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Barbara Blomberg
by Georg Ebers
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For a short time Erasmus found no answer to this statement, and Wolf's old nurse, who herself clung to the Protestants from complete conviction, and had listened attentively to his words, urged her young co-religionist, by all sorts of signs, to respect his friend's decision.

The confession of his schoolmate had not been entirely without effect upon the young theologian. The name of "mother" also filled him with reverence.

True, his birth had cost his own mother her life, but he had long possessed a distinct idea of her nature and being, and had given her precisely the same position which, in the early days of his school life, the Virgin Mary had occupied.

To induce another to break a vow made to his mother would have been sinful. But a brief reflection changed his mind.

Were there not circumstances in which the Bible itself commanded a man to leave father and mother? Had not Jesus Christ made the surrender of every old relation and the following after him the duty of those who were to become his disciples? What was the meaning of the words the Saviour had uttered to his august mother, "Woman, what have I to do with thee?" except it was commanded to turn even from the mother when religion was at stake?

Many another passage of Scripture had strengthened the courage of the young Bible student when at last, with a look of intelligence, he pledged Wolf, and remarking, "How could I venture the attempt to lead you to break so sacred an oath?" instantly brought forward every plea that a son who, in religious matters, followed a different path from his mother could allege in his justification.

A short time before, in Brussels, Wolf had seen a superior of the new Society of Jesus, whose members were now appearing everywhere as defenders of the violently assailed papacy, seek to win back to Catholicism the son of evangelical parents with the very same arguments. He told his friend this, and also expressed the belief that the Jesuit, too, had spoken in good faith.

Erasmus shrugged his shoulders, saying "Doubtless there are many mansions in our Father's house, but who will blame us if we left the dilapidated old one, where our liberty was restricted and our consciences were burdened, and preferred the new one, in which man is subject to no other mortal, but only to the plain words of the Bible and to the judge in his own breast? If we prefer this mansion, which stands open to every one whose heart the old one oppresses, to the ruinous one of former days——"

"Yet," interrupted Wolf, "you must say to yourselves that you leave behind in the old one much which the new one lacks, no matter with how many good things you may equip it. The history of our religion and its development does not belong to your new home—only to the old one."

"We stand upon it as every newer thing rests on the older," replied Erasmus eagerly. "What we cast aside and refuse to take into the new home with us is not the holy faith, but merely its deformity, abasement, and falsification."

"Call it so," replied Wolf calmly. "I have heard others name and interpret differently what you probably have in mind while using these harsh epithets. But is it not the old house, and that alone, in which the martyrs shed their blood for Christianity? Where did it fulfil its lofty task of saturating the heart of mankind with love, softening the customs of rude pagans, clearing away forests, transforming barren wastes into cultivated fields, planting the cross on chapels and churches, summoning men with the consecrated voice of the bell to the sermon which proclaims love and peace? Where did it open the doors of the school which prepares the intellect to satisfy its true destiny, and first qualifies man to become the image of God? By the old mansion this country, covered with marshes, moors; and impenetrable forests, was rendered what it now is; from it proceeded that fostering of science and the arts of which as yet I have seen little in your circles."

"Give us time," cried the theologian, "and perhaps in our home their flowering will attain an unsurpassed richness of development. With what loose bonds the humanists are still united to you!"

"And the finest intellect of all, the great scholar whose name you bear, though he deemed many things in our old home deserving of improvement, remained with us until his death. Jesus Christ is one, and so his Church must also remain. The only question is, What the Saviour still is to you Protestants, what he is to you, my friend?"

"Before how many saints, and many another whom your Church desires to honour, do you bow the knee?" Erasmus fervidly answered; "but we do so only to the august Trinity. And do you wish to know what Jesus Christ, the Son, is to me? All, and more than all, is the answer; I live and breathe in my Saviour Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, to-day, and throughout eternity."

The young theologian raised his sparkling eyes heavenward as he spoke, and continued: "Our doctrine is founded on him, his word, his love alone; and who among the enthusiastic heralds of Christianity in ancient times grasped faith in him with warmer sincerity than the very Martin Luther whom you would have led to the stake had not the Emperor Charles's plighted word been dearer to him than the approval of Rome? Oh, my friend, our young faith can also show its martyrs. Think of the Bohemian John Huss and the true Christians who, in the Netherlands and Spain, were burned at the stake and bled upon the scaffold because they read the Bible, the Word of God and their Saviour, and would rather die than deny it. If it should come to the worst, thousands here would also be ready to ascend the funeral pyre, and I at their head. If war is declared now, the Emperor Charles will gain the victory; and if he does not wish to withdraw in earnest from Romish influences, who can tell what will then await us Protestants? But I am not anxious about what may come. We German citizens, who are accustomed to guide our own destinies and maintain the system of government we arranged for ourselves, who built by our own strength our solid, comfortable, gable-roofed houses and noble, towering cathedrals, will also independently maintain the life of our minds and our souls. Rome, with her legions of priests, claimed the right not only to interfere in our civil life, but also to intrude into our houses, our married lives, and our nurseries. What could she not decide for the individual by virtue of the power she arrogates to bind and to loose, to forgive sins, and to open or to close the door of heaven for the dying? What she has done with the Church's gifts of grace we know.

"There is a deep, beautiful meaning underlying this idea. But it has degenerated into a base traffic in indulgences. We have sincere natures. For a long time we believed that salvation is gained by works—gifts to the Church, fasts, scourgings, seclusion from the world, self-confinement in a cell—and our wealth went to Rome. Rarely do we look vainly in the most beautiful sites on mountain or by river for a monastery! But at last the sound sense of Germany rebelled, and when Luther saw in Rome poor sufferers from gout and cripples ascending the stairs of the Lateran on their knees, a voice within cried out to him the great 'sola fide' on which our faith is founded. On it alone, on devotion to Jesus Christ, depends our salvation."

"Then," asked Wolf, "you boldly deny any saving power to good works?"

"Yes," was the firm reply, "so far as they do not proceed from faith."

"As if the Church did not impose the same demand!" replied Wolf in a more animated tone. "True, base wrong has been done in regard to the sale of indulgences, but at the Council of Trent opposition will be made to it. No estimable priest holds the belief that money can atone for a sin or win the mercy of Heaven. With us also sincere repentance or devout faith must accompany the gift, the fasting, and whatever else the believer imposes upon himself here below. Man is so constituted that the only things which make a deep impression are those that the body also feels. The teacher's blow has a greater effect than his words, a gift produces more willingness than an entreaty, and the tendency toward asceticism and penance is genuinely Christian, and belongs to many a people of a different faith. Your Erasmus said that his heart was Catholic, but his stomach desired to be Protestant. You have an easier task than we."

"On the contrary," the young theologian burst forth. "It is mere child's play for you to obtain forgiveness by acts which really do not cut deeply into the flesh; but if one of us errs, how hard must be the conflict in his own breast ere he attains the conviction that his guilt is expiated by deep repentance and better deeds!"

"I can answer for that," here interposed old Ursel, who from her arm-chair had listened to the conversation between the two with intense interest.

"Good heavens! One went forth from the confessional as pure as a white dove after absolution had been received and the penance performed; but now that I belong to the Protestants, it is hard to reach a perfect understanding with the dear Saviour and one's self."

"And ought that to redound to the discredit of my faith?" asked Wolf. "So far as I have learned to know men, the majority, at least, will not hasten to attain our Ursel's complete understanding with one's self. I should even fear that there are many among you who no longer feel a desire to heed little sins and their forgiveness——"

Here Ursel again interrupted him with an exclamation of dissent, accompanied by a gesture of denial from her thin old hand; but Wolf glanced at the clock which the precentor had received as a testimonial of affection from the members of the cathedral choir, which he had led for years.

It was already half past one, and for the sake of Ursel, who was still obliged to take care of herself, he urged departure, adding gaily that he had not the ability to "defend himself against two." Erasmus, too, was surprised to find it so late, and, after shaking hands with the old woman and promising to visit her soon again, seized his cap. Wolf accompanied him.

The May night was sultry, and the air in the low room had been hot and oppressive.

He would gladly have dropped the useless discussion, but Erasmus's heart was set upon winning his schoolmate to the doctrine which he believed with his whole soul. He toiled with the utmost zeal, but during their nocturnal walk also he failed to convince his opponent. Both were true to their religion. Erasmus saw in his faith the return to the pure teachings of Christ and the liberation of the human soul from ancient fetters; Wolf, who had had them pointed out to him at school by a Protestant teacher, by no means denied the abuses that had crept into his, but he clung with warm love to Holy Church, which offered his soul an abundance of what it needed.

His art certainly also owed to her its best development—from the inexhaustible spring of faith which is formed from thousands of rivulets and tributaries in the holy domain of the Catholic Church, and in it alone, the most sublime of all material flowed to the musician, and not to him only, but to the artist, the architect, and the sculptor. The fullest stream—he was well aware of it—came from ancient pagan times, but from whatever sources the spring was fed, the Church had understood how to assimilate, preserve, and sanctify it.

Erasmus listened silently while Wolf eagerly made these statements; but when the latter closed with the declaration that the evangelical faith would never attain the same power of elevating hearts, he interrupted the knight with the exclamation, "We shall have to wait for that!"

