BARBARA BLOMBERG - VOLUME 6.
BARBARA BLOMBERG - VOLUME 6.
After this conversation the two men who in different positions stood
nearest to the Emperor Charles placed no obstacle in Barbara's way.
The third--the Bishop of Arras--also showed a friendly spirit toward the
Emperor's love affair. True he had not been taken into his confidence
but he rarely failed to be present when Barbara sang with the boy choir
or alone in the Golden Cross before the monarch or distinguished
Charles summoned her there almost daily and always at different hours.
This was done to strengthen the courtiers and the citizens of Ratisbon in
the belief that Barbara owed his favour solely to her singing.
Granvelle who appreciated and was interested in music as well as in
painting and sculpture found real pleasure in listening to Barbara
yet while doing so he did not forget that she might be of service to him.
If she only remained on good terms with him she would he was sure of
that whether willing or not be used as his tool.
Spite of his nine-and-twenty years he forbade himself to cherish any
other wishes because he would have regarded it treachery to the royal
master whom he served with faithful devotion. But as he accepted
great gifts without ever allowing himself to be tempted to treason or
forgetfulness of duty so he did not reject little tokens of friendliness
from Barbara and of these she showed no lack. The young Bishop of Arras
was also an extremely fine-looking man whose clever brain and bright
penetrating glance harmonized with his great intellect and his position.
Wolf had already told her how much the monarch regarded the opinion of
The fourth person whose good will had been represented to her as valuable
was the almoner Pedro de Soto; but he who usually understood how to pay
homage to beautiful women in the most delicate manner kept rigidly
True he had placed no obstacle in the way of the late kindling of the
heart of his imperial master but since his servant's report from which
it appeared that Barbara was on friendly terms with heretics and
therefore cherished but a lukewarm devotion to her own faith she was no
longer the same to him. In Spain this would have been enough to deliver
her to the Holy Inquisition. Here however matters were different.
Everywhere he saw the lambs associating with the wolves and the larger
number of the relatives of the Emperor's love had become converts to
heresy. Therefore indulgence was demanded and De Soto would have gladly
been convinced of Barbara's orthodoxy under such difficult circumstances.
But if it proved that the girl not only associated with heretics but
inclined to their error then gentle inaction must be transformed into
inexorable sternness even though the rejuvenating power which she
exerted upon the monarch were tenfold stronger than it doubtless was;
for what danger might threaten the Emperor and Christianity from the
bewitching woman who seemed to love Charles if she undertook to
influence him in favour of the new doctrines which in the eyes
of every earnest Dominican the Emperor treated far too leniently!
He the confessor even knew that Charles considered several demands of
the Protestants to which the Church could never consent entirely
justifiable--nay that he deemed a reformation of the Church by the
council now in session at Trent extremely desirable.
Therefore it was a duty to withhold from him every influence which could
favour these pernicious views and wishes and Pedro de Soto had also been
young and knew only too well what power so beautiful a woman with such
bewitching gifts could exert upon the man whose heart cherishes her.
So immediately after Barbara's entrance into Prebrunn the confessor
adopted his measures. Although the conversation to which he subjected
her had resulted in her favour he had deemed it beneficial to place a
priest who was devoted to him among the ecclesiastics in the little
To surround her with spies chosen from the lay class was repugnant to his
lofty nature. Besides they would have been superfluous; for a short
time before his servant Cassian had asked permission to marry the
marquise's French maid and Alphonsine who was neither young nor pretty
was inclined to all sorts of intrigues. She supplied slow pious
Cassian's deficiencies in the best possible manner. A chance word from
the distinguished prelate had sufficed to make it their duty to watch
Barbara and her visitors.
In Alphonsine's mistress the Marquise de Leria the almoner also
possessed a willing tale-bearer. She had avoided him since his refusal
to commend her ruined son to the favour of his imperial penitent. Now
unasked she had again approached him and her explanation first gave
many an apparently unimportant communication from the servants its real
The atmosphere of the court was her vital air. Even when she had
voluntarily offered to take Barbara under her charge in a secluded house
in the suburb she had been aware how greatly she would miss the presence
of royalty. Yet she would have endured far more difficult things for a
thousand signs betrayed that this time his Majesty's heart had not been
merely superficially touched and Barbara's traits of character made it
appear probable that like many a beauty at the court of Francis I of
France she might obtain an influence over the Emperor. If this
occurred the marquise had found the most powerful tool for the
deliverance of her son.
