Barbara returned home soothed.
Frau Lerch was waiting for her, and with many tokens of disapproval undressed her. Yet she carefully dried her feet and rubbed them with her hands, that she might escape the fever which she saw approaching.
Barbara accepted with quiet gratitude the attention bestowed upon her, but, though she closed her eyes, the night brought no sleep, for sometimes she shivered in a chill, sometimes a violent headache tortured her.
Sleep also deserted the Emperor’s couch. After his return from the festival he tried to examine several documents which the secretary Gastelii had laid ready for him on the writing-table, but he could not succeed. His thoughts constantly reverted to Barbara and her defiant rebellion against the distinct announcement of his will. Had the Duke of Saxony, so much his junior and, moreover, a far handsomer and perhaps more generous prince, won her favour, and therefore did she perhaps desire to break the bond with him?
She was a woman, and a capricious one, too, and of what would not such a nature be capable? Besides, there was something else. Jamnitzer, the Nuremberg goldsmith, had intrusted a casket of jewels to Adrian to keep during his absence. They were intended for the diadems which the Emperor was to give his two nieces for bridal presents. The principal gems among them were two rubies and a diamond. On the gold of the old-fashioned setting were a P and an l, the initial letters of his motto “Plus ultra.” He had once had it engraved upon the back of the star which he bestowed upon Barbara. His keen eye and faithful memory could not be deceived— Jamnitzer’s jewels had been broken from that costly ornament.
From time immemorial it had belonged to the treasures of his family, and he had already doubted whether it was justifiable to give it away.
Was it conceivable that Barbara had parted with this, his first memento, sold it, “turned it into money"?—the base words wounded his chivalrous soul like the blow of a scourge.
She was a passionate, defiant, changeful creature, it is true, yet her nature was noble, hostile to baseness, and what a wealth of the purest and deepest feeling echoed in her execution of solemn songs! This induced him to reject as impossible the suspicion that she could have stooped to anything so unworthy.
Still, it was not easily banished. A long series of the sorest disappointments had rendered him distrustful, and he remembered having asked her several times for the star in vain.
Perhaps it had been stolen from her, and Jamnitzer had obtained it from the thief himself or from the receiver. This thought partially soothed him, especially as, if correct, it would be possible for him to recover the ornament. But he was an economical manager, and to expend thousands of ducats for such a thing just at this time, when immense sums were needed for the approaching war, seemed to him more than vexatious.