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- Barbara Blomberg, Volume 10. - 5/13 -
The weeks which, a few years after her John's recognition, she spent with self-sacrificing devotion beside her husband's couch of pain, which was to become his deathbed, passed amid anxiety and grief, and when her affectionate, careful nursing proved vain, and Pyramus died, deep and sincere sorrow overpowered her. True, he had not succeeded in winning her to return his tender love; but after he had closed his eyes she realized for the first time what a wealth of goodness and fidelity was buried with him and lost to her forever.
Her youngest boy, soon after his father's death, was torn from her by falling into a cistern, and she yielded herself to such passionate grief for his loss that she thought she could never conquer it; but it was soon soothed by the belief that, for the sake of this devout child, whose training for a religious life had already commenced, Heaven had resigned its claims upon John, and that the boy was dwelling in the immediate presence of the Queen of Heaven.
Thus, ere she was aware of it, her burning anguish changed into a cheerful remembrance. Earlier still--more than two years after Wolf's departure--tidings closely associated with the sorrow inflicted through her John had saddened her. The ship which was to bear the loyal companion of her youth to Spain was wrecked just before the end of the voyage, and Wolf went down with it. Barbara learned the news only by accident, and his death first made her realize with full distinctness how dear he had been to her.
The letter which she had addressed to her son was lost with the man in whom Fate had wrested from her the last friend who would have been able and willing to show her John clearly and kindly a correct picture of his mother's real character.
For two years she had hoped that Wolf would complete her letter in his own person, and tell her son how her voice and her beauty had won his father's heart. Quijada had known it; but if he spoke of her to his wife and foster-son, it was scarcely in her favour--he cared little for music and singing.
So the loss of this letter seemed to her, with reason, a severe misfortune. What she now wrote to John could hardly exert much influence upon him. Yet she did write, this time with the aid of Hannibal. But the new letter, which began with thanks for the financial aid which the son had conferred upon his mother through his royal brother, was distasteful both to her pride and her maternal affection. Half prosaic, half far too effusive, it gave a distorted idea of her real feelings, and she tore it up before giving it to the messenger.
Yet she did not cease to hope that, in some favourable hour, the heart of the idol of her soul would urge him to approach his mother; but year after year elapsed without bringing her even the slightest token of his remembrance, and this omission was the bitter drop that spoiled the happiness which, after the death of her youngest boy, was clouded by no outward event.
When at last she addressed herself to John in a third letter, which this time she dictated to Hannibal as her heart prompted, she received an answer, it is true, though not from him, but from Dona Magdalena.
In kind words this lady urged her not to write to "her"--Dona Magdalena's--son in future. She had taught him to think of the woman who bore him with fitting respect, but it would be impossible for him to maintain the relation with her. She must spare her the explanation of the reasons which made this appear to be an obstacle to his career. Don John would prove in the future, by his care for her prosperity and comfort, that he did not forget her. She had no right, it is true, to counsel her; but when she transported herself into the soul of the woman who had enjoyed the love of the Emperor Charles, and on whom Heaven had bestowed a son like John of Austria, she felt sure that this woman would act wisely and promote her real welfare if she preferred communion with her Saviour, in the quiet of a cloister, to the bustle of life amid surroundings which certainly were far too humble for her.
Barbara felt wounded to the inmost depths of her being by this letter. Had the officious adviser, who had certainly despatched the reply without her son's knowledge, been within her reach, she would have showed her how little inclination she felt to be patronized by the person who, after alienating the son's heart from his mother, even presumed to dictate to her to rob herself of her last claim upon his regard.
True, in one respect she agreed with the writer of the letter.
Precisely because it appeared as if Heaven had accepted her sacrifice and the grandeur for which she had made it seemed to be awaiting her son, she ought to attempt nothing that might impede his climbing to the height, and her open connection with him might easily have placed stones in his path. His elevation depended upon King Philip, whose boundless pride had gazed at her from his chilling face.
So she resolved to make no more advances to her child until the day came --and a voice within told her that come it must--when he himself longed for his own mother. Meanwhile she would be content with the joy of watching his brilliant course from the distance.
The miracles which she had anticipated and prayed for in his behalf were accomplished. First, she heard that Count Ribadavia's splendid palace would be prepared for her son, that the sons of noble families would be assigned to attend him, and that a body-guard of Spaniards and Germans and a train of his own were at his command.
