HotFreeBooks.com
Barbara Blomberg
by Georg Ebers
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

Yet he could not keep silence this time; her behaviour had transgressed the bounds of propriety too far.

So he summoned up his courage, and, with a "What I was going to say," began to speak of the admirable officer whom he had brought into his house.

Then, clearing his throat, he drew himself up, and, raising his voice, asked how she dared to assail this gallant nobleman with such abominable, arrogant, and insulting words.

But he was to wait an answer in vain, for, with the brief declaration that she had not come to be lectured like a schoolgirl, Barbara banged the door behind her. Directly after, however, she opened it again, and with a pleasant, "No offence, father," wished the old gentleman a no less pleasant goodnight.

Then she went to her room, but in old Ursel's chamber, at the same hour as on the preceding night, a similar conversation took place.

The one-eyed maid spoke of the rats which had forced their way into the house, and the sick woman repeated impatiently, "The rats!" and, with prudent reserve, silently kept her thoughts to herself.



CHAPTER XVIII.

The Queen of Hungary had returned home the evening before, and on the following morning summoned Barbara to the Golden Cross to sing with the boy choir.

When the major-domo, Quijada, obedient to her command, entered the room at eleven o'clock, she called to him: "Miracles, Luis, mighty miracles in these godless times! I have just come from his Majesty, and in what did I find him occupied? Turning over music with Maestro Gombert—of course, for a female voice. Besides, he looked as if he had just defeated the Turks and Frenchmen at once. As for the gout, he'll be dancing the 'hoppedei' with the peasants presently."

"Day before yesterday he surprised us by wearing satin shoes," remarked Quijada. "May I congratulate you on the really magical effect of your Majesty's prescription?"

"Continue to think so, if it suits you," cried the Queen gaily. "Only a few powerful drops from elsewhere have probably fallen into the potion. But how stupidly artless you can look when you feign ignorance, Luis! In this case, however, you need not let your breathing be oppressed by the mask. I bow to your masculine secrecy—but why did my worldly-wise brother mingle a petticoat in this delicate business if he wishes to keep it hidden?"

"The Marquise Leria!" cried the major-domo, shrugging his shoulders angrily, as if against an inevitable misfortune.

"My, senior lady in waiting," said the regent in assent to this conjecture. "Make haste to bestow a stately candle, because it is she, and no one else. You might spare yourself that smile; I know her better than you do. If she had as many teeth as she possesses vices, she might be happy; yet one admirable quality mingles with the evil traits in her character."

"And that?" asked Quijada, as if he deemed a satisfactory answer impossible.

"Secrecy," replied the Queen firmly. "She keeps what she has overheard to herself as closely as a miser guards his gold."

"In order to turn it to account when the favourable moment comes," remarked the major-domo. "Your Majesty will also permit me to observe that if the marquise has already betrayed what was intended to remain secret——"

"Her boasted reticence can not be very great, you think," interrupted the Queen. "But justice for all, my handsome lord. At present she is in any service, and no other. Whose bread I eat, his song I sing—which in this case means: His secret I keep, and to him I carry whatever I discover. Besides, this time even the person betrayed owes her a debt of gratitude, for you know how difficult it is for him to use his limbs, and she is most obligingly smoothing the path for him. I tell you, Luis, with all due respect for his Majesty as a general and a statesman, in a skirmish of intrigue this woman will outwit you all. The schemes her aged brain invents have neither fault nor flaw. The wheels work upon one another as they do in the Emperor's best Nuremberg clock. I want to watch their turning before I go, for, be it known to you, early tomorrow morning—the saints be praised!—I start for Brussels."

"Oh!" exclaimed Quijada with an expression of sincere regret; but the Queen gravely said: "There can be no further delay, Luis. It may sound improbable that there is something which draws me back to the Netherlands more strongly than the desire for freedom of movement, a pleasant ride through the forest, and the excitement of the chase, which lends spice to the insipidity of my life, yet you may believe it."

"Business matters?" asked the nobleman anxiously.

The Queen nodded assent, and then eagerly continued: "And important ones which his Majesty himself solemnly enjoined upon me to hasten my departure. His zeal resembled a rude gesture toward the door, as much as one rotten egg looks like another, for, under certain circumstances, the affectionate brother prefers to have his beloved sister as far away as possible. Had I been of a more obstinate nature, I would stay; but there really are matters to be settled in the Netherlands which can not be deferred, and the manner of his farewell showed plainly enough that he no longer needed me. Merciful Heaven! When we parted yesterday, I dreaded his Majesty's anger. I had left him in the lurch to gratify my own love for copse and forest. I had remained beyond the allotted time, and had resolved, bend or break, to return to my post in Brussels. When I rode in here I really felt as though I was entering the lion's den. But then came miracle after miracle. Do you know something, Luis? The best results have often followed my most reckless acts."

"Probably because even your Majesty's least prudent deeds merit a modest reward," replied Quijada, "and because, besides the heavenly powers, there are also less estimable ones that meddle with the affairs of this world."

"Perhaps so!" exclaimed the Queen, astonished at this idea. "Perhaps the Prince of Darkness finds pleasure in this affair, and, as a fair-minded devil, is grateful to me. One thing is certain: What a woman of my age could not tell her daughter or—if she has none—her young niece, she should not meddle with. All this is by no means pleasing to me, and yet, Luis, yet We ought to rejoice in this love affair, not only for ourselves, but for his Majesty. De Soto, too, I know, is satisfied; nay, it seems as if he saw a special act of divine favour in this late blazing of the flames of love in a heart whose fires had apparently burned out."

"Wherever this passion originates," observed Quijada, "it seems to have had a good influence upon his Majesty's mood. It is said that Satan often designs evil and yet works good, and if this late and very tender emotion is a gift of hell, it nevertheless affords our sovereign lord unexpected and therefore all the more exquisite joys."

"In whose behalf it may also be said that they are numbered among those which can hardly be approved, or even forbidden ones," the regent eagerly interrupted. "But no matter! Happy is he whose pathway at the beginning of life's evening is once more so brilliantly illumined by the sun of love. In my devotion to the duties of government and the chase, I have not yet wholly forgotten enthusiasm. Whoever has once been really young retains this advantage, and I have, Luis. Therefore I could envy my beloved brother to-day no less sincerely than I pitied him yesterday. Joy is the best thing in life, and who bestows it more certainly and lavishly than the little winged god? It is fortunate for my Charles that he is again permitted to quaff the beaker of happiness! Only too soon—I know it—he will again withdraw it from his lips with his own hand, if it were only because the inclination to self-torture which he inherits, the ascetic instinct, that constantly increases in strength, destroys and stamps as sinful forgetfulness of duty every pleasure which he enjoys for any length of time. We will hope that he will not retain this new happiness too briefly. It would be of service to us all. What he might possibly have granted me after long hesitation and consideration, and with many a delay, he yielded after mass this morning with smiling lips. Love expands the heart, and at the same time enlarges the views, especially if it is not an unfortunate one; but this Barbara Blomberg is a genuine daughter of Eve, over whom the mother of nations, if she met her by chance, would rejoice. A German Venus, whom I would gladly send to Titian for a model. And her voice and the unexpected good fortune of finding such a teacher here! Appenzelder and Gombert are full of her praises. Good heavens! How she sang yesterday evening! It was enough to stir the dead. Afterward I drew her aside for a short time."

"And your Majesty did her the honour to feel her teeth?"—[A German phrase meaning to sound a person's intentions.—TR.]—queried Quijada.

"Feel her teeth?" replied the Queen. "It might have been worth while, for those that glitter between her rosy lips are white and beautifully formed. But I did even more—I tested the girl's heart and mind."

"And the result?"

"H'm!" said the Queen. "Very favourable. Yet no. If I must be honest, that is saying too little. She stood it very, surprisingly well. Her intellect is anything but limited; nay, her comprehension is so swift that she can be sure of not trying his Majesty's patience unduly. Her manners, too, are not amiss for a German; but what is the main point—she is pious, firm in the faith, and ardent in her hatred of the foes of the Holy Church. My life upon it! all this is as genuine as the diamond in my ring, and so the white raven is complete. That she has returned the Emperor Charles love for love by no means sullies her plumage. In my eyes, it only shines the more brightly, since one so great as he permits her, though only for a short distance, to share his glorious flight. This Barbara is certainly a rare bird. But in the chase, and as regent of a restless nation, one's sight becomes keen—"

"And now," cried Quijada, "comes the 'but.'"

"It does come," replied the regent firmly, "and I will point it out to you. I only found the trail; but you, Luis, as a good sportsman and a loyal friend of his Majesty, will keep a sharp watch upon it. This girl is obstinate to the verge of defiance, vain, and unusually ambitious."

"She has already shown us the obstinacy," observed the Castilian.

"When she wheeled her horse to escape you?" asked the Queen.

"But there she was perfectly right. What a heedless, inconsiderate masculine idea, to usher a woman directly from a horseback ride into a company of gentlemen to sing before the Emperor! As to the vanity, I do not find much fault with that. It would be far worse if she lacked it. One can not imagine a genuine woman without it. It has been called pride in charms which we do not possess, but it also serves to place actual charms in a brighter light, and that I expect from this fair one. If she knows how to avoid extravagance, it will willingly be indulged. But her ambition, Luis; perils may arise from that. If it begins to stir too covetously, remember your duty as watcher—sound the horn and set the packs upon her."

