The old woman had also described to him how, amid great hardships, they had reached the city in midwinter, and finally that his mother found Baron Sandhof, her brother, at the point of death, and, after her hope of having a home with the provost of the cathedral was baffled, she had taken the veil in the convent of the Dominicans, called here the Black Penitents. Wolf’s foster father, the organist Stenzel, who was closely connected with his uncle, had rendered this step easier for the deserted widow by receiving the little boy in his childless home.
Ursel must give him more minute particulars concerning all these things.
His mother, who knew that he was well cared for, had troubled herself very little about him, and devoted her life to the care of her own salvation and that of her murdered husband, who had died without the benefit of the holy sacrament.
When he was fifteen, she closed her eyes on the world, and the hour when, on her death bed, she had asked of him a vow to be faithful to the Catholic Church and shut his heart against heresy, was as vividly before his memory as if she had just passed away.
He did not allude to these things now, for his heart urged him to confide to the faithful old woman what he thought of Barbara, and the beautiful hopes with which he had left her.
Ursel closed her eyes for a while and twirled the thumb of the hand she could use around the other for some time; but at last she gently nodded the little head framed in her big cap, and said carelessly:
“So you would like to seek a wife, child? Well, well! It comes once to every one. And you are thinking of Wawerl? It would certainly be fortunate for the girl. Marriages are made in heaven, and God’s mills grind slowly. If the result is not what you expect, you must not murmur, and, above all things, don’t act rashly. But now I can use my heavy tongue no longer. Remember Dr. Hiltner. When duty will permit, you’ll find time for another little chat with old Ursel.”
Casting a loving farewell glance at Wolf as she spoke, she turned over on the other side.
As his footsteps receded from her bedside, she pressed her lips more firmly together, thinking: “Why should I spoil his beautiful dream of happiness? What Wawerl offers to the eyes and ears of men is certainly most beautiful. But her heart! It is lacking! Unselfish love would be precisely what the early orphaned youth needs, and that Wawerl will never give him. Yet I wish no heavier anxieties oppressed me! One thing is certain—the husband of the girl upstairs must wear a different look from my darling, with his modest worth. The Danube will flow uphill before she goes to the altar with him! So, thank Heaven, I can console myself with that!”
But, soon after, she remembered many things which she had formerly believed impossible, yet which, through unexpected influence, had happened.