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St. Teresa, the Signora Sforza placed her youngest daughter in the convent. Laura was about the age of Isabel, and the childish partiality which they soon discovered for each other, ripened in time into the tenderest friendship. The Signora Sforza, who was passionately fond of her daughter, soon became attached to Isabel; and the lady abbess could not refuse her repeated requests, that the young orphan should sometimes accompany Laura in her visits to her mother's castle.
The signora was a widow, and of large fortune; to inherit which, she had two daughters and a son, whom she loved with more than maternal fondness. Julia, the eldest, was lovely in her person, but her haughty and ungentle temper, was a source of uneasiness to her mother, who had tried every lenient method to reclaim her, but in vain. Laura, both in person and disposition, strongly resembled her mother graceful, feminine, and interest
ing, she was formed rather to be loved than admired; her features were not regularly beautiful, but the sweetness of her countenance, the mild lustre of her full, blue, expressive eyes, was sufficient to disarm the severity of even the coldest critic and no one ever gazed upon Laura de Sforza without allowing her the meed of beauty.
Alberto, the pride and hope of his mother, gave promise even in the dawn of his youth, of every great and noble quality; he was not indeed free from faults, his temper was haughty and impetuous; keenly alive to the smallest insult, he resented it with the greatest asperity: yet, open to conviction, and attentive to the voice of deserved reproof, sullenness, or malignity, had no place in his disposition. His mo
ther was not blind to the faults of his temper, but she was aware that they were faults which time would correct, and greatly indeed were they over-balanced by his virtues.
His sister Laura was Alberto's favou rite, and he soon loved Isabel also as a sister. The family of Sforza had free access to Laura, and she scarcely went to the grate to receive her mother or her brother unaccompanied by Isabel. The lady abbess and the signora had been friends from infancy, and she re joiced that her dear child, as she fondly called Isabel, was the distinguished favourite of the Signora Sforza..
"Look at this portrait (said the sig nora one day to the mother of Teresa), and tell me whether you perceive any resemblance between it and any one whom you have seen."
The abbess gazed upon it for some time in silence; at last (she said), "the countenance, though handsome, has an expression of haughtiness, that totally disfigures it; yet, was it not for that circumstance, I should think that in the soft features of Isabel I could trace a likeness."
"I have thought so frequently (cried
e signora); the expression of the face deed is different, but in the features ere is a resemblance. You have said, at you know not ought of Isabel's mily, and I am ignoraut for whom is portrait was drawn; but from the anner in which I became possessed of I have reason to believe the original as of rank."
"You know (continued she), that was destined for the veil, and, during by noviciate in the convent of St. Clara,
Rome, a lady young, and of noble ppearance, applied to the abbess for ermission to reside in the convent; er dignified and elegant manners, as well as the large sum that she offered For her pension, made the holy mother readily grant her request. Scarcely ever lid I behold a form and face so beautiful; but she appeared a prey to the deepest melancholy; and, after a little time, she avowed a resolution of taking the veil. I had just entered upon noviciate when she became an inVOL. II.
mate of the convent, and every day increased my reluctance to a monastic life. ` I was aware of the arts generally practised by the nuns, to hide from the eyes of the novices the gloomy destiny to which they are about to devote themselves; but with me those arts were not practised, because, being brought up in the convent from my infancy, and being a destined victim, they thought the trouble was unnecessary, and would, from my knowledge of their artifices, be useless; but with Maria, as she was named, every stratagem was put in practice that could allure her to become a member of the sisterhood; she appeared to receive their caresses and attentions with indifference, but she still persevered in her intention to become a nun. One day I had, for the first time, an opportunity of speaking to her in private, and I resolved not to lose it.
"You are about to become our sister, I find (said I).
"Yes' (replied she, without raising