Luther, he went on, had given the most powerful encouragement to music, and the German Protestant composers even now were not so very far behind the Netherland ones. The Catholic Church could no longer claim the great Albrecht Durer, and, if art ceased to create images of the saints, with which the childish minds of the common people practised idolatry, so much the better. The Infinite and Eternal was no subject for the artist. The humanization of God only belittled his infinite and illimitable nature. Earthly life offered art material enough. Man himself would be the worthiest model for imitation, and perhaps no earlier epoch had created handsomer likenesses of men and women than would now be produced by evangelical artists.

To their own surprise, during this conversation they had reached the Hiltner house, and Erasmus invited his friend to come to his room and over a glass of wine answer him, as he had had the last word. But Wolf had already drunk at his own home more of the fiery Wurzburg from the precentor's cellar than usual. Besides, much as he still had to say in reply to Erasmus, the sensible young man deemed it advisable to avoid the syndic's house for the present. The confessor's suspicion had been aroused, and De Soto was a Dominican, who certainly did not stand far from the Holy Inquisition.

Therefore while Erasmus, with burning head and great excitement, was still urging his friend to come in, Wolf unexpectedly bade him a hasty and resolute farewell.



CHAPTER XXIII.

Wolf left the Hiltner house behind him with the feeling that he had upheld the cause of his Church against the learned opponent to the best of his ability, and had not been defeated. Yet he was not entirely satisfied. In former years he had read the Hutten dialogues, and, though he disapproved of their assaults upon the Holy Father in Rome, he had warmly sympathized with the fiery knight's love for his native land.

Far as, at the court of Charles, the German ranked below the Netherlander, the Spaniard, and the Italian, Wolf was proud of being a German, and it vexed him that he had not at least made the attempt to repel the theologian's charge that the Catholic, to whom the authority of Rome was the highest, would be inferior to the Protestant in patriotism.

But he would have succeeded no better in convincing Erasmus than the learned theologians who, at the Emperor's instance, had held an earnest religious discussion in Ratisbon a short time before, had succeeded in arriving at even a remote understanding.

As he reached the Haidplatz new questions of closer interest were casting these of supreme importance into the shade.

He was to enter his home directly, and then the woman whom he loved would rest above him, and alone, unwatched, and unguarded, perhaps dream of another.

Who was the man for whose sake she withdrew from him the heart to whose possession he had the best and at any rate the oldest right?

Certainly not Baron Malfalconnet.

Neither could he believe it to be Peter Schlumperger or young Crafft.

Yet perhaps the fortunate man belonged to the court. If that was the case, how easy would the game now be made for him with the girl, who was guarded by no faithful eye!

His heart throbbed faster as he entered Red Cock Street.

The moon was still in the cloudless, starry sky, shining with her calm, silver radiance upon one side of the street. Barbara's bow-window was touched by it, and—what did it mean?—a small lamp must still be burning in her room, for the window was illuminated, though but dimly. Perhaps she had kept the light because she felt timid in her lonely chamber. Now Wolf crossed obliquely toward his house.

Just at that moment he saw the tall figure of a man.

What was he doing there at this hour? Was it a thief or a burglar? There was no lack of evil-disposed folk in this time of want.

Wolf still wore his court costume, and the short dress sword which belonged to it hung in its sheath.

His heart beat quicker as he loosed the blade and advanced toward the suspicious night-bird.

Just then he saw the other calmly turn the big key and take it out of the door.

That could be no thief! No, certainly not!

It was a gentleman of tall stature, whose aristocratic figure and Spanish court costume were partially covered by a long cloak.

There was no doubt! Wolf could not be mistaken, for, while the former was putting the key in his pocket, the mantle had slipped from one shoulder.

"Malfalconnet," muttered Wolf, grasping the hilt of his short sword more firmly.

But at the same moment the moonlight showed him the Spaniard's face. A chill ran through his frame, followed by a feverish heat, for the nocturnal intruder into his house was not the baron, but Quijada, the noble Don Luis, his patron, who had just been lauding to the skies the virtues, the beauty, the goodness of the peerless Dona Magdalena de Ulloa, his glorious wife. He had intended to send Wolf, the friend and housemate of his victim, to Spain to become the instructor of his deceived wife.

He saw through the game, and it seemed as if he could not help laughing aloud in delight at his own penetration, in rage and despair.

How clearly, and yet how coarsely and brutally, it had all been planned!

The infamous scoundrel, who possessed so much influence over the Emperor, had first sent old Blomberg away; now he, Wolf, was to follow, that no one might stand between the game and the pursuer.

Barbara's lover must be Quijada. For the Spaniard's sake she had given him up, and perhaps even played the part of adviser in this abominable business. It must be so, for who else could know what she was to him?

Yet no! He himself had aided the guilty passion of this couple, for how warmly he had sung Barbara's praises to Don Luis! And then in how many a conversation with Barbara had Quijada's name been mentioned, and he had always spoken of this man with warm regard. Hence her remark that he himself deemed her lover worthy of esteem.

In a few seconds these thoughts darted through his heated brain with the speed of lightning.

The street began to whirl around him, and a deep loathing of the base traitor, a boundless hatred of the destroyer of his happiness, of the betrayed girl, and the life which led through such abysses overpowered the deluded man.

The infamous girl had just left her lover's arms, her kiss was doubtless still glowing on his faithless lips!

Wolf groaned aloud like a sorely stricken deer, and for a moment it seemed to him that the best course would be to put an end to his own ruined life. But rage and hate urged him upon another victim, and, unable to control himself, he rushed with uplifted blade upon the hypocritical seducer.

This utterly unexpected attack did not give Don Luis time to draw his sword, but, with ready presence of mind, he forced the hand wielding the weapon aside, and, while he felt a sharp pain in his left arm, seized the assassin with his right hand, swung his light figure upward, and with the strength and skill peculiar to him hurled it with all his might upon the stone steps of the dwelling.

Not a single word, only a savage cry of fury, followed by a piteous moan, had escaped Wolf's lips during this swift deed of violence.

The Spaniard scornfully thrust aside with his foot the inert body lying on the ground. His arrogance did not deem it worth while to ascertain what had befallen the murderer who had been punished. He had more important things to do, for his own blood was flowing in a hot, full stream over his hand.

Accustomed in bull fighting and in battle to maintain his calmness and caution even in the most difficult situation, he said to himself that, if his wound should be connected with the murder before this house it would betray his master's secret to the Ratisbon courts of justice, and thereby to the public.

He had heard the skull of the lurking thief strike against the granite steps of the house. So the dark, motionless mass before him was probably a corpse. There was no hurry about that, but his own condition compelled him to take care of himself. Entering the shadow of a tall building opposite the dwelling, he assured himself that the street was entirely empty, and then, drawing the aching arm from the doublet, he examined the wound as well as the dim light would permit. It was deep, it is true, but the robber's weapon appeared merely to have cut the flesh.

A jerk, and Quijada had stripped the ruff from his neck, and, as this did not suffice, he cut with his sword blade and his teeth a piece of fine linen from his shirt.

This would do for the first bandage. The skilful hand which, in battle, had aided many a bleeding comrade soon completed the task.

Then he flung his uninjured cloak around him again, and turned toward the lifeless body at the foot of the steps.

There lay the murderer's weapon—a delicately fashioned short dress sword, with an ivory hilt, not the knife of a common highwayman.

That was the reason the wound was so narrow.

But who had sought his life with this dainty steel blade?

There were few at court who envied him the Emperor's favour—his office often compelled him to deny even persons of higher rank access to his Majesty; but he had never—this he could assure himself—treated even men of humble station harshly or unjustly. If he had offended any one by haughty self-confidence, it had been unintentional. He was not to blame for the manner natural to the Castilian.

Besides, he had little time for reflection; scarcely had he hastily wiped off with the little cloak that lay beside him the blood which covered the face of the prostrate man than he started back in horror, for the person who had sought his life was the very one whom he had honoured with his highest confidence, and had chosen as the teacher and companion of the wife who was dearer than his own existence.

Some cruel misunderstanding, some pitiable mistake must have been at work here, and he came upon the right trail speedily enough.

The hapless knight loved Barbara, and had taken him, Luis, for her betrayer and nocturnal visitor.

Fatal error of the Emperor, whose lamentable consequences were already beginning!

With sincere repentance for his needlessly violent act of defence, he bent over the severely injured man. His heart was still beating, but doubtless on account of the great loss of blood—it throbbed with alarming weakness. Don Luis also soon found a wound in the skull, which appeared to be fractured.

If speedy aid was not rendered, the unfortunate man was lost.

Quijada laid Wolf's head quickly and carefully on his cloak, which he placed in a roll beneath it, and then hurried to the Red Cock, where one servant was just opening the door and another was leading out two horses. The latter was Jan, Wolf's Netherland servant, who wanted to water the animals before starting on the journey.

He instantly recognised the nobleman; but the latter had resolved to keep the poor musician's attack a secret.

As Jan bowed respectfully to him, he ordered him and the servant of the Red Cock to leave everything and follow him. He had found a dead man in the street.

A few minutes after the three were standing at the steps of the house, before the object of their solicitude.

The groom of the Red Cock, who still held a lantern in his hand, though dawn was already beginning to glimmer faintly in the east, threw the light upon the face of the bleeding form, and Jan exclaimed in grief and terror that the injured man was his master.

The Brabant lad wailed, and the German, who had known the "precentor cavalier" all his life, joined in the lamentation; but Quijada induced them both to think only of saving the wounded nobleman.

