“I won’t,” protested Wilhelm Haldema, from Leuwarden in Friesland. “I shall go down to the river with my pole. It’s swarming with fish.”
Wolf had remained concealed until this moment. Now he entered the huge apartment.
The boys rushed toward him with joyous ease, and, as they crowded around him, asking all sorts of questions, it was evident that he possessed their affection and confidence.
He kindly motioned to them to keep silence, and asked what induced them to expect leisure time on that day, when, by the exertion of all their powers, they were to display their skill in the presence of their mistress and the Emperor.
The answer was not delayed—nay, it sprang from many young lips at the same time. Unfortunately, its character was such that Wolf scarcely ventured to hope for the full success of the surprise.
Johann of Cologne and Benevenuto Bosco of Catania, in Sicily, the two leaders and ornaments of the choir, were so very ill that their recovery could scarcely be expected even within the next few days. The native of Cologne had been attacked on the way by a hoarseness which made the fifteenyear-old lad uneasy, because signs of the approaching change of voice had already appeared.
The break meant to the extremely musical youth, who had been distinguished by the bell-like purity of his tones, the loss of his well-paid position in the boy choir, which, for his poor mother’s sake, he must retain as long as possible. So, with mingled grief and hope, he dipped deeply into his slender purse when, at Neumarkt, where the travelling musicians spent the night just at the time the annual fair was held, he met a quack who promised to help him.
This extremely talkative old man, who styled himself “Body physician to many distinguished princes and courts,” boasted of possessing a secret remedy of the famous Bartliolomaus Anglicus, which, besides other merits, also had the power of bestowing upon a harsh voice the melody of David’s harp.
Still, the young native of Cologne delayed some time before using the nostrum. Not until the hoarseness increased alarmingly did he in his need take the leech’s prescription, and Benevenuto Bosco, whom he had admitted to his confidence, and who also felt a certain rawness in his throat, since beyond Nuremberg one shower of rain after another had drenched the travellers, asked him to let him use the medicine also.
At first both thought that they felt a beneficial result; but soon their condition changed for the worse, and their illness constantly increased.
On reaching Ratisbon they were obliged to go to bed, and a terrible night was followed by an equally bad morning.
When Appenzelder returned from the audience at the Golden Cross, he found his two best singers in so pitiable a condition that he was obliged to summon the Emperor’s leech, Dr. Mathys, to the sufferers.
The famous physician was really under obligations to remain near the sovereign at this time of day. Yet he had gone at once to the Stag, and pronounced the patients there to be the victims of severe poisoning.