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A Strange Bride

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misfortune to lose your bride whom I saw at Venice—the Countess Apollonia?’

Of that I will speak at another time,’ said the Duke, and from the deep sigh which accompanied the words I concluded that the Countess had by infidelity or some other offence been separated from him.

The Duke seemed to succeed in his purposes with wonderful rapidity. He made himself so agreeable to the Count that he was invited to make a prolonged stay, and his conversation was very welcome to the old Countess. Marino did not fail to make use of his opportunities, and one afternoon I was surprised to hear that Laura and he were to be immediately betrothed. After dinner the conversation naturally revived what I had mentioned before of my having been present at the betrothing of a certain Duke de Marino in Italy, and the old Countess inquired whether the hero of that day were not a near relation of their friend.

‘Yes, a pretty near relation,’ said I, not forgetting my promise to the Duke not to discover that it was he himself. ‘But now, dear Marino,’ I continued, anxious to change the subject, ‘tell us how were you first induced to come to this remote castle? Did some friend inform you of the Countess Laura’s extraordinary beauty, or had you seen her portrait? Did you not tell me you came from Paris directly here?’

‘From Paris, yes,’ answered the Duke. ‘I had gone one day to look at the picture gallery in the Louvre, but no sooner had I entered the room than all my attention was attracted by a young lady of the greatest beauty. With trembling timidity I ventured to approach her, and remained always near at hand, yet without venturing to address to her even a single word. When she left the gallery I