Barbara Blomberg by Georg Ebers
Progress was very slow, for many peasants and hogs were coming toward them from the Schweinemarkt at their right.
The gate was on the second bridge, and here the carriage was compelled to stop on account of paying the toll. But it could not have advanced in any case; a considerable number of vehicles and human beings choked the space before and beyond the gate. Horsemen of all sorts, wagons of regiments marching in and out, freight vans and country carts, soldiers, male and female citizens, peasants and peasant women, monks, travelling journeymen, and vagrants impeded their progress, and it required a long time ere the travelling carriage could finally pass the gate and reach the end of the bridge.
There the crowd between it, the Hospital of the Holy Ghost, and the church belonging to it seemed absolutely impenetrable. The vehicle was forced to stop, and Gombert stood up and overlooked the motley throng surrounding it.
Barbara had also risen from her seat, pointed out to her companion one noteworthy object after another, and finally a handsome sedan chair which rested on the ground beside the hospital.
"His Majesty's property," she said eagerly; "I know it well."
Here she hesitated and turned pale, for she had just noticed what Gombert now called to her attention.
Don Luis Quijada, with the haughty precision of the Castilian grandee, was passing through the humble folk around him and advancing directly toward her.
All who separated him from the carriage submissively made way for the commander of the Lombard regiment; but Barbara looked toward the right and the left, and longed to spring from the vehicle and hide herself amid the throng.
But it was too late for that.
She could do nothing except wait to learn what he desired, and yet she knew perfectly well that Don Luis was not coming to the musician, but to her, and that he was bringing some startling, nay, probably some terrible news.
She had not met him since she had poured forth the indignation of her heart. Now he was standing close beside the carriage, but his grave face looked less stern than it did at that time.
After he had bent his head slightly to her and held out his hand to Gombert with friendly condescension, he thanked him for the kindness with which he had made room for his travelling companion, and then, with quiet courtesy, informed Barbara that he had come on behalf of his Majesty, who feared that she might not find suitable lodgings in overcrowded Landshut. The sedan chair stood ready over there by the hospital.
The longing to escape this fresh outrage from the mighty despot seized upon Barbara more fiercely than ever, but flight in this crowd was impossible, and as she met Quijada's grave glance she forced herself to keep silence. She could not endure to make the Netherland maestro, who was kindly disposed toward her, and whom she honoured, a witness of her humiliation. So she was compelled to reserve what she wished to say to the Spaniard until later, and therefore only bade her friend farewell and, scarcely able to control her voice, expressed her regret that she could not take him to the Lorberers, since his Majesty was making other arrangements for her.
Another clasp of the Netherlander's hand, a questioning glance into the Castilian's calm face, and she was forced to consider herself the Emperor Charles's prisoner.
True, her captor studiously showed her every attention; he helped her out of the carriage with the utmost care, and then led her through the moving throng of people to the sedan chair, behind which a mounted groom was holding Quijada's noble steed by the bridle.
While Don Luis was helping Barbara into the chair, she asked in a low tone what she was to think of this act of violence, and where she was being taken.
"His Majesty's command," was the reply. "I think you will be satisfied with your lodgings here." The girl shrugged her shoulders indignantly, and asked if she might only know how it had been discovered that she was on her way to Landshut; but Don Luis, in a gayer manner than his usual one, answered, "A little bird sang it to us, and I waited for you just here because, at the end of the bridge, we are most certain to meet whoever is obliged to cross either branch of the river." Then, in a tone so grave as to exclude any idea of mockery, he added, "You see how kindly his Majesty has provided for your welfare."
Closing the sedan chair as he spoke, he rode on before her.
Meanwhile contradictory emotions were seething and surging in Barbara's breast.
Where were they taking her?
Did the Emperor intend to make her a prisoner? He certainly possessed the power. Who would dare to resist him?
She could attain no clearness of thought, for, while giving free course to the indignation of her soul, she was gazing out at the open sides of the sedan chair.
