Then Barbara at last listened with more interest, and asked for other details.
Frau Dubois, to whom her husband from time to time sent messengers from the camp, now said that the encounter had not come to an actual battle and a positive decision, but his Majesty had heeded the shower of bullets less than the patter of a hailstorm, and had quietly permitted Appian, the astronomer, to explain a chart of the heavens in his tent, though the enemy’s artillery was tearing the earth around it.
But even this could not reanimate the extinguished ardour of Barbara’s soul; she had merely said calmly: “We know that he is a hero. I had expected him to disperse the heretics as the wolf scatters the sheep and destroy them at a single blow.”
Then taking her rosary and prayer book, she went to church, as she did daily at this time. She spent hours there, not only praying, but holding intercourse with the image of the Madonna, from which she dill not avert her eyes, as though it was a living being. The chaplain who had been given to her associated with this devout tendency of his penitent the hope that Barbara would decide to enter a convent; but she rebuffed in the firmest manner every attempt to induce her to form this resolve.
In October the northeast wind brought cold weather, and Frau Traut feared that remaining for hours in the chilly brick church would injure her charge’s health, so she entreated Barbara to desist. But when the latter, without heeding her warning, continued to visit the house of God as before, and to stay the same length of time, Frau Dubois interposed a firm prohibition, and on this occasion she learned for the first time to what boundlessly vehement rebellion her charge could allow passion to carry her. True, soon after Barbara, with winning tenderness, besought her forgiveness, and it was readily granted, but Frau Traut knew of no other expedient than to fix the first of November, which would come in a few days, for their return to Ratisbon.
Barbara was startled.
During the night her companion heard her weeping vehemently, and her kind heart led her to her bedside.
With the affectionate warmth natural to her, she entreated the unhappy girl to calm herself, and to open her troubled heart to one who felt as kindly toward her as a mother; and before these friendly words the defiance, doubts, and fear which had closed Barbara’s heart melted.
“You may take it from me,” she cried, amid her streaming tears. “What can a poor girl give it save want and shame? Its father, on the contrary—If he adopts and rears it as his child—O Frau Traut! dare I, who already love it more than my own life, rob it of the happiness to which it has a right? If the Emperor acknowledges it, whether it is a boy or a girl, merciful Heaven, to what Magnificence, what splendour, what honour my child may attain! My brain often reels when I think of it. The little daughter of Johanna Van der Gheynst a Duchess of Parma, and why should he place the girl whom I shall perhaps give him in a more humble position? Or if Heaven should grant me a son, his father will raise him to a still greater height, and I have already seen him before me a hundred times as he hangs the Fleece on the red ribbon round his neck.”