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- Barbara Blomberg, Volume 9. - 10/15 -
wrinkled, and his smiling lips now wore a new, disagreeable, almost cruel expression of mockery. He probably recognised his visitor at once, but the meeting seemed scarcely to afford him pleasure. Nevertheless, he listened to her.
But as soon as he heard what she desired, he straightened himself in the saddle, and cried: "When I wished to present you to his Majesty--do you remember?--at Ratisbon, you hastily wheeled your horse and vanished. Now, when you desire to bid farewell to our sovereign lord, I dutifully follow the example you then set me."
As he spoke he put spurs to his horse and, kissing his hand to her, dashed away. Barbara, wounded and disappointed, gazed after the pitiless scoffer.
She had knocked in vain where she might hope for consideration; only the young man of middle height who, carrying a portfolio under his arm, now approached her and raised his black secretary's cap, had been omitted, though he, too, was one of the old Ratisbon friends, and his position with the Bishop of Arras gave him a certain influence.
It was the little Maltese choir boy, Hannibal Melas, who owed so much to her recommendation.
He asked sympathizingly what troubled her and, after Barbara had confided to him what she had hitherto vainly desired, he referred her unasked to his omnipotent master, who was to enter King Philip's service, and proposed that she should come to his office early the next morning. Thence he would try to take her to the minister, who had by no means forgotten her superb singing. His Eminence had mentioned her kindly very recently in a conversation with the leech.
The following morning Barbara went to the great statesman's business offices. Hannibal was waiting for her.
It was on Saint Raphael's day, which had attracted his fellow-clerks to a festival in the country. Granvelle had given the others leave of absence, but wished to keep within call the industrious Maltese, on whose zeal he could always rely.
Without stopping his diligent work at the writing-desk, the secretary begged Barbara to wait a short time. He would soon finish the draught of the new edict for which his Eminence and the Councillor Viglius were waiting in the adjoining chamber. The pictures on the walls of the fourth room were worth looking at.
Barbara followed his advice, but she paused in the third room, for through the partly open door she heard Granvelle's familiar voice.
Curious to see what changes time had wrought, she peered through the by no means narrow crack and overlooked the minister's spacious office, where he was now entirely alone with the Councillor Viglius.
The Bishop of Arras had scarcely altered since their last meeting, only his appearance had become somewhat more stately, and his clever, handsome face was fuller.
The Councillor Viglius, whom Barbara looked directly in the face, did not exactly profit by the contrast with Granvelle, for the small figure of the Frieslander barely reached to the chin of the distinguished native of tipper Burgundy, but his head presented a singular and remarkably vivid colouring. The perfectly smooth hair and thick beard of this no longer young man were saffron yellow, and his plump face was still red and white as milk and blood. It was easy to perceive by his whole extremely striking appearance that he was rightly numbered among the Emperor's shrewdest councillors. Barbara had heard marvellous tales of his learning, and it was really magnificent in compass and far more important than his keen but narrow mind. This time the loquacious man was allowing the Bishop of Arras to speak, and Barbara listened to his words and the councillor's answers with eager attention.
They were talking about the approaching abdication, and who knew the Emperor Charles better than these far-seeing men, who were so near his person?
If only she had not been obliged to believe this, for what she heard from them showed in sombre lines what her heart had clothed with golden radiance.
Everything Wolf had told her concerning the motives which induced Charles to devote himself for the remainder of his life to quiet contemplation seemed to her as credible as to the knight himself. But he had received what he knew from Queen Mary of Hungary, who interpreted her royal brother's conduct like an affectionate sister, or thought it advisable to represent it in the most favourable light.
It had not occurred to the warm-hearted, straightforward Wolf to doubt the royal lady's statement; but Barbara had regarded her friend's explanation of the Emperor's wonderful act of renunciation as she would have gazed at a citadel founded on a rock with towers rising to the clouds, and in imagination had followed to his solitude the world-weary philosopher, the father yearning for the child he had missed so long. But how pitilessly what she heard here overthrew the proud edifice! how cruelly it destroyed what she had deemed worthy of the greatest admiration, what had rendered her happy and reanimated her wishes and her hopes!
The wise Granvelle foresaw how the world would judge his master's abdication, and described it to the Frieslander. It bore a fateful resemblance to the regent's interpretation, her friend's opinion, and her own, and the shrewd Viglius accompanied this narrative with so scornful a laugh that it made her heart ache.
