Barbara Blomberg by Georg Ebers
On St. Desiderius's Day--[May 23rd]--the Emperor again missed the star, and, as it was in the Golden Cross and the heat was great, Barbara replied that her dress was too thin for the heavy ornament. But the inquiry had made her fear of additional questions so great that she rejoiced over the news that her lover would not visit her the next day.
On the day before yesterday Christoph Madrucci, the Cardinal of Trent, his warlike brother Hildebrand, and the Count of Arco had arrived, bringing news from the Council; but on the morrow Duke Maurice of Saxony was expected, and the most important negotiations were to be carried on not only with him, but also with the former, each individual being dealt with singly and at different hours.
In the evening the welcome guest was to be entertained by music and, if agreeable to Barbara, by singing also. On the twenty-fifth the city had decided to give a May festival under the lindens in honour of the duke. The Emperor and the whole court were of course invited.
Barbara then acknowledged that she was fond of such magnificent exhibitions, and begged Charles to allow her to attend the festival with the marquise.
The answer was an assent, but the Emperor gave it after some delay, and with the remark that he could devote little time to her, and expected that she would subject herself to some restraint.
True, the painful surprise which her features expressed vividly enough led him to add the apology that, on account of the presence of the two cardinals--for one had come from Augsburg--he would be compelled to deny himself the pleasure of showing her anything more than courteous consideration in public; but she could not succeed in conquering the mortification which, besides the grief of disappointment, had taken possession of her sensitive soul.
Charles probably perceived, by the alternate flushing and paling of her cheeks, what was passing in her thoughts, and would gladly have soothed her; but he refrained, and forced himself to be content with the few conciliatory words which he had already addressed to her.
Great events were impending. If he decided upon war, nothing, not even love, could be permitted to encroach too heavily upon his time and strength; but Barbara and the demands which her love made upon him would surely do this if he did not early impose moderation upon her and himself.
He had heard nothing about the sale of the star, and whatever had displeased him in Barbara's conduct during the last few weeks she had succeeded in effacing. Yet he had often been on the point of breaking off his relations with her, for just at this time it was of infinite importance that he should keep himself free and strong in mind and body.
Moreover, in a few days he expected his brother Ferdinand with his grown children. Two of his nieces were to be married here in his presence, and he felt that he ought not to let either them or the Cardinal of Trent--who was coming from the Council and would return there--see how strong were the fetters with which, at his age and just at this time, he allowed himself to be bound by love for a beautiful singer.
The wisdom which had long been characteristic of him commanded him to sever abruptly the connection with the woman he loved and remove her from his path. But the demands of the heart and the senses were too powerful for the man who indulged to excess in fiery wine and spiced foods, though he knew that greater abstinence would have spared him torturing pangs.
He had succeeded hundreds of times in obtaining the victory over other urgent wishes, and conquering strong affections. But this was different, for separation from Barbara must, at any rate, destroy the exquisite late happiness of the newly unfolded enjoyment of life, and for this heavy loss he saw no compensation. To part from her entirely, therefore, seemed to him impossible--at any rate, for the present. On the other hand, the duty of the sovereign and consideration for his relatives both commanded him to restrict the demands of her passionate young heart and his own, which had so recently awaked from slumber.
He had recognised this necessity, and considered the pros and cons precisely as if the matter were a political question. He who, without the quiver of an eyelash, had sent many a band of soldiers to certain death in order to execute a well-conceived plan of battle, was compelled to inflict keen suffering upon the woman he loved and himself, that greater interests might not be injured.
He had commenced the retreat that day.
The constraint which it was necessary to impose upon themselves must be equally painful to them both, yet this could not be altered.
Had it affected him alone, in defiance of his sense of rank and the tyranny of court etiquette, he would have led Barbara, attired like a true queen, with his own hand to the festival under the lindens, but the gratification of this heartfelt wish would have entailed too many evil consequences.
Toying with her, who so quickly understood and so gratefully accepted the gifts of the intellect which he offered, was so sweet, but in these days it must not be permitted to impair mental repose, keen thought. What he had to discuss and settle with Maurice of Saxony and Cardinal Madrucci was of too momentous importance to the destiny of the world, to the Church, to his fame as a sovereign, to his own greatness and that of his race.
He would have liked best to send Barbara away from Ratisbon, as he had despatched her father three weeks before, and not recall her until these decisive days were over; but this was prohibited by his ardent desire for her presence, her clever questions and appreciative listening, and, above all, her singing, which he valued perhaps even more than her beauty.
Had he confided to Barbara the important reasons which compelled him to impose restrictions for a short time upon the demands of his heart, she, who esteemed his grandeur little less than his love, would have cheerfully submitted to what was necessary and right; but truthfulness and frankness were far more characteristic of her nature than of that of the politician who was accustomed to the tricks and evasions of the time of Machiavelli. He never lacked credible reasons when he desired to place an intention in a favourable light, and where he wished to keep Barbara away from him, during the next few days, such were certainly to be found in each individual instance. Suppose the woman he loved did not accept them? So much the worse for her; he was the Emperor.
As for Barbara, with the subtle power of presentiment of a loving heart she felt that his passion was waning, and tortured her mobile intellect to discover the right cause.
If the luckless star was connected with it, why had he not blamed her openly?
Adrian had already predicted it; his constancy could not be relied upon, and if war was in prospect he forgot everything that was usually dear to his heart, and the appearance of the Duke of Saxony certainly seemed to indicate an outbreak. Many an intimation of the Emperor, Granvelle, and the almoner seemed to suggest this, and, deeply troubled, she went to rest.
During the silent night her worst fears became certainty.
She recalled to mind every hour which they had spent alone together. Some change had certainly taken place in him of late.
During her visit as a page the passion of former days had once more glowed hotly, as the fire on the hearth blazes up brightly before it expires.
The alteration had begun with the reproaches for her visit to the suffering Wolf. Now he was aiming to rid himself of her, though with a considerate hand. And she, what could she do to win back the man who held every fixed resolve as firmly as the rocks of the cliff hold the pine which grows from them?
Nothing, except to bear patiently whatever he inflicted upon her.
This, however, seemed to her so impossible and painful, so humiliating and shocking, that she sprang from her bed and for a long time paced with bare feet the sleeping-room, which was but dimly lighted by the lamp. Yet all her thoughts and pondering were futile, and when she lay down again she slept until mass.
By daylight she found that she had regarded matters in far too dark a light. True, Charles probably no longer loved her as ardently as before, yet she need scarcely fear the worst at present. But the bare thought of having so soon lost the power to bind him to her aroused a storm of feeling in her passionate soul, and when it subsided bitter thoughts followed, and a series of plans which, on closer examination, proved impracticable.
