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Barbara Blomberg
by Georg Ebers
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At this assurance Barbara's soul glowed with proud maternal joy. Her blue eyes sparkled with a brighter light, and the sunny, radiant glance with which she thanked Wolf for his information exerted an unexpected influence upon him, for he shrank back as though the curtain which concealed a rare marvel had been lifted and, drawing a long breath, gazed into her beautiful, joyous face.

It seemed as if the luminous reflection of the proud, noble, and pure delight which shone upon him from her eyes had beamed in little Geronimo's a few weeks before when he rushed up to him to show his hunting spoils, a fitchet and several birds which he had killed with his pretty little cross-bow, a gift from Dona Magdalena. And Barbara's wavy golden hair, the little dimple in her cheek! Geronimo must be her child; this wonderful resemblance could not deceive.

"Barbara," he cried, pressing his hand to his brow with deep emotion, "Geronimo is—gracious Virgin!—the handsome, proud, deserted boy may be——"

But an imperious gesture from the young wife closed his lips; Frau Lamperi had just led her two boys, beautifully dressed as they always were when any distinguished visitor called upon their mother, into the room. The expression of radiant happiness which had just illumined her features vanished at the sight of the little ones, and she commanded the children to be taken away at once.

She looked so stern and resolute that her faithful maid lacked courage to make any sign of recognising the knight, whom she had known while she was in the regent's service.

When the door had closed behind the group, Barbara again turned to her friend, and in a low tone asked, "And suppose that you saw aright, and Geronimo were really my child?"

"Then—then," Wolf faltered in bewilderment, "then Don Luis would—But surely it can not be! Then, after all, Quijada would be—"

Here a low laugh from Barbara broke the silence, and with dilated eyes he learned who Geronimo's parents were.

Then the knight listened breathlessly to the young mother's account of the robbery of her child, and how, in spite of her own boys and the vow which she had made the Dubois couple not to follow the Emperor's son, she lived only in and through him.

"The Emperor Charles!" cried Wolf, as if he now understood for the first time what he might so easily have guessed if the fair-haired boy had not grown up amid such extremely plain surroundings. The belief that Geronimo owed his life to Quijada had been inspired by Massi himself.

But while the knight was striving to accustom himself to this wholly novel circle of ideas, Barbara, with passionate impetuosity, clasped his right hand and placed it on the crucifix which hung on her rosary.

Then she commanded her astonished friend to swear to guard this secret, which was not hers alone, from every living being.

Wolf yielded without resistance to her passionate entreaties, but scarcely had he lowered the hand uplifted to take the oath than he urged her at least to grant him permission to restore Dona Magdalena's peace of mind; but Barbara waved her hand with resolute denial, hastily exclaiming: "No, no, no! Don Luis was the tool in every blow which Charles, his master, dealt at my happiness and peace. Let the woman who is dear to him, and who is already winning by her gifts the child's love, which belongs to me, and to me alone, now feel how the heart of one who is deceived can ache."

Here, deeply wounded, Wolf burst into a complaint of the harshness and injustice of such vengeance; but Barbara insisted so defiantly upon her will that he urged her no further, and seized his hat to retire.

Deep resentment had taken possession of him. This misguided woman, embittered by misfortune, possessed the power of rendering the greatest benefit to one infinitely her superior in nobility of soul, and with cruel defiance she refused it.

His whole heart was full of gratitude and love for Dona Magdalena, who by her unvarying kindness and elevating example had healed his wounded soul, and no ignoble wish had sullied this great and deep affection. Although for years he had devoted to her all the ability and good will which he possessed, he still felt deeply in her debt and, now that the first opportunity of rendering her a great service presented itself, he was deprived of the possibility of doing it by the woman who had already destroyed the happiness of his youth.

So bitter was the resentment which filled his soul that he could not bring himself to seek her on the following day; but she awaited him with the sorrowful fear that she had saddened the return of her best and truest friend. Besides, she was now beginning to be tortured by the consciousness of having broken or badly fulfilled the vow by which she had won from the Holy Virgin the life of her sick Conrad. Why had she sent her boys away the day before, instead of showing them to the friend of her youth with maternal joy? because her heart had been full of the image of the other, whose rare beauty and patrician bearing Wolf had so enthusiastically described. True, her pair of little boys would not have borne comparison with the Emperor's son, yet they were both good, well-formed children, and clung to her with filial affection. Why could she not even now, when Heaven itself forced her to be content, free herself from the fatal imperial "More, farther," which, both for the monarch and for her, had lost its power to command and to promise?

When, on the evening after Wolf's visit, she bent over the children sleeping in their little bed, she felt as a nurse may who comes from a patient who has succumbed to a contagious disease and now fears communicating it to her new charge. Suppose that the gracious intercessor should punish her broken vow by raising her hand against the children sleeping there? This dread seized the guilty mother with irresistible power, and she wondered that the cheeks of the little sleepers were not already glowing with fever.

She threw herself penitently on her knees before the priedieu, and the first atonement to be made for the broken vow was apparent. She must allow Wolf to restore peace to Dona Magdalena's troubled mind. This was not easy, for she had cherished her resentment against this woman's husband, through whom she had experienced bitter suffering, for many years. His much-lauded wife herself was a stranger to her, yet she could not think of her except with secret dislike; it seemed as if a woman who bore the separation from the man she loved so patiently, and yet won all hearts, must go through life—unless she was a hypocrite—with cold fish blood.

Besides——

What right had this lady to the boy to whom Barbara gave birth, whose love would now be hers had it not been wrested from her? What was denied to her would be lavished upon this favoured woman, and when she bestowed gifts upon the glorious child for whom every pulse of her being longed, and repaid his love with love, it was regarded as a fresh proof of her noble kindness of heart. To withhold from this woman something which would give her fresh happiness and relieve her of sorrow might have afforded her a certain satisfaction. To bless those who curse and despitefully use us was certainly the hardest command; but on the priedieu she vowed to the Virgin to fulfil it, and in a calmer mood than before she bent over the boys to kiss them.

The next day glided by in painful anxiety, for Wolf did not return. The following morning and afternoon also passed without bringing him. Not until the rays of the setting sun were forcing their way through the pinks and rose bushes with which Pyramus kept her window adorned throughout the year, because she loved flowers, and the vesper bells were chiming, did her friend return.

This time she had dressed her boys with her own hands, and when, through the door which separated her from the entry, she heard Wolf greet them with merry words, her heart grew lighter, and the swift thanksgiving which she uttered blended with the dying notes of the bells.

Leading Conrad by the hand, and carrying the three-year-old youngest boy in his arms, Wolf entered the room.

The child of a former love easily wins its way to the heart of the man who has been obliged to resign her. Wolf's eyes showed that he was pleased with Barbara's merry lads, and she thanked him for it by the warmest reception.

Not until after he had said many a pleasant word to her about the little boys, and jested with them in the manner of one who loves children, did he resume his grave manner and confess that he could not make up his mind to leave Barbara without a farewell. He was glad to find her in the possession of such treasures, but his time was limited, and he must, unfortunately, content himself with this last brief meeting.

While speaking, he rose to leave her; but she stopped him, saying in a low tone: "Surely you know me, Wolf, and are aware that I do not always persist in the resolves to which my hasty temper urges me. It shall not be my fault if the peace of your Dona Magdalena's soul remains clouded longer, and so I release you from your vow so far as she is concerned."

Then, for the first time since their meeting, the familiar, pleasant "Wawerl" greeted her, and with tearful eyes she clasped his outstretched hands.

Wolf had just told her that his time was short; but now he willingly allowed himself to be persuaded to put down his sword and hat, and when Frau Lamperi brought in some refreshments, he recognised her, and asked her several pleasant questions.

It seemed as though Barbara's change of mood had overthrown the barrier which her stern refusal had raised between them. Calm and cheerful as in former days he sat before her, listening while, in obedience to his invitation, she told him, with many a palliation and evasion, about her married life and the children. She made her story short, in order at last to hear some further particulars concerning the welfare of her distant son.

What Wolf related of the outward appearance of her John, to whose new name, Geronimo, she gradually became accustomed, Barbara could complete from her vivid recollection of this rare child. He had remained strong and healthy, and the violinist Massi, his good wife, and their daughter loved the little fellow and cared for him as if he were their own son and brother.

The musician, it is true, lived plainly enough, but there was no want of anything in the modest country house with the gay little flower garden. Nor did the boy lack playmates, though they were only the children of the farmers and townspeople of Leganes. Clad but little better than they, he shared their merry, often rough games. Geronimo called the violinist and his wife father and mother.

Then Barbara desired a more minute description of his dress, and when Wolf, laughing, confessed that he wore a cap only when he went to church, and on hot summer days he had even met him barefoot, she clasped her hands in astonishment and dismay. Not until her friend assured her that among the thin, dark-haired Spaniards, with their close-cropped heads and flashing black eyes, he, with his fluttering golden curls and free, graceful movements, looked like a white swan among dark-plumaged ducks, did she raise her head with a contented expression, and the sunny glance peculiar to her again reminded her friend of the Emperor's son.

