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- Barbara Blomberg, Volume 5. - 8/8 -
repentance, obeying a powerful impulse, she held out her hand with frank cordiality just as he was already bowing in farewell. Adrian hesitated a moment.
What did this mean?
What accident was causing this new change of feeling in this April day of a girl?
But when her sparkling blue eyes gazed at him so brightly and at the same time so plainly showed that she knew she had wronged him, he clasped the hand, and his face again wore a friendly expression.
Then Barbara laughed in her bewitching, bell-like tones and, like a naughty child begging forgiveness for a trivial fault, asked him gaily not to take offence at her foolish arrogance. All the new things here had somewhat turned her silly brain. She knew how faithfully he served her Charles, and for that reason she could not help liking him already.
"If you have any cause to find fault with me," she concluded merrily, "out with it honestly." Then addressing Frau Lerch, not as though she were speaking to a servant, but to an older friend, she asked her to leave her alone with Herr Adrian a short time; but she insisted positively on having her own way when the dressmaker remarked that she did not know why, after the greatest secret of all had been forced upon her, her discretion should be distrusted.
As soon as she had retired the valet entreated Barbara to beware of the advice of this woman, whose designs he saw perfectly. He, Adrian, would wish her to have a companion of nobler nature and more delicate perceptions.
But this warning seemed scarcely endurable to Barbara. Although she did not fly into a passion again, she asked in an irritated tone whether Adrian had been granted the power of looking into another's soul. What she perceived with absolute certainty in Frau Lerch, who, as her dead mother's maid, had tended her as a child, was great faithfulness and secrecy and the most skilful hands. Still, she promised to remember his well-meant counsel.
Adrian's warning always to consider what a position her lord occupied in the world, and to beware of crossing the border line which separated the monarch from his subjects, and even from those who were of the highest rank and dearest to him, was gratefully received, for she remembered the sharp rebuff which she had already experienced from her lover. It proved this excellent man's good will toward her, and her eyes fairly hung upon his lips as he informed her of some of his master's habits and peculiarities which she must regard. He warned her, with special earnestness, not to allow herself to be used by others to win favour or pardon for themselves or their kindred. She might perhaps find means for it later; now she would at once awaken in the extremely suspicious monarch doubt of her unselfishness.
This was certainly good advice, and Barbara confessed to the valet that the marquise had requested her at dinner that day to intercede for her unfortunate son, who, unluckily, had the misfortune to be misunderstood by the Emperor Charles. Master Adrian had expected something of the kind, for the lady in waiting had more than once urged him also to obtain his Majesty's pardon for this ruined profligate, the shame of his noble race. He had persistently refused this request, and now enjoined it upon Barbara to follow his example. Before leaving her, he undertook to send her tidings of Wolf's health now and then by the violinist Massi, as he had not leisure to do it himself. At the same time he earnestly entreated her to repress her wish to see the sufferer again, and to bear in mind that she could receive no visitor, take no step in this house or in the city, which would not be known in the Golden Cross.
Barbara passionately demanded to know the spy who was watching her, and whether she must beware specially of the marquise, her French maid, the Spanish priest who accompanied the old woman as her confessor, the garde- robiere Lamperi, who nevertheless had a good face, or who else among the servants.
On this point, however, the valet would or could give no information. He knew only his master's nature. Just as he was better acquainted with every province than the most experienced governor, with every band of soldiers than the sergeant, so nothing escaped him which concerned the private lives of those whom he valued. It need not grieve her that he watched her so carefully. Her acts and conduct would not become a matter of indifference to him until he withdrew his confidence from her or his love grew cold.
The deep impression which this information made upon the girl surprised Adrian. While he was speaking her large eyes dilated more and more, and with hurried breathing she listened until he had finished. Then pressing both hands upon her temples, she frantically exclaimed: "But that is horrible! it is base and unworthy! I will not be a prisoner--! will not, can not bear it! My whole heart is his, and never belonged to any other; but, rather than be unable to take a step that is not watched, like the Sultan's female slaves, I will return to my father."
