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visible. For some time they maintained a profound silence, while through fear I scarcely ventured to breathe.

«« What detains him ?' muttered one of the dark strangers to his fellow.

“ • Hush ! he comes,' was the reply.

** As they spoke, a tall figure advanced, and made a slight noise, as if produced by the clapping of his hands together. It seemed a preconcerted signal, and was answered by the strangers.

“« 'Tis well,' said the third person, as he joined them. “You are punctual to the time.'

. I trust your lordship will ever find me so,' was the reply.
“ • Who is your companion ? Will he prove-
True as the steel he carries,' returned the bravo.
“ • Enough—I have found you always faithful, Jaques.'

“• The bravo made an acknowledgment for the compliment paid him by his noble employer.

“« In five minutes Count d'Alorno will pass yonder corner,' said the last comer.

He is closely muffled-going on love's errand to Catarina. Fool! those white and rounded arms shall never again clasp thee to a bosom that artists' chisel imitates in vain. No, an icier embrace is waiting for thee. In one heart, D'Alorno, thou hast supplanted me—but Cipriani takes care that never shall he be rivalled a second time. Be prompt—no bungling, Jaques! Thirty gold pieces. Thou knowst, I keep my word!

“ Fear not, my lord-I keep mine also,' growled the ruffian. «• To your posts—I must away.'

“. He said, and walked off rapidly, and in a different direction from that by which the devoted victim was expected.

“ . Before the brief conference had ended, I had fully comprehended the whole detail of the intended murder, and my

decision quickly made. Prompt action might avail, and there might still be time allowed to warn the unconscious nobleman. In the deep shadow of the church portico I glided away unnoticed-my dark mantle did not catch the eye, and my noiseless footsteps were drowned in the heavier tread of the retiring murderers. I gained the corner safely—there two streets united—which should I follow? On the selection life and death depended. I reflected for a second-the more retired of the two would be taken by him whose mission was secret love—and I hurried down the deserted one.

“* Before I had proceeded far, I heard approaching footsteps-I stopped-a man closely muffled came up-he was passing carelessly, when in a low voice I muttered, “Count d’Alorno ! “ Ha ! exclaimed the stranger, as he started back.

• Know you me, then ?' and flinging his cloak aside, I saw a sword-blade glitter in the moonlight.

“I come to save you,' was my rapid answer. · Hush ! as you value life-murderers are not fifty paces distant.'

• Strange!-a woman's voice-who are you ?' “ • Ask no questions-retrace your steps--at yonder corner the bravos are lurking.'

“« Retrace my steps ! he exclaimed, haughtily. "Not I, by Heaven !



566 I am.

I am on my guard, and now let the villains look to theniselves. How many are there?

"Two—the third is gone. He was the employer, and with your own, two names were mentioned.'

66 Ha! Recollect them, girl! I should like to know my secret enemy, and return him the intended favour.'

“One name I overheard was Catarina—the other Cipriani.' 6. Ha! art thou certain, girl ?'

They lorded him, too.' “ Right, by all the saints.'

“ As he spoke, from the more open street which I have already described as uniting with that in which we were conversing, a figure issued. He, too, was folded in a cloak, and walked forward in the direction of the church of San Isidro.

** • When he had turned the corner, and before thirty seconds had elapsed, a cry was heard of Murder !' The count

sprang forward, sword in hand-I followed-and within a few yards of the portico of San Isidro, we found a man extended in the street. An outcry for assistance was heard by the patrol. They hurried up—relief was unavailing. The stranger-an English traveller--was dead. Half-a-dozen stabs in the back and breast had been inflicted, and any of them would have proved mortal.

“The count regarded the bleeding body for a minute, and then muttered to himself a benedicite.

** A marvellous escape. San Juan! my patron, I thank thee! But where is the girl ?—where my preserver ?

** I timidly approached.
“* Where, girl, is thy home ?--where live thy parents ?'
“ . Alas! my lord,' I replied, “I have neither.'

Then come with me. Poor wanderer ! I owe thee a life. This night imposes on me a double debt, and both shall be faithfully discharged. Gratitude first—vengeance afterwards. Cipriani, remain another week in Naples, and if D’Alorno clears not scores with thee !—But come on, poor girl—we'll shelter thee to-night, and provide for thee to-morrow!"

