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- Barbara Blomberg, Volume 5. - 3/8 -


While pressing the horse's flanks between his legs and forcing the spirited animal, which went round and round with him in a circle, to obedience, he waved his new travelling hat; but Barbara, meanwhile, was thinking that he could only leave her with his mind thus free from care because she was deceiving him, and, as her eyes rested on her father's wounded limb projecting stiffly into the air, bitter grief overwhelmed her.

How often the old wounds caused him pain! Other little infirmities, too, tortured him. Who would bind them up on the journey? who would give him the medicine which afforded relief?

Then pity affected her more deeply than ever before, and it was with difficulty that she forced back the rising tears. Her father might perhaps have noticed them, for one groom carried a torch, and the one- eyed maid's lantern was shining directly into her face.

But while she was struggling not to weep aloud, emotion and anxiety for the old man who, through her fault, would be exposed to so much danger, extorted the cry: "Take care of him, Herr Pyramus! I will be grateful to you."

"That shall be a promise, lovely, ungracious maiden," the recruiting officer quickly answered. But the old man was already waving his hat again, his horse dashed upon the Haidplatz at a gallop, and his companion, with gallant bearing, followed.

Barbara had then gone back into the house, and the maid-servant lighted her upstairs.

It had become perfectly dark in her rooms, and the solitude and silence there oppressed her like a hundredweight burden. Besides, terrible thoughts had assailed her, showing her herself in want and shame, despised, disdained, begging for a morsel of bread, and her father under his fallen horse, on his lonely, couch of pain, in his coffin.

Then her stay in her lonely rooms seemed unendurable. She would have lost her reason ere Quijada came at midnight to conduct her for a short time to the Golden Cross. She could not remain long with her lover, because the servants were obliged to be up early in the morning on account of the regent's departure.

With Ursel she would be protected from the terrors of solitude, for, besides the old woman's voice, a man's tones also reached her through the open window. It was probably the companion of her childhood. In his society she would most speedily regain her lost peace of mind.

In his place she had at first found only Erasmus Eckhart.

The strong, bold boy had become a fine-looking man.

A certain gravity of demeanour had early taken possession of him, and while his close-shut lips showed his ability to cling tenaciously to a resolution, his bright eyes sparkled with the glow of enthusiasm.

Barbara could believe in this young man's capacity for earnest, lofty aspiration, and for that very reason it had aroused special displeasure in her mind when he gaily recalled the foolish pranks, far better suited to a boy, into which as a child she had often allowed herself to be hurried.

She felt as if, in doing so, he was showing her a lack of respect which he would scarcely have ventured toward a young lady whom he esteemed, and the petted singer, whom no less a personage than the Emperor Charles deemed worthy of his love, was unwilling to tolerate such levity from so young a man.

She made no claim to reverence, but she expected admiration and the recognition of being an unusual person, who was great in her own way.

For the sake of the monarch who raised her to his side, she owed it to herself to show, even in her outward bearing, that she did not stand too far below him in aristocratic dignity.

She succeeded in this admirably during the conversation on music and singing which she carried on with Erasmus.

When she at last desired to return home, Wolf accompanied her up the stairs, informed her of his conversation with the confessor, and at the same time warned her against incautious visits to the Hiltners so long as the Emperor held his court in Ratisbon.

To have fallen under suspicion of heresy would have been the last thing Barbara expected, and she called it foolish, nay, ridiculous. But, ere she clasped Wolf's hand in farewell, she promised to show the almoner at the first opportunity upon how false a trail he had come.

CHAPTER XXII.

When Wolf went back to Erasmus the latter assured his friend that he had met no maiden in Ratisbon who, to rare gifts, united the dignity which he had hitherto admired only in the ladies whom he had met at the court of the Elector of Saxony. His sparkling eyes flashed more brightly as he spoke, and, like a blushing girl, he confessed to his friend that Jungfrau Blomberg's promise to sing one of his own compositions to him made him a happy man.

Barbara's conduct had made the repressed fire of love blaze up anew in Wolf.

Now, for the first time, the woman he loved fully and entirely fulfilled the ideal which he had formed of the "queen" of his heart.