His lofty brow, Wolf said, he had inherited from his father, and his mind was certainly bright; but what could be predicted with any certainty concerning the intellectual powers of a boy scarcely seven years old? The pastor Bautista Bela was training him to piety. The sacristan Francisco Fernandez ought to have begun to teach him to read a year ago; but until now Geronimo had always run away, and when he, Wolf, asked the worthy old man, at Dona Magdalena's request, whether he would undertake to instruct him in the rudiments of Latin, as well as in reading and writing, he shook his head doubtfully.

Here a smile hovered around the speaker's lips, and, as if some amusing recollection rose in his mind, he went on gaily: "He's a queer old fellow, and when I repeated my question, he put his finger against his nose, saying: 'Whoever supposes I could teach a young romper like that anything but keeping quiet, is mistaken. Why? Because I know nothing myself.' Then the old man reflected, and added, 'But—I shall not even succeed in keeping this one quiet, because he is so much swifter than I."

"And is the Emperor Charles satisfied with such a teacher for his son?" asked Barbara indignantly.

"Massi had described the sacristan to Don Luis as a learned man," replied Wolf. "But I have now told his Majesty of a better one."

"Then you have talked to the Emperor?" asked Barbara, blushing.

Her friend nodded assent, and said mournfully: "My heart still aches when I recall the meeting. O Wawerl! what a man he was when, like a fool, I persuaded him in Ratisbon to hear you sing, and how he looked yesterday!"

"Tell me," she here interrupted earnestly, raising her hands beseechingly.

"It can scarcely be described," Wolf answered, as if under the spell of a painful memory. "He could hardly hold himself up, even in the arm-chair in which he sat. The lower part of his face seems withered, and the upper-even the beautiful lofty brow—is furrowed by deep wrinkles. At every third word his breath fails. One of his diseases, Dr. Mathys says, would be enough to kill any other man, and he has more than there are fingers on the hand. Besides, even now he will not take advice, but eats and drinks whatever suits his taste."

Barbara shook her head angrily; but Wolf, noticing it, said: "He is the sovereign, and who would venture to withhold anything on which his will is set? But his desires are shrivelling like his face and his body."

"Is the man of the 'More, farther,' also learning to be content?" asked Barbara anxiously. Wolf rose, answering firmly: "No, certainly not! His eyes still sparkle as brightly in his haggard face as if he had by no means given up the old motto. True, Don Luis declares that rest is the one thing for which he longs, and you will see that he knows how to obtain it; but what he means by it only contains fresh conflicts and struggles. His 'Plus ultra' had rendered him the greatest of living men; now he desires to become the least of the least, because the Lord promises to make the last the first. I was received by the regent like a friend. She confided to me that he often repeats the Saviour's words, 'Go, sell all that thou halt, and follow me.' He is determined to cast aside throne, sceptre, and purple, power and splendour, and Don Luis believes that he will know how to gratify this desire, like every other. What a resolution! But there are special motives concealed beneath it. Nothing but death can bring repose to this restless spirit, and if he finds the quiet for which he longs, what tasks he will set himself! Don Philip promises, as an obedient son, to continue to wield the sceptre according to the policy of the father who intrusts it to him."

"And then?" asked Barbara eagerly.

"Then will begin the life in the imitation of Christ, which hovers before him."

"Here in the Brabant palace?" interposed Barbara incredulously. "Here, where his neighbours, the brilliant nobles, enjoy life in noisy magnificence; here, among the ambassadors, the thousand rumours from the Netherlands, Italy, and Spain; here, where the battle against the heretical and liberty-loving yearnings of the citizens never ceases—how can he hope to find peace and composure here?"

"He is far from it," Wolf eagerly interrupted. "'Farewell till we meet again at no distant day upon Spanish soil!' were the parting words of my gracious mistress. Will you promise secrecy?"

Barbara held out her hand with a significant glance; but Wolf, in a lower tone, continued: "He expects to find in Spain the peaceful spot for which he longs. There he will commend himself to the mercy of God, and prepare for the true life which death is to him. There he expects to be free from time-killing business, and to grant his mind that which he has long desired and a thousand duties forced him to withhold. There, in quiet leisure, he hopes to strive for knowledge and to penetrate deeply into all the new things which were discovered, invented, created, and improved during his reign, and of which he was permitted to learn far too little thoroughly. He will endeavour to gain a better understanding of what stirs, fires, angers, and divides the theologians. He desires to pursue in detail the vast new discoveries of the astronomers, which even amid the pressure of duties he had explained to him. His inquisitive mind seeks to know the new discoveries of navigation, the distant countries which it brought to view. He hopes to search into the plans and works of the architects of fortifications and makers of maps and, by no means least, he is anxious to become thoroughly familiar with the inventions of mechanicians, which have so long aroused his interest."

"He liked to talk to me about these things, and the power of the human intellect, which now shows the true course of the sun and stars," Barbara interrupted with eager assent. "He often showed me the ingenious wheelwork of his Nuremberg clocks. Once—I still hear the words—he compared the most delicate with the thousandfold more sublime works of God, the vast, ceaseless machinery of the universe, where there is no misplaced spring, no inaccurately adjusted cog in the wheels. Oh, that glorious intellect! What hours were those when he condescended to point out to a poor girl like me the eternal chronometers above our heads, repeat their names, and show the connection between the planets and the course of earthly events and human lives! O Wolf! how glorious it was! How my modest mind increased in strength! And when I listened breathlessly, and he saw how I bowed in mute admiration before his greatness and called me his dear child, his attentive pupil, and pressed his lips to my burning brow, can I ever forget that?"

She sobbed aloud as she spoke and, overwhelmed by the grief which mastered her, covered her face with her hands.

Wolf said nothing. Another had robbed him of the woman he loved, and the greatest anguish of his life was not yet wholly conquered; but in this hour he felt that he had no right to be angry with Barbara, for it was to the greatest of great men that he had been forced to yield. He need not feel it a disgrace to have succumbed to him.

"Wawerl!" he again exclaimed, "in spite of the pleasant peace which I have found, I could envy you; for once, at least, the sun of love shone with full radiance into your soul. Your experience proves how bright and long is the afterglow if it is only real. This light, I believe, can never be extinguished, no matter how dense is the gloom which shadows life's pathway."

"Yes, indeed, Wolf," she replied dully, with a sorrowful shake of the head. "The gloomy night of which you speak has come, and it will last on and on with unvarying darkness, from year to year, perhaps until the end. What you call light is the remembrance of a single brief month of May. Does it possess the power to render me happy? No, my friend, a thousand times no! It only saves me from despair. But, in spite of everything"—and here her eyes sparkled radiantly—"in spite of all this, I would not change places with any one on earth; for, however dark clouds may conceal the sun, when in quiet hours it once breaks through them, Wolf, how brilliant everything grows around me!"

While speaking, she passed her hand across her brow and, as though seized with shame for her frank confession, exclaimed: "But we will let this subject drop. Only you must know one thing more. I shall never be wholly impoverished. What the past gave me was too rich and great; what I expect from the future is too precious for that. It is growing up in distant Spain and, if Heaven accepted the great sacrifice which I once made for the boy whom you call Geronimo, if he receives what I besought for him at that time and on every returning day, then, Wolf, I shall bear the burden of my woe like a light garland of rose leaves. Nay, more. Charles will regain his youth sooner than—be it in love or hate—he will ever forget me. This child guarantees that. It is and will always remain a bridge between us. He, too, can not forget the son, and if he does——"

"No, Barbara, no," interrupted Wolf, carried away by her passionate warmth. "The Emperor Charles is constantly thinking of his fair-haired boy. No one has told me so; but if he seeks in Spain the rest for which he longs, the thought of Geronimo—I am sure of that—is not the least powerful cause which draws him thither."

"Do you really think so?" asked Barbara with feverish anxiety.

"Yes," he answered firmly. "This very morning he commanded Don Luis to take the child from Leganes to Villagarcia and commit the education of Geronimo to his wife, that he may find him what he expects and desires."

Here he paused, and Barbara inquired uneasily, "And did he say nothing of Geronimo's mother—of me?"

Wolf shook his head with silent compassion, and then reluctantly admitted: "I ventured to mention you, but, with one of those looks which no one can resist—you know them—he ordered me to be silent."

Barbara's cheeks flamed with resentment and shame, but she only said, smiling bitterly: "Grief is grief, and this new sorrow does not change the old one. He knows best that I am something more than the poor officer's wife in the Saint-Gory quarter; but I look down, with just pride, on all the others who believe me to be nothing else. Now and always, even long after I am dead, the world will be obliged to recognise the claim which elevates me far above the throng: I am the mother of an Emperor's son!"

She had uttered these words with uplifted head; but Wolf gazed in wondering admiration into the beautiful face, radiant with proud self-satisfaction.

He wished to leave her with this image before his soul, and therefore hurriedly extended his hand and said farewell, after promising to fulfil her entreaty never to come to Brussels without showing by a visit that he remembered her.



CHAPTER XIV.

Pyramus Kogel, on his return, saw nothing of the deep impression which Wolf's visit had made upon Barbara. She merely mentioned it, and carelessly said that the friend of her youth had been delighted with the children.

