“She is saved!” cried Carlo, sinking back toward Count Paulo, and pointing with a happy smile to Natalie, who, awaking from her momentary stupefaction, stretched forth her arms toward the count.
“Paulo,” she whispered low, “let us hasten from here! I dread these people! I fear them! Let us go! But take him with us, that they may not kill him, my saviour, my friend Carlo!”
The morning dawned. Count Paulo rose from the arm-chair in which he had passed the night. He had occupied the whole fearfully anxious night in writing; he now laid the pen aside and stood up.
His face had an expression of firmness and decision; he had formed a firm resolution, had come to an irrevocable determination.
With a firm step advancing to the door opening into the adjoining chamber, he called to his friend Cecil.
The latter immediately made his appearance, and, entering the count’s chamber, laconically said: “All is ready.”
Count Paulo smiled sadly. “You are then sure there are no other means of saving her and ourselves?” he asked.
“None whatever,” said Cecil. “Every moment’s delay increases her and your danger. The occurrence of last night is a proof of it. They sought the death of Natalie—without Carlo’s help she would have been murdered, and all our plans would have come to an end.”
“Her life is threatened, and yet you can urge me to go and leave her alone and unprotected?”
“Was it you who saved her from the danger of last night?” asked Cecil. “Believe me, it is your presence that threatens her with the most danger. Precisely because you are at her side, they suspect her and watch her every step; the circumstance that she is with you creates distrust, and in Natalie they will think they see her whose mysterious flight has long been known in Russia. And Catharine will have her tracked in all countries and upon all routes. Therefore, save Natalie, by seeming to give her up. Return home and relate to them a fable of a false princess by whom you had been deceived, and whom you abandoned as soon as you discovered the deception. They will everywhere lend you a believing ear, as people gladly believe what they wish, and by this means only can you assure the future of Natalie and yourself.”
“That is all just and true. I myself have so seen and recognized it,” said the count; “and yet, my friend, I nevertheless still waver, and it seems to me that an internal voice warns me against that which I am about to do!”
Cecil smilingly shook his head. “Trust not such voices,” said he; “it is the whispering of demons who envelop themselves in our own wishes, who entice us to what we would, by seeming to warn us against what we fear. Nothing but your departure can give you safety. Leave Natalie here in quiet solitude, and without you she will be well concealed in the solitude of this garden, and