His heart throbbed anxiously as he told himself that the next few minutes would decide his future destiny.
As he saw her before him, fairer than ever, with downcast eyes, silent and timid, without a trace of the triumphant self-assurance which she had gained during his absence, he firmly believed that he had made the right choice, and that her consent would render him the most enviable of happy mortals. If she refused him her hand—he felt this no less plainly—his life would be forever robbed of light and joy.
True, he was no longer as blithe and full of hope as when he entered her plain lodgings a short time before.
The doubt of the worthy man, behind whom the house door had just closed, had awakened his doubts also. Yet what he now had it in his power to offer, since his conversation with the syndic, was by no means trivial. He must hold fast to it, and as he raised his eyes more freely to her his courage increased, for she was still gazing at the floor in silent submission, as if ready to commit her fate into his hands; nay, in the brief seconds during which his eyes rested upon her, he perceived an expression which seemed wholly alien to her features, and bestowed upon this usually alert, self-assured, vivacious creature an air of weary helplessness.
While he was generally obliged to maintain an attitude of defence toward her, she now seemed to need friendly consolation. So, obeying a hasty impulse, he warmly extended both hands, and in a gentle, sympathizing tone exclaimed, “Wawerl, my dear girl, what troubles you?”
Then her glance met his, and her blue eyes flashed upon him with an expression of defiant resistance; but he could not help thinking of the young witch who was said to have resembled her, and a presentiment told him that she was lost to him.
The confirmation of this foreboding was not delayed, for in a tone whose repellent sternness startled him, she angrily burst forth: “What should trouble me? It as ill becomes you to question me with such looks and queries as it pleases me.” Wolf, in bewilderment, assured her that she had seemed to him especially charming in her gracious gentleness. If anything had happened to cloud her fearless joyousness, let her forget it, for the matter now to be considered concerned the happiness of two human lives.
That was what she was saying to herself, Barbara replied in a more friendly tone, and, with newly awakened hope, the young knight informed her that the time had now come when, without offending against modesty, he might call himself a “made man.”
With increasing eagerness and confidence he then told her what the councillor had offered. Without concealing her father’s scruples, he added the assurance that he felt perfectly secure against the temptations of which there would certainly be no lack while he was in the service of a Protestant magistracy.
“And when you, devout, pure, true girl, stand by my side,” he concluded with an ardour which surprised Barbara in this quiet, reserved man, “when you are once mine, my one love, then I shall conquer the hardest obstacle as if it were mere pastime, then I would not change places with the Emperor, for then my happiness would be——”