Still she gazed as though spellbound at the decorated stage, but the ceremony was already rapidly approaching its close. The great nobles surrounded the new Knight of the Fleece to congratulate him, the Duke of Alba first; but vouchsafed a few brief, gracious words only to a few dignitaries, and then, this time assisted by Quijada, descended to the sedan chair.
Barbara had learned from Frau Traut that his Majesty knew that she was here in the ladies’ apartments. Would he now raise his eyes to her, though but for a brief space?
He was already standing at the door of the sedan chair, and until now had kept his gaze bent steadily upon the ground. Meanwhile he must be experiencing severe pain; she saw it by the lines around the corners of his mouth. Now he placed his sound right foot upon the little step; now, before drawing the aching left one after it, he turned toward Quijada, whose hand was supporting him under the arm; and now—no, she was not mistaken—now he raised his eyes with the speed of lightning toward the ladies’ apartments, and for one short second his glance met hers. Then his head vanished in the sedan chair.
Nevertheless, he had looked toward her, and this was a great boon. With all her strength she made it her own, and soon she felt absolutely sure that when he knew she was so near him he had been unable to resist the desire to gaze once more into her face. Perhaps it was intended for a precious farewell gift.
As soon as the sedan chair, amid cheers and the blare of trumpets, had disappeared in the direction of the drawbridge and the great main entrance, Barbara retired to her room. Frau Traut knew not whether she ought to bless or bewail having obtained permission for her to witness the bestowal of the Fleece.
At any rate, another great transformation had taken place in this extremely impressionable young creature. Barbara’s impetuous nature seemed destroyed and crushed, and the bright gaiety which had pleased Frau Dubois so much the first day of their meeting had greatly diminished. Only on special occasions her former fiery vivacity burst forth, but the sudden flame expired as quickly as it had blazed and, dreamily absorbed in her own thoughts, she obeyed her with the docility of a child.
This swift and marked change in the disposition of her charge, whom Quijada and her own husband had described as so totally different, awakened her anxiety; yet it was easy to perceive that the volcano had not burned out, but was merely quiescent for the time.
During the night the dull indifference which she showed in the day abandoned her, and her attentive companion often heard her sobbing aloud.
It did not escape Frau Tract’s notice that since Barbara had seen the Emperor again in the Trausnitz courtyard a mental conflict had begun which absorbed her whole being, but the girl did not permit her any insight into her deeply troubled soul.