Here a low laugh escaped the Emperor's lips.
"The political course which could be thus firmly established is to be found, you experienced regent, only in one place—the strong imagination of a high hearted woman, who desires to accomplish what she deems right. I, too, you may believe me, am opposed to this war, and, as matters stand now, the German renegades, rather than we, may expect a glorious result. But, nevertheless, it may happen that I shall be compelled to ask you to give me back my promise."
"I should like to see the person who could compel my august brother to undertake anything against his imperial will," the Queen passionately interrupted.
"We will hope that this superior being may not appear only too soon," replied the Emperor, smiling bitterly. "The invincible oppressor bears the name of unexpected circumstances; I encountered one of his harbingers to-day. There lie the documents. Do you know to what those miserable papers force me, the Emperor?—ay, force, I repeat it. To nothing less, Mary, than consciously to deal a blow in the face of justice, whose defender I ought and desire to be. I am not exaggerating, for I am withdrawing a fratricide from the courts, nay, am paving the way for him to evade punishment."
"You mean Alfonso Diaz, who had his brother murdered by a hired assassin because he abandoned the holy Church and accepted the Lutheran religion," said the Queen sorrowfully. "Malvenda was just telling me——"
"He was the instigator of the crime," interrupted the Emperor. "Now he rejoices in it as a deed well pleasing to God, and many thousands, I know, agree with him. And I? Had Juan Diaz been a German Johannes or Hans, the Emperor Charles would have made Alfonso expiate his crime upon the block this very day. But the brothers were Spaniards, and that alters the case."
With this sentence, which fell from his lips in firm, resolute tones, his bearing regained its old decision, and his eyes met his sister's with a flashing glance as he continued:
"The seed which here in the North, in carefully prepared soil and under the fostering care of men only too skilful and ready for conflict, took deep root in the domain of religion, which we were obliged to tolerate because it grew too rapidly and strongly for us to extirpate or crush it without depopulating a great empire and jeopardizing other very important matters, would mean ruin to our Spain. Whoever dared to transplant the heresy to her soil would be the most infamous of the corrupters of a nation, for the holy Church and the kingdom of Spain are one. The mere thought of a Juan Diaz, who had absorbed the heretical Lutheran doctrine here, returning home to infect the hearts of the Castilians with its venom, makes my blood boil also. Therefore, for the sake of Spain, a higher justice compels me to offend the secular one. The people beyond the Pyrenees shall learn that, even for the brother, it is no sin, but a duty, to shorten the life of the brother who abandoned the holy Church. Let Alfonso Diaz strive to obtain absolution. It will not be difficult. He can sleep calmly, so far as the judges are concerned who dispense justice in the name of Charles V."
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."
The Emperor shook his head dejectedly, and answered bitterly:
"Such things should not be trifled with; besides, you would lose your wager. Joyous courage, Querida, was buried long ago, and too many cares insure its having no resurrection. The good gifts which Heaven formerly permitted me to enjoy have lost their zest; instead of bread, it now gives me stones. The best enjoyment it still grants me—I am honest and not ungrateful in saying so—is a well-prepared meal. Laugh, if you choose! If moralists and philosophers heard me, they would frown. But the consumption of good things affords them pleasure too. It's a pity that satiety so speedily ends it."
While speaking, he again descended a few steps, but the Queen, supporting him with the utmost solicitude, answered cheerily:
"The baser senses, with taste at their head, and the higher ones of sight and hearing, I know, are all placed by your Majesty in the same regiment, with equal rank; your obedient servant, on the contrary, bestows the commissions of officers only on the higher ones. That seems to me the correct way, and I don't relinquish the hope of winning for it the approval of the greatest general and most tasteful connoisseur of life."
"If the new cook keeps his promise, certainly not," replied Charles, entering into his sister's tone. "De Rye asserts that he is peerless. We shall see. As to the senses, they all have an equal share in enabling us to receive our impressions and form an opinion from them. Why should the tongue and the palate—But stay! Who the devil can philosophize with such twinges in the foot?"
"Besides, that can be done much better," replied the Queen, patting the sufferer's arm affectionately, "while the five unequal brothers are performing the duties of their offices. The saints be praised! Here we are at the bottom. No, Carlos, no! Not through the chapel! The stone flags there are so hard and cold."
As she spoke she guided him around it into the dining-room, where a large table stood ready for the monarch's personal suite and a smaller one for his sister and himself.
The tortured sovereign, still under the influence of the suffering which he had endured, crossed himself and sat down. Quijada and young Count Tassis, the Emperor's favourite page, placed the gouty foot in the most comfortable position, and Count Buren, the chamberlain, presented the menu. Charles instantly scanned the list of dishes, and his face clouded still more as he missed the highly seasoned game pasty which the culinary artist had proposed and he had approved. Queen Mary had ordered that it should be omitted, because Dr. Mathys had pronounced it poison for the gouty patient, and she confessed the offence.
This was done with the frank affection with which she treated her brother, but Charles, after the first few words, interrupted her, harshly forbidding any interference, even hers, in matters which concerned himself alone, and in the same breath commanded Count Buren to see that the dish should still be made. Then, as if to show his sister how little he cared for her opposition, he seized the crystal jug with his own hand, without waiting for the cup-bearer behind him, filled the goblet with fiery Xeres wine, and hurriedly drained it, though the leech had forbidden him, while suffering from the gout, to do more than moisten his lips with the heating liquor.
The eyes of the royal huntress, though she was by no means unduly soft-hearted, grew dim with tears. This was her brother's gratitude for the faithful care which she bestowed upon him! Who could tell whether her surprise, instead of pleasing him, might not rouse his anger? He was still frowning as though the greatest injury had been inflicted upon him, and his sister's tearful eyes led him to exclaim wrathfully, as if he wished to palliate his unchivalrous indignation to a lady:
"I am deprived of one pleasure after another, and the little enjoyment remaining is lessened wherever it can be. Who has heavier loads of anxiety to endure?—yet you spoil my recreation during the brief hours when I succeed in casting off the burden."
Here he paused and obstinately grasped the golden handle of the pitcher again. The Queen remained silent. Contradiction would have made the obdurate sovereign empty another goblet also. Even a look of entreaty would have been out of place on this occasion. So she fixed her eyes mutely and sadly upon her silver plate; but even her silence irritated the Emperor, and he was about to give fresh expression to his ill-humour, when the doors of the chapel opposite to him opened, and the surprise began.
The signal for the commencement of the singing had been the delivery of the first dish from the steward to one of the great nobles, who presented it to their Majesties.
The Queen's face brightened, and tears of heartfelt joy, instead of grief and disappointment, now moistened her eyes, for if ever a surprise had accomplished the purpose desired it was this one.
Charles was gazing, as if the gates of Paradise had opened before him, toward the chapel doors, whence Maestro Gombert's Benedictio Mensae, a melody entirely new to him, was pouring like a holy benediction, devout yet cheering, sometimes solemn, anon full of joy.
The lines of anxiety vanished from his brow as if at the spell of a magician. The dull eyes gained a brilliant, reverent light, the bent figure straightened itself. He seemed to his sister ten years younger. She saw in his every feature how deeply the music had affected him.
She knew her imperial brother. Had not his heart and soul been fully absorbed by the flood of pure and noble tones which so unexpectedly streamed toward him, his eyes would have been at least briefly attracted by the dish which Count Krockow more than once presented, for it contained an oyster ragout which a mounted messenger had brought that noon from the Baltic Sea to the city on the Danube.
Yet many long minutes elapsed ere he noticed the dish, though it was one of his favourite viands. Barbara's song stirred the imperial lover of music at the nocturnal banquet just as it had thrilled the great musicians a few hours before. He thought that he had never heard anything more exquisite, and when the Benedictio Mensa: died away he clasped his sister's hand, raised it two or three times to his lips, and thanked her with such affectionate warmth that she blessed the accomplishment of her happy idea, and willingly forgot the unpleasant moments she had just undergone.
Now, as if completely transformed, he wished to be told who had had the lucky thought of summoning his orchestra and her boy choir, and how the plan had been executed; and when he had heard the story, he fervently praised the delicacy of feeling and true sportsmanlike energy of her strong and loving woman's heart.
The court orchestra gave its best work, and so did the new head cook. The pheasant stuffed with snails and the truffle sauce with it seemed delicious to the sovereign, who called the dish a triumph of the culinary art of the Netherlands. The burden of anxieties and the pangs inflicted by the gout seemed to be forgotten, and when the orchestra ceased he asked to hear the boy choir again.
This time it gave the most beautiful portion of Joscluin de Pres's hymn to the Virgin, "Ecce tu pulchra es"; and when Barbara's "Quia amore langueo" reached his ear and heart with its love-yearning melody, he nodded to his sister with wondering delight, and then listened, as if rapt from the world, until the last notes of the motet died away.
Where had Appenzelder discovered the marvellous boy who sang this "Quia amore langueo"? He sent Don Luis Quijada to assure the leader and the young singer of his warmest approbation, and then permitted the Queen also to seek the choir and its leader to ask whom the latter had succeeded in obtaining in the place of the lad from Cologne, whom he had often heard sing the "tu pulchra es," but with incomparably less depth of feeling.
When she returned she informed the Emperor of the misfortune which had befallen the two boys, and how successful Appenzelder had been in the choice of a substitute. Yet she still concealed the fact that a girl was now the leader of his choir, for, kindly as her brother nodded to her when she took her place at the table again, no one could tell how he would regard this anomaly.
