He did not think of the child’s mother. Was he still angry with her?
Did she seem to him unworthy of being commended to the protection of the Queen of Heaven? Barbara was now no more to him than a cracked bell, and the child which she expected to give him, no matter to what high’ honours he raised it, would bear a stain that nothing could efface, and this stain would be called “his mother.”
No deviation from the resolve which he had expressed to the physician was possible. The child could not be permitted to grow up amid Barbara’s surroundings. To prevent this she must submit to part from her son or her daughter, and to take the veil. In the convent she could remember the happiness which had once raised her to its loftiest height. She could and must atone for her sin and his by prayers and pious exercises. To return to the low estate whence he had raised her must appear disgraceful to herself. How could one who had once dined at the table of the gods still relish the fare of mortals? Even now it seemed inconceivable to him that she could oppose his will. Yet if she did, he would withdraw his aid. He no longer loved her. In this hour she was little more to him than the modest casket to which was confided a jewel of inestimable value, an object of anxiety and care. The determination which he had confided to his physician was as immovable as everything which he had maturely considered. Don Luis Quijada should provide for its execution.
Dr. Mathys had himself carried in the litter from the Golden Cross to Barbara.
This errand was a disagreeable one, for, though the Emperor’s remark that he had yielded to the rare charm of this woman was not true, his kindly heart had become warmly attached to Barbara. For the first time he saw in her the suffering which often causes a metamorphosis in certain traits in a sick person’s character extend their transforming power to the entire nature. Passionate love for her art gave her the ability to maintain with punctilious exactness the silence which he had been compelled to impose upon her, and the once impetuous, obstinate creature obeyed his directions and wishes with the patience of a docile child.
The manner in which, after he permitted her to speak, she had disclosed in a low whisper her happy yet disquieting secret, hovered before him now as one of the most pathetic incidents in a life full of varied experiences.
How touchingly deep misery and the greatest rapture, gloomy anxiety and radiant joy, bitter dread and sweet anticipation, despairing helplessness and firm confidence had looked forth at him from the beautiful face whose noble outlines were made still more delicate by the illness through which she had passed! He could not have refused even a more difficult task to this petitioner.
Now he was returning from the Emperor, and he felt like a vanquished general.