Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Barbara Blomberg — Volume 07
Author: Ebers, Georg
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Barbara Blomberg — Volume 07" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



BARBARA BLOMBERG

By Georg Ebers

Volume 7.


CHAPTER I.

Through the storm, which lashed her face with whirling clouds of dust and
drops of rain, Barbara reached the little Prebrunn castle.

The marquise had not yet left her litter.  The wind had extinguished two
of the torches.  One bearer walked in front of Barbara with his, and the
gale blew the smoking flame aside.  But, ere she had reached the gate,
a man who had been concealed behind the old elm by the path stepped
forward to meet her.  She started back and, as he called her by name, she
recognised the young Wittenberg theologian, Erasmus Eckhart.  Sincerely
indignant, she ordered him to go away at once, but her first words were
interrupted by the shrill voice of the marquise, who had now left her
litter, and with loud shrieks ordered the steward to seize the burglar.

Erasmus, however, trusted to his strength and nimbleness and, instead of
promptly taking flight, entreated Barbara to listen to him a moment.  Not
until, far from allowing herself to be softened, she, too, threatened
him, did he attempt to escape, but both litters were in his way, and when
he had successfully passed around them the gardener, suddenly emerging
from the darkness, seized him.  But the sturdy young fellow knew how to
defend his liberty, and had already released himself from his assailant
when other servants grasped him.

Above the roar of the storm now rose the shrieks of the marquise, the
shouts of "Stop thief!" from the men, and Erasmus's protestations that he
was no robber, coupled with an appeal to Jungfrau Blomberg, who knew him.

Barbara now stated that he was the son of a respectable family, and had
by no means come here to steal the property of others; but the marquise,
though she probably correctly interpreted the handsome young fellow's
late visit, vehemently insisted upon his arrest.  She treated Barbara's
remonstrance with bitter contempt; and when Cassian, the almoner's
servant, appeared and declared that he had already caught this rascal
more than once strolling in a suspicious manner near the castle, and that
he himself was here so late only because his beloved bride, in her
mistress's absence, was afraid of the robber and his companions,
Barbara's entreaties and commands were disregarded, and Erasmus's hands
were bound.

By degrees the noise drew most of the inmates of the castle out of doors,
and among them Frau Lerch.  Lastly, several halberdiers, who were coming
from the Lindenplatz and had heard the screams in the garden, appeared,
chained the prisoner, and took him to the Prebrunn jail.

But scarcely had Erasmus been led away when the priests of the household
also came out and asked what had happened.  In doing this Barbara's
caution in not calling Erasmus by name proved to have been futile, for
Cassian had recognised him, and told the ecclesiastics what he knew.
The chaplain then asserted that, as the property of the Prince Abbot
of Berchtesgaden, the house and garden were under ecclesiastical
jurisdiction, and committed the further disposal of the burglar's fate
to the Dominican whom the almoner had placed there.  For the present he
might remain in secular custody.  Early the following morning he must be
brought before the Spanish Dominicans who had come with the Emperor, and
from whom greater severity might be expected than from the Ratisbon
brotherhood, by whom monastic discipline had been greatly relaxed.

Meanwhile the wind had subsided, and the storm had burst with thunder,
lightning, and torrents of rain.  Priests and laymen retreated into the
house, and so did Barbara and the marquise.  The latter had exposed
herself to the tempest only long enough to emphasize the necessity of
delivering the heretical night-bird to the Spanish Dominicans very early
the next morning, and to show Barbara that she did not overlook the
significance of the incidents under the lindens.  With a disagreeable
blending of tenderness and malice, she congratulated the young girl on
the applause she had received as a dancer, the special favour which she
had enjoyed from the Duke of Saxony, and the arrest of the dangerous
burglar, which would also be a gratification to his Majesty.

With these words the old aristocrat, coughing slightly, tripped up the
stairs; but Barbara, without vouchsafing an answer to this speech, whose
purpose she clearly understood, turned her back upon her and went to her
own room.

She had desired no gift in return when, to save this contemptible woman's
son and his child, she sacrificed her lover's precious memento; but the
base reward for the kind deed added a burning sense of pain to the
other sorrows which the day had brought.  What a shameful crime was
ingratitude!  None could be equally hateful to eternal justice, for--she
now learned it by her own experience--ingratitude repaid kindness with
evil instead of with good, and paralyzed the disappointed benefactor's
will to perform another generous deed.

When she entered her sleeping-room the courage which she had summoned
during the walk, and the hope to which she had yielded, appeared to be
scattered and blown away as if by a gust of wind.  Besides, she could not
conceal from herself that she had drawn the nails from the planks of her
wrecked ship of life with her own hand.

Did it not seem as if she had intentionally done precisely what she ought
most studiously to have left undone?  Her sale of the star had been only
an unfortunate act of weakness, but the dance, the luckless dance!  Not
once only, several times Charles had stated plainly enough how unpleasant
it was to him even to hear the amusement mentioned.  She had behaved as
if she desired to forfeit his favour.

And why, in Heaven's name, why?  To arouse his jealousy?

Fool that she was!  This plant took root only in a heart filled with love

And his?

Because she perceived that his love was dying, she had awakened this
fatal passion.  Was it not as if she had expected to make a water-lily
blossom in the sands of the desert?

True, still another motive had urged her to this mad act.  She knew not
what name to give it, yet it was only too possible that, in spite of her
recent experiences, it might overpower her again on the morrow.

Surprised at herself, she struck her brow with her hand, and when Frau
Lerch, who was just combing her wet hair, perceived it, she sobbed
aloud, exclaiming: "Poor, poor young gentleman, and the Hiltners, who
love him as if he were their own son!  Such a terrible misfortune!  Old
fool that I am!  The first time he asked admittance to show you the
tablature, and you did not want to receive him, I persuaded you to do so.
Then he fared like all the others whose heads you have turned with your
singing.  Holy Virgin!  If the Hiltners learn that you and I let him be
bound without making any real protest.  It will fall heaviest upon me;
you can believe that, for Fran Hiltner and Jungfrau Martina, since the
young girl has gone to dances, have been among my best customers.  Now
they will say: Frau Lerch, who used to be a good little woman, left the
young fellow in the lurch when his life was at stake, for they will take
him to the Spanish Dominicans.  They belong, to the Holy Inquisition, and
think no more of burning people at the stake than we do of a few days in
prison."

Here Barbara interrupted her with the remark that Erasmus could be
convicted of no crime, and the Holy Inquisition had no authority in
Ratisbon.

But Frau Lerch knew better.  That was all very well during the Emperor's
absence, but now that his Majesty resided in the city the case was
different.  Erasmus had been arrested on ecclesiastical ground, the
chaplain had ordered him to be delivered to the Spaniards early the next
morning and, ere the syndic could interpose, the rope would already be
twisted for him, for with these gentlemen the executioner stood close
beside the judge.  Besides, she had heard of a pamphlet against the Pope,
which the young theologian had had published, that had aroused great
indignation among the priesthood.  If he fell into the hands of the
Dominicans, he would be lost, as surely as she hoped to be saved.  If he
were only in the custody of the city, of course a better result might be
hoped.

Here she stopped with a shriek, dropping the comb, for the thundercloud
was now directly over the city, and a loud peal, following close upon the
flash of lightning, shook the house; but Barbara scarcely heeded the
dazzling glare and the rattling panes.

She had risen with a face as white as death.  She knew what severe
sentences could be pronounced by the Council of the Inquisition, and the
thought that the keenest suffering should be inflicted upon the Hiltners
through her, to whom they had showed so much kindness, seemed
unendurable.  Besides, what she had just said to herself concerning
ingratitude returned to her mind.

And then, Inquisition and the rack were two ideas which could scarcely be
separated from one another.  What might not be extorted from the accused
by the torture!  In any case, the almoner's suspicion would obtain fresh
nourishment, and her lover had told her more than once--what a special
dislike he felt for women who, with their slender intelligence, undertook
to set themselves above the eternal truths of the Holy Church.  And the
jealousy which, fool that she was, she had desired to arouse in her
lover, what abundant nourishment it would derive from the events which
had occurred on her return from the festival!

But even these grave fears were overshadowed by the thought of Dr.
Hiltner's wife and daughter.  With what fair-mindedness the former in the
Convivium had made her cause her own, how touching had been Martina's
effort to approach her, and how ill that very day she had requited their
loyal affection!  Erasmus was as dear as a beloved son to these good
women, and Frau Lerch's reproach that her intercession for him was but
lukewarm had not been wholly groundless.  The next day these friends who,
notwithstanding the difference in their religious belief, had treated her
more kindly than any one in Ratisbon, would hear this and condemn her.
That should not be!  She would not suffer them to think of her as she did
of the shameless old woman whose footsteps she still heard over her head.

She must not remain idly here, and what her impetuous nature so
passionately demanded must be carried into execution, though reason and
the loud uproar of the raging storm opposed it.

Fran Lerch had just finished arranging her hair and handed her her night-
coif, when she started up and, with the obstinate positiveness
characteristic of her, declared that she was going at once to the
Hiltners to inform the syndic of what had happened here.  Erasmus was
still in the hands of the town guards, and perhaps it would be possible
for the former to withdraw the prisoner from ecclesiastical jurisdiction.

Frau Lerch clasped her hands in horror, exclaiming: "Holy Virgin, child!
Have you gone crazy?  Go out in this weather?  Whoever is not killed by
lightning will drown in the puddles."

But with that violent peal of thunder the storm had reached its height,
and when the next flash of lightning came the thunder did not follow
until some time after, though the rain continued to beat as heavily
against the panes.  Yet even had the tempest continued to rage with full
fury, Barbara would not have been dissuaded from the resolution which she
had once formed.

True, her attempt to persuade Frau Lerch to accompany her remained
futile.  Her frail body, the dressmaker protested, was not able to
undertake such a walk through the storm.  If she yielded, it would be her
death.  It would kill Barbara, also, and this crazy venture would be too
dearly paid for at the cost of two human lives.

Barbara's angry remark that if she would not run the risk of getting wet
for the sake of compassion, she might on account of the Hiltners' good
custom, finally made the excited woman burst into piteous crying; yet in
the midst of it she brought Barbara's dress and old thick cloak and, as
she put them on the girl, exclaimed, "But I tell you, child, you'll turn
back again when you get halfway there, and all you bring home will be a
bad illness."

"Whoever can execute the gagliarde to dance herself into misery," replied
Barbara impatiently, "will not find it difficult to take a walk through
the rain to save some one else from misfortune.  The cloak!"

"She will go," sobbed Frau Lerch.  "The servants must still obey you.  At
least order the litter.  This crazy night pilgrimage can not remain
concealed."

"Then let people talk about it," replied Barbara firmly and, after having
the cloak clasped and the hood drawn over her head, she went out.  Frau
Lerch, who had the key, opened the door for her amid loud lamentations
and muttered curses; but when the girl had vanished in the darkness, she
turned back, saying fiercely through her set teeth: "Rush on to ruin, you
headstrong creature!  If I see aright, the magnificence here is already
tottering.  Go and get wet!  I've made my profit, and the two unfinished
gowns can be added to the account.  The Lord is my witness that I meant
well.  But will she ever do what sensible people advise?  Always running
her head against the wall.  Whoever will not hear, must feel."

She hastened back into the house as she spoke to escape the pouring rain,
but Barbara paid little heed to the wet, and waded on through the mire of
the road.

The force of the storm was broken, the wind had subsided, distant flashes
of lightning still illumined the northern horizon, and the night air was
stiflingly sultry.  No one appeared in the road, and yet some belated
pedestrian might run against her at any moment, for the dense darkness
shrouded even the nearest objects.  But she knew the way, and had
determined to follow the Danube and go along the woodlands to the
tanner's pit, whence the Hiltner house was easily reached.  In this way
she could pass around the gate, which otherwise she would have been
obliged to have opened.