The old groom, with savage imprecations upon the scoundrels who now infested their quiet streets, raised the wounded man's head and told Jan to lift his feet. Both were familiar with the house, and, while the servants bore Wolf up the narrow stairs, the proud Spanish grandee lighted their way with the lantern, supporting the wounded man's injured head, with his free hand. At the door of the young knight's rooms he told the servants to attend to his needs, and then hurried back to the Golden Cross.

He found a great bustle prevailing there. Tilted wagons were being loaded with the regent's luggage, couriers and servants were rushing to and fro, and in the courtyard men were currying the horses which were to be ridden on the journey.

Don Luis paid no heed to all this, hastening first to the chapel to ask a young German chaplain to administer the sacrament to Sir Wolf Hartschwert, to whose house he hurriedly directed him. Then going swiftly to the third story, he waked Dr. Mathys, the Emperor's leech.

The portly physician rubbed his eyes angrily; but as soon as he learned for whom he was wanted and how serious was the injury, he showed the most praiseworthy haste and, with the attendant who carried his surgical instruments and medicines, was standing beside the sufferer's couch almost as soon as the wounded man.

The result of his examination was anything but gratifying.

He would gladly do all that his skill would permit for the knight, but in so serious a fracture of the skull only the special mercy of Heaven could preserve life.

Dr. Doll, the best physician in Ratisbon, assisted him with the bandaging, and old Ursel had suddenly recovered her lost strength.

When the maid-servant asked timidly if she should not call Wawerl down from upstairs, she shrugged her shoulders with a movement which the one-eyed girl understood, and which signified anything but acceptance of the proposal.

Yet Barbara would perhaps have rendered most efficacious assistance.

True, she was still sleeping the sound slumber of wearied youth. Directly after her return from her imperial lover, she had gone to rest in the little chamber behind the bow-windowed room. It looked out upon the courtyard, and was protected from the noise of the street. When she heard sounds in the house, she thought that old Ursel was ill and they were summoning the doctor. For a moment she felt an impulse to rise and go downstairs, but she did not like to leave her warm bed, and Wolf would manage without her. She had always lacked patience to wait upon the sick, and Ursel had grown so harsh and disagreeable since she joined the Protestants. Finally, Barbara had brought home exquisite recollections of her illustrious lover, which must not be clouded by the suffering of the old woman, whom, besides, she could rarely please.

She did not learn what had happened until she went to mass, and then it weighed heavily upon her heart that she had not given Wolf her assistance, especially as she suspected, with strange certainty, that she herself was connected with this terrible misfortune.

Now—ah, how gladly!—she would have helped Ursel with the nursing, but she forbade her to enter the sick-room. The most absolute quiet must reign there. No one was permitted to cross the threshold except herself and an elderly nun, whom the Clares had sent for the sake of the wounded man's dead mother. A Dominican also soon came, whom the old woman could not shut out because he was despatched by the Queen of Hungary, and the violinist Massi, whom she gladly welcomed as a good friend of her Wolf. He proved himself loyal, and devoted every leisure hour of the night to the sufferer. Barbara knocked at the door very often, but Ursel persisted in refusing admittance. She knew that the girl had rejected her darling's proposal, and it was a satisfaction to her when, toward noon, the former told her that she was about to leave the house to go to Prebrunn.

A cart would convey her luggage, but it would be only lightly laden. Fran Lerch went with the baggage.

An hour later Barbara herself moved into the little castle, which had been refurnished for her. Mounted upon a spirited bay horse from her Prebrunn stables, she rode beside the Marquise de Leria's huge litter to her new home.



CHAPTER XXIV.

The very harsh execrations which the regent bestowed upon pleasant Ratisbon when she learned what had befallen Sir Wolf Hartschwert were better suited to the huntress than to the queen and sister of a mighty emperor.

Murderous knaves who, in the heart of the city, close to the imperial precincts, endangered the lives of peaceful people at night! It was unprecedented, and yet evidently only a result of the heretical abuses.

She had sprung into the saddle—she always travelled on horseback—in the worst possible mood, but had urged all who were near the Emperor Charles's person, and also the almoner Pedro de Soto, to remember the wounded man and do everything possible to aid his recovery.

She did not mention Barbara, even by a single word, in her farewell to her royal brother.

The latter had intended to accompany her a portion of the way, but a great quantity of work—not least in consequence of the loss of time occasioned by the new love life—had accumulated, and he therefore preferred to take leave of his sister in the courtyard of the Golden Cross.

There, with his assistance, she mounted her horse.

Quijada, who usually rendered her this service, stood aloof, silent and pale. The regent had noticed it, and attributed his appearance to grief for her departure. No one at court held a higher place in her regard, and it pleased her that he, too, found it so hard to do without her.

As her horse started, her last salute was to the monarch and to him.

Malfalconnet, whose eyes were everywhere, noticed it, and whispered to the Marquise de Leria, who was standing beside him: "Either Don Luis would do well to intrust himself to our Mathys's treatment, or this gentleman is an accomplished actor, or our most gracious lady has tampered with the fidelity of this most loyal husband, and the paternosters and pilgrimages of Dona Magdalena de Ulloa have been vain."

A few minutes after, the Emperor Charles was sitting at the writing table examining, with the Bishop of Arras, a mountain of reports and documents. Two or three hours elapsed ere he received ambassadors and gave audiences, and during that time Quijada was not needed by his royal master.

He had previously had leisure only to provide for the wounded man, cleanse himself from blood, change his dress, bid Queen Mary farewell, and bandage the hurt afresh. He had done this with his own hands because he distrusted the reticence of his extremely skilful but heedless French valet.

When he returned to his lodgings, Master Adrian followed him, and modestly, yet with all the warmth of affection which he felt for this true friend of his master, entreated him to permit him to speak freely. He had perceived, not only by the pallor of Don Luis's cheeks, but other signs, that he was suffering, and in the name of his wife, who, when her husband was summoned from her side, had urged him with the earnestness of anxious love to watch over him, begged him not to force himself beyond his strength to perform his service, if his sufferings corresponded with his appearance.

Don Luis looked sharply into the faithful face, and what he found there induced him to admit that he was concealing a wound. Adrian silently beckoned to him, and led the way into his own room, where he entreated Don Luis to show him the injury. When he saw it, his by no means mobile features blanched.

He knew that Quijada had accompanied Barbara home that night. On this errand, he was sure of it, Don Luis must have received this serious wound at the same time as Wolf, or even obtained it from the young knight himself. Besides, he felt certain that the object of the Emperor's love was connected with both disasters. Yet not a word which could have resembled a question escaped his beardless lips while he examined, sewed, and bandaged the deep sword thrust with the skill and care of a surgeon.

When he had finished his task, he thanked Don Luis for the confidence reposed in him.

Quijada pressed his hand gratefully, and begged him to do his best that no one, not even the Emperor, should learn anything about this vexatious mischance. Then, not from curiosity, for grave motives, he desired to know what relations existed between Sir Wolf Hartschwert and Barbara.

The answer was somewhat delayed, for Wolf had won the affection of the influential valet, and what Master Adrian had learned concerning the young knight's personal affairs from himself, his own wife in Brussels, and the violinist Massi, he would have confided to no one on earth except Quijada, and perhaps not even to him had he not accompanied his inquiry with the assurance that what he intrusted to him would remain buried in his soul, and be used only for Wolf's advantage.

This promise loosed the cautious valet's tongue. He knew his man, and, when Don Luis also desired to learn whether the knight had already discovered that Barbara was now the Emperor's love, he thought he could answer in the negative.

What he had heard of Wolf's relation to Barbara was only that the two had spent their early youth in the same house, that the knight loved the singer, but that she had rejected his suit.

This avowal appeared to satisfy Quijada, and it really did calm him. He now believed that Wolf had misjudged him, and, supposing that he was coming from a meeting with the girl he loved, had drawn his sword against him. The manner in which he had attempted to rid himself of the rival seemed criminal enough, yet the nocturnal attack had scarcely concerned him personally, and he would not condemn the man who was usually so calm and sensible without having heard him.

If Wolf lived—and he desired it from his heart—this act, which he appeared to have committed in a fit of blind jealousy, should do him no injury.

With a warm clasp of the hand, which united these two men more firmly than a long period of mutual intercourse, each went his way in quiet content.

In the afternoon Master Adrian was sent out to Prebrunn to announce to Barbara a visit from the Emperor after vespers.

Wolf, it is true, had told her many things about Adrian Dubois, and informed her how much pleasure he had had at Brussels in visiting him and his sensible, cheerful wife, how implicitly the Emperor trusted him, how faithfully he served him, how highly the ambassadors and the most aristocratic gentlemen esteemed him, and how great an advantage it had been to him, Wolf, to possess his friendship; yet she thought proper to treat the valet with the haughty reserve which beseemed her as the Emperor's favourite, and which yesterday evening had won the approval of the Wittenberg theologian and of Wolf.

But Master Adrian appeared to take no notice of her manner, and performed his errand with businesslike composure.

The Emperor Charles wished to know how she liked her new home.

In reality she had found its beauty and comfort far beyond her expectations, had clapped her hands in surprise when she was conducted by the marquise through the new abode, and, under the guidance of the house steward Steen, had been shown the kitchen, the stable, the four horses, and the garden. In her reception-room she found a lute and a harp of exquisitely beautiful workmanship, and a small Milan cabinet made of ebony inlaid with ivory, in which was a heavy casket bound with silver. The key had been given to her the evening before by the regent herself, and when Barbara opened it she discovered so many shining zecchins and ducats that a long time was occupied when she obeyed Fran Lerch's request to count them.

