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"By heaven 'tis one that I will have answered," (exclaimed the signor). "Montalva, (cried D'Rosonio) is this language to your friend ?"
"Forgive me Fernando, (said he), but this woman, curses on the sex! this vain, inconstant woman, treats me with contempt; and from her manner, I have reason to believe you are her present favourite."
"I have no reason to suppose so, (returned the count,) but trust me Stephano, was Bianca to prove herself so unworthy of thy love. she would have no charms for me; and surely contempt would overpower affection in the bosom of my friend."
Montalva was silent, but his countenance shewed that his mind was considerably agitated; the person of Bianca had captivated his senses, and her fortune would render him affluent and happy: yet, to marry her: to marry a woman whom he had reason to suppose
inconstant, was a stab to his pride; and he almost resolved to give her up.
"Yet, no, (thought he) such a step would gratify her; and I will not resign her fortune; it would be madness to lose it."
D'Rosonio watched the changes of his countenance, and rejoiced to see it gradually assume composure.
"Your suspicions may be wrong, my friend, (said he); you may have judged too hastily; or perhaps some womanish pique has made the fair Bianca wish to prove her power over you; and to excite your jealousy was the readiest method to ascertain her empire."
Perhaps you are right D'Rosonio, (cried Montalva); at any rate, I will suspend my judgment."
But not long could he do so, the infatuated Bianca, forgetful of the modesty of her sex, wrote to D'Rcsonio; and in the most unequivocal terms avowed her partiality, and offered him her hand.
The count rejected her offer with all the contempt which he thought her conduct merited; and maddened by the scorn with which he treated her, she dismissed Montalva; whom she vowed never to see again.
D'Rosonio was with his friend, when he received a letter from Bianca, announcing her determination.
"Vile, perfidious woman! (exclaimed Montalva, as he perused it ;) but I will be revenged. I swear by heaven! that thou shalt dearly expiate thy falsehood: read that accursed scroll, Fernando, and tell me what such a wretch deserves."
"Punishment, undoubtedly, (replied the count); but leave her to the vengeance of heaven. How my friend couldst thou punish her? (He paused, but Montalva was silent.) Thou wouldst not now marry her," continued the
"Marry her! (repeated Montalva in a tone of scorn,) thou dost not think so
meanly of me; marry, no by heaven! were she a Venus, with the dowry of a princess, I would reject her with scorn and abhorrence; but there are ways to humble her; I will possess myself of her lovely person, I will enjoy the triumph of seeing her kneel at my feet to supplicate for that hand which she now so insolently rejects, and I will spurn her from me."
"Good heaven! Montalva, what dost thou say, (cried the astonished count); surely my friend will not turn ravisher; will not for ever stamp his name with disgrace and infamy. Heaven knows, Stephano, how dear thou art to my heart; but could I for a moment believe thee serious; could I suppose that ought but rage and disappointment urged thee to talk thus, I would instantly renounce thee. Leave this perfidious woman to her own conscience, that will sooner or later avenge thee; and in other pursuits thou wilt soon forget one, who was never worthy of thy love."
Montalva heard the count with stifled rage, but he resolved to dissemble.
"I thank thee my friend, (said he), my cooler judgment would have suggested what thou hast said; but passion mastered reason; we will speak of this no more."
D'Rosonio embraced him. "Now, (cried he,) I recognise my friend; that was spoken like Montalva. Come, will you accompany me to the Palazzo Romaldi? The lovely marquise has to-night a brilliant party, and the gaiety of the scene will amuse you."
Montalva consented, and they went. The marquise's guests, were as usual, the most elegant people in Naples; and Montalva in the midst of a circle of beauties appeared to have forgotten his chagrin but his gaiety was entirely dissembled, his mind was occupied with schemes of vengeance on Bianca; but as he feared that D'Rosonio might interfere with his project, he resolved to lull the count's suspicions asleep, by affect