Who in Ratisbon could have been her teacher? To whom did she owe this masterly training? As if by a miracle, he knew not whether from looking or listening, he found a combination of notes which he had long been seeking for the motet on which he was working. When he had registered it, and she sang a few passages from it, what an exquisite delight awaited him! But what should he do now? Ought he to surprise her in this way? It would certainly have been proper to be first announced by her father; but he could not bring himself even to stir a foot. Beads of perspiration stood upon his brow. Panting for breath, he seized his handkerchief to wipe it, and in doing so the roll of velvet which he had held under his arm fell on the floor.
Wolf stooped, and, ere he had straightened himself again, he heard Barbara call in a questioning tone, “Father?” and saw her put down the iron and stand listening.
Then, willing or not, he was obliged to announce his presence, and, with a timid “It is I, Wolf,” he approached the little bow-windowed room and hesitatingly crossed the threshold.
“Wolf, my tame Wolf,” she repeated gaily, without being in the least concerned about the condition of her dress. “I knew that we should soon meet again, for, just think of it! I dreamed of you last night. I was entering a golden coach. It was very high, so I put my foot on your hand, and you lifted me in.”
Then, without the least embarrassment, she held out her right hand, but slapped his fingers smartly when he passionately endeavoured to raise it to his lips.
Yet the blow was not unkindly meant, for even while he drew back she voluntarily clasped both his hands, scrutinized him intently from head to foot, and said calmly:
“Welcome to the old home, Sir Knight!” Then, laughing gaily, she added: “Why, such a thing is unprecedented! Not a feature, not a look is unlike what it used to be! And yet you’ve been roaming five years in foreign lands! Changes take place—only look at me!—changes take place more swiftly here in Ratisbon. How you stare at me! I thought so! Out with it! Hasn’t the feather-head of those days become quite a charming young lady?”
Now Wolf would gladly have made as many flattering speeches as she could desire, but his tongue refused to obey him. The new meeting was too unlike his expectation. The sight of the self-conscious woman who, in her wonderful beauty, stood leaning with folded arms on the ironing-table stirred his heart and senses too strongly.
Standing motionless, he strove for words, while his eyes revealed plainly enough the passionate rapture which agitated his soul. Barbara perceived what was passing in his thoughts, and also noticed how her dress had become disarranged during her work.
Flushing slightly, she pursed up her lips as if to whistle, and with her head thrust forward she blew into the air in his direction. Then, shaking her finger at him, she hastily sat down on the chest beside the fireplace, wound the kerchief which had fallen off closer around her neck, and, without the least embarrassment, pulled up her stockings.