The dressmaker from the Grieb was already in her service, and had been a witness of her sincere delight and grateful pleasure. The second hour after their arrival she had helped her to employ Frau Lamperi, the maid whom the steward called the 'garde-robiere', and had already been to the city herself to buy, for her fortunate "darling" costly but, on account of the approach of summer, light materials. But she had seen Master Adrian corning, and, while he was passing through the garden, gave her the advice by no means to praise what she found here, but to appear as though she had been accustomed to such surroundings, and found this and that not quite worthy of her, but needing addition and improvement.

At first Barbara had succeeded in assuming the airs of the spoiled lady, but when Adrian, with prosaic definiteness, asked for details, and she saw herself compelled to begin the game of dissimulation anew, it grew repugnant to her.

To her artist nature every restraint soon became irksome, especially so unpleasant a one, which was opposed to her character, and ere she was her self aware of it she was again the vivacious Wawerl, and frankly and freely expressed her pleasure in the beautiful new things she owed to her lover's kindness.

A smile, so faint and brief that Barbara did not perceive it, was hovering meanwhile around the valet's thin lips. The causes of this strange change of opinion and mood would have been sufficiently intelligible to him, even had he not perceived one of the reproving glances which Frau Lerch cast at Barbara.

She, too, had met one; but since she had once obeyed the impulse of her own nature, and felt content in doing so, she troubled herself no further about the monitor, and there was nothing in her new home which was not far more beautiful than what she had had in the precentor's modest house.

The marquise displeased her most deeply, and this also she plainly told Master Adrian, and begged him to inform his Majesty, with her dutiful greeting. His best gift was the precaution which he had taken that she should live apart from the old monkey.

The valet received this commission, like all the former ones, with a slight, grave bow.

On the whole, the experienced man was not ill-pleased with her, only it seemed to him strange that Barbara did not mention the serious misfortune which had befallen Wolf; yet she knew from his own lips that he loved the knight, and had learned that the latter's life was in serious danger.

So he turned the conversation to his young friend, and in an instant a remarkable change took place in Barbara. Wolf's sorrowful fate and severe wound had weighed heavily upon her heart, but what the present brought was so novel and varied that it had crowded the painful event, near as was the past to which it belonged, into the shadow.

She now desired to know who the murderer was who had attacked him, and cursed him with impetuous wrath. She thought it base and shameful that she had been denied access to his couch.

Poor, poor Wolf!

Of all the men on earth, he was the best! Meanwhile tears of genuine compassion flowed from her eyes and, with passionate vehemence, she declared that no power in the world should keep her from him. The mere sound of her voice, she knew, would be a cordial to him.

So Master Adrian had not been mistaken.

It was not only in song that she was capable of deep feeling, and the love which had seized the Emperor Charles so late, and yet so powerfully, had not gone far astray.

He could scarcely have bestowed it upon a more beautiful woman. While pleasure in her new surroundings held sway over her, it was a real pleasure to see her face. But this creature, so richly gifted by the grace of God, was not suited for his modest young friend; this had become especially evident to him when an almost evil expression escaped her lips while she emptied the vial of her wrath upon Wolf's murderer.

If she deemed herself worthy of his master's love, she would not lack Adrian's protection, which was the more effective the more persistently he refrained from asking of the Emperor's favour even the slightest thing for himself, his wife, or others; that the time would come when she would need it, he was certain.

No one knew the Emperor so well as he, and he saw before him the cliffs which threatened to shatter the little ship of this love bond. Already an imprudent violation of his extreme sense of the dignity of majesty, or of the confidence which he bestowed upon her, might become fatal to it.

But, ardently as she might return his love, loyal and discreet as her conduct might be, there were other grave perils menacing the tie which united the Emperor to Barbara.

Charles was a man of action, of work, of fulfilment of duty. The moment that he perceived this love bond would impede his progress toward the lofty goals to which he aspired might easily mark the beginning of its end.

Now, in the midst of peace, such a result was scarcely to be feared; but if it came to fighting—and many a sign showed Adrian that war was not far distant—a great change would take place in his master's character; the general would assert his rights. Every other consideration would then be pitilessly thrust aside and, if Charles still remained loyal to his affection, he would have fallen under the spell of one of those great passions which defy every assault of time and circumstance and find an end only in death. But the sharp-sighted man could not believe in such love on his master's part; in his nature the claims of reason threw those of the heart too far into the shade. If Barbara was wise, her daily prayer should be for the maintenance of peace.

To speak of these fears to the care-free girl would have been cruel, but he could probably give her a useful hint as opportunity offered.

Accustomed to perform his duty silently and, where speech was necessary, to study the utmost brevity, he had not learned the art of clothing his thoughts in pleasing forms. So, without circumlocution, he whispered to Barbara the advice to send away Frau Lerch, who was not fit for her service, and as soon as possible to dismiss her entirely.

The girl flew into a rage, and no whisper or urgency from another, but her own unbridled, independent nature, which during continual struggle had been steeled to assert herself, in spite of her poverty, among the rich companions of her own rank, as well as the newly awakened haughty consciousness that now, as the object of the mightiest monarch's love, she was exalted far above the companions of her own rank—led her to rebuff the warning of the well-meaning man with a sharpness that it ill beseemed one so much younger to use toward the Emperor's gray-haired messenger.

The valet shrugged his shoulders compassionately, and his regular features, whose expression varied only under the influence of strong, deep feelings, distinctly betrayed how sincerely he lamented her conduct.

Barbara noticed it, and instantly remembered what Wolf had told her about him and his wife. She did not think of the influence which he exercised upon the Emperor and the service which he might render her, but all the more vividly of his steadfast, devoted loyalty, and what he was and had accomplished for the man whom she loved, and, seized with sincere repentance, obeying a powerful impulse, she held out her hand with frank cordiality just as he was already bowing in farewell. Adrian hesitated a moment.

What did this mean?

What accident was causing this new change of feeling in this April day of a girl?

But when her sparkling blue eyes gazed at him so brightly and at the same time so plainly showed that she knew she had wronged him, he clasped the hand, and his face again wore a friendly expression.

Then Barbara laughed in her bewitching, bell-like tones and, like a naughty child begging forgiveness for a trivial fault, asked him gaily not to take offence at her foolish arrogance. All the new things here had somewhat turned her silly brain. She knew how faithfully he served her Charles, and for that reason she could not help liking him already.

"If you have any cause to find fault with me," she concluded merrily, "out with it honestly." Then addressing Frau Lerch, not as though she were speaking to a servant, but to an older friend, she asked her to leave her alone with Herr Adrian a short time; but she insisted positively on having her own way when the dressmaker remarked that she did not know why, after the greatest secret of all had been forced upon her, her discretion should be distrusted.

As soon as she had retired the valet entreated Barbara to beware of the advice of this woman, whose designs he saw perfectly. He, Adrian, would wish her to have a companion of nobler nature and more delicate perceptions.

But this warning seemed scarcely endurable to Barbara. Although she did not fly into a passion again, she asked in an irritated tone whether Adrian had been granted the power of looking into another's soul. What she perceived with absolute certainty in Frau Lerch, who, as her dead mother's maid, had tended her as a child, was great faithfulness and secrecy and the most skilful hands. Still, she promised to remember his well-meant counsel.

Adrian's warning always to consider what a position her lord occupied in the world, and to beware of crossing the border line which separated the monarch from his subjects, and even from those who were of the highest rank and dearest to him, was gratefully received, for she remembered the sharp rebuff which she had already experienced from her lover. It proved this excellent man's good will toward her, and her eyes fairly hung upon his lips as he informed her of some of his master's habits and peculiarities which she must regard. He warned her, with special earnestness, not to allow herself to be used by others to win favour or pardon for themselves or their kindred. She might perhaps find means for it later; now she would at once awaken in the extremely suspicious monarch doubt of her unselfishness.

This was certainly good advice, and Barbara confessed to the valet that the marquise had requested her at dinner that day to intercede for her unfortunate son, who, unluckily, had the misfortune to be misunderstood by the Emperor Charles. Master Adrian had expected something of the kind, for the lady in waiting had more than once urged him also to obtain his Majesty's pardon for this ruined profligate, the shame of his noble race. He had persistently refused this request, and now enjoined it upon Barbara to follow his example. Before leaving her, he undertook to send her tidings of Wolf's health now and then by the violinist Massi, as he had not leisure to do it himself. At the same time he earnestly entreated her to repress her wish to see the sufferer again, and to bear in mind that she could receive no visitor, take no step in this house or in the city, which would not be known in the Golden Cross.

Barbara passionately demanded to know the spy who was watching her, and whether she must beware specially of the marquise, her French maid, the Spanish priest who accompanied the old woman as her confessor, the garde-robiere Lamperi, who nevertheless had a good face, or who else among the servants.

On this point, however, the valet would or could give no information. He knew only his master's nature. Just as he was better acquainted with every province than the most experienced governor, with every band of soldiers than the sergeant, so nothing escaped him which concerned the private lives of those whom he valued. It need not grieve her that he watched her so carefully. Her acts and conduct would not become a matter of indifference to him until he withdrew his confidence from her or his love grew cold.