Besides, the next day would be the 1st of May, the anniversary of the death of his wife Isabella, who had passed away from earth seven years before, and the more she herself had been surprised by the rare and singular beauty of the fair-haired songstress, the less could she venture on that day or the morrow to blend with the memories of the departed Queen the image of another woman who possessed such unusual charms. The Emperor had already asked her a few questions about the young singers, and learned that the bell-like weaker voice, which harmonized so exquisitely with that of the invalid Johannes's substitute, belonged to the little Maltese lad Hannibal, whose darling wish, through Wolf's intercession, had been fulfilled. His inquiries, however, were interrupted by a fresh performance of the boy choir.
This again extorted enthusiastic applause from the sovereign, and when, while he was still shouting "Brava!" the highly seasoned game pasty which meanwhile, despite the regent's former prohibition, had been prepared, and now, beautifully browned, rose from a garland of the most tempting accessories, was offered, he waved it away. As he did so his eyes sought his sister's, and his expressive features told her that he was imposing this sacrifice upon himself for her sake.
It was long since he had bestowed a fairer gift. True, in this mood, it seemed impossible for him to refrain from the wine. It enlivened him and doubled the unexpected pleasure. Unfortunately, he was to atone only too speedily for this offence against medical advice, for his heated blood increased the twinges of the gout to such a degree that he was compelled to relinquish his desire to listen to the exquisite singing longer.
Groaning, he suffered himself—this time in a litter—to be carried back to his chamber, where, in spite of the pangs that tortured him, he asked for the letter in which Granvelle informed his royal master every evening what he thought of the political affairs to be settled the next day. Master Adrian, the valet, had just brought it, but this time Charles glanced over the important expressions of opinion given by the young minister swiftly and without deeper examination. The saying that the Emperor could not dispense with him, but he might do without the Emperor, had originally applied to his father, whose position he filled to the monarch's satisfaction in every respect.
The confessor had reminded the sovereign of the anniversary which had already dawned, and which he was accustomed to celebrate in his own way.
Very early in the morning, after a few hours spent in suffering, he heard mass, and then remained for hours in the sable-draped room where he communed with himself alone.
The regent knew that on this memorable day he would not be seen even by her. The success of the surprise afforded a guarantee that music would supply her place to him on the morrow also, and ere she left him she requested a short leave of absence to enjoy the hunting for which she longed, and permission to take his major-domo Quijada with her.
An almost unintelligible murmur from the sufferer told her that he had granted the petition. It was done reluctantly, but the Queen departed at dawn with Don Luis and a small train of attendants, while the Emperor retired into the black-draped chamber.
The gout would really have prohibited him from kneeling before the altar, whence the agonized face of the crucified Redeemer, carved in ivory by a great Florentine master, gazed at him, but he took this torture upon himself.
Even in the period of health and happiness when, at the age of twenty-three, besides the great boon of health, besides fame, power, and woman's love, he had enjoyed in rich abundance all the gifts which Heaven bestows on mortals, his devout nature had led him to retreat into a gloomy, solitary apartment.
The feeling that constantly drew him thither again was akin to the dread which the ancients had of the envy of the gods, and, moreover, the admonition of his pious teacher who afterward became Pope Adrian, that the less man spares himself the more confidently he can rely upon the forbearance of God.
And, in truth, this mighty sovereign, racked by almost unendurable pain, dealt cruelly enough with himself when he compelled his aching knee to bend until consciousness threatened to fail under the excess of agony.
Nowhere did he find more complete calmness than here, in no spot could he pray more fervently, and the boon which he most ardently besought from Heaven was that it would spare him the fate of his insane mother, hold aloof the fiend which in many a gloomy hour he saw stretching a hand toward him.
Here, too, he sought to penetrate the nature of death. In this room, clothed with the sable hue of mourning, he felt that alreadv, while on earth, he had fallen into its all-levelling power. Here his mind, like that of a dying man's, grasped for brief intervals what life had offered and what awaited him beyond the confines of this short earthly existence, in eternity.
While thus occupied, the sovereign, accustomed to speculation, encountered many a dangerous doubt, but he only needed to gaze at the crucified Saviour to find the way again to the promises of his Church.
The last years had deprived him of so large a portion of the most valuable possessions and the best ornaments of his life, and inflicted, both in wardly and outwardly, such keen suffering, that it was easy for him to perceive what a gain death would bring.
What it could take from him was easily lost; the relief it promised to afford no power, science, or art here on earth could procure for him—release from cruel suffering and oppressive cares.
While he was learning the German language the name "Friend Hein," which he heard applied to death, perplexed him; now he thought that he understood it, for the man with the scythe wore to him also the face of a friend, who when the time had come would not keep him waiting long. As he thought of his wife, of whose death this day was the anniversary, he felt inclined to envy her. What he had lost by her decease seemed very little to others who were aware of the long periods of time during which, separated from each other, they had gone their own ways; but he knew that it was more than they supposed, for with Isabella he had lost the certainty that the sincere, nay, perhaps affectionate interest of a being united to him by the sacrament of marriage accompanied his every step.
His pleasure in life had withered with the growth of the harsh conviction that he was no longer loved by any one for his own sake.
In this chamber, draped with sable hangings, his own heart seemed dead, like dry wood from which only a miracle could lure green leafage again. With the only real pity which was at his command, compassion on himself, he rose from the kneeling posture which had become unbearable.
With difficulty he sank into the arm-chair which stood ready for him, and, panting for breath, asked himself whether every joy had indeed vanished. No!
Music still stirred his benumbed heart to swifter throbbing. He thought of the pleasure which the previous evening had afforded, and suddenly it seemed as if he again heard the "Quia amore langueo"—"Because I long for love"—that had touched his soul the day before.
Yes, he, too, still longed for love, for a different, a warmer feeling than the lukewarm blood of his royal mother had bestowed upon her children, or the devotion of the sister to whom the chase was dearer than aught else, certainly than his society.
But such thoughts did not befit this room, which was consecrated to serious reflections. The anniversary summoned him to far different feelings. Yet, powerfully as he resisted them, his awakened senses continued to demand their rights, and, while he closed his eyes and pressed his brow against the base of the altar covered with black cloth, changeful images of happier days rose before him. He, too, had rejoiced in a vigorous, strong, and pliant body. In the jousts he had been sure of victory over even dreaded opponents; as a bull-fighter he had excelled the matador; as a skilful participant in riding at the ring, as well as a tireless hunter, he had scarcely found his equal. In the prime of his youth the hearts of many fair women had throbbed warmly for him, but he had been fastidious. Yet where he had aimed at victory, he had rarely failed.
The sensuous, fair-haired Duchess of Aerschot, the dark-eyed Cornelia Annoni of Milan, the devout Dolores Gonzaga, with her large, calm, enthusiastic eyes, and again and again, crowding all the others into the background, the timid Johanna van der Gheynst, who under her delicate frame concealed a volcano of ardent passion. She had given him a daughter whose head was now adorned by a crown. In spite of the brief duration of their love bond, she had been clearer to him than all the rest—clearer even than the woman to whom the sacrament of marriage afterward united him. And she of whom seven years ago death had bereft him?
At this question a bitter smile hovered around his full lips. How much better love than hers he had known! And how easy Isabella had rendered it not to weary of her, for during his long journeys and frequent dangerous campaigns, instead of accompanying him, she had led in some carefully guarded castle a life that suited her quiet tastes.
A sorrowful smile curled his lips as he recalled the agreement which they had made just before a separation. At that time both were young, yet how willingly she had accepted his proposal that, when age approached, they should separate forever, that she in one cloister and he in another might prepare for the end of life!
What reply would a woman with true love in her heart have made to such a demand?
No, no, Isabella had felt as little genuine love for him as he for her! Her death had been a sorrow to him, but he had shed no tears over it.
He could not weep. He no longer knew whether he was able to do so when a child. Since his beard had grown, at any rate, his eyes had remained dry. The words of the Roman satirist, that tears were the best portion of all human life, returned to his memory. Would he himself ever experience the relief which they were said to afford the human heart?
But who among the living would he have deemed worthy of them? When his insane mother died, he could not help considering the poor Queen fortunate because Heaven had at last released her from such a condition. Of the children whom his wife Isabella and Johanna van der Gheynst had given him, he did not even think. An icy atmosphere emanated from his son Philip which froze every warm feeling that encountered it. He remembered his daughter with pleasure, but how rarely he was permitted to enjoy her society! Besides, he had done enough for his posterity, more than enough. To increase the grandeur of his family and render it the most powerful reigning house in the world, he had become prematurely old; had undertaken superhuman tasks of toil and care; even now he would permit himself no repose. The consciousness of having fulfilled his duty to his family and the Church might have comforted him in this hour, but the plus ultra—more, farther—which had so often led him into the conflict for the dream of a world sovereignty, the grandeur of his own race, and against the foes of his holy faith, now met the barrier of a more powerful fate. Instead of advancing, he had seemed, since the defeat at Algiers, to go backward.
