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Barbara Blomberg
by Georg Ebers
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In the Grieb she was sure of finding admittance at once if she knocked at Frau Lerch's window, while the cantor house was closed early, and a long time might pass before the door opened to her. Besides, she did not know how her father, who could never be depended upon in such matters, would regard the honour that awaited her; thirdly—and this alone was decisive—the white dress, which she meant to wear instead of the riding habit, was at Frau Lerch's, and what good service the skilful, nimble fingers of her mother's ex-maid could render in this hurried change of garb.

Besides, it had also darted into her mind that the baron might accompany her to her shabby abode, and that would have seemed like a humiliation. Why should the court know what indigent circumstances had been the portion of the artist to whom the Emperor, through no less a personage than Baron Malfalconnet, sent an "entreaty" for her appearance?

All this had been clear to her in the course of a few seconds, and her choice had proved fortunate, for the gate of the Grieb was still unlocked, and the old hostler Kunz, who had been in the service of the Gravenreuths, the former owners of the Grieb, and had known "Wawerl" from childhood, was just coming out of the tavern, and willingly agreed to take the gray back to Peter Schlumperger's stable.

When Barbara entered the huge building a ray of light shone from the private chapel at the left, dedicated to Saint Dorothea.

This seemed to her like a sign from heaven, and, before knocking at Frau Lerch's door, she glided into the sanctuary, threw herself upon her knees before the image of the saint, and besought her to bestow the most melting sweetness and the deepest influence upon her voice while singing before his Majesty.

Then it seemed as though the face of the kindly saint smiled assent, and in hurried words Barbara added that the great monarch was also the most thorough connoisseur, and the altar here should lack neither candles nor flowers if she would bestow upon her the power to win his approval. While speaking, she raised her clasped hands toward the Virgin's image, and concluded her fervent prayer with the passionate exclamation: "Oh, hear me, hear me, thou inexhaustible fountain of mercy, for if I do not fulfil what he expected when he entreated me to sing before him, and I see that he lets me go disappointed, the peace of this heart will be destroyed! Hear, oh, hear me, august Queen of Heaven!"

Relieved and strengthened, she at last sprang up, and a few minutes after Frau Lerch, with loud exclamations of admiration, was combing her long, thick, waving locks of fair hair.

Overflowing with delight at such beauty, the thin little woman then helped her "darling Wawerl," her "wonderfully sweet nightingale," to change her dress.

Wolf's gift, the velvet robe with the marten border, would have been too heavy and oppressive for singing, and, besides, was not yet finished. Barbara, she declared, had done right to choose the white one, which was intended for the next dance at the New Scales. Nothing could be more becoming to her enchanting little princess, and Barbara yielded herself entirely to the experienced assistant, who had all the laces and ribbons she needed close at hand. She could even supply her with new and dainty satin shoes.

While Frau Lerch was working with wonderful dexterity, she also permitted her nimble tongue no rest. In the tenderest accents of faithful maternal solicitude she counselled her how to conduct herself in his Majesty's presence. Hurriedly showing Barbara how the stiff Spanish ladies of the court curtsied, she exclaimed: "And another thing, my darling pet: It is important for all ladies, even those of royal blood, to try to win the favour of so great a monarch when they meet him for the first time. You can use your eyes, too, and how effectually! I saw you a short time ago, and, if I had been a young gentleman, how gladly I would have changed places with the handsome recruiting officer Pyramus at the New Scales! That was a flaming fire! Now, isn't it true, darling—now we no longer have even a single glance for such insignificant fellows! Consider that settled! But things of that sort have no effect upon his august Majesty. You must cast down your sparkling blue eyes in modest embarrassment, as if you still wore the confirmation wreath. All the fashionable sons of the burghers complain of your repellent coldness. Let his Majesty feel it too. That will pour oil on the flames, and they must blaze up high; I'd stake both my hands on it, much as I need them. But if it results as I expect, my darling, don't forget old Lerch, who loves you even more than your own mother did. How beautiful and stately she was! But she forgot her little Wawerl only too often. I have a faithful nature, child, and understand life. If, sooner or later, you need the advice of a true, helpful friend, you know where to find little old Lerch."

These warnings had sounded impressive enough, but Barbara had by no means listened attentively. Instead, she had been anticipating, with torturing impatience, her appearance before the great man for whom she was adorned and the songs which she would have to sing. If she was permitted to choose herself, he would also hear the bird-song, with the "Car la saison est bonne," which had extorted such enthusiastic applause from the Netherland maestro.

But no!

She must choose something grander, more solemn, for she wished to make a deeper, stronger, more lasting impression upon the man who was now to listen to her voice.

Mere lukewarm satisfaction would not content her in the case of the Emperor Charles; she wished to arouse his enthusiasm, his rapture. What bliss it would be if she was permitted to penetrate deeply into his soul, if it were allotted to her to make the ruler's grave eyes sparkle with radiant delight!

In increasing excitement, she saw herself, in imagination, lowering the sheet of music, and the sovereign, deeply moved, holding out both hands to her.

But that would have been too much happiness! What if the violent throbbing of her heart should silence her voice? What if the oppressive timidity, which conquers every one who for the first time is permitted to stand in the presence of majesty, should cause her to lose her memory and be unable to find the mood which she required in order to execute her task with the perfection that hovered before her mind?

Yes, that would happen! With cruel self-torture she dwelt upon the terrible dread, for she thought she had noticed that the best success often followed when she had expected the worst result. Fran Lerch perceived what was passing in her mind, and instilled courage until she had finished her work and held up the mirror before Barbara.

The girl, whether she desired to do so or not, could not help looking in. She did it reluctantly, and, after hastily assuring herself that she was presentable, she turned the glittering disk away and would not glance at it again.

She feared that the contemplation of her own image might disturb her; she wished to think only of the worthy execution of her task, and the shorter time she kept the Emperor waiting the less she need fear having an ill-humoured listener.

So she hurriedly ejaculated a few words of gratitude to the old attendant and seized the kerchief for her head, which she had taken to Prufening with her; but the dressmaker wound around her hair a costly lace veil which she had ready for a customer.

"The valuable article may be lost," she thought. "But if, sooner or later, something happens which my lambkin, who thinks only of her sweet babble, does not dream, it will return to me with interest. Besides, she must see what maternal affection I feel for her." Then, with tender caution, she kissed the girl's glowing cheeks, and the blessing with which she at last dismissed her sounded devout and loving enough.

Wolf had not waited long; it was just striking eleven when Barbara met him at the door talking with Herr Lerch, the owner of the house.

Before leaving the Grieb, she again glanced into the chapel in the courtyard dedicated to Saint Dorothea, and uttered a swift though silent prayer for good success, and that her singing might have a deep influence upon the august hearer.

Meanwhile she scarcely heeded what her friend was saying, and, while walking at his side the short distance through a part of Red Cock Street and across the Haidplatz, he had no words from her lips except the request that he would tell her father of the great honour awaiting her.

Wolf, too, had imposed silence upon himself; it was necessary for the singer, on the eve of this important performance, to refrain from talking in the night air.



CHAPTER XV.

Baron Malfalconnet possessed the gift of lending Time wings and using the simplest incident as the foundation for an entertaining story.

He knew that his Majesty did not like waiting, and the quarter of an hour which Barbara had mentioned might easily become a longer period. So he adorned the description of his ride as an envoy most generously with many partially invented details. Wolf, Herr Peter Schlumperger, Frau Kastenmayr, his estimable sister, and the party of Ratisbon excursionists, upon whom he had scarcely bestowed a passing glance, all played a large and by no means enviable part.

But he gained his object, for the impatient monarch listened gladly, and all the more willingly in proportion to the more brilliant eloquence with which the clever connoisseur of mankind placed Barbara in contrast to all the obscure, insignificant, and ridiculous personages whom he pretended to have met. The peculiar charm which her individuality thus obtained corresponded with the idea which the monarch himself had formed of the expected guest, and it flattered him to hear his conjecture so remarkably confirmed.

A few questions from the monarch followed the baron's report. While the latter was still answering the last one, Chamberlain de Praet announced the singer's arrival, and Count Bueren escorted the aged Marquise de Leria to the monarch.

The Emperor went at once to the table, and as he descended the stairs, leaning lightly on Malfalconnet's arm, it was scarcely perceptible that he used the left foot less firmly than the other.