The day dragged slowly along.
During the ride in the country she was so depressed and downcast that her companions asked what troubled her.
The lonely evening seemed endless. A short letter from her father, which informed her that he had not expected too much of himself, and was in good health, she cast aside after reading. During the night the feeling of unhappiness and apprehension increased. But the next morning the sun shone brightly into her windows, and after mass a messenger from the Golden Cross announced that Duke Maurice of Saxony had arrived, and in the afternoon his Majesty wished to see her and hear her sing.
This news cheered her wonderfully; but while Fran Lerch was dressing her she, too, missed the star, and it seemed to Barbara that with it she had lost a portion of her charm.
In going out, the marquise met her in the corridor, but Barbara passed without returning her greeting.
When she arrived, the company had assembled in the chapel. The Duke of Saxony sat between the Emperor and Granvelle.
What a handsome, knightly man this Maurice was! A prince from head to foot, young, and yet, while talking with the Emperor and Granvelle, grave and self-possessed as if he felt himself their peer.
And what fire glowed in his bright glance whenever it rested upon her!
In the chase and over the wine-cup this brave soldier and subtle statesman was said scarcely to have his equal. Many tales of his successes with fair women had been told her. He pleased her, too, in spite of the bold, free manner in which he gazed at her, and which she would not have tolerated in any one else.
After she had finished the last song, the duke expressed his appreciation in gay, flattering words, at the same time complimenting her beauty.
There had been something remarkably winning in his compliments; but when she pleased her imperial lover, the acknowledgment was very different. Then there was no mere praise clad in the form of enthusiastic homage, but in addition always acute remarks. With the recognition blended opinions which revealed the true connoisseur.
This Maurice was certainly wise and brave, and, moreover, far handsomer than his imperial master; but what illumined Charles's prominent brow and brilliant eyes she had never beheld in any one else. To him, to him alone her heart belonged, worthy of esteem as the duke, who was so much his junior, appeared.
While taking leave the Saxon held her hand in his for a time and, as she permitted it, she met a glance from her lover which warned her to be ware of incautious familiarity with this breaker of hearts.
Barbara felt as if a sudden brightness had filled her soul, and on her way home the seed which that look had cast into it began to put forth vigorous shoots.
The ardent young Saxon duke would have been a dangerous rival for any one, even the handsomest and most powerful of men. Suppose that she should profit by the wish he showed so plainly, and through jealousy bind the man whom she loved anew and more firmly than ever?
She probably admitted to herself that in doing so she would incur a great risk, but it seemed easier to lose her greatest treasure entirely than only to half possess it; and when she had once looked this thought in the face it attracted her, as with the gaze of a basilisk, more and more strongly.
The afternoon of the following day, with the marquise, she entered the scene of festivity under the lindens.
To punish Barbara for not returning her greeting, the gray-haired lady in waiting had at first been inclined to excuse herself on the plea of illness; but the taste for amusement with which her nature was still pervaded, as well as curiosity to see the much-discussed Duke Maurice, and the desire to watch Barbara's conduct, drew her to the place where the festival was held.
Ratisbon had done her best to receive this guest, whom she especially desired to honour, with all possible magnificence. Flags and streamers bearing the colours of the empire, with the Burgundian red and gold of the Emperor, the silver-crossed keys on a red field of the city of Ratisbon, and with the Saxon coats of arms, rose amid the leafy tops of the lindens, and floated from tall poles in the sunny May air. The blue and yellow Saxon flag, with the black and yellow chevron in the field and a lozenged chaplet from the left corner to the top, was more frequently seen than any other banner.
Even though this festival was held for Duke Maurice, no one could fail to notice how much more space was given to his escutcheon than to the Emperor's.
The entertainment had opened at noon with a tournament and riding at the ring. The duke had participated in the sport a short time, and carried off several rings on his sword while in full career.
The Emperor had held aloof from this game, in which he had formerly joined gladly and with much skill, but, on the other hand, he had promised to appear at the festival under the lindens, which was to last until night. The Council had had a magnificent tent erected for him, Duke Maurice, and the court, and in order to ornament the interior suitably had allowed the use of the beautiful tapestries in the town hall. These represented familiar incidents from famous love tales: Tristan and Isolde seeing the face of King Mark in the mirror of the spring, Frau Venus as, surrounded by her court, she receives Tannhauser in the Horselberg, and similar scenes. Other art textiles showed incidents in the lives of forest people--little men and women in striped linen garments, wonderful trees and birds such as no human eye ever beheld--but above the hangings a row of coats of arms again appeared, in which the imperial escutcheon alternated with the Saxon.
The front of the tent, covered with red and white material, stood open, permitting the guests who did not belong to the court to survey the interior.
Artistic platters, large dishes, in which dainty sweets and fruits were gracefully heaped and the cathedral of Ratisbon and other devices stood, the costly silverware of the city, and many beautifully formed wine flagons attracted the gaze. Beside these were dishes of roast meats, fish, and cakes for the illustrious guests.
Stewards and guards of the Council, clad in red and white, with the crossed keys in silver embroidery on the shoulder, offered refreshments. Two superb thrones stood ready for the Emperor and the duke, easy-chairs for the cardinals, princes, and counts, stools for the barons, knights, and ladies.
Opposite to the tent stands were erected for the Council, the patrician families, and the other ladies and gentlemen whom the city had invited to the festival. In their midst rose a large, richly decorated stage for the Emperor's orchestra, which, with his Majesty's permission, had been induced to play a few pieces, and by the side of the stands was a towerlike structure, from whose summit the city pipers of Ratisbon, joined by those of Landshut, were to be heard.
A large, round stage, encircled by a fence of young birch logs, had been built for dancing amid the leafy lindens, and stood directly opposite to the imperial tent. Near the linden-shaded square at the shooting house were posted the cannon and howitzers, which were to receive the distinguished guests with loud volleys and lend fresh animation to the festival.
The Lindenplatz belonged to the same suburb of Prebrunn in which stood the little castle of the Prince Abbot of Berchtesgaden, which Barbara occupied. So, during the short distance which she and the marquise had to traverse in litters, uproar, music, and the thunder of artillery greeted them.
This exerted an intoxicating influence upon Barbara, who had been so long absent from such scenes. At home she had abandoned her intention of arousing the Emperor's jealousy; now her excited nerves urged her to execute it. The advantage she hoped to derive was well worth the risk. But if the bold game failed, and the proud, sensitive monarch should be seriously angry----
Just then shots crashed again, music and shouts echoed more loudly in her ears.
"A Blomberg does not fear," and with newly awakened defiance she closed her ears to the warning voice.
