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Title: For Sceptre and Crown, Vol. II (of II) - A Romance of the Present Time
Author: Meding, Johann Ferdinand Martin Oskar, 1829-1903
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "For Sceptre and Crown, Vol. II (of II) - A Romance of the Present Time" ***

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Transcriber's Notes:

   1. Page scan source:
      http://www.archive.org/details/forsceptreandcr01samagoog

   2. Gregor Samarow is pseudonym of Oskar Meding.

   3. The diphthong oe is represented by [oe].



                         FOR SCEPTRE AND CROWN.



                      NEW NOVELS AT THE LIBRARIES.


VANESSA. By the Author of "Thomasina," "Dorothy," &c. 2 vols. crown
8vo.


IDOLATRY: A Romance. By Julian Hawthorne, Author of "Bressant." 2 vols.
crown 8vo.

"A more powerful book than 'Bressant.' ... If the figures are mostly
phantoms, they are phantoms which take a more powerful hold on the mind
than many very real figures.... There are three scenes in this romance,
any one of which would prove true genius."--_Spectator_.

"The character of the Egyptian, half mad and all wicked, is remarkably
drawn.... Manetho is a really fine conception.... That there are
passages of almost exquisite beauty here and there is only what we
might expect."--_Athenæum_.


WOMAN'S A RIDDLE: or, Baby Warmstrey. By Philip Sheldon. 3 vols. crown
8vo.

"In the delineation of idiosyncrasy, special and particular, and its
effects on the lives of the personages of the story, the author may,
without exaggeration, be said to be masterly. Whether in the long
drawn-out development of character in the every-day life of the persons
of the drama, or in the description of peculiar qualities in a single
pointed sentence, he is equally skilful; while where pathos is
necessary, he has it at command, and subdued sly humour is not
wanting."--_Morning Post_.


AILEEN FERRERS. By Susan Morley. 2 vols. cr. 8vo.

"Her novel rises to a level far above that which cultivated women with
a facile pen ordinarily attain when they set themselves to write a
story.... Its grammar is faultless, its style is pure, flowing, terse,
and correct, there is not a line of fine writing from beginning to end,
and there is a total absence of anything like moralising, or the
introduction of pretty ineffectual sermons.... It is as a study of
character, worked out in a manner that is free from almost all the
usual faults of lady writers, that 'Aileen Ferrers' merits a place
apart from its innumerable rivals."--_Saturday Review_.

                           *   *   *   *   *

                     HENRY S. KING AND CO. LONDON.



                        _FOR SCEPTRE AND CROWN_

                     A ROMANCE OF THE PRESENT TIME.

                     TRANSLATED FROM THE GERMAN OF

                            GREGOR SAMAROW.


                        IN TWO VOLUMES. VOL. II.



                         HENRY S. KING AND CO.
             65, Cornhill, and 12, Paternoster Row, London.
                                 1875.



                        (_All rights reserved_.)



                          CONTENTS OF VOL. II.

  Chapter
    XIII. Delay.

     XIV. Langensalza.

      XV. Suspense.

     XVI. Intrigue.

    XVII. Defeat.

   XVIII. Diplomacy.

     XIX. Bismarck's Diplomacy.

      XX. The Crisis.

     XXI. Reconciliation.

    XXII. Russia.

   XXIII. The Marshals of France.

    XXIV. The Empress Charlotte.

     XXV. The Sick and Wounded.

    XXVI. Instruments of the Church.

   XXVII. Hietzing.

  XXVIII. Blechow.

    XXIX. "God and the Fatherland!"



                      FOR SCEPTRE AND CROWN.



                             CHAPTER XIII.

                                 DELAY.


Events did indeed hurry on during those memorable days, and history
took as many forward steps in the annals of the world in hours as she
had formerly done in years. General von Manteuffel marched from the
north; General Vogel von Falckenstein occupied Hanover, and took
possession of the government of the country, the king having commanded
all magistrates to keep in their various positions; General Beyer
concentrated his divided forces in Hesse; General von Seckendorf
occupied the country from Magdeburg to Nordhausen, and from Erfurt a
part of the garrison and a battery of artillery marched to Eisenach,
and there joined the troops of the Duke of Coburg-Gotha, to block the
road to the south against the Hanoverian army.

Orders flew from Berlin to the different generals in command, and quick
and unanimous movements were made throughout the Prussian army, their
aim being to strengthen every point of a circle they were forming
around the Hanoverian army, which continually grew stronger and drew
closer together.

Now, only the quickest and most direct road to Fulda remained open.

And the brave-spirited army still lay in Göttingen and its immediate
neighbourhood.

The general staff worked day and night to prepare it for the march.
Certainly the younger officers and men boiled with impatience, and
could not understand why the regiments, after making such a sudden
march from their various quarters to Göttingen, were not able to march
on by a perfectly open road to the south. Certainly old General Brandis
shook his head, and said it would be better to break through the enemy
with an army unprepared to march, than to be hemmed in with an army
prepared to march. Certainly he hinted that the soldiers of the great
Wellington had, according to every rule, frequently been unprepared to
march, yet they had marched, fought, and conquered. Truly the king
gnashed his teeth with impatience; he could do nothing, the ruler whose
eyes were deprived of light by the hand of Heaven, but question and
urge, and again urge and question.

But the general staff in the aula of Georgia Augusta proved to good
General von Arentschildt that, according to all existing rules, the
army was not yet ready to march. The rules lay before them, and the
general staff was right; and General von Arentschildt told the king the
army could not march yet.

The general staff waited, too, for the advance of the Hessians and
Bavarians, to combine with the Hanoverian army.

The king was obliged to wait in silent impatience in his rooms at the
Crown Hotel.

The troops, in their quarters and cantonments, waited, and their
impatience was not silent; on the contrary, the air resounded with good
hearty oaths, and impatience was loudest and liveliest amongst the
cavalry regiments, where the snorting horses pawed the ground, and the
men thought they had but to spring into the saddle to be as ready to
march as any cavalry in the world.

They all waited.

Count Platen waited for some relenting on the part of Prince Ysenburg.
He had sent an explanation about the Prussian ultimatum from Göttingen
to the prince, and he hoped it might be the means of recommencing
negotiations; but on the second day the explanation itself came back,
opened, it is true, but with the short and cold remark from Prince
Ysenburg that after the declaration of hostilities all his diplomatic
functions had ceased, and that he was no longer in a position to
receive writings from the Hanoverian minister.

So they all waited, and impatience waxed hotter in the army still
unprepared to march; but so much had been neglected and left
disorderly--so the new leaders of the army found and maintained--that,
in spite of all this and all that, they still could not march.

The courier Duve went on his way without meeting a Prussian soldier; he
found the Hessian head-quarters not in Fulda, but in Hanau, and there
General von Lossberg declared he could not alter the disposition
of the army, as Prince Alexander of Hesse had already assumed the
command,--besides the army of Hesse-Cassel was immovable.

The courier hastened on; and in Frankfort he delivered to Baron Kübeck,
the Austrian presidential ambassador to the confederacy, the despatches
confided to him by Count Ingelheim, and he received from Herr von
Kübeck an urgent memorial to Prince Alexander of Hesse, who was then in
Darmstadt. Duve told the prince all about the position of the
Hanoverian army, which was entirely unknown to him. Prince Alexander
sent a message, that he would request the Bavarians, who were at
Schweinfurth, to march towards the north, and that the eighth corps
d'armée at Fulda should march upon Eschwege immediately, to stretch out
a hand to the Hanoverian army; and finally, that the Hessian brigade
should be pushed forwards from Hanau to Giessen as a demonstration.

It was expected in Prince Alexander's head-quarters that the Hanoverian
army would march immediately on the road to Fulda, there join the
Hessian brigade, and unite with the eighth army corps. The road to
Fulda was free, and only a portion of General Beyer's divided corps
could have been met with, and it was improbable that it would have
hazarded an encounter.

This was the way they reckoned in Prince Alexander's head-quarters.

But the new Hanoverian generals decided otherwise in the aula of
Georgia Augusta. News had arrived partly from travellers, partly from
messengers sent to ascertain, that 60,000, 80,000, yes 100,000 Prussian
troops blocked the way to Fulda; so it was decided not to take that
road, but to march into the midst of the Prussian territory between the
Prussian armies, and to get to Eisenach by Heiligenstadt and Treffurt,
there to cross the road and to fall in with the Bavarians, from whom
they had received no information; but they remained persuaded that they
must be there.

In vain old General von Brandis shook his head, and remarked in his
curt fashion, that an army who wished to fight must learn to stand up
to the enemy; that if Prussian troops were on the road to Fulda, it was
one of Wellington's practical maxims for conducting war, "to go on;"
that, at any rate, they had a better chance of overthrowing the enemy
and reaching the south that way, than by jumping out of the frying-pan
into the fire, as they seemed determined to do.

The general staff unanimously determined to march to Heiligenstadt, and
the king consented.

At last the army was to move on the morning of the 21st of June, at
four o'clock, and a general cry of joy throughout all the quarters and
cantonments greeted the order to march.

In exemplary order, as on parade, the valiant brigades formed. The king
left Göttingen about five o'clock, the senate of the university and the
civic magistrates assembling to take leave of him.

It was a brilliant and dazzling procession which in the early morning
light crossed into the Prussian territory.

A half squadron of the Cambridge dragoons formed the body-guard of
their royal master.

Mounted on a large and beautiful white horse, which was guided by Major
Schweppe of the Guard Cuirassiers, with an almost imperceptible leading
rein, rode George V., with the proud knightly bearing which always gave
him so imposing and regal an aspect when on horseback; by his side came
the crown prince in his hussar uniform, on a small thorough-bred horse.
They were surrounded by a numerous suite, both civil and military; old
General von Brandis, notwithstanding his seventy-one years, had sent
back his carriage, and Count Ingelheim rode beside the king in a grey
dress and long stable boots. The brilliant cavalcade was followed by
the king's travelling carriage, drawn by six horses, with outriders and
piquers; and then a number of other carriages for the suite, led
horses, the master of the stables, and servants.

Whenever the royal train passed the troops on the march, a loud, joyful
hurrah burst forth, and every brave soldier's heart beat higher when he
saw his king amongst them.

The courageous but strategically puzzling march of the Hanoverian army
belongs to history, and is fully related in writings upon the war of
1866. It may perhaps be granted to future times to unriddle the
extraordinary movements made by the army, and perhaps to explain why
the march upon Treffurt was given up when they had reached
Heiligenstadt, and their course turned by Mühlhausen to Langensalza;
from thence right under the cannon of Erfurt they marched to Eisenach,
and then suddenly, when this place was as good as taken, they halted,
because an envoy from the Duke of Coburg-Gotha, without credentials,
appeared at the Hanoverian headquarters. Major von Jacobi was sent by
the Hanoverian general staff to Gotha to clear up this mission; and
there, deceived as to the number of Prussian troops occupying Eisenach,
he telegraphed such an account of the enemy to Colonel von Bülow, the
Hanoverian officer in command, that, misled by the report, he withdrew
his troops from Eisenach, and concluded a provisional armistice with
the enemy.

When, therefore,--so runs the official report of these events,--General
von Arentschildt arrived on the spot at about eight o'clock in the
evening, expecting to find Eisenach taken, he was opposed to
circumstances that completely defeated his plans, and contradicted all
his majesty's views, but which both the armistice just concluded and
the approaching night prevented him from grappling with.

Major von Jacobi was brought before a court-martial, the course of
which was rendered impossible by succeeding events.

The reception of the envoy, the negotiations commenced with him and
with the Duke of Coburg in the midst of military action, combined with
the withdrawal of the troops from Eisenach, caused the idea to gain
ground in Berlin that the king wished to negotiate; and King William of
Prussia, animated by the desire of avoiding a bloody encounter
with the Hanoverians, sent General von Alvensleben to the Hanoverian
head-quarters, situated on the 25th June at Gross-Behringen, on the
road to Eisenach.

During the previous negotiations with the Duke of Coburg, and the
withdrawal of the Hanoverian troops, the Prussians had seized the
opportunity of reinforcing Eisenach so strongly that it was now very
difficult to take it.

General von Alvensleben announced himself in Bavaria as empowered by
his majesty the King of Prussia "to receive any commands from the King
of Hanover." The negotiations turned upon the proposition made by the
Hanoverian council of war, that the Hanoverian troops should be granted
a free passage to the south without battle or bloodshed, upon condition
of abstaining for a certain time from fighting against Prussia. Prussia
required that the time named should be a year, and demanded various
guarantees and pledges. The King of Hanover did not accept these
stipulations, yet negotiations were not broken off; on the contrary, a
suspension of hostilities was concluded, and the king promised a
definite answer on the morning of the 26th of June. But when he
despatched Colonel Rudorff, of the general staff, early in the morning
of the 26th, he was turned back by General Vogel von Falckenstein, who
had already arrived in Eisenach and concentrated there nearly two whole
divisions. He declared he know nothing of an armistice, and that he
should certainly attack the enemy.

The Hanoverian army was thus placed in a most unfavourable position.
The king, who had passed the night in Behringen, removed his
head-quarters early on the morning of the 26th to the Schützhaus[1] in
Langensalza.

The Schützhaus, a large and handsome building, stands back from the
road leading to Eisenach, at some little distance from the town; before
it is a large open square, and opposite to it rises the spacious
post-house. Behind the house there is a large garden surrounded by high
walls and covered walks, and a broad verandah connects the house with
the garden.

Double sentries were posted before the Schützhaus; in the square stood
the royal carriages, and officers of every branch of the service
came and went; the aides-de-camp of the general in command, whose
head-quarters were in the town, hurried to and fro, to bring the king
the latest information,--all was movement and military life.

The army was concentrated around Langensalza, and placed in a defensive
position, for as General Vogel von Falckenstein refused to recognize
the armistice, a Prussian attack was expected at any moment. After
Falckenstein had learnt from General von Alvensleben all particulars,
he declared himself willing to respect the suspension of arms; but the
defensive position of the Hanoverian army was nevertheless maintained.

The king sat in his room. The expression on his face was very grave.
Old General von Brandis stood near him.

"My dear Brandis," said the king gloomily, "I fear we are in very evil
case!"

"Alas! I am quite sure we are, your majesty!" replied the general.

"I fear," continued the king, "that these unfortunate and involved
negotiations have only served to give the Prussians time to strengthen
the forces opposed to us, and to make our position worse. Without these
negotiations we should have taken Eisenach and perhaps we should by
this time have joined the Bavarians in safety."

"We should certainly have done so," said the general drily. "Your
majesty will do me the justice to remember I always spoke strongly
against these negotiations," he continued. "According to my opinion
your majesty might negotiate or march; but to attempt both together
would never succeed. I cannot understand what these negotiations were
to lead to. I do not see their aim. To march to the south under the
obligation not to fight against Prussia for a certain time----"

"For two months," interrupted the king.

"But what good could it do?" pursued the general; "what reception could
we expect in South Germany if we arrived saying, 'Here we are, we want
maintenance and quarters, but we can't fight'? I really don't know,"
said he with some bitterness, "what I should say to such a surprise
were I the general commanding the South German troops. I believe that
it would have been better to have stayed in Hanover."

A slight look of impatience passed over the king's face, but it
vanished immediately, and he said, kindly but gravely,--

"But, my dear Brandis, the commanding general and the general staff
assured me the army was unprepared to undertake any serious military
operation, and that after we reached South Germany eight weeks at least
would be required before it was in a condition to fight! It was for
this reason that I entered upon negotiations,--how could I do
otherwise?"

"I do not venture," said the general, "to question your majesty's
decision or mode of action, but I must again repeat I do not understand
the theories which govern the general staff. The results of all their
labour are only negative, and their movements continual retreats. Yet,
your majesty," he cried, "we want to go forwards! and to go forwards we
must march. To march straight on invigorates an army, to halt long in
one place wearies it, but aimless marching hither and thither will in
the end demoralize it."

The king was silent and sighed deeply.

"Your majesty," said the general with warmth and energy, "there is but
one way now which can save us, and that is a hasty march upon Gotha.
The Prussians expect from our previous operations that we shall work
across the railway near Eisenach, and they have drawn together their
greatest strength in that direction. Let your majesty at once direct
your course by forced marches upon Gotha, we shall find but little
resistance, and we shall break through it. We have nineteen thousand
men; even if we lose four thousand, we shall still reach--and of this I
am certain--South Germany with fifteen thousand men; we shall bring
immediate assistance, and above all things we shall maintain the honour
of your majesty's banner in the field. If we stay here," he added
sorrowfully, "we must end badly."

"But the negotiations with Alvensleben," said the king
hesitating,--"Count Platen still hopes for a favourable result."

"What result?" exclaimed General von Brandis; "the results of the
negotiations on either side have not been brilliant."

"Count Platen!" announced the groom of the chambers.

The king made a sign, and Count Platen entered.

"Your majesty," he cried, "the Prussian Colonel von Döring has arrived
as an envoy from Berlin, and brings a despatch from Count Bismarck; it
appears that in Berlin they still wish to negotiate."

"Let the colonel come immediately," said the king.

General Brandis shrugged his shoulders and walked to the window.

Count Platen returned with the Prussian staff-officer.

"Colonel von Döring!" said the count, introducing him, whilst he
approached the king with a stiff military salute; "he begs permission
to read your majesty a despatch from the minister-president, Count
Bismarck."

"I am prepared to listen, colonel," replied the king.

The colonel opened a paper which he held in his hand.

"I must first remark to your majesty," he said, "that I consider myself
freed from my charge, as I find negotiations are broken off, and
General Vogel von Falckenstein already meditating an attack."

"Your communication then will be useless?" asked the king coldly.

"Nevertheless, if your majesty permits, I will carry out my orders."

"Even yet----" began Count Platen.

"Read, colonel," said the king.

The colonel slowly read the despatch. It was an exact repetition of the
ultimatum received through Prince Ysenburg on the 15th, and proposed a
treaty on the foundation of the Prussian project of reform.

"Does this man believe," cried the king, as the colonel ended, "that I
shall now----"

"Your majesty," said Colonel von Döring in a firm voice, "I humbly beg
you graciously to consider that I, as a Prussian officer, cannot hear
any derogatory expression applied to the minister-president."

"Is he not a man like ourselves?" asked the king, with dignity. "Does
Count Bismarck believe," he continued, "that I shall in the field, at
the head of my army, accept conditions which I rejected in my cabinet
at Herrenhausen, and that I shall now allow my army to march against
Austria?"

"Could not a short time be granted for consideration?" suggested Count
Platen.

"I have no orders for granting time," said Colonel von Döring.

"And I do not need it," said the king, "in giving you my answer. It is
the same as before; it is to these propositions simply 'No.' I have
listened to negotiations in the hope of preventing useless bloodshed
and diminishing the burdens of our countrymen, but upon this basis I
cannot negotiate; events must take their course, I can do nothing more
to restrain them. I thank you, colonel, and I wish I had made your
acquaintance on a happier occasion. Take care, gentlemen," he added,
turning to Count Platen and General Brandis, "that the colonel is led
in safety to our outposts."

Colonel von Döring made a military salute and left the king's room,
accompanied by the two ministers.

Count Ingelheim walked thoughtfully to and fro before the house, and
looked up from time to time with an anxious expression at the king's
windows. Groups of officers stood around in animated conversation. They
knew that a Prussian envoy was with the king, and all these brave young
officers, thirsting for the battle, feared nothing more than that they
should capitulate without fighting.

"We could never again be seen in a Hanoverian uniform," cried a young
officer of one of the Guard regiments with a rosy childish face, as he
stamped with his foot, "if we were ensnared without drawing the sword,
as in a mousetrap. We have been marching a fortnight, now here, now
there; now waiting for the Bavarians, then for the Hessians, and never
going forwards. So much was expected from this new commander; and
now ..."

An eager young officer on a swift horse galloped up in the Guard Jäger
uniform, the star of a commander of the order of Ernest Augustus on his
breast. He threw himself from the saddle, gave his horse to his
servant, who had hastened after him, and walked up to the group of
officers.

"Well, prince," cried the lieutenant in the Guards, "where do you come
from so hastily?"

"I have ridden out a little amongst the troops," replied Prince Hermann
von Solms-Braunfels, the king's youngest nephew, as he endeavoured to
seize the down just shading his upper lip with his fingers. "I am in
despair, for in spite of my earnest request the king has commanded me
to be here at head-quarters, but from time to time I must escape into
the free life of the camp, and enjoy a little fresh air. Where are you
stationed, Herr von Landesberg?" he inquired of the young lieutenant.

"Here in Langensalza," he replied, "fretting over the inactivity
imposed upon us by the general staff. The king should just listen to
us, the young officers of the army; he would soon be convinced that the
army was ready both to march and to fight."

"God knows it is so," exclaimed an hussar officer, drawing his long
moustache through his fingers; "I cannot comprehend why we have a
general staff only to arrange such marches as we have made. I have
heard an old story of the Crusaders, or some such people," continued
the hussar drily, "who let a goose go before them, and followed the
line of march pursued by the fowl. That was both a simpler and a kinder
course, for now they strip the poor bird of its feathers and write with
them night and day--and nothing more clever comes of it."

"See, there comes the Prussian envoy back!" cried Herr von Landesberg,
and the officers approached the Schützhaus, at the door of which
Colonel Döring, accompanied by General von Brandis and Count Platen,
appeared.

Whilst General von Brandis called the carriage and ordered a guard of
four dragoons to accompany it, Count Platen politely took leave of the
Prussian colonel and hastened to Count Ingelheim, who met him full of
anxiety.

"It was the ultimatum of the 15th over again," cried the minister to
the Austrian ambassador.

"And...?" asked Count Ingelheim.

"Of course it was at once declined," exclaimed Count Platen.

"Then these luckless negotiations are over at last?" asked Count
Ingelheim, watching with secret relief Colonel von Döring's carriage as
it rolled away.

"Quite at an end," said Count Platen, as he sighed slightly.

"Do you know, dear count," proceeded the ambassador, "that in my
opinion your position here is a very serious one? You are in a corner
between the Prussian armies, and I see only _one_ way out; that is by a
hasty march upon Gotha."

"Yes, the king is quite ready to go forward, but the general staff----"

"Would to heaven!" cried Count Ingelheim energetically, "that his
majesty had retained his old officers; I do not believe that
Tschirschnitz would have allowed these constantly retrograde marches."

"Yes," said Count Platen, with a slight shrug, "it is so difficult for
me to do anything in military affairs. In Göttingen the wish seemed
universal."

"The wish is universal to act and to march; do you see that knot of
officers? I am sure they are of my opinion;" and he pointed out a group
in which Lieutenant von Landesberg was just expressing his joy at the
envoy's departure, and his hopes of speedy action.

Prince Hermann left the officers and joined Platen and Ingelheim.

"The envoy is not coming back again?" he asked.

"No, prince," cried Count Ingelheim, "I hope he is the last."

Four post-horses dashed quickly along the road, drawing a close
carriage with a servant in travelling livery upon the box.

"Who is this?" cried Count Platen, with surprise, and all eyes turned
upon the carriage as it drew up before the house. The servant sprang
down and opened the door.

An old gentleman in travelling dress, wrapped in a large Havelock
cloak, his white head covered with a black cap, got out slowly and
looked around as if seeking for something.

"Persiany!" exclaimed Prince Hermann.

"Good heavens, Persiany!" cried Count Platen, with amazement; then,
with a pleased look and hasty footstep he met and welcomed the Emperor
of Russia's ambassador at the Hanoverian court.

"What does he want here?" asked Count Ingelheim; and a dark cloud
passed over his face.

"It looks well for us, as far as the inclinations of Russia go," said
the prince; "and," he continued, with a smile, "he is at least no
Prussian envoy."

"Who knows?" murmured Count Ingelheim. And an investigating look
followed Count Platen's meeting with Persiany.

"At last I have found you, my dear count," cried the Russian
ambassador, an old gentleman with strongly marked features and dark
piercing eyes, which now wore an expression of the greatest anxiety.
"Thank God that this horrible journey is at an end." And he held out a
hand trembling with weakness to the minister.

"You will never believe what I have gone through," he continued, as he
took off his cloak, "in that dreadful carriage, always delayed by the
movements of the troops, without sleep, without proper nourishment, at
my age."

"Well," said Count Platen, "you can now rest at least; we cannot offer
you much, our head-quarters are not rich in comforts----"

"But first," interrupted Monsieur de Persiany, "where is his majesty? I
beg an immediate audience; I come by the command of my gracious master
and emperor."

Count Platen looked surprised, and listened attentively; then he
exclaimed,--

"Come with me, I will at once announce your arrival to his majesty."

He gave his arm to the old gentleman, who trembled from exhaustion, and
assisted him in mounting the stairs leading to the upper rooms of the
Schützhaus.

In the ante-room Monsieur de Persiany sank into a chair. Count Platen
entered the king's apartment and found him resting on a sofa. Lex sat
near him, reading aloud.

"Forgive me for disturbing you, your majesty," said the minister, "but
Monsieur de Persiany is here at the command of the Emperor Alexander,
and he requests an immediate audience."

George V. rose, an expression of joy shining in his face.

"How?" he cried, with animation,--"and what does he bring? let him come
in!"

Count Platen led the Russian ambassador into the room.

"Welcome to the camp, my dear Monsieur do Persiany!" cried the king,
holding out his hand to him as he entered.

The old gentleman seized it, and said, in trembling voice,--

"Good God, your majesty! what times are these? how painful it is to me
to see you under such circumstances!"

His hand shook and tears glittered in his eyes.

"Monsieur de Persiany is much exhausted by his journey, your majesty,"
said Count Platen.

The king seated himself on the sofa, and exclaimed,--

"Pray sit down, Monsieur de Persiany, you are in want of refreshment.
Lex, go and find a glass of wine."

"I thank you, I thank your majesty most humbly," said the old
gentleman, as he sank into a chair as if quite exhausted. "I shall find
something by and by. Now let me impart to your majesty all that the
emperor, my gracious master, has commanded me to say. I was to seek
your head-quarters, and to assure you of his friendly sympathy."

"The emperor is very good," said the king; "I recognize in this the
friendship he has always shown me, and to which my whole heart
responds."

"The emperor commanded me," continued Persiany, with labouring breath,
"to place myself at your majesty's disposal, as he understood
negotiations were being carried on with Prussia, and thought the
intervention of a neutral power, friendly alike to both sovereigns----"

The king's brow clouded.

"Negotiations have been broken off," he said.

"Good heavens!" cried Persiany, "I have come too late!" And he sank
back in his chair as if broken down by the thought that his fatiguing
journey had been in vain.

"Is it then quite impossible to prevent bloodshed?" he asked, folding
his trembling hands; "the emperor firmly believes that the king
of Prussia is desirous of coming to an understanding, and if your
majesty----"

"My dear Monsieur de Persiany," said the king, "I do not know how I
could again commence negotiations. The Prussians, just before your
arrival, offered me the ultimatum which I could not accept on the 15th,
and I have again refused it."

"My God! my God!" cried Persiany, "what a misfortune it is at such a
moment to be so old and feeble, no longer master of my nerves. Possibly
through my mediation you might again----" He could add no more, his
voice failed him, he was almost fainting.

"My dear ambassador," said the king, in a gentle voice, "I thank you
heartily for the rapid and fatiguing journey you have undertaken in
order to prove to me the friendship and amiable wishes of the emperor;
but at present nothing can be done. You stand greatly in need of rest
and refreshment, I beg you to withdraw. Count Platen will take care of
you."

"I thank you, I thank your majesty," said Persiany, rising with
difficulty; "I stand in need of a little nourishment. I shall soon be
_à mon aise_; under all circumstances I am at your majesty's disposal."

His strength threatened to fail him, he took Count Platen's arm, and
was led by him into a room in which a bed was prepared, upon which the
exhausted old man immediately fell into a slumber, whilst his servant
repaired to the meagrely supplied kitchen in search of some refreshment
with which to restore his master's strength when he awoke.

Count Platen sought the Austrian ambassador as he paced up and down the
garden.

"Well, some new negotiation, is it not so?" asked Count Ingelheim,
casting a penetrating glance at the minister.

"It appears," he replied, "that in St. Petersburg, either from their
own inclination or the wish of Prussia, they desire to mediate--perhaps
Colonel von Döring's mission was connected--but at all events----"

"My dear count," interrupted the Austrian ambassador gravely; "I
refrained from any remark whilst negotiations continued; they were, in
form at least, of a military nature; you see the military position into
which these negotiations have led you; you are shut in between the
Prussian armies, crushed--if you do not quickly seize the only way in
which lies safety. Will you give the enemy time to close the only road
now open, that leading to Gotha, by again commencing negotiations?
Besides, this time," he added, "the affair is political, and I must
seriously call your attention to its political results. The former
negotiations have placed your military position in great danger; shall
your political position be also imperilled? What will be said in
Vienna, if even at this moment no reliance can be placed on Hanover;
and if through the mediation of Russia, negotiations are again begun
with Prussia?"

"But not the smallest negotiation is begun," said Count Platen.

"Because good old Persiany is asleep," said Count Ingelheim; "because
he has no nerve. But when he wakes, I beg you, Count Platen, send this
Russian mediator away; do you still hope to find any support except in
Austria? or do you wish to be excluded from her sympathy, and from the
benefits to be gained by the great struggle about to take place?"

"But I ask you, on what excuse?" said Count Platen hesitatingly.

"On what excuse?" cried Count Ingelheim; "the sickly old man will
accept any excuse with thankfulness that sends him out of this noise,
these hardships, and the near neighbourhood of cannon. Consider," he
continued urgently, "what will be said in Vienna, by the emperor, who
builds so strongly upon Hanover, by all your friends in society, who
count so much upon you, the Schwarzenbergs, the Dietrichsteins,
Countess Mensdorff, Countess Clam-Gallas----"

"Persiany shall go!" exclaimed Count Platen; "they know in Vienna my
devotion to Austria; in the exposed position of Hanover----"

"It is best to hold firmly to one side or the other," said Count
Ingelheim, "and to gain a sure friend, even at the twelfth hour."

"I will go to the king," said Count Platen, and he walked slowly
towards the house.

Count Ingelheim looked after him, and shook his head slightly.

"If he only meets no one on the way," he said to himself. "I fear," he
added, continuing his soliloquy, "I fear matters here will not end
well; there is no connecting link between the heroic king and his brave
army; this general staff is ignorant of war, it knows but one maxim, to
get out of the enemy's way whenever he shows himself; and the crown
prince----"

He sighed deeply.

"However," he added, "we have always gained something. The Hanoverian
campaign has cost Prussia much time; has absorbed many troops; all this
is clear gain on our side; the occupation of the country absorbs much
of its strength; above all things an understanding, a political
arrangement, must be prevented which would leave the enemy's hands free
here in the north. But here comes my northern colleague!" And he
hastened to meet the Russian ambassador as he came out of the house.

Monsieur de Persiany had slept a little, had refreshed his toilette a
little, and had eaten a little, and he looked much fresher than before.
But his footsteps were still uncertain as he walked to meet Count
Ingelheim.

"Welcome to head-quarters, my dear colleague," cried the latter, as he
held out his hand; "the corps diplomatique is well represented--I was
its only member up to this time! You are fatigued by the journey, are
you not?"

"Tired to death!" cried Persiany, as he sank upon a garden seat, where
Count Ingelheim placed himself at his side; "tired to death, and it
does not appear that they have much to revive one here."

"No, that there certainly is not," said Count Ingelheim; "the whole day
noise, trumpet calls, bugle sounds----"

"Horrible!" exclaimed Persiany.

"And at night no bed, or at best a hard straw mattress."

Persiany folded his hands and raised his eyes to heaven.

"These are only slight disagreeables which we scarcely think of," said
Count Ingelheim.

Persiany looked at him with an expression of great surprise.

"It will be much more unpleasant when action really begins, when real
fighting commences," said the Austrian diplomatist; "the king is
certain to be in the midst, and we must of course be with him."

"Do you think we should really be in danger?" asked Persiany, "our
diplomatic character----"

"Will scarcely preserve me from imprisonment," said Count Ingelheim;
"for we are at war with Prussia. With you it is somewhat different: you
are certain to be treated with consideration, so soon as you have
identified yourself before a commander of troops. But in the mêlée!..."
And he shrugged his shoulders.

"Should we really have cause to fear?" asked Persiany.

"My dear colleague," replied Count Ingelheim, sighing slightly, and
casting a penetrating look at the Russian diplomatist, "a cannon ball,
the pistol of an hussar, the sword of a cuirassier, little heed the
diplomatic character."

"My God!" cried Persiany. "But if fighting begins I scarcely think I
ought to remain here; we are at peace with Prussia."

"It will come suddenly, I think, and without much warning; there will
be no choice," said Count Ingelheim drily. "I do not believe our lives
will be actually in danger; but really it will be sufficiently
unpleasant to hear the noise of battle--to see the blood--the
corpses----"

Persiany fell back on the bench, and his white lips trembled as he
thought of such a trial to his nerves.

"I wonder if they have some soda-water here?" he asked.

"I do not think so," said Count Ingelheim; "we do not find such things,
and the small store they have is carefully put aside for the wounded in
the approaching engagement. At the king's table we have thin beer, cold
beef, and baked potatoes."

"Impossible!" cried Persiany.

Count Ingelheim shrugged his shoulders.

"What would you have?" said he; "you cannot expect good dinners in the
midst of war; besides, we sportsmen are accustomed----"

"But I am not a sportsman!" cried Persiany.

"Here comes Count Platen," exclaimed the Austrian ambassador; "perhaps
he will bring us some news."

Count Platen came and begged the Russian ambassador, who was greatly
shaken by Count Ingelheim's descriptions, to accompany him to the king.

"You do not believe further negotiations are possible?" asked Persiany,
as he ascended the steps.

"I do not think the king will permit anything to be attempted," replied
Count Platen, after a short hesitation.

"Then----" said M. de Persiany--but he could not express his thoughts,
for they had reached the door of the king's room.

"My dear Monsieur de Persiany," said George V., "I sent for you in
order----I hope, though, you are somewhat rested."

"I thank your majesty," said Persiany, sighing; "I am a little
stronger."

"I sent for you," said the king, "to thank you for the zeal which
caused you to undertake a journey, doubly fatiguing to one of your
years, and in your weak health, for the purpose of expressing to me the
emperor's friendly regard, and his hearty desire to mediate. I would
also beg you to remain longer at my head-quarters----"

A slight flush passed over Persiany's face; he gasped.

"If," continued the king, "there were the least possibility of
negotiating, after Colonel von Döring had been the bearer of a proposal
again based on the Prussian project of reform, which I had already
declined. Also the envoy considered his commission actually annulled
before he delivered it. I should therefore only torment you, and injure
your health uselessly, by exposing you to the tumult and fatigues of
war, if I kept you with me. I beg you therefore to return to Hanover.
Your advice will be useful to the queen. Pray thank the emperor most
heartily and sincerely for his sympathy and friendship."

"If your majesty is really of opinion that all hope of negotiation is
over, that I should be useless to you, and that I might perhaps be of
service to her majesty the queen in Hanover----"

"That is quite my opinion," said the king.

"If it were possible," said Persiany, "that perhaps the course of
events,--opposed to a superior power,--still the moment for negotiation
might come,--it would be my duty to remain,--and only your majesty's
distinct command----"

"If it must be so," said the king, "I give this command; set out
immediately, and tell the queen how you found me and the army."

"Then I must obey," cried Persiany. "I pray God to bless your majesty,
and to guide things to a happy termination."

With great emotion the old gentleman seized the hand the king offered
him, and a tear fell upon it.

The king smiled good-humouredly.

"I know what a true affection you bear towards me and my family. God
protect you--and your emperor!" he added heartily.

Persiany returned with Count Platen to the garden, where Count
Ingelheim awaited them.

"Well, my dear colleague," he cried, "you look much more cheerful. Are
you growing reconciled to camp life?"

"The king has dismissed me," said Persiany; "he sends me back to
Hanover; my old carcass will no longer undergo such trials. But," he
added, turning to Count Platen, "by the way that I came, by the same
will I not return; send me to Gotha. I will get to Frankfort, from
there perhaps to Umwegen, but yet it will be the quickest and safest
road. I must set out at once. I may be of use in Hanover."

The old gentlemen pressed Count Ingelheim's hand, and tripped hastily
to the house, leaning on Count Platen's arm. His carriage and a guard
were soon ready.

"The storm has blown over," said Count Ingelheim, rubbing his hands,
and laughing as he looked after the Russian ambassador; "yes, if they
wish to succeed in diplomacy in these times, they must send people with
strong muscles and firm nerves."

And he walked with youthful elasticity towards the house.

An hour later the king hold a council of war. He assembled the general
in command, the general staff, the adjutant-general, and General von
Brandis. He also requested Count Platen, Count Ingelheim, and Herr
Meding to be present.

The king urged an immediate advance upon Gotha. General von Brandis,
Colonel Dammers, and all the non-military gentlemen strongly supported
the king's opinion.

Colonel Cordemann, the chief of the general staff, insisted strongly
that the army, in consequence of its exhausting marches and scanty
food, could not possibly undertake offensive movements, and that their
course was to take up a defensive position, and make a courageous
defence if attacked. The whole of the general staff agreed with the
chief, and the general in command stated that under existing
circumstances he could not be responsible for the consequences of an
onward march.

The king gave his consent to the dispositions agreed upon with a sigh,
but he declared that he would pass the night amongst his troops, and
about midnight, accompanied by the whole of his suite, their royal
master established himself amongst his soldiers for the night.

The royal bivouac was in a corn-field near to Merxleben, and everyone
listened with anxious expectation until the morning dawned.

All was quiet. The outposts sent in no news of any movement on the part
of the enemy.

About four o'clock in the morning one of the emissaries sent out
several days before towards the south, returned with the intelligence
that the Bavarians had been seen advancing in several detachments, and
that even on the 25th they had reached Bacha. The complete inactivity
of the enemy seemed to support this information, and it was believed
the Prussian forces were drawn away in that direction.

This idea gave great satisfaction in head-quarters, and it was
determined to wait in a strong position for the confirmation of the
intelligence and the approach of the Bavarians. General von Brandis
alone shook his head, and opined that if the Bavarians were advancing
and the Prussians occupied in the south, it was a stronger reason for
hastening as quickly as possible to meet them, and stretching towards
them a helping hand, before the overwhelming Prussian forces could come
down upon them from the north.

The order was given to erect batteries, and the king and his suite,
exhausted by a sleepless night, repaired to Thamsbrück, a small village
on the banks of the Unstrut, and there the king took up his quarters in
the Pfarrhaus.

Clear and brilliant rose the sun on the 27th of June, and his first
rays lighted up the varied changing picture of the Hanoverian army
encamped around Langensalza.



                              CHAPTER XIV.

                              LANGENSALZA.


At about five in the morning the king withdrew to the quiet Pfarrhaus
on the hill at Thamsbrück, and retired to rest. From the dispositions
made by the general staff a delay of several days was expected, with
probably some defensive fighting, whilst tidings were awaited of a more
certain nature from the Bavarians.

Beneath a large and ancient linden-tree in front of the pastor's house
the king's suite were assembled, discussing an extremely simple but
much-relished breakfast.

A large table covered with a white cloth bore a coffee service of
blue and white pottery, such as is traditional in all primitive old
country-houses in North Germany, and the perfume which arose from the
large pot standing on an ancient-looking chafing-dish was certainly not
from Mocha.

A ham, a few sausages, a large black loaf, and a small piece of butter
completed the provisions, over which Count Erhardt Wedel presided with
the strictest impartiality.

The whole party did honour to the breakfast, with appetites rarely seen
at the chamberlain's table at Herrenhausen.

"There seems to be an immense proportion of water in this beverage,"
said General von Brandis, gazing with curiosity at the brown fluid in
his blue cup.

"If the coffee has too much water, it makes up for the dryness of the
sausage," remarked Count Ingelheim, as he attempted to cut a slice with
his pocket-knife, but the stony nature of the sausage successfully
resisted all his efforts.

"At least the drink is warm," said Count Platen, as pale and shivering
he sipped the smoking coffee.