According to his command, only the small table at which he was to sit with the marquise had been laid in the dining-room. The boy choir had taken a position opposite to it.

At his entrance Barbara rose quickly from the chair, into which she had sunk by no means from weariness.

With a throbbing heart, and still heavily oppressed by anxiety, she awaited the next moments and what they would bring.

The Benedictio Mensae was again to open the concert. She needed no notes for this familiar music. Yet she looked toward Appenzelder, who had thanked her for her appearance as if she had done him a great favour.

Now the orchestra behind her was silent. Now she saw the lackeys and attendants bow profoundly. Now Appenzelder raised his arm.

She saw it, but he had not yet touched the desk with the little ebony staff, and she availed herself of the pause to glance toward the anxiously expected sovereign, whose presence she felt.

There he stood.

Barbara scarcely noticed the old lady at his left; he, he alone captivated her eyes, her heart, her senses, her whole being.

What a happy surprise!

How Wolf, Maestro Gombert, and others had described the Emperor, and how he stood before her!

This chivalrous, superb, almost youthful gentleman and hero, whose haughty, self-assured bearing so admirably suited the magnificence of his rich-hued garments, was said to be a gouty old man, bowed by the weight of care! Had it not been so abominable, it would have tempted her to laugh.

How petty men were, how cruel was the fate of the great, to whom envy clings like their own shadow, and whose image was basely distorted even by those who knew the grandeur of their intellect and their deeds, and who owed to them their best success in life!

Her heart beat for this man, not only with the artist's desire to satisfy the connoisseur, no, but with stormy passion—she felt it now; yet, though the god of love was called a blind boy, she had retained the full, clear strength of vision and the absolute power of discernment.

No one, not even the handsomest young knight, could compare in her eyes with the mature, powerful guide of the destiny of many millions, whose lofty brow was illumined by the grandeur of his intellect, and with whose name the memory of glorious victories was associated. The pride justified by his birth had led him from one lofty deed to another, and he could not help carrying his head so high, for how far all the rest of mankind lay beneath him! There was no living mortal to whom the Emperor Charles would have been obliged to look up, or before whom he need bow his head at all.

She would fain have been able to stamp his image deeply, ineffaceably upon her soul. But, alas!

Just at that moment a short, imperious sound reached her ear. Appenzelder had struck the desk with his baton. The Benedictio must begin at once, and now her breath was really coming so quickly that it seemed impossible for her to sing in this condition.

Deeply troubled, she pressed her hand upon her bosom.

Then the cruel, tyrannical baton struck the wood a second time, and——

But what did this mean?

The Emperor had left his elderly companion after she was seated at the table, and was advancing—her eyes, clouded by anxious expectation, did not deceive her—and was walking with stately dignity toward the boy choir; no, not to it, but directly toward herself.—Now it seemed as though her heart stood still.

At no price could she have produced even a single note.

But it was not required, for the wave of the imperial hand which she saw was to Appenzelder, and commanded him to silence his choir.

The unexpected movement concerned her alone, and ere Barbara found time to ask herself what brought him to her, he already stood before her.

How friendly and yet how chivalrously stately as the slight bow which the monarch bestowed upon her; and he had scarcely done so when, in peculiar German, whose strange accent seemed to her extremely charming and musical, he exclaimed: "we welcome you to the Golden Cross, fairest of maidens. You now behold what man can accomplish when he strives for anything with genuine zeal. The wisest among the wise declare that even gods fail in the conflict against the obstinacy of beautiful women, and yet our longing desire succeeded in capturing you, lovely fugitive."

Barbara alternately flushed and paled as she listened to these words.

She had not heard Frau Lerch's counsel, and yet, obedient to a secret impulse, she timidly lowered her blue eyes. But not a word of the sovereign had escaped her, and, though she still lacked the power of speech, she found courage to smile and shake her head in denial.

The Emperor did not miss a single change of feature, and, swiftly understanding her mute contradiction, went on gaily: "Look! look! So, fairest of the fair, you refuse to acknowledge our glorious victory? That bears witness to a specially independent comprehension of things. But we, how are we to explain such a denial of an accomplished fact?"

Then Barbara summoned up courage and answered, still with downcast eyes, "But, your Majesty, how can I regard myself as conquered and captured when I voluntarily yielded to your Majesty's wish?"

"And may I perhaps also hope that it gives you pleasure to grant my entreaty?" asked the sovereign in a subdued tone, gazing as he spoke deep into the eyes which the young girl had just raised to his.

Barbara did not instantly find the reply she sought, and only bent her head in assent, but the Emperor was not satisfied with this mute answer, and eagerly desired to learn whether it was so difficult for her to admit what he so ardently wished to hear.

Meanwhile her quick intellect had found the fitting response, and, with a look which told the questioner more than she intended to betray, she answered softly: "Why should I not have fulfilled your Majesty's request gladly and proudly? But what followed the walk here, what befell me here, is so much more beautiful and greater—"

"And may we know," interrupted the Emperor urgently, "what you find here that affords your heart so much pleasure?

"You and your favour," she answered quickly, and the flush which suddenly crimsoned her cheeks showed him how deeply she was moved.

Then Charles went close to her and whispered: "And do you wish to know, most bewitching woman, how he, in whose presence you confess that you are glad to remain, looked forward to your coming? As he would greet happiness, spring. And note that I look you in the face, it seems as though Easter bells were pealing the resurrection of a love long buried in this breast. And you, maiden, you will not belie this hope?"

Barbara clung to the back of the chair for support, while from her deeply agitated soul struggled the exclamation: "This poor heart, my lord, belongs to you—to you alone! How it mastered me, who can describe? But here, my lord, now——"

Then the monarch whispered warmly: "You are right. What we have to say to each other requires a more fitting time and a different place, and we will find them."

Then he stepped back, drew himself up to his full height, waved his hand to her with gracious condescension, and in a loud, imperious tone commanded Appenzelder to begin the Benedictio.

"It rests with the lovely artist yonder," he added, glancing kindly at Barbara, "whether she will now ennoble with her wonderful voice the singing of the boy choir. Later she will probably allow us to hear the closing melody of the 'Ecce tu pulchra es', which, with such good reason, delighted the Queen of Hungary, and myself no less."

He seated himself at the table as he spoke, and devoted himself to the dishes offered him so eagerly that it was difficult to believe in the deep, yearning emotion that ruled him. Only the marquise at his side and Malfalconnet, who had joined the attendant nobles, perceived that he ate more rapidly than usual, and paid no attention to the preparation of the viands.

The aged eyes, of the Emperor's watchful companion, to whom up to the close of the repast he addressed only a few scattered words, also detected something else. Rarely, but nevertheless several times, the Emperor glanced at the boy choir, and when, in doing so, his Majesty's eyes met the singer's, it was done in a way which proved to the marquise, who had acquired profound experience at the French court, that an understanding existed between the sovereign and the artist which could scarcely date from that day. This circumstance must be considered, and behind the narrow, wrinkled brow of the old woman, whose cradle had stood in a ducal palace, thronged a succession of thoughts and plans precisely similar to those which had filled the mind of the dressmaker and ex-maid ere she gave Barbara her farewell kiss.

What the marquise at first had merely conjectured and put together from various signs, became, by constant assiduous observation, complete certainty when the singer, after a tolerably long pause, joined in Josquin's hymn to the Virgin.

In the Benedictio Mensae she remained silent, but at the first effective passage joined in the singing of the boys.

Not until the 'Tu pulchra es' did she display the full power of her art.

From the commencement she took part in the execution of this magnificent composition eagerly and with deep feeling, and when the closing bars began and the magic of her singing developed all its heart-thrilling power, the watchful lady in waiting perceived that his Majesty forgot the food and hung on Barbara's lips as though spellbound.

This was something unprecedented. But when the monarch continued for some time to display an abstemiousness so unlike him, the marquise cast a hasty glance of inquiry at Malfalconnet. But the affirmative answer which she expected did not come. Had the baron's keen eye failed to notice so important a matter, or had his Majesty taken him into his confidence and commanded him to keep the secret?

That Malfalconnet was merely avoiding making common cause with the old intriguer, was a suspicion which vanity led her to reject the more positively the more frequently her countryman sought her to learn what he desired to know.

Besides, she soon required no further confirmation, for what now happened put an end to every doubt.

