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An Emperor Retired From Business
by [?]

In October of the year 1555 a strange procession passed through a rugged and hilly region of Spain. At its head rode an alcalde with a posse of alguazils. Next came a gouty old man in a horse-litter, like a prisoner in the hands of a convoy of officers of justice. A body of horsemen followed, and in the rear toiled onward a long file of baggage-mules.

As the train advanced into the more settled regions of the country it became evident that the personage thus convoyed was not a prisoner, but a person of the highest consequence. On each side of the road the people assembled to see him pass, with a show of deep respect. At the towns along the route the great lords of the neighborhood gathered in his honor, and in the cities the traveller was greeted by respectful deputations of officials. When Burgos was approached the great constable of Castile, with a strong retinue of attendants, came to meet him, and when he passed through the illuminated streets of that city the bells rang out in merry peals, while enthusiastic people filled the streets.

It was not a prisoner to the law, but a captive to gout, who thus passed in slow procession through the lands and cities of Spain. It was the royal Charles, King of Spain and the Netherlands, Emperor of Germany, and magnate of America, at that time the greatest monarch in Europe, lord of a realm greater than that of Charlemagne, who made his way with this small following and in this simple manner through the heart of his Spanish dominions. He had done what few kings have done before or since, voluntarily thrown off his crown in the height of his power,–weary of reigning, surfeited with greatness,–and retired to spend the remainder of his life in privacy, to dwell far from the pomp of courts in a simple community of monks.

The next principal halting-place of the retired monarch was the city of Valladolid, once the capital of the kingdom and still a rich and splendid place, adorned with stately public buildings and the palaces of great nobles. Here he remained for some time resting from his journey, his house thronged with visitors of distinction. Among these, one day, came the court fool. Charles touched his cap to him.

“Welcome, brother,” said the jester; “do you raise your hat to me because you are no longer emperor?”

“No,” answered Charles, “but because this sorry courtesy is all I have left to give you.”

On quitting Valladolid Charles seemed to turn his back finally on the world, with all its pomps and vanities. Before leaving he took his last dinner in public, and bade an affectionate farewell to his sisters, his daughter, and his grandson, who had accompanied him thus far in his journey. A large train of nobles and cavaliers rode with him to the gates of the city, where he courteously dismissed them, and moved onward attended only by his simple train.

“Heaven be praised!” said the world-weary monarch, as he came nearer his place of retreat; “after this no more visits of ceremony, no more receptions!”

But he was not yet rid of show and ostentation. Spending the night at Medina del Campo, at the house of a rich banker named Rodrigo de Duenas, the latter, by way of display, warmed the emperor’s room with a brazier of pure gold, in which, in place of common fuel, sticks of cinnamon were burned. Neither the perfume nor the ostentation was agreeable to Charles, and on leaving the next morning he punished his over-officious host by refusing to permit him to kiss his hand, and by causing him to be paid for the night’s lodging like a common inn-keeper.

This was not the first time that cinnamon had been burned in the emperor’s chamber. The same was done by the Fuggers, the famous bankers of Germany, who had loaned Charles large sums for his expedition against Tunis, and entertained him at their house on his return. In this case the emperor was not offended by the odor of cinnamon, since it was modified by a different and more agreeable perfume. The bankers, grateful to Charles for breaking up a pestilent nest of Barbary pirates, threw the receipts for the money they had loaned him into the fire, turning their gold into ashes in his behalf. This was a grateful sacrifice to the emperor, whose war-like enterprises consumed more money than he could readily command.