She neither saw nor heard the fellow-singers who surrounded her; nay, when Dr. Hiltner, the syndic’s, daughter, seventeen years old, who had long looked up to her with girlish enthusiasm, pressed forward to her side, and her charming mother, sincerely pleased, followed more quietly, when others imitated their example and expressed genuine gratification or made pretty speeches, Barbara scarcely distinguished the one from the other, honest good will from bitter envy.
She did not fully recover her composure until Appenzelder came up to her and held out his large hand.
Clasping it with a smile, she permitted the old musician to hold her little right hand, while in a low tone, pointing to Wolf, who had followed him, he said firmly:
“May I believe the knight? Would you be induced to bestow your magnificent art upon an ardent old admirer like myself, though to-day only as leader of the voices in the boy choir—”
Here Wolf, who had noticed an expression of refusal upon Barbara’s lips, interrupted him by completing the sentence with the words, addressed to her, “In order to let his Majesty the Emperor enjoy what delights us here?”
The blood receded from Barbara’s cheeks, and, as she clung to the window-sill for support, it seemed as though some magic spell had conveyed her to the summit of the highest steeple. Below her yawned the dizzy gulf of space, and the air was filled with a rain of sceptres, crowns, and golden chains of honour falling upon ermine and purple robes on the ground below.
But after a few seconds this illusion vanished, and, ere Wolf could spring to the assistance of the pallid girl, she was already passing her kerchief across her brow.
Then, drawing a long breath, she gave the companion of her childhood a grateful glance, and said to Appenzelder:
“Dispose of my powers as you deem best,” adding, after a brief pause, “Of course, with my father’s consent.”
Appenzelder, as if rescued, shook her hand again, this time with so strong a pressure that it hurt her. Yet her blue eyes sparkled as brightly as if her soul no longer had room for pain or sorrow. After Barbara had made various arrangements with the choir leader, it seemed to her as though the sunny, blissful spring, which her song had just celebrated so exquisitely, had also made its joyous entry into the narrow domain of her life.
On the way home she thanked the friend who accompanied her with the affectionate warmth of the days of her childhood, nay, even more eagerly and tenderly; and when, on reaching the second story of the cantor house, he took leave of her, she kissed his cheek, unasked, calling down the stairs as she ran up:
“There is your reward! But, in return, you will accompany me first to the rehearsal with the singing boys, and then—if you had not arranged it yourself you would never believe it—go to the Golden Cross, to the Emperor Charles.”