After his conversation with the sovereign he had retired to his private room, to devote himself to the philological studies which he pursued during the greater portion of the day with equal zeal and success. But he had scarcely begun to be absorbed in the new copy of the best manuscript of Apuleius, which had readied him from Florence, and make notes in the first Roman printed work of this author, when Cassian interrupted him.
He had missed the servant in the morning. Now the fellow, always so punctual when he had not gazed too deeply into the wine-cup, stood before him in a singular plight, for he was completely drenched, and a disagreeable odour of liquor exhaled from him. The flaxen hair, which bristled around his head and hung over his broad, ugly face, gave him so unkempt and imbecile an appearance that it was repulsive to the almoner, and he harshly asked where he had been loitering.
But Cassian, confident that his master’s indignation would soon change to approval and praise, rapidly began to relate what had occurred outside the little castle at Prebrunn when the festival under the lindens was over.
After helping to place the Wittenberg theologian in custody, he had followed Barbara at some distance during her nocturnal walk. While she waited in front of Dr. Hiltner’s house and talked with the members of the syndic’s family after their return, he had remained concealed in the shadow of a neighbouring dwelling, and did not move until the doctor had gone away with the singer. He cautiously glided behind them as far as the garden, witnessed the syndic’s cordial farewell to his companion, and dogged the former to the Prebrunn jail. Here he had again been obliged to wait patiently a long while before the doctor came out into the open air with the prisoner. The rope had been removed from Erasmus’s hands, and Cassian had remained at his heels until he stopped in the village of Kager, on the Nuremberg road. The young man had taken a lunch in the tavern there; the money for it was given him by the syndic. Cassian had seen the gold pieces which had been placed in Erasmus’s hand, to pay his travelling expenses, glitter in the rosy light of dawn.
In reply to the almoner’s question whether he remembered any portion of the conversation between the syndic and the singer, Cassian admitted that he had been obliged to keep too far away from them to hear it, but Dr. Hiltner’s manner to the girl had been very friendly, especially when he took leave of her.
The anything but grateful manner with which the almoner received this story was a great disappointment to the overzealous servant; nay, he secretly permitted himself to doubt his master’s wisdom and energy when the latter remarked that the arrest of a man who had merely entered a stranger’s garden was entirely unjustifiable, and that he was aware of the singer’s acquaintanceship with the Hiltners.
With these words he motioned Cassian to the door.