Besides, how often the leech threatened him with a speedy death if he indulged himself at table with the viands which suited his taste! Yet the other things that remained for him to enjoy scarcely seemed worth mentioning. To restore unity to the Church, to make the crowns which he wore the hereditary possessions of his house, were two aims worthy of the hardest struggles, but, unless he deceived himself, he could not hope to attain them. Thus life, until its end—perhaps wholly unexpectedly—arrived within a brief season, offered him nothing save suffering and sacrifice, disappointment, toil, and anxieties.
With little cheer or elevation of soul, he looked up and rang the bell. Two chamberlains and Master Adrian appeared, and while Baron Malfalconnet, who did not venture to jest in this spot, offered him his arm and the valet the crutch, his confessor, Pedro de Soto, also entered the black-draped room.
A single glance showed him that this time the quiet sojourn in the gloomy apartment, instead of exerting an elevating and brightening influence, had had a depressing and saddening effect upon the already clouded spirit of his imperial penitent. In spite of the most zealous effort, he had not succeeded in finding his way into the soul-life of this sovereign, equally great in intellect and energy, but neither frank nor truthful, yet, on the other hand, his penetration often succeeded in fathoming the causes of the Emperor's moods.
With the quiet firmness which harmonized so perfectly with a personal appearance that inspired confidence, the priest now frankly but respectfully expressed what he thought he had observed.
True, he attributed the Emperor's deep despondency to totally different causes, but he openly deplored the sorrowful agitation which the memories of the beloved dead had awakened in his Majesty.
In natural, simple words, the learned man, skilled in the art of language, represented to the imperial widower how little reason he had to mourn his devout wife. He was rather justified in regarding her death hour as the first of a happy birthday. For the sleeper whose dream here on earth he, Charles, had beautified in so many ways, a happy waking had long since followed in the land for which she had never ceased to yearn. For him, the Emperor, Heaven still had great tasks in this world, and many a victory awaited him. If his prayer was heard, and his Majesty should decide to battle for the holiest cause, sorrowful anxieties would vanish from his pathway as the mists of dawn scatter before the rising sun. He well knew the gravity of the demands which every day imposed upon his Majesty, but he could give him the assurance that nothing could be more pleasing to Heaven than that he, who was chosen as its champion, should, by mastering them, enjoy the gifts with which Eternal Love set its board as abundantly for the poorest carter as for the mightiest ruler.
Then he spoke of the surprise of the night before, and how gratefully he had heard that music had once more exerted its former magic power. Its effect would be permanent, even though physical suffering and sorrowful memories might interrupt it for a few brief hours.
"That," he concluded, "Nature herself just at this season teaches us to hope. This day of fasting and sadness will be followed by a series of the brightest weeks—the time of leafage, blossom, and bird songs, which is so dear to the merciful mother of God. May the month of May, called by the Germans the joy month, and which dawns to-day with bright sunshine and a clear, blue sky, be indeed a season of joy to your Majesty!"
"God grant it!" replied the Emperor dully, and then, with a shrug of the shoulders, added: "Besides, I can not imagine whence such joy should come to me. A boy's bell-like voice sang to me yesterday, 'Quia amore langueo.' This heart, too, longs for love, but it will never find it on earth."
"Why not, if your Majesty sends forth to seek it?" replied the confessor eagerly. "The Gospel itself gives a guarantee of success. 'Seek, and ye shall find,' it promises. To the heart which longs for love the all-bountiful Father sends that for which it longs to meet it halfway."
"When it is young," added the Emperor, shrugging his shoulders impatiently. "But when the soul's power of flight has failed, who will bestow the ability to traverse the half of the way allotted to it?"
"The omnipotence which works greater miracles," replied the priest in a tone of the most ardent conviction, pointing upward.
Charles nodded a mournful assent, and, after a sign which indicated to the confessor that he desired the interview to end, he continued his painful walk.
He had waved aside the litter which the lord chamberlain, Count Heinrich of Nassau, had placed ready for him, and limped, amid severe suffering, to his room.
There the Bishop of Arras awaited him with arduous work, and the Emperor did not allow himself a moment's rest while his sister was using the beautiful first of May to ride and hunt. Charles missed her, and still more the faithful man who had served him as a page, and whom he had been accustomed since to have in close attendance upon him.
To gratify his sister's passion for the chase he had given Quijada leave of absence, and now he regretted it. True, he told no one that he missed Don Luis, but those who surrounded him were made to feel his ill-humour plainly enough. Only he admitted to the Bishop of Arras that the radiant light which was shining into his window was disagreeable. It made too strong a contrast to his gloomy soul, and it even seemed as though the course of the sun, in its beaming, unattainably lofty path, mocked the hapless, painful obstruction to his own motion.
At noon he enjoyed very little of the meal, prepared for a fast day, which the new cook had made tempting enough.
In reply to the Count of Nassau's inquiry whether he wished to hear any music, he had answered rudely that the musicians and the boy choir could play and sing in the chapel for aught he cared. Whether he would listen to the performance was doubtful.
Single tones had reached his ears, but he did not feel in the mood to descend the stairs.
He went to rest earlier than usual. The next morning, after mass, he himself asked for Josquin's "Ecce tu pulchra es." It was to be sung during the noonday meal. But when, instead of the Queen and Quijada, a little note came from his sister, requesting, in a jesting tone, an extension of the leave of absence because she trusted to the healing power of the sun and the medicine "music" upon her distinguished brother, and the chase bound her by a really magic spell to the green May woods, he flung the sheet indignantly away, and, just before the beginning of the meal, ordered the singing to be omitted.
Either in consequence of the fasting or the warm sunshine, the pangs of the gout began to lessen; but, nevertheless, his mood grew still more melancholy, for he had believed in the sincere affection of two human beings, and Queen Mary left him alone in his misery, while his faithful Luis, to please the female Nimrod, did the same.
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Dread which the ancients had of the envy of the gods Shuns the downward glance of compassion That tears were the best portion of all human life
By Georg Ebers
During the singing in the chapel on the fast day Barbara had waited vainly for a word of appreciation from the Emperor. The Queen of Hungary had gone to the chase, and the monarch had remained in his apartments, while she had done her best below. A few lords and ladies of the court, several priests, knights, and pages had been the only listeners.
This had sorely irritated her easily wounded sensitiveness, but she had appeared at the rehearsal in the New Scales on the following morning. Again she reaped lavish praise, but several times she met Appenzelder's well-founded criticisms with opposition.
The radiant cheerfulness which, the day before yesterday, had invested her nature with an irresistible charm had vanished.
When the tablatures were at last laid aside, and the invitation to sing in the Golden Cross did not yet arrive, her features and her whole manner became so sullen that even some of the choir boys noticed it.
Since the day before a profound anxiety had filled her whole soul, and she herself wondered that it had been possible for her to conquer it just now during the singing.
How totally different an effect she had expected her voice—which even the greatest connoisseurs deemed worthy of admiration—to produce upon the music-loving Emperor!
What did she care if the evening of the day before yesterday the Queen of Hungary had paid her fine compliments and assured her of the high approval of her imperial brother, since Appenzelder had informed her yesterday that it was necessary to conceal from his Majesty the fact that a woman was occupying the place of the lad from Cologne, Johannes. The awkward giant had been unfriendly to women ever since, many years before, his young wife had abandoned him for a Neapolitan officer, and his bad opinion of the fairer sex had been by no means lessened when Barbara, at this communication, showed with pitiless frankness the anger and mortification which it aroused in her mind. A foul fiend, he assured Gombert, was hidden in that golden-haired delight of the eyes with the siren voice; but the leader of the orchestra had interceded for her, and thought that her complaint was just. So great an artist was too good to fill the place of substitute for a sick boy who sang for low wages. She had obliged him merely to win the applause of the Emperor and his illustrious sister, and to have the regent turn her back upon Ratisbon just at this time, and without having informed his Majesty whose voice had with reason aroused his delight, would be felt even by a gentler woman as an injury.
Appenzelder could not help admitting this, and then dejectedly promised Barbara to make amends as soon as possible for the wrong which the regent, much against his will, had committed.
He was compelled to use all the power of persuasion at his command to keep her in the boy choir, at least until the poisoned members could be employed again, for she threatened seriously to withdraw her aid in future.
Wolf, too, had a difficult position with the girl whom his persuasion had induced to enter the choir. What Appenzelder ascribed to the devil himself, he attributed merely to the fervour of her fiery artist temperament. Yet her vehement outburst of wrath had startled him also, and a doubt arose in his mind as to what matrimonial life might be with a companion who, in spite of her youth, ventured to oppose elderly, dignified men so irritably and sharply. But at the very next song which had greeted him from her rosy lips this scruple was forgotten. With sparkling eyes he assented to Gombert's protestation that, in her wrath, she had resembled the goddess Nemesis, and looked more beautiful than ever.
In spite of his gray hair, she seemed to have bewitched the great musician, like so many other men, and this only enhanced her value in Wolf's sight.
Urgently, nay, almost humbly, he at last entreated her to have patience, for, if not at noon, his Majesty would surely desire to hear the boy choir in the evening. Besides, he added, she must consider it a great compliment that his Majesty had summoned the singers to the Glen Cross the evening before at all, for on such days of fasting and commemoration the Emperor was in the habit of devoting himself to silent reflection, and shunned every amusement.