"I don't know that warm water is much better than cold," grumbled
General Brandis, without making up his mind to put his cup to his lips.
"It has its merits as an outward application, but to drink it without a
prudent admixture of some stimulating body is unpleasant, especially so
early in the morning."

"Your excellency shares the prejudices of the ancient legions against
water," said Count Wedel, laughing. "They used to say, as water was so
unpleasant when it got into their boots, how much more disagreeable it
would be if it got into their stomachs!"

"Wellington's veterans lived before the discovery of hydropathy," said
little Herr Lex, as he busied himself in overcoming a large piece of
ham.

"They were right!" cried General Brandis, with comic gravity. "Fire was
their element," he added, setting his cup down untasted upon the table;
"they did not carry on war with sugared water, as seems the present
fashion."

"Perhaps I can offer your excellency a better drink for this chilly
morning," said Prince Hermann Solms, drawing out a field flask covered
with plaited straw. "I have a little excellent cognac left."

"You are a help in need, my dear prince," cried the old gentleman,
smiling. "I will repay you some day!"

The prince, hastening into the house, came back with a kettle full of
hot water, and he soon mixed the old general a glass of grog, with such
a homoeopathic allowance of water that his cheerfulness quite returned.

A loud hurrah resounded from the stable-like buildings at one side of
the house, and the Crown Prince Ernest Augustus hurried from them and
joined the breakfast party.

He carried his handkerchief carefully tied together in one hand, and
his cap in the other.

"Guess what I have here, gentlemen!" he cried, raising both hands above
his head. "Fresh eggs--just laid. Is it not a glorious find?" And he
emptied the cap and the handkerchief upon the table. "Now, shall we
boil them, or shall we make an omelette?"

"Why any preparation?" said General Brandis, seizing an egg,
decapitating it with his sword, and hastily drinking the contents. "It
is easy to see that the present generation are unaccustomed to the
rigours of war."

Count Ingelheim followed his example.

"It would be great fun, though, to make an omelette!" cried the crown
prince, holding his hands over the rest of his spoil.

"Alas! we have plenty of time," murmured General Brandis.

"Listen!" cried Meding, springing to his feet.

"A cannon shot," said Count Ingelheim, putting his hand to his car.

"Impossible!" remarked the adjutant-general; "where should it come
from? The general staff does not expect an attack."

A short, heavy, distant sound was heard.

"Those are certainly guns!" cried Count Wedel.

"I think they are beginning to growl," said General Brandis, rising and
drinking off the rest of his grog with a look of satisfaction. "It
would be as well to mount!"

"Shall his majesty be awakened?" asked Count Wedel.

"It will be time enough to call him if anything serious really
appears," said Colonel Dammers. "I will go up to the top of the house,
from whence one can overlook the whole plain."

He entered the house; Prince Hermann followed him, and the others
listened anxiously to the sound of firing, which grew louder and more
distinct every moment.

"After all, an omelette would be too much trouble," said the crown
prince, putting his eggs into the kettle, the contents of which had not
been much diminished by the general's grog. He placed it on the
chafing-dish and blew the charcoal, listening attentively for the water
to boil.

After a short time Colonel Dammers returned.

"Some strong columns are visible on the distant horizon; I can see
their arms glittering through the dust!" he cried. "His majesty must be
called."

Count Wedel hurried into the house.

Signals were heard from the plain. A general march was beginning in
various parts of the camp.

George V. came out of the Pfarrhaus. They all approached the king.

"Your majesty," cried General Brandis, "I hear with joy the well-known
voice of cannon; it makes my old heart young again."

The king's face expressed high courage and calm determination. He held
out his hand to the general.

"I hear this voice in earnest for the first time," he said; "but, my
dear general, my heart, too, beats higher at the sound. Now
negotiations are impossible. God be with us!"

He folded his hands and raised his head silently to heaven. All those
around him involuntarily followed his example.

The sound of horse's hoofs was heard. An officer of the garde du corps,
springing from the saddle, informed the king, from the general in
command, that the enemy were drawing up in strong columns upon the road
from Gotha, and that the general begged his majesty to leave Thamsbrück
immediately, and to go to the hills behind Merxleben.

Count Wedel hurried away; the horses were saddled and the carriages
prepared.

"General von Arentschildt further begs your majesty's commands and
instructions as to the capitulation which may be needful during the
action," said the aide-de-camp.

General Brandis bit his moustache. Count Ingelheim stamped upon the
ground.

"What does he mean?" asked the king quietly.

"The general staff," continued the officer, "has represented to the
general that the troops are so worn out and badly fed that they may be
unable to endure the fatigue of battle; he therefore begs permission to
capitulate should he deem it needful. He has drawn up an instruction on
this point, and he begs your majesty to send it back to him signed." He
handed the king a paper.

The king had closed his teeth firmly, and he drew his breath with a
sharp, almost hissing sound.

Without the slightest movement of haste or anger he took the paper and
tore it through.

"Ride back to General Arentschildt," he said in a calm ringing voice,
"and tell him my commands, to resist to the last man!"

The officer's face brightened. With a military salute he turned sharply
round, sprang into the saddle, and galloped off.

"And now forwards! gentlemen," cried the king.

"Father, have a new-laid egg!" And the crown prince, hurrying up,
offered the king a plate, on which was a specimen of his cooking.

"Eat it, your majesty," said General Brandis; "there is no saying when
or where you may get anything else." And he handed the king an egg,
after breaking the shell with the hilt of his sword.

The king ate it and turned to the horses.

They mounted and set out; dragoons preceded them and acted as a guard;
the carriages and the led horses followed.

As the king rode out of the village of Thamsbrück, the artillery duel
had already fully commenced.

From the hill above they saw the lines of the enemy's skirmishers
before the town of Langensalza. The enemy's batteries were on the
farther side of the Unstrut, and kept up an energetic fire, to which
the Hanoverian artillery replied from the opposite bank. The infantry
were engaged before the town, and the Hanoverian cavalry were seen on
one side slowly withdrawing.

"Where shall we ride?" asked the king.

"To a hill behind Merxleben, from whence we can overlook the whole
battle-field, your majesty," replied the adjutant-general.

"We are going away from the thunder of the cannon!" said the king.

"There is a turn in the road to the left," replied Colonel Dammers.

"Then we must ride to the right to keep near the fighting," said the
king calmly, turning his head in the direction whence came the sound of
firing. "Schweppe," he said to the major of guard cuirassiers who held
his leading rein, "I command you to ride in that direction."

"There is no road, your majesty," he replied.

"Then we will ride through the fields." And the royal procession moved
on, in the direction the king had indicated.

The sound of the cannon was heard nearer and nearer, mingled with the
rattle of small arms.

The king and his suite rode to an eminence where the plain was bounded
by a chain of hills; the party being rendered conspicuous to both sides
from the dragoons, and the brilliant uniforms of the suite.

A few balls flew over their heads and the horses began to be uneasy.

Suddenly the enemy's artillery appeared to choose the king's party as
their mark, and shells flew thicker and thicker over them, striking the
ground now before them, now behind them.

The adjutant-general sprang to the king's side.

"Your majesty!" he cried, "we are under a heavy fire, I conjure your
majesty--"

Count Platen and General von Brandis also implored the king to withdraw
from such imminent peril.

The king reined in his horse.

The whole escort stood still.

"Can my troops see me here?" asked George V.

"Certainly, your majesty," replied the adjutant-general, "your
majesty's position is visible from the whole of the plain."

"Good," said the king, simply. And he quietly remained on the spot.

The shells flew hissing through the air, the bullets of the small arms
whistled through the valley, and the frightened horses throwing up
their heads snorted and trembled; the blind king, the Guelphic prince,
who was ready to give his life for what his proud heart told him was
the right, halted upon the brow of the hill, motionless as a marble
statue, that his soldiers might see him.

With a maddening hurrah the Hanoverian columns greeted the king as they
marched past him, and sank their waving banners low before their royal
master, who returned their greeting calmly and quietly each time it was
announced to him.

"If we stand here much longer," said Count Ingelheim to General
Brandis, "a ball will sooner or later solve the Hanoverian question in
a very simple manner."

"Yes, indeed!" replied Count Platen, looking at a shell that had fallen
unpleasantly near the king, "they are improving in their practice; but
if we venture to tell him so we shall have to stay here all the
longer."

"Your majesty," said General Brandis, riding up to the king, "there is
a turn in the fighting, and I think your majesty would be more visible
upon the hill which was first selected for your position."

"Are you quite sure, Brandis?" said the king.

"I am sure your majesty would be in a better position there," replied
the general.

"Let us go then!" cried the king, touching his horse with the spur; it
bounded forwards so rapidly that Major Schweppe had some difficulty in
holding the guiding rein.

Their rapid pace soon brought them to the hill, near which the reserve
cavalry were placed.

The king rode on to the highest point. His suite surrounded him, some
dismounted, and followed the movements of the troops with field-glasses
and telescopes.

The carriages were drawn up in a large semicircle.

The king stood motionless. Not a feature of his pale, noble face
changed. The adjutant-general informed him of the course of the
fighting as far as it could be made out, the gentlemen of the suite
sometimes expressed by loud shouts the result of their observations,
but generally they imparted to each other in low tones their hopes and
fears.

Whilst this was going on at head-quarters, the Duke of Cambridge's
dragoon regiment had been employed since the early morning in outpost
duty near the village of Hemingsleben, on the road leading from
Langensalza to Gotha.

Before the village was the toll-house with its black and white bar
raised, and beside it stood the most advanced outpost.

Lieutenant von Stolzenberg commanded the outpost, and with him was his
somewhat younger comrade Lieutenant von Wendenstein.

The morning sun shone brightly, and the two young officers stood near
their horses, gazing over the plain, which spread far around them, and
which was crossed by the grey band of the high road. Some straw lay on
the ground, but none of the provisions appeared which, on the evening
of their march into Göttingen, the young men had obtained for their
supper.

With a weary, half-sleepy look, Wendenstein drew out his pocket flask,
took a good drink and handed it to his companion. Then taking a piece
of black bread from his pocket, and breaking it up, he slowly swallowed
one morsel after another.

"Do you know, Stolzenberg," he said, with a slight shiver, "this sort
of warfare in the chill of dawn makes one feel far from courageous. We
did not think of such campaigning as this when we started."

He gave his horse a piece of bread moistened with brandy.

"No, indeed!" said Stolzenberg with a sigh, as he took a sip from the
flask. "But where the devil did you get that horrid liquor from?"

"I found it at the inn in the village. What can you do? When your
cognac is at an end, you must put up with potato spirit. It is a shame
that we have nothing to eat and drink; there is plenty, but the
provision column never comes up, and when one has a hope of getting
something, the alarm is given; it is 'forwards!' again."

"Forwards!" cried Stolzenberg, "I think we have not been going forwards
for long enough. And the beautiful flocks of sheep we saw on both sides
of the roads, and which we dare not touch for our lives! Donnerwetter!"
he cried, stamping his foot; "to be in an enemy's country and not to be
allowed to requisition the necessaries of life is too much!"

"Don't you know," said Wendenstein, laughing, "that the general staff
has so much to do in getting out of the enemy's way, that it has no
time to remember that people must eat; and besides, it would really be
difficult for the provision columns to follow our very eccentric
march!"

"I cannot imagine how the king is satisfied with such a method of
conducting a campaign," said Stolzenberg; "he wishes to go forwards,
and these changes hither and thither do not accord with his character."

"Our poor king!" said Wendenstein, sighing; "what can he do? If indeed
he could see--but as it is! It is really wonderful that he should go
through the fatigue of the campaign with us."

"What is that?" exclaimed Stolzenberg, raising his glass to his eyes,
and looking attentively across the plain. "Look over there,
Wendenstein, just behind the bend in the road. Do you not see a long
cloud of dust?"

Wendenstein looked through his glass in the direction pointed out.

"I see bayonets glittering through the dust!" he cried, energetically;
"Stolzenberg, old man, I believe it is the enemy!"

"I believe it is!" he replied, still gazing at the distant cloud
of dust. "There is no doubt of it! A column of infantry, and
there!--artillery, too! Wendenstein, ride back at once, and say a
column of infantry and artillery are advancing on the road from Gotha!"

"Hurrah!" cried Wendenstein, as he sprang into the saddle and galloped
back to the village.

Stolzenberg and his dragoons were in the saddle in a moment. Drawn up
in order upon the road, they looked anxiously over the plain. The cloud
of dust slowly grew nearer, and they could see more plainly the bright
flashing of the bayonets.

After a short time horsemen from the village joined the outpost. The
colonel in command of the regiment, Count Kielmansegge, came,
accompanied by his staff with Lieutenant von Wendenstein.

"Look there, sir!" cried Stolzenberg, and pointed to the enemy's
approaching columns.

The colonel looked earnestly for a moment through his glass.

"It is certainly the enemy!" he cried, "and see! there is a battery
being posted upon yonder hill. All outposts to fall back on their
squadrons!" cried he to his staff, who galloped off immediately.

Stolzenberg recalled his vedettes.

"And what will the regiment do, if I may be allowed to ask?" he said,
turning to his colonel.

"Slowly retire, whilst skirmishing with the enemy, such is the order,"
he replied, sighing and shrugging his shoulders; and he hastened back
to the village to which the other outposts had already withdrawn.

"Retire, always retire!" cried Wendenstein, passionately. "Well! some
time or other they will reckon on these tactics without the troops!"

There was a sudden flash from the hill, followed by an explosion, and a
cannon ball splintered the bar of the toll-house on the high road.

"The overture begins!" cried Stolzenberg; and with his few men he
trotted quickly back to the village.

This was the shot they heard at head-quarters in Thamsbrück.

The regiment withdrew, constantly skirmishing with the enemy, and fell
back slowly upon Langensalza.

In the meantime the town was abandoned, the order of the general in
command ran, "that the army whilst fighting should retreat."

At Langensalza the dragoons fell in with the infantry of the Knesebeck
Brigade, which had received orders to retire behind the Unstrut. The
troops obeyed this order with gnashing of teeth, and gave up one
position after the other, for the enemy forthwith to seize upon; the
enemy's riflemen harassed them, and the artillery advancing along the
heights opened a nearer and more murderous fire.

The dragoons crossed the bridge over the Unstrut, and made a stand
before the village of Merxleben, on the slope of the Kirchberg hill,
from whose summit a Hanoverian battery maintained a fire, which, though
less rapid than the Prussian, was so well directed that it did great
execution in the hostile ranks.

To the right of the dragoons, General Knesebeck's brigade was massed,
he having followed the command he had received to retire. On the other
side of the Unstrut stood a mill, upon a small stream called the
Salzabach; immediately after the retreat of the Hanoverians it was
occupied by the Prussians, and from it they kept up a heavy fire.

Two battalions of the guards marched past the dragoons. At the head of
the first rode Lieutenant-Colonel von Landesberg; the second was led by
Colonel von Alten.

The battalions had crossed the Unstrut, and were following the order
received to retire to the brigade stationed on the hill.

Colonel von Landesberg rode thoughtfully in front of his battalion, the
grenadiers followed him in solemn silence.

The battalion had the Unstrut on the left, and had just reached a spot
where it was forced to turn to the right, to take up the prescribed
position.

At this place the banks of the river are very low, and it is so shallow
that it is easy to cross it.

A level terrace surrounds the hill, upon the slope of which lies the
village of Merxleben. The enemy's most advanced chain of skirmishers
was approaching the opposite bank of the river.

Colonel von Landesberg gave a searching look at the situation.

"If this spot remains undefended," he said to his adjutant, "the enemy
will penetrate our position, and divide our forces."

"So it seems to me, colonel," replied the adjutant. "I cannot see why
it is to be abandoned,--however, the general staff--"

The colonel gnawed his moustache.

"It is impossible to give up this position to the enemy," he said, half
to himself.

His eyes flashed, and he pulled in his horse suddenly.

"Battalion, halt!" he shouted.

The command was repeated along the ranks; the battalion halted. With
excited faces the grenadiers awaited further orders from their leader.

"Right about turn!" he cried.

A thundering shout of joy broke as from one mouth along the ranks, and
in an instant the grenadiers had fronted.

The enemy's sharpshooters appeared on the other side of the river.

"Skirmishers, forward!" cried Colonel von Landesberg.

The lines opened out with exemplary precision, and in a short time the
Hanoverian skirmishers were close to the river, received by the fire of
the enemy.

Several grenadiers fell; but the firing from the Hanoverian lines was
so certain and regular, that the most advanced of the enemy's
sharpshooters soon sought cover, and replied but feebly.

The second battalion of guards had come up in the meantime. Colonel von
Alten galloped up to Colonel von Landesberg, who had ridden down to the
river, and was in the midst of his men.

"What is going on here?" asked Alten; "is the plan for the day
changed?"

"You see this spot," said Colonel von Landesberg,--"it must not be
taken, and I mean to hold it."

"Have you received an order?" asked Colonel von Alten.

"I do not want an order, for I see that the fate of the day and of the
army depends on its being kept," cried Landesberg. "Fire!"

The report of fire-arms rolled along the line.

Colonel von Alten gave a scrutinizing look around, then he rode back to
his battalion, which was about a hundred paces off.

"Right about turn!" he cried.

The battalion replied, like the first, with an echoing "Hurrah!" A few
moments afterwards his sharpshooters were drawn up along the bank of
the Unstrut, and the advancing enemy found itself opposed by a steady
fire.

Although the grenadiers fell, the lines filled up silently and
regularly, and not an inch of ground was yielded. Colonel von
Landesberg placed himself in the front ranks, cool and calm as if on
parade.

The battalions of the enemy which had advanced to the river halted. An
uneasy movement appeared amongst them. An aide-de-camp galloped up.

"Colonel," he cried, "the general expects you in the prescribed
position!"

"Tell him I am engaged by the enemy!" replied von Landesberg curtly.

The aide-de-camp glanced at what was going on, saluted, turned his
horse, and galloped back without a word.

The enemy's fire grew weaker. After a short time, bugle calls were
heard on the opposite bank, and the enemy was withdrawn out of reach of
fire. Colonel von Landesberg put up his sword. "So," said he, "the
first thing is done; do you think the river is fordable?"

"Certainly!" replied the adjutant, riding down close to it; "I can see
the bottom almost everywhere."

"We can swim if needful," said Landesberg, calmly. "They shall rest ten
minutes, then I will go first."

Colonel de Vaux's brigade stood at some little distance, close to the
village of Merxleben; the Cambridge dragoons were halted near the banks
of the Unstrut. The officers looked anxiously at the movements of the
troops, who were retiring on the two wings, the centre keeping up an
energetic artillery fire.

"We have crossed the Unstrut," exclaimed von Wendenstein; "it is really
scandalous--where will this retreat end? We shall go back and back,
until we march into the jaws of the enemy coming down upon us from the
north, and then--"

"Then at last we shall capitulate," said von Stolzenberg, bitterly;
"this kind of war can have no other end."

Lieutenant-Colonel Kielmansegge trotted quickly up to the troop in
which the young officers rode.

"Look there, gentlemen," he cried, and pointed to the river bank at
some distance along the plain. "What is that?--active firing is going
on there."

"They are exchanging shots as they retreat--the Knesebeck Brigade it
must be," said von Wendenstein.

"We shall soon have the enemy on our flank," said Stolzenberg; and both
the officers took their glasses and looked in the direction in which
Count Kielmansegge was still gazing attentively.

"It is the guards," said von Stolzenberg, "and actually they are not
retreating, they have made a stand on the bank!"

"The enemy's sharpshooters are retreating!" exclaimed Wendenstein
joyfully.

"They halt," said Count Kielmansegge, still looking through his
glass,--"our battalions form,--they are going down to the river--into
it--hurrah!" he cried, "they are advancing to the attack."

"And we are standing still here," cried von Wendenstein, whilst he drew
his sword half out of the scabbard, and put it back with a clang.

At this moment Colonel de Vaux galloped up with the brigade staff.

"The guards are crossing the Unstrut," cried Count Kielmansegge, as
they came up.

"So I see!" exclaimed Colonel de Vaux, "and devil take me if I stand
still here; now the die must be cast. It is bad enough that we shall
have to retake all the positions we have so quietly abandoned to the
enemy! What regiments are close here?" he enquired of his adjutant.

"The first battalion of the second regiment, and the first Jäger
battalion," he replied.

"Bring them here at once."

The adjutant galloped to the columns close by, and led them at quick
march up to the colonel.

He dismounted and placed himself at their head.

"And what shall I do?" asked Count Kielmansegge.

"Ride down by the river," replied de Vaux, "cross where you can, and
act according to circumstances; if possible fall on the right flank of
the enemy, and silence that hostile battery."

"At your command, colonel!" cried Kielmansegge. In a few moments the
regiments formed and rode at a sharp trot along the river.

From the place where the two battalions of guards had crossed the
stream, a heavy fire had commenced. The first battalion under the
gallant Landesberg advanced slowly in a straight line upon Langensalza,
the second battalion turned to the left towards the mill which formed
the central point of the enemy's position, and which was in a diagonal
line from Colonel de Vaux.

"Now is the time!" he cried, and commanding his adjutant to give the
order to advance, he at the same time ordered the assault to be
sounded.

Before him lay an even plain without any cover for about five hundred
yards, part of it being thickly planted with rape. The whole of this
plain was exposed to the fire of the enemy's lines, and of the
artillery from the hill behind.

The drums beat, the colonel raised his sword, and in as perfect order
as on the parade ground the battalions marched across the dangerous
plain.

The enemy's fire tore great gaps in the ranks, for the soldiers could
not advance quickly on account of the rape, but they were quietly
filled up; and in a short time the battalion gained the bank of the
river, and in its turn opened a murderous fire upon the enemy, who
withdrew his skirmishers, and concentrated his whole force around the
mill.

The whole army saw the guards cross the Unstrut and the bold advance of
Colonel de Vaux, and a general offensive movement commenced.

No officer would wait for orders. With a loud "Hurrah!" the troops
broke from their positions, and advanced to the points where they might
most quickly meet the enemy, and where they thought they could take the
most active part in the fighting.

The infantry crossed the Unstrut at all points, sometimes even by
swimming, and pressed on towards the enemy's positions. The batteries
which had already retired, advanced and supported the attack by an
incessant fire, and the cavalry crossed the river wherever it was
possible, and advanced to the scene of combat.

The enemy were concentrated in force around the mill already mentioned,
which formed the key of the central position of the Prussian army. It
was surrounded by a deep moat.

Against this mill the guards advanced; two bridges over the river were
before them, closed by barricades and strongly defended.

A company advanced without halting from the hill, led by their captain;
they took the bridge by storm, and from this side also pressed on
towards the mill; single lieutenants led small detachments everywhere,
wading or swimming across the river, and advanced on every side to
storm the enemy's strong position.

By this time desperate fighting was going on before the mill. Companies
of different regiments, sometimes in small detachments, united to storm
the buildings.

Three times Lieutenants Köring, Leue, and Schneider with exemplary
courage led a storming party, Lieutenant Leue falling riddled with
bullets, at the head of his detachment. Their numbers were too small,
the moat around the mill was too deep, the fire too overwhelming.

Just then Colonel Dammers appeared to inspect the state of the battle
and to report the news to the king. Prince Herman Solms rode beside
him, for the young prince, devoured with impatience, had obtained
permission to accompany the colonel.

The sadly diminished ranks were just closing, again to attempt the
storming of the mill.

A Prussian battery had been brought forward and the shells suddenly
fell amongst the storming party, whilst a fresh and tremendous fire
from the needle-guns opened upon them from the mill.

They hesitated under this murderous hail of balls.

The prince touched his horse with the spur, and bounded between the
storming party and the mill.

"They are not so bad as they look!" he cried cheerfully, turning to the
soldiers; and reining in his horse, he took off his cap and jokingly
saluted a shell which flew over his head and buried itself in the
ground.

"Hurrah!" cried the soldiers, and again rushed to the attack, led on by
their brave lieutenants.

At this moment two companies advanced from the bridges, and immediately
behind them Colonel Flökher's battalion, and at the same time guns
opened behind the storming party from the hill of Merxleben, and a
heavy fire from a hastily advanced Hanoverian battery fell on the mill,
splintering the roof and shattering the walls.

The gallant defenders of the building evidently about to become a heap
of ruins, broke through on the other side, and retreated in strong
parties along the high road. But they were checked by the second
battalion of guards, which had now come up, and which opened a
murderous fire upon their flank, whilst two squadrons of hussars who
had burst over the bridges galloped down upon them with upraised
swords.

Some of the fugitives fled over the fields, and were fortunate enough
to gain the reserve Prussian division; the hindmost returned to the
ruined building, and a white handkerchief soon waved from one of the
windows.

The firing ceased immediately. Colonel Flökher rode up to the battered
door, which was quickly opened, and the last of the brave defenders,
about a hundred men, laid down their arms.

The courtyard was full of dead and wounded, and just outside lay the
Hanoverian soldiers who had fallen. The ruin looked ghastly with its
shattered windows and broken walls in the bright sunshine, a picture of
destruction, horror, and death.

The adjutant-general rode up to Prince Herman.

"I compliment you, prince," he said: "you received your baptism of fire
gloriously, but you exposed yourself uselessly. What should I have said
to the king if any misfortune had befallen you?"

"What could I do?" said the prince, laughing, and plucking at the down
on his upper lip; "the king has ordered me to head-quarters: ought I to
let them say I am afraid of fire?"

"They would not have said that," said the colonel, looking kindly at
the almost boyish face.

"It is better that they cannot say it!" cried the prince, and galloped
off with the adjutant-general.

A retreat on the part of the enemy was decided upon from this moment.
Slowly and in perfect order, under a continuous fire, the Prussian
troops formed in squares, and retired in the direction of Gotha covered
by their batteries, which kept up a constant fire upon the advancing
Hanoverians.

At last General Arentschildt had ordered a general attack, but this
command only affected a few of the troops, and was indeed superfluous,
for the attack had commenced, and no order would have prevented it.

Whilst the centre of the Prussian position was pierced, Count
Kielmansegge with his dragoons had ridden along the side of the
Unstrut, endeavouring to find a ford. But he could not discover one,
the banks of the river in this part being very steep and overgrown with
bushes. They were obliged to ride down stream to the village of
Nagelstedt, where at last they found a bridge, over which they crossed
into an open field on the other side.

The dragoons hurried at a sharp trot closer and closer to the sound of
the guns; already the enemy was driven back, and the battle had surged
to the south of Langensalza.

A gentle eminence rose before the dragoons, the regiment rode up it,
and found itself opposite the enemy's exposed flank. Two Prussian
squares were slowly retreating, still keeping up a constant fire, and
on a hill near the dragoons was a Prussian battery, which sent its
shell into the centre of the advancing Hanoverians. The dragoons were
alone; between them and the Hanoverian army were the Prussian
battalions.

"The time has come at last!" said Wendenstein, who was with the troop
of which Stolzenberg was first lieutenant. "Thank God! we have
something to do. At such a moment it is better to be in love," he
added, as he tried whether his sword was firm in his hand; "you see I
know what to think of, and--"

"There, again it spoke," said Stolzenberg, shuddering slightly;
"farewell, old fellow, if we do not meet again."

"Madness!" cried von Wendenstein, "but look out, we are to charge."

The command was given that the fourth squadron should take the enemy's
battery, and that the second and third should attack the Prussian
squares.

The two squadrons slowly advanced towards the distant squares, who
stood still to receive them, whilst Rittmeister von Einem at the head
of his dragoons galloped up the hill on which stood the battery.

The guns were turned upon the attacking dragoons, a storm of shell
received the squadron. The horsemen fell in numbers, down went both the
trumpeters, but unchecked, the squadron galloped onwards, the
Rittmeister far before them waving high his sword.

Quicker and quicker grew the pace, the battery was almost reached, when
once again the guns opened fire, and sent their case-shot into the very
midst of the gallant riders.

The Rittmeister escaped as by a miracle. He was the first to spring
between the hostile cannon, and he smote down a gunner with a mighty
cut from his sword; the dragoons followed him through the heavy fire of
the infantry support to the battery.

A bullet hit the Rittmeister's horse, which fell, rolling over upon
him. He quickly disengaged himself from the quivering animal, and his
sword flow round swift as lightning to defend himself from the
threatening bayonets of the infantry. The dragoons were now engaged in
a fierce hand-to-hand fight.

"Forwards! forwards!" cried the Rittmeister, as with his sword he
parried a bayonet thrust against his breast; but a shot fired close to
him struck him, his arm sank down, and whilst with his left hand he
seized the wheel of the cannon he had taken, to support himself,
several of the enemy's bayonets were plunged deep into his breast.

His strength failed, and he fell upon a heap of slain; his hand
clenched in death, held fast the wheel of the conquered gun. The
dragoons pressed forwards over him, and soon the last defenders of the
battery fled over the field.

The battery was silenced, but the greater number of the dragoons lay
around their fallen leader.

This attack had been watched with the greatest interest by the two
squadrons as they advanced slowly towards the Prussian squares, and as
the defenders of the battery fled, loud cheers burst forth.

When the two squadrons had come near enough to the squares to charge,
suddenly from behind the hill on which the battery stood, galloped the
garde du corps, followed by the cuirassier guards. The garde du corps
dashed against the square next them. Two volleys, discharged when they
were close to the enemy, did not check them, but the brave square stood
unbroken, and the squadron of garde du corps retired from the enemy's
fire, preparing to charge afresh.

The commander of the second square nearest to the dragoons came forward
and waved a handkerchief. Major von Hammerstein, with his adjutant and
a trumpeter, advanced to meet him.

"My soldiers are ready to sink from exhaustion," said the Prussian
staff-officer; "I am willing to surrender."

"I must then beg for your sword, my comrade," replied Major von
Hammerstein, "and that you will lay down your arms."

"I agree to the last," said the Prussian officer; "to give up my sword
is too hard a condition. But," he cried, "here come the cuirassiers."

And indeed the cuirassiers, who had followed the garde du corps, and
passing by the first square had formed to charge, were galloping down
upon them.

"Ride to the cuirassiers and stop them!" cried Major von Hammerstein to
his adjutant.

He galloped off to meet the charging regiment, but their rapid movement
and the noise around prevented him from making himself heard. They
rushed onwards.

"Too late!" cried the Prussian commander. "Stand to your arms! Fire!"
he cried, as he returned to the square, and a tremendous volley mowed
down the cuirassiers just as they approached. The foremost ranks fell,
and the direction of the charge being somewhat oblique, the shock came
on the flank of the square, and it remained unbroken.

Major von Hammerstein had ridden back, and "Charge! charge!" resounded
down the ranks of the dragoons.

The two squadrons charged the square at a gallop.

They were received by a frightful fire. The major fell, just in front
of the foe, but Lieutenant von Stolzenberg urged on his horse, reined
him in for a moment when close to the lowered bayonets of the enemy,
drove the spurs into his horse's flanks, so that he reared upright, and
then, with one mighty leap, bore his young master, as he raised his
sword and gave a ringing cheer, right into the hostile square, where,
like his rider, he fell, pierced through with bayonets.

But his fall tore a large opening in the ranks, and the squadron
pressed in after them.

"Well done, old fellow!" cried Wendenstein, and at the same moment he
fell beside his comrade, and the dragoons rushed over him.

The square was broken, and those who yet survived fled madly across the
field.

But when the dragoon squadrons reassembled, not one officer was left,
and one-third of the men were wanting.

The cuirassiers had rallied meanwhile, and hastened to the scene of
this brilliant struggle.

A young soldier rode with the first squadron in an old coat that had
evidently not been made for him, and in plain grey trousers stuffed
into military boots. On his head he wore a military cap, and a wound on
his brow was bound up with a white handkerchief.

"Where is Lieutenant von Wendenstein?" he asked of a dragoon, as the
remains of the second squadron rode up.

"All our officers lie there!" replied the dragoon, pointing to a heap
of men and horses which marked the spot where the square had stood.

"Dead!" cried the cuirassier. "But I cannot leave him there; I promised
to take care of him, and no one shall ever say Fritz Deyke broke his
word. My poor lieutenant!"

He hastily quitted the ranks and rode up to the commanding officer.

"Sir," he said, saluting him, "I overtook the army at Langensalza and
joined the cuirassiers, that I might take my share in the war. I hope,
sir, you can say I have done my duty?"

"You have done bravely," replied the officer.

"Well, sir," continued the young man, "the day's work seems over, and,
besides, I have a scratch from which the blood runs into my eyes, so I
came to ask leave for the day."

The officer looked at him with amazement. A deep blush spread over the
young soldier's face.

"Sir," he cried, "I was brought up at Blechow with our president's son,
Lieutenant von Wendenstein, of the Cambridge dragoons; and when I left
home to join the army, his mother said to me, 'Fritz, take care of my
son if you can,' and I promised her I would, sir; and now there lies
the young gentleman amongst the dead. Shall I leave him there?"

The officer looked kindly at him.

"Go, my brave lad," he said, "and come back when the lieutenant no
longer needs you."

"Thank you, sir," cried Fritz.

The cuirassiers advanced in pursuit of the enemy.

Meanwhile the other square had been broken by the charge of the garde
du corps. The cavalry had moved forward, and in a short time the scene
of all this carnage, of all this noise, was only an empty plain, where
piles of corpses lay one on another in lakes of blood--men and horses,
friend and foe, mingled together.

Fritz Deyke was alone in this scene of horror.

He dismounted, led his horse by the bridle, and walked to the place
where the dragoons had broken the square. His horse snorted and
struggled to run back. He led it a little way off and tied it to the
trunk of a tree which grew near the high road; then he again approached
the heaps of slain.

Some wounded men raised their heads and begged gaspingly for a drop of
water.

"I cannot help all, but you shall not perish," he said.

There was a deep ditch near the high road; it might have water in it.
He seized two helmets lying on the ground, and hurried to the ditch.
There was actually some water--a little, and dirty, for the continuous
heat had sucked up the moisture.

With some difficulty he filled the helmets with the muddy, lukewarm
fluid, and carrying them like two buckets, he returned to the wounded
men, who were watching for him with unspeakable longing. He drew out
his flask, poured some of its contents into each helmet, and gave some
of the liquid to the sufferers, impartially succouring both Prussians
and Hanoverians.

"So, be patient," he said, kindly; "the first ambulance I see, I will
send to you." And he began to search amongst the dead.

They lay heaped on one another, the brave dragoons and the brave
Prussian infantry, some with a calm, peaceful expression on their
faces, some with a look of wild horror, many so frightfully disfigured
with bullets and stabs that the soldier's brave heart quailed, and he
had to close his eyes for a moment to gain strength to continue his
dreadful employment.

But he went on undeterred. He laid the dead bodies aside, and exerting
all his strength, he dragged at the dead horses.

"Here is Herr von Stolzenberg!" he cried, as he turned over the body of
the young officer, which lay with its face on the ground, bathed in
blood. "Handsome, brave gentleman! and to die so young! It is all over
with him," he said, mournfully. A bullet had carried away part of the
skull, and countless stabs still oozed with blood.

Fritz Deyke bowed his head over the corpse, folded his hands, and
repeated "Our Father."

"But here," he then cried, "lies poor Roland, stone dead. Good,
faithful creature; and under him, alas! there is my lieutenant!" He
pushed the dead horse aside.

Beneath lay Lieutenant von Wendenstein, pale and stark, his left hand
pressed on his breast, his sword still in his right hand, his eyes wide
open, and staring glassily at the sky.

"Dead!" said poor Fritz, with a cry of grief; "he is really dead!" and
he bent sorrowfully over the body of the fallen officer.

"But I must take him away!" he cried, with decision. "He must not stay
here; at least I must be able to lead his poor old father and mother to
his grave. How frightful to see his kind, beautiful eyes staring thus!"
he said, shuddering; "but where is he wounded? The head is unhurt. Ah!
here in the breast. His hand is pressed upon it; the blood still
trickles. But I cannot look at his eyes!" he cried; "those dead, glassy
eyes, which in life were so kind and merry!"

He bent down and laid his hand on the head of the slain, that he might
gently close the eyes of his former playmate.

"God in heaven!" he cried, suddenly. "He lives, his eyelids moved!"

He folded his hands and gazed anxiously at the face before him.

The eyes really moved, they closed slowly, then they opened again; for
one moment a ray of light seemed to light them up, then they grew
staring and glassy as before.

Fritz Deyke sank upon his knees.

"Great God in heaven!" he said in a trembling voice; "if Thou wilt
never in my whole life hear a prayer from me again, yet help me now to
save my poor master!"

He seized his flask, opened the mouth of the wounded man, and poured
into it a little brandy.

Then he anxiously awaited the result.

An almost imperceptible shiver passed through the young officer's
limbs; his eyes lived for a moment, and looked inquiringly at the young
peasant; his lips were slightly parted; a red foam appeared upon them,
and a deep sigh heaved his breast.

Then the eyelids closed, and the face lost the horrible starkness of
death. But no further sign of life appeared.

"Now to get him to the town!" cried Fritz, raising the young officer in
his strong arms and bearing him to his horse.

He climbed with difficulty into the saddle, still holding the
motionless form; then he supported it before him with his right hand,
whilst he held the bridle with the other.

He rode quickly across the fields to the town.

The squares broken by the dragoons, garde du corps, and cuirassiers,
and the battery taken by Rittmeister von Einem made the last resistance
on the side of the Prussians before they retreated entirely.

The Hanoverian central brigade pressed onwards, and soon the whole
battle-field almost to Gotha was in possession of the Hanoverian
troops.

The army, unfit to march, had made the most surprising, though alas!
aimless advances--the army unfit to fight, had fought--and won!

During the whole day the king and his suite had remained on the hill
near Merxleben. He had not left the saddle for a moment. He had asked
short questions about the fighting, which the gentlemen of his suite
had answered; no information had come from the general in command, for
the battle was fought by individual officers and their divisions, who
would no longer retreat, and who had seized on the offensive, each
where he thought he could act most decisively and effectively.

The king saw nothing; he heard the bullets hiss past him, the thunder
of the cannon around him; but the varied living picture was wanting
that enchains the mind with trembling excitement.

He was as motionless as a bronze statue; his face betrayed no trace of
his inward emotion; his only inquiry was, could his soldiers see him?

At last the adjutant-general galloped up the hill, and brought the news
that the enemy's centre was pierced, and the cuirassier guards who had
been held in reserve behind the king's position, rushed past with a
loud "Hurrah!" to their royal leader, as they started across the plain
in pursuit of the enemy. Finally, a staff officer arrived from the
commanding general, announcing that the victory was decided in favour
of the Hanoverian arms. Then the king drew a deep breath and said, "I
will dismount."

A groom hastened to him; the king got off his horse. All the gentlemen
around drew near him to express their congratulations.

"Many brave and faithful hearts have ceased to beat! God grant them
eternal peace!" said the king, solemnly.

He stood for a moment in silent thought.

"I am somewhat exhausted," he then said; "is there anything to drink?"

Those nearest to him seized their flasks; they were empty.

"There is some sherry in our carriage," said Meding.

"And I have a travelling cup," cried Count Platen, taking a silver cup
from a case.

Meding ran to the carriage, and soon returned with half a bottle of
sherry and a little wheaten bread. He poured some wine into the small
cup, and handed it to the king. He drank it, and ate a morsel of bread.

"Now I am strong again," he cried; "would to God that each one of my
soldiers could say the same."

"I will move about a little," he then said, and taking Meding's arm he
paced slowly to and fro, on the top of the hill.

"God has given our arms the victory," he said with emotion; "what is
next to be done?"

"Your majesty," said Meding, "this noble blood will all have been shed
in vain, if we do not march at once to Gotha, cross the railway, and
endeavour to reach Bavaria."

The king sighed.

"Oh! that I could place myself at the head of my army and lead it
onwards! They will make difficulties, raise obstacles. You know how
many obstacles the general staff has already raised in the council of
war."

He stood still, thinking deeply.

"Your majesty must command a protocol to be drawn up, that these
obstacles may at least be stated in black and white," said Meding.

"It shall be done!" cried the king with energy. "You shall draw it up.
I am answerable to history for what occurs, and for what is neglected."

An aide-de-camp from the general in command galloped up.

