As the shipwrecked man on a plank amid the endless surges longs for land, Barbara longed to get away, far away from the noise of the festival. Yet she dreaded the solitude which she was approaching, for she now perceived how foolishly she had acted, and with what sinful recklessness she had perhaps forfeited the happiness of her life on this luckless evening.
But need she idly wait for the doom to which she was condemned? He whose bright eyes could beam on her so radiantly had just wounded her with angry glances, like a foe or a stern judge, and his indignation had not been groundless.
What had life to offer her without his love? The wantonly bold venture had been baffled. Yet no! All was not yet lost!
Suppose she should summon courage to steal back to him and on her knees repentantly beseech him to forgive her?
But she cherished this desire only a few moments. Then the angry, wronged heart rebelled against such humiliation. She had not so shame fully offended the Emperor, but the lover, and it was his place to entreat her not to withdraw the love which made him happy.
The young girl raised her head with fresh courage. What had happened more than she had expected?
Because he loved her, he had become jealous, and made her feel his anger. But if she should now persistently withdraw from him, and let him realize how deeply he had offended her, she could not fail to win the game. In spite of all his crowns and kingdoms, he was only a man, and must not she, who in a few brief hours had forced a Maurice of Saxony to sue yearningly for her love, succeed by the might of her art and her beauty in transforming the wrath of the far older man, Charles, into his former passion?
If the Italian novels with which she was familiar did not lie, not only jealousy, but apparent indifference on the part of the beloved object, fanned the heart of man to burst into fresh flames.
It was only necessary to hold her impetuous temper in check, and profit by the jealousy which had now been aroused in Charles’s mind. Hitherto she had always obeyed hasty impulses. Why should not she, too, succeed in accomplishing a well-considered plan? With the torturing emotions of failure, mortification, desertion, remorse, and yearning for forgiveness, now blended the hope of yet bringing to a successful conclusion the hazardous enterprise which she had already given up as hopeless, and, while walking on, her brain toiled diligently over plans for the campaign which would compel the great general to return with twofold devotion the love of which he had deprived her.
So, in the intense darkness, she followed the light which the torches cast upon the uneven path. At first she had taken up the train of her dress; now it was sweeping the dusty road.
What did she care for the magnificent robe if she regained Charles’s love? Of what use would it be if she had lost it, lost it forever?