Adrian had certainly attained an exceptional position among his class, yet Barbara wondered how he had won this woman, who apparently belonged to a far higher station. And then what had brought her to this place and her companionship?
She was to learn during the meal, for Frau Dubois not only answered her questions kindly, but in a manner which showed Barbara sincere sympathy for her position.
She was the daughter of a captain who had fallen in the Emperor Charles’s service before Padua. The pension granted to his widow had not been paid, and when, with her daughter, she sought an audience with the commander in chief, the influential valet had seen the blooming girl, and did not seek her hand in vain. Maternal joys had been denied her; besides, Frau Dubois thought it hard that her husband was obliged to accompany the Emperor, who could not spare him for a single day, on his long and numerous journeys. Even the very comfortable life secured to her by the distinguished valet, who was respected by men of the highest rank, by no means consoled her for it.
The Emperor Charles knew this, and had given Adrian a pretty house in the park of the Brussels palace, besides favouring him in other ways. Now he had allowed him, before setting out for the war, to send for his wife. On reaching Landshut, she had shared during a few hours the little house which the monarch and general had chosen for his lodgings. The imperial commander had not gone up to the citadel because he wished to remain among his troops.
True, the little farmhouse on the “hohen Gred” which he occupied was anything but a suitable abode for a powerful sovereign, for above the ground floor it had only a single story with five small windows and an unusually high roof. But, on the other hand, the regiments lying encamped near it could be quickly reached. Another reason for making the choice was that he could obtain rest here better than on the Trausnitz, for his health was as bad as his appearance and his mood. He intended to break up the headquarters on the day after to-morrow, so another separation awaited the valet and his wife.
When the mounted messenger sent by Frau Lamperi reached Landshut, and it was necessary to find a suitable companion for Barbara, the Emperor himself had thought of Fran Dubois.
There had been no opposition to his wish. Besides, she said, his Majesty meant kindly by Barbara and, so far as her power extended, everything should be done to soften her hard destiny.
She knew the whole history of the girl intrusted to her care, yet she would scarcely have undertaken the task committed to her had she not been aware that every determination of the Emperor was immovable. Besides, she could also strive to render the hard fate imposed upon the poor girl more endurable.
Barbara had listened eagerly to the story without interrupting her; then she desired to learn further particulars concerning the health of the man from whom even now her soul could not be sundered and, finally, she urged her to talk about herself.