Page images

I felt for Alberto, was I thought sufficient for our mutual happiness, and I did not scruple to promise him my hand; but as his fortune was far inferior to mine, Signor D'Orsini refused to let the ceremony of our marriage be performed 'till his authority over me was at an end.'

""Twill be said (eried he) that I have influenced your choice; and, dearly as I love my son, his happiness must not be purchased at the expence of his father's honour in less than two years you will be your own mistress, should you then prefer my son, with what delight will I join your hands!' Alberto acquiesced in this delay, though with reluctance, and nearly a year passed away. My affection for him, calm, steady, and rational, seemed to myself incapable of increase or diminution; but this regard did not satisfy the warm and impassioned heart of Alberto; ever anxious to be near me, and unhappy if any accident separated

us, even for a short time; the proofs which he daily gave me of his passion were irksome rather than pleasing.

"You do not love me, Bianca (would he frequently say); my presence creates no joy, and my absence gives no pain to your heart; your calmness, your tranquillity, are inconsistent with love; and I greatly fear, that to your regard for my father, and your friendship for me, I owe the promise of your hand. Oh, Bianca! was I sure of that, dearly as I love you, yet I would not call you mine; the possession of your lovely person, without your heart, could not satisfy


"In vain I assured him that the sentiment I felt for him was all I was capable of feeling, and that I was conscious it was amply sufficient for my happiness.

"'You do not know your own heart, Bianca (would he reply); it was made for a warmer sentiment.' These perpetual declarations, that I regarded him. with indifference, made me look into

my heart, and I was compelled to own that, compared to his, my sentiments were cold; had he never appeared dissatisfied with the nature of my sentiments, I should not have suspected that the existence of more impassioned feelings were necessary to my felicity; but in giving me an idea that that was the case, he disturbed my tranquillity without increasing my regard for himself. While my mind was in this state my guardian died, and I removed from his house to that in which we are at present. Signora Valdorna, a woman of family but reduced fortune, gladly accepted the offer of residing with me; and I renewed my assurances to Alberto that, when decency permitted our union, my hand should be his. I could no longer suffer him to see me daily, as he had been accustomed to do; and to dissipate the grief which his father's death occasioned him, he left Naples for a short period. He took his leave of me with evident emotion, and I strove to

persuade myself that I saw him depart with regret, but I could not conceal from my own heart, that I felt as if I was now for the first time at liberty; and I shuddered when I reflected how inconsistent with real love such a sentiment was.

""Soon after the departure of Alberto D'Orsino, I chanced, signor, to see you at the church of St. Giovanni: after what has passed (added she, blushing), I ought not perhaps to scruple owning that the first sight of you convinced me Alberto was right, when he declared that my heart was made for a warmer sentiment than the one I felt for him. Deeply did I now regret the engagement that I had formed; yet, when I thought of Alberto's declaration, I almost doubted whether I ought, prepos→ sessed as I was in your favour, to marry him. I determined to see you, and if I found on conversing with you, that you were all that my fancy presaged, I thought I would at least make an effort to recover my liberty; but on the very

day after you had made your first visit, a letter from Alberto apprized me of his speedy return, and that he had received an appointment from our sovereign for a foreign court; he besought me on this account to shorten his probation, and consent to accompany him.

"This was a severe and unexpected blow, and I knew not what to resolve upon. I had intended by degrees to prepare the mind of Alberto for intelligence which I was conscious would occasion him the greatest pain; but this was now impossible, and I had no choice but to marry him, or to abruptly inform him of the alteration in my sentiments.

To be brief, he came. The agitation of my mind, on seeing him, was too great not to strike him forcibly, and he pressed to know the cause of it, which I at last summoned resolution to tell him. I shall not attempt to paint to you the scene that ensued; the generous Alberto gave me back my liberty, and we parted for ever.'

« PreviousContinue »