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- Barbara Blomberg, Volume 4. - 4/11 -
and Nandl, the elder, a quiet, thoughtful girl, asked her how she felt. To possess such heavenly gifts as her voice and her beauty must be the most glorious of all glorious things.
"And the honour, the honour!" cried Anne Mirl. "Do you know, Wawerl, one might almost want to poison you from sheer envy and jealousy. Holy Virgin! To be in your place when you sing to the Emperor Charles again! And to talk with him as you would to anybody else!"
Barbara assured them that she would tell the whole story at their next meeting, but she had no time to spare now, for she was expected at the rehearsal.
The sisters then bade her good-bye, but asked to see the star again, and Anne Mirl counted the jewels, to be able to describe it to her mother exactly.
At last Barbara was free, but before, still vexed by the detention, she could set out for Fran Lerch's, she heard loud voices upon the stairs. It startled her, for if the Emperor sent Don Luis Quijada, or even Baron Malfalconnet, to her wretched lodgings, it would now be even more unpleasant than before.
Barbara was obliged to wait some time in vain. Her cousins had been stopped below, and were talking there with her father and another man. At last the captain came stumping up the stairs with his limping steps. Barbara noticed that he was hurrying, and he reached the top more quickly than usual and opened the door.
He looked merry, and his massive but well-formed and manly features were flushed. He came from Erbach in the Black Bear, it is true, but in so short a time--his daughter knew that--the spirits of the wine could have done him no harm. Besides, his voice sounded as deep and firm as usual as he called to her from the threshold: "A guest, Wawerl, a distinguished guest! A splendid fellow! You've already spoken of him, and I made his acquaintance in the Bear. I learned many and many a piece of news from him about how things are going in the world-news, I tell you, girl! My heart is fairly dancing in my body. And, besides, a little puss like you is always glad to hear of an admirer, and only a short time ago you praised him loudly enough as a splendid dancer. A downright good fellow, child, just as I was myself at his age. An uncle of his, a captain of arquebusiers, Pyramus Kogel."
Hitherto Barbara, with increasing displeasure, had only suspected whom her father meant; but when he now mentioned his new friend's name, the indignant blood crimsoned her cheeks.
She had liked the handsome officer, for it was true that few men so well understood the art of guiding a partner through the dance; she, fool that she was, had made eyes at him in order not to let pretty Elspet Zohrer have the precedence. But he had himself confessed how much farther he had entered the snare than she intended when, on her way home from Fran Lerch's after her meeting with Wolf, the young officer had met her outside of the Grieb and sued for her hand.
Now the amorous swain had probably tried his luck with her father, and how the latter, in spite of poor Wolf and Herr Schlumperger, had treated him was evident from the fact that he, who usually closed his home against old friends, opened it wide to this stranger.
This was not only unpleasant to Barbara, but anger crimsoned her cheeks.
How dared the man whom she had so positively and sternly refused venture to continue his suit? Since the Emperor had loved her, she felt raised infinitely above the poor nobleman. Nay, she considered it a reprehensible impropriety that he still sought her. And, besides what consequences the visit of so stately a ladykiller, whose unusual height rendered him easily recognised, might now entail upon her! Suppose that he should meet a messenger from the Emperor on the stairs, or it should be rumoured at court that she received such visitors. How quickly whatever happened in Ratisbon was noised abroad among the people she had just learned through the Woller girls.
The happiness which filled her was so great that everything which threatened to affect it, even remotely, alarmed her, and thus anxietv blended with indignation as, deeply agitated, she interrupted her father, and in the most unfilial manner reproached him for allowing the flattery of a boastful coxcomb to make him forget what he owned to her and her good name.
The brave champion of the faith dejectedly, almost humbly, strove to soothe her, and at least induce her not to offend his guest by unfriendly words; but she ignored his warnings with defiant passion, and when the recruiting officer, who had been detained some time on the staircase by the Wollers, knocked at the door, she shot the bolt noisily, calling to her father in a tone so loud that it could not fail to be heard outside: "I repeat it, I will neither see nor speak to this importunate gentleman. When he attacked me in the street at night, I thought I showed him plainly enough how I felt. If he forces his way into our house now, receive him, for aught I care; you have a right to command here. But if he undertakes to speak to me, he can wait for an answer till the day of judgment!"
Then she hastily slipped the bolt back again, darted past Pyramus Kogel, who did not know what had befallen him, without vouchsafing him a single glance, and then, with haughty composure, descended the stairs.
The officer, incapable of uttering a word, gazed after her.