But ere gaining the river she was to learn that she had undertaken a more
difficult task than she expected.  Her father had never allowed her to go
out after dark, unaccompanied, even in the neighbourhood, and the terrors
of night show their most hideous faces to those who are burdened by
anxious cares.  Several times she sank so deep into the mud that her shoe
stuck fast in it, and she was obliged to force it on again with much
difficulty.  As she walked on and a strange, noise reached her from the
woodyard on her left, when she constantly imagined that she heard another
step following hers like an audible shadow, when drunken raftsmen came
toward her, hoarsely singing an obscene song, she pressed against a fence
in order not to be seen by the dissolute fellows.  But now a light came
wavering toward her, looking like a shining bird flying slowly, or a
hell-hound, with glowing eyes, and at the sight it seemed to her
impossible to wander on all alone.  But the mysterious light proved to be
only a lantern in the hand of an old woman who had been to fetch a
doctor, so she summoned up fresh courage, though she told herself that
here near the lumber yards she might easily encounter raftsmen and guards
watching the logs and planks piled on the banks of the river, fishermen,
and sailors.  Already she heard the rushing of the swollen Danube, and
horrible tales returned to her memory of hapless girls who had flung
themselves into the waves here to put an end to lives clouded by disgrace
and fear.

Then a shiver ran through her, and she asked herself what her father
would say if he could see her wading alone through the water.  Perhaps
the fatigues of the long journey had thrown him upon a sick-bed; perhaps
he had even--at the fear she felt as though her heart would stop beating
--succumbed to them.  Then he knew how matters stood with her, the sin
she had committed, and the shame she had brought upon him that she might
enjoy undisturbed a happiness which was already changing into bitter
sorrow.  Meanwhile it seemed as if she was gazing into his rugged,
soldierly face, reddish-brown, with rolling eyes, as it looked when
disfigured by anger, and she raised her hands as if to hold him back; but
only for a few minutes, for she perceived that her excited imagination
was terrifying her with a delusion.

Drawing a long breath, she pushed her dank hair back into her hood and
pressed her hand upon her heart.  Then she was calm a while, but a new
terror set it throbbing again.  Close beside her--this time at her right
--the loud laughter of men's harsh voices echoed through the darkness.

Barbara involuntarily stopped, and when she collected her thoughts and
looked around her, her features, distorted by anxiety and terror,
smoothed again, and she instantly knocked with her little clinched hand
upon the door of the hut from whose open windows the laughter had issued.

It stood close to the river bank, and the tiny dwelling belonged to
the Prior of Berchtesgaden's fisherman and boatman, who kept the
distinguished prelate's gondolas and boats in order, and acted as rower
to the occupants of the little Prebrunn castle.  She had often met this
man when he brought fish for the kitchen, and he had gone with the boats
in the water excursions which she had sometimes taken with Gombert and
Appenzelder or with Malfalconnet and several pages.  She had treated him
kindly, and made him generous gifts.

All was still in the house after her knock, but almost instantly the deep
voice of the fisherman Valentin, who had thrust his bearded face and red
head out of the window, asked who was there.

The answer received an astonished "Can it be!" But as soon as she
informed him that she needed a companion, he shouted something to the
others, put on his fisherman's cap, stepped to Barbara's side, and led
the way with a lantern which stood lighted on the table.

The road was so softened that, in spite of the light which fell on the
ground, it was impossible to avoid the pools and muddy places.  But the
girl had become accustomed to the wet and the wading.  Besides, the
presence of her companion relieved her from the terrors with which the
darkness and the solitude had tortured her.  Instead of watching for new
dangers, she listened while Valentin explained how it happened that she
found him still awake.  He had helped hang the banners and lamps tinder
the lindens, and when the storm arose he assisted in removing the best
pieces.  In return a jug of wine, with some bread and sausages, had been
given to him, and he had just begun to enjoy them with two comrades.

The Hiltner house was soon reached.  Nothing had troubled Barbara during
the nocturnal walk since the fisherman had accompanied her.

Her heart was lighter as she rapped with the knocker on the syndic's
door; but, although she repeated the summons several times, not a sound
was heard in the silent house.

Valentin had seen the Hiltners' two men-servants with the litters under
the lindens, and Barbara thought that perhaps the maids might have gone
to the scene of the festival to carry headkerchiefs and cloaks to the
ladies before the outbreak of the storm.  That the deaf old grandmother
did not hear her was easily understood.

The Hiltners could not have returned, so she must wait.

First she paced impatiently to and fro in the rain, then sat upon a
curbstone which seemed to be protected from the shower by the roof.  But
ever and anon a larger stream of water poured down upon her from the jaws
of a hideous monster in which the gutter ended than from the black
clouds, and, dripping wet, she at last leaned against the door, which was
better shielded by the projecting lintel, while the fisherman inquired
about the absent occupants of the house.

Thus minute after minute passed until the first and then the second
quarter of an hour ended.  When the third commenced, Barbara thought she
had waited there half the night.  The rain began to lessen, it is true,
but the sultry night grew cooler, and a slight chill increased her
discomfort.

Yet she did not move from the spot.  Here, in front of the house in
which estimable women had taken her to their hearts with such maternal
and sisterly affection, Barbara had plainly perceived that she, who had
never ceased to respect herself, would forever rob herself of this right
if she did not make every effort in her power to save Erasmus from the
grave peril in which he had become involved on her account.  During this
self-inspection she did not conceal from herself that, while singing his
own compositions to him, she had yielded to the unfortunate habit of
promising more with her eyes than she intended to perform.  How could
this vain, foolish sport have pleased her after she had yielded herself,
soul and body, to the highest and greatest of men!

Anne Mirl Woller had often been reproved by her mother, in her presence,
for her freedom of manner.  But who had ever addressed such a warning to
her?  Now she must atone for her heedlessness, like many other things
which her impetuous will demanded and proved stronger than the reason
which forbade it.  It was a wonder that Baron Malfalconnet and Maestro
Gombert had not sued more urgently for her favour.  If she was honest,
she could not help admitting that her lover--and such a lover!--was
justified in wishing many things in her totally different.  But she was
warned now, and henceforth these follies should be over--wholly and
entirely over!

If only he would refrain from wounding her with that irritating
sharpness, which made her rebellious blood boil and clouded her clear
brain!  He was indeed the Emperor, to whom reverence was due; but during
the happy hours which tenderly united them he himself desired to be
nothing but the man to whom the heart of the woman he loved belonged.
She must keep herself worthy of him, nothing more, and this toilsome
errand would prevent her from sullying herself with an ugly sin.

During these reflections the chill had become more and more unendurable,
yet she thought far less of the discomfort which it caused her than of
increased danger to Erasmus from the Hiltners' long absence.

The third quarter of an hour was already drawing to an end when Valentin
came hurrying up and told Barbara that they were on the way.  He had
managed to speak to the syndic, and told him who was waiting for him.

A young maid-servant, running rapidly, came first to open the house and
light the lamps.  She was followed, quite a distance in advance of the
others, by Dr. Hiltner.

The fisherman's communication had made him anxious.  He, too, had heard
that Barbara was the Emperor's favourite.  Besides, more than one
complaint of her offensive arrogance had reached him.  But, for that very
reason, the wise man said to himself, it must be something of importance
that led her to him at this hour and in such weather.

At first he answered her greeting with cool reserve, but when she
explained that she had come, in spite of the storm, because the matter
concerned the weal or woe of a person dear to him, and he saw that she
was dripping wet, he honestly regretted his long delay, and in his manly,
resolute manner requested her to follow him into the house; but Barbara
could not be persuaded to do so.

To give the thunderstorm time to pass and take his wife and daughter home
dry, he had entered a tavern near the lindens and there engaged in
conversation with several friends over some wine.  Whenever he urged
returning, the young people--she knew why--objected.  But at last they
had started, and Bernhard Trainer had accompanied the Hiltners, in order
to woo Martina on the way.  Her parents had seen this coming, and
willingly confided their child's happiness to him.

The betrothed couple now came up also, and saw with surprise the earnest
zeal with which Martina's father was discussing something, they knew not
what, with the singer on whose account they had had their first quarrel.
The lover had condemned Barbara's unprecedented arrogance during the
dance so severely that Martina found it unendurable to listen longer.

Frau Sabina, too, did not know how to interpret Barbara's presence; but
one thing was certain in her kindly heart--this was no place for such
conversation.  How wet the poor girl must be!  The wrong which Barbara
had done her child was not taken into consideration under these
circumstances and, with maternal solicitude, she followed her husband's
example, and earnestly entreated Barbara to change her clothes in her
house and warm herself with a glass of hot black currant wine.  But
Barbara could not be induced to do so, and hurriedly explained to the
syndic what he lacked the clew to understand.

In a few minutes she had made him acquainted with everything that it was
necessary for him to know.  Dr. Hiltner, turning to his wife, and mean
while looking his future son-in-law steadily in the eye, exclaimed, "We
are all, let me tell you, greatly indebted to this brave girl."

Frau Sabina's heart swelled with joy, and to Martina, too, the praise
which her father bestowed on Barbara was a precious gift.  The mother and
daughter had always espoused her cause, and now it again proved that they
had done well.

"So I was right, after all," whispered the young girl to her lover.

"And will prove so often," he answered gaily.  But when, a short time
after, he proposed to Barbara's warm advocate to accompany the singer
home, Martina preferred to detain him, and invited him to stay in the
house with her a little while longer.

These incidents had occupied only a brief period, and Dr. Hiltner
undertook to escort the young girl himself.  To save time, he questioned
her about everything which he still desired to know, but left her before
she turned into the lane leading to the little castle, because he was
aware that she, who belonged to the Emperor's household, might he
misjudged if she were seen in his company.

Shortly after, he had freed Erasmus from imprisonment and sent him, in
charge of one of the Council's halberdiers, beyond the gate.  He was to
remain concealed outside the city until the syndic recalled him.

The young theologian willingly submitted, after confessing to his foster-
father how strongly love for Barbara had taken possession of him.

This act might arouse strong hostility to the syndic, but he did not fear
it.  Moreover, the Emperor had showed at the festival plainly enough his
withdrawal of the good opinion which he had formerly testified upon many
an occasion.  This was on account of his religion, and where that was
concerned there was no yielding or dissimulation on either side.

Barbara returned home soothed.

Frau Lerch was waiting for her, and with many tokens of disapproval
undressed her.  Yet she carefully dried her feet and rubbed them with her
hands, that she might escape the fever which she saw approaching.

Barbara accepted with quiet gratitude the attention bestowed upon her,
but, though she closed her eyes, the night brought no sleep, for
sometimes she shivered in a chill, sometimes a violent headache tortured
her.



CHAPTER II.

Sleep also deserted the Emperor's couch.  After his return from the
festival he tried to examine several documents which the secretary
Gastelii had laid ready for him on the writing-table, but he could not
succeed.  His thoughts constantly reverted to Barbara and her defiant
rebellion against the distinct announcement of his will.  Had the Duke of
Saxony, so much his junior and, moreover, a far handsomer and perhaps
more generous prince, won her favour, and therefore did she perhaps
desire to break the bond with him?

Why not?

She was a woman, and a capricious one, too, and of what would not such a
nature be capable?  Besides, there was something else.  Jamnitzer, the
Nuremberg goldsmith, had intrusted a casket of jewels to Adrian to keep
during his absence.  They were intended for the diadems which the Emperor
was to give his two nieces for bridal presents.  The principal gems among
them were two rubies and a diamond.  On the gold of the old-fashioned
setting were a P and an l, the initial letters of his motto "Plus ultra."
He had once had it engraved upon the back of the star which he bestowed
upon Barbara.  His keen eye and faithful memory could not be deceived--
Jamnitzer's jewels had been broken from that costly ornament.

From time immemorial it had belonged to the treasures of his family, and
he had already doubted whether it was justifiable to give it away.

Was it conceivable that Barbara had parted with this, his first memento,
sold it, "turned it into money"?--the base words wounded his chivalrous
soul like the blow of a scourge.

She was a passionate, defiant, changeful creature, it is true, yet her
nature was noble, hostile to baseness, and what a wealth of the purest
and deepest feeling echoed in her execution of solemn songs!  This
induced him to reject as impossible the suspicion that she could have
stooped to anything so unworthy.

Still, it was not easily banished.  A long series of the sorest
disappointments had rendered him distrustful, and he remembered having
asked her several times for the star in vain.

Perhaps it had been stolen from her, and Jamnitzer had obtained it from
the thief himself or from the receiver.  This thought partially soothed
him, especially as, if correct, it would be possible for him to recover
the ornament.  But he was an economical manager, and to expend thousands
of ducats for such a thing just at this time, when immense sums were
needed for the approaching war, seemed to him more than vexatious.

