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- Barbara Blomberg, Volume 9. - 2/15 -
expressed disapproval, he usually omitted to do so, because he dreaded to lessen the favour which she showed him in place of genuine love, and which he needed. Besides, she gave him little cause for displeasure; she did her duty, and strove to render his outward life a pleasant one.
Even after her father had left her she remained a wife who satisfied his heart. He had learned the coolness of her nature in his first attempts to woo her in Ratisbon and, as at that time, he whom the service frequently detained from her for long periods regarded it as a merit.
So he wrote her father letters expressing his gratification, and the replies which the captain sent to Brussels were in a similar tone.
Barbara had obtained for him his own house, for which he had longed. He felt comfortable there, and what he lacked in his home he found at the Red Cock or the Black Bear. An elderly Landshut widow, a relative, acted as his housekeeper and provided in the best possible manner for his comfort.
Whoever met the stately mustering officer alone or arm in arm with his beautiful young wife, whose golden hair had grown out again, must have believed him a happy man; and so he would have been had not some singular habits which Barbara possessed made him uneasy. At first the reveries into which she often sank, and which were so unlike her former self, had been still worse. He did not know that the improvement had taken place since she had discovered her John's abode and been permitted sometimes to see him. Barbara's husband and father supposed that the child which she had given to the Emperor was dead; both had placed this interpretation upon her brief statement that it had been taken from her, and afterward delicacy of feeling prevented any other allusion to this painful subject.
Besides this proneness to reverie, Barbara's husband was sometimes disturbed by the carelessness with which she neglected the most important domestic matters if there was an entertainment or exhibition which the Emperor Charles attended; and, finally, there was something in her manner to the children, whom Pyramus loved above all things, which disturbed, incensed, and wounded him, yet which he felt that neither threats nor stern interposition could change.
He possessed no defence against the reveries except a warning or a jesting word. Delight in brilliant spectacles was doubtless natural to her disposition, and as Pyramus not only loved but esteemed her, it was repugnant to his feelings to watch her. Yet when, nevertheless, he once followed her steps, he had found her, according to her expressed intention, among other women in St. Gudule's Cathedral. Her eyes, which he watched intently, were constantly turned toward the great personages whose presence adorned the festival--the Emperor and Queen Mary of Hungary.
These expeditions were evidently not to meet a lover, yet from that hour he cherished a conviction, mingled with a bitter sense of resentment, that she went to the festivals which his Majesty attended in order to see the man whom she had once loved, and whose image even now she could not wholly efface from her imagination, perhaps also from her heart.
For her manner to the children, on the contrary, he could find no plausible explanation. Her love for them was unmistakable. Yet what was the meaning of the compassionate manner with which she treated them, talked to them, spoke of them, until it nearly drove him frantic? She often treated the healthy, merry older boy as if he was ill and needed comfort, and the pretty infant in the cradle was addressed in the same way.
If he summoned up his courage and openly reproved her, she always answered in general terms, such as: "What do you mean? Are we not all born to suffer?" or, "Shall we envy them because they have entered life to endure pain and to die?"
Not until Pyramus, with sorrowful emotion, entreated her not to speak of the children as if they had been given to them for a punishment and not for a joy, she imposed a certain degree of constraint upon herself and changed her manner of speech; yet the expression of her eyes revealed that she felt no really glad, unconstrained joy in her sons.
Though she denied it, she knew how to explain this manner to herself; for, after her attention had been directed to it, she secretly admitted that the sight of the two dear children who were wholly hers always reminded her of the third who had been taken from her, whom she was permitted to see very rarely, and only in secret, yet who, beside the others, seemed like a young lion beside modest lambs.
She cherished no desire for a new love, though the lukewarm blending of gratitude and good will which she bestowed upon her husband did not even remotely deserve this lofty name.
There was no lack of gallants in Brussels who noticed and were attracted by her, but whoever knew or had heard of Pyramus Kogel avoided interfering with his rights; for he was numbered among the best swordsmen in Brussels, and the air with which the tender-hearted husband wore his long rapier was decidedly threatening.
Besides, Barbara herself also knew how to protect herself against any intrusiveness with haughty sharpness.
