Twilight had already shadowed the paths when she left the Dubois house, and on her way home she saw the Emperor approaching. She had slipped behind a statue as quickly as possible, and he could scarcely have recognised her, for the gloaming had already merged into partial darkness; but the mere thought of having been so near him quickened the pulsation of her heart.
The little gentleman at his side with the stiffly erect bearing and pompous walk was his son Philip, who was now visiting his father in Brussels, and expected to leave in a few days. How insignificant was the figure of the heir of so many crowns! How the brother whom she had given to his imperial father would some day tower above him!
She again imagined all these things in the quiet of her room. The thought of this child cheered her heart, but it contracted again as she remembered the series of bitter humiliations which she had experienced in Brussels. Among the courtiers whom she had known so well in Ratisbon not one vouchsafed her anything more than a passing greeting; and the Queen of Hungary, to whom she would gladly have poured out her heart, had refused her repeated entreaties for an audience.
After the short walk in the park of his palace, during which Barbara had met him in the dusk, the Emperor Charles had dined with his son Philip and the Queen of Hungary. Now he entered his spacious study.
His feet were refusing their support more and more, and the fingers of his right hand, which the gout was now crippling, found it hard to grasp his cane.
He sank back in his arm-chair exhausted, closed his eyes, and laid his hand upon the clever pointed head of the greyhound which lay at his feet.
The short walk and the fiery wine which he had again enjoyed in abundance at dinner had increased the pain from which he was now never free, day or night, and it was some time ere Adrian could succeed in propping his infirm body comfortably.
At last Charles passed his handkerchief across his perspiring brow, and called to the majordomo.
Quijada eagerly approached, and the valet was respectfully leaving the room, but the Emperor’s summons stopped him.
“I have something,” Charles began, no longer able to maintain complete control over his voice, which was sometimes interrupted by the shortness of breath that had recently attacked him, “to say to you also—”
Here he hesitated, pointed to the window which overlooked the park, then, with a keen glance at the valet’s face, continued:
“A ghost wanders about there. I have already seen it several times under the trees. True, it avoided approaching me. What still remains useful in this miserable body! But my eyes are sharp yet, and I recognised the spectre—it is the Ratisbon singer.”
“Your Majesty knows,” replied Quijada, “what befell her after the birth of the child, and that she is now living here in Brussels; but I was strictly forbidden to mention her name in your Majesty’s presence.”