Besides, the high price which he had paid for the Saxon's aid rendered
him uneasy.  He had ceded two large bishoprics to his Protestant ally,
and this act of liberality, which, it is true, had been approved and
supported by Granvelle, could no longer be undone.  Moreover, if he drew
the sword, he must maintain the pretence that it was not done for the
sake of religion, but solely to chastise the insubordinate Protestant
princes, headed by the Elector John Frederick of Saxony and Philip of
Hesse, who had seriously angered him.

In ten days the Reichstag would be opened in Ratisbon and, in spite of
his special invitation, these princes, who had refused to recognise the
Council of Trent, had excused their absence upon trivial pretexts--the
Hessian, who on other occasions, attended by his numberless servants in
green livery, had made three times as great a display as he, the Emperor,
on the pretext that the journey to Ratisbon would be too expensive.

Maurice now had his imperial word and he the duke's; but since that
evening Charles thought he had noticed something which lessened his
confidence in the Saxon.  It was not only jealousy which showed him
this young, clever, brave, and extremely ambitious prince in a more
unfavourable light than before.  He knew men, and thought that he had
perceived in him signs of the most utter selfishness.  As Maurice, to
gain two bishoprics, and perhaps later the Elector's hat, abandoned his
coreligionists, his cousin and his father-in-law, he would also desert
him if his own advantage prompted him to do so.  True, such an ally was
useful for many things, but he could not be trusted implicitly a single
hour.

Maurice certainly had not remained ignorant of Barbara's relation to him,
the Emperor, and yet, in the sovereign's very presence, he had courted
her favour with such defiant boldness that Charles struck the writing-
table with his fist as he thought of his manner to the singer.  Would
Maurice impose greater moderation upon himself in political affairs?

Yet perhaps he judged the Saxon too severely, and made him suffer for
another's sin.  The man's conduct is governed by the woman's, and he had
seen how Barbara, as it were, gave Maurice the right to sue thus boldly
for her favour.

Was it conceivable that she loved him, after having wounded him, as if
intentionally, by acts which she knew were detestable to him?  If her
heart was still his, how could she have so inconsiderately favoured in
his presence another, younger man?

Angrily excited by the question, he rose from the writing-table.  But ere
he went to rest he thought of his hapless mother, whose birthday at this
hour, beyond midnight, was now over, and, kneeling before the priedieu in
his bedroom, he fervently commended her to the mercy of Heaven.  This
woman had loved her husband so fondly that it was long ere she could
resolve to part from his corpse, yet she was the heiress of the mightiest
sovereigns; and what was this Ratisbon girl whom he honoured with his
affection?

And yet!

While her lips were still glowing from his kisses, she had carried on a
reckless game with another, and was now robbing him of the repose of mind
which he so urgently, needed.

And the mother of the woman whose birthday had just passed, the proud
Queen Isabella, the conqueror of the Moors--what would she have said had
she been condemned to see her grandson, the heir of so great an empire,
ensnared by such bonds?

He had proved, since he wielded the sceptre, that he did not lack
strength of will, and he must show it again.

He reminded himself indignantly that he was not only the ruler of many
nations, but the head of perhaps the most illustrious family on earth.

He thought of his royal brothers and sisters, his haughty son Philip, his
daughters, nephews, and nieces; and while pouring forth his soul in
fervent prayer for his unfortunate mother, with her disordered intellect,
he also besought the Redeemer to free him from the evil of this love.
Three words from his lips would have sufficed to rid him of Barbara
forever, but--he felt it--that would not end the matter.  He must also
learn to forget her, and for that he needed the aid of the higher powers.
He had once more yielded to worldly pleasure.  The kiss of her beautiful
soft lips had been sweet, the melody of her voice still more blissful.
It had given him hours of rapture; but were these joys worth the long
repentance which was already beginning?  It was wise to sacrifice the
transitory pleasures of earth to loftier purposes.  One thing alone
promised permanent duration even here--what he was achieving for the
future greatness of his own name and that of his race.  For them he was
now going to war, and, by fighting against the heretics, the foes of God,
he entered the strife, in a sense, as the instrument of Heaven.  Thus,
not only his duty as a sovereign, but care for his eternal salvation,
compelled him to cast aside everything which might jeopardize the triumph
of his good, nay, sacred cause; and what could imperil it more seriously
than this late passion, which to-day had rendered it impossible to do his
duty?

Firmly resolved to resign Barbara before his brother Ferdinand reached
Ratisbon with his family, he rose from the priedieu and sought his couch.
But sleep fled from the anxious ruler; besides, the pain of the gout
became more severe.

After rising early, he went limping to mass, breakfasted, and began his
work.

Many charts and plans had been placed on the writing-table for him, and
beside them he found a letter from Granvelle, in which he stated his
views concerning the alliance with Duke Maurice, and what advantage might
be derived from it.  Both as a whole and in detail Charles approved them,
and gladly left to the minister the final negotiations with the duke, who
intended to leave Ratisbon at noon.  If he briefly ratified the terms
which had been arranged with Granvelle, and gave Maurice his hand in
farewell, he thought he would have satisfied amply the claims of the
covetous man, of whose aid, however, he stood in need.

After the thunderstorm the weather had grown cloudy and cool.  Perhaps
the change had caused his increased suffering and unhappy mood.  But the
true reason was doubtless the resolution formed the night before, and
which now by day seemed more difficult to execute than he had thought at
the priedieu.  He was still resolved to keep it, but earthly life
appeared less short, and he could not conceal from himself that, without
Barbara's sunny cheerfulness, bewitching tenderness, and, alas! without
her singing, his future existence would lack its greatest charm.  His
life would be like this gloomy day.  Put he would not relinquish what he
had once firmly determined and proved to himself by reasoning to be the
correct course.

He could not succeed in burying himself in charts and plans as usual and,
while imagining how life could be endured without the woman he loved, he
pushed the papers aside.

In days like these, when the old ache again attacked him, Barbara and
her singing had brightened the dreary gloom and lessened the pain, or
she had caressed and sung it entirely away.  He seemed to himself like
a surly patient who throws aside the helpful medicine because it once
tasted badly to him and was an annoyance to others.  Yet no.  It
contained poison also, so it was wise to put it away.  But had not Dr.
Mathys told him yesterday that the strongest remedial power was concealed
in poisons, and that they were the most effective medicines?  Ought he
not to examine once more the reasons which had led him to this last
resolution?  He bowed his head with an irresolution foreign to his
nature, and when his greyhound touched his aching foot he pushed the
animal angrily away.

The confessor De Soto found him in this mood at his first visit.

Ere he crossed the threshold he saw that Charles was suffering and felt
troubled by some important matter, and soon learned what he desired to
know.  But if Charles expected the Dominican to greet his decision with
grateful joy, he was mistaken, for De Soto had long since relinquished
the suspicion which had prejudiced him against Barbara and, on the
contrary, with the Bishop of Arras, had reached the certainty that the
love which united the monarch to the singer would benefit him.

Both knew the danger which threatened the sovereign from his tendency to
melancholy, and now that he saw his efforts to urge the Emperor to
a war with the Smalcalds crowned with success, he wished to keep alive in
him the joyousness which Barbara, and she alone, had aroused and
maintained.

So he used the convincing eloquence characteristic of him to shake the
monarch's resolve, and lead him back to the woman he loved.

The Church made no objection to this bond of free love formed by a
sovereign whom grave political considerations withheld from a second
marriage.  If his Majesty's affection diminished the success of his work,
the separation from so dear a being, who afforded him so much pleasure,
would do this to a far greater degree.  That Barbara had allowed the bold
Saxon too much liberty on the dancing ground he did not deny, but took
advantage of the opportunity to point out the unscrupulousness which
characterized Maurice, like all heretics.  As for Barbara, the warm blood
and fresh love of pleasure of youth, qualities which to many were her
special charm, had led her into the error of the luckless dance.  But the
Emperor, who until then had listened to De Soto' here interrupted him to
confide the unfortunate suspicion which had been aroused in him the day
before.

The mention of this matter, however, was very opportune to the almoner,
for he could easily turn it to the advantage of the suspected girl.  The
day before yesterday she had confessed to him the fate of the valuable
star, and begged him, if her imprudent deed of charity should be
discovered, to relieve her of the painful task of explaining to Charles
how she had been induced to sell a memento so dear to her.  Thereupon the
confessor himself had ascertained from the marquise and the goldsmith
Jamnitzer that Barbara had told him the whole truth.

So in his eyes, and probably in those of a higher power, this apparently
ignoble act would redound no little to the credit of the girl's heart.

Charles listened to this explanation with a silent shrug of the
shoulders.  Such a deed could scarcely be otherwise regarded by the
priest, but Barbara's disregard of his first gift offended him far more
than the excellent disposition evinced by the hasty act pleased him.  She
had flung the first tangible token of his love into the insatiable jaws
of a worthless profligate, like a copper coin thrown as alms to a beggar.
It grieved the soul of the economical manager and lover of rare works of
art to have this ancient and also very valuable family heirloom broken to
pieces.  Malfalconnet would not fail to utter some biting jest when he
heard that Charles must now, as it were, purchase this costly ornament of
himself.  He would have forgiven Barbara everything else more easily than
this mad casting away of a really royal gift.

Expressing his indignation to the almoner without reserve, he closed the
interview with him.  When Charles was again alone he tried to rise, in
order, while pacing up and down the room, to examine his resolution once
more.  But his aching foot prevented this plan and, groaning aloud, he
sank back into his arm-chair.

His heart had not been so sore for a long time, and it was Barbara's
fault.  Yet he longed for her.  If she had laid her delicate white hand
upon his brow, he said to himself, or had he been permitted to listen to
even one of her deeply felt religious songs, it would have cheered his
soul and even alleviated his physical suffering.  Several times he
stretched his hand toward the bell to send for her; but she had offended
him so deeply that he must at least let her feel how gravely she had
erred, and that the lion could not be irritated unpunished, so he
conquered himself and remained alone.  The sense of offended majesty
strengthened his power of resisting the longing for her.

Indignant with himself, he again drew the maps toward him.  But like a
cloth fluttering up and down between a picture and the beholder, memories
of Barbara forced themselves between him and the plans over which he was
bending.

This could not continue!

Perhaps, after all, her singing was the only thing which could restore
his lost composure.  He longed for it even more ardently than for her
face.  If he sent for her, he could show her by his manner what fruit her
transgressions had borne.  The rest would follow as a matter of course.
Now every fibre of his being yearned for the melody of her voice.

Obeying a hasty resolution, he rang the bell and ordered Adrian to call
Quijada and command Barbara to sing in the Golden Cross that afternoon.

After the valet had replaced his aching foot in the right position, Don
Luis appeared.  Without any further comment the Emperor informed him that
he had determined to sever the bond of love which united him to the
singer.

While speaking, he looked his friend sharply in the face, and when he
saw, by his silent bow, that his decision called forth no deeper emotion
in him, he carelessly added that, nevertheless, he intended to hear her
sing that day, and perhaps many times more.

Perceiving a significant smile upon the lips of the faithful follower,
and recognising the peril contained in the last resolve, he shook his
finger at Quijada, saying: "As if even the inmost recesses of your soul
were concealed from me!  You are asking yourself, Why does Charles deny
me leave to visit Villagarcia, and thereby cruelly prevent my being happy
with my dear, beautiful young wife, after so long a separation, if he
considers himself strong enough to turn his back, without further
ceremony, upon the woman he loves, after seeing and hearing her again?"

Your Majesty has read correctly," replied Don Luis, "yet my wish for a
brief stay with Doha Magdalena de Ulloa is very different from your
Majesty's desire."

"How?" demanded Charles in a sharp tone of inquiry.  "Is my strength of
will, in your opinion, so far inferior to yours?"

"Your Majesty can scarcely deem me capable of so presumptuous an error,"
replied Quijada.  "But your Majesty is Charles V, who has no superior
save our Lord in heaven.  I, on the contrary, am only a Castilian
nobleman, and as such prize my honour as my highest treasure; but, above
all other things, even above the lady of my heart, stands the King."

