Barbara Blomberg by Georg Ebers
The sun sometimes shone brightly upon the little round panes of the ancient building, the Golden Cross, on the northern side of the square, which the people of Ratisbon call "on the moor"; sometimes it was veiled by gray clouds. A party of nobles, ecclesiastics, and knights belonging to the Emperor's train were just coming out. The spring breeze banged behind them the door of the little entrance for pedestrians close beside the large main gateway.
The courtiers and ladies who were in the chapel at the right of the corridor started. "April weather!" growled the corporal of the Imperial Halberdiers to the comrade with whom he was keeping; guard at the foot of the staircase leading to the apartments of Charles V, in the second story of the huge old house.
"St. Peter's day," replied the other, a Catalonian. "At my home fresh strawberries are now growing in the open air and roses are blooming in the gardens. Take it all in all, it's better to be dead in Barcelona than alive in this accursed land of heretics!"
"Come, come," replied the other, "life is life! 'A live dog is better than a dead king,' says a proverb in my country."
"And it is right, too," replied the Spaniard. "But ever since we came here our master's face looks as if imperial life didn't taste exactly like mulled wine, either."
The Netherlander lowered his halberd and answered his companion's words first with a heavy sigh, and then with the remark: "Bad weather upstairs as well as down--the very worst! I've been in the service thirteen years, but I never saw him like this, not even after the defeat in Algiers. That means we must keep a good lookout. Present halberds! Some one is coming down."
Both quickly assumed a more erect attitude, but the Spaniard whispered to his comrade: "It isn't he. His step hasn't sounded like that since the gout--"
"Quijada!" whispered the Netherlander, and both he and the man from Barcelona presented halberds with true military bearing; but the staves of their descending weapons soon struck the flags of the pavement again, for a woman's voice had detained the man whom the soldiers intended to salute, and in his place two slender lads rushed down the steps.
The yellow velvet garments, with ash-gray facings, and cap of the same material in the same colours, were very becoming to these youths--the Emperor's pages--and, though the first two were sons of German and Italian counts, and the third who followed them was a Holland baron, the sentinels took little more notice of them than of Queen Mary's pointers following swiftly at their heels.
"Of those up there," observed the halberdier from Haarlem under his breath, "a man would most willingly stiffen his back for Quijada."
"Except their Majesties, of course," added the Catalonian with dignity.
"Of course," the other repeated. "Besides, the Emperor Charles himself bestows every honour on Don Luis. I was in Algiers at the time. A hundred more like him would have made matters different, I can tell you. If it beseemed an insignificant fellow like me, I should like to ask why his Majesty took him from the army and placed him among the courtiers."
Here he stopped abruptly, for, in spite of the gaily dressed nobles and ladies, priests, knights, and attendants who were passing up and down the corridor, he had heard footsteps on the stairs which must be those of men in high position. He was not mistaken--one was no less a personage than the younger Granvelle, the Bishop of Arras, who, notwithstanding his nine-and-twenty years, was already the favourite counsellor of Charles V; the other, a man considerably his senior, Dr. Mathys, of Bruges, the Emperor's physician.
The bishop was followed by a secretary clad in black, with a portfolio under his arm; the leech, by an elderly assistant.
The fine features of the Bishop of Arras, which revealed a nature capable of laughter and enjoyment, now looked as grave as his companion's--a fact which by no means escaped the notice of the courtiers in the corridor, but no one ventured to approach them with a question, although--it had begun to rain again--they stopped before going out of doors and stood talking together in low tones.
Many would gladly have caught part of their conversation, but no one dared to move nearer, and the Southerners and Germans among them did not understand the Flemish which they spoke.
Not until after the leech had raised his tall, pointed hat and the statesman had pressed his prelate's cap closer upon his short, wavy dark hair and drawn his sable-trimmed velvet cloak around him did several courtiers hasten forward with officious zeal to open the little side door for them.
Something must be going wrong upstairs.
Dr. Mathys's jovial face wore a very different expression when his imperial patient was doing well, and Granvelle always bestowed a friendly nod on one and another if he himself had cause to be content.
