Gombert forced himself to keep silence, but the significant smile on his delicate, beardless lips betrayed what he thought of this selection. The conductor of the boy choir was franker. He slightly shook his ponderous head, whose long, gray hair was parted in the middle, and then honestly admitted, in his deep tones, that the Missa Graecorum seemed to him too majestic and gloomy for this purpose. Wolf, too, disapproved of the Queen’s suggestion for the same reason, and, though she pointed out that she had chosen this composition precisely on account of its deep religious earnestness, the former persisted in his opposition, and modestly mentioned the melody which would probably be best suited for a surprise at his imperial Majesty’s repast.
Maestro Gombert had recently composed a Benedictio Mensae for four voices, and, as it was one of his most effective creations, had never been executed, and therefore would be entirely new to the Emperor, it was specially adapted to introduce the concert with which the monarch was to be surprised at table.
The Queen would have preferred that a religious piece should commence the musical performance, but assented to Wolf’s proposal. Gombert himself dispelled her fear that his composition would be purely secular in character, and Wolf upheld him by singing to the musical princess, to the accompaniment of the lute, snatches of the principal theme of the Benedictio, which had impressed itself upon his faithful memory.
Gombert assisted him, but Appenzelder stroked his long beard, signifying his approval by nods and brief exclamations of satisfaction. The Queen was now sincerely glad that this piece of music had been brought to her notice; certainly nothing more suitable for the purpose could have been found. Besides, her kindly nature and feminine tact made her grateful to Wolf for his hint of distinguishing, by the first performance of one of his works, the able conductor and fine composer upon whom she had imposed so fatiguing a journey.
She would gladly have given Appenzelder also some token of her favour, but she could not have used any of his compositions—the most famous of which was a dirge—upon this occasion, and the blunt long-beard frankly admitted this, and declared unasked that he desired nothing better than to offer his Majesty, with the Benedictio, the first greeting of Netherland music.
Gombert’s bearing was that of an aristocrat, his lofty brow that of a thinker, and his mobile mouth rendered it easy to perceive what a wealth of joyous mirth dwelt within the soul of this artist, who was equally distinguished in grave and gay moods.
Queen Mary was by no means blind to these merits, and lamented the impossibility of being on more familiar terms of intercourse with him and his colleague of the boy choir. But both were of humble birth, and from childhood custom had prohibited her, as well as the other female members of her family, from associating with persons who did not belong to the nobility. So there was no place for either in her household.