Barbara had to sing the "Quia amore langueo" again, and how it sounded this time to the listening hearer!

No voice which the Emperor Charles had ever heard had put such pure, bewitching melody into this expression of the deepest yearning. It seemed as though the longing of the whole world was flowing to him from those fresh, young, beautifully formed red lips.

A heart which was not itself languishing for love could not pour forth to another with such convincing truth, overwhelming power, and glowing fervour the ardent longing of a soul seized by the omnipotence of love.

The mighty pressure of rising surges of yearning dashed against the monarch's heart, and with tremendous impetuosity roused on all sides the tender desires which for a long time had been gathering in his soul. It seemed as though this "Because I long for love" was blending with the long-repressed and now uncontrollable yearning that filled his own breast, and he was obliged to restrain himself in order not to rush toward this gifted singer, this marvellously lovely woman, whose heart was his, and, before the eyes of all, clasp her in his embrace.

The master of dissimulation forgot himself, and—what a delight to the eyes of the marquise!—the Emperor Charles, the great epicure and thirsty drinker, left the pasty and the wine, to listen standing, with hands resting on the table and outstretched head, to Barbara's voice.

It seemed as though he feared his ear might miss a note of this song, his eye a movement of this source of melody.

But when the song ceased, and Barbara, panting for breath, returned the ardent look of gratitude and delight which beamed upon her from his eyes, the Emperor left the table, and, without noticing Count Krockow, who was just lifting the silver cover from the roast capon, the last of the five dishes ordered, went up to Barbara.

Would he really end the meal now? The old marquise thought it impossible, but if the incredible event occurred, then things were to be expected, things——

But ere she had imagined how this unprecedented event could take place, the Emperor himself informed her, for, half addressing Barbara, half the lady in waiting, he exclaimed in a slightly muffled tone: "Thanks, cordial thanks for this great pleasure, my dear Jungfrau! But we wish to add to words another token of appreciation, a token of more lasting duration.—Do us the favour, Marquise de Leria, to conduct this noble artist to the upper rooms, that she may receive what we intended for her."

He left the hall as he spoke; but the marquise beckoned to Barbara, detained her with words of sweet flattery a short time and then, with the young girl, ascended the stairs up which the Emperor had preceded them.

Meanwhile the old noblewoman continued to talk with her; but Barbara did not listen. While following her guide, it seemed as though the steps her light foot trod were a heavenly ladder, and at their end the gates of Paradise would open.

She felt with inexpressible delight that she had never before succeeded so well in expressing a strong feeling in music, and what her song endeavoured to tell the Emperor—no, the man whom she loved—had been understood, and found an echo in his soul.

Could there be a greater happiness?

And yet, while she was approaching him, he must be awaiting her.

She had wished to arouse his attention, his approval, his delight in her singing. All three had become hers, and now new wishes had mastered her, and probably him also. She desired his love, he hers, and, fearing herself, she felt the great peril into which her aged companion was conducting her.

The Emperor was indeed the greatest and noblest of men! The mere consciousness that he desired not only her singing, but her heart, inspired the deepest bliss. Yet it seemed as if she ought not to cross the threshold of the room which opened before her; as if she ought to rush down the stairs and fly from him, as she had dashed away when his messengers wished to lead her to his presence.

But he was already advancing from the end of the large apartment, and the mere sight of him put an end to every further consideration and crushed her will.

Obedient to a glance from the Emperor's eyes, the marquise, bowing reverently, retreated into the corridor whence they had come and closed the door.

The clang against the jambs told Barbara that she was alone with the ruler of half the world, whom she dared to love.

But she was not granted a moment to collect her thoughts; the Emperor Charles already stood before her, and with the exclamation, "Quia amore langueo!" opened his arms.

She, too, was longing for love, and, as if intoxicated by the lofty feeling of being deemed worthy of the heart of this mighty sovereign, she yielded to his kisses; and as she herself threw her arm around his neck and felt—that she had a right to do so, it seemed as though an invisible hand was placing a royal crown upon her brow.

The joy which filled her little heart appeared too rich and great for it when, repeating the "Amore langueo" with her head upon his breast, he whispered sweet love phrases and confessed that those words, since she had sung them for the first time, had echoed through his hours of reflection, through the cares of business, through the brief hours of repose which he allowed himself, and so it must continue, and her love, her voice, and her beauty render the downward path of life the fairest portion which he had traversed.

Then Barbara, with the low exclamation, "Because I, too, long for love," again offered him her lips, and he accepted the sweet invitation with impetuous passion.

Already, for the second time since her entrance, the clock on Charles's writing-table struck the quarter of an hour, and, as if startled from a deep slumber, she withdrew from his embrace and gazed, as if bewildered, toward the door. Directly after it opened, and Don Luis Quijada with firm step entered the room.

The trusted favourite of the Emperor was always free to seek his presence. He had returned to Ratisbon in advance of the Queen of Hungary, who would not arrive until the following morning, and, after a brief conversation with Malfalconnet and Master Adrian, the loyal nobleman had gone without delay, and at the risk of angering him, to his imperial master. Without even rising from the divan, and still clasping the hand which Barbara attempted to withdraw as Don Luis advanced, Charles asked with stern rebuke what had caused his entrance at so late an hour. Quijada requested a brief audience, but Charles replied that he had nothing to conceal from this companion.

A low bow followed this remark; then, with quiet dignity, the major-domo reported that the leaders of the orchestra and the boy choir had been waiting below—and with them Sir Wolf Hartschwert and an old gentleman, the father of this lady—a considerable time for her return. So it seemed to him advisable, unless his majesty wished to reveal this sweet secret to the world, to part from his beautiful friend, at least for a short space.

The Emperor Charles did not permit such suggestions even from those who were nearest and dearest to him, and he was already starting up indignantly to thrust Don Luis back behind the barriers through which he had broken, when Barbara with tender persuasion entreated her lover, for her sake, to exercise caution. Charles at last consented to part from her for a time. He was sure of her; for he read in the dewy brightness of her eyes how hard it was for her also to release herself from his embrace.

Then, removing the diamond and ruby star from the lace at his neck, he pinned it on Barbara's bosom, with the exclamation, "In memory of this hour!"

He afterward added, as if in explanation, that the star might show to those below what had detained her here, and asked earnestly whether he might hope to see her again in an hour, if a faithful man—here he motioned to Quijada—accompanied her hither, and later escorted her home again?

A silent nod promised the fulfilment of this request.

The Emperor then carried on a short conversation with Quijada, which was unintelligible to Barbara; and after he had retired to summon the marquise, Charles profited, like an impetuous youth, by the brief period in which he was again alone with his love, and entreated her to consider that, if she remained absent long, the "amore langueo" would rob him of his reason.

"Your great intellect," she replied, with a faint sigh. "My small wits—Holy Virgin!—flew far away at the first word of love from the lips of my royal master."

Then, drawing herself up to her full height, she passed her hand across her brow and defiantly exclaimed: "And why should I think and ponder? I will be happy, and make you happy also, my only love!"

As she spoke she again threw herself upon his breast, but only for a few brief moments. Don Luis Quijada reappeared with the marquise, and conducted both ladies out of the imperial apartment.

Outside the door the major-domo detained Barbara, and had a tolerably long conversation with her, of which the marquise vainly endeavoured to catch even a few words.

At last he committed the girl to the old nobleman's charge and returned to the Emperor.

The marquise received Barbara with the assurance that she had found in her a warm, nay, a maternal friend.

If this beautiful creature was not alreadv the object of the Emperor's love, the experienced old woman told herself, she must very soon become so.

Yet there had never been a favourite at this monarch's court, and she was curious to learn what position would be assigned to her.

After accompanying the girl intrusted to her care down the stairs with flattering kindness, she committed her to the musicians and Wolf, who, with old Blomberg, were awaiting her in the chapel with increasing impatience. The captain had obtained admittance through Wolf.

At her first glance at Barbara the eyes of the old marquise had rested on the glittering star which the Emperor had fastened on the lady of his love.

The men did not notice it until after they had congratulated the singer upon her exquisite performance and the effect which it had produced upon his Majesty.

Maestro Gombert perceived it before the others, and Captain Blomberg and Wolf rejoiced with him and Appenzelder over this tangible proof of the imperial favour.

