A few hours after this farewell Barbara received a letter from the Council, in which Wolf Hartschwert secured to her and her father during their lives the free use of the house which he had inherited in Red Cock Street, with the sole condition of allowing his faithful Ursula to occupy the second story until her death.
The astonished girl at once went to express her thanks for so much kindness; but Wolf had left Ratisbon a short time before, and when Barbara entered the house she found old Ursula at the window with her tear-stained face resting on her clasped hands. When she heard her name called, she raised her little head framed in the big cap, and as soon as she recognised the unexpected visitor she cast so malevolent a glance at her that a shiver ran through the girl’s frame.
After a few brief words of greeting, Barbara left the old woman, resolving not to enter the house soon again.
In passing the chapel she could and would not resist its strong power of attraction. With bowed head she entered the quiet little sanctuary, repeated a paternoster, and prayed fervently to the Mother of God to restore the clearness of her voice once more. While doing so, she imagined that the gracious intercessor gazed down upon her sometimes compassionately, sometimes reproachfully, and, in the consciousness of her guilt, she raised her hands, imploring forgiveness, to the friendly, familiar figure.
How tenderly the Christ-child nestled to the pure, exalted mother! Heaven intended to bestow a similar exquisite gift upon her also, and already insolent hands were outstretched to tear it from her. True, she was determined to defend herself bravely, yet her best friend advised her to yield without resistance to this unprecedented demand.
What should she do?
With her brow pressed against the priedieu, she strove to attain calm reflection in the presence of the powerful and gracious Queen of Heaven. If she yielded the child to its cruel father, she would thereby surrender to him the only happiness to which she still possessed a claim; if she succeeded in keeping it for herself, she would deprive it of the favour of the mighty sovereign, who possessed the power to bestow upon it everything which the human heart craves. Should she persist in resistance or yield to the person to whom she had already sacrificed so much the great blessing which had the ability to console her for every other loss, even the most cruel?
Then her refractory heart again rebelled. This was too much; Heaven itself could not require it of her, the divine Mother who, before her eyes, was pressing her child so tenderly to her bosom, least of all. Hers, too, would be a gift of God, and, while repeating this to herself, it seemed as though a voice cried out: “It is the Lord himself who intends to confide this child to you, and if you give it up you deprive it of its mother and rob it—you have learned that yourself—of its best possession. What was given to you to cherish tenderly, you can not confide to another without angering him who bestowed the guerdon upon you.”