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- Barbara Blomberg, Volume 7. - 6/12 -
The Austrians watched with sincere admiration the actually exhausting industry of the illustrious head of their house, for he allowed himself only a few hours' sleep, and when Granvelle had worked with him until he was wearied, he buried himself, either alone or with some officers of high rank, in charts of the seat of war, in making calculations, arranging the levying of recruits and military movements, and yet did not withdraw from the society of his Viennese relatives and other distinguished guests.
Still, he did not forget Barbara. The leech was daily expected to give a report of her health, and when, during the middle of June, Dr. Mathys expressed doubts of her recovery, it rendered him so anxious that his relatives noticed it, and attributed it to the momentous declaration of war which was on the eve of being made.
When the sufferer at last began to recover, his selfishness was satisfied with the course of events. True, he thought of the late springtime of love which he had enjoyed as an exquisite gift of Fortune, and when he remembered many a tender interview with Barbara a bright smile flitted over his grave countenance. But, on the whole, he was glad that this love affair had come to so honourable an end. The last few weeks had claimed his entire time and strength so rigidly and urgently that he would have been compelled to refuse Barbara's demands upon his love or neglect serious duties.
Besides, a meeting between Barbara and his nephew and young nieces could scarcely have been avoided, and this would have cast a shadow upon the unbounded reverence and admiration paid him by the wholly inexperienced, childlike young archduchesses, which afforded him sincere pleasure. The confessor had taken care to bring this vividly before his mind. While speaking of Barbara with sympathizing compassion, he represented her illness as a fresh token of the divine favour which Heaven so often showed to the Emperor Charles, and laid special stress upon the disadvantages which the longer duration of this love affair-- though in itself, pardonable, nay, even beneficial--would have entailed.
Queen Mary's boy choir was to remain in Ratisbon some time longer, and whenever the monarch attended their performances--which was almost daily- the longing for Barbara awoke with fresh strength. Even in the midst of the most arduous labour he considered the question how it might be possible to keep her near him--not, it is true, as his favourite, but as a singer, and his inventive brain hit upon a successful expedient.
By raising her father to a higher rank, he might probably have had her received by his sister Mary among her ladies in waiting, but then there would always have been an unwelcome temptation existing. If, on the other hand, Barbara would decide to take the veil, an arrangement could easily be made for him to hear her often, and her singing might then marvellously beautify the old age, so full of suffering and destitute of pleasure, that awaited him. He realized more and more distinctly that it was less her rare beauty than the spell of her voice and of her art which had constrained him to this late passion.
The idea that she would refuse to accept the fate to which he had condemned her was incomprehensible to his sense of power, and therefore did not occur to his mind.
Yet, especially when he was bearing pain, he did not find it difficult to silence even this wish for the future, for then memories of the last deeply clouded hours of their love bond forced themselves upon him.
He saw her swinging like a Bacchante in the dance with the young Saxon duke; the star which had been thrown away appeared before his eyes, and his irritated soul commanded him never to see her again.
But the suffering of a person whom we have once loved possesses a reconciling power, and he who usually forgot no insult, even after the lapse of years, was again disposed to forgive her, and reverted to the wish to continue to enjoy her singing.
When, before their wedding day, he gave his nieces the diadems which Jammtzer had made for them, his resentment concerning the ornament sold by Barbara again awoke. He could no longer punish her for this "loveless" deed, as he called it, but he made the marquise feel severely enough his indignation for her abuse of the young girl's inexperience, for, without granting her a farewell audience, he sent her back to Brussels, with letters to Queen Mary expressing his displeasure. Instead of her skilful maid Alphonsine, a clumsy Swabian girl accompanied her--the former had married Cassian.
Barbara heard nothing of all these things; her recovery was slow, and every source of anxiety was kept from her.
She had never been ill before, and to be still at a time when every instinct urged her to battle for her life happiness and her love, to prove the power of her beauty and her art, put her slender stock of patience to the severest test.
During the first few days she was perfectly conscious, and watched with keen suspense what was passing around her. It made her happy to find that Charles sent his own physician to her but, on the other hand, she was deeply and painfully agitated by his failure to grant the entreaty which she sent by Dr. Mathys to let her see his face, even if only for a moment.
Gombert and Appenzelder, Massi, the Wollers from the Ark, Dr. Hiltner's wife and daughter, the boy singer Hannibal, and many gentlemen of the court-nay, even the Bishop of Arras--came to inquire for her, and Barbara had strictly enjoined Frau Lerch to tell her everything that concerned her; for every token of sympathy filled the place, as it were, of the applause to which she was accustomed.