This hope filled the old noblewoman's heart and brain. It was her last
for the Emperor was the only person who could save the worthless idol of
her soul from ruin and yet when she had grovelled at his knees in her
despair she received an angry repulse and the threat of being instantly
deprived of her position if she ever again attempted to speak to him
about this vexatious matter. She knew only too well that Charles would
keep his word and therefore had already induced every person whom she
believed possessed even a small share of influence over the monarch to
intercede for her but they had been no less sharply rebuffed than
herself; for the sovereign usually so indulgent to the reckless pranks
of the young nobles would not even hear the name of the aristocratic
sharper who was said to have sold the plans of the fortifications to
Charles now loved a woman whom with swift presence of mind she had
bound to herself and what no one else had succeeded in doing Barbara
Therefore the marquise had retired to the solitude which she hated and
hourly humbled herself to cringing flattery of a creature whom on
account of her birth she scorned.
But Barbara was warned and difficult as it often was for her to
withstand the humble entreaties to which the old lady in waiting
frequently condescended persisted in her refusal.
Yet the unhappy mother did not give up hope for as soon as the singer
committed any act which she was obliged to conceal she could obtain power
over her. So she kept her eyes open and whenever the Emperor sought the
young girl and was alone with her she stole into the garden and peered
through the badly fitting window shutters into the lighted room which was
the scene of the happiness of the ill-matched lovers.
What she overheard however only increased the feeling of powerlessness
against the hated creature whom she so urgently needed; for the
tenderness which Charles showed Barbara was so great that it not only
filled the marquise with surprise and bitter envy but also awakened the
conviction that it must be a small matter for the singer to obtain from
so ardent a lover far greater things than she had asked.
So she continued to watch and listen unweariedly day after day and
evening after evening but always in vain. She had not the most trivial
thing for which Barbara could be seriously reproached to report to the
confessor; yet De Soto desired nothing better for Barbara still exerted
an extremely favourable influence upon the Emperor's mood. Therefore it
vexed him that Cassian informed him of many things which prevented his
relying firmly upon her orthodoxy.
At any rate there were Protestants among her visitors and
unfortunately they included Herr Peter Schlumperger whom De Soto knew
as an active promoter of the apostasy of the Ratisbon burghers. He had
called upon her the second day after her arrival and remained a long time
but it is true had not appeared again. With the others also she held
no regular intercourse--nay she scarcely seemed to enjoy their visits.
Thus the daughters of the Woller family from the Ark who had appeared
one afternoon had been detained only a little longer by her than other
Protestant matrons and maidens.
All this was scarcely sufficient to foster his anxiety; but Cassian
reported one visit with which the case was different. Barbara had not
only received this guest alone but she had kept him more than an hour
and the servant could swear that the young man to whom she sang long
songs--which it is true sounded like church music--to the lute and also
to the harp was Erasmus Eckhart the adopted son of the archtraitor
Dr. Hiltner who had just obtained the degree of Master of Arts in
Wittenberg. This seemed suspicious and induced De Soto to investigate
the matter thoroughly.
Erasmus had come in the morning at a time when the Emperor never visited
Barbara. Nothing remarkable had taken place during their interview but
Cassian had heard her dismiss him with a warning which even to a less
distrustful person would have seemed suspicious. Why had she assured
the Wittenberg theologian as she extended her hand to him in farewell
that what he offered her had given her great pleasure and she would
gladly invite him to bring her similar things often but must deny
herself this gratification from motives which he could imagine? His
urgent entreaty at least to be permitted to call on her sometimes she had
curtly and positively refused but the Wittenberg heretic did not allow
himself to be rebuffed for Cassian had seen him several times in the
neighbourhood of the castle.
There was as little cause to object to the visits paid to her by Gombert
Appenzelder Damian Feys occasionally some noblemen or guests of the
court and once even by no less a personage than the Bishop of Arras as
to the rides she took every afternoon; for the latter were always under
the charge of Herr de Fours an old equerry of the Emperor and in the
company of several courtiers among whom Baron Malfalconnet was often
included. A number of gay young pages always belonged to this brilliant
cavalcade whose number never lacked the handsome sixteen-year-old Count
Tassis who spent his whole large stock of pocket money in flowers which
he sent every morning to Barbara.
The confessor was glad to hear that the estimable violinist Massi
frequently visited the girl for he was firm in the faith and that he
brought her tidings of the sorely wounded Sir Wolf Hartschwert could only
be beneficial for perhaps he warned her of the seriousness of life and
that there were other things here below than the joy of love jest and
laughter. The almoner's doubt of Wolf's orthodoxy had been entirely
dispelled by his confession. Men do not deceive in the presence of
It would have been a genuine boon had Barbara selected him to open her
heart to him in the confessional for her relation to the wounded man
rendered it difficult for him to trust her entirely.
