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- Barbara Blomberg, Volume 7. - 5/12 -
"How?" demanded Charles in a sharp tone of inquiry. "Is my strength of will, in your opinion, so far inferior to yours?"
"Your Majesty can scarcely deem me capable of so presumptuous an error," replied Quijada. "But your Majesty is Charles V, who has no superior save our Lord in heaven. I, on the contrary, am only a Castilian nobleman, and as such prize my honour as my highest treasure; but, above all other things, even above the lady of my heart, stands the King."
"I might know that," cried the Emperor, holding out his hand to his friend. "Yet I refused you the leave of absence, you faithful fellow. The world calls this selfishness. But since it still needs me, it ought in justice to excuse me, for never have I needed you so much as during these decisive weeks, whether war is declared--and it will come to that-- or not. Think how many other things are also impending! Besides, my foot aches, and my heart, this poor heart, bears a wound which a friend's careful hand will soothe. So you understand, Luis, that the much- tormented Charles can not do without you just now."
Quijada, with sincere emotion, bent over the monarch's hand and kissed it tenderly, but the Emperor, for the first time, hastily stroked his bearded cheek, and said in an agitated tone, "We know each other."
"Yes, your Majesty," cried the Spaniard. "In the first place, I will not again annoy my master with the request for a leave of absence. Dona Magdalena must try how she can accommodate herself to widowhood while she has a living husband, if the Holy Virgin will only permit me to offer your Majesty what you expect from me."
"I will answer for that," the Emperor was saying, when Adrian interrupted him.
The messenger had returned from Prebrunn with the news that the singer had taken cold the day before, and could not leave the house.
Charles angrily exclaimed that he knew what such illness meant, and his under lip protruded so far that it was easy to perceive how deeply this fresh proof of Barbara's defiance and vanity incensed him.
But when the chamberlain said that the singer had been attacked by a violent fever, Charles changed colour, and asked quickly in a tone of sincere anxiety: "And Dr. Mathys? Has he seen her? No? Then he must go to her at once, and I shall expect tidings as soon as he returns. Perhaps the fever was seething in her blood yesterday."
He had no time to make any further remarks about the sufferer, for one visitor followed another.
Shortly before noon the Bishop of Arras ushered in Duke Maurice, who wished to take leave of him.
Granvelle, in a businesslike manner, summed up the result of the negotiations, and Charles made no objection; but after he had said farewell to the Saxon prince, he remarked, with a smile which was difficult to interpret: "One thing more, my dear Prince. The beautiful singer has suffered from the gagliarde, which she had the honour of dancing with you; she is lying ill of a fever. We will, however, scarcely regard it as an evil omen for the agreements which we concluded on the same day. With our custom of keeping our hands away from everything which our friendly ally claims as his right, our alliance, please God, will not fail to have good success."
A faint flush crimsoned the intelligent face of the Saxon duke, and an answer as full of innuendo as the Emperor's address was already hovering on his lips, when the chief equerry's entrance gave him power to restrain it.
Count Lanoi announced that his Highness's travelling escort was ready, and the Emperor, with an air of paternal affection, bade the younger sovereign farewell.
As soon as the door had closed behind Maurice, Charles, turning to Granvelle, remarked, "The Saxon cousin returned our clasp of the hand some what coldly, but the means of rendering it warmer are ready."
"The Elector's hat," replied the Bishop of Arras. "I hope it will prevent him from making our heads hot, as the Germans say, instead of his own."
"If only our brains keep cool," replied the Emperor. "It is needful in dealing with this young man."
"He knows his Machiavelli," added the statesman, "but I think the Florentine did not write wholly in vain for us also."
"Scarcely," observed the Emperor, smiling, and then rang the little bell to have his valet summon Dr. Mathys.
The leech had returned from his visit to Barbara, and feared that the burning fever from which she was suffering might indicate the commencement of inflammation of the lungs.
Charles started up and expressed the desire to be conveyed at once in the litter to Prebrunn; but the physician declared that his Majesty's visit would as certainly harm the feverish girl as going out in such weather would increase the gout in his royal master's foot.
The monarch shrugged his shoulders, and seized the despatches and letters which had arrived. The persons about him suffered severely from his detestable mood, but the dull weather of this gloomy day appeared also to have a bad effect upon the confessor De Soto, for his lofty brow was scarcely less clouded than the sky. He did not allude to Barbara by a single word, yet she was the cause of his depression.