"I might know that," cried the Emperor, holding out his hand to his
friend.  "Yet I refused you the leave of absence, you faithful fellow.
The world calls this selfishness.  But since it still needs me, it ought
in justice to excuse me, for never have I needed you so much as during
these decisive weeks, whether war is declared--and it will come to that--
or not.  Think how many other things are also impending!  Besides, my
foot aches, and my heart, this poor heart, bears a wound which a friend's
careful hand will soothe.  So you understand, Luis, that the much-
tormented Charles can not do without you just now."

Quijada, with sincere emotion, bent over the monarch's hand and kissed it
tenderly, but the Emperor, for the first time, hastily stroked his
bearded cheek, and said in an agitated tone, "We know each other."

"Yes, your Majesty," cried the Spaniard.  "In the first place, I will not
again annoy my master with the request for a leave of absence.  Dona
Magdalena must try how she can accommodate herself to widowhood while she
has a living husband, if the Holy Virgin will only permit me to offer
your Majesty what you expect from me."

"I will answer for that," the Emperor was saying, when Adrian interrupted
him.

The messenger had returned from Prebrunn with the news that the singer
had taken cold the day before, and could not leave the house.

Charles angrily exclaimed that he knew what such illness meant, and his
under lip protruded so far that it was easy to perceive how deeply this
fresh proof of Barbara's defiance and vanity incensed him.

But when the chamberlain said that the singer had been attacked by a
violent fever, Charles changed colour, and asked quickly in a tone of
sincere anxiety: "And Dr. Mathys?  Has he seen her?  No?  Then he must go
to her at once, and I shall expect tidings as soon as he returns.
Perhaps the fever was seething in her blood yesterday."

He had no time to make any further remarks about the sufferer, for one
visitor followed another.

Shortly before noon the Bishop of Arras ushered in Duke Maurice, who
wished to take leave of him.

Granvelle, in a businesslike manner, summed up the result of the
negotiations, and Charles made no objection; but after he had said
farewell to the Saxon prince, he remarked, with a smile which was
difficult to interpret: "One thing more, my dear Prince.  The beautiful
singer has suffered from the gagliarde, which she had the honour of
dancing with you; she is lying ill of a fever.  We will, however,
scarcely regard it as an evil omen for the agreements which we concluded
on the same day.  With our custom of keeping our hands away from
everything which our friendly ally claims as his right, our alliance,
please God, will not fail to have good success."

A faint flush crimsoned the intelligent face of the Saxon duke, and an
answer as full of innuendo as the Emperor's address was already hovering
on his lips, when the chief equerry's entrance gave him power to restrain
it.

Count Lanoi announced that his Highness's travelling escort was ready,
and the Emperor, with an air of paternal affection, bade the younger
sovereign farewell.

As soon as the door had closed behind Maurice, Charles, turning to
Granvelle, remarked, "The Saxon cousin returned our clasp of the hand
some what coldly, but the means of rendering it warmer are ready."

"The Elector's hat,"  replied the Bishop of Arras.  "I hope it will
prevent him from making our heads hot, as the Germans say, instead of his
own."

"If only our brains keep cool," replied the Emperor.  "It is needful in
dealing with this young man."

"He knows his Machiavelli," added the statesman, "but I think the
Florentine did not write wholly in vain for us also."

"Scarcely," observed the Emperor, smiling, and then rang the little bell
to have his valet summon Dr. Mathys.

The leech had returned from his visit to Barbara, and feared that the
burning fever from which she was suffering might indicate the
commencement of inflammation of the lungs.

Charles started up and expressed the desire to be conveyed at once in the
litter to Prebrunn; but the physician declared that his Majesty's visit
would as certainly harm the feverish girl as going out in such weather
would increase the gout in his royal master's foot.

The monarch shrugged his shoulders, and seized the despatches and letters
which had arrived.  The persons about him suffered severely from his
detestable mood, but the dull weather of this gloomy day appeared also
to have a bad effect upon the confessor De Soto, for his lofty brow was
scarcely less clouded than the sky.  He did not allude to Barbara by a
single word, yet she was the cause of his depression.

After his conversation with the sovereign he had retired to his private
room, to devote himself to the philological studies which he pursued
during the greater portion of the day with equal zeal and success.  But
he had scarcely begun to be absorbed in the new copy of the best
manuscript of Apuleius, which had readied him from Florence, and make
notes in the first Roman printed work of this author, when Cassian
interrupted him.

He had missed the servant in the morning.  Now the fellow, always so
punctual when he had not gazed too deeply into the wine-cup, stood
before him in a singular plight, for he was completely drenched, and a
disagreeable odour of liquor exhaled from him.  The flaxen hair, which
bristled around his head and hung over his broad, ugly face, gave him so
unkempt and imbecile an appearance that it was repulsive to the almoner,
and he harshly asked where he had been loitering.

But Cassian, confident that his master's indignation would soon change to
approval and praise, rapidly began to relate what had occurred outside
the little castle at Prebrunn when the festival under the lindens was
over.

After helping to place the Wittenberg theologian in custody, he had
followed Barbara at some distance during her nocturnal walk.  While she
waited in front of Dr. Hiltner's house and talked with the members of the
syndic's family after their return, he had remained concealed in the
shadow of a neighbouring dwelling, and did not move until the doctor had
gone away with the singer.  He cautiously glided behind them as far as
the garden, witnessed the syndic's cordial farewell to his companion, and
dogged the former to the Prebrunn jail.  Here he had again been obliged
to wait patiently a long while before the doctor came out into the open
air with the prisoner.  The rope had been removed from Erasmus's hands,
and Cassian had remained at his heels until he stopped in the village of
Kager, on the Nuremberg road.  The young man had taken a lunch in the
tavern there; the money for it was given him by the syndic.  Cassian had
seen the gold pieces which had been placed in Erasmus's hand, to pay his
travelling expenses, glitter in the rosy light of dawn.

In reply to the almoner's question whether he remembered any portion of
the conversation between the syndic and the singer, Cassian admitted that
he had been obliged to keep too far away from them to hear it, but Dr.
Hiltner's manner to the girl had been very friendly, especially when he
took leave of her.

The anything but grateful manner with which the almoner received this
story was a great disappointment to the overzealous servant; nay, he
secretly permitted himself to doubt his master's wisdom and energy when
the latter remarked that the arrest of a man who had merely entered a
stranger's garden was entirely unjustifiable, and that he was aware of
the singer's acquaintanceship with the Hiltners.

With these words he motioned Cassian to the door.

When the prelate was again alone he gazed thoughtfully into vacancy.  He
understood human beings sufficiently well to know that Barbara had not
deceived him in her confession.  In spite of the nocturnal walk with the
head of the Ratisbon heretics, she was faithful to the Catholic Church.

Erasmus's visit at night alone gave him cause for reflection, and
suggested the doubt whether he might not have interceded too warmly for
this peculiar creature and her excitable artist nature.



CHAPTER III.

Silence pervaded the little castle in Prebrunn; nay, there were days when
a thick layer of straw in the road showed that within the house lay some
one seriously ill, who must be guarded from every sound.

In Ratisbon and the Golden Cross, on the contrary, the noise and bustle
constantly increased.  On the twenty-eighth of May, King Ferdinand
arrived with his family to visit his brother Charles.  The Reichstag
would be opened on the fifth of June, and attracted to the Danube many
princes and nobles, but neither the Elector John of Saxony nor the
Landgrave Philip of Hesse, the heads of the Smalcald league.  King
Ferdinand's two daughters were to be married the first of July, and many
a distinguished guest came to Ratisbon in June.  Besides, several
soldiers began to appear.

The Emperor Charles's hours were filled to the brim with work and social
obligations.  The twinges of the gout had not wholly disappeared, but
remained bearable.

The quiet good-breeding of the two young archduchesses pleased the
Emperor, and their young brother Maximilian's active mind and gay,
chivalrous nature delighted him, though many a trait made him, as well as
the confessor, doubt whether he did not incline more toward the
evangelical doctrine than beseemed a son of his illustrious race.  But
Charles himself, in his youth, had not been a stranger to such leanings.
If Maximilian was intrusted with the reins of government, he would
perceive in what close and effective union stood the Church and the
state.  Far from rousing his opposition by reproaches, the shrewd uncle
won his affection and merely sowed in his mind, by apt remarks, the seeds
which in due time would grow and bear their fruit.

The Austrians watched with sincere admiration the actually exhausting
industry of the illustrious head of their house, for he allowed himself
only a few hours' sleep, and when Granvelle had worked with him until he
was wearied, he buried himself, either alone or with some officers of
high rank, in charts of the seat of war, in making calculations,
arranging the levying of recruits and military movements, and yet did not
withdraw from the society of his Viennese relatives and other
distinguished guests.

Still, he did not forget Barbara.  The leech was daily expected to give a
report of her health, and when, during the middle of June, Dr. Mathys
expressed doubts of her recovery, it rendered him so anxious that his
relatives noticed it, and attributed it to the momentous declaration of
war which was on the eve of being made.

When the sufferer at last began to recover, his selfishness was satisfied
with the course of events.  True, he thought of the late springtime of
love which he had enjoyed as an exquisite gift of Fortune, and when he
remembered many a tender interview with Barbara a bright smile flitted
over his grave countenance.  But, on the whole, he was glad that this
love affair had come to so honourable an end.  The last few weeks had
claimed his entire time and strength so rigidly and urgently that he
would have been compelled to refuse Barbara's demands upon his love or
neglect serious duties.

Besides, a meeting between Barbara and his nephew and young nieces could
scarcely have been avoided, and this would have cast a shadow upon
the unbounded reverence and admiration paid him by the wholly
inexperienced, childlike young archduchesses, which afforded him sincere
pleasure.  The confessor had taken care to bring this vividly before his
mind.  While speaking of Barbara with sympathizing compassion, he
represented her illness as a fresh token of the divine favour which
Heaven so often showed to the Emperor Charles, and laid special stress
upon the disadvantages which the longer duration of this love affair--
though in itself, pardonable, nay, even beneficial--would have entailed.

Queen Mary's boy choir was to remain in Ratisbon some time longer, and
whenever the monarch attended their performances--which was almost daily-
the longing for Barbara awoke with fresh strength.  Even in the midst of
the most arduous labour he considered the question how it might be
possible to keep her near him--not, it is true, as his favourite, but as
a singer, and his inventive brain hit upon a successful expedient.

By raising her father to a higher rank, he might probably have had her
received by his sister Mary among her ladies in waiting, but then there
would always have been an unwelcome temptation existing.  If, on the
other hand, Barbara would decide to take the veil, an arrangement could
easily be made for him to hear her often, and her singing might then
marvellously beautify the old age, so full of suffering and destitute of
pleasure, that awaited him.  He realized more and more distinctly that it
was less her rare beauty than the spell of her voice and of her art which
had constrained him to this late passion.

The idea that she would refuse to accept the fate to which he had
condemned her was incomprehensible to his sense of power, and therefore
did not occur to his mind.

Yet, especially when he was bearing pain, he did not find it difficult
to silence even this wish for the future, for then memories of the last
deeply clouded hours of their love bond forced themselves upon him.

He saw her swinging like a Bacchante in the dance with the young Saxon
duke; the star which had been thrown away appeared before his eyes,
and his irritated soul commanded him never to see her again.

But the suffering of a person whom we have once loved possesses a
reconciling power, and he who usually forgot no insult, even after the
lapse of years, was again disposed to forgive her, and reverted to the
wish to continue to enjoy her singing.

When, before their wedding day, he gave his nieces the diadems which
Jammtzer had made for them, his resentment concerning the ornament sold
by Barbara again awoke.  He could no longer punish her for this
"loveless" deed, as he called it, but he made the marquise feel severely
enough his indignation for her abuse of the young girl's inexperience,
for, without granting her a farewell audience, he sent her back to
Brussels, with letters to Queen Mary expressing his displeasure.
Instead of her skilful maid Alphonsine, a clumsy Swabian girl accompanied
her--the former had married Cassian.

Barbara heard nothing of all these things; her recovery was slow, and
every source of anxiety was kept from her.

She had never been ill before, and to be still at a time when every
instinct urged her to battle for her life happiness and her love, to
prove the power of her beauty and her art, put her slender stock of
patience to the severest test.

During the first few days she was perfectly conscious, and watched with
keen suspense what was passing around her.  It made her happy to find
that Charles sent his own physician to her but, on the other hand, she
was deeply and painfully agitated by his failure to grant the entreaty
which she sent by Dr. Mathys to let her see his face, even if only for a
moment.