But honest Appenzelder, who frankly contradicted everything opposed to the truth, would not let this statement pass. Nay, he interrupted Wolf with the assurance that, on the contrary, the Emperor on such days frequently relied upon solemn hymns to transport him into a fitting mood. Besides, the anniversary was past, and if his Majesty did not desire to hear them to-day, business, or the gout, or indigestion, or a thousand other reasons might be the cause. They must simply submit to the pleasure of royalty. They was entirely in accordance with custom that his Majesty did not leave his apartments the day before. He never did so on such anniversaries unless he or Gombert had something unusual to offer.
Barbara bit her lips, and, while the May sun shone brilliantly into the hall, exclaimed:
"So, since this time you could offer him nothing 'unusual,' Master, I will beg you to grant me leave of absence." Then turning swiftly upon her heel and calling to Wolf, by way of explanation, "The Schlumpergers and others are going to Prufening to-day, and they invited me to the May excursion too. It will be delightful, and I shall be glad if you'll come with us."
The leader of the choir saw his error, and with earnest warmth entreated her not to make his foolish old head suffer for it. "If, after all, his Majesty should desire to hear the choir that noon, it would only be because——"
Here he hesitated, and then reluctantly made the admission—"Because you yourself, you fair one, who turns everybody's bead, are the 'unusual' something which our sovereign lord would fain hear once more, if the gout does not——"
Then Barbara laughed gaily in her clear, bell like tones, seized the clumsy Goliath's long, pointed beard, and played all sorts of pranks upon him with such joyous mirth that, when she at last released him, he ran after her like a young lover to catch her; but she had nimbler feet, and he was far enough behind when she called from the threshold:
"I won't let myself be caught, but since your pretty white goat's beard bewitches me, I'll be obliging to-day."
She laughingly kissed her hand to him from the doorway as she spoke, and it seemed as though her yielding was to be instantly rewarded, for before she left the house Chamberlain de Praet appeared to summon the choir to the Golden Cross at one o'clock.
Barbara's head was proudly erect as she crossed the square. Wolf followed her, and, on reaching home, found her engaged in a little dispute with her father.
The latter had been much disgusted with himself for his complaisance the day before. Although Wolf had come to escort Barbara to the Emperor's lodgings, he had accompanied his child to the Golden Cross, where she was received by Maestro Appenzelder. Then, since he could only have heard the singing under conditions which seemed unendurable to his pride, he sullenly retired to drink his beer in the tap-room of the New Scales.
As, on account of the late hour, he found no other guest, he did not remain there long, but returned to the Haidplatz to go home with Barbara.
This he considered his paternal duty, for already he saw in imagination the counts and knights who, after the Emperor and the Queen had loaded her with praise and honour, would wish to escort her home. Dainty pages certainly would not be deprived of the favour of carrying her train and lighting her way with torches. But he knew courtiers and these saucy scions of the noblest houses, and hoped that her father's presence would hold their insolence in check. Therefore he had endeavoured to give to his outer man an appearance which would command respect, for he wore his helmet, his coat of mail, and over it the red scarf which his dead wife had embroidered with gold flowers and mountains-his coat-of-arms.
In spite of the indispensable cane in his right hand, he wore his long battle sword, but he would have been wiser to leave it at home.
While pacing up and down before the Golden Cross in the silent night to wait for his daughter, the halberdiers at the entrance noticed him.
What was the big man doing here at this late hour? How dared he venture to wear a sword in the precincts of the Emperor's residence, contrary to the law, and, moreover, a weapon of such unusual length and width, which had not been carried for a long while?
After the guards were relieved they had suddenly surrounded him, and, in spite of his vigorous resistance, would have taken him prisoner. But fortunately the musicians, among them Barbara and Wolf, had just come out into the street, and the latter had told the sergeant of the guards, whom he knew, how mistaken he had been concerning the suspicions pedestrian, and obtained his release. Thus the careful father's hopes had been frustrated. But when he learned that his daughter had not seen the Emperor at all, and had neither been seen nor spoken to by him, he gave—notwithstanding his reverence for the sacred person of his mighty commander—full expression to his indignation.
Fool that he had been to permit Barbara to present herself at court with a troop of ordinary singing boys! Even on the following day he persisted in the declaration that it was his duty, as a father and a nobleman, to protect his daughter from further humiliations of this sort.
Yet when, on the day of fasting, the invitation to sing came, he permitted Barbara to accept it, because it was the Emperor who summoned her. He had called for her again, and on the way home learned that neither his Majesty nor the regent had been among the listeners, and he had gone to rest like a knight who has been hurled upon the sand.
The next morning, after mass, Barbara went to the rehearsal, and returned in a very joyous mood with the tidings that the Emperor wished to hear her about noon. But this time her father wanted to forbid her taking part in the performance, and Wolf had not found it easy to make him understand that this would insult and offend his Majesty.
The dispute was by no means ended when the little Maltese summoned her to the New Scales. Wolf accompanied her only to the Haidplatz, for he had been called to the Town Hall on business connected with his inheritance; but Barbara learned in the room assigned to the musicians that the noon performance had just been countermanded, and no special reason had been given for the change.
The leader of the orchestra had been accustomed to submit to the sovereign's arrangements as unresistingly as to the will of higher powers, and Barbara also restrained herself.
True, wrath boiled and seethed in her breast, but before retiring she only said briefly, with a seriousness which revealed the contempt concealed beneath:
"You were quite right, Maestro Appenzelder. The Emperor considered my voice nothing unusual, and nothing else is fit for the august ears of his Majesty. Now I will go to the green woods."
The leader of the boy choir again did his best to detain her, for what the noon denied the evening would bring, and Gombert aided him with courteous flatteries; but Barbara listened only a short time, then, interrupting both with the exclamation, "I force myself upon no one, not even the highest!" she left the room, holding her head haughtily erect.
Appenzelder fixed his eyes helplessly upon the ground.
"I'd rather put a hoarse sailor or a croaking owl into my choir henceforward than such a trilling fair one, who has more whims in her head than hairs on it."
Then he went out to look for Wolf, for he, as well as Gombert, had noticed that he possessed a certain degree of influence over Barbara. What should he say to their Majesties if they ordered the choir for the late meal and missed the voice about which the Queen had said so many complimentary things in the Emperor's name?
Wolf had told him that he was summoned to the Town Hall. The maestro followed him, and when he learned there that he had gone to the syndic, Dr. Hiltner, he inquired the way to this gentleman's house.
But the knight was no longer to be found there. For the third time the busy magistrate was not at home, but he had been informed that the syndic expected him that afternoon, as he wished to discuss a matter of importance. Dr. Hiltner's wife knew what it was, but silence had been enjoined upon her, and she was a woman who knew how to refrain from speech.
She and her daughter Martina—who during Wolf's absence had grown to maidenhood—were sincerely glad to see him; he had been the favourite schoolmate of her adopted son, Erasmus Eckhart, and a frequent guest in her household. Yet she only confirmed to the modest young man, who shrank from asking her more minute questions, that the matter concerned an offer whose acceptance promised to make him a prosperous man. She was expecting her Erasmus home from Wittenberg that evening or early the next morning, and to find Wolf here again would be a welcome boon to him.
What had the syndic in view? Evidently something good. Old Ursel should help counsel him. The doctor liked her, and, in spite of the severe illness, she had kept her clever brain.
He would take Barbara into his confidence, too, for what concerned him concerned her also.
But when he turned from the Haidplatz into Red Cock Street he saw three fine horses in front of the cantor house. A groom held their bridles. The large chestnut belonged to the servant. The other two-a big-boned bay and an unusually wellformed Andalusian gray, with a small head and long sweeping tail—had ladies' saddles.
The sister of rich old Peter Schlumperger, who was paying court to Barbara, had dismounted from the former. She wanted to persuade the young girl, in her brother's name, to join the party to the wood adjoining Prfifening Abbey.
At first she had opposed the marriage between the man of fifty and Barbara; but when she saw that her brother's affection had lasted two years, nay, had increased more and more, and afforded new joy to the childless widower, she had made herself his ally.
She, too, was widowed and had a large fortune of her own. Her husband, a member of the Kastenmayr family, had made her his heiress. Blithe young Barbara, whose voice and beauty she knew how to value, could bring new life and brightness into the great, far too silent house. The girl's poverty was no disadvantage; she and her brother had long found it difficult to know what to do with the vast wealth which, even in these hard times, was constantly increasing, and the Blomberg family was as aristocratic as their own.
The widow's effort to persuade the girl to ride had not been in vain, for Wolf met Frau Kastenmayr on the stairs, and Barbara followed in a plain dark riding habit, which had been her mother's.
So, in spite of Maestro Appenzelder, Miss Self-Will had really determined to leave the city.
Her hasty information that the Emperor did not wish to hear the choir at noon somewhat relieved his mind; but when, in answer to his no less hasty question about the singing at the late meal, the answer came, "What is that to me?" he perceived that the sensitiveness which yesterday had almost led her to a similar step had now urged her to an act that might cause Appenzelder great embarrassment, and rob her forever of the honour of singing before their Majesties.
While the very portly Frau Kastenmayr went panting down the narrow stairs, Wolf again stopped Barbara with the question why she so carelessly trifled with what might be the best piece of good fortune in her life, and shook his head doubtfully as, tossing hers higher, with self-important pride she answered low enough not to be heard by the widow, "Because a ride through the green woods in the month of May is pleasanter than to sing into vacancy at midnight unheeded."
Here the high, somewhat shrill voice of Frau Kastenmayr, who felt jealous in her brother's behalf at hearing Barbara whispering with the young knight, interrupted them.