A conversation about the Emperor's judgment and the rarity with which he bestowed such costly tokens of his regard was commencing in the chapel, but Barbara speedily brought it to a close by the assurance that she was utterly exhausted and needed rest.

On the way home she said very little, but when Wolf, in the second story of the house, held out his hand in farewell, she pressed it warmly, and thanked him with such evident emotion that the young man entered his rooms full of hope and deep secret satisfaction.

After Barbara had crossed the threshold of hers, she said good-night to her father, who wished to learn all sorts of details, alleging that she could scarcely speak from weariness.

The old gentleman went to rest grumbling over the weakness of women in these days, to which even his sturdy lass now succumbed; but Barbara threw herself on her knees beside the bed in her room, buried her face in the pillows, and sobbed aloud. Another feeling, however, soon silenced her desire to weep. Her lover's image and the memory of the happy moments which she had just experienced returned to her mind. Besides, she must hasten to arrange her hair again, and—this time with her own hands—change her clothing.

While she was loosening her golden tresses and gazing into the mirror, her eyes again sparkled with joy. The greatest, the loftiest of mortals loved her. She belonged to him, body and soul, and she had been permitted to call him "her own."

At this thought she drew herself up still more haughtily in proud self-consciousness, but, as her glance fell upon the image of the Virgin above the priedieu, she again bowed her head.

Doubtless she desired to pray, but she could not.

She need confess nothing to the august Queen of Heaven. She knew that she had neither sought nor desired what now burdened her heart so heavily, and yet rendered her so infinitely happy. She had obeyed the Emperor's summons in order to win approval and applause for her art, and to afford the monarch a little pleasure and cheer, and, instead, the love of the greatest of all men had flamed ardently from the earth, she had left her whole heart with him, and given herself and all that was in her into his power. Now he summoned her—the Holy Virgin knew this, too—and she must obey, though the pure face yonder looked so grave and threatening.

And for what boon could she beseech the Queen of Heaven?

What more had the woman, to whom the Emperor's heart belonged, to desire?

The calmness of her soul was at an end, and not for all the kingdoms Charles possessed would she have exchanged the tumult and turmoil in her breast for the peace which she had enjoyed yesterday.

Obeying a defiant impulse, she turned from the benign face, and her hands fairly flew as, still more violently agitated, she completed the changes in her dress.

In unfastening the star, her lover's gift, she saw upon the gold at the back Charles's motto, "Plus ultra!"

Barbara had known it before, but had not thought of it for a long time, and a slight tremor ran through her frame as she said to herself that, from early childhood, though unconsciously, it had been hers also. Heaven—she knew it now—Fate destined them for each other.

Sighing heavily, she went at last, in a street dress, to open the bow-window which looked upon Red Cock Street.

Barbara felt as if she had outgrown herself. The pathos which she had often expressed in singing solemn church music took possession of her, and left no room in her soul for any frivolous emotion. Proud of the lofty passion which drew her with such mighty power to her lover's arms, she cast aside the remorse, the anxiety, the deep sense of wrong which had overpowered her on her return home.

What was greater than the certainty of being beloved by the greatest of men? It raised her far above all other women, and, since she loved him in return, this certainty could not fail to make her happy also, when she had once fully recovered her composure and ventured to look the wonderful event which had happened freely in the face.

The stars themselves, following their appointed course in yonder blue firmament—his device taught that—made her belong to him. If she could have forced herself to silence the desire of her heart, it would have been futile. Whoever divides two trees which have grown from a single root, she said to herself, destroys at least one; but she would live, would be happy on the highest summit of existence. She could not help obeying his summons, for as soon as she listened to the warning voice within, the "Because I long for love" with which he had clasped her in his arms, urged her with irresistible power toward the lover who awaited her coming.

The clock now struck two, and a tall figure in a Spanish cloak stood outside the door of the house. It was Don Luis Quijada, the Emperor's majordomo.

It would not do to keep him waiting, and, as she turned back into the room to take the little lamp, her glance again fell upon the Virgin's image above the priedieu and rested upon her head.

Then the figure of her imperial lover stood in tangible distinctness before her mind, and she imagined that she again heard the first cry of longing with which he clasped her in his arms, and without further thought or consideration she kissed her hand to the image, extinguished the little lamp, and hurried as fast as the darkness permitted into the entry and down the stairs.

Outside the house Wolf returned to her memory a moment.

How faithfully he loved her!

Yet was it not difficult to understand how she could even think of the poor fellow at all while hastening to the illustrious sovereign whose heart was hers, and who had taught her with what impetuous power true love seizes upon the soul. Barbara threw her head back proudly, and, drawing a long breath, opened the door of the house. Outside she was received by Quijada with a silent bend of the head; but she remembered the far more profound bows with which he greeted the monarch, and, to show him of how lofty a nature was also the woman whom the Emperor Charles deemed worthy of his love, she walked with queenly dignity through the darkness at her aristocratic companion's side without vouchsafing him a single glance.

Two hours later old Ursula was sitting sleepless in her bed in the second story of the cantor house. A slight noise was heard on the stairs, and the one-eyed maid-servant who was watching beside her exclaimed: "There it is again! just as it was striking two I said that the rats were coming up from the cellar into the house."

"The rats," repeated the old woman incredulously; and then, without moving her lips, thought: "Rats that shut the door behind them? My poor Wolf!"



ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:

The blessing of those who are more than they seem



BARBARA BLOMBERG

By Georg Ebers

Volume 4.



CHAPTER XVI.

"Poor Wolf!" old Ursel had exclaimed. But whoever had met the young knight the following morning, as he went up the stairs to the Blombergs' rooms, would have deemed him, like Baron Malfalconnet, the happiest of mortals.

He had obeyed Dr. Hiltner's summons, and remained a long time with him. Then he went home at a rapid pace, for he longed to tell Barbara how fair a prospect for their future was opening before him.

She had showed her liking for him plainly enough yesterday when they parted. What should prevent her from becoming his now that he could promise an ample income?

There was some one stirring in the private chapel as he passed, but he paid no heed; in former days many people from the neighbourhood prayed here frequently.

He found no one in the Blombergs' home except the father.

Barbara would certainly return immediately, the old man said. She had gone down to the chapel a short time before. She was not in the habit of doing so at this hour, but the great favour shown her by the Emperor had probably gone to her head, and who could wonder?

Wolf also thought it natural that so great a success should excite her powerfully: but he, too, had a similar one to relate, and, with joyful emotion, he now told the old gentleman what the syndic had offered.

The Council, which, by the establishment of the "Convivium," had already provided for the fostering of the noble art of music, wished to do still more. The project had been dear to the recently deceased Martin Luther, and the Ratisbon syndic, who had enjoyed his friendship, thought he was carrying out his wishes——

Here Wolf was interrupted, for the table groaned under the blow of the old warrior's still powerful fist, coupled with the exclamation: "So there is still to be no rest from the accursed disturber of the peace, although he is dead! No offence, my lad; but there can be nothing edifying to a good Christian where that Wittenberg fellow is concerned."

"Only have patience," Wolf interposed here, secure of victory, and now, slightly vexed with himself for his imprudence in mentioning Martin Luther's name to the old hater of Turks and heretics, he explained that Dr. Hiltner, in the name of the Council, had offered him the position of Damian Feys, Barbara's teacher. The Netherlander was going home, and the magistrate was glad to have found in him, Wolf, a native of Ratisbon who would be no less skilled in fostering music in this good city. To bind him securely, and avoid the danger of a speedy invitation elsewhere, the position offered was provided with an annual salary hitherto unprecedented in this country, and which far exceeded that of many an imperial councillor. This had been rendered possible through a bequest, whose interest was to be devoted to the development of music, and—if he should accept the place—to him and his future wife.

When he heard this, he would fain have instantly bestowed the most beautiful candles upon the Holy Virgin, but the scruple concerning religion had prevented his rejoicing fully; and when he told the syndic that under no circumstances could he abandon the old faith, it was done with the fear that the glittering bird would fly away from him. But the result had been different, for Dr. Hiltner replied that religion did not enter into the matter. He knew Wolf and his peaceful nature, and therefore hoped that he would be advised that music was a language equally intelligible to all persons of feeling, whatever tongue they spoke and whatever creed they preferred. This opinion was also that of the Catholic maestro Feys, and he had therefore escaped all difficulty. Wolf must, of course, consider the circumstances which he would find here. If he would accommodate himself to them, the Council would be willing to overlook his faith; besides, Hiltner, on his own authority, had given him the three days' time to reflect, for which he had asked on Barbara's account.