When the door had closed behind the pair, the tongues of the ecclesiastics, the secular lords, and the ladies in the corridor were again loosed; but there were no loud discussions in the various languages now mingling in the Golden Cross, far less was a gay exclamation or a peal of laughter heard from any of the groups who stood waiting for the shower to cease.
Although each individual was concerned about his own affairs, one thought, nevertheless, ruled them all--the Emperor Charles, his health, and his decisions. Upon them depended not only the destiny of the world, but also the weal and woe of the greatest as well as the humblest of those assembled here.
"Emperor Charles" was the spell by which the inhabitants of half the world obtained prosperity or ill-luck, war or peace, fulfilment or denial of the wishes which most deeply stirred their souls. Even the highest in the land, who expected from his justice or favour fresh good-fortune or the averting of impending disasters, found their way to him wherever, on his long and numerous journeys, he established his court.
Numerous petitioners had also flocked to Ratisbon, but the two great nobles who now entered the Golden Cross certainly did not belong to their number. One shook the raindrops from his richly embroidered velvet cloak and the plumes in his cap, the other from his steel helmet and suit of Milan mail, inlaid with gold. Chamberlain de Praet accosted the former, Duke Peter of Columna, in Italian; the latter, the Landgrave of Leuchtenberg, in a mixture of German and his Flemish native tongue. He had no occasion to say much, for the Emperor wished to be alone. He had ordered even crowned heads and ambassadors to be denied admittance.
The Duke of Columna gaily begged for a dry shelter until the shower was over, but the Landgrave requested to be announced to the Queen of Hungary.
The latter, however, had also declined to grant any audiences that afternoon. The royal lady, the Emperor's favourite sister, was in her own room, adjoining her imperial brother's, talking with Don Luis Quijada, the brave nobleman of whom the Spanish and the Netherland soldiers had spoken with equal warmth.
His personal appearance rendered it an easy matter to believe in the sincerity of their words, for the carriage of his slender, vigorous form revealed all the pride of the Castilian noble. His face, with its closely cut pointed beard, was the countenance of a true warrior, and the expression of his black eyes showed the valiant spirit of a loyal, kind, and simple heart.
The warm confidence with which Mary, the widow of the King of Hungary, who fell in the Turkish war, gazed into Quijada's finely modelled, slightly bronzed countenance proved that she knew how to estimate his worth aright. She had sent for him to open her whole heart.
The vivacious woman, a passionate lover of the chase, found life in Ratisbon unendurable. She would have left the city long ago to perform her duties in the Netherlands--which she ruled as regent in the name of her imperial brother--and devote herself to hunting, to her heart's content, if the condition of the monarch's health had not detained her near him.
She pitied Charles because she loved him, yet she was weary of playing the sick nurse.
She had just indignantly informed Quijada what an immense burden of work, in spite of the pangs of the gout, her suffering brother had imposed upon himself ever since the first cock-crow. But he would take no better care of himself, and therefore it was difficult to help him. Was it not utterly unprecedented? Directly after mass he had examined dozens of papers, made notes on the margins, and affixed his signature; then he received Father Pedro de Soto, his confessor, the nuncio, the English and the Venetian ambassadors; and, lastly, had an interview with young Granvelle, the Bishop of Arras, which had continued three full hours, and perhaps might be going on still had not Dr. Mathys, the leech, put an end to it.
Queen Mary had just found him utterly exhausted, with his face buried in his hands.
"And you, too," she added in conclusion, "can not help admitting that if this state of things continues there must be an evil end."
Quijada bent his head in assent, and then answered modestly:
"Yet your Majesty knows our royal master's nature. He will listen calmly to you, whom he loves, or to me, who was permitted to remain at his side as a page, or probably to the two Granvelles, Malfalconnet, and others whom he trusts, when they venture to warn him--"
"And yet keep on in his mad career," interrupted Queen Mary with an angry gesture of the hand.
"Plus ultra--more, farther--is his motto," observed Quijada in a tone of justification.
"Forward ceaselessly, for aught I care, so long as the stomach and the feet are sound!" replied the Queen, raising her hand to the high lace ruff, which oppressed the breathing of one so accustomed to the outdoor air. "But when, like him, a man must give up deer-stalking and at every movement makes a wry face and can scarcely repress a groan--it might move a stone to pity!--he ought to choose another motto. Persuade him to do so, Quijada, if you are really his friend."