Here she hesitated; for the first time since she had entered Prebrunn she remembered the old man who for her sake had been sent out into the world. But she soon went on more calmly: "I even permitted my father to be taken from me and sent away, perhaps to death. I gave everything to my sovereign, and if he wants my life also," she continued with fresh emotion, "he may have it; but the existence of a caged bird!-- that will destroy me."
Here the sensible man interrupted her with the assurance that no one, last of all his Majesty, thought of restricting her liberty more than was reasonable. She would be permitted to walk and to use her horses exactly as she pleased, only the object of her walks and rides must be one which she could mention to her royal lover without timidity.
Barbara, still with quickened breathing, then put the question how she could know this; and Adrian, with a significant smile, replied that her heart would tell her, and if it should ever err--of this he was certain --the Emperor Charles.
With these words he took leave of her to go, on behalf of his master, to the marquise, and Barbara stood motionless for some time, gazing after him.
In the Golden Cross Quijada asked Adrian what he thought of the singer, and it was some time ere he answered deliberately: "If only I knew exactly myself, your lordship--I am only a plain man, who wishes every one the best future. Here I do so out of regard for his Majesty, Sir Wolf Hartschwert, and the inexperienced youth of this marvellously beautiful creature. But if you were to force me by the rack to form a definite opinion of her, I could not do it. The most favourable would not be too good, the reverse scarcely too severe. To reconcile such contrasts is beyond my power. She is certainly something unusual, that will fit no mould with which I am familiar."
"If you had a son," asked Don Luis, "would you receive her gladly as a daughter-in-law?"
A gesture of denial from the valet gave eloquent expression of his opinion; but Quijada went on in a tone of anxious inquiry: "Then what will she whom he loves be to the master whose happiness and peace are as dear to you as to me?"
Adrian started, and answered firmly: "For him, it seems to me, she will perhaps be the right one, for what power could she assert against his? And, besides, there is something in his Majesty, as well as in this girl, which distinguishes them from other mortals. What do I mean by that? I see and hear it, but I can neither exactly understand nor name it."
"That might be difficult even for a more adroit speaker," replied Quijada; "but I think I know to what you allude. You and I, Master Adrian, have hearts in our breasts, like thousands of other people, and in our heads what is termed common sense. In his Majesty something else is added. It seems as though he has at command a messenger from heaven who brings him thought and decisions."
"That's it!" exclaimed Adrian eagerly; "and whenever she raises her voice to sing, a second one stands by the side of this Barbara Blomberg."
"Only we do not yet know," observed Quijada anxiously, "whether this second one with the singer is a messenger from heaven, like his Majesty's, or an emissary of hell."
The valet shrugged his shoulders irresolutely, and said quietly: "How could I venture to express an opinion about so noble an art? But when I was listening to the hymn to the Virgin yesterday, it seemed as if an angel from heaven was singing from her lips."
"Let us hope that you may be right," replied the other. "But no matter! I think I know whence comes the invisible ally his Majesty has at his disposal. It is the Holy Ghost that sends him--there is no doubt of it! His control is visible everywhere. With miraculous power he urges him on in advance of all others, and even of himself. This becomes most distinctly perceptible in war."
"That is true," declared the valet, "and your lordship has surely hit the right clew. For"--he glanced cautiously around him and lowered his voice--"whenever I put on my master's armour I always feel how he is trembling--yes, trembling, your lordship. His face is livid, and the drops of perspiration on his brow are not due solely to the heat."
"And then," cried Quijada, his black eyes sparkling with a fiery light-- "then in his agitation he scarcely knows what he is doing as I hold the stirrup for him. But when, once in his saddle, his divine companion descends to him, he dashes upon the foe like a whirlwind and, wherever he strikes, how the chips fly! The strongest succumb to his blows. 'Victory! victory!' men shout exultingly wherever he goes. Even in the last accursed Algerian defeat his helper was at his side; for, Adrian" --here he, too, lowered his voice--"without him and his wonderful power every living soul of us, down to the last boat and camp follower, would have been destroyed."
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