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- Barbara Blomberg, Volume 1. - 2/10 -
"Yet your Majesty knows our royal master's nature. He will listen calmly to you, whom he loves, or to me, who was permitted to remain at his side as a page, or probably to the two Granvelles, Malfalconnet, and others whom he trusts, when they venture to warn him--"
"And yet keep on in his mad career," interrupted Queen Mary with an angry gesture of the hand.
"Plus ultra--more, farther--is his motto," observed Quijada in a tone of justification.
"Forward ceaselessly, for aught I care, so long as the stomach and the feet are sound!" replied the Queen, raising her hand to the high lace ruff, which oppressed the breathing of one so accustomed to the outdoor air. "But when, like him, a man must give up deer-stalking and at every movement makes a wry face and can scarcely repress a groan--it might move a stone to pity!--he ought to choose another motto. Persuade him to do so, Quijada, if you are really his friend."
The smile with which the nobleman listened to this request plainly showed the futility of the demand.
The Queen noticed it, threw her arm aloft as if she were hurling a hunting spear, and exclaimed "I'm not easily deceived, Luis. Whether you could or not, the will is lacking. You shun the attempt! Because you are young yourself, and can still cope with the bear and wild boar, you like the motto, which will probably lead to new wars, and thereby to fresh renown. But, alas! my poor, poor brother, who--how long ago it is!--could once have thrown even you upon the sand, what can he do, with this accursed gout? And besides, what more can the Emperor Charles gain, since there is no chance of obtaining the sovereignty of the world, of which he once dreamed? He must learn to be content! Surely at his age! It is easy to calculate, for his life began with the century, and this is its forty-sixth year. Of course, with you soldiers the years of warfare count double, and he--Duke Alba said so--was born a general. One need not be able to reckon far in order to number how many months he has spent in complete peace. And then he attained his majority at fifteen, and with what weighty cares the man of the 'plus ultra' has loaded his shoulders since that time! You, and many others at the court, had still more to do, but, Luis, one thing, and it is the hardest burden, you were all spared. I know it. It is called responsibility. Compared with this all others are mere fluttering feathers. Its weight may become unendurable when the weal and woe of half the world are at stake. Thus every year of government was equal to three of war; but you, Luis--the question is allowable when put to a man-how old are you?"
"Within a few months of forty."
"So young!" cried the Queen. "Yet, when one looks at you closely, your appearance corresponds with your years."
Quijada pointed to the gray locks on his temples, but the Queen eagerly continued:
I noticed that at Brussels. And do you know what gave you those few white hairs? Simply the responsibility that so cruelly shortened the Emperor's youth, and which at least grazes you. As I saw him to-day, Luis, many a man of sixty has a more vigorous appearance."
"And yet, if your Majesty will permit me to say so," Quijada replied with a low bow, "he may be in a very different condition to-morrow. I heard Dr. Mathys himself remark that the life of a gouty patient was like a showery day in July--gloomy enough while the thunder-storm was raging, but radiant before and afterward until the clouds rose again. Surely your Majesty remembers how erect, how vigorous, and how knightly his bearing was when he greeted you on your arrival. The happiness of having his beloved sister again restored his paralyzed buoyancy speedily enough, although just at present there is certainly no lack of cares pressing upon him, and notwithstanding the disastrous conditions which we found existing among the godless populace here. That this cruel responsibility, however, can mature the mind without harming the body your Majesty is a living example."
"Nonsense!" retorted the regent in protest. "From you, at least, I forbid idle flattery!"
As she spoke she pointed with the riding whip, which, on account of her four-footed favourites, she carried in her hand, to her own hair. True, so far as it was visible under the stiff jewelled velvet cap which covered her head, the fair tresses had a lustrous sheen, and the braids, interwoven with pearls, were unusually thick, but a few silver threads appeared amid the locks which clustered around the intellectual brow.
Quijada saw them, and, with a respectful bow, answered.
"The heavy burden of anxiety for the Netherlands, which is not always rewarded with fitting gratitude."
"Oh, no," replied the Queen, shrugging her shoulders contemptuously. "Yes, many things in Brussels rouse my indignation, but they do not turn my hair gray. It began to whiten up here, under the widow's cap, if you care to know it, and, if the Emperor's health does not improve, the locks there will soon look like my white Diana's."