The festival was commencing.
She, too, would be gay for once, and if she was cautious the bold enterprise must succeed. A merry evening awaited her and, if all went well, on the morrow, after a few unpleasant hours, her lover's whole heart would once more be hers.
When she reached the scene of festivity it was already thronged with richly attired princes and counts, knights and ladies, citizens of Ratisbon, as well as nobles and distinguished townspeople from the neighbouring castles, citadels, and cities.
Music and a loud medley of shouts and conversation greeted her at her entrance. Her heart throbbed quickly, for she did not forget her daring purpose, and a throng of memories of modest but more carefree days rushed upon her.
Here, when a little girl, she had attended the May festival Virgatum--which owed its name to the green rods or twigs with which the school children adorned themselves--and played under yonder lindens with Wolf, with the wilder Erasmus, and other boys. How delightful it had been!--and when the enlarged band of city pipers struck up a gavotte her feet unconsciously kept time, and she could not help thinking of the last dance in the New Scales, the recruiting officer who had guided her so firmly and skilfully in the Schwabeln, and through him of her father, of whom she had not thought again since the good news received two evenings before.
She still stood at the crowded entrance gazing around her.
The interior of the imperial tent could not be seen from here, but she could overlook the stand of the noble families, and there she saw her cousins Anne Mirl and Nandl Woller, with Martina Hiltner beside them.
She had refused to receive all three in her little castle at Prebrunn; the true reason she alone knew. Her excuse had perhaps appeared to the girls trivial and unkind.
Now her glance met Nandl's, and her warmhearted friend beckoned eagerly to her; but her mother drew her arm down, and it was evident that the corpulent lady said something reproving.
Barbara looked away from the stand, and the question where her place was here suddenly disturbed her.
She had received no invitation from the Council of the city, and perhaps she would have been refused admittance to the stand. She did not know whether before the Emperor's arrival she would be received in the court tent, which Cardinal Madrucci of Trent, in superb scarlet robes, was just approaching, and an oppressive anxiety again subdued the courage which had just resolved on the boldest venture.
At that moment Baron Malfalconnet saw her, and instantly approached. Gaily offering one arm to her and the other to the marquise, he escorted both to the tent, whispering meanwhile in Barbara's ear, "Glowing summer, between spring and winter," and, as soon as he had taken them to the buffet, off he hurried again to offer his arm to the Margravine of Leuchtenberg, who was followed by two charming daughters, with pretty pages bearing their trains.
How the gold, jewels, and shining armour in the tent glittered! How the crimson glowed, the plumes waved, the heavy velvet attracted the eye by rich hues, the light laces by their delicate fineness! How the silk rustled, and one superb piece of fur vied with the other in costliness, the white with the red rose in beauty!
Barbara involuntarily looked at her sea-green brocade, and felt its heavy texture and the softness of the fur trimming on the overdress, which at home she had called a masterpiece of Frau Lerch's work. She could be satisfied with her appearance, and the string of pearls on her neck and the bracelet which her lover had sent to her, after her visit in the page's costume, were also costly ornaments. The magnificent star was missing; in its place she wore at the square-cut neck of her dress two beautiful halfblown roses, and her mirror had showed her how becoming they were.
She did not need gold or gems. What gave her power to subdue the hearts of men was of higher value.
Yet, when she mingled among the other dignitaries, she felt like an intruder in this circle.
The marquise had left her, and joined those of her own rank. Most of the ladies were strangers to Barbara, and she was avoided by those whom she knew; but, to make amends, she was soon surrounded by many aristocratic gentlemen, and her mobile nature speedily made her forget what had just depressed her joyous spirit.
Then the cannon and culverins thundered louder, the blare of trumpets rent the air with deafening shrillness, the ringing of bells in all the steeples of Ratisbon, the exulting shouts of the crowd upon the stands and in the whole Lindenplatz poured in mighty waves of sound into the tent, where the nobles and aristocratic ladies around Barbara now raised their voices also.
With a throbbing heart she mingled her cheers with those of the others and, like them, waved her handkerchief and her fan.
The man whom she loved was approaching! This crashing and echoing, this wild uproar of enthusiastic shouts and cries, this flutter of flags and waving of handkerchiefs were all in his honour and, stirred to her inmost soul by impetuous enthusiasm and ardent gratitude, her eyes grew dim with tears, and she joined far more loudly and freely in the cheers of the multitude than the aristocrats around her, to whom court etiquette dictated reserve on all occasions, even this one.
The loving woman saw nothing save the man who was advancing. How should she have noticed the scornful glances which her unrestrained vivacity elicited?
Her gaze was fixed solely upon the one sun to which the little stars around her owed their paler or brighter radiance. She scarcely noticed even the handsome young prince at Charles's side. Yet Duke Maurice would have been well worthy of her whole attention, for with what a free, proud step he advanced, while his imperial master used his arm as a support!
Charles also looked magnificent in the Castilian court costume, with the chain of the Grand Master of the Golden Fleece about his neck; but the young Saxon duke was considerably his superior in height, and the silver-embroidered, steel-gray suit of Spanish cut and the black velvet mantle trimmed with a border of marten fur, were extremely becoming. Both saluted the crowd that welcomed them so warmly and loudly, gazing meanwhile at the festal scene, the Emperor with haughty, almost indifferent dignity, the duke with less reserve and more eager gestures.
Barbara knew the sovereign, and when she saw him thrust his lower lip slightly forward she was sure that something vexed him.
Perhaps she ought not to venture to irritate the lion that day.
Was his anger roused by the boldness of the city magistrates, who dared to favour the Saxon escutcheon and banners so openly? It seemed to her exasperating, punishable insolence. But perhaps in his greatness he did not grudge this distinction to a guest so much his inferior, and it was only the gout again inflicting its pangs upon his poor tortured foot.
The way was strewn with leaves and green branches, and the Saxon was leading her lord directly over the hard little boughs in the middle of the path. Barbara would fain have called to him to look at the ground and not up at the banners and escutcheons bearing his colours, whose number seemed to flatter him. Had Charles been leaning on her arm, she would have performed the office of guide better.
At last the distinguished pair, with the companions who followed them, reached the tent and took their seats upon the thrones. Again Maurice gazed eagerly around him, but Charles vouchsafed the Lindenplatz and stands only a few careless glances. He had no time to do more, for the young Landgravines of Leuchtenber; and several other newcomers at court were presented to him by the Count of Nassau, and, after greeting the occupants of the tent by a gracious gesture, the monarch addressed a few kind words to each.
Barbara was obliged to content herself with the others, yet her heart ached secretly that he gave her no word of welcome.
