Nearly all were Spaniards or natives of the Netherlands, and it was fortunate for Wolf, on the one hand, that he had learned their language quickly and well in Italy and Brussels, and, on the other, that his birth entitled him to a place with nobles who had the rank of knights.
How formal and stiffly precise everything was here! How many backs bowed low, how softly bombastic, high-sounding words were murmured! It seemed as if every free, warm impulse would lapse into stiffness and coldness; moreover, those assembled here were not the poor petitioners of other antechambers, but lords and ladies who belonged to the most illustrious and aristocratic families, while among the waiting ecclesiastics there was many a prelate with the dignified bearing of a bishop.
Some of the Netherlanders alone frequently threw off the constraint which fettered all, and one even turned with the gayest ease from one person to another. This was Baron Malfalconnet, one of the Emperor’s major-domos. He was permitted to do what no one else ventured, for his cheerfulness and wit, his gift of story-telling, and sharp tongue often succeeded in dispelling the clouds of melancholy from the brow of his imperial master.
At Wolf’s entrance the baron greeted him with merry banter, and then whispered to him that the regent was expecting him in her private room, where the leaders of the newly arrived musicians had already gone. As Wolf belonged to the “elect,” he would conduct him to her Majesty before “the called” who were here in the waiting room.
As he spoke he delivered him to the Emperor’s confidential secretary, Gastelu, whom Wolf had often aided in the translation of German letters, and the latter ushered him into the Queen’s reception room.
It was the royal lady’s sleeping apartment, a moderately wide, unusually deep chamber, looking out upon the Haidplatz. The walls were hung with Flanders Gobelin tapestry, whose coloured pictures represented woodland landscapes and hunters. The Queen’s bed stood halfway down the long wall at the right.
Little could be seen of her person, for heavy gold-embroidered damask curtains hung around the wide, lofty bedstead, falling from the canopy projecting, rootlike, above the top, where gilded child genii bore a royal crown. On the side toward the room the curtains were drawn back far enough to allow those who were permitted to approach the regent to see her head and the upper portion of her body, which was wrapped in an ermine cape.
She leaned in a sitting posture against a pile of white satin pillows, and her thick locks, interwoven with strings of pearls, bore witness to the skill of the maid who had combed and curled them so artistically and adorned them with a heron’s plume. Two beautiful English pointers and a slender hound were moving about and sometimes disturbed the repose of the two Wachtersbach badger dogs, who were trained to keep side by side everywhere—in the room as well as in hunting. When the door opened they only raised their sagacious little heads with a low growl.