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me, I will rush forward, and at the foot of that altar, where he would oblige her to profane the most solemn vows, I will claim my afhanced bride.”
"I will second you to the utmost of my power (cried the count). Every thing shall be risked to prevent this hateful union; tranquillize your spirits then, Montalva, and doubt not that we shall succeed."
The following morning, the friends repaired to the church of Pietro A'Majella, before the beginning of high mass. In a short time, Don Juan and Donna Clara entered, with a numerous and splendid retinue. When D'Rosonio beheld the bridegroom sinking under the weight of age and infirmities, he felt indignant that such a being should presume to aspire to the hand of the young and lovely Clara.
Joy and exultation sparkled in the eyes of Don Juan, and the friends were surprised at the calmness with
which Clara behaved; she was pale indeed, but her countenance was perfectly serene; she lost her self-command, however, when she beheld her lover, and for some moments her agitation was very great; she recovered herself, and gave him a look full of affection. Soon after mass began, and every faculty of Clara appeared absorbed in devotion. She prayed with uncommon fervour; and as she cast her lovely eyes to that Heaven which she supplicated, the colour revisited her palled cheek, and to Montalva and his friend, she appeared something celestial.
When mass was over, Don Juan led her to the altar, and the ceremony was about to begin. D'Rosonio and Montalva drew near, and the signor was upon the point of rushing forward to assert his claim, when a look from Clara prevented him.
Stop, holy father (cried she to the bishop, who had began the nuptial rites), stop, I conjure you."
"Proceed (said Don Juan). Is this your promise, Clara?"
"I appeal to the church, and to you as its minister, (cried she, without regarding the words of her guardian), I am the victim of the most cruel tyranny, and I solicit the protection of the church."
"You shall have it, daughter (said the prelate), provided your complaint is just."
"Her words are false, reverend father (cried Don Juan), she voluntarily accompanied me here; she promised me her hand; and now she wishes to evade the performance of her promise, solemnly, sacredly, as it was made."
"Hear me, I beseech you, father (said Clara). I am an orphan, I have no friend, I appeal to your humanity; oh! as you hope for mercy at the last day, let not the appeal be made in vain."
The interesting loveliness of the fair supplicant, and her affecting energy,
moved the heart of the good bishop; he desired to hear her tale, and the simple, unvarnished manner in which it was told, persuaded him of its truth. When she came to the period at which her guardian discovered her preference of Montalva, whose name she concealed; she proceeded as follows.
"WHEN Don Juan declared his determination never to consent to my union with another, and rejected the offer I made him of my whole fortune, I begged to be allowed to spend one year in a convent; (if he was indeed determined to force me to be his, before our union took place); but even this request was denied me, and he resolved to have the ceremony performed without delay. Driven by this tyranny to have recourse to stratagem, I feigned to acquiesce with his wishes, only sti pulating that our marriage should be