The old captain blew the dust from the wine flagon and carefully removed the seal. His presence prevented Wolf from renewing the interrupted conversation.
Reflection doubtless warned him that it would be a dangerous venture to enter the same life-boat with this woman, yet how bewitchingly beautiful she had seemed to him in her proud superiority, in the agitation of soul aroused by the yearning for a fairer fate! Have her he must, even though he was permitted to call her his own but for a year, a month, an hour.
Many of her words had been harsh and apparently unfeeling, yet how noble must be the soul of this young creature who, for the sake of being loyal to truth, the pure source of everything grand and lofty, paid no heed to much that is usually sacred to human beings!
But Barbara’s conduct during the next hour appeared to belie this opinion of the man who loved her, for scarcely had her father sat down with the knight before the venerable wine flagon than she flung down the smoothing iron, hastily piled the finished articles one above another, and then, without heeding the parchment on which Wolf’s verses were written, rolled up the ruby velvet. Directly after, with the package under her arm, she wished the men a merry drinking bout, and added that poor Ursel might need her. Besides, she wanted to show her the beautiful material, which would please the faithful soul.
Then, without even pausing at the rooms in the second story, she hurried swiftly down the stairs into the street.
She was carrying Wolf’s gift to Frau Lerch, her dressmaker.
The Grieb, where the latter lived as wife of the keeper of the house, was only a few steps distant. If the skilful woman, who was indebted to her for many a customer, began the work of cutting at once, her cousins, the Wollers, could help her the next day with the sewing. True, these were the very girls who would “turn yellow with rage” at the sight of the velvet, but precisely because these rich girls had so many things of which she was deprived she felt that, in asking their aid, she was compelling Fate to atone for an injustice.
Haste was necessary for, at the first glance at the velvet, she had determined to wear it at the next dance in the New Scales, and she also saw distinctly in imagination the person whose attention she desired to attract.
True, the recruiting officer sent to Ratisbon, of whom she was thinking, was by no means a more acceptable suitor, but a handsome fellow, a scion of a noble family, and, above all, an excellent dancer.
She did not love him—nay, she was not even captivated by him like so many others. But, if his heart throbbed faster for any one, it was Barbara. Yet perhaps his glances strayed almost as frequently to one other maiden. The velvet gown should now decide whether he gave the preference to her or to pretty Elspet Zohrer—of course, only in the dance—for she would never have accepted him as a serious suitor.