The news that reached her ears about what was happening in the world awakened her interest, it is true, but she took no trouble to ask for tidings. When, the following year, her husband informed her that the Emperor's only son was about to conclude a second marriage, with Mary Tudor, of England, and Charles was to commit to Philip the sovereignty of the Netherlands, Spain, Naples, and Milan, she received it as if she had already known it.

What she learned through the neighbours of the increasing number of executions of obdurate heretics she deemed the wise measures of a devout and conscientious government.

To the children Barbara was a careful mother. She rarely went to visit the Dubois couple. Frau Traut either could not or was not allowed to tell her anything about her child, except that he was thriving under the maternal care of Dona Magdalena, to whom he had been confided.

The next winter, during which Charles reached his fifty-fourth year, his health failed so noticeably that the physicians despaired of his recovery. The Brabant palace was constantly besieged by people of all classes inquiring about the condition of the still honoured and by many deeply beloved monarch, and Barbara almost daily asked for news of him. She usually entered the palace clad in black and closely veiled, for she had many acquaintances among the attendants.

Adrian was inaccessible, because his master could not spare him a single hour, but she saw his substitute, Ogier Bodart, who had served the Emperor in Ratisbon. From him she learned how the sufferer passed the night, how the day promised, and whether the physician's opinion awakened hope or fear. He even told her that his Majesty was occupying himself with his last will, the payment of his debts, the arrangement of the succession, and the choice of his burial place.

All this occupied Barbara's mind so deeply, and the long waiting to see Bodart often robbed her of so much time, that her housewifely and maternal duties suffered, yet her patient husband endured it a long while indulgently. But once, when he summoned up courage and cautiously blamed her, she quietly admitted that he was right, but added that she had never concealed from him the tie which bound her to the Emperor Charles, and now that Death was stretching his hand toward him, she must be permitted to obtain news of his welfare.

The strong man silenced his dissatisfaction, and placed no obstacles in her way. He was grateful for the maternal solicitude which she showed the children.

His kindly nature secretly approved of her spending a longer time in the Cathedral of St. Gudule than usual, praying for the royal sufferer who was so seriously ill. The man whom she could not forget was dying and, moreover, was his sovereign.

Spring at last brought an improvement in the monarch's health, and with it Barbara's return to her household duties.

A great change took place in the Dubois home during the spring after Charles's convalescence. The exhausting care of the Emperor had made Adrian seriously ill and, in spite of the objections and bitter complaints of his beloved and honoured master and his own desire to continue in his service, he was forced to resign his office, which was committed to his assistant Bodart.

One day Barbara met Dr. Mathys at the ex-valet's sick-bed. The kindly leech was amazed at her youthful appearance, and also at the obstinacy of her throat ailment; but he encouraged her, for he had recently seen marvellous effects produced by the old Roman baths at Ems, which were not difficult to reach, and advised her to use them as soon as possible. She must inform him of the result, if he was permitted to visit the Netherlands again.

Then Barbara asked if he intended to leave the master whose life was preserved by his skill; but he only shook his big head, smiling, and said that the Emperor and he belonged together, like the soul and the body, but whether his Majesty would remain in Brabant much longer was an open question.

Barbara now remembered Wolf's communication, and when the rumour spread that the Emperor Charles was inclined to give up his rulership and commit the sceptre and crown to his son Philip, she knew that this time also Charles would execute the plan which he had matured after years of consideration.

Through her friend she knew the motives which urged him to renounce power and grandeur and retire to solitude; but to her it seemed certain that, above all other reasons, longing for the fair, curly-headed boy, his son and hers, had induced him to take this great and admirable step.

Gradually her maternal heart attributed to her John alone the desire of the world-weary earthly pilgrim to lay aside the purple and return to Spain.

Though Barbara at this time rarely left her own fireside, her husband might often have wished that she would return to the conduct of the previous winter, for he perceived the torturing anxiety which was consuming her.

She could gaze for hours into vacancy, absorbed in profound meditation and reveries, or play on the harp and lute, softly humming old songs to herself. If at such times Pyramus asked, lovingly and modestly, that he might not expose himself to an angry rebuff, what was burdening her soul, his wife gave evasive answers or told him about the physician's advice, and described how different the lives of both would be if she could regain the lost melody of her voice. But when he, who did not grudge the woman he loved the very best of everything, joyfully offered from his savings the sum necessary to send her and Frau Lamperi to Ems, in order, if possible, to commence the cure at once, she asserted that, for many reasons, she could not begin this summer the treatment which promised so much. True, the bare thought that if might once again be allotted to her to raise her heart in song filled her with the same blissful hope as ever; but if the report, which constantly grew more definite, did not deceive, the Emperor's formal abdication was close at hand, and to attend this great event seemed to her a duty of the heart, a necessity which she could not avoid. In many a quiet hour she told herself that Charles, when he had divested himself of all his honours and become a mere man like the rest of the world, would draw nearer to her boy, and through him to her. As an ordinary mortal, he would be able to love, like every other father, the child that attracted him to Spain. If in his life of meditation, far from the tumult of the world, the strife for knowledge should lead him to look back into the past, and in doing so he again recalled the days to which he owed his greatest happiness, could he help remembering her and her singing?

How often she had heard that the knowledge of self was the highest goal of thought to the philosopher, and as such Charles would certainly retire into seclusion, and, as surely as she desired to be saved, he had wronged her and must then perceive it. Probably there were thousands of more important things in which he had to bury himself, but the boy would remind him of her and the injury which he had done.

Never had she more deeply admired the grandeur of her imperial lover, and with entire confidence she believed that this stupendous act of renunciation would mark the beginning of a new life for her and her child.

September and the first half of October passed like a fevered dream.

The abdication would certainly take place,

Charles had resolved to transfer all the crowns which adorned him to his son Philip, and retire to a Spanish monastery.

Barbara also learned when and where the solemn ceremony was to take place. Day after day she again mingled with the visitors to the palace, and on the twenty-first of October she saw the eleven Knights of the Golden Fleece, to whom he wished to restore the office of grand master, enter the palace chapel.

How magnificently these greatest of all dignitaries were attired! how all that she saw of this rare event in the palace chapel reminded her of the solemn ceremonial at the Trausnitzburg at Landshut, and her resolve to surrender her child, that it might possess the same splendour and honours as its sister's husband!

The wishes cherished at that time were still unfulfilled; but the father would soon meet the son again, and the greater affection this peerless boy aroused in Charles, the more surely he would know how to bestow on him honours as high or higher than he gave the daughter of Johanna Van der Gheynst.

Five days after the assembling of the Knights of the Golden Fleece, the solemn ceremony of the abdication would take place in the great hall which joined the palace chapel.

She must obtain admittance to it. Her husband did what he could to aid her and soothe her excitement by the gratification of so ardent a wish, but his efforts were vain.

Barbara herself, however, did not remain idle, and tried her fortune with those of high and low estate whom she had known in the past.

She could not trust to forcing her way in on the day of the ceremony of abdication, for every place in the limited space assigned to spectators had been carefully allotted, and no one would be permitted to enter the palace without a pass. When, after many a futile errand, she had been refused also by the lord chamberlain, she turned her steps to Baron Malfalconnet's palace.

He had just swung himself into the saddle, and Barbara found him greatly changed. The handsome major-domo had grown gray, his bright face was wrinkled, and his smiling lips now wore a new, disagreeable, almost cruel expression of mockery. He probably recognised his visitor at once, but the meeting seemed scarcely to afford him pleasure. Nevertheless, he listened to her.

But as soon as he heard what she desired, he straightened himself in the saddle, and cried: "When I wished to present you to his Majesty—do you remember?—at Ratisbon, you hastily wheeled your horse and vanished. Now, when you desire to bid farewell to our sovereign lord, I dutifully follow the example you then set me."

As he spoke he put spurs to his horse and, kissing his hand to her, dashed away. Barbara, wounded and disappointed, gazed after the pitiless scoffer.

She had knocked in vain where she might hope for consideration; only the young man of middle height who, carrying a portfolio under his arm, now approached her and raised his black secretary's cap, had been omitted, though he, too, was one of the old Ratisbon friends, and his position with the Bishop of Arras gave him a certain influence.

It was the little Maltese choir boy, Hannibal Melas, who owed so much to her recommendation.

He asked sympathizingly what troubled her and, after Barbara had confided to him what she had hitherto vainly desired, he referred her unasked to his omnipotent master, who was to enter King Philip's service, and proposed that she should come to his office early the next morning. Thence he would try to take her to the minister, who had by no means forgotten her superb singing. His Eminence had mentioned her kindly very recently in a conversation with the leech.

The following morning Barbara went to the great statesman's business offices. Hannibal was waiting for her.

It was on Saint Raphael's day, which had attracted his fellow-clerks to a festival in the country. Granvelle had given the others leave of absence, but wished to keep within call the industrious Maltese, on whose zeal he could always rely.

Without stopping his diligent work at the writing-desk, the secretary begged Barbara to wait a short time. He would soon finish the draught of the new edict for which his Eminence and the Councillor Viglius were waiting in the adjoining chamber. The pictures on the walls of the fourth room were worth looking at.