A long-drawn "H'm" from Blomberg followed this disclosure. Then he shook his clumsy head, and, grasping his mustache with his hand, as if he wanted in that way to stop the motion of his head, he said thoughtfully: "Not a whole thing, Wolf, rather a double one, or—if we look at it differently—it is only a half, for an honest friend of our Holy Church. The way into which they tempt you is paved with gold, but—but—I see the snares and pitfalls——"

He rose as he spoke, muttering all sorts of unintelligible things, until he finally exclaimed, "Yet perhaps one might——"

Then he looked impatiently toward the door, and asked: "Where is the girl loitering? Would Eve probably bite the apple of temptation also?"

"Shall I call her?" cried Wolf eagerly.

"No, no," said the captain. "It is sinful to disturb even our nearest relatives at prayer. Besides, you would not believe how the maestro's praises and the imperial gift have excited the vanity in her woman's nature. For the first time in I know not how many years, she overslept the hour of mass. It was probably ten o'clock when I knocked at her chamber door. Toward eleven there was a movement in her room. Then I opened the door to bid her good-morning, but she neither heard nor saw anything, and knelt at the priedieu as if turned to stone. Before going to sleep and early in the morning I expect such things, but when it is almost noon! Her porridge still stood untouched on the table here, and to-day there is no occasion for fasting. But I did not like to disturb her, and perhaps she would still be kneeling before the Virgin's image if the maid-servant hadn't blundered in to carry a bouquet which Herr Peter Schlumperger's servant had brought. Then Barbara started up as if a hornet had stung her. And how she looked at me! Once—I knew it instantly—I had gazed into such a marvellously beautiful face, such helpless blue eyes. Afterward I remembered who and where it had been. God guard me from sinning against my own child, but that was exactly the way the young girl looked who they—it was farther back in the past than you can remember—burned here for a witch, as the halberdiers and monks led her to the place of execution. Susanne Schindler—that was her name—was the daughter of a respectable notary's clerk, who was obliged to wander about the world a great deal, and perished in Hungary just as she reached womanhood. Her mother had died when she was born, and an old woman had taken care of her out of friendship. People called the lass 'beautiful Susel,' and she was wonderfully charming. Pink and white, like the maiden in the fairy tale, and with glittering golden hair just like my Wawerl's. The old woman with whom she lived—her aunt or some other relative—had long practised the healing of all sorts of infirmities, and when a young Spanish count, who had come here with the Emperor Charles to the Reichstag in the year '31, fell under his horse in leaping a ditch, his limbs were injured so that he could not use them. As he did not recover under the care of the Knights of St. John, who first nursed him, he went to the herb doctress, and she took charge of him, and cured him, too, although the skill of the most famous doctors and surgeons had failed to help him.

"But, to make amends, Satan, who probably had the largest share in the miracle, visited him with the sorest evil, for 'beautiful Susel,' who was the old woman's assistant, had so bewitched the young count that he not only fell in love with her, but actually desired to make her his wife.

"Then all the noble relatives at home interfered. The Holy Inquisition commanded the investigation of the case, and sent a stern vicar general to direct the proceedings of the Dominicans, who had seized the temptress. Then it came to light that 'beautiful Susel' had bewitched the luckless young count and robbed him of reason by her wicked arts.

"The old woman, whom they had also examined, escaped her just punishment because she died of the plague, which was raging here at that time, but 'beautiful Susel' was burned, and I looked on while it was done.

"When the Dominicans had led her to the stake, she turned toward the people who had flocked here from all quarters. Many doubtless pitied her on account of her marvellous beauty, and because the devil had given her the mask of the most touching kindness of heart; but she gazed directly into my face with her large, blue eyes as I stood close by, and for years I saw the witch's look distinctly before me. Yet what do we not at last forget? And now it must happen that what reminded me of her again is my own innocent child! Wawerl just looked into my eyes as if 'beautiful Susel' had risen from her grave. It was not long, yet it seemed as if she shrank in terror from me, her own clear father. She gazed up at me in helpless despair, as if she feared God and the world.

"I have learned little about shivering, but a chill ran down my spine. Of course, I did not let her notice anything. Poor child! after the honour bestowed yesterday, I thought there would be nothing to-day except laughter and loud singing. But my grandmother used to say that the grief which tortures a young girl—she herself knows not why—is the hardest to bear, and then Barbara must now make up her mind about marriage, for, besides you, there are Peter Schlumperger and young Crafft to be considered.

"I remembered all this, and so, as usual, I took her face between my hands to give her her morning kiss. She always offers me her lips, but to-day she turned away so that my mouth barely brushed her cheeks. 'Women's whims!' I thought, and therefore let it pass. You can imagine how glad I should have been to hear something more about yesterday evening, but I made no objection when she wished to go to the chapel at once, because she had overslept the hour of mass. She would be back again before the porridge was heated. But the little bowl has stood there probably three quarters of an hour, and we are still waiting in vain."

Here he paused in his voluble flow of speech, and then burst forth angrily: "The devil may understand such a girl's soul! Usually Wawerl does just the opposite of what one expects; but if she does accept you, she will—as an honest man I ought not to conceal it from you—she will give you many a riddle to guess. Whims and freaks are as plenty with her as buttercups in spring turf; but you can't find a more pious girl in all Ratisbon. From ancient times the motto of the Blombergs has been 'Faith, Courage, and Honour,' and for that very reason it seems to me highly improbable that Wawerl would advise you to accept an office which, after all, will force you to yield to the will of heretical superiors. The high pay alone will hardly win her."

"It will not?" asked Wolf in astonishment. "It is for her alone, not for myself, that I value the increased income."

"For her?" repeated the old man, shrugging his shoulders incredulously. "Open your eyes, and you will see what she cares for gold and jewels."

"The splendid bouquet there—do you suppose that she even looked at it? Bright pinks, red roses, and stately lilies in the centre. Where were they obtained, since April is scarcely past? And yet she threw the costly birthday gift aside as if the flowers were apple parings. It was not she, but I, who afterward put them in the pitcher, for I can't bear to see any of God's creatures thirst, even though it is only a flower. Besides, we both know that the fullest purse in the city, and a man worthy of all respect to boot, are attached to the bouquet. Yes, indeed! For a long time she has been unwilling to share my poverty, and if Herr Peter had remained loyal to our holy religion, I would persuade her myself."

Here, exhausted by his eager speech, he paused with flushed cheeks—for it was a hot day—and raised his long arm to take his hat from the hook, to refresh his dry palate at the tavern.

But, after a brief pause for reflection, he restored it to its place.

He had remembered that he had not stirred a finger that morning, and had promised to have an inscription on a jug completed early the next day. Besides, the baker had not been paid for four weeks, so, sighing heavily, he dragged himself to the workbench to move the burin with a weary hand.

Wolf had followed him with his eyes, and the sight of the chivalrous hero, the father of the girl whom he loved, undertaking such a wretched occupation, in such a mood, pierced him to the heart.

"Father Blomberg," he said warmly, putting his hand on his shoulder, "let your graver rest. I am a suitor for your child's hand. We are old friends, and if from my abundance I offer you——"

Here the hot-blooded old man furiously exclaimed: "Don't forget to whom you are speaking, young fellow! How important he feels because he gets his living at court! True, there is no abundance here; but I practise this art merely because I choose, and because it cools my hot blood in this lukewarm time of peace. But if on that account," he added threateningly, while his prominent eyes protruded even farther than usual, "you ever again venture to talk to me as though I were a day labourer or a receiver of alms——"

Here he hesitated, for in the midst of his outbreak Barbara had noiselessly entered the room. Now she approached him, and, in a more gentle and affectionate tone than she had ever used before, entreated him to rest.

The captain, groaning, shook his head, but Barbara stepped lightly upon the low wooden bench on which he sat, drew his gray head toward her, and tenderly stroked his hair and beard, whispering: "Rise, father, and let somebody else finish the engraving, it is so cool and shady in the green woods where the birds are singing, and only yesterday you praised the refreshing drink at the Red Cock."

