This had happened during the execution of Josquin de Pres’s “Ecce tu pulchra es’.”
Barbara’s voice had lent a special charm to this magnificent motet, and, when she concluded the “Quia amore langueo”—“Because I yearn for love” —to which she had long given the preference when she felt impelled to relieve her heart from unsatisfied yearning, she had seen Gombert look at the choir leader, and understood the “inimitable” which was not intended for her, but for his fellow-artist.
Hitherto she had done little without pursuing a fixed purpose, but this time Art, and the lofty desire to serve her well, filled her whole being. In the presence of the most famous judges she imposed the severest demands upon herself. Doubtless she was also glad to show Wolf what she could do, yet his absence would not have diminished an iota of what she gave the Netherlanders. She felt proud and grateful that she belonged to the chosen few who are permitted to express, by means of a noble art, the loftiest and deepest feelings in the human breast. Had not Appenzelder been compelled to interrupt the rehearsal, she would gladly have sung on and on to exhaustion.
She did not yet suspect what awaited her when, in well-chosen yet cordial words, Gombert expressed his appreciation.
She neither saw nor heard the fellow-singers who surrounded her; nay, when Dr. Hiltner, the syndic’s, daughter, seventeen years old, who had long looked up to her with girlish enthusiasm, pressed forward to her side, and her charming mother, sincerely pleased, followed more quietly, when others imitated their example and expressed genuine gratification or made pretty speeches, Barbara scarcely distinguished the one from the other, honest good will from bitter envy.
She did not fully recover her composure until Appenzelder came up to her and held out his large hand.
Clasping it with a smile, she permitted the old musician to hold her little right hand, while in a low tone, pointing to Wolf, who had followed him, he said firmly:
“May I believe the knight? Would you be induced to bestow your magnificent art upon an ardent old admirer like myself, though to-day only as leader of the voices in the boy choir—”
Here Wolf, who had noticed an expression of refusal upon Barbara’s lips, interrupted him by completing the sentence with the words, addressed to her, “In order to let his Majesty the Emperor enjoy what delights us here?”
The blood receded from Barbara’s cheeks, and, as she clung to the window-sill for support, it seemed as though some magic spell had conveyed her to the summit of the highest steeple. Below her yawned the dizzy gulf of space, and the air was filled with a rain of sceptres, crowns, and golden chains of honour falling upon ermine and purple robes on the ground below.
But after a few seconds this illusion vanished, and, ere Wolf could spring to the assistance of the pallid girl, she was already passing her kerchief across her brow.