The deep impression which this information made upon the girl surprised Adrian. While he was speaking her large eyes dilated more and more, and with hurried breathing she listened until he had finished. Then pressing both hands upon her temples, she frantically exclaimed: "But that is horrible! it is base and unworthy! I will not be a prisoner—! will not, can not bear it! My whole heart is his, and never belonged to any other; but, rather than be unable to take a step that is not watched, like the Sultan's female slaves, I will return to my father."

Here she hesitated; for the first time since she had entered Prebrunn she remembered the old man who for her sake had been sent out into the world. But she soon went on more calmly: "I even permitted my father to be taken from me and sent away, perhaps to death. I gave everything to my sovereign, and if he wants my life also," she continued with fresh emotion, "he may have it; but the existence of a caged bird!—that will destroy me."

Here the sensible man interrupted her with the assurance that no one, last of all his Majesty, thought of restricting her liberty more than was reasonable. She would be permitted to walk and to use her horses exactly as she pleased, only the object of her walks and rides must be one which she could mention to her royal lover without timidity.

Barbara, still with quickened breathing, then put the question how she could know this; and Adrian, with a significant smile, replied that her heart would tell her, and if it should ever err—of this he was certain—the Emperor Charles.

With these words he took leave of her to go, on behalf of his master, to the marquise, and Barbara stood motionless for some time, gazing after him.

In the Golden Cross Quijada asked Adrian what he thought of the singer, and it was some time ere he answered deliberately: "If only I knew exactly myself, your lordship—I am only a plain man, who wishes every one the best future. Here I do so out of regard for his Majesty, Sir Wolf Hartschwert, and the inexperienced youth of this marvellously beautiful creature. But if you were to force me by the rack to form a definite opinion of her, I could not do it. The most favourable would not be too good, the reverse scarcely too severe. To reconcile such contrasts is beyond my power. She is certainly something unusual, that will fit no mould with which I am familiar."

"If you had a son," asked Don Luis, "would you receive her gladly as a daughter-in-law?"

A gesture of denial from the valet gave eloquent expression of his opinion; but Quijada went on in a tone of anxious inquiry: "Then what will she whom he loves be to the master whose happiness and peace are as dear to you as to me?"

Adrian started, and answered firmly: "For him, it seems to me, she will perhaps be the right one, for what power could she assert against his? And, besides, there is something in his Majesty, as well as in this girl, which distinguishes them from other mortals. What do I mean by that? I see and hear it, but I can neither exactly understand nor name it."

"That might be difficult even for a more adroit speaker," replied Quijada; "but I think I know to what you allude. You and I, Master Adrian, have hearts in our breasts, like thousands of other people, and in our heads what is termed common sense. In his Majesty something else is added. It seems as though he has at command a messenger from heaven who brings him thought and decisions."

"That's it!" exclaimed Adrian eagerly; "and whenever she raises her voice to sing, a second one stands by the side of this Barbara Blomberg."

"Only we do not yet know," observed Quijada anxiously, "whether this second one with the singer is a messenger from heaven, like his Majesty's, or an emissary of hell."

The valet shrugged his shoulders irresolutely, and said quietly: "How could I venture to express an opinion about so noble an art? But when I was listening to the hymn to the Virgin yesterday, it seemed as if an angel from heaven was singing from her lips."

"Let us hope that you may be right," replied the other. "But no matter! I think I know whence comes the invisible ally his Majesty has at his disposal. It is the Holy Ghost that sends him—there is no doubt of it! His control is visible everywhere. With miraculous power he urges him on in advance of all others, and even of himself. This becomes most distinctly perceptible in war."

"That is true," declared the valet, "and your lordship has surely hit the right clew. For"—he glanced cautiously around him and lowered his voice—"whenever I put on my master's armour I always feel how he is trembling—yes, trembling, your lordship. His face is livid, and the drops of perspiration on his brow are not due solely to the heat."

"And then," cried Quijada, his black eyes sparkling with a fiery light—"then in his agitation he scarcely knows what he is doing as I hold the stirrup for him. But when, once in his saddle, his divine companion descends to him, he dashes upon the foe like a whirlwind and, wherever he strikes, how the chips fly! The strongest succumb to his blows. 'Victory! victory!' men shout exultingly wherever he goes. Even in the last accursed Algerian defeat his helper was at his side; for, Adrian"—here he, too, lowered his voice—"without him and his wonderful power every living soul of us, down to the last boat and camp follower, would have been destroyed."



ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:

Catholic, but his stomach desired to be Protestant (Erasmus)



BARBARA BLOMBERG

By Georg Ebers

Volume 6.



CHAPTER XXV.

After this conversation the two men who, in different positions, stood nearest to the Emperor Charles, placed no obstacle in Barbara's way.

The third—the Bishop of Arras—also showed a friendly spirit toward the Emperor's love affair. True, he had not been taken into his confidence, but he rarely failed to be present when Barbara sang with the boy choir, or alone, in the Golden Cross, before the monarch or distinguished guests.

Charles summoned her there almost daily, and always at different hours.

This was done to strengthen the courtiers and the citizens of Ratisbon in the belief that Barbara owed his favour solely to her singing.

Granvelle, who appreciated and was interested in music as well as in painting and sculpture, found real pleasure in listening to Barbara, yet while doing so he did not forget that she might be of service to him. If she only remained on good terms with him she would, he was sure of that, whether willing or not, be used as his tool.

Spite of his nine-and-twenty years, he forbade himself to cherish any other wishes, because he would have regarded it treachery to the royal master whom he served with faithful devotion. But, as he accepted great gifts without ever allowing himself to be tempted to treason or forgetfulness of duty, so he did not reject little tokens of friendliness from Barbara, and of these she showed no lack. The young Bishop of Arras was also an extremely fine-looking man, whose clever brain and bright, penetrating glance harmonized with his great intellect and his position. Wolf had already told her how much the monarch regarded the opinion of this counsellor.

The fourth person whose good will had been represented to her as valuable was the almoner, Pedro de Soto; but he, who usually understood how to pay homage to beautiful women in the most delicate manner, kept rigidly aloof.

True, he had placed no obstacle in the way of the late kindling of the heart of his imperial master, but since his servant's report, from which it appeared that Barbara was on friendly terms with heretics, and therefore cherished but a lukewarm devotion to her own faith, she was no longer the same to him. In Spain this would have been enough to deliver her to the Holy Inquisition. Here, however, matters were different. Everywhere he saw the lambs associating with the wolves, and the larger number of the relatives of the Emperor's love had become converts to heresy. Therefore indulgence was demanded, and De Soto would have gladly been convinced of Barbara's orthodoxy under such difficult circumstances. But if it proved that the girl not only associated with heretics, but inclined to their error, then gentle inaction must be transformed into inexorable sternness, even though the rejuvenating power which she exerted upon the monarch were tenfold stronger than it doubtless was; for what danger might threaten the Emperor and Christianity from the bewitching woman who seemed to love Charles, if she undertook to influence him in favour of the new doctrines, which, in the eyes of every earnest Dominican, the Emperor treated far too leniently!

He, the confessor, even knew that Charles considered several demands of the Protestants to which the Church could never consent, entirely justifiable—nay, that he deemed a reformation of the Church by the council now in session at Trent extremely desirable.

Therefore it was a duty to withhold from him every influence which could favour these pernicious views and wishes, and Pedro de Soto had also been young and knew only too well what power so beautiful a woman, with such bewitching gifts, could exert upon the man whose heart cherishes her.

So, immediately after Barbara's entrance into Prebrunn, the confessor adopted his measures. Although the conversation to which he subjected her had resulted in her favour, he had deemed it beneficial to place a priest who was devoted to him among the ecclesiastics in the little castle.

To surround her with spies chosen from the lay class was repugnant to his lofty nature. Besides, they would have been superfluous; for a short time before his servant Cassian had asked permission to marry the marquise's French maid, and Alphonsine, who was neither young nor pretty, was inclined to all sorts of intrigues. She supplied slow, pious Cassian's deficiencies in the best possible manner. A chance word from the distinguished prelate had sufficed to make it their duty to watch Barbara and her visitors.

In Alphonsine's mistress, the Marquise de Leria, the almoner also possessed a willing tale-bearer. She had avoided him since his refusal to commend her ruined son to the favour of his imperial penitent. Now, unasked, she had again approached him, and her explanation first gave many an apparently unimportant communication from the servants its real value.

The atmosphere of the court was her vital air. Even when she had voluntarily offered to take Barbara under her charge, in a secluded house in the suburb, she had been aware how greatly she would miss the presence of royalty. Yet she would have endured far more difficult things, for a thousand signs betrayed that this time his Majesty's heart had not been merely superficially touched, and Barbara's traits of character made it appear probable that, like many a beauty at the court of Francis I of France, she might obtain an influence over the Emperor. If this occurred, the marquise had found the most powerful tool for the deliverance of her son.

This hope filled the old noblewoman's heart and brain. It was her last, for the Emperor was the only person who could save the worthless idol of her soul from ruin, and yet, when she had grovelled at his knees in her despair, she received an angry repulse and the threat of being instantly deprived of her position if she ever again attempted to speak to him about this vexatious matter. She knew only too well that Charles would keep his word, and therefore had already induced every person whom she believed possessed even a small share of influence over the monarch to intercede for her, but they had been no less sharply rebuffed than herself; for the sovereign, usually so indulgent to the reckless pranks of the young nobles, would not even hear the name of the aristocratic sharper, who was said to have sold the plans of the fortifications to France.

