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- Barbara Blomberg, Volume 9. - 4/15 -
Then he reverted to the wish with which he had approached the child's couch. The son, from gratitude, should take upon himself for his father and, if he desired, also for his refractory mother, what both had neglected--the care for their eternal welfare--in prayer and penance.
By consecrating him to Heaven and rearing him for a peaceful existence in God, far from the vain pleasures of the world and the court he had done his best for his son and, as if he feared that the sight of his beautiful, strong boy might shake his resolution, he turned away from him and called Quijada.
While Charles in a fervent, silent prayer commended John to the favour of Heaven, the most faithful of his attendants was gazing at the sovereign's son. Hitherto Heaven had denied him the joy of possessing a child. How he would have clasped this lovely creature to his heart if it had been his! What a pleasure it would have been to transmit everything that was excellent and clever in himself to this child! To devote it to a monastic life was acting against the purpose of the Providence that had dowered it with such strength and beauty.
The Emperor could not, ought not to persist in this intention.
While he was supporting his royal master through the dark park he ventured to repeat what Adrian and his wife had told him of the strength and fearlessness of the little John, and then to remark what rare greatness this boy promised to attain as the son of such a father.
"The highest of all!" replied Charles firmly. "He only is truly great who in his soul feels his own insignificance and deems trivial all the splendour and the highest honours which life can offer; and to this genuine greatness, Luis, I intend to rear this young human plant whose existence is due to weakness and sin."
Quijada again summoned up his courage, and observed:
"Yet, as the son of my august ruler, this child may make claims which are of this world."
"What claims?" cried the Emperor suspiciously. "His birth?--the law gives him none. What earthly possessions may perhaps come to him he will owe solely to my favour, and it would choose for him the only right way. Claims--mark this well, my friend--claims to the many things which will remain of my greatness and power when I have closed my pilgrimage beneath the sun, can be made by one person only--Don Philip, my oldest son and lawful heir."
Not until after he had rested in his study did Charles resume the interrupted conversation, and say:
"It may be that this boy will grow up into a more brilliant personality than my son Philip; but you Castilians and faithful servants of the Holy Church ought to rejoice that Heaven has chosen my lawful son for your king, for he is a thorough Spaniard, and, moreover, cautious, deliberate, industrious, devout, and loyal to duty. True, he knows not how to win love easily, but he possesses other means of maintaining what is his and still awaits him in the future. My pious son will not let the gallows become empty in this land of heretical exaltation. Had the Germans put him in my place, he would have become a gravedigger in their evangelical countries. He never gave me what is called filial affection, not even just now in the parting hour; yet he is an obedient son who understands his father. Instead of a heart, I have found in him other qualities which will render him capable of keeping his heritage in these troubled times and preserving the Holy Church from further injury. If I were weaker than I am, and should rear yonder splendid boy, who charmed you also, Luis, under my own eyes with paternal affection, many an unexpected joy might grow for me; but I still have an immense amount of work to do, and therefore lack time to toy with a child. It is my duty to replace this boy's claims, which I can not recognise, with higher ones, and I will fulfill it."
During this conversation the violinist Massi had been to take leave of Barbara. Pyramus, after a short stay at home, had been obliged to depart again to an inspection in Lowen, and the musician was sorry not to find his friend. He did not know to whom the child that had been intrusted to his care belonged, and, as he had bound himself by a solemn oath to maintain secrecy toward every one, he did not utter a word to Barbara about the boy and the obligations which he had undertaken.
The parting was a sad one to the young wife, for in Massi she lost not only a tried friend, but as it were a portion of her former life. He had been a witness of the fairest days which Fate had granted her; he had heard her sing when she had been justified in feeling proud of her art; and he had been intimate with Wolf Hartschwert, whom she remembered with affectionate interest, though he had only informed her once in a brief letter that he was prospering in Villagarcia and his new position. While with tearful eyes she bade Massi farewell, she gave him messages of remembrance to Wolf; and the violinist, no less agitated than herself, promised to deliver them. He was hopefully anticipating a cheerful evening of life in the midst of his family. Existence had promised Barbara higher things, but she seemed to have found the power to be content. At least he had heard no complaint from her lips, and her husband had often told him of the happiness which he had obtained through her in marriage. So he could leave her without anxiety; but she, even in the hour of parting, was too proud to offer him a glimpse of her desolate life, whose fairest ornaments were memories.