"For the sake of our sovereign lord, I will not fail," replied Quijada. "So far as she herself is concerned, she is one of those women whose beauty I acknowledge, but to whom I am indifferent. More modest manners please me better."

"You are thinking of Dona Magdalena de Ulloa," observed the Queen, "you poor loyal widower, while the loveliest of wives still lives. Certainly this German bears so little resemblance to her——"

"That I most humbly entreat your Majesty," interposed Quijada with haughty decision, "not to compare these two women, even by way of contrast."

"B-r-r!" said the regent, extending her hands toward him as if to repel an assault. "Yet I like you in this mood, Luis. You are a true Castilian! So we will leave Dona Magdalena in her Villagarcia, and only permit myself to admire the self-sacrifice of a woman who grants a husband like you so long a leave of absence. As to the Ratisbon maiden——"

"I should be very glad to know," Quijada began, this time in a submissive tone, "by what sign your Majesty's penetration discovered this young creature's ambition."

"That is soon told," replied the regent kindly. "She specially mentioned her distinguished relatives in the city and in Landshut, and when I advised her to show due respect to the marquise, who, in spite of everything, is a woman of high rank and certainly an old lady, before whose gray hairs Scripture commands us to rise, something hovered around her lips—they are ripe for kisses—something which it is not easy to find exactly the right words to describe: a blending of repugnance, self-assertion, and resistance. She suffered it to remain on her beautiful face only a few minutes, but it gave me reason enough to urge you to sound a warning if his Majesty's late love should render him more yielding than is desirable."

"The warned man will heed what prescient wisdom enjoins upon him," the major-domo protested, with his hand upon his heart. "But if I know his Majesty, his strong and well-warranted sense of imperial dignity will render my attentive solicitude needless. The moment that the singer assails it will put a speedy end to my royal master's love."

The Queen shook her head, and answered doubtfully: "If only you do not undervalue the blind boy-god's power! Yet it must be owned that your theory has a certain degree of justification." She went to the window as she spoke, and added: "Karlowitz, the minister of Duke Maurice of Saxony, is leaving the house. He looks pleased, and if he has come to an agreement with the Bishop of Arras, that will also help to put the Emperor in a pleasant mood—"

"And all of us!" exclaimed Quijada, grasping his sword hilt. "If this energetic young prince, with his military ability and his army, joins us, why, then——"

"Then there will be war," interrupted the Queen, completing the sentence; "then there will be great joy among you younger, belligerent Castilians! What do you care for the tears of mothers and the blood of husbands and sons? Both will flow in streams, and, even if we were certain of victory—which we are not—what will the gain be?"

"Triumph, the restored unity of Holy Church!" cried Quijada enthusiastically.

"For which I daily pray," said the regent. "But even if you succeeded in gaining a complete victory, if every church in city and country again belonged to the only faith by which we can obtain salvation, I shall still see them deprived of their holy vocation, for they will stand empty, because then the men who would rather die than abjure their delusion will be lying silent upon battlefields."

"May they rot there!" cried the Spaniard. "But we are not fighting only for to-day and tomorrow. New generations will again fill churches and chapels. We will shed the last drops of our blood to accomplish it, and every true Castilian thinks as I do."

"I know it," sighed the regent, "and it is not my business to preach to deaf ears. But one thing more: Do you know that his Majesty has just accepted the Marquise de Leria's offer?"

"No; but I should be greatly indebted to your royal——"

"Then listen," the Queen hastily interrupted. "In the suburb of Prebrunn, in a large garden, stands the pretty little castle of the Prince Prior of Berchtesgaden—I don't mean the one belonging to the worthy Trainer, on whose preserves we hunted once in April, and which is erroneously called here the 'cassl.' The reverend owner offered it to his Majesty to shelter a guest of high rank. Now the marquise is to occupy it, because country air would benefit her. The singer will establish herself under the noblewoman's maternal care. You know the Marquise de Leria's huge litter, which was borne here by two strong mules that Ruy Gomez—what will not people do to find out something?—gave her. The black ark, with the coats-of-arms of the De Lerias and the Duke of Rency on the back, the front, and both sides, is probably well known here. At first the boys ran after the monster; now they are used to the thing, and no longer notice it. But it is comfortable, and it can be opened. When the old woman uses the litter the cover will be removed and people will see her; when it is closed, the most sharp-sighted can not discover who is within. If his Majesty desires to go out to Prebrunn and return here, he will take it, and, even if his foot pains him, will reach his fair goal unseen. The young girl consented yesterday to move there with the marquise, and directly after it will be your duty, aided by Master Adrian, to attend to the furnishing of the little castle. I will aid you. You will hear the particulars from his Majesty. The marquise will take Barbara directly to the chapel, where the choir is to sing. People must become accustomed to see and speak of the two together. What would you think of an alliance between Leria and Blomberg? If I see correctly, the old woman will train the girl to be a useful tool."

"And if the tool cuts her fingers in the process," said Quijada, "I shall be glad."

"So shall I!" assented the Queen, laughing. Then she dismissed the major-domo, and a short time later singing was heard in the chapel.

The Emperor, after he had finished his meal, heard it also, and listened to Barbara as if enraptured when, in Hobrecht's motet for five voices, Salve crux arbor vitae, in the sublime O crux lignum triumphale, she raised her voice with a power, a wealth of pious devotion which he had never before heard in the execution of this forceful composition.

The little Maltese Hannibal again acquitted himself admirably, and in one of the duets in the second part Johannes of Cologne could prove that he had recovered.

His young companion in illness had also escaped lasting injury.

Appenzelder, too, showed himself fully satisfied with Barbara's execution. Something new and powerful, rising from the inmost depth of the soul, a passion of devout exaltation, rang in her voice which he had not perceived during the first rehearsals. Her art seemed to him to grow under his eyes like a wonderful plant, and the quiet, reserved man expressed his delight so unequivocally that the Emperor beckoned to him and asked his opinion of the singer's performance.

The musician expressed with unreserved warmth the emotions that filled his honest heart; but the monarch listened approvingly, and drew from his finger a costly ring to bestow it upon the discoverer of this glorious jewel.

The leader of the choir, it is true, declined this title of honour to award it to Sir Wolf Hartschwert; but the Emperor asserted that he was grateful to him also for many a service, and then ordered the gold chain, which had long been intended for him, to be brought for Maestro Gombert.

After these tokens of favour, which awakened the utmost surprise in those who were present, as the Emperor very rarely yielded to such impulses of generosity, the monarch's eyes sought Barbara's, and his glance seemed to say: "For your sake, love. Thus shall those who have deserved it from you be rewarded."

Finally he accosted her, intentionally raising his voice as he did so.

Word for word was intended to be heard by every one, even the remark that he wished to make the acquaintance of her father, whom he remembered as a brave comrade. Barbara would oblige him if she would request him to call upon him that afternoon. It was his duty to thank the man through whose daughter he enjoyed such lofty pleasure.



CHAPTER XIX.

A short time after, the Emperor Charles, accompanied by the Queen of Hungary and several lords and ladies, took a ride in the open air for the first time after long seclusion.

According to his custom, he had spent Passion week in the monastery. Easter had come on the latest day possible—the twenty-fifth of April—and when he bade farewell to the monks the gout had already attacked him again.

Now he rode forth into the open country and the green woods like a rescued man; the younger Granvelle, long as he had been in his service, had never seen him so gay and unconstrained. He could now understand his father's tales of his Majesty's better days, his vigorous manly strength and eager delight in existence.

True, the period of anxiety concerning the tidings of political affairs which had arrived the day before and that morning appeared to be over, for Herr von Parlowitz, the minister of Duke Maurice of Saxony, had expressed his conviction that this active young monarch might be induced to separate from the other Protestant princes and form an alliance with the Emperor, especially as his Majesty had not the most distant intention of mingling; religious matters in the war that was impending.

Despatches had also been sent from Valladolid by Don Philip, the Emperor's oldest son, which afforded the greatest satisfaction to the sovereign. If war was waged against the Smalkalds, the allied Protestants of Germany, Spain, which had been taught to regard the campaign as a religious war, was ready to aid Charles with large subsidies of money and men.

Lastly, it seemed as if two betrothals were to be made which promised to sustain the Emperor's statesmanship. Two of his nieces, the daughters of his brother Ferdinand, expected to marry—one the heir to the Bavarian throne, the other the Duke of Cleves.

Thus many pleasant things came to him simultaneously with his recovery, and his mind, inclined to mysticism, received them as a sign that Heaven was favourable to his late happiness in love.

Granvelle attributed the Emperor's unexpectedly rapid convalescence and the fortunate change which had taken place in his gloomy mood to the favourable political news, and perhaps also to the music which, as a zealous patron of art, he himself loved. He, who usually did not fail to note even the veriest trifle when he desired to trace the motives of events which were difficult to explain, now thought he need seek no further for causes.