Charles now loved a woman whom, with swift presence of mind, she had bound to herself, and what no one else had succeeded in doing Barbara might accomplish.

Therefore the marquise had retired to the solitude which she hated, and hourly humbled herself to cringing flattery of a creature whom, on account of her birth, she scorned.

But Barbara was warned and, difficult as it often was for her to withstand the humble entreaties to which the old lady in waiting frequently condescended, persisted in her refusal.

Yet the unhappy mother did not give up hope, for as soon as the singer committed any act which she was obliged to conceal she could obtain power over her. So she kept her eyes open and, whenever the Emperor sought the young girl and was alone with her, she stole into the garden and peered through the badly fitting window shutters into the lighted room which was the scene of the happiness of the ill-matched lovers.

What she overheard, however, only increased the feeling of powerlessness against the hated creature whom she so urgently needed; for the tenderness which Charles showed Barbara was so great that it not only filled the marquise with surprise and bitter envy, but also awakened the conviction that it must be a small matter for the singer to obtain from so ardent a lover far greater things than she had asked.

So she continued to watch and listen unweariedly, day after day and evening after evening, but always in vain. She had not the most trivial thing for which Barbara could be seriously reproached to report to the confessor; yet De Soto desired nothing better, for Barbara still exerted an extremely favourable influence upon the Emperor's mood. Therefore it vexed him that Cassian informed him of many things which prevented his relying firmly upon her orthodoxy.

At any rate, there were Protestants among her visitors and, unfortunately, they included Herr Peter Schlumperger, whom De Soto knew as an active promoter of the apostasy of the Ratisbon burghers. He had called upon her the second day after her arrival and remained a long time but, it is true, had not appeared again. With the others also she held no regular intercourse—nay, she scarcely seemed to enjoy their visits. Thus the daughters of the Woller family from the Ark, who had appeared one afternoon, had been detained only a little longer by her than other Protestant matrons and maidens.

All this was scarcely sufficient to foster his anxiety; but Cassian reported one visit with which the case was different. Barbara had not only received this guest alone, but she had kept him more than an hour, and the servant could swear that the young man to whom she sang long songs—which, it is true, sounded like church music—to the lute and also to the harp, was Erasmus Eckhart, the adopted son of the archtraitor, Dr. Hiltner, who had just obtained the degree of Master of Arts in Wittenberg. This seemed suspicious, and induced De Soto to investigate the matter thoroughly.

Erasmus had come in the morning, at a time when the Emperor never visited Barbara. Nothing remarkable had taken place during their interview, but Cassian had heard her dismiss him with a warning which, even to a less distrustful person, would have seemed suspicious. Why had she assured the Wittenberg theologian, as she extended her hand to him in farewell, that what he offered her had given her great pleasure, and she would gladly invite him to bring her similar things often, but must deny herself this gratification from motives which he could imagine? His urgent entreaty at least to be permitted to call on her sometimes she had curtly and positively refused, but the Wittenberg heretic did not allow himself to be rebuffed, for Cassian had seen him several times in the neighbourhood of the castle.

There was as little cause to object to the visits paid to her by Gombert, Appenzelder, Damian Feys, occasionally some noblemen or guests of the court, and once even by no less a personage than the Bishop of Arras, as to the rides she took every afternoon; for the latter were always under the charge of Herr de Fours, an old equerry of the Emperor, and in the company of several courtiers, among whom Baron Malfalconnet was often included. A number of gay young pages always belonged to this brilliant cavalcade, whose number never lacked the handsome sixteen-year-old Count Tassis, who spent his whole large stock of pocket money in flowers which he sent every morning to Barbara.

The confessor was glad to hear that the estimable violinist Massi frequently visited the girl, for he was firm in the faith, and that he brought her tidings of the sorely wounded Sir Wolf Hartschwert could only be beneficial, for perhaps he warned her of the seriousness of life and that there were other things here below than the joy of love, jest, and laughter. The almoner's doubt of Wolf's orthodoxy had been entirely dispelled by his confession. Men do not deceive in the presence of death.

It would have been a genuine boon had Barbara selected him to open her heart to him in the confessional, for her relation to the wounded man rendered it difficult for him to trust her entirely.

Wolf's thoughts in his fever constantly dwelt upon her, and he sometimes accused her of the basest treachery, sometimes coupled her name with Malfalconnet's, sometimes with Luis Quijada's. The Emperor's, on the contrary, he had not mentioned.

He must love Barbara with ardent passion, and she, too, still seemed warmly attached to him, for to see him again she had bravely exposed herself to serious danger.

Eye and ear witnesses had reported that, notwithstanding his Majesty's positive orders to avoid her old home, she had entered the house and the knight's apartments, knelt beside his couch, and even kissed his weak, burning hand with tender devotion.

But though she still retained a portion of her former affection for Wolf Hartschwert, she loved the Emperor Charles with passionate fervour. Even the marquise did not venture to doubt this. Often as she had watched the meetings of the lovers, she had marvelled at the youthful ardour of the monarch, the joyous excitement with which Barbara awaited him, and her sorrowful depression when he left her. During the first week the old noblewoman thought that she had never met a happier pair. The almoner deemed it unworthy of him to listen to a report of the caresses which she scornfully mentioned.

The time even came when he no longer needed confirmation from others, and forbade himself to doubt Barbara's fidelity to her religion; for at the end of the first week in Prebrunn she had desired to ask a servant of the Church what she must do to make herself worthy of such abundance of the highest happiness, and to atone for the sin she was committing through her love.

In doing so she had opened her heart to the confessor with childlike frankness, and what De Soto heard on this occasion sincerely delighted him and endeared to him this thoroughly sound, beautiful creature overmastered by a first great passion. He believed her, and indignantly rejected what the spies afterward brought to him.

Yet he did not close his ears to the marquise when, in her clever, entertaining way, she told him what, against her will, she had overheard in consequence of the careless construction of the little castle, built only for a summer residence, or had seen during a walk in the garden when the shutters, through forgetfulness, had not been closed.

How should he not have heard gladly that the monarch, at every interview with Barbara, listened to her singing with special pleasure?

At first she chose grave, usually even religious songs, and among them Charles's favourite was the "Quia amore langueo."

To listen to these deeply felt tones of yearning always seemed to possess a fresh charm for him.

No wonder!

The singer understood how to produce a new effect each time by means of wonderful gradations of expression in the comprehension and execution.

Once she had also succeeded in cheering her lover with Perissone Cambio's merry singing lesson on the 'ut re mi fa sol', and again with Willaert's laughing song, "Sempre mi ridesta."

Two days later there had again been a great deal of laughing because Barbara undertook to sing to his Majesty another almost recklessly merry song by the same composer. The marquise knew it, and declared that Barbara's style and voice did not suit such things. She admitted that her execution of serious, especially religious and solemn compositions, was not amiss—nay, often it was wonderfully fine—but in such secular tunes her real nature appeared too plainly, and the skilful singer became a Bacchante.

It had been a sorry pleasure to her to watch the boisterous manner and singing of this creature, who had been far too highly favoured by the caprice of Fortune.

These reckless songs, unless she was mistaken, had also been by no means pleasing to his Majesty. The light had fallen directly upon his face just as she happened to glance up at the house from under the group of lindens, and she had distinctly seen him angrily thrust out his lower lip, which every one near his person knew was a sign of extreme displeasure.

But the girl had gone beyond all bounds. Old as she was, she could not help blushing at the mere thought of it. In her reckless mood she had probably forgotten that she had drawn her imperial lover into her net by arts of an entirely different nature. The almoner listened incredulously, for in his youth the Emperor Charles had joined in the wildest songs of the soldiery, and had well understood, on certain occasions, how to be merry with the merry, laugh and carouse in a Flemish tavern. After the confession the almoner heard things to which he would gladly have shut his ears, though they proved that the time which the marquise had spent at the French court had benefited her powers of observation.

Three days before the Emperor, for the first time, had seriously found fault with Barbara.

It had been impossible for the lady in waiting to discover the cause; but what she knew certainly was that her lover's censure had roused the girl to vehement contradiction, and that his Majesty, after a sharp reply, had been on the point of leaving her. True, the reckless beauty had repented her imprudent outburst of wrath speedily enough, and had understood how to conciliate the far too indulgent sovereign by such humility and such sweet tenderness that he probably must have forgiven her—at least the farewell had been as affectionate as ever.

Nevertheless, on the following evening, for the first time, he did not come to the castle, and the marquise had feared that the Emperor might now withdraw his favour from Barbara, which would have been too soon for her own wishes.

But yesterday evening, after sunset, the dark litter, to the old noblewoman's relief, had again stopped behind the garden gate, and the pleasure of having her lover again had so deeply overjoyed Barbara that he, too, was infected by her radiant delight.

Then, in the midst of the most tender caresses, he had been summoned out of the room, and when he returned, with frowning brow, the marquise had witnessed at least the commencement of a scene which seemed to justify her opinion that his Majesty: would have no taste for Barbara's utter freedom from restraint and gay secular songs.

Unfortunately, she had been prematurely driven from her post of observation; but she had seen the Emperor come in, and Barbara, without noticing his altered expression, or rather, probably, to cheer him by something especially merry, gaily began Baldassare Donati's superb dancing-master's song, "Qui la gagliarda vuol imparare," at the same time in the merriest, most graceful manner imitating the movements of the gagliarda dancer.