Wolf's thoughts in his fever constantly dwelt upon her and he sometimes
accused her of the basest treachery sometimes coupled her name with
Malfalconnet's sometimes with Luis Quijada's. The Emperor's on the
contrary he had not mentioned.
He must love Barbara with ardent passion and she too still seemed
warmly attached to him for to see him again she had bravely exposed
herself to serious danger.
Eye and ear witnesses had reported that notwithstanding his Majesty's
positive orders to avoid her old home she had entered the house and the
knight's apartments knelt beside his couch and even kissed his weak
burning hand with tender devotion.
But though she still retained a portion of her former affection for Wolf
Hartschwert she loved the Emperor Charles with passionate fervour. Even
the marquise did not venture to doubt this. Often as she had watched the
meetings of the lovers she had marvelled at the youthful ardour of the
monarch the joyous excitement with which Barbara awaited him and her
sorrowful depression when he left her. During the first week the old
noblewoman thought that she had never met a happier pair. The almoner
deemed it unworthy of him to listen to a report of the caresses which
she scornfully mentioned.
The time even came when he no longer needed confirmation from others and
forbade himself to doubt Barbara's fidelity to her religion; for at the
end of the first week in Prebrunn she had desired to ask a servant of the
Church what she must do to make herself worthy of such abundance of the
highest happiness and to atone for the sin she was committing through
In doing so she had opened her heart to the confessor with childlike
frankness and what De Soto heard on this occasion sincerely delighted
him and endeared to him this thoroughly sound beautiful creature
overmastered by a first great passion. He believed her and indignantly
rejected what the spies afterward brought to him.
Yet he did not close his ears to the marquise when in her clever
entertaining way she told him what against her will she had overheard
in consequence of the careless construction of the little castle built
only for a summer residence or had seen during a walk in the garden when
the shutters through forgetfulness had not been closed.
How should he not have heard gladly that the monarch at every interview
with Barbara listened to her singing with special pleasure?
At first she chose grave usually even religious songs and among them
Charles's favourite was the "Quia amore langueo."
To listen to these deeply felt tones of yearning always seemed to possess
a fresh charm for him.
The singer understood how to produce a new effect each time by means of
wonderful gradations of expression in the comprehension and execution.
Once she had also succeeded in cheering her lover with Perissone Cambio's
merry singing lesson on the 'ut re mi fa sol' and again with Willaert's
laughing song "Sempre mi ridesta."
Two days later there had again been a great deal of laughing because
Barbara undertook to sing to his Majesty another almost recklessly merry
song by the same composer. The marquise knew it and declared that
Barbara's style and voice did not suit such things. She admitted that
her execution of serious especially religious and solemn compositions
was not amiss--nay often it was wonderfully fine--but in such secular
tunes her real nature appeared too plainly and the skilful singer
became a Bacchante.
It had been a sorry pleasure to her to watch the boisterous manner and
singing of this creature who had been far too highly favoured by the
caprice of Fortune.
These reckless songs unless she was mistaken had also been by no means
pleasing to his Majesty. The light had fallen directly upon his face
just as she happened to glance up at the house from under the group of
lindens and she had distinctly seen him angrily thrust out his lower
lip which every one near his person knew was a sign of extreme
But the girl had gone beyond all bounds. Old as she was she could not
help blushing at the mere thought of it. In her reckless mood she had
probably forgotten that she had drawn her imperial lover into her
net by arts of an entirely different nature. The almoner listened
incredulously for in his youth the Emperor Charles had joined in the
wildest songs of the soldiery and had well understood on certain
occasions how to be merry with the merry laugh and carouse in a Flemish
tavern. After the confession the almoner heard things to which he would
gladly have shut his ears though they proved that the time which the
marquise had spent at the French court had benefited her powers of
Three days before the Emperor for the first time had seriously found
fault with Barbara.
It had been impossible for the lady in waiting to discover the cause; but
what she knew certainly was that her lover's censure had roused the girl
to vehement contradiction and that his Majesty after a sharp reply had
been on the point of leaving her. True the reckless beauty had repented
her imprudent outburst of wrath speedily enough and had understood how
to conciliate the far too indulgent sovereign by such humility and such
sweet tenderness that he probably must have forgiven her--at least the
farewell had been as affectionate as ever.
Nevertheless on the following evening for the first time he did not
come to the castle and the marquise had feared that the Emperor might
now withdraw his favour from Barbara which would have been too soon for
her own wishes.
But yesterday evening after sunset the dark litter to the old
noblewoman's relief had again stopped behind the garden gate and the
pleasure of having her lover again had so deeply overjoyed Barbara that
he too was infected by her radiant delight.