Barbara followed his advice, but she paused in the third room, for through the partly open door she heard Granvelle's familiar voice.

Curious to see what changes time had wrought, she peered through the by no means narrow crack and overlooked the minister's spacious office, where he was now entirely alone with the Councillor Viglius.

The Bishop of Arras had scarcely altered since their last meeting, only his appearance had become somewhat more stately, and his clever, handsome face was fuller.

The Councillor Viglius, whom Barbara looked directly in the face, did not exactly profit by the contrast with Granvelle, for the small figure of the Frieslander barely reached to the chin of the distinguished native of tipper Burgundy, but his head presented a singular and remarkably vivid colouring. The perfectly smooth hair and thick beard of this no longer young man were saffron yellow, and his plump face was still red and white as milk and blood. It was easy to perceive by his whole extremely striking appearance that he was rightly numbered among the Emperor's shrewdest councillors. Barbara had heard marvellous tales of his learning, and it was really magnificent in compass and far more important than his keen but narrow mind. This time the loquacious man was allowing the Bishop of Arras to speak, and Barbara listened to his words and the councillor's answers with eager attention.

They were talking about the approaching abdication, and who knew the Emperor Charles better than these far-seeing men, who were so near his person?

If only she had not been obliged to believe this, for what she heard from them showed in sombre lines what her heart had clothed with golden radiance.

Everything Wolf had told her concerning the motives which induced Charles to devote himself for the remainder of his life to quiet contemplation seemed to her as credible as to the knight himself. But he had received what he knew from Queen Mary of Hungary, who interpreted her royal brother's conduct like an affectionate sister, or thought it advisable to represent it in the most favourable light.

It had not occurred to the warm-hearted, straightforward Wolf to doubt the royal lady's statement; but Barbara had regarded her friend's explanation of the Emperor's wonderful act of renunciation as she would have gazed at a citadel founded on a rock with towers rising to the clouds, and in imagination had followed to his solitude the world-weary philosopher, the father yearning for the child he had missed so long. But how pitilessly what she heard here overthrew the proud edifice! how cruelly it destroyed what she had deemed worthy of the greatest admiration, what had rendered her happy and reanimated her wishes and her hopes!

The wise Granvelle foresaw how the world would judge his master's abdication, and described it to the Frieslander. It bore a fateful resemblance to the regent's interpretation, her friend's opinion, and her own, and the shrewd Viglius accompanied this narrative with so scornful a laugh that it made her heart ache.

"This is what will be said," concluded the Bishop of Arras, summing up his previous statements, "of the wise scorner of the world upon the throne, who cast aside sceptre and crown in order, as a pious recluse, to secure the salvation of his soul and, like a second Diogenes, to listen to the wealth of his thoughts and investigate the nature of things."

"If only the pure spring from which the Greek dipped water in the hollow of his hand was not changed to a cellar full of fiery wine, his hermit fare to highly seasoned pasties, stuffed partridges, frozen fruit juices, truffled pheasants, and such things! But everybody to his taste! The world will be deceived. Unless you wish to blind yourself, your Eminence, you will admit that I have seen correctly the most powerful motives for this unequalled act."

Barbara saw the bishop shake his head in dissent and, while she was listening with strained ears to his explanation, Viglius, as if singing bass to Granvelle's tenor, repeated again and again at brief intervals, in a low tone, the one word, "Debts," while his green eyes sparkled, sometimes as if asking assent, sometimes combatively.

He believed that the weight of financial cares was causing the Emperor Charles's abdication. Like a wise man, he said, he would place his own burden of debt upon his son's shoulders. His Majesty usually uttered exactly the opposite of his real opinions, and therefore, in the outline of his abdication speech, he twice emphasized how great a debt of gratitude Don Philip owed him for the Heritage which while still alive he bequeathed to him. True, besides the debts, crowns and kingdoms in plenty passed to Charles's successor; but the father, so long as he drew breath, would not give up the decision of the most important questions of government, and therefore this abdication, after all, was merely an excellent means of divesting himself of burdensome obligations, embellished with a certain amount of humbug.

The Bishop of Arras made no weighty protest against this severe speech; nay, he even said, in a tone of assent, that the Emperor Charles's tireless intellect would continue to direct political events. Besides, he could safely commit the execution of his conclusions and commands to his obedient and dutiful heir.

"The world," he added, "will not fare badly by this arrangement; but you, Viglius, can not forget the religious liberty which his Majesty promised to the Germans."

"Not until the end of my life!" cried the Frieslander, his green eyes flashing angrily.

Granvelle protested that this act of indulgence weighed heavily upon him also; but at that time a refusal would have occasioned a new war, which, according to human judgment, would have resulted in loss and the establishment of heresy in the Netherlands. Maurice of Saxony, he reminded the councillor, did not fall until a year later, and then as a conqueror, on the battlefield.

His Majesty's abdication, he went on with calm deliberation, was, however, not exactly as Viglius supposed. The desire to rid himself of troublesome debts had only hastened the Emperor's resolution. The principal motive for this momentous act he could state most positively to be the increasing burden of his physical sufferings. To this was added the feeling, usually found most frequently among gamblers, that the time to win or, in his Majesty's case, to succeed was past. Lastly, Charles really did long for less disturbance from the regular course of business, the reception of ambassadors, the granting of audiences.

"In short," he concluded, "he wants to have an easier life, and, besides, if the despatches and orders leave him time for it, to occupy himself with his favourite amusements—his clocks and pieces of mechanism. Finally, his sufferings remind him often enough of the approach of death, and he hopes by religious exercises to secure his place in the kingdom of heaven."

"So far as politics and the table give him leisure for it," interposed the Frieslander. "He doesn't seem inclined to make his penance too severe. Quijada is now preparing the penitential cell, and it is neither in the burning Thebais nor in the arid sands of the desert, but in one of the most delightful and charming places in Spain. May our sovereign find there what he seeks! You are aware of the paternal joys which await him through the boy Geronimo?"

"Where did you learn that?" Granvelle interrupted in a startled tone, and Barbara held her breath and listened with twofold attention.

"From his Majesty himself," was the reply. "He intended his son for the monastery. He longs to see him again, because he is said to be developing magnificently; but he wished to know whether it would not be safer to remove him from the world before his arrival, for, if necessary, he could give up meeting him. If he should discover his father's identity, it might easily fill him with vanity, and in Villagarcia he was learning to prize knightly achievements above the service of the Most High. It would not do to leave him in the world; unpleasant things might come from it. As King Philip's sole heir was the sickly Don Carlos——"

"His son Geronimo might aspire to the crown," interrupted Granvelle. "He expressed the same doubts to me also. What I heard of the child induced me to plead that he might be allowed to grow up in the world untrammelled. If any one understands how to defend himself against unauthorized demands, it is Don Philip."

"So I, too, think, and advised," replied Viglius. "Poor boy! His father of late holds on to thalers more than anxiously and, if I am correctly informed, the education of his son has hitherto cost his Majesty no more expense than the maintenance of the mother. Wise economy, your Eminence! Or what shall it be called?"

"As you choose," replied the bishop in an irritated tone. "What do you know about the boy's mother?"

"Nothing," replied the Frieslander, "except what my friend Mathys told me lately. He said that before she lost her voice she was a perfect nightingale. She might recover it at Ems, and so the leech proposed to the Emperor to give her a sum of money for this purpose."

"And his Majesty?" asked Granvelle.

"Remained faithful to his habit of not sullying his reputation by extravagance," replied the Frieslander, laughing.

"Suffering, misfortune!" sighed Granvelle. "As a long period of rain produces fungi in the woods, so this terrible pair calls to life one pettiness after another in the rare man in whom once every trait of character was great and glorious. I knew the boy's mother. Many things might be said of her, among them good, nay, the best ones. As to the boy, his Majesty informed Don Philip of his existence. It was in Augsburg. He does not seem at all suited for the monastic life, and therefore I shall continue to strive to preserve him from it."

"And if his Majesty decides otherwise?"

"Then, of course—" answered Granvelle, shrugging his shoulders. "But the draught must be composed, and there are more important matters for us to discuss."

As he spoke he rang the bell on the table at his side, and Hannibal obeyed his master's summons. In doing so he passed Barbara, who started as if bewildered when she heard him approach.

He went up to her in great surprise, but ere he could utter the first words she clutched his arm, whispering: "I am going, Hannibal. His Eminence did not entirely forget me. If he can receive me, send word to my house."

Scarcely able to control herself, Barbara set out on her way home. The words she had heard had shaken the depths of her soul like an earthquake.

The news that Charles intended to confine in a monastery the boy whom she had given up to him that he might bestow upon him whatever lay within his imperial power poisoned her joy in the future. How often this man lead inflicted bleeding wounds upon her heart! Now he trampled it under his cruel feet. Two convictions had lent her the strength not to despair: she felt sure that his love for her could never have been extinguished had the power of her art aided her to warm Charles's heart, and she was still more positive that the father would raise to splendour and magnificence the boy whom she had given him.

And now?

He had refused the leech's request to help her regain the divine gift to which, according to his own confession, he owed the purest joys; and her strong, merry child he, its own father, condemned to disappear and wither in the imprisonment of a cloister. This must not be, and on her way home she formed plan after plan to prevent it.

