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You are the mistress of the feast; sit here,
Worihy to be her second. * * * While the wars were pending between Charles Emperor of Spain, and Francis King of France, the. inhabitants of the city of Milan were in great anxiFly for the result ; and even the great Duke himself, Ludovico Sforza, a man whnse lofty, ardent mind, was scarcely to be moved, looked sad and thoughtful. Indeed his present situation was one of great danger ; and the existing contests between Charles and Francis excited much interest among the Italian princes, all of whom had been solicited, by one or
the other, to arm in their defence. Sforza, a prince of great power and bigh character, was more particularly solicited by both the kings to lend his aid; with an assurance at the same time that whichever cause he sheuld espouse, the other ever afterwards must be considered as a determined enemy.--Sforza, aware of the hazard, would willingly have been spared the task of arming in either cause ; but being called upon,
did not hesitate a moment in his choice. The King of France was his friend ; he personally loved him : the pride of Spain and the insolence of the emperor were, on the contrary, hateful to him he therefore took part with France.
The armies were numerous and valiant, the fiery spirited and aspiring youth of either country were assembled, and the fate of Milan hung on the issue of the battle. Should Spain prove victorious Milan was lost, never perhaps to be redeemed; the riches of the Duke were powerful temptations to plunder, and the resentment of Charles for his refusal of as' sistance could not permit hiin to hope for any thing less than a scene of bloodshed, with the surrender of himself, if alive, and all his nobles. One universal gloom therefore pervaded the city and the court; when, on a sudden, public rejoicing, mirth, and lestivities were ordered, and a countenance of sorrow was forbidden : the cause of these rejoicings, at a moment of such peril to the state, originated in the birth-day of the Duchess, which was ever kept in pomp and splendor. The Duke was a warrior, a statesman, and an arbitrary prince; yet as a lover, he exceeded all which could be recorded of fabled heroes or Arcadian swains. Marcelia, his beauteous Duchess, possessed his heart so entirely that his love was a sort of frenzy, almost too violent to be productive of happiness. Even in the midst of his agonizing anxiety, wb.lst the fate of bis kingdom was pending, he could not endure the thought of his
loved Marcel a being abridged of the accustomed yearly homage : stifling therefore every anxiety, he gave orders for splendor even beyond what had ever been before witnessed ; and in his robes of majesty, surrounded by his court, the drums and trumpets echoing to the very heavens, he had already seated himself on his throne, Marcelia by his side, pouring
forth his vows of never ceasing love and adoration, which she received with a blushing grace that enhanced her beauties. Short, however, was the period of transport : messengers of ill news appeared ; and one brought word that a bold defiance delivered by the herald of the emperor had been cheerfully received by the French king, the armies being ready to
engage, when this messenger was despatched from Pavia by Gaspero, one of Sforza's generals. Lost in thought, trembling on the brink of fate, none dared address him, none save Marcelia ; her sweet plaintive voice stole upon his ear; when dashing the letter from him he caught her in his enraptured arms, and bid defiance to fortune. Again the trumpet sounded, again the mirth and revelry began. Another messenger was announced ; Sforza forbad his approach, till Marcelia urged him to receive the news, as perchance it might be good; her voice was law, and the courier was admitted : a fatal messenger; he brought the news that all was lost-Spain was victorious.
Every sound of mirth immediately ceased, pleasure was at an end; all were dismissed from Sforza's presence, all but Marcelia : he caught her hands, and gazed on her with terrific earnestness. “Why do you gaze thus earnestly upon me, dear
Lord? what is it that you fear? where now is Sforza's wonted constancy of soul, that braved all dangers with undaunted courage? speak Sforza, let Marcelia share thy sorrow! love, counsel, duty, service may flow from me, but not danger !"
Oh, loved Marcelia, it is for thee I feel ! for thee I am a coward; for myself I could endure the worst extremes of fate, and never shrink; poverty, shame, disgrace, nay even the galling chains of servitude, should not subdue the daring soul of Sforza : but thee, Marcelia! thee, on whom my soul so fondly dotes, to behold thee torn from me, doomed to suffer pain and torment, perhaps the spoil of some unfeeling conqueror ! ah, let not my thoughts glance that way, or my brain will lose its power, and I shall run mad at once !"
Marcelia, with winning tenderness, endeavoured to sooth his tortured mind, assured him of never changing love, and that she would encounter death in all its most dreadful horrid shapes, rather than own another lord. Sforza wept on her neck, and prayed the heavens to reward her truth and ever during constancy.
The Marquis Pescara was now announced, who came to visit Sforza on business which would not admit delay, and immediately obtained an audience.
Pescara, though in the service of the Emperor of Spain, was yet the firm and faithful friend of Sforza, and came in honest love to point out a means by which the Duke might save his subjects and himself;
but still with honour. To hold out against the victorious Charles, with any chance of
success, would be impossible : a voluntary surrender of himself, therefore, would prevent hostilities, and it was only doing of his own accord; what perforce ere long he niust of necessity undertake.
Great and exalted minds lighten misfortunes by boldly daring to meet rather than tamely await their arrival. Sforza perceived at a single glance the propriety of Pescara's advice, and thought it nobler io humble himself before his proud conqueror with the hope of saving his city from flames, and his subjects from slaughter, than wait till ruin and devastation should come upon them without the chance of refuge; he therefore promised in a few hours to be prepared for returning to Pavia with Pescara.
When left alone, Sforza's mind was involved in anxiety, uncertain what might be the effect of his voluntary submission to Charles; and the fate of Marcelia, should the emperor refuse his concessions, nung upon his soul like a blight that withered up his feelings. At length a horrid determination was the
esult of his reflections, and he summoned his friend and counsellor to receive his directions and execute he dreadful mandate.