"General von Arentschildt begs your majesty at once to take up your
head-quarters in Langensalza."

"To horse!" cried the king.

The aide-de-camp hurried away, the horses were brought, and the royal
party moved down from the hill across the battle-field.

The king was grave and calm as he rode towards the town. Heaps of dead
bodies lay on the road near the mill, and the horses' hoofs were
reddened by the blood which stood on the ground in great pools. The
king saw it not. He heard the "hurrahs" of the soldiers he met, and the
loud cheers with which they greeted him; no pride of victory kindled in
his noble face; he sat on his horse cold and silent; he thought of the
slain, who had bought him this victory with their lives, he thought of
the future, and with anxious care he asked himself whether this victory
would yield the fruit desired, and extricate the army from the
dangerous position into which it had been led.

The royal head-quarters were established in the Schützhaus at
Langensalza.

Scarcely was the king a little refreshed, when he ordered the general
in command, and the chief of the general staff to be summoned, and he
invited General von Brandis, Count Platen, Count Ingelheim, with Lex
and Meding, to be present at the council of war.

At about nine in the evening the officers assembled in the king's room.

The king urged an immediate march upon Gotha, but the general in
command and the chief of the staff declared that the army was in such a
state of exhaustion it could not march. In vain General Brandis pointed
out that even for a tired army a short march of two hours and then
excellent quarters in Gotha, was better than a bivouac in the fields
without proper food; the chief of the general staff declared the march
to be absolutely impossible, and the general in command refused to be
responsible for its consequences. Both these gentlemen asked earnestly
for permission to leave the council, as their presence with the troops
was absolutely necessary.

The council of war broke up without any result, and the king retired to
rest after the fatigues of the day.

The bivouac fires of the troops shone all around the town; and such
merry songs, such cheerful voices rose on every side, it was hard to
believe these were the exhausted soldiers who could not possibly
undertake a two hours' march to Gotha, there to find rest and food.

Fritz Deyke meanwhile had ridden to the town, carrying Lieutenant von
Wendenstein before him, without knowing whether he was alive or dead.
The young man lay heavily in his arms, his limbs hung helplessly down,
and the wound in his breast bled afresh from the quick ride.

The young peasant reached the town, but there had been fighting in the
streets, and it seemed deserted by its inhabitants, who had shut
themselves into the back rooms of their houses.

"Where shall I find the best quarters?" he asked himself. "Perhaps they
will take the greatest care of him in the hotel," he thought, after a
moment's consideration, and he rode on in search of an inn. At a turn
in the street he saw a large white house standing a little back, with a
well-kept garden in front of it, and with various outbuildings beside
it. Green jalousie blinds were closed over the windows.

As the cuirassier rode past with the lifeless body in his arms, a fresh
young voice cried, half in fear, half in compassion:

"Ah! the poor young officer!"

Fritz was touched by the sound of the voice, as well as by this mark of
sympathy for his dear lieutenant, and looked up at the house.

A young girl's pretty blonde head peeped from a half-opened shutter,
but bashfully withdrew as the soldier looked up; the blind, however,
was not entirely closed.

Either the expressive voice, or the sympathy in the bright blue eyes
still looking down through the small opening upon the strange and
melancholy spectacle, caused the young man to conclude, that in this
comfortable and well-to-do looking house he should find good quarters
for his beloved officer: it was enough, he reined in his horse, and
cried out--

"Yes, the poor young officer needs rest and care, and I demand quarters
for him in this house."

The words were short and commanding, for he belonged to the army who
entered the town as victors; but the tone of voice was gentle and
imploring, and it caused the young girl to open the shutter entirely,
and to stretch out her head. At the same moment, a stout, elderly man,
with a full red face and short grey hair, appeared, and looked down
with displeasure at the Hanoverian soldier.

"Quarters can be had in this house, if so it must be," he said, curtly
and uncivilly; "but as to care, we have nothing to do with that, and
there is nothing much to eat!"

"I will see to that!" cried Fritz Deyke, "only come down and help me to
carry in my lieutenant!"

The old man withdrew from the window grumbling, whilst the young girl
called out kindly, "I will get a bed ready at once for the poor wounded
man, then we shall see what must be done next."

And she disappeared from the window.

The old man had opened the house door, and advanced towards the
horseman.

"I cannot bid you welcome to my house," he said, gloomily and harshly,
"for you belong to the enemies of my king and country, but I am bound
to give you quarters; and," he continued, looking compassionately at
the pale young officer, "I would rather give quarters to the wounded
than to the sound."

"It is no question of friend or foe!" replied Fritz, in a conciliatory
voice; "it is a question of Christian charity to a poor wounded man!"

"Come then!" said the old man, simply, and walked up to the horse.

Fritz Deyke let the lifeless form slide gently into the old man's arms;
then dismounting, he tied his horse to the low garden railings, and
together they bore the lifeless form to the house.

"Up here," said the old man, pointing to the stairs which led from the
hall to the comfortable rooms above.

Fritz Deyke went up first, carefully supporting the lieutenant's head,
whilst the old man followed, bearing him.

They entered a long passage with doors on each side.

The young girl stood waiting for them, and hastened forwards to open
the door of a large room, with two windows looking towards the
courtyard; it was furnished plainly but with some elegance, and a
snow-white bed was prepared for the sufferer.

Fritz Deyke, with the help of the old man, laid the wounded officer
gently down upon it.

"Now, young man!" said his host, looking gravely at the cuirassier,
"your officer is safe, and he shall want for nothing that my house can
afford,--the house of the Brewer Lohmeier," he added, with a look of
dignified satisfaction, "that you may know whose guest you are. Come
now, we will take your horse into the stable; and," he continued
somewhat confidentially, "whilst you are here, keep others away if you
can."

They went down stairs, leaving the young girl in the room with the
wounded man. She smoothed the pillows, and looked with melancholy
interest at the handsome face, pale as death.

Some infantry came down the street.

"We will find quarters in this street," cried one of them; "see, here
is a nice-looking house,--let us go in,--there will be room for us
all!"

Fritz Deyke came to the door at this moment with the brewer.

"Ah! there are cuirassiers here already," cried the infantry man; "is
there still room, comrade?"

Fritz put his finger to his lips.

"A dangerously-wounded officer here," he said; "you must not talk so
loud, nor make such a noise in marching."

"Then we must go further," said the infantry soldiers; they cast
sympathizing looks at the upper windows, and walked on.

"Thank you!" said the old brewer, in a friendly voice.

Fritz Deyke led his horse through the yard gate to the stable, where he
put him with the brewer's four horses. He then asked for a piece of
chalk, and wrote in large letters upon the house door: "Dangerously
wounded officers."

"Now," he cried, "I must go and find a surgeon; take care of my
lieutenant, but do not move him!" He was about to hurry away.

"Stop," said the brewer, "your surgeons will all be busy at the field
hospitals; our surgeon lives close here, he is a clever man, I will
fetch him."

He went out, and soon returned with a fresh-faced, grey-headed old
gentleman, with a very kind expression.

He stepped up to the bed, whilst Fritz studied his looks with the
greatest anxiety.

The surgeon shook his head, he opened one of the closed eye-lids,
looked at the eye of the wounded man, and said,

"Life is not extinct, whether we can retain it is in God's hand! I must
look at the wounds, we must undress him, and you, dear Margaret, get us
some warm water and some wine."

The young girl hastened away. Fritz carefully cut off the wounded man's
clothes and boots.

There was a wound in the left breast, another in the shoulder.

"This is nothing," said the surgeon, pointing to the shoulder, "a
bayonet wound, which will get well of itself; but here--" drawing a
probe from a case, he examined the wound in the breast.

"The bullet has lodged upon the rib," he said; "if he does not die from
loss of blood and exhaustion he may recover. For the present he must
have perfect rest; I cannot attempt to extract the bullet until he has
in some measure recovered his strength."

Margaret returned with warm water, linen, and a sponge. She then placed
a small lamp upon the table, for it began to grow dark.

The surgeon washed the wound, and poured some wine into his patient's
mouth. A deep breath parted his lips, a faint tinge of colour came to
his cheeks, and he opened his eyes. He looked with surprise at
everything around him; his eyes closed again, and scarcely audibly he
murmured "Auf Wiedersehn!"

The young girl folded her hands, and raised her eyes, shining through
tears to heaven.

Fritz took off his cap, waved it in the air and opened his mouth wide,
as if to shout the Hurrah! with which the lusty young peasants made the
meadows near Blechow or the large room in the inn echo again, but this
Hurrah! did not come; the mouth closed again, the cap flew into a
corner, only a thankful, happy expression replaced the melancholy look
his face had hitherto worn. He had heard a sound of life from the lips
of his dear lieutenant, he now hoped to save him.

"Well, well," said the surgeon cheerfully, "for the present you can
only keep him quiet, and give him some red wine as often as possible,
to repair the loss of blood; to-morrow I will try to extract the
bullet."

He departed, accompanied by old Lohmeier.

Fritz, Deyke, and Margaret remained with the patient, and watched his
breathing; with the greatest punctuality the young girl handed a
spoonful of wine to the cuirassier, who poured it carefully into the
officer's mouth.

Old Lohmeier brought Fritz some cold supper and a draught of his own
beer. The young man hastily despatched the supper, his appetite was as
good as ever, the beer he declined.

"I could not keep awake," he said.

"Now go to bed, Margaret," said her father, "we will tend the wounded
man; sitting up at night will tire you."

"What is the loss of one night's sleep, father," said Margaret, "when a
man's life is in danger? Let me stay, he might want something."

Her father did not gainsay her, and his look of satisfaction
acknowledged she was right. Fritz Deyke said nothing, but he raised his
large true-hearted blue eyes with an expression of gratitude to the
young girl's face.

Lohmeier seated himself in an armchair and soon nodded; the young
people remained near the bed, and scrupulously carried out the
surgeon's orders, watching with pleasure every fresh sign of life in
their patient, sometimes a deep breath, sometimes a slight flush
passing over his pale face.

For a long time they sat in silence.

"You are a good girl," Fritz said at last, when she had just handed him
a spoonful of wine, and he held out his hand to her in hearty
friendship; "how thankful my lieutenant's mother will be to you, for
what you have done for her son."

"Ah! his poor mother!" she said with emotion, responding to the warm
pressure of his hand, whilst a tear shone in her clear eyes; "is she a
great lady?"

Fritz Deyke imparted to her in low whispers all about the lieutenant's
family, and the old house in Blechow, and he told her of beautiful
Wendland, with its rich pastures and dark fir woods, and then of his
own home, of his father, and the farm and acres; and the young girl
listened silently and attentively to the soldier's words. The pictures
they presented were so natural, so clear and so bright, and they were
all gilded by the poetic shimmer surrounding the brave cuirassier, who
had saved his playmate in the bloody battle-field, and who now watched
so anxiously over the life still so precarious.

The night passed quietly in old Lohmeier's house. Loud, merry voices
rang without, from the soldiers quartered in the town, and from the
bivouacs, and when the old brewer sometimes woke he glanced
benevolently at the young soldier and the wounded officer, whose
presence prevented his house from being otherwise occupied, for all the
troops had respected the words Fritz had written on the door. No one
had knocked, but all had passed it in silence.

The morning of the 28th June dawned brilliantly, as if to greet the
victorious soldiers in their cantonments. Already all was movement at
head-quarters. The king in a proclamation to the army had expressed in
a few affectionate words his thanks for their exertions and courage.

Then the burial of the dead took place. They were interred, so far as
they could be found on the battle-field, in the churchyard of
Langensalza.

The king with his suite stood near the open graves, whilst the
clergyman of the little town, in a few simple words, commended to
eternal rest the warriors united in death, Prussians and Hanoverians;
and the king, who could not see the brave men who lay at his feet, true
soldiers of duty and of their rightful lord, stooped down in silence,
seized a handful of earth, and with his own royal hand strewed the
first dust upon the loyal dead.

"May the earth lay lightly on you!" whispered the king, and in a still
lower voice he added, "Happy are they who rest in peace!"

Then he folded his hands, repeated the Lord's Prayer, and taking the
arm of the crown prince, returned to the Schützhaus.

On his way back, groups of soldiers who stood about greeted him with
loud "Hurrahs!" and cries of "Forwards! forwards!"

The king bent down his head, a sorrowful expression appeared in his
face.

As soon as he reached his room, he sent for the general in command. He
was with the troops, and an hour passed before he entered the king's
apartment.

"Are the troops ready to march?" asked the king.

"No, your majesty! The army is done for, quite done for!" cried the
general, striking his hand on his breast. "There are no provisions
forthcoming, and the ammunition is scarcely sufficient for the first
round."

"Then in your opinion, what is to be done?" asked the king, calmly and
coldly.

"Your majesty!" cried Arentschildt, "the general staff is unanimous in
declaring a capitulation to be unavoidable."

"Wherefore?" asked the king.

"The general staff is of opinion that the army cannot march," cried the
general; "besides, overwhelming forces are drawing up on every side;
from the north the outposts have sent in word that General Manteuffel
is surrounding us; in the south General Vogel von Falckenstein has
collected troops from Eisenach, and has cut off the road to Gotha."

"That would have been impossible had we marched on yesterday evening,"
said the king.

"An advance was impossible, as the general staff declared!" cried
General von Arentschildt.

The king was silent.

"Your majesty!" cried the general, striking his breast; "it is hard for
me to say the word--capitulate! but there is nothing else to be done. I
beg your majesty's permission to commence arrangements with General von
Falckenstein."

"I will send you my orders in an hour," said the king; "leave your
adjutant here."

And he turned away.

The general left the room.

"It must be so!" cried the king sorrowfully. "The blood of all these
brave men has flowed in vain. In vain has been all the pain, the
anguish, and the toil--and why in vain? Because my eyes are dark;
because I cannot lead my valiant troops as my forefathers have done, as
the brave Brunswick--oh! it is hard, very hard!"

The king's face had a dark expression, he clenched his teeth, and
raised his sightless eyes to heaven.

Then the anger vanished from his countenance, peace took its place, a
sorrowful but gentle smile came to his lips. He folded his hands, and
said in a low tone:

"My God and Saviour bore for me the crown of thorns; for me He shed His
blood upon the cross. O Lord, not my will but Thine be done!"

He touched the golden bell which had been brought from his cabinet at
Herrenhausen.

The groom of the chambers entered.

"I beg Count Platen, General Brandis, Count Ingelheim, with Herr Lex
and Herr Meding, to come to me at once."

In a short time these gentlemen entered the room.

"You know the position in which we are placed, gentlemen," said the
king; "we are surrounded by the enemy in superior numbers, and the
general in command declares that the troops cannot march from
exhaustion, that they are without either provisions or ammunition. He
considers a capitulation unavoidable. Before I decide, I wish to hear
your views. What do you think, Count Ingelheim?"

Gravely and with painful emotion, the Austrian ambassador replied: "It
is most melancholy, your majesty, after such a day as yesterday to
speak of capitulation; but if we are really surrounded by superior
forces, brought up since yesterday evening," this he said with
emphasis, "it would be a useless sacrifice of many brave soldiers to
resist, and no one could thus advise your majesty."

"If we could only send to Berlin," said Count Platen, "it might
yet----"

"Your majesty," interrupted General Brandis, in a trembling voice, "if
it were possible that like the Duke of Brunswick you could draw your
sword, and ride yourself at the head of your army, I would still cry
'Forwards!' I believe we should cut our way through; but as it is----"
he stamped with his foot, and turned away to hide the tears that
blinded his eyes.

The state-councillor Meding came close to the king.

"Your majesty," he said, in a husky voice, "the unavoidable must be
endured; the sun shines even on the darkest day! Your majesty must not
uselessly sacrifice the lives of your subjects, but," he continued,
"you are answerable to history, and it must be clearly stated that a
further march is impossible. If I may presume to advise your majesty,
cause the general in command, and each commander of a brigade, upon his
military honour and the oath given to his sovereign, to declare before
God and his conscience that the troops can neither march nor fight, and
that they have neither food nor ammunition. Thus will your majesty be
freed from all reproach from your army, your country, and history."

The king bent his head in approval.

"So shall it be," he said. "Draw up such a document with the assistance
of Lex, and send it to General Arentschildt."

"And permit me, your majesty," cried Count Ingelheim, "at this solemn
moment to express my conviction that notwithstanding the heavy trial it
has pleased God to lay upon you, you will return in triumph to your
capital, as surely as Austria and my emperor will, to the last man,
maintain the rights of Germany."

The king held out his hand to him.

"You too have borne the fatigues of the campaign in vain," he said,
with a melancholy smile.

"Not in vain, your majesty," cried Count Ingelheim. "I have seen a king
and an army without fear and without reproach."

An hour later the king received the declaration he had demanded, signed
by the general in command, the chief of the general staff, and all the
brigadiers. A capitulation was concluded with General Vogel von
Falckenstein, but soon afterwards General von Manteuffel arrived, and
at the command of the King of Prussia granted other conditions, which
were highly favourable to the Hanoverian army.

The officers retained their arms, their baggage, their horses, and all
their privileges; and even the sub-officers retained their rank. The
privates gave up their arms and horses to officers appointed by the
King of Hanover, and they delivered them to Prussian commissioners;
they were then dismissed to their homes.

But first General Manteuffel, at the express command of the King of
Prussia, publicly acknowledged the brave conduct of the Hanoverian
soldiers.

The King of Hanover sent Count Platen, General von Brandis, and Herr
Meding before him to Linz, there to await him; he himself rested for a
short time in the castle of the Duke of Altenburg, from whence he
proceeded to Vienna to await further events.

The Hanoverian soldiers, who were smitten as by a thunderbolt from the
seventh heaven by the capitulation, laid down their arms with bitter
grief, and with dust on their heads returned to the homes they had left
so confident of victory.

But they could return unhumiliated, for they had done what was
possible. The brave and faithful army, on the last battle-field where
the ancient banner of their country was unfurled, had raised a monument
of honour and glory which the chivalrous commander of the Prussian
troops was the first to adorn with the laurels of his praise.

But who, that knows the history of that day and its important results,
can avoid asking the question, "Why was it not possible that two such
noble, chivalrous, and pious princes, whose warriors stood opposed in
deadly fight, should not have known and understood each other?"



                              CHAPTER XV.

                               SUSPENSE.


The sultry heat of summer was extremely oppressive in the plain
surrounding the quiet village of Blechow; the sky looked dark and
heavy, not that it was covered with clouds, but it was grey from the
heavy atmosphere, and although the sun was still high above the
horizon, his rays were of a dark blood-red colour. Deep stillness
prevailed. Almost all the young men had left the village; as soon as
the news came that the troops were concentrated at Göttingen they had
set out to join the army there, or to overtake it on its march. But the
stillness was the most complete in the old castle, where the president,
with gloomy wrinkles on his brow, paced up and down the great hall, and
gazed from time to time across the garden at the broad plain beyond. He
had obeyed the king's command, that all magistrates should remain at
their posts; he had, through the Landrostei, received a decree from the
ministry whereby the government of the country was delivered to the
Prussian Civil Commissioner, Herr von Hardenburg, and he had given up
all business to the Auditor von Bergfeld, saying, "Your knowledge is
quite sufficient to enable you to understand and execute all the orders
which may be issued by the government; do everything, and when you want
my signature bring me the papers. I will remain at my post, and will
sign them, since the king has so commanded; but do not consult me, for
I will hear nothing of all this misery, and my old heart, which is sad
enough already, shall not be pricked to death with pins. But if there
is any oppression which I could by any possibility avert, then tell me
the whole matter, and the Prussian Civil Commissioner shall hear old
Wendenstein's voice as plainly as the Hanoverian board have ever heard
it!" With that he left the office; he signed his name when needful, and
he seldom opened his lips after the foreign occupation was completed.

Madame von Wendenstein went silently and quietly about the house,--she
looked after the house keeping, and arranged everything as punctually
as ever,--but sometimes the old lady would pause suddenly, her dreamy
eyes fixed on the far-off distance, as if they sought to follow her
thoughts beyond the wood-encircled horizon,--then she would hastily
resume her occupation, and hurry restlessly through the well-known
rooms, and the more she ordered and arranged the more she seemed to
become mistress of her heavy trouble.

It was very quiet too in the Pfarrhaus. No one had left it, all went on
as usual, but the general depression seemed to weigh down the humble
roof, and even the roses in the garden hung their heads exhausted by
the burning heat of the sun.

The pastor had gone out, as was his custom, to visit some of his
people, for he did not consider the Sunday services his only duty, but
thought that he who would really be a shepherd and bishop of souls must
carry the word of God in friendly converse into the daily life of his
flock and know its joys and sorrows.

Helena sat at the window, and mechanically plied her needle, but her
eyes were often thoughtfully turned to the far distance, and her hands
sank wearily into her lap.

Candidate Behrmann sat opposite to her; he was as neatly dressed and as
smoothly brushed as ever, and his expressionless and composed
countenance looked happier and more cheerful than usual.

His sharp observing eyes followed the looks the young girl fixed on the
distant horizon, and that the languishing conversation might not
entirely fail, he said,--

"It is strange what a sultry oppression hangs over all nature; we feel
the actual weight of this thick heavy atmosphere."

"Our poor soldiers---what they must suffer from marching in this heat!"
cried Helena, sighing.

"In those days I feel how doubly happy I am," said the candidate, "when
I think of my peaceful and spiritual calling, and contrast it with the
useless and really reprehensible employment of the soldiers, and all
they must now undergo."

"Useless and reprehensible!" cried Helena, gazing at him with her great
eyes; "do you call it useless to fight for your king and your country?"

"Not according to the views of the world," he said sanctimoniously;
"all these people are doing their duty according to their lights; but
the king himself is reprehensible, and the sacrifices they make for him
are useless, for what will they gain? Oh! it is a nobler fight, and
more pleasing to God, to struggle with spiritual weapons against sin
and unbelief, and to benefit mankind--as your father does, Helena," he
added, "and as I hope to emulate him in doing."

"Certainly it is a nobler calling, beautiful and holy, but a soldier
also serves God when he fights on the side of right," said the young
girl warmly.

"Which side is right?" asked the candidate; "both sides call on the God
of battles, and very often what is evidently the wrong side conquers."

"For a soldier," cried Helena, "that side is the right which his duty
and the oath plighted to his sovereign calls upon him to defend."

"Certainly, certainly," said the candidate, as if agreeing with her;
"but women should feel greater interest in peaceful and beneficial
usefulness,--what help, for instance, can a soldier be to his wife and
children? at any moment he may be called away to do battle for the
great ones of the earth,--he gives his life for a cause for which he
does not care, and his family are left in need and misery."

"And they bear in their hearts the proud consciousness that he for whom
they weep is worthy to be called a hero," cried Helena with kindling
eyes.

The candidate gave his cousin a reproving look, and said, in a solemn
voice,--

"I believe the conflict in God's service has also its heroes."

"Certainly," said Helena, without embarrassment; "every calling has its
own round of duty to fulfil, and we," she added with a smile, "are here
to comfort and to help those who are wounded in the battle of life."

And again she dreamily turned her eyes to the distance. After a moment
she rose hastily.

"I think," she said, "the heat will be less oppressive out of doors. I
will walk to meet my father; he must now be returning." As she put on
her straw hat she asked, "Will you come with me, cousin?"

"With the greatest pleasure," he replied eagerly; and they left the
parsonage together, taking the road which led to the village.

"I have so greatly enjoyed my life here," said the candidate, after
they had walked for a short time in silence, "that I already quite
understand the charm of this quiet, peaceful seclusion, and I own
myself ready to forego all larger circles of society."

"You see," said Helena merrily, "a short time ago you shuddered at our
solitude, as I did at the restless, crowded city. At a time like this,"
she added, with a sigh, "it is hard to be so completely cut off from
the world; we literally hear nothing--what has happened to the army and
the king?" she said with energy. "Our poor sovereign!"

The candidate was silent.

"Really," he said, after a short pause, continuing his own flow of
thought, as if he had not heard his cousin's last words, "really one.
cannot feel solitary here. Your father's conversation, so simple, yet
so rich in thoughts, offers greater variety than many an assembly in
the great world; and your society, dear Helena," he added warmly.

She looked at him with astonishment. "My society," she interrupted,
with a smile, "cannot compensate for your friends in town; my
learning----"

"Your learning!" he exclaimed hastily; "is it learning that charms us
in a woman?"

"A certain amount must be needful," said she, half jokingly, "when
conversing with a learned man."

"Not for me," he cried. "Natural simplicity of heart and intellect has
a charm for me. A man wishes to form, to educate his wife, not to find
her opinions already fixed," he cried, his voice assuming a sudden
tenderness of expression.

Her eyes were raised to his for a moment, and then lowered. They walked
on for a time in silence.

"Helena," he said, "it is true that the idea of quiet, simple
usefulness in the country attracts me more and more; and it is also
true that your society has greatly influenced me."

She walked on in silence.

"When a man relinquishes the intellectual pleasures of the great
world," he added, "he naturally seeks some equivalent; and this
equivalent I find in my family, my home. I shall remain here to assist
your father in his spiritual office. I shall experience double
happiness in my labours, if my own heart finds a lovely flower to
reward my unassuming industry. Helena," he continued, with animation,
"shall you find no satisfaction in uniting with me to support and cheer
the evening of your father's life, and in assisting me in my holy
calling? Will you not stand at my side as a help-mate, such as your
mother was to your father?"

The young girl walked on, her eyes fixed on the ground. A deep sigh
heaved her breast.

"Cousin----"

"It does not become me, a servant of the Church," he interrupted, "to
speak to you in the manner and the tone in which a man of the world
might declare his love; pure and bright must be the flame which holds a
place in the heart of a minister. But such a flame my heart offers you,
Helena; and I ask you, plainly and candidly, will you accept what my
heart can give, and do you believe you can thus find the quiet
happiness of your life?"

She stood still, and looked at him calmly and honestly.

"Your words surprise me, cousin. I did not expect to hear this, and so
suddenly----"

"The relations between us must be made clear," he said. "For this
reason I have told you the feelings of my heart. A minister cannot woo
as a man of the world; you cannot be surprised at that, being yourself
the daughter of a minister."

"But consider," she said hesitatingly, "we scarcely know each other."

"Have you no confidence in me?" he asked. "Could you not accept me as
your support through life?"

She looked on the ground. A deep blush spread over her face.

"But one must also----"

"Well, what?" he asked, and with piercing glance he gazed at her
anxiously.

"Love," she whispered.

"And that you believe you could not feel for me?" he enquired.

Again she looked up at him. Again she sighed deeply, and her eyes were
for a moment turned dreamily to the distance. Then a slight, half
roguish smile came to her lips, and she whispered,--

"One cannot tell beforehand!"

"Beforehand?" he said, and a darker expression passed over his face.

"Cousin," she said, with sweetness and candour, as she held out her
hand to him, "your words mean well, and it is flattering to me that you
should think I can be anything to your life. Let me then tell you
honestly, I think you are mistaken. Perhaps," she added kindly, "it is
not needful to pursue this conversation, that has so surprised me, just
now. Give me time. I promise to think of what you have said; and when
we know each other better, I will tell you."

He looked down gloomily.

"Oh," he said bitterly, "your heart answers already; it does not
respond to the simple language of my feelings. I truly do not know how
to raise excitement and restless emotion. The servant of the Church
cannot hope to cause the fiery passion that a--young officer----"

She stood still. Her face was very pale, and her eyes were fixed upon
him with a proud look.

He stopped suddenly, as if displeased with himself, and his excited
features resumed their usual smooth and calm expression.

"Cousin," she said coldly, "I must beg you not to continue this
conversation now. Examine your own feelings, and give me time. My
father----"

"Your father's wishes are my own," he said.

She bent her head, and a melancholy look passed over her face.

"My father," she then said, "cannot wish me to make any promise without
examining my own heart."

"And you will tell me your decision, when you have made this
examination?"

"Yes," said she. "Now leave me, I beg."

A deep breath passed through his thin lips; he cast his eyes to the
ground, and walked by her silently and gravely.

"Here comes my father," cried Helena, and hastened to meet the pastor,
who was returning by a side road leading to some of the scattered
cottages of the village.

The candidate followed in silence.

"This is well," said the old gentlemen, "my children, that you come
together to meet me; it is better in these troubled times not to be
alone. Throughout the village there is sorrow and anxiety about the
absent, the more so that a rumour is flying through the country of a
most exciting nature."

"What is the rumour, papa?" cried Helena; "nothing disastrous?"

"Glorious, yet disastrous," said the pastor; "there has been a great
battle, so it is said from village to village, from house to house. Our
army has won a great victory; but much, much blood has been shed."

"Oh, how horrible!" cried Helena, with great emotion, as she folded her
hands. The candidate's quick eyes regarded her with curiosity; but she
did not remark it, her looks were fixed on space.

"People scarcely know which they feel," continued the pastor quietly,
"joy at the victory, or anxiety lost sons and brothers should have
fallen."

"How happy are those," said the candidate, "who have no relative in the
army; then there is no anxiety, no care."

"You have not, like myself, lived here for years," replied the pastor
gravely. "Every member of my flock is as dear to me as if he were my
relation. I feel each grief that affects them as if I myself were
smitten."

Helena involuntarily caught her father's hand with a hasty movement,
and pressed it to her lips. The old gentleman felt a tear upon his
hand. With a gentle smile, he said,--

"You too, my good child, feel for the sorrows of our friends. I know it
must be so; you have grown up amongst them."

Helena covered her face for a moment with her handkerchief and sobbed.

The candidate flashed an evil, malicious side glance upon her, whilst a
cold, scornful smile played around his lips.

"I am going to the president," said the pastor; "there they must have
the earliest reliable news, and they will be most anxious about the
lieutenant. Poor Madame von Wendenstein! Come with me to the castle,
children."

And they took the road to the hill upon which the old house stood
amidst high dark woods.

Helena took her father's arm, and involuntarily hastened her steps.

They climbed the hill and entered the hall by the open door. The great
oak chests stood there as still and solemn as ever, and the old
paintings looked down from their frames as gravely and quietly as if
there were no changes, no cares nor sorrows in the world of living men.

In the large garden drawing-room Herr von Wendenstein paced up and down
with measured step, Madame von Wendenstein sat in her accustomed place
before the large round table, and her daughters were beside her; all
was as usual, yet a heavy cloud of care weighed on each brow, on each
heart.

The president held out his hand to the pastor in silence, silently
Madame von Wendenstein greeted her visitors, and the young girls
embraced without speaking a word.

"A rumour is abroad of a great battle, and of a great victory," said
the pastor; "I hoped here to learn something reliable."

"I have had no news," said the president gloomily. "I only know what
has been brought from mouth to mouth; some part will be true; let us
hope the news of the victory may be confirmed."

He said nothing of the care and anxiety of his heart for the son who
was on the distant battle-field, but an affectionate and sympathizing
look flew from beneath his contracted brows towards his wife.

"What a wonderful thing the world is!" she said in a low tone, as she
shook her head. "In peaceful times, steam and the telegraph seemed to
have annihilated time and space, and news of the most unimportant
trifles flew from one end of the earth to the other; and now, when so
many hearts are tormented by restless anxiety, news travels slowly and
uncertainly from mouth to mouth, as in the days that are long passed
away."

"So it is with the proud achievements of human intellect," said the
pastor; "when the hand of God seizes the history of a nation, man grows
weak and powerless, and all the progress the world has made becomes as
nothing. But that it is God's hand must be our consolation, He has
power to raise up and to protect, He has power to heal the wounds His
hands have made."

With a pious look of resignation, Madame von Wendenstein listened to
the pastor's words, but tears trickled down her cheeks, and proved how
hard her heart found this anxious suspense.

"I have no news from the army," said the president, "but I have
received a letter from my son in Hanover. He tells me of the Prussian
government, and praises its order and punctuality highly," said the old
gentleman with some bitterness.

"Public men must be in great and painful difficulties in Hanover," said
the pastor; "there, political views are much more in the foreground
than here in the country, and it must be extremely hard to reconcile
the duties of a servant of Hanover with the necessities of the
situation."

"It appears as if the gentlemen in office found them easy to
reconcile," said the president gloomily. "It is certainly good that the
Prussian government should be excellent, prompt, and punctual, but it
would never come into my head in these days to feel any particular
enthusiasm about it. Well, youth is different to what it was in my
day."

The auditor Bergfeld entered the room with a hasty step and an excited
look.

"What news do you bring from Lüchow?" cried the president, hastening
towards him: and all eyes were fixed on him in mute anxiety.

"It is true!" he cried; "there has been a battle--at Langensalza, and
our army is victorious!"

"Thank God!" cried the president; "and have they succeeded in pressing
on to the south?"

"Alas, no," said Bergfeld, mournfully, "the day after the battle our
brave soldiers were surrounded by overwhelming forces and obliged to
capitulate." The president gazed gloomily before him. "Is the king a
prisoner?" he asked. "No," said Bergfeld, "the king is free, the
capitulation is very honourable, the officers return home with their
arms and horses. But," he continued, "there are many wounded; in
Hanover committees have been formed, nourishment is wanted, they beg
for linen, for bread and meat."

"Everything in the house shall be packed up at once," cried the
president, energetically, "the wounded must have the best of
everything; my cellar shall be emptied."

Madame von Wendenstein had risen and approached her husband.

"Let me take the things," she said, imploringly. "Why?" cried the
president, "you can do no good, and if Karl comes back, it--"

"_If_ he comes back!" cried the old lady, bursting into tears.

"We shall soon hear news of him," said the president, "and until
then--"

The sound of voices was heard in the hall. Johann entered and said,
"Old Deyke is here; he wishes to speak to the president."

"Bring him in, bring him in!" cried the old gentleman, and the old
peasant Deyke came in amongst the excited group, looking as calm and
dignified as usual, but with a deep and gloomy gravity spread over his
sharp features.

"Well, dear Deyke," cried the president, "have you heard the news; do
you come to consult with us how to send in the quickest way all that
our brave soldiers need?"

"I have received a letter from my Fritz," said the peasant solemnly,
whilst he respectfully took the hand held out to him by the president.

"Well, and how does the brave young fellow get on? cried the old
gentleman.

"Has he seen my son?" asked Madame von Wendenstein, gazing at the
peasant with anxious eyes.

"He has found the lieutenant," he replied, laconically.

"And my son lives?" cried the poor lady with hesitation. She feared to
hear the answer which must touch the inmost string of her heart.

"He lives," said old Deyke. "I wish to say a couple of words to the
president alone," he stammered.

"No!" cried Madame von Wendenstein, vehemently, "no, not alone. Deyke,
you have some bad news, but I will hear it; I am strong enough to hear
anything, but I cannot bear suspense. I beg you," she continued,
looking affectionately at her husband, "to let me hear what he has to
tell."

The president looked undecided. The pastor came forward slowly.

"Permit your wife to hear the tidings, whatever they may be, my old
friend," he said, gravely and quietly. "Your son lives, that is the
first and most important point; whatever may be to come, cannot be too
hard for a true and pious heart, like our friend's, to bear."

Madame von Wendenstein looked gratefully at the clergyman.

Old Deyke slowly drew out a paper.

"The president will perhaps look at my son's letter?"

"Give it to me," said the pastor; "it belongs to God's servant, an old
friend of this house, to impart this message."

He took the paper and walked to the window, through which the last
light of the waning day entered the room.

Madame von Wendenstein with widely opened eyes hung on his lips. Helena
sat at the table with her head resting on her hand, calm and apparently
indifferent; her eyes were cast down; it seemed doubtful whether she
saw or heard anything passing around her.

Slowly the pastor read,--


"My dear Father,

"I write at once that you may have news of me, and, thank God, I am
well and cheerful; I fell in with the army at Langensalza, and enlisted
in the cuirassier guards, and took part in the great battle, and went
under a hot fire, but I came out safe and sound. We were victorious,
and took two cannon and many prisoners, but to-day we are surrounded by
superior numbers, and the generals have said we could not march. So the
king capitulated, and we are all coming home. My heart is almost broken
when I look at all our brave soldiers going back with the white staff
in their hands, and they don't look such cowardly creatures either.

"Now, dear father, I must tell you of Lieutenant von Wendenstein, with
whom I must remain, for he is badly wounded, and I cannot leave him
here alone. I found him on the battle-field and thought he was dead,
but, thank God, it was not so bad as that; and the doctor has extracted
the ball, and says he will live if he only has strength to hold out
through the fever. I am with him at the brewer Lohmeier's, a good man
though he is a Prussian, and the lieutenant is well cared for. My host
sends off this letter for me through an acquaintance in the field post.
Go at once to the president and tell him all, and have no anxiety about
me for I am all right.

                                         "Your son,

                                               "Fritz.

"Written the 28th July, 1866."


The pastor was silent.

The president came up to his wife, put his arm round her shoulders,
kissed her grey hair, and said,--

"He lives! my God, I thank thee!"

"And now I may go to him?" asked Madame von Wendenstein.

"And I?" cried her daughter.

"Yes," said the old gentleman, "and I wish I could go with you, but I
should be of no use there."

Helena rose; she walked slowly but with a firm step towards Madame von
Wendenstein and said, while her eyes shone brilliantly,--

"May I accompany you? If my father will permit it?"

"You, Helena?" cried the pastor.

"Our brave soldiers want nursing," said the young girl, looking firmly
at her father, "and you have taught me to help the suffering. Will you
not allow me at such a time as this to do my duty?"

The pastor looked kindly at his daughter. "Go, my child, and God be
with you;" and turning to Madame von Wendenstein, he added, "Will you
take my daughter under your protection?"

"With all my heart," cried the old lady, and folded the pastor's
daughter in her arms.

Candidate Behrmann had watched the whole of this scene in silence.

He bit his lips, when Helena announced her intention of accompanying
Madame von Wendenstein, and a pale ray shot from his eyes, but his face
immediately resumed its smooth smiling expression, he stepped forward
and said in a gentle voice,--

"I shall also beg permission, madame, to accompany you on your journey;
it will be desirable for you to have a male protector, and I think on
the site of the bloody battle-field spiritual consolation will be
needed and welcomed. I believe I can be more useful there than here,
where until I return my uncle can so well fulfil all the duties of his
sacred office alone."

He looked humbly and modestly at his uncle and the president, awaiting
their reply.

"That is a good and right thought, my dear nephew," said the pastor,
holding out his hand to him; "on yonder battle-field there is grave and
blessed work to be done, and I can get on here in the meantime quite
well alone."

The president was glad that the ladies should have a protector, and
Madame von Wendenstein thanked the candidate heartily for facilitating
her journey to her suffering son.

Helena had looked up, startled for a moment when her cousin said he
would accompany the ladies; then in silence, with downcast eyes, she
listened to the rest of the conversation, neither word nor look
betraying the least interest in it.

The greatest movement and activity suddenly began in the old castle.

Madame von Wendenstein hastened through the well-known rooms ordering
and arranging, here showing her daughters what must be packed in the
travelling trunks, there sorting out wine, sugar, and nourishment of
all kinds, then again giving the servants instructions as to what they
were to do in her absence: all the silent abstraction which had altered
the old lady during the last few days had vanished, with active step
and shining eyes she hurried about, and anyone so seeing her might have
thought she was preparing for some great festival.

Helena had returned to the Pfarrhaus with her father and the candidate
to make her rapid preparations for the journey, and not quite two hours
after the journey had been decided on the president's comfortable
carriage, with its well-bred powerful horses, stood before the large
hall door of the castle.

Madame von Wendenstein gave her husband a long and affectionate
embrace, it was the first time for years that they had been separated.
He laid his hand on her head and said, "God bless you! and bring you
back with our son!"

Old Deyke was there, and a crowd of villagers were there too, with
their wives and daughters, for the news had spread like wild-fire that
the president's wife and daughter were going to nurse the wounded
lieutenant, and that the pastor's daughter and the new candidate were
to accompany them. They all came to take leave, and Madame von
Wendenstein shook hands with all, and promised each to gain news of
this or that relative who was with the army. What the carriage could
still hold was taken up with love offerings that all had brought for
their relations, and every head was uncovered when at last the carriage
rolled away; but there was no shouting, no loud word was heard, and
they all went back quietly to their homes, in great anxiety as to what
the next few days must bring, whether the life or death of those dear
to them.

