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- Barbara Blomberg, Volume 10. - 4/13 -
satisfaction flitted over his cold features, and we heard him exclaim to Quijada, 'A horseman, and, if the saints so will, a knight well pleasing to Heaven.'
"What more he said to the boy we learned later. The words which by the movement of his lips we saw that he added to the exclamation were, 'Unless our noble young friend prefers to consecrate himself in humility to the service of the highest of all Masters.'
"He had pointed to the monastery as he spoke. Geronimo did not delay his reply, but, crossing himself, answered quickly:
"'I wish to be a faithful servant of our Lord Jesus Christ, but only in the world, fighting against his foes.'
"Philip nodded so eagerly that his stiff white ruff was pushed awry, and then, with patronizing approval, added: 'So every nobleman ought to think. You, my young friend, saw a short time ago at the auto-da-fe in Valladolid how a considerable number of Spanish gentlemen of the noblest blood expiated at the stake the mortal sin of heresy. A severe punishment, and a terrible end! Would you perhaps have preferred to see his Majesty's mercy grant them their lives?'
"'On no account, my Lord Count,' cried Geronimo eagerly. 'There is no mercy for the heretic.'
"His Majesty now summoned the two knights who attended him and, while one held his horse, he dismounted.
"At a sign from Quijada, Geronimo now also sprang to the ground, and gazed wonderingly at the stranger, whom, on account of his fair beard, he supposed to be a Netherland noble; but Dona Magdalena could bear to remain under the trees no longer, and I followed her to the edge of the meadow. The King advanced toward the boy, and stood before him with so proud and dignified a bearing that one might have supposed his short figure had grown two heads taller.
"Geronimo must have felt that some very distinguished personage confronted him, and that something great awaited him, for he involuntarily raised his hat again. His wavy golden locks now fell unconfined around his head, his cheeks glowed, and his large blue eyes gazed questioningly and with deep perplexity into the stranger's face as he said slowly, with significant emphasis: 'I am not the man whom you suppose. Who, boy, do you think that I might be?'
"'Geronimo turned pale; only one head could be lifted with so haughty a majesty, and suddenly remembering the face which he had seen upon many a coin, sure that he was right, he bent the knee with modest grace, saying, 'Our sovereign lord, his Majesty King Philip''
"'I am he,' was the reply. 'But to you, dear boy, I am still more.'
"'As he spoke he gave him his hand, and, when Geronimo rose, he said, pointing to his breast: 'Your place is here, my boy; for the Emperor Charles, who is now enjoying the bliss of heaven, was your father as well as mine, and you, lad, are my brother.'
"Then passing his arm around his shoulders, he drew him gently toward him, lightly imprinting a kiss upon his brow and cheeks; but Geronimo, deeply moved, pressed his fresh red lips to his royal brother's right hand. Yet he had scarcely raised his head again when he started, and in an agitated tone asked, 'And Don Luis--and my dear mother?'
"'Continue to love and honour them,' replied the King.--'Explain the rest to him, Don Luis. But keep what has happened here secret for the present. I will present him myself to our people as my brother. He received in holy baptism the name of John, which in Castilian is Juan. Let him keep it.--Give me your hand again, Don Juan d'Austria.--[Don John of Austria]--A proud name! Do it honour.'
"He turned away as he spoke, mounted with the aid of one of his knights, waved his hand graciously to Quijada and, while his horse was already moving, called to him, 'My brother, Don Juan, will be addressed as your Excellency.'
"He took no notice of Dona Magdalena, probably because she had appeared here either without or against his orders, and thus offended one of the forms of etiquette on which he placed so much value. So his Majesty neither saw nor heard how the son of an Emperor and the brother of a King rushed up to his foster-mother, threw himself into her outstretched arms, and exclaimed with warm affection, 'Mother! my dear, dear mother!'"
Barbara had listened weeping to this description, but the last sentence dried her tears and, like Frau Traut a short time ago, her friend regretted that he had not exercised greater caution as he heard her, still sobbing, but with an angry shrug of the shoulders, repeat the exclamation which her son--ay, her son only--had poured forth from his overflowing heart to another woman.
So Wolf did not tell her what he had witnessed in Villagarcia, when Don Juan and Dona Magdalena had fallen into each other's arms, and that when he asked about his real mother the lady answered that she was an unfortunate woman who must remain away from him, but for whom it would be his duty to provide generously.
