“At least tell me his name, that I may pray for him,” sobbed Marianne.
“Yes, his name,” said Natalie, with a charming smile. “Ah, how I shall love that name!”
“His name is his own secret,” said Ribas. “The world, indeed, knows and blesses him, calling him the bravest of the brave. But it is his command that you shall never be informed of it. He desires nothing, no thanks, no acknowledgments—he wishes only to secure your peace and happiness, and thus redeem the solemn vow he made to his friend, Count Paulo Rasczinsky, to guard and preserve you as a father, and to watch over you as your tutelar genius!”
“Thanks, thanks, my God!” cried Marianne, with her arms raised toward heaven. “Thou sendest us help in our need, Thou hast mercy on suffering innocence, and sendest her a saviour in her greatest distress!”
The young maiden said nothing. Her radiant glance was directed heavenward, and, folding her hands over her bosom, with a happy, grateful smile she murmured:
“I am therefore no longer alone, I have a friend who watches over and protects me. Whoever he may be, he is sent by Count Paulo. Whatever may be his name, I shall be forever grateful to him!”
From that day had a new and marvellous life commenced for Natalie. She felt herself surrounded by a dreamy, magic, fantastic, supernatural life; it seemed as if some invisible genius hovered over her, listening to all her thoughts, realizing all her wishes! And Joseph Ribas was the merry, always-cheerful, always-serious Kobold of this invisible deity!
“My lord is not satisfied with the modest furnishing of your villa,” said he to Natalie, on the first day. “He begs to be allowed to adorn your chamber with a splendor suited to your rank and your future greatness!”
“And in what is my future greatness to consist?” asked the young maiden, with curiosity.
“That will be made known to you at the proper time,” mysteriously replied Joseph Ribas.
“Who will tell me?”
“He, the count.”
“I shall therefore see him!” she joyfully exclaimed.
“Perhaps! Will you, however, first allow me to have your room properly furnished?”
“This villa belongs to your lord,” said Natalie. “It is for him, as lord and master, to do as he pleases in it.”
And satisfied, Ribas hastened away, to return in a few hours with more than fifty workmen and artists, in order to commence the improvements.
Until now the villa had been finished and furnished with simple elegance. One missed nothing necessary for comfort or convenience, for pleasantness or taste. But it was still only the elegant and fashionable residence of a private person. Now, as by the stroke of a magic wand, this villa in a few days was converted into the splendid palace of some sultan or caliph. There were heavy Turkish carpets on