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- Barbara Blomberg, Volume 10. - 13/13 -

undervalued Don John's mother--nay, how much she had wronged her--but her sedulous efforts to make amends for the error produced an effect upon Barbara different from her expectations; for the great lady's manner seemed like a confession of guilt, and kept alive the memory of the anguish of soul which Dona Magdalena had so often inflicted upon her.

The early death of the young hero whom both loved so tenderly first drew them together. Barbara had witnessed with very different feelings from Dona Magdalena and her brother how the former regarded every false step of Don John, and especially that of his expedition to England, as a heavy misfortune, and as such bewailed it. Dona Magdalena had been firmly convinced that the spell of fame which surrounded the victor of Lepanto, and the irresistible lovableness characteristic of his whole nature, would finally win the hearts of the Netherlanders, and even induce the Prince of Orange, whose friendship Don John himself hoped to gain, to join hands with him in the attempt to work for the welfare of his country.

Barbara knew that this expectation deceived him.

Toleration and liberty were the blessings which the Prince of Orange desired to win for his people, and both were hateful to her son, reared at the Spanish court, as she herself saw in them an encroachment upon the just demands of the Church and the claims of royalty. Fire and water could harmonize more easily than these two men, and Barbara foresaw which of them in this conflict would be the extinguishing flood.

She perceived how waterfall after waterfall was quenching the flames which burned in Don John's honest soul for the supposed welfare of the nation intrusted to him. He was reaping hatred, scorn, and humiliation wherever he had hoped to win love and gratitude in the Netherlands. His royal brother left him in the lurch where he was entitled to depend upon his assistance. But when Philip let the mask fall and showed openly how deeply he distrusted the glorious son of his dead father, and to what a degree his ill will had risen--when he committed the cruel crime of having Escovedo, the devoted, loyal friend and counsellor of the victor of Lepanto, assassinated in Madrid, where he had come to labour in his master's cause--the most ambitious and sensitive of hearts received the deathblow which was to put an end to his famous career and his young life.

Scarcely two years after Barbara's meeting with Don John, the Emperor Charles's hero son died. Even in the Netherlands he had remained to the last victor on the battlefield. Alessandro Farnese, his dearest friend, his companion in youth, in study, and in war, had valiantly supported him with his good sword; but his faithful friendship had been unable to heal the sufferings which wore out Don John's strong body and brave soul when, to the severest political failures, was added the bloody treachery of his royal brother.

The death of this son doubtless first taught Barbara with what cruel anguish a mother's heart can be visited; but her John had not really died to her. Accustomed to love him from a distance, she continued to live in and with him, and in her thoughts and dreams he remained her own.

At first, without leaving the lay condition, she had joined the Dominican Sisters in the Convent of Santa Maria la Real at Cebrian; but even the slight constraint which life behind stone walls imposed upon her still seemed unendurable, so she retired to the little city of Colindres, in the district of Loredo. There stood the deserted house of Escovedo, the murdered friend and counsellor of her John and, as everything under its roof reminded her of the beloved dead, it seemed the most fitting spot in which to pass the remnant of her days. In it she led an independent but quiet, secluded life. She spent only a few maravedis for her own wants, while she used the thousands of ducats which, after her son's death, King Philip awarded her as an annual income, to make life easier for the poor and the sick whom she affectionately sought out.

With every tear she dried she believed that she was showing the best honour to her son's memory.

She was denied the pleasure of placing a flower upon his grave, for King Philip had done his dead brother the honour which he withheld from him during life and, though only as a corpse, received him among the members of his illustrious race. His coffin had been entombed in the cold family vault of the Escurial, where no sunbeam enters.

But Barbara needed no place associated with his person in order to remember him; she always felt near him, and memories were the vital air which nourished her soul. Music remained the best ornament of her solitary existence, and never did the forms of the son and the father come nearer to her than when she sang the songs--or in after years played them on the harp and lute--to which her imperial lover had liked to listen.

The memory of her John's father now taught her to change the "More, farther," of his motto into the maxim, "Learn to be content," the memory of the son, that every sacrifice which we make for the happiness of another is futile if, besides splendour and glory, fame and honour, it does not also gain the spiritual blessings whose possession first lends those gifts genuine value. These much-envied favours of Fortune had little to do with the indestructible monument which she erected in her heart to her son and her lover. What built it and lent it eternal endurance were the modest gifts of the heart.

She now knew the names of the blessings which might have guided her boy to a loftier happiness and, full of the love which even death could not assail and lessen, mourned by many, Barbara Blomberg, at an advanced age, closed her eyes upon the world.


The greatness he had gained he overlooked Who does not struggle ward, falls back

Barbara Blomberg, Volume 10. - 13/13

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