As he spoke he waved his hand to repel the hound which, when he raised his voice, had pressed closer to him, and glanced at the artistically wrought Nuremberg clocks on the writing table, two of which struck the hour at the same time. Then he himself seized the little bell, rang it, and permitted the valet Adrian to brush his hair and make the necessary changes in his dress.
Then he invited his sister to accompany him to the table.
Walking without a shoe was difficult, and, when he saw the Queen look down sorrowfully at the cloths which swathed the foot, he said while toiling on:
“Imagine that we have been hunting and the boot remained stuck in the mud. I am sure of indulgence from you. As to the others, even with only one shoe I am still the Emperor.”
He opened the door as he spoke, and, while the valet held the hound back, the Emperor, with chivalrous courtesy, insisted that his sister should precede him, though she resisted until Baron Malfalconnet, with a low bow to the royal dame, said:
“The meal is served, your Majesty, and if you lead the way you will protect our Emperor and sovereign lord from the unworthy suspicion of wishing to be first at the trencher.”
He motioned toward the threshold as he uttered the words, but Charles, who often had a ready answer for the baron’s jests, followed his sister in silence with a clouded brow.
Leaning on her arm and the crutch which Quijada had mutely presented to him, Charles cautiously descended the stairs. He had indignantly rejected the leech’s proposal to use a litter in the house also, if the gout tortured him.
Majesty, whose nature demands that people should look up to it, shuns the downward glance of compassion. Yet during this walk the Emperor Charles, even at the risk of presenting a pitiable spectacle, would gladly have availed himself of the litter.
He, who had cherished the proud feeling of uniting in himself, his own imperial power, the temporal and ecclesiastical sovereignty over all Christendom, would now willingly have changed places with the bronzed, sinewy halberdiers who were presenting arms to him along the sides of the staircase. Yet he waved back Luis Quijada with an angry glance and the sharp query, “Who summoned you?” when, in an attitude of humble entreaty, he ventured to offer him the support of his strong arm. Still, pain. compelled him to pause at every third step, and ever and anon to lean upon the strong hip of his royal sister.
Queen Mary gladly rendered him the service, and, as she gazed into his face, wan with anxiety and suffering, and thought of the beautiful surprise which she had in store, she waved back, unnoticed by her royal brother, the pages and courtiers who were following close behind. Then looking up at him, she murmured:
“How you must suffer, Carlos! But happiness will surely follow the martyrdom. Only a few steps, a few minutes more, and you will again look life in the face with joyous courage. You will not believe it? Yet it is true. I would even be inclined to wager my own salvation upon it.”