Then in the midst of the most tender caresses he had been summoned out
of the room and when he returned with frowning brow the marquise had
witnessed at least the commencement of a scene which seemed to justify
her opinion that his Majesty: would have no taste for Barbara's utter
freedom from restraint and gay secular songs.
Unfortunately she had been prematurely driven from her post of
observation; but she had seen the Emperor come in and Barbara without
noticing his altered expression or rather probably to cheer him by
something especially merry gaily began Baldassare Donati's superb
dancing-master's song "Qui la gagliarda vuol imparare" at the same time
in the merriest most graceful manner imitating the movements of the
But Charles soon interrupted her sharply requesting her to sing
something else or cease entirely for that day.
Startled she again asked forgiveness and then pleaded in justification
the universally acknowledged beauty of this charming song which Maestro
Gombert also admired; but the Emperor flew into a passion and cut her
short with the loud remark that he was not in the habit of having his own
judgment corrected by the opinion of others. The jest did all honour to
the skill and merry mood of the composer but the contrary might be said
of the singer who ventured to sing it to a person in whom it could awaken
only bitter feelings.
But when so painfully surprised that her eyes filled with tears she
confessed that her selection perhaps had not been very appropriate and
sadly added the inquiry why her beloved sovereign condemned a trivial
offence so harshly he wrathfully exclaimed "For more than one reason."
Then rising he paced the room several times with a somewhat limping
gait saying in so loud a tone that it could be distinctly heard in the
dark sultry garden: "Because it shows little delicacy of feeling when
the man who is satiated tells the starving one of the dainty meal which
he has just eaten; because--because I call it shameful for a person who
can see to tell one who is blind of the pleasure he derives from the
splendid colours of gay flowers; because I expect from the woman whom I
honour with my love more consideration for me and what shadows my life.
Because"--and here he raised his voice still more angrily--"I demand from
any one united to me the Emperor by whatever bond----"
The marquise had been unable to hear more of the monarch's violent
attack for the messenger who had just brought the unwelcome news--it was
Adrian Dubois--had not only passed her but ventured to call to her and
remark that she would be wise to go into the house--a thunderstorm was
rising. He was not afraid of the rain and would wait there for his
So the listener did not hear how the incensed monarch continued with the
demand that the woman he loved should neither tell him falsehoods nor
Until then Barbara had listened silent and pale biting her trembling
lips in order to adhere to her resolve to submit without reply to
whatever Charles's terrible irritability inflicted upon her. But he must
have noticed what was passing in her mind for he suddenly paused in his
walk and abruptly standing before her gazed full into her face
exclaiming: "It is not you who are offended but I the sovereign whom
you say you love. Day before yesterday I forbade you to go to the
musician in Red Cock Street yet you were with him to-day. I asked you
just now whether you had obeyed me and with smiling lips you assented."
Barbara was already prepared with an answer in harmony with the sharpness
of the attack yet her lover's reproof was well founded.
When he had left the room shortly before he must have been informed that
in defiance of his explicit command she had gone to the knight's house
But no one had ever charged her with lack of courage. Why had she not
dared to confess the fault which from a good and certainly pardonable
impulse she had committed?
Was she not free or when had she placed herself under obligation to
render blind obedience to her lover?
But the falsehood!
How severely she must perhaps atone for it this time!
Yet the esteem the love of the man to whom her heart clung whom she
worshipped with all the fervour of her passionate soul might be at
stake and when he now seized his hat to withdraw she barred his way.
Sobbing aloud she threw herself at his feet confessed that she was
guilty and remorsefully admitted that fear of his resentment which
seemed to her more terrible than death had induced her to deny what
she had done. She could hate herself for it. Nothing could palliate
the departure from the path of truth but her disobedience might perhaps
appear to him in a milder light if he learned what had induced her to
Charles still in an angry imperious tone ordered her to rise. She
silently obeyed and when he threw himself on the divan she timidly sat
down by his side turning toward him her troubled face which for the
first time he saw wet with tears.
Yet a hopeful smile brightened her moist eyes for she felt that since
he permitted her to remain at his side all might yet be well.
Then she timidly took his hand and as he permitted it she held it
firmly while she explained what ties had bound her to Wolf from
She represented herself as the sisterly counsellor of the friend who had
grown up in the same house with her. Music and the Catholic religion in
the midst of a city which had fallen into the Protestant heresy had been
the bond between them. After his return home he had probably been unable
to help falling in love with her but so truly as she hoped for Heaven's
mercy she had kept her heart closed against Cupid until he the Emperor
had approached in order like that other Caesar to come to see and to
conquer. But she was only a woman and pity in a woman's soft heart was