The feeling that attracted him to Barbara was something entirely new, which since the last dance at the New Scales had robbed him of sleep by night and rest by day. He had fallen under her spell, body and soul, and he, whose business took him from city to city, from country to country, had resolved, ere he accosted Barbara in the street, to give up the free, gay life which he enjoyed with the eager zest of youth, and seek her hand in marriage.
Her first rebuff had by no means discouraged him; nay, the handsome, spoiled soldier was firmly convinced that her ungracious treatment was not due to his proposal, but to its certainly ill-chosen place. A wife of such rigid austerity would suit him, for he would often be compelled to leave her a long time alone.
When he heard the day before that he would find her among Peter Schlumperger's guests in Prufening, he had joined them, as if by accident, toward evening, and Barbara had danced with him twice.
In the schwabeln she had trusted herself to his guidance even longer than usual, and with what perfect time, with what passionate enjoyment she had whirled around with him under the sway of the intense excitement which had mastered her! He imagined that he felt her heart throb against his own breast, and had surrendered himself to the hope that it was newly awakened love for him which had deprived her of her calm bearing.
True, she had refused his company on the way home, but this was probably because she was afraid of being gossipped about in connection with him.
Well satisfied with his success, he had gone to Red Cock Street the next morning to renew his suit. On the way he met her father, and in the Black Bear had tried on the old warrior, with excellent success, the art of winning other men, in which, as a recruiting officer, he had become an adept.
Joyously confident of victory, he had accepted Blomberg's invitation, and now had experienced an unprecedentedly mortifying rebuff.
With a face blanched to the pallor of death, he stood before the old man. The wound which he had received burned so fiercely, and paralyzed his will so completely, that the clumsy graybeard found fitting words sooner than the ready, voluble trapper of men.
"You see," the captain began, "what is to be expected from one's own child in these days of insubordination and rebellion, though my Wawerl is as firm in her faith as the tower at Tunis of which I was telling you. But trust experience, Sir Pyramus! It is easier, far easier for you to exact obedience from a refractory squad of recruits than for a father to guide his little daughter according to his own will. For look! If it gets beyond endurance, you can seize the lash, or, if that won't do, a weapon; but where a fragile girl like that is concerned, we can't give vent to our rage, and, though she spoils the flavour of our food and drink by her pouting and fretting, we must say kind words to her into the bargain. Mine at least spares me the weeping and wailing in which many indulge, but it is easier to break iron than her obstinacy when her will differs from that of the person whom, on account of the fourth commandment, she----"
Pyramus Kogel, with both hands resting on the large basket handle of his long rapier, had listened to him in silence; now he interrupted the captain with the exclamation: "Iron against iron, comrade! Throw it into the fire, and swing the hammer. It will bend then. All that is needed is the right man, and I know him. If I did not feel very sorry for such a charming creature, I would laugh at the insult and go my way. But, as it is, I have a good memory, and it will be a pleasure, methinks, to keep so unruly a beauty and artistic nightingale in mind. It shall be done until my turn comes. In my pursuit I do not always succeed at the first attempt, but whoever I once fix my eyes upon comes on the roll at last, and I will keep the foremost place open for your lovely, refractory daughter. We shall meet again, Captain, and I haven't said my last word to your ungracious daughter either."
He held out his hand to Blomberg as he spoke, and after a brief delay the latter clasped it.
The fearless foe of the Turks was troubled by the recruiting officer's mysterious menaces, but his kind heart forbade him to add a new offence to the bitter mortification inflicted upon this man by his daughter. Besides, he had taken a special fancy to the stately, vigorous soldier, whose height and breadth of shoulder were little inferior to his own, and while descending the stairs he thought, "It would serve Wawerl right if yonder fellow put a stop to her obstinacy, pranks, and caprices."
But he quickly silenced the wish, for Barbara did not often give the rein to her self-will so freely, and her objectionable traits of character had been inherited from her mother. She was a good girl at heart, and how much pleasure and favour her beautiful gift brought, how much honour came to him and his ancient name through this rare child! Yet at that time he was not aware of the new benefit he was to owe to her within the next hour.
Before Barbara had returned home the treasurer of the imperial and royal musicians came to his house and, in the regent's name, handed him the gold of which Barbara had spoken for services rendered in the boy choir of her Majesty Queen Mary. He was obliged to sign the receipt in his daughter's name, and when the portly Netherlander, who could also make himself understood in German, asked where a sup of good wine or beer could be had in Ratisbon, he was ready to act as his guide.
Thanks to his daughter's rich gifts, he need not wield the graver any longer that day, and for the second time could grant himself a special treat.
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