“ Carlotta !' exclaimed a voice without.

** • 'Tis Susan,' and stopping her narrative, she rose and unlocked the door.

“. Madeline has been to your chamber-I met her in the passage, and sent her to seek you in the garden.'

*** Thanks, my good girl. My presence here might cause suspicion. When opportunity permits, I will return--and ere I meet my faithful lover and most repentant husband, you, lady, shall know more of him than you do at present.'

" "She said, and hurried from the room.'




The Lombard gentry are fonder of country-life than their brethren of southern Italy. There are three seasons in the year, in which the landlord is expected to encourage the toils and to grace with his presence the sports of his peasantry. These are the Mietitura, or wheatharvest, in June; the Scartocciata, or gathering in and husking of the Indian corn, and the Vendemmia, or vintage.

Each of these three successive harvests, especially if the crops are luxuriant, becomes an occasion for rural rejoicing, in which the signori, waiving all dignity of rank, join their humble retainers in the pleasures of the banquet and the dance. It was mid-August, the season for the maize harvest. The Consigliere Serventi, a man whose agricultural abilities chiefly consisted in kind regard shown to his labourers, had assembled a few of his town friends at St. Leonard's Court to dance a furlana and to eat gnocchi with them.

St. Leonard's Court, once La Badia di San Leonardo, lies four miles to the north of Parma, on the road to Colorno. It was from time immemorial the principal estate of a wealthy Benedictine convent, which had for many centuries managed to thrive amidst the frequent convulsions which changed the aspect of all things around, whose pious inmates, placed beyond reach of the tide of human passions, had always impartially blessed all standards, and invariably prayed for all governments.

Towards the last century, in an evil hour for that holy community, the convent itself had become the seat of government. Don Ferdi. nand of Bourbon, Infant of Spain, and last Duke of Parma, Placentia, and Guastalla, not unfrequently held his court at St. Leonard's, and its holy cenobites became his temporal, no less than his spiritual advisers.

The example of his father, Don Philip of Bourbon, a hunter and a warrior, who had been dragged to death by a mad horse through the woods of Colorno, had early warned the young duke against the dangers attendant on the wild sports of the field, and inspired him with a taste for humbler but safer pursuits. He dismissed hounds, hunters, and foresters, abolished his bloody game-laws, ridded himself of bis French tutor, the Jacobin philosopher Condillac, and of his hot-headed wife, Maria Amelia, Archduchess of Austria (who spent her life in her royal stables at Sala, currying her horses, and horsewhipping her grooms), and repaired to the hospitable board of St. Leonard's refectory, where he betook himself to the edifying functions of psalm-singing and bellringing (a most princely occupation, which won him the appellation of “ Principe Campanaro"), or, in leisure hours and after confession, he set out in quest of adventures, hunting peasant girls in the neighbourhood-a more harmless chase on the whole, and attended with less danger than that to which his hare-brained parent had miserably fallen a victim.

The happy days of St. Leonard were, however, soon over. Duke Ferdinand was, with all the other inoffensive but unwarlike potentates of Italy, involved in the calamities attendant on the French Revolution, and no sooner had the good King Log died of chagrin, or, as it is stated, of indigestion, than a host of King Storks, in the shape of a regiment of sans-culottes, seized upon the convent and land, ransacked its time-honoured cellars, sang their ça-ira in the choir, and hung their red caps over the high altar, scared the rooks from their old haunts, and set fire to their nest.

The wide and rich domains of the monastery escheated, by right of conquest, to the new rulers, and it was not until the happy restoration of 1814, that they were, with pious fidelity, given back to their legitimate owners.

Such, however, of the scattered Benedictines as had not found the wide world to their taste, and longed for the fattening sty of their cloisters, were incorporated with the monks of St. John, a wealthy religious order of the same denomination at Parma, and the ruins of St. Leonard's Abbey were left to moulder in silent desolation.

