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- Barbara Blomberg, Volume 10. - 1/13 -
[NOTE: There is a short list of bookmarks, or pointers, at the end of the file for those who may wish to sample the author's ideas before making an entire meal of them. D.W.]
By Georg Ebers
On the way home Barbara often pressed her left hand with her right to assure herself that she was not dreaming.
This time she found her husband in the house. At the first glance Pyramus saw that something unusual had happened; but she gave him no time to question her, only glanced around to see if they were alone, and then cried, as if frantic: "I will bear it no longer. You must know it too. But it is a great secret." Then she made him swear that he, too, would keep it strictly, and in great anxiety he obeyed.
He, like Barbara's father, had supposed that the Emperor's son had entered the world only to leave it again. Barbara's "I no longer have a child; it was taken from me," he had interpreted in the same way as the old captain, and, from delicacy of feeling, had never again mentioned the subject in her presence.
While taking the oath, he had been prepared for the worst; but when his wife, in passionate excitement, speaking so fast that the words fair tumbled over one another, told him how she had been robbed of her boy; how his imperial father had treated him; how she had longed for him; what prayers she had uttered in his behalf; how miserable she had been in her anxiety about this child; and, now, that Dona Magdalena's letter permitted her to cherish the highest and greatest hopes for the boy, the tall, strong man stood before her with downcast eyes, like a detected criminal, his hand gripping the edge of the top of the table which separated her from him.
Barbara saw his broad, arched chest rise and fall, and wondered why his manly features were quivering; but ere she had time to utter a single soothing word, he burst forth: "I made the vow and will be silent; but to-morrow, or in a year or two, it will be in everybody's mouth, and then, then My good name! Honour!"
Fierce indignation overwhelmed Barbara, and, no longer able to control herself, she exclaimed: "What did it matter whether Death or his father snatched the child from me? The question is, whether you knew that I am his mother, and it was not concealed from you. Nevertheless, you came and sought me for your wife! That is what happened! And--you know this --you are as much or little dishonoured by me, the mother of the living child, as of the dead one. Out upon the honour which is harmed by gossip! What slanderous tongues say of me as a disgrace I deem the highest honour; but if you are of a different opinion, and held it when you wooed me, you would be wiser to prate less loudly of the proud word 'honour,' and we will separate."
Pyramus had listened to these accusations and the threat with trembling lips. His simple but upright mind felt that she was right, so far as he was concerned, and she was more beautiful in her anger than he had seen her since the brilliant days of her youthful pride. The fear of losing her seized his poor heart, so wholly subject to her, with sudden power and, stammering an entreaty for forgiveness, he confessed that the surprise had bewildered him, and that he thought he had showed in the course of the last ten years how highly, in spite of people's gossip, he prized her. He held out his large honest hand with a pleading look as he spoke, and she placed hers in it for a short time.
Then she went to church to collect her thoughts and relieve her overburdened heart. Boundless contempt for the man to whom she was united filled it; yet she felt that she owed him a debt of gratitude, that he was weak only through love, and that, for her children's sake, she must continue to wear the yoke which she had taken upon herself.
His existence henceforth became of less and less importance to her feelings and actions, especially as he left the management of their two boys to her. He had reason to be satisfied with it, for she provided Conrad with the best instruction, that the might choose between the army and the legal profession; his younger brother she intended for the priesthood, and the boy's inclination harmonized with her choice.
The fear that the Emperor Charles might yet commit the child she loved to the monastery never left her. But she thought that she might induce Heaven to relinquish its claim upon her John, whom, moreover, it seemed to have destined for the secular life, by consecrating her youngest child to its service.
While she did not forget her household, her mind was constantly in Spain. Her walks were usually directed toward the palace, to inquire how the recluse in San Yuste was faring, and whether any rumour mentioned her imperial son.
After the great victory gained by Count Egmont against the military forces of France, eleven months after the battle of St. Quentin, there was enough to be seen in Brussels. The successful general was greeted with enthusiastic devotion. Egmont's name was in every one's mouth, and when she, too, saw the handsome, proud young hero, the idol, as it were, of a whole nation, gorgeous in velvet, silk, and glittering gems, curbing his fiery steed and bowing to the shouting populace with a winning smile, she thought she caught a glimpse of the future, and beheld the predecessor of him who some day would receive similar homage.
