What she learned through the neighbours of the increasing number of executions of obdurate heretics she deemed the wise measures of a devout and conscientious government.
To the children Barbara was a careful mother. She rarely went to visit the Dubois couple. Frau Traut either could not or was not allowed to tell her anything about her child, except that he was thriving under the maternal care of Dona Magdalena, to whom he had been confided.
The next winter, during which Charles reached his fifty-fourth year, his health failed so noticeably that the physicians despaired of his recovery. The Brabant palace was constantly besieged by people of all classes inquiring about the condition of the still honoured and by many deeply beloved monarch, and Barbara almost daily asked for news of him. She usually entered the palace clad in black and closely veiled, for she had many acquaintances among the attendants.
Adrian was inaccessible, because his master could not spare him a single hour, but she saw his substitute, Ogier Bodart, who had served the Emperor in Ratisbon. From him she learned how the sufferer passed the night, how the day promised, and whether the physician’s opinion awakened hope or fear. He even told her that his Majesty was occupying himself with his last will, the payment of his debts, the arrangement of the succession, and the choice of his burial place.
All this occupied Barbara’s mind so deeply, and the long waiting to see Bodart often robbed her of so much time, that her housewifely and maternal duties suffered, yet her patient husband endured it a long while indulgently. But once, when he summoned up courage and cautiously blamed her, she quietly admitted that he was right, but added that she had never concealed from him the tie which bound her to the Emperor Charles, and now that Death was stretching his hand toward him, she must be permitted to obtain news of his welfare.
The strong man silenced his dissatisfaction, and placed no obstacles in her way. He was grateful for the maternal solicitude which she showed the children.
His kindly nature secretly approved of her spending a longer time in the Cathedral of St. Gudule than usual, praying for the royal sufferer who was so seriously ill. The man whom she could not forget was dying and, moreover, was his sovereign.
Spring at last brought an improvement in the monarch’s health, and with it Barbara’s return to her household duties.
A great change took place in the Dubois home during the spring after Charles’s convalescence. The exhausting care of the Emperor had made Adrian seriously ill and, in spite of the objections and bitter complaints of his beloved and honoured master and his own desire to continue in his service, he was forced to resign his office, which was committed to his assistant Bodart.
One day Barbara met Dr. Mathys at the ex-valet’s sick-bed. The kindly leech was amazed at her youthful appearance, and also at the obstinacy of her throat ailment; but he encouraged her, for he had recently seen marvellous effects produced by the old Roman baths at Ems, which were not difficult to reach, and advised her to use them as soon as possible. She must inform him of the result, if he was permitted to visit the Netherlands again.