Every house, every paving stone here was familiar and awakened some memory. A crowd of people surrounded her, and among them appeared many a foreign soldier on foot and on horseback, who would have been well worthy of an attentive glance. But what did she care for the Italians in helmets and coats of mail who filled the Altstadt--the main business street of Landshut--through which she was being carried? She doubtless cast a glance toward the Town Hall, where her uncle was now devising means to provide shelter for this legion of soldiers and steeds, doubtless put her head a little out of the window as she approached the houses and arcades in the lower stories, and the Lorberer mansion, with the blunt gable, where she had spent such happy days, appeared. But she quickly drew it back again; if any of her relatives should see her, what answer could she make to questions?
But no one perceived her, and who knows whether they would not have supposed the delicate, troubled face, short locks of hair, and unnaturally large eyes to be those of another girl who only resembled the blooming, healthful Barbara of former days?
She also glanced toward the richly decorated portal of St. Martin's Church, standing diagonally opposite to the sedan chair, and tried to look up to the steeple, which was higher than almost any other in the world.
Even in Ratisbon there was not a handsomer, wider street than this Altstadt, with its stately gable-roofed houses, and certainly not in Munich, where her uncle had once taken her, and the Bavarian dukes now resided.
But where, in Heaven's name, would she be borne?
The sedan chair was now swaying past the place where the "short cut" for pedestrians led up to the Trausnitzburg, the proud citadel of the dukes of Bavarian Landshut. She leaned forward again to look up at it as it towered far above her head on the opposite side of the way; the powerful ruler whose captive she was probably lodged there.
What did this mean?
The sedan chair was set down, and it was just at the place where the road at her left, leading to the citadel, climbed the height where rose the proud Trausnitz fortress.
Perhaps she might now find an opportunity to escape.
Barbara hastily opened the door, but one of her attendants closed it again, and in doing so pressed her gently back into the chair. At the same time he shook his head, and, while his little black eyes twinkled slyly at her, his broad, smiling mouth, over which hung a long black mustache, uttered a good-natured "No, no."
Now the ascent of the mountain began. A wall bordered the greater portion of the road, which often led through a ravine overgrown with brushwood and past bastions and other solid masonry.
The bearers had already mounted to a considerable height, yet there was no view of the city and the neighbouring country. But even the loveliest prospect would not have induced Barbara to open her eyes, for the indignation which overpowered her had increased to fierce rage, blended with a fear usually alien to her courageous soul.
In the one tower of the citadel there were prisons of tolerably pleasant aspect, but she had heard whispers of terrible subterranean dungeons connected with the secret tribunal.
Suppose the Emperor Charles intended to lock her in one of these dungeons and withdraw her from the eyes of the world? Who could guard her from this horrible fate? who could prevent him from keeping her buried alive during her life?
Shuddering, she looked out again. If she was not mistaken, they were nearing the end of the road, and she would soon learn what was before her. Perhaps the Emperor Charles himself was awaiting her up there. But if he asked her whether she intended always to defy him, she would show him that Barbara Blomberg was not to be intimidated; that she knew how to defend herself and, if necessary, to suffer; that she would be ready to risk everything to baffle his design and carry out her own resolve. Then he should see that nations and kings, nay, even the Holy Father in Rome-as Charles had once sacrilegiously done--may be vanquished and humbled; that the hard, precious stone may be crushed and solid metal melted, but the steadfast will of a woman battling for what she holds dearest can not be broken.
The sedan chair had already passed through half a dozen citadel gates and left one solid wall behind it, but now a second rose, with a lofty door set in its strong masonry.
When Barbara had formerly ascended the Trausnitz, with what pleasure she had gazed at the deep moat at her left, the pheasants, the stately peacocks, and other feathered creatures, as well as a whole troop of lively monkeys; but this time she saw nothing except that the heavy iron-bound portals of the entrance opened before her, that the drawbridge, though the sun was close to the western horizon, was still lowered, and that Quijada stood at the end, motioning to the bearers to set the sedan chair on the ground.
Now the major-domo opened the door, and this time he was not alone; Barbara saw behind him a woman whose appearance, spite of her angry excitement, inspired confidence.
The questions which, without heeding his companion, she now with crimson cheeks poured upon Don Luis as if fairly frantic, he answered in brief, businesslike words.
The Emperor Charles wished to place her in safe quarters up here, while he himself had taken lodgings in the modest house of a Schwaiger--a small farmer who tilled his own garden and land in the valley below.