To-day she was especially glad that Pyramus was absent on an inspecting tour. She had gratefully enjoyed the meeting with her John. Never had the light of his blue eyes seemed so sunny, his head with its fair curls so angelic in its beauty. His voice, too, had enraptured her by its really bewitching melody. The maternal gift of song would certainly descend to him, and perhaps it was allotted to the Emperor's son to amaze his generation by the presence of hero and singer in one person, like a second King David.
Twilight had already shadowed the paths when she left the Dubois house, and on her way home she saw the Emperor approaching. She had slipped behind a statue as quickly as possible, and he could scarcely have recognised her, for the gloaming had already merged into partial darkness; but the mere thought of having been so near him quickened the pulsation of her heart.
The little gentleman at his side with the stiffly erect bearing and pompous walk was his son Philip, who was now visiting his father in Brussels, and expected to leave in a few days. How insignificant was the figure of the heir of so many crowns! How the brother whom she had given to his imperial father would some day tower above him!
She again imagined all these things in the quiet of her room. The thought of this child cheered her heart, but it contracted again as she remembered the series of bitter humiliations which she had experienced in Brussels. Among the courtiers whom she had known so well in Ratisbon not one vouchsafed her anything more than a passing greeting; and the Queen of Hungary, to whom she would gladly have poured out her heart, had refused her repeated entreaties for an audience.
After the short walk in the park of his palace, during which Barbara had met him in the dusk, the Emperor Charles had dined with his son Philip and the Queen of Hungary. Now he entered his spacious study.
His feet were refusing their support more and more, and the fingers of his right hand, which the gout was now crippling, found it hard to grasp his cane.
He sank back in his arm-chair exhausted, closed his eyes, and laid his hand upon the clever pointed head of the greyhound which lay at his feet.
The short walk and the fiery wine which he had again enjoyed in abundance at dinner had increased the pain from which he was now never free, day or night, and it was some time ere Adrian could succeed in propping his infirm body comfortably.
At last Charles passed his handkerchief across his perspiring brow, and called to the majordomo.
Quijada eagerly approached, and the valet was respectfully leaving the room, but the Emperor's summons stopped him.
"I have something," Charles began, no longer able to maintain complete control over his voice, which was sometimes interrupted by the shortness of breath that had recently attacked him, "to say to you also--"
Here he hesitated, pointed to the window which overlooked the park, then, with a keen glance at the valet's face, continued:
"A ghost wanders about there. I have already seen it several times under the trees. True, it avoided approaching me. What still remains useful in this miserable body! But my eyes are sharp yet, and I recognised the spectre--it is the Ratisbon singer."
"Your Majesty knows," replied Quijada, "what befell her after the birth of the child, and that she is now living here in Brussels; but I was strictly forbidden to mention her name in your Majesty's presence."
"That command closed my lips also," said the valet.
"But what the hearing rejected forced itself upon the sight," remarked Charles, gazing fixedly into vacancy. "Wherever I appear m public I see this woman, always this woman! It is not only the basilisk's eye that has constraining power. I can not help perceiving her, yet I have as little desire to meet her gaze as to encounter vanity, worldly pleasure, folly, sin."
"Then," cried Quijada angrily, "it will be advisable to transfer her husband, who is in your Majesty's service, from here to Andalusia or to the New World."
"As if she would accompany him!" exclaimed the monarch with a scornful laugh. "No, my friend. This woman did not marry for her own pleasure, but to cause me sorrow or indignation. She succeeded, too, to a certain extent; but I do not war with women, least of all with one who is so unhappy. If we send her husband--who, moreover, is a useful fellow-- across the ocean, she will stay here in Brussels, and we shall fare like the maid-servants who killed the cocks, and were then waked by the mistress of the house still earlier than before. Besides, one who earnestly seeks his true salvation will not remove from his path such a living memento, such a walking monitor of past sins and follies; and, finally, this woman is not wholly wrong in deeming herself an unusual person, cruelly as Heaven has destroyed her best gift. On no account-- you hear me--shall she be wounded or injured for my sake so long as she reminds me only by her eyes that in happier days we were closely connected. But to-day the ghost ventured to draw nearer to me than is seemly, and I recognise the object. It entered the park, not on my account, but the boy's--and, Adrian, from your house. I demand the whole truth! Did she find the way to the boy, and was your wife, who is usually a prudent woman, unwise enough to allow her to feast her eyes upon him?"
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