Then pity affected her more deeply than ever before, and it was with difficulty that she forced back the rising tears. Her father might perhaps have noticed them, for one groom carried a torch, and the one-eyed maid’s lantern was shining directly into her face.
But while she was struggling not to weep aloud, emotion and anxiety for the old man who, through her fault, would be exposed to so much danger, extorted the cry: “Take care of him, Herr Pyramus! I will be grateful to you.”
“That shall be a promise, lovely, ungracious maiden,” the recruiting officer quickly answered. But the old man was already waving his hat again, his horse dashed upon the Haidplatz at a gallop, and his companion, with gallant bearing, followed.
Barbara had then gone back into the house, and the maid-servant lighted her upstairs.
It had become perfectly dark in her rooms, and the solitude and silence there oppressed her like a hundredweight burden. Besides, terrible thoughts had assailed her, showing her herself in want and shame, despised, disdained, begging for a morsel of bread, and her father under his fallen horse, on his lonely, couch of pain, in his coffin.
Then her stay in her lonely rooms seemed unendurable. She would have lost her reason ere Quijada came at midnight to conduct her for a short time to the Golden Cross. She could not remain long with her lover, because the servants were obliged to be up early in the morning on account of the regent’s departure.
With Ursel she would be protected from the terrors of solitude, for, besides the old woman’s voice, a man’s tones also reached her through the open window. It was probably the companion of her childhood. In his society she would most speedily regain her lost peace of mind.
In his place she had at first found only Erasmus Eckhart.
The strong, bold boy had become a fine-looking man.
A certain gravity of demeanour had early taken possession of him, and while his close-shut lips showed his ability to cling tenaciously to a resolution, his bright eyes sparkled with the glow of enthusiasm.
Barbara could believe in this young man’s capacity for earnest, lofty aspiration, and for that very reason it had aroused special displeasure in her mind when he gaily recalled the foolish pranks, far better suited to a boy, into which as a child she had often allowed herself to be hurried.
She felt as if, in doing so, he was showing her a lack of respect which he would scarcely have ventured toward a young lady whom he esteemed, and the petted singer, whom no less a personage than the Emperor Charles deemed worthy of his love, was unwilling to tolerate such levity from so young a man.
She made no claim to reverence, but she expected admiration and the recognition of being an unusual person, who was great in her own way.
For the sake of the monarch who raised her to his side, she owed it to herself to show, even in her outward bearing, that she did not stand too far below him in aristocratic dignity.