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- Barbara Blomberg, Volume 1. - 1/10 -
[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
Translated from the German by Mary J. Safford
The sun sometimes shone brightly upon the little round panes of the ancient building, the Golden Cross, on the northern side of the square, which the people of Ratisbon call "on the moor"; sometimes it was veiled by gray clouds. A party of nobles, ecclesiastics, and knights belonging to the Emperor's train were just coming out. The spring breeze banged behind them the door of the little entrance for pedestrians close beside the large main gateway.
The courtiers and ladies who were in the chapel at the right of the corridor started. "April weather!" growled the corporal of the Imperial Halberdiers to the comrade with whom he was keeping; guard at the foot of the staircase leading to the apartments of Charles V, in the second story of the huge old house.
"St. Peter's day," replied the other, a Catalonian. "At my home fresh strawberries are now growing in the open air and roses are blooming in the gardens. Take it all in all, it's better to be dead in Barcelona than alive in this accursed land of heretics!"
"Come, come," replied the other, "life is life! 'A live dog is better than a dead king,' says a proverb in my country."
"And it is right, too," replied the Spaniard. "But ever since we came here our master's face looks as if imperial life didn't taste exactly like mulled wine, either."
The Netherlander lowered his halberd and answered his companion's words first with a heavy sigh, and then with the remark: "Bad weather upstairs as well as down--the very worst! I've been in the service thirteen years, but I never saw him like this, not even after the defeat in Algiers. That means we must keep a good lookout. Present halberds! Some one is coming down."
Both quickly assumed a more erect attitude, but the Spaniard whispered to his comrade: "It isn't he. His step hasn't sounded like that since the gout--"
"Quijada!" whispered the Netherlander, and both he and the man from Barcelona presented halberds with true military bearing; but the staves of their descending weapons soon struck the flags of the pavement again, for a woman's voice had detained the man whom the soldiers intended to salute, and in his place two slender lads rushed down the steps.
The yellow velvet garments, with ash-gray facings, and cap of the same material in the same colours, were very becoming to these youths--the Emperor's pages--and, though the first two were sons of German and Italian counts, and the third who followed them was a Holland baron, the sentinels took little more notice of them than of Queen Mary's pointers following swiftly at their heels.
"Of those up there," observed the halberdier from Haarlem under his breath, "a man would most willingly stiffen his back for Quijada."
"Except their Majesties, of course," added the Catalonian with dignity.
"Of course," the other repeated. "Besides, the Emperor Charles himself bestows every honour on Don Luis. I was in Algiers at the time. A hundred more like him would have made matters different, I can tell you. If it beseemed an insignificant fellow like me, I should like to ask why his Majesty took him from the army and placed him among the courtiers."
Here he stopped abruptly, for, in spite of the gaily dressed nobles and ladies, priests, knights, and attendants who were passing up and down the corridor, he had heard footsteps on the stairs which must be those of men in high position. He was not mistaken--one was no less a personage than the younger Granvelle, the Bishop of Arras, who, notwithstanding his nine-and-twenty years, was already the favourite counsellor of Charles V; the other, a man considerably his senior, Dr. Mathys, of Bruges, the Emperor's physician.
The bishop was followed by a secretary clad in black, with a portfolio under his arm; the leech, by an elderly assistant.
The fine features of the Bishop of Arras, which revealed a nature capable of laughter and enjoyment, now looked as grave as his companion's--a fact which by no means escaped the notice of the courtiers in the corridor, but no one ventured to approach them with a question, although--it had begun to rain again--they stopped before going out of doors and stood talking together in low tones.
Many would gladly have caught part of their conversation, but no one dared to move nearer, and the Southerners and Germans among them did not understand the Flemish which they spoke.
Not until after the leech had raised his tall, pointed hat and the statesman had pressed his prelate's cap closer upon his short, wavy dark hair and drawn his sable-trimmed velvet cloak around him did several courtiers hasten forward with officious zeal to open the little side door for them.
Something must be going wrong upstairs.
Dr. Mathys's jovial face wore a very different expression when his imperial patient was doing well, and Granvelle always bestowed a friendly nod on one and another if he himself had cause to be content.
When the door had closed behind the pair, the tongues of the ecclesiastics, the secular lords, and the ladies in the corridor were again loosed; but there were no loud discussions in the various languages now mingling in the Golden Cross, far less was a gay exclamation or a peal of laughter heard from any of the groups who stood waiting for the shower to cease.
Although each individual was concerned about his own affairs, one thought, nevertheless, ruled them all--the Emperor Charles, his health, and his decisions. Upon them depended not only the destiny of the world, but also the weal and woe of the greatest as well as the humblest of those assembled here.
"Emperor Charles" was the spell by which the inhabitants of half the world obtained prosperity or ill-luck, war or peace, fulfilment or denial of the wishes which most deeply stirred their souls. Even the highest in the land, who expected from his justice or favour fresh good-fortune or the averting of impending disasters, found their way to him wherever, on his long and numerous journeys, he established his court.
Numerous petitioners had also flocked to Ratisbon, but the two great nobles who now entered the Golden Cross certainly did not belong to their number. One shook the raindrops from his richly embroidered velvet cloak and the plumes in his cap, the other from his steel helmet and suit of Milan mail, inlaid with gold. Chamberlain de Praet accosted the former, Duke Peter of Columna, in Italian; the latter, the Landgrave of Leuchtenberg, in a mixture of German and his Flemish native tongue. He had no occasion to say much, for the Emperor wished to be alone. He had ordered even crowned heads and ambassadors to be denied admittance.
The Duke of Columna gaily begged for a dry shelter until the shower was over, but the Landgrave requested to be announced to the Queen of Hungary.
The latter, however, had also declined to grant any audiences that afternoon. The royal lady, the Emperor's favourite sister, was in her own room, adjoining her imperial brother's, talking with Don Luis Quijada, the brave nobleman of whom the Spanish and the Netherland soldiers had spoken with equal warmth.
His personal appearance rendered it an easy matter to believe in the sincerity of their words, for the carriage of his slender, vigorous form revealed all the pride of the Castilian noble. His face, with its closely cut pointed beard, was the countenance of a true warrior, and the expression of his black eyes showed the valiant spirit of a loyal, kind, and simple heart.
The warm confidence with which Mary, the widow of the King of Hungary, who fell in the Turkish war, gazed into Quijada's finely modelled, slightly bronzed countenance proved that she knew how to estimate his worth aright. She had sent for him to open her whole heart.
The vivacious woman, a passionate lover of the chase, found life in Ratisbon unendurable. She would have left the city long ago to perform her duties in the Netherlands--which she ruled as regent in the name of her imperial brother--and devote herself to hunting, to her heart's content, if the condition of the monarch's health had not detained her near him.
She pitied Charles because she loved him, yet she was weary of playing the sick nurse.
She had just indignantly informed Quijada what an immense burden of work, in spite of the pangs of the gout, her suffering brother had imposed upon himself ever since the first cock-crow. But he would take no better care of himself, and therefore it was difficult to help him. Was it not utterly unprecedented? Directly after mass he had examined dozens of papers, made notes on the margins, and affixed his signature; then he received Father Pedro de Soto, his confessor, the nuncio, the English and the Venetian ambassadors; and, lastly, had an interview with young Granvelle, the Bishop of Arras, which had continued three full hours, and perhaps might be going on still had not Dr. Mathys, the leech, put an end to it.
Queen Mary had just found him utterly exhausted, with his face buried in his hands.
"And you, too," she added in conclusion, "can not help admitting that if this state of things continues there must be an evil end."
Quijada bent his head in assent, and then answered modestly:
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