Here she hesitated, and, accustomed both in the discharge of the duties of her office and during the chase not to deviate too far from the goal she had in view, she first gave her favourite dog, which had leaped on Don Luis in friendly greeting, a blow with her whip, and then said in a totally different tone:
"But I am not the person in question. You have already heard that you must help me, Luis. Did you see the Emperor yesterday after vespers?"
"I had the honour, your Majesty."
"And did not the conviction that he is in evil case force itself upon you?"
"I felt it so keenly that I spoke to Dr. Mathys of his feeble appearance, his bowed figure, and the other things which I would so gladly have seen otherwise."
"And these things? Speak frankly!"
"These things," replied the major-domo, after a brief hesitation, "are the melancholy moods to which his Majesty often resigns himself for hours."
"And which remind you of Queen Juana, our unhappy mother?" asked the Queen with downcast eyes.
"Remind is a word which your Majesty will permit me to disclaim," replied Quijada resolutely. "The great thinker, who never loses sight of the most distant goal, who weighs and considers again and again ere he determines upon the only right course in each instance--the great general who understands how to make far-reaching plans for military campaigns as ably as to direct a cavalry attack--the statesman whose penetration pierces deeper than the keen intelligence of his famous councillors--the wise law-giver, the ruler with the iron strength of will and unfailing memory, is perhaps the soundest person mentally among all of us at court- nay, among the millions who obey him. But, so far as my small share of knowledge extends, melancholy has nothing to do with the mind. It is dependent upon the state of the spirits, and springs from bile----"
"You learned that from Dr. Mathys," interrupted the royal lady, "and the quacks repeat it from their masters Hippocrates and Galen. Such parrot gabble does not please me. To my woman's reason, it seems rather that when the mind is ill we should try a remedy whose effect upon it has already been proved, and I think I have found it."
"I am still ignorant of it," replied Quijada eagerly; "but I would swear by my saint that you have hit upon the right expedient."
"Listen, then, and this time I believe you will have no cause to repent your hasty oath. Since death robbed our sovereign lord of his wife, and the gout has prevented his enjoyment of the chief pleasures of life-- hunting, the tournament, and the other pastimes which people of our rank usually pursue--in what can he find diversion? The masterpieces of painters and other artists, the inventions of mechanicians and clock- makers, and the works of scholars have no place here, but probably----"
"Then it is the noble art of music which your Majesty has in view," Quijada eagerly interrupted. "Admirable! For, since the days of King Saul and the harper David----"
"There is certainly no better remedy for melancholy," said the Queen, completing the exclamation of the loyal man. "But it could affect no one more favourably than the Emperor. You yourself know how keen a connoisseur he is, and how often this has been confirmed by our greatest masters. Need I remind you of the high mass in Cologne, at which the magnificent singing seemed fairly to reanimate him after the defection of the heretical archbishop--which threatens to have a disastrous influence upon my Netherlanders also--had robbed him of the last remnant of his enjoyment of life, already clouded? The indignation aroused by the German princes, and the difficult decision to which their conduct is forcing him, act upon his soul like poison. But hesitation is not in my nature, so I thought: Let us have music--good, genuine music. Then I sent a mounted messenger to order Gombert, the conductor of his orchestra, and the director of my choir of boys, to bring their musicians to Ratisbon. The whole company will arrive this evening. Dash forward is my motto, and not only while in the saddle during the chase. But, Luis, you must now tell me--"
"That your Majesty's sisterly affection has discovered the only right course," cried Quijada, deeply touched, pressing his lips respectfully to the flowing sleeve of her robe.
The major--domo's assurance undoubtedly sprang from the depths of his heart, yet the doubts which the hasty action of the vivacious sovereign aroused in his mind compelled him to represent to her, though with the courteous caution which his position demanded, that her bold measure might only too easily arouse the displeasure of the person whom it was intended to benefit. The expense it would entail especially troubled Quijada, and the Queen herself appeared surprised when he estimated the sum which would be required for the transportation of the band and the boy choir from Brussels to Ratisbon and back again.
Forty musicians, twelve boy singers, the leaders, and the paymaster must be moved, and in their train were numerous grooms and attendants, as well as conveyances for the baggage and the valuable instruments.
Besides, the question of accommodation for this large number in the already crowded city now arose, for the Queen confessed that, in order to make the surprise complete, no one had been commissioned to find lodgings.
The musicians, who had displayed the most praiseworthy promptness, would arrive three days earlier than she had expected.
The royal lady readily admitted that the utmost haste was necessary.
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