“That,” he concluded, “Nature herself just at this season teaches us to hope. This day of fasting and sadness will be followed by a series of the brightest weeks—the time of leafage, blossom, and bird songs, which is so dear to the merciful mother of God. May the month of May, called by the Germans the joy month, and which dawns to-day with bright sunshine and a clear, blue sky, be indeed a season of joy to your Majesty!”
“God grant it!” replied the Emperor dully, and then, with a shrug of the shoulders, added: “Besides, I can not imagine whence such joy should come to me. A boy’s bell-like voice sang to me yesterday, ’Quia amore langueo.’ This heart, too, longs for love, but it will never find it on earth.”
“Why not, if your Majesty sends forth to seek it?” replied the confessor eagerly. “The Gospel itself gives a guarantee of success. ’Seek, and ye shall find,’ it promises. To the heart which longs for love the all-bountiful Father sends that for which it longs to meet it halfway.”
“When it is young,” added the Emperor, shrugging his shoulders impatiently.” But when the soul’s power of flight has failed, who will bestow the ability to traverse the half of the way allotted to it?”
“The omnipotence which works greater miracles,” replied the priest in a tone of the most ardent conviction, pointing upward.
Charles nodded a mournful assent, and, after a sign which indicated to the confessor that he desired the interview to end, he continued his painful walk.
He had waved aside the litter which the lord chamberlain, Count Heinrich of Nassau, had placed ready for him, and limped, amid severe suffering, to his room.
There the Bishop of Arras awaited him with arduous work, and the Emperor did not allow himself a moment’s rest while his sister was using the beautiful first of May to ride and hunt. Charles missed her, and still more the faithful man who had served him as a page, and whom he had been accustomed since to have in close attendance upon him.
To gratify his sister’s passion for the chase he had given Quijada leave of absence, and now he regretted it. True, he told no one that he missed Don Luis, but those who surrounded him were made to feel his ill-humour plainly enough. Only he admitted to the Bishop of Arras that the radiant light which was shining into his window was disagreeable. It made too strong a contrast to his gloomy soul, and it even seemed as though the course of the sun, in its beaming, unattainably lofty path, mocked the hapless, painful obstruction to his own motion.
At noon he enjoyed very little of the meal, prepared for a fast day, which the new cook had made tempting enough.
In reply to the Count of Nassau’s inquiry whether he wished to hear any music, he had answered rudely that the musicians and the boy choir could play and sing in the chapel for aught he cared. Whether he would listen to the performance was doubtful.