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- Barbara Blomberg, Volume 2. - 3/11 -
them, but, though with me it is usually bend or break, what can a man do when a woman is pestering him day and night, sometimes begging with tears, sometimes with caresses?
"Besides, many a good Catholic entreated me to give up my opposition. They, do not grudge the girl her progress, and how much she already owes to the music teacher who now directs the Collegium Musicuin! Singing is everything to her, and what else can I give the poor child? At any rate, the Netherlander whom the Council brought here three years ago--so connoisseurs say--scarcely has his equal anywhere in knowledge and ability. The man came to me and frankly said that he needed the girl's voice for the Convivium, and, if I refused to let Wawerl take part, he would stop teaching her. As he is a just man of quiet temperament and advanced in years."
"Where is he from, and what is his name?" Wolf eagerly interrupted.
"Damian Feys," replied the captain, "and he is a native of Ghent in the Netherlands. Although he is in the pay of the city, he has remained--he told me so himself--a good Catholic. There was nothing to be feared for the child on the score of religion. The anxieties which are troubling me on her account come from another source."
Then, with a mischievous mirthfulness usually foreign to his nature, Wolf raised his goblet, exclaiming:
"Cast them upon me, Father Blomberg! I will gladly help you bear them as your loyal son-in-law."
"So that's the way of it," was the captain's answer, his honest eyes betraying more surprise than pleasure.
Yet he pledged Wolf, and, touching his glass to his, said:
"I've often thought that this might happen if you should see how she has grown up. If she consents, nothing could please me better; but how many lovers she has already encouraged, and then, before matters became serious, dismissed! I have experienced it. If you succeed in putting an end to such trifling, may this hour be blessed! But do you know the huge maggots she keeps under her golden hair?"
"Both large and small ones," cried Wolf, with glowing cheeks. "Truthful as she is, she did not conceal from the playmate of her youth a single impulse of her ambitious soul."
"And did she give you hope?" asked the captain, thrusting his head eagerly forward.
"Yes," replied the youth firmly; but he quickly corrected himself, and, in a less confident tone, added, "That is, if I could offer her a care- free life."
"There it is," sighed the old man. "She knows what she wants, and holds firmly to it. You are the son of a knight, and on account of the music which you can pursue together--With her everything is possible and little is impossible. In any case, you will have no easy life with her, and, ere you order the wedding ring----" Here he suddenly stopped, for a bird-song, high, clear, and yet as insinuatingly sweet as though, on this evening in late April, the merriest and most skilful feathered songsters which had recently found their way home to the fresh green leafage on the shore of the Danube had made an appointment on the steps of the gloomy house in Red Cock Street, rose nearer and nearer to the two men who were sitting over their wine.
It was difficult to believe that this whistling and chirping, trilling and cuckoo calling, came from the same throat; but when the bird notes ceased just outside the door, and Barbara, with bright mirthfulness and the airiest grace, sang the refrain of the Chant des Oiseaux, 'Car la saison est bonne', bowing gracefully meanwhile, the old enemy of the Turks fairly beamed with delight.
His eyes, wet with tears of grateful joy, sought the young man's, and, though he had just warned him plainly enough against courting his daughter, his sparkling gaze now asked whether he had ever met an equally bewitching marvel.
"The deuce!" he cried out to his daughter when she at last paused and extended her hand to him. He leaned comfortably farther back in his arm- chair as he spoke, but she kissed him lightly on the forehead, while her large blue eyes shone with cheerful content.
She had gained her object.
When she sang this song she was safe from any troublesome questions. Besides, Gombert, of Bruges, the director of the imperial orchestra, who had arrived in Ratisbon that very day, was the composer of the charming bird-song, and she knew from her singing master that, though her voice was best adapted to solemn hymns, nothing in the whole range of secular music suited it better than this "Car la saison est bonne." She longed for the praise of such a musician, and Wolf must accompany her to him.
The young knight had not only been joyfully surprised, but most deeply delighted by the bewitching execution of this most charmingly arranged refrain.
Maestro Gombert and his colleague Appenzelder, the conductor of the boy choir, must hear it on the morrow. And how gladly Barbara consented to fulfil this wish!
She had received the greatest praise, she said, in the motet of the Blessed Virgin, by Josquin de Pres, in the noble song 'Ecce tu pulchra es'. Her teacher specially valued this master and his countryman Gombert, and his exquisite compositions were frequently and gladly sung at the Convivium.
