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- Barbara Blomberg, Volume 8. - 2/11 -
It pleased her most to know that he would be permitted to return sometimes to the Netherlands. When once there, he must seek her out wherever her uncertain destiny had cast her.
When, in saying this, her hoarse voice failed and tears of pain and sorrow filled her eyes, emotion overpowered him also and, after he had again urged her to submit to the will of their imperial master, he tore himself away with a last farewell.
The ardent, long-cherished passion which had brought the young knight full of hope to Ratisbon had changed to compassion. With drooping head, disappointed, and heavily burdened with anxiety for the future of the woman who had exerted so powerful an influence upon his fate, he left the home of his childhood; but Barbara saw him go with the sorrowful fear that, in the rural solitude which awaited him in Spain, her talented friend would lose his art and every loftier aspiration; yet both felt sure that, whatever might be the course of their lives, each would hold a firm place in the other's memory.
A few hours after this farewell Barbara received a letter from the Council, in which Wolf Hartschwert secured to her and her father during their lives the free use of the house which he had inherited in Red Cock Street, with the sole condition of allowing his faithful Ursula to occupy the second story until her death.
The astonished girl at once went to express her thanks for so much kindness; but Wolf had left Ratisbon a short time before, and when Barbara entered the house she found old Ursula at the window with her tear-stained face resting on her clasped hands. When she heard her name called, she raised her little head framed in the big cap, and as soon as she recognised the unexpected visitor she cast so malevolent a glance at her that a shiver ran through the girl's frame.
After a few brief words of greeting, Barbara left the old woman, resolving not to enter the house soon again.
In passing the chapel she could and would not resist its strong power of attraction. With bowed head she entered the quiet little sanctuary, repeated a paternoster, and prayed fervently to the Mother of God to restore the clearness of her voice once more. While doing so, she imagined that the gracious intercessor gazed down upon her sometimes compassionately, sometimes reproachfully, and, in the consciousness of her guilt, she raised her hands, imploring forgiveness, to the friendly, familiar figure.
How tenderly the Christ-child nestled to the pure, exalted mother! Heaven intended to bestow a similar exquisite gift upon her also, and already insolent hands were outstretched to tear it from her. True, she was determined to defend herself bravely, yet her best friend advised her to yield without resistance to this unprecedented demand.
What should she do?
With her brow pressed against the priedieu, she strove to attain calm reflection in the presence of the powerful and gracious Queen of Heaven. If she yielded the child to its cruel father, she would thereby surrender to him the only happiness to which she still possessed a claim; if she succeeded in keeping it for herself, she would deprive it of the favour of the mighty sovereign, who possessed the power to bestow upon it everything which the human heart craves. Should she persist in resistance or yield to the person to whom she had already sacrificed so much the great blessing which had the ability to console her for every other loss, even the most cruel?
Then her refractory heart again rebelled. This was too much; Heaven itself could not require it of her, the divine Mother who, before her eyes, was pressing her child so tenderly to her bosom, least of all. Hers, too, would be a gift of God, and, while repeating this to herself, it seemed as though a voice cried out: "It is the Lord himself who intends to confide this child to you, and if you give it up you deprive it of its mother and rob it--you have learned that yourself--of its best possession. What was given to you to cherish tenderly, you can not confide to another without angering him who bestowed the guerdon upon you."
Just at that moment she thought of the star, her lover's first memento, with which she had parted from weakness, though with a good intention.
The misfortune which she was now enduring had grown out of this lamentable yielding. No! She would not, ought not to allow herself to be robbed of her precious hope. One glance at the Mother and Child put an end to any further consideration.
Comforted and strengthened, she went her way homeward, scarcely noticing that Peter Schlumperger and his sister, whom she met, looked away from her with evident purpose.
That night Barbara dreamed of her father. Birds of prey were attacking his body as it lay upon the ground, and she could not drive them off. The terror with which this spectacle had disturbed her sleep could not be banished during the morning. Now, whatever it cost, she must go to Landshut and hear some tidings of him.
Maestro Gombert would set out for Munich the next day, and in doing so must pass the neighbouring city. If he would carry her with him, she would be safe. He came at twilight to take leave of her, and with genuine pleasure gave her the second seat in his travelling carriage.