The lands, which the monks of St. John were now too rich and idle to farm for themselves, were let on a long lease to the Consigliere Serventi, one of the seven judges of the Tribunale di Revisione, the supreme court of the state. The good judge understood not an iota of agriculture, so that the management of his extensive farm devolved on his fattore or steward, who, while he afforded to his employer ample means of upholding the dignity of his station in town, did not fail, at the same time, to scrape together a few scudi for himself; such being the excellence of that bountiful Lombard soil, that it can afford to support, at once, without difficulty, labourer, farmer, and landlord ; court, church, and state, together with the strenuous Austrian soldiery, whom Heaven, in its mercy, appointed to rule and protect it.

Dividing his time between his magistracy and his rural cares or sinecures, the judge had built a modern court or villa on the ruins of the monastery, and with the very materials of that dismantled edifice. The villa was a plain two-story building, massy and ponderous, surmounted by a square dovecot in the shape of a donjon, with mock loop-holes and battlements, and a large portico in front, under which the judge and his friends were now reclining on straw sofas, waiting for the refreshing coolness of the western breeze.

The front of the house faced the ruins of the old church. On the right, the grounds were still encumbered with ivy-clad arches and pillars, the remnants of the cloisters; on the left, at some distance, was a cluster of white but squalid huts, the hamlet of the former menials and vassals of the convent, now the free but not less starved and ragged labourers of the soil; further on, the stables and dairies, kept up with that cleanliness, airiness, and comfort, which constitute the chief pride of the Lombard peasant, who seems happy to show how far better housed, fed, and washed are his cattle than his family.

Behind the ruins of the monastery, the view was closed by'a lofty moiind or artificial hill, covered with dense shrubs, overtopped by



a crown of twelve aged oaks of ancient growth, under whose shades were once the ample cellars, the butchery, and the ice-house of the monastery, and where now, if you believe the old crones and the thicksculled bumpkins at the hamlet, elves, goblins, and witches, hold their abominable conventicles, playing over again the unholy scenes of orgies and debauchery, which, in the hey-day of monastic revelry, those dark caves were said to have witnessed,

If ancient tales say true, nor wrong those holy men. The convent, church, and premises had occupied a wide extent of twelve acres, which was still surrounded by a large but shallow ditch, overgrown with reeds, and planted all round with those pyramidal poplars, which are nowhere fine trees but in their native climate of Lombardy.

All round, the view was tame and circumscribed; no lake or river enlivened the level landscape, and, wherever the eye was allowed to roam beyond the lines of poplars that confined it, it rested upon yellow corn-fields or orchards, and richly-laden vines hanging in wide festoons from their elms. There was, however, no dusty road, no paltry house, no sign of human habitation, in sight. The owner of that sequestered abode could fancy that ditch and those trees the limits of the known world. It was not, perhaps, a sublime nor even a romantic scene, but every thing had an air of quiet and comfort. The monastic genius of the place lingered still in that happy retirement, imparting to its ancient shades all the contemplative solemnity of claustral repose.

At the moment, however, to which we refer, the whole scene was alive with the bustle of the expected fête. The wide threshing-floor, a large square opening between the barns and the mean dwellings of the rustics, presented a quaint and motley picture. The crop of Indian, or, as it is there called, Turkish or Saracen corn, had already been diligently husked, threshed, and winnowed; the floor had been carefully swept, the grain conveyed to the barns, the husks and cobs heaped up in huge stacks around. Some of the judge's guests had already repaired to the spot, and had even been there for hours, volunteering their co-operation to the ruddy-cheeked contadine, causing more bustle than good speed, and occasionally incurring the displeasure and frown of the steward's wife.

Clothed in her Sunday best, her frilled cylindrical cap towering on her head, her black velvet bodice glancing in the sun, her stiff crimson gown rustling at her heels, her huge old-fashioned earrings jingling on her neck, the worthy fattora was now busy with two enormous cauldrons, in which the gnocchi and lasagne (the macaroni of northern Italy) were boiling. Vain were her efforts to recall to her aid the truant peasant girls, who were now romping and frolicking with their riotous gallants from town, pelting each other with corn-cobs, or diving into the dry rustling husks in pursuit of each other.

Not far from the stewardess's temporary kitchen was a long oaken table, on which had already been spread a coarse but snow-white hempen cloth ; on the opposite side was a wooden bench for the orchestra.

The orchestra was composed of four itinerant musicians, two violins,

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