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- Barbara Blomberg, Volume 7. - 4/12 -

And yet!

While her lips were still glowing from his kisses, she had carried on a reckless game with another, and was now robbing him of the repose of mind which he so urgently, needed.

And the mother of the woman whose birthday had just passed, the proud Queen Isabella, the conqueror of the Moors--what would she have said had she been condemned to see her grandson, the heir of so great an empire, ensnared by such bonds?

He had proved, since he wielded the sceptre, that he did not lack strength of will, and he must show it again.

He reminded himself indignantly that he was not only the ruler of many nations, but the head of perhaps the most illustrious family on earth.

He thought of his royal brothers and sisters, his haughty son Philip, his daughters, nephews, and nieces; and while pouring forth his soul in fervent prayer for his unfortunate mother, with her disordered intellect, he also besought the Redeemer to free him from the evil of this love. Three words from his lips would have sufficed to rid him of Barbara forever, but--he felt it--that would not end the matter. He must also learn to forget her, and for that he needed the aid of the higher powers. He had once more yielded to worldly pleasure. The kiss of her beautiful soft lips had been sweet, the melody of her voice still more blissful. It had given him hours of rapture; but were these joys worth the long repentance which was already beginning? It was wise to sacrifice the transitory pleasures of earth to loftier purposes. One thing alone promised permanent duration even here--what he was achieving for the future greatness of his own name and that of his race. For them he was now going to war, and, by fighting against the heretics, the foes of God, he entered the strife, in a sense, as the instrument of Heaven. Thus, not only his duty as a sovereign, but care for his eternal salvation, compelled him to cast aside everything which might jeopardize the triumph of his good, nay, sacred cause; and what could imperil it more seriously than this late passion, which to-day had rendered it impossible to do his duty?

Firmly resolved to resign Barbara before his brother Ferdinand reached Ratisbon with his family, he rose from the priedieu and sought his couch. But sleep fled from the anxious ruler; besides, the pain of the gout became more severe.

After rising early, he went limping to mass, breakfasted, and began his work.

Many charts and plans had been placed on the writing-table for him, and beside them he found a letter from Granvelle, in which he stated his views concerning the alliance with Duke Maurice, and what advantage might be derived from it. Both as a whole and in detail Charles approved them, and gladly left to the minister the final negotiations with the duke, who intended to leave Ratisbon at noon. If he briefly ratified the terms which had been arranged with Granvelle, and gave Maurice his hand in farewell, he thought he would have satisfied amply the claims of the covetous man, of whose aid, however, he stood in need.

After the thunderstorm the weather had grown cloudy and cool. Perhaps the change had caused his increased suffering and unhappy mood. But the true reason was doubtless the resolution formed the night before, and which now by day seemed more difficult to execute than he had thought at the priedieu. He was still resolved to keep it, but earthly life appeared less short, and he could not conceal from himself that, without Barbara's sunny cheerfulness, bewitching tenderness, and, alas! without her singing, his future existence would lack its greatest charm. His life would be like this gloomy day. Put he would not relinquish what he had once firmly determined and proved to himself by reasoning to be the correct course.

He could not succeed in burying himself in charts and plans as usual and, while imagining how life could be endured without the woman he loved, he pushed the papers aside.

In days like these, when the old ache again attacked him, Barbara and her singing had brightened the dreary gloom and lessened the pain, or she had caressed and sung it entirely away. He seemed to himself like a surly patient who throws aside the helpful medicine because it once tasted badly to him and was an annoyance to others. Yet no. It contained poison also, so it was wise to put it away. But had not Dr. Mathys told him yesterday that the strongest remedial power was concealed in poisons, and that they were the most effective medicines? Ought he not to examine once more the reasons which had led him to this last resolution? He bowed his head with an irresolution foreign to his nature, and when his greyhound touched his aching foot he pushed the animal angrily away.

The confessor De Soto found him in this mood at his first visit.

Ere he crossed the threshold he saw that Charles was suffering and felt troubled by some important matter, and soon learned what he desired to know. But if Charles expected the Dominican to greet his decision with grateful joy, he was mistaken, for De Soto had long since relinquished the suspicion which had prejudiced him against Barbara and, on the contrary, with the Bishop of Arras, had reached the certainty that the love which united the monarch to the singer would benefit him.

Both knew the danger which threatened the sovereign from his tendency to melancholy, and now that he saw his efforts to urge the Emperor to a war with the Smalcalds crowned with success, he wished to keep alive in him the joyousness which Barbara, and she alone, had aroused and maintained.

