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He fixed, upon the count those piercing eyes that had before struck horror to the soul of Montalva.
"I read thy heart (continued be), thou thinkest me a demon." Montalya shuddered, "whether I am so or not, what matters it to thee? I have told thee what has happened, I will show thee what must happen, if thou hast not a spirit to prevent it."
He drew from beneath his cloak a mirror, which he held before Montalva, who, with a convulsive shudder, closed. his eyes, and inarticulately tried to, pray,
"This pious mockery, suits well with the actions of Montalva (cried the demon, for it was indeed an infernal spirit, that stood before the count), thou hast need of prayer, soon. will the husband of Isabel demand of thee, the domains of his bride, soon will thy public and ignominious death, appease the manes of the murdered Count D'Rosonio."
"It cannot be," (cried the agonized Montalva). "Look and convince thyself" (continued the demon).
Montalva cast his eyes upon the mirror; he beheld Isabel weeping in the arms of a young and noble looking man; presently they vanished, and he saw them before an altar, the priest appeared to give them the nuptial benediction, and the bridegroom embraced Isabel. This scene also disappeared, and Montalva saw himself in the hands of officers of justice; near him were placed implements of torture, and the officers approached him with menacing looks, as if prepared to bind him on rack."
"Are there no means to prevent this?" (exclaimed he).
Yes; one, and only one (replied the fiend), Isabel must die."
"No (cried Montalva); I will fly from Naples of the count's death there can be no proof; nor see I how Isabel's birth could ever be discovered."
"You thought yourself secure of Anselmo's fidelity" (replied the demon).
"I knew myself so" (interrupted the count), "thou art mistaken (said the fiend), the secret of thy design to remove the Lady Isabel, was intrusted by -him to a woman now in the service of Signor Sforza's mother, through her will Isabel's birth become known, and thy injustice to the orphan of D'Rosonio, will excite suspicion of her father's fate. When groaning on the rack, an acknowledgment of thy crime shall burst from thy lips; thou wilt then wish that thou hadst taken my counsel; thou wilt then own, that the death of Isabel D'Rosonio would have insured the life of Montalva."
"She shall perish!" (exclaimed the almost frantic count).
"Thou speakest now like the undaunted Montalva (cried the fiend); away with the girlish weakness, called compassion. If Isabel dies, thou art
secure; if she lives, a disgraceful death awaits thee: thou can'st not hesitate."
"I will not (returned Montalva), would she had perished with her father."
Aye (cried the demon), that would have been indeed a secure blow, but it is not yet too late. Farewel, Montalva, my friendship thou mayest command."
"The minstrel vanished, and fain would Montalva have persuaded himself that what he had seen was fancy; the distracting images which the minstrel had conjured up of destruction to himself, seemed but too probable, and to remove and sacrifice the hapless Isabel was, he persuaded himself, the only step that could insure his safety: yet, how to take her immediately from the convent without exciting suspicion, he knew not. How did he now wish (as in an agony of despair he execrated the past) that he could recal the life of D'Rosonio; yet, it was not remorse, it
was not a recollection of the noble and disinterested friendship of the count, which racked the breast of his assassin; from selfish motives alone would he have recalled the murdered count to life."
"Never (exclaimed he), since his death have I known a moment's peace; and now to perish ignominiously! No, by Heaven! that at least shall be prevented-Isabel shall die; her death will secure my life and honour. And why should I feel reluctant to destroy her? one of us must perish, and can I submit to be that one? No, self-defence authorizes the act?"
With this wretched sophistry did the unhappy count try to reconcile himself to the murder of Isabel; but it was sometime before he could fabri-cate a tale to impose upon the lady abbess; at length he thought of one, that would, he hoped, lull`suspicion to sleep, and early the next morning he repaired to the convent.