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- Barbara Blomberg, Volume 6. - 6/11 -

Yet all her thoughts and pondering were futile, and when she lay down again she slept until mass.

By daylight she found that she had regarded matters in far too dark a light. True, Charles probably no longer loved her as ardently as before, yet she need scarcely fear the worst at present. But the bare thought of having so soon lost the power to bind him to her aroused a storm of feeling in her passionate soul, and when it subsided bitter thoughts followed, and a series of plans which, on closer examination, proved impracticable.

The day dragged slowly along.

During the ride in the country she was so depressed and downcast that her companions asked what troubled her.

The lonely evening seemed endless. A short letter from her father, which informed her that he had not expected too much of himself, and was in good health, she cast aside after reading. During the night the feeling of unhappiness and apprehension increased. But the next morning the sun shone brightly into her windows, and after mass a messenger from the Golden Cross announced that Duke Maurice of Saxony had arrived, and in the afternoon his Majesty wished to see her and hear her sing.

This news cheered her wonderfully; but while Fran Lerch was dressing her she, too, missed the star, and it seemed to Barbara that with it she had lost a portion of her charm.

In going out, the marquise met her in the corridor, but Barbara passed without returning her greeting.

When she arrived, the company had assembled in the chapel. The Duke of Saxony sat between the Emperor and Granvelle.

What a handsome, knightly man this Maurice was! A prince from head to foot, young, and yet, while talking with the Emperor and Granvelle, grave and self-possessed as if he felt himself their peer.

And what fire glowed in his bright glance whenever it rested upon her!

In the chase and over the wine-cup this brave soldier and subtle statesman was said scarcely to have his equal. Many tales of his successes with fair women had been told her. He pleased her, too, in spite of the bold, free manner in which he gazed at her, and which she would not have tolerated in any one else.

After she had finished the last song, the duke expressed his appreciation in gay, flattering words, at the same time complimenting her beauty.

There had been something remarkably winning in his compliments; but when she pleased her imperial lover, the acknowledgment was very different. Then there was no mere praise clad in the form of enthusiastic homage, but in addition always acute remarks. With the recognition blended opinions which revealed the true connoisseur.

This Maurice was certainly wise and brave, and, moreover, far handsomer than his imperial master; but what illumined Charles's prominent brow and brilliant eyes she had never beheld in any one else. To him, to him alone her heart belonged, worthy of esteem as the duke, who was so much his junior, appeared.

While taking leave the Saxon held her hand in his for a time and, as she permitted it, she met a glance from her lover which warned her to be ware of incautious familiarity with this breaker of hearts.

Barbara felt as if a sudden brightness had filled her soul, and on her way home the seed which that look had cast into it began to put forth vigorous shoots.

The ardent young Saxon duke would have been a dangerous rival for any one, even the handsomest and most powerful of men. Suppose that she should profit by the wish he showed so plainly, and through jealousy bind the man whom she loved anew and more firmly than ever?

She probably admitted to herself that in doing so she would incur a great risk, but it seemed easier to lose her greatest treasure entirely than only to half possess it; and when she had once looked this thought in the face it attracted her, as with the gaze of a basilisk, more and more strongly.

The afternoon of the following day, with the marquise, she entered the scene of festivity under the lindens.

To punish Barbara for not returning her greeting, the gray-haired lady in waiting had at first been inclined to excuse herself on the plea of illness; but the taste for amusement with which her nature was still pervaded, as well as curiosity to see the much-discussed Duke Maurice, and the desire to watch Barbara's conduct, drew her to the place where the festival was held.

Ratisbon had done her best to receive this guest, whom she especially desired to honour, with all possible magnificence. Flags and streamers bearing the colours of the empire, with the Burgundian red and gold of the Emperor, the silver-crossed keys on a red field of the city of Ratisbon, and with the Saxon coats of arms, rose amid the leafy tops of the lindens, and floated from tall poles in the sunny May air. The blue and yellow Saxon flag, with the black and yellow chevron in the field and a lozenged chaplet from the left corner to the top, was more frequently seen than any other banner.

Even though this festival was held for Duke Maurice, no one could fail to notice how much more space was given to his escutcheon than to the Emperor's.