So he used the convincing eloquence characteristic of him to shake the monarch's resolve, and lead him back to the woman he loved.

The Church made no objection to this bond of free love formed by a sovereign whom grave political considerations withheld from a second marriage. If his Majesty's affection diminished the success of his work, the separation from so dear a being, who afforded him so much pleasure, would do this to a far greater degree. That Barbara had allowed the bold Saxon too much liberty on the dancing ground he did not deny, but took advantage of the opportunity to point out the unscrupulousness which characterized Maurice, like all heretics. As for Barbara, the warm blood and fresh love of pleasure of youth, qualities which to many were her special charm, had led her into the error of the luckless dance. But the Emperor, who until then had listened to De Soto' here interrupted him to confide the unfortunate suspicion which had been aroused in him the day before.

The mention of this matter, however, was very opportune to the almoner, for he could easily turn it to the advantage of the suspected girl. The day before yesterday she had confessed to him the fate of the valuable star, and begged him, if her imprudent deed of charity should be discovered, to relieve her of the painful task of explaining to Charles how she had been induced to sell a memento so dear to her. Thereupon the confessor himself had ascertained from the marquise and the goldsmith Jamnitzer that Barbara had told him the whole truth.

So in his eyes, and probably in those of a higher power, this apparently ignoble act would redound no little to the credit of the girl's heart.

Charles listened to this explanation with a silent shrug of the shoulders. Such a deed could scarcely be otherwise regarded by the priest, but Barbara's disregard of his first gift offended him far more than the excellent disposition evinced by the hasty act pleased him. She had flung the first tangible token of his love into the insatiable jaws of a worthless profligate, like a copper coin thrown as alms to a beggar. It grieved the soul of the economical manager and lover of rare works of art to have this ancient and also very valuable family heirloom broken to pieces. Malfalconnet would not fail to utter some biting jest when he heard that Charles must now, as it were, purchase this costly ornament of himself. He would have forgiven Barbara everything else more easily than this mad casting away of a really royal gift.

Expressing his indignation to the almoner without reserve, he closed the interview with him. When Charles was again alone he tried to rise, in order, while pacing up and down the room, to examine his resolution once more. But his aching foot prevented this plan and, groaning aloud, he sank back into his arm-chair.

His heart had not been so sore for a long time, and it was Barbara's fault. Yet he longed for her. If she had laid her delicate white hand upon his brow, he said to himself, or had he been permitted to listen to even one of her deeply felt religious songs, it would have cheered his soul and even alleviated his physical suffering. Several times he stretched his hand toward the bell to send for her; but she had offended him so deeply that he must at least let her feel how gravely she had erred, and that the lion could not be irritated unpunished, so he conquered himself and remained alone. The sense of offended majesty strengthened his power of resisting the longing for her.

Indignant with himself, he again drew the maps toward him. But like a cloth fluttering up and down between a picture and the beholder, memories of Barbara forced themselves between him and the plans over which he was bending.

This could not continue!

Perhaps, after all, her singing was the only thing which could restore his lost composure. He longed for it even more ardently than for her face. If he sent for her, he could show her by his manner what fruit her transgressions had borne. The rest would follow as a matter of course. Now every fibre of his being yearned for the melody of her voice.

Obeying a hasty resolution, he rang the bell and ordered Adrian to call Quijada and command Barbara to sing in the Golden Cross that afternoon.

After the valet had replaced his aching foot in the right position, Don Luis appeared. Without any further comment the Emperor informed him that he had determined to sever the bond of love which united him to the singer.

While speaking, he looked his friend sharply in the face, and when he saw, by his silent bow, that his decision called forth no deeper emotion in him, he carelessly added that, nevertheless, he intended to hear her sing that day, and perhaps many times more.

Perceiving a significant smile upon the lips of the faithful follower, and recognising the peril contained in the last resolve, he shook his finger at Quijada, saying: "As if even the inmost recesses of your soul were concealed from me! You are asking yourself, Why does Charles deny me leave to visit Villagarcia, and thereby cruelly prevent my being happy with my dear, beautiful young wife, after so long a separation, if he considers himself strong enough to turn his back, without further ceremony, upon the woman he loves, after seeing and hearing her again?"

Your Majesty has read correctly," replied Don Luis, "yet my wish for a brief stay with Doha Magdalena de Ulloa is very different from your Majesty's desire."

Barbara Blomberg, Volume 7. - 4/12

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