Here he impatiently, yet with a pleased senile, endeavoured to release himself from her arms, but she interrupted his exclamation, “Don’t you know, Miss Thoughtless,” with the whispered entreaty: “Here me out first, father! Maestro Appenzelder asked me to add my voice to the boy choir a few times more, and yesterday evening the treasurer told me that the Queen of Hungary had commissioned him to give me as many ducats as the boys received pennies.”
She spoke the truth; but the old man laughed heartily in his deep tones, cast a quick glance at Wolf, who was looking up at his weapons, and, lowering his voice, cried gaily, “That’s what I call a feminine Chrysostomus or golden mouth, and I should think——”
Here he hesitated, for a doubt arose in his chivalrous mind whether it was seemly for a young girl who belonged to a knightly race to accept payment for her singing. But the thought that it came from the hand of royalty, and that even the great Duke of Alba, the renowned Granvelles, and so many princes, counts, and barons received golden wages for their services from the Emperor’s hand, put an end to these scruples.
So, in a happier frame of mind than he had experienced for a long time, he said in a low tone, that he might not be understood by their guest: “Greater people than we rejoice in the gifts which emperors and kings bestow, and—we can use them, can’t we?”
Then he rubbed his hands, laughed as if he had outwitted the people of whom he was thinking, and whispered to his daughter: “The baker will wonder when he gets paid this time in glittering gold, and the butcher and Master Reinhard! My boots still creak softly when I step, and you know what that means. The soles of your little shoes probably only sing, but they, too, are not silent.”
The old man, released from a heavy burden of care, laughed merrily again at this jest, and then, raising his voice, told his daughter and Wolf that he would first get a cool drink and then go outside the gate wherever his lame foot might carry him. Would not the young nobleman accompany him?
But Wolf preferred to stay with Barbara, that he might plead his cause in person. There was something so quiet and diffident in her manner. If she would not listen to him to-day, she never would. In saying farewell, the captain remarked that he would not meddle in the affair of the Council. Wawerl alone must decide that.
“When I return home,” he concluded, “you will have come to an agreement, and, whatever the determination may be, I shall be satisfied. Perhaps some bright idea may come to me, too, over the wine. I’ll go to the Black Bear, where I always meet fellow-soldiers.”
Then he raised his hand with a gay farewell salute, and left the room.
As soon as the captain’s limping steps died away on the stairs, Wolf summoned all his courage and moved nearer to Barbara.