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- Barbara Blomberg, Volume 3. - 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
During the singing in the chapel on the fast day Barbara had waited vainly for a word of appreciation from the Emperor. The Queen of Hungary had gone to the chase, and the monarch had remained in his apartments, while she had done her best below. A few lords and ladies of the court, several priests, knights, and pages had been the only listeners.
This had sorely irritated her easily wounded sensitiveness, but she had appeared at the rehearsal in the New Scales on the following morning. Again she reaped lavish praise, but several times she met Appenzelder's well-founded criticisms with opposition.
The radiant cheerfulness which, the day before yesterday, had invested her nature with an irresistible charm had vanished.
When the tablatures were at last laid aside, and the invitation to sing in the Golden Cross did not yet arrive, her features and her whole manner became so sullen that even some of the choir boys noticed it.
Since the day before a profound anxiety had filled her whole soul, and she herself wondered that it had been possible for her to conquer it just now during the singing.
How totally different an effect she had expected her voice--which even the greatest connoisseurs deemed worthy of admiration--to produce upon the music-loving Emperor!
What did she care if the evening of the day before yesterday the Queen of Hungary had paid her fine compliments and assured her of the high approval of her imperial brother, since Appenzelder had informed her yesterday that it was necessary to conceal from his Majesty the fact that a woman was occupying the place of the lad from Cologne, Johannes. The awkward giant had been unfriendly to women ever since, many years before, his young wife had abandoned him for a Neapolitan officer, and his bad opinion of the fairer sex had been by no means lessened when Barbara, at this communication, showed with pitiless frankness the anger and mortification which it aroused in her mind. A foul fiend, he assured Gombert, was hidden in that golden-haired delight of the eyes with the siren voice; but the leader of the orchestra had interceded for her, and thought that her complaint was just. So great an artist was too good to fill the place of substitute for a sick boy who sang for low wages. She had obliged him merely to win the applause of the Emperor and his illustrious sister, and to have the regent turn her back upon Ratisbon just at this time, and without having informed his Majesty whose voice had with reason aroused his delight, would be felt even by a gentler woman as an injury.
Appenzelder could not help admitting this, and then dejectedly promised Barbara to make amends as soon as possible for the wrong which the regent, much against his will, had committed.
He was compelled to use all the power of persuasion at his command to keep her in the boy choir, at least until the poisoned members could be employed again, for she threatened seriously to withdraw her aid in future.
Wolf, too, had a difficult position with the girl whom his persuasion had induced to enter the choir. What Appenzelder ascribed to the devil himself, he attributed merely to the fervour of her fiery artist temperament. Yet her vehement outburst of wrath had startled him also, and a doubt arose in his mind as to what matrimonial life might be with a companion who, in spite of her youth, ventured to oppose elderly, dignified men so irritably and sharply. But at the very next song which had greeted him from her rosy lips this scruple was forgotten. With sparkling eyes he assented to Gombert's protestation that, in her wrath, she had resembled the goddess Nemesis, and looked more beautiful than ever.
In spite of his gray hair, she seemed to have bewitched the great musician, like so many other men, and this only enhanced her value in Wolf's sight.
Urgently, nay, almost humbly, he at last entreated her to have patience, for, if not at noon, his Majesty would surely desire to hear the boy choir in the evening. Besides, he added, she must consider it a great compliment that his Majesty had summoned the singers to the Glen Cross the evening before at all, for on such days of fasting and commemoration the Emperor was in the habit of devoting himself to silent reflection, and shunned every amusement.
But honest Appenzelder, who frankly contradicted everything opposed to the truth, would not let this statement pass. Nay, he interrupted Wolf with the assurance that, on the contrary, the Emperor on such days frequently relied upon solemn hymns to transport him into a fitting mood. Besides, the anniversary was past, and if his Majesty did not desire to hear them to-day, business, or the gout, or indigestion, or a thousand other reasons might be the cause. They must simply submit to the pleasure of royalty. They was entirely in accordance with custom that his Majesty did not leave his apartments the day before. He never did so on such anniversaries unless he or Gombert had something unusual to offer.