Her warning, "Where are you, my darling?" made the girl, with the skirt of her riding habit thrown over her arm, follow her swiftly.
Wolf, offended and anxious, would have liked to make her feel his displeasure, but could not bring himself to let her go unattended, and, with some difficulty, first helped Frau Kastenmayr upon her strong steed, then, with very mingled feelings, aided Barbara to mount the noble Andalusian. While she placed her little foot in his hand to spring thence with graceful agility into the saddle, the widow, with forced courtesy, invited the young gentleman to accompany her and her brother to Prufening. There would be a merry meal, which she herself had provided, in the farmhouse on the abbey lands.
Without giving a positive answer, Wolf bowed, and his heart quivered as Barbara, from her beautiful gray horse, waved her riding whip to him as a queen might salute a vassal.
How erect she sat in her saddle! how slender and yet how well rounded her figure was! What rapture it would be to possess her charms!
That she would accept the elderly Schlumperger for the sake of his money was surely impossible. And yet! How could she, with laughing lips, cast to the wind the rare favour of fortune which permitted her to display her art to the Emperor, and so carelessly leave him, Wolf, who had built the bridge to their Majesties, in the lurch, unless she had some special purpose in view; and what could that be except the resolution to become the mistress of one of the richest houses in Ratisbon? The words "My darling," which Frau Kastenmayr had called to Barbara, again rang in his ears, and when the two ladies and the groom had vanished, he returned in a very thoughtful mood to the faithful old maid-servant.
Every one else who was in the street or at the window looked after Barbara, and pointed out to others the beautiful Jungfrau Blomberg and the proud security with which she governed the spirited gray. She had become a good rider, first upon her father's horses, and then at the Wollers in the country, and took risks which many a bold young noble would not have imitated.
Her aged suitor's gray Andalusian was dearer than the man himself, whom she regarded merely as a sheet-anchor which could be used if everything else failed.
The thought of what might happen when, after these days of working for her bread ended, still more terrible ones followed, had troubled her again and again the day before. Now she no longer recollected these miserable things. What a proud feeling it was to ride on horseback through the sweet May air, in the green woods, as her own mistress, and bid defiance to the ungrateful sovereign in the Golden Cross!
The frustration of the hope that her singing would make the Emperor desire to hear her again and again had wounded her to the depths of her soul and spoiled her night's rest. The annoyance of having vainly put forth her best efforts to please him had become unendurable after the fresh refusal which, as it were, set the seal upon her fears, and in the defiant flight to the forest she seemed to have found the right antidote. As she approached the monarch's residence, she felt glad and proud that he, who could force half the world to obey him, could not rule her.
To attract his notice by another performance would have been the most natural course, but Barbara had placed herself in a singular relation toward the Emperor Charles. To her he was the man, not the Emperor, and that he did not express a desire to hear her again seemed like an insult which the man offered to the woman, the artist, who was ready to obey his sign.
Her perverse spirit had rebelled against such lack of appreciation of her most precious gifts, and filled her with rankling hatred against the first person who had closed his heart to the victorious magic of her voice.
When she refused Appenzelder her aid in case the Emperor Charles desired to hear the choir that evening, and promised Frau Kastenmayr to accompany her to Prufening, she had been like a rebellious child filled with the desire to show the man who cared nothing for her that, against her will, he could not hear even a single note from her lips.
They were to meet the other members of the party at St. Oswald's Church on the Danube, so they were obliged to pass the Golden Cross.
This suited Barbara and, with triumphant selfconfidence, in which mingled a slight shade of defiance, she looked up to the Emperor's windows. She did not see him, it is true, but she made him a mute speech which ran: "When, foolish sovereign, who did not even think it worth while to grant me a single look, you hear the singing again to-night, and miss the voice which, I know full well, penetrated your heart, you will learn its value, and long for it as ardently as I desired your summons."
Here her cheeks glowed so hotly that Frau Kastenmayr noticed it, and with maternal solicitude asked, from her heavy, steady bay horse:
"Is the gray too gay for you, my darling?"
Shortly after sunset Appenzelder received the order to have the boy choir sing before the Emperor.
During the noon hour, which the monarch had spent alone, thoughts so sad, bordering upon melancholy, had visited him, although for several hours he had been free from pain, that he relinquished his resentful intention of showing his undutiful sister how little he cared for her surprise and how slight was his desire to enjoy music.
In fact, he, too, regarded it as medicine, and hoped especially for a favourable effect from the exquisite soprano voice in the motet "Tu pulchra es."
He still had some things to look over with Granvelle, but the orchestra and the boy choir must be ready by ten o'clock.
Would it not have been foolish to bear this intolerable, alarming mood until the midnight meal? It must be dispelled, for he himself perceived how groundless it was. The pain had passed away, the despatches contained no bad news, and Dr. Mathys had permitted him to go out the next day. When Adrian already had his hand on the door knob, he called after him, "And Appenzelder must see that the exquisite new voice—he knows—is heard."
Soon after, when Granvelle had just left him, the steward, Malfalconnet, entered, and, in spite of the late hour—the Nuremberg clock on the writing table had struck nine some time before—asked an audience for Sir Wolf Hartschwert, one of her Highness the regent's household, to whom she committed the most noiseless and the most noisy affairs, namely, the secret correspondence and the music.
"The German?" asked Charles, and as the baron, with a low bow, assented, the Emperor continued: "Then it is scarcely an intrigue, at any rate a successful one, unless he is unlike the usual stamp. But no! I noticed the man. There is something visionary about him, like most of the Germans. But I have never seen him intoxicated."
"Although he is of knightly lineage, and, as I heard, at home in the neighbourhood of the Main, where good wine matures," remarked Malfalconnet, with another bow. "At this moment he looks more than sober, rather as though some great fright had roused him from a carouse. Poor knight!"
"Ay, poor knight!" the Emperor assented emphatically. "To serve my sister of Hungary in one position may be difficult for a man who is no sportsman, and now in two! God's death! These torments on earth will shorten his stay in purgatory."
The Emperor Charles had spoken of his sister in a very different tone the day before, but now she remained away from him and kept with her a friend whom he greatly needed, so he repaid her for it.
Therefore, with a shrug of the shoulders expressive of regret, he added, "However badly off we may be ourselves, there is always some one with whom we would not change places."
"Were I, the humblest of the humble, lucky enough to be in your Majesty's skin," cried the baron gaily, "I wouldn't either. But since I am only poor Malfalconnet, I know of nobody—and I'm well acquainted with Sir Wolf—who seems to me more enviable than your Majesty."
"Jest, or earnest?" asked the Emperor.
"Earnest, deep, well-founded earnest," replied the other with an upward glance whose solemn devotion showed the sovereign that mischief was concealed behind it. "Let your Majesty judge for yourself. He is a knight of good family, and looks like a plain burgher. His name is Wolf Hartschwert, and he is as gentle as a lamb and as pliant as a young willow. He appears like the meek, whom our Lord calls blessed, and yet he is one of the wisest of the wise, and, moreover, a master in his art. Wherever he shows himself, delusion follows delusion, and every one redounds to his advantage, for whoever took him for an insignificant man must doff his hat when he utters his name. If a shrewd fellow supposed that this sheep would not know A from B, he'll soon give him nuts to crack which are far too hard for many a learned master of arts. Nobody expects chivalric virtues and the accompanying expenditure from this simple fellow; yet he practises them, and, when he once opens his hand, people stare at him as they do at flying fish and the hen that lays a golden egg. Appreciative surprise gazes at him, beseeching forgiveness, wherever he is known, as surely as happy faces welcome your Majesty's entry into any Netherland city. Fortune, lavish when she once departs from her wonted niggardliness, guards this her favourite child from disappointment and misconstruction."
"The blessing of those who are more than they seem," replied the Emperor.
"That is his also," sighed Malfalconnet. "That man, your Majesty, and I the poorest of the poor! I was born a baron, and, as the greatest piece of good fortune, obtained the favour of my illustrious master. Now everybody expects from me magnificence worthy of my ancient name, and a style of living in keeping with the much-envied grace that renders me happy. But if your Majesty's divine goodness did not sometimes pay my debts, which are now a part of me as the tail belongs to the comet—"
"Oho!" cried the Emperor here. "If that is what is coming—"
"Do I look so stupid," interrupted the baron humbly, "as to repeat to-day things which yesterday did not wholly fail to make an impression upon your Majesty?"
"They would find deaf cars," Charles replied. "You are certainly less destitute of brains than of money, because you lack system. One proceeds in a contrary direction from the other. Besides, your ancient name, though worthy of all honour, does not inspire the most favourable impression. Malfalconnet! Mal is evil, and falconnet—or is it falconnelle?—is a cruel, greedy bird of prey. So whoever encounters no evil from you, whoever escapes you unplucked, also enjoys a pleasant surprise. As for not being plucked, I, at least, unfortunately have not experienced this. But we will not cloud by too long waiting the good fortune of the gentleman outside who was born under such lucky stars. What brings the Wolf in sheep's clothing to us?"
"One would almost suppose," replied the baron with a crafty smile, "that he was coming to-day on a useless errand, and meant to apply to your Majesty for the payment of his debts."
Here the Emperor interrupted him with an angry gesture; but Malfalconnet went on soothingly: "However, there is nothing to be feared from lambs in sheep's clothing. Just think, your Majesty, how warm they must be in their double dress! No; he comes from the musicians, and apparently brings an important message."