Then, when the performances began and the chamberlains and major-domo seated the aristocratic ladies and older dignitaries according to their sex and rank, and she was thus placed very far in the rear, she felt it as a grievous injustice. Was she no longer the love of the man who reigned over everything here? And since no one could deny this claim, why need she be satisfied with a place beside the insignificant ladies of honour of the princelings who were present?
How forsaken and ill-treated she seemed to herself!
But there was Don Luis Quijada already making his way to her to bring a greeting from his Majesty and escort her to a place from which she could have a better view of what the city had arranged for the entertainment of the distinguished guest.
So she was not wholly forgotten by her lover, but with what scanty alms he fed her!
What did she care for the exhibition which was about to begin?
The minutes dragged on at a snail's pace while the lanterns on the lindens and poles, the torches, and pitch pans were lighted.
Had not the gentlemen and ladies been so completely separated, it might perhaps have been a little gay. But, as it was, no one of the aristocratic women who surrounded her granted her even one poor word; but the number of glances, open and secret, cast at her became all the greater as one noble dame whispered to another that she was the singer whom his Majesty condescended to distinguish in so remarkable a manner.
To know that she was thus watched might be endured, as she was aware that she could be satisfied with her appearance, but vanity compelled her to assume an expression and bearing which would not disappoint the gazers, and after the performances began this imposed a wearisome restraint.
Once only was her solitude in the midst of this great company pleasantly interrupted, for the Bishop of Arras, without troubling himself about the separation of the sexes, had sought her out and whispered that he had something to ask of her, whose details they would discuss later. On the evening of the day after to-morrow his Majesty's most distinguished guests, with their ladies, were to assemble at his house. If she desired to place him under the deepest obligations, she would join them there and adorn the festival with her singing. Barbara asked in a low tone whether the Emperor would also be present, and the statesman, smiling, answered that court etiquette prohibited such things. Yet it was not impossible that, as a special favour, his Majesty might listen for a short time in the festal hall, only he feared that the gout might interpose--the evil guest was already giving slight warnings of its approach.
Then, without waiting for a reply, the young minister went back to his royal master; but his invitation exerted a disturbing influence upon Barbara. She would have been more than glad to accept, for the entertainments of the Bishop of Arras were unequalled in varied attractions, magnificence, and gaiety, and what a satisfaction to her ambition it would be to sing before such an audience, dine at the same table with such ladies and gentlemen! She knew also how heavily this man's favour would weigh in the scales with the Emperor, yet to appear at the banquet without her lover's knowledge was utterly impossible, and just now she felt reluctant to ask his permission. What heavy chains loaded the favoured woman who possessed the love of this greatest of sovereigns!
However, reflections concerning Granvelle's invitation passed away the time until the lighting of the Lindenplatz was completed. Then the shrill blare of trumpets again rent the air, the city pipers in the towers struck up a gay march, and the entertainment began.
The gods of Olympus, led by Fame and Fortune, offered their homage to the Emperor. A youth from the school of poets, attired as the goddess of Fame, bewailed in well-rhymed verses that for a long time no one had given her so much to do as the Emperor Charles. His comrade, who, bearing a cornucopia in his arms, represented Fortune, assured her companion, in still more bombastic verse, that she should certainly expect far more from her, the goddess of Fame, in favour of his Majesty. This would continue until her own end and that of all the Olympians, because the Emperor Charles himself was an immortal. He had made them both subject to him. Fortune as well as Fame must obey his sign. But there was another younger friend of the gods for whom, on account of the shortness of his life, they had been able to do less, but for whom they also held in readiness their best and greatest gifts. He, too, would succeed in rendering them his subjects. While speaking, Fortune pointed with the cornucopia and Fame with the trumpet to Duke Maurice, and besought their indulgent lord and master, the Emperor Charles, to be permitted to show some of their young favourite's possessions, by whose means he, too, would succeed in retaining them in his service.
Then Pallas Athene appeared with the university city of Leipsic, the latter laden with all sorts of symbols of knowledge. Next came Plutus, the god of Wealth, followed by Freiberg miners bearing large specimens of silver ore in buckets and baskets; and, lastly, Mars, the god of War, leading by a long chain two camels on which rode captive and fettered Turks.
During these spectacles, which were followed by other similar ones, Barbara had been thinking of her own affairs, and gazed more frequently at her lover and his distinguished guests than at the former.
But the next group interested her more because it seemed to honour the Emperor's taste for astronomy, of which he had often talked with her.
On a long cart, drawn by powerful stallions, appeared a gigantic firmament in the shape of a hemisphere, on whose upper surface the sun, moon, and stars were seen shining in radiant light. The moon passed through all her changes, the sun and planets moved, and from the dome echoed songs and lute-playing, which were intended to represent the music of the spheres. Another chorus was heard from a basket of flowers of stupendous size. Among the natural and artificial blossoms sat and lay upon leaves and in the calyxes of the flowers child genii, who flung to the Emperor beautiful bouquets, and into the laps and at the feet of the ladies in the tent smaller ones and single flowers.
Barbara, too, did not go with empty hands. The Cupid who had thrown his to her was the little Maltese Hannibal, who sang with other boys as "Voices of the Flowers," and later was to take part in the great chorus.
This friendly remembrance of her young fellow-artist cheered Barbara, and when a fight began, which was carried on by a dozen trained champions brought from Strasburg expressly for this purpose, she turned her attention to it.
At first this dealing blows at one another with blunt weapons offered her little amusement; but when shouts from the tent and the stands cheered the men from the Mark, and powerful blows incensed to fury those who were struck, the scene began to enthral her.
A handsome, agile youth, to her sincere regret, had just fallen, but swiftly recovered his elasticity, and, springing to his feet, belaboured his opponent, a clumsy giant, so skilfully and vigorously that the bright blood streamed down his ugly face and big body. Barbara's cheeks flushed with sympathy. That was right. Skill and grace ought everywhere to conquer hideous rude force.
If she had been a man she would have found her greatest happiness, as her father did, in battle, in measuring her own strength with another's. Now she was obliged to defend herself with other weapons than blunt swords, and when she saw the champions, six against six, again rush upon one another, and one side drive the other back, her vivid imagination transported her into the midst of the victors, and it seemed as if the marquise and the whole throng of arrogant dames in the tent, as well as the Ratisbon women on the stands who had insulted her by their haughty airs of virtue, were fleeing from her presence.
