He had found complete enjoyment of life only in war, in the presence of death, in cutting and slashing, and he felt by no means too old to keep his seat in the saddle and lead his company of horsemen to the assault. He was not mistaken there, and, besides not only the recruiting officer, but also the scarred old captain whom they called little Gorgl, asserted that the Emperor would welcome every brave, tried soldier, even though older than he, as soon as war was declared.
Meanwhile Pyramus Kogel was constantly in his mind, and at last he thought it his duty to speak to Barbara about her unseemly treatment of this estimable man.
He had intended ever since she entered to call her to account for it, but, though he did not admit it even to himself, the old soldier dreaded his daughter’s firm power of resistance.
Yet he could not keep silence this time; her behaviour had transgressed the bounds of propriety too far.
So he summoned up his courage, and, with a “What I was going to say,” began to speak of the admirable officer whom he had brought into his house.
Then, clearing his throat, he drew himself up, and, raising his voice, asked how she dared to assail this gallant nobleman with such abominable, arrogant, and insulting words.
But he was to wait an answer in vain, for, with the brief declaration that she had not come to be lectured like a schoolgirl, Barbara banged the door behind her. Directly after, however, she opened it again, and with a pleasant, “No offence, father,” wished the old gentleman a no less pleasant goodnight.
Then she went to her room, but in old Ursel’s chamber, at the same hour as on the preceding night, a similar conversation took place.
The one-eyed maid spoke of the rats which had forced their way into the house, and the sick woman repeated impatiently, “The rats!” and, with prudent reserve, silently kept her thoughts to herself.
The Queen of Hungary had returned home the evening before, and on the following morning summoned Barbara to the Golden Cross to sing with the boy choir.
When the major-domo, Quijada, obedient to her command, entered the room at eleven o’clock, she called to him: “Miracles, Luis, mighty miracles in these godless times! I have just come from his Majesty, and in what did I find him occupied? Turning over music with Maestro Gombert—of course, for a female voice. Besides, he looked as if he had just defeated the Turks and Frenchmen at once. As for the gout, he’ll be dancing the ‘hoppedei’ with the peasants presently.”
“Day before yesterday he surprised us by wearing satin shoes,” remarked Quijada. “May I congratulate you on the really magical effect of your Majesty’s prescription?”
“Continue to think so, if it suits you,” cried the Queen gaily. “Only a few powerful drops from elsewhere have probably fallen into the potion. But how stupidly artless you can look when you feign ignorance, Luis! In this case, however, you need not let your breathing be oppressed by the mask. I bow to your masculine secrecy—but why did my worldly-wise brother mingle a petticoat in this delicate business if he wishes to keep it hidden?”