! my mother (cried Valeria), guide and support your poor child; I cannot, I dare not become the wife of Sforza."
"Hear me Valeria (replied the abbess), there is a middle way, and one that I think you ought to pursue. Alberto has declared that he will wait your own time; should his love stand the test of absence, you may, you must be assured, that by refusing to become his, you will eventually render him miserable. Dearly as the signora loves her son, she would, I am sure, consent to his travelling for one year;
and if at the end of that period his constancy remained unshaken, you would then owe it to the purity and constancy of his affection.
Shake off the prejudice which at present presents your blessing him with your hand, and do not, my Valeria, suppose, that that Providence which has so miraculously preserved you, would be pleased with your devoting your future days to misery; for well do I know what your heart would suffer, if you gave up Sforza."
Laura joined her entreaties to those of the abbess; and at length Valeria consented to see Alberto. "I will try every argument to induce him to agree to our separation (said she), and should all fail, should I find that my entreaties are unavailing, I will then submit to him your proposal, but not for one year, that is surely too short a period."
The next day, Alberto was allowed to see her, and his entreaties, his solemn
declaration, that on her, and her only,
the future happiness of his life depended, wrung from Valeria a reluctant consent to become his, if, at the expiration of a year, he continued to desire it.
Scarcely did the enraptured Alberto allow her time to finish the sentence, which was to him the mandate of future bliss; the violence of his transports almost frightened the timid Valeria; but when he left her, when she found herself clasped in the arms of his mother, when Laura on one side, and the abbess on the other, congratulated her with tears of joy, her heart found relief inweeping; and she endeavoured to persuade herself, that she ought to be happy yet, still the circumstances of her birth hung upon her spirits, and she shuddered while she thought of the crimes of that man, to whom she owed her being. Every pains was taken by her kind and attentive friends, to chace from her mind these melancholy reflections; and Alberto resolved to un
dertake a journey to the castle of D'Rosonio, to discover, if possible, by what means Valeria had been exchanged for the heiress of the count. The heart of Valeria felt this proof of her lover's attention; and he departed, after a thousand charges from her, to be careful of his health and safety.
ALBERTO was charged by his Valeria with a letter to the good Father Francisco, whose convent was in his way to D'Rosonio. The father rejoiced at the intelligence which Alberto brought of the health and safety of Valeria, in whose fate he took the warmest interest. He pressed Alberto to stop for a few days at his convent, and the youth complied with his request. From Francisco, Sforza had a detail of the agonies which the wretched Montalva had suffered, and he joined the father in lamenting the suddenness of his fate.