How repulsive these envious, hypocritical people were! How she hated everything that threatened to estrange her lover's heart! To them also belonged the scoundrel who, she supposed, had betrayed the sale of the star to the Emperor. She resolved to confess to Charles how she had been led to commit this offence, which was indeed hard to forgive. Perhaps all would then be well again, for in this unfortunate action she could recognise the sole wrong which she had ever inflicted upon her lover. She could not help attributing his humiliating manner to it alone, for her love had always remained the same, and only yesterday, after she had sung before the Duke of Saxony, Appenzelder, who never flattered, had assured her that her voice had gained in power, her expression in depth, and she herself felt that it was so.
Music was still the firmest bond that united her to her lover. So long as her art remained faithful, he could not abandon her. This conviction was transformed into certainty when the final performance began, and the Ratisbon choir, under the direction of Damian Feys, commenced the mighty hymn with which the composer, Jean Courtois, had greeted the Emperor Charles in Cambray:
"Venite populi terrai"--"Come hither, ye nations of the earth"--this motet for four voices called imperiously to all mankind like a joyous summons.
"Ave Cesar, ave majestas sacra," sounded in solemn, religious tones the greeting to the greatest of monarchs. It seemed to transport the listener to the summit of the cathedral, as the choir now called to the ruler that the earth was full of his renown. The Ratisbon singers and the able Feys did their best, and this mighty act of homage of all the nations of the earth by no means failed to produce its effect upon him to whom it was addressed.
While Barbara listened, deeply agitated, she did not avert her eyes from her lover's face, which was brightly illumined by a pyramid of candles on each side of the two thrones.
Every trace of weariness, indifference, and discomfort had vanished from Charles's features. His heart, like hers--she knew it--was now throbbing higher. If he had just been enduring pain, this singing must have driven it away or lessened it, and he had certainly felt gratefully what power dwells in the divine art.
This noble composition, Barbara realized it, would again draw her near her lover, and the confirmation of this hope was not delayed, for as soon as the last notes of the motet and the storm of applause that followed had died away, the Emperor, amid the renewed roar of the artillery, rose and looked around him--surely for her.
The good citizens of Ratisbon! No matter how much more bunting they had cut up in honour of the Saxon duke than of the Emperor, how bombastic were the verses composed and repeated in praise of Maurice, this paean of homage put all their efforts to shame. It suited only one, lauded a grandeur and dignity which stood firm as indestructible cliffs, and which no one here possessed save the Emperor Charles.
Who would have ventured to apply this motet to the brave and clever Saxon, high as he, too, towered above most of his peers? What did the nations of the earth know about him? How small was the world still that was full of his renown!
This singing had reminded both princes of Barbara, and they looked for her. The Emperor perceived her first, beckoned kindly to her, and, after conversing with her for a while so graciously that it aroused the envy of the other ladies in the tent, he said eagerly: "Not sung amiss for your Ratisbon, I should think. But how this superb composition was sung six years ago at Catnbray, under the direction of Courtois himself!--that, yes, that is one of the things never to be forgotten. Thirty-four singers, and what power, what precision, and, moreover, the great charm of novelty! I have certainly been permitted to hear many things----"
Here he paused; the Cardinal of Trent was approaching with the Bishop of Arras.
The younger Granvelle, with his father, had also been present at the performance of this motet of homage at Cambray, and respectfully confirmed his Majesty's remark, speaking with special warmth of the fervour and delicacy with which Jean Courtois had conducted the choir.
The cardinal had no wish to detract from the merits of the Netherland maestro, but he called the Emperor's attention to young Orlando di Lasso, the leader of the orchestra in the Lateran at Rome, who, in his opinion, was destined as a composer and conductor to cast into the shade all the musicians of his time. He was born in Hennegau. The goddess of Music continued to honour the Netherlands with her special favour.
During this conversation Barbara had stepped modestly aside. Charles glanced toward her several times to address her again, but when the Bishop of Arras whispered that, before the commencement of the festival, the cardinal had received despatches from the Council and from Rome, he motioned to both prelates to follow him, and, paying no further heed to Barbara--nay, without even vouchsafing her a farewell wave of the hand--conducted them to the rear of the tent.
Again the girl's heart ached in her abandonment. Duke Maurice, too, had vanished. When he saw the Emperor address her he had left the tent.
Dancing had begun, and he was now accepting the invitation of the magistrate Ambrosius Ammann to inaugurate the young people's pleasure as leader of the Polish dance.
For a time Barbara stood as if spellbound to the spot where her lover had so suddenly turned away from her.
She was again experiencing what Adrian had predicted--politics made Charles forget everything else, even love. How would it be when war actually came?
Now, after the Emperor had showed her that he still deemed her worthy of regard, she felt for the first time thoroughly neglected, and with difficulty restrained her tears. She would have liked to follow Charles, and at every peril whisper softly, so that he alone could hear, yet with all the sharpness of her resentment, that it was unchivalrous to leave her standing here like an outcast, and that she demanded to learn why she had forfeited his love.
The wild throbbing of her heart impeded her breathing, and, in the indignation of her soul, she longed to escape fresh humiliation and to leave the festival.
But again Baron Malfalconnet appeared as a preserver in the hour of need, and, with the profound submissiveness bordering upon mockery which he always showed her, asked why she had so speedily deprived his Majesty of the pleasure of her society. Barbara gave way to her wrath and, while vehemently forbidding the unseemly jibe, glanced with a bitter smile toward the Emperor, who, in conversation with the two dignitaries, seemed to have forgotten everything around him.
"The destiny of the world," observed the baron, "can not be set to dance music. The domain of your obedient admirer, Malfalconnet, on the contrary, obeys solely the heart throbs in this loyal breast; and if you, fairest of women, will allow yourself to be satisfied with so small a realm of sovereignty, it is at your disposal, together with these tolerably agile feet, which still wait in vain for the well-merited imperial gout."
The sharp refusal which this proposition received amused the baron instead of offending him, and passing into a more conversational tone, he proposed to her to leave this abode of ennui, where even the poor satyrs on the hangings were holding their big hands over their mouths to hide their yawns, and go with him to the dancing floor.
Barbara laid her hand on his arm and followed him to the pleasure ground under the lindens, where the pretty daughters of the Ratisbon noble families had just commenced a dance with the gentlemen belonging to their circle.
Barbara had gone to school, exchanged kisses, and was a relative or friend of most of these young girls in light gala dresses, adorned with coloured flowers, whose names Malfalconnet asked, yet, after an interval of these few weeks, she met them like a stranger.
The love which united her to the Emperor had raised her far above them.
Accustomed to give herself up entirely to the gifts which the present offered, she had turned her back on Ratisbon and its inhabitants, with whom, during this period of happiness she could easily dispense, as if they were a forgotten world. There was no one in her native city whom she seriously missed or to whom she was strongly drawn. That she, too, offered these people little, and was of small importance, self-love had never permitted her to realize, and therefore she felt an emotion of painful surprise when she perceived the deep gulf which separated her from her fellow-citizens of both sexes.
