If Master Adrian had ever permitted himself to laugh in his master’s presence, it would certainly have happened this time, for the curtseying old woman in velvet, silk, and plumes, whose visit his Majesty did not refuse, was probably the last person for whose sake Charles endured the satin shoe on his sensitive foot.
How oddly her round, catlike head, with its prominent cheek bones, and the white wig combed high on the top, contrasted with the rouged, sunken cheeks and eyebrows dyed coal black!
Adrian hastily calculated that she was not far from seventy. But how tightly she laced, how erect was her bearing, how sweet the smile on her sunken mouth! And how did her aged limbs, which must have lost their flexibility long ago, accomplish with such faultless grace the low curtseys, in which she almost touched the floor?
But the valet, who had grown gray in Charles’s service, had witnessed still more surprising things, and beheld the presence of royalty bestow strength for performances which even now seemed incomprehensible. The lame had leaped before his eyes, and feeble invalids had stood erect long hours when the duties of the court, etiquette, the command of royalty, compelled them to do so.
What a mistress in ruling herself the marquise had become during her long service at the French and Netherland courts! for not a feature betrayed her surprise at the Emperor’s altered appearance while she was thanking him fervently for the favour of being permitted to share the meal with the august sovereign, which had bestowed so much happiness upon her.
Charles cut this speech short, and curtly requested her to take under her charge, in his royal sister’s place, a young lady of a noble family.
The marquise cast a swift glance of understanding at the Emperor, and then, walking backward with a series of low bows, obeyed the sovereign’s signal to leave him.
Without any attempt to conceal from the valet the strong excitement that mastered him, Charles at last impatiently approached the window and looked down into the Haidplatz.
When his master had turned his back upon him, Adrian allowed himself to smile contentedly. Now he knew all, and therefore thought, for the first time, that a genuine miracle had been wrought in the monarch. Yet it gave him pleasure; surely it was a piece of good fortune that this withering trunk was again putting forth such fresh buds.
Wolf Hartschwert had asked the guards who were stationed at the end of Red Cock Street whether any riders had passed them.
Several horses always stood saddled for the service of the court. Malfalconnet mounted his noble stallion, and Count Lanoi, the equerry, gave his companion a good horse and furnished two mounted torch-bearers.
But the Emperor’s envoys had not far to ride; halfway between the abbey of Prufening and Ratisbon, just outside the village of Dcchbetten, they met the returning excursionists.