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and when the domestics were persuaded of her death, he observed, that it would be easy to remove her from Naples, and place her in safety in some obscure situation, where her birth could never be discovered, and where she might pass for an orphan, dependent upon the bounty of Montalva, whose name and condition it would be easy to conceal.
When Anselmo related his project to Montalva, the signor execrated his own folly in not thinking of it himself; a plan at once so simple, and so secure, would have been easy, of execution without a confidant; "and the secret (thought he) would still have been my
He readily agreed to Anselmo's proposal. A powerful soporific gave to the little Isabel a death-like slumber, that imposed upon all who saw her. In the night before her funeral obsequies were to be performed, Montalva and Anselmo removed her from the magnificent coffin in which she had been laid, and
Anselmo secreted himself with her at a cottage, some miles from Naples, for a few days, till he was joined by Mons talva, who determined to take the little orphan to a convent at a considerable distance.
"There (said he, mentally) she will be safe; and, if it is not her own fault, she may be happy." "And what right hast thou to be the arbiter of her destiny," whispered conscience, but her voice was disregarded, and the wretched Montalva, in adding crime to crime, dared to look forward to the future, and to hope for peace,
Montalva fabricated a story which he thought would answer his purpose. He represented Isabel as an orphan destitute of fortune, and solely dependant on the bounty of a relation, who intended her, at a proper age, to take the veil; he paid five years' pension in advance, and received from the lady abbess every assurance that she should meet with the kindest treatment.
The abbess of St. Teresa, was truly an honour to the religion that she professed. Early disappointments had induced her to chuse a monastic life; and, in the duties of religion, she found consolation for the perfidy of a man whom she had adored. Her sublime piety, and her unaffected meekness and humanity, made her equally beloved and venerated by the sisterhood; and, at a very early age, she attained the rank of superior, an office which she filled equally to her own credit, and the satisfaction of her daughters, whom she treated as if they were indeed her children.
When Montalva presented the little Isabel to her, she embraced the child with a mother's tenderness, and Isabel returned her caresses with all the ingenious simplicity of childhood.
"It may be years before you again see me (cried Montalva to the lady abbess), but I will take care that Isabel's pension shall always be paid in advance;
and you, holy mother, will impress upon her mind, at an early age, that she is intended for a monastic life; it will indeed, from her education, be most probably the one that she would prefer."
The abbess promised to follow his instructions, and he set out on his return to Naples. On the second day of his journey, Anselmo was taken suddenly ill, and in a few hours was unable to proceed; Montalva himself attended him with the most anxious care. "How good, how humane, is this signor (cried the inn-keeper), with what watchful kindness he hovers over his poor sick servant!" Alas! how little able are we to judge the real motives of human actions Humanity had no share in the attentions which Montalva lavished on his secretary; he dreaded that remorse would force his secret from the lips of Anselmo, and this apprehension was the cause of his apparent kindness; his fears, however, were vain, in a few hours Anselmo expired, and, from the mo
ment they had stopped at the inn, Montalva had never quitted him.
"The secret (cries Montalva, exultingly), is now my own; every bar to my happiness is removed, and I will quaff the cup of pleasure, and enjoy the riches of which I am possessed."
Such were the resolutions of Montalva, but he had yet to learn that neither the possession of riches, nor sensual enjoyments, can stop the voice of conscience.
He had flattered him
self that Isabel once removed, the uneasiness of his mind would subside; but his unhappiness every day increased, and while seated at the festive board, surrounded by the most beautiful courtezans in Naples, the spirit of his murdered friend seemed to menace him with that punishment which his crimes had deserved.
On the supposed death of Isabel, he had taken the title of count, and many were the overtures of marriage made him by the noblest families in Naples;