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- Barbara Blomberg, Volume 4. - 10/11 -
Barbara was obliged to wait in the broad, lofty hall of the syndic's house for the maid-servant, who announced her; and the stout man with the big head, who had seized the knocker just before she entered, shared her fate.
He was now leaning with bowed head against the wall, both hands clasped under his beardless chin, and might have been taken for a monk re peating his prayers. The long, brown doublet fastened around his hips by a Hemp rope, instead of a girdle, made him resemble a Franciscan. But his thick, flaxen hair lacked the tonsure, the rope the rosary, and he wore coarse leather shoes on his large feet.
Barbara fancied that she had seen this strange figure somewhere, and he, too, must have recognised her, for he bowed when she looked at him. There was not the slightest movement of the body except the small eyes, which wandered restlessly around the spacious room as if they missed something.
The inquiry what he found lacking here was already rising to Barbara's lips when the syndic's wife came toward her, preceded by her daughter Martina, who, radiant with joy at seeing the ardently admired singer in her own house, kissed her with fervent affection.
The mother merely extended her hand to Barbara, yet the whole manner of the gentle, reserved woman showed that she was a welcome guest.
Frau Sabina loved and understood music, still enjoyed singing hymns with the members of her household, and had done everything in her power to aid the establishment of the Convivium musicum and foster its progress.
Interest in music had also united her to Dr. Martin Luther, her husband's friend, and mane a composition of the Wittenberg ecclesiastic had first been performed at the Hiltners.
The old faith offered so much more to charm the senses than the new one! Therefore it seemed a special cause for thanksgiving that singing and playing upon the organ occupied a prominent place in the Protestant religious service, and that Luther most warmly commended the fostering of music to those who professed the evangelical belief. Besides, her adopted son Erasmus, the new Wittenberg master of arts, had devoted himself eagerly to music, and composed several hymns which, if Damian Feys permitted it, would be sung in the Convivium musicum.
Frau Sabina Hiltner had often met Barbara there, and had noticed with admiration and pleasure the great progress which this richly gifted young creature had made under the direction of the Netherland master.
Other members of the Convivium, on the contrary, bore Barbara a grudge because she remained a Catholic, and many a mother of a daughter whom Barbara, as a singer, had cast too far into the shade, would gladly have thrust her out of the circle of music-loving citizens.
Frau Sabina and Master Feys, who, like the much-envied girl, was a professor of the old faith, interceded for her all the more warmly.
Besides, it afforded Frau Hiltner scarcely less pleasure to hear Barbara than it did Martina, and she could also fix her eyes with genuine devotion upon the girl's wonderfully beautiful and nobly formed features. The mother and daughter owed to this peerless singer the best enjoyment which the Collegium afforded them, and, when envy and just displeasure approached Frau Sabina to accuse Barbara of insubordination, obstinacy, pride, and forwardness, which were unseemly for one so young, as well as exchanging coquettish glances with the masculine members of the choir, the profoundly respected wife of the syndic and her young daughter warmly defended the persecuted girl.
In this her husband strongly supported her, for, when necessary, he dealt weighty blows and upheld what he deemed just without fear of man and with the powerful aids of his strong intellect and the weight of the esteem he had won by a stainless, industrious life.
Doubtless Frau Sabina also perceived something unusual in Barbara's nature and conduct, traits of defiance, almost rebellion, which would have troubled her in her Martina, who, though no beauty, was a pretty girl, with the most winning, childlike charm; but she secretly asked herself whether she would not accept it gratefully if, in exchange, her girl could possess such a wonderful gift of God; for, sharply as the eye of envy followed Barbara's every act, she had never given cause to doubt her chastity, and this Frau Hiltner considered greatly in her favour; for what tremendous temptations must have assailed this marvellously beautiful creature, this genuine artist, who had grown to womanhood without a mother, and whose only counsellor and protector was a crippled, eccentric old soldier.
As Martina opened the door of the sitting room a loud conversation in men's voices became audible, and with the deep, resonant tones of the syndic Barbara recognised the higher, less powerful ones of the man whom she was seeking.
The kiss of the scarcely unfolded bud of girlhood, the child of a mother whose presence in the Convivium had often helped her to curb an impetuous impulse, pleased Barbara, and yet awakened the painful feeling that in accepting it without resistance she was guilty of a deception. Besides, she had not confessed, and it seemed as if, in feeling the young heretic's kiss an honour, she were adding to the burden which had not yet been removed from her conscience.