For the present, some of the most distinguished officers were here in the citadel as guests of the Duke of Bavaria. Barbara was to live in the ladies' apartments of the fortress, under the care of the worthy woman at his side.
"His Majesty could not have provided for you more kindly," he concluded.
"Then may the Virgin preserve every one from such kindness!" she impetuously exclaimed. "I am dragged to this citadel against my will---"
"And that irritates your strong feeling of independence, which we know," replied the Spaniard quietly. "But when you listen to reason, fairest lady, you will soon be reconciled to this wise regulation of his Majesty. If not, it will be your own loss. But," he added in a lowered tone, "this is no fitting place for a conversation which might easily degenerate into a quarrel. It can be completed better in your own apartments."
While speaking he led the way, and Barbara followed without another word of remonstrance, for soldiers of all ages and other gentlemen were walking in the large, beautiful courtyard which she overlooked; a group of lovers of horseflesh were examining some specially fine steeds, and from several of the broad windows which surrounded the Trausnitz courtyard on all sides men's faces were looking down at her.
This courtyard had always seemed to her a stage specially suitable for the display of royal magnificence, and yet, in spite of its stately size, it would be difficult to imagine anything more pleasant, more thoroughly secluded.
It had formerly witnessed many brilliant knightly games and festal scenes, but even now it was the favourite gathering place for the inhabitants of the citadel and the guests of the ducal owner, though the latter, it is true, had ceased to live here since Landshut had become the heritage of the Munich branch of the Wittelsbach family, and the Bavarian dukes resided in Munich, the upper city on the Isar.
Just as Barbara entered the castle the vesper bell rang, and Quijada paused with bared head, his companions with clasped hands.
The girl prisoner felt little inclination to pray; she was probably thinking of a dance given here by torchlight, in which, as her uncle's guest, she had taken part until morning began to dawn.
While they were walking on again, she also remembered the riding at the ring in the Trausnitz courtyard, which she had been permitted to witness.
The varied, magnificent spectacle had made her almost wild with delight. The dance in this square had been one of her fairest memories. And with what feelings she looked down into this courtyard again! What could such an amusement be to her now? Yet it roused a bitter feeling that, in spite of her youth, such scenes should be closed to her forever.
She silently followed the others into an airy room in the third story, whose windows afforded a beautiful view extending to the Bohemian forests.
But Barbara was too weary to bestow more than a fleeting glance upon it.
Paying no heed to the others, she sank down upon the bench near one of the walls of the room, and while she was still talking with Don Luis her new companion, of whose name she was still ignorant, brought several cushions and silently placed them behind her back.
This chamber, Quijada explained, he had selected for her by his Majesty's permission. The adjoining room would be occupied by this good lady--he motioned to his companion--the wife of Herr Adrian Dubois, his Majesty's valet. Being a native of Cologne, she understood German, and had offered to bear her company. If Barbara desired, she could also summon the garde-robiere Lamperi from Ratisbon to the Trausnitz.
Here she interrupted him with the question how long the Emperor intended to detain her here.
"As long as it suits his imperial pleasure and the physician deems advisable," was the reply. Barbara merely shrugged her shoulders again; she felt utterly exhausted. But when Quijada, who perceived that she needed rest, was about to leave her, she remembered the cause of her drive to Landshut, and asked whether she might speak to her father's travelling companion, who could give her information about the health of the old man who, after the Emperor had sent him out into the world, had fallen ill in Antwerp.
This was willingly granted, and Don Luis even undertook to send Sir Pyramus Kogel, whom he knew by sight, to her. Then commending her to the care of Fran Dubois, who was directed to gratify every reasonable wish, he left the room. Meanwhile Barbara desired nothing except rest, but she studiously refrained from addressing even a word to her new companion. Besides, there was little time to do so, she was soon sound asleep.
When at the end of two hours she awoke, she found herself lying at full length upon the bench, while a careful hand had removed her shoes, and the pillows which had supported her weary back were now under her head.
During her slumber it had grown dark, and a small lamp, whose rays a handkerchief shielded from her eyes, was standing on the stove in one corner of the room.
