But scarcely had Erasmus been led away when the priests of the household also came out and asked what had happened. In doing this Barbara’s caution in not calling Erasmus by name proved to have been futile, for Cassian had recognised him, and told the ecclesiastics what he knew. The chaplain then asserted that, as the property of the Prince Abbot of Berchtesgaden, the house and garden were under ecclesiastical jurisdiction, and committed the further disposal of the burglar’s fate to the Dominican whom the almoner had placed there. For the present he might remain in secular custody. Early the following morning he must be brought before the Spanish Dominicans who had come with the Emperor, and from whom greater severity might be expected than from the Ratisbon brotherhood, by whom monastic discipline had been greatly relaxed.
Meanwhile the wind had subsided, and the storm had burst with thunder, lightning, and torrents of rain. Priests and laymen retreated into the house, and so did Barbara and the marquise. The latter had exposed herself to the tempest only long enough to emphasize the necessity of delivering the heretical night-bird to the Spanish Dominicans very early the next morning, and to show Barbara that she did not overlook the significance of the incidents under the lindens. With a disagreeable blending of tenderness and malice, she congratulated the young girl on the applause she had received as a dancer, the special favour which she had enjoyed from the Duke of Saxony, and the arrest of the dangerous burglar, which would also be a gratification to his Majesty.
With these words the old aristocrat, coughing slightly, tripped up the stairs; but Barbara, without vouchsafing an answer to this speech, whose purpose she clearly understood, turned her back upon her and went to her own room.
She had desired no gift in return when, to save this contemptible woman’s son and his child, she sacrificed her lover’s precious memento; but the base reward for the kind deed added a burning sense of pain to the other sorrows which the day had brought. What a shameful crime was ingratitude! None could be equally hateful to eternal justice, for—she now learned it by her own experience—ingratitude repaid kindness with evil instead of with good, and paralyzed the disappointed benefactor’s will to perform another generous deed.
When she entered her sleeping-room the courage which she had summoned during the walk, and the hope to which she had yielded, appeared to be scattered and blown away as if by a gust of wind. Besides, she could not conceal from herself that she had drawn the nails from the planks of her wrecked ship of life with her own hand.
Did it not seem as if she had intentionally done precisely what she ought most studiously to have left undone? Her sale of the star had been only an unfortunate act of weakness, but the dance, the luckless dance! Not once only, several times Charles had stated plainly enough how unpleasant it was to him even to hear the amusement mentioned. She had behaved as if she desired to forfeit his favour.