The smile with which the nobleman listened to this request plainly showed the futility of the demand.
The Queen noticed it, threw her arm aloft as if she were hurling a hunting spear, and exclaimed "I'm not easily deceived, Luis. Whether you could or not, the will is lacking. You shun the attempt! Because you are young yourself, and can still cope with the bear and wild boar, you like the motto, which will probably lead to new wars, and thereby to fresh renown. But, alas! my poor, poor brother, who--how long ago it is!--could once have thrown even you upon the sand, what can he do, with this accursed gout? And besides, what more can the Emperor Charles gain, since there is no chance of obtaining the sovereignty of the world, of which he once dreamed? He must learn to be content! Surely at his age! It is easy to calculate, for his life began with the century, and this is its forty-sixth year. Of course, with you soldiers the years of warfare count double, and he--Duke Alba said so--was born a general. One need not be able to reckon far in order to number how many months he has spent in complete peace. And then he attained his majority at fifteen, and with what weighty cares the man of the 'plus ultra' has loaded his shoulders since that time! You, and many others at the court, had still more to do, but, Luis, one thing, and it is the hardest burden, you were all spared. I know it. It is called responsibility. Compared with this all others are mere fluttering feathers. Its weight may become unendurable when the weal and woe of half the world are at stake. Thus every year of government was equal to three of war; but you, Luis--the question is allowable when put to a man-how old are you?"
"Within a few months of forty."
"So young!" cried the Queen. "Yet, when one looks at you closely, your appearance corresponds with your years."
Quijada pointed to the gray locks on his temples, but the Queen eagerly continued:
I noticed that at Brussels. And do you know what gave you those few white hairs? Simply the responsibility that so cruelly shortened the Emperor's youth, and which at least grazes you. As I saw him to-day, Luis, many a man of sixty has a more vigorous appearance."
"And yet, if your Majesty will permit me to say so," Quijada replied with a low bow, "he may be in a very different condition to-morrow. I heard Dr. Mathys himself remark that the life of a gouty patient was like a showery day in July--gloomy enough while the thunder-storm was raging, but radiant before and afterward until the clouds rose again. Surely your Majesty remembers how erect, how vigorous, and how knightly his bearing was when he greeted you on your arrival. The happiness of having his beloved sister again restored his paralyzed buoyancy speedily enough, although just at present there is certainly no lack of cares pressing upon him, and notwithstanding the disastrous conditions which we found existing among the godless populace here. That this cruel responsibility, however, can mature the mind without harming the body your Majesty is a living example."
"Nonsense!" retorted the regent in protest. "From you, at least, I forbid idle flattery!"
As she spoke she pointed with the riding whip, which, on account of her four-footed favourites, she carried in her hand, to her own hair. True, so far as it was visible under the stiff jewelled velvet cap which covered her head, the fair tresses had a lustrous sheen, and the braids, interwoven with pearls, were unusually thick, but a few silver threads appeared amid the locks which clustered around the intellectual brow.
Quijada saw them, and, with a respectful bow, answered.
"The heavy burden of anxiety for the Netherlands, which is not always rewarded with fitting gratitude."
"Oh, no," replied the Queen, shrugging her shoulders contemptuously. "Yes, many things in Brussels rouse my indignation, but they do not turn my hair gray. It began to whiten up here, under the widow's cap, if you care to know it, and, if the Emperor's health does not improve, the locks there will soon look like my white Diana's."
Here she hesitated, and, accustomed both in the discharge of the duties of her office and during the chase not to deviate too far from the goal she had in view, she first gave her favourite dog, which had leaped on Don Luis in friendly greeting, a blow with her whip, and then said in a totally different tone:
"But I am not the person in question. You have already heard that you must help me, Luis. Did you see the Emperor yesterday after vespers?"
"I had the honour, your Majesty."
"And did not the conviction that he is in evil case force itself upon you?"
"I felt it so keenly that I spoke to Dr. Mathys of his feeble appearance, his bowed figure, and the other things which I would so gladly have seen otherwise."
"And these things? Speak frankly!"
"These things," replied the major-domo, after a brief hesitation, "are the melancholy moods to which his Majesty often resigns himself for hours."