The president went quietly back into the castle with the pastor, and
the two old gentlemen sat together for a long time. They said but
little, and yet each found in these weary times consolation in
the society of the other. The president cast his eyes round the
drawing-room, which was as quiet and comfortable as ever, but when he
looked at the place where his wife usually sat, and thought of the
cheerful voices which used to sound through the room, and then turned
his thoughts to the distant town where his son lay threatened by death,
a mist came before his eyes, he pressed his eyelids together and a hot
drop fell on his hand. He stood up quickly, and walked several times up
and down the room.

The pastor arose.

"My honoured old friend," he said, "at such a moment as this a man like
yourself need not be ashamed of a tear! It is late, let us go to rest,
and these days will pass away!"

The president stood still, held out his hand to the pastor, and looked
at him through the blinding tears which ran down his cheeks.

"Pray to God," he said in a low voice, "to give me back my son."

The pastor went home. All was quiet in the castle and the darkness of
night brooded over it, but a light still burned in the president's
window, and the servants heard, even until morning dawned, the firm
regular step of their old master as he paced up and down in the lonely
castle.



                              CHAPTER XVI.

                               INTRIGUE.


Whilst in North Germany the catastrophe so disastrous to the House of
Guelph was completed, in Vienna everything was expected from the battle
which all foresaw must take place in Bohemia almost immediately. The
Austrian arms had been successful in Italy, that drill ground for the
Austrian general staff officers, the battle of Custozza had been won,
and new confidence filled the Viennese, as to their success in Germany.

The Viennese placed full confidence in Field-Marshal Benedek, the man
of the people, and from him they expected, in their light-hearted,
sanguine fashion, complete success. Those anxious doubts had vanished
which a short time before had filled them with uneasiness; the arms of
Austria were victorious in Italy, fortune was favourable to the empire,
and with excited but joyful confidence they awaited news from Bohemia.
A great victory was certainly expected.

Things were looked at differently, and not with such confidence in the
state offices in the Ballhaus Platz, and in the Hofburg.

Count Mensdorff was sad and downcast; the Italian success had not
removed his gloomy forebodings, and he could only reply with a feeble
smile to the congratulations he received on the victory of Custozza.
The emperor alternated between fear and joyful hope; the victory in
Italy awakened in his heart the proud recollection of Novara, and a
wide and brilliant future spread before his gaze. But when the doubts,
the warnings of Field-Marshal Benedek occurred to him--the plain,
straightforward general, who troubled himself little about strategic
operations, and only knew how to lead his soldiers against the enemy
and to fight; but who continually maintained that with these troops, in
the condition in which he found them, he could not beat the enemy--the
emperor's heart had deep misgivings, and he waited for the future with
great anxiety.

Whilst all Vienna felt the most restless, feverish excitement; whilst
everyone wished that time had wings to hasten the events of the future,
Madame Antonia Balzer lay on her luxurious couch in her quiet boudoir.
The curtains were closed, notwithstanding the great heat; a soft
twilight prevailed, and a mysterious and varied perfume pervaded the
room, that perfume which fills the immediate neighbourhood of an
elegant and beautiful woman; one cannot tell of what it consists, but
it gives the invisible air a magnetic, sympathetic charm.

The young lady lay there as if she courted sleep, and on her features
neither the passionate _abandon_ appeared with which she had welcomed
Herr von Stielow, nor the icy coldness which she had shown to her
husband.

Her large eyes gazed gloomily into space, and her face expressed
anxious, mournful weariness.

A number of sealed letters and telegrams lay on a small table near her.

Her pearly hand played carelessly with a small poodle dog which lay
curled up in her lap.

"I thought I was strong," she whispered to herself; "and yet I cannot
forget him!"

She sprang up, placed the little dog upon the pillow, and walked slowly
up and down the room.

"What a wonderful organization is our human nature!" she cried
scornfully. "I thought I was strong. I had set it before me as a means
to rule, to rise on the aspiring ladder of life, without permitting
myself to be kept back by the emotions and motives of the common herd;
and now, when my feet touch the very first step of the ladder I look
back, my heart weeps; I am sick with love and regret, like any
milliner's girl," she added, with an angry look, as she stamped her
small foot upon the carpet.

She gazed before her.

"And why," she asked thoughtfully, "why cannot my heart forget one who
so scornfully turned from me, who so contemptuously gave me up? This
Count Rivero--he offers me what I long for; he is a man who occupies a
high place in the world, and guides with powerful hand the threads that
weave the fate of men; why do I not love him? I might be happy. And
he," she continued, while a soft mist came over her eyes, and her arms
were slightly raised, "he, for whom every pulse in my heart beats, he
whom I call back in the still hours of the night, whom my arms seek in
empty space, who is he? A boy,--in intellect far beneath me; yet oh! he
is so beautiful, so pure!" she cried, stretching out her hands to the
picture her mind had called up; "I love him, and I am the slave of my
love!"

She sank wearily into a luxurious chair, and covered her face with her
hands.

She sat for a long time motionless, and only the panting breath of her
heaving bosom interrupted the silence of the darkened room.

Then again she sprang up, and with trembling lips and vehement voice
she cried,--

"But she--who tore him from me--that fine lady, who from her cradle has
enjoyed every happiness life can afford, who basks in the golden
sunshine of an admiring world, who has all--all, that is denied
me--shall she enjoy the love that I have lost?"

She hastily opened a small casket of incrusted ebony, and took out a
photograph in the form of a _carte-de-visite_.

She regarded it long with glowing looks.

"What foolish, inexpressive features!" she cried; "how lukewarm, how
wearisome must be her love. Can she make him happy--he, who has known
the passion of my heart--who has learnt what love is?"

And she spasmodically seized the likeness and crushed it together.

The bell of the entrance hall aroused her from her stormy dreams; she
threw the crumpled photograph hastily back into the casket, and her
face resumed its usual calm expression.

The servant announced Count Rivero, who immediately entered,
faultlessly elegant as ever, cold, calm, and friendly; the smile of the
man of the world upon his lips.

With light elastic steps he approached the lady and pressed his lips
lightly on her hand--not with the fiery warmth of a lover--still less
with the respectful courtesy of a man of distinction towards a lady of
the great world. In the count's greeting there was a certain negligent
familiarity, which only his extreme elegance, and the courteous bearing
which marked his every movement preserved from rudeness.

She seemed to feel this, and regarded her visitor coldly, almost with
enmity.

"What? have you slept, my fair friend?" said the count, smiling: "truly
it is hard to believe that the whole world is trembling with anxiety
when one enters this darkened and quiet apartment."

"A number of letters and despatches have arrived!" she said, pointing
to the small table near her couch.

"Are you sure," asked the count, "that this large correspondence does
not arouse curiosity?"

She smiled coldly.

"They are accustomed to my receiving many letters, and I do not think
they will seek here for the clue of important political events."

The count walked to the window, and drew back one of the curtains,
admitting the bright light into the room. He then pushed the table with
the letters to the window, and opened them one after another, whilst
the young lady watched him from her easy-chair in silence.

The count drew a portfolio from his pocket, took out a small volume
containing various ciphers, and with its help began to decipher the
letters. The contents appeared in the highest degree satisfactory, for
an expression of joy beamed from his face, and he rose with a proud
look when he had ended the perusal.

"I see the work approaches its completion," he said, half to himself,
half to Madame Balzer; "soon will the building of lies and wickedness
fall in ruins, and truth and right will again triumph."

"And what will it be to me?" asked the young lady, slightly turning her
head towards the count.

He came up to her, seated himself near her couch, and spoke with
extreme courtesy, as he kissed the hand she negligently abandoned to
him.

"You have assisted in a great and noble work, my lovely friend, and you
have rendered very important assistance by taking charge of a secret
correspondence, which has enabled me to preserve the appearance of a
man of the world and ordinary traveller. I promise you an independent
and brilliant position. The _how_ you must leave to me. I hope you
trust my words."

She gave him a quick look and said,--

"I do not doubt that you can keep your promise, or that you will keep
it."

"But," he continued, "much remains still to be done, and I believe I
can open out greater and nobler spheres to your genius and industry:
will you continue to be my confederate?"

"I will," she replied; then a deep sigh heaved her breast, a rapid
blush tinged her cheeks, and whilst a trembling fire sparkled in her
eyes she said, "I have one wish."

"Express it!" he said with the gallantry of a man of the world; "if it
be in my power to fulfil it--"

"I believe it is, for I have seen so many proofs of your power that I
have unbounded confidence in it."

"Well?" he asked, gazing at her enquiringly.

She cast down her eyes, interlaced her fingers, and said in a low and
timid voice,--

"Give me back Stielow."

Immense surprise, and a shade of displeasure appeared on his face.

"I certainly did not expect this wish," he said, "I thought you had
forgotten this caprice. To fulfil it exceeds my power."

"I do not believe it," she replied, raising her eyes and gazing full at
the count, "he is a boy, and you know how to lead earnest men of ripe
years."

"But you forget," said he, "that--"

"That he, in a fit of ill-temper, out of spite, has thrown himself at
the feet of a _fade_, insipid girl, who finds a place in the almanach
de Gotha, where her heart is also," she cried, rising hastily from her
recumbent position, with flashing eyes. "No, I do not forget it, but
just for that reason I will have him back. I will help you in
everything," she continued, speaking more slowly, "I will employ all
the powers of my intellect and of my will, on behalf of your plans; but
I will have something in return for myself, and I say therefore, 'Give
me back Stielow.'"

"You shall certainly," said the count, "have for yourself whatever you
wish. I impose no restraints on your little personal divertissements,"
he added, with a smile; "but what do you want with this boy--as you
yourself call him?--can you not rule men with your genius, and by a
glance from those eyes?"

"I love him!" she whispered.

The count looked at her with amazement.

"Forgive me!" he said, smiling, "this boy--"

"Because he is a boy," she cried, and a stream of passionate feeling
gushed from her large widely-opened eyes,--"because he is so pure, so
good, and so beautiful," she whispered, and her eyes were veiled with
mist.

The count looked at her very gravely.

"Do you know," he said, "that the love which rules you will take from
you the power of ruling others, and of being my ally?"

"No," she cried, "no, it will strengthen me; but the vain longing in my
heart makes me gloomy and weak,--oh! give him back to me again. I own
my weakness, let me in this one point be weak, and I promise in every
other you shall find me strong and immovable."

"Had you told me before what you now tell me," said he thoughtfully,
"it might have been possible, perhaps, but now it is out of my power,
and--I may not use it; this young man shall not be the plaything of
your caprice," he said gravely and decidedly, "shake off this weakness,
be strong, and forget this fancy!"

She rose cold and calm.

"Let us speak of it no more," she said in her accustomed tone.

The count examined her attentively.

"You own I am right?" he asked.

"I will forget this fancy," she replied without a muscle of her face
changing.

At this moment the door-bell was heard.

"It is Galotti," said the count, and opened the door of the boudoir.

A strongly-made man entered, of middle height with a full face. His
thin hair left a lofty arched brow completely free, the bright eyes
were quick and observing, and the full lips denoted an energetic
temperament and brilliant eloquence.

"Things are going on excellently," cried the count, advancing to meet
him. "Everything is prepared for the decisive blow. The Sardinian party
have lost courage; they are disorganized by the Austrian victory, and
with one stroke the contemptible government they call Italian will
crumble to pieces."

"Glorious! glorious!" cried Galotti, as he pressed Count Rivero's hand,
and approached the lady, whom he greeted with all the grace of one
accustomed to good society. "I bring good news too," he said, "they are
ready at the Farnese Palace, and Count Montebello has, in answer to a
confidential enquiry, made it clearly understood that he will take no
steps to prevent Italy from becoming what was intended at the peace of
Zurich."

"I will leave you, gentlemen," said Madame Balzer. "I will have
breakfast prepared in the dining-room, and shall be at your disposal
when your interview is ended."

Count Rivero kissed her hand, Signer Galotti bowed, and she withdrew
through the door leading to her sleeping apartment.

"The king will go to Naples?" asked the count as soon as she had left
the room.

"At the very first sign from us," replied Galotti, "a troop of
brigands, formed of old soldiers of the Neapolitan guards, will await
him on the coast, the Sardinian garrisons are always weak, and at the
first signal the whole people will rise!"

"Do you think the moment has come for placing the match to our
well-laid train?" asked the count.

"Certainly," replied Galotti; "what should we wait for? The Sardinian
army is completely demoralized by the battle of Custozza, and is held
in check by the Grand Duke Albert, so that it cannot be employed in the
interior. The most rapid action is needful; in a few weeks Italy can be
freed from the heavy yoke which weighs her down. Everyone is waiting
longingly for the word, the giving of which is in your hand."

The count walked thoughtfully to the window.

"Everything has been prepared so long, thought over so carefully," said
he, "and yet now the decisive moment approaches, now the eventful
word--'Act!'--must be spoken, giving life and motion to our quiet
preparations,--the doubt arises whether all is well organized. Yet we
can no longer hesitate. We must send the watchword to Rome and Naples,
and to Tuscany," he said, turning to Galotti; "here are three
addresses," he added, taking from his portfolio three cards and
carefully perusing them. "The text of the telegram is written below,
the names, like the contents of the despatches, are perfectly
unimportant, they will disclose nothing."

And with a trembling hand he held out the cards to Signor Galotti.

Madame Balzer rushed into the boudoir.

"Do you know, Count Rivero," she cried, "that the army in Bohemia is
completely defeated? The news is spreading like wild-fire through
Vienna, my maid has just heard it in the house."

The count gazed at her in blank dismay. His eyes opened wide with
horror, a nervous movement convulsed his lips, and he hastily snatched
up his hat.

"Impossible!" cried Galotti. "General Gablenz has been victorious in
several skirmishes; a great battle was not expected."

"We must hear what has happened," said the count, in a low voice, "it
would be horrible if this intelligence were true."

He was about to hasten away. A violent peal at the bell was heard, and
almost immediately a young man in the dress of a priest entered the
room.

"Thank God! that I find you here, Count Rivero," he cried, "nothing
must be done, the disaster is immense, Benedek is totally beaten, the
whole army is in wild flight and confusion."

The count was dumb. His dark eyes were raised to heaven with a burning
look, deep grief was painted on his features.

"We must act so much the more rapidly and energetically," cried
Galotti; "if this news reaches Italy our confederates will be
frightened and confused, the enemy will gain courage, and the lukewarm
will become foes."

He stretched out his hand to take the cards which Rivero still held.

The count made a movement of refusal.

"How did you gain your information, Abbé Rosti?" he asked quietly.

"It has just been brought from the Hofburg to the Nuncio," replied the
abbé. "Unhappily there is no doubt of its truth."

"Then the work of years is lost!" said Count Rivero, in a grave and
melancholy voice.

"Let us use the present moment!" cried Galotti, "let us act quickly;
then, let what will happen in Germany, we shall at least have restored
Italy to her ancient rights, and Austria must be grateful to us if we
give her in Italy the influence she has lost in Germany."

"No!" said the count, calmly, "we must not venture upon action before
the situation is perfectly plain. Our whole force in Italy is quite
strong enough to break the Piedmontese rule if the regular army is
engaged and defeated by the victorious Austrian troops, but we are not
in a position to effect anything against the army of Piedmont if it is
free to act against us. We should uselessly sacrifice all our faithful
friends, and we should destroy the organization we have formed with
such toil, which will be useful to us in the future, and which we could
never again bring to such perfection if it were now broken up. And I
fear Victor Emanuel's army will be free, I fear Vienna will give up
Italy."

"Give up Italy, after the victory of Custozza!" cried the Abbé Rosti,
"it is impossible,--wherefore?"

"For Germany! which she will also lose!"

"But, my God!" cried Galotti, "that would have been done before the
campaign, if done at all. Austria's forces in Germany would have been
doubled--but now--"

"My dear friend," said the count, sighing, "remember the words of the
First Napoleon: 'Austria is always too late--by one year, one army, and
one idea!'"

"I cannot make up my mind to sit still," cried Galotti, energetically,
"now that everything is prepared, and we seem almost to hold success in
our hands."

"I do not desire that we should indifferently sit still," said Count
Rivero; "we will never sit still," he added, with flashing eyes, "but
we must perhaps begin again a long and toilsome work from the
beginning. For the present we must not act hastily, and compromise
individuals and events, risking the future before we see our way
clearly. Do you know," he enquired of the abbé, "how the emperor
received the intelligence and what he did?"

"The emperor was much cast down, as was natural," said the abbé; "he
sent Count Mensdorff immediately to the army, that he might ascertain
its condition. That is all we have yet heard."

"Mensdorff was right," said Count Rivero, thoughtfully; then, raising
himself with an energetic movement, he said: "Once more, gentlemen, we
must see clearly before we act; and our courage must not fail, even if
we perceive long years of toil before us. Above all, I wish to be fully
informed as to the present, then we will speak of the future."

He approached the lady, who had remained during the conversation gazing
before her as if completely indifferent, and said, as he kissed her
hand: "Auf Wiedersehn! chère amie!" then he added in a somewhat lower
voice, "Perhaps the moment will soon come for opening so wide a field
to your skilful industry, that all minor wishes will be forgotten!"

She looked up at him quickly for a moment, but she did not reply.

The two other gentlemen took leave, and left the room with the count.

The young lady remained alone.

A flashing look followed them as they withdrew.

"You wish to use me for your plans," she cried, "you seek to charm me
with hopes of freedom and dominion, and you would prepare for me a
gilded slavery? You forbid my heart to beat, because it cannot be so
serviceable as your tool? Ah! you deceive yourself, Count Rivero! I
need you, but I am not your servant, your slave! Well then, let war
begin between us," she said, with determination; "not war to the death,
but a war for rule; I will try to make your proud shoulders bear me up
to power and independence. Independence!" said she, sighing, after a
short silence, "how much I am short of it, yet let me go carefully and
prudently onwards; first, I will see whether I cannot win back the
unfaithful friend to whom my heart still clings, without the aid of my
master."

She threw herself on the sofa, and looked thoughtfully before her.

"But, my God!" she cried, with anguish in her eyes, as she pressed her
tender hand to her forehead, "I wish to win him back, and he is before
the enemy, the great battle has been fought, perhaps he lies dead
already upon the bloody field." And her eyes gazed into space as if she
actually saw the horrible picture her fancy had painted.

Then she leant back and a dark expression passed over her face.

"And if it were so?" she said, gloomily, "perhaps it would be better
for me, and I might then be free from the burning thorn I cannot tear
from my heart. The count is right! such love is weakness, and I will
not be weak! perhaps I should again be strong. But to know that he is
living, to think that he belongs to me no longer, that he, in his
beauty, is at the feet of another--"

She sprang up, a wild glow kindled in her eyes, her breast heaved high,
her beautiful features were distorted by the vehemence of her emotion.

"Never, never!" she said, in a low, hissing voice. "If he were dead, I
could forget him; but that picture will pursue me everywhere--will
poison my life. Poison!" she repeated, and an evil flash passed across
her face. "How easy it was in days gone by," she whispered, "to destroy
an enemy! Now--" Again she stared blankly before her. "But is it
needful to poison the body to conquer difficulties?"

A wicked smile played around her beautiful mouth; her eyes flashed, and
for a long time she sat thinking deeply.

She rose and went to her rosewood writing-table. She took a packet of
letters from one compartment and began to read them attentively.
Several she threw back; at last she seemed to have found what she
sought. It was a short note only, written on a single sheet.

"He wrote me this during the man[oe]uvres," said she; "this will serve
me."

She read:--


"My sweet queen,

"I must tell you in a few words how my heart longs for you, and how
much I feel this separation. All day I am interested, and hard at work
at my duty, but when at night I lie down in bivouac, the stars above
me, and the soft breath of night sighing around, then your sweet image
dwells in my heart; I seem to feel your breath; I open my arms seeking
to embrace you; and when at last sleep weighs down my eyelids, you are
with me in my dreams. Oh, that the unmelodious trumpet must destroy
such heavenly visions! I would ever dream until I am again with you,
and find with you a sweeter reality. I kiss this paper, so soon to
touch your lovely hands."


While she read her voice was soft, and she gazed at the letter lost in
recollections.

Then again her features grew cold and hard.

"This will do perfectly," said she; "and no date; excellent!"

She seized a pen, and after considering the handwriting for a few
moments, she wrote at the commencement of the letter--"June 30th,
1866."

She looked attentively at her writing.

"Yes," she said, "it will pass capitally."

She rang a small silver bell. Her maid entered.

"Find my husband," said Madame Balzer, "and tell him I wish to speak to
him immediately."

The maid withdrew, and the young lady walked thoughtfully to the
window, carelessly looking down on the excited crowds below, whilst a
slight smile of satisfaction played on her lips.



                             CHAPTER XVII.

                                DEFEAT.


Gloomy silence prevailed in the Hofburg. In the midst of the rejoicings
at the Italian victory the annihilating thunderbolt had fallen, ruining
all hopes of success in Bohemia, and destroying in a moment the blind
confidence that had been placed in Field-Marshal Benedek and his
operations. It was as if a sudden stupefaction had come on everyone.
The attendants glided slowly and sadly through the long corridors, and
scarcely said the few words necessary for the fulfilment of their
duties. Immediately after receiving the intelligence of the lost
battle, the emperor had sent Count Mensdorff to Benedek's
head-quarters, that, being himself a soldier, he might judge of the
condition of affairs; he then withdrew into his own apartments, and
only the adjutant-general had access to him.

Deep silence reigned in the imperial ante-room. The life guardsman
stood quietly before the emperor's door; the equerry on duty, Baron
Fejérváry de Komlos, leant silently against the window and looked at
the groups below, as they formed and again dispersed after grave
whispered converse. There were often looks cast upwards to the windows
of the castle, as though they longed for fresh news--for something
decided, to remove their load of anxiety.

The regular ticking of the great old clock was heard, marking as calmly
these saddest moments to the House of Hapsburg as it had proclaimed
during its greatest splendour that all yielded to the inexorable scythe
of Time. For Time goes on with equal pace during the flying moments of
happiness and during the creeping hours of the blackest day, only in
the rush of happiness his iron footstep is unheard, whilst in the sad
stillness of misfortune "_memento mori_" sounds on every ear, and calls
to each one of us from the bosom of the solemn vanished past.

Thus was it here. The guardsman and the equerry had often performed
their duty in this very room, with their hearts full of joyful thoughts
of the world without; and all those hours had vanished from their
recollection, or had melted together in a blurred picture; but these
hours, these still, dark hours, with the slow stroke of the heavy
pendulum marking their lingering seconds, were buried deep in their
memory for ever.

The Adjutant-General Count Crenneville entered. He was accompanied by
the Hanoverian ambassador, General von Knesebeck, dressed in the full
uniform of a Hanoverian general, and followed by the King of Hanover's
equerry, Major von Kohlrausch, a simple soldier-like man, with a short
black moustache and a bald head.

General von Knesebeck, the tall, stately man who had moved with so firm
and proud a step through Count Mensdorff's salons, now stooped in his
walk. Sorrow and mourning lay on his grave regular features, and
without speaking a word he saluted the equerry on duty.

"Will you announce me, dear baron?" said Count Crenneville to Baron von
Fejérváry.

He entered the imperial apartment, and returning immediately, signified
to the adjutant-general by a respectful movement that the emperor
awaited him.

Count Crenneville entered the cabinet of Francis Joseph.

The emperor again wore a large grey military cloak. He sat bending over
his writing-table; pens, papers, and letters lay untouched before him;
there were no signs of the restless industry of a sovereign who never
allowed an hour to pass idly. It was not grief which the excited,
wearied countenance of the emperor wore, it was comfortless, dull
despair.

Crenneville looked sadly at his sovereign thus weighed down with
sorrow, and said, with deep emotion,--

"I beg your imperial majesty not to yield to the sad impression of this
disastrous news. We all--all Austria looks to her emperor. No
misfortune is so great that a strong will and a resolute courage cannot
amend it; and if your majesty despairs, what will the army--what will
the people do?"

The emperor slowly raised his wearied eyes and passed his hand over his
brow as if to ease it of a load of thought.

"You are right," he answered mournfully. "Austria expects from me
courage and decision, and truly," he cried, raising his head, whilst an
angry flash darted from his eyes, "courage I have, might I but face the
enemy's fire, and if my personal courage could procure success, victory
should not fail the banners of Austria! But must I not believe that I
am ordained to misfortune, that my sceptre must bring destruction upon
Austria? Have I not done everything to procure success? have I not
placed at the head of the troops a man whom the army and the nation
considered the most competent? And now?--beaten!" cried he vehemently,
with tears in his eyes, "beaten after so haughty, so bold an attack,
beaten by this enemy who during the last century has seized on my
ancestral inheritance in Germany, an enemy whom I hoped to overthrow
for ever. What avails me the victory in Italy, if I lose Germany? oh!
it is hard!"

And the emperor supported his head in both his hands whilst a deep sigh
heaved his breast.

Count Crenneville came a step nearer.

"Your majesty!" said he, "all is not yet lost. Mensdorff will perhaps
bring us good news; the battle must have cost the enemy much, perhaps
all may still be well."

The emperor let his hands sink down and looked at the count for some
time.

"My dear Crenneville!" he then said, gravely and slowly, "I will tell
you something which has never been so clear to me as at this moment. Do
you know," he said dreamily, "what great characteristic of my family
carried Hapsburg and Austria through all the hardest times? It was its
tenacity, its tough indestructible tenacity, that bent beneath the
blows of misfortune, without for a moment losing sight of the aim for
which to suffer, to wait, to conquer. Go to past history, look up the
darkest, heaviest times, you will find in all my ancestors proofs of
unconquerable endurance, and you will find too that this characteristic
was their salvation. This tenacity," he continued after a short
silence, "this Hapsburg endurance, in me is wanting, and that is my
misfortune. Joy bears me on his light pinions high as the heavens,
large views of life fill me with mighty inspiration, but even so the
heavy hand of misfortune dashes me to the ground. I can fight, I can
sacrifice myself, but I cannot bear, I cannot wait--oh! I cannot wait!"
he cried, with a look of horror.

Then suddenly he raised his head, he pressed his beautiful teeth
lightly on the full under lip and said, the princely pride of the
Hapsburg kindling in his eyes,--

"You are right, Count Crenneville, I must not yield to weakness; forget
that you have seen me weak so long; is the misfortune great?--we must
be greater than misfortune!"

"The heavier the blow, the more deeply it affects your heart, so much
the more I admire the bold courage which your majesty now, as ever,
regains. I rejoice the more," added the count, "that your imperial
majesty is superior to disaster, as the Ambassador General Knesebeck
has just requested an audience; he bears the heavy blow which has
fallen on his master well and chivalrously!"

"The poor king," cried the emperor, "he has bravely defended his
rights, and he now expects from me help and protection! All those
princes," he continued gloomily, "who assembled around me in the old
imperial hall at Frankfort, how shall I appear before them after this
shameful defeat!" And again he sank into brooding thought.

"Your majesty!" cried Count Crenneville in a low, imploring tone.

The emperor stood up.

"Bring General von Knesebeck in!"

The adjutant-general hastened to the door, and a moment afterwards
returned with General von Knesebeck, and Major von Kohlrausch.

The emperor walked towards the general and held out his hand with much
emotion.

"You bring sad news, my dear general; I am filled with admiration for
your royal master, and I deeply deplore that such great heroism could
not command a happier result. Alas! you have found little to console
you here," he added with a visible effort; and then as if unwilling to
pursue the painful subject, he turned a look of enquiry towards Major
von Kohlrausch.

"Your majesty," said General von Knesebeck, "I mast first beg
permission to introduce to you Major von Kohlrausch, equerry to my
royal master. He begs the honour of presenting a letter from our
sovereign."

The emperor bowed kindly to the major, who stepped forward in a
soldier-like manner and placed a writing in the emperor's hand.

He opened it quickly and looked through its brief contents.

"His majesty imparts the melancholy catastrophe to me in a few words,
and refers me to you for a personal communication, major."

"My gracious master," said Major von Kohlrausch, as if repeating a
military order, "commanded me to tell your imperial majesty, that after
the great efforts made by his army to preserve the independence of his
crown, and victoriously to defend his kingdom, and after these efforts
and the successful battle of Langensalza were rendered useless by the
superior numbers of the enemy, his majesty deemed his most dignified
and worthy course would be to repair to your imperial majesty, his
illustrious confederate."

"And his true friend!" cried the emperor warmly.

The major bowed and proceeded.

"May I ask your imperial majesty whether the visit of the king and his
reception in Vienna will be agreeable to you?"

"Agreeable!" cried the emperor with animation, "I long to embrace the
heroic monarch who has given us all so high an example of princely
stedfastness. Truly," he proceeded with a sigh, "the king will no
longer find here a powerful ally; he will find a broken power needing
the greatest courage and every exertion to avert the worst
consequences."

"I believe I am speaking the mind of my royal master," said Major von
Kohlrausch, "when I assure your imperial majesty the king is ready and
resolved to share fortune and misfortune with his illustrious ally,
whose cause is his own and that of right."

The emperor looked on the ground for a moment. Then he raised his eyes
with a brilliant expression, and said, his countenance glowing with
courage and happy pride,--

"The friendship and the trust of so noble and heroic a heart as your
king's must give courage to all, and fresh confidence in our cause.
Tell your royal master I await him with impatience, and that he will
find me worthy to defend the cause of right and of Germany to the
uttermost. My answer to the king shall be given to you as soon as
possible."

The emperor ceased. The major silently awaited a sign of dismissal.

After a few moments Francis Joseph said, in a voice of emotion,--

"The king has given us an unparalleled example of heroism. I am anxious
to express my admiration for his courage and that of the crown prince
during the last few days by an outward sign. I will immediately summon
the chapter of the Order of Maria Theresa, and my army will be proud if
the king and his son will wear upon their breasts the noblest and
highest sign of honour to an Austrian soldier--wait until I can send
you the insignia."

"I know my master well enough," said the major, with a joyful
expression, "to be sure that such a sign will fill him with the highest
satisfaction, and that the whole Hanoverian army will receive it with
proud joy."

"I have been much pleased, my dear major," said the emperor,
gracefully, "to receive you on this occasion as an envoy from the king.
I will, with the other things, send you the cross of the Order of
Leopold, and I beg you to wear it in memory of this moment, and of my
friendly remembrance."

The major bowed deeply. "Without this gracious sign," he said, "I
should never forget this moment."

"Now rest yourself," said the emperor, kindly, "that you may have
strength when all is ready for your return."

He bowed his head as a dismissal. The major with a quick military
salute left the cabinet.

"You have been in the Bavarian head-quarters," said the emperor to
General von Knesebeck.

"I have, your majesty," replied he. "When, in consequence of despatches
received from Count Ingelheim, your majesty commanded me to go at once
to Prince Karl, and urgently to beg him, in your all-powerful name, to
hasten to the assistance of the Hanoverian army, I set out immediately,
and found the Bavarian head-quarters, which the day before had been at
Bamberg, at Neustadt. I represented to Prince Karl the pressing danger
of the Hanoverian army, and I implored him, in your majesty's name and
in that of my king, to make a rapid advance towards Eisenach and Gotha,
that a union might be effected, and a favourable and important change
possibly be made in the whole campaign."

"And Prince Karl?" asked the emperor, anxiously.

"The prince, as well as General von der Tann, who was with him, fully
acknowledged the importance of a union of the Bavarian with the
Hanoverian army--they were ready to do everything in their power--as
indeed had been intended at the outset of the march. At the same time
his royal highness, as well as the chief of the general staff,
expressed great dissatisfaction at the march of the Hanoverian army; it
was then really not known where it was, and, according to information
brought in, the greatest strategical faults had been committed. The
prince asked me about the strength of our army, and when I replied
that, according to my estimation and to the intelligence I had heard,
about nineteen thousand men were under arms, he replied, 'With nineteen
thousand men you should cut your way through the enemy, and not march
hither and thither into positions where you must be surrounded.'
General von der Tann nodded approval."

The emperor bent his head and sighed.

"I heard this with great sorrow," added the general, "and my grief was
greater since I could not deny the truth of the judgment pronounced at
the Bavarian headquarters. I am a general staff officer, your majesty,"
he said, with a sigh, "but I must own the marches which our army have
made are to me quite incomprehensible, and that it would have been much
easier on our part to reach the Bavarians by a hasty march, than to
await their advance with these apparently aimless runnings to and fro."

"The poor king!" cried the emperor, in a sorrowful voice.

"Naturally," continued von Knesebeck, "I did not utter these ideas in
the Bavarian head-quarters; on the contrary, I urged a hasty advance
for the relief of the Hanoverian army--the only course as matters then
were which could possibly save it. Prince Karl, in spite of his
displeasure, was quite ready to comply; he immediately commanded an
advance by the forest of Thuringia upon Gotha, and informed Prince
Alexander of his movements, that the eighth army corps might march at
the same time. But," he added, with a sigh, "the Bavarian army had been
reduced to a peace footing."

"Impossible!" cried the emperor. "Bavaria urged upon the confederation
so strongly the policy that led to war."

General von Knesebeck slightly shrugged his shoulders.

"Under the circumstances," he said, "the Bavarian army was not in a
condition to act rapidly and forcibly. However, they set out. Prince
Karl removed his headquarters to Meiningen, and with a heavy heart full
of misgivings I accompanied him thither. The following day we were to
proceed; then Count Ingelheim arrived, and brought the news of the
catastrophe of Langensalza!"

"What a melancholy combination of disastrous events!" cried the
emperor.

"Under these circumstances," continued the general, "Prince Karl was
quite right in abandoning his onward march and ordering flank
movements, through which to join the eighth army corps at Friedberg,
seventeen miles from Meiningen. I returned here with a sorrowful heart,
and found, alas! the news of the still heavier blow which has smitten
your majesty and our cause."

"The blow is heavy," cried the emperor, "but I have courage, and hope
all may yet be favourable. I am glad that your king's message came
to-day, and that I have seen you, my dear general; it has given me
fresh courage to strive to the utmost to do my duty towards Germany. Do
you think," he asked, after a moment's thought, "that we may expect an
energetic campaign from Bavaria? You have seen the condition of the
army--you have the quick eye of a soldier--tell me candidly your
opinion!"

"Your majesty," said General von Knesebeck, "Bavaria will doubtless
absorb Prussian troops, and that is an advantage. As to an energetic
campaign, Prince Karl is a very old gentleman, and at his years energy
is unusual, especially at the head of an army unfit to fight."

"But General von der Tann?" asked the emperor.

"General von der Tann has great military capacity; whether he will be
responsible for any exploit not purely Bavarian in its aim, whether
with the prince's character he can effect anything, I doubt."

"You expect then--?" asked the emperor anxiously.

"Very little!" said the general.

"And from the other German corps?" asked the emperor.

"The eighth corps can do nothing without Bavaria; and before my
departure extraordinary news had arrived from Baden."

"Will Baden fall off from us?" cried the emperor.

"I do not know," said Knesebeck, "the impression made by the defeat of
Königgrätz, which will perhaps be exaggerated--" He shrugged his
shoulders.

"The Reichs-armee!" cried the emperor, stamping his foot upon the
ground. "Do you believe," he exclaimed vehemently, "that the Austrian
sun is setting? It is indeed evening," he said gloomily--"perhaps
night; but," he cried, with flaming eyes, "after night comes morning!"

"The sun does not set upon the realms of Austria; your majesty must
have faith in the brilliant star of your house!" cried General von
Knesebeck.

"And by God!" cried the emperor, "if the star of day will once more
shine favourably upon the House of Austria during this campaign, then
shall your king in the full splendour of power and happiness stand next
to myself in Germany!" And he held out his hand to the general with a
movement of indescribable nobility.

The equerry entered.

"Count Mensdorff, your imperial majesty, has just returned, and
requests an audience."

"Ah!" cried the emperor, drawing a deep breath; "at once--at once. I
await him with impatience!"

And he walked forward to meet Count Mensdorff, who, at a sign from
Major von Fejérvári, appeared on the threshold of the royal cabinet.

"Has your imperial majesty any further commands for me?" asked General
von Knesebeck.

"Remain! remain! dear general," cried the emperor. "Count Mensdorff's
intelligence will have the greatest interest for you, as well as for
me!"

The general bowed.

"And now, Count Mensdorff," cried the emperor, with a trembling voice,
"speak! The fate of Austria hangs on your lips!"

Count Mensdorff stood before his monarch looking quite broken down; the
fatigues of the journey to headquarters had exhausted his feeble frame,
nervous anxiety had drawn deep lines upon his countenance, a sorrowful
expression lay around his lips, and only his dark eyes shone with
feverish brilliance.

"You are exhausted!" cried the emperor; "seat yourselves, gentlemen."

And he seated himself before his writing-table. Crenneville, Count
Mensdorff, and General Knesebeck placed themselves near the table.

"Your majesty," said Count Mensdorff, in his low voice, "the tidings I
bring are sad,--very sad, but not hopeless."

The emperor folded his hands and looked upwards.

"The army has suffered a frightful defeat," said Count Mensdorff,
"ending in a wild flight, in which all order was lost. To assemble and
re-form the masses will require several days."

"But how is this possible?" cried the emperor, "how could Benedek--"

"The field-marshal," said Count Mensdorff, "was quite right when he
told your majesty he could not fight with that army,--events have been
unparalleled. Your majesty knows that Benedek is a good, brave general,
who is quite capable of forestalling the plans and defeating the troops
who operate against him. Your majesty,--I must say it,--he has in no
way been supported. The general staff drew up a plan, the excellence of
which I will not judge, but which the rapid, unexpected, and
wonderfully combined movements of the Prussian army, the sudden and
unforeseen arrival of the crown prince's forces, ought to have
modified. With inconceivable blindness the general staff refused to
make any modification,--to listen to any warning. Added to this, they
were so little prepared for a retreat, or so incomprehensibly careless,
that the officers were unacquainted with the line of retreat, and not
one commandant of a regiment knew the bridges by means of which the
march must be effected; thus the retreat became a flight, the flight
became the dissolution of the army."

"Terrible!" cried the emperor; "Benedek must be brought before a
court-martial."

"Not Benedek, your majesty," said Count Mensdorff; "he has done what he
could do; he stood at the post which had been given him, he exposed
himself personally in a way seldom done by a general; and with
unequalled courage he, with his whole staff, charged the enemy as if at
the head of a squadron,--of course in vain. Tears came into my eyes,
your majesty," proceeded Count Mensdorff, in a voice slightly trembling
with emotion, "when I saw the brave general, broken down with grief,
and when he said to me in his simple, soldier-like way: 'I have lost
everything, except, alas! my life!' Your majesty, we must deeply regret
that the field-marshal was placed in a position to which he was
unequal; but to be angry with him, to blame him, is impossible."

The emperor looked silently and gloomily down before him.

"But," continued Count Mensdorff, "the general staff must be made to
answer for their conduct. I am far from pronouncing a judgment; the
moment has not yet come, and an impartial and calm examination is now
impossible. I hope that the accused may be able to justify themselves;
but a strict reckoning must be required, it is demanded by the voice of
the whole army, whose heroic courage has been sacrificed in vain,--in a
few days it will be demanded by the voice of the people."

"And who are the guilty?" asked the emperor.

"Lieutenant Field-Marshal von Henikstein and Major-General von
Krismanic are the _accused_," said the count with emphasis; "whether
they are guilty justice must decide."

"They shall be removed from their positions, and recalled here to
justify themselves. Count Crenneville," cried the emperor.

"At your majesty's command," replied the adjutant-general.

"I must not conceal from your imperial majesty," continued Count
Mensdorff in a calm voice, "that several parties in the army severely
blame Count Clam-Gallas; they say he did not conduct his operations at
the right time nor obey the orders that were given him."

"Count Clam!" exclaimed the emperor. "I do not believe it."

"I thank your imperial majesty for that word," said Count Mensdorff,
"and I venture to add that I believe from his devotion to your majesty
and to Austria, Count Clam-Gallas would be incapable of military
negligence; nevertheless, he is my relative, he belongs to the great
aristocracy of the empire--the public voice accuses him, and will
condemn him the more easily if his justification is not brilliant and
complete. I beg your majesty to call him to account."