After his conversation with the sovereign he had retired to his private room, to devote himself to the philological studies which he pursued during the greater portion of the day with equal zeal and success. But he had scarcely begun to be absorbed in the new copy of the best manuscript of Apuleius, which had readied him from Florence, and make notes in the first Roman printed work of this author, when Cassian interrupted him.
He had missed the servant in the morning. Now the fellow, always so punctual when he had not gazed too deeply into the wine-cup, stood before him in a singular plight, for he was completely drenched, and a disagreeable odour of liquor exhaled from him. The flaxen hair, which bristled around his head and hung over his broad, ugly face, gave him so unkempt and imbecile an appearance that it was repulsive to the almoner, and he harshly asked where he had been loitering.
But Cassian, confident that his master's indignation would soon change to approval and praise, rapidly began to relate what had occurred outside the little castle at Prebrunn when the festival under the lindens was over.
After helping to place the Wittenberg theologian in custody, he had followed Barbara at some distance during her nocturnal walk. While she waited in front of Dr. Hiltner's house and talked with the members of the syndic's family after their return, he had remained concealed in the shadow of a neighbouring dwelling, and did not move until the doctor had gone away with the singer. He cautiously glided behind them as far as the garden, witnessed the syndic's cordial farewell to his companion, and dogged the former to the Prebrunn jail. Here he had again been obliged to wait patiently a long while before the doctor came out into the open air with the prisoner. The rope had been removed from Erasmus's hands, and Cassian had remained at his heels until he stopped in the village of Kager, on the Nuremberg road. The young man had taken a lunch in the tavern there; the money for it was given him by the syndic. Cassian had seen the gold pieces which had been placed in Erasmus's hand, to pay his travelling expenses, glitter in the rosy light of dawn.
In reply to the almoner's question whether he remembered any portion of the conversation between the syndic and the singer, Cassian admitted that he had been obliged to keep too far away from them to hear it, but Dr. Hiltner's manner to the girl had been very friendly, especially when he took leave of her.
The anything but grateful manner with which the almoner received this story was a great disappointment to the overzealous servant; nay, he secretly permitted himself to doubt his master's wisdom and energy when the latter remarked that the arrest of a man who had merely entered a stranger's garden was entirely unjustifiable, and that he was aware of the singer's acquaintanceship with the Hiltners.
With these words he motioned Cassian to the door.
When the prelate was again alone he gazed thoughtfully into vacancy. He understood human beings sufficiently well to know that Barbara had not deceived him in her confession. In spite of the nocturnal walk with the head of the Ratisbon heretics, she was faithful to the Catholic Church.
Erasmus's visit at night alone gave him cause for reflection, and suggested the doubt whether he might not have interceded too warmly for this peculiar creature and her excitable artist nature.
Silence pervaded the little castle in Prebrunn; nay, there were days when a thick layer of straw in the road showed that within the house lay some one seriously ill, who must be guarded from every sound.
In Ratisbon and the Golden Cross, on the contrary, the noise and bustle constantly increased. On the twenty-eighth of May, King Ferdinand arrived with his family to visit his brother Charles. The Reichstag would be opened on the fifth of June, and attracted to the Danube many princes and nobles, but neither the Elector John of Saxony nor the Landgrave Philip of Hesse, the heads of the Smalcald league. King Ferdinand's two daughters were to be married the first of July, and many a distinguished guest came to Ratisbon in June. Besides, several soldiers began to appear.
The Emperor Charles's hours were filled to the brim with work and social obligations. The twinges of the gout had not wholly disappeared, but remained bearable.
The quiet good-breeding of the two young archduchesses pleased the Emperor, and their young brother Maximilian's active mind and gay, chivalrous nature delighted him, though many a trait made him, as well as the confessor, doubt whether he did not incline more toward the evangelical doctrine than beseemed a son of his illustrious race. But Charles himself, in his youth, had not been a stranger to such leanings. If Maximilian was intrusted with the reins of government, he would perceive in what close and effective union stood the Church and the state. Far from rousing his opposition by reproaches, the shrewd uncle won his affection and merely sowed in his mind, by apt remarks, the seeds which in due time would grow and bear their fruit.
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