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Barbara Blomberg   By: (1837-1898)

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BARBARA BLOMBERG

By Georg Ebers

Translated from the German by Mary J. Safford

BOOK 1.

CHAPTER I.

The sun sometimes shone brightly upon the little round panes of the ancient building, the Golden Cross, on the northern side of the square, which the people of Ratisbon call "on the moor"; sometimes it was veiled by gray clouds. A party of nobles, ecclesiastics, and knights belonging to the Emperor's train were just coming out. The spring breeze banged behind them the door of the little entrance for pedestrians close beside the large main gateway.

The courtiers and ladies who were in the chapel at the right of the corridor started. "April weather!" growled the corporal of the Imperial Halberdiers to the comrade with whom he was keeping; guard at the foot of the staircase leading to the apartments of Charles V, in the second story of the huge old house.

"St. Peter's day," replied the other, a Catalonian. "At my home fresh strawberries are now growing in the open air and roses are blooming in the gardens. Take it all in all, it's better to be dead in Barcelona than alive in this accursed land of heretics!"

"Come, come," replied the other, "life is life! 'A live dog is better than a dead king,' says a proverb in my country."

"And it is right, too," replied the Spaniard. "But ever since we came here our master's face looks as if imperial life didn't taste exactly like mulled wine, either."

The Netherlander lowered his halberd and answered his companion's words first with a heavy sigh, and then with the remark: "Bad weather upstairs as well as down the very worst! I've been in the service thirteen years, but I never saw him like this, not even after the defeat in Algiers. That means we must keep a good lookout. Present halberds! Some one is coming down."

Both quickly assumed a more erect attitude, but the Spaniard whispered to his comrade: "It isn't he. His step hasn't sounded like that since the gout "

"Quijada!" whispered the Netherlander, and both he and the man from Barcelona presented halberds with true military bearing; but the staves of their descending weapons soon struck the flags of the pavement again, for a woman's voice had detained the man whom the soldiers intended to salute, and in his place two slender lads rushed down the steps.

The yellow velvet garments, with ash gray facings, and cap of the same material in the same colours, were very becoming to these youths the Emperor's pages and, though the first two were sons of German and Italian counts, and the third who followed them was a Holland baron, the sentinels took little more notice of them than of Queen Mary's pointers following swiftly at their heels.

"Of those up there," observed the halberdier from Haarlem under his breath, "a man would most willingly stiffen his back for Quijada."

"Except their Majesties, of course," added the Catalonian with dignity.

"Of course," the other repeated. "Besides, the Emperor Charles himself bestows every honour on Don Luis. I was in Algiers at the time. A hundred more like him would have made matters different, I can tell you. If it beseemed an insignificant fellow like me, I should like to ask why his Majesty took him from the army and placed him among the courtiers."

Here he stopped abruptly, for, in spite of the gaily dressed nobles and ladies, priests, knights, and attendants who were passing up and down the corridor, he had heard footsteps on the stairs which must be those of men in high position. He was not mistaken one was no less a personage than the younger Granvelle, the Bishop of Arras, who, notwithstanding his nine and twenty years, was already the favourite counsellor of Charles V; the other, a man considerably his senior, Dr. Mathys, of Bruges, the Emperor's physician.

The bishop was followed by a secretary clad in black, with a portfolio under his arm; the leech, by an elderly assistant.

The fine features of the Bishop of Arras, which revealed a nature capable of laughter and enjoyment, now looked as grave as his companion's a fact which by no means escaped the notice of the courtiers in the corridor, but no one ventured to approach them with a question, although it had begun to rain again they stopped before going out of doors and stood talking together in low tones... Continue reading book >>




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