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- Barbara Blomberg, Volume 4. - 3/11 -
Tears now began to glitter in Barbara's eyes also, and Wolf, noticing it, hastened with reviving courage to assure her how little it would cost him to reject, once for all, to please her, the tempting position offered to him here. He could soon obtain a good office elsewhere, since their Majesties were not only favourably disposed toward him, but now toward her also. True, to him even the most brilliant external gifts of life would be valueless and charmless without her love.
But here Barbara imperatively commanded him to rise, and not make his own heart and hers still heavier without avail.
Wolf pressed his hands upon his temples as violently as if he feared losing his senses; but the young girl voluntarily put her arm around his shoulders, and said with sincere emotion: "Poor Wolf! I know how thoroughly in earnest you are, but I dare not even leave you hope--I neither can nor ought. Yet you may hear this: From my childhood you have been dearer to me than any one else, and never shall I forget how firmly you cling to me, how hard it is for you to give me up."
Then Sir Wolf vehemently asked to know what stood between them; and Barbara, after a brief pause for reflection, answered, "Love for another."
The confession pierced him like a dagger thrust, and he passionately entreated her to tell him the name of the man who had defrauded him of the happiness to which he possessed an older and better right than any one else.
He paced the room with long strides as he spoke, gazing around him as if he imagined that she had his rival concealed somewhere.
In doing so his glance fell upon Herr Schlumperger's bouquet, and he wildly cried: "He? So, after all, wealth----"
But this was too much for Barbara, and she stopped him with the exclamation: "Fool that you are! As if You did not know that I am not to be bought for the paltry florins of a Ratisbon moneybag!"
But the next instant she had repented her outbreak, and in words so loving and gentle, so tender and considerate that his heart melted and he would fain have flung himself again at her feet, she explained to him more particularly why she was obliged to inflict this suffering upon him.
Her heart was no longer free, and precisely because he was worthy of the whole affection of a loyal heart she would not repay him in worthless metal for the pure gold of his love. She was no prophetess, yet she knew full well that some day he would bless this hour. What she concealed from every one, even her father, as an inviolable secret, she had confessed to him because he deserved her confidence.
Then she began to speak of Dr. Hiltner's offer, and discussed its pros and cons with interest as warm as if her own fate was to be associated with his.
The result was that she dissuaded him from settling in Ratisbon. She expected higher achievements from him than he could attain here among the Protestants, who, on account of his faith, would place many a stumbling- block in his way.
Then, changing her businesslike tone, she went on with greater warmth to urge him, for her sake, and that he might be the same to her as ever, to remain loyal to the religion they both professed. She could not fulfil his hopes, it is true, but her thoughts would often dwell with him and her wishes would follow him everywhere. His place was at court, where some day he would win a distinguished position, and nothing could render her happier than the news that he had attained the highest honour, esteem, and fame.
How gentle and kind all this sounded! Wolf had not imagined that she could be so thoughtful, so forgetful of self, and so affectionate in her sympathy. He hung upon her lips in silent admiration, yet it was impossible for him to determine whether this sisterly affection from Barbara was pouring balm or acrid lye upon his wounds.
Positively as she had refused to answer his question concerning the happy mortal whom she preferred to him, Wolf could not help secretly searching for him.
Agitated and tortured to the verge of despair, even the friendliness with which she was trying to sweeten his cruel fate became unbearable, and while she was entreating him to continue to care for her and to remain on the same terms of intimacy with her father and herself, he suddenly seized her hand, covered it with ardent kisses, and then, without a farewell word, hastily left the room.
When Barbara was alone she retired into the bow-window and fell into a silent reverie, during which she often shook her head, as if amazed at herself, and often curled her full lips in a haughty smile.
The maid-servant brought in the modest meal.
Her father had forgotten it, but he would undoubtedly find more substantial viands at the Black Bear. Barbara was speedily satisfied. How poorly the food was cooked, how unappetizing was the serving! When the maid had removed the dishes, Barbara continued her reverie, and even her father had never gazed into vacancy with such gloomy earnestness.
