The man in the litter had been only the wreck of the Charles whom she loved; even the fiery light in his eyes, though not extinguished, had appeared subdued and veiled. Other women would probably have thought him repulsively plain, but what did she care for his looks? Each of them was still a part of the other, for her image lived in his soul, as his dwelt in hers.
Barbara did not take as long a walk as usual; but when she was again approaching the house occupied by the abdicated sovereign, Dr. Mathys came toward her. The expression of his broad, dignified face suited the bright May morning; nay, she imagined that his step was lighter and less sedate than usual.
During the whole decade which they had known each other he had never flattered her, but to-day, after the first greeting, he began his conversation with the question:
“Do you know, Frau Barbara, that you were never more beautiful and charming than just at this very time? Perhaps it is the mourning which is so becoming to your pink-and-white complexion and the somewhat subdued lustre of your golden hair. But why do I feed your vanity with such speeches? Because I think that our gracious lord, who for many a long day has not bestowed even the least side glance upon any of your bewitching sex, noticed the same thing. And now you will presently be obliged to admit that the old messenger of bad news in Ratisbon, whom you requited so ill for his unpleasant errand, can also bring good tidings; for the Emperor Charles—in spite of the abdication, he will always be that until he, too, succumbs to the power which makes us all equal—his Majesty sends you his greetings, and the message that he desires to do what he can to restore to you the art in which you attained such rare mastery. He places at your disposal—this time, at least, he was not economical—a sum which will take you to the healing springs four or five times, nay, oftener still.”
Barbara had listened thus far, speechless with joyful surprise. If it was Charles to whom she owed her recovery, the gift of song which it restored would possess tenfold value for her, if that was conceivable. She was already beginning to charge the leech to be the bearer of her gratitude and joy, but he did not let her finish, and went on to mention the condition which his Majesty attached to this gift.
Barbara must never mention it to any one, and must promise the physician to refrain from all attempts to thank him either in person or by letter in short, to avoid approaching him in any way.
The old physician had communicated this stipulation—which his royal patient had strictly associated with the gift—to Barbara in the emphatic manner peculiar to him, but she had listened, at first in surprise, then with increasing indignation. The donation which, as a token of remembrance and kind feeling, had just rendered her so happy, now appeared like mere alms. Nay, the gift would make her inferior to the poorest beggar, for who forbids the mendicant to utter his “May God reward you”?