Gombert and Appenzelder, Massi, the Wollers from the Ark, Dr. Hiltner's
wife and daughter, the boy singer Hannibal, and many gentlemen of the
court-nay, even the Bishop of Arras--came to inquire for her, and Barbara
had strictly enjoined Frau Lerch to tell her everything that concerned
her; for every token of sympathy filled the place, as it were, of the
applause to which she was accustomed.

When, on the second day, she heard that old Ursula had been there to ask
about her for Wolf, who was now convalescing, she passionately insisted
upon seeing her, but, obedient to the physician's orders, Frau Lerch
would not admit her.  Then Barbara flew into such a rage that the foolish
woman forgot to take the fever into account, and determined to return
home.  Many motives drew her there, but especially her business; day and
night her mind was haunted by the garments which, just at this time,
before the commencement of the Reichstag, other dressmakers were
fashioning for her aristocratic customers.

A certain feeling of shame had restrained her from leaving Barbara
directly after the beginning of her illness.  Besides, delay had been
advisable, because the appearance of the Emperor's physician proved that
the monarch's love was not wholly dead.  But Barbara's outbreak now came
at an opportune time, for yesterday, by the leech's suggestion, and with
the express approval of the Emperor, one of the Dominican nuns, Sister
Hyacinthe, had come from the Convent of the Holy Cross and, with quiet
dignity, assumed her office of nurse beside her charge's sick-bed.  This
forced Fran Lerch into a position which did not suit her, and as, soon
after Barbara's outbreak, Dr. Mathys sternly ordered her to adopt a more
quiet and modest bearing, she declared that she would not bear such
insult and abuse, hastily packed her property, and returned to the Grieb
with a much larger amount of luggage than she had brought with her.

Sister Hyacinthe now ruled alone in the sickroom, and the calm face of
the nun, whose cap concealed hair already turning gray, exerted as
soothing an influence upon the patient as her low, pleasant voice.  She
was the daughter of a knightly race, and had taken the veil from a deep
inward vocation, as one of the elect who, in following Christ, forget
themselves, in order to dedicate to her suffering neighbours all her
strength and the great love which filled her heart.  They were her world,
and her sole pleasure was to satisfy the compassionate impulse in her own
breast by severe toil, by tender solicitude, by night watching, and by
exertions often continued to actual suffering.  Death, into whose face
she had looked beside so many sickbeds, was to her a kind friend who held
the key of the eternal home where the Divine Bridegroom awaited her.

The events occurring in the world, whether peace reigned or the nations
were at war with one another, affected her only so far as they were
connected with her patient.  Her thoughts and acts, all her love and
solicitude, referred solely to the invalid in her care.

The departure of Frau Lerch was a relief to her mind, and it seemed an
enigma that Barbara, whose beauty increased her interest, and whom the
physician had extolled as a famous singer, could have given her
confidence, in her days of health, to this woman.

Sister Hyacinthe's appearance beside her couch had at first perplexed
Barbara, because she had not asked for her; but the mere circumstance
that her lover had sent her rendered it easy to treat the nun kindly,
and the tireless, experienced, and invariably cheerful nurse soon became
indispensable.

On the whole, both the leech and Sister Hyacinthe could call Barbara a
docile patient, and she often subjected herself to a restraint irksome to
her vivacious temperament, because she felt how much gratitude she owed
to both.

Not until the fever reached its height did her turbulent nature assert
its full power, and the experienced disciple of the art of healing had
seen few invalids rave more wildly.

The delusions that tortured her were by no means varied, for all revolved
about the person of her imperial lover and her art.  But under the most
careful nursing her strong constitution resisted even the most violent
attacks of the fever, and when June was drawing toward an end all danger
seemed over.

Dr. Mathys had already permitted her to sit out of doors, and informed
the Emperor that there was no further occasion for fear.

The monarch expressed his gratification but, instead of asking more
particularly about the progress of her convalescence, he hastily turned
the conversation to his own health.

Dr. Mathys regretted this for the sake of the beautiful neglected
creature, who had won his sympathy, but it did not surprise him, for duty
after duty now filled every hour of Charles's day.  Besides, on the day
after to-morrow, the fourth of July, the marriages of his two nieces were
to take place, and he himself was to accompany the bridal procession and
attend the wedding.  On the fifth the Reichstag would be opened, and the
Duke of Alba, with several experienced colonels, had arrived as
harbingers of the approaching war.  Where this stern and tried general
appeared, thoughts of war began to stir, and already men equipped with
helmets and armour began to be seen in unusual numbers in all the streets
and squares of Ratisbon.

The Emperor's room, too, had an altered aspect, for, instead of a few
letters and despatches, his writing-table was now covered not only with
maps and plans, but lists and tables referring to the condition of his
army.

What could the health of a half-convalescent girl now be to the man to
whom even his most trusted friend would no longer have dared to mention
her as his favourite?

Of course, Dr. Mathys told Barbara nothing about the Emperor's lack of
interest, for any strong mental excitement might still be injurious to
her.  Besides, he was a reserved man, who said little more to Barbara
than was necessary.  Toward the Emperor Charles he imposed a certain
restraint upon himself; but the royal adept in reading human nature knew
that in him he possessed one of the most loyal servants, and gave him his
entire confidence.  For his sake alone this wealthy scholar devoted
himself to the laborious profession which so often kept him from library
and laboratory.  Although his smooth, brown hair had turned gray long
ago, he had never married, for he had decided in the Emperor's favour--
this Charles knew also--whenever the choice presented itself to follow
his royal patient during his journeys and expeditions or to find rest and
comfort in a home of his own.

The calm, kindly manner of this far-famed physician very soon gained a
great influence over the vivacious Barbara.  Since she had felt sure of
his good will, she had willingly obeyed him.  Though he was often obliged
to shake his finger at her and tell her how much she herself could
contribute toward regaining freedom of motion and the use of her voice,
she really did nothing which he could seriously censure, and thus her
recovery progressed in the most favourable manner until the wedding day
was close at hand.

She had already been permitted to receive visits from old acquaintances
and, without saying much herself, listen to the news they brought.  The
little Maltese, Hannibal, had also appeared again, and the lively boy
told her many things which Gombert and Appenzelder had not mentioned.

The morning of the day before the princesses' marriage he informed her,
among other things, that the bridal procession would march the following
morning.  It was to start from the cathedral square and go to Prebrunn,
where it would turn back and disband in front of the Town Hall.  All the
distinguished noblemen and ladies who had come to Ratisbon to attend the
wedding and the Reichstag would show themselves to the populace on this
occasion, and it was even said that the Emperor intended to lead the
train with his royal brother.  It must pass by the garden; but the road
could scarcely be seen from the little castle--the lindens, beeches, and
elms were too tall and their foliage was too thick to permit it.

This news destroyed Barbara's composure.  Though she had slept well
during the past few nights, on this one slumber deserted her.  She could
not help thinking constantly of the possibility that the Emperor might be
present in the procession, and to see her lover again was the goal of her
longing.

Even in the morning, while the physician permitted her to remain in the
open air because the clay was hot and still, the bridal procession was
continually in her thoughts.  Yet she did not utter a word in allusion
to it.

At the noon meal she ate so little that Sister Hyacinthe noticed it, and
anxiously asked if she felt worse; but Barbara reassured her and, after a
short rest in the house, she asked to be taken out again under the
lindens where she had reclined in an armchair that morning.

Scarcely had she seated herself when all the bells in the city began to
ring, and the heavy ordnance and howitzers shook the air with their
thunder.

What a festal alarum!

How vividly it reminded her of the brilliant exhibitions and festivities
which she had formerly attended!

She listened breathlessly to the sounds from the city, and now a distant
blare of trumpets drowned the dull roar of the ordnance and the sharp
rattle of the culverins.

The confused blending of many human voices reached her from beyond the
garden wall.

The road must be full of people.  Now single shrill trumpet notes echoed
from afar amid the trombones and the dull roll of the drums, the noise
increasing every moment.  From a large, old beech tree close to the wall,
into which a dozen lads had climbed, she already saw handkerchiefs waving
and heard the shouts of clear, boyish voices.

Sister Hyacinthe had just gone into the house, and like an illumination
the thought darted through Barbara's mind that the road could be seen
from the little summer house which the reverend owner of the castle
called his "frigidarium," because it was cool even during the warmest
summer day.

It was a small, towerlike building close to the garden wall, whose single
inner room was designed to imitate a rock cave.  The walls were covered
with tufa and stalagmites, shells, mountain crystals, and corals, and
from the lofty ceiling hung large stalactites.  From one of the walls a
fountain plashed into a large shell garlanded with green aquatic plants
and tenanted by several goldfish and frogs.

The single open window resembled a cleft in the rocks, and looked out
upon the road.  Blocks of stone, flung one upon another without regard to
order, formed steps from which to look out of doors.

These stairs afforded a view of the road to the city.  Barbara had often
used them when watching in the dusk of evening for her lover's litter or,
at a still later hour, for the torch-bearers who preceded it.

She could already walk firmly enough to mount the few rough steps which
led to the opening in the rocks and, obeying the tameless yearning of her
heart, she rose from the arm-chair and walked as rapidly as her feeble
strength permitted toward the frigidarium.

It was more difficult to traverse the path, illumined by the hot July
sun, than she had expected; but the pealing of the bells and the roar of
the cannon continued, and now it was drowned by the fanfare of the
trumpets and the shouts of the people.

All this thundering, ringing, clashing, chiming, and cheering was a
greeting to him for the sight of whom her whole being so ardently longed;
and when, halfway down the path, she felt the need of resting on a bench
under a weeping ash, she did not obey it, but forced herself to totter
on.

Drops of perspiration covered her forehead when she entered the
frigidarium, but there the most delicious coolness greeted her.  Here,
too, however, she could allow herself no rest, for the boys in the top of
the beech, and some neighbouring trees, were already shouting their clear
voices hoarse and waving caps and branches.

With trembling knees she forced herself to climb one after another of the
blocks that formed the staircase.  When a slight faintness attacked her,
a stalactite afforded her support, and it passed as quickly as it came.
Now she had reached her goal.  The rock on which she stood gave her feet
sufficient support, as it had done many times before.

Barbara needed a few minutes in this wonderfully cool atmosphere to
recover complete self-control.  Only the wild pulsation of her heart
still caused a painful feeling; but if she was permitted to see the
object of her love once more, the world might go to ruin and she with it.

Now she gazed from the lofty window over the open country.

She had come just at the right time.  Imperial halberdiers and horse
guards, galloping up and down, kept the centre of the road free.  On the
opposite side of the highway which she overlooked was a dense, countless
multitude of citizens, peasants, soldiers, monks, women, and children,
who with difficulty resisted the pressure of those who stood behind them,
shoulder to shoulder, head to head.  Barbara from her lofty station saw
hats, barets, caps, helmets, women's caps and coifs, fair and red hair on
uncovered heads and, in the centre of many, the priestly tonsure.

Then a column of dust advanced along the road from which the fanfare
resounded like the scream of the hawk from the gray fog.  A few minutes
later, the cloud vanished; but the shouts of the multitude increased to
loud cheers when the heralds who rode at the head of the procession
appeared and raised their long, glittering trumpets to their lips.
Behind them, on spirited stallions, rode the wedding marshals, members of
royal families, in superb costumes with bouquets of flowers on their
shoulders.

Now the tumult died away for a few minutes, and Barbara felt as though
her heart stood still, for the two stately men on splendid chargers who
now, after a considerable interval, followed them, were the royal
brothers, the Emperor Charles and King Ferdinand.

The man for whom Barbara's soul longed, as well as her eyes, rode on the
side toward her.

He was still half concealed by dust, but it could be no one else, for now
the outburst of enthusiasm, joy, and reverence from the populace reached
its climax.  It seemed as though the very trees by the wayside joined in
the limitless jubilation.  The greatness of the sovereign, the general,
and the happy head of the family, made the Protestants around him forget
with what perils this monarch threatened their faith and thereby
themselves; and he, too, the defender and loyal son of the Church,
appeared to thrust aside the thought that the people who greeted him with
such impetuous delight, and shared the two-fold festival of his family
with such warm devotion, were heretics who deserved punishment.  At least
he saluted with gracious friendliness the throng that lined both sides of
the road, and as he passed by the garden of the little castle he even
smiled, and glanced toward the building as though a pleasant memory had
been awakened in his mind.  At this moment Barbara gazed into the
Emperor's face.