Then she learned in what a remarkable manner Elizabeth of Valois, the King's new wife, favoured the lad of thirteen. At the taking of the oath by which the Cortes recognised Don Carlos as the heir to the throne, John had been summoned directly after the Infant as the first person entitled to homage.
Next, she learned that he had entered the famous University of Alcala de Henares.
And his classmates and friends? They were no less important personages than Don Carlos himself and Alessandro Farnese, John's nephew, the son of that Ottavio at whose admission as Knight of the Golden Fleece Barbara had made at Landshut the most difficult resolution of her life.
He was said to share everything with these distinguished companions, and to be himself the handsomest and most attractive of the illustrious trio. He was particularly inseparable from Alessandro, the son of the woman now ruling as regent in Brussels, who was John's sister.
What reply would he have made to this illustrious scion of one of the most ancient and noble royal races if a letter from her had reached him, and the duke's son had asked, "Who is this Frau Barbara Blomberg?" or, as she now signed herself, "Madame de Blomberg"?
The answer must have been: "My mother."
Oh, no, no, never!
It would have been cruel to expect this from him; never would she place her beloved child, her pride, her joy, in so embarrassing a position.
Besides, though she could only watch him from a distance, thanks to his generosity or his brother's, she could lead a pleasant life. To sun herself in his glory, too, was sufficiently cheering, and must satisfy her.
He spent three years at the University of Aleala, and nothing but good news of him reached her. Then she received tidings which gave her special joy, for one of the wishes she had formed in Landshut was fulfilled. He had been made a Knight of the Golden Fleece, and how becoming the jewel on the red ribbon must be to the youth of one-and- twenty! How many of her acquaintances belonging to the partisans of the King and Spain came to congratulate her upon it! Because John had become Spanish, and risen in Spain to the position which she desired for him, she wished to become so, and studied the Spanish language with the zeal and industry of a young girl. She succeeded in gaining more and more knowledge of it, and, finally, through intercourse with Spaniards, in mastering it completely.
At that time the prospects for her party were certainly gloomy; the heretical agitation and the boldness of the rebellious enthusiasts for independence and liberty surpassed all bounds.
The King therefore sent the Duke of Alba to the Netherlands to restore order, and, with the twenty thousand men he commanded, make the insurgents feel the resistless power of offended majesty and the angered Church.
Barbara and her friends greeted the stern duke as a noble champion of the faith, who was resolved to do his utmost. The new bishoprics, which by Granvelle's advice had been established, the foreign soldiers, and the Spanish Inquisition, which pursued the heretics with inexorable harshness, had roused the populace to unprecedented turmoil, and induced them to resist the leading nobles, who were indebted to the King for great favours, to the intense wrath of these aristocrats and the partisans of Spain.
Barbara, with all her party, had welcomed the new bishoprics as an arrangement which promised many blessings, and the foreign troops seemed to her necessary to maintain order in the rebellious Netherlands. The cruelty of the Inquisition was only intended to enforce respect for the edicts which the Emperor Charles, in his infallible wisdom, had issued, and the hatred which the nobles, especially, displayed against Granvelle, Barbara's kind patron, the greatest statesman of his time and the most loyal servant of his King, seemed to her worthy of the utmost condemnation.
The scorn with which the rebels, after the compromise signed by the highest nobles, had called themselves Geusen, or Beggars, and endangered repose, would have been worthy of the severest punishment. What induced these people to risk money and life for privileges which a wise policy of the government--this was the firm conviction of those who shared Barbara's views--could not possibly grant, was incomprehensible to her, and she watched the course of the rebels with increasing aversion. Did they suppose their well-fed magistrates and solemn States-General, who never looked beyond their own city and country, would govern them better than the far-sighted wisdom of a Granvelle or the vast intellect of a Viglius, which comprised all the knowledge of the world?
What they called their liberties were privileges which a sovereign bestowed. Ought they to wonder if another monarch, whom they had deeply angered, did not regard them as inviolable gifts of God? The quiet comfort of former days had been clouded, nay, destroyed, by these patriots. Peace could be restored only by the King's silencing them. So she wished the Spaniards a speedy success, and detested the efforts of independent minds; above all, of William of Orange, their only too clear- sighted, cautious, devoted leader, also skilled in the arts of dissimulation, in whom she recognised the most dangerous foe of Spanish sovereignty and the unity of the Church.
When, by the Duke of Alba's orders, the Counts Egmont and Horn were
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