"Admit him, then," the Emperor commanded. A few minutes later Wolf stood before the sovereign, and, in Appenzelder's name, informed him in a tone of sincere regret, yet with a certain degree of reserve, that the performance of the choir boys that day would leave much to be desired, for two of the best singers had not yet recovered.
"But the substitute, the admirable substitute?" Charles impatiently interrupted.
"That is just what troubles us," Wolf replied uneasily. "The magnificent new voice wishes to desert the maestro to-night."
"Desert?" cried the Emperor angrily. "A choir boy in the service of her Majesty the Queen of Hungary! So there is still something new under the sun."
"Certainly," replied Wolf with a low bow, still striving, in obedience to the regent's strict command, not to reveal the sex of the new member of the choir. "And this case is especially unusual. This voice is not in her Majesty's service. It belongs to a volunteer, as it were, a native of this city, whose wonderful instrument and rare ability we discovered. But, begging your Majesty's pardon, the soul of such an artist is a strange thing, inflammable and enthusiastic, but just as easily wounded and disheartened."
"The soul of a boy!" cried Charles contemptuously. "Appenzelder does not look like a man who would permit such whims."
"Not in his choir, certainly," said the young nobleman. "But this voice—allow me to repeat it—is not at his disposal. It was no easy matter to obtain it at all, and, keenly as the maestro disapproves of the caprices of this beautiful power, he can not force it—the power, I mean—to the obedience which his boys——"
Here the Emperor laughed shrilly. "The power, the voice! The songstress, you should say. This whimsical volunteer with the voice of an angel, who is so tenderly treated by rough Appenzelder, is a woman, not a refractory choir boy. How you are blushing! You have proved a very inapt pupil in the art of dissimulation and disguise in my royal sister's service. Really and truly, I am right!"
Here another bow from Wolf confirmed the Emperor's conjecture; but the latter, highly pleased with his own penetration, laughed softly, exclaiming to the baron: "Where were our ears? This masquerade is surely the work of the Queen, who so dearly loves the chase. And she forbade you too, Malfalconnet, to give me your confidence?" Again a silent bow assented.
The Emperor bent his eyes on the ground a short time, and then said, half in soliloquy: "It was not possible otherwise. Whence could a boy learn the ardent, yearning longing of which that 'Quia amore langueo' was so full? And the second, less powerful voice, which accompanied her, was that a girl's too? No? Yet that also, I remember, had a suggestion of feminine tenderness. But only the marvellously beautiful melody of one haunted me. I can hear it still. The irresistible magic of this 'Amore langueo' mingled even in my conversation with Granvelle."
Then he passed his hand across his lofty brow, and in a different tone asked Wolf, "So it is a girl, and a native of this city?"
"Yes, your Majesty," was the reply.
"And, in spite of the praise of the gracious mother of God, a Protestant, like the other fools in this country?"
"No, my lord," replied the nobleman firmly; "a pious Catholic Christian."
"Of what rank?"
"She belongs, through both parents, to a family of knightly lineage, entitled to bear a coat-of-arms and appear in the lists at tournaments. Her father has drawn his sword more than once in battle against the infidels—at the capture of Tunis, under your own eyes, your Majesty, and in doing so he unfortunately ruined the prosperity of his good, ancient house."
"What is his name?"
"A big, broad-shouldered German fighter, with a huge mustache and pointed beard. Shot in the leg and wounded in the shoulder. Pious, reckless, with the courage of a lion. Afterward honoured with the title of captain."
Full of honest amazement at such strength of memory, Wolf endeavoured to express his admiration; but the imperial general interrupted him with another question, "And the daughter? Does her appearance harmonize with her voice?"
"I think so," replied Wolf in an embarrassed tone.
"Wonderfully beautiful and very aristocratic," said the baron, completing the sentence, and raising the tips of his slender fingers to his lips.
But this gesture seemed to displease his master, for he turned from him, and, looking the young Ratisbon knight keenly in the face, asked suspiciously, "She is full of caprices—I am probably right there also—and consequently refuses to sing?"
"Pardon me, your Majesty," replied Wolf eagerly. "If I understand her feelings, she had hoped to earn your Majesty's approval, and when she received no other summons, nay, when your Majesty for the second time countermanded your wish to hear the boy choir, she feared that her art had found no favour in your Majesty's trained ears, and, wounded and disheartened—"
"Nonsense!" the Emperor broke in wrathfully. "The contrary is true. The Queen of Hungary was commissioned to assure the supposed boy of my approval. Tell her this, Sir Wolf Hartschwert, and do so at once. Tell her—"
"She rode to the forest with some friends," Wolf timidly ventured to interpose to save himself other orders impossible to execute. "If she has not returned home, it might be difficult—"
"Whether difficult or easy, you will find her," Charles interrupted. "Then, with a greeting from her warmest admirer, Charles, the music lover, announce that he does not command, but entreats her to let him hear again this evening the voice whose melody so powerfully moved his heart.—You, Baron, will accompany the gentleman, and not return without the young lady!—What is her name?"
"Barbara," repeated the sovereign, as if the name evoked an old memory; and, as though he saw before him the form of the woman he was describing, he added in a low tone: "She is blue-eyed, fairskinned and rosy, slender yet well-rounded. A haughty, almost repellent bearing. Thick, waving locks of golden hair."
"That is witchcraft!" the baron exclaimed. "Your Majesty is painting her portrait in words exactly, feature by feature. Her hair is like that of Titian's daughter."
"Apparently you have not failed to scrutinize her closely," remarked the Emperor sharply. "Has she already associated with the gentlemen of the court?"
Both promptly answered in the negative, but the Emperor continued impatiently: "Then hasten! As soon as she is here, inform me.—The meal, Malfalconnet, must be short-four courses, or five at the utmost, and no dessert. The boy choir is not to be stationed in the chapel, but in the dining hall, opposite to me.—We leave the arrangement to you, Sir Wolf. Of course, a chair must be placed for the lady.—Have the larger table set in another room, baron, and, for ought I care, serve with all twenty courses and a dessert. Old Marquise de Leria will remain here. She will occupy Queen Mary's seat at my side. On account of the singer, I mean. Besides, it will please the marquise's vanity."
His eyes sparkled with youthful fire as he gave these orders. When the ambassadors were already on the threshold, he called after them:
"Wherever she may be, however late it may become, you will bring her. And," he added eagerly, as the others with reverential bows were retiring, "and don't forget, I do not command—I entreat her."
When he was alone, Charles drew a long breath, and, resting his head on his hand, his thoughts returned to the past. Half-vanished pictures unconsciously blended with the present, which had so unexpectedly assumed a bright colouring.
"Barbara," he murmured, almost inaudibly. Then he continued in soliloquy: "The beautiful Jungfrau Groen in Brussels was also called Barbara, and she was the first. Another of this name, and perhaps the last. How can this ardent yearning take root in my seared soul and grow so vigorously?"
Meanwhile he fancied that the "Quia amore langueo" again greeted him yearningly in the sweet melody of her voice.
"How powerfully the ear affects the heart!" he continued, pursuing the same train of thought. "Slender, well-rounded, golden-haired. If she should really resemble the Brussels Barbara! Malfalconnet is a connoisseur. Perhaps, after these gloomy days and years, a semblance of sunlight may return. It is long enough since politics and war have granted me even the slightest refreshment of the heart. And yet, methinks Heaven might feel under obligation to do something for the man who has made it his life-task to hold its enemies in check."
He rose quickly as he spoke, and, while moving forward to ring the little bell whose peal summoned the valet, not the slightest trace of the gouty pain in his foot was perceptible.
Adrian saw with joyful surprise that his master approached without a crutch the door through which he had come, and the faithful servant expressed his astonishment in terms as eager as his position permitted.
On reaching his sleeping-room, the Emperor interrupted him. He wished to be dressed for dinner.
Master Adrian would not believe his own ears. He was to bring one of the new reception robes, and yet to-day not even the Queen of Hungary was to share his Majesty's repast. One of the costliest new costumes! What had come over his lord, who for months, when no distinguished guests were present, had worn only the most comfortable and often very shabby clothes at table, saving the better new garments like an economical housekeeper?
But Charles was not satisfied even with these, for, when Adrian hung over the back of a chair a handsome black court dress, slashed with satin, his master signed to him to take it away, and asked for one of the newest works of art of his Brussels tailor, a violet velvet garment, with slashes of golden yellow sill: on the breast, in the puffed sleeves and short plush breeches. With this were silk stockings tightly incasing the feet and limbs, as well as a ruff and cuffs of Mechlin lace.
Shaking his head, the valet took these articles of dress from the chest; but before he put them on his master, the latter sat down to have his hair and beard carefully arranged.
For weeks he had performed this slight task himself, though with very ill success, for his hair and beard had seemed to his visitors rough and unkempt. This time, on the contrary, mirror in hand, he directed the work of the skilful servant with many an objection, showing as much vanity as in his youth.
After Adrian had put on the new costume, the Emperor shook off the large, warm boot, and held out his gouty foot to the valet.
The faithful fellow gazed beseechingly into his master's face, and modestly entreated him to remember the pain from which he had scarcely recovered; but the Emperor imperiously commanded, "The shoes!" and the servant brought them and cautiously, with grave anxiety, fitted the low-cut violet satin shoes on his feet.