Those were the features which had worn so tender an expression when, for
the first time, he had uttered the never-to-be-forgotten "Because I long
for love," and her yearning heart throbbed no less quickly now than on
that night.  The wrong and suffering which he had inflicted upon her were
forgotten.  She remembered nothing save that she loved him, that he was
the greatest and, to her, the dearest of all men.

It was perfectly impossible for him to see her, but she did not think of
that; and when he looked toward her with such joyous emotion, and the
cheers of the populace, like a blazing fire which a gust of wind fans
still higher, outstripped, as it were, themselves, she could not have
helped joining in the huzzas and shouts and acclamations around her
though she had been punished with imprisonment and death.

And clinging more firmly to the stalactite, Barbara rose on tiptoe and
mingled her voice with the joyous cheers of the multitude.

In the act her breath failed, and she felt a sharp pain in her chest, but
she heeded the suffering as little as she did the weakness of her limbs.
The physical part of her being seemed asleep or dead.  Nothing was awake
or living except her soul.  Nothing stirred within her breast save the
rapture of seeing him again, the indescribable pleasure of showing that
she loved him.

Already she could no longer see his face, already the dust had concealed
him and his charger from her eyes, yet still, filled with peerless
happiness, she shouted "Charles!"  and  again  and  again "Charles!"
It seemed to her as though the air or some good spirit insist bear the
cry to him and assure him of her ardent, inextinguishable love.

The charming royal brides, radiant in their jewels, their betrothed
husbands, and the lords and ladies of their magnificent train passed
Barbara like shadows.  The procession of German, Spanish, Hungarian,
Bohemian, and Italian dignitaries swam in a confused medley before her
eyes.  The glittering armour of the princes, counts, and barons, the gems
on the heads, the robes, and the horses' trappings of the ladies and the
Magyar magnates flashed brightly before her, the red hats and robes of
the cardinals gleamed out, but usually everything that her eyes beheld
mingled in a single motley, shining, moving, many-limbed body.

The end of the procession was now approaching, and physical weakness
suddenly asserted itself most painfully.

Barbara felt only too plainly that it was time to leave her post of
observation; her feet would scarcely carry her and, besides, she was
freezing.

She had entered the damp cave chamber in a thin summer gown, and it now
seemed to be continually growing colder and colder.

Climbing down the high steps taxed her like a difficult, almost
impossible task, and perhaps she might not have succeeded in
accomplishing it unaided; but she had scarcely commenced the descent when
she heard her name called, and soon after Sister Hyacinthe entered the
frigidarium and, amid no lack of kindly reproaches, helped her to reach
the open air.

When even in the warm sunshine the chill did not pass away, Barbara saw
that the sister was right, yet she was far from feeling repentant.

During the night a violent attack of fever seized her, and her inflamed
throat was extremely painful.

When Dr. Mathys came to her bedside he already knew from the nun the
cause of this unfortunate relapse, and he understood only too well what
had induced Barbara to commit the grave imprudence.  Reproof and warnings
were useless here; the only thing he could do was to act, and renew the
conflict with the scarcely subdued illness.  Thanks to his indefatigable
zeal, to the girl's strong constitution, and to the watchful care of the
nurse, he won the victory a second time.  Yet he could not rejoice in a
complete triumph, for the severe inflammation of the bronchial tubes had
caused a hoarseness which would yield to none of his remedies.  It might
last a long time, and the thought that the purity of his patient's voice
was perhaps forever destroyed occasioned sincere regret.

True, he opposed the girl when she expressed this fear; but as July drew
to its close, and her voice still remained husky, he scarcely hoped to be
able to restore the old melody.  In other respects he might consider
Barbara cured, and intrust her entire convalescence to her own patience
and caution.

Perhaps the ardent desire to regain the divine gift of song would protect
her from perilous ventures like this last one, and even more certainly
the hope which she had confided to the nun and then to him also.  The
physician noticed, with warm sympathy, how deeply this mysterious
expectation had influenced her excitable nature, ever torn by varying
emotions, and the excellent man was ready to aid her as a friend and
intercessor.

Unfortunately, just at this time the pressure of business allowed the
Emperor little leisure to listen to the voice of the heart.

The day before yesterday the Elector John Frederick of Saxony and the
Landgrave Philip of Hesse had been banned, and with this the war began.

Already twelve troops of Spaniards who had served in Hungary, and other
bands of soldiers had entered Ratisbon; cannon came up the Danube from
Austria, and the city, had gained a warlike aspect.  To disturb the
Emperor in his work as a general at such a time, with a matter which must
agitate him so deeply, was hazardous, and few would have been bold enough
to bring it before the overburdened monarch; but the leech's interest in
Barbara was so warm and sincere that he allowed himself to be persuaded
to act the mediator between her and the man who had interfered so deeply
in the destiny of her life.  For the first time he saw her weep, and her
winning manner seemed to him equally touching, whether she yielded to
anxious distress of mind or to joyous hopes.

His intercession in her behalf would permit no delay, for the Emperor's
departure to join the troops was close at hand.

Firmly resolved to plead the cause of the unfortunate girl, whose
preservation, he might say, was his work, yet with slight hope of
success, he crossed the threshold of the imperial apartments.

When the physician informed the sovereign that Barbara might be
considered saved for the second time, the latter expressed his pleasure
by a warm "We are indebted to you for it again "; but when Mathys asked
if he did not intend to hasten Barbara's recovery by paying her a visit,
though only for a few moments, the Emperor looked into the grave
countenance of the physician, in whom he noticed an embarrassment usually
foreign to him, and said firmly, "Unfortunately, my dear Mathys, I must
deny myself this pleasure."

The other bowed with a sorrowful face, for Barbara's dearest wish had
been refused.  But the Emperor saw what was passing in the mind of the
man whom he esteemed, and in a lighter tone added: "So even your
invulnerable dragon hide was not proof against the shafts--you know!
If I see aright, something else lies near your heart.  My refusal--that
is easily seen--annoys you; but, much as I value your good opinion,
Mathys, it is firm.  The more difficult I found it to regain my peace of
mind, the more foolish it would be to expose it to fresh peril.  Now, if
ever, I must shun every source of agitation.  Think!  With the banning,
the general's work begins.  How you look at me!  Well, yes!  You, too,
know how easy it is for the man who has most to do to spare a leisure
hour which the person without occupation does not find, and neither of us
is accustomed to deceive the other.  Besides, it would be of little
avail.  So, to cut the matter short, I am unwilling to see Barbara again
and awaken false hopes in her mind!  But even these plain words do not
seem to satisfy you."

"By your Majesty's permission," replied the leech, "deeply as I regret it
for the invalid's sake, I believe, on the contrary, that you are choosing
the right course.  But I have only discharged the first part of my
patient's commission.  Though I have no pleasant tidings to take back to
her, I am still permitted to tell her the truth.  But your Majesty, by
avoiding an interview with the poor girl, will spare yourself a sad, nay,
perhaps a painful hour."

"Did the disease so cruelly mar this masterpiece of the Creator?"  asked
the Emperor.  "With so violent a fever it was only too natural," replied
the physician.  "Time and what our feeble skill can do will improve her
condition, I hope, but--and this causes the poor girl the keenest
suffering--the unfortunate inflammation of the bronchial tubes most
seriously injures the tone of her clear voice."

"Ah!" exclaimed the startled Emperor with sincere compassion.
"Do everything in your power, Mathys, to purify this troubled spring
of melody.  I will repay you with my warmest gratitude, for, though the
Romans said that Cupid conquered through the eyes, yet Barbara's singing
exerted a far more powerful influence over my heart than even her
wonderful golden hair.  Restore the melting tones of her voice and,
though the bond of love which rendered this month of May so exquisitely
beautiful to us must remain severed, I will not fail to remember it with
all graciousness."

"That, your Majesty, can scarcely be avoided," the physician here
remarked with an embarrassment which was new in him to Charles, "for the
continuance of the memory of the spring days which your Majesty recalls
with such vivid pleasure seems to be assured.  Yet, if it pleases Heaven,
as I have learned to-day for the first time, to call a living being into
existence for this purpose----"

"If I understand you correctly," cried the Emperor, starting up, "I am to
believe in hopes----"

"In hopes," interrupted the physician with complete firmness, "which must
not alarm your Majesty, but render you happy.  This new branch of the
illustrious trunk of your royal race I, who am only 30 a plain man,
hail with proud joy, and half the world, I know, will do so with me."

Charles, with brows contracted in a gloomy frown, gazed for a long time
into vacancy.

The leech perceived how mighty a conflict between contradictory emotions
would be waged in his breast, and silently gave him time to collect his
thoughts.

At last, rising from his arm-chair, the Emperor struck the table with his
open hand, and said: "Whether the Lord our God awoke this new life for
our punishment or our pleasure the future will teach.  What more must be
done in this matter?  You know my custom in regard to such important
affairs.  They are slept upon and maturely considered.  Only there is one
point," and as he uttered the words his voice assumed an imperious tone,
"which is already irrevocably decided.  The world must not suspect what
hope offers itself to me and another.  Tell her, Mathys, we wish her
happiness; but if her maternal heart expects that I will do her child the
honour of calling it mine, I must require her to keep silence, and
intrust the newborn infant's destiny, from the first hour of its birth,
to my charge."

Here he hesitated, and, after looking the physician in the face, went on:
"You again think that harsh, Mathys--I see it in your expression--but, as
my friend, you yourself can scarcely desire the world to see the Emperor
Charles performing the same task with a Barbara Blomberg.  She is free to
choose.  Either I will rear the child, whether it is a boy or a girl, as
my own, as I did my daughter, Duchess Margaret of Parma, or she will
refuse to give me the child from its birth and I must deny it
recognition.  I have already shared far too much with that tempting
creature; I can not permit even this new dispensation to restore my
severed relationship with the singer.  If Barbara's maternal love is
unselfish, the choice can not be difficult for her.  That the charge of
providing for this new life will fall upon me is a matter of course.
Tell her this, Mathys, and if in future--But no.  We will confide this
matter to Quijada."

As the door closed behind the physician, Charles stood motionless.  Deep
earnestness furrowed his brow, but suddenly an expression of triumphant
joy flashed over his face, and then yielded to a look of grateful
satisfaction.  Soon, however, his lofty brow clouded again, and his lower
lip protruded.  Some idea which excited his indignation must have entered
his mind.  He had just been thinking with the warmest joy of the gift of
Fate of which the physician had told him, but now the reasons which
forbade his offering it a sincere welcome crowded upon the thinker.

If Heaven bestowed a son upon him, would not only the Church, but also
the law, which he knew so well, refuse to recognise his rights?  A child
whose mother had offended him, whose grandfather was a ridiculous,
impoverished old soldier, whose cousins----

Yet for what did he possess the highest power on earth if he would not
use it to place his own child, in spite of every obstacle, at the height
of earthly grandeur?

What need he care for the opinion of the world?  And yet, yet----

Then there was a great bustle below.  The loud tramping of horses' hoofs
was heard.  A troop of Lombardy cavalry in full armour appeared on the
Haidplatz--fresh re-enforcements for the war just commencing.  The erect
figure of the Duke of Alba, a man of middle height, followed by several
colonels, trotted toward it.  The standard-bearer of the Lombards lowered
the banner with the picture of the Madonna before the duke, and the
Emperor involuntarily glanced back into the room at the lovely Madonna
and Child by the master hand of Giovanni Bellini which his royal sister
had hung above his writing table.

How grave and lovely, yet how full of majesty, the Christ-child looked,
how touching a grace surrounded the band of angels playing on violins
above the purest of mothers!

Then the necessity of appealing to her in prayer seized upon him, and
with fervent warmth he besought her to surround with her gracious
protection the young life which owed its existence to him.

He did not think of the child's mother.  Was he still angry with her?

Did she seem to him unworthy of being commended to the protection of the
Queen of Heaven?  Barbara was now no more to him than a cracked bell, and
the child which she expected to give him, no matter to what high' honours
he raised it, would bear a stain that nothing could efface, and this
stain would be called "his mother."

