He, the confessor, even knew that Charles considered several demands of the Protestants to which the Church could never consent, entirely justifiable—nay, that he deemed a reformation of the Church by the council now in session at Trent extremely desirable.
Therefore it was a duty to withhold from him every influence which could favour these pernicious views and wishes, and Pedro de Soto had also been young and knew only too well what power so beautiful a woman, with such bewitching gifts, could exert upon the man whose heart cherishes her.
So, immediately after Barbara’s entrance into Prebrunn, the confessor adopted his measures. Although the conversation to which he subjected her had resulted in her favour, he had deemed it beneficial to place a priest who was devoted to him among the ecclesiastics in the little castle.
To surround her with spies chosen from the lay class was repugnant to his lofty nature. Besides, they would have been superfluous; for a short time before his servant Cassian had asked permission to marry the marquise’s French maid, and Alphonsine, who was neither young nor pretty, was inclined to all sorts of intrigues. She supplied slow, pious Cassian’s deficiencies in the best possible manner. A chance word from the distinguished prelate had sufficed to make it their duty to watch Barbara and her visitors.
In Alphonsine’s mistress, the Marquise de Leria, the almoner also possessed a willing tale-bearer. She had avoided him since his refusal to commend her ruined son to the favour of his imperial penitent. Now, unasked, she had again approached him, and her explanation first gave many an apparently unimportant communication from the servants its real value.
The atmosphere of the court was her vital air. Even when she had voluntarily offered to take Barbara under her charge, in a secluded house in the suburb, she had been aware how greatly she would miss the presence of royalty. Yet she would have endured far more difficult things, for a thousand signs betrayed that this time his Majesty’s heart had not been merely superficially touched, and Barbara’s traits of character made it appear probable that, like many a beauty at the court of Francis I of France, she might obtain an influence over the Emperor. If this occurred, the marquise had found the most powerful tool for the deliverance of her son.
This hope filled the old noblewoman’s heart and brain. It was her last, for the Emperor was the only person who could save the worthless idol of her soul from ruin, and yet, when she had grovelled at his knees in her despair, she received an angry repulse and the threat of being instantly deprived of her position if she ever again attempted to speak to him about this vexatious matter. She knew only too well that Charles would keep his word, and therefore had already induced every person whom she believed possessed even a small share of influence over the monarch to intercede for her, but they had been no less sharply rebuffed than herself; for the sovereign, usually so indulgent to the reckless pranks of the young nobles, would not even hear the name of the aristocratic sharper, who was said to have sold the plans of the fortifications to France.