Pyramus attributed her sometimes depressed, sometimes irritable manner to the disappointment of her wish.

What she had just learned and had had inflicted upon her filled her with hatred of life.

Her two boys scarcely dared to approach their mother, who, unlike her usual self, harshly rebuffed them.

At twilight Hannibal Melas appeared, full of joyous excitement. Granvelle sent Barbara word that the doorkeeper Mangin would show her a good seat. His Eminence desired to be remembered to her, and said that only those who had been closely associated with his Majesty would be admitted to this ceremony, and he knew that she ranked among the first of these.

Barbara's features brightened and, as she saw how happy it made the Maltese to be the bearer of so pleasant a message, she forced herself to give a joyous expression to her gratitude. In the evening, and during a sleepless night, she considered whether she should make use of the invitation. What she had expected for herself and her child from Charles's abdication had been mere chimeras of the brain, and what could this spectacle offer her? She would only behold with her eyes what she had often enough imagined with the utmost distinctness—the great monarch divested of his grandeur and all his dignities.

But Granvelle's message that she was one cf those who stood nearest to the abdicating sovereign constantly echoed in her ears, and her absence from this ceremony would have seemed to her unnatural—nay, an offence against something necessary.

Her husband was pleased with the great minister's kindness to his wife. He had nothing to do in the palace, but he intended to look for the children, who had gone there before noon with Frau Lamperi, that they might get the best possible view of the approach of the princes and dignitaries.

Barbara herself was to use a litter. The ex-'garde-robiere' had helped her put on her gala attire, and Pyramus assured his wife that every one would consider her the handsomest and most elegant lady in the galleries. She knew that he was right, and listened with pleasure, deeply as resentment and disappointment burdened her soul.

Then the knocker on the door rapped. The litter-bearers had probably come. But no! The Flemish maid, who had opened the door, announced that a messenger was waiting outside with a letter which he could deliver only to the master or the mistress.

Pyramus went into the entry, and his long absence was already making Barbara uneasy, when he returned with bowed head and, after many words of preparation, informed her that her father was very ill and, finally, that apoplexy had put a swift and easy end to his life.

Then a great and genuine grief seized upon her with all its power. Everything that the simple-hearted, lovable man, who had guarded her child hood so tenderly and her girlhood with such solicitude and devotion, had been to her, returned to her memory in all its vividness. In him she had lost the last person whose right to judge her conduct she acknowledged, the only one whom she had good reason to be sure cared for her welfare as much as, nay, perhaps more than, his own.

The litter, Granvelle's message, the Emperor's abdication ceremony, everything that had just wounded, angered, and disturbed her, was forgotten.

She gently refused the consolation of her husband, who in the captain had lost a dear friend and sincerely mourned his death, and entreated him to leave her alone; but when her sons returned and joyously described the magnificent spectacle on which they had feasted their eyes outside of the palace, she drew them toward her with special tenderness, and tried to make them understand that they would never again see the good grandfather who had loved them all so dearly.

But the older boy, Conrad, only gazed at her wonderingly, and asked why she was weeping; and the younger one did not understand her at all, and went on talking about the big soldier who wanted to lift him on his piebald horse. To the child death is only slumber, and life being awake to new games and pleasures.

Barbara said this to her husband when he wished to check the merry laughter of the little ones, and then went to her chamber.

There she strove to think of the dead man, and she succeeded, but with the memory of the sturdy old hero constantly blended the image of the feeble man who to-day was voluntarily surrendering all the gifts of fortune which she—oh, how willingly! would have received for the son whom he desired to withdraw from the world.

The next morning Hannibal Melas came to ask what had kept her from the ceremony. He learned it in the entry from Frau Lamperi, and Barbara's tearful eyes showed him what deep sorrow this loss had caused her. Her whole manner expressed quiet melancholy. This great, pure grief had come just at the right time, flowing, like oil upon the storm-lashed waves, over hatred, resentment, and all the passionate emotions by which she had previously been driven to the verge of despair.

She did not repulse the witness of her lost happiness, and listened attentively while Hannibal told her about the memorable ceremony which he had attended.

True, his description of the lofty hall in the Brabant palace where it took place, the chapel adjoining it, and the magnificent decorations of flowers and banners that adorned it, told nothing new to Barbara. She was familiar with both, and had seen them garlanded, adorned with flags and coats of arms, and even witnessed the erection of the stage in the hall and the stretching of the canopy above it.

The Emperor had appeared upon the platform at the stroke of three, leaning upon his crutch and the shoulder of William of Orange. His son Philip and the Queen of Hungary followed, and all took their seats upon the gilded thrones awaiting them. The blithe, pleasant Archduke Maximilian of Austria, the Duke of Savoy, who was expecting a great winning card in the game of luck of his changeful life, the Knights of the Golden Fleece, and the highest of the Netherland nobles, the councillors, the governor, and the principal military officers also had places upon the stage.

Barbara knew every name that Hannibal mentioned. It seemed as if she saw the broken-down Emperor, his son Philip with his head haughtily thrown back, his favourite, the omnipotent minister, Ruy Gomez, the Prince of Eboli, who with his coal-black hair and beard would have resembled Quijada if, instead of the soldierly frankness of the major-domo, an uneasy, questioning expression had not lurked in his dark eyes, the brilliant Bishop of Arras, who had again so kindly placed her under obligation to him, and the Frieslander Viglius, who had dropped into her soul the wormwood whose bitterness she still tasted, and whose motto, "The life of mortals is a watch in the night," seemed to flash from his green eyes. Not a single woman had been admitted to the distinguished assembly of the States-General, the city magistrates, and illustrious invited guests, who as spectators sat on benches and chairs opposite to the stage, and this placed the kindness of Granvelle, whom the Netherland dignitaries were said to detest, in a still brighter light.

The ceremony had been opened by the great speech of Philibert of Brussels, which the young Maltese described as a masterpiece of the finest rhetorical art. At the close of this address a solemn silence pervaded the hall, for the Emperor Charles had risen to take leave of his faithful subjects.

One might have heard a leaf fall, a spicier walk, as, supported by the arm of William of Orange, he raised the notes of his address and began to read.

At this information Barbara remembered how Maurice of Saxony had supported the Emperor at the May festival at Prebrunn. William of Orange, too, was still young. She had often seen him, and what deep earnestness rested on his noble brow! how open and pure was the glance of his clear eyes, yet how penetrating and inexorably keen it could also be! She had noticed this at the assembly of the Knights of the Golden Fleece, when he looked at King Philip with bitter hate or certainly with dislike and scorn. Was this man chosen to avenge Charles's sins upon his son and heir? Could the Prince of Orange be destined to deal with the new king as Maurice of Saxony had treated his imperial father? Would the resentment which, since the day before, had again filled her soul have permitted her to prevent it had she possessed the power?

The Emperor's speech had treated of his broken health and the necessity of living in a milder climate. Then Don Philip had been described by his father as a successor whose wisdom equalled his experience. This called a smile to Barbara's lips.

Philip was said to be an industrious, devout man, fond of letter-writing, and full of intrigue, but only his father would venture to compare him with himself, with Charles V.

He, the son, probably knew how vacant and lustreless his eyes were, for he usually fixed them on the ground; and what fulness of life, what a fiery soul had sparkled only a short time ago, when she saw him in the distance, from those of the man whom she certainly was not disposed to flatter!

Then the Emperor had reviewed his whole reign, mentioned how many wars he had waged, how many victories he had won and, finally, had reminded his son of the gratitude he owed a father who during his lifetime bestowed all his possessions upon him and, as it were, descended into the grave in order to make him earlier the heir of all his power and wealth.

Now Barbara fancied that again—she knew not for what hundredth time—the Frieslander's exclamation, "Debts! debts!" rang in her ears, and at the same time she thought of the boy in Spain who had here been disinherited, and must be hidden in a monastery that the other son of the same father, the diminutive upstart Philip, puffed up with arrogance, might sleep more quietly. For one son the unjust man whom she loved was ready to die before his last hour came, in order to give him all that he possessed; for the other he could find nothing save a monk's cowl. Instead of the yearning for John, of which Wolf had spoken and she, blind fool, believed, he thought of him with petty fears of the claims by which he might injure his favoured brother. No warm impulse of paternal tenderness stirred the breast of the man whose heart was hardened, who understood how to divest himself of the warmest love as he now cast aside the crown and the purple of royalty.

These torturing thoughts so powerfully affected Barbara that she only half heard what Hannibal was saying about the Emperor's admonition to his son to hold fast to justice, law, and the Catholic Church. But when Granvelle's faithful follower, in an agitated tone, went on to relate how Charles had besought the forgiveness of Providence for all the sins and errors which he had committed, and added that he would remember all who had rendered him happy by their love and obedience in every prayer which he addressed to the Being to whom the remnant of his life should be devoted, the ex-singer's breath came quicker, her small hands clinched, and the question whether she had failed in love and obedience before he basely cast her off forced itself upon her mind, and with it the other, whether he would also include in his prayers her whom he had ill-treated and mortally insulted.