"And which remind you of Queen Juana, our unhappy mother?" asked the Queen with downcast eyes.
"Remind is a word which your Majesty will permit me to disclaim," replied Quijada resolutely. "The great thinker, who never loses sight of the most distant goal, who weighs and considers again and again ere he determines upon the only right course in each instance--the great general who understands how to make far-reaching plans for military campaigns as ably as to direct a cavalry attack--the statesman whose penetration pierces deeper than the keen intelligence of his famous councillors--the wise law-giver, the ruler with the iron strength of will and unfailing memory, is perhaps the soundest person mentally among all of us at court-nay, among the millions who obey him. But, so far as my small share of knowledge extends, melancholy has nothing to do with the mind. It is dependent upon the state of the spirits, and springs from bile----"
"You learned that from Dr. Mathys," interrupted the royal lady, "and the quacks repeat it from their masters Hippocrates and Galen. Such parrot gabble does not please me. To my woman's reason, it seems rather that when the mind is ill we should try a remedy whose effect upon it has already been proved, and I think I have found it."
"I am still ignorant of it," replied Quijada eagerly; "but I would swear by my saint that you have hit upon the right expedient."
"Listen, then, and this time I believe you will have no cause to repent your hasty oath. Since death robbed our sovereign lord of his wife, and the gout has prevented his enjoyment of the chief pleasures of life--hunting, the tournament, and the other pastimes which people of our rank usually pursue--in what can he find diversion? The masterpieces of painters and other artists, the inventions of mechanicians and clock-makers, and the works of scholars have no place here, but probably----"
"Then it is the noble art of music which your Majesty has in view," Quijada eagerly interrupted. "Admirable! For, since the days of King Saul and the harper David----"
"There is certainly no better remedy for melancholy," said the Queen, completing the exclamation of the loyal man. "But it could affect no one more favourably than the Emperor. You yourself know how keen a connoisseur he is, and how often this has been confirmed by our greatest masters. Need I remind you of the high mass in Cologne, at which the magnificent singing seemed fairly to reanimate him after the defection of the heretical archbishop--which threatens to have a disastrous influence upon my Netherlanders also--had robbed him of the last remnant of his enjoyment of life, already clouded? The indignation aroused by the German princes, and the difficult decision to which their conduct is forcing him, act upon his soul like poison. But hesitation is not in my nature, so I thought: Let us have music--good, genuine music. Then I sent a mounted messenger to order Gombert, the conductor of his orchestra, and the director of my choir of boys, to bring their musicians to Ratisbon. The whole company will arrive this evening. Dash forward is my motto, and not only while in the saddle during the chase. But, Luis, you must now tell me--"
"That your Majesty's sisterly affection has discovered the only right course," cried Quijada, deeply touched, pressing his lips respectfully to the flowing sleeve of her robe.
The major--domo's assurance undoubtedly sprang from the depths of his heart, yet the doubts which the hasty action of the vivacious sovereign aroused in his mind compelled him to represent to her, though with the courteous caution which his position demanded, that her bold measure might only too easily arouse the displeasure of the person whom it was intended to benefit. The expense it would entail especially troubled Quijada, and the Queen herself appeared surprised when he estimated the sum which would be required for the transportation of the band and the boy choir from Brussels to Ratisbon and back again.
Forty musicians, twelve boy singers, the leaders, and the paymaster must be moved, and in their train were numerous grooms and attendants, as well as conveyances for the baggage and the valuable instruments.
Besides, the question of accommodation for this large number in the already crowded city now arose, for the Queen confessed that, in order to make the surprise complete, no one had been commissioned to find lodgings.
The musicians, who had displayed the most praiseworthy promptness, would arrive three days earlier than she had expected.
The royal lady readily admitted that the utmost haste was necessary. Yet she knew that, if any one could accomplish the impossible, it was Quijada, where the object in view was to serve her and the Emperor.
The influence of this eulogy was doubled by a tender glance from her bright eyes, and the Spaniard promised to do everything in his power to secure the success of her beautiful surprise. There would undoubtedly be difficulties with his Majesty and the treasurer on the score of the expense, for their finances were at the very lowest ebb.
