« PreviousContinue »
her nursling in its place; for a long time I refused, but at last, the dread of the count's displeasure, and the knowledge that I injured no one, (for my sister said that she was sure the father of the child would be glad to hear that it was dead, which she meant to tell him), prevailed upon me to consent; and as the children were both so young, and the colour of their eyes alike, as well as some resemblance in their other features, the deception was never dis. covered; and the count was as fond of the little Valeria as if she had been
And now, signor (continued Marcella), I have told you all, and I hope that you will not punish me.”
As her account appeared to Alberto too simple and unstudied to be false in any particular, he readily promised that she should not be punished. He had now obtained all the information he wanted, but he would not yet return to Valeria ;. I must give her gentle spirit time to recover from the horrors
that have oppressed it (thought he) ; and in my mother I shall, during my absence, have a warm and zealous friend. He was indeed right, the signora was most tenderly attentive to Valeria, who, in her soft soothings, and the natural kindness of the lady abbess began again to taste of peace : but happiness pure and unmixed is destined never to be the lot of humanity, and the heart of Valeria was yet, at times, torn by the remembrance of her father's crimes.
Signora Sforza had a female servant about her person, who had lived with her for years, and who was uncommonly attached to her ; one day she sent this woman to her cabinet, where the portrait, whose resemblance to Va
leria she had once noticed, was depo· sited. The case that contained it hap
perred to be open ; an exclamation of surprise from her servant occasioned the signora tó enquire into the cause, and she learned that her woman knew the signor for whom the portrait was taken.
." Poor Signora Bianca (continued she), it had been well both for her and the Signor Montalva if- -."
“ Was that portrait taken for Signor Montalva ?” (interrupted the Signora Sforza).
“ It was, indeed, lady (replied the woman). I was then in the service of Signora Bianca'; but, perhaps, you know her story?"
The signora replied in the negative, and she related to her Signora Lupinetti's story.
When, my lady (pursued she), found herself treated with disdain by Count D'Rosonio, I thought that the violence of her rage would have destroyed her love for him ; but I was mistaken ; she grew melancholy, and instead of conquering her passion, it daily increased. The Signor Montalva became odious to her. That portrait laad been given her at her own desire;
and on receiving it, she had vowed never 'to part with it; and for a long time she wore it day and night suspended from her neck. One day when the Count D'Rosonio had, I believe, answered a letter that she sent him in a manner that displeased her, she took. the portrait from her bosom.
6. Here (said she to me), hide this from my sight; would I had never
I did not presume to reply, but I placed the portrait in a casket that contained her jewels.
“For some time she continued a prey to melancholy, and at last she declared to me a resolution of retiring from the world, and ending her days in a convent. She quitted Naples, and I accompanied her to the monastery which she had fixed upon as her future residence. With tears did I see my beloved lady enter this gloomy abode, ', never more to leave it; but all places, she said, were now alike indifferent to
her. She generously recompensed my past services, and I returned to Naples, where I remained till I entered your service, signora.
The Signora Sforza was vinced that the portrait was that of Valeria's father ; but she kept the discovery to herself, as she rightly judged that a knowledge of it could not afford her young friend
any pleasure. The year was three parts gone when Alberto ventured to return. The joy that sparkled in the eyes of Valeria, assured him of that welcome which her faultering tongue almost refused to give him; and when the first congratulations were over, she was obliged to leave the rooin abruptly, in order to give vent to her tears.
The signora found her on her knees, in her own apartment, in fervent prayer.
Oh, my beloved mother! (cried she,) what transcendant happiness would be mine, did I but dare to enjoy the en