When he left her the young wife felt still poorer than before, and during the sleepless night which in imagination she had spent with her imperial child in the Dubois house, and in the days of splendour and misery at Ratisbon, she determined to clasp once more the hand of her departing friend when he set out with the Infant Philip's train.
Although it was to start early in the morning, she was in the square in ample time, partly because she hoped to see the Emperor in the distance.
The throng that followed Philip really did resemble an army.
Barbara had already often seen the short, slender 'Infant', with his well-formed, fair head and light, pointed beard, who held himself so stiffly erect, and carried his head as high as if he considered no one over whom his glance wandered worthy of so great an honour.
It seemed strange to her, too, how well this man, naturally so insignificant in person, succeeded in giving his small figure the appearance of majestic dignity. But how totally unlike him his father must have looked in his youth! There was something austere, repellent, chilling, in the gaze which, while talking with others, he usually fixed upon the ground, and, in fact, in the whole aspect of the son. How brightly and frankly, on the contrary, his father's eyes, in spite of all his suffering, could sparkle even now! How easy it would be for him to win hearts still!
If he would only come!
But this time he did not accompany his son. Philip was on horseback, but a magnificent empty coach in the procession would receive him as soon as he left Brussels.
He wished to present a gallant appearance in the saddle on his departure, and a more daintily, carefully clad cavalier could scarcely be imagined.
His garments fitted like a glove, and were of faultless fineness. Queen Mary, the regent, rode at his side, and the Brabant nobles, the heads of the Brussels citizens, and his Spanish courtiers formed his retinue. The leaders of the Netherland nobility were figures very unlike in stature and size to Philip; but he could vie in haughty majesty with any of them. Not a limb, not an expression lacked his control a single instant. He desired to display to these very gentlemen in every inch of his person his superior power and grandeur, and especially not to be inferior to them in chivalrous bearing.
To a certain extent he succeeded in doing so; but his aunt, Queen Mary, seemed unwilling to admit it, for just when he showed his arrogant dignity most plainly a smile by no means expressive of reverence hovered around the mouth of the frank royal huntress.
Barbara had soon wearied of gazing at the magnificent garments and horses of these grandees. As Charles did not appear, the only person in the endless procession who attracted her attention was Massi, whom she soon discovered on his insignificant little horse; but he did not heed her eager signals, for he was talking earnestly to the occupant of the large litter borne by two mules that moved beside him.
Barbara tried to force her way to him, and when she succeeded her cheeks suddenly burned hotly, and a swift dread checked her progress; for from the great window of the litter a wonderfully beautiful little head, covered with fair curls, looked forth, and two little arms were extended toward the violinist.
How gleefully this child's eyes sparkled! how his whole little figure seemed instinct with joy and life while gazing at the horseman at the side of the street who was having a hard struggle with his refractory stallion!
No one knew this boy better than she, for it was her own son, the imperial child she had given to the Emperor. At the same time she thought of her other two boys, and her face again wore a compassionate expression. Not they, but this little prince from fairyland was her first-born, her dearest, her true child.
But where were they taking her John? What had Massi to do with him? Why should the boy be in Philip's train?
There was only one explanation. Her child was being conveyed to Spain.
Had the father heard that she had discovered his abode, and did he wish to remove it from the mother whom he hated?
Was it being taken there merely that it might grow up a Castilian?
Did Charles desire to rear it there to the grandeur and splendour for whose sake she had yielded him?
Yet whatever was in view for John, he would be beyond her reach as soon as the ship to which he was being conveyed weighed anchor.
But she would not, could not do without seeing him! The light of day would be darkened for her if she could no longer hope to gaze at least now and then into his blue eyes and to hear the sound of his clear, childish tones.
"This too! this too!" she hissed, as if frantic; and as the guards forced her out of the procession she followed it farther and farther through the heat and dust, as though attracted by some magnetic power.
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