What was the probable value of this stately structure, this aristocratic imperial abode? How rich its owner was! yet she, the brilliant young beauty who had grown up in poverty, disdained young Crafft because her heart did not attract her to him.
So, in this case, faithful Ursel must deceive herself and misjudge the girl, for the old woman’s strangely evasive words had revealed plainly enough that she did not consider Barbara the right wife for him.
The good people of Ratisbon could not understand this rare creature! Her artist nature gave her peculiar, unusual traits of character, which were distasteful to the ways of German burghers. Whatever did not fit the usual forms, whatever surpassed ordinary models, was regarded with distrust. He himself had scarcely been able to understand how a girl so free and independent in her feelings, and probably also in her actions, such a mistress of the art of singing, whose performances fulfilled the highest demands, could have bloomed and matured in this environment.
Old Ursel’s evasion had wounded and troubled him; the thoughts associated with the double escutcheon on the bow-window, however, revived the clouded feeling of happiness, and, with head erect, he passed the guards at the entrance and went into the corridor, which was again crowded with lords and ladies of the court, priests of all ranks, knights, pages, and servants.
His position gave him access to the Queen of Hungary’s apartments without delay—nay, he might hope to be received by her Majesty sooner than many of the knights, lords and ladies, ecclesiastical and secular dignitaries who were waiting there; the stewards, chamberlains and heralds, the ladies of the court, pages, and lackeys knew that the royal lady not only summoned Sir Wolf Hartschwert frequently, but welcomed his presence.
Nearly all were Spaniards or natives of the Netherlands, and it was fortunate for Wolf, on the one hand, that he had learned their language quickly and well in Italy and Brussels, and, on the other, that his birth entitled him to a place with nobles who had the rank of knights.
How formal and stiffly precise everything was here! How many backs bowed low, how softly bombastic, high-sounding words were murmured! It seemed as if every free, warm impulse would lapse into stiffness and coldness; moreover, those assembled here were not the poor petitioners of other antechambers, but lords and ladies who belonged to the most illustrious and aristocratic families, while among the waiting ecclesiastics there was many a prelate with the dignified bearing of a bishop.
Some of the Netherlanders alone frequently threw off the constraint which fettered all, and one even turned with the gayest ease from one person to another. This was Baron Malfalconnet, one of the Emperor’s major-domos. He was permitted to do what no one else ventured, for his cheerfulness and wit, his gift of story-telling, and sharp tongue often succeeded in dispelling the clouds of melancholy from the brow of his imperial master.