Barbara bit her lips, and, while the May sun shone brilliantly into the hall, exclaimed:
"So, since this time you could offer him nothing 'unusual,' Master, I will beg you to grant me leave of absence." Then turning swiftly upon her heel and calling to Wolf, by way of explanation, "The Schlumpergers and others are going to Prufening to-day, and they invited me to the May excursion too. It will be delightful, and I shall be glad if you'll come with us."
The leader of the choir saw his error, and with earnest warmth entreated her not to make his foolish old head suffer for it. "If, after all, his Majesty should desire to hear the choir that noon, it would only be because----"
Here he hesitated, and then reluctantly made the admission--"Because you yourself, you fair one, who turns everybody's bead, are the 'unusual' something which our sovereign lord would fain hear once more, if the gout does not----"
Then Barbara laughed gaily in her clear, bell like tones, seized the clumsy Goliath's long, pointed beard, and played all sorts of pranks upon him with such joyous mirth that, when she at last released him, he ran after her like a young lover to catch her; but she had nimbler feet, and he was far enough behind when she called from the threshold:
"I won't let myself be caught, but since your pretty white goat's beard bewitches me, I'll be obliging to-day."
She laughingly kissed her hand to him from the doorway as she spoke, and it seemed as though her yielding was to be instantly rewarded, for before she left the house Chamberlain de Praet appeared to summon the choir to the Golden Cross at one o'clock.
Barbara's head was proudly erect as she crossed the square. Wolf followed her, and, on reaching home, found her engaged in a little dispute with her father.
The latter had been much disgusted with himself for his complaisance the day before. Although Wolf had come to escort Barbara to the Emperor's lodgings, he had accompanied his child to the Golden Cross, where she was received by Maestro Appenzelder. Then, since he could only have heard the singing under conditions which seemed unendurable to his pride, he sullenly retired to drink his beer in the tap-room of the New Scales.
As, on account of the late hour, he found no other guest, he did not remain there long, but returned to the Haidplatz to go home with Barbara.
This he considered his paternal duty, for already he saw in imagination the counts and knights who, after the Emperor and the Queen had loaded her with praise and honour, would wish to escort her home. Dainty pages certainly would not be deprived of the favour of carrying her train and lighting her way with torches. But he knew courtiers and these saucy scions of the noblest houses, and hoped that her father's presence would hold their insolence in check. Therefore he had endeavoured to give to his outer man an appearance which would command respect, for he wore his helmet, his coat of mail, and over it the red scarf which his dead wife had embroidered with gold flowers and mountains-his coat-of-arms.
In spite of the indispensable cane in his right hand, he wore his long battle sword, but he would have been wiser to leave it at home.
While pacing up and down before the Golden Cross in the silent night to wait for his daughter, the halberdiers at the entrance noticed him.
What was the big man doing here at this late hour? How dared he venture to wear a sword in the precincts of the Emperor's residence, contrary to the law, and, moreover, a weapon of such unusual length and width, which had not been carried for a long while?
After the guards were relieved they had suddenly surrounded him, and, in spite of his vigorous resistance, would have taken him prisoner. But fortunately the musicians, among them Barbara and Wolf, had just come out into the street, and the latter had told the sergeant of the guards, whom he knew, how mistaken he had been concerning the suspicions pedestrian, and obtained his release. Thus the careful father's hopes had been frustrated. But when he learned that his daughter had not seen the Emperor at all, and had neither been seen nor spoken to by him, he gave --notwithstanding his reverence for the sacred person of his mighty commander--full expression to his indignation.
Fool that he had been to permit Barbara to present herself at court with a troop of ordinary singing boys! Even on the following day he persisted in the declaration that it was his duty, as a father and a nobleman, to protect his daughter from further humiliations of this sort.
Yet when, on the day of fasting, the invitation to sing came, he permitted Barbara to accept it, because it was the Emperor who summoned her. He had called for her again, and on the way home learned that neither his Majesty nor the regent had been among the listeners, and he
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