“This is too much,” Barbara indignantly broke in. “Make way for me at once, and, if you are well advised, you will spare yourself the visit to my father; for, even if you were in earnest with your love and came as an honest suitor to our modest house, it might easily happen that you would descend the staircase, which is very steep and narrow, in as sorrowful a mood as you climbed it secure of victory.”
Then Pyramus Kogel changed his tone, and said bitterly:
“So your victorious eyes were only carrying on an idle game with my unsuspecting heart? You laugh! But I expected to find in my German native land only girls whose chaste reserve and simple honesty could be trusted. It would be a great sorrow if I should learn through you, Jungfrau Barbara, that here, too, it would have been advisable to arm myself against wanton deception. True, the French chansons you sing sound unlike our sincere German songs. And then you, the fairest of the fair, can choose at will among men; but the Emperor’s service carries me from one country to another. I am only a poor nobleman—”
“I care not,” she interrupted him here with icy coldness; “you might be just good enough for the daughter of another nobleman, who has little more to call his own than you, Sir Knight, but nevertheless far too little for me to grant you permission to load me with unjust reproaches. Besides, you wholly lack the one advantage which the man to whom I am willing to betroth myself must possess.”
“And what is that?” he asked eagerly.
“Neither gold nor lands, rank nor splendour,” she answered proudly, “but changeless fidelity of the heart. Remember your fluttering from lovely Elspet Zohrer to me, and from me to Elspet, Sir Pyramus, and ask yourself what reason you would give me to expect the fulfilment of such a demand. Your fine figure and gay manner please us girls very well at a dance, but, though you should possess the wealth of the Fuggers and the power of the Sultan, it would be useless trouble to seek my consent. Stand out of my path at once! There come the Emperor’s body guards, and, if you do not obey me, as surely as I hope for salvation I will call them!”
The last words had escaped her lips in a raised voice, and vibrated with such honest indignation that the recruiting officer yielded; but a triumphant smile flitted over her beautiful face.
Had she known before how complete a victory he had already won over pretty Elspet Zohrer, her most dangerous rival, this late errand would have been unnecessary.