During the ride Barbara was not thought of, but in the Golden Cross it was to become evident to the keen intelligence of the young master of statecraft that something extremely important might escape even his penetration.

While waiting with Malfalconnet in the reception room of the monarch, who had gone into his chamber, for Charles's return, and summing up to the baron in a most charming way the causes which had effected the wonderful rejuvenation of his Majesty, the other showed him that he, Granvelle, had been short-sighted enough to overlook the most powerful influence.

This would have been vexatious to the statesman had not his mind been wholly occupied in considering how this unexpected event could be made most profitable to himself, and also to his master, whom he served with loyal devotion.

Malfalconnet had received no confidence either from the Emperor or any male member of the court, yet he knew all, for, though the Marquise de Leria well deserved the reputation of secrecy, she did not keep her tongue sufficiently in check while talking with her gay countryman. What she overheard, he succeeded by his amiable wiles in learning, and this time also he had not failed.

Soon after the Emperor had appeared again audience was given to several ambassadors. Then Chamberlain de Praet announced Captain Blomberg.

The latter, clad in full armour, entered the apartment. Over the shining coat of mail, which he himself had cleaned with the utmost care, he wore a somewhat faded scarf, and his long battle sword hung at his left side.

He looked stately enough, and his grave, oldfashioned, but thoroughly soldierly manners admirably suited the elderly warrior.

The Emperor Charles accosted the father of the woman he loved with the same blunt friendliness that so easily won the hearts of the companions in arms to whom he condescended.

Blomberg must tell him this thing and that, and the old man gazed into his face with honest amazement and sincere delight when the monarch supplied the names of places and persons which had escaped his own feeble memory.

He accepted the praise of his daughter with a smile and the modest remark: "She is certainly a dear, kind-hearted child; and as for her voice, there were probably some to which people found less pleasure in listening. But, your Majesty, that of the nightingale battering down solid walls sounds still more beautiful to me."

The Emperor knew that the German cannoneers gave their guns the name of nightingale, and was pleased with the comparison.

But while he was still talking gaily with the old warrior, who had really displayed truly leonine courage on many an occasion, Count Buren brought in a new despatch, remarking, as he did so, that unfortunately the bearer, a young Spanish noble, had been thrown from his horse just outside the city, and was lying helpless with a broken leg.

Sincere compassion was expressed, in which the Bishop of Arras joined, meanwhile glancing through the somewhat lengthy document.

It came from the heir and regent, Don Philip, in Valladolid. The prince desired to know the state of the negotiations with Rome and with Duke Maurice of Saxony.

After Granvelle had read the despatch he handed it to the monarch, and the latter, in a low tone, charged him not yet to inform his son of the fair prospects for an alliance with Maurice, but to send an answer at once.

While the minister withdrew to the writing table, the Emperor asked whether a trustworthy horseman could be had, since the Spaniard was disabled; and Reitzenstein, Beust, and Van der Kapellen, in whom implicit confidence could be placed, had been sent off that morning.

Then the Bishop of Arras again turned to the monarch, cast a significant glance at Malfalconnet, and, pointing to Blomberg, eagerly exclaimed: "If this valiant and faithful soldier still has a firm seat in the saddle, this highly important message might be intrusted to him."

The proposal affected the adventure-loving old man like music. With youthful fire he protested that he could ride a horse as fast and endure fatigue as long as the youngest man, even though the goal were the end of the world.

Such an exertion, however, was by no means expected of him, for he was to set sail at Flushing and land at Loredo in Spain. There Postmaster-General de Tassis would furnish him with horses.

The Emperor had listened to this proposal from his counsellor with a smile of satisfaction. His purpose was sufficiently obvious.

How thoroughly this young diplomat understood men! With how delicate a scent he had again discovered a secret and removed a stone of offence from his master's path! He was competent to fill his clever father's place in every respect. It was evident that neither promises nor gifts would have induced the old warrior to favour the tender wishes of his imperial master. Now he himself hastened to leave the field clear, and Granvelle had foreseen how he would receive the proposal. Charles intentionally refrained from taking any personal share in the arrangements with the old man which now followed. A communication from Malfalconnet appeared to claim his whole attention, until the Bishop of Arras announced that the captain had received his instructions and was ready to set out for Flushing and Valladolid.

The monarch listened with a slight shake of the head, and expressed his hesitation about intrusting so important a message to a man of such advanced age; but Malfalconnet, in a tone of good-natured anxiety, called to the captain, "One may be the father of a nightingale, my brave hero, and yet miss the way to the south without a guide."

"True, true," the Emperor assented. "So we will give our gallant friend a travelling companion who understands Castilian, and on whom we can also rely. Besides, affairs of so much moment are better cared for by two messengers than by one. What is the name of the cavalier, Malfalconnet, who spoke to you of the friendship which unites him to this brave old champion of the faith?"

"Wolf Hartschwert, your Majesty," was the reply.

"The musician," said the monarch, as if some memory was awakened in his mind. "A modest fellow, whose reliability my sister praised.—And now, my vigorous friend, a prosperous journey! Your daughter, whom the favour of Heaven has so richly endowed with beautiful gifts, has found, I have heard, a maternal guardian in the Marquise de Leria. We, too, will gladly interest ourselves in the charming singer who affords us such rare pleasure."

As he spoke he showed his old companion in arms the unusual honour of extending his hand to him, and when the latter, deeply moved by such graciousness, ardently kissed it, he hurriedly withdrew it, saying, as he kindly patted his arm, "You are doing us a greater service than you imagine, Captain Blomberg."

Then, wishing him a successful journey, he went to the writing table, on which the secretary Gastelu had laid the newly received despatches.

Radiant with joy, the captain, making many profound bows, left the apartment of the gracious monarch, for whom now he would really have ridden to the world's end.

On the stairs he was detained. Malfalconnet handed him two heavy rolls of gold for the expenses of the journey, and enjoined it upon him to be ready to set out early the following morning. He might make his own arrangements with Sir Wolf Hartschwert, and assure him of his Majesty's gratitude in advance.

A short time after, Barbara was packing the gray-haired courier's knapsack.

She had never yet worked for her father with so much filial solicitude. Everything that might be of use to him on the way was carefully considered.

Though she had not been taken into his confidence, she knew the reason that he had been selected to undertake this toilsome journey.

The Emperor Charles was sending the old man far away that the happiness of her love might be undisturbed and unclouded, and the consciousness weighed heavily upon her by no means unduly sensitive conscience.

Wolf, who was already unhappy on her account, had fared the same. When her father told her that the knight was to accompany him, she had felt as if an incident of her childhood, which had often disturbed her dreams, was repeated.

She had been swinging with boyish recklessness in the Woller garden. Suddenly one of the ropes broke, and the board which supported her feet turned over out of her reach. For a time, clinging with her hands to the uninjured rope, she swayed between heaven and earth. No one was near, and, though she soon stood once more on the firm ground unhurt, the moment when her feet, during the ascent, lost their support, was associated with feelings of so much terror that she—who at that time was considered the bravest of her playfellows—had never forgotten it.

Now she felt as though something similar had befallen her.

She had seen the props on which she might depend removed from under her feet. If her father and Wolf left her, she would look in vain for counsel and support.

That her lover was the most powerful sovereign on earth, and she could appeal to him if she needed help, did not enter her mind. Nay, a vague foreboding told her that he and what was associated with him formed the power against which she must struggle.

The sham affection of the aristocratic lady who was to be her chaperon; the Queen, who last evening had catechised her as if she were a child, and whom she distrusted; the servile flatterer, Malfalconnet, in whose mirthful manner that day for the first time she thought she had detected dislike and slight sarcasm; the imperial love messenger, Don Luis Quijada, who with icy, dutiful coldness scarcely vouchsafed a word to her; and, lastly, the confessor Pedro de Soto, who treated her like a person who needed pity, and probably only awaited a fitting time to hurl an anathema into her face—passed before her memory, and in all these persons, so far above her in birth and rank, she believed that she saw foes.

But how was it with the man who could trample them all in the dust like worms—with her imperial lover?

Until now he had been observant of her every sign, but yesterday night the lion had raised his paw against her.

A slight pain had again made itself felt in his foot. She had eagerly lamented it, and in doing so deplored the fact that she would never be permitted to share the pleasure of dancing with the man she loved and who had first taught her how beautiful life was. This perhaps incautious remark had roused the ire of the suffering monarch.

How sensitive was this man's consciousness of sovereignty, how much suspicion and bitterness must have gathered in his heart, if he could see in the girl's innocent compassion an offence to his dignity, a humiliating reproach!

The rebuking sharpness with which he expressed his displeasure had pierced her very soul. She felt as if she were shivering with a sudden chill, and for a long time she could not recover the loving warmth with which she had previously treated him. True, he had soon done everything in his power to atone for the pain which his irritability had inflicted, but the incident had given her the perception that the poets whose songs she sung were right when they made sorrow go hand in hand with the joys of love.

But as yet these joys of love far, far outweighed the suffering which it caused.

Even while, before the full knapsack which only needed locking, she was trying to discover what fault was to be found with the man whom she loved, while saying to herself that Charles's inconsiderate, selfish treatment of her father was unworthy of a generous man, and while also thinking of the separation from the faithful Wolf, her heart still longed for her lover.

