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- Barbara Blomberg, Volume 1. - 4/10 -
"Isn't it beautiful here?" he asked, suddenly breaking the silence as he turned to Massi, the violinist, who rode at his side, and then was secretly grateful to him when, after a curt "Very pleasant," he disturbed him with no further speech.
It was so delightful to listen to the notes of the bells, so familiar to him, whose pure tones had accompanied with their charming melody all his wanderings in childhood and youth. At the same time, the mood in which the best musical ideas came to him suddenly overpowered him. A new air, well worth remembering, pressed itself on him unbidden, and his excited imagination showed him in its train himself, and by his side, first, a romping, merry child, and then a girlish figure in the first budding charm of youth. He thought he heard her sing, and old, unforgotten notes of songs swiftly crowded out his own musical creations.
Every tone from the fresh red lips of the lovely fair-haired girl awakened a new memory. The past lived again, and, without his volition, transformed the image of the child of whom he had thought whenever he recalled his youthful days in Ratisbon into that of a lovely bride, with the myrtle wreath on her waving hair, while beside her he beheld himself with the wedding bouquet on his slashed velvet holiday doublet.
He involuntarily seized the saddlebag which contained the handsomest gift he had bought in Brussels for the person who had drawn him back to Ratisbon with a stronger power of attraction than anything else. If all went well, that very day, perhaps, he might have the right to call her his own.
These visions of the future aroused so joyous a feeling in his young soul that Massi, the violinist, read in his by no means mobile features what was passing in his mind. His cheery "Well, Sir Knight!" awakened his ever-courteous colleague and travelling companion from his dream, and, when the latter started and turned toward him, Alassi gaily continued: "To see his home and his family again does, indeed, make any man glad! The sight of yonder shining steeples and roofs seems to make your heart laugh, Sir Wolf, and, by Our Lady, you have good reason to bestow one or more candles upon her, for, besides other delightful things, a goodly heritage is awaiting you in Ratisbon."
Here he paused, for the sunny radiance vanished simultaneously from the sky and from his companion's face. The violinist, as if in apology, added: "Some trouble always precedes an inheritance, and who knows whether, in your case also, rumour did not follow the evil custom of lying or making a mountain out of a molehill?"
Wolf Hartschwert slightly shrugged his shoulders and calmly answered:
"It is all true about the heritage, Massi, and also the trouble, but it is unpleasant to hear you, too, call me 'Sir.' Let it drop for the future, if we are to be intimate. To others I shall, of course, be the knight or cavalier. You know what the title procures for a man, though your saying--
'Knightly Knightly rank with lack of land More care than joy hath at command,'
is but too true. As for the heritage, an old friend has really named me in his will, but you must not expect that it is a large bequest. The man who left it to me was a plain person of moderate property, and I myself shall not learn until the next few days what I am to receive in addition to his modest house."
"The more it is, the more cordially I shall congratulate you," cried the violinist, and then looked back toward the other travellers.
Wolf did the same, and turned his horse. If he did not urge on the loiterers the gate, which was closed at nightfall, would need to be opened for them, for the five troopers who acted as escort had deemed their duty done when Winzer was reached, and made themselves comfortable in the excellent tavern there.
The carters had used the lash stoutly, yet it had been no easy matter to advance rapidly. The rain had softened the road, and the horses and beasts of burden were sorely wearied by the long trip from Brussels to Ratisbon, which had been made in hurried days' journeys. The train of horsemen and wagons stretched almost beyond the range of vision, for it comprised the whole world-renowned orchestra of the Emperor Charles, and Queen Mary's boy choir.
Only the leaders were absent. Gombert had left Brussels later than the others, and hastened after them with post-horses, overtaking them about an hour before, when he induced Appenzelder, the leader of the boy choir, to enter his carriage, though the latter was reluctant to leave the young singers who were intrusted to his care. As to the other travellers, the Queen and Don Luis Quijada had made a great mistake in their calculations--the number considerably exceeded a hundred. Neither had thought of the women and children who accompanied the musicians.
Most of the women were the wives of the members of the orchestra, who had availed themselves of this opportunity to see something of the world. Others, from motives of love or jealousy, would not part from their husbands. The little children had been taken because their mothers, who were fond of travelling and, like their husbands, were natives of all countries, possessed no relatives in Brussels who would care for them.
