Barbara Blomberg by Georg Ebers
That night Barbara dreamed of her father. Birds of prey were attacking his body as it lay upon the ground, and she could not drive them off. The terror with which this spectacle had disturbed her sleep could not be banished during the morning. Now, whatever it cost, she must go to Landshut and hear some tidings of him.
Maestro Gombert would set out for Munich the next day, and in doing so must pass the neighbouring city. If he would carry her with him, she would be safe. He came at twilight to take leave of her, and with genuine pleasure gave her the second seat in his travelling carriage.
Early the following morning the vehicle, drawn by post horses, stopped before the little Prebrunn castle, and Barbara was soon driving with the musician through the pleasant country in the warm August day.
Sister Hyacinthe and Fran Lamperi had tried to prevent her departure by entreaties and remonstrances, for both feared that the long ride might injure her; and, moreover, the latter had been charged by Quijada, in the Emperor's name, to keep her in the castle and, if she left it, to inform him at once by a mounted messenger.
As Barbara could not be detained, Frau Lamperi, though reluctantly, obeyed this command.
Before leaving Prebrunn Barbara had warned Gombert that he would find her a very uninteresting companion, since it was still impossible to talk much; but Gombert would not admit this. To a true friend, the mere presence of the other gives pleasure, even though he should not open his lips.
The girl had become very dear to him, and her presence made time pass swiftly, for the great musician liked to talk and conversed bewitchingly, and he had long since discovered that Barbara was a good listener.
Besides, the motley life on the road attracted his attention as well as his travelling companion's, for the war had begun, and already would have resulted in a great victory for the Smalcalds, at the foot of the Bavarian Alps, had not the Augsburg Military Council prevented the able commander in chief Schartlin von Burtenbach and his gallant lieutenant Schenkwitz from profiting by the advantage won. The way to Italy and Trent, where the Council was in session, was already open to the allied Protestants, but they were forbidden from the green table to follow it. It would have led them through Bavarian territory, and thereby perhaps afforded Duke William, the ruler of the country, occasion to abjure his neutrality and turn openly against the Smalcalds.
The shortsightedness with which the Protestants permitted the Emperor to remain so long in Ratisbon unmolested, and gather troops and munitions of war, Gombert had heard termed actually incomprehensible.
The travellers might expect to find a large force in Landshut, among the rest ten thousand Italians and eight thousand Spaniards. This, the musician explained to his companion, was contrary to the condition of his Majesty's election, which prohibited his bringing foreign soldiers into Germany; but war was a mighty enterprise, which broke even Firmer contracts.
A bitter remark about the man who, even in peace, scorned fidelity and faith, rose to Barbara's lips; but as she knew the warm enthusiasm which Gombert cherished for his imperial master, she controlled herself, and continued to listen while he spoke of the large re-enforcements which Count Buren was leading from the Netherlands.
A long and cruel war might be expected, for, though his Majesty assumed that religion had nothing to do with it, the saying went--here Catholics, here Protestants. The Pope gave his blessing to those who joined Charles's banner, and wherever people had deserted the Church they said that they were taking the field for the pure religion against the unchristian Council and the Romish antichrist.
"But it really can not be a war in behalf of our holy faith," Barbara here eagerly interposed, "for the Duke of Saxony is our ally, and Oh, just look! we must pass there directly."
She pointed as she spoke to a peasant cart just in front of them, whose occupants had been hidden until now by the dust of the road. They were two Protestant clergymen in the easily recognised official costume of their faith--a long, black robe and a white ruff around the neck.
Gombert, too, now looked in surprise at the ecclesiastical gentlemen, and called the commander of the four members of the city guard who escorted his carriage.
The troops marching beside them were the soldiers of the Protestant Margrave Hans von Kustrin who, in spite of his faith, had joined the Emperor, his secular lord, who asserted that he was waging no religious war. The clergymen were the field chaplains of the Protestant bands.
When the travellers had passed the long baggage train, in which women and children filled peasant carts or trudged on foot, and reached the soldiers themselves, they found them well-armed men of sturdy figure.