This pleased Wolf, for he had a right to call himself, not only the pupil, but the friend of the director of the orchestra. As, seizing the lute, he began Gombert's Shepherd and Shepherdess, Barbara, unasked, commenced the song.
When, after Barbara's bell-like, well-trained voice had sung many other melodies, the young knight at last took leave of his old friends, he whispered that he had not expected to find home so delightful.
She, too, went to rest in a joyous, happy mood, and, as she lay in her narrow bed, asked herself whether she could not renounce her ardent longing for wealth and splendour and be content with a modest life at Wolf's side.
She liked him, he would cherish her, and lovingly devote the great skill which he had gained in Italy and the Netherlands to the final cultivation of her voice. Her house would become a home of art, her life would be pervaded and ennobled by song and music. What grander existence could earth offer?
Before she found an answer to this question, sleep closed her weary eyes. But when, the next morning, the cobbler's one-eyed daughter, who, since old Ursel's illness, had done the rough work in the chambers and kitchen, waked her, she speedily changed her mind. It was hard to rise early after the day's ironing and the late hour at which she had retired, and, besides, when Barbara returned from mass, the maid reported that Frau Lerch had been there and left the message that Fran Itzenweck wanted the laces which had been promised to her early that day.
So Barbara was obliged to go to work again immediately after the early breakfast. But, while she was loosening the laces from the pins and stirring her slender white fingers busily for the wretched pittance, her soul was overflowing with thoughts of the most sublime works of music, and the desire for success, homage, and a future filled with happiness and splendour.
Vehement repugnance to the humble labour to which necessity forced her was like a bitter taste in her mouth, and, ere she had folded the last strips of lace, she turned her back to the work-table and pressed both hands upon her bosom, while from the inmost depths of her tortured soul came the cry: "I will never bear it! In one way or another I will put an end to this life of beggary."
Thanks to old Ursel's care, Wolf had found his bed made and everything he needed at hand in his foster parents' deserted lodging. To avoid disturbing the sick woman, he removed his shoes in the entry, and then glided into his former little room. Weariness had soon closed his eyes also, but only for a few hours. His fevered blood, fear, and hope drove him from his couch at the first dawn of morning.
Ere returning to the two men the evening before, Barbara had hastily spoken to Ursula, and brought her whatever she preferred to receive from her hands rather than those of the one-eyed maid who spent the night with her--her Sunday cap and a little sealed package which she kept in her chest. When Wolf tapped at her door early the next morning, she was already up, and had had her cap put on. This was intended to give her a holiday appearance, but the expression of her faithful eyes and the smile upon her sunken mouth showed her darling that his return was a festival to her.
The stroke of apoplexy which had attacked the woman of seventy had been slight, and merely affected her speech a little. But she found plenty of words to show Wolf how happy it made her to see him again, and to tell him about his foster parents' last illness and death.
The precentor and organist, aided by Bishop Pangraz Sinzenhofer and Blasius, the captain of the city guard, had endeavoured to collect the papers which proved Wolf's noble birth. The package that Barbara handed to her the evening before contained the patent of nobility newly authorized by King Frederick at Vienna and the certificate of baptism which proved him to be the only son of the Frank Knight Ullmann Hartschwert and the Baroness Wendula Sandhof.
His mother's family died with her; on his father's side, as the precentor had learned, he still had an uncle, his father's older brother, but his castle had been destroyed during the Peasant War. He himself had commanded for several years a large troop of mercenaries in the service of the Queen of England, and his three children, a son and two daughters, had entered monastic and conventual life.
The contents of the package confirmed all these statements. Moreover, the very Dr. Hiltner, of whom Barbara's father had spoken so disagreeably, had paid a visit the day before to Ursel, who had won the esteem of the preceptor's old friend, and told her that he wished to talk with Wolf about an important matter.
It afforded the young man genuine pleasure to wait upon the faithful old woman and give her her medicine and barley-gruel. His mother had brought him to Ratisbon when he was a little boy four years old, and Ursel at that time had been his nurse. She had clung more closely to him than the woman to whom he owed his life, for his mother had deserted him to take the veil in the convent of the Sisters of St. Clare, but her maid-servant Ursel would not part from him. So she was received by his foster parents when they adopted him, and had served them faithfully until their deaths.
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