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- Barbara Blomberg, Volume 5. - 2/8 -

disdained his love?

He possessed little ambition. It was only for the sake of the woman he loved that he had recently made more active exertions, but with his excellent acquirements and the fair prospects which were open to him at the court, it seemed, even to his modest mind, too humble a fate to bury himself in a Spanish castle in order to while away with music the lonely hours of a noblewoman, no matter how high her rank, how beautiful and estimable she might be, or how gladly he would render her admirable husband a favour.

Quijada had said this to himself, and perceived plainly enough what was passing in the young knight's thoughts.

So he frankly confessed that he was well aware how few temptations his invitation offered a man endowed with Wolf's rare advantages, but he came by no means with empty hands--and he now informed the listening musician what he could offer him.

This certainly gave his proposal a different aspect.

The aristocratic Quijada family--and as its head he himself--had in its gift a rich living, which annually yielded thousands of ducats, in the great capital of Valladolid. Many a son of a distinguished race sought it, but he wished to bestow it upon Wolf. It would insure him more than a comfortable support, permit him to marry the woman of his choice, and, if he remained several years in Villagarcia, afford him the possibility of accumulating a neat little property, as he would live in Quijada's castle as a welcome guest and scarcely ever be obliged to open his purse strings. Besides, music was cultivated in Valladolid, and if Don Luis introduced him to the clergy there, it might easily happen that they would avail themselves of his great knowledge and fine ability and intrust to him the amendment and perhaps, finally, the direction of the church music.

As Dona Magdalena often spent several months with her brother, the Marquis Rodrigo de la Mota, Wolf could from time to time be permitted to visit the Netherlands or Italy to participate in the more active musical life of these countries.

Wolf listened to this explanation with increasing attention.

The narrow path which buried itself in the sand was becoming a thoroughfare leading upward. He was glad that he had withheld his refusal; but this matter was so important that the prudent young man, after warmly thanking Don Luis for his good opinion, requested some time for consideration.

True, Quijada could assure him that, for the sake of his wife, Dona Magdalena de Ulloa, whom from childhood she had honoured with her special favour, the regent would place no obstacle in the way of his retirement from her service. But Wolf begged him to have patience with him. He was not a man to make swift decisions, and nowhere could he reflect better than in the saddle during a long ride. He would inform him of his determination by the first messenger despatched from Brussels to the Emperor. Even now he could assure him that this generous offer seemed very tempting, since solitude always had far more charm for him than the noisy bustle of the court.

Quijada willingly granted the requested delay, and, before bidding him farewell, Wolf availed himself of the opportunity to deliver into his hands the papers collected by his adopted father, which he had on his person. They contained the proof that he was descended from the legal marriage of a knight and a baroness; and Don Luis willingly undertook to have them confirmed by the Emperor, and his patent renewed in a way which, if he accepted his proposal, might also be useful to him in Spain.

So Wolf took leave of the major-domo with the conviction that he possessed a true friend in this distinguished man. If the regent did not arbitrarily detain him, he would show himself in Villagarcia to be worthy of his confidence.

On the stairs he met the Emperor's confessor, Don Pedro de Soto. Wolf bowed reverently before the dignified figure of the distinguished Dominican, and the latter, as he recognised him, paused to request curtly that he would give him a few minutes the following day.

"If I can be of any service to your Reverence," replied Wolf, taking the prelate's delicate hand to kiss it; but the almoner, with visible coldness, withdrew it, repellently interrupting him: "First, Sir Knight, I must ask you for an explanation. Where the plague is raging in every street, we ought to guard our own houses carefully against it."

"Undoubtedly," replied Wolf, unsuspiciously. "But I shall set out early to-morrow morning with her Majesty."

"Then," replied the Dominican after a brief hesitation, "then a word with you now."

He continued his way to the second story, and Wolf, with an anxious mind, followed him into a waiting room, now empty, near the staircase.

The deep seriousness in the keen eyes of the learned confessor, which could look gentle, indulgent, and sometimes even merry, revealed that he desired to discuss some matter of importance; but the very first question which the priest addressed to him restored the young man's composure.

The confessor merely desired to know what took him to the house of the man who must be known to him as the soul of the evangelical innovations in his native city, and the friend of Martin Luther.

