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done my son an honour extends to myself and to every Sarracinesca, dead, living, and to come."

Then he laid Corona's hand in Giovanni's, and held his own upon them both.

which Prince. "To be expected to behave like an ordinary creature, with grins and smiles and decent paces, when I have just heard what I have longed to hear for years. But I will revenge myself by making a noise about it by-andby. I will concoct schemes for your wedding, and dream of nothing but illuminations and decorations. You shall be Prince of Sant' Ilario, Giovanni, as I was before my father died; and I will give you the estate outright, and the palace in the Corso to live in."

"God bless you," he said, solemnly; and as Corona bent her proud head, he touched her forehead with his lips. Then he embraced Giovanni, and his joy broke out in wild enthusiasm.

"Ha, my children," he cried, "there has not been such a couple as you are for generations-there has not been such good news told in these old walls since they have stood here. We will illuminate the castle, the whole town, in your honour-we will ring the bells and have a Te Deum sung-we I will have such a festival as was never seen before we will go to Rome to-morrow and celebrate the espousal we will"

"Softly, padre mio," interrupted Giovanni. "No one must know as yet. You must consider"

"Consider what? Consider the inarriage? Of course we will consider it, as soon as you please. You shall have such a wedding as was never heard of-you shall be married by the Cardinal Archpriest of Saint Peter's, by the Holy Father himself. The whole country shall ring with it."

It was with difficulty Giovanni succeeded in calming his father's excitement, and in recalling to his mind the circumstances which made it necessary for the present to conceal the engagement. But at last the old man reluctantly consented, and returned to a quieter humour. For some time the three continued to pace the stone rampart.

"This is a case of arrant cruelty to a man of my temper," said the

"Perhaps we might live in my palace," suggested Corona. It seemed strange to her to be discussing her own marriage, but it was necessary to humour the old Prince.

"Of course," he said. "I forgot all about it. You have places enough to live in. One forgets that you will in the end be the richest couple in Italy. Ha!" he cried, in sudden enthusiasm, "the Sarracinescas are not dead yet! They are greater than ever-and our lands here so near together too. We will build a new road to Astrardente, and when you are married you shall be the first to drive over it from Astrardente here. We will do all kinds of thingswe will tunnel the mountain!"

"I am sure you will do that in the end," said Giovanni, laughing.

"Well let us go to dinner," answered his father. "It has grown quite dark since we have been talking, and we shall be falling over the edge if we are not careful."

"I will go and tell Sister Gabrielle before dinner," said Corona to Giovanni.

So they left her at the door of her apartment, and she went in. She found the Sister in an inner

room, with a book of devotions in chosen wisely. When will you be her hand. married?"

"Pray for me, my sister," she said, quietly. "I have resolved upon a great step. I am going to be married again."

Sister Gabrielle looked up, and a quiet smile stole over her thin face.

"It is soon, my friend," she said. "It is soon to think of that. But perhaps you are right-it is the young Prince?"

"Yes," answered Corona, and sank into a deep tapestried chair. "It is soon, I know well. But it has been long-I have struggled hard I love him very much-so much you do not know!"

The Sister sighed faintly, and came and took her hand.

"It is right that you should marry," she said, gently. "You are too young, too famously beautiful, too richly endowed, to lead the life you have led at Astrardente these many months."

"It is not that," said Corona, an expression of strange beauty illuminating her lovely face. "Not that I am young, beautiful as you say, if it is so, or endowed with riches those reasons are nothing. It is this that tells me," she whispered, pressing her left hand to her heart. "When one loves as I love, it is right."

"Indeed it is," assented the good Sister. "And I think you have

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No-of course you cannot tell me," continued Corona; "but it is such a wonderful thing. It makes days seem like hundreds of years, or pass in a flash of light, in a second. It oversets every idea of time, and plays with one's resolutions as the wind with a feather. If once it gets the mastery of one, it crowds a lifetime of pain and pleasure into one day; it never leaves one for a moment. I cannot explain love-it is a wonderful thing."

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My dear friend," said the Sister, "the explanation of love is life."

"But the end of it is not death. It cannot be," continued Corona, earnestly. "It must last for

ever and ever. It must grow better and purer and stronger, until it is perfect in heaven at last : but where is the use of trying to express such things?"

