These expeditions were evidently not to meet a lover, yet from that hour he cherished a conviction, mingled with a bitter sense of resentment, that she went to the festivals which his Majesty attended in order to see the man whom she had once loved, and whose image even now she could not wholly efface from her imagination, perhaps also from her heart.
For her manner to the children, on the contrary, he could find no plausible explanation. Her love for them was unmistakable. Yet what was the meaning of the compassionate manner with which she treated them, talked to them, spoke of them, until it nearly drove him frantic? She often treated the healthy, merry older boy as if he was ill and needed comfort, and the pretty infant in the cradle was addressed in the same way.
If he summoned up his courage and openly reproved her, she always answered in general terms, such as: “What do you mean? Are we not all born to suffer?” or, “Shall we envy them because they have entered life to endure pain and to die?”
Not until Pyramus, with sorrowful emotion, entreated her not to speak of the children as if they had been given to them for a punishment and not for a joy, she imposed a certain degree of constraint upon herself and changed her manner of speech; yet the expression of her eyes revealed that she felt no really glad, unconstrained joy in her sons.
Though she denied it, she knew how to explain this manner to herself; for, after her attention had been directed to it, she secretly admitted that the sight of the two dear children who were wholly hers always reminded her of the third who had been taken from her, whom she was permitted to see very rarely, and only in secret, yet who, beside the others, seemed like a young lion beside modest lambs.
She cherished no desire for a new love, though the lukewarm blending of gratitude and good will which she bestowed upon her husband did not even remotely deserve this lofty name.
There was no lack of gallants in Brussels who noticed and were attracted by her, but whoever knew or had heard of Pyramus Kogel avoided interfering with his rights; for he was numbered among the best swordsmen in Brussels, and the air with which the tender-hearted husband wore his long rapier was decidedly threatening.
Besides, Barbara herself also knew how to protect herself against any intrusiveness with haughty sharpness.
To-day she was especially glad that Pyramus was absent on an inspecting tour. She had gratefully enjoyed the meeting with her John. Never had the light of his blue eyes seemed so sunny, his head with its fair curls so angelic in its beauty. His voice, too, had enraptured her by its really bewitching melody. The maternal gift of song would certainly descend to him, and perhaps it was allotted to the Emperor’s son to amaze his generation by the presence of hero and singer in one person, like a second King David.