Besides, the young noble, Pyramus Kogel, himself probably thought of no such folly.
It was very different with Wolf Hartschwert. She had been told the small amount of his inheritance long before, and on that account she would have been obliged to refuse him positively at once, yet the affectionate relations existing between them must not be clouded. He might still become very useful to her and, besides, the modest companion of her childhood was dear to her. She would have sincerely regretted an irreparable breach with him.
Her father indulged her in every respect, only he strictly forbade his beautiful child to leave the house alone after sunset. Therefore Barbara had not told him the real object of her visit. She now had no occasion to fear his following her.
Yet she made all possible haste, and, as she found Frau Lerch at home, and the skilful little woman was instantly at her service, she crowded into the space of an hour the many points about the cutting which were to be discussed.
Then she set out on her way home, expecting to traverse the short distance swiftly and without delay; but, when she had gone only a few paces from the Grieb, a tall man came toward her.
To avoid him she crossed nimbly to the other side of the dark little street, but just where it turned into Red Cock Street he suddenly barred her way. She was startled, but the oft-proved courage of the Blomberg race, to which she had just alluded, really did animate her, and, with stern decision, she ordered her persecutor to stand aside.
He, however, was not to be intimidated, but exclaimed as joyously as though some great piece of good fortune had befallen him:
“Thanks for accosting me, Jungfrau Barbara, for, though the words are harsh, they prove that, in spite of the darkness here, my eyes did not deceive me. Heaven be praised!”
Then the girl recognised the recruiting officer and excellent dancer of whom she had just been thinking in connection with the velvet upper robe, and answered sharply:
“Certainly it is I; but if you are really a nobleman, Sir Pyramus, take care that I am not exposed by your fault to evil gossip, and can not continue to hold my head erect as I now do.”
“Who will see us in this little dark street?” he asked in low, persuasive tones. “May all the saints guard me from assailing the honour of a modest maiden, fairest Barbara; yet, if you fear that I might prevent your remaining in the future what the favour of the Most High permits you to be, I shall rather accuse you of having inflicted upon me what you fear may befall you; for, since the last dance, I am really no longer myself, and can never become so until I have received from your beautiful lips the modest consolation for which this poor, tortured, loyal soul is yearning. May I not linger at your side long enough to ask you one question, you severe yet ardently beloved maiden?”