"I think it is enough to feel them," said Sister Gabrielle.

CHAPTER XXVI.

The summer season ripened into autumn, and autumn again turned to winter, and Rome was once more full. The talk of society turned frequently upon the probability of the match between the Duchessa d'Astrardente and Giovanni Sarracinesca; and when at last, three

It

weeks before Lent, the engagement was made know, there was a general murmur of approbation. seemed as though the momentous question of Corona's life, which had for years agitated the gossips, was at last to be settled: every one had been accustomed to regard her

marriage with old Astrardente as a temporary affair, seeing that he certainly could not live long, and speculation in regard to her future had been nearly as common during his lifetime as it was after his death. One of the duties most congenial to society, and one which it never fails to perform conscientiously, is that judicial astrology whereby it forecasts the issue of its neighbour's doings. Everybody's social horoscope must be cast by the circle of five-o'clock-tea-drinking astro-sociologists, and generally speaking, their predictions are not far short of the truth, for society knoweth its own bitterness, and is uncommonly quick in the diagnosis of its own state of health.

When it was announced that Corona was to marry Giovanni after Easter, society looked and saw that the arrangement was good. There was not one dissenting voice heard in the universal applause. Corona had behaved with exemplary decency during the year of her mourning had lived a life of religious retirement upon her estates in the sole company of a Sister of Charity, had given no cause for scandal in any way. Everybody aspired to like her—that is to say, to be noticed by her; but with one exception, she had caused no jealousy or ill-feeling by her indifference, for no one had ever heard her say an unkind word concerning anybody she knew. Donna Tullia had her own reasons for hating Corona, and perhaps the world suspected them; but people did not connect the noisy Donna Tullia, full of animal spirits and gay silly talk, with the idea of serious hatred, much less with the execution of any scheme of revenge.

Indeed Madame Mayer had not spent the summer and autumn in nursing her wrath against Corona.

She had travelled with the old countess, her companion, and several times Ugo del Ferice had appeared suddenly at the wateringplaces that she had selected for her temporary residence. From time to time he gave her news of mutual friends, which she repaid conscientiously with interesting accounts of the latest scandals. They were a congenial pair, and Ugo felt that by his constant attention to her wishes, and by her never-varying willingness to accept his service, he had obtained a hold upon her intimacy which, in the ensuing winter, would give him a decided advantage over all competitors in the field. She might have married half-a-dozen times, and with her fortune she could easily have made a very brilliant match; she might even perhaps have married Valdarno, who was very good-natured: but her attachment to Giovanni, and the expectations she had so long entertained in regard to him, had prevented her from accepting the advances made by others; and while she was hesitating, Del Ferice, by his superior skill, had succeeded in making himself indispensable to her-- a success the more remarkable that, in spite of his gifts and the curious popularity he enjoyed, he was by far the least desirable man of her acquaintance from the matrimonial point of view.

But when Donna Tullia again met Giovanni in the world, the remembrance of her wrongs revived her anger against him, and the news of his engagement to the Astrardente brought matters to a climax. In the excitement of the moment, both her jealousy and her anger were illuminated by the light of a righteous wrath. She knew, or thought she knew, that Don Giovanni was already married. She

had no proof that the present wife mentioned in the certificate was alive, but there was nothing either to show that she was dead. Even in the latter case it was a scandalous thing that he should marry again without informing Corona of the circumstances of his past life, and Donna Tullia felt an inner conviction that he had told the Duchessa nothing of the matter. The latter was such a proud woman, that she would be horrified at the idea of uniting herself to a man who had been the husband of a peasant.

This was

betrayal of the secret.
precisely what occurred. On being
told that he was out of town,
she could no longer contain herself,
and with a sudden determination
to risk anything blindly, rather
than to forego the pleasure and the
excitement she had been meditat-
ing, she ordered her carriage and
drove to the Palazzo Astrardente.
Corona was surprised at the un-
expected visit. She was herself on
the point of going out, and was
standing in her boudoir, drawing
on her black gloves before the fire,
her black furs lying upon a chair
at her side. She wondered why
Donna Tullia called, and it was in
part her curiosity which induced
her to receive her visit. Donna
Tullia, armed to the teeth with
the terrible news she was about to
disclose, entered the room quickly,
and remained standing before the
Duchessa with a semi-tragic air
that astonished Corona.

