In a few minutes she had made him acquainted with everything that it was necessary for him to know. Dr. Hiltner, turning to his wife, and mean while looking his future son-in-law steadily in the eye, exclaimed, “We are all, let me tell you, greatly indebted to this brave girl.”
Frau Sabina’s heart swelled with joy, and to Martina, too, the praise which her father bestowed on Barbara was a precious gift. The mother and daughter had always espoused her cause, and now it again proved that they had done well.
“So I was right, after all,” whispered the young girl to her lover.
“And will prove so often,” he answered gaily. But when, a short time after, he proposed to Barbara’s warm advocate to accompany the singer home, Martina preferred to detain him, and invited him to stay in the house with her a little while longer.
These incidents had occupied only a brief period, and Dr. Hiltner undertook to escort the young girl himself. To save time, he questioned her about everything which he still desired to know, but left her before she turned into the lane leading to the little castle, because he was aware that she, who belonged to the Emperor’s household, might he misjudged if she were seen in his company.
Shortly after, he had freed Erasmus from imprisonment and sent him, in charge of one of the Council’s halberdiers, beyond the gate. He was to remain concealed outside the city until the syndic recalled him.
The young theologian willingly submitted, after confessing to his foster-father how strongly love for Barbara had taken possession of him.
This act might arouse strong hostility to the syndic, but he did not fear it. Moreover, the Emperor had showed at the festival plainly enough his withdrawal of the good opinion which he had formerly testified upon many an occasion. This was on account of his religion, and where that was concerned there was no yielding or dissimulation on either side.
Barbara returned home soothed.
Frau Lerch was waiting for her, and with many tokens of disapproval undressed her. Yet she carefully dried her feet and rubbed them with her hands, that she might escape the fever which she saw approaching.
Barbara accepted with quiet gratitude the attention bestowed upon her, but, though she closed her eyes, the night brought no sleep, for sometimes she shivered in a chill, sometimes a violent headache tortured her.
Sleep also deserted the Emperor’s couch. After his return from the festival he tried to examine several documents which the secretary Gastelii had laid ready for him on the writing-table, but he could not succeed. His thoughts constantly reverted to Barbara and her defiant rebellion against the distinct announcement of his will. Had the Duke of Saxony, so much his junior and, moreover, a far handsomer and perhaps more generous prince, won her favour, and therefore did she perhaps desire to break the bond with him?