What would she now have given for a mother, a reliable, faithful confidante! But she had none; and Wolf, on whose unselfish love she could depend, was the last person whom she could initiate into her secret.
If she had confided to him the matter which so deeply troubled her and yet filled her with the greatest pride, the poor old warrior, who valued honour far more than life, would have turned her out of the house.
Early that morning she had averted her lips from his because she felt as if the Emperor's kiss had consecrated them. She was still under the mastery of the feeling that some disagreeable dream had borne her back to these miserable rooms, while her true place was in the magnificent apartments of royalty.
She had slept too late to attend mass, and therefore went to the private chapel, the abode of the only confidante to whom she could open her whole heart without reserve or timidity--the Mother of God.
She had done this with entire devotion, and endeavoured to reflect upon what had happened and what obligations she must meet. But she had had little success, for as soon as she began to think, her august lover rose before her eyes, she imagined that she heard his tender words, and her mind wandered to the future.
Only she had clearly perceived that she had lost something infinitely great, and obtained in its place something that was far more exquisite, that she had been deemed worthy of a loftier honour, a richer happiness than any one else.
Ah, yes, she was happy, more than happy, and yet not entirely so, for happiness must be bright, and a dark, harassing shadow fell again and again over the sunny enthusiasm which irradiated her nature and lent her a haughtier bearing.
She ascribed it to the novelty of her elevation to a height of which she had never dreamed. Eyes accustomed to twilight must also endure pain, she told herself, ere they became used to the brilliance of the sun.
Perhaps Heaven, in return for such superabundant gifts, demanded a sacrifice, and denied complete enjoyment. She would gladly do all in her power to satisfy the claim, and so she formed the resolve--which seemed to her to possess an atoning power--no longer to deceive the worthy man who loved her so loyally, and for whom she felt an affection. At the very next opportunity Wolf should learn that she could never become his, and when she had just confessed it so gently and lovingly, she had only fulfilled the vow made in the chapel before the Virgin's image. There, too, she had determined, if the Emperor ever gave her any power over his decisions, to reward Wolf's loyal love by interceding for him wherever it could be done.
Now he had left her; but she could wait for her father no longer. She must go to Fran Lerch.
The idea of confiding to her the secret which filled her with happy dread was far from her thoughts; but love had both increased her vanity tenfold, and confined it within narrower limits. She could not be beautiful enough for the lover who awaited her, yet she wished to be beautiful for him alone. But her stock of gowns and finery was so very scanty, and no one understood how to set off her charms so well as the obliging, experienced old woman, who had an expedient for every emergency.
Retiring to her little bow-windowed room, she examined her store of clothes.
There, too, lay her royal lover's gift, the glittering star.
She involuntarily seized it to take the jewel to the Grieb and show it to the old woman; but the next instant, with a strange feeling of dissatisfaction, she flung it back again among the other contents of the chest.
Thus, in her impetuous fashion, she thrust it out of her sight. Maestro Gombert had pronounced the star extremely valuable, and she desired nothing from the Emperor Charles, nothing from her beloved lord save his love.
She had already reached the outer door, when her two Woller cousins from the Ark greeted her. They were merry girls, by no means plain, and very fond of her. The younger, Anne Mirl, was even considered pretty, and had many suitors. They had learned from their house steward, who had been told by a fellow-countryman in the royal service, that his Maiesty had rewarded Barbara for her exquisite singing with a magnificent ornament, and they wanted to see it.
So Barbara was obliged to open the chest again, and when the star flashed upon them the rich girls clapped their hands in admiration, and Anne Mirl did not understand how any one could toss such an exquisite memento into a chest as if it were a worn-out glove. If the Emperor Charles had honoured her with such a gift, she would never remove it from her neck, but even wear it to bed.
"Everybody to her taste," replied Barbara curtly, shrugging her shoulders.
Never had her cousins seemed to her so insignificant and commonplace; and, besides, their visit was extremely inopportune.
But the Woller sisters were accustomed to see her in all sorts of moods,
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