"It shall be done," said the emperor, "he shall be invited here; I can
then take further steps. But now," he continued, "what is to be done?
is the situation hopeless?"

"Your majesty," replied Count Mensdorff, "the army still numbers
180,000 men; at the present moment they are certainly in no condition
to carry on any military operation; but only time and re-formation are
required to enable them to offer fresh resistance to the enemy. The
fortified camp of Olmütz affords rest and safety, and the field-marshal
is withdrawing his head-quarters there, to draw the enemy away from
Vienna."

"To draw them away from Vienna!" repeated the emperor; "it is terrible;
this enemy whom I hoped to overthrow for ever, already threatens me in
my capital!"

"It is to be hoped," said Count Mensdorff, "that the Prussian army will
follow the field-marshal, and be detained before Olmütz; in the
meantime Vienna must be covered to provide for every contingency, and
to enable us to attack the enemy on two sides when we can resume
offensive measures."

General Knesebeck nodded approval, the emperor cast a look of
excitement on his minister.

"And to obtain this," added Count Mensdorff, "we need Hungary and the
Italian army."

The emperor rose.

"Do you believe," he cried vehemently, "that from the mouth of Hungary
the words that saved Austria will again resound: _Moriamur pro rege
nostro?_"

"_Pro rege nostro_," said Count Mensdorff, clearly pronouncing each
word, "yes, I do believe it--if your majesty will be _rex Hungariæ!_"

"Am I not?" cried the emperor. "What shall I do to make Hungary draw
the sword for me?"

"Forget and forgive," said Count Mensdorff, "and restore to Hungary her
independence beneath the crown of St. Stephen."

The emperor was silent.

"And the Italian army?" he then asked.

"Must be recalled as quickly as possible, to cover Vienna, and to march
against the enemy!"

"And what will become of Italy?" asked the emperor.

"Italy must be given up," said Count Mensdorff, sighing.

The emperor gave him a penetrating look.

"Give up Italy?" he asked, hesitatingly, and cast down his eyes.

"Italy or Germany," said Count Mensdorff, "and in my opinion the choice
cannot be difficult."

"It is hard enough to have to make the choice," whispered the emperor.

"Your majesty, permit me to speak plainly and to express my thoughts
clearly. Your imperial majesty will remember before the commencement of
the war my deep anxiety at two different campaigns being carried on at
the same moment. I was of the opinion that Italy ought to be
sacrificed, that our position in Germany might be recovered and
strengthened by an alliance with France. One might then indeed hope
that without this sacrifice the war on both sides would be successfully
carried on, and your majesty's great and courageous heart held firmly
to this hope. Now this is no longer possible, now the sorrowful choice
must be made--if we are to gain anything in Germany--if we are to
maintain what we possess--the whole strength of Austria must be
concentrated upon one point, the whole strength of the Italian army
must be brought here, and the Arch-Duke Albert with his eagle eye must
take the entire command of both armies. Thus alone is recovery
possible; thus alone is it possible to keep Germany for Austria. For,"
he added, mournfully, "your majesty must not be deceived, the disaster
of Königgrätz will have a great effect on all the lukewarm and
hesitating members of the German Confederation. Baden has already
fallen away."

"Baden fallen away?" cried the emperor vehemently.

"Just now, since my return, as I was preparing to come here," said
Count Mensdorff, "intelligence came to the Office of State from
Frankfort, that Prince William of Baden had declared on the 6th, that
under existing circumstances he must refuse for the troops of Baden to
co-operate with the army of the confederation."

"Such, then, is the first result of Königgrätz," said the emperor,
bitterly. "But," he cried, with sparkling eyes, as he threw back his
head, "they may be mistaken, these princes, whose forefathers humbly
surrounded the throne of my ancestors. The power of Austria is shaken,
but not destroyed; and yet again the time may come when Hapsburg will
sit in judgment in Germany, to punish and reward! Count Mensdorff," he
cried, with decision, "my choice is made. I give up all for Germany.
But," he continued, sinking again into gloomy thought, "how can I--I,
the victor, bow down before this king of Italy--implore a peace which
may, perhaps, be refused?"

"Your majesty," said Count Mensdorff, "the solution of that difficulty
is very simple, if you cast your eye over the political situation as it
was at the beginning of the war. The Emperor Napoleon ardently desires
the evacuation of Italy. He offered an alliance before the commencement
of the war, of which Venetia was the price; cannot the same still be
obtained? My advice, your majesty, is that we should cede Venice to the
emperor of the French, who, on his part, can deliver it over to Victor
Emanuel, and by this means an alliance with Napoleon will be obtained,
or at least, under unfavourable circumstances, his powerful
intervention. Thus the dignity of Austria will be preserved towards
Italy, all direct negotiation avoided, and the whole of our force will
be available for the struggle in Germany. If your majesty commands it,
I will immediately speak on the subject to the Duke de Gramont, and
send instructions to Prince Metternich."

The emperor was silent for some time, lost in thought. The three
gentlemen sat round him motionless: it was so quiet in the cabinet that
their breathing was perceptible, and in the distance was heard the
echoing movement of great Vienna.

At last the emperor rose. The three gentlemen stood up.

"So be it, then," cried Francis Joseph, very gravely; "neither Spain
nor Italy have brought a blessing to my house. In Germany was their
cradle, in Germany grew their strength, in Germany shall lie their
future!"

"Speak to Gramont immediately," he proceeded. "And you, Count
Crenneville, make all the necessary arrangements for my uncle to assume
the general command of all my armies, and also for bringing the army of
the south hither. General Knesebeck," he said, turning towards him,
"you are here as the representative of the bravest princes in Germany.
You see that the heir of the German emperors sacrifices all for
Germany!"

"I would that all Germany witnessed your majesty's noble decision,"
said the general with emotion.

"And Hungary, your majesty?" asked Count Mensdorff.

"Speak to Count Andrassy," said the emperor, with a little hesitation.
"Tell him what may happen, and hear what they expect."

He made a sign with his hand, and bent his head with a friendly smile.

Bowing deeply, the three gentlemen left the cabinet.

The emperor walked to and fro several times with hasty steps.

"Thus all that the sword of Radetzky won, is lost," he said, with a
deep sigh, as he stood still before the window. "That land is lost for
which so much German blood has flowed! Be it so," he cried, drawing a
deep breath, "if I may only retain Germany."

He looked thoughtfully down on the ground.

"But if I give up Italy," he whispered, "how can Rome, how can the
Church withstand the waves which will then hurl themselves against St.
Peter's rock?"

A darker gloom lay on his brow.

With a slight knock, the groom of the chambers entered by the door
leading from the inner apartment.

"Count Rivero," he said, "begs for an audience, and as your majesty
commanded me to announce him at once, I----"

"Is this a warning?" said the emperor, in a low tone; and he made a
movement as if to decline the interview.

He then stepped back from the window, and said,--

"Let him come."

The groom of the chambers withdrew.

"I will hear him," said the emperor; "he has at least the right to
candour and truth."

The door of the inner apartment was again opened, and Count Rivero
entered the cabinet, looking grave and melancholy.

"You come in a heavy hour, count," said the emperor, addressing him;
"the events of this day have buried many hopes."

"Just and holy hopes should never be buried, your majesty," replied the
count; "yes, even if we go down to the grave, we must look with trust
to the future."

The emperor gave him a scrutinizing look.

"I will not quite give up hope," he said, with a certain amount of
embarrassment.

"Your majesty," said the count, after a short pause, during which the
emperor expressed nothing more, "I have only heard the outlines of the
great disaster; I do not yet know what its results will be, or what
your majesty has determined to do. But I do know well that all is
prepared in Italy for an insurrection in favour of our Holy Faith, and
for the right. The Austrian victories have deeply shaken both the
military and moral power of the King of Sardinia, and the moment has
come to pronounce the decisive word which will set the country in
flames. I beg your majesty's commands to do this, and above all I ask
whether the rising in Italy will have the full and powerful support of
the Austrian army. Without this, the sacrifice of many lives would be
useless, and we should but injure our holy cause."

The count spoke in a calm, low voice, and in the respectful tone of a
courtier, but at the same time with grave firmness, and a certain proud
conviction.

The emperor cast down his eyes for a moment, then he came a step nearer
to the count, and said,--

"My dear count, the enemy in Bohemia threatens the capital; the
defeated army cannot operate without rest and reorganization. I need
the whole strength of Austria to counteract the consequences of this
defeat, to parry this threatened blow; the army of the south must cover
Vienna, and give the Bohemian army time to reassemble, and strength to
reassume offensive measures."

"Then your majesty will give up Italy?" said the count, with a deep
sigh, but without a sign of excitement, as he fixed his dark eyes full
on the emperor.

"I must," said the emperor,--"I must, unless I yield Germany, and
annihilate the position of Austria; there is no escape."

"Your majesty will thus," continued the count, calmly, in his deep
metallic voice, "your majesty will thus yield the iron crown of the
House of Hapsburg, for ever, to the House of Savoy, yield Venice, the
proud Queen of the Adriatic, to Victor Emanuel, whose army has been
smitten down by the sword of Austria?"

"Not to him," cried the emperor warmly, "not to him."

"And to whom, your majesty?"

"I need the help of France," said the emperor. "I must buy the alliance
of Napoleon at a price I would not pay before the commencement of the
war."

"Must his cold demon-like hand again grasp the fate of Italy?" cried
the count, hotly; "must Rome and the Holy See be given up for ever to
the arbitrary pleasure of the earlier Carbonari?"

"Not for ever," said the emperor; "if my power is re-established in
Germany, if I succeed in overcoming the danger now threatening me, the
Holy See will have a more powerful protector than I now could be,--and
who knows?" he continued, with animation, "Germany won Lombardy in
centuries gone by."

"Then all is lost!" cried the count involuntarily, in a sorrowful
voice. He quickly overcame his feelings, and said, in his usual calm
voice, "Is your majesty's decision irrevocable, or may I be permitted
to urge some reasons against it?"

The emperor was silent for a moment.

"Speak!" he then said.

"Your majesty hopes," said the count, "to recover your defeat by the
recall of the southern army; and by ceding Venetia--that is to say,
Italy--to buy the alliance of France. According to my convictions both
these hopes are deceitful."

The emperor looked at him with amazement and with great attention.

"The army of the south," continued the count, "will come much too late
to be of any assistance; for your majesty has to oppose a foe who will
never stand still and wait; the lamentable events from which we now
suffer fully prove this. The French alliance, even if your majesty
purchased it, will not be worth the price you give for it, for, as I
before had the honour of assuring your majesty, France is unfit to
undertake any military action."

The emperor was silent.

"At the same time," added the count, "in giving up Italy your majesty
gives up a great principle, you recognize revolution--revolution
against legitimate right, and against the Church. You withdraw the
imperial house of Hapsburg from that mighty Ally who sits in judgment
high above all earthly battle-fields and cabinets, and who orders the
fate of prince and people after his Eternal will. Your majesty gives up
the Church, your majesty gives up the Almighty Lord, whose fortress and
weapon upon earth the Holy Church is."

The emperor sighed.

"But what shall I do?" he asked sorrowfully, "shall I permit the
haughty foe to enter my capital? Can a fugitive prince be a protector
of the Church?"

"Your imperial majesty's ancestors," said the count, "have flown from
Vienna, and because they held firmly to the right and to the Eternal
and All-powerful Ally of their house, they have been gloriously
restored to their capital! Besides," he continued, "much lies between
the enemy and Vienna. The enemy's army has suffered greatly, and Europe
will guarantee that Vienna shall not be Prussian. France must resist,
even without being bought--England--at this time even Russia. Let your
majesty permit the victorious army in Italy under the illustrious
archduke to press onwards, and in a short time Italy will be yours.
Prussia's ally is annihilated, and Holy Church will raise her powerful
voice for Austria and Hapsburg; this voice must be obeyed, in Bavaria,
in Germany, yes, even in France it must be obeyed, and your majesty
will rise with renewed strength. Let not your majesty leave your work
uncompleted, that the other side may reap the benefit of what has been
done; pursue your victory to the end, then its effects will repair this
misfortune; do not sacrifice victory to defeat, but heal defeat by the
brilliancy of your victory!"

The count spoke more warmly than before.

He had slightly raised his hand, and he stood in his wonderful beauty
an image of convincing eloquence.

The emperor was much affected, his features showed a great struggle.

"And, upon the other side," proceeded the count, "if your majesty gives
up Italy, if you throw all your strength towards the north, and if this
sacrifice does not bring forth the fruit expected, where will you then
find help and support?--enduring support and strong help? When you have
once left the one road, when you have once parted from the One
everlasting and unchanging Ally, the separation will grow greater and
greater, it will become a cleft, and the power of the Church will no
longer be employed on behalf of backsliding Austria. And let not the
statesmen of the world despise this power," he cried, proudly drawing
himself up; "if the chastening excommunication of the Vatican no longer
hurls crowns from the heads of princes, and brings them in sackcloth
and in tears to stand before the doors of the temple, the spirit and
the words of the Church are still mighty and all-powerful in the world;
and if its thunderbolt no longer shatters the rock, its rain-drops wear
away the stone! Let your majesty ponder deeply before you separate from
the Church."

The emperor's excited face flushed slightly; he raised his head, a
proud flash gleamed in his eyes, and his lip was somewhat raised.

"Your majesty's imperial brother in Mexico," continued the count with
energy, "wanders upon that dangerous path, he seeks his power in
worldly aids, he has separated from the Church, he is but a plaything
in the hand of Napoleon, and the path he has taken will lead him down
deeper and deeper."

The emperor drew himself up to his full height.

"I thank you, Count Rivero," he said coldly, "for so plainly expressing
your opinion. My resolution is made, and irrevocable! I can change
nothing. I hope the way I am now taking may enable me to be useful to
the Church, and to serve it as my heart desires."

The inspired excitement vanished from the count's face. His features
resumed their accustomed calmness, and his eyes their still, clear
look.

He waited for a few moments; and as the emperor was silent, he said,
without the least trace of emotion in his voice,--

"Has your majesty any further commands?"

The emperor replied graciously:

"Farewell, count; be assured of the uprightness of my intentions, and
hope with me for the future,--what you desire God may bring to pass in
days to come."

"My hope never fails," replied the count calmly, "for the future
belongs to the Ruler of the Universe!"

And with a deep bow he left the cabinet.

The emperor looked after him thoughtfully.

"They want to renew the days of Canossa!" he said to himself; "they
deceive themselves. I will not be a servant to the Church; I will
struggle and fight for the power to be her protector. And now, to
work!"

He rang, the groom of the chambers appeared.

"Let States-Chancellor Klindworth be sent for without delay!"

"At your majesty's command!"

The emperor seated himself at his writing-table, and looked through
various papers. But this occupation was merely mechanical. His thoughts
often wandered, and the paper in his hand sank slowly down, while his
eyes gazed thoughtfully into space.

Klindworth entered. His face, with its downcast eyes, was as unmoved
and impenetrable as ever. His hands were folded on his breast, he bowed
deeply, and remained standing near the door.

The emperor looked up as he entered, and returned his respectful
greeting by a slight inclination of the head.

"Do you know what I have decided to do, my dear Klindworth?" he asked,
with a piercing glance at the old man's face.

"I do know it, your imperial majesty!"

"And what do you say to it?"

"I rejoice at your majesty's decision."

The emperor appeared surprised.

"You applaud me," he asked, "for sacrificing Italy?"

"To keep Germany--yes," replied Klindworth; "your majesty can reconquer
Italy by Germany--never Germany by Italy."

"But you were against my giving up Italy before the commencement of the
war," said the emperor.

"Certainly, your imperial majesty," replied Klindworth, "because I
learnt from the great Metternich 'that you should never give up
anything that you can possibly keep; but should you be compelled by
necessity to sacrifice something, always sacrifice that which you can
most easily regain.'"

"But," said the emperor, looking up with a quick piercing glance, "Rome
will take this very ill, perhaps become my enemy."

"Take it ill--yes, your majesty," replied the states-chancellor:
"become your enemy, that will not much matter, for Rome will always
need Austria. The Church and her influence is a mighty power in
political life, and we must use political powers, but we must not
permit them to rule us--that was one of Metternich's first principles."

The emperor was thoughtfully silent.

"If I give up Italy, I must win the price of this sacrifice. Do you
believe I shall gain an alliance with France?"

"I hope so," said Klindworth, a piercing glance appearing for a moment
beneath his half-closed eyelids, "if the diplomatists do their duty."

"If they do their duty," said the emperor pondering. "My dear
Klindworth," he continued, "you must go at once to Paris and use all
your talents to induce Napoleon to undertake active measures."

"I will set off with the next courier, your majesty," said Klindworth,
without the least change in his expression.

"You know the situation well, and will do the best you can with it?"
asked the emperor.

"Your majesty may rely upon me," said Klindworth.

The emperor was silent for some time, and passed his fingers lightly
over the table.

"What do they say in Vienna?" he asked at last, in a tone of
indifference.

"I trouble myself very little about what they say," replied the
states-chancellor, with a quiet, searching glance at the emperor; "but
I have heard enough to know that public opinion is courageous, and
expects much from the Archduke Albert and the army of Italy."

"Do they speak of my brother Maximilian?" asked the emperor, in a
slightly constrained voice.

Again a quick glance shot from Klindworth's eyes.

"I have heard nothing; what should they say about him?"

"There are people," returned the emperor, in a low tone, "who pronounce
my brother's name in conjunction with this unhappy catastrophe." And
again he was silent, a dark cloud gathering on his brow.

"The best means for making Vienna pronounce one name," said Klindworth,
"is for your majesty to show yourself."

"How? Would you have me drive in the Prater?" asked the emperor, with
the same gloomy look.

"Your majesty," said Klindworth, "a number of Austrian and Saxon
officers, who have been wounded, have just arrived, and have come to
the Golden Lamb in the Leopoldstadt. May I humbly suggest that your
majesty should visit these wounded soldiers? It would make an excellent
impression."

"Immediately," cried the emperor; "and not to make an impression. My
heart urges me at once to welcome these brave men, and to thank them."

He rose.

"Does your imperial majesty," said Klindworth, in a humble voice, "wish
that the money for my journey should be paid by the government?"

"No," said the emperor. He opened a small casket standing upon the
table, and took out two rouleaux, which he gave to Klindworth.

"Is it enough?" he asked.

"Quite," he replied, whilst his eyes sparkled for a moment. He seized
the rouleaux, and they vanished in the pocket of his brown great-coat.

"Now," said the emperor, "start at once, and come back soon. If
it is needful, send me information in the way you know. Above all,
obtain--what is possible."

He slightly bent his head. Klindworth bowed, and quickly vanished,
without opening the door wider than was absolutely necessary, and
without making the least sound.

The emperor rang, and ordered his carriage and his equerries.

Then he drove to the Golden Lamb, and visited the wounded officers.

The Viennese, who saw him drive through the streets in his open
carriage, looking proud and cheerful, said, "Things cannot be so bad
after all, for the emperor is well and happy."

When he left the hotel, a dense crowd had collected before the house,
and the emperor was greeted with loud, enthusiastic cheers.

Far and near, loud cries resounded of "Eljen! Eljen!"

The emperor listened with mingled feelings, and sank again into deep
thought, whilst the carriage slowly parted the thick crowd, and then at
a quick trot bore him back to the Hofburg.



                             CHAPTER XVIII.

                               DIPLOMACY.


Napoleon III. sat in his cabinet in the Tuileries. The heavy curtains
were drawn back from the windows, and the bright rays of morning
entered the room.

The emperor wore a light morning dress; his hair and his long moustache
were carefully arranged, and his aged, wearied, and anxious face had
the look of freshness which a night's rest and a carefully-arranged
toilette give even to an invalid.

Beside him, on a small table, stood a lighted wax taper, and the simple
service of silver and Sevres china in which he prepared his own tea. He
was smoking a large dark-brown Havannah, and a blue cloud of fine smoke
filled the cabinet, and mingling with the aroma of the tea, and the eau
de lavande with which the room had been prepared before the emperor's
entrance, and the fresh air, shed an agreeable fragrance through the
apartment.

The emperor held some papers and telegrams in his hand, and his face
wore a cheerful and satisfied expression.

Before him stood his confidential secretary, Piétri.

"Everything falls to those who know how to wait," said the emperor,
with a smile. "I was urged to interfere in this German war--to rash and
hasty action--and now? I think I have gained more and done better than
if I--quite against my conviction and inclinations--had interfered with
the natural course of events.

"The emperor of Austria," he continued, "yields me Venetia, and calls
for my mediation to stay the advance of the victorious foe. Thus I have
Italy in my hand to oppose to the situation. The defeated Italians will
have to thank me for the restoration of their last province, and my
promise, 'Free to the Adriatic,' will be kept!" He gave a sigh of
relief. "Then I have won much influence and prestige," he added,
laughing, "and prestige avails me more than power or influence. The
king of Prussia accepts my mediation to begin with, only for a
suspension of arms, but the rest will follow, and I am thus the
arbitrator of Germany! Could I have gained more?" he asked, with a long
breath at his cigar, whilst he contentedly regarded the white ashes,
and slowly puffed away the blue smoke in small clouds; "could I have
done more if the armies of France had taken the field?"

"Certainly not," returned Piétri; "and I admire your majesty's
quick-sightedness. I must own I was not without anxiety at France being
withheld from taking any part in these great events. Nevertheless, may
I call your majesty's attention to the fact that the situation is much
clearer on the side of Italy even if there is a slight disinclination
on the part of the king to receive Venice as a gift, than it is with
regard to the German powers. Accepting your mediation as a principle--"

"Will lead to further negotiations and to practical results,"
interrupted the emperor. "I know well that both sides have their own
plans in the background. Well," he said, smiling, "I have mine."

"It is certainly a great thing," he continued, after a short pause,
"that the cannon should be silenced by my first word of reconciliation,
and that the gentle and friendly voice of France should force both
mighty foes to lower their arms, at least for a moment, whilst they
listen respectfully to my words. Such is my position as mediator in
Germany. And thus it must be represented to public opinion," he added;
"it is very important that this should not interfere with my calm and
prudent action."

"This has been done, sire," said Piétri. "The 'Moniteur' has
represented your majesty's mediation quite in this spirit, and all the
leading newspapers have thus described the situation."

"Good, good," said the emperor. "And how does the sovereign public
opinion of my good Paris regard the affair?"

"Excellently," replied Piétri; "all the organs of the press describe
the position of France in this conflict as highly flattering to the
national dignity."

The emperor nodded his head with an air of satisfaction.

"I cannot, however, conceal from your majesty," continued Piétri, "that
I have observed a strong Prussian tendency in the journals; the
Prussian Consul Bamberg, who as your majesty knows takes charge of
these affairs at the embassy, has for some time been strongly and
cleverly supported by 'le Temps,' 'le Siècle,' and other newspapers."

The emperor was thoughtfully silent.

"The question is," continued Piétri, "whether this agitation shall be
counteracted?"

"No," said the emperor decidedly, "it would be far from my wish for
public opinion strongly to take up the side of Austria; it would be
inconvenient. I must tell you honestly," he proceeded after thinking
deeply for a moment, "that I have very little confidence in Austria,
she seems to me to be in the process of dissolution and near her fall.
The great emperor had this same thought," he added half speaking to
himself, "they did not understand him in Berlin, and were punished for
it at Jena--Count Bismarck is no Haugwitz, and--but," he said, suddenly
interrupting himself, "does Austria make no effort to work on public
opinion here?"

Piétri shrugged his shoulders.

"Prince Metternich," he said, "is too much a grand seigneur to trouble
himself to descend from the heights of Olympus into the dark and murky
atmosphere of journalism, for which in Austria they maintain a most
sovereign contempt."

"Yes, yes," said the emperor, "these legitimate diplomatists breathe
and move upon their Olympian heights without regarding what takes place
on earthly dust, and yet it comes from below that public opinion, that
Proteus-like power who weaves the threads upon the loom of eternal
Fate, that mysterious power, before whose sentence the proud gods of
Olympus and of Tartarus tremble."

"Something," said Piétri, laughing, "has been done by Austria to
influence public opinion--in very long, correct, and diplomatic
articles the 'Mémorial diplomatique' explains--"

"Debraux de Saldapenda?" asked the emperor, smiling.

"Your majesty is right!"

"Certainly," said Napoleon, as he brushed the ashes of his cigar from
his trousers, "a small counter influence can do no harm. Let an article
appear here and there, calling attention to the necessity of not
allowing Austria's position in Europe to be too much weakened. You
understand, in Europe, not a word about Germany, and the articles must
bear the stamp of official Austrian origin, the journalists themselves
must believe they come from thence. You will know how to arrange this?"

"Perfectly, sire," replied Piétri.

"Laguerronière told me," continued the emperor, "of a very clever
little journalist--Escudier--he has relations in Austria; make use of
him, we must certainly strengthen our newspaper contingent," he
proceeded, "our cadres are very small, and we must make a campaign.
Think over this."

Piétri bowed.

The groom of the chambers announced: "His Excellency Monsieur Drouyn de
Lhuys."

The emperor bent his head, took a last whiff from his cigar, and said
to his secretary, "Stay near me, I may need you."

Piétri withdrew through the large and heavy portière, which concealed
the steps leading to his own room.

Scarcely had the folds of the curtain closed behind him, when Drouyn de
Lhuys entered the emperor's cabinet. He looked as calm and grave as
ever, and had his portfolio under his arm.

"Good morning, my dear minister," cried Napoleon, rising slowly and
holding out his hand, "well, are you satisfied with the course of
events, and the position which the policy of waiting has procured for
us?"

"Not entirely, sire," replied Drouyn de Lhuys gravely and quietly. A
cloud passed over the emperor's brow. Then he said in a friendly
voice,--

"You are an incorrigible pessimist, my dear minister; what could you
require more? Are we not at this moment the umpire of Europe?"

"An umpire, sire," said Drouyn de Lhuys inexorably, "who does not yet
know whether the contending parties will accept his award. The best
umpire is he who throws his sword into the balance, of which Brennus
the ancestor of the Gauls has given us an example."

"I might be listening to the most fiery of my marshals, and not to my
Secretary of State and of Foreign Affairs," said the emperor, laughing,
"but to speak gravely, why are you not satisfied? I know that we have
before us many involved and difficult negotiations, but," he added
courteously, "can that alarm you, the experienced statesman, so capable
of finding Ariadne's clue in all such labyrinths? I believe that we
have won the game if we can only bring matters upon the field of long
negotiations. Sudden events are what I most fear. They exclude logic,
combination, and the weapons of the mind."

Drouyn de Lhuys was silent for a moment, and his eyes rested on the
emperor's face, so much more animated than usual.

"I know," he then said, "that your majesty loves to tie Gordian knots,
but you forget that we have to do with a man who is apt to hew through
such works of art with his sword, and who has a very sharp sword in his
hand!"

"But, my dear minister," said the emperor, "you would not have me at
this moment, when my mediation is accepted, step between the two
combatants with my weapon in my hand?"

"Not in your hand, your majesty," replied Drouyn de Lhuys, "but with a
sharp sword by your side. Sire, the moment is grave, the French
mediation cannot be Platonic; your majesty must clearly perceive what
may arise through your intervention."

"In the first place, that this unpleasant din of cannon in Germany will
cease,--it makes all calm and skilful diplomacy impossible! _Cedant
arma togæ!_ And, then--but what is your opinion of the situation, and
what do you think we ought to do?" he said, interrupting himself,
whilst his half-closed eyes opened and a full glance from his brilliant
phosphorescent pupils fell upon his minister.

He seated himself, pointing with his hand to an easy-chair for Drouyn
de Lhuys to occupy.

"Sire," said the latter, as he sat down, "your majesty must be clear as
to the influence you wish to exercise upon the events that have already
taken place in Germany. Two courses are possible, and with your
permission I will analyze them before your majesty. After the
information we have received from Benedetti, after what Goltz has
imparted to us, it is impossible to imagine that Prussia will entirely
give up the advantages she has procured by the amazing success of her
arms--upon which we must remember the monarchy of Hohenzollern had
staked--perhaps its existence."

The emperor nodded acquiescence.

"According to my information, and my conception of Count Bismarck's
character, he will require not only the exclusion of Austria from
German affairs, not only the leadership of Germany at least to the
Main, for Prussia, he will also require an increase of territory, the
annexation of Hanover, Hesse, and Saxony."

The emperor raised his head.

"Hesse," he said, "that touches me not. Hanover, I have a great
esteem for King George and sympathise with him, since I knew him at
Baden-Baden; but Hanover is England's affair. Saxony," he said,
slightly twirling the point of his moustache, "that is different; that
touches the traditions of my house. But," he interrupted himself, "go
on."

"Austria," said Drouyn de Lhuys, calmly continuing the subject, "will
be forced to yield to these demands, for it is in no condition to
continue the war. The army of the south will not return in time, and
upon Hungary, so my agents assure me, there is no reliance to be
placed; it will therefore depend upon the influence of France whether
Prussia obtains what she demands."

The emperor was silent.

"Two paths are possible to your majesty in this position of affairs."

The emperor listened with the greatest interest.

"One course," said Drouyn de Lhuys, "is for your majesty to say: 'The
German Confederation, as guaranteed by Europe, is dissolved, and all
the German princes have simply become European sovereigns, who are
allies of France. France refuses that the balance of power in Germany
and in Europe should be disturbed, by any change in their possessions
or their sovereign rights.' Your majesty can divide the German
Confederation into a North German and a South German group, the first
to be under the leadership of Prussia, the second under Austria, and
you can forbid all other change. This is the course," added the
minister, "that I should advise your majesty to pursue."

The emperor bent himself down thoughtfully.

"And if Prussia rejects this proposal, or rather this award?" he asked.

"Then your majesty must march to the Rhine and follow the example of
Brennus," said Drouyn de Lhuys.

"What should I gain?" asked Napoleon. "Would not divided Germany be as
ready to unite against France, perhaps more strongly organized in two
parts, as was ever the old German Confederation? And the other course?"
he then asked.

"If your majesty will not follow the path I have pointed out," said
Drouyn de Lhuys, "then, in my opinion, France must act towards Germany
as she acted towards Italy. She must allow events to take their natural
course, she must consent to an entire or partial national union beneath
Prussia, and to the territorial acquisitions of Prussia,--and she must
demand on her part compensation."

The eyes of the emperor lighted up.

"And what compensation would you demand?" he asked.

"Benedetti maintains," said Drouyn de Lhuys, "that in Berlin they are
much inclined to give us possession of Belgium."

The emperor nodded approval.

"I do not," added the minister, "approve this policy; we shall gain
little as far as military position is concerned, and we shall be
burdened with great complications towards England."

The emperor shrugged his shoulders slightly.

"But Belgium is French," he said.

"Sire," replied Drouyn de Lhuys, "by the same right Alsace is German."

"Ah! bah!" exclaimed the emperor, involuntarily. "But," said he, "where
would you seek compensation?"

"Sire," replied Drouyn de Lhuys, "if the military and political unity
of Germany is consolidated under the leadership of Prussia its new
power will be very dangerous to France, dangerous to our influence,
yes, even to our safety. We must therefore on our side demand
guarantees against an aggressive policy from newly constituted Germany.
In the next place," he added, as the emperor remained silent, "we must
demand, as is only right and moderate, the extension of the French
boundaries as established by the Congress of 1814."

The emperor bowed his head with animation.

"Then, sire," continued Drouyn de Lhuys, as he fixed his keen eyes upon
the emperor, "we must demand Luxembourg and Mayence."

"That is much," said the emperor, without looking up.

"But not too much!" returned Drouyn de Lhuys. "Luxembourg too is only a
question between us and Holland, and only the silent consent of Prussia
will be needed. Mayence--well, they may demur about that, but it is
better to ask more than you positively intend to take. That is my idea
of compensation," he added after a short pause.

"And it is mine," said the emperor, rising; and with his slow halting
gait he took several turns about the room.

He stood still before Drouyn do Lhuys, who had also risen, and said,--

"I regret, my dear minister, that I cannot decide upon following the
first course you pointed out; since you consider it the right one."

"I pointed out the second as the best alternative," said Drouyn de
Lhuys; "and although I should have preferred the former, I fully
approve of the second."

"Give me the second," said the emperor, "let Herr von Bismarck unite
Germany as well as he can, and let us strengthen the power of France as
much as possible. Write to Benedetti at once, order him to go to
head-quarters and to negotiate at first a simple suspension of arms;
let us first quiet those cannon and make room for calm diplomacy. Let
him then raise the question of compensation in a confidential
conversation with Herr von Bismarck, and suggest Luxembourg and
Mayence."

Drouyn de Lhuys bowed.

"But without engaging himself too much, without stating any ultimatum.
I will keep my hand free," said the emperor with animation.

"Our interests can only be preserved, sire," said Drouyn de Lhuys, "if
our attitude is decided, and our speech firm."

"They shall be so," cried the emperor; "but we must not begin with the
ultimatum. Let Benedetti sound, and skilfully discover how his
proposals are received."

"And what will your majesty say to Austria?" asked Drouyn de Lhuys.

"That we are taking the greatest pains to make the peace as favourable
as possible, and to preserve the territorial possessions and the
European position of Austria. We must," he added, "advise Vienna to be
ready to continue the war in case we are unsuccessful, for who knows
what turn affairs may take, and, besides, a firm attitude on the part
of Austria, and an increase of the difficulties Prussia finds on that
side, can only be favourable to us."

"I am quite of your majesty's opinion, and I shall write in this spirit
to the Duke de Gramont immediately. I must now mention to your majesty
that Herr von Beust has arrived and requests an audience."

"Beust, the Saxon minister?" asked the emperor with surprise.

"He arrived in Paris this morning, and was with me before I came here,"
said Drouyn de Lhuys.

"And what does he want?" enquired Napoleon.

"To call upon your majesty to protect Saxony."

"I will see him," said Napoleon after a short pause; "but without
ceremonial."

"That is also the wish of Herr von Beust, your majesty."

"Beg him to announce himself through Colonel Favé, who is on duty. I
will instruct the colonel to bring him without exciting observation."

"Very well, sire. To-day or to-morrow I expect Prince Reuss, who is
sent by the King of Prussia with letters to your majesty from
head-quarters at Pardubitz."

"From where?" asked the emperor.

"Pardubitz, sire," repeated Drouyn de Lhuys, pronouncing the word very
distinctly.

"What a name!" cried Napoleon. "And do you know what he brings?"

"The conditions of peace," said Drouyn de Lhuys; "without their
previous acceptance the King of Prussia will conclude no armistice. So
says Count Goltz, who informed me of the prince's coming by a
telegram."

"And were these conditions known to Count Goltz?" asked the emperor
further.

"From his previous and general instructions I take it they were the
same as I have already imparted to your majesty,--Austria's exclusion
from Germany, the leadership of Prussia, and the annexation of the
territory lying between the separate portions of Prussia," returned
Drouyn de Lhuys.

"Then his arrival will alter nothing in our policy," said the emperor.
"We will await him."

"Permit me once more to draw your majesty's attention to the fact,"
said Drouyn de Lhuys, in an impressive tone, as he fixed his
penetrating eyes upon the emperor, "that whatever policy France may
adopt, our interests cannot be preserved unless our language is very
firm, and our attitude decided."

"It shall be so," said the emperor, "in the groundwork of the plan; the
form of negotiation must nevertheless be circumspect. Impress this upon
Benedetti."

"We have the greater reason to be firm," said Drouyn de Lhuys, "because
a new difficulty is arising for Prussia, which will make the court at
Berlin all the more anxious to arrange affairs with us. An article from
the official journal of St. Petersburg has been sent to me, in which it
is stated that the suspension of arms would lead to a definite
reconciliation, if there was not someone in Germany who thought himself
strong enough to compel Europe to consent to his German conquests,
forgetting that there still existed sovereigns in Europe whose united
forces could prevent the balance of power from being an idle word."

And Drouyn de Lhuys drew a newspaper from his portfolio, and handed it
to the emperor.

He took it, glanced through it hastily, and laid it on the table.

"That is plain," he said, laughing; "and the address of the warning
cannot be doubtful."

"Baron Talleyrand maintains this article is the expression of the
opinion of the court party," said Drouyn de Lhuys; "and that, although
the emperor and Prince Gortschakoff are reserved, they regard the
catastrophe now taking place in Germany with the greatest interest."

"Excellent, excellent!" cried the emperor. "Instruct Talleyrand to
foster this feeling as much as possible. He must," said he, after a
thoughtful pause, "point out especially that the interests of Russia
and France are identical in preventing Germany from concentrating her
military power in the hand of Prussia."

"I have prepared an instruction to that effect, sire," said Drouyn de
Lhuys, "since I thought I foresaw such an intention on the part of your
majesty."

"And," said the emperor, as if seized by a sudden thought; but he broke
off quickly, and said, laughingly,--

"You see, my dear minister, how everything unites in placing the
threads of the European situation again in our hands: we have all the
advantages of a victorious battle, without a shot having been fired, or
one Frenchman having been sent out of the world."

"I shall be glad if all comes to a favourable end," replied Drouyn de
Lhuys, as he closed his portfolio.

"And do not forget," said the emperor, in a gracious tone, repeating
his minister's words, "that our language must be firm, and our attitude
decided."

He held out his hand to his minister.

"I may then send Herr von Beust here immediately?" said Drouyn de
Lhuys, preparing to go.

"Do so," said the emperor; "and as soon as anything fresh arises, I
expect you."

With an engaging smile, he made one step towards the door, through
which, with a low bow, Drouyn de Lhuys withdrew.

The emperor walked thoughtfully several times up and down his cabinet.
Then he went to the portière, which concealed the private stairs, and
called,--

"Piétri."

He appeared immediately.

"Have you seen this article from the 'Journal de St.-Pétersbourg'?"
asked the emperor, handing his secretary the paper he had received from
Drouyn de Lhuys.

"I have," replied Piétri, after glancing at it hastily; "I had it ready
to present to your majesty."

"All goes on excellently," said the emperor, rubbing his hands. "We
must increase this difficulty arising for the victor of Königgrätz in
the East as much as possible. I have ordered Talleyrand to dwell upon
the identity of the French and Russian interests."

Piétri bowed.

The emperor slightly turned the points of his moustache.

"You might write to him quite confidentially," he proceeded, "saying
that there is no intention of allowing the idea to transpire hastily;
but that since 1854 and 1856, the European situation has much changed,
and that now an understanding between France and Russia upon the
Eastern question would, perhaps, be possible and desirable. Should a
common policy facilitate the arrangement of the German difficulty, a
revision of the Treaty of Paris would probably not be refused here. But
this must be quite private," he said, with emphasis, "engaging us to
nothing, and in the strictest confidence."

"Very good, it shall be done at once," said Piétri.

"Sire," he said, after waiting for a moment, during which the emperor
was silent, "Herr Klindworth is here, and wishes to see your majesty."

"Klindworth?" cried the emperor, laughing, "that old stormy petrel
could not keep out of a crisis which has raised such a tempest in
European policy. What does he want?"

"He comes from Vienna, and wants to impart to your majesty much that is
interesting."

"He is always interesting, and he often has clever ideas," cried the
emperor. "Bring him here at once."

Piétri ran down the steps, and returned in a few moments with
States-Chancellor Klindworth, who appeared from behind the dark, heavy
portière, which the private secretary closed again after his entrance.

The emperor and Klindworth were alone. The latter stood in the same
attitude, the same brown coat, and the same white cravat as in the
cabinet of Francis Joseph. With downcast eyes he waited, after a low
bow, for the emperor to speak.

"Welcome, dear Herr Klindworth," said Napoleon, in his peculiarly
winning and fascinating way, "come and sit near me, that we may talk of
these wonderful and stormy events which have so disturbed the peace of
the whole world."

He sank again into his arm-chair, and Klindworth, taking in the
expression of the emperor's countenance with a hasty glance, seated
himself opposite.

Napoleon opened a small étui, twirled up a large cigarette of Turkish
tobacco with great dexterity, and lighted it at the wax taper on the
table beside him.

