Since the musician had described the city, she had seen it distinctly before her in her vivid imagination. The lower portion, intersected by the river Senne and numerous canals, belonged to the rich, industrious citizens, the skilful artisans, and the common people; the upper, which occupied a hill, contained the great Brabant palace, the residence of the Emperor Charles. This edifice, which, though its exterior was almost wholly devoid of ornament, nevertheless presented a majestic aspect on account of its vast size, adjoined a splendid park, whose leafy groups of ancient trees merged into the forest of Soignies. Here also stood the palaces of the great nobles and, on the side of the hill which sloped to the lower city, the Cathedral of St. Gudule towered proudly aloft.
Much as Barbara had heard in praise of the magnificent market-place in the lower city, with its marvellous Town Hall, it was always the upper portion of Brussels she beheld when she thought of the capital. She had felt that she belonged to this quarter, where all who had any claim to aristocracy lived; here, near the palace and the beautiful leafy trees, her future home had been in her imagination.
The result was different, and now the longing for the brilliant Brussels on the hill was doubly strong. True, there dwelt also those who had the greatest power of attraction for her.
She was just returning home from the palace park, where stood a pleasant summer house in which Adrian Dubois lived with his wife and one child. It was this child especially that drew Barbara to the upper city as often as possible, and constantly forced her thoughts to linger there and still to follow the “higher” of the imperial motto, which everywhere else she was compelled to renounce.
True, a limit was fixed to these visits to the Dubois couple. For one whole year Frau Traut had successfully concealed the child from the mother; then Barbara had once met the boy outside the house, and the way in which he was hurried out of her sight led to the conviction that this was her child, and Frau Dubois had imprudently betrayed the secret.
From this time Barbara knew that her John had been confided to the care of the valet and his wife. At last Frau Traut had been unable to resist her entreaties, and allowed her to see her son and hold him a short time in her arms.
He was a strong, splendid child, with his mother’s thick, curling locks and large blue eyes. Barbara thought that she had never seen a handsomer boy; and not only the Dubois, who had yielded their whole hearts to their nursling, but strangers also admired the magnificent development of this rare child. The young mother saw in him something grander, more perfect than the children of other human beings, even than the two boys whom she had given her husband, although little John usually repulsed her caresses.
In granting Barbara permission to see her child often, Frau Traut transgressed an explicit command of the Emperor and, to prevent the evil consequences which her sympathy might entail, she allowed the mother to rejoice in the sight of her little son only once a month, and then always for a short time.