But Charles soon interrupted her, sharply requesting her to sing something else or cease entirely for that day.

Startled, she again asked forgiveness, and then pleaded in justification the universally acknowledged beauty of this charming song, which Maestro Gombert also admired; but the Emperor flew into a passion, and cut her short with the loud remark that he was not in the habit of having his own judgment corrected by the opinion of others. The jest did all honour to the skill and merry mood of the composer, but the contrary might be said of the singer who ventured to sing it to a person in whom it could awaken only bitter feelings.

But when, so painfully surprised that her eyes filled with tears, she confessed that her selection perhaps had not been very appropriate, and sadly added the inquiry why her beloved sovereign condemned a trivial offence so harshly, he wrathfully exclaimed, "For more than one reason."

Then, rising, he paced the room several times with a somewhat limping gait, saying, in so loud a tone that it could be distinctly heard in the dark, sultry garden: "Because it shows little delicacy of feeling when the man who is satiated tells the starving one of the dainty meal which he has just eaten; because—because I call it shameful for a person who can see to tell one who is blind of the pleasure he derives from the splendid colours of gay flowers; because I expect from the woman whom I honour with my love more consideration for me and what shadows my life. Because"—and here he raised his voice still more angrily—"I demand from any one united to me, the Emperor, by whatever bond——"

The marquise had been unable to hear more of the monarch's violent attack, for the messenger who had just brought the unwelcome news—it was Adrian Dubois—had not only passed her, but ventured to call to her and remark that she would be wise to go into the house—a thunderstorm was rising. He was not afraid of the rain, and would wait there for his Majesty.

So the listener did not hear how the incensed monarch continued with the demand that the woman he loved should neither tell him falsehoods nor deceive him.

Until then Barbara had listened, silent and pale, biting her trembling lips in order to adhere to her resolve to submit without reply to whatever Charles's terrible irritability inflicted upon her. But he must have noticed what was passing in her mind, for he suddenly paused in his walk, and, abruptly standing before her, gazed full into her face, exclaiming: "It is not you who are offended, but I, the sovereign whom you say you love. Day before yesterday I forbade you to go to the musician in Red Cock Street, yet you were with him to-day. I asked you just now whether you had obeyed me and, with smiling lips, you assented."

Barbara was already prepared with an answer in harmony with the sharpness of the attack, yet her lover's reproof was well founded.

When he had left the room shortly before he must have been informed that, in defiance of his explicit command, she had gone to the knight's house that morning.

But no one had ever charged her with lack of courage. Why had she not dared to confess the fault which, from a good and certainly pardonable impulse, she had committed?

Was she not free, or when had she placed herself under obligation to render blind obedience to her lover?

But the falsehood!

How severely she must perhaps atone for it this time!

Yet the esteem, the love of the man to whom her heart clung, whom she worshipped with all the fervour of her passionate soul, might be at stake, and when he now seized his hat to withdraw she barred his way.

Sobbing aloud, she threw herself at his feet, confessed that she was guilty, and remorsefully admitted that fear of his resentment, which seemed to her more terrible than death, had induced her to deny what she had done. She could hate herself for it. Nothing could palliate the departure from the path of truth, but her disobedience might perhaps appear to him in a milder light if he learned what had induced her to commit it.

Charles, still in an angry, imperious tone, ordered her to rise. She silently obeyed, and when he threw himself on the divan she timidly sat down by his side, turning toward him her troubled face, which for the first time he saw wet with tears.

Yet a hopeful smile brightened her moist eyes, for she felt that, since he permitted her to remain at his side, all might yet be well.

Then she timidly took his hand and, as he permitted it, she held it firmly while she explained what ties had bound her to Wolf from childhood.

She represented herself as the sisterly counsellor of the friend who had grown up in the same house with her. Music and the Catholic religion, in the midst of a city which had fallen into the Protestant heresy, had been the bond between them. After his return home he had probably been unable to help falling in love with her, but, so truly as she hoped for Heaven's mercy, she had kept her heart closed against Cupid until he, the Emperor, had approached in order, like that other Caesar, to come, to see, and to conquer. But she was only a woman, and pity in a woman's soft heart was as hard to silence as the murmur of a swift mountain stream or the rushing of the wind.

Yesterday she had learned from the violinist Massi that the knight's condition was much more critical, and he desired before his death to clasp her hand again. So, believing that disobedience committed to lighten the last hours of a dying man would be pardonable before God and human beings, she had visited the unfortunate Wolf.

The helpful and joy-bestowing power of good works, which the Protestants denied, had thus become very evident to her; for since she had clasped the sufferer's hand an indescribable sense of happiness had taken possession of her, while the knight began to improve. The news had reached her just before this, the Emperor's, arrival, had made her happy, and, in spite of her evil conscience, had put her in a very cheerful mood. But now this beautiful evening had become the saddest one of her whole life.

Fresh tears, and the other means of conciliation inspired by her loving heart, then induced the angry lover to forgive her.

Barbara felt this as a great piece of good fortune, and made every effort to curb the refractory temper which, hitherto, had found nothing less welcome than humble submission.

Day after day since that evening the confessor had been informed that nothing interrupted the concord of the lovers, and that Barbara often prayed very fervently in the private chapel. This pleased the almoner, and when Cassian told him that, on the evening after the quarrel, the Emperor had again come to the castle to remain a long time, he rejoiced.

To Barbara this visit had been a true heavenly blessing, but though Charles showed himself sufficiently loving, she felt, even during the succeeding visits, that since that fateful episode something difficult to describe or explain had rested like a gloomy shadow on the Emperor's joyous confidence.

This change in her lover could scarcely be due to her, for she had honestly endeavoured to avoid everything which could anger him.

How should she have suspected that the great student of human nature to whom she had given her heart perceived the restraint which she imposed upon herself in every interview with him, and that the moderation to which she submitted from love robbed her of a portion of the charm her gay unconcern had exerted upon him? Charles suspiciously attributed this change in the disposition of the woman he loved sometimes to one cause, sometimes to another; and when he showed her that he missed something in her which had been dear to him, she thought it a new token of his dissatisfaction, and increased the restraint which she placed upon herself.

If the gout again attacked him or the pressure of business, which at that time constantly made more and more imperious demands upon the Emperor Charles, detained him from her on one or another evening, torturing anxiety assailed her, and she had no sleep all night.

Besides, the marquise did not cease to press her with entreaties and expostulations, and Frau Lerch constantly urged Barbara to profit by the favour of such a lover. She ought to think of the future, and indemnify herself with estates and titles for the sad fate awaiting her if his Majesty wearied of her love.

The ex-maid knew how to describe, in vivid hues, how all would turn from her if that should happen, and how little the jewels with which he sometimes delighted her would avail.

But Barbara had cared only for her lord's love, and it was not even difficult for her to resist the urgency. Yet whenever she was alone with Charles, and he showed plainly how dear she was to him, the question forced itself upon her whether this would not be the right time to speak of her future, and to follow the counsel of the experienced woman who certainly meant kindly toward her.

This made her silent and constrained for a time, and when she saw that her manner annoyed her lover she thrust aside the selfish impulse which was rendering her unlovable, and sometimes showed her delight in the victory of love over every other feeling so impetuously, that her nature seemed to have lost the unvarying cheerfulness which had formerly delighted him, and he left her in a less satisfied mood.

Besides, the marquise had received a letter from Paris, in which her son declared that if his gambling debts were not paid by the first of August he would be completely disgraced, and nothing would remain for him except to end an existence which had lost all charm. The wretched mother again opened her heart to Barbara and, when she still resisted her lamentations and entreaties, threw herself on her knees and sobbing besought her to let her heart be softened.

The sight of the aged noblewoman writhing like a maniac in the dust was so pitiful and touching that it melted Barbara's heart, and induced her to promise to use the first favourable opportunity to intercede with the Emperor in behalf of her son and his child, a little girl of six. From that time she awaited at every new interview the opportune moment; but when Charles was less gracious, the right time certainly had not come, and when he was especially loving the happiness of possessing his heart seemed to her so great that it appeared sinful to risk it for the sake of a stranger.

This waiting and conflict with herself also did not remain unnoticed, and it was characteristic of Charles to reflect upon and seek reasons for it. Only the spell of her voice and her beauty had remained unchanged, and when she sang in the Golden Cross in the presence of the guests, who became more numerous the nearer drew the time of the opening of the Reichstag, fixed for the fifth of June, and he perceived their delight, vanity fanned the dying fire again, for he still loved her, and therefore felt associated with her and her successes.

So the days became weeks, and though they brought Barbara a wealth of happiness, they were not free from gloomy and bitter hours.

The marquise, who saw her son's doom drawing nearer and nearer, made the mealtimes and every moment which she spent with her a perfect hell. Frau Lerch continued to urge her, and now advised her to persuade the Emperor to rid her of the old tormentor.

In another matter also she was at a loss what to do. The Wittenberg theologian, Erasmus Eckhart, found that his own songs, when she sang them to him, seemed entirely new, and the gratitude he felt merged into ardent love, the first which had taken possession of his young soul. But Barbara resolutely refused to receive his visits, and thereby deprived him of the possibility of opening his heart to her. So, in despair, he wandered about her house more and more frequently, and sent her one fiery love letter after another.