Lastly, the sovereign ordered the Golden Fleece, which he usually wore on a hook below his neck, to be put on the gold chain which, as the head of the order, he had a right to wear with it, and took from the jewel case several especially handsome rings and a very costly star of diamonds and rubies, which he had fastened in the knot of the bow of his ruff. The state sword and sheath, which Adrian handed to him unasked, were rejected.
He needed no steel weapons to-day; the victory he sought must be won by his person.
When the servant held the Venetian mirror before him, he was satisfied. The elderly, half-broken-down man of the day before had become a tall, stately noble in the prime of life; nay, in spite of his forty-six years, his eyes sparkled far more brightly and proudly than many a young knight's in his train.
His features, even now, did not show beautiful symmetry, but they bore the stamp of a strong, energetic mind. The majestic dignity which he knew how to bestow upon it, made his figure, though it did not exceed middle height, appear taller; and the self-confident smile which rested on his full lips, as he was sure of a speedy triumph, well beseemed a general whose sword and brain had gained the most brilliant victories.
Adrian had seen him thus more than once after battles had been won or when he had unhorsed some strong antagonist in the tournament, but it was many a long year ago. He felt as though a miracle was wrought before his eyes, and, deeply loved, kissed his master's sleeve.
Charles noticed it, and, as if in token of gratitude, patted him lightly on the shoulder. This was not much, but it made the faithful fellow happy. How long it was since the last time his imperial aster had gladdened him by so friendly a sign of satisfaction!
Were the days to return when, in the Netherlands, Charles had condescended to treat even humble folk with blunt familiarity?
Adrian did not doubt that he should learn speedily enough what had caused this unexpected change; but the discovery of the real reason was now far from his alert mind, because he was still confident that the Emperor's heart had for years been closed against the charms of woman. Nevertheless, the experienced man told himself that some woman must be connected with this amazing rejuvenation. Otherwise it would surely have been one of the wonders which he knew only from legends.
And lo! Chamberlain de Praet was already announcing a lady—the Marquise de Leria.
If Master Adrian had ever permitted himself to laugh in his master's presence, it would certainly have happened this time, for the curtseying old woman in velvet, silk, and plumes, whose visit his Majesty did not refuse, was probably the last person for whose sake Charles endured the satin shoe on his sensitive foot.
How oddly her round, catlike head, with its prominent cheek bones, and the white wig combed high on the top, contrasted with the rouged, sunken cheeks and eyebrows dyed coal black!
Adrian hastily calculated that she was not far from seventy. But how tightly she laced, how erect was her bearing, how sweet the smile on her sunken mouth! And how did her aged limbs, which must have lost their flexibility long ago, accomplish with such faultless grace the low curtseys, in which she almost touched the floor?
But the valet, who had grown gray in Charles's service, had witnessed still more surprising things, and beheld the presence of royalty bestow strength for performances which even now seemed incomprehensible. The lame had leaped before his eyes, and feeble invalids had stood erect long hours when the duties of the court, etiquette, the command of royalty, compelled them to do so.
What a mistress in ruling herself the marquise had become during her long service at the French and Netherland courts! for not a feature betrayed her surprise at the Emperor's altered appearance while she was thanking him fervently for the favour of being permitted to share the meal with the august sovereign, which had bestowed so much happiness upon her.
Charles cut this speech short, and curtly requested her to take under her charge, in his royal sister's place, a young lady of a noble family.
The marquise cast a swift glance of understanding at the Emperor, and then, walking backward with a series of low bows, obeyed the sovereign's signal to leave him.
Without any attempt to conceal from the valet the strong excitement that mastered him, Charles at last impatiently approached the window and looked down into the Haidplatz.
When his master had turned his back upon him, Adrian allowed himself to smile contentedly. Now he knew all, and therefore thought, for the first time, that a genuine miracle had been wrought in the monarch. Yet it gave him pleasure; surely it was a piece of good fortune that this withering trunk was again putting forth such fresh buds.
Wolf Hartschwert had asked the guards who were stationed at the end of Red Cock Street whether any riders had passed them.
Several horses always stood saddled for the service of the court. Malfalconnet mounted his noble stallion, and Count Lanoi, the equerry, gave his companion a good horse and furnished two mounted torch-bearers.
But the Emperor's envoys had not far to ride; halfway between the abbey of Prufening and Ratisbon, just outside the village of Dcchbetten, they met the returning excursionists.
Barbara's voice reached Wolf from a considerable distance.
He knew the playmate of his childhood; her words never sounded so loud and sharp unless she was excited.
She had said little on the way out, and Herr Peter Schlumperger asked what had vexed her. Then she roused herself, and, to conquer the great anxiety which again and again took possession of her, she drank Herr Peter's sweet Malmsey wine more recklessly than usual.
At last, more intoxicated by her own vivacity than by the juice of the grape, she talked so loudly and freely with the other ladies and gentlemen that it became too much even for Frau Kastenmayr, who had glanced several times with sincere anxiety from her golden-haired favourite to her brother, and then back to Barbara.
Such reckless forwardness ill beseemed a chaste Ratisbon maiden and the future wife of a Peter Schlumperger, and she would gladly have urged departure. But some of the city pipers had been sent to the forest, and when they began to play, and Herr Peter himself invited the young people to dance, her good humour wholly disappeared; for Barbara, whom the young gentlemen eagerly sought, had devoted herself to dancing with such passionate zest that at last her luxuriant hair became completely loosened, and for several measures fluttered wildly around her. True, she had instantly hastened deeper into the woods with Nandl Woller, her cousin, to fasten it again, but the incident had most unpleasantly wounded Frau Kastenmayr's strict sense of propriety.
Nothing unusual ought to happen to a girl of Barbara's age, and the careless manner in which she treated what had befallen her before the eyes of so many men angered the austere widow so deeply that she withdrew a large share of her favour. This was the result of the continual singing.
Any other girl would fasten her hair firmly and resist flying in the dance from one man's arm to another's, especially in the presence of a suitor who was in earnest, and who held aloof from these amusements of youth.
Doubtless it was her duty to keep her brother from marriage with a girl who, so long as her feet were moving in time to the violins and clarionets, did not even bestow a single side glance upon her estimable lover.
So her displeasure had caused the early departure.
Torch-bearers rode at the head of the tolerably long train of the residents of Ratisbon, and some of the guests carried cressets. So there was no lack of light, and as the lantern in her neighbour's hand permitted the baron to recognise Barbara, Malfalconnet, according to the agreement, rode up to the singer, while Wolf accosted Herr Peter Schlumperger, and informed him of the invitation which the steward, in the Emperor's name, was bringing his fair guest.
The Ratisbon councillor allowed him to finish his explanation, and then with quiet dignity remarked that his Majesty's summons did not concern him. It rested entirely with jungfrau Blomberg to decide whether she would accept it at so late an hour.
But Barbara had already determined.
The assent was swift and positive, but neither the light of the more distant torches nor of the lantern close at hand was brilliant enough to show the baron how the girl's face blanched at the message that the Emperor Charles did not command, but only humbly entreated her to do him a favour that evening.
She had with difficulty uttered a few words of thanks; but when the adroit baron, with flattering urgency, besought her to crown her kindness and remember the saying that whoever gives quickly gives doubly, she pressed her right hand on her throbbing heart, and rode to Frau Kastenmayr's side to explain briefly what compelled her to leave them, and say to her and her brother a few words of farewell and gratitude.
Herr Peter replied with sincere kindness; his sister with equally well-meant chilling displeasure. Then Barbara rode on with the two envoys, in advance of the procession, at the swiftest trot. Her tongue, just now so voluble, seemed paralyzed. The violent throbbing of her heart fairly stopped her breath. A throng of contradictory thoughts and feelings filled her soul and mind. She was conscious of one thing only. A great, decisive event was imminent, and the most ardent wish her heart had ever cherished was approaching its fulfilment.
It is difficult to talk while riding rapidly; but Malfalconnet was master of the power of speech under any circumstances, and the courtier, with ready presence of mind, meant to avail himself of the opportunity to win the favour of the woman whose good will might become a precious possession.
But he was not to accomplish this, for, when he addressed the first question to Barbara, she curtly replied that she did not like to talk while her horse was trotting.
Wolf thought of the loud voice which had reached him a short time before from the midst of the Ratisbon party, but he said nothing, and the baron henceforward contented himself with occasionally uttering a few words.
The whole ride probably occupied only a quarter of an hour, but what a flood of thoughts and feelings swept in this short time through Barbara's soul!
She had just been enraged with herself for her defiance and the reckless haste which perhaps had forever deprived her of the opportunity to show the Emperor Charles her skill as a singer. The cruel anxiety which tortured her on this account had urged her at Prufening to the loud forwardness which hitherto she had always shunned. She had undoubtedly noticed how deeply this had lowered her in Frau Kastenmayr's esteem, and the discovery had been painful and wounded her vanity; but what did she care now for her, for her brother, for all Ratisbon? She was riding toward the great man who longed to see her, and to whom—she herself scarcely knew whence she gained the courage—she felt that she belonged.