The Neapolitan regiment, which preceded the Kustrin one, presented an entirely different appearance with its shorter, brown-skinned, light-footed soldiers. Here, too, there was no lack of soldiers' wives and children, and from two of the carts gaily bedizened soldiers' sweethearts waved their hands to the travellers. In front of the regiment were two wagons with racks, filled with priests and monks bearing crosses and church banners, and before them, to escape the dust, a priest of higher rank with his vicar rode on mules decked with gay trappings.
On the way to Eggmuhl the carriage passed other bodies of troops. Here the horses were changed, and now Gombert walked with Barbara in front of the vehicle to "stretch their legs."
A regiment from the Upper Palatinate was encamped outside of the village. The prince to whom it belonged had given it a free ration of wine at the noonday rest, and the soldiers were now lying on the grass with loosened helmets and armour, feeling very comfortable, and singing in their deep voices a song newly composed in honour of the Emperor Charles to the air, "Cheer up, ye gallant soldiers all!"
The couple so skilled in music stopped, and Barbara's heart beat quicker as she listened to the words which the fair-haired young trooper close beside her was singing in an especially clear voice:
"Cheer up, ye gallant soldiers all! Be blithe and bold of mind With faith on God we'll loudly call, Then on our ruler kind. His name is worthy of our praise, Since to the throne God doth him raise; So we will glorify him, too, And render the obedience due. Of an imperial race he came, To this broad empire heir; Carolus is his noble name, God-sent its crown to wear. Mehrer is his just title grand, The sovereign of many a land Which God hath given to his care His name rings on the air!" [Mehrer--The increaser, an ancient title of the German emperors]
How much pleasure this song afforded Barbara, although it praised the man whom she thought she hated; and when the third verse began with the words,
"So goodly is the life he leads Within this earthly vale,"
oh, how gladly she would have joined in!
That could not be, but she sang with them in her heart, for she had long since caught the tune, and how intently the soldiers would have listened if it had been possible for her to raise her voice as usual! Amid the singing of all these men her clear, bell-like tones would have risen like the lark soaring from the grain field, and what a storm of applause would have greeted her from these rough throats!
Grief for the lost happiness of pouring forth her feelings in melody seized upon her more deeply than for a long time. She would fain have glided quietly away to escape the cause of this fresh sorrow. But Gombert was listening to the young soldier's song with interest, so Barbara continued to hear the young warrior as, with evident enthusiasm, he sang the verse:
"Patient and tolerant is he, Nor vengeance seeks, nor blood; E'en though he errs, as well may be, His heart is ever good."
She, too, had deemed this heart so, but now she knew better. Yet it pleased her that the fair-haired soldier so readily believed the poet and, obeying a hasty impulse, she put her hand into the pouch at her belt to give him a gold piece; but Gombert nudged her, and in his broken Netherland German repeated the verse which he had just heard:
"'Tis stern necessity that forced The sword into his hand; 'Tis not for questions of the faith That he doth make his stand."
So the soldiers believed that their commander had only grasped the sword when compelled to do so, and that religion had nothing to do with the war, but the leader of the orchestra knew better. The conversations of the Spaniards at the court, and the words which De Soto had uttered lauding the Emperor, "Since God placed my foes in my hands, I must wage war upon his enemies," were plain enough.
Gombert repeated this remark in a low tone but, ere Barbara could answer him, the carriage, with its fresh relay of horses, stopped in the road.
It was time to get in again, but Barbara dreaded the ride over the rough, crowded highway, and begged her companion to pursue their journey a little farther on foot. He consented and, as the girl now flung a gold gulden to the blond leader of the voices, cheers from the soldiers followed them.
Leaning on Gombert's arm, Barbara now moved on more cheerfully until they were stopped by the vivandiere's counter.
The portly woman stood comfortably at ease behind her eatables and drinkables, rested her fists on her hips, and glanced toward her assistant, who stared boldly into the musician's face, and asked him to take some refreshment for himself and his sweetheart.
She was a young creature, with features prematurely haggard, cheeks scarlet with rouge, and eyebrows and lashes dyed black. The infant which a pale little girl nine years old was tending belonged to her. She had had her hair cut close, and her voice was so discordantly hoarse that it hurt Barbara's ears.
As the bold young woman tapped Gombert lightly on the arm and, with fresh words of invitation, pointed toward the counter, a shiver ran through Barbara's limbs. Even her worst enemy would not have ventured to compare her with this outcast, but she did herself as she thought of her own cropped hair and injured voice. Perhaps the child in the arms of the pale nine-year-old nurse was disowned by its father, and did not the greatest of sovereigns intend to do the same to his, if the mother refused to obey him?