"I am glad," said Klindworth, "to see your majesty looking so well and
cheerful, in the midst of these great catastrophes. His majesty Francis
Joseph will be much rejoiced when I tell him of your majesty's
excellent health.''

"You come from the Emperor Francis Joseph?" said Napoleon, with aroused
attention.

"You know, sire," said Klindworth, folding his hands over his breast,
"I am no ambassador; I represent nothing. I am only old Klindworth, who
has the good fortune to be honoured by the confidence of those in the
very highest positions, and who uses his healthy old wits in the
diplomatic world, endeavouring to set straight what inexperienced folly
has set crooked."

The emperor laughed, whilst he blew a thick cloud from his cigarette.

"And do you come to correct a little of the folly that goes on in the
Tuileries?" he then asked.

"If your majesty speaks of the Tuileries I must be silent," said
Klindworth, "but if you speak of the Quai d'Orsay, I shall not say no;
there they can always do with a little good advice."

The emperor laughed still more. "Well," he said, "what advice would you
give to the Quai d'Orsay? Perhaps I can support it."

A rapid glance shot from the eyes of the states-chancellor. He lightly
tapped the fingers of the right hand upon the back of the left, and
said,--

"I would recall to your majesty's ministers and diplomatists the old
formula: Videant consoles ne quid detrimenti capiat respublica!"

The emperor immediately grew grave; his quick, brilliant eyes were
suddenly raised from beneath their drooping lids, and fixed with a
burning expression upon Klindworth, who sat before him without moving a
muscle. Then he leant back in his arm-chair, blew from him a thick
cloud of smoke, and asked in a quiet tone,--

"Do you think, then, that things are so bad? Now that the emperor has
determined to evacuate Venetia all his forces will be free, and the
fortune of war may change."

"I do not believe it will change, sire," said Klindworth, calmly, "and
according to my opinion, your majesty must take heed lest your defeat
should bring upon you still worse consequences."

"My defeat?" inquired Napoleon, drawing himself up proudly, whilst his
moustache glided through his fingers.

"Sire, Königgrätz was as great a defeat to France as to Austria."

The emperor was silent.

"Does your majesty think," continued Klindworth, "it added to the
prestige of France--and to imperial France prestige is needful--that
without her concurrence all European affairs should be turned upside
down, that a great Prusso-German military monarchy should arise,
without France's interference? The cabinets of Europe will thus learn
to arrange their own matters without heeding France, and your majesty
can conceive better than I, what effect this will produce upon the
French nation."

The emperor considered. Then he said, calmly and gravely: "What does
the Emperor Francis Joseph intend to do, and what does he expect of
me?"

Klindworth showed not the least surprise at this suddenly direct
question, and at the different tone it gave to the conversation.

"The emperor," said he, "is determined to fight to the last. He hopes,
by the withdrawal of the southern army, to gain the necessary strength
to resume action; he hopes Hungary----"

The emperor slightly shook his head.

"He hopes," continued Klindworth, "that the armistice will give him
time to reassemble his forces, and that the Prussian demands will be so
exorbitant as to render peace impossible. He expects that your majesty
will march to the Rhine, that Austria will be freed from her
difficulties, and Prussia hurled from the height upon which the victory
of Königgrätz has placed her."

The emperor was silent for a moment.

"Will there not be difficulties," he then said, without looking up, "in
the fulfilment of these numerous hopes?"

"If your majesty sees them," returned Klindworth, "they are certainly
there."

"And do you not see them?" asked the emperor.

"Sire," replied Klindworth, "I received orders to urge your majesty to
hasty action with an armed hand. That is my commission; if your majesty
will give me an answer, I will, if you command me, tell you my
opinion."

"You define sharply," said the emperor, laughing. "Well," he proceeded
slowly, turning his cigarette between his fingers, "I will speak
without reserve. The emperor may rest assured that I regard a strong
Austria absolutely necessary to peace and the balance of power in
Europe, and that I will prevent Austria's displacement from her
European position with the whole force of France, if needful. I do not,
however, believe that this supreme moment has yet come, and I might do
more harm than good by an armed interference, for at this moment there
is no reason for pushing the German question into a European crisis."

Klindworth listened attentively, accompanying with an inclination of
the head each word, as it was slowly uttered by the emperor.

"Your majesty wishes to wait," he then said, "and to keep your hand
free as long as possible, but you will prevent any alienation of
territory from Austria itself."

The emperor slightly bent his head.

"But one circumstance must by no means be excluded from our
arrangements," he said; "every effort must be made in Vienna to alter
the military position in Austria's favour."

"I understand perfectly, sire," said the states-chancellor.

"Well, now, my dear Herr Klindworth," said the emperor, throwing away
the remains of his cigarette into a small china vase, and preparing a
fresh one with the greatest care and attention, "you will tell me your
opinion, since you have heard my intentions."

And he bent his head slightly to one side, and looked at Klindworth
attentively.

"My opinion, sire, is that you are perfectly right."

Surprise was seen on the emperor's countenance.

"Your majesty is perfectly right," repeated Klindworth, looking up with
a quick, watchful glance, "for in the first place," he continued, in a
matter-of-fact tone, "waiting gives you a chance of demanding
compensation for France."

The emperor's eyelids were almost entirely closed; he had completed his
cigarette, and blew a thick cloud into the air before him.

"And besides," continued Klindworth, quitting his former remark
completely, and somewhat raising his voice, "your majesty has a double
reason for avoiding a brusque interference, you would benefit France as
well as Austria very little."

The emperor listened with interest.

"If your majesty now interferes with an armed hand in the affairs of
Germany," said Klindworth, drumming with his fingers, "two courses are
possible. Prussia may yield, in which case things will remain as they
are. Prussia will only be regarded as the President of the
Confederation, and obtain some small territorial accession; in material
matters she will remain as she was, but an immense moral weapon will
have been placed in her hand. The German people will be told that the
union of Germany has been prevented by France, that Austria has called
in the national enemy, and as in Germany they may now write, read, and
sing what they please, and as the newspapers and books and songs are
made in Berlin, Austria's position amongst the German people would be
morally annihilated, and on some future occasion--perhaps when France
was engaged in some contrary direction--the perfectly ripened fruit
would fall into the hands of the Hohenzollerns."

The emperor turned his moustache, and nodded approval.

"But," continued Klindworth, "and the character of her leaders renders
this supposition the most probable, Prussia may not yield, but may
undertake the war notwithstanding its enormous proportions. I fear
then, Herr von Bismarck would succeed in inflaming a national war, and
would lead united Germany against France."

"Would this be possible with the present feeling of Germany?" asked the
emperor.

"Sire," said Klindworth, "if moving water will not freeze in winter an
iron bar is thrown in, and the ice-rind forms at once. The sword of
France thrown into the German movement would act like that iron bar,
the waves would be still, and would form into a solid mass."

"But the South Germans?" asked the emperor--"both the people and the
governments?"

"They have now lost all hope in Austria," said Klindworth; "they feel
themselves in the power of Prussia; with a few promises, a few kind
words, and a few threats it will not be difficult to gain them over to
her side, for of this I am certain, they only want some reasonable and
honourable excuse to join her."

The emperor was silent.

"If, however," said Klindworth with animation, "Prussia at once obtains
what she desires, namely immediate and important accessions of
territory, the complete annexation of Hanover, Hesse, &c.,--if only
sufficient pressure is applied as to enable South Germany to retain its
sovereign independence--the result will not be the union of Germany,
that popular idea of all poets, singers, and beer-drinkers; on the
contrary, it will be its separation, and all the blood that has been
shed will only have been for the aggrandizement of Prussia. Domestic
nationality, that feeling so dear to the German, will be directed
against Prussia, and the national sympathy will turn towards Austria."

"Will this be possible?" asked the emperor.

"Certain," replied Klindworth; "if Austria, penetrated by another
spirit, uses with prudent policy those powers which are now once more
so active and potent--alas! that it should be so; but we must work with
what will effect most."

"That is?" asked the emperor.

"Sire," said Klindworth, "if Prussia is increased in size by these
annexations, and obtains the leadership in North Germany, she will be
compelled to adopt a strict, unbending government, for the German races
do not easily assimilate. One iron hand will be laid on North Germany,
and the other constantly raised to menace South Germany. Then Austria
must arise with fresh strength, as the shield of individual government,
of independence, and of Liberty."

Napoleon smiled.

"Of liberty?"

"Why not?" cried Klindworth; "severe sicknesses are healed by means of
dangerous poisons."

"But where is the skilful physician?" asked the emperor, laughing, "who
can administer to sick Austria the proper dose of this poison? Count
Mensdorff or Metternich?"

"I think I have found this physician," said Klindworth, gravely,
without appearing perplexed.

The groom of the chambers entered.

"Colonel Favé is in the ante-room, sire."

The emperor rose.

"In one moment," he said.

Klindworth stood up and came nearer to the emperor.

"This physician," he said, in a low voice, "is von Beust."

Puzzled and amazed, the emperor gazed at him.

"Beust!" he cried, "the Protestant! Do you believe that the
emperor----"

"I do believe it," said Klindworth; "but at all events, Herr von Beust
is here; your majesty can sound him for yourself, and see whether my
opinion is well founded."

He fixed his sharp eyes longer and more firmly than before upon the
emperor, with a penetrating glance.

Napoleon smiled.

"He who plays with you," he said, "must lay his cards upon the table.
Wait with Piétri; I will see you again after I have spoken with your
physician upon the future of Austria."

A smile of contentment played round the states-chancellor's thick lips,
as with a low bow he withdrew through the portière.

The emperor rang.

"Colonel Favé!"

The colonel, a thin man of middle height, with short black hair, and a
small moustache, dressed in a black overcoat, half soldier, half
courtier in manner, appeared at the door. He held it open for the
minister of Saxony to enter, and he then withdrew.

Herr von Beust wore a grey overcoat, of some light summer material,
thrown back from over his black coat, upon which sparkled the white
star of the Legion of Honour. His slightly grey hair was carefully
curled and arranged; his wide black trousers almost concealed the small
foot in its well-fitting boot. His fine intellectual countenance, with
its almost transparent complexion, eloquent mouth, and lively bright
eyes, was paler than usual, and the amiable, winning smile was entirely
gone. A melancholy expression was seen on his lips, and his whole face
showed nervous anxiety.

He approached the emperor with the grace of a distinguished courtier,
and bowed in silence.

Napoleon went to meet him with his fascinating smile, and held out his
hand to him.

"However sorrowful may be the occasion," he said in a gentle voice, "I
rejoice to see the most reliable and talented statesman in Germany."

"The most unhappy, sire," said von Beust sadly.

"They only are unhappy who have lost hope," replied the emperor,
seating himself, and pointing out a chair to Herr von Beust, with a
movement full of graceful courtesy.

"Sire, I have come to hear from your majesty's lips if I may still
hope, and bid my sovereign do the same?"

The emperor's fingers glided over the points of his moustache.

"Tell me," he then said, "your views on events in Germany. I am anxious
to have them pictured by your mouth, the mouth of a master of narrative
and description," he added, with a gracious smile and a slight
inclination of the head.

Beust's pale face grew animated.

"Sire," he said, "I have lost my game! I hoped to have created a new
federal form of national life in Germany; to have repressed within
definite boundaries the ambition of Prussia, and to have established
the German Confederation in renewed power and authority, by enabling it
to carry out freely the developments required by the present times. I
deceived myself; I reckoned without considering the divisions in
Germany, the weakness of Austria. The game is lost," he repeated,
sighing; "but at least Saxony did all in her power to win."

"And is no lucky change in the game possible?" asked the emperor.

"I believe not," said von Beust; "in Vienna they still hope much from
the southern army--from resuming the offensive. I do not believe in all
that. A state does not easily recover from such a blow as Königgrätz,
even if its inner life has not the stagnation, and has not fallen into
the indolence, of Austria. Prussia is the victor in Germany, and will
seize a victor's rights with an iron hand, if not restrained by a
powerful veto."

His keen eyes were raised inquiringly to the emperor.

"And you think that I ought to pronounce this veto--that I can?" asked
Napoleon.

"Sire," replied von Beust, "I speak to your majesty as minister of
Saxony, as servant to my unhappy monarch, who is threatened with the
loss of the inheritance of his ancestors, as far as it still remains to
him."

"Do you think," interrupted the emperor, "that in Prussian
head-quarters they mean seriously to disinherit the German princes?"

"The incorporation of Hanover, Hesse, and Saxony is determined upon,
sire," said Herr von Beust with decision; "and," he continued, slightly
shrugging his shoulders, "they laid high stakes upon the game in
Berlin--it is perhaps natural that they should not be satisfied with
the stakes alone, but make use of the advantage with regard to the
future. But," he added after a moment's pause, "Hanover and Hesse
divide the Prussian dominions, Saxony, on the contrary, separates
Prussia from Austria and prevents continual friction; above all,
Hanover and Hesse pursued a path of their own; with regard to the real
interests of Germany they remained coldly passive; even when war was
unavoidable they concluded no alliance with Austria--if fate overtakes
them, they must in great measure ascribe it to themselves. To uphold
Saxony, however, is a question of honour for Austria, and," he
proceeded, looking full at the emperor, "perhaps for France also, for
imperial France, for the heir to Napoleon the First's power and glory."

The emperor bent his head and slowly stroked his moustache.

"Sire," continued von Beust, whilst a tinge of red flushed his pale
face, and with his eyes still fixed upon the emperor, "when the power
of your great-uncle was shattered by the hand of fate at Leipsic--when
so many whom he had raised up and made great forsook him, the King of
Saxony stood beside him, a true friend, an ally in misfortune. And
heavy penance he had to do for his truth, with half his lands he paid
for his allegiance to his imperial friend. The emperor never forgot it,
and even in St. Helena he remembered his noble confederate with emotion
and grief."

The emperor bent his head lower and lower. Herr von Beust continued in
a louder voice:--

"Now, sire, the heir of that prince who was true to your great
predecessor in his misfortunes[2] is in danger of losing those
possessions of his house that he still retains; King John, who has
always been your majesty's sincere friend, is in danger of being driven
from the inheritance of his forefathers: and not he, sire, I, his
servant--who need not like himself regard royal delicacy of feeling--I
ask your majesty, will the heir of the power, the glory, and the name
of that great Titan, silently suffer the descendant of his last and
truest friend, his friend in need and danger, to be dethroned and
banished?"

Herr von Beust ceased and gazed in breathless anxiety at the emperor.

Napoleon raised his head. His eyes were open. His pupils shone large
and clear in dazzling brightness, a peculiar expression of pride and
dignity was on his brow, a soft melancholy smile upon his lips.

"Sir," he said, in a low, metallic voice, "the friends of my uncle are
my friends, to the third and fourth generation, and no prince shall
repent having stood by the emperor's side in misfortune whilst I grasp
the sword of France! You have saved Saxony," he added, with his
gracious smile. "Tell the king your master that he shall return to his
dwelling and his kingdom. I give you my word as an emperor."

With a movement in which the dignity of the sovereign was combined with
the graceful courtesy of the man of the world, he held out his hand to
Herr von Beust.

He seized it with veneration, whilst he rose quickly and exclaimed,--

"If the spirit of the great emperor can look down upon earth, sire, at
this moment he must smile, well pleased, upon your majesty. You prove
that his friendship still weighs heavily in the scale of the fate of
Europe."

A short pause ensued. The emperor was thoughtful. Beust had again
seated himself, and waited.

"You believe, then," said the emperor at last, "that success is
impossible for Austria?"

"I have urged them strongly in Vienna," said von Beust, sighing, "to do
all that they can--to make the utmost exertions, but I fear it will be
in vain. The state machinery of Austria has grown rusty, and it would
be hard even for a master spirit to set it in motion. The master spirit
is not there, and," he added sadly, "is no longer to be found in the
home of Kaunitz and Metternich."

"Then he must be imported," said the emperor.

The eyes of the Saxon minister, full of surprise and admiration, were
fixed enquiringly upon the emperor's face, which had resumed its usual
calm and reserved expression.

"Do you believe," said Napoleon, "that it would be impossible to
regenerate Austria if the master spirit who is wanted were found?"

"Impossible!" cried von Beust; "certainly not. Austria has immense
interior power, only the nerve is wanting to move it."

"You have during your political life thought out so much, and with such
great success," said the emperor kindly, with a slight inclination of
the head, "that you must have considered how best this slumbering power
might be aroused--inspired with life?"

A sudden brilliancy shone in the eyes of Herr von Beust.

"Sire," he said with animation, "the first and deepest cause of
Austria's weakness lies in this--her own strength binds her, one half
of the monarchy watches the other half, and holds it in check. Hungary,
with her great military power, with her rich, inexhaustible
productiveness, lies dead; and instead of inspiring her with life,
Vienna carefully excludes all political life from that country. In this
crisis, for example, Hungary alone could save all that is lost; but
they will not speak the inspiring word, for this word is, 'Freedom and
National Independence;' and at this word all the dusty old acts in the
state repositories tremble, and the dusty men tremble still more! And
in the interior of the monarchy, in Austria itself, a stiff bureaucracy
represses every sign of life amongst the people; and where the people
do not feel, do not think, do not co-operate in public life, they are
incapable of making great sacrifices and heroic efforts to uphold and
to save the state. Oh!" he went on, with still greater animation, "if
Austria could arise in renewed life, if her rich powers could be
developed and strengthened by natural movement, then all would be won
back for Austria and for Germany. If Austria would maintain her moral
place in Germany, if she would undertake the sphere of intellectual
progress, and through this progress allow her material power to arise
afresh, then--and not too late--the day would come when this defeat
would be brilliantly avenged. The formulary to obtain this is simple,
it is this: freedom and independence for Hungary; freedom and public
life for the whole monarchy, the reform of the government, and the
reform of the army! But to adopt and carry out this formulary," he
added, with a melancholy smile, and a slight bend of the head, "a
genius and a will is needed, such as your majesty possesses."

"You flatter," said the emperor, smiling, and slightly raising his
finger. "At this moment I learn----After the completion of these
events, you will perhaps not continue minister of Saxony?" he then
said.

"I shall remain at my king's side during the present crisis," said Herr
von Beust. "But then, I think an unsuccessful statesman had better
vanish from the stage."

"Or," said the emperor, "try his powers in a wider sphere than that
whose narrow boundaries have denied him success."

He rose.

Beust stood up, and seized his hat.

"I hope," said the emperor, "that your views on the regeneration of
Austria may some day be brought to life. In any case, I beg you will
remember that you have a friend here, and that the interests of France
and Austria are one in encouraging the free development of the German
nation, and guaranteeing its national life. Greet your king from me,
and ask him to trust to my word."

With great emotion, Herr von Beust seized the emperor's proffered hand.

"Thanks, sire, my warmest thanks," he cried. "Whatever the future may
bring forth, I shall never forget this hour."

And bowing deeply, he left the cabinet.

The emperor called Piétri.

"Is Klindworth there?" he asked.

"At your command, sire."

"I beg him to come to me."

The states-chancellor appeared.

The emperor advanced towards him with a smile.

"You are right," he said; "the physician is found who can heal the
sickness of Austria."

Klindworth bowed.

"I knew," he said, "that your majesty would agree with me."

"Try to have the treatment of the case confided to him. You may rely
upon my entire support."

He thought deeply.

"And tell the emperor," he then said, "that I will do all in my power
to assist him, as energetically as circumstances permit. Material help,
however, Austria must gain from herself and from the regeneration of
her resources."

"I understand perfectly, sire," said Klindworth.

"Keep me _au fait_ as to Herr von Beust."

Klindworth bowed.

"May I return?" he asked.

"You must set to work at once," said the emperor, "for your task is not
an easy one. _Au revoir:_" and he made a friendly movement with his
hand.

Klindworth vanished behind the portière.

"The cards are shuffled more and more," said the emperor, as he sank
back comfortably into his arm-chair; "and it is only needful to hold
them with a strong hand, and to look firmly at them, to rule the game.
It will do," he added, supporting his head on his hand, "and at the
same time a wide perspective is opened for the future. If Austria can
truly arise in renewed life--Italy enclosed on both sides--the alliance
is given--Hungary--Poland holds Russia in check----"

His eyes shone.

"Well," he said, with a slight smile, "we will wait, in waiting lies my
strength. But a little help prepared beforehand may be useful. Above
all things, I must not forget Saxony."

He stood up, and called Piétri.

"Drive to Drouyn de Lhuys," he said, "and desire him, in the
instructions to Benedetti, to give him distinct orders to forbid the
annexation of Saxony in the most decided manner--in the most decided
manner," he repeated with emphasis.

"At your command, sire."

"And," asked the emperor, "do you know where General Türr is at this
moment?"

"With the army in Italy," replied Piétri; "but I can ascertain
precisely immediately."

"Write to him," said the emperor. "No," interrupting himself, "send a
confidential person. I want to beg him to come here at once."

Piétri bowed.

"Through him," said the emperor, speaking half to himself, "I shall
keep my hand a little in Turin and Pesth; that may be important."

"Has your majesty any other commands?" asked Piétri.

"No, I thank you," said the emperor; and his private secretary
withdrew. Napoleon leant back comfortably in his arm-chair, and
carefully rolling a fresh cigarette, smoked thick clouds, lost in deep
thought.



                              CHAPTER XIX.

                         BISMARCK'S DIPLOMACY.


The King of Prussia had taken up his head-quarters in the old castle
belonging to the Princes of Dietrichstein at Nickolsburg. A brilliant
and changing picture was displayed in this little town, which from its
quiet seclusion seemed scarcely destined to become the centre of events
so important in the history of the world.

The king's guard kept watch before the castle, the troops quartered in
the little town moved about the streets in changing groups, marching
columns pushed in between, artillery rattled over the rough pavement,
the varied sounds of the bivouac echoed from without; and all around
there was life and movement.

The inhabitants stood shyly before the doors, and at the windows which
they had opened again. The fear of the enemy oppressed them, but it
began to be mingled with confidence; these troops belonging to the foe
were not so fearful as they had imagined. Here and there a Prussian
soldier was seen in his weather-stained uniform, with his great wild
beard, talking to a group of peasants who had been driven into the town
for shelter from the burned and wasted villages; he was giving the shy
and frightened children bread or other food, or goodnaturedly offering
to some weak old man, some sick or weary woman, an invigorating sip
from his flask.

War was here displayed in all its brilliance, in all its dazzling
grandeur; the remembrance of long days and quiet years of peace filling
in the background of the picture. War was here in all its horror,
destroying in one frightful moment the happiness of years, and amidst
the clash of national rights and interests, unchaining the savage
instincts of human nature; but here too bloomed the noblest and purest
flowers of heroism and self-sacrifice.

If the good-natured cordiality of the enemy's soldiers had done much to
restore the confidence of the inhabitants, it was still more confirmed
by a rumour passing from mouth to mouth, that negotiations for peace
had commenced. Amongst the generals and staff officers who hurried in
and out of the castle, diplomatists were seen in civilian dress; it was
known that the French ambassador had arrived, and that after a short
reception he had travelled on to Vienna. An armistice of five days had
been concluded, and peace hovered in the air, longed for by none more
ardently and sincerely than by the unhappy inhabitants of the countries
where the bloody drama of war was being enacted.

In the midst of all this noise, of these echoing voices, of all these
signals from drums and trumpets, sat the Prussian minister-president,
Count Bismarck, in the spacious room in which he was quartered.

In the middle of the room stood a table covered with a dark green
cloth, and piled with heaps of letters and papers. On the floor lay
opened and torn envelopes in wild confusion. A large map of the country
lay spread out upon the table, and before it sat the minister-president
on a plain rush-bottomed chair; on a small table beside him stood a
bottle of bright golden Bohemian beer and a large glass. The window was
open and let in the fresh morning air.

Count Bismarck wore the uniform of a major of his cuirassier regiment
comfortably unbuttoned, long riding boots, and his sword at his side.

Baron von Keudell sat opposite to him in the uniform of the Landwehr
cavalry; he was occupied in looking through some letters.

"Benedetti is long in coming," said the minister, looking up from the
map, in the contemplation of which he had been engrossed for some time;
"they must still be very hopeful in Vienna, or perhaps they wish to
play a double game! Well! they shall not keep us halted here much
longer!" he cried vehemently, filling his glass and emptying it at a
single draught, "standing still here can only injure our position.
Though slow, like everything else in Austria, the army of the south is
advancing nearer and nearer, the cholera too begins to be troublesome.
I regret," he said, after a short silence, "that the king with his
usual moderation gave up the entry into Vienna; there was nothing to
stop us, and Austrian arrogance might have been humbled in the capital
itself. Well! if they do not soon conclude peace, I hope the patience
of our most gracious sovereign will be exhausted!"

"Is there a despatch from St. Petersburg?" he inquired of Keudell,
suddenly breaking off his reflections.

"I have just opened a despatch from Count Redern, your excellency,"
said Herr von Keudell.

"Give it to me," cried Count Bismarck; and with a hasty movement he
snatched the paper Herr von Keudell handed him across the table.

He read it attentively, and the deep silence within the room, where the
breathing of the two men could be plainly heard, made a curious
contrast to the confused noise from without.

The count threw the writing on the table.

"It is so," he cried, "a cloud is arising which may cause us painful
embarrassment. Will they do anything there?" he said, half speaking to
himself; "will their displeasure lead to action? I think not; but still
it is very disagreeable. If Austria finds any point of support, she
will apply every lever. St. Petersburg will do nothing for the sake of
Austria; but the necessary alterations in Germany, and this French
mediation with its plans in the background--the situation is difficult
enough, and it will probably give us as much trouble to tear asunder
this spider's web of diplomatic threads as it did to carry the Austrian
lines. At all events this Russian cloud must be dispersed for the
present and the future! For the future will bring us plenty to do," he
said thoughtfully.

He stood up and paced the room with long strides, thinking deeply and
sometimes moving his lips. The working of his features showed the
mighty struggle of the labouring thoughts that oppressed him.

At last the force of his will appeared to have brought these
contradictory ideas to order and peace. He gave a sigh of satisfaction,
and walking to the window inhaled long draughts of the fresh air,
widely expanding his broad, powerful chest.

A secretary of foreign affairs entered.

The count turned towards him.

"The Bavarian minister von der Pfordten has arrived, and requests an
interview with your excellency. Here is his letter."

Count Bismarck hastily seized the small sealed note, opened it and read
the short contents.

"They all come," he said, with a proud look, "all these mighty hunters,
who had already divided the bear's skin, and now feel his claws. But
they shall not escape from them so easily. Besides, I do not yet see my
way clearly. Tell Herr von der Pfordten," he called out to the
secretary who was waiting, "that you have given me his letter, and that
I will send him my answer."

The secretary withdrew.

A few minutes afterwards he returned and said:

"The French ambassador!"

"Ah!" exclaimed Count Bismarck.

"Have the goodness, dear Keudell," said Bismarck, after a moment's
thought, "to go to Herr von der Pfordten, and to tell him that I cannot
receive the Bavarian minister, as we are still at war with his country,
but that personally I shall be glad to see him, and to have an
ex-official conversation with him, and that I will soon appoint an hour
for that purpose."

Herr von Keudell bowed and went out.

A moment afterwards, at a sign from Bismarck, the secretary opened the
door for the French ambassador.

Count Bismarck's expression had completely changed. Calm repose and
courtesy were in his face. He stepped forwards to receive the
representative of the Emperor Napoleon, and shook hands with him.

Monsieur Benedetti presented a remarkable contrast to the powerful form
and firm soldier-like bearing of the Prussian minister. He was somewhat
past fifty, his thin hair had receded from his forehead, and only
sparingly covered the upper part of his head. His smooth beardless face
was one of those physiognomies whose age it is difficult to discover,
as when young they look older, when old, younger, than they really are.
It would have been difficult to say what characteristic, what
individuality, such features could express, nothing was seen beyond a
calm expression of receptive and intelligent sensibility to every
impression; what lay behind this gentle courteous exterior it was
impossible to discover. His eyes were bright and candid, apparently
careless and indifferent, it was only by the rapid and keen glance with
which he occasionally took in every circumstance around him, that he
betrayed the lively interest that really actuated him. His face told
nothing, expressed nothing, and yet one perceived involuntarily that
behind this nothing lay something, carefully concealed.

He was of middle height, and the bearing of his slender figure was
elegant, in his movements he was as animated as an Italian, as pliant
and elastic as an Oriental, his light summer clothes were extremely
simple, but notwithstanding the journey from which he had just
returned, they were of spotless freshness.

"I have been expecting you with impatience," said Count Bismarck,
fixing his penetrating steel-grey eyes upon the ambassador's calm face.
"What did you find in Vienna? do you bring peace?"

"At least I bring the beginning. I bring the acceptance of the
preliminaries as proposed by the emperor."

"Ah! they decided thus in Vienna?" cried Count Bismarck.

"I have had a difficult job," said Benedetti, "for it was far from easy
to gain Austria's consent."

Count Bismarck shrugged his shoulders.

"What can they hope for?" he cried; "do they prefer to await us in
Vienna?"

"They hope much from the southern army, from a great military rising in
Hungary," said the ambassador.

"Perhaps too for a new John Sobieski?" asked Bismarck, with a slight
smile.

"And I must really own," continued Benedetti calmly, "that I was not in
a position to deny the justice of these, hopes."

Count Bismarck looked at him amazed and enquiringly.

"Two-thirds of the southern army," said Benedetti, "stand in the
immediate vicinity of Vienna, the Prater is turned into a bivouac, and
the fortified camp at Floridsdorf could make a strong resistance; the
troops of the southern army are full of confidence from recent victory,
and are inspired with the best dispositions, the Arch-Duke Albert is a
general of great determination, and the chief of his general staff,
Lieutenant Field-Marshal von John, an officer of fine and quick
intelligence."

Count Bismarck listened in silence. A scarcely perceptible smile played
round his lips.

"And Hungary?" he asked negligently.

"Negotiations have been carried on with Count Andrassy and the Deak
party, and if they will but grant a self-constituted government, and
agree to the arming of the Honveds, a mighty rising may be expected in
Hungary."

"_If_ they grant it," said Count Bismarck. "Hungary has been often
deceived, besides our troops have been before Presburg ever since the
battle of Blumenau, and have only _not_ taken it on account of the
armistice. The key of Hungary is in our hands."

"They are persuaded in Vienna," proceeded Benedetti, "that the Prussian
army has suffered greatly in the various engagements, and also from
sickness."

"We suffer most from standing still," cried Bismarck vehemently.

"For all these reasons," said the ambassador quietly, "it was not easy
to gain Austria's consent to the peace programme drawn up by my
sovereign. It was very hard to the emperor Francis Joseph to agree to
the exclusion of Austria from Germany. At last he yielded to the urgent
representations I made in the name of the emperor, and that he might no
longer expose Austria to the chances and burdens of war, and no longer
endanger the peace of Europe, the emperor of Austria at last accepted
the programme."

Count Bismarck bit his moustache.

"This programme is now definite, with the consent of Austria?" he
asked. He invited the ambassador to be seated by a movement of the
hand, and took a chair opposite to him.

"Nothing has been altered," replied Monsieur Benedetti, "the integrity
of Austria, but its exclusion from Germany as newly constituted; the
formation of a North German Union under the military leadership of
Prussia; the right of the southern states to form an independent
confederated union, but the maintenance of a national connexion between
North and South Germany, which connexion is to be determined by a free
and general consent of the various states."

As the ambassador slowly and distinctly repeated this programme Count
Bismarck accompanied each phrase with a quick nod of approval, whilst
he slightly clasped the fingers of both his hands.

"Those are the rules laid down for the position of Austria, and for our
own position in Germany," he said, "as we before agreed. As the
foundation of the negotiations, since Austria accepts them, they
suffice, but as the basis of a definite peace a further understanding
is needful. Peace with Austria does not affect and must not affect our
proceedings with regard to the other German states with whom we are at
war."

"Austria leaves each of these states to conclude its own peace," said
Benedetti.

"To conclude peace!" cried Count Bismarck. "These governments would be
willing enough to conclude peace now, and on the first opportunity to
begin the game afresh!"

After a short pause he continued in a calm voice:

"Some days ago the king imparted to the emperor your sovereign by
telegraph, that a certain addition to the power of Prussia through
acquisitions of territory had become needful. You have lived among
us," he continued, "and you well know the stake Prussia had placed on
this war, the sacrifices that have been made to carry it on, the
wounds which war has inflicted on the country. The Prussian people
expect--demand, a reward for their sacrifices, since victory has
decided in our favour: they demand, and rightly, that the blood of
Prussian soldiers, the sons of the people, shall not have been shed in
vain, and that the state of things shall be definitely done away with,
which always has caused and always would engender strife. Those
vexatious boundaries which make Prussia's geographical position, and
her unity, so difficult, which neither natural nor political
considerations permit, must be removed--removed for ever. Prussia,
rightly to fulfil and powerfully to carry out the position assigned to
her in Germany by the peace basis, must before all things be thoroughly
strong and more homogeneous. The incorporation of Hanover, Hesse, and
Saxony is needful, firmly and indissolubly to connect the two halves of
the monarchy, and to secure it against Austria in a military point of
view."

Not a feature of the ambassador's smooth face changed.

"I find it only natural that the Prussian people should wish to pluck
the richest fruits of a war in which _their whole force_," he said,
with a slight emphasis, "was sent to the battle-field. But the wishes
of the people are often different from the views of princes and
governments. You are as much convinced as myself," he continued, in a
lower voice, "that every period has its peculiar political maxims and
views. To-day, for example, they are different from what they were in
the time of Frederick the Great; it was then held right to keep what
you had taken. At that time interests and demands were not so moderate
as at present."

A slight frown appeared between Count Bismarck's eyebrows.

"Well," he said, with a smile, and in a calm voice, "I think Frederick
the Great found it not so easy to keep what he had taken; that
political maxim was practised on a large scale in the beginning of the
present century by Napoleon I."

"That was the great fault of the founder of our imperial dynasty," said
Benedetti, "at last it armed the whole of Europe against him; I am able
to say this candidly, when I reflect on the wise moderation the
emperor, my sovereign, has ever shown, when at the head of victorious
armies, and the care with which he has avoided this mistake of his
great uncle."

Count Bismarck looked for a moment thoughtfully before him.

"You know," he then said, with perfect frankness, "how important I deem
our good understanding with France; the emperor knows it too, and
particularly at this moment I would on no account even _appear_ to have
neglected the wishes or interests of France, or to have refused her
advice. The good understanding of Prussia,--of Germany with France, the
adjustment of the political requirements and necessities on both sides,
the peaceful and friendly intercourse between the two countries, is in
my opinion the first condition, for the peace and balance of power in
Europe. Let us then discuss the situation calmly and with perfect
candour. I can only repeat to you," he said, raising his piercing eyes
and fixing them upon the ambassador, "that the increase of Prussia's
power by the acquisition of the hostile states appears to me an
absolute necessity. Do you think," he proceeded, "that the emperor will
deem it needful for the interests of France to oppose these
acquisitions?"

Benedetti hesitated for a moment before answering this direct question.

"The emperor has already," he then said, "recognized the necessity of
arrangements for uniting the two separate halves of the Prussian
monarchy, and this necessity I feel convinced he would now be less
inclined than ever to deny. Whether the complete annexation of German
states, whose rights were guaranteed by the rest of Europe, is
absolutely needful, must be a matter of opinion, but I do not think the
emperor will have any other view than for you to carry out your own
ideas, and if he does not share, he will not contradict them."

Count Bismarck bowed his head approvingly.

"As to Saxony," added Benedetti.

The Prussian minister looked at him anxiously and expectantly.

"With regard to Saxony," said the ambassador, "I found a strong
determination in Austria to maintain its territorial integrity; it is
held to be a duty to a confederate who has fought with Austria on the
same battlefields."

Bismarck bit his lip.

"I believe," added Benedetti, "that the Emperor Francis Joseph is
resolved to carry on the war to the last gasp rather than yield to this
condition."

Count Bismarck was silent for a moment.

"And how does France, how does the emperor Napoleon regard this
resolution on the part of--Austria?" he asked, with a firm look and a
slight smile.

"I believe I may affirm that the emperor entirely shares the wishes of
Austria with regard to Saxony," said Benedetti.

"Seriously?" asked Count Bismarck.

"Most seriously," replied the ambassador calmly.

"Very good!" exclaimed Bismarck; "the incorporation of Saxony is not so
absolute a necessity to us, as those states are which divide our
territory. I will inform the king of the wishes of the Emperor
Napoleon, and Austria, with regard to Saxony, and I will support them.
Saxony will of course be added to the independent states in the North
German Union."

"That is an interior affair belonging to the new organization of
Germany," said Benedetti, "in which the emperor has not the slightest
wish to intermeddle."

"So then the programme as you have just repeated it may be looked upon
as a definite peace basis, with this addition, that Austria agrees to
accept all the alterations in North Germany which the territorial
acquisitions may necessitate, namely, the incorporation of Hanover,
Hesse-Cassel, Nassau, and Frankfort."

The calm face of the ambassador showed some surprise.

"I do not remember that we ever spoke of Nassau and Frankfort."

"They are needful for the complete adjustment of our frontier, that is
to say, if we give up Saxony," said Bismarck.

Benedetti was silent.

"Negotiations for peace may then be begun upon this basis?" asked the
Prussian minister, with an enquiring glance at the ambassador.

"I see no further difficulty," said the latter, "and," he added,
without any particular emphasis, "the adjustment of the interests of
new Germany and of France will be easily arranged through the spirit of
moderation and _prévenance_ shown by our emperor, and with which you
too and your sovereign have proved you are inspired."

Count Bismarck gazed deeply and searchingly into the expressionless
eyes of the French diplomatist; he appeared carefully to weigh every
word.

"And how do you think that these interests will be affected by the new
arrangements? how do you think they can be adjusted?"

Benedetti leant back a little in his chair, and then said,--

"I think you will acknowledge the readiness with which the Emperor
Napoleon has accepted the incorporation of the German states by
Prussia, although--I must repeat this--it was not in accordance with
his ideas, and perhaps might occasion serious misconceptions in other
European cabinets."

"What power would find anything against it," cried Bismarck, "if France
agreed?"

"England, perhaps, with regard to Hanover," said Benedetti.

Bismarck shrugged his shoulders.

"Perhaps Russia," continued the ambassador. "The Emperor Alexander,
with his views on legitimacy and monarchical rights, would hardly
approve of the disinheriting of dynasties."

Count Bismarck was silent.

"I mention this only incidentally," said Benedetti; "nevertheless I
think it is greatly to your interest to act completely in accordance
with France, and I believe that you will not be unwilling to
acknowledge the Emperor Napoleon's friendship, nor to own that on our
side certain territorial modifications are needful on our frontier, to
maintain the balance of power and thus cement a lasting friendship."

The slight cloud which at the ambassador's first words had appeared on
Count Bismarck's brow, not unobserved by the speaker, quickly vanished;
his countenance assumed calm indifference, and with obliging courtesy
he asked,--

"And can you impart to me the emperor's views as to these territorial
modifications?"

"_My_ views," replied Benedetti, with a slight emphasis, "are, that in
consequence of the important alterations in Germany it will be needful
for France, entirely from military considerations, to demand certain
compensations. You will not deny that the boundaries given to France in
1815 are neither in accordance with her natural nor her military
requirements, nor that the restoration of the frontier given in 1814 by
victorious Europe to defeated France, is a moderate and just demand
from a powerful France who has just consented in so ready and friendly
a spirit to immense accessions of strength for victorious Prussia."

Count Bismarck remained silent, and the courteous, smiling expression
of his face did not change for a moment.

"You will," pursued Benedetti, "find it only reasonable that the
emperor should wish to include in the extended or rather restored
frontier of France, Luxembourg, which from its natural position and
language belongs to as, and which in a military point of view is so
needful, to secure us from the increased power of Germany threatening
us from the Rhine fortresses. You must forgive me," he said, smiling;
"we must remember that a time may come when the respective governments
of Paris and Berlin are not so peaceful and friendly as at present.
These arrangements will not be difficult; the King of Holland, who
cannot set great store upon this loosely-bound province, will be
doubtless willing to part with it for an indemnification."

Still Count Bismarck was silent, smiling, and cheerful.