Was she not, after all, under obligation to be grateful to him for everything for which she reproached him?

How dear she must be to this great sovereign, since, in order to possess her freely and completely, he allowed himself to be urged to an act which was unworthy of him!

If he had wounded her deeply, he had a right to expect her to excuse many things in him.

How he loved her, and how delicately he could woo and flatter, and mingle with his tender speeches the costly gifts of his rich and mobile intellect! How beautifully and aptly he could speak of her own art, and induce her to oppose to his clever remarks her own modest opinion! He had cheerfully endured contradiction the night before during the conversation concerning music.

But what had followed her luckless regret about his lame foot?

The words had pierced her heart like knives; even now she did not understand where she obtained the strength to withhold the sharp answer for which her lips had already parted; but she knew her hasty spirit, which only too easily led her to outbreaks of anger. Had the power of love, or the magic spell which emanates from genuine royalty, forced her to silence?

No matter.

A good angel had aided her to control herself, and in a rapid prayer she besought the Holy Virgin to assist her in future if her august lover again roused her to rebellion.

Now that she was losing her most sincere friends, the only ones who might have ventured a kindly warning, she must learn to guard herself.

Perhaps it was fortunate that she had already discovered how necessary it was not only to show the mighty sovereign to whom her heart belonged that he was dear to her, but also to display the timid reverence with which millions bowed before him. But if she imposed this constraint upon herself, would her love still remain the same?

"No, no, and again no!" cried the refractory spirit within.

Was he not a weak, fallible mortal, subject, like every one else, to suffering and disease, overcome by his passion, who had even been guilty of an act which, had it been committed by the son of a Ratisbon family, would have seemed to her reprehensible?

Again and again this question forced itself upon her, and with it another—whether she, the woman who had never tolerated such a thing from any one, ought not to undertake to defend herself against unjust assaults, which humiliated her in her own eyes, no matter whence they might come?

Would she not hold a higher position in his sight if she showed him, whom no one ventured to contradict, that the woman he deemed worthy of his love dared to defend her dignity, although he had deprived her of her natural protectors?

Precisely because she was conscious of loving him with her whole soul, because for his sake she had given the world the right to deny her honour and dignity, she was eager to show him that she prized both, and was not inclined to let them be assailed.

Hitherto she had not regarded it as a disgrace, but as the highest distinction, to be deemed worthy of the love of the greatest monarch on earth, and, with a sense of pride, had sacrificed her most sacred possession to his wishes. But how could she retain this feeling if he no longer showed her that he, too, regarded her worthy of him?

She had defied custom, law, the voice of her own conscience, and she did not regret that she had done so. On no account would she have changed what had occurred if only she succeeded in guarding herself from being humiliated by her lover. To accomplish this, it was worth while to confront a great danger boldly. It was the greatest of all, the peril of losing him, for what would she be if he deserted her?

At the bare thought a torturing dread overwhelmed her.

Never had she felt so irresolute, so deeply agitated, and she uttered a sigh of relief when her father returned from his visit to old Ursel, and praised the care with which she had selected the articles that filled his knapsack.

The flushed cheeks which he noticed could scarcely be the result of the light labour which she had performed for him. With the instinct of paternal love, he probably perceived that she was agitated, but he had so little idea of the mental conflict which had taken possession of her soul that her anxiety pleased him. The separation must be hard for the poor child, and how could the honour bestowed upon the father fail to affect the daughter's mind also.

He had hoped to find Wolf in Ursel's room, but he had already been away some time, and had told the old woman that he was going to the Hiltners, and should probably remain there a long while, as his schoolmate, Erasmus Eckhart, the nephew and adopted son of the syndic and his wife, had returned home from Wittenberg.

To find Wolf and deliver the important message Blomberg would have been obliged to enter the accursed heretic's house, and, rather than do it, he protested he would inflict this and that upon himself.

But whom should he trust to represent him? The best plan would be for Barbara to write to the young knight, informing him of the honour in store for him.

He himself wielded the sword so much better than the pen.

The obliging daughter put a speedy end to her father's embarrassment by offering to go in search of Wolf in person; she by no means shunned the Hiltners. In fact, the doctor's wife had always been especially kind to her at the Convivium musicum, and her young daughter Martina, during the months in which she, too, was permitted to sing in the chorus, had displayed, whenever opportunity offered, an admiration for Barbara which bordered on enthusiasm. Besides, there was no obligation to keep Barbara from this errand; the removal to Prebrunn to join the marquise was not to take place until noon of the following day.

The pious captain, it is true, was as reluctant to let his daughter go to the heretic's as to a pesthouse, but Wolf's notification permitted no delay, so he consented, and expressed his willingness to accompany her.



CHAPTER XX.

Barbara had scarcely entered the street with her father when they were stopped by Master Adrian, the Emperor's valet. He came from his Majesty to inform Blomberg that the regent could not spare Sir Wolf Hartschwert, and the captain might choose another companion for his ride. The Emperor expected him to select only a loyal, trustworthy, and vigorous nobleman who had taken the oath of fealty to his Majesty. If he should be in the military service, the necessary leave of absence was granted in advance; only he must present himself to the Lord Bishop of Arras that very day. Sir Wolf Hartschwert must depart for Brussels in the regent's train early the next morning.

This news by no means pleased the old soldier, yet, before the valet had finished the message, his features smoothed—he thought he had already found the right man.

After assuring himself that the imperial messenger had fulfilled his commission, he took a hasty leave of him and his daughter.

His kind heart impelled him to show his chosen companion his friendly remembrance of him, and thereby atone for the offence which had been inflicted upon him in his house. To Barbara's inquiry whom he would take with him, he hurriedly replied that he should not decide until he joined his military comrades in the Black Bear. As soon as this important matter was settled he would return home, for it had now become unnecessary to inform Wolf. The maid-servant could be sent to summon him to the Golden Cross. Barbara might go herself at once to Ursel and soothe her—anxiety about her beloved young knight weighed heavily upon her soul.

During this conversation? Master Adrian had gone to her side; but as soon as Blomberg had retired, he informed Barbara, in his master's name, that he should expect her after vespers in the apartments of the Queen of Hungary. He longed to hear her voice. The regent desired to know whether she had any special wishes concerning the Prebrunn house. She need not restrict herself on the score of expense; the Prebrunn steward would be authorized to pay everything. True, most of the furniture was supplied and the necessary servants had been obtained, but her Majesty the Queen advised her to take with her a maid or companion whom she personally liked.

Barbara's face crimsoned as she listened, and then asked anxiously whether the Emperor Charles knew of these arrangements.

He had no doubt of it, the man replied, for he had heard his Majesty remark that, if the marquise's companion was not to become the toy of her caprices, she must be enabled to obtain what she desired independently of the old lady. He was anxious to make Barbara's life in Prebrunn a pleasant one.

The latter, with downcast eyes, thanked Master Adrian and turned away; but he detained her with the inquiry whether he should probably find Sir Wolf Hartschwert at home, and received the answer that he had gone to Syndic Hiltner's.

The valet then hastily took his leave, because just at that time his royal master needed him. Any one else could summon the knight to the regent in his place.

In the corridor of the Golden Cross he met Brother Cassian, the body servant of the Confessor de Soto, a middle-aged Swabian, who had formerly as a lay brother worked as a bookbinder in the Dominican monastery at Cologne. He was clad in a half-secular, half-priestly garb, and was an humble, extremely devout man, whose yielding nature had rendered him popular among the servants at the court. His bullet-shaped head was unusually large, and his face, with its narrow brow and small, lustreless eyes, showed that he was not prone to thinking. Yet he fulfilled every order precisely according to directions, and possessed his full share of the cunning which is often a characteristic of narrow minds.

He willingly undertook to summon Sir Wolf Hartschwert, whom he knew, to the presence of the Queen of Hungary. No special haste was needful, and, as he loved good wine and did not lack gifts from those who desired an audience with his master, he went first to the English Greeting, where the travelling clergy lodged and often deigned to accost him.

Barbara had returned home with bowed head, and threw herself into her father's arm-chair in his workshop. She gazed into vacancy with a sore and anxious heart, and, as an insane violinist lures the same tone from the instrument again and again, she constantly returned to the same thought, "Lost! lost!—too late! too late!"

Barbara gave herself up to this mood for several minutes, but at last she remembered her lover's summons for that evening.

He longed to hear her voice, Master Adrian had said.

Surely, surely he himself had clothed the expression in a totally different, a hundred times warmer form. How bewitchingly he, the great Emperor, understood how to flatter, and, with the memory of the charm of his manner, the thought of the blissful hours which she had enjoyed through his love returned to her mind. It was in his power to bestow the highest happiness which earth can give; after all, his love outweighed everything that she must sacrifice for it. To enjoy it, though but for a brief season, she ought not to refuse to bear the hardest, most terrible things, and, if what was now her secret became rumoured among the people, to accept humiliation, shame, and scorn. Let the respectable women of Ratisbon, in their pride of virtue, maliciously cast stones at her; they could not look down upon her, for, as the object of the most illustrious sovereign's love, she was raised far above them.