Early the following morning the vehicle, drawn by post horses, stopped before the little Prebrunn castle, and Barbara was soon driving with the musician through the pleasant country in the warm August day.
Sister Hyacinthe and Fran Lamperi had tried to prevent her departure by entreaties and remonstrances, for both feared that the long ride might injure her; and, moreover, the latter had been charged by Quijada, in the Emperor's name, to keep her in the castle and, if she left it, to inform him at once by a mounted messenger.
As Barbara could not be detained, Frau Lamperi, though reluctantly, obeyed this command.
Before leaving Prebrunn Barbara had warned Gombert that he would find her a very uninteresting companion, since it was still impossible to talk much; but Gombert would not admit this. To a true friend, the mere presence of the other gives pleasure, even though he should not open his lips.
The girl had become very dear to him, and her presence made time pass swiftly, for the great musician liked to talk and conversed bewitchingly, and he had long since discovered that Barbara was a good listener.
Besides, the motley life on the road attracted his attention as well as his travelling companion's, for the war had begun, and already would have resulted in a great victory for the Smalcalds, at the foot of the Bavarian Alps, had not the Augsburg Military Council prevented the able commander in chief Schartlin von Burtenbach and his gallant lieutenant Schenkwitz from profiting by the advantage won. The way to Italy and Trent, where the Council was in session, was already open to the allied Protestants, but they were forbidden from the green table to follow it. It would have led them through Bavarian territory, and thereby perhaps afforded Duke William, the ruler of the country, occasion to abjure his neutrality and turn openly against the Smalcalds.
The shortsightedness with which the Protestants permitted the Emperor to remain so long in Ratisbon unmolested, and gather troops and munitions of war, Gombert had heard termed actually incomprehensible.
The travellers might expect to find a large force in Landshut, among the rest ten thousand Italians and eight thousand Spaniards. This, the musician explained to his companion, was contrary to the condition of his Majesty's election, which prohibited his bringing foreign soldiers into Germany; but war was a mighty enterprise, which broke even Firmer contracts.
A bitter remark about the man who, even in peace, scorned fidelity and faith, rose to Barbara's lips; but as she knew the warm enthusiasm which Gombert cherished for his imperial master, she controlled herself, and continued to listen while he spoke of the large re-enforcements which Count Buren was leading from the Netherlands.
A long and cruel war might be expected, for, though his Majesty assumed that religion had nothing to do with it, the saying went--here Catholics, here Protestants. The Pope gave his blessing to those who joined Charles's banner, and wherever people had deserted the Church they said that they were taking the field for the pure religion against the unchristian Council and the Romish antichrist.
"But it really can not be a war in behalf of our holy faith," Barbara here eagerly interposed, "for the Duke of Saxony is our ally, and Oh, just look! we must pass there directly."
She pointed as she spoke to a peasant cart just in front of them, whose occupants had been hidden until now by the dust of the road. They were two Protestant clergymen in the easily recognised official costume of their faith--a long, black robe and a white ruff around the neck.
Gombert, too, now looked in surprise at the ecclesiastical gentlemen, and called the commander of the four members of the city guard who escorted his carriage.
The troops marching beside them were the soldiers of the Protestant Margrave Hans von Kustrin who, in spite of his faith, had joined the Emperor, his secular lord, who asserted that he was waging no religious war. The clergymen were the field chaplains of the Protestant bands.
When the travellers had passed the long baggage train, in which women and children filled peasant carts or trudged on foot, and reached the soldiers themselves, they found them well-armed men of sturdy figure.
The Neapolitan regiment, which preceded the Kustrin one, presented an entirely different appearance with its shorter, brown-skinned, light- footed soldiers. Here, too, there was no lack of soldiers' wives and children, and from two of the carts gaily bedizened soldiers' sweethearts waved their hands to the travellers. In front of the regiment were two wagons with racks, filled with priests and monks bearing crosses and church banners, and before them, to escape the dust, a priest of higher rank with his vicar rode on mules decked with gay trappings.
On the way to Eggmuhl the carriage passed other bodies of troops. Here the horses were changed, and now Gombert walked with Barbara in front of the vehicle to "stretch their legs."
A regiment from the Upper Palatinate was encamped outside of the village. The prince to whom it belonged had given it a free ration of wine at the noonday rest, and the soldiers were now lying on the grass with
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