"Finally," said Benedetti--Count Bismarck raised his head and listened
attentively--"finally, as a key to her defensive position, France must
demand--I speak of possible disputes, doubtless far distant--France
must demand possession of Mayence."

The count's eyes flashed. He rose quickly and drew himself up to his
full height, his gigantic form panting with indignation. Benedetti
slowly followed his example.

"I would rather vanish for ever from the political arena," cried the
Prussian minister, "than yield Mayence."

He paced the room with hasty strides.

Benedetti stood motionless. His calm eyes followed the count's vehement
movements.

"If my views," he said, as if simply continuing the conversation, "do
not accord with yours, we----"

Bismarck had turned his face to the window for a moment, and had
pressed his lips together as if with a violent struggle.

"We shall certainly understand one another perfectly if we discuss
the subject more fully," he said, in his calmest and most courteous
tone, as he turned again towards Benedetti with completely regained
self-command. His face expressed only politeness and friendship.

"But we should not anticipate these discussions just now," he
continued. "Have you instructions to express these wishes in the
emperor's name, and to demand an answer, or do they in any way bear
upon our negotiations for peace with Austria?"

"I had the honour," said Monsieur Benedetti, "of remarking at the
beginning of this conversation that I was expressing _my own_ ideas; I
have no instructions to demand anything, nor to request a distinct
answer; still less does this conversation in any way affect the
negotiations for peace."

"Let us agree then," replied Bismarck, "to defer this conversation
until we have finished what lies immediately before us, and until after
the peace with Austria is signed. You fully comprehend that deep and
calm reflection is needed completely to satisfy the interests of both
sides; and then," he added, smiling, "it is not easy to discuss the
equivalent compensation of objects not yet in our hands. I do not doubt
that we shall perfectly understand each other when we discuss the
matter in earnest, and when you have received definite instructions.
You know how much I desire, not only the present friendship of France,
but that the feeling should be enduring, and so firmly consolidated
that the relations between France and Prussia may form the basis of a
European peace. Everything then to be done at present is arranged?" he
asked, after a short pause.

"Completely," replied Monsieur Benedetti.

"The Austrian plenipotentiaries--?"

"Will arrive to-morrow or the day after. I will rest a little after my
fatiguing journey." And he seized his hat.

Count Bismarck held out his hand to him, and accompanied him to the
door of the room.

Scarcely had the door closed behind the ambassador, before the
expression of Bismarck's face changed completely. The courteous amiable
smile vanished from his lips. Burning anger flashed from his eyes.

"They think they hold a good hand," he cried, "these skilful players;
but they deceive themselves; they are mistaken in me--Germany shall not
pay for her unity, like Italy, with her own flesh and blood; at least,
not so long as I influence the fate of the nation. Let them advance to
the Rhine, if it must be so, I will not retreat; the only concession I
will make is, to go forwards slowly. I should not be sorry if they
determined to fight," he cried with sparkling eyes; "I am ready to say
once more, 'I dare it;' and this time the king would not hesitate and
wait. Yet," he continued more calmly, "much has been gained already,
and what has been gained should not be rashly risked; they think the
game is in their hands,--well! I will shuffle the cards a little on my
side."

He rang a small bell. An orderly entered.

"Find Herr von Keudell, and beg him to bring me Herr von der Pfordten."

The orderly withdrew.

Count Bismarck seated himself before the table covered with maps, and
studied them attentively; sometimes he passed the fore-finger of his
right hand over certain parts, sometimes his lips moved in a low
whisper, and sometimes his eyes were thoughtfully raised to the
ceiling.

After about a quarter of an hour, Herr von Keudell brought the Bavarian
minister to the cabinet.

The full tall form of this statesman was bent, and showed signs of
bodily weakness. His large gentle face, surrounded with dark hair, was
pale and exhausted, his eyes gazed mournfully through the glasses of
his spectacles.

Count Bismarck was standing perfectly upright, his features expressed
icy coldness; with the stiffest military bearing, but with formal
politeness, he advanced towards the Bavarian minister and returned his
greeting. He then with an equally cold and courteous movement invited
him to be seated on the chair Benedetti had just left, and placing
himself opposite to him he waited for him to speak.

"I come," said Herr von der Pfordten, in a voice of some emotion, and
in the southern dialect, "to prevent further bloodshed and misery from
this war. The campaign is really decided, and decided in your favour,
and Bavaria cannot hesitate to conclude a war, which," he said in a low
voice, "it would, perhaps, have been better never to have commenced."

Count Bismarck looked at him severely for a moment with his hard clear
eyes.

"Do you know," he said, "that I have a perfect right to treat you as a
prisoner of war?"

Herr von der Pfordten started. For a moment he was speechless, gazing
at the Prussian minister in amazement.

"Bavaria is at war with Prussia, negotiations are impossible," said
Count Bismarck; "a Bavarian minister can only be a prisoner at the
Prussian head-quarters,--intercourse can only be carried on by the
bearer of a flag of truce."

Herr von der Pfordten sorrowfully bowed his head. "I am in your power,"
he said calmly, "and this proves how greatly I desire peace. What would
you gain by arresting me?"

Count Bismarck was silent.

"I am amazed at your boldness in coming here," he said after a pause;
"you prove indeed that you desire peace."

Herr von der Pfordten shook his head slightly.

"I fear," he said, "that my step has been in vain."

"A step in the right path is never in vain, even though it should be
too late," said Count Bismarck, with a slight tone of friendship in his
voice; "what a position might Bavaria have held, had you taken this
step four weeks ago--if you had come to me four weeks ago in Berlin!"

"I held firmly to the German Confederation which had been sanctioned by
all Europe," replied the Bavarian minister, "and I believed I was doing
my duty towards Germany and Bavaria; I was wrong; the past has gone for
ever; I come to speak to you of the future."

"The future lies in _our_ hands," cried Count Bismarck. "Austria makes
her own peace, and troubles herself neither about the Confederation,
nor her allies."

"I know it," said Herr von der Pfordten faintly.

"Germany now sees," continued Bismarck, "where Austria has dragged her.
I am especially sorry for Bavaria, for I always thought that Bavaria
would have taken an important part in the national development of
Germany, and, united with Prussia, would have stood at the head of the
nation."

"If Bavaria took a false step under my guidance," said Herr von der
Pfordten,--"and the result has shown it _was_ a false step--let us now
amend the fault, even though late. My decision is made. I have but
_one_ duty to fulfil, to make every effort to avert from my country and
my young king the evil results of my fault. To fulfil this duty I am
here, and because I expect and desire nothing for myself in the future,
I believe I can the more freely and impartially discuss it with you,
count."

Count Bismarck was silent for a moment, and his fingers tapped the
table slightly.

"I am not in a position," he then said, "to speak as Prussian minister
to the minister of Bavaria; the situation forbids it, the king's
permission is wanting. But this hour shall not be unfruitful," he
continued in a milder tone; "I will prove to you how much I personally
regret that we could not understand each other, that we could not work
together; your advice, your experience would have been so useful to
Germany. Let us speak as Baron von der Pfordten and Count Bismarck, a
Bavarian and a Prussian patriot, on the present position of affairs;
perhaps," he continued laughingly, "both the Prussian and the Bavarian
minister may learn something from us."

Herr von der Pfordten's face brightened up. He looked at the count
through his spectacles with a happy expression.

"What do you think," said Bismarck, "will become of Bavaria? What can
Prussia do with Bavaria?"

"I suppose," said Herr von der Pfordten, "that Prussia will have
undivided authority in North Germany."

"Who can dispute it?" asked Count Bismarck.

"I may then remark that an annexation of South German territory, so
entirely heterogeneous, would hardly be to Prussia's interest, and that
it would be a greater advantage to come to an understanding on the
future of Germany, with an independent and unweakened Bavaria."

"And on the first opportunity to find ourselves in fresh difficulties?"
asked Count Bismarck.

"After the experience of this day--" began the Bavarian minister.

"My dear baron," interrupted Bismarck, "I will speak quite openly to
you. The future belongs neither to you nor to me. Words and promises,
however much in earnest, cannot be the foundation upon which the future
peace and strength of Prussia and of Germany must rest. We must have
guarantees. Prussia cannot again be exposed to the danger she has just
overcome, nor again be called upon to make the sacrifice she has just
made. Bavaria has been, very much to her own disadvantage, as I always
knew, our foe. We must have full security that this cannot happen in
the future. To attain this there are two ways."

Herr von der Pfordten listened anxiously.

"Either," proceeded Count Bismarck, "to take so much of your territory
as will prevent Bavaria from being able to hurt us in the future----"

"Have you thought of the difficulties of assimilating Bavarian
territory and the Bavarian people?" asked Herr von der Pfordten.

"They would be great," said Bismarck calmly, "I own it; but we should
overcome them, and for the safety of Prussia I despise difficulties."

The Bavarian minister sighed.

"The complications that such a course would cause!" he said in a low
voice, and with a penetrating glance at Bismarck's face.

Count Bismarck looked at him firmly.

"From whence are they to come?" he asked. "From Austria? In the quarter
where complications might arise," he continued, looking proudly at the
Bavarian minister, "they would not refuse a share in the spoil."

Von der Pfordten bowed his head.

"Let us not speak of it," said Bismarck. "We are Germans; let us manage
the affairs of Germany without our neighbours."

"And the other way?" asked Herr von der Pfordten, with hesitation.

"The inner life of Bavaria is foreign to us," said Count Bismarck
thoughtfully, "and we would rather not interfere with it. What Germany
needs for strength and power--what Prussia needs for safety, is that
the supreme direction of the national forces should be placed in the
hands of the most powerful military state of the German nation--her
natural leader in war. If Bavaria will acknowledge this national
necessity--if, in short, she will agree, by a binding treaty, in the
event of a national war, to give up the command of her army to the king
of Prussia, the needful guarantee for Germany's defence and power, for
Prussia's safety, will be obtained."

The face of the Bavarian minister cleared up more and more.

"The command of the army in a national war?" he asked.

"Of course, with certain conditions, which would make a common command,
an incorporation of the Bavarian army with the Prussian forces,
possible," said Count Bismarck.

"Without prejudice to the king's command of the army?" asked Herr von
der Pfordten.

"I should consider any further curtailment of his powers unnecessary,"
replied the Count.

Herr von der Pfordten drew a deep breath.

"These, then, would be your conditions of peace?" he asked.

"Not the conditions of peace, but the preliminaries of peace," replied
Bismarck.

"How am I to understand this?" asked von der Pfordten.

"Very easily," said the Count. "If a treaty such as I have sketched,
and which I will immediately have drawn out in detail by the military
department, is concluded--a treaty which, for the present, had better
be kept secret--yes," he added thoughtfully, "it had much better be
kept secret; it will save you so much trouble from the anti-Prussian
party--if such a treaty, I say, is agreed to, peace can easily be
concluded. This treaty would be a guarantee to Prussia that Bavaria
would really and uprightly labour with her at the work of national
union, and that all the former faults in her policy were laid aside.
With this guarantee we could easily negotiate peace. It would then be
to our interest to maintain Bavaria's power and complete independence
in Germany. We shall then only have the expenses of the war to
consider, which we shall expect to have paid in full, and perhaps some
very unimportant cession of territory, for the sake of the symmetry of
our frontier."

"Count," said Herr von der Pfordten, with emotion, "I thank you. You
have shown me a way by which, with honour to herself and benefit to
Germany, Bavaria may extricate herself from her present melancholy
position. I thank you in the name of my king."

"I feel the deepest sympathy for your young king," said Count Bismarck,
"and I hope that Bavaria, as Prussia's ally, may yet take the place,
which hitherto _she would not_ take. But, my dear baron," he added,
rising, "we must not forget that this is only a conversation between
two private individuals. Hasten back to your king, and bring his
consent to this treaty as soon as possible. When it is signed,
hostilities will cease, and I promise the negotiations for peace shall
not be difficult nor prolonged; and," he added courteously, "be assured
I do not wish you to retire from public life."

"I know," said Herr von der Pfordten, "what I must do. A new hand must
guide Bavaria in new paths; but my good wishes will be as hearty for
new Germany as they ever have been for the old."

"One thing more," said Bismarck. "Since we have come to so good an
understanding, you might do your allies in Stuttgardt and Darmstadt a
service--perhaps to me also; for I wish to treat with Würtemberg and
Hesse in a conciliatory spirit. If these courts are willing to conclude
a treaty similar to that of which we have been speaking, I think a
reconciliation would be possible. If Herr von Varnbüler and Herr von
Dalwigk should come here empowered to conclude such a treaty, the
secrecy of which I willingly promise, they would be welcome, and would
find moderate and easy terms of peace."

"I do not doubt that they will shortly appear," said Herr von der
Pfordten.

"Now, my dear baron, hasten away," cried Count Bismarck, "and return
quickly, and so act that Count Bismarck may soon welcome the Bavarian
minister fully empowered to conclude peace."

He held out his hand to Herr von der Pfordten, who pressed it heartily
and with much feeling, and he accompanied him to the door.

In the ante-room they found von Keudell, and Bismarck begged him to
facilitate the Bavarian minister's journey as much as possible.

When Count Bismarck returned to his room, he rubbed his hands with
satisfaction, whilst he paced the room with long strides.

"So, messieurs in Paris!" he cried with a laugh, "you wish to split up
and divide Germany, and help yourselves to compensation. The skilful
engineers are blown up with their own mine. And their compensation? Let
them flatter themselves with that hope a little longer. Now to the
king!"

He buttoned up his uniform, took his military cap, and left the room to
go to King William's quarters.

In the ante-room he saw an elderly gentleman, with grey hair and a grey
beard, in the uniform of a Hanoverian equerry. A Prussian officer had
brought him, and now approached the president minister, saying:--

"Lieutenant-Colonel von Heimbruch, the king of Hanover's equerry,
wishes to speak to your excellency. I have brought him here, and was
about to announce him."

Bismarck turned towards von Heimbruch, touched his cap slightly with
his hand, and looked at him inquiringly.

The colonel approached him, and said:

"His majesty the king, my most gracious master, arrived in Vienna a
short time ago, and, as negotiations for peace have begun, he sends me
to his majesty the King of Prussia with a letter. At the same time,
Count Platen sends this note to your excellency."

He handed the Prussian minister a sealed letter.

He opened it, and read through the contents quickly.

He turned gravely to Colonel von Heimbruch.

"Will you have the goodness to wait for me here. I am going to his
majesty, and I shall shortly return."

With a military salute he walked on.

In the king's ante-room there were several generals and other officers.
They all rose as Count Bismarck entered and saluted the generals.

The equerry on duty, Baron von Loë, advanced towards the minister
president.

"Is his majesty alone?" asked Count Bismarck.

"General von Moltke is with the king," replied Baron von Loë, "but his
majesty commanded me to announce your excellency at once."

He entered the king's cabinet, after knocking at the door, and returned
almost immediately to open it to the president.

King William stood before a large table, spread over with maps, on
which long arrows of various colours marked the position of the armies.
He wore a campaigning overcoat, the Iron Cross in his button-hole, and
the Order of Merit around his neck.

The king's eyes were attentively following the lines which General von
Moltke drew in the air above the map with the pencil in his hand,
sometimes pointing out a line here, sometimes there, for the
elucidation of his dispositions. The tall, slender form of the general
was bent slightly forwards as he gazed at the maps, his calm face, with
its grave and noble features, recalling Sharnhorst's portraits, was
somewhat animated, whilst he unfolded his ideas to the king, who
listened in silence, from time to time signifying his approval by
slightly bowing his head.

"I am glad you have come," cried the king, as his minister entered.
"You can explain everything. Moltke has just told me that General
Manteuffel has sent in word that Prince Karl of Bavaria proposes a
week's suspension of hostilities, and that Würzburg, now threatened by
Manteuffel, should be spared, since a treaty for the cessation of
hostilities and negotiations for peace with Bavaria are about to
commence immediately. General Manteuffel, who knows nothing of all
this, does not refuse to treat, but demands that Würzburg should be
given up to him in return for the suspension of arms, and he has sent
to us to know what he is to do. What are these negotiations with
Bavaria?"

Count Bismarck smiled.

"Herr von der Pfordten has just left me, your majesty," he replied.

"Ah!" cried the king; "do they beg for peace? What did you say?"

"Your majesty," replied Bismarck, "this is all part of the present
situation upon which I am most desirous of consulting your majesty, and
of receiving your supreme decision."

General von Moltke stuck his pencil into a large notebook which he held
in his hand, and said:

"Your majesty has no further commands for me at this moment?"

"May I beg your majesty," said Count Bismarck quickly, "to ask the
general to stay,--his opinion is important upon the question before
us."

The king bowed approval. The general turned his grave eyes inquiringly
upon the president.

"Your majesty," said Count Bismarck, "Benedetti has returned, and
brings Austria's consent to the Emperor Napoleon's programme of peace."

"The negotiations can then begin?" asked the king.

"Without delay, your majesty," said Count Bismarck. "Benedetti," he
proceeded, "wished to take great credit to himself for having persuaded
Austria to accept the programme; he spoke of the great resistance they
had made in Vienna, and described Austria's condition as by no means
hopeless."

Moltke smiled.

"They can do nothing in Vienna," said the king calmly. "They intended
to entice us to Olmütz, and there to hold us fast, to cover Vienna, and
to prevail on Hungary to rise. All that is over. By Moltke's advice, we
left them alone at Olmütz, and marched straight on. We are before
Vienna, and it cannot hold out--the fortifications they have made at
Floridsdorf cannot delay us; besides this, we hold the key of Hungary
in our hands, and the Hungarians do not seem desirous of assisting
Austria in her difficulties."

"I know all this, your majesty," said Count Bismarck; "I know too what
these representations of Benedetti mean,--his tactics are to show us
difficulties that we may feel the more indebted to France for her
mediation, and more willing to pay a high price for it."

"And have they named their price?" asked the king, with increased
attention.

"I told the ambassador plainly," replied Count Bismarck, "what your
majesty had already telegraphed to the Emperor Napoleon from Brünn, on
the 18th instant, that a large territorial acquisition would be needful
to Prussia, and I pointed out those possessions of the enemy lying
between the two halves of our kingdom and Saxony."

"And did he raise any objection?" asked the king.

"He used a few phrases about treaties and the balance of power in
Europe, which, in the mouth of a diplomatist of the Napoleon dynasty,
sounded rather absurd; but he made no real objection, except as regards
Saxony."

"Well?" asked the king.

"As regards Saxony," continued Count Bismarck, "the Emperor Napoleon
has, so Benedetti expressed it, identified himself unconditionally with
the Austrian demand, that the territorial integrity of Saxony should be
maintained."

The king looked on the ground thoughtfully.

"The truth is," added Bismarck, "in Paris they push Austria forward,
but nevertheless they seriously mean to support Saxony. Your majesty
must therefore decide; will you make a concession on this point or
not?"

"What is your opinion?" asked the king.

"To abandon the incorporation of Saxony, your majesty, rather than
complicate the present position. Saxony is not absolutely necessary to
us, I believe, in a military point of view?" And he looked inquiringly
at General von Moltke.

"If Saxony joins the military league of the North German Confederation,
and does its duty in earnest----no!" said the general.

"King John's word is inviolable," said the king, with a warm light in
his eyes, "so let the independence of Saxony be agreed to. I am very
glad in this instance to be able to lighten the heavy consequences of
war for a very estimable prince."

Count Bismarck bowed.

"Franco," he continued, "as well as Austria, accepts all the
alterations of territory in North Germany; but now begin the
extraordinary negotiations for compensation."

The king's countenance clouded.

"Were their demands stated?" he asked.

"No; but Benedetti pointed out very plainly what they would be; and I
had guessed them beforehand," said Count Bismarck.

"What were they?" asked the king.

Calmly and smiling Count Bismarck replied--

"The frontier of 1814--Luxembourg and Mayence."

The king started as if from an electric shock. A dark red flush passed
over General Moltke's pale, handsome face, and a sarcastic smile came
to his lips.

"And what did you reply?" asked the king, closing his teeth firmly.

"I put off the negotiations on this point, until after the conclusion
of peace with Austria; it was the more easy, as Benedetti only
mentioned them as his own views. I was not, therefore, obliged to give
a distinct answer."

"But you know," said the king, with a severe look and voice, "that I
would never cede a foot of German soil."

"As surely," replied Count Bismarck, "as your majesty I hope is
convinced, that my hand would never sign such a treaty! But," he added,
"I thought it useless to make a breach and to have difficulties and
embarrassments too soon. If France commenced a war now--"

"We should march to Paris," said General Moltke carelessly; "Napoleon
has no army!"

"Count Goltz does not believe that," said the president-minister, "if I
could only be sure; but at all events it is better to conclude a peace
with Austria, and not to provoke discussions of compensations not yet
officially demanded by France. When we have done here, those gentlemen
in Paris shall get the answer I have prepared for them, and a little
surprise into the bargain. I now come to Herr von der Pfordten, your
majesty."

The king looked at him enquiringly.

"Your majesty recollects," said Count Bismarck, "the position which the
peace programme gives to the South German states?"

"Certainly," said the king, "and this position has caused me great
doubts for the future."

"The intention is plain," said Bismarck; "in Paris they wish to split
Germany in two, and to hold one half in check with the other; in Vienna
they wish to begin afresh the game they have now lost, at some future
time. I hope they will find themselves mistaken. I offered von der
Pfordten very easy terms of peace, provided Bavaria entered into a
secret treaty accepting your majesty as commander-in-chief of her army
in case of war."

The king's eyes sparkled.

"Then would Germany indeed be one!" he cried. "Did he accept these
terms?"

"With thankfulness and joy," replied Count Bismarck, "and Würtemberg
and Hesse will follow the example, he assures me. I must now request
General Moltke to have the goodness to draw up the proposed military
arrangement, so that when the Bavarian minister returns with the king's
consent, everything may be settled as quickly as possible, and also for
Würtemberg and Hesse. Until then General Manteuffel must avoid any
definite explanation about the armistice, and produce a wholesome
pressure. I hope," he said laughing; "the Emperor Napoleon will
observe after peace has been concluded, that all the trumps in his
well-shuffled game are in our hand, and then the compensation question
shall also be settled."

"You see, Moltke," said the king smiling, and with a gracious look at
the president, "these diplomatists are all alike, even when they wear
uniform! But," he added gravely, "Benedetti must not speak to me about
compensation; I should not be able to delay my answer!"

Count Bismarck bowed.

"I must, however, direct your majesty's attention," he said, "to
another subject. The disposition of the Russian court is unfavourable,
and I fear our new acquisitions will cause increased displeasure."

"I feared this," said the king.

"It is important," proceeded Count Bismarck, "that the sky should be
clear in that quarter. We must paralyze the influence exerted against
us, and call Russia's attention to the interest she has in preserving
the friendship of Prussia and Germany, both now and in the future. It
will be needful to send a skilful person to St. Petersburg. I will lay
before your majesty a sketch of my views in this direction, and if you
graciously approve, it will serve as the ambassador's instructions."

"Do so," said the king, with animation, "not only politically but
personally I am most anxious to preserve the undisturbed friendship of
Russia. I will send Manteuffel," he said after a little consideration,
"he is quite the man for it, as soon as the war in Bavaria is ended."

Count Bismarck bowed in silence. He then said:

"Your majesty, a Hanoverian equerry has just arrived here with a letter
from the king. He has brought me a note from Count Platen."

A sorrowful expression came into the king's face.

"What does he write?" he asked.

"The king acknowledges your majesty as the victor in Germany, and is
ready to accept such terms of peace as your majesty will grant."

For a long time the king was silent.

"Oh!" he cried, "if I could but help him. Poor George! Could not a
curtailed Hanover without military independence be permitted?"

Count Bismarck's eyes looked with icy calmness and complete firmness on
the king's excited face.

"Your majesty has decided that the incorporation of Hanover is
necessary for the safety and power of Prussia. What good would a sham
monarchy, a simple principality do to the Guelphs? But to us, such a
hiatus inhabited by a hostile population would be dangerous. Your
majesty must remember what mischief the Hanoverians would have done us,
had they retained Gablenz, or had the general staff ordered less
incomprehensible marches. Such a danger must be rendered impossible for
the future!"

"Queen Frederika was the sister of my mother," said the king in a voice
that trembled slightly.

"I venerate the ties of royal blood that unite your majesty to King
George," said Count Bismarck, "and I have personally the highest
sympathy for that unhappy prince; but," he said, raising his voice,
"your majesty's nearest and dearest relation is the Prussian people,
whose blood has flowed on these battle-fields--the people of Frederick
the Great, the people of 1813. Your majesty must pay them the price of
their blood. Forgive me, your majesty, if I am bold when speaking in
the name of your people. I know my words only express feelings your
royal heart deeply and loudly echoes. If your majesty receives the
king's letter," he added, "you bind your hands, you commence
negotiations, which ought not to be begun!"

The king sighed deeply.

"God is my witness," he said, "that I did all I could to avoid a breach
with Hanover, and to save the king from the hard fate which now falls
upon him. Believe me," he added, "my heart could make no greater
sacrifice to Prussia, her greatness, and her calling in Germany, than
in yielding to this necessity."

A moisture clouded the king's clear eyes.

"Decline to receive the letter!" he said with emotion, sorrowfully
bending his head.

"God bless your majesty," cried Bismarck with kindling eyes, "for the
sake of Prussia and of Germany!"

General von Moltke looked gravely at his royal commander with an
expression of earnest love and admiration.

Silently the king motioned with his hand and turned to the window.

Count Bismarck and the general left the cabinet.



                              CHAPTER XX.

                              THE CRISIS.


Langensalza had grown very quiet after its days of storm and
excitement. The Hanoverian army was disbanded, and had returned home.
The Prussian troops had advanced upon other enemies in the south and
west, and the little town was now as placid and still as it had been
for long years before, until Fate chose it for the theatre of so bloody
a struggle.

But although the streets were as quiet and monotonous as ever in the
hot sunshine of midsummer, within the houses a quiet life went on of
inexhaustible love and mercy, that love and mercy which the tempest of
war always calls forth so abundantly, and which is so lovely a witness
of the eternal and indestructible connection between man's heart and
the God of unconquerable love, of inexhaustible compassion.

Many of the severely wounded Prussians and Hanoverians could not be
moved, and numerous hospitals were formed. All the private houses had
received the poor sacrifices of war, and from Prussia and Hanover,
besides the sisters of mercy and deaconesses, numerous relatives of the
wounded had arrived, to undertake the care of those they loved.

When the sun was setting, and the twilight brought the coolness of
evening, many women and girls in dark, simple dresses, with grave
faces, walked silently through the streets, hastily breathing in a
little fresh air, to obtain strength to continue their work of loving
self-sacrifice; and the looks of the inhabitants followed them with
quiet sympathy, as they sat before their doors after their day's work
was over, talking in whispers about one group after another as it
passed.

Madame von Wendenstein, with her daughter and Helena, had been most
kindly received into old Lohmeier's house, Margaret preparing two rooms
in the well-to-do burgher house with every possible comfort, whilst the
candidate found a lodging in a neighbouring hotel.

Trembling with anxiety, Madame von Wendenstein approached her son's
bed, repressing by a powerful effort the convulsive sobs that
threatened to choke her. The young lieutenant lay rigid and quiet, his
low, regular breathing the only sign of life.

The mother took his hand, bent over him, and gently breathed a kiss
upon his brow; and under the magnetic influence of a mother's kiss, the
young man slowly opened his eyes, and gazed around with a vacant look.
But then a happy ray of recognition animated the senseless eyes, a
smile came to his lips, and the mother felt an almost imperceptible
pressure on her fingers.

The old lady sank on her knees beside the bed, laid her head on her
son's hand, and, in silent unspoken prayer, besought God to preserve
this life, dearer to her than her own.

The two young girls stood behind Madame von Wendenstein. Helena's large
burning eyes were fixed on the image of the man, now so weak and
fragile, who had left her so fresh and strong. His sister concealed her
tears with her handkerchief; but Helena's eyes were dry and bright, her
pale features composed and motionless. She stood with folded hands, and
her lips trembled slightly.

Lieutenant von Wendenstein's widely-opened eyes fell on the young girl,
when his mother sank down beside his bed. A gleam of happiness passed
over his face, his eyes brightened with a look of delight, his lips
opened slightly, but a hard, rattling breath came from his mouth, and a
red foam appeared on his lips. His eyelids closed again, and the face
lay deadly pale and rigid on the white pillow.

Then the surgeon arrived, and brought uncertain comfort, and a time
commenced of unwearied watching--that quiet work, so difficult in its
simplicity and on which so rich a blessing rests, which raises the
heart so high above all earthly things, to the Fount of love, the
Eternal Lord of human life and human fate. How easy it seems to sit in
a comfortable chair, and watch the sleep of the sick; how small the
trouble of laying a cooling bandage on a wound, of placing a nourishing
drink, a composing medicine to the lips!

But who can weigh the anguish and anxiety with which the loving eye
hangs on each movement of the eyelash, on each quiver of the lip, on
every breath! The life of the sick may be endangered by a minute's
sleep, a forgotten order. Oh! how great these small, unimportant
services are through the long nights, when the seconds, wont to fly so
quickly, roll heavily, drearily into the sea of eternity; how small and
colourless all the changing brilliant doings of the outer world appear,
compared with the quiet sick-room and its holy work of preserving a
human life, and staying the Fates' cold hands, with their pitiless
shears, from severing a tender thread, on which hang joy and hope, love
and happiness, work and success!

And when recovery slowly, slowly approaches the bed of pain, like a
tender spring flower coyly raising its head, ever threatened by the
rough hand of a wintry death, who hesitatingly and unwillingly gives up
his prey, and with his cold flakes strives to stifle the bloom so
unweariedly tended day and night; how the loving heart bows down in
humble thanksgiving before the Almighty, in whose hand human life is
but a breath, which in a moment can fail, and which yet is so carefully
preserved, and adorned with such rich blessing. How small appear human
wishes, human will; how resignedly the heart learns to pray, "Lord, not
my will, but Thine be done!" with what trust and faith the soul rises
to the Father beyond the stars, who says, "Ask, and it shall be given
you."

Madame von Wendenstein passed through all these phases of inner life
beside the bed of her son; hoping and fearing, doubting and trusting,
she always maintained her outward calmness, and performed all the
duties of a nurse, assisted by the two young girls. Pale and quiet,
Helena took her share of the work, her large, dreamy eyes, quickened by
anxiety, watching every feature of the wounded man.

And hope had come, rejoicing every heart. The patient had passed
through the first fever from the wound. The ball had been
satisfactorily extracted; only one crisis more had to be feared--the
flow of blood which had filled the deep wound; then there was only the
recovery of strength to the much-shaken nervous system.

The most complete quiet was ordered by the surgeon; no loud sound must
be permitted to reach the patient's ear; no question must be answered,
and smiling lips and friendly glances must be the only language between
the sufferer and his nurses.

And how expressive was this language!

What pure, warm light flowed from Helena's eyes when they rested on the
pale face of the sleeper; how they hung on every breath, how thankfully
were they raised above when the regular breathing told of soft and
gentle sleep!

And when the sufferer opened his eyes, and saw those glances, what
bright, expressive looks, though weak from illness, replied. How
wonderful is it that the eye can express so much, that small circle
which yet can comprehend and mirror back the firmament, with its stars,
the everlasting mountains, and the boundless sea; what no words can
utter, what the most glowing poetry cannot express, is all said by the
eye, with its fine shades of varied expression; and above all by the
eyes of the sick, because, banished from the changing and distracting
pictures of the world, they have grown clearer and more transparent,
revealing more plainly all that passes in the self-contained soul.

When the eyes of the wounded officer rested on the young girl, their
deep eloquence telling whole volumes of poetry, recollections of the
past, hopeful dreams for the future, her eyes fell, and a slight blush
passed over her brow, and yet she raised them again, and her answer
sparkled through a veil of tears.

Once when Helena offered him some cooling drink, his long, thin, white
hand, with its dark blue veins, was stretched out towards her, she gave
him hers, and he clasped it, and held it for a long time, and his eyes
rested on her so thankfully, so enquiringly, so longingly, that, with a
sudden crimson blush, she withdrew her hand; but her look had answered
his, and, smiling, he closed his eyes, to dream again in light and
happy slumber.

And often since then, with an imploring look, he had held out his hand,
and she had given him hers,--and then her hand had been gently pressed
to his lips, and a kiss had been breathed on it with the hot breath of
sickness, and again tremblingly she had withdrawn her hand, and again
their eyes had met, and a happy smile had appeared upon her lips. And
the dumb language between them had grown richer and clearer, and he had
often opened his lips as if to make his feeble voice enforce the words
his eyes had spoken; but with a sweet smile she had laid her finger on
her lips, and his mouth had remained silent. At last his lips moved as
she sat by his bed, and in the lowest whisper he said, "Dear Helena."

Then with a quick movement and a brilliant look she had held out her
hand to him, and had not withdrawn it when he had pressed it long and
fervently to his lips.

Madame von Wendenstein had seen much of this dumb language, and had
understood it;--for what woman does not understand it? and what mother
is indifferent when the heart of a beloved son turns with tender
feelings to her who through the warfare of daily life may carry on a
gentle woman's work, begun by the mother herself during the quiet years
of childhood, that work of mild, consoling, gentle, forgiving love,
without which man's strength is hard and unfruitful; without which
man's work is without charm and graceful inspiration? Lost in these
reflections she had often sat watching the movements of the two young
hearts; whether it was pleasing to her, whether she saw with joy or
grief that which was unfolded to her, and which she could not prevent,
was hard to read in her pale, but calm and cheerful features;
nevertheless she was deeply moved by the sight of this flower of love
springing up from her son's bed of pain. And when one day the wounded
man put out both hands, and taking her hand and Helena's at the same
moment, silently implored that a mother's love might be given to his
beloved, without speaking she passed her arms round Helena, and
imprinted a kiss upon her brow; then her daughter came, and tenderly
pressed Helena to her heart; and the sick man with a look of happiness
folded his pale hands together in thankfulness.

Thus in the chamber of sickness a rich, eventful life went on, a link
between two hearts was formed, so pure, so tender, so delicate, so
holy, that it scarcely could have been thus perfected amidst the
distractions of the world; no words had been exchanged, but all was
understood--all knew what had sprung up on the border land that divides
life from death; they knew it had taken root strongly, and would grow
up in the future life. Thus God, whilst ruling the terrible tempests
that convulsed the world, and bringing forth a new order of things from
the mighty struggle of the nations of Germany--seized with a gentle,
tender hand the inner life of these two human hearts, imprinting deep
and silent feelings as indelibly, as the gigantic characters in which
His eternal judgments were graven on the tablets of history.

Fritz Deyke, with his clear, true eyes, saw plainly enough what was
going on beside the sick-bed of his lieutenant; he had not said a word,
but he had managed to express that he understood, and was perfectly
satisfied, by his respectful attentions and hearty sympathy to the
pastor's daughter, and when he saw Helena sitting beside the
lieutenant's bed, he looked with a smile from one to the other, and
gave an approving nod, as if applauding some satisfactory thought.

Since the ladies' arrival he only came to and fro to the sick room,
bringing everything needful, and at night he insisted on undertaking
the last and most weary hours of watching, driving away the ladies with
good-natured brusqueness.

But he was unwearied in assisting the pretty Margaret in all her
occupations, in her endeavour to make their quiet monotonous life as
agreeable as possible to her guests, and in her efforts to provide them
with every comfort; then he had almost taken old Lohmeier's place out
of doors, in the stable and garden, assisting everywhere with skilful
hand, lightening much of the old man's work, and relieving him entirely
of the rest. And in the evening he sat before the door with his host
and his daughter; the father listened well pleased and smiled
approvingly at his daughter when the sturdy son of Wendland, who had
long before thrown aside his soldier's coat, told stories of his home;
the old man gave a nod of satisfaction when it appeared from these
histories that old Deyke was a well-to-do man, and that a rich
inheritance must one day descend to his only son and heir.

The candidate came several times daily to see the ladies. Sometimes in
a quiet manner he helped a little in nursing. Sometimes he spoke a few
well-chosen words of comfort to the old lady. He went in and out of all
the houses where there were sick and wounded, offered spiritual
consolation, and was unwearied in assisting and directing in the
hospitals, so that he won the general respect and gratitude of all the
inhabitants of Langensalza, and all the relatives of the wounded.
Madame von Wendenstein was full of his praise, and took every
opportunity of showing her esteem and gratitude to the young clergyman.

Helena kept aloof from her cousin, and he did not seek her more than
every-day intercourse required. But his eyes often rested on her with a
strange expression, and an evil glance darted from them when he saw the
young girl sitting beside the bed of the wounded officer, when her
whole soul lay in her eyes, and the feelings of her heart were warmly
reflected in her features; but no word, no sign betrayed that he
guessed what had taken place in solitude and silence.

Late in the afternoon of one of the last days of July Madame von
Wendenstein sat, with her daughter, in her room. The window was wide
open to admit the cooler air that streamed in as the day declined. The
door of the sick-room stood open, and Helena sat by the bedside,
attentively watching the quiet slumberer as he lay with a smiling
expression of happiness on his pale features.

The candidate sat with the ladies in his faultless black dress, a white
necktie of dazzling purity carefully arranged around his neck, and his
hair brushed smoothly down on each side of his forehead.

He spoke in a low voice as he told Madame von Wendenstein of the other
sufferers whom he had visited.

"You have chosen a beautiful calling," said the old lady, smiling
kindly on the young clergyman; "in such times as these especially, it
must be a glorious satisfaction to bear the divine words of comfort to
sufferers, and to raise and refresh their souls amidst bodily pain."

"But in such times as these," said the candidate, in a humble voice,
casting his eyes to the ground, "I feel doubly what an unworthy
instrument I am in the hand of Providence; when I speak to sufferers
who have already stretched out their hands to eternity, who already
behold the glories of a future world, I often ask myself whether I am
worthy to tell them of their Lord, and I tremble beneath the weight of
my office. But," he continued, folding his hands together, "the power
of the divine word gives strength even to an unworthy instrument to
work mightily; and I can say with joy that many a heart in health
devoted to the world, has through my means, on the brink of eternity,
received the faith, and obtained salvation."

"How many families will be grateful to you!" said Madame von
Wendenstein warmly, as she held out her hand to him.

"They must not be grateful to me, but to Him who is mighty through me,"
replied the candidate, in a low voice, bowing his head.

And at the same moment he turned a quick glance towards the sick-room,
in which a slight sound was heard.

The surgeon had entered softly; he approached the bed, watched his
sleeping patient attentively for some little time, then he bent over
him, gently removed the covering of the wound, and examined it
carefully.

After a few minutes he joined the ladies in the other room.

Madame von Wendenstein looked at him anxiously. Helena followed him,
and remained standing at the door.

"Everything is progressing excellently," said the surgeon; "and though
I cannot say all danger is over, I can assure you that every day my
hopes of a complete recovery increase."

Madame von Wendenstein thanked him for this good news with emotion, and
Helena's eyes smiled through tears.

"For some time to come absolute quiet will be needful. Any shock to the
much shaken nervous system might bring on fever of an inflammatory or
typhoid character, and in the present state of weakness this would be
fatal. The deep wound is still filled with blood; this can only be
slowly absorbed and dispersed. Any sudden flow of blood from a violent
effort might be fatal; therefore, I repeat it, absolute quiet is the
first essential in the recovery of our patient, and nature will assist
his youthful strength to repair the injury he has received. Nothing can
be done beyond a slight compress to the wound, a little cooling
medicine, and the maintenance of the strength by light nourishment. But
now, ladies, I must exercise my medical authority upon you," he
continued. "It is a long time since you have been in the open air, and
to-day it is deliciously cool. You must go out!"

Madame von Wendenstein hesitated.

"It is needful for our patient's sake," said the surgeon, "that you
should keep up your strength. What would become of him if you were to
be ill? You must take a real walk. Fritz can take care of the patient,
who wants nothing but sleep."

"Oh, I will stay here," cried Helena; but suddenly recollecting
herself, she was silent, and looked down with a blush.