Meanwhile, with a feeling of defiant self-confidence, she was again braiding her hair. But the mental firmness which she had regained did not last; more than once her hand faltered while the comb was dividing the wealth of her golden tresses. How ardently Charles had praised their luxuriant beauty!-and to-day he was to rejoice in it again. But why had not even one poor word from his own hand accompanied the summons?

Why had his messenger been only a valet? Why had he wounded her so deeply the night before?

Why did leaden weights seem to hang upon her soul when she attempted to soar upward?

Oh, what a state of things!

Who had given the regent, to whom nothing attracted her, the right to dispose of her as though she were a chattel or her captive?

Had she, with her heart and her honour, also resigned her freedom to her lover?

If she had only possessed one, one single person to whom she could utter her thoughts!

Then her glance fell upon the knapsack, and she remembered Wolf. He was to set out on his journey early the next morning; her lover expected her after vespers; so perhaps she would not be permitted to see him again, for she scarcely dared to hope that, after the rebuff which he had experienced, he would seek her again. Yet she longed once more to clasp the hand of the man for whom she felt a sister's affection and yet had so deeply wounded.

Without one kind farewell word from him, the bitterest drop of all would fall into the wormwood which already mingled in her happiness. It seemed incomprehensible that he who from childhood had given her his whole heart would henceforth deny her every friendly feeling. For her own sake, and also for his, this should not be.

How many had sought her love! But perhaps the time would soon come when, on account of the one who must supply the place of all others, no one would care for her. Then she wished at least to be sure of the sympathy, the friendship of this good loyal man.

There were still many things for her to do, but to seek Wolf she left them all, even the visit to Frau Lerch, whom she wished to ask to devote herself exclusively to her service in Prebrunn.

Full of anxious cares, lofty anticipations, and the ardent desire to conciliate Wolf, she took the by no means lengthy walk to the Hiltners. Not until she reached the doctor's house did it occur to her that she had forgotten to execute her father's commission and relieve Ursel's anxiety about her darling.

How did it happen that, if any affair of her own interested her, she always forgot what she owed to others?

Barbara was obliged to wait in the broad, lofty hall of the syndic's house for the maid-servant, who announced her; and the stout man with the big head, who had seized the knocker just before she entered, shared her fate.

He was now leaning with bowed head against the wall, both hands clasped under his beardless chin, and might have been taken for a monk repeating his prayers. The long, brown doublet fastened around his hips by a Hemp rope, instead of a girdle, made him resemble a Franciscan. But his thick, flaxen hair lacked the tonsure, the rope the rosary, and he wore coarse leather shoes on his large feet.

Barbara fancied that she had seen this strange figure somewhere, and he, too, must have recognised her, for he bowed when she looked at him. There was not the slightest movement of the body except the small eyes, which wandered restlessly around the spacious room as if they missed something.

The inquiry what he found lacking here was already rising to Barbara's lips when the syndic's wife came toward her, preceded by her daughter Martina, who, radiant with joy at seeing the ardently admired singer in her own house, kissed her with fervent affection.

The mother merely extended her hand to Barbara, yet the whole manner of the gentle, reserved woman showed that she was a welcome guest.

Frau Sabina loved and understood music, still enjoyed singing hymns with the members of her household, and had done everything in her power to aid the establishment of the Convivium musicum and foster its progress.

Interest in music had also united her to Dr. Martin Luther, her husband's friend, and mane a composition of the Wittenberg ecclesiastic had first been performed at the Hiltners.

The old faith offered so much more to charm the senses than the new one! Therefore it seemed a special cause for thanksgiving that singing and playing upon the organ occupied a prominent place in the Protestant religious service, and that Luther most warmly commended the fostering of music to those who professed the evangelical belief. Besides, her adopted son Erasmus, the new Wittenberg master of arts, had devoted himself eagerly to music, and composed several hymns which, if Damian Feys permitted it, would be sung in the Convivium musicum.

Frau Sabina Hiltner had often met Barbara there, and had noticed with admiration and pleasure the great progress which this richly gifted young creature had made under the direction of the Netherland master.

Other members of the Convivium, on the contrary, bore Barbara a grudge because she remained a Catholic, and many a mother of a daughter whom Barbara, as a singer, had cast too far into the shade, would gladly have thrust her out of the circle of music-loving citizens.

Frau Sabina and Master Feys, who, like the much-envied girl, was a professor of the old faith, interceded for her all the more warmly.

Besides, it afforded Frau Hiltner scarcely less pleasure to hear Barbara than it did Martina, and she could also fix her eyes with genuine devotion upon the girl's wonderfully beautiful and nobly formed features. The mother and daughter owed to this peerless singer the best enjoyment which the Collegium afforded them, and, when envy and just displeasure approached Frau Sabina to accuse Barbara of insubordination, obstinacy, pride, and forwardness, which were unseemly for one so young, as well as exchanging coquettish glances with the masculine members of the choir, the profoundly respected wife of the syndic and her young daughter warmly defended the persecuted girl.

In this her husband strongly supported her, for, when necessary, he dealt weighty blows and upheld what he deemed just without fear of man and with the powerful aids of his strong intellect and the weight of the esteem he had won by a stainless, industrious life.

Doubtless Frau Sabina also perceived something unusual in Barbara's nature and conduct, traits of defiance, almost rebellion, which would have troubled her in her Martina, who, though no beauty, was a pretty girl, with the most winning, childlike charm; but she secretly asked herself whether she would not accept it gratefully if, in exchange, her girl could possess such a wonderful gift of God; for, sharply as the eye of envy followed Barbara's every act, she had never given cause to doubt her chastity, and this Frau Hiltner considered greatly in her favour; for what tremendous temptations must have assailed this marvellously beautiful creature, this genuine artist, who had grown to womanhood without a mother, and whose only counsellor and protector was a crippled, eccentric old soldier.

As Martina opened the door of the sitting room a loud conversation in men's voices became audible, and with the deep, resonant tones of the syndic Barbara recognised the higher, less powerful ones of the man whom she was seeking.

The kiss of the scarcely unfolded bud of girlhood, the child of a mother whose presence in the Convivium had often helped her to curb an impetuous impulse, pleased Barbara, and yet awakened the painful feeling that in accepting it without resistance she was guilty of a deception. Besides, she had not confessed, and it seemed as if, in feeling the young heretic's kiss an honour, she were adding to the burden which had not yet been removed from her conscience.

Yet she could not overcome an emotion of rare pleasure when Frau Sabina, after beckoning to her husband, took her hand and led her into the reception room. Erasmus Eckhart, the adopted son of the house, hastened toward Barbara to greet her as an acquaintance of his school days, flushing deeply in his surprise at her great beauty as he did so.

But the mistress of the house gave him no time to renew the relations of childhood, and led her away from him to her husband and her mother-in-law, a woman of ninety, to whom she presented her with kind, nay, with extremely flattering, words. Barbara lowered her eyes in confusion, and did not see how, at her entrance, Wolf's face had blanched and old Frau Hiltner had sat up in her cushioned arm-chair at the window to look her sharply and fixedly in the eyes with the freedom of age.

Meanwhile the man from the hall had stationed himself beside the door in the same attitude, with his hands clasped under his chin and his cap between his breast and arm, and stood motionless. He did not appear to be at ease, and gnawed his thick lower lip with a troubled look as he occasionally cast a glance at the strong countenance of Martin Luther, whose portrait, the size of life, gazed at him from its gilt frame on the opposite wall.

Barbara did not regain complete self-control until the syndic asked his errand.

The man in the brown doublet was Brother Cassian, the body servant of the Emperor's confessor. He now unclasped his hands to grasp the cap under his arm, which he twirled awkwardly in his fingers while saying, in a rapid, expressionless tone, as though he were repeating a lesson, that he had come to summon Wolf Hartschwert to the Queen of Hungary, with whom he must set out for Brussels early the next morning.

Barbara then remarked in a subdued tone that she had come here for the same purpose, and also for another-to shake hands with the playmate of her childhood, because she probably would not see him again before his departure.

Wolf listened to this statement in surprise, and then told the messenger that he would obey her Majesty's command.

"Obey the command," Cassian repeated, according to his servant custom. Then he was about to retire, but Frau Sabina had filled a goblet with wine for him, and Martina, according too an old custom of the family, offered it to the messenger.

But, much as Cassian liked the juice of the grape, he waved back the kindly meant gift of the mistress of the house with a hoarse "No, no!" and shaking his head, turned on his heel, and without a word of thanks or farewell left the room.

"The heretic's wine," observed Dr. Hiltner, shrugging his shoulders regretfully, and then asked Wolf, "Do you know the queer fellow?"

"The body servant of the almoner, Pedro de Soto," was the reply. The bang of the closed outer door was heard at the same moment, for Cassian had rushed into the open air as fast as his feet would carry him. After leaving part of the street behind him, he stopped, and with a loud "B-r-r-r!" shook himself like a poodle that has just come out of the water.

Into what an abominable heretic house Master Adrian had sent him!

To despatch a good Christian to such an unclean hole!