No deviation from the resolve which he had expressed to the physician was
possible.  The child could not be permitted to grow up amid Barbara's
surroundings.  To prevent this she must submit to part from her son or
her daughter, and to take the veil.  In the convent she could remember
the happiness which had once raised her to its loftiest height.  She
could and must atone for her sin and his by prayers and pious exercises.
To return to the low estate whence he had raised her must appear
disgraceful to herself.  How could one who had once dined at the table
of the gods still relish the fare of mortals?  Even now it seemed
inconceivable to him that she could oppose his will.  Yet if she did, he
would withdraw his aid.  He no longer loved her.  In this hour she was
little more to him than the modest casket to which was confided a jewel
of inestimable value, an object of anxiety and care.  The determination
which he had confided to his physician was as immovable as everything
which he had maturely considered.  Don Luis Quijada should provide for
its execution.



CHAPTER IV.

Dr. Mathys had himself carried in the litter from the Golden Cross to
Barbara.

This errand was a disagreeable one, for, though the Emperor's remark that
he had yielded to the rare charm of this woman was not true, his kindly
heart had become warmly attached to Barbara.  For the first time he saw
in her the suffering which often causes a metamorphosis in certain traits
in a sick person's character extend their transforming power to the
entire nature.  Passionate love for her art gave her the ability to
maintain with punctilious exactness the silence which he had been
compelled to impose upon her, and the once impetuous, obstinate creature
obeyed his directions and wishes with the patience of a docile child.

The manner in which, after he permitted her to speak, she had disclosed
in a low whisper her happy yet disquieting secret, hovered before him now
as one of the most pathetic incidents in a life full of varied
experiences.

How touchingly deep misery and the greatest rapture, gloomy anxiety and
radiant joy, bitter dread and sweet anticipation, despairing helplessness
and firm confidence had looked forth at him from the beautiful face whose
noble outlines were made still more delicate by the illness through which
she had passed!  He could not have refused even a more difficult task to
this petitioner.

Now he was returning from the Emperor, and he felt like a vanquished
general.

In what form was he to clothe the bad news which he was bringing to the
convalescent girl?  Poor child!  How heavily she had to atone for her
sin, and how slight was his own and every other influence upon the man,
great even in his selfishness, who had had the power to render him a
messenger of joy!

While the physician was approaching the little castle, she of whom he was
so eagerly thinking awaited his return with feverish suspense.  Yet she
was obliged at this very time to devote herself to a visitor.  True, he
was the only person whom she would not have refused to see at this hour.

Wolf Hartschwert was with her.

His first errand after the period of severe suffering through which he
had passed was to Barbara, earnestly as old Ursel had endeavoured to
prevent him.

He had found her under a linden tree in the garden.

How they had met again!

Wolf, pale and emaciated, advanced toward her, leaning on a cane, while
Barbara, with slightly flushed cheeks, reclined upon the pillows which
Sister Hyacinthe had just arranged for her.

Her head seemed smaller, her features had become more delicate and, in
spite of the straw hat which protected her from the dazzling sunshine, he
perceived that her severe illness had cost her her magnificent golden
hair.  Still wavy, it now fell only to her neck, and gave her the
appearance of a wonderfully handsome boy.

The hand she extended to him was transparently thin, and when he clasped
it in his, which was only a little larger, and did not seem much
stronger, and she had hoarsely whispered a friendly greeting, his eyes
filled with tears.  For a time both were silent.  Barbara was the first
to find words and, raising her large eyes beseechingly to his, said:
"If you come to reproach me--But no!  You look pale, as though you had
only partially recovered yourself, yet kind and friendly.  Perhaps you do
not know that it was through my fault that all these terrible things have
befallen you."

Here a significant smile told her that he was much better informed than
she supposed, and, lowering her eyes in timid embarrassment, she asked,

"Then you know who it was for whom this foolish heart----"

Here her breath failed, and while she pressed her hand upon her bosom,
Wolf said softly: "If you had only trusted me before!  Many things would
not have happened, and much suffering might have been spared.  You did
wrong, Wawerl, certainly, but my guilt is the greater, and we were both
punished--oh, how sorely!"

Barbara, amid low sobbing, nodded assent, but he eagerly continued:
"Quijada confided everything to me, and if he--you know--now forgets all
other matters in the war and the anxieties of the general, and, you need
my counsel and aid, we will let what came between us he buried, and think
that we are brother and sister."

The girl held out her hand to him, saying: "How long you have been a
brother to me!  But, as for your advice--Holy Virgin!--I know now less
than ever how I am to fare; but I shall soon learn.  I can say no more.
It must be a severe trial to listen to me.  Such a raven's croak from the
throat which usually gave you pleasure, and to which you gladly listened!
Shall I myself ever grow accustomed to this discord?  And you?  Answer
honestly--I should like to know whether it is very, very terrible to
hear."

"You are still hoarse," was the reply.  "Such things pass away in a few
weeks, and it will again be a pleasure to hear you sing."

"Do you really think so?" she cried with sparkling, eyes.

"Firmly and positively," answered the young knight in a tone of most
honest conviction; but she repeated in joyous excitement, "Firmly and
positively," and then eagerly continued: "Oh, if you should be right,
Wolf, how happy and grateful I would be, in spite of everything!  But I
can talk no longer now.  Come again to-morrow, and then the oftener the
better."

"Unfortunately, that can not be, gladly as I would do so," he answered
sadly, extending his hand in farewell.  "In a few days I shall return to
Brussels."

"To remain with the regent?" asked Barbara eagerly.

"No," he answered firmly.  "After a short stay with her Majesty, I shall
enter the service of Don Luis Quijada, or rather of his wife."

"O-o-oh!" she murmured slowly.  "The world seems wholly strange to me
after my long illness.  I must first collect my thoughts, and that is now
utterly impossible.  To-morrow, Wolf!  Won't you come to-morrow?  Then I
shall know better what is before me.  Thanks, cordial thanks, and if
tomorrow I deny myself to every one else, I will admit you."

After Wolf had gone, Barbara gazed fixedly into vacancy.  What did the
aspiring young musician seek with a nobleman's wife in a lonely Spanish
castle?  Were his wings broken, too, and did he desire only seclusion and
quiet?

But the anxiety which dominated her mind prevented her pursuing the same
thought longer.  Dr. Mathys had promised to tell her the result of his
conversation with the Emperor as soon as possible, and yet he had not
returned.

Fool that she was!

Even on a swift steed he could not have traversed the road back to the
castle if he had been detained only half an hour in the Golden Cross.
It was impatience which made the minutes become quarters of an hour.
She would have liked to go to the cool frigidarium again to watch for
the physician's litter; but she was warned, and had accustomed herself
to follow the doctor's directions as obediently as a dutiful child.
Besides, Sister Hyacinthe no longer left her alone out of doors, and
possessed a reliable representative, who had won Barbara's confidence and
affection, in Frau Lamperi, the garde-robiere, whom the Queen of Hungary
had not yet summoned.

So she remained under the linden, and Dr. Mathys did not put her newly
won virtue of patience, which he prized so highly, to too severe a trial.

Fran Lamperi had watched for him, and hastily announced that his litter
had already passed the Reichart pottery.

Now Barbara did not turn her eyes from the garden door through which the
man she ardently longed to see usually came, and when it opened and
the stout, broad-shouldered leech, with his peaked doctor's hat, long
staff, and fine linen kerchief in his right hand advanced toward her, she
motioned to the nun and the maid to leave them, and pressed her left hand
upon her heart, for her emotion at the sight of him resembled the feeling
of the prisoner who expects the paper with which the judge enters his
cell to contain his death-warrant.

She thought she perceived her own in the physician's slow, almost
lagging step.  His gait was always measured; but if he had had good news
to bring, he would have approached more rapidly.  A sign, a gesture, a
shout would have informed her that he was bearing something cheering.

But there was nothing of this kind.

He did not raise his hat until he stood directly in front of her,
and while mopping his broad, clamp brow and plump cheeks with his
handkerchief, she read in his features the confirmation of her worst
fears.

Now in his grave voice, which sounded still deeper than usual, he uttered
a curt "Well, it can't be helped," and shrugged his shoulders
sorrowfully.

This gesture destroyed her last hope.  Unable to control herself longer,
she cried out in the husky voice whose hoarse tone was increased by her
intense agitation: "I see it in your face, Doctor; I must be prepared for
the worst."

"Would to Heaven I could deny it!" he answered in a hollow tone; but
Barbara urged him to speak and conceal nothing from her, not even the
harshest news.

The leech obeyed.

With sincere compassion he saw how her face blanched at his information
that, owing to the pressure of duties which the commencement of the war
imposed upon him, his Majesty would be unable to visit her here.  But
when, to sweeten the bitter potion, he had added that when her throat was
well again, and her voice had regained its former melody, the monarch
would once more gladly listen to her, he was startled; for, instead of
answering, she merely shrugged her shoulders contemptuously, while her
face grew corpselike in its pallor.  He would have been best pleased to
end his report here, but she could not be spared the suffering to which
she was doomed, and pity demanded that the torture should be ended as
quickly as possible.  So, to raise her courage, he began with the
Emperor's congratulations, and while her eves were sparkling brightly
and her pale cheeks were crimsoned by a fleeting flush, he went on, as
considerately as he could, to inform her of the Emperor's resolution,
not neglecting while he did so to place it in a milder light by many
a palliating remark.

Barbara, panting for breath, listened to his report without interrupting
him; but as the physician thought he perceived in the varying expression
of her features and the wandering glance with which she listened tokens
that she did not fully understand what the Emperor required of her, he
summed up his communications once more.

"His Majesty," he concluded, "was ready to recognise as his own the young
life to be expected, if she would keep the secret, and decide to commit
it to his sole charge from its arrival in the world; but, on the other
hand, he would refuse this to her and to the child if she did not agree
to impose upon herself sacrifice and silence."

At this brief, plain statement Barbara had pressed her hands upon her
temples and stretched her head far forward toward the physician.  Now she
lowered her right hand, and with the question, "So this is what I must
understand?" impetuously struck herself a blow on the forehead.

The patient man again raised his voice to make the expression of the
monarch's will still plainer, but she interrupted him after the first few
words with the exclamation: "You can spare yourself this trouble, for the
meaning of the man whose message you bear is certainly evident enough.
What my poor intellect fails to comprehend is only--do you hear?--is only
where the faithless traitor gains the courage to make me so unprecedented
a demand.  Hitherto I was only not wicked enough to know that there--
there was such an abyss of abominable hard-heartedness, such fiendish
baseness, such----"

Here an uncontrollable fit of coughing interrupted her, but Dr. Mathys
would have stopped her in any case; it was unendurable to him to listen
longer while the great man who was the Emperor, and whom he also honoured
as a man, was reviled with such savage recklessness.

As in so many instances, Charles's penetration had been superior to his;
for he had not failed to notice to what tremendous extremes this girl's
hasty temper could carry her.  What burning, almost evil passion had
flamed in her eyes while uttering these insults!  How perfectly right
his Majesty was to withdraw from all association with a woman of so
irresponsible a nature!

He repressed with difficulty the indignation which had overpowered him
until her coughing ceased, then, in a tone of stern reproof, he declared
that he could not and ought not to listen to such words.  She whom the
Emperor Charles had honoured with his love would perhaps in the future
learn to recognise his decision as wise, though it might offend her now.
When she had conquered the boundless impetuosity which so ill beseemed
her, she herself would probably perceive how immeasurably deep and wide
was the gulf which separated her from the sacred person of the man who,
next to God, was the highest power on earth.  Not only justice but duty
would command the head of the most illustrious family in the world to
claim the sole charge of his child, that it might be possible to train it
unimpeded to the lofty position of the father, instead of the humble one
of the mother.

Hitherto Barbara had remained silent, but her breath had come more and
more quickly, the tremor of the nostrils had increased; but at the
physician's last remark she could control herself no longer, and burst
forth like a madwoman: "And you pretend to be my friend, pretend to be a
fairminded man?  You are the tool, the obedient echo of the infamous
wretch who now stretches his robber hand toward my most precious
possession!  Ay, look at me as though my frank speech was rousing the
greatest wrath in your cowardly soul!  Where was the ocean-deep gulf when
the perjured betrayer clasped me in his arms, uttered vows of love, and
called himself happy because his possession of me would beautify the
evening of his life?  Now my voice has lost its melting music, and he
sends his accomplice to leave the mute 'nightingale'--how often he has
called me so!--to her fate."

