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together by what means they could separate the young people from each other. In the meanwhile, the artful Landino had craft enough to discover that the Countess meditated a match for her son, which would not have suited certain political views of his own; accordingly he changed his game, resolving that the marriage of Rovinelli and the young English lady should stand good, trusting that he could afterwards mould it to his purpose.
"What you say of separating them," he said, "is well enough, as far as the mere punishment of the parties is concerned: but we must look beyond that, to other considerations. Nothing would be more easy, as you know, than to annul the marriage, for which the Holy Church hath ample power and a sufficient good will; but it will be a more difficult thing to disentangle their affections from each other. Granted, then, though you should even tear away your son by force from the arms of the heretic, it will be impossible to drive him against his will into any other alliance. As for the girl, she is of gentle birth and a large fortune, and for loveliness might be one of the angels, seeing which, it is a pity but to think on the peril of her immortal soul. Such a woman, as the wife of your son, brings us endless sorrow and shameful annoy, whereas such a convert, would tend to our infinite honour, and at the same time prevent the misery of the young people here, as well as the perdition of a soul hereafter.1'
The Countess understood clearly the drift of this discourse; and after some further arguments it was agreed, that she should receive the young people with an apparant kindness, and induce them to reside with her for some time at the palace, during which, she was to exert her joint influence with Landino, to convert the young lady to the Roman Catholic faith.
It was with many justifiable misgivings that Rovinello contemplated the introduction of his beautiful bride to his mother, for he knew her implacable nature. Notwithstanding, with the fond imagination of a lover, he hoped that the loveliness and gentle manners of his mistress would finally overcome even the most stubborn of prejudices. Trusting in this delusion, he took his wife to the palace of the Countess, who was sitting, when they entered, on a couch at the further end of the apartment; but Rovinello could perceive a look on her countenance that filled him with despair; for her dark eyes were fixed upon him quite motionless, like those of a statue, and her lips were utterly white through passionate compression. Notwithstanding that the young pair had advanced to the middle of the chamber, she never rose from her seat, till Rovinello, coming up to her very feet, with a faltering voice presented the young lady to her notice.
The inflexible Countess, in return, merely fixed her eyes on the Englishwoman, who at this strange reception began to shake all over with fear; and the more, because she felt the hand of Rovinello trembling within her own. After a long silence, more dreadful than any words, the timid creature, plucking up her courage a little, began to speak as follows, with great sweetness of tone and manner:—
"Pray, madam, do not scorn to receive me as your child, for I have no parent in this far off land, unless the mother of my dear Rovinello. I cannot bear to think that I am hateful to any one that regards him with affection : pray, therefore, do not spurn me thus from your heart."
At the last of these words the Countess rose up, and with a tone at once calm and stern, and a befitting look, desired the young lady to kneel down and receive her blessing. The obedient girl, with bended knees and clasped hands, stooped down as she was commanded, at the feet of the haughty Countess; and in this position heard, but only half comprehended} in Latin, the following sentences :—
"From my mouth and from my heart, I curse thee, wicked heretic. I commend thee to flames here, and to flames hereafter. Amen. Amen."
I have said that the Englishwoman did not quite comprehend these words; but she saw by the ghastly countenance of Rovinello that they were very horrible. As for that unhappy gentleman, he let go the hand of his wife, and grasping his forehead between his palms, as though it were about to burst asunder, he staggered a step or two apart, and leaned quite stunned and bewildered against the wall of the chamber. His cruel mother noticing this movement, cast a fiercer look than ever towards the speechless lady, and then turning towards Rovinello, addressed him thus :—
"Son, thou i hast come home to me this day after years of travel; but in such a manner, that I would rather behold thee crucified ;" and with that she pointed to a large ebony cross, whereon was the figure of our blessed Saviour curiously carved in ivory; the holy blood-drops