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Valeria saw not amongst her numerous admirers any one that her partial fancy could compare to Sforza. Her spirits became gradually better, and that native vivacity, which had been one of her greatest charms, again sparkled in her eye, and wantoned in the dimples that played, round her lovely mouth.
Laura Sforza, not less than Valeria, was admired by the youth of Naples. Less lovely, she was infinitely more attractive than her sister Julia, in whose bosom ambition only reigned; and to the wish of contracting a splendid alliance, she would willingly have sacrificed every prospect of domestic comfort. Don Juan De Santenos, a rich and noble Spaniard, but much advanced in life, and of a haughty and stern temper, was struck with the charms of the Signora Julia; and notwithstanding her mother's avowed disinclination to the match, Julia persisted in determining to give him her hand.
"As the wife of Don Juan (said
Signora Sforza), you will, my child, be possessed of rank and riches above your most sanguine expectations; but you will speedily find the insufficiency of either to procure happiness; that, in the married state, must spring from a similarity of temper and disposition, and from those unobtrusive virtues that teach us to bear with each others defects; but a moment's reflection will serve to show you how vain is every hope of that kind. Don Juan is stern and imperious, and his wife will find herself a slave, though surrounded by splendour and magnificence."
"I will own to you, my dearest mother (cried Julia), that a splendid alliance is necessary to my felicity, I was not formed for a domestic life; to shine and to dazzle are necessary to my happiness. As the wife of Don Juan, I shall enjoy all that I wish for; consent then, I beg of you, to the wish of your child."
Thus urged, the signora no longer
withheld her consent; but she gave with a foreboding, that Julia would, ere long, repent the choice that she had made. The nuptials were solemnized with much splendour; and, soon after, Don Juan and his lady departed for Spain.
"I have been thinking of a plan, my Valeria (said Alberto, to his beloved), that will, I hope, be pleasing to you. You have a legal right to the demesnes of D'Rosonio; but I think with you, that the possession of them. would not add to our happiness: yet, they might be so disposed of as to be a blessing to thousands."
"I think I comprehend you (said she), you mean to employ them in founding a monastery." "I did, indeed, think of such a plan (cried Alberto), but our convent, my love, should not be merely a house of prayer and meditation. For the mere recluse, I have, I must own, little respect; but those men who voluntarily resign the riches
and pleasures of the world in order to devote themselves to the service of Heaven, and of their fellow creatures, these are indeed to be venerated. The demesnes of D'Rosonio are amply sufficient to found a monastery on such a plan as to be a blessing to the neighbouring poor, not by encouraging them through its blind and lavish donations to live in idleness, but by reliev ing their real wants; by inciting them to industry, and gradually dispelling those mists of ignorance and error into which the lower orders are plunged: but it is not only to the hungry and the weary, but to the distressed and persecuted that our monastery would afford a refuge. Its gates should ever be open to suffering virtue or penitent vice; and could be benevolent spirit of D'Rosonio look down on the disposal of his property, it would, I am convinced, meet with his approbation."
"Oh! Alberto (cried she), how superior are you every way to the poor
Valeria! when I declared that I would renounce all right to the demesnes of D'Rosonio, I forgot of what a happiness I deprived myself-the power of doing good. Yes, dear Alberto, most cheerfully do I agree to a plan equally wise and benevolent; and oh! may riches so dreadfully acquired, answer the pious and charitable purpose to which you intend to devote them."
Tears of painful recollection fell from the lovely eyes of Valeria; but the soothings of Alberto soon dried them. The twelvemonths had now expired, and the signora reminded Valeria of her promise. She pleaded for yet a little longer delay; and as Signora Sforza had reason to think that her daughter Laura would soon add another votary to the train of Hymen, she consented; and prevailed on Alberto to indulge Valeria.
"Think me not affected or capricious (said she to her lover), but indeed I feel most grateful to you for this indul