Wolf now quietly informed him what offer Dr. Hiltner, as syndic of Ratisbon, had made him in the name of the Council.

"And you?" asked the confessor anxiously.

"I declined it most positively," replied Wolf, "although it would have suited my taste to stand at the head of the musical life in my native city."

"Because you prefer to remain in the service of her Majesty Queen Mary?" asked De Soto.

"No, your Eminence. Probably I shall soon leave the position near her person. I rather feared that, as a good Catholic, I would find it difficult to do my duty in the service of an evangelical employer."

"There is something in that. But what led the singer--you know whom I mean--to the same house?"

Wolf could not restrain a slight smile, and he answered eagerly: "The young lady and I grew up together under the same roof, your Eminence, and she came for no other purpose than to bid me farewell. A lamb that clings more firmly to the shepherd, and more strongly abhors heresy, could scarcely be found in our Redeemer's flock."

"A lamb!" exclaimed the almoner with a slight touch of scorn. "What are we to think of the foe of heresy who exchanges tender kisses with the wife of the most energetic leader of Protestantism?"

"By your permission, your Eminence," Wolf asserted, "only the daughter offered her her lips. She and her mother made the singer's acquaintance at the musical exercises established here by the Council. Music is the only bond between them."--"Yet there is a bond," cried De Soto suspiciously. "If you see her again before your departure, advise her, in my name, to sever it. She found a friendly welcome and much kindness in that house, and here at least--tell her so--only one faith exists. A prosperous journey, Sir Knight."

The delay caused by this conversation induced Wolf to quicken his pace. It had grown late, and Erasmus Eckhart had surely been waiting some time for his school friend in the old precentor's house.

This was really the case, but the Wittenberg theologian, whose course of study had ended only a fortnight before, and who, with his long, brown locks and bright blue eyes, still looked like a gay young student, had had no reason to lament the delay.

He was first received by Ursel, who had left her bed and was moving slowly about the room, and how much the old woman had had to tell her young fellow-believer from Wittenberg about Martin Luther, who was now no longer living, and Professor Melanchthon; but Erasmus Eckhart liked to talk with her, for as a schoolmate and intimate friend of Wolf he had paid innumerable visits to the house, and received in winter an apple, in summer a handful of cherries, from her.

The young man was still less disposed to be vexed with Wolf for his delay when Barbara appeared in Ursel's room. Erasmus had played with her, too, when he was a boy, and they shared a treasure of memories of the fairest portion of life.

When Wolf at last returned and Barbara gave him her hand, Erasmus envied him the affectionate confidence with which it was done. She was charged with the warmest messages from her father to the knight, and conscientiously delivered them. The old gentleman's companion had advised starting that evening, because experience taught that, on a long ride, it was better for man and beast to spend the night outside the city.

They were to put up at the excellent tavern in Winzer, an hour's journey from Ratisbon, and continue the ride from that point.

Wolf knew that many couriers did the same thing, in order to avoid delay at the gate, and only asked whom her father had chosen for a companion.

"A young nobleman who was here as a recruiting officer," replied Barbara curtly.

She had not heard until the last moment whom her father had selected, and had only seen Pyramus Kogel again while the captain's groom was buckling his knapsack upon the saddle. He had ridden to the house, and while she gazed past him, as though an invisible cap concealed him from her eyes, he asked whether she had no wish concerning her father at heart.

"That some one else was to accompany him," came her sharp reply.

Then, before the captain put his foot into the stirrup, she threw her arms around the old man's neck, kissed him tenderly, and uttered loving wishes for him to take with him on his way.

Her father, deeply moved, at last swung himself into the saddle, commending her to the protection of the gracious Virgin. It was not wholly easy for him to part with her, but the prospect of riding out into the world with a full purse, highly honoured by his imperial master, gratified the old adventure-loving heart so much that he could feel no genuine sympathy. Too honest to feign an emotion which he did not experience, he behaved accordingly; and, besides, he was sure of leaving his child in the best care as in her earlier years, when, glad to leave the dull city, business, and his arrogant, never-satisfied wife behind, he had gone with a light heart to war.

Barbara Blomberg, Volume 5. - 2/8

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