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spirits had produced a slight degree of fever, which the tenderness of Montoni magnified; the first physicians in Rome were summoned, and the signor hung over the couch of this bosom serpent with the fondest solicitude. For some days, the baleful passions which tormented this woman's mind prevented her recovery; and she was still an invalid, when the illness of his favourite nephew, whose recovery was very doubtful, obliged Montoni to leave her for a few days. Never was news so welcome to Claudia. The absence of the signor, would (she thought), afford her leisure to devise some plan to rid herself both of him and De Laney, who was now more odious to her than even Montoni; she was, however, spared the commission of the crime which she meditated; the illness of Montoni's nephew was a pestilential fever, the signor caught it, and his recovery was in a few days declared impossible.
Montoni met death with the firm
ness of a christian. One only sin of magnitude hung upon his mind; this was the injury that he had (as he supposed) done to Claudia, to whom he dictated a letter, in which, in the most affecting terms, he bade her farewel; and while he supplicated her to pardon him, he besought her not to let any temptation plunge her into a similar error in future; he painted in the liveliest colours, the remorse that he felt for having caused her fall, from virtue; and he concluded by an assurance, that his only consolation was, the having it in his power to provide amply for
The conclusion of his letter was indeed the only part of it to which Claudia attended; her joy at his death was excessive; "liberty, and independence (said she) are now my own, and happiness awaits me."
It was not without some regret that she relinquished the idea of taking vengeance upon De Laney, but self was
ever her predominant consideration; she dreaded that her design might be discovered, and if it was, certain punishment awaited her. The fear of this made her at first hesitate, and finally give up her design, and to her pusillanimity alone De Laney owed his life.
Released now from every restraint, she plunged into the vortex of unbounded libertinism, and her wit and beauty drew many men of rank into her snares; her unbounded extravagance however soon reduced her to pecuniary difficulties, and her admirers by degrees deserted her; she was still very young, and lovely as ever, and she deter mined to leave Rome, and seek at Naples for some lover, who was rich and weak enough to support her in the style to which she had latterly been ac customed.
SHE had not been many days at Naples, when she fancied that in the Duke D'Vinci she had discovered a man fit for her purpose; and she waited only for an opportunity of throwing herself in his way, when the masquerade presented one that she determined to improve.
The duke's libertinism and inconstancy were notorious, and Claudia thought that it would require some artifice to inspire him with a real passion. In order to effect this, she determined to give an air of mystery to her
proceedings, and not to suffer herself to be too easily won. Naturally keen and penetrating, she saw, and rejoiced in the impression which at their first interview, she was convinced, she had made; she suffered some days to elapse. before she let the duke hear from her; at last, when his impatience was at the height, and he had nearly given up his fascinating incognita, he received the following
"I know by the magic powers with which I am gifted, how extremely unjust you have been to your Sylph, but I forgive your suspicions; believe me, it was not as you have thought, a wish to raise a curiosity that I did not mean to gratify, which induced me to defer our interview; other, and more weighty considerations influenced me; but I am now at liberty to see you, and should your devotion lead you to vespers this