"This is what will be said," concluded the Bishop of Arras, summing up his previous statements, "of the wise scorner of the world upon the throne, who cast aside sceptre and crown in order, as a pious recluse, to secure the salvation of his soul and, like a second Diogenes, to listen to the wealth of his thoughts and investigate the nature of things."
"If only the pure spring from which the Greek dipped water in the hollow of his hand was not changed to a cellar full of fiery wine, his hermit fare to highly seasoned pasties, stuffed partridges, frozen fruit juices, truffled pheasants, and such things! But everybody to his taste! The world will be deceived. Unless you wish to blind yourself, your Eminence, you will admit that I have seen correctly the most powerful motives for this unequalled act."
Barbara saw the bishop shake his head in dissent and, while she was listening with strained ears to his explanation, Viglius, as if singing bass to Granvelle's tenor, repeated again and again at brief intervals, in a low tone, the one word, "Debts," while his green eyes sparkled, sometimes as if asking assent, sometimes combatively.
He believed that the weight of financial cares was causing the Emperor Charles's abdication. Like a wise man, he said, he would place his own burden of debt upon his son's shoulders. His Majesty usually uttered exactly the opposite of his real opinions, and therefore, in the outline of his abdication speech, he twice emphasized how great a debt of gratitude Don Philip owed him for the Heritage which while still alive he bequeathed to him. True, besides the debts, crowns and kingdoms in plenty passed to Charles's successor; but the father, so long as he drew breath, would not give up the decision of the most important questions of government, and therefore this abdication, after all, was merely an excellent means of divesting himself of burdensome obligations, embellished with a certain amount of humbug.
The Bishop of Arras made no weighty protest against this severe speech; nay, he even said, in a tone of assent, that the Emperor Charles's tireless intellect would continue to direct political events. Besides, he could safely commit the execution of his conclusions and commands to his obedient and dutiful heir.
"The world," he added, "will not fare badly by this arrangement; but you, Viglius, can not forget the religious liberty which his Majesty promised to the Germans."
"Not until the end of my life!" cried the Frieslander, his green eyes flashing angrily.
Granvelle protested that this act of indulgence weighed heavily upon him also; but at that time a refusal would have occasioned a new war, which, according to human judgment, would have resulted in loss and the establishment of heresy in the Netherlands. Maurice of Saxony, he reminded the councillor, did not fall until a year later, and then as a conqueror, on the battlefield.
His Majesty's abdication, he went on with calm deliberation, was, however, not exactly as Viglius supposed. The desire to rid himself of troublesome debts had only hastened the Emperor's resolution. The principal motive for this momentous act he could state most positively to be the increasing burden of his physical sufferings. To this was added the feeling, usually found most frequently among gamblers, that the time to win or, in his Majesty's case, to succeed was past. Lastly, Charles really did long for less disturbance from the regular course of business, the reception of ambassadors, the granting of audiences.
"In short," he concluded, "he wants to have an easier life, and, besides, if the despatches and orders leave him time for it, to occupy himself with his favourite amusements--his clocks and pieces of mechanism. Finally, his sufferings remind him often enough of the approach of death, and he hopes by religious exercises to secure his place in the kingdom of heaven."
"So far as politics and the table give him leisure for it," interposed the Frieslander. "He doesn't seem inclined to make his penance too severe. Quijada is now preparing the penitential cell, and it is neither in the burning Thebais nor in the arid sands of the desert, but in one of the most delightful and charming places in Spain. May our sovereign find there what he seeks! You are aware of the paternal joys which await him through the boy Geronimo?"
"Where did you learn that?" Granvelle interrupted in a startled tone, and Barbara held her breath and listened with twofold attention.
"From his Majesty himself," was the reply. "He intended his son for the monastery. He longs to see him again, because he is said to be developing magnificently; but he wished to know whether it would not be safer to remove him from the world before his arrival, for, if necessary, he could give up meeting him. If be should discover his father's identity, it might easily fill him with vanity, and in Villagarcia he was learning to prize knightly achievements above the service of the Most High. It would not do to leave him in the world; unpleasant things might come from it. As King Philip's sole heir was the sickly Don Carlos----"
"His son Geronimo might aspire to the crown," interrupted Granvelle. "He expressed the same doubts to me also. What I heard of the child induced me to plead that he might be allowed to grow up in the world untrammelled. If any one understands how to defend himself against unauthorized demands, it is Don Philip."
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