Now her old friends and acquaintances showed her plainly enough how little they cared for her withdrawal.
Pretty Elspet Zohrer, with whom she had contended for the recruiting officer, Pyramus Kogel, was standing opposite to her, by her partner's side, in the same row with charming little Mietz Schiltl, Anne Mirl Woller, her cousin, Marg Thun, and the others.
The Zauner, which they were dancing with a solemn dignity that aroused the baron's mirth, afforded them an opportunity to look around them, and they eagerly availed themselves of it; nay, they almost all glanced at Barbara, and then, with evident intention, away from her, after Elspet Zohrer, with a contemptuous elevation of her dainty little snub nose, had ignored her schoolmate's greeting.
Barbara drew herself up, and the air of unapproachable dignity which she assumed well suited the aristocratic gentleman at her side, whom every one knew as the most brilliant, witty, and extravagant noble at the Emperor's court. At the same time she addressed the baron, whom she had hitherto kept at a distance, with unconstrained familiarity, and as the eyes of the mothers also rested upon her, remarks which might have driven the blood to her cheeks were made upon the intimate terms existing between the "Emperor's sweetheart" and the profligate and spendthrift Malfalconnet.
True, Barbara could not understand what they were saying, but it was easy enough to perceive in what way they were talking about her.
Yet what gave these women the right to condemn her?
They bore her a grudge because she had distinguished herself by her art, while their little geese were idle at home or, at most, busied themselves in the kitchen, at the spinning wheel, in dancing, and whatever was connected with it while waiting for their future husbands. The favour which the most illustrious of mortals showed her they imputed to her as a crime.
How could they know that she was more to the Emperor than the artist whose singing enraptured him?
The girls yonder--her Woller cousins certainly--merely held aloof because their mothers commanded them to do it. Only in the case of a few need she fear that jealousy and envy had taken possession of them. Yet what did she care for them and their behaviour? She looked over their heads with the air of a queen.
But what was the meaning of this?
As soon as the dance was over, a pretty young girl, scarcely seventeen years old, with blue forget-me-nots in her fair hair and on her breast, left her partner and came directly toward Barbara.
Her head drooped and she hesitated shyly as she did so, but her modest timidity was so charming that the dissolute courtier at Barbara's side felt a throb of sympathy, and gazed down at her like a benevolent fatherly friend as she held out her hand to his companion.
He did not think Martina Hiltner actually beautiful as she stood close before him, but, on the other hand, inexpressibly charming in her modest grace.
That it was she who came to Barbara so confidingly increased his good opinion of the self-reliant, hot-blooded girl who had won the Emperor's love, and therefore he was deeply angered when the latter answered Martina's greeting curtly and coldly, and, without vouchsafing her any further words, requested him to summon one of the attendants who were serving refreshments.
Malfalconnet glanced significantly toward Martina, and, while offering Barbara a goblet of lemonade, said, "There is candied lemon and other seasoning in it, so it will probably suit your taste, exacting beauty, since you appear to dislike what is pure."
"Only when poison is mixed with it," she answered quickly, tossing her head arrogantly. Then, controlling herself, she added in an explanatory tone: "In this case, Baron, your far-famed penetration deceived you. It gave me more pain than you will believe to reject the friendly advances of this lovely child, but her father is the head of the Lutheran heresy here, and the almoner----"
"Then that certainly alters the case," the other interrupted. "Where the Holy Inquisition threatens, I should be capable of denying a friend thrice ere the cock crew. But what a number of charming young faces there are on this Lindenplatz! Here one can understand why Ratisbon, like the French Arles, is famed for the beauty of her daughters. It was not easy for you to earn the reputation of the greatest beauty here. You have also gained that of the most cruel one. You make me feel it. But if you wish to cast into oblivion the poisoned cup proffered just now, do me the favour to trust yourself to my guidance in the next dance."
"Impossible," answered Barbara firmly. "If I were really cruel, I would yield to your skill in tempting, and render you the base betrayer of the greatest and noblest of masters."
"Does not every one who gazes at your beauty or listens to your song become such a monster, at least in thought?" asked the baron gaily. "Are you really so inexorable about the dance?"
"As this statue," Barbara answered with mirthful resolution, pointing to a plaster figure which was intended to represent the goddess Flora or the month of May. "But let us stay here a few minutes longer, though only as spectators."
Barbara expressed this wish because a group of young gentlemen, who had always been among those who sought her most eagerly for a partner at the dances in the New Scales, had attracted her attention. They were engaged in an animated discussion, which from their glances and gestures evidently concerned Barbara.
Bernhard Trainer, the tall son of an old and wealthy family, who loved Martina Hiltner, and had been incensed by Barbara's treatment of her, seemed to gain his point, and when the city pipers began to play again, all of them--probably a dozen in number--passed by her arm-in-arm in couples, with their eyes studiously fixed upon the opposite side of the dancing floor.
Barbara could entertain no doubt that this insulting act was intended to wound her. The "little castle," as it was called in Prebrunn, owned by Bernhard Trainer's family, was near the bishop's house which she occupied. Therefore the Trainers had probably heard more than others about the visits she received. Or did the gentlemen consider that she deserved punishment for not treating Martina more kindly?
Whatever might have caused the unseemly act, in Barbara's eyes it was a base trick, which filled her with furious rage against the instigators. Had she shared the Emperor's power, it would have been a delight to her in this hour to repay the malignant insult in the same or far heavier coin. But, on Malfalconnet's account, she must submit in silence to what had been inflicted upon her.
So, in a muffled tone, she requested the baron to take her back to the tent, but while fulfilling her wish he wondered at the long strides of the capricious young lady at his side, and the mortifying inattention with which she received his questions.
Meanwhile the Emperor had returned to the throne, and Maurice of Saxony was again standing beside him, while the chamberlain Andreas Wolff was humbly, inviting the monarch to make the Ratisbon young people happy by visiting the scene of the dancing.
After a dance of inquiry at the duke, Charles assented to this request. But they must pardon him if he remained a shorter time than he himself would desire, as the physician was urging his return home.
While the chamberlain was retiring, Charles saw Barbara leaning on Malfalconnet's arm, beckoned to them, and asked her whether she had yielded to her love for dancing.
A brief "No, your Majesty," assured him of the contrary, and led him to make the remark that whoever exercised a noble art so admirably as she would be wise to refrain from one which could afford nobody any higher pleasure than the peasant and his sweetheart, if they only had sound feet.
The counsel sounded harsh, almost warning, and the already irritated girl with difficulty restrained a sharp reply; but the Emperor was already rising, that, leaning on Quijada's arm, he might seek the dancing ground.
