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Lauretta in business, but in vain. The causes of disgust, which I had received, had ceased, but the reign of ambition was over, and its illusive splendours could not restore peace to my
"I had given out that my wife was no more, but I was not yet wicked enough to think, without a pang, of giving my hand to another. The torments of my mind at length impaired my health, and by the advice of my physician, I returned to my villa.
"I will not, my son, repeat to you the false and sophistical arguments which I used to persuade myself that my wife had herself exonerated me from the nuptial vow. I forgot, or rather I endeavoured to forget, that no human power can sunder those whom Heaven has joined; in short, I determined to espouse Lauretta.
"My honourable proposals were received with equal modesty and gratitude. Lauretta became mine, and now said I to myself, at last I am happy. I ac
knowledge the truth of that reproving glance, my son, I was indeed mistaken. Oh! who was ever otherwise, that thought happiness compatible with guilt.
"In one year after our marriage, Lau retta brought me a son, and the following year another; doatingly fond of my wife and children. I looked forward to those honours for my boys, which I despised for myself, but Heaven had decreed otherwise; both my children died within one month of each other.
"Lauretta yet remained, and in endeavouring to console her, I lost a part of my own affliction. Time in some degree calmed our sorrows, and for five years after the death of my children, I might, but for the visitations of conscience, have been happy.
"In the fifth year, I lost Lauretta, that being whom I adored, and for whose sake I had plunged into crimes, was suddenly snatched from me, without any previous indisposition: one hour,
saw her blooming in health and beauty, the next beheld her a lifeless corpse."
The friar's voice faultered, and his eyes filled with tears. After a few mo ments pause, he continued-" This event plunged me into affliction, but it produced a salutary effect upon my mind. I reviewed my conduct, and I acknowledged the justice of that unerring arm which tore from me the object of my sinful passion. The world now became hateful to me; I resigned my estates to my nearest of kin, and assumed the monastic habit.
'Slowly did peace again revisit my troubled soul; but penitence and prayer have at length, I trust, atoned for my sins; and I look forward in the humble hope of pardon. Some years after I had assumed the cowl, the confessor of a neighbouring convent being ill, I was sent for to supply his place among the penitents, who poured forth the secrets of their hearts at the foot of the confessional; one well-remembered voice
struck my ear, it was Corinna's. I cautiously made myself known to my injured wife, and besought her forgiveness for the sorrows I had occasioned her. I had the happiness to find that religion had enabled her to conquer those wild emotions which at first destroyed her peace. Severely did she blame herself for the misplaced generosity which induced her to leave me; and I learned the means by which she had discovered my perfidy. My generous Corinna would not allow of my self-accusations. Heaven (said she), in its own proper time, rewards and punishes its creatures; we have both been wrong, we have both from different causes suffered; let us then accept with joy the dawn of peace which Providence has blessed us with, as an earnest of its pardon.'
"From that time to the present, I have every day been easier in my mind. Our order is one of those few that are useful; and in works of mercy to my
fellow creatures, in the duties of religion, I have found that solid peace which sensual enjoyments can never bestow."
The friar ceased, and Alberto thanked him for his tale. His stay had already exceeded the time he proposed to devote to the good father, who, though he acknowledged the propriety of his going, yet parted from him with regret; he charged him with a benediction to Valeria, and he bade him adieu with the warmest wishes and prayers for his future happiness.