Directly after, on the second day of October, Wolf added, the King had presented her son to the court as his Excellency, his brother Don John of Austria!
He, Wolf, had set off for Brussels with the grand prior that very day, and, as his ship sailed from Spain before any other, he had succeeded in being the first to bring this joyful news to the Netherlands and to her.
When Wolf left Barbara, it seemed as though what had hitherto appeared a bewildering, happy dream had now for the first time been confirmed. The lofty goal she had striven to reach, and of which she had never lost sight, was now gained; but a bitter drop of wormwood mingled with the happiness that filled her grateful heart to overflowing. Another woman had forced herself into her place and robbed her of the boy's love, which belonged to her and, after his father's death, to her alone.
Every thought of the much-praised Dona Magdalena stirred her blood. How cruel had been the anguish and fears which she had endured for this child she alone could know; but the other enjoyed every pleasure that the possession of so highly gifted a young creature could afford. She could say to herself that, of all sins, the one farthest from her nature was envy; but what she felt toward this stealer of love fatally resembled sharp, gnawing ill will.
Yet the bright sense of happiness which pervaded her whole being rendered it easy for her to thrust the image of the unloved woman far into the shade, and the next morning became a glorious festival for her; she used it to pay a visit to the Dubois couple, and when she told them what she had heard from Wolf, and saw Frau Traut sob aloud in her joy and Adrian wipe tears of grateful emotion from his aged eyes, her own happiness was doubled by the others' sympathy.
Barbara had anticipated Wolf, but while going home she met him on his way to the Dubois house. He joined her, and still had many questions to answer.
During the next few days her friend helped her compose a letter to her son; but he was constantly obliged to impose moderation upon the passionate vehemence of her feelings. She often yielded to his superior prudence, only she would not fulfil his desire to address her boy as "your Excellency."
When she read the letter, she thought she had found the right course.
Barbara first introduced herself to John as his real mother. She had loved and honoured his great father with all the strength of her soul, and she might boast of having been clear to him also. By the Emperor Charles's command he, her beloved child, had been taken from her. She had submitted with a bleeding heart and, to place him in the path of fortune, had inflicted the deepest wounds upon her own soul. Now her self-sacrifice was richly rewarded, and it would make her happier than himself if she should learn that his own merit had led him to the height of fame which she prayed that he might reach.
Then she congratulated him, and begged him not to forget her entirely amid his grandeur. She was only a plain woman, but she, too, belonged to an ancient knightly race, and therefore he need not be ashamed of his mother's blood.
Lastly, at Wolf's desire, she requested her son to thank the lady who so lovingly filled her place to him.
Her friend was to give this letter himself to Don John of Austria, and he voluntarily promised to lead the high-minded boy to the belief that his own mother had also been worthy of an Emperor's love.
Lastly, Wolf promised to inform her of any important event in her son's life or his own. During the last hour of their meeting he admitted that he was one of the few who felt satisfied with their lot. True, he could not say that he had no wishes; but up to this hour he had desired nothing more constantly and longingly than to hear her sing once more, as in that never-to-be-forgotten May in the Ratisbon home. He might now hope, sooner or later, to have this wish, too, fulfilled. These were kind, cheering words, and with a grateful ebullition of feeling she admitted that, after his glad tidings, she, too, again felt capable of believing in a happy future.
So the friends from childhood bade each other farewell.
During the following days Barbara's life path was illumined by the reflection of the happiness bestowed by the wonderful change in the fate of her child of sorrow, who now promised to become a giver of joy to her.
Doubtless during the ensuing years many dark shadows fell upon her existence and her heart; but when everything around and within was gloomy, she only needed to think of the son whom she had given the Emperor, and the constantly increasing brilliancy of his career, to raise her head with fresh confidence. Yet the cloud obscuring her happiness which she found it hardest to bear proceeded directly from him.
He had probably mentioned her to his royal brother, and revenues had been granted her far exceeding poor Wawerl's dreams, and doubtless a reflection of the admiration which her son earned fell upon her, and her pride was greatly increased. Moreover, she could again devote herself without fear to her ardently beloved art, for even honest old Appenzelder declared that he liked to listen to her, though her voice still lacked much of the overpowering magic of former days. She was in a position, too, to gratify many a taste for whose satisfaction she had often yearned, yet she could not attain a genuine and thorough new sense of happiness.
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