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- Barbara Blomberg, Volume 4. - 5/11 -
When he returned home he learned from the one-eyed maid that Barbara had been summoned by the Queen of Hungary to sing for her.
Weary as he was, he went to rest, and soon after the young girl entered his room to bid him "good night."
The Queen had been very gracious, and after the singing was over had inquired about hundreds of things--who had been her singing master, what her religion was, whether her mother was still living, what calling her father followed, whether he, too, had drawn the sword against the Turks, her husband's murderers, whether she was accustomed to riding, and, lastly, whether she was obliged to endure the narrow city streets in the summer.
Barbara had then been able to answer that the Wollers sometimes invited her to their country seat at Abbach, and intentionally added that they were her nearest relatives, and owned the Ark, the large, handsome family mansion which stood exactly opposite to the Golden Cross and her Majesty's windows. She had also often been the guest of her uncle Wolfgang Lorberer, who stood at the head of the community at Landshut.
It had gratified her to boast of these distinguished blood relations.
She had then been asked whether she could consent to leave her father for a time to go into the country with the old Marquise de Leria, whom she knew, and who was charmed with the beauty of her singing.
The leech desired to remove the invalid lady in waiting from the city air, and she had chosen Barbara for a companion.
Here the young girl hesitated, and then carelessly asked her father what he thought of the plan.
As Blomberg knew the name of Leria to be one of the most aristocratic in the empire, and many things were beckoning to him in the future in which Barbara's presence would only have been a hindrance, he left the decision to her.
He had made the acquaintance at the Black Bear, through Pyramus Kogel, of various soldiers who had fought in the same ranks--good Catholics, eager for a fray, who were waiting here for the outbreak of the war against the Smalkalds. What delightful hours their companionship would bestow if Barbara was provided for at present, now that he himself was no longer obliged to save every shilling so carefully!
But he had also thought of something else which was far more important, for the warlike conversation had affected him as the blast of a trumpet stirs the battle charger drawing a plough.
He had found complete enjoyment of life only in war, in the presence of death, in cutting and slashing, and he felt by no means too old to keep his seat in the saddle and lead his company of horsemen to the assault. He was not mistaken there, and, besides not only the recruiting officer, but also the scarred old captain whom they called little Gorgl, asserted that the Emperor would welcome every brave, tried soldier, even though older than he, as soon as war was declared.
Meanwhile Pyramus Kogel was constantly in his mind, and at last he thought it his duty to speak to Barbara about her unseemly treatment of this estimable man.
He had intended ever since she entered to call her to account for it, but, though he did not admit it even to himself, the old soldier dreaded his daughter's firm power of resistance.
Yet he could not keep silence this time; her behaviour had transgressed the bounds of propriety too far.
So he summoned up his courage, and, with a "What I was going to say," began to speak of the admirable officer whom he had brought into his house.
Then, clearing his throat, he drew himself up, and, raising his voice, asked how she dared to assail this gallant nobleman with such abominable, arrogant, and insulting words.
But he was to wait an answer in vain, for, with the brief declaration that she had not come to be lectured like a schoolgirl, Barbara banged the door behind her. Directly after, however, she opened it again, and with a pleasant, "No offence, father," wished the old gentleman a no less pleasant goodnight.
Then she went to her room, but in old Ursel's chamber, at the same hour as on the preceding night, a similar conversation took place.
The one-eyed maid spoke of the rats which had forced their way into the house, and the sick woman repeated impatiently, "The rats!" and, with prudent reserve, silently kept her thoughts to herself.
The Queen of Hungary had returned home the evening before, and on the following morning summoned Barbara to the Golden Cross to sing with the boy choir.
When the major-domo, Quijada, obedient to her command, entered the room at eleven o'clock, she called to him: "Miracles, Luis, mighty miracles in these godless times! I have just come from his Majesty, and in what did I find him occupied? Turning over music with Maestro Gombert--of course, for a female voice. Besides, he looked as if he had just defeated the Turks and Frenchmen at once. As for the gout, he'll be dancing the 'hoppedei' with the peasants presently."
"Day before yesterday he surprised us by wearing satin shoes," remarked Quijada. "May I congratulate you on the really magical effect of your Majesty's prescription?"