The jealous spouses especially had not joined the party without cogent reasons, for the mirth in the first long wagon, covered with a linen tilt, was uproarious enough.
Wolf and his companion heard shrill laughter and loud shrieks echoing from its dusky interior.
The younger men and the women who liked journeying were sitting in motley confusion upon the straw which covered the bottom of the vehicle, and the boisterous mirth of the travellers gave ample proof that the huge jugs of wine carried with them as the Emperor's provision for the journey had been freely used.
In the second cart, an immense ark, swaying between four wheels and drawn by a team of four horses, grave older artists sat silently opposite to each other, all more or less exhausted by the continual rocking motion of the long ride. These men and the other travellers were joyfully surprised by the news that the goal of the journey was already at hand. Pressing their heads together, they gazed out of the open linen tilt which arched above the first cart or crowded to the little windows of the coaches to see Ratisbon.
Even the old Neapolitan nurse, who was predicting future events from a pack of cards, dropped them and peered out. But the noise in the second tilted wagon was especially confused, for there the gay shouts of the boy choir, only half of whom were on horseback, mingled with the loud talking of the women, the screams of the babies, and the barking of the dogs.
The groans of two young singers who were seriously ill were drowned by the din and heeded by no one except the old drummer's pitying wife, who sometimes wiped the perspiration from the sufferers' brows or supported their heads.
Other carts, containing the musicians' instruments, followed this tilted wagon. Some members of the orchestra would not part with theirs, and behind the saddle of many a mounted virtuoso or attendant was fastened a violin case or a shapeless bag which concealed some other instrument.
A large number of musicians mounted on horses or mules surrounded the two-wheeled cart in which sat Hernbeize of Ghent, the treasurer of the orchestra, and his fat wife. The corpulent couple, squeezed closely together, silent and out of humour, had taken no notice of each other or their surrounding since Frau Olympia had presumed to drag her husband by force out of the first wagon, where he was paying a visit to a clarionet player's pretty young wife.
Whenever Wolf appeared he urged the horsemen and drivers to greater haste, and thus the musical caravan, with its unauthorized companions, succeeded in passing through the gate ere it closed. Beyond it the travellers were received by Quijada, the imperial valet, Adrian Dubois, and several quartermasters, who meanwhile had provided lodgings.
The major-domo greeted the musicians with dignified condescension, Wolf with familiar friendship. Master Adrian, the valet, also shook hands cordially with him and Massi, the "first violin" of the orchestra. Finally Don Luis rode up to Wolf and informed him that the Queen of Hungary wished to speak to him early the next morning, and that he also had something important to discuss at the earliest opportunity. Then he listened to the complaints of the quartermasters.
These men, who performed their duties with great lack of consideration, had supposed that they had provided for all the expected arrivals, but, after counting heads, they discovered that the billets were sufficient for only half the number. Their attempt to escape providing for the wives was baffled by the vigorous interposition of the treasurer and by a positive order from Quijada.
Of course, under these circumstances they were very glad to have Sir Wolf Hartschwert return his billet--the room in the Crane allotted to him by the valet was large enough to accommodate half a dozen women.
The nobleman returning to his home had no occasion to find shelter in a tavern.
Yet, as he wished to remove the traces of the long ride ere he entered his own house and appeared before the person for whose sake he had gladly left Brussels, he asked Massi's permission to use his room in the Red Cock for a short time.
Leonhard Leitgeb, the landlord, and his bustling better half received Wolf as a neighbour's son and an old acquaintance. But, after they had shown him and Massi to the room intended for them and gone downstairs again, the landlady of the Cock shook her head, saying:
"He was always a good lad and a clever one, too, but even if a duke's coronet should fall upon the thin locks of the poor knight's son I should never take him for a real nobleman."
"Better let that drop," replied her husband. "Besides, the fine fellow is of more consequence since he had the legacy. If he should come here for our Kattl, I'll wager you wouldn't keep him waiting."
"Indeed I wouldn't," cried the landlady, laughing. "But just hear what a racket those soldiers are making again down below!"
Meanwhile Wolf was hurriedly attending to his outer man.
Massi had stretched himself on the thin cushion which covered the seat of the wooden bench in the bay-window, and thrust his feet far out in front of him.
As he watched the Ratisbon knight diligently use the little hand mirror while arranging his smooth, fair locks, he straightened himself, saying:
"No offence, Sir Knight, but when I think of the radiant face with which
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