"How do you do, Donna Tullia?" she said, putting out her hand.

"I have come to speak to you upon a very serious matter," answered her visitor, without noticing the greeting.

Madame Mayer remembered her solemn promise to Del Ferice, and feared to act without his consent. An hour after she had heard the news of the engagement, she sent for him to come to her immediately. To her astonishment and dismay, her servant brought back word that he had suddenly gone to Naples upon urgent business. This news made her pause; but while the messenger had been gone to Del Ferice's house, Donna Tullia had been anticipating, and going over in her mind the scene which would ensue when she told Corona the secret. Donna Tullia was a very sanguine woman, and the idea of at last being revenged for all the slights she had received worked suddenly upon her brain, so that as she paced her drawing-room in expectation of the arrival of Del Ferice, she entirely acted out in her imagination the circumstances of the approaching crisis, the blood beat hotly in her temples, and she lost all sense of prudence in the delicious anticipation of violent words. Del Ferice had "It is quite true," answered cruelly calculated upon her temper- Corona. ament, and he had hoped that in the excitement of the moment she would lose her head, and irrevocably commit herself to him by the

Corona stared at her for a moment, but not being easily disconcerted, she quietly motioned to Donna Tullia to sit down, and installed herself in a chair opposite to her.

"I have just heard the news that you are to marry Don Giovanni Sarracinesca," said Madame Mayer. "You will pardon me the interest I take in you; but is it true?"

"It is in connection with your marriage that I wish to speak, Duchessa. I implore you to reconsider your decision."

"And why, if you please?" asked Corona, raising her black eyebrows, and fixing her haughty gaze upon her visitor.

"I could tell you I would rather not," answered Donna Tullia, unabashed, for her blood was up. "I could tell you but 1 beseech you not to ask me. Only consider the matter again, I beg you. It is very serious. Nothing but the great interest I feel in you, and my conviction”

"Donna Tullia, your conduct is so extraordinary," interrupted Corona, looking at her curiously, "that I am tempted to believe you are mad. I must beg you to explain what you mean by your

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"Again, I say, what do you mean? I will not be trifled with in this way," said the Duchessa, who would have been more angry if she had been less astonished, but whose temper was rapidly rising.

"I am not trifling with you," returned Donna Tullia. "I am imploring you to think before you act, before you marry Don Giovanni. You cannot think that I would venture to intrude upon you without the strongest reasons. I am in earnest."

"Then, in heaven's name, speak out!" cried Corona, losing all patience. "I presume that if this is a warning, you have some grounds, you have some accusation to make against Don Giovanni. Have the goodness to state what you have to say, and be brief.”

"I will," said Donna Tullia, and she paused a moment, her face growing red with excitement, and her blue eyes sparkling disagreeably. "You cannot marry Don

Giovanni," she said at length, "because there is an insurmountable impediment in the way."

"What is it?" asked Corona, controlling her anger.

"He is already married!" hissed Donna Tullia.

Corona turned a little pale, and started back. But in an instant her colour returned and she broke into a low laugh.

"You are certainly insane," she said, eyeing Madame Mayer suspiciously. It was not an easy matter to shake her faith in the man she loved. Donna Tullia was disappointed at the effect she had produced. She was a clever woman in her way, but she did not under

stand how to make the best of the situation. She saw that she was simply an object of curiosity, and that Corona seriously believed her mind deranged. She was frightened, and, in order to help herself, plunged deeper.

"You may call me mad, if you please," she replied angrily. "I tell you it is true. Don Giovanni was married on the 19th of June 1863, at Aquila, in the Abruzzi, to a woman called Felice Baldiwhoever she may have been. The register is extant, and the duplicate of the marriage certificate. I have seen the copies attested by a notary. I tell you it is true," she continued, her voice rising into a harsh treble ; you are engaged to marry a man who has a wife-a peasant woman-somewhere in the mountains."

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Corona rose from her seat and put out her hand to ring the bell. She was pale but not excited. She believed Donna Tullia to be insane, perhaps dangerous, and she calmly proceeded to protect herself by calling for assistance.

Either you are mad, or you mean what you say," she said,

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