These thoughts lent her features so gloomy an expression that it would have offended the Emperor Charles's ardent admirer if he had noticed it. But the scene which, with tears in his eyes, he now described absorbed his attention so completely that he forgot everything around him and, as it were, gazed into his own soul while picturing to himself and his listener how the monarch, with a pallid, ashen countenance, had sunk back upon his throne and wept like a child.

At this spectacle the whole assembly, even the sternest old general, had been overwhelmed by deep emotion, and the spacious hall echoed with the sobs and groans of graybeards, middle-aged men and youths, warriors and statesmen.

Here the young man's voice failed and, weeping, with unfeigned emotion he covered his agitated face with his handkerchief.

When he regained his composure he saw, with a shade of disappointment, that Barbara's eyes had remained dry during the description of an event in which he himself and so many stronger men had shed burning tears.

Yet, when Barbara was again alone she could not drive from her mind the image of her broken-down, weeping lover. Doubtless she often felt moved to think of him with deep pity; but she soon remembered the conversation to which she had listened in the apartments of the Bishop of Arras, and her belief in the genuineness of those tears vanished.



CHAPTER XV.

The winter came and passed. Instead of leaving the Netherlands, the Emperor Charles remained nearly a year in Brussels. He lived in a modest house in Lion Street and, although he had resigned the sovereignty, nothing was done in the domain of politics to which he had not given his assent.

Barbara, more domestic than ever before, was leading a dream life, in which she dwelt more with her beloved dead and her child in Spain than with her family at home. She thought of the boy's father sometimes with bitter resentment, sometimes with quiet pity. Outward circumstances rendered it easier for her to conceal these feelings, for Pyramus attributed the melancholy mood which sometimes overpowered her to grief for her father.

Her husband left the settlement of the business connected with her inheritance solely to her. There were many letters to be written and, as she had become unfamiliar with this art, Hannibal faithfully aided her.

Dr. Hiltner, of Ratisbon, to whom, in spite of his heretical belief, she intrusted the legal business of the estate, acted wisely and promptly in her behalf. Thus the sale of the house which she had purchased for the dead man, and the disposal of her father's share in the Blomberg business, brought her far more money than she had expected.

It seemed as though Fate desired to compensate her by outward prosperity for the secret sorrow which, in spite of her husband's affectionate solicitude and the thriving growth of her two boys, she could not shake off.

In one respect she regarded the money which this winter brought her as a genuine blessing, for it seemed to invite her to go to Ems and do all in her power for the restoration of her voice. The hoarseness was now barely perceptible in her speech, and Dr. Mathys, whom she visited in April, encouraged her, and told her of really marvellous cures wrought by the famous old springs.

When May came and the trees and shrubs in leafy Brussels adorned themselves with new buds, she could not help thinking more frequently, as usual in this month, of her wasted love and of the man for whom it had bloomed and who had destroyed it. So she liked to pass through Lion Street in her walks, for it led her by his house. She might easily meet him again there, and she longed to see his face once more before the departure for Spain, which would remove him from her sight forever.

And behold! One sunny noon he was borne toward her in a litter. She stopped as though spellbound, bowing profoundly; her glance as he passed met his, and he waved his emaciated hand—yes, she was not mistaken—he waved it to her.

For an instant it seemed as if a crimson rose had bloomed in the midst of winter snows. She had been as sure that he had not forgotten her as that she herself had not ceased to think of him.

Now her confidence was, as it were, confirmed by letter and seal, and this made her happy.

The man in the litter had been only the wreck of the Charles whom she loved; even the fiery light in his eyes, though not extinguished, had appeared subdued and veiled. Other women would probably have thought him repulsively plain, but what did she care for his looks? Each of them was still a part of the other, for her image lived in his soul, as his dwelt in hers.

Barbara did not take as long a walk as usual; but when she was again approaching the house occupied by the abdicated sovereign, Dr. Mathys came toward her. The expression of his broad, dignified face suited the bright May morning; nay, she imagined that his step was lighter and less sedate than usual.

During the whole decade which they had known each other he had never flattered her, but to-day, after the first greeting, he began his conversation with the question:

"Do you know, Frau Barbara, that you were never more beautiful and charming than just at this very time? Perhaps it is the mourning which is so becoming to your pink-and-white complexion and the somewhat subdued lustre of your golden hair. But why do I feed your vanity with such speeches? Because I think that our gracious lord, who for many a long day has not bestowed even the least side glance upon any of your bewitching sex, noticed the same thing. And now you will presently be obliged to admit that the old messenger of bad news in Ratisbon, whom you requited so ill for his unpleasant errand, can also bring good tidings; for the Emperor Charles—in spite of the abdication, he will always be that until he, too, succumbs to the power which makes us all equal—his Majesty sends you his greetings, and the message that he desires to do what he can to restore to you the art in which you attained such rare mastery. He places at your disposal—this time, at least, he was not economical—a sum which will take you to the healing springs four or five times, nay, oftener still."

Barbara had listened thus far, speechless with joyful surprise. If it was Charles to whom she owed her recovery, the gift of song which it restored would possess tenfold value for her, if that was conceivable. She was already beginning to charge the leech to be the bearer of her gratitude and joy, but he did not let her finish, and went on to mention the condition which his Majesty attached to this gift.

Barbara must never mention it to any one, and must promise the physician to refrain from all attempts to thank him either in person or by letter in short, to avoid approaching him in any way.

The old physician had communicated this stipulation—which his royal patient had strictly associated with the gift—to Barbara in the emphatic manner peculiar to him, but she had listened, at first in surprise, then with increasing indignation. The donation which, as a token of remembrance and kind feeling, had just rendered her so happy, now appeared like mere alms. Nay, the gift would make her inferior to the poorest beggar, for who forbids the mendicant to utter his "May God reward you"?

Charles kept her aloof as if she were plague-stricken. Perhaps it was because he feared that if he saw her once he might desire a second and a third meeting. But no matter. She would accept no aid at the cost of so severe an offence to her pride, least of all when it came from the man who had already wounded her soul often and painfully enough.

The startled physician perceived what was passing in her mind, and when, not passionately as in her youth, but with cool composure, she requested Dr. Mathys to tell his master that it would be as impossible for her to accept a gift for which she could not express her thanks as to give alms without wishing well to the recipient, the leech eagerly endeavoured to persuade her to use the sum bestowed according to the donor's wish. But Barbara firmly persisted in her refusal, and when she parted from the old man he could not be angry with her, for, as in the garden of the little Prebrunn castle, he could not help saying to himself that the wrong was not wholly on the side of the independent young woman.

The result in this case was the usual one when the weaker party succeeds in maintaining itself against the superior power of the stronger. Barbara set out on her way home with her head proudly erect, but she soon asked herself whether this victory was not too dearly purchased. In a few months John was to meet his father, and then might there not be cause to fear that the opposition which she, his mother, had offered to the Emperor, in order to escape an offence to her own pride, would prove an injury to the son? She stopped, hesitating; but after a brief period of reflection, she continued her walk. What she had done might vex the monarch, but it must rather enhance than lower her value in his eyes, and everything depended upon that. Charles would open the path to high honours and royal splendour to the son of a haughty mother rather than to the child of a narrow-minded woman, who would receive a gift without being suffered to express her thanks.

She had done right, and rejoiced that this time she had obeyed the voice of her imperious soul. She no longer desired to meet again the man whom she loved. Her wish to look into his eyes once more before his death or hers was fulfilled, and his glance, which had certainly been the last that he could give her, had expressed the kind feeling and forgiveness for which she had secretly yearned. So what he had done was surely not intended to wound her. She understood his desire to obtain peace of mind and his fear of entering into communication with her again, and from this time it once more became a necessity to her to include him in her prayers.

She left her home with a lighter heart, better satisfied with herself than she had been for years. The Emperor Charles could not help thinking of her now as she desired. The love which she had never wholly withdrawn was again his, and the feeling of belonging to him exalted her pride and brightened her clouded soul.

Frau Lamperi accompanied her, and marvelled at her mistress's happy mood. Besides, the Ems waters and the excellent advice of the physician to whose care she intrusted herself exerted a beneficial influence upon her ailment.

Her mourning garb prevented her from taking any part in the gay life of the watering-place, but she found pleasure in watching it.

When she returned to Brussels, Pyramus thought she looked as young as in her girlhood, and every wish that her husband fancied he could read in her eyes was gratified with loving eagerness.

But the preparations for war against France allowed him only a short time to remain in Brussels, and during his absence Barbara enjoyed unlimited freedom.

The Emperor had sailed for Spain, Queen Mary had retired from the regency, and Duke Emanuel Philibert of Savoy had taken it in her place. King Philip remained in the Netherlands, and it was said in his praise that he showed the boundless arrogance characteristic of him in a less offensive way, and had acquired more affable manners.

Barbara often longed to seek an audience with him.

But what would it avail?

Philip was perhaps the very person who would be glad to have his half-brother disappear in a monastery.

Yet the yearning to hear some news of her child would not be silenced. Of the distant Emperor, who was said to be near his end, and spent his days and sleepless nights in the monastery of San Yuste in prayer and severe mortification, as the most pious of monks, she thought with sympathizing affection.