When, on the second day, she heard that old Ursula had been there to ask about her for Wolf, who was now convalescing, she passionately insisted upon seeing her, but, obedient to the physician's orders, Frau Lerch would not admit her. Then Barbara flew into such a rage that the foolish woman forgot to take the fever into account, and determined to return home. Many motives drew her there, but especially her business; day and night her mind was haunted by the garments which, just at this time, before the commencement of the Reichstag, other dressmakers were fashioning for her aristocratic customers.
A certain feeling of shame had restrained her from leaving Barbara directly after the beginning of her illness. Besides, delay had been advisable, because the appearance of the Emperor's physician proved that the monarch's love was not wholly dead. But Barbara's outbreak now came at an opportune time, for yesterday, by the leech's suggestion, and with the express approval of the Emperor, one of the Dominican nuns, Sister Hyacinthe, had come from the Convent of the Holy Cross and, with quiet dignity, assumed her office of nurse beside her charge's sick-bed. This forced Fran Lerch into a position which did not suit her, and as, soon after Barbara's outbreak, Dr. Mathys sternly ordered her to adopt a more quiet and modest bearing, she declared that she would not bear such insult and abuse, hastily packed her property, and returned to the Grieb with a much larger amount of luggage than she had brought with her.
Sister Hyacinthe now ruled alone in the sickroom, and the calm face of the nun, whose cap concealed hair already turning gray, exerted as soothing an influence upon the patient as her low, pleasant voice. She was the daughter of a knightly race, and had taken the veil from a deep inward vocation, as one of the elect who, in following Christ, forget themselves, in order to dedicate to her suffering neighbours all her strength and the great love which filled her heart. They were her world, and her sole pleasure was to satisfy the compassionate impulse in her own breast by severe toil, by tender solicitude, by night watching, and by exertions often continued to actual suffering. Death, into whose face she had looked beside so many sickbeds, was to her a kind friend who held the key of the eternal home where the Divine Bridegroom awaited her.
The events occurring in the world, whether peace reigned or the nations were at war with one another, affected her only so far as they were connected with her patient. Her thoughts and acts, all her love and solicitude, referred solely to the invalid in her care.
The departure of Frau Lerch was a relief to her mind, and it seemed an enigma that Barbara, whose beauty increased her interest, and whom the physician had extolled as a famous singer, could have given her confidence, in her days of health, to this woman.
Sister Hyacinthe's appearance beside her couch had at first perplexed Barbara, because she had not asked for her; but the mere circumstance that her lover had sent her rendered it easy to treat the nun kindly, and the tireless, experienced, and invariably cheerful nurse soon became indispensable.
On the whole, both the leech and Sister Hyacinthe could call Barbara a docile patient, and she often subjected herself to a restraint irksome to her vivacious temperament, because she felt how much gratitude she owed to both.
Not until the fever reached its height did her turbulent nature assert its full power, and the experienced disciple of the art of healing had seen few invalids rave more wildly.
The delusions that tortured her were by no means varied, for all revolved about the person of her imperial lover and her art. But under the most careful nursing her strong constitution resisted even the most violent attacks of the fever, and when June was drawing toward an end all danger seemed over.
Dr. Mathys had already permitted her to sit out of doors, and informed the Emperor that there was no further occasion for fear.
The monarch expressed his gratification but, instead of asking more particularly about the progress of her convalescence, he hastily turned the conversation to his own health.
Dr. Mathys regretted this for the sake of the beautiful neglected creature, who had won his sympathy, but it did not surprise him, for duty after duty now filled every hour of Charles's day. Besides, on the day after to-morrow, the fourth of July, the marriages of his two nieces were to take place, and he himself was to accompany the bridal procession and attend the wedding. On the fifth the Reichstag would be opened, and the Duke of Alba, with several experienced colonels, had arrived as harbingers of the approaching war. Where this stern and tried general appeared, thoughts of war began to stir, and already men equipped with helmets and armour began to be seen in unusual numbers in all the streets and squares of Ratisbon.
The Emperor's room, too, had an altered aspect, for, instead of a few letters and despatches, his writing-table was now covered not only with maps and plans, but lists and tables referring to the condition of his army.
What could the health of a half-convalescent girl now be to the man to whom even his most trusted friend would no longer have dared to mention her as his favourite?
Of course, Dr. Mathys told Barbara nothing about the Emperor's lack of interest, for any strong mental excitement might still be injurious to
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