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Corilla was alone. Uneasy, full of stormy thoughts, she impetuously walked back and forth, occasionally uttering single passionate exclamations, then again thoughtfully staring at vacancy before her. She was a full-blooded, warm Italian woman, that will neither love nor hate with the whole soul, and nourishes both feelings in her bosom with equal strength and with equal warmth. But, in her, hatred exhaled as quickly as love; it was to her only the champagne-foam of life, which she sipped for the purpose of a slight intoxication--as in her intoxication only did she feel herself a poetess, and in a condition for improvisation.
"I must at any rate be in love," said she, "else I should lose my poetic fame. With cool blood and a tranquil mind there is no improvising and poetizing. With me all must be stirring and flaming, every nerve of my being must glow and tremble, the blood must flash like fire through my veins, and the most glowing wishes and ardent longings, be it love or be it hate, must be stirring within me in order to poetize successfully. And this cannot be comprehended by delicate and discreet people; this low Roman populace even venture to call me a coquette, only because I constantly need a new glow, and because I constantly seek new emotions and new inspirations for my muse."
Love, then, for the improvisatrice Corilla, was nothing more than a strong wine with which she refreshed and strengthened her fatigued poetic powers for renewed exertions; it was in a manner the tow which she threw upon the expiring fire of her fantasy, to make it flash up in clear and bright flames.
It was only in this way that she loved Carlo, and wept for him, except that in this case her love had been of a longer duration, because it was he who gave up and left her! That was what made her hatred so glowing, that was what made her seek the life of the woman for whom Carlo had deserted her.
"This is a new situation," said she, "which I am called to live through and to feel. But a poetess must have experienced all feelings, or she could not describe them. For my part, I do not believe in the revelations of genius--I believe only in experiences. One can describe only what one has felt and experienced. Whoever may attempt to describe the flavor of an orange, must first have tasted it!"
That this attempt to murder Natalie had failed, was to her a matter of little moment. She had experienced the emotion of it, and just the same would it have been a matter of indifference to her had the dagger pierced Natalie's breast--she was sufficiently a child of the South to consider a murder as only a venial sin, for which the priest could grant absolution.
There was only one thing which exclusively occupied Corilla, following and tormenting her day and night, and that was her poetic fame. She desired that her name should stand high in the world, glorified by all Europe, and for this purpose she desired above all things to be crowned as a poetess in the capitol of the holy city; for this fame she would willingly have given many years of her life.
That was the aim of all her efforts, and how much would she not have borne, ventured, and suffered for its attainment! How many intrigues were planned, how much cunning and dissimulation, flattery, and hypocrisy, had been employed for that purpose, and all, all as yet in vain!
Therefore it was that Corilla now wept, and with occasional outbreaks of passionate exclamations violently paced her room. Her cheeks glowed, her eyes flashed--she was very beautiful in this state of excitement. That she must have acknowledged to herself as her glance accidentally encountered her own face in the glass.
With a smile of satisfaction she remained standing before the mirror, and almost angrily she said:
"Ah, why am I now alone, why does no one see me in my beautiful glow? My face might now produce some effect, and gain me friends! Why, then, am I now alone?"
But it seems that Corilla had only to express a wish in order to see it suddenly fulfilled; for the door was at that moment opened, and a servant announced Count Alexis Orloff.
Corilla smiled with delight, and let that smile remain upon her lips, as she very well knew it was becoming to her, and that she had conquered many hearts with it; but secretly her heart throbbed with fear, and timidly she asked herself, "What can that Russian count want of me?"
But with a cheerful face she advanced to receive him; she seemed not to remark that a dark cloud lay upon his brow, and that his features bore an almost threatening expression.
"He is a barbarian," thought she, "and barbarians must be treated differently from other men. I must flatter this lion, in order to fetter him!"
"It is a serious matter that brings me to you, signora," said Alexis, gloomily.
"A serious matter?" she cheerfully asked. "Ah, then I pity you, count. It is difficult to speak with me of serious matters!"
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The Daughter of an Empress -by- Louise Muhlbach