Here he impatiently, yet with a pleased senile, endeavoured to release himself from her arms, but she interrupted his exclamation, "Don't you know, Miss Thoughtless," with the whispered entreaty: "Here me out first, father! Maestro Appenzelder asked me to add my voice to the boy choir a few times more, and yesterday evening the treasurer told me that the Queen of Hungary had commissioned him to give me as many ducats as the boys received pennies."

She spoke the truth; but the old man laughed heartily in his deep tones, cast a quick glance at Wolf, who was looking up at his weapons, and, lowering his voice, cried gaily, "That's what I call a feminine Chrysostomus or golden mouth, and I should think——"

Here he hesitated, for a doubt arose in his chivalrous mind whether it was seemly for a young girl who belonged to a knightly race to accept payment for her singing. But the thought that it came from the hand of royalty, and that even the great Duke of Alba, the renowned Granvelles, and so many princes, counts, and barons received golden wages for their services from the Emperor's hand, put an end to these scruples.

So, in a happier frame of mind than he had experienced for a long time, he said in a low tone, that he might not be understood by their guest: "Greater people than we rejoice in the gifts which emperors and kings bestow, and—we can use them, can't we?"

Then he rubbed his hands, laughed as if he had outwitted the people of whom he was thinking, and whispered to his daughter: "The baker will wonder when he gets paid this time in glittering gold, and the butcher and Master Reinhard! My boots still creak softly when I step, and you know what that means. The soles of your little shoes probably only sing, but they, too, are not silent."

The old man, released from a heavy burden of care, laughed merrily again at this jest, and then, raising his voice, told his daughter and Wolf that he would first get a cool drink and then go outside the gate wherever his lame foot might carry him. Would not the young nobleman accompany him?

But Wolf preferred to stay with Barbara, that he might plead his cause in person. There was something so quiet and diffident in her manner. If she would not listen to him to-day, she never would. In saying farewell, the captain remarked that he would not meddle in the affair of the Council. Wawerl alone must decide that.

"When I return home," he concluded, "you will have come to an agreement, and, whatever the determination may be, I shall be satisfied. Perhaps some bright idea may come to me, too, over the wine. I'll go to the Black Bear, where I always meet fellow-soldiers."

Then he raised his hand with a gay farewell salute, and left the room.



CHAPTER XVII.

As soon as the captain's limping steps died away on the stairs, Wolf summoned all his courage and moved nearer to Barbara.

His heart throbbed anxiously as he told himself that the next few minutes would decide his future destiny.

As he saw her before him, fairer than ever, with downcast eyes, silent and timid, without a trace of the triumphant self-assurance which she had gained during his absence, he firmly believed that he had made the right choice, and that her consent would render him the most enviable of happy mortals. If she refused him her hand—he felt this no less plainly—his life would be forever robbed of light and joy.

True, he was no longer as blithe and full of hope as when he entered her plain lodgings a short time before.

The doubt of the worthy man, behind whom the house door had just closed, had awakened his doubts also. Yet what he now had it in his power to offer, since his conversation with the syndic, was by no means trivial. He must hold fast to it, and as he raised his eyes more freely to her his courage increased, for she was still gazing at the floor in silent submission, as if ready to commit her fate into his hands; nay, in the brief seconds during which his eyes rested upon her, he perceived an expression which seemed wholly alien to her features, and bestowed upon this usually alert, self-assured, vivacious creature an air of weary helplessness.

While he was generally obliged to maintain an attitude of defence toward her, she now seemed to need friendly consolation. So, obeying a hasty impulse, he warmly extended both hands, and in a gentle, sympathizing tone exclaimed, "Wawerl, my dear girl, what troubles you?"

Then her glance met his, and her blue eyes flashed upon him with an expression of defiant resistance; but he could not help thinking of the young witch who was said to have resembled her, and a presentiment told him that she was lost to him.

The confirmation of this foreboding was not delayed, for in a tone whose repellent sternness startled him, she angrily burst forth: "What should trouble me? It as ill becomes you to question me with such looks and queries as it pleases me." Wolf, in bewilderment, assured her that she had seemed to him especially charming in her gracious gentleness. If anything had happened to cloud her fearless joyousness, let her forget it, for the matter now to be considered concerned the happiness of two human lives.

That was what she was saying to herself, Barbara replied in a more friendly tone, and, with newly awakened hope, the young knight informed her that the time had now come when, without offending against modesty, he might call himself a "made man."

With increasing eagerness and confidence he then told her what the councillor had offered. Without concealing her father's scruples, he added the assurance that he felt perfectly secure against the temptations of which there would certainly be no lack while he was in the service of a Protestant magistracy.

"And when you, devout, pure, true girl, stand by my side," he concluded with an ardour which surprised Barbara in this quiet, reserved man, "when you are once mine, my one love, then I shall conquer the hardest obstacle as if it were mere pastime, then I would not change places with the Emperor, for then my happiness would be——"

Hitherto she had silently permitted him to speak, but now her cheeks suddenly flamed with a deep flush, and she warmly interrupted: "You deserve to be happy, Wolf, and I could desire nothing more ardently than to see you glad and content; but you would never become so through me. How pale you grow! For my sake, do not take it so much to heart; it grieves me to see you suffer. Only believe that. It cuts me to the heart to inflict such great sorrow upon one so loyal, good, and dear, who values me so much more than I deserve."

Here Wolf, deeply agitated, wildly called her name, and besought her not to cast aside so harshly the wealth of love and fidelity which he offered.

His own anguish of soul, and the pain inflicted by the cruel blow which crushed his dearest hopes, robbed him of fortitude and calmness. With tears in his eyes, he threw himself on his knees before her and gazed into her face with anxious entreaty, exclaiming brokenly: "Do not—do not inflict this suffering upon me, Wawerl! Rob me of everything except hope. Defer your acceptance until I can offer you a still fairer future, only be merciful and leave me hope!"

Tears now began to glitter in Barbara's eyes also, and Wolf, noticing it, hastened with reviving courage to assure her how little it would cost him to reject, once for all, to please her, the tempting position offered to him here. He could soon obtain a good office elsewhere, since their Majesties were not only favourably disposed toward him, but now toward her also. True, to him even the most brilliant external gifts of life would be valueless and charmless without her love.

But here Barbara imperatively commanded him to rise, and not make his own heart and hers still heavier without avail.

Wolf pressed his hands upon his temples as violently as if he feared losing his senses; but the young girl voluntarily put her arm around his shoulders, and said with sincere emotion: "Poor Wolf! I know how thoroughly in earnest you are, but I dare not even leave you hope—I neither can nor ought. Yet you may hear this: From my childhood you have been dearer to me than any one else, and never shall I forget how firmly you cling to me, how hard it is for you to give me up."

Then Sir Wolf vehemently asked to know what stood between them; and Barbara, after a brief pause for reflection, answered, "Love for another."

The confession pierced him like a dagger thrust, and he passionately entreated her to tell him the name of the man who had defrauded him of the happiness to which he possessed an older and better right than any one else.

He paced the room with long strides as he spoke, gazing around him as if he imagined that she had his rival concealed somewhere.

In doing so his glance fell upon Herr Schlumperger's bouquet, and he wildly cried: "He? So, after all, wealth——"

But this was too much for Barbara, and she stopped him with the exclamation: "Fool that you are! As if You did not know that I am not to be bought for the paltry florins of a Ratisbon moneybag!"

But the next instant she had repented her outbreak, and in words so loving and gentle, so tender and considerate that his heart melted and he would fain have flung himself again at her feet, she explained to him more particularly why she was obliged to inflict this suffering upon him.

Her heart was no longer free, and precisely because he was worthy of the whole affection of a loyal heart she would not repay him in worthless metal for the pure gold of his love. She was no prophetess, yet she knew full well that some day he would bless this hour. What she concealed from every one, even her father, as an inviolable secret, she had confessed to him because he deserved her confidence.

Then she began to speak of Dr. Hiltner's offer, and discussed its pros and cons with interest as warm as if her own fate was to be associated with his.

The result was that she dissuaded him from settling in Ratisbon. She expected higher achievements from him than he could attain here among the Protestants, who, on account of his faith, would place many a stumbling-block in his way.

Then, changing her businesslike tone, she went on with greater warmth to urge him, for her sake, and that he might be the same to her as ever, to remain loyal to the religion they both professed. She could not fulfil his hopes, it is true, but her thoughts would often dwell with him and her wishes would follow him everywhere. His place was at court, where some day he would win a distinguished position, and nothing could render her happier than the news that he had attained the highest honour, esteem, and fame.

