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THE VENETIAN COUNTESS.

"The fire straight upward bears the souls in breath:
Visions of horror circle in the flame,
With shapes and figures like to that of Death."

ALAHAM.

THE VENETIAN COUNTESS.

The face of the Countess Rovinello, in the portrait which is still in the family palace at Venice, bears many signs of that stern and gloomy disposition, which produced such bitter fruits in the end to herself and to others. The nose, more Roman than aquiline, resembling the features of the Caesars, denotes forcibly her masculine firmness and determination of purpose; her dark eyes and lowering brow the pride of her heart, scarcely lower than that of the fallen Angel; and her puckered curling lip, the scorn and cruelty of her humour. Ambitious, inflexible, and haughty by nature, she was by education subtle, unmerciful, and

VOL. IX. F

a bigot; the confessor Landino, a Jesuit, being constantly at her elbow, and holding the secret direction of all her affairs.

This man coming one day into her chamber, discovered the Countess in a fit of uncontrollable rage, a thing in her very unusual; for she disdained, generally, to show any outward signs of her emotions. Mistrustful, therefore, of her own voice, lest it should falter, she held out an open letter, her hand quaking all the time like an aspen leaf, and made a motion for Landino to read it; who, as soon as he had glanced at the writing, gave back the paper with these words:—

"This affair is old news with me. The blind passion of your son for the young English heretic was well known to me months ago, and nothing has been omitted to break off so scandalous a match. I have many skilful agents in England, but for this once they have been frustrated in their endeavours."

"Father," returned the offended Countess, "you are prudent and wise in most cases: but would it not have been as well to have shared your information with myself. The authority of a mother, in such a matter, might have had some weight in the scale.1'

"We have not failed," said Landino, "to menace him in the name of the Holy Church, the mother of his soul, whose mandates in authority exceed those of the mother of his body. As for your ignorance, it was a needful precaution, that any acts of severity might seem the inflictions of the spiritual parent rather than your own."

The Countess nodded her head gravely at this speech, to signify that she understood the hint of Landino, notwithstanding she felt anger enough at heart to have made her agree to any measures, however cruel, for the prevention of so hateful a marriage. Her great confidence, however, in the skill and subtlety of the confessor, assured her that no means had been omitted for that design, and now it only remained to concert

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