"I beg, my dear lady," said the candidate, "that you will follow our
friend's prescription without any anxiety. I will remain with Herr von
Wendenstein. I have learned what to do beside a sick bed. Go, for you
all need this refreshment."

"Quick, then," said the doctor. "I will take you to a beautiful shady
walk, and you will see what wonderful good you feel from that medicine
which nature prescribes for all--fresh air."

Madame von Wendenstein put on her bonnet and mantle, and the young
ladies followed her example. Helena looked anxiously at the wounded
officer, and then hesitatingly followed the other ladies, who with the
surgeon had already left the room.

The candidate, with downcast eyes and a gentle smile, accompanied her
to the door. He then turned back, entered the sick-room, and seated
himself in the armchair near the bed.

From his pale face the gentle smile and the expression of spiritual
peace and priestly dignity vanished. His half-closed, downcast eyes
opened widely, and were fixed upon the sleeper with a look of hatred,
and his thin lips were pressed firmly together.

There was a wonderful contrast between the wounded officer--who lay
stretched on his couch in light slumber, his eyes closed, the
reflection of sweet and pure dreams shining in his face, whilst on his
brow appeared a glimpse of heaven, a spark of the Divine breath--and
the man who sat near him in the garments of a priest, a horrible
expression of low, earthly passion and demoniacal hatred upon his
countenance.

The wounded man tossed his head a little to and fro, as if he felt
disturbed by the look the candidate fixed upon him, then with a deep
sigh he opened his eyes and turned them joyfully towards the place
where he hoped to see the beloved form that had filled his dreams. With
large, surprised, almost frightened eyes, he saw the clergyman beside
him. The candidate compelled his countenance suddenly to resume its
usual calm expression, lowering his eyes to conceal their hatred, for
he knew that even his strong powers of will could not at once banish
this expression.

"Do you want anything, Herr von Wendenstein?" asked the candidate, in a
low, gentle voice. "The ladies have gone out, and they have left me
here to take care of you."

Lieutenant von Wendenstein raised his finger a little and pointed to a
small table near the bed, on which stood a carafe of fresh water and a
small vial filled with a red fluid.

The candidate poured a few drops of the medicine into a glass of water,
and held it to the lieutenant's lips, who raised his head with some
little difficulty and drank it.

The eyes of the wounded man said as plainly as possible, "I thank you."

The candidate put down the glass, folded his hands together, and said,
as he cast down his eyes,--

"Did you think, Herr von Wendenstein, when your body craved earthly
refreshment that your soul needed a spiritual medicine to strengthen
and refresh it in the valley of the shadow of death, that if Providence
sees fit to call it hence, it may be prepared to stand before the
Judge, and to give an account of the deeds done in the flesh?"

The wounded man's eyes, which after the cooling drink, were closing
again in slumbrous weariness, opened widely, and gazed upon the
candidate with astonishment and fear. He was accustomed to be spoken to
by looks, by signs, by single words whispered low, and his wearied
nerves shuddered at this unusual mode of speech. Then, too, the loving
care that had watched him in sickness and encouraged with fostering
hand the seed of convalescence, had surrounded him with pictures of
hope, with assurances of a new life blooming in the future, so that the
sharp and sudden mention of death, with his threatening hand still
stretched over him, affected him as if on a sunny, flower-scented day
he had suddenly felt the ice-cold breath of a newly-opened vault. A
slight shudder ran through his frame, and he feebly shook his head, as
if to free himself from the gloomy picture so suddenly called up.

"Have you thought," continued the candidate, suddenly raising his voice
and speaking sharply and impressively, "how you will pass through those
black, dreadful hours, those hours now perhaps very near you, when your
soul, with convulsive shudders, will tear itself free from the cold
body--when your heart must leave every earthly joy, every earthly hope,
and lay them in the dark depths of the grave, where the body, born of
dust, must return to the dust of which it is formed?"

The eyes of the wounded man grew larger, a feverish glow burned on his
cheeks, and there was an imploring expression in the look he turned
upon the candidate.

He fixed his eyes upon the young officer with the electric fascinating
gaze with which the rattlesnake turns its prey to stone.

"Have you thought," continued the candidate, and his sharp voice seemed
to cut deep down into the sick man's soul, as his looks glared into his
horror-stricken eyes, "have you thought, that then, at the trumpet
blast of eternity, you must stand before the throne of a righteous and
severe Judge and give an account of your life? Your last act was
murder; the shedding of a brother's blood in a struggle justified by
earthly laws; but must it not appear a deadly sin in the eyes of
Eternal Justice?"

The features of the wounded man quivered, the feverish flush increased,
and his eyelids sank and rose with a quick involuntary movement.

"Heaven has shown you great mercy," said the candidate, "you have been
granted time for preparation here on a bed of sickness, for eternity,
whilst many were called away in the midst of mortal sin. Have you
worthily used the time so graciously granted you? Have you turned your
thoughts and desires away from all worldly things, and fixed them on
things eternal? Have you banished from your heart every earthly wish,
every earthly hope? Does it not still cling to earth? Judge yourself,
and let not the short time of grace be in vain!"

The candidate bent down lower and lower, and fixed his glaring eyes on
those of the lieutenant, whose violent nervous agitation greatly
increased. His pale hands trembled even to the tips of the fingers, he
raised them with a repelling movement, and pointed to the table, whilst
with difficulty in a feeble voice, he gasped "Water!"

The candidate brought the green fire of his sparkling eyes still closer
to the sick man's face, he stretched his right hand over his head
whilst with the fingers of the left he pointed to his heart, and he
said in a low voice:

"Think of the Water of Life, try to become worthy of the Well-spring of
Grace that alone can cool the torturing flames of eternal damnation.
They are ready for you, if you do not use this short time of grace, and
rend every earthly thought from your heart! The time that remains to
you is brief, and if your soul still clings to the past, it will fall
into the abyss already yawning before you!"

A slight red foam appeared on the wounded man's lips, his eyes opened
widely, and stared unconsciously around. His out-stretched fingers were
stiff, and his whole frame terribly convulsed.

The clergyman bent down closer over him, and in a harsh rough whisper
muttered in his ear:

"The pit opens, the sulphurous flames ascend, you hear the lamentations
of endless torment, the supplications of the damned that can no longer
reach the Ear of Mercy; the light of heaven goes out, and the outcast
soul sinks into the dreadful horror, which no living spirit can
conceive, no living heart can imagine,--sinks, deeper, deeper,--ever
deeper."

A sudden shudder passed through the wounded man's frame, a rattling
breath forced itself from his labouring breast, his lips opened and a
stream of thick black blood flowed from his mouth. His face grew deadly
pale.

The candidate was silent, he rose slowly, his eyes firmly fixed on the
face trembling in its death struggle; he drew back his hands and stood
with a cruel smile, calm and motionless.

The door of the next room was softly opened and a careful footstep was
heard.

The candidate started. With a great effort he compelled his features to
resume their usual expression of pious dignity; he folded his hands on
his breast, and turned his head towards the door.

Fritz Deyke appeared and cautiously popped in his head.

"Ah! you are here, sir?" he said in a whisper, "I was busy in the
stable, but I heard the ladies had gone out, so I thought I would come
and look at my lieutenant. Lord God in heaven!" he cried, suddenly
rushing to the bed, "what is this? my lieutenant is dying!"

He seized the stiff hand of the sick man, and bent over the apparently
lifeless body.

"I fear the worst," said the candidate calmly, in a mild voice, full of
melancholy sympathy. "A violent cramp seized the poor young man, and
the breaking of a blood-vessel seems to have ended our hopes. It was
quick and sudden, whilst I was endeavouring to cheer him by friendly
converse, and spiritual consolation!"

"My God! my God!" cried Fritz, "this is too horrible--what will become
of his poor mother, of Miss Helena?"

And hastening to the door he called loudly, in an accent of grief and
despair,--

"Margaret! Margaret!"

The young girl rushed upstairs; the sound of Fritz's voice as he called
her had alarmed her, and she looked anxiously in at the door of the
sick-room.

"My lieutenant is dying! for God's sake fetch the doctor quickly!"
cried Fritz Deyke as he went to meet her.

Margaret glanced hastily at the bed, saw the pale face and streaming
blood, and wringing her hands together, with a low outcry hastened
away.

Fritz Deyke knelt before the bed, and with a handkerchief wiped away
the blood from the lieutenant's mouth, repeating again and again, "My
God! my God! his poor mother!"

The candidate went into the adjoining room, and seized his hat; then he
suddenly determined to remain; he stood still for a moment, and then
seated himself so that he could see into the sick-room.

Margaret had hastened out; she knew the way that the surgeon had taken
with the ladies, and flew after him. She soon saw him near the first
houses of the little town. He had led the ladies to a shady alley, and
was taking leave of them, as he wished to return to his other patients.

The young maiden was quite breathless when she reached him. The surgeon
looked at her with amazement, Helena's eyes were fixed upon her in
anxious fear.

"For God's sake, sir!" cried Margaret, struggling for breath enough to
bring out her words, "I think--I fear--the poor lieutenant--"

"What has happened?" cried the surgeon, in alarm.

"I fear he is dead," gasped Margaret. "Come, quick! quick!"

Madame von Wendenstein seized the surgeon's arm, as if seeking a
support, but she hastened along in silence, really hurrying the doctor
with her; he was endeavouring to gain from Margaret some particulars of
this unexpected seizure.

Helena rushed on first, and her flying feet scarcely touched the
ground. She uttered one cry when Margaret gave her terrible message,
then she fled with vacant eyes through the streets, until she came to
old Lohmeier's house, and flying up the stairs, reached the
lieutenant's room.

She paused for a moment at the threshold, sighed deeply, and pressed
both her hands against her breast. Then she opened the door, and stood
gazing on the young man's deathlike face. Nothing had changed, and
Fritz Deyke stood before him, carefully removing the blood that
streamed from his lips with a white handkerchief.

Fritz raised his head and turned round. When he saw Helena standing
there an image of silent despair, he comprehended that her sorrow was
greater than his own. He rose slowly, and said, in a low, trembling
voice,--

"I think the good God has called him; come, Miss Helena, if anyone can
awake him, you can!"

And gently seizing her hand he led her to the bed.

She sank upon her knees, and taking the lieutenant's hand pressed it to
her lips, breathing on it with her warm breath; her sad, tearless eyes
were fixed upon his face, and her lips sometimes moved, repeating the
same whispered words, "Oh! my God! let me follow him!"

Thus they continued motionless for some time--Helena crouched beside
the bed, Fritz Deyke standing near her, and regarding her with great
emotion, as he brushed away the tears with the back of his hand. The
candidate sat in the adjoining room, with an expression of deep
sympathy upon his features, his hands folded, and his lips moving as if
in silent prayer.

Then came the surgeon and the two ladies.

Madame von Wendenstein was about to hasten to her son's bedside, but
the surgeon held her back gravely, almost roughly.

"No one can be of any use here but myself," he said energetically; "the
sick belong to me. Ladies must leave the room; if they are wanted, I
will call them."

Fritz gently pushed Madame von Wendenstein and her daughter into the
adjoining room; Helena rose quietly, and seated herself at some
distance.

The surgeon approached the bed; he carefully examined the sick man's
face, looked at the wound, and held his hand for a long time upon his
heart, gazing at his watch at the same time.

The candidate went up to Madame von Wendenstein, who had sunk upon a
chair, her face covered with her hands.

"Compose yourself, much honoured lady," he said in his gentlest voice;
"all hope is not yet over, and if it is the will of Providence to put a
period to your son's life, you must think how many, many parents have
to bear the same, and often even greater sorrow."

Madame von Wendenstein only replied by her sobs.

The old surgeon now returned to the ladies. Scarcely had he left the
bed, when Helena returned to her place, and again taking the hand
strove to warm it with her breath.

"It is a frightful crisis," said the doctor; "I cannot understand its
cause, but alas! it leaves us little hope. We must be prepared for the
worst; but the heart still beats, and as long as there is a spark of
life a physician does not despair. There is really nothing to be done;
if nature does not help herself, our knowledge is powerless. But how,"
he continued, turning to the candidate, "did this alarming crisis come
on? My patient was perfectly quiet when I last saw him."

"He continued so," said the candidate, "for some time after I had taken
my place beside his bed; he awoke from a deep sleep, I gave him some
drink, and he appeared quite well; whilst I was endeavouring to refresh
his soul with spiritual consolation, a convulsive movement came on,
followed by this gush of blood. It was quick and sudden."

"Well, well," said the surgeon, "what I hoped might proceed gently and
gradually has taken place suddenly, from a violent nervous crisis
setting free the blood collected in the vessels. It is scarcely
possible that this can have happened without causing serious mischief,
besides the frightful effect upon the nerves. Did you talk to him
much?" he asked, looking firmly at the candidate.

"I said," he replied, folding his hands, "what my calling requires me
to say to the sick, I hardly know whether he understood me."

"Forgive me, sir," said the surgeon, in a brusque voice, shaking his
head, "I am not one of those who despise religion, and from my heart I
believe that all help comes from God; but in this case it really would
have been better to let him sleep."

"The word of God, with its wondrous power, is never out of place,"
replied the candidate in a cold tone of conviction, raising his eyes
with a pious expression.

"My God! my God!" cried Helena from the next room, in a loud,
half-frightened, half-joyful voice, "he lives, he wakes!"

They all hastened into the room; the physician went to the head of the
bed, whilst Helena still knelt and pressed the lieutenant's hand to her
lips.

He had opened his eyes, and turned a wondering look from one face to
another, as if surprised at the excitement he saw on every countenance.

"What has happened?" he asked in a low, but perfectly clear voice,
whilst a slight flow of blood still came from his lips. "I have had a
bad, bad dream,--I thought I was dying."

His eyes closed again.

The surgeon raised the pillows that supported his head, gently took his
hand from Helena, and examined his pulse.

"A glass of wine," he cried.

Fritz Deyke hurried away, and returned in a moment with a glass of old
dark red wine.

The surgeon held it to his patient's lips. He drank it eagerly to the
last drop.

In trembling anxiety they all awaited the result. Helena's face was as
pale as marble; her soul lay in her eyes.

After a short time a tinge of colour came to von Wendenstein's cheek, a
deep sigh heaved his breast, and he opened his eyes.

They rested on Helena, and a smile passed over his face.

"Draw a deep breath," said the doctor.

He did so immediately.

"Does it hurt you?"

The young officer shook his head slightly, his eyes still fixed on
Helena.

The doctor again felt his pulse, laid his hand on his brow, and
listened attentively to his breathing.

He then went up to Madame von Wendenstein, and said, as he held out his
hand to her with a joyful smile, "Nature has conquered this violent
crisis, now only rest and nourishment are needed; thank God, your son
is saved!"

The old lady approached the bed, pressed an affectionate kiss upon her
son's brow, and gazed long into his eyes.

Then she left the room, and sank upon the sofa in the adjoining
apartment: the frightful excitement and the long, anxious suspense had
so exhausted her strength that her whole soul sought relief in a storm
of tears.

Helena remained sitting near the bed, still holding the hand of her
beloved, still gazing upon him calm and motionless, the brilliancy of
perfect happiness on her pale features.

The candidate remained standing, with folded hands; he retained the
gentle smile unchanged upon his lips, whilst his eyes never moved from
the scene at the lieutenant's bedside.

After a little consideration the doctor wrote a prescription, and,
rising with the paper in his hand, joined the others.

"Our patient must take this every hour," he said. "I hope he may sleep
quietly during the night; to-morrow, or the next day, we can begin a
strengthening diet, and if God continues to help us, we may soon look
for a rapid recovery."

He turned to the Candidate Behrmann.

"Forgive my hasty words," he said gravely. "You were right when you
spoke of the divine power of God's word. God has indeed performed a
wonder; not one case in a hundred would have passed through such a
crisis favourably. I bow before this wonder, and with you I look up
with thankfulness and adoration to the Day-spring who sends down
knowledge and faith to us, as rays of light from an eternal centre."

He spoke warmly and feelingly as he held out his hand to the candidate.
An indescribable expression appeared on Behrmann's face. He cast down
his eyes, bent his head, and was silent.

Then he remembered that many sick friends were wanting him, and he took
leave of Madame von Wendenstein with a few words of sympathy. He went
up to Helena and took her hand.

Why did she withdraw it with a hasty movement of fear? Why did an icy
coldness stream from his fingers to her heart? Did she see the
involuntary look which flashed from his eyes when he approached the
bed, or was it that secret instinct which causes unexplained sympathy
and antipathy, often judging more truly than the longest experience,
the deepest knowledge of mankind, or the most prudent reflection?

The physician and the candidate departed, and the ladies were left
alone with the invalid, who fell into a calm sleep.

Fritz Deyke, whose strong nerves soon recovered from the excitement of
the last hour, gave himself up completely to joy. After he had fetched
the lieutenant's medicine he hastened into the little garden, where
Margaret was watering her flowers, whose drooping heads told of the
excessive heat of the last few days.

He said very little. He hurried to and fro, filling her watering-pot
again and again; and then he made little channels in the ground to the
roots of the plants, that the water might penetrate more quickly. He
admired the quickness and grace with which Margaret watered her plants;
how lightly and cleverly she raised the drooping flowers and tied them
to sticks, and he saw that sometimes she looked kindly at him, and that
she blushed a little when he observed it.

Then he seated himself with old Lohmeier and his daughter at their
simple but excellent supper, and again he admired Margaret's adroitness
and attention to her household duties, and the cheerful comfort she
shed around her.

And he thought to himself how pretty she would look in the rich old
farmhouse at Blechow, and how the elder Deyke would rejoice at having
such a housekeeper and daughter-in-law. What Margaret thought was her
own secret, but she looked supremely happy as she served her father and
his guest, and performed all the duties of an attentive housewife, with
the skill of an experienced hostess and the grace of a lovely girl.

Thus quiet joy and hopeful happiness prevailed throughout the good
burgher house in Langensalza.

The candidate Behrmann visited many of the sick and wounded, and
unweariedly spoke eloquent and impressive words of comfort, and he
refused all thanks with humility. He advised and ordered in the
hospitals; and praises of the pious, gifted, and exemplary young
clergyman resounded from every lip.



                              CHAPTER XXI.

                            RECONCILIATION.


Countess Frankenstein sat in the reception-room of her house in the
Herrengasse, in Vienna. Nothing had altered in this salon; the
prodigious events and the mighty storms that had shaken the power of
the House of Hapsburg to its very foundations could not have been
suspected from the aspect of this room when unoccupied, so complete was
its stamp of aristocratic immutability and perfect repose. There was
the same old furniture which had already served several generations,
now looking down from their faintly gleaming frames of tarnished
gilding upon the doings of their children and grand-children; there was
the high, wide chimney-piece, the flames from which had been reflected
in the bright, youthful eyes of those who long ago had become staid
grandmothers; there was the same clock with its groups of shepherds and
shepherdesses which had marked the moment of birth and the moment of
death of many a member of the family, and with equal calmness had added
second to second in hours of joy or hours of sorrow. Amongst all these
objects, lifeless indeed but full of memories, and accustomed to look
calmly on the happiness or sadness of generations passed away, sat the
living beings of the present, deeply moved and distressed by the
terrible and unexpected blow which had fallen on the House of Hapsburg
and on Austria.

The old Countess Frankenstein was grave and dignified as ever, but
there was a sorrowful expression on her proud, calm face as she sat on
the large sofa; beside her, dressed in black, sat the Countess Clam
Gallas, whoso tearful eyes were often covered with her embroidered
handkerchief. Opposite the ladies sat General von Reischach; his fresh,
healthy face glowed brightly as ever, the dark eyes looked out keen and
lively beneath his short white hair, but though this expression of
jovial cheerfulness could not be banished, there was beyond it a look
of melancholy grief. Countess Clara sat beside her mother, leaning back
in an arm-chair, and on her young and beautiful face lay a breath of
deep sorrow, for she was a true daughter of the proud Austrian
aristocracy, and she felt deeply and keenly the humiliation which the
ancient banners of the empire had suffered at Königgrätz, but her
melancholy was spread but as a light veil over the joy and happiness
that filled her dreamy eyes. Notwithstanding all the dangers of
Trautenau and Königgrätz, Lieutenant von Stielow had returned
unwounded; the war was now as good as ended, she feared no fresh perils
for him, and when the war was concluded, preparations for the marriage
were to be commenced.

The young countess sat in a dreamy reverie, pursuing the charming
pictures unrolled for the future, and hearing little of the
conversation carried on around her.

"This disaster is the effect of the incomprehensible regard shown to
the clamour of the lower classes," cried Countess Clam Gallas, in a
voice trembling with grief and anger. "Benedek received the chief
command because he was 'a man of the people;' the officers of noble
birth were thus hurt, injured, and passed over; we now see what all
this has led to. I have nothing to say against the rights of merit and
talent," she continued, "history teaches us that great field marshals
have been found among common soldiers, but people should not be pushed
forward who have no talent and whose only merit is courage, simply
because they are not of distinguished birth! And now they make the
aristocracy answerable for the defeat. Count Clam's treatment is an
insult to the whole of the Austrian aristocracy."

"You must not look upon it in that light, countess," said General von
Reischach; "on the contrary, I think the proceedings against Count Clam
Gallas will stop all evil mouths, for it will be an excellent
opportunity for stating the real causes of our defeat. When public
opinion, led on by a couple of journalists, had loaded the count with
reproaches, he was right in demanding a strict investigation, and it
was Mensdorff's duty to urge it upon the emperor. Let us wait the
result, it will show that the Austrian nobility is above reproach."

"It is very hard," cried the countess, "to be so personally affected
by the common misfortune!" And she wiped the tears that had again
flowed, with her handkerchief.

"Tell us, Baron Reischach," said Countess Frankenstein, after a short
pause, wishing to give the conversation a different turn; "tell us
about the King of Hanover, you once held a command in his service. I
have the greatest admiration for that heroic prince, and the deepest
commiseration for his unhappy fate."

"It is wonderful," said the general, "with what resignation and
cheerfulness the king bears his evil fortune, and the difficult
position he is now placed in. He is still full of hope; I fear it
deceives him!"

"Do you believe they will really venture to dethrone him?" cried the
Countess Frankenstein.

"Alas! I am quite sure of it," said General von Reischach.

"And I, alas! cannot doubt it, from what Mensdorff has told me," said
Countess Clam Gallas.

"And must Austria bear this?" cried Countess Frankenstein, a bright
flush of auger upon her usually calm face, and her eyes sparkling with
excitement.

"Austria bears everything, and will have to bear still more!" said the
general, shrugging his shoulders. "I see before us a long course of
misfortune, they will again experiment, and every fresh experiment will
pluck a jewel from our crown and a leaf from our laurels; I fear they
will pursue the path of Joseph II."

"God protect Austria!" cried Countess Frankenstein, folding her hands.
"Will the King of Hanover remain here?" she asked, after a short pause.

"It seems so," replied General von Reischach, "he lives in Baron
Knesebeck's house, in the Wallnerstrasse, Countess Wilezek has given
him up her apartments; but I have heard he will soon retire to the Duke
of Brunswick's villa at Hietzing. It would be much better for the king
to go to England, he is by birth an English prince, and if he succeeded
in interesting public opinion there in his behalf, which with his charm
of manner would not be difficult, England would perhaps help him, and
she is the only power who could help him; but he is disinclined, and
Count Platen appears very incapable of persuading the king to take any
decided course."

"Count Platen visited me," said Countess Clam Gallas; "he does not
believe in the annexation of Hanover."

"There are people who never believe in the devil, until he has got them
by the throat," cried Baron von Reischach: "there is General Brandis, a
plain old soldier, with a quick clear understanding, he would be much
the best counsellor for the king in a position in which rapid and firm
decision can alone avail, but he is not supported by Platen."

"How many disasters a few days have brought forth!" cried Countess
Frankenstein.

"Well," said General von Reischach, as he rose, "you must console
yourself with the happiness that blooms in your family; I would bet
anything," he added, laughing, "that Countess Clara's thoughts are
filled with pleasant pictures."

The young countess started from her dreams, a flying blush passed over
her face, and she said, laughingly,--

"What can you know about young ladies' thoughts?"

"I know so much about them," replied the general, "that I should not
venture now to bring my little countess a doll, she must have one in a
green uniform with a red plume."

"I want neither dolls nor anything else from you," replied the young
countess, pretending to pout.

General von Reischach and Countess Clam Gallas took leave.

Countess Frankenstein and her daughter accompanied them to the door,
and had only been a few moments alone when a servant entered and said:

"There is a gentleman here, who asks very pressingly for an interview
with the countess."

"Who is it?" she asked, with surprise, for she had few visitors except
those belonging to her own exclusive circle of society.

"Here is his card," said the servant, handing a visiting card to the
countess. "He assures me it is greatly to your ladyship's interest to
hear what he has to say."

Countess Frankenstein took the card, and read, with a look of
astonishment--"E. Balzer, Exchange Agent."

A deep flush passed over Countess Clara's face, she looked anxiously at
her mother and pressed her handkerchief to her lips.

"I cannot understand," said the countess, "what a person so entirely
unknown to me can want; however, let him come in!"

In a few moments Herr Balzer entered the salon. He was dressed in
black, and his common-looking face bore an expression of grave dignity
which did not appear to belong to it.

He approached the ladies with a manner in which the boldness of the
habitué of a coffee-house was mingled with the embarrassment of a man
who, accustomed only to low society, suddenly finds himself amongst
persons of distinction.

Countess Frankenstein looked at him with a cold, proud gaze, whilst
Clara, after her large eyes had taken in his vulgar appearance with a
hasty glance, cast them down and waited in trembling expectation for
the reason of this unexpected visit.

"I have consented to receive you, sir," said the countess, with easy
calmness, "and I beg you to tell me the important matter you have to
impart."

Herr Balzer bowed with affected dignity and said:

"A most melancholy affair, gracious countess, brings me to you,--an
affair in which we, you and I, or rather your daughter and I, have a
common interest."

Clara fixed her eyes upon him with great surprise and painful suspense;
the haughty look of the countess asked plainer than words, "What
interest can I have in common with this man?"

Herr Balzer saw this look, and an almost imperceptible smile appeared
on his lips.

"A very painful and distressing circumstance," he said slowly and
hesitatingly, "obliges me, your ladyship, to confide my honour to you,
and to consult with you, as to what is best to be done."

"I pray you, sir," said the countess, in an icy voice, "to come to the
fact you have to communicate. My time is much engaged."

Without paying any attention to this intimation, Herr Balzer proceeded,
apparently with some embarrassment, whilst twirling his hat in his
hands:

"Your daughter is engaged to Lieutenant von Stielow?"

The countess looked at him, almost rigid with amazement. She began to
fear she had admitted a madman. A slight shiver passed through Clara's
tender form; deep paleness overspread her features, and she did not
dare to lift her eyes to this man, for an instinctive suspicion warned
her he must be the bearer of something evil.

Herr Balzer drew a handkerchief from his pocket and covered his eyes.
In a theatrical manner he walked towards the countess, exclaiming,
whilst he stretched out his hand:

"Countess, you will understand me at once, you must understand me; I
trust my fate to your discretion,--only in common with yourself can
this melancholy transaction--"

"I must really beg you, sir," said Countess Frankenstein, looking
anxiously at the bell, from which she was separated by Herr Balzer, "I
must really beg you to state the facts."

"Herr von Stielow," said Balzer, again covering his eyes with his large
yellow silk pocket-handkerchief.

Clara folded her hands in breathless suspense.

"Herr von Stielow," repeated Herr Balzer, in a voice that appeared to
struggle for composure, "that volatile young man who is so happy in the
possession of so lovely, so worthy a fiancée," he bowed to Clara, who
turned from him with disgust, "this volatile young man dares to rob me
of my happiness, to destroy my peace--he keeps up a criminal
correspondence with my wife."

With a low cry, Clara sank down upon the chair before which she stood,
and wept silently.

Countess Frankenstein remained standing upright. Her eyes rested
fiercely and proudly upon this detestable messenger of evil, and in a
voice in which no emotion was perceptible, she asked:

"And how do you know this, sir? Are you quite sure?"

"Alas! only too sure," cried Herr Balzer, pathetically, again applying
his handkerchief to his eyes, which were quite red with repeated
rubbing.

"Some time ago," he said, "my friends warned me; but my confidence in
my wife--I love my wife, gracious countess: ah! she was my whole
happiness--prevented my heeding these warnings; then, too, Baron von
Stielow's engagement with the lovely countess"--he again bowed to
Clara--"was well known in Vienna; I felt quite safe, since I was
simple-hearted enough,"--he laid his hand on his black satin
waistcoat--"to believe such an error impossible."

"Well?" asked the countess.

"At last, by chance--oh! my heart will break when I think of
it--yesterday I discovered the frightful truth."

The countess made a movement of impatience.

He threw a side glance at the easy-chair, in which the younger lady sat
motionless, her face covered with her handkerchief, and with the malice
of vulgar natures who instinctively hate those of a higher grade, he
seemed disposed to prolong her torture.

"Amongst the letters brought to me," he continued, after some
hesitation, "there was one intended for my wife. I did not observe the
address, and I opened it, believing it directed to myself. It contained
the horrible, too certain proof of my misfortune."

Clara gave a low sob.

The countess asked with cold severity,--

"Where is this letter?"

Herr Balzer, with a deep, strongly marked sigh, felt in the breast
pocket of his coat, pulled out a folded letter, and gave it to the
countess. She took it, opened it, and read the contents slowly. Then
throwing it on the table, she said:

"What have you done?"

"Countess," cried Herr Balzer, in the same pathetic voice, "I love my
wife; she has greatly erred, it is true, but I love her still, and I
cannot give up the hope of reclaiming her."

The countess shrugged her shoulders, almost imperceptibly, and cast a
look full of contempt upon the exchange agent.

"I do not wish for a separation,--I would rather forgive her," he
continued, in a tearful voice; "and I have come, therefore, to speak to
you, countess, to consult with you,--to implore you to--"

"What?" asked the countess.

"You see, I thought," said Herr Balzer, turning his hat round and
round more quickly, "if you,--Vienna is now a very sad place to reside
in,--if you would go to your country estates, or into Switzerland, or
to the Italian lakes, far away from here, and if you would take
Lieutenant von Stielow with you, he would leave Vienna, and could not
continue to have any intercourse with my wife: I too would take her
away somewhere for a time. After his marriage with the lovely countess,
the young couple would naturally visit Baron von Stielow's family for a
time; he would forget my wife,--all would come straight, if we only
work together at the same plan!"

He spoke slowly, and with much hesitation, often interrupting himself,
and casting stolen looks now at the mother, now at the daughter. Before
he had finished speaking, Clara had sprung to her feet, her eyes, red
with weeping, were fixed on him with burning anger; and as he
concluded, she looked at her mother with anxious suspense, her lips
half opened, as if she almost feared her mother might not give the
right reply.

Countess Frankenstein drew herself up, with a movement full of pride,
and said in a tone of cold contempt:

"I thank you for your communication, sir; it has opened my eyes in
time. I regret I cannot assist you in the way you wish, to re-establish
your domestic happiness. You must understand it cannot be the task of a
Countess Frankenstein to cure the Baron Stielow of an unworthy passion,
nor can she consent to continue an engagement which the baron has not
respected. You must find some other means of reclaiming your wife."

Clara's eyes expressed her perfect approval of her mother's words; with
a proud movement she turned her back upon Herr Balzer, and, suppressing
her tears with a great effort, she looked out of one of the large panes
of glass in the high window of the salon.

Herr Balzer wrung his hands, as if in despair, and cried with
well-acted emotion:

"My God! countess, forgive me, if I thought only of my own sorrow and
grief, only of myself and my wife, and did not consider that
difficulty. I thought, too, you wished so much for this _parti_, which
is so excellent, and I hoped you would act in concert with me to bring
everything to a good end."

"A Countess Frankenstein is not in a position to wish for a _parti_
unworthy of her, and one her heart cannot approve," said the countess,
the cold calmness of her manner unchanged. "I believe, sir," she
continued, bowing very slightly, "that it is scarcely necessary to
continue this conversation."

Herr Balzer wrung his hands, and cried in a tone of despair:

"Oh, my God! my God! countess, what have I done! I now understand
perfectly that your daughter, under the circumstances, cannot continue
her engagement,--that I was foolish to hope to re-establish peace
through your assistance. Oh, my God, I had better have remained
silent!"

The countess looked at him inquiringly.

"Then," he continued, in the same tone, "everything might have gone on
well; now, oh, God! all that is over! You will break off the engagement
with Baron von Stielow, the whole world will hear of my misfortune,
there will be a dreadful scandal in Vienna, and I shall have to
separate from my wife. Ah! and I love my wife; I wish so to forgive
her, to reclaim her,--and I shall love her for ever!"

He paused for a moment, and cast a cunning look at the countess, whose
features had assumed an expression of deep thought.

Then he added still louder, and wringing his hands still more:

"Oh! my gracious countess, have compassion on me. I came to you in
perfect confidence to confide to you the frightful secret of my
misfortune. I see you cannot help me, as I hoped; be merciful to me,
and do not make it impossible for me to think of a way in which the
worst may be averted. Keep my secret. Herr von Stielow in his rage and
anger would revenge himself on me,--there would be nothing to restrain
him,--then there would be a dreadful scandal; that may be a matter of
indifference to you and your daughter, but to me and my wife--Oh! have
compassion on me!" and he made a movement, as if about to throw himself
at the feet of the countess. She still continued thoughtful.

"Sir," she said, "it is certainly neither my wish, nor my daughter's,
to discuss this disagreeable affair with Baron Stielow."

Clara turned her head towards her mother, and thanked her with a look.

"I shall break off Countess Clara's engagement with Herr von Stielow in
the quietest manner possible, and it will remain for you to do the best
you can for yourself--your secret is safe with me. Again I thank you
for your communication, however painful it was necessary, and has
preserved us from much worse pain in the future."

And she bowed her head in a way that showed Herr Balzer unmistakeably
he was dismissed.

He again held his handkerchief before his eyes, and said, in a whining
voice:

"I thank you, countess, I shall be eternally grateful to you; forgive
me. I beg the young lady's forgiveness, too, for being the messenger of
such evil tidings. But my lot is the worst. Oh! if you did but know how
I loved my wife!"

And as if overcome by the immensity of his grief, he bowed in silence,
and left the room.

He hastily brushed past the servant in the ante-room, and ran down the
stairs; as soon as he had left the room the grave and sorrowful
expression vanished from his face, a vulgar smile of triumph appeared
upon his lips, and he said to himself, with great satisfaction,--

"Well, I think I did my business very well, and richly earned the
thousand guldens my dearly beloved wife promised me, if I would free
her dear Stielow. Now she can catch him again in her net; she will
succeed, for she understands all that well, and then," he said, with a
broader grin of satisfaction, "I shall have the right of grasping
handfuls of the gold which this young millionaire will pour into her
lap."

With quick steps, he hastened to his wife, to tell her of the success
of his negotiation.

As soon as he left the room, Clara, without speaking a word, threw
herself into her mother's arms, sobbing aloud. After the restraint she
had put upon her feelings in the presence of a repulsive stranger, her
tears flowed freely, and relieved the oppression of her heart.

"Be strong, my daughter," said the countess, gently stroking her
shining hair. "God sends you a hard trial; but it is better to tear
yourself free from an unworthy engagement, than that this blow should
fall upon you later."

"Oh! my mother," cried the young countess, with the greatest grief,
"this love made me so happy; he assured me so strongly he was quite
free; I believed him so implicitly."

Suddenly raising herself from her mother's arms, she rushed to the
table where the letter lay which Herr Balzer had given the countess.

With a slight shudder, she seized the fatal letter, and read the
contents with large, dilated eyes.

Then she threw it from her with a look of horror, and sinking into a
chair, wept bitterly.

"Go to your room, my child," said the countess, "you need rest. I will
consider how matters can be arranged in the best and quietest way. The
baron's absence makes it easier. We will go into the country; I will
give the needful orders. Calm and compose yourself, that the world may
perceive nothing. It is our duty to bear our sorrows alone: only vulgar
souls show their troubles to the world. God will comfort you, and on
the heart of your mother you will always find a place to weep."

And gently raising her daughter, she led her from the salon to the
inner apartments, belonging exclusively to the ladies.

The regular strokes of the old clock's pendulum echoed through the
silence of the large, empty room, and the ancestors' portraits looked
down from their frames with their unchanging well-bred smile; their
eyes too, though they looked so calm and cheerful, had wept in days
long past, and with proud strength they had forced their tears back
into their hearts, to avoid the pity or the spiteful joy of the world,
and time as it rolled on, after hours of sorrow and pain, had brought
the moment of happiness. There was nothing now in this old home of an
old race.

The loud clatter of a sword was heard in the ante-room. The servant
opened the door, and Lieutenant von Stielow entered, fresh and
cheerful. He looked round the room with sparkling eyes. He turned with
disappointment to the servant.

"The ladies were here a moment ago," he said. "The countess had just
received a person on business; they must have gone to their own
apartments. I will send, and mention that Baron--"

"No, my friend," cried the young officer, "do not announce me; the
ladies will soon return, and I shall surprise them. Say nothing."

The servant bowed, and left the room.

The young officer walked several times up and down the room. A smile of
happiness rested on his face--the joy of reunion, after an eventful
separation, during which he had been threatened by death in many forms;
the anticipation of the joyful surprise he should behold in the eyes of
his beloved, all combined to fill his young, fresh heart with joy and
enchantment.

He went up to the low fauteuil, in which Countess Clara usually sat
beside her mother, and he pressed his lips against the back, where he
knew her head had rested.

Then he seated himself in the chair, half closed his eyes, and gave
himself up to a sweet, soft reverie, and the old clock's pendulum
measured the time the young man spent in happy dreams, with the same
regular stroke as it had numbered the moments of torture that had wrung
the heart of her who filled his dreams.

Whilst the young baron sat awaiting his happiness, Clara had gone to
her own apartment. It was a square room, with a large window, decorated
with grey silk. Before the window stood a writing table, and near it a
high pyramidal stand of blooming flowers, whose fragrance filled the
room. Upon the writing-table, on an elegant bronze easel, stood a large
photograph of her fiancé; he had given it to her just before his
departure to join the army. In a niche in one corner of the room was a
_prie-dieu_ chair, and a beautiful crucifix in ebony and ivory, with a
small shell, containing holy water, hung upon the wall.

This room contained everything calculated to please a faultless taste,
and to enrich and embellish life. This room had been so full of
happiness and hope when the young countess left it,--and now? The
perfume of the flowers was as sweet as an hour ago; the sunshine fell
as brightly through the windows; but where was the happiness? where was
the hope?

Clara threw herself on her knees before the image of the crucified
Saviour, where she had often found comfort in the childish sorrows of
her early life. She clasped her beautiful hands in fervent prayer, her
tearful eyes hung on the image of the Redeemer, her lips moved in
half-uttered, imploring words; but not as before did peace and rest
sink into her soul.

A wild storm of various emotions raged within her. There was deep
sorrow for her lost happiness, there was defiant anger at the deceit
that had played upon her love, there was swelling pride at the contempt
shown to her feelings, and finally there was bitter, jealous hatred of
the unworthy being to whom she had been sacrificed. All these emotions
surged and raged in her head, in her heart, in her veins; and the
prayer her lips pronounced would not arise to heaven, the peaceful
light of believing self-sacrifice would not kindle within her.

She stood up and sighed deeply. Not grief, but anger flashed in her
eyes. Her white teeth bit into her lip, she paced up and down the room,
her hands pressed upon her bosom, as if to still the raging storm
threatening to break her heart.

Then she stood still before her writing-table, and looked angrily at
von Stielow's portrait.

"Why did you come into my life," she cried, "to rob me of my peace, and
to make me purchase a few hours' happiness with such frightful
tortures?"

Her looks rested long on the portrait. Slowly and gradually the angry
expression passed from her features; a mild, sorrowful light shone in
her eyes.

"And my short happiness was so fair," she whispered. "Is it then
possible that those true eyes could lie? Is it possible that at the
very time---"

She sank into a chair near her table, and half involuntarily following
the sweet habit of the last short time, she opened an ebony casket,
enriched with mother-o'-pearl and gold.

In