How gentle and kind all this sounded! Wolf had not imagined that she could be so thoughtful, so forgetful of self, and so affectionate in her sympathy. He hung upon her lips in silent admiration, yet it was impossible for him to determine whether this sisterly affection from Barbara was pouring balm or acrid lye upon his wounds.

Positively as she had refused to answer his question concerning the happy mortal whom she preferred to him, Wolf could not help secretly searching for him.

Agitated and tortured to the verge of despair, even the friendliness with which she was trying to sweeten his cruel fate became unbearable, and while she was entreating him to continue to care for her and to remain on the same terms of intimacy with her father and herself, he suddenly seized her hand, covered it with ardent kisses, and then, without a farewell word, hastily left the room.

When Barbara was alone she retired into the bow-window and fell into a silent reverie, during which she often shook her head, as if amazed at herself, and often curled her full lips in a haughty smile.

The maid-servant brought in the modest meal.

Her father had forgotten it, but he would undoubtedly find more substantial viands at the Black Bear. Barbara was speedily satisfied. How poorly the food was cooked, how unappetizing was the serving! When the maid had removed the dishes, Barbara continued her reverie, and even her father had never gazed into vacancy with such gloomy earnestness.

What would she now have given for a mother, a reliable, faithful confidante! But she had none; and Wolf, on whose unselfish love she could depend, was the last person whom she could initiate into her secret.

Her father!

If she had confided to him the matter which so deeply troubled her and yet filled her with the greatest pride, the poor old warrior, who valued honour far more than life, would have turned her out of the house.

Early that morning she had averted her lips from his because she felt as if the Emperor's kiss had consecrated them. She was still under the mastery of the feeling that some disagreeable dream had borne her back to these miserable rooms, while her true place was in the magnificent apartments of royalty.

She had slept too late to attend mass, and therefore went to the private chapel, the abode of the only confidante to whom she could open her whole heart without reserve or timidity—the Mother of God.

She had done this with entire devotion, and endeavoured to reflect upon what had happened and what obligations she must meet. But she had had little success, for as soon as she began to think, her august lover rose before her eyes, she imagined that she heard his tender words, and her mind wandered to the future.

Only she had clearly perceived that she had lost something infinitely great, and obtained in its place something that was far more exquisite, that she had been deemed worthy of a loftier honour, a richer happiness than any one else.

Ah, yes, she was happy, more than happy, and yet not entirely so, for happiness must be bright, and a dark, harassing shadow fell again and again over the sunny enthusiasm which irradiated her nature and lent her a haughtier bearing.

She ascribed it to the novelty of her elevation to a height of which she had never dreamed. Eyes accustomed to twilight must also endure pain, she told herself, ere they became used to the brilliance of the sun.

Perhaps Heaven, in return for such superabundant gifts, demanded a sacrifice, and denied complete enjoyment. She would gladly do all in her power to satisfy the claim, and so she formed the resolve—which seemed to her to possess an atoning power—no longer to deceive the worthy man who loved her so loyally, and for whom she felt an affection. At the very next opportunity Wolf should learn that she could never become his, and when she had just confessed it so gently and lovingly, she had only fulfilled the vow made in the chapel before the Virgin's image. There, too, she had determined, if the Emperor ever gave her any power over his decisions, to reward Wolf's loyal love by interceding for him wherever it could be done.

Now he had left her; but she could wait for her father no longer. She must go to Fran Lerch.

The idea of confiding to her the secret which filled her with happy dread was far from her thoughts; but love had both increased her vanity tenfold, and confined it within narrower limits. She could not be beautiful enough for the lover who awaited her, yet she wished to be beautiful for him alone. But her stock of gowns and finery was so very scanty, and no one understood how to set off her charms so well as the obliging, experienced old woman, who had an expedient for every emergency.

Retiring to her little bow-windowed room, she examined her store of clothes.

There, too, lay her royal lover's gift, the glittering star.

She involuntarily seized it to take the jewel to the Grieb and show it to the old woman; but the next instant, with a strange feeling of dissatisfaction, she flung it back again among the other contents of the chest.

Thus, in her impetuous fashion, she thrust it out of her sight. Maestro Gombert had pronounced the star extremely valuable, and she desired nothing from the Emperor Charles, nothing from her beloved lord save his love.

She had already reached the outer door, when her two Woller cousins from the Ark greeted her. They were merry girls, by no means plain, and very fond of her. The younger, Anne Mirl, was even considered pretty, and had many suitors. They had learned from their house steward, who had been told by a fellow-countryman in the royal service, that his Majesty had rewarded Barbara for her exquisite singing with a magnificent ornament, and they wanted to see it.

So Barbara was obliged to open the chest again, and when the star flashed upon them the rich girls clapped their hands in admiration, and Anne Mirl did not understand how any one could toss such an exquisite memento into a chest as if it were a worn-out glove. If the Emperor Charles had honoured her with such a gift, she would never remove it from her neck, but even wear it to bed.

"Everybody to her taste," replied Barbara curtly, shrugging her shoulders.

Never had her cousins seemed to her so insignificant and commonplace; and, besides, their visit was extremely inopportune.

But the Woller sisters were accustomed to see her in all sorts of moods, and Nandl, the elder, a quiet, thoughtful girl, asked her how she felt. To possess such heavenly gifts as her voice and her beauty must be the most glorious of all glorious things.

"And the honour, the honour!" cried Anne Mirl. "Do you know, Wawerl, one might almost want to poison you from sheer envy and jealousy. Holy Virgin! To be in your place when you sing to the Emperor Charles again! And to talk with him as you would to anybody else!"

Barbara assured them that she would tell the whole story at their next meeting, but she had no time to spare now, for she was expected at the rehearsal.

The sisters then bade her good-bye, but asked to see the star again, and Anne Mirl counted the jewels, to be able to describe it to her mother exactly.

At last Barbara was free, but before, still vexed by the detention, she could set out for Fran Lerch's, she heard loud voices upon the stairs. It startled her, for if the Emperor sent Don Luis Quijada, or even Baron Malfalconnet, to her wretched lodgings, it would now be even more unpleasant than before.

Barbara was obliged to wait some time in vain. Her cousins had been stopped below, and were talking there with her father and another man. At last the captain came stumping up the stairs with his limping steps. Barbara noticed that he was hurrying, and he reached the top more quickly than usual and opened the door.

He looked merry, and his massive but well-formed and manly features were flushed. He came from Erbach in the Black Bear, it is true, but in so short a time—his daughter knew that—the spirits of the wine could have done him no harm. Besides, his voice sounded as deep and firm as usual as he called to her from the threshold: "A guest, Wawerl, a distinguished guest! A splendid fellow! You've already spoken of him, and I made his acquaintance in the Bear. I learned many and many a piece of news from him about how things are going in the world-news, I tell you, girl! My heart is fairly dancing in my body. And, besides, a little puss like you is always glad to hear of an admirer, and only a short time ago you praised him loudly enough as a splendid dancer. A downright good fellow, child, just as I was myself at his age. An uncle of his, a captain of arquebusiers, Pyramus Kogel."

Hitherto Barbara, with increasing displeasure, had only suspected whom her father meant; but when he now mentioned his new friend's name, the indignant blood crimsoned her cheeks.

She had liked the handsome officer, for it was true that few men so well understood the art of guiding a partner through the dance; she, fool that she was, had made eyes at him in order not to let pretty Elspet Zohrer have the precedence. But he had himself confessed how much farther he had entered the snare than she intended when, on her way home from Fran Lerch's after her meeting with Wolf, the young officer had met her outside of the Grieb and sued for her hand.

Now the amorous swain had probably tried his luck with her father, and how the latter, in spite of poor Wolf and Herr Schlumperger, had treated him was evident from the fact that he, who usually closed his home against old friends, opened it wide to this stranger.

This was not only unpleasant to Barbara, but anger crimsoned her cheeks.

How dared the man whom she had so positively and sternly refused venture to continue his suit? Since the Emperor had loved her, she felt raised infinitely above the poor nobleman. Nay, she considered it a reprehensible impropriety that he still sought her. And, besides what consequences the visit of so stately a ladykiller, whose unusual height rendered him easily recognised, might now entail upon her! Suppose that he should meet a messenger from the Emperor on the stairs, or it should be rumoured at court that she received such visitors. How quickly whatever happened in Ratisbon was noised abroad among the people she had just learned through the Woller girls.