No images of the Virgin and the saints, no crucifix nor anything else that elevates a human soul in the whole dwelling, but the portrait of the anti-Christ, the arch-heretic Luther, in the best place in the room! However he turned his eyes away, the fat heretic face had forced him to look at it. Meanwhile he had felt as if the devil himself was already stretching out his arm from the ample sleeve to seize him by the collar.

"B-r-r-r!" he repeated, and hurried off to Saint Leonhard's chapel in the Golden Cross, where he sprinkled himself eagerly with holy water, and then sought Master Adrian. But the valet was with the Emperor, and so he went to his master and told him where he had unexpectedly wandered.

The latter lent a willing ear and shook his sagacious head indignantly when he learned that, besides Sir Wolf Hartschwert, Cassian had also met "the singer" at the house of the syndic, the soul of the evangelical movement in Ratisbon.

Meanwhile Barbara was taking leave of the friend of her youth at the Hiltner house.

The others, with the exception of the deaf old dame, had considerately left the room.

Wolf felt it gratefully, for a dark suspicion, which Barbara's information of her father's long ride as a messenger only confirmed, weighed heavily upon his heart.

The man for whose sake the woman he loved had given him up must be Baron Malfalconnet.

It was well known how recklessly this gay, gallant noble trifled with women's hearts, and he had mentioned Barbara in his presence in a way that justified the conjecture.

Therefore, ere Wolf clasped her hand, he told her the suspicions which filled him with anxiety about her.

But he was soon to discover the baselessness of this fear.

Whatever the truthful girl so positively and solemnly denied must be far from her thoughts, and he now clasped her right hand in both his.

The heavy anxiety that his "queen" had fallen into the baron's hands as a toy had been removed. The thought of the Emperor Charles was as far removed from his mind as heaven from earth, though Barbara emphasized the fact that the man whom she loved would be sure of his respect. She also, with deep emotion, assured him that she wished him the best and most beautiful life, and would always retain her friendship for him whatever Fate might have in store for both.

The words sounded so truthful and loyal that Wolf's heart was moved to its inmost depths, and he now, in his turn, assured her that he would never forget her, and would treasure her image in his heart's core to the end. True, he must endure the keenest suffering for her sake, but he also owed her the greatest happiness life had granted him.

The eyes of both were dim, but when he began to talk in the old pathetic way of the magic of love, which would at last bring together those whom Heaven destined for one another, she tore herself away, hastily begged him to say farewell to Fran Hiltner for her, and then went into the hall; but here Martina overtook the departing guest, threw herself impetuously into her arms, and whispered the question whether she would permit her to pay her a visit at Prebrunn when she was with her old marquise, she had so much, so very much, to tell her.

But the wish, of which her mother was ignorant, remained unfulfilled, for Barbara, scarcely able to control her voice in her embarrassment, hurriedly replied that while with the lady in waiting she would no longer be her own mistress, pressed a hasty kiss upon the innocent child's brow, released herself from her embrace, and rushed through the door, which Wolf was holding open for her, into the street.

The former gazed after her with a troubled heart, and, after she was out of sight, returned to the others. He conscientiously delivered Barbara's farewell, and the praise which Frau Sabina lavished upon her pleased him as much as if nothing had come between them. Finally he made an engagement to see Erasmus Eckhart that evening in his lodgings, and then went to the Queen of Hungary.

After he had left the Hiltners Frau Sabina bent down to her mother-in-law's ear—though she had lost her quickness of hearing, she had retained her sight perfectly—and, raising her voice, told her the name of the young lady who had just left them. Then she asked if she, too, did not admire Barbara's beauty, and what she thought of her.

The grandmother nodded, exclaiming in a low tone, "Beautiful, beautiful—a wonderfully beautiful creature!" Then she gazed thoughtfully into vacancy, and at last asked whether she had heard correctly that Jungfrau Blomberg was also a remarkable singer.

Her daughter-in-law eagerly nodded assent to this question.

The aged woman silently bowed her head, but quickly raised it again, and there was a faint tinge of regret in her voice as she began: "Too much, certainly too much. Such marvels are rare. But one thing or the other. For women of her stamp there are only two conditions, and no other—rapturous happiness and utter misery. She will be content with no average. It does not suit such natures."

Here she paused abruptly, for Martina entered the room, and with affectionate solicitude said to her granddaughter: "Young Trainer was here just now. Has anything happened between you? I see by your eyes that you have been weeping."

ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:

Cunning which is often a characteristic of narrow minds Pride in charms which we do not possess (vanity)



BARBARA BLOMBERG

By Georg Ebers

Volume 5.



CHAPTER XXI.

The Emperor Charles loved his sister Mary, and he now desired to show her how dear she was to his heart. She had been obliging to him, and he had in mind the execution of a great enterprise which she had hitherto zealously opposed, yet for which he needed her co-operation.

It satisfied him to know that the father of his love would be absent from Ratisbon for the present. He did not care who accompanied him.

When the regent reproached him for having taken Sir Wolf Hartschwert from her without a word of consultation, although she was unwilling to spare him, he had instantly placed Wolf at her disposal again.

The simplest and cheapest plan would have been to let Blomberg pursue his journey alone; but the monarch feared that the despatch might not be quickly delivered if anything happened to the old man on the way, and he had said before witnesses that he would not allow him to go without companionship.

He scarcely thought of Barbara's filial feeling. She loved him, and the place which she gave to any one else in her heart could and must therefore be extremely small.

How powerfully the passionate love for this girl had seized him he dared not confess to himself. But he rejoiced in the late love which rejuvenated him and filled him with a joy in existence whose fresh blossoming would have seemed impossible a few days before.

How superb a creature he had found in this German city, from which, since its change of religion, he had withdrawn his former favour! In his youth his heart had throbbed ardently for many a fair woman, but she surpassed in beauty, in swift intelligence, in fervour, in artistic ability, and, above all, in sincere, unfeigned devotion every one whom his faithful memory recalled.

He would hold fast to the loved one who bestowed this happiness and fresh vigour of youth. To make warm the nest which was to receive his dear nightingale he had conquered the economy which was beginning to degenerate into avarice, and also intended to accomplish other sacrifices in order to procure her the position which she deserved.

He no longer knew that he had wounded her deeply the night before. He was in the habit of casting aside whatever displeased him unless it appeared advantageous to impose restraint upon himself; and who would ever have dared to resist the expression of his indignation? Had Barbara obeyed her hasty temper and returned him a sharp answer, he certainly would not have forgotten it. The bare thought of her dispelled melancholy thoughts from his mind; the hope of soon seeing and hearing her again rendered him friendly and yielding to those about him. The trivial sin which this sweet love secret contained had been pardoned in the case of the man bound by no older obligation, after a slight penance, and now for the first time he fully enjoyed the wealth of the unexpected new happiness. It must also be acceptable to Heaven, for this was distinctly shown by the more and more favourable turn of politics, and he held the return gift.

That it was the right one was proved by the nature of the gratifying news brought by the very last despatches. They urged him directly toward the war which hitherto, from the most serious motives, he had avoided, and, as his royal sister correctly saw, would destroy a slowly matured, earnest purpose; for it forced him to renounce the hope of effecting at Trent a reformation of the Church according to his own ideas, and a restoration of the unity of religion in a peaceful manner by yielding on one side and reasonable concessions on the other. He had long since perceived that many things in the old form of religion needed reformation. If war was declared, he would be compelled to resign the hope that these would be undertaken by Rome, and the opposition, the defiance, the bold rebellion of the Protestant princes destroyed every hope of propitiation on their part. They were forcing him to draw the sword, and he might venture to do so at this time, for he need now feel no fear of serious opposition from any of the great powers around him. Maurice of Saxony, too, was on the point of withdrawing from the Smalkalds and becoming his ally; so, with the assistance of Heaven, he might hope to win the victory for the cause of the Church, and with it also that of the crown.

With regard to the probability of this war, he had much to expect from the activity of his sister in the Netherlands, and though she now advocated peace, in the twelfth hour, which must soon strike, he could rely upon her. Yet she was a woman, and it was necessary to bind her to him by every tie of the heart and intellect.

He loved Barbara as warmly as he was capable of loving; but had Mary that evening required his separation from the singer as the price of her assistance in promoting his plans, the desire of the heart would perhaps have yielded to the wishes of the statesman.

But the regent did not impose this choice; she did not grudge him his late happiness, and gratefully appreciated the transformation which Barbara's rare gifts had wrought.

The affectionate sister's heart wished that the bond which produced so favourable a result might be of the longest possible duration, and she had therefore personally attended to the furnishing of the Prebrunn house, and made all sorts of arrangements to render Barbara's life with the marquise, not only endurable, but pleasant.

The Emperor had allowed a considerable sum for this purpose, but she did not trouble herself about the amount allotted. If she exceeded it, Charles must undertake the payment, whether he desired it or not.

Her vivid imagination had showed her how she, in the Emperor's place, would treat the object of his love, and she acted accordingly, without questioning him or the girl for whom her arrangements were made.

Nothing was too expensive for the favoured being who dispelled the Emperor's melancholy, and she had proved how much can be accomplished in a brief space where there is good will on all sides.

