Now she was to become acquainted with it.
At first this disappointment wounded her, but soon the marquise’s intention of ridding herself, by this conduct, of a heavy debt became apparent, and she opposed to the base cunning a gay defence, but was then forced to encounter the marquise’s condemnation of it as the outgrowth of an ungenerous soul.
How unpleasant this was! Yet she kept what she had done for the old aristocrat and the way in which she had requited it a secret, even from Frau Lerch, especially as the Emperor soon alluded to his denial of her entreaty, and gave a description of young Leria which filled her with horror, and led to the conviction that the sacrifice which she had made for him and his little daughter had been utterly futile.
Little Babette, she also heard, was cared for in the best possible manner, having been withdrawn front her father’s influence long before and placed in charge of an estimable, wealthy, and aristocratic aunt, her mother’s sister, who filled the latter’s place.
This act of charity had been utterly spoiled for the overhasty giver, and, while the glad remembrance of the pure delight which she had felt after her generous resolve faded more and more, she began to be uneasy about her reckless transaction with the Nuremberg goldsmith, for the Emperor during his very next visit had asked about the star, and in her confusion she had again been forced into a falsehood, and tried to excuse herself for so rarely wearing his beautiful present by the pretext that the gold pin which fastened it was bent.
She could have inflicted various punishments upon herself for her precipitate yielding to a hastily awakened sympathy, for it would surely anger the Emperor if he learned how carelessly she had treated his first costly gift.
Perhaps some hint of its sale had already reached his ears, for, although he had made no opposition to her apology, he afterward remained taciturn and irritable.
Every subsequent interview with her lover was terribly shadowed by the dread that he might think of the unlucky ornament again.
Yet, on this occasion also, fear prevented the brave girl from confessing the whole truth.
On St. Desiderius’s Day—[May 23rd]—the Emperor again missed the star, and, as it was in the Golden Cross and the heat was great, Barbara replied that her dress was too thin for the heavy ornament. But the inquiry had made her fear of additional questions so great that she rejoiced over the news that her lover would not visit her the next day.
On the day before yesterday Christoph Madrucci, the Cardinal of Trent, his warlike brother Hildebrand, and the Count of Arco had arrived, bringing news from the Council; but on the morrow Duke Maurice of Saxony was expected, and the most important negotiations were to be carried on not only with him, but also with the former, each individual being dealt with singly and at different hours.