"Continue to think so, if it suits you," cried the Queen gaily. "Only a few powerful drops from elsewhere have probably fallen into the potion. But how stupidly artless you can look when you feign ignorance, Luis! In this case, however, you need not let your breathing be oppressed by the mask. I bow to your masculine secrecy--but why did my worldly-wise brother mingle a petticoat in this delicate business if he wishes to keep it hidden?"
"The Marquise Leria!" cried the major-domo, shrugging his shoulders angrily, as if against an inevitable misfortune.
"My, senior lady in waiting," said the regent in assent to this conjecture. "Make haste to bestow a stately candle, because it is she, and no one else. You might spare yourself that smile; I know her better than you do. If she had as many teeth as she possesses vices, she might be happy; yet one admirable quality mingles with the evil traits in her character."
"And that?" asked Quijada, as if he deemed a satisfactory answer impossible.
"Secrecy," replied the Queen firmly. "She keeps what she has overheard to herself as closely as a miser guards his gold."
"In order to turn it to account when the favourable moment comes," remarked the major-domo. "Your Majesty will also permit me to observe that if the marquise has already betrayed what was intended to remain secret----"
"Her boasted reticence can not be very great, you think," interrupted the Queen. "But justice for all, my handsome lord. At present she is in any service, and no other. Whose bread I eat, his song I sing--which in this case means: His secret I keep, and to him I carry whatever I discover. Besides, this time even the person betrayed owes her a debt of gratitude, for you know how difficult it is for him to use his limbs, and she is most obligingly smoothing the path for him. I tell you, Luis, with all due respect for his Majesty as a general and a statesman, in a skirmish of intrigue this woman will outwit you all. The schemes her aged brain invents have neither fault nor flaw. The wheels work upon one another as they do in the Emperor's best Nuremberg clock. I want to watch their turning before I go, for, be it known to you, early tomorrow morning-- the saints be praised!--I start for Brussels."
"Oh!" exclaimed Quijada with an expression of sincere regret; but the Queen gravely said: "There can be no further delay, Luis. It may sound improbable that there is something which draws me back to the Netherlands more strongly than the desire for freedom of movement, a pleasant ride through the forest, and the excitement of the chase, which lends spice to the insipidity of my life, yet you may believe it."
"Business matters?" asked the nobleman anxiously.
The Queen nodded assent, and then eagerly continued: "And important ones which his Majesty himself solemnly enjoined upon me to hasten my departure. His zeal resembled a rude gesture toward the door, as much as one rotten egg looks like another, for, under certain circumstances, the affectionate brother prefers to have his beloved sister as far away as possible. Had I been of a more obstinate nature, I would stay; but there really are matters to be settled in the Netherlands which can not be deferred, and the manner of his farewell showed plainly enough that he no longer needed me. Merciful Heaven! When we parted yesterday, I dreaded his Majesty's anger. I had left him in the lurch to gratifv my own love for copse and forest. I had remained beyond the allotted time, and had resolved, bend or break, to return to my post in Brussels. When I rode in here I really felt as though I was entering the lion's den. But then came miracle after miracle. Do you know something, Luis? The best results have often followed my most reckless acts."
"Probably because even your Majesty's least prudent deeds merit a modest reward," replied Quijada, "and because, besides the heavenly powers, there are also less estimable ones that meddle with the affairs of this world."
"Perhaps so!" exclaimed the Queen, astonished at this idea. "Perhaps the Prince of Darkness finds pleasure in this affair, and, as a fair-minded devil, is grateful to me. One thing is certain: What a woman of my age could not tell her daughter or--if she has none--her young niece, she should not meddle with. All this is by no means pleasing to me, and yet, Luis, yet We ought to rejoice in this love affair, not only for ourselves, but for his Majesty. De Soto, too, I know, is satisfied; nay, it seems as if he saw a special act of divine favour in this late blazing of the flames of love in a heart whose fires had apparently burned out."
"Wherever this passion originates," observed Quijada, "it seems to have had a good influence upon his Majesty's mood. It is said that Satan often designs evil and yet works good, and if this late and very tender emotion is a gift of hell, it nevertheless affords our sovereign lord unexpected and therefore all the more exquisite joys."
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