Meantime the young Saxon duke had approached Barbara, and expressed his admiration of the successful festival, but she scarcely heard what he said. Yet when she turned her face toward him, and his ardent gaze rested yearningly upon her, she felt that the opportunity had now come to carry out her half-forgotten intention of arousing the jealousy of her royal lover.
Whatever it might cost, she must undertake the risk.
Summoning all her strength of will, she silenced the bitter resentment which filled her heart, and a sunny glance told Duke Maurice how much his escort pleased her. Malfalconnet had watched every look of the lady on his arm, as well as the duke's, and as they approached the scene of the dance he asked the latter if his Highness would condescend to relieve him for a short time of a delightful duty. An important one in the service of his imperial Majesty----
Here the duke's eager assent interrupted him, and the next moment Barbara was leaning on the arm of the handsome young prince.
She had found in him the tool which she needed, and Maurice entered into her design only too readily, for the baron had scarcely retired ere he changed his tone of voice and began an attack upon her heart.
He had no need to respect the older rights of his imperial host, for Charles had distrustfully concealed from him the bond which united him to the beautiful singer. So, with glowing eloquence, he described to Barbara how quickly and powerfully the spell of her beauty and her wonderful art had fired his brain, and besought her to aid him not to commence one of the most important periods of his life with a sore heart and sick with longing; but she allowed him to speak, without interrupting him by a single word.
She could not misunderstand what he desired, and many a glance permitted him to interpret it in his favour; but resentment still continued to stir in her soul, growing and deepening as the Emperor, seated on the throne erected for him, without noticing her appearance, sometimes listened to the chamberlain, who mentioned the names of the handsomest dancers, sometimes addressed a question to the Bishop of Arras and the other gentlemen who had followed him.
Her royal lover deprived her of even the possibility of rousing him by jealousy from the consciousness of the secure possession of her person. Besides, the flushed faces of the young men who had so shamelessly insulted her were beaming before her with the joy of the festival.
But the expression of their features was already changing. Duke Maurice had been recognised, and now all who felt entitled to do so approached him, among them her foes, at their head Bernhard Trainer, who were obliged to bend low before him, and therefore before her also.
Just then the city pipers struck up a gagliarde, and the music was the air of the dancing-master's song by Baldassaro Donati, which had roused the Emperor's indignation a few days ago. In imagination she again heard his outburst of anger, again saw him rise from his seat in wrath at the innocent "Chi la gagliarda vuol imparare."
The time of reckoning had come, and he should pay her for the bitterness of that hour! Yonder malevolent fellows, who now looked bewildered and uneasy, should be forced to retreat before her and perceive what power she had obtained by her beauty and her art.
With fevered blood and panting breath she listened to the gay music of the enlarged band of city pipers, and watched the movements of the couples who had already commenced the gagliarde, and--how was it possible in such a mood?--a passionate desire to dance took possession of her.
Without heeding the many persons who stood around them, she whispered softly to the duke, "It would be a pleasure to keep time to the music of the gagliarde with you, your Highness."
An ardent love glance accompanied this invitation, and the bold Saxon duke was a man to avail himself of every advantage.
He instantly expressed to the Ratisbon gentlemen his desire to try the gagliarde himself to such excellent music, and at a sign from the master of ceremonies the dance stopped.
Several members of the Council requested the couples to make way, and Maurice took his partner's hand and led her on the stage.
The sudden cessation of the music attracted the Emperor's attention also. In an instant he perceived what was about to take place, and looked at Barbara. Her eyes met his, and such a glow of indignation, nay, wrath, so imperious a prohibition flashed from his glance that her flushed cheeks paled, and she strove to withdraw her hand from the duke's.
But Maurice held it firmly, and at the same moment the city pipers began to play again, and the music streamed forth in full, joyous tones.
The wooing notes fell into her defiant soul like sparks on dry brushwood. She could not help dancing, though it should be her death. Already she had begun, and with mischievous joy the thought darted through her mind that now Charles, too, would perceive what anguish lay in the fear of losing those whom we love.
If this grief brought him back to her, she thought, while eagerly following the figures of the dance, she would tend him all her life like a maidservant; if his pride severed the bond between them--that could not be done, because he loved her--she must bear it. Doubtless the conviction forced itself upon her superstitious mind that Fate would be ready to ruin her by the dance, yet she executed what must bring misfortune upon her; to retreat was no longer possible.
These thoughts darted in wild confusion in a few moments through her burning brain, and while Maurice swung her around it seemed as if the music reached her through the roar and thunder of breakers. The words "Chi la gagliarda vuol imparare" constantly echoed in her ears, mocking, reckless, urging her to retaliation.
The dancing-master, Bernandelli, whom the Council had summoned from Milan to the Danube, had taught her and the other young people of Ratisbon the gagliarde. The sensible teacher, to suit the taste of the German burghers, had divested the gay dance of its recklessness. But he had showed his best pupils with how much more freedom the Italians performed the gagliarde, and Barbara had not forgotten the lesson. Duke Maurice moved and guided her with the same unfettered ease that the little maestro had displayed in former days. Willing or not, she was obliged to follow his lead, and she did so, carried away by the demands of her excited blood and the pleasure of dancing, so long denied, yet with the grace and perfect ear for time which were her special characteristics.
Neither the Ratisbon citizens nor Charles, who had been a good dancer himself, had ever seen the gagliarde danced in this way by either the gentleman or the lady. A better-matched couple could scarcely be imagined than the tall, powerful, chivalrous young prince and the beautiful, superbly formed, golden-haired girl who seemed, as it were, carried away by the music.
But Charles did not appear to share the pleasure which the sight of this rare couple and their dancing awakened even in the most envious and austere of the Ratisbon spectators, for when, in a pause, Barbara, with sparkling eyes, glanced first into the duke's face and then, with a merry look of inquiry, at her lover, she found his features no longer distorted by anger, but disgusted, as though he were witnessing an unpleasant spectacle.
Nevertheless she danced a short time longer without looking at him, until suddenly the remembrance of his reproving glance spoiled her pleasure in this rare enjoyment.
She whispered to the duke that she was satisfied.
A wave of his hand stopped the music but, ere returning the bow of her distinguished partner, Barbara looked for the Emperor.
Her eyes sought him in vain-he had left the turf under the lindens before the close of the dance. The Bishop of Arras, Malfalconnet, and several of the ladies and gentlemen who had left the tent in no small number and gone to the scene of the dancing after learning what was taking place there, had remained after the monarch's departure. Most of them joined in the applause which the younger Granvelle eagerly commenced when the city pipers lowered their instruments.
