“All is changed, all!” she often thoughtfully said to herself. “A great and terrible secret has been unveiled within me—the secret of my utter abandonment! I have no one on earth to whom I belong! Once I never thought of that. Paulo was all to me, my friend, my father, my brother; but Paulo has abandoned me, I belong not to him, and hence I could not go with him. And who is left to me? Carlo!” she answered herself in a low tone, and with a melancholy smile. “But Carlo has not filled the void that Paulo’s absence has left in my heart. At first I thought he could, but that was only a short deception. Carlo is good and kind, always devoted, always ready to serve me. He always conforms himself to my will, is all subjection, all obedience. But that is terrible, unbearable!” exclaimed the almost weeping young maiden. “Who, then, shall I obey, before whom shall I tremble, when all obey me and tremble before me? And yet Carlo is a man. No,” said she, quite low; “were he so I should then obey him, and not he me; then would he give me commands, and not I him! No, Carlo is no man—Paulo was so! Where art thou, my friend, my father?”
And the young maiden yearningly spread her arms in the air, calling upon her distant friend with tender, low-whispered words and heartfelt longings.
But the days slowly passed, and still no news came from him. Natalie dreamily and sadly sank deeper into herself; her cheeks paled, her step became less light and elastic. In vain did her true friends, Marianne and Carlo, exhaust themselves in projects and propositions for her distraction and amusement.
“You should go into the world and amuse yourself in society, princess,” said Carlo.
“I hate the world and society,” said Natalie. “People are all bad, and I abominate them. What had I done to these people, how had I offended them even in thought, and yet they would have murdered me the very first time I appeared among them? No, no, leave me here in my solitude, where I at least have not to tremble for my life, where I have Carlo to guard and protect me.”
The singer pressed the proffered hand to his lips.
“Then let us at least make some excursions in the environs of Rome,” said he.
“No,” said she, “I should everywhere long to be back in my garden. Nowhere is it so beautiful as here. Leave me my paradise—why would you drive me from it?”
“Alas!” despairingly exclaimed Carlo, “you call yourself happy and satisfied; why, then, are you so sad?”
“Am I sad?” she asked, with surprise. “No, Carlo, I am not sad! I sometimes dream, nothing more! Let me yet dream!”
“You will die,” thought Carlo, and with an effort he forced back the cry of despair that pressed to his lips; but his cheeks paled, and his whole form trembled.
Seeing it, Natalie shook off her apathy, and with a lively sympathy and tender friendship she inquired the cause of his disquiet. She was so near him that her breath fanned his cheek, and her locks touched his brow.