Was it the sad separation from him, the taking leave of her father, or her new love, which was bestowed on a man whom he also esteemed, that impressed upon her nature the stamp of a nobility which beseemed her as well as it suited her aristocratic beauty?

Never had it appeared to him so utterly impossible that he could yield her to another without resistance. Perhaps the man chosen by such a jewel was more worthy than he, but no one's love could surpass his in strength and fervour. She had tested it, and he need no longer call himself an insignificant suitor; for, if he gained possession of the living which Don Luis had ready for him, if he obtained a high position in Valladolid--But his friend gave him no time to pursue such thoughts further, for, while Barbara shortly after midnight stole down the stairs like a criminal, and Quijada conducted her to her imperial lover, Erasmus began to press him with demands which he was obliged to reject.

The Wittenberg master of arts, ever since his first meeting with his friend, had been on the point of asking the question how he, who had obtained in the school of poets an insight into the pure word of God, could prevail upon himself to continue to wear the chains of Rome and remain a Catholic.

Wolf had expected this query, and, while he filled his companion's goblet with the good Wurzburg wine which Ursula provided, he begged him not to bring religion into their conversation.

The young Wittenberg theologian, however, had come for the express purpose of discussing it with his friend.

Religion, he asserted in the fervid manner characteristic of him, was in these times the axis around which turned the inner life of the world and every individual. He himself had resolved to live for the object for whose sake it was worth while to die. He knew the great perils which would be associated with it for one of his warlike temperament, but he had become, by the divine summons, an evangelical theologian, a combatant for the liberation of the slaves sighing under the tyranny of Rome. A serious conversation with a friend who was a German and resisted yielding to a movement of the spirit which was kindling the inmost depths of the German nature, thoughts, and feelings, and was destined to heal the woes of the German nation and preserve it from the basest abuse, would be to him inconceivable.

Wolf interrupted this avowal with the assurance that he must nevertheless decline a religious discussion with him, for the weapons they would use were too different. Erasmus, as a theologian, was deeply versed in the Protestant faith, while he professed Catholicism merely as a consequence of his birth and with a layman's understanding and knowledge. Yet he would not shun the conflict if his hands were not bound by the most sacred of oaths. Then he turned to the past, and while he himself, as it were, lived through for the second time the most affecting moment in his existence, he transported his friend to his dead mother's sick-bed.

In vivid language he described how the devout widow and nun implored her son to resist like a rock in the sea the assault of the new heretical ideas, that the thousands of prayers which she had uttered for him, for his soul, and his father's, might not be vain.

Then Wolf confessed that just at that time, as a pupil in the school of poets, he had come under the influence of the scholar Naevius, whose evangelical views Erasmus knew, and related how difficult it had been for him to take the oath which, nevertheless, now that he had once sworn it, he would keep, even though life and his own intelligence would not have taught him to prefer the old faith to every new doctrine, whether it emanated from Luther, from Calvin, or from Zwingli.

For a short time Erasmus found no answer to this statement, and Wolf's old nurse, who herself clung to the Protestants from complete conviction, and had listened attentively to his words, urged her young co-religionist, by all sorts of signs, to respect his friend's decision.

The confession of his schoolmate had not been entirely without effect upon the young theologian. The name of "mother" also filled him with reverence.

True, his birth had cost his own mother her life, but he had long possessed a distinct idea of her nature and being, and had given her precisely the same position which, in the early days of his school life, the Virgin Mary had occupied.

To induce another to break a vow made to his mother would have been sinful. But a brief reflection changed his mind.

Were there not circumstances in which the Bible itself commanded a man to leave father and mother? Had not Jesus Christ made the surrender of every old relation and the following after him the duty of those who were to become his disciples? What was the meaning of the words the Saviour had uttered to his august mother, "Woman, what have I to do with thee?" except it was commanded to turn even from the mother when religion was at stake?

Many another passage of Scripture had strengthened the courage of the young Bible student when at last, with a look of intelligence, he pledged Wolf, and remarking, "How could I venture the attempt to lead you to


Barbara Blomberg, Volume 5. - 3/8

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