She had looked up to him as to a mountain peak whose jagged summit touched the sky when her father and others had related his knightly deeds, his victories over the most powerful foes, and his peerless statesmanship. Only the day before yesterday she had listened to Wolf with silent amazement when he told her of the countries and nations over which this mightiest of monarchs reigned, and described the magnificence of his palaces in the Netherlands, in Spain, and in Italy. Of the extent of his wealth, and the silver fleets which constantly brought to him from the New World treasures of the noble metal of unprecedented value, Barbara had already heard many incredible things.
Yet, during this ride through the silent night, she did not even bestow the lightest thought upon the riches of the man who was summoning her to his side. The gold, the purple, the ermine, the gems, and all the other splendours which she had seen, as if in a dream, hovering before her at the first tidings that she was invited to sing before the Emperor Charles, had vanished from her imagination.
She only longed to display her art before the greatest of men, whose "entreaty" had intoxicated her with very different power from the Malmsey at Herr Peter's table, and show herself worthy of his approval. That the mightiest of the mighty could not escape pain seemed to her like a mockery and a spiteful cruelty of Fate, and at the early mass that day she had prayed fervently that Heaven might grant him recovery.
Now she believed that it was in her own hands to bring it to him.
How often had she been told that her singing possessed the power to cheer saddened souls! Surely the magic of her art must exert a totally different influence upon the man to whom her whole being attracted her than upon the worthy folk here, for whom she cared nothing. She, ay, she, was to free his troubled spirit from every care, and if she succeeded, and he confessed to her that he, too, found in her something unusual, something great in its way, then the earnest diligence which Master Feys had often praised in her would be richly rewarded; then she would be justified in the pride which, notwithstanding her poverty, was a part of her, like her eyes and her lips, and for which she had so often been blamed.
She had always rejected coldly and unfeelingly the young men who sought her favour, but with what passionate yearning her heart throbbed for the first person whom she deemed worthy of it, yet from whom she expected nothing save warm sympathy for the musical talents which she held in readiness for him, earnest appreciation which raised her courage, and also, perhaps, the blissful gift of admiration!
Never had she rejoiced so gleefully, so proudly, and so hopefully in the magic of her voice, and she also felt it as a piece of good fortune that she was beautiful and pure as the art with which she expected to elevate and cheer his soul.
Transported out of herself, she did not heed the starry heavens above her head, at which she usually gazed with so much pleasure—Wolf had taught her to recognise the most beautiful planets and fixed stars—nor at the night birds which, attracted by the torches of the horsemen riding in advance, often darted close by her, nor the flattering words to which she was wont to listen willingly, and which few understood how to choose better than the well-trained breaker of hearts at her side.
The envoys had taken care that the city gate should be kept open for them. Not until the hoofs of her gray horse rang upon the pavement did Barbara awake from the dream of longing which had held her captive. She started in alarm, raised her little plumed cap, and drew a long breath. The ancient, well-known houses along the sides of the streets brought her back to reality and its demands.
She could not appear before the Emperor just as she was, in her riding habit, with disordered hair. Besides, her head was burning after the dancing and the wine which she had drunk. She must calm herself ere entering the presence of the royal connoisseur whose approval could render her so happy, whose dissatisfaction or indifference would make her wretched.
Quickly forming her resolution, she turned to Malfalconnet and explained that she could not appear before his Majesty until after she had allowed herself a short period of rest; but the baron, who probably feared that some feminine caprice would spoil, even at the twelfth hour, the successful issue of his mission, thought that he must deny this wish, though in the most courteous manner and with the assurance that he would procure her an opportunity to collect her thoughts quietly in the Golden Cross.
Barbara unexpectedly wheeled her horse, struck him a blow with the whip, and called to the astonished gentlemen, "In front of the Golden Cross in a quarter of an hour. You, Wolf, can wait for me at the Grieb."
The last words were already dying away as she clashed swiftly up the street and across the Haidplatz. Bright sparks flashed from the paving stones struck by her horse's hoofs.
"Confounded witch!" cried Malfalconnet. "And how the unruly girl wheels her horse and sits erect in her wild career over the flagstones! If the gray falls, it will do her no harm. Such rising stars may drop from the skies, but they will leap up again like the cats which I threw from the roof when a boy. His Majesty will get something to trouble him if he continues his admiration. Sacre Dieu! What a temperament!—and a German!"
Hitherto both had ridden on at a walk, gazing after Barbara, although she had already vanished in the darkness, which was illumined only by the stars in the cloudless sky. Now the clock struck half-past ten, and Malfalconnet exclaimed, half to the young knight, half to himself, "If only the wild bird does not yet escape our snare!"
"Have no fear," replied Wolf. "She will keep her promise, for she is truthfulness itself. But you would oblige me, Herr Baron, if in future you use a tone less light in speaking of this young lady, who is worthy of every honour. Her reputation is as faultless as the purity of her voice, and, obstinate as she may be——"
"So this masterpiece of the Creator finds much favour in your eyes and your keen ears, Sir Knight," Malfalconnet gaily interrupted. "From any one else, my young friend, I should not suffer such a warning to pass; but we are now riding in the Emperor's precincts, so it would cause me sore embarrassment if my steel pierced you, for my neck, which is very precious to me, would then probably fall under the rude axe of the executioner. Besides, I wish you well, as you know, and I understand you German pedants. Henceforward—I swear it by all the saints!—I will utter no disrespectful word of your lovely countrywoman until you yourself release my tongue."
"That will never be done!" Wolf eagerly protested, "and the mere supposition would force me to bare my sword, if it were not you——"
"If it were not sheer madness for your thumb-long parade dagger to cross blades with my good sword," laughed Malfalconnet. "Ere you drew your rapier, I think your lust for murder would have fled. So let us leave our blades in their sheaths and permit my curiosity, to ask just one more question: What consideration induces you, Sir Knight, to constrain yourself to discreet peaceableness toward me, who, Heaven knows, excited your ire with no evil intent?"
"The same which restrains you from the duel with me," replied Wolf quietly; and then, in a warmer tone, continued: "You are dear to me because you have shown me kindness ever since I came to the court. But you are the last person who would admit that gratitude should fetter the hand which desires to defend itself. In comparison with you, Baron, I am but an insignificant man, but noble blood flows in my veins as well as in yours, and I, too, am no coward. Perhaps you suspect it because I have accepted many things from you which I would overlook from no one else. But I know that, however your jesting tongue sins against me, it has nothing to do with your disposition, whose kindness has ever been proved when the occasion offered. But you are now denying respect to a lady—"
"From that, too, my heart is as far removed as the starry sky above our heads from the wretched pavement of this square," Malfalconnet interrupted.
"Yes, Sir Knight, you judged me aright, and God save me from thinking or speaking evil of a lady who is so dear to the heart of a friend!"
As he spoke he held out his right hand to his companion with gay yet stately cordiality.
Wolf eagerly clasped it, and directly after both swung themselves from their horses in the courtyard of the Golden Cross, Malfalconnet to inform the Emperor of the successful result of his ride, the Ratisbon knight to arrange for the proper stationing of the boy choir, and then, obedient to Barbara's injunction, to go to the Grieb.
He knew the baron, and was aware that any one whom this chivalrous gentleman assured of his friendship might rely upon it, but that he did not spare even the most sacred things if he might hope thereby to win the approval and arouse the mirth of his imperial master.
In the glad conviction that he had done his best for the woman he loved, and yet had not forfeited the favour of the influential man to whom he owed a debt of gratitude, whose active mind he admired, and who had, moreover, won his affection, he went to the neighbouring Grieb.
The favour which the Emperor showed Barbara seemed to him not only a piece of great good fortune for her, but also for himself. He knew Charles's delicate appreciation of music, and could confidently anticipate that her voice would satisfy him and win his interest. But if this occurred, and the sovereign learned that Wolf wished to marry the singer to whom their Majesties owed such great pleasure, it would be an easy matter for the Emperor to place him in a position which could not fail to content the just desire of the girl whom he loved for an existence free from want. The interview with the monarch, to which he was to lead Barbara at once, therefore seemed to him like a bridge to her consent, and when he met at the Ark the court musician, Massi, followed by a servant carrying his violin case, he called to him: "Just look at the shining stars up above us, Massi! They are friendly to me, and, if they keep their promise, the journey here will be blessed."
"Amen!" replied the other as he pressed his hand cordially and asked for further particulars; but Wolf put him off until the next day, exclaim ing: "Jungfrau Blomberg, whose voice and execution bewitched you also, is now to sing before his Majesty. Wish her the best luck, for on her success depend many things for her, and perhaps for your friend also. Once more, uphold us!"
He turned toward the Grieb as he spoke, and the longing for Barbara quickened his pace.
The fear that the gouty monarch could cherish any other wishes concerning the young girl than to enjoy her singing was farthest from his thoughts.
Who would ever have seen an aspirant for woman's favour in the suffering Emperor, bowed during the last few years by the heaviest political cares, and whose comparative youthfulness was easily overlooked?
At the main entrance of the Grieb Wolf was accosted by the master of the house.
The wife of this obedient husband, Frau Lerch, known throughout all Ratisbon as "Lerch, the mantuamaker," had told him to keep watch, and impressed it upon him to let no one, no matter who it might be, enter her rooms on the ground floor except the cantor knight, as she called Wolf.
Barbara had had little time for reflection as she fled from the Emperor's envoys, but a clever woman's brain thinks quickly when an important decision is to be made, and while turning the gray she had decided that it would be better for her purpose, and the haste connected with it, to go to Frau Lerch than to her own home.