Here she faltered, and her cheeks glowed with excitement as, with her
clinched hand on her brow, she continued: "Must everything be changed and
overturned because this traitor is the Emperor, and the betrayed only the
child of a man who, though plain, is worthy of all honour, and who,
besides, was not found on the highway, but belongs to the class of
knights, from whom even the proudest races of sovereigns descend?  You
trample my father and me underfoot, to exalt the grandeur of your master.
You make him the idol, to humble me to a worm; and what you grant the
she-wolf--the right of defence when men undertake to rob her of her
young--you deny me, and, because I insist upon it, I must be a deluded,
unbridled creature."

Here she sobbed aloud and covered her face with her hands; but Dr. Mathys
had been obliged to do violence to his feelings in order not to put a
speedy end to the fierce attack.  Her glance had been like that of an
infuriated wild beast as the rage in her soul burst forth with elementary
power, and the sharpness of her hoarse voice still pierced him to the
heart.

Probably the man of honour whom she had so deeply-insulted felt justified
in paying her in the same coin, but the mature and experienced physician
knew how much he must place to the account of the physical condition of
this unfortunate girl, and did not conceal from himself that her charges
were not wholly unjustifiable.  So he restrained himself, and when she
had gained control over the convulsive sobbing which shook her bosom, he
told her his intention of leaving her and not returning until he could
expect a less hostile reception.  Meanwhile she might consider whether
the Emperor's decision was not worthy of different treatment.  He would
show his good will to her anew by concealing from his Majesty what he had
just heard, and what she, at no distant day, would repent as unjust and
unworthy of her.

Then Barbara angrily burst forth afresh: "Never, never, never will that
happen!  Neither years nor decades would efface the wrong inflicted upon
me to-day.  But oh, how I hate him who makes this shameful demand--yes,
though you devour me with your eyes--hate him, hate him!  I do so even
more ardently than I loved him!  And you?  Why should you conceal it?
From kindness to me?  Perhaps so!  Yet no, no, no!  Speak freely!  Yes,
you must, must tell him so to his face!  Do it in my name, abused, ill-
treated as I am, and tell him----"

Here the friendly man's patience gave out, and, drawing his little broad
figure stiffly up, he said repellently: "You are mistaken in me, my dear.
If you need a messenger, you must seek some one else.  You have taken
care to make me sincerely regret having discharged this office for your
sake.  Besides, your recovery will progress without my professional aid;
and, moreover, I shall leave Ratisbon with my illustrious master in a few
days."

He turned his back upon her as he spoke.  When toward evening the Emperor
asked him how Barbara had received his decision, he shrugged his
shoulders and answered: "As was to be expected.  She thinks herself ill-
used, and will not give up the child."

"She will have a different view in the convent," replied the Emperor.
"Quijada shall talk with her to-morrow, and De Soto and the pious nuns
here will show her where she belongs.  The child--that matter is settled
--will be taken from her."

The execution of the imperial will began on the very next morning.
First the confessor De Soto appeared, and with convincing eloquence
showed Barbara how happily she could shape her shadowed life within the
sacred quiet of the convent.  Besides, the helpless creature whose coming
she was expecting with maternal love could rely upon the father's
recognition and aid only on condition that she yielded to his Majesty's
expressed will.

Barbara, though with no little difficulty, succeeded in maintaining her
composure during these counsels and the declaration of the servant of the
Holy Church.  Faithful to the determination formed during the night, she
imposed silence upon herself, and when De Soto asked for a positive
answer, she begged him to grant her time for consideration.

Soon after Don Luis Quijada was announced.  This time he did not appear
in the dark Spanish court costume, but in the brilliant armour of the
Lombard regiment whose command had been entrusted to him.

When he saw Barbara, for the first time after many weeks, he was
startled.

Only yesterday she had seemed to Wolf Hartschwert peerlessly beautiful,
but the few hours which had elapsed between the visit of the physician
and the major-domo had sadly changed her.  Her large, bright eyes were
reddened by weeping, and the slight lines about the corners of the mouth
had deepened and lent her a severe expression.

A hundred considerations had doubtless crowded upon her during the night,
yet she by no means repented having showed the leech what she thought of
the betrayer in purple and the demand which he made upon her.  De Soto's
attempt at persuasion had only increased her defiance.  Instead of
reflecting and thinking of her own welfare and of the future of the
beloved being whose coming she dreaded, yet who seemed to her the most
precious gift of Heaven, she strengthened herself more and more in the
belief that it was due to her own dignity to resist the Emperor's cruel
encroachments upon her liberty.  She knew that she owed Dr. Mathys a debt
of gratitude, but she thought herself freed from that duty since he had
made himself the blind tool of his master.

Now the Spaniard, who had never been her friend, also came to urge the
Emperor's will upon her.  Toward him she need not force herself to
maintain the reserve which she had exercised in her conversation with the
confessor.

On the contrary!

He should hear, with the utmost plainness, what she thought of the
Emperor's instructions.  If he, his confidant, then showed him that there
was one person at least who did not bow before his pitiless power, and
that hatred steeled her courage to defy him, one of the most ardent
wishes of her indignant, deeply wounded heart would be fulfilled.  The
only thing which she still feared was that her aching throat might
prevent her from freely pouring forth what so passionately agitated her
soul.

She now confronted the inflexible nobleman, not a feature in whose clear-
cut, nobly moulded, soldierly face revealed what moved him.

When, in a businesslike tone, he announced his sovereign's will, she
interrupted him with the remark that she knew all this, and had
determined to oppose her own resolve to his Majesty's wishes.

Don Luis calmly allowed her to finish, and then asked: "So you refuse to
take the veil?  Yet I think, under existing circumstances, nothing could
become you better."

"Life in a convent," she answered firmly, "is distasteful to me, and I
will never submit to it.  Besides, you were hardly commissioned to
discuss what does or does not become me."

"By no means," replied the Spaniard calmly; "yet you can attribute the
remark to my wish to serve you.  During the remainder of our conference
I will silence it, and can therefore be brief."

"So much the better," was the curt response.  "Well, then, so you insist
that you will neither keep the secret which you have the honour of
sharing with his Majesty, nor----"

"Stay!"  she eagerly interrupted.  "The Emperor Charles took care to make
the bond which united me to him cruelly hateful, and therefore I am not
at all anxious to inform the world how close it once was."

Here Don Luis bit his lips, and a frown contracted his brow.  Yet he
controlled himself, and asked with barely perceptible excitement, "Then
I may inform his Majesty that you would be disposed to keep this secret?"

"Yes," she answered curtly.

"But, so far as the convent is concerned, you persist in your refusal?"

"Even a noble and kind man would never induce me to take the veil."

Now Quijada lost his composure, and with increasing indignation
exclaimed: "Of all the men on earth there is probably not one who cares
as little for the opinion of an arrogant woman wounded in her vanity.
He stands so far above your judgment that it is insulting him to
undertake his defence.  In short, you will not go to the convent?"

"No, and again no!" she protested bitterly.  "Besides, your promise ought
to bind you to still greater brevity.  But it seems to please your noble
nature to insult a defenceless, ill-treated woman.  True, perhaps it is
done on behalf of the mighty man who stands so far above me."

"How far, you will yet learn to your harm," replied Don Luis, once more
master of himself.  "As for the child, you still seem determined to
withhold it from the man who will recognise it as his solely on this
condition?"

Barbara thought it time to drop the restraint maintained with so much
difficulty, and half with the intention of letting Charles's favourite
hear the anguish that oppressed her heart, half carried away by the
resentment which filled her soul, she permitted it to overflow and, in
spite of the pain which it caused her to raise her voice, she ceased
whispering, and cried: "You ask to hear what I intend to do?  Nothing,
save to keep what is mine!  Though I know how much you dislike me, Don
Luis Quijada, I call upon you to witness whether I have a right to this
child and to consideration from its father; for when you, his messenger
of love, led me for the first time to the man who now tramples me so
cruelly under his feet, you yourself heard him greet me as the sun which
was again rising for him.  But that is forgotten!  If his will is not
executed, mother and child may perish in darkness and misery.  Well,
then, will against will!  He has the right to cease to love me and to
thrust me from him, but it is mine to hate him from my inmost soul, and
to make my child what I please.  Let him grow up as Heaven wills, and if
he perishes in want and shame, if he is put in the pillory or dies on the
scaffold, one mission at least will be left for me.  I will shriek out to
the world how the royal betrayer provided for the welfare of his own
blood!"

"Enough!" interrupted Don Luis in mingled wrath and horror.  "I will not
and can not listen longer while gall and venom are poured upon the sacred
head of the greatest of men."

"Then leave me!" cried Barbara, scarcely able to use her voice.  "This
room, at least, will be mine until I can no longer accept even shelter
from the traitor who--you used the words yourself--instilled venom and
bitter gall into my soul."

Quijada, with a slight bend of the head, turned and left the room.

When the door closed behind him, Barbara, with panting breath and
flashing eyes, threw herself into an arm-chair, content as if she had
been relieved of a heavy burden, but the Emperor's envoy mounted the
horse on which he had come, and rode away.

He fared as the leech had done the day before.  Barbara's infamous abuse
still fired his blood, but he could not conceal from himself that this
unfortunate woman had been wronged by his beloved and honoured master.
In truth, he had more than once heard the ardent professions of love with
which Charles had greeted and dismissed her, and his chivalrous nature
rebelled against the severity with which he made her suffer for the
cruelty of Fate that had prematurely robbed her of what had been to him
her dearest charm.

Before he went to Prebrunn, Dr. Mathys had counselled him not to forget
during the disagreeable reception awaiting him that he was dealing
with an irritable invalid, and the thoroughly noble man resolved to
remember it as an excuse.  The Emperor Charles should learn only that
Barbara refused to submit to his arrangements, that his harshness deeply
wounded her and excited her quick temper.  He was unwilling to expose
himself again to an outburst of her rage, and he would therefore intrust
to another the task of rendering her more docile, and this other was Wolf
Hartschwert.

A few days before he had visited the recovering knight, and obtained from
him a decision whose favourable nature filled him with secret joy
whenever he thought of it.

Wolf had already learned from the valet Adrian the identity of the person
to whom he had been obliged to yield precedence in Barbara's heart, and
how generously Quijada had kept silence concerning the wound which he had
dealt him.  When Don Luis freely forgave him for the unfortunate
misunderstanding for which he, too, was not wholly free from blame, Wolf
had thrown himself on his knees and warmly entreated him to dispose of
him, who owed him more than life, as he would of himself.  Then, opening
his whole heart, he revealed what Barbara had been to him, and how,
unable to control his rage, he had rushed upon him when he thought he
had discovered, in the man who had just asked him to go far away from
the woman he loved, her betrayer.

After this explanation, Quijada had acquiesced in the knight's wish that
he should give him the office offered on that luckless evening, and he
now felt disposed also to intrust to him further negotiations with the
singer.

In the report made to the Emperor, Don Luis suppressed everything which
could offend him; but Charles remained immovable in his determination to
withdraw the expected gift of Fate, from its first entrance into the
world, from every influence except his own.  Moreover, he threatened that
if the blinded girl continued to refuse to enter the convent and yield up
the child, he would withdraw his aid from both.  After a sleepless night,
however, he remarked, on the following morning, that he perceived it to
be his duty, whatever might happen, to assume the care of the child who
was entitled to call him its father.  What he would do for the mother
must depend upon her future conduct.  This was another instance how every
trespass of the bounds of the moral order which the Church ordains and
hallows entails the most sorrowful consequences even here below.
Precisely because he was so strongly attached to this unfortunate woman,
once so richly gifted, he desired to offer her the opportunity to obtain
pardon from Heaven, and therefore insisted upon her retiring to the
convent.  His own guilt was causing him great mental trouble and, in
fact, notwithstanding the arduous labour imposed upon him by the war, the
most melancholy mood again took possession of him.

The day before his departure to join the army which was gathered near by
at Landshut, he withdrew once more into the apartment draped with sable
hangings.

When he was informed that Barbara wished to leave the Prebrunn castle, he
burst into a furious passion, and commanded that she should be kept
there, even if it was necessary to use force.



ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:

Whoever will not hear, must feel





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Barbara Blomberg — Volume 07" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home