"There is always the same annoyance where money is concerned," cried the Queen irritably, "in spite of the vast sums which my Netherlands pour into the treasury--four times as much as Spain supplies, including the gold and silver of the New World. You keep it secret, but two fifths of the revenue from all the countries over which Charles reigns are contributed by my provinces. Torrents of ducats inundate your treasury, and yet--yet--it's enough to drive one mad!--in spite of this and the lamentable parsimony with which the Emperor deprives himself of both great and small pleasures--it is simply absurd!--the story is always: The finances are at the lowest ebb--save and save again. To protect the plumes in his new cap from being injured by the rain, the sovereign of half the world ordered an old hat to be brought, and waited in the shower until the shabby felt came. And where are the millions which this excellent economist saves from his personal expenses? The dragon War devours them all. True, he has vanquished foes enough, but the demon of melancholy, that makes even Dr. Mathys anxious, is far worse than the infidels before whom you were compelled to retreat in Algiers--far more terrible than the Turks and heretics combined. Yet what are you and the wise treasurer doing? The idea of lessening the salaries of the physician-in-ordinary and his colleagues has never entered the heads of the estimable gentlemen who call themselves his Majesty's faithful servants. Very well! Then put the musicians' travelling expenses upon the apothecary's bill. They have as much right to be there as the senna leaves. But, if the penny pinchers in the council of finance refuse to advance the necessary funds, why--charge this medicine to my account. I'll pay for it, in spite of the numerous leeches that suck my substance."
"It certainly will not come to that, your Majesty," replied Quijada soothingly. "Our sovereign lord knows, too, that it beseems him to be less rigid in saving. Only yesterday he dipped into his purse deeply enough for another remedy."
"What was that?" asked the Queen in surprise.
"He paid the debts of my colleague Malfalconnet, not less than ten thousand ducats."
"There it is!" exclaimed the regent, striking her hands sharply together. "The baron dispels the Emperor's melancholy by his ready wit, which often hits the nail on the head, and his nimble tongue, but my medicine must provide the fitting mood for Malfalconnet's dearly bought jests and witticisms to exert the proper influence."
"And, moreover," Quijada added gaily, "your Majesty will present the completed deed for the treasurer's action. But now I most humbly entreat you to dismiss me. I must inform the quartermasters at once, and look after the matter myself if your Majesty's costly magic pills are not to be spoiled by this wet April weather. Besides, many of the musicians are not the strongest of men."
Bowing as he spoke, he prepared to take leave of the Queen, but she detained him with the remark:
"Our invitation went to Sir Wolf Hartschwert also. He is a native of Ratisbon, and can aid you and the quartermasters in assigning lodgings."
"A fresh proof of the wise caution of my august mistress," replied Quijada. "If your Majesty will permit, I should like to talk with my royal patroness about this man shortly. I have something in my mind concerning him which can not be easily explained in a few words, especially as I know that the modest, trustworthy fellow----"
"If what you have in view is for his benefit," the Queen eagerly interrupted, "it is granted in advance."
The promise reached Quijada just as he gained the threshold; ere he crossed it, Queen Mary called to him again, saying frankly: "I will not let you go so, Luis! You are an honest man, and I am ashamed to deceive you. The cure of his Majesty's melancholy is my principal object, it is true, but one half the expense of this medicine ought to be credited to me; for--but do not tell the treasurer--for it will afford me relief also. I can endure these rooms no longer. The forest is putting forth its first green leafage. The birds are returning. Red deer are plenty in the woods along the Danube. I must get out of doors into the open air. As matters are now, I could not leave his Majesty; but when the band and the boy choir are at his disposal, they will dispel his melancholy moods, and I can venture later to leave him to you and Malfalconnet, whose wit will be freshly seasoned by the payment of his debts. O Luis! if only I can get out of doors! Meanwhile, may music do for my imperial brother what we anticipate! And one thing more: Take Master Adrian with you. I released him from attendance upon the Emperor until midnight. It was no easy matter. When you have provided the favourites of Apollo with lodgings, come to me again, however late the hour may be. Sir Wolf Hartschwert must call early to-morrow morning. The nuncio brought some new songs from Rome. The music is too high for my voice, and the knight understands how to transpose the notes for me better than even the leader of the choir, Appenzelder."