The happiness which filled her was so great that everything which threatened to affect it, even remotely, alarmed her, and thus anxiety blended with indignation as, deeply agitated, she interrupted her father, and in the most unfilial manner reproached him for allowing the flattery of a boastful coxcomb to make him forget what he owned to her and her good name.

The brave champion of the faith dejectedly, almost humbly, strove to soothe her, and at least induce her not to offend his guest by unfriendly words; but she ignored his warnings with defiant passion, and when the recruiting officer, who had been detained some time on the staircase by the Wollers, knocked at the door, she shot the bolt noisily, calling to her father in a tone so loud that it could not fail to be heard outside: "I repeat it, I will neither see nor speak to this importunate gentleman. When he attacked me in the street at night, I thought I showed him plainly enough how I felt. If he forces his way into our house now, receive him, for aught I care; you have a right to command here. But if he undertakes to speak to me, he can wait for an answer till the day of judgment!"

Then she hastily slipped the bolt back again, darted past Pyramus Kogel, who did not know what had befallen him, without vouchsafing him a single glance, and then, with haughty composure, descended the stairs.

The officer, incapable of uttering a word, gazed after her.

The feeling that attracted him to Barbara was something entirely new, which since the last dance at the New Scales had robbed him of sleep by night and rest by day. He had fallen under her spell, body and soul, and he, whose business took him from city to city, from country to country, had resolved, ere he accosted Barbara in the street, to give up the free, gay life which he enjoyed with the eager zest of youth, and seek her hand in marriage.

Her first rebuff had by no means discouraged him; nay, the handsome, spoiled soldier was firmly convinced that her ungracious treatment was not due to his proposal, but to its certainly ill-chosen place. A wife of such rigid austerity would suit him, for he would often be compelled to leave her a long time alone.

When he heard the day before that he would find her among Peter Schlumperger's guests in Prufening, he had joined them, as if by accident, toward evening, and Barbara had danced with him twice.

In the schwabeln she had trusted herself to his guidance even longer than usual, and with what perfect time, with what passionate enjoyment she had whirled around with him under the sway of the intense excitement which had mastered her! He imagined that he felt her heart throb against his own breast, and had surrendered himself to the hope that it was newly awakened love for him which had deprived her of her calm bearing.

True, she had refused his company on the way home, but this was probably because she was afraid of being gossipped about in connection with him.

Well satisfied with his success, he had gone to Red Cock Street the next morning to renew his suit. On the way he met her father, and in the Black Bear had tried on the old warrior, with excellent success, the art of winning other men, in which, as a recruiting officer, he had become an adept.

Joyously confident of victory, he had accepted Blomberg's invitation, and now had experienced an unprecedentedly mortifying rebuff.

With a face blanched to the pallor of death, he stood before the old man. The wound which he had received burned so fiercely, and paralyzed his will so completely, that the clumsy graybeard found fitting words sooner than the ready, voluble trapper of men.

"You see," the captain began, "what is to be expected from one's own child in these days of insubordination and rebellion, though my Wawerl is as firm in her faith as the tower at Tunis of which I was telling you. But trust experience, Sir Pyramus! It is easier, far easier for you to exact obedience from a refractory squad of recruits than for a father to guide his little daughter according to his own will. For look! If it gets beyond endurance, you can seize the lash, or, if that won't do, a weapon; but where a fragile girl like that is concerned, we can't give vent to our rage, and, though she spoils the flavour of our food and drink by her pouting and fretting, we must say kind words to her into the bargain. Mine at least spares me the weeping and wailing in which many indulge, but it is easier to break iron than her obstinacy when her will differs from that of the person whom, on account of the fourth commandment, she——"

Pyramus Kogel, with both hands resting on the large basket handle of his long rapier, had listened to him in silence; now he interrupted the captain with the exclamation: "Iron against iron, comrade! Throw it into the fire, and swing the hammer. It will bend then. All that is needed is the right man, and I know him. If I did not feel very sorry for such a charming creature, I would laugh at the insult and go my way. But, as it is, I have a good memory, and it will be a pleasure, methinks, to keep so unruly a beauty and artistic nightingale in mind. It shall be done until my turn comes. In my pursuit I do not always succeed at the first attempt, but whoever I once fix my eyes upon comes on the roll at last, and I will keep the foremost place open for your lovely, refractory daughter. We shall meet again, Captain, and I haven't said my last word to your ungracious daughter either."

He held out his hand to Blomberg as he spoke, and after a brief delay the latter clasped it.

The fearless foe of the Turks was troubled by the recruiting officer's mysterious menaces, but his kind heart forbade him to add a new offence to the bitter mortification inflicted upon this man by his daughter. Besides, he had taken a special fancy to the stately, vigorous soldier, whose height and breadth of shoulder were little inferior to his own, and while descending the stairs he thought, "It would serve Wawerl right if yonder fellow put a stop to her obstinacy, pranks, and caprices."

But he quickly silenced the wish, for Barbara did not often give the rein to her self-will so freely, and her objectionable traits of character had been inherited from her mother. She was a good girl at heart, and how much pleasure and favour her beautiful gift brought, how much honour came to him and his ancient name through this rare child! Yet at that time he was not aware of the new benefit he was to owe to her within the next hour.

Before Barbara had returned home the treasurer of the imperial and royal musicians came to his house and, in the regent's name, handed him the gold of which Barbara had spoken for services rendered in the boy choir of her Majesty Queen Mary. He was obliged to sign the receipt in his daughter's name, and when the portly Netherlander, who could also make himself understood in German, asked where a sup of good wine or beer could be had in Ratisbon, he was ready to act as his guide.

Thanks to his daughter's rich gifts, he need not wield the graver any longer that day, and for the second time could grant himself a special treat.

When he returned home he learned from the one-eyed maid that Barbara had been summoned by the Queen of Hungary to sing for her.

Weary as he was, he went to rest, and soon after the young girl entered his room to bid him "good night."

The Queen had been very gracious, and after the singing was over had inquired about hundreds of things—who had been her singing master, what her religion was, whether her mother was still living, what calling her father followed, whether he, too, had drawn the sword against the Turks, her husband's murderers, whether she was accustomed to riding, and, lastly, whether she was obliged to endure the narrow city streets in the summer.

Barbara had then been able to answer that the Wollers sometimes invited her to their country seat at Abbach, and intentionally added that they were her nearest relatives, and owned the Ark, the large, handsome family mansion which stood exactly opposite to the Golden Cross and her Majesty's windows. She had also often been the guest of her uncle Wolfgang Lorberer, who stood at the head of the community at Landshut.

It had gratified her to boast of these distinguished blood relations.

She had then been asked whether she could consent to leave her father for a time to go into the country with the old Marquise de Leria, whom she knew, and who was charmed with the beauty of her singing.

The leech desired to remove the invalid lady in waiting from the city air, and she had chosen Barbara for a companion.

Here the young girl hesitated, and then carelessly asked her father what he thought of the plan.

As Blomberg knew the name of Leria to be one of the most aristocratic in the empire, and many things were beckoning to him in the future in which Barbara's presence would only have been a hindrance, he left the decision to her.

He had made the acquaintance at the Black Bear, through Pyramus Kogel, of various soldiers who had fought in the same ranks—good Catholics, eager for a fray, who were waiting here for the outbreak of the war against the Smalkalds. What delightful hours their companionship would bestow if Barbara was provided for at present, now that he himself was no longer obliged to save every shilling so carefully!

But he had also thought of something else which was far more important, for the warlike conversation had affected him as the blast of a trumpet stirs the battle charger drawing a plough.

He had found complete enjoyment of life only in war, in the presence of death, in cutting and slashing, and he felt by no means too old to keep his seat in the saddle and lead his company of horsemen to the assault. He was not mistaken there, and, besides not only the recruiting officer, but also the scarred old captain whom they called little Gorgl, asserted that the Emperor would welcome every brave, tried soldier, even though older than he, as soon as war was declared.

Meanwhile Pyramus Kogel was constantly in his mind, and at last he thought it his duty to speak to Barbara about her unseemly treatment of this estimable man.

He had intended ever since she entered to call her to account for it, but, though he did not admit it even to himself, the old soldier dreaded his daughter's firm power of resistance.

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