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I can neither wonder at, nor oppose the chioce of my son."
May every blessing attend their union (said the abbess), and with such a wife as our Isabel, Sforza must be blessed; I am not surprised at your generosity in consenting to his happiness; wave but one circumstance, and Isabel is a wife of whom a monarch might be proud."
"True, she is so (replied the signora); I meant to have opened the business to her myself, but you, I think, can do it better; there is one thing that I could wish; should my son's proposals meet with Isabel's approbation, should Alberto know that her pure and ingenuous heart is his, no power on earth, I am well convinced, could force him to resign her, and you are well aware that, from her peculiar situation, the union of Alberto and herself may be impossible, should, this whom, I fear, she wholly depends, refuse his consent."
"I hope, nay, I think, that he will not," cried the abbess.
"I hope so too, most sincerely (said the signora), all I wish is, that our Isabel would strongly impress Alberto with the necessity there is of submission to his decree."
"That I am sure she will not fail to do, for she has long considered that her fate is in his hands (said the abbess), I long for the time that we may expect his messenger."
"And so in truth do I (cried the signora). Oh! my friend, how many anxieties rend the heart of a mother; susceptible as my Alberto is, should his wishes be disappointed, his early hopes of happiness blighted, how fatal will such a blow be to the peace of his future life."
"Let us hope better (said the abbess); I will prepare Isabel for the good fortune which awaits her, and speedily, I hope, that ours and the dear orphan's suspence, will be happily ended."
Most fervently, did the signora join in the wish of her friend; and that day the abbess determined to acquaint Isabel with the passion of Alberto.
"We may soon, my child (cried she), expect to hear from your guardian. Isabel sighed. Tell me Isabel the cause of that sigh," continued the abbess.
A crimson glow suffused the cheek. of the lovely orphan, but for some moments she could not speak, at last she timidly replied, "indeed I know not, dearest mother, how to account for my wayward heart; I love our sisters, I love you: ah! heaven knows how truly the poor orphan, fostered by your bounty, returns the affection you have always shewn her: yet, when I think of making a solemn, and irrevocable Vow, never to pass these walls, my breast is filled with anguish, and my eyes with tears."
"Remember, my dearest Isabel, those lessons of piety and resignation
which you so early shewed a disposition to imbibe (cried her maternal friend); anguish and despondency, my child, ought to arise only from a consciousness of guilt, and from that consciousness the heart of my Isabel will, I trust, be always free. Mistake me not so far as to suppose I wish to influence your choice, if a choice was indeed allowed you; I wish only to fortify your mind, to enable you to submit with cheerfulness to what may be unavoidable; but on the contrary, should the Signor Valdorno consent to your quitting us, most willing shall I forego, for your happiness, that pleasure which your society has for years afforded me."
Isabel's tears bore testimony to her sense of the holy mother's kindness, and she cast herself, weeping, into her
"Oh! (sobbed she) how is it pos sible for me to repine, when I think that my future days are to be spent with you? pity and forgive your Isabel,
who will conquer this weakness, of which she is indeed ashamed."
The abbess pressed her to her bosom.
"Thou hast no cause for shame, my dear, and innocent girl (cried she), I know not whether I ought to inform you, and yet my word is pledged to do so; there is a chance, that if motives of prudence alone influence the Signor Valdorno in destining you to a monas tic life, you may escape the veil.
"Alberto Sforza," she paused, and a glance at Isabel betrayed to her penetrating eye the reason of that reluctance which her young friend had expressed to a religious life: the heart of Isabel had unconsciously imbibed a passion for Alberto; treated by him as a beloved sister, she never suspected that her regard was different to what she would have felt for a brother; but this mention of his name gave birth to a thousand hopes and wishes that she had never hitherto dared to in