These disagreeable thoughts fell upon her soul like mildew upon growing grain, and after Gombert had helped her into the carriage again she begged him to let her rest in silence for a while. The Netherlander, it is true, had no suspicion of her condition, but he knew that she had not yet wholly recovered, and carefully pushed his own knapsack under her feet.
Barbara now closed her eyes and pretended to be asleep, yet she tortured her mind with the same question which she had vainly tried to decide in the chapel of Wolf's house. Besides, she was troubled about the information which the recruiting officer might give her concerning her father. And suppose she should meet the Emperor Charles in Landshut, and be permitted to speak to him?
The blare of trumpets and a loud shout of command roused her from this joyless reverie. The carriage was passing some squads of Hungarian cavalry moving at a walk toward Landshut.
Their gay, brilliant appearance scattered the self-torturing thoughts. Why should she spoil the delightful drive with her friend, which, besides, was nearly over? Even if the worst happened, it would come only too soon.
So drawing a long breath, she again turned to her companion, and Gombert rejoiced in the refreshing influence which, as he supposed, her sleep had exerted upon her. In an hour he must part from the artist to whom he owed so much pleasure, whose beauty warmed his aging heart, and who he frequently wished might regain the wonderful gift now so cruelly lost. Her fiery vivacity, her thoroughly natural, self-reliant unconcern, her fresh enthusiasm, the joyousness and industry with which she toiled at her own cultivation, and the gratitude with which any musical instruction had been received, had endeared her to him. It would be a pleasure to see her again, and a veritable banquet of the soul to hear her sing in the old way.
He told her this with frank affection, and represented to her how much better suited she was to Brussels than to her stately but dull and quiet Ratisbon.
With enthusiastic love for his native land, he described the bustling life in his beautiful, wealthy home. There music and every art flourished; there, besides the Emperor and his august sister, were great nobles who with cheerful lavishness patronized everything that was beautiful and worthy of esteem; thither flocked strangers from the whole world; there festivals were celebrated with a magnificence and joyousness witnessed nowhere else on earth. There was the abode of freedom, joy, and mirth.
Barbara had often wished to see the Netherlands, which the Emperor Charles also remembered with special affection, but no one had ever thus transported her to the midst of these flourishing provinces and this blithesome people.
During the maestro's description her large eyes rested upon his lips as if spellbound. She, too, must see this Brabant, and, like every newly awakened longing, this also quickly took possession of her whole nature. Only in the Netherlands, she thought, could she regain her lost happiness. But what elevated this idea to a certainty in her mind was not only the fostering of music, the spectacles and festivals, the magnificent velvet, the rustling silk, and the gay, varied life, not only the worthy Appenzelder and the friend at her side, but, far above all other things, the circumstance that Brussels was the home of the Emperor Charles, that there, there alone, she might be permitted to see again and again, at least from a distance, the man whom she hated.
Absorbed in the Netherlands, she forgot to notice the nearest things which presented themselves to her gaze.
The last hour of the drive had passed with the speed of an arrow, both to her and her travelling companion, and just as they were close to the left bank of the Isar, which was flowing toward them, Gombert's old servant turned and, pointing before him with his outstretched hand, exclaimed, "Here we are in Landshut!" she perceived that the goal of their journey was gained.
Barbara was familiar with this flourishing place, above which proudly towered the Trausnitzburg, for here lived her uncle Wolfgang Lorberer, who had married her mother's sister, and was a member of the city Council. Two years before she had spent a whole month as a guest in his wealthy household, and she intended now to seek shelter there again. Fran Martha had invited her more than once to come soon, and meanwhile her two young cousins had grown up.
Two arms of the Isar lay before her, and between them the island of Zweibrucken.
Before the coach rolled across the first, Barbara gathered her luggage together and told the postboy where he was to drive. He knew the handsome Lorberer house, and touched his cap when he heard its owner's name. Barbara was glad to be brought to her relatives by the famous musician; she did not wish to appear as though she had dropped from the clouds in the house of the aunt who was the opposite of her dead mother, a somewhat narrow-minded, prudish woman, of whom she secretly stood in awe.