Yet she could not overcome an emotion of rare pleasure when Frau Sabina, after beckoning to her husband, took her hand and led her into the reception room. Erasmus Eckhart, the adopted son of the house, hastened toward Barbara to greet her as an acquaintance of his school days, flushing deeply in his surprise at her great beauty as he did so.
But the mistress of the house gave him no time to renew the relations of childhood, and led her away from him to her husband and her mother-in- law, a woman of ninety, to whom she presented her with kind, nay, with extremely flattering, words. Barbara lowered her eyes in confusion, and did not see how, at her entrance, Wolf's face had blanched and old Frau Hiltner had sat up in her cushioned arm-chair at the window to look her sharply and fixedly in the eyes with the freedom of age.
Meanwhile the man from the hall had stationed himself beside the door in the same attitude, with his hands clasped under his chin and his cap between his breast and arm, and stood motionless. He did not appear to be at ease, and gnawed his thick lower lip with a troubled look as he occasionally cast a glance at the strong countenance of Martin Luther, whose portrait, the size of life, gazed at him from its gilt frame on the opposite wall.
Barbara did not regain complete self-control until the syndic asked his errand.
The man in the brown doublet was Brother Cassian, the body servant of the Emperor's confessor. He now unclasped his hands to grasp the cap under his arm, which he twirled awkwardly in his fingers while saying, in a rapid, expressionless tone, as though he were repeating a lesson, that he had come to summon Wolf Hartschwert to the Queen of Hungary, with whom he must set out for Brussels early the next morning.
Barbara then remarked in a subdued tone that she had come here for the same purpose, and also for another-to shake hands with the playmate of her childhood, because she probably would not see him again before his departure.
Wolf listened to this statement in surprise, and then told the messenger that he would obey her Majesty's command.
"Obey the command," Cassian repeated, according to his servant custom. Then he was about to retire, but Frau Sabina had filled a goblet with wine for him, and Martina, according too an old custom of the family, offered it to the messenger.
But, much as Cassian liked the juice of the grape, he waved back the kindly meant gift of the mistress of the house with a hoarse "No, no!" and shaking his head, turned on his heel, and without a word of thanks or farewell left the room.
"The heretic's wine," observed Dr. Hiltner, shrugging his shoulders regretfully, and then asked Wolf, "Do you know the queer fellow?"
"The body servant of the almoner, Pedro de Soto," was the reply. The bang of the closed outer door was heard at the same moment, for Cassian had rushed into the open air as fast as his feet would carry him. After leaving part of the street behind him, he stopped, and with a loud "B-r-r-r!" shook himself like a poodle that has just come out of the water.
Into what an abominable heretic house Master Adrian had sent him!
To despatch a good Christian to such an unclean hole!
No images of the Virgin and the saints, no crucifix nor anything else that elevates a human soul in the whole dwelling, but the portrait of the anti-Christ, the arch-heretic Luther, in the best place in the room! However lie turned his eyes away, the fat heretic face had forced him to look at it. Meanwhile he had felt as if the devil himself was already stretching out his arm from the ample sleeve to seize him by the collar.
"B-r-r-r!" he repeated, and hurried off to Saint Leonhard's chapel in the Golden Cross, where he sprinkled himself eagerly with holy water, and then sought Master Adrian. But the valet was with the Emperor, and so he went to his master and told him where he had unexpectedly wandered.
The latter lent a willing ear and shook his sagacious head indignantly when he learned that, besides Sir Wolf Hartschwert, Cassian had also met "the singer" at the house of the syndic, the soul of the evangelical movement in Ratisbon.
Meanwhile Barbara was taking leave of the friend of her youth at the Hiltner house.
The others, with the exception of the deaf old dame, had considerately left the room.
Wolf felt it gratefully, for a dark suspicion, which Barbara's information of her father's long ride as a messenger only confirmed, weighed heavily upon his heart.
The man for whose sake the woman he loved had given him up must be Baron Malfalconnet.
It was well known how recklessly this gay, gallant noble trifled with women's hearts, and he had mentioned Barbara in his presence in a way that justified the conjecture.
Therefore, ere Wolf clasped her hand, he told her the suspicions which filled him with anxiety about her.
But he was soon to discover the baselessness of this fear.
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