Yet she was alone; but she had scarcely stirred when Frau Dubois appeared with a maid-servant bearing a candelabrum with lighted candles. The careful nurse asked in brief but pleasant words whether she felt stronger, if it would be agreeable to her to have supper served in fifteen minutes, and if she would allow her to help her.
"Willingly," replied Barbara, very pleasantly surprised. Her companion, as it were, anticipated her strongest wishes--to satisfy her hunger and to change her dress.
She must be capable and, moreover, a woman of kindly, delicate feelings, and it certainly was no fault of hers that she was intrusted with her guardianship and that she belonged to no higher station in life. She was only punishing herself by persisting in her silence and, as Frau Dubois tended her like a watchful mother, though without addressing a single word to her unasked, Barbara's grateful heart and the satisfaction which the valet's wife inspired silenced her arrogance.
When an attendant laid the table for only one person, the girl kindly invited Frau Dubois to dine with her; the former, however, had already had her meal, but she said that she would be very glad to bear the young lady company if she desired.
The first long conversation between the two took place at the table.
The pretty face of the native of the Rhine country, with its little snub nose, which in youth must have lent a touch of gay pertness to the well-formed features, was still unwrinkled, though Frau Dubois was nearer fifty than forty. Her gray, nearly white hair, though ill-suited to her almost youthful features, lent them a peculiar charm, and how brightly her round, brown eyes still sparkled! The plain gown of fine Brabant stuff fitted as if moulded to her figure, and it was difficult to imagine anything neater than her whole appearance.
Adrian had certainly attained an exceptional position among his class, yet Barbara wondered how he had won this woman, who apparently belonged to a far higher station. And then what had brought her to this place and her companionship?
She was to learn during the meal, for Frau Dubois not only answered her questions kindly, but in a manner which showed Barbara sincere sympathy for her position.
She was the daughter of a captain who had fallen in the Emperor Charles's service before Padua. The pension granted to his widow had not been paid, and when, with her daughter, she sought an audience with the commander in chief, the influential valet had seen the blooming girl, and did not seek her hand in vain. Maternal joys had been denied her; besides, Frau Dubois thought it hard that her husband was obliged to accompany the Emperor, who could not spare him for a single day, on his long and numerous journeys. Even the very comfortable life secured to her by the distinguished valet, who was respected by men of the highest rank, by no means consoled her for it.
The Emperor Charles knew this, and had given Adrian a pretty house in the park of the Brussels palace, besides favouring him in other ways. Now he had allowed him, before setting out for the war, to send for his wife. On reaching Landshut, she had shared during a few hours the little house which the monarch and general had chosen for his lodgings. The imperial commander had not gone up to the citadel because he wished to remain among his troops.
True, the little farmhouse on the "hohen Gred" which he occupied was anything but a suitable abode for a powerful sovereign, for above the ground floor it had only a single story with five small windows and an unusually high roof. But, on the other hand, the regiments lying encamped near it could be quickly reached. Another reason for making the choice was that he could obtain rest here better than on the Trausnitz, for his health was as bad as his appearance and his mood. He intended to break up the headquarters on the day after to-morrow, so another separation awaited the valet and his wife.
When the mounted messenger sent by Frau Lamperi reached Landshut, and it was necessary to find a suitable companion for Barbara, the Emperor himself had thought of Fran Dubois.
There had been no opposition to his wish. Besides, she said, his Majesty meant kindly by Barbara and, so far as her power extended, everything should be done to soften her hard destiny.
She knew the whole history of the girl intrusted to her care, yet she would scarcely have undertaken the task committed to her had she not been aware that every determination of the Emperor was immovable. Besides, she could also strive to render the hard fate imposed upon the poor girl more endurable.
Barbara had listened eagerly to the story without interrupting her; then she desired to learn further particulars concerning the health of the man from whom even now her soul could not be sundered and, finally, she urged her to talk about herself.
So time passed with the speed of the wind. The candles in the candelabrum were already half burned down when Fran Dubois at last urged going to rest.
Barbara felt that she was fortunate to have found so kind and sensible a companion and, while the Rhinelander was helping her undress, she begged her in future to call her by her Christian name "Gertrud," or, as people liked to address her, "Frau Traut."