“The banquet is ready,” added Count Buren, and Malfalconnet, with a low bow, said:
“And a portion of it is the covered chiming dish with which your Majesty’s love and wisdom intends to surprise the illustrious epicure.”
While speaking, he cautiously opened the door of the royal apartment, but the dogs were held back by the pages who had carried the train of the festal robe. Two others zealously aided her to throw the trailing brocade across her arm, and in this manner she entered her distinguished brother’s chamber.
This was so deep that a short walk was necessary to reach the window near which the Emperor sat. The office of lighting the vast room was assigned to a dozen wax candles in a silver candelabrum, but they were so inadequate to the task that neither the mythological scenes on the Brabant Gobelin curtains with which the walls were hung, nor the very scanty furniture of the remainder of the long chamber could be seen from the door.
Thus the prevailing dusk concealed the surroundings of the great monarch who was resting there, and the only object visible to the entering Queen was his figure illumined by the light. In her soul everything else receded far behind the person, welfare, and pleasure of this mighty sovereign. Yet she had already crossed half the room, and her entrance still remained unnoticed.
The Emperor Charles, with his forehead resting on his hand, sat absorbed in thought before the papers which had occupied his attention. How mournful he looked, what sorrowful thoughts were doubtless again burdening that anxious brain! Never before had he seemed to his sister so old.
Perhaps it was the ceaseless planning and pondering of the statesman and general which, during the last few years, had thinned the light-brown hair at the corners of the brow.
The resting ruler now seemed to have brought his mind to repose also, for every emotion had vanished from his pallid face. Even the sharply cut nostrils of the long nose, which usually moved swiftly, were perfectly still. The heavy chin, framed by a thin, closely clipped beard, had sunk upon the high ruff as if for support, and the thick, loosely hanging lower lip appeared to have lost its elasticity.
In this hour of rest and relaxation this tireless and successful sovereign, utterly exhausted, had even relinquished seeming what he was; his brown hair framed his brow and temples in a tangled, disordered mass; the lacings of his velvet doublet were loosened; a shabby woollen coverlet of anything but imperial appearance was wound around his lower limbs, and the foot in which the gout throbbed and ached rested on his sleeping hound, and was wrapped in the cloths which his valet Adrian found at hand after the Venetian ambassador, the confessor, and the leech had left his master.
It pierced his sister to the heart to see her mighty brother, upon whose dominions, it was said, the sun never set, in this guise.