To betray his unseemly conduct to the Emperor or to the confessor would have brought upon him too severe a punishment for an offence which, after all, was the most profound homage. She dared not go to the Hiltners, from fear of a fresh misunderstanding, and it would be a long time ere Wolf's health would permit him to be excited by such matters.

So she was forced to content herself with censuring Erasmus's conduct, through Frau Lerch, in the harshest manner, and threatening to appeal to his foster-parents and, in the worst extremity, to the magistrate, to rid herself of his importunities. Nearly two thirds of May had passed when the Emperor found himself prevented by a second attack of gout from visiting her. But Barbara's heart drew her toward him so strongly that during the usual noon ride she hit upon an idea, for whose execution she immediately made preparations by secretly entreating young Count Tassis to lend her one of his suits of clothes.

The merry page, a handsome boy of sixteen, who had already crossed rapiers with one of his companions for her sake, was about her height, and delighted to share a secret with her. His most expensive costume, with everything belonging to it, was placed in her room at twilight, and when night closed in, disguised as a page, she entered the litter and was carried to the Golden Cross, where Adrian received her and conducted her to his royal master.

The elderly man thought he had never seen her look so charming as in the yellow velvet doublet with ash-gray facings, the gray silk hose, and the yellow and gray cap resting on her glittering golden hair.

And the Emperor Charles was of the same opinion.

Besides, her lively prank transported him back to his own youth, when he himself had glided more than once in page's attire to some beautiful young lady of the court, and gaily as in better days, tenderly as an ardent youth, he thanked her for her charming enterprise.

After a few blissful hours, which crowded all that she had lately suffered into oblivion, she left him.

When she again entered the little Prebrunn castle she would gladly have embraced the whole world.

From the litter she had noticed a light in the windows of the marquise's sitting-room, but she could now look the poor old noblewoman freely in the face, for this time, sure of experiencing no sharp rebuff, she had found courage to speak of the son to her royal lover.

True, as soon as Charles heard what she desired, he kindly requested her not to sully her beautiful lips with the name of a scoundrel who had long since forfeited every claim to his favour, and her mission was thereby frustrated; but she had now kept her promise.

With the entreaty to spare him in future the pain of refusing any wish of the woman he loved, the disagreeable affair had been dismissed.

When Barbara took the lute, he had begged the fairest of all troubadours to sing once more, before any other song, his beloved "Quia amore langueo," and the most vigorous applause was bestowed on every one which she afterward executed.

Now she had done all that was possible for the marquise, but no power on earth should induce her to undertake anything of the sort a second time; She was saying this to herself as she entered the little castle.

Let the old noblewoman come now!

She was not long in doing so. But how she looked!

The little gray curls done up in papers stood out queerly from her narrow head. Her haggard cheeks were destitute of rouge and lividly pale.

Her black eyes glittered strangely from their deep sockets as if she were insane, and ragged pieces of her morning dress, which she had torn in a fit of helpless fury, hung down upon her breast.

The sight made Barbara shudder. She suspected the truth.

During her absence a new message of evil had reached the marquise.

Unless ten thousand lire could be sent to her son at once, he would be condemned to the galleys, and his child would be abandoned to misery and disgrace.

While speaking, the wretched mother, with trembling hands, tore out a locket which she wore on a little chain around her neck. It contained the angelic face, painted on ivory by an artist's hand, of a fair-haired little girl. The child bore her name, Barbara. The singer knew this. How often the affectionate grandmother had told her with sparkling eyes of her little "Babette"!

The father chained to the rowers' bench among the most abominable ruffians, this loveliest of children perishing in hunger, misery, and shame—what a terrible picture! Barbara beheld it with tangible distinctness, and while the undignified old aristocrat, deprived of all self-control, sobbed and besought her to have compassion, the girl who had grown up amid poverty and care went back in memory to the days when, to earn money for a thin soup, a bit of dry bread, a small piece of cheap cow beef, or to protect herself from the importunity of an unpaid tradesman, she had washed laces with her own delicate hands and seen her nobly born, heroic father scratch crooked letters and scrawling ornaments upon common gray tin.

The same fate, nay, one a thousand times worse, awaited this wonderfully lovely patrician child, whose father was to wield the oars in the galleys if no one interceded for the unfortunate man.

What was life!

From the height of happiness it led her directly to such an abyss of the deepest woe.

What contrasts!

A day, an hour had transported her from bitter poverty and torturing yearning to the side of the highest and greatest of monarchs, but who could tell for how long—how soon the fall into the gulf awaited her?

A shudder ran through her frame, and a deep pity for the sweet creature whose coloured likeness she held in her hand seized upon her.

She probably remembered her lover's refusal, and that she only needed to allude to it to release herself from the wailing old woman, but an invisible power sealed her lips. She was filled with an ardent desire to help, to avert this unutterable misery, to bring aid to this child, devoted to destruction.

To rise above everything petty, and with the imperial motto "More, farther," before her eyes, to attain a lofty height from which to look down upon others and show her own generosity to them, had been the longing of her life. She was still permitted to feel herself the object of the love of the mightiest sovereign on earth, and should she be denied performing, by her own power, an act of deliverance to which heart and mind urged her?

No, and again no!

She was no longer poor Wawerl!

She could and would show this, for, like an illumination, words which she had heard the day before in the Golden Cross had flashed into her memory.

Master Wenzel Jamnitzer, the famous Nuremberg goldsmith, had addressed them to her in the imperial apartments, where he had listened to her singing the day before.

He had come to consult with the Emperor Charles about the diadems which he wished to give his two nieces, the daughters of Ferdinand, King of the Romans, who were to be married in July in Ratisbon. Their manufacture had been intrusted to Master Jamnitzer, and after the concert the Nuremberg artist had thanked Barbara for the pleasure which he owed her. In doing so, he had noticed the Emperor's first gift, the magnificent star which she wore on her breast at the side of her squarenecked dress. Examining it with the eye of an expert, he had remarked that the central stone alone was worth an estate.

If she deprived herself of this superb ornament, the despairing old mother would be consoled, and the lovely child saved from hunger and disgrace.

With Barbara, thought, resolve, and action followed one another in rapid succession.

"You shall have what you need to-morrow," she called to the marquise, kissed—obeying a hasty impulse—her little namesake's picture, rejected any expression of thanks from the astonished old dame, and went to rest.

Frau Lerch had never seen her so radiant with happiness, yet she was irritated by the reserve of the girl for whom she thought she had sacrificed so much, yet whose new garments had already brought her more profit than the earnings of the three previous years.

The next morning Master Jamnitzer called the valuable star his own, and pledged himself to keep the matter secret, and to obtain from the Fuggers a bill of exchange upon Paris for ten thousand lire.

The honest man sent her through the Haller banking house a thousand ducats, that he might not be open to the reproach of having defrauded her.

Yet the gold which she did not need for the marquise seemed to Barbara like money unjustly obtained. While she was riding out at noon, Frau Lerch found it in her chest, and thought that she now knew what had made the girl so happy the day before. She was all the more indignant when, soon after, Barbara gave half the new wealth to the Prebrunn town clerk to distribute among the poor journeymen potters whose huts had been burned down the previous night. The rest she kept to give to the relatives of her one-eyed maid-servant at home, who were in the direst poverty.

For the first time she had felt the pleasure of interposing, like a higher power, in the destiny of others. What she had hoped from the greatness to which she had risen now appeared on the eve of being actually and wholly fulfilled.

Even the strange manner in which the marquise thanked her for her generosity could but partially impair the exquisite sense of happiness which filled her heart.

As soon as the old noblewoman heard that the bill of exchange for her son was on the way to Paris, she expressed her intention of thanking his Majesty for this noble donation.

Startled and anxious, Barbara was obliged to forbid this, and to confess that, on the contrary, the Emperor had refused to do anything whatever for her son, and that morning, for little Babette's sake, she had used her own property.

The marquise then angrily declared that a Marquise de Leria could accept such a favour without a blush solely from his Majesty. Even from an equal in station she must refuse gifts of such value. If Barbara was honest, she would admit that she had never, even by a syllable, asked for a donation, but always only for her intercession with his Majesty. Her hasty action made withdrawal impossible, but the humiliation which she had experienced through her was so hard to conquer that she could scarcely bring herself to feel grateful for a gift which, in itself, was certainly worthy of appreciation.

In fact, from that time the marquise entirely changed her manner, and instead of flattering her ward as before, she treated her with haughty coldness, and sometimes remarked that poverty and hostility were often easier to bear than intrusive kindness and humiliating gifts.

Hitherto Barbara had placed no one under obligation to be grateful, and therefore the ugliness of ingratitude was unknown to her.

Now she was to become acquainted with it.

At first this disappointment wounded her, but soon the marquise's intention of ridding herself, by this conduct, of a heavy debt became apparent, and she opposed to the base cunning a gay defence, but was then forced to encounter the marquise's condemnation of it as the outgrowth of an ungenerous soul.

How unpleasant this was! Yet she kept what she had done for the old aristocrat and the way in which she had requited it a secret, even from Frau Lerch, especially as the Emperor soon alluded to his denial of her entreaty, and gave a description of young Leria which filled her with horror, and led to the conviction that the sacrifice which she had made for him and his little daughter had been utterly futile.

Little Babette, she also heard, was cared for in the best possible manner, having been withdrawn front her father's influence long before and placed in charge of an estimable, wealthy, and aristocratic aunt, her mother's sister, who filled the latter's place.

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