The following year Barbara went to Ems again, this time no longer in mourning robes, but scarcely less magnificently attired than many a Rhenish noble's wife, who was also seeking health and amusement there. The property she had inherited, and which the conscientious Pyramus would not touch, and Frau Lamperi's skilful fingers had accomplished this. Though the materials which she selected were not the most costly, her aristocratic bearing made them appear valuable. She still possessed the pearl necklace and other ornaments of more prosperous days, and on festal occasions they did not remain in a chest.

She by no means lacked notice, partly on her own account, partly in consequence of the conversations with which Granvelle, who visited the springs for a short time, honoured her, while he kept entirely aloof from all the other guests. This favour on the part of so famous and powerful a statesman induced many of the most aristocratic ladies and nobles to seek her, and many who had been attracted solely by curiosity were charmed with the entertaining sprightliness of the beautiful woman, and admitted her to their very exclusive circle.

This time the springs proved still more beneficial than when she first used them, and the hope of soon being able to exercise her beloved art again gained new and solid foundation.

This occupied a large share of her thoughts, but a still greater one was filled with the yearning for her John, of whom, in spite of many inquiries, she could hear nothing.

When, in her quiet home life, the monotony of her days oppressed her more heavily, she often remembered Ems, and the pleasures and attention which the next summer there would bring tier. Now that the great, passionate emotions which had been devoted to others were at rest, she began to think more of her own person. It seemed desirable to show herself to advantage, and though she longed for her recovery above all for the sake of her art and the pleasure which its exercise afforded her, she was already secretly thinking how she could use it to restore and obtain satisfaction for her paralyzed self-esteem.

In consequence of the victory of St. Quentin, Brussels was filled with festal joy; but Barbara took very little part in the numerous festivities which followed one another, and again went to Ems.

When she returned, much benefited, her first visit was to the Dubois house in the park. Unfortunately, it was futile; but when, a few weeks before the battle of Gravelines, she repeated it for the second time, she met the couple, now advancing in years, out of doors, and saw that some good fortune had come to them.

Usually she had always been received here with a certain shade of embarrassment, but to-day her coming seemed to please Herr Adrian. From the great arm-chair, which he now never left, he held out his hand to her, and Frau Traut's merry eyes looked a glad welcome.

After the first greetings, they eagerly expressed their joyful amazement at the clear tones of her voice. Then Frau Dubois exchanged a significant glance with her husband, and now Barbara learned that a letter had arrived from San Yuste that very morning, which contained little except pleasant news of his Majesty and John.

While speaking, Adrian drew from his doublet the precious missive, showed it to the young wife as cautiously as a fragile ornament which we are reluctant to let pass out of our hands, and said in an agitated voice:

"The writer is no less a personage than Dona Magdalena de Ulloa. May Heaven reward her for it!"

Barbara gazed beseechingly into his wrinkled face, and from the inmost depths of her heart rose the cry: "Oh, let me see it, for I—you know it—I am his mother!"

"So she is," said the old man in a tone of assent, nodded his long head, whose hair was now snow-white, and glanced questioningly at his wife. The answer was an assent.

Adrian clasped his chin—during the period of his service he had always worn it smooth-shaven, but the white stubble of a full beard was now growing on it—in his emaciated hand, and asked Barbara if she understood Spanish.

Her knowledge of it was very slight; but Frau Traut, who, like her husband, had mastered it during the long years of intercourse with the Castilian court, now undertook to put the contents of the letter into German.

This was not difficult, for she had already been obliged to read it aloud three times to Adrian, who could no longer decipher written characters.

The address was not omitted; it had pleased them both. It ran as follows:

"To his Majesty's good and faithful servant, Adrian Dubois, from his affectionate friend of former days, Dona Magdalena de Ulloa, wife of Don Luis Mendez Quijada, Lady of Villagarcia."

Frau Trout read these noble names aloud to Barbara proudly, as if they were her own; but before she went on Adrian interrupted—

"As to friendship, you may think, Frau Barbara, that Dona Magdalena is showing me far too much honour in using those words; but I would still give my right hand for that lovely creature with her kindly soul. When, just after Don Luis married her, his Majesty took her young husband away, she entreated me most earnestly to look after him, and I could sometimes be of assistance. To be sure, we broke many a piece of bread together in war and peace in the same service. Ah, Frau Barbara! I am far better off here than I deserve to be; but sometimes my heart is ready to break when I think of my Emperor, and that I must leave the care of him to others."

"But it is hard enough for the major-domo and his Majesty to do without you," said Frau Traut importantly. "Don Luis, the letter says, would gladly have written with his own hand, but he had not a single leisure moment; for, since Adrian had gone, he was obliged to be at hand to serve his Majesty by day as well as by night. My husband's successor, Bodart, whom he trained for the service, is skilful and makes every effort, but he can not replace Adrian to his suffering master."

Then Frau Traut looked more closely at the letter, and began to translate its contents.

"Of course," she began, "San Yuste is not like Brussels; but if they think there that his Majesty lives like a monk and submits to the rules of the monastery, they are misinformed."

Here she lowered the sheet; but Barbara's cheeks were glowing with impatient interest, and she exclaimed with urgent warmth: "Oh, please, read on! But where—it is probably in the letter—where is our child?"

"One thing after the other, as the letter communicates it," replied the translator in a reproving tone; but her husband nodded soothingly to Barbara, and said:

"Only this first: Our John is near his father, and there is something especially good about him toward the end. Dona Magdalena is a true Castilian—first the King, then her husband, then the others according to their rank. It is different here and in your country. Patience and you, Frau Barbara, have been bad friends ever since I knew you."

Barbara's sorrowful smile confirmed this statement, and when Frau Traut at last went on, the tone of her voice betrayed how little she liked interruptions just now.

"You were informed of his Majesty's safe landing at Quiposcoa. It was pitiful to see how the people in his train who did not belong to the number of those who were to accompany him to Jarandilla behaved at the parting from their beloved master. The body-guards flung their halberds on the pavement, and there were plenty of tears and lamentations. On St. Blasius's day—[February 3, 1557]—his Majesty at last entered San Yuste. Don Luis, as you know, had gone before to get the house in readiness for his master. One could scarcely imagine a pleasanter spot, for there is no greener valley than that of San Yuste in the whole range of the Carpetano Mountains, nay, perhaps in all Spain. It is difficult to describe how everything is growing and blossoming here now, in the month of May. The little garden of the house is well kept and full of beautiful orange trees. While blossoming, they exhale the most exquisite perfume, and his Majesty enjoys the delicious fragrance which the wind bears to him.

"In your noisy Brussels it is hard to imagine how quiet it can be here, dear Senor Adrian. Nothing is to be heard save the carol of a bird, the rippling of a clear stream flowing swiftly through the valley, and at intervals the distinct notes of the little bells and cymbals upon the clocks which his Majesty brought with him. Even their ticking is often audible. At certain hours the ringing of the monastery bells blends solemnly and softly with the silence. The Hieronymites in the monastery are pious monks. His Majesty sometimes listens to their choir. Its music is very fine since Sir Wolf Hartschwert, whom you also know, has taken charge of it.

"From all this, you will perceive that the master, with whom your faithful soul doubtless often dwells, is supplied—restricted by no monastic discipline—with whatever suits his taste. He frequently devotes himself for hours to religious exercises, and also retires to the black-draped room with the coffin, which you know; but the old industry and secular cares pursued him here. Mounted messengers come and go continually, but they are not allowed to remain near the house.

"Even in Brussels he can scarcely have written and answered more letters than he does here.

"If only the body would prosper as well as the mind. That is as active and alert as ever. But the body—the body! O Senor Adrian! I fear that the end is not far distant, although our royal sufferer looks better than at his arrival.

"'The eating!' Dr. Mathys complains; but you know well enough how that is.

"Three days have passed since I began this letter. You are aware of most of what concerns your beloved master; now for my husband.

"He has never had service so arduous as here, for the grand prior, Don Luis de Avila, is nothing to his Majesty except a dear old brother in arms, with whom he is fond of talking about the past. Everything rests on my poor husband. He said, a short time ago, that he would no longer endure playing the host to everybody who comes to San Yuste, being agent for everybody in Spain who desires anything from the Emperor Charles, and at the same time constantly caring for the person of the sick sovereign. This life, he thinks, may suit a person who has taken leave of his property and the world, but he still clings to both, and especially to me, the poor wife who has been parted from him so long. He has served the Emperor twenty-five years, and during this time he lost all his brothers in the war. The estates came to him, and how long they have already been deprived of the master's eye!

"Don Luis told the Emperor Charles all this, yet he refused him leave of absence to go to Villagarcia. Instead, I was obliged to move near my husband, and am now living with Geronimo, in the wretched village of Cuacos, which is easily reached from San Yuste. There I finally arrived with the boy whom the Virgin, in her inexhaustible mercy, gave to me, a poor, childless woman, to make me happy, although on his account I wronged my lord and husband by a sinful suspicion.

"Here I must begin my letter for the third time.