Barbara heard it, and saw that Bernhard Trainer and other young citizens of Ratisbon were following the courtiers' example, but she seemed scarcely to notice the demonstration.
The doubt whether Charles had merely not waited till the end of the dance, or had already left the festival, made her forget everything else. Through the Bishop of Arras she learned that his Majesty had gone home.
No one, not even the baron and Quijada, had received a message for her.
This fresh humiliation pierced her heart like a knife.
On every similar occasion hitherto he had sent her a few kind words, or, if Don Luis was the messenger, tender ones.
Yet she was obliged to force herself to smile, in order not to betray what was passing in her mind. Besides, she could not shake off the Duke of Saxony like the poor, handsome recruiting officer, Pyramus Kogel.
Fortunately, some of the most prominent Ratisbon citizens now crowded around Maurice to thank him for the honour which he had done the city.
She availed herself of the favourable opportunity to beg Granvelle, in a low tone, to keep the duke away from her the next morning until his departure at noon, and, if possible, now."
"One service for another," replied the statesman. "I will rid you of the most desirable admirer in Germany. But, on the day after to-morrow, you will adorn my modest banquet with the singing of the most gifted artist in the world."
"Gladly, unless his Majesty forbids me to do so," replied Barbara.
A few minutes later she informed her passionate young ducal lover, who wished to call upon her in her own home that very evening, that it would be utterly impossible. With an air of the greatest regret, she said that her little castle was guarded like an endangered citadel; and when the duke proposed a meeting, he was interrupted by the Bishop of Arras, who desired to speak to him about "important business."
In spite of the late hour, the minister, even without the girl's request, would have sought an audience with the duke, and to the ambitious Maurice politics and the important plans being prepared for immediate execution were of infinitely greater value than a love adventure, no matter what hours of pleasure it promised to afford.
So Barbara succeeded in taking leave of the duke without giving him offence.
The marquise was waiting for her with ill-repressed indignation. The weary old woman had wanted to return home long before, but the command of the grand chamberlain compelled her to wait for Barbara and accompany her the short distance to the house.
With an angry glance and a few bitter-sweet words of greeting, the old dame entered the litter. Barbara preferred to walk beside hers, for clouds had darkened the sky; it had become oppressively sultry, and she felt as if she would stifle in the close, swaying box.
Four torch-bearers accompanied the litters. She ordered the knight and the two lackeys whom Quijada had commissioned to attend her to remain behind, and also refused the service of the little Maltese, who--oh, how gladly!--would have acted as a page and carried her train.
As the shipwrecked man on a plank amid the endless surges longs for land, Barbara longed to get away, far away from the noise of the festival. Yet she dreaded the solitude which she was approaching, for she now perceived how foolishly she had acted, and with what sinful recklessness she had perhaps forfeited the happiness of her life on this luckless evening.
But need she idly wait for the doom to which she was condemned? He whose bright eyes could beam on her so radiantly had just wounded her with angry glances, like a foe or a stern judge, and his indignation had not been groundless.
What had life to offer her without his love? The wantonly bold venture had been baffled. Yet no! All was not yet lost!
Suppose she should summon courage to steal back to him and on her knees repentantly beseech him to forgive her?
But she cherished this desire only a few moments. Then the angry, wronged heart rebelled against such humiliation. She had not so shame fully offended the Emperor, but the lover, and it was his place to entreat her not to withdraw the love which made him happy.
The young girl raised her head with fresh courage. What had happened more than she had expected?
Because he loved her, he had become jealous, and made her feel his anger. But if she should now persistently withdraw from him, and let him realize how deeply he had offended her, she could not fail to win the game. In spite of all his crowns and kingdoms, he was only a man, and must not she, who in a few brief hours had forced a Maurice of Saxony to sue yearningly for her love, succeed by the might of her art and her beauty in transforming the wrath of the far older man, Charles, into his former passion?
If the Italian novels with which she was familiar did not lie, not only jealousy, but apparent indifference on the part of the beloved object, fanned the heart of man to burst into fresh flames.
It was only necessary to hold her impetuous temper in check, and profit by the jealousy which had now been aroused in Charles's mind. Hitherto she had always obeyed hasty impulses. Why should not she, too, succeed in accomplishing a well-considered plan? With the torturing emotions of failure, mortification, desertion, remorse, and yearning for forgiveness, now blended the hope of yet bringing to a successful conclusion the hazardous enterprise which she had already given up as hopeless, and, while walking on, her brain toiled diligently over plans for the campaign which would compel the great general to return with twofold devotion the love of which he had deprived her.
So, in the intense darkness, she followed the light which the torches cast upon the uneven path. At first she had taken up the train of her dress; now it was sweeping the dusty road.
What did she care for the magnificent robe if she regained Charles's love? Of what use would it be if she had lost it, lost it forever?
Before the litters reached the little castle a gust of wind rose, driving large drops of rain, straw, and withered leaves-Barbara could not imagine whence they came in the month of May--into her face. She was obliged to struggle against these harbingers of the coming tempest, and her heart grew lighter during the conflict. She was not born to endure, but to contend.
The scene of the festivities emptied rapidly. The duke and Granvelle drove back to the city in the minister's carriage. Malfalconnet and Quijada, in spite of the gathering storm, went home on foot.
"What a festival!" said Don Luis scornfully.
"In former days such things presented a more superb spectacle even here. But now! No procession, no scarlet save on the cardinals, no golden cross, no venerable priest's head on the whole pleasure ground, and, moreover, neither consecration nor the pious exhortation to remember Heaven, whence comes the joy in which the crowd is rejoicing."
"I, too, missed something here," cried the baron eagerly, "and now I learn through you what it is."
"Will not the heretics themselves gradually feel that they are robbing the pasty of faith of its truffles--what am I saying?--of its salt? May their dry black bread choke them! The only thing that gave the unseasoned meal a certain charm was the capitally performed gagliarde.
"Which angered his Majesty more deeply than you imagine," replied Don Luis. "The singer's days are probably numbered. It is a pity! She was wonderfully successful in subduing the spirits of melancholy."
"The war, on which we can now depend, will do that equally well, if not better," interrupted the baron. "Within a short time I, too, have lost all admiration for this fair one. Cold-hearted and arrogant. Capable of the utmost extremes when her hot blood urges her on. Unpopular with the people to whom she belongs, and, in spite of her bold courage, surprisingly afraid of the Holy Inquisition. Here, among the heretics, that gives cause for thought."
"Enough!" replied Don Luis. "We will let matters take their course. If the worst comes, I, at least, will not move a finger in her behalf."
"Nor will I," said Malfalconnet, and both walked quietly on.
[The End of Volume One of the Print Edition]