By her orders entirely separate suites of apartments had been prepared for Barbara and the marquise. Quijada had selected four of her own saddle horses for the stable of the little castle, and supplied it with the necessary servants. Her steward had been commissioned to provide the servants wanted in the kitchen, and one of her Netherland officials had received orders to manage the household of the marquise and her companion, and in doing so to anticipate Barbara's wishes in the most attentive manner. One of her best maids, the worthy and skilful Frau Lamperi, though she was reluctant to part with her, had been sent to Prebrunn to serve Barbara as garde-robiere. The advice that the Emperor's love should take her own waiting maid also came from her. She knew the value, amid new circumstances, of a person long known and trusted. The idea that Barbara would take her own maid with her rested, it is true, on the supposition that so well-dressed a young lady, who belonged to an ancient family, must as surely possess such a person as eyes and hands.

Barbara had just induced Frau Lerch to accompany her to Prebrunn. The old woman's opposition had only been intended to extort more favourable terms. She knew nothing of the regent's arrangements.

Queen Mary was grateful to Charles for so readily restoring the useful Sir Wolf Hartschwert, and when the latter presented himself he was received even more graciously than usual.

She had some work ready for him. A letter in relation to the betrothal of her nieces, the daughters of King Ferdinand, was to be sent to the Imperial Councillor Schonberg at Vienna. It must be written in German, because the receiver understood no other language.

After she had told the knight the purpose of the letter, she left him; the vesper service summoned her, and afterward Barbara detained her as she sang to the Emperor, alone and accompanied by Appenzelder's boy choir, several songs, and in a manner so thoroughly artistic that the Queen lingered not only in obedience to her brother's wish, but from pleasure in the magnificent music, until the end of the concert.

Just as Wolf, seated in the writing room, which was always at his disposal, finished the letter, the major-domo, Don Luis Quijada, sought him.

He had already intimated several times that he had something in view for him which promised to give Wolf's life, in his opinion, a new and favourable turn. Now he made his proposal.

The duties imposed upon him by the service compelled him to live apart from his beloved, young, and beautiful wife, Dona Magdalena de Ulloa, who had remained at his castle Villagarcia in Spain. She possessed but one true comforter in her solitude—music. But the person who had hitherto instructed her—the family chaplain—was dead. So far as his ability and his taste were concerned, it would have been easy to replace him, but Quijada sought in his successor qualities which rarely adorned a single individual, but which he expected to find united in the knight.

In the first place, the person he desired must be, like the chaplain, of noble birth; for to see his wife closely associated with a man of inferior station was objectionable to the Spanish grandee, who was perhaps the most popular of all the officers in the army, not only on account of his valour in the field, but also for the kindly good will and absolute justice which he bestowed upon even the humblest soldier.

That the chaplain's successor must be a good artist, thoroughly familiar with Netherland and Italian music, was a matter of course. But Don Luis also demanded from Dona Magdalena's new teacher and household companion graceful manners, a modest disposition, and, above all things, a character on which he could absolutely rely. Not that he would have cherished any fears of the fidelity of the wife whom he honoured as the purest and noblest of her sex, and of whom he spoke to the knight with reverence and love; he desired only to guard her from any occurrence that might offend her.

Wolf listened in surprise. He had firmly resolved that on no account would he stay in Ratisbon. What could he find save fresh anxiety and never-ending anguish of the heart if he remained near Barbara, who disdained his love?

He possessed little ambition. It was only for the sake of the woman he loved that he had recently made more active exertions, but with his excellent acquirements and the fair prospects which were open to him at the court, it seemed, even to his modest mind, too humble a fate to bury himself in a Spanish castle in order to while away with music the lonely hours of a noblewoman, no matter how high her rank, how beautiful and estimable she might be, or how gladly he would render her admirable husband a favour.

Quijada had said this to himself, and perceived plainly enough what was passing in the young knight's thoughts.

So he frankly confessed that he was well aware how few temptations his invitation offered a man endowed with Wolf's rare advantages, but he came by no means with empty hands—and he now informed the listening musician what he could offer him.

This certainly gave his proposal a different aspect.

The aristocratic Quijada family—and as its head he himself—had in its gift a rich living, which annually yielded thousands of ducats, in the great capital of Valladolid. Many a son of a distinguished race sought it, but he wished to bestow it upon Wolf. It would insure him more than a comfortable support, permit him to marry the woman of his choice, and, if he remained several years in Villagarcia, afford him the possibility of accumulating a neat little property, as he would live in Quijada's castle as a welcome guest and scarcely ever be obliged to open his purse strings. Besides, music was cultivated in Valladolid, and if Don Luis introduced him to the clergy there, it might easily happen that they would avail themselves of his great knowledge and fine ability and intrust to him the amendment and perhaps, finally, the direction of the church music.

As Dona Magdalena often spent several months with her brother, the Marquis Rodrigo de la Mota, Wolf could from time to time be permitted to visit the Netherlands or Italy to participate in the more active musical life of these countries.

Wolf listened to this explanation with increasing attention.

The narrow path which buried itself in the sand was becoming a thoroughfare leading upward. He was glad that he had withheld his refusal; but this matter was so important that the prudent young man, after warmly thanking Don Luis for his good opinion, requested some time for consideration.

True, Quijada could assure him that, for the sake of his wife, Dona Magdalena de Ulloa, whom from childhood she had honoured with her special favour, the regent would place no obstacle in the way of his retirement from her service. But Wolf begged him to have patience with him. He was not a man to make swift decisions, and nowhere could he reflect better than in the saddle during a long ride. He would inform him of his determination by the first messenger despatched from Brussels to the Emperor. Even now he could assure him that this generous offer seemed very tempting, since solitude always had far more charm for him than the noisy bustle of the court.

Quijada willingly granted the requested delay, and, before bidding him farewell, Wolf availed himself of the opportunity to deliver into his hands the papers collected by his adopted father, which he had on his person. They contained the proof that he was descended from the legal marriage of a knight and a baroness; and Don Luis willingly undertook to have them confirmed by the Emperor, and his patent renewed in a way which, if he accepted his proposal, might also be useful to him in Spain.

So Wolf took leave of the major-domo with the conviction that he possessed a true friend in this distinguished man. If the regent did not arbitrarily detain him, he would show himself in Villagarcia to be worthy of his confidence.

On the stairs he met the Emperor's confessor, Don Pedro de Soto. Wolf bowed reverently before the dignified figure of the distinguished Dominican, and the latter, as he recognised him, paused to request curtly that he would give him a few minutes the following day.

"If I can be of any service to your Reverence," replied Wolf, taking the prelate's delicate hand to kiss it; but the almoner, with visible coldness, withdrew it, repellently interrupting him: "First, Sir Knight, I must ask you for an explanation. Where the plague is raging in every street, we ought to guard our own houses carefully against it."

"Undoubtedly," replied Wolf, unsuspiciously. "But I shall set out early to-morrow morning with her Majesty."

"Then," replied the Dominican after a brief hesitation, "then a word with you now."

He continued his way to the second story, and Wolf, with an anxious mind, followed him into a waiting room, now empty, near the staircase.

The deep seriousness in the keen eyes of the learned confessor, which could look gentle, indulgent, and sometimes even merry, revealed that he desired to discuss some matter of importance; but the very first question which the priest addressed to him restored the young man's composure.

The confessor merely desired to know what took him to the house of the man who must be known to him as the soul of the evangelical innovations in his native city, and the friend of Martin Luther.

Wolf now quietly informed him what offer Dr. Hiltner, as syndic of Ratisbon, had made him in the name of the Council.

"And you?" asked the confessor anxiously.

"I declined it most positively," replied Wolf, "although it would have suited my taste to stand at the head of the musical life in my native city."

"Because you prefer to remain in the service of her Majesty Queen Mary?" asked De Soto.

"No, your Eminence. Probably I shall soon leave the position near her person. I rather feared that, as a good Catholic, I would find it difficult to do my duty in the service of an evangelical employer."

"There is something in that. But what led the singer—you know whom I mean—to the same house?"

Wolf could not restrain a slight smile, and he answered eagerly: "The young lady and I grew up together under the same roof, your Eminence, and she came for no other purpose than to bid me farewell. A lamb that clings more firmly to the shepherd, and more strongly abhors heresy, could scarcely be found in our Redeemer's flock."

"A lamb!" exclaimed the almoner with a slight touch of scorn. "What are we to think of the foe of heresy who exchanges tender kisses with the wife of the most energetic leader of Protestantism?"

"By your permission, your Eminence," Wolf asserted, "only the daughter offered her her lips. She and her mother made the singer's acquaintance at the musical exercises established here by the Council. Music is the only bond between them."—"Yet there is a bond," cried De Soto suspiciously. "If you see her again before your departure, advise her, in my name, to sever it. She found a friendly welcome and much kindness in that house, and here at least—tell her so—only one faith exists. A prosperous journey, Sir Knight."

The delay caused by this conversation induced Wolf to quicken his pace. It had grown late, and Erasmus Eckhart had surely been waiting some time for his school friend in the old precentor's house.

This was really the case, but the Wittenberg theologian, whose course of study had ended only a fortnight before, and who, with his long, brown locks and bright blue eyes, still looked like a gay young student, had had no reason to lament the delay.