"It was fortunate that Geronimo left Massi and Leganes, for he was allowed to grow up there like a little savage. Before learning to obey, he was permitted to command.—No one opposed him, so in Villagarcia the first thing necessary was to accustom him to discipline, obedience, and the manners of the nobles. The trouble was not great, and how richly the boy rewarded it! He is now in his twelfth year, and how your good wife would stare, Adrian, if she could see her nursling again! Do not suppose that it is blind partiality when I say that few handsomer lads could be found in all King Philip's dominions. His figure is slender and only slightly above middle height; but how erect and noble is his bearing, how symmetrically his pliant form is developing! His delicately cut features and large blue eyes glow with the bold courage which fills his soul, and which he displays in riding, hunting, and fencing. He still has his wealth of fair, waving locks. Among a thousand other boys no one will overlook him. Don Luis, too, admits that he was born to dignity and honour. Every chivalrous and royal virtue is in his blood. Even his mother could not sully it."

Here Frau Traut paused to look at Barbara, who had listened, panting for breath.

She was sorry that she had not omitted the last sentence, but in the zeal of translating it had unconsciously escaped her lips, and, as she found no softening word, she went on:

"Geronimo has become a dear child to me. He thinks that I am his own mother, and clings to me with filial affection. To lead such a son to this august father was the greatest joy that Heaven has bestowed upon me.

"Dressed as my page, he rode with me to Jarandilla to meet his Majesty. He was to present to the imperial master, of whose near relationship he had no idea, a little basket filled with beautiful oranges from our garden in Villagarcia, which you know.

"The young horseman, who understands how to wheel his steed, swung himself from the saddle close beside his Majesty, bent the knee with noble grace, raised his little plumed hat, and, pressing his left hand upon his heart, presented the little gift to his sovereign and master. As the weather was mild, the latter sat in an open sedan chair, and when he saw Geronimo he scanned him with the keen glance of the ruler, and then looked inquiringly at my husband. Don Luis nodded the answer which he desired to receive, and a bright smile flitted over his emaciated, corpselike features. Then he accepted the oranges, stroked his son's curls, addressed a few questions to him, which he answered modestly but aptly, and then called to my husband, 'This boy must remain near me.'

"Oh, what pleasure all this gave me! Now Geronimo goes in and out of his Majesty's apartments freely, and my reason for writing this letter is an incident I happened to witness, and which will please you, Adrian, and your good wife, as it filled my heart with fervent gratitude. So listen: When the Emperor meets Geronimo in the presence of strangers, he seems to take neither more nor less notice of him than of the other pages who come to San Yuste. Only he often calls him, asks a question, or gives him some trivial commission. Others would scarcely notice it, but I see the brightening of his eyes as he does so.

"Recently I looked through the open door which leads from his Majesty's work-room into the garden, and what did the Virgin permit me to behold?—Geronimo, who was alone with the Emperor, picked up a sheet of paper that had fluttered to the ground and handed it to him. Then the Emperor Charles suddenly raised his poor hands oh, how they are disfigured by the gout!—laid them on the boy's temples, drew his head nearer, and kissed his brow and eyes! Charles V, the fugitive from the world, the man crushed by sorrow and disappointment, did that! This kiss—Don Luis believes it also—sealed the son's acceptance into his father's heart."

Here Frau Traut let the sheet fall. Her voice had failed during the last sentences; now she exclaimed amid her tears, "The Emperor's kiss!" and her husband, no less deeply stirred by emotion, cried, "The Emperor Charles—no one knows as well as I what that means—the Emperor Charles, whose heart compels him to kiss some one."

Here Barbara rose with flushed cheeks, panting for breath.

She felt as if she must cry aloud to these good people: "What do you know about my lover's kiss? I, I alone, not you, you poor, good man, could tell you. Insignificant and wretched as I may be, no woman on earth can boast of prouder memories, and now that he has also kissed his child and mine, everything is forgiven him."

Silently, with hurrying breath, she stood before the agitated couple, who were waiting for some remark, some outburst of gratitude and delight; but there was only a quivering of the lips, and her blue eyes flashed with a fiery light.

What was the matter with her?

Frau Train turned anxiously to her husband to ask, in a whisper, whether joy had turned the poor young mother's brain; but Barbara had already recovered her composure, and, passing her hand quickly across her brow, murmured softly, "It came over me too strongly."

Then she thanked them with earnest warmth; yet when Frau Traut praised Dona Magdalena's heavenly goodness, she nodded assent, it is true; but she soon took her leave—she felt paralyzed and dazzled.

ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:

Before learning to obey, he was permitted to command Grief is grief, and this new sorrow does not change the old one To the child death is only slumber



BARBARA BLOMBERG

By Georg Ebers

Volume 10.



CHAPTER XVI.

On the way home Barbara often pressed her left hand with her right to assure herself that she was not dreaming.

This time she found her husband in the house. At the first glance Pyramus saw that something unusual had happened; but she gave him no time to question her, only glanced around to see if they were alone, and then cried, as if frantic: "I will bear it no longer. You must know it too. But it is a great secret." Then she made him swear that he, too, would keep it strictly, and in great anxiety he obeyed.

He, like Barbara's father, had supposed that the Emperor's son had entered the world only to leave it again. Barbara's "I no longer have a child; it was taken from me," he had interpreted in the same way as the old captain, and, from delicacy of feeling, had never again mentioned the subject in her presence.

While taking the oath, he had been prepared for the worst; but when his wife, in passionate excitement, speaking so fast that the words fair tumbled over one another, told him how she had been robbed of her boy; how his imperial father had treated him; how she had longed for him; what prayers she had uttered in his behalf; how miserable she had been in her anxiety about this child; and, now, that Dona Magdalena's letter permitted her to cherish the highest and greatest hopes for the boy, the tall, strong man stood before her with downcast eyes, like a detected criminal, his hand gripping the edge of the top of the table which separated her from him.

Barbara saw his broad, arched chest rise and fall, and wondered why his manly features were quivering; but ere she had time to utter a single soothing word, he burst forth: "I made the vow and will be silent; but to-morrow, or in a year or two, it will be in everybody's mouth, and then, then My good name! Honour!"

Fierce indignation overwhelmed Barbara, and, no longer able to control herself, she exclaimed: "What did it matter whether Death or his father snatched the child from me? The question is, whether you knew that I am his mother, and it was not concealed from you. Nevertheless, you came and sought me for your wife! That is what happened! And—you know this—you are as much or little dishonoured by me, the mother of the living child, as of the dead one. Out upon the honour which is harmed by gossip! What slanderous tongues say of me as a disgrace I deem the highest honour; but if you are of a different opinion, and held it when you wooed me, you would be wiser to prate less loudly of the proud word 'honour,' and we will separate."

Pyramus had listened to these accusations and the threat with trembling lips. His simple but upright mind felt that she was right, so far as he was concerned, and she was more beautiful in her anger than he had seen her since the brilliant days of her youthful pride. The fear of losing her seized his poor heart, so wholly subject to her, with sudden power and, stammering an entreaty for forgiveness, he confessed that the surprise had bewildered him, and that he thought he had showed in the course of the last ten years how highly, in spite of people's gossip, he prized her. He held out his large honest hand with a pleading look as he spoke, and she placed hers in it for a short time.

Then she went to church to collect her thoughts and relieve her overburdened heart. Boundless contempt for the man to whom she was united filled it; yet she felt that she owed him a debt of gratitude, that he was weak only through love, and that, for her children's sake, she must continue to wear the yoke which she had taken upon herself.

His existence henceforth became of less and less importance to her feelings and actions, especially as he left the management of their two boys to her. He had reason to be satisfied with it, for she provided Conrad with the best instruction, that the might choose between the army and the legal profession; his younger brother she intended for the priesthood, and the boy's inclination harmonized with her choice.

The fear that the Emperor Charles might yet commit the child she loved to the monastery never left her. But she thought that she might induce Heaven to relinquish its claim upon her John, whom, moreover, it seemed to have destined for the secular life, by consecrating her youngest child to its service.

While she did not forget her household, her mind was constantly in Spain. Her walks were usually directed toward the palace, to inquire how the recluse in San Yuste was faring, and whether any rumour mentioned her imperial son.

After the great victory gained by Count Egmont against the military forces of France, eleven months after the battle of St. Quentin, there was enough to be seen in Brussels. The successful general was greeted with enthusiastic devotion. Egmont's name was in every one's mouth, and when she, too, saw the handsome, proud young hero, the idol, as it were, of a whole nation, gorgeous in velvet, silk, and glittering gems, curbing his fiery steed and bowing to the shouting populace with a winning smile, she thought she caught a glimpse of the future, and beheld the predecessor of him who some day would receive similar homage.

Why should she not have yielded to such hopes? Already there was a rumour that the daughter of the Emperor and that Johanna Van der Gheynst, who had been Charles's first love, Margaret of Parma, her own son's sister, had been chosen to rule the Netherlands as regent.

Why should less honours await Charles's son than his daughter?

But the festal joy in the gay capital was suddenly extinguished, for in the autumn of the year that, in March, had seen Ferdinand, the Emperor's brother, assume the imperial crown, a rumour came that the recluse of San Yuste had closed his eyes, and a few days after it was verified.

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