And for what boon could she beseech the Queen of Heaven?
What more had the woman, to whom the Emperor’s heart belonged, to desire?
The calmness of her soul was at an end, and not for all the kingdoms Charles possessed would she have exchanged the tumult and turmoil in her breast for the peace which she had enjoyed yesterday.
Obeying a defiant impulse, she turned from the benign face, and her hands fairly flew as, still more violently agitated, she completed the changes in her dress.
In unfastening the star, her lover’s gift, she saw upon the gold at the back Charles’s motto, “Plus ultra!”
Barbara had known it before, but had not thought of it for a long time, and a slight tremor ran through her frame as she said to herself that, from early childhood, though unconsciously, it had been hers also. Heaven—she knew it now—Fate destined them for each other.
Sighing heavily, she went at last, in a street dress, to open the bow-window which looked upon Red Cock Street.
Barbara felt as if she had outgrown herself. The pathos which she had often expressed in singing solemn church music took possession of her, and left no room in her soul for any frivolous emotion. Proud of the lofty passion which drew her with such mighty power to her lover’s arms, she cast aside the remorse, the anxiety, the deep sense of wrong which had overpowered her on her return home.
What was greater than the certainty of being beloved by the greatest of men? It raised her far above all other women, and, since she loved him in return, this certainty could not fail to make her happy also, when she had once fully recovered her composure and ventured to look the wonderful event which had happened freely in the face.
The stars themselves, following their appointed course in yonder blue firmament—his device taught that—made her belong to him. If she could have forced herself to silence the desire of her heart, it would have been futile. Whoever divides two trees which have grown from a single root, she said to herself, destroys at least one; but she would live, would be happy on the highest summit of existence. She could not help obeying his summons, for as soon as she listened to the warning voice within, the “Because I long for love” with which he had clasped her in his arms, urged her with irresistible power toward the lover who awaited her coming.
The clock now struck two, and a tall figure in a Spanish cloak stood outside the door of the house. It was Don Luis Quijada, the Emperor’s majordomo.
It would not do to keep him waiting, and, as she turned back into the room to take the little lamp, her glance again fell upon the Virgin’s image above the priedieu and rested upon her head.
Then the figure of her imperial lover stood in tangible distinctness before her mind, and she imagined that she again heard the first cry of longing with which he clasped her in his arms, and without further thought or consideration she kissed her hand to the image, extinguished the little lamp, and hurried as fast as the darkness permitted into the entry and down the stairs.