The entertainment had opened at noon with a tournament and riding at the ring. The duke had participated in the sport a short time, and carried off several rings on his sword while in full career.

The Emperor had held aloof from this game, in which he had formerly joined gladly and with much skill, but, on the other hand, he had promised to appear at the festival under the lindens, which was to last until night. The Council had had a magnificent tent erected for him, Duke Maurice, and the court, and in order to ornament the interior suitably had allowed the use of the beautiful tapestries in the town hall. These represented familiar incidents from famous love tales: Tristan and Isolde seeing the face of King Mark in the mirror of the spring, Frau Venus as, surrounded by her court, she receives Tannhauser in the Horselberg, and similar scenes. Other art textiles showed incidents in the lives of forest people--little men and women in striped linen garments, wonderful trees and birds such as no human eye ever beheld--but above the hangings a row of coats of arms again appeared, in which the imperial escutcheon alternated with the Saxon.

The front of the tent, covered with red and white material, stood open, permitting the guests who did not belong to the court to survey the interior.

Artistic platters, large dishes, in which dainty sweets and fruits were gracefully heaped and the cathedral of Ratisbon and other devices stood, the costly silverware of the city, and many beautifully formed wine flagons attracted the gaze. Beside these were dishes of roast meats, fish, and cakes for the illustrious guests.

Stewards and guards of the Council, clad in red and white, with the crossed keys in silver embroidery on the shoulder, offered refreshments. Two superb thrones stood ready for the Emperor and the duke, easy-chairs for the cardinals, princes, and counts, stools for the barons, knights, and ladies.

Opposite to the tent stands were erected for the Council, the patrician families, and the other ladies and gentlemen whom the city had invited to the festival. In their midst rose a large, richly decorated stage for the Emperor's orchestra, which, with his Majesty's permission, had been induced to play a few pieces, and by the side of the stands was a towerlike structure, from whose summit the city pipers of Ratisbon, joined by those of Landshut, were to be heard.

A large, round stage, encircled by a fence of young birch logs, had been built for dancing amid the leafy lindens, and stood directly opposite to the imperial tent. Near the linden-shaded square at the shooting house were posted the cannon and howitzers, which were to receive the distinguished guests with loud volleys and lend fresh animation to the festival.

The Lindenplatz belonged to the same suburb of Prebrunn in which stood the little castle of the Prince Abbot of Berchtesgaden, which Barbara occupied. So, during the short distance which she and the marquise had to traverse in litters, uproar, music, and the thunder of artillery greeted them.

This exerted an intoxicating influence upon Barbara, who had been so long absent from such scenes. At home she had abandoned her intention of arousing the Emperor's jealousy; now her excited nerves urged her to execute it. The advantage she hoped to derive was well worth the risk. But if the bold game failed, and the proud, sensitive monarch should be seriously angry----

Just then shots crashed again, music and shouts echoed more loudly in her ears.

"A Blomberg does not fear," and with newly awakened defiance she closed her ears to the warning voice.

The festival was commencing.

She, too, would be gay for once, and if she was cautious the bold enterprise must succeed. A merry evening awaited her and, if all went well, on the morrow, after a few unpleasant hours, her lover's whole heart would once more be hers.

When she reached the scene of festivity it was already thronged with richly attired princes and counts, knights and ladies, citizens of Ratisbon, as well as nobles and distinguished townspeople from the neighbouring castles, citadels, and cities.

Music and a loud medley of shouts and conversation greeted her at her entrance. Her heart throbbed quickly, for she did not forget her daring purpose, and a throng of memories of modest but more carefree days rushed upon her.

Here, when a little girl, she had attended the May festival Virgatum-- which owed its name to the green rods or twigs with which the school children adorned themselves--and played under yonder lindens with Wolf, with the wilder Erasmus, and other boys. How delightful it had been!-- and when the enlarged band of city pipers struck up a gavotte her feet unconsciously kept time, and she could not help thinking of the last dance in the New Scales, the recruiting officer who had guided her so firmly and skilfully in the Schwabeln, and through him of her father, of whom she had not thought again since the good news received two evenings before.

Barbara Blomberg, Volume 6. - 6/11

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