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- Barbara Blomberg, Volume 2. - 11/11 -
A sorrowful smile curled his lips as he recalled the agreement which they had made just before a separation. At that time both were young, yet how willingly she had accepted his proposal that, when age approached, they should separate forever, that she in one cloister and he in another might prepare for the end of life!
What reply would a woman with true love in her heart have made to such a demand?
No, no, Isabella had felt as little genuine love for him as he for her! Her death had been a sorrow to him, but he had shed no tears over it.
He could not weep. He no longer knew whether he was able to do so when a child. Since his beard had grown, at any rate, his eyes had remained dry. The words of the Roman satirist, that tears were the best portion of all human life, returned to his memory. Would he himself ever experience the relief which they were said to afford the human heart?
But who among the living would he have deemed worthy of them? When his insane mother died, he could not help considering the poor Queen fortunate because Heaven had at last released her from such a condition. Of the children whom his wife Isabella and Johanna van der Gheynst had given him, he did not even think. An icy atmosphere emanated from his son Philip which froze every warm feeling that encountered it. He remembered his daughter with pleasure, but how rarely he was permitted to enjoy her society! Besides, he had done enough for his posterity, more than enough. To increase the grandeur of his family and render it the most powerful reigning house in the world, he had become prematurely old; had undertaken superhuman tasks of toil and care; even now he would permit himself no repose. The consciousness of having fulfilled his duty to his family and the Church might have comforted him in this hour, but the plus ultra--more, farther--which had so often led him into the conflict for the dream of a world sovereignty, the grandeur of his own race, and against the foes of his holy faith, now met the barrier of a more powerful fate. Instead of advancing, he had seemed, since the defeat at Algiers, to go backward.
Besides, how often the leech threatened him with a speedy death if he indulged himself at table with the viands which suited his taste! Yet the other things that remained for him to enjoy scarcely seemed worth mentioning. To restore unity to the Church, to make the crowns which he wore the hereditary possessions of his house, were two aims worthy of the hardest struggles, but, unless he deceived himself, he could not hope to attain them. Thus life, until its end--perhaps wholly unexpectedly-- arrived within a brief season, offered him nothing save suffering and sacrifice, disappointment, toil, and anxieties.
With little cheer or elevation of soul, he looked up and rang the bell. Two chamberlains and Master Adrian appeared, and while Baron Malfalconnet, who did not venture to jest in this spot, offered him his arm and the valet the crutch, his confessor, Pedro de Soto, also entered the black-draped room.
A single glance showed him that this time the quiet sojourn in the gloomy apartment, instead of exerting an elevating and brightening influence, had had a depressing and saddening effect upon the already clouded spirit of his imperial penitent. In spite of the most zealous effort, he had not succeeded in finding his way into the soul-life of this sovereign, equally great in intellect and energy, but neither frank nor truthful, yet, on the other hand, his penetration often succeeded in fathoming the causes of the Emperor's moods.
With the quiet firmness which harmonized so perfectly with a personal appearance that inspired confidence, the priest now frankly but respectfully expressed what he thought he had observed.
True, he attributed the Emperor's deep despondency to totally different causes, but he openly deplored the sorrowful agitation which the memories of the beloved dead had awakened in his Majesty.
In natural, simple words, the learned man, skilled in the art of language, represented to the imperial widower how little reason he had to mourn his devout wife. He was rather justified in regarding her death hour as the first of a happy birthday. For the sleeper whose dream here on earth he, Charles, had beautified in so many ways, a happy waking had long since followed in the land for which she had never ceased to yearn. For him, the Emperor, Heaven still had great tasks in this world, and many a victory awaited him. If his prayer was heard, and his Majesty should decide to battle for the holiest cause, sorrowful anxieties would vanish from his pathway as the mists of dawn scatter before the rising sun. He well knew the gravity of the demands which every day imposed upon his Majesty, but he could give him the assurance that nothing could be more pleasing to Heaven than that he, who was chosen as its champion, should, by mastering them, enjoy the gifts with which Eternal Love set its board as abundantly for the poorest carter as for the mightiest ruler.
Then he spoke of the surprise of the night before, and how gratefully he had heard that music had once more exerted its former magic power. Its effect would be permanent, even though physical suffering and sorrowful memories might interrupt it for a few brief hours.
"That," he concluded, "Nature herself just at this season teaches us to hope. This day of fasting and sadness will be followed by a series of the brightest weeks--the time of leafage, blossom, and bird songs, which is so dear to the merciful mother of God. May the month of May, called by the Germans the joy month, and which dawns to-day with bright sunshine and a clear, blue sky, be indeed a season of joy to your Majesty!"
"God grant it!" replied the Emperor dully, and then, with a shrug of the shoulders, added: "Besides, I can not imagine whence such joy should come to me. A boy's bell-like voice sang to me yesterday, 'Quia amore langueo.' This heart, too, longs for love, but it will never find it on earth."
"Why not, if your Majesty sends forth to seek it?" replied the confessor eagerly. "The Gospel itself gives a guarantee of success. 'Seek, and ye shall find,' it promises. To the heart which longs for love the all- bountiful Father sends that for which it longs to meet it halfway."
"When it is young," added the Emperor, shrugging his shoulders impatiently." But when the soul's power of flight has failed, who will bestow the ability to traverse the half of the way allotted to it?"
"The omnipotence which works greater miracles," replied the priest in a tone of the most ardent conviction, pointing upward.
Charles nodded a mournful assent, and, after a sign which indicated to the confessor that he desired the interview to end, he continued his painful walk.
He had waved aside the litter which the lord chamberlain, Count Heinrich of Nassau, had placed ready for him, and limped, amid severe suffering, to his room.
There the Bishop of Arras awaited him with arduous work, and the Emperor did not allow himself a moment's rest while his sister was using the beautiful first of May to ride and hunt. Charles missed her, and still more the faithful man who had served him as a page, and whom he had been accustomed since to have in close attendance upon him.
To gratify his sister's passion for the chase he had given Quijada leave of absence, and now he regretted it. True, he told no one that he missed Don Luis, but those who surrounded him were made to feel his ill-humour plainly enough. Only he admitted to the Bishop of Arras that the radiant light which was shining into his window was disagreeable. It made too strong a contrast to his gloomy soul, and it even seemed as though the course of the sun, in its beaming, unattainably lofty path, mocked the hapless, painful obstruction to his own motion.
At noon he enjoyed very little of the meal, prepared for a fast day, which the new cook had made tempting enough.
In reply to the Count of Nassau's inquiry whether he wished to hear any music, he had answered rudely that the musicians and the boy choir could play and sing in the chapel for aught he cared. Whether he would listen to the performance was doubtful.
Single tones had reached his ears, but he did not feel in the mood to descend the stairs.
He went to rest earlier than usual. The next morning, after mass, he himself asked for Josquin's "Ecce tu pulchra es." It was to be sung during the noonday meal. But when, instead of the Queen and Quijada, a little note came from his sister, requesting, in a jesting tone, an extension of the leave of absence because she trusted to the healing power of the sun and the medicine "music" upon her distinguished brother, and the chase bound her by a really magic spell to the green May woods, he flung the sheet indignantly away, and, just before the beginning of the meal, ordered the singing to be omitted.
Either in consequence of the fasting or the warm sunshine, the pangs of the gout began to lessen; but, nevertheless, his mood grew still more melancholy, for he had believed in the sincere affection of two human beings, and Queen Mary left him alone in his misery, while his faithful Luis, to please the female Nimrod, did the same.
ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:
Dread which the ancients had of the envy of the gods Shuns the downward glance of compassion That tears were the best portion of all human life
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