He was first received by Ursel, who had left her bed and was moving slowly about the room, and how much the old woman had had to tell her young fellow-believer from Wittenberg about Martin Luther, who was now no longer living, and Professor Melanchthon; but Erasmus Eckhart liked to talk with her, for as a schoolmate and intimate friend of Wolf he had paid innumerable visits to the house, and received in winter an apple, in summer a handful of cherries, from her.

The young man was still less disposed to be vexed with Wolf for his delay when Barbara appeared in Ursel's room. Erasmus had played with her, too, when he was a boy, and they shared a treasure of memories of the fairest portion of life.

When Wolf at last returned and Barbara gave him her hand, Erasmus envied him the affectionate confidence with which it was done. She was charged with the warmest messages from her father to the knight, and conscientiously delivered them. The old gentleman's companion had advised starting that evening, because experience taught that, on a long ride, it was better for man and beast to spend the night outside the city.

They were to put up at the excellent tavern in Winzer, an hour's journey from Ratisbon, and continue the ride from that point.

Wolf knew that many couriers did the same thing, in order to avoid delay at the gate, and only asked whom her father had chosen for a companion.

"A young nobleman who was here as a recruiting officer," replied Barbara curtly.

She had not heard until the last moment whom her father had selected, and had only seen Pyramus Kogel again while the captain's groom was buckling his knapsack upon the saddle. He had ridden to the house, and while she gazed past him, as though an invisible cap concealed him from her eyes, he asked whether she had no wish concerning her father at heart.

"That some one else was to accompany him," came her sharp reply.

Then, before the captain put his foot into the stirrup, she threw her arms around the old man's neck, kissed him tenderly, and uttered loving wishes for him to take with him on his way.

Her father, deeply moved, at last swung himself into the saddle, commending her to the protection of the gracious Virgin. It was not wholly easy for him to part with her, but the prospect of riding out into the world with a full purse, highly honoured by his imperial master, gratified the old adventure-loving heart so much that he could feel no genuine sympathy. Too honest to feign an emotion which he did not experience, he behaved accordingly; and, besides, he was sure of leaving his child in the best care as in her earlier years, when, glad to leave the dull city, business, and his arrogant, never-satisfied wife behind, he had gone with a light heart to war.

While pressing the horse's flanks between his legs and forcing the spirited animal, which went round and round with him in a circle, to obedience, he waved his new travelling hat; but Barbara, meanwhile, was thinking that he could only leave her with his mind thus free from care because she was deceiving him, and, as her eyes rested on her father's wounded limb projecting stiffly into the air, bitter grief overwhelmed her.

How often the old wounds caused him pain! Other little infirmities, too, tortured him. Who would bind them up on the journey? who would give him the medicine which afforded relief?

Then pity affected her more deeply than ever before, and it was with difficulty that she forced back the rising tears. Her father might perhaps have noticed them, for one groom carried a torch, and the one-eyed maid's lantern was shining directly into her face.

But while she was struggling not to weep aloud, emotion and anxiety for the old man who, through her fault, would be exposed to so much danger, extorted the cry: "Take care of him, Herr Pyramus! I will be grateful to you."

"That shall be a promise, lovely, ungracious maiden," the recruiting officer quickly answered. But the old man was already waving his hat again, his horse dashed upon the Haidplatz at a gallop, and his companion, with gallant bearing, followed.

Barbara had then gone back into the house, and the maid-servant lighted her upstairs.

It had become perfectly dark in her rooms, and the solitude and silence there oppressed her like a hundredweight burden. Besides, terrible thoughts had assailed her, showing her herself in want and shame, despised, disdained, begging for a morsel of bread, and her father under his fallen horse, on his lonely, couch of pain, in his coffin.

Then her stay in her lonely rooms seemed unendurable. She would have lost her reason ere Quijada came at midnight to conduct her for a short time to the Golden Cross. She could not remain long with her lover, because the servants were obliged to be up early in the morning on account of the regent's departure.

With Ursel she would be protected from the terrors of solitude, for, besides the old woman's voice, a man's tones also reached her through the open window. It was probably the companion of her childhood. In his society she would most speedily regain her lost peace of mind.

In his place she had at first found only Erasmus Eckhart.

The strong, bold boy had become a fine-looking man.

A certain gravity of demeanour had early taken possession of him, and while his close-shut lips showed his ability to cling tenaciously to a resolution, his bright eyes sparkled with the glow of enthusiasm.

Barbara could believe in this young man's capacity for earnest, lofty aspiration, and for that very reason it had aroused special displeasure in her mind when he gaily recalled the foolish pranks, far better suited to a boy, into which as a child she had often allowed herself to be hurried.

She felt as if, in doing so, he was showing her a lack of respect which he would scarcely have ventured toward a young lady whom he esteemed, and the petted singer, whom no less a personage than the Emperor Charles deemed worthy of his love, was unwilling to tolerate such levity from so young a man.

She made no claim to reverence, but she expected admiration and the recognition of being an unusual person, who was great in her own way.

For the sake of the monarch who raised her to his side, she owed it to herself to show, even in her outward bearing, that she did not stand too far below him in aristocratic dignity.

She succeeded in this admirably during the conversation on music and singing which she carried on with Erasmus.

When she at last desired to return home, Wolf accompanied her up the stairs, informed her of his conversation with the confessor, and at the same time warned her against incautious visits to the Hiltners so long as the Emperor held his court in Ratisbon.

To have fallen under suspicion of heresy would have been the last thing Barbara expected, and she called it foolish, nay, ridiculous. But, ere she clasped Wolf's hand in farewell, she promised to show the almoner at the first opportunity upon how false a trail he had come.



CHAPTER XXII.

When Wolf went back to Erasmus the latter assured his friend that he had met no maiden in Ratisbon who, to rare gifts, united the dignity which he had hitherto admired only in the ladies whom he had met at the court of the Elector of Saxony. His sparkling eyes flashed more brightly as he spoke, and, like a blushing girl, he confessed to his friend that Jungfrau Blomberg's promise to sing one of his own compositions to him made him a happy man.

Barbara's conduct had made the repressed fire of love blaze up anew in Wolf.

Now, for the first time, the woman he loved fully and entirely fulfilled the ideal which he had formed of the "queen" of his heart.

Was it the sad separation from him, the taking leave of her father, or her new love, which was bestowed on a man whom he also esteemed, that impressed upon her nature the stamp of a nobility which beseemed her as well as it suited her aristocratic beauty?

Never had it appeared to him so utterly impossible that he could yield her to another without resistance. Perhaps the man chosen by such a jewel was more worthy than he, but no one's love could surpass his in strength and fervour. She had tested it, and he need no longer call himself an insignificant suitor; for, if he gained possession of the living which Don Luis had ready for him, if he obtained a high position in Valladolid—But his friend gave him no time to pursue such thoughts further, for, while Barbara shortly after midnight stole down the stairs like a criminal, and Quijada conducted her to her imperial lover, Erasmus began to press him with demands which he was obliged to reject.

The Wittenberg master of arts, ever since his first meeting with his friend, had been on the point of asking the question how he, who had obtained in the school of poets an insight into the pure word of God, could prevail upon himself to continue to wear the chains of Rome and remain a Catholic.

Wolf had expected this query, and, while he filled his companion's goblet with the good Wurzburg wine which Ursula provided, he begged him not to bring religion into their conversation.

The young Wittenberg theologian, however, had come for the express purpose of discussing it with his friend.

Religion, he asserted in the fervid manner characteristic of him, was in these times the axis around which turned the inner life of the world and every individual. He himself had resolved to live for the object for whose sake it was worth while to die. He knew the great perils which would be associated with it for one of his warlike temperament, but he had become, by the divine summons, an evangelical theologian, a combatant for the liberation of the slaves sighing under the tyranny of Rome. A serious conversation with a friend who was a German and resisted yielding to a movement of the spirit which was kindling the inmost depths of the German nature, thoughts, and feelings, and was destined to heal the woes of the German nation and preserve it from the basest abuse, would be to him inconceivable.

Wolf interrupted this avowal with the assurance that he must nevertheless decline a religious discussion with him, for the weapons they would use were too different. Erasmus, as a theologian, was deeply versed in the Protestant faith, while he professed Catholicism merely as a consequence of his birth and with a layman's understanding and knowledge. Yet he would not shun the conflict if his hands were not bound by the most sacred of oaths. Then he turned to the past, and while he himself, as it were, lived through for the second time the most affecting moment in his existence, he transported his friend to his dead mother's sick-bed.

In vivid language he described how the devout widow and nun implored her son to resist like a rock in the sea the assault of the new heretical ideas, that the thousands of prayers which she had uttered for him, for his soul, and his father's, might not be vain.

Then Wolf confessed that just at that time, as a pupil in the school of poets, he had come under the influence of the scholar Naevius, whose evangelical views Erasmus knew, and related how difficult it had been for him to take the oath which, nevertheless, now that he had once sworn it, he would keep, even though life and his own intelligence would not have taught him to prefer the old faith to every new doctrine, whether it emanated from Luther, from Calvin, or from Zwingli.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13     Next Part
Home - Random Browse