Why should she not have yielded to such hopes? Already there was a rumour that the daughter of the Emperor and that Johanna Van der Gheynst, who had been Charles's first love, Margaret of Parma, her own son's sister, had been chosen to rule the Netherlands as regent.
Why should less honours await Charles's son than his daughter?
But the festal joy in the gay capital was suddenly extinguished, for in the autumn of the year that, in March, had seen Ferdinand, the Emperor's brother, assume the imperial crown, a rumour came that the recluse of San Yuste had closed his eyes, and a few days after it was verified.
It was Barbara's husband who told her of the loss which had befallen her and the world. He did this with the utmost consideration, fearing the effect of this agitating news upon his wife; but Barbara only turned pale, and then, with tears glittering in her eyes, said softly, "He, too, was only a mortal man."
Then she withdrew to her own room, and even on the following day saw neither her husband nor her children. She had long expected Charles's death, yet it pierced the inmost depths of her being.
This sorrow was something sacred, which belonged to her and to her alone. It would have seemed a profanation to reveal it to her unloved husband, and she found strength to shut it within herself.
How desolate her heart seemed! It had lost its most distinguished object of love or hate.
Through long days she devoted herself in quiet seclusion to the memory of the dead, but soon her active imagination unfolded its wings again, and with the new grief mingled faint hopes for the boy in Spain, which increased to lofty anticipations and torturing anxiety.
The imperial father was dead. What now awaited the omnipotent ruler's son?
How had Charles determined his fate?
Was it possible that he still intended him for the monastic life, now that he had become acquainted with his talents and tastes?
Since Barbara had learned that her son had won his father's heart, and that the Emperor, as it were, had made him his own with a kiss, she had grown confident in the hope that Charles would bestow upon him the grandeur, honours, and splendour which she had anticipated when she resigned him at Landshut, and to which his birth gave him a claim. But her early experience that what she expected with specially joyful security rarely happened,--constantly forced upon her mind the, fear that the dead man's will would consign John to the cloister.
So the next weeks passed in a constant alternation of oppressive fears and aspiring hopes, the nights in torturing terrors.
All the women of the upper classes wore mourning, and with double reason; for, soon after the news of the Emperor's death reached Brussels, King Philip's second wife, Mary Tudor, of England, also died. Therefore no one noticed that Barbara wore widow's weeds, and she was glad that she could do so without wounding Pyramus.
A part of the elaborate funeral rites which King Philip arranged in Brussels during the latter part of December in honour of his dead father was the procession which afforded the authorities of the Brabant capital an opportunity to display the inventive faculty, the love of splendour, the learning, and the wit which, as members of flourishing literary societies, they constantly exercised. In the pageant was a ship with black sails, at whose keel, mast, and helm stood Hope with her anchor, Faith with her chalice, and Love with the burning heart. Other similar scenic pieces made the sincerity of the grief for the dead questionable, and yet many real tears were shed for him. True, the wind which swelled the sails of the sable ship bore also many an accusation and curse; among the spectators of the procession there were only too many whose mourning robes were worn not for the dead monarch, but their own nearest relatives, whom his pitiless edicts had given to the executioner as readers of the Bible or heterodox.
These displays, so pleasing to the people of her time and her new home, were by no means great or magnificent enough for Barbara. Even the most superb show seemed to her too trivial for this dead man.
She was never absent from any mass for the repose of his soul, and she not only took part outwardly in the sacred ceremony, but followed it with fervent devotion. As a transfigured spirit, he would perceive how she had once hated him; but he should also see how tenderly she still loved him.
Now that he was dead, it would be proved in what way he had remembered the son whom, in his solitude, he had learned to love, what life path John had been assigned by his father.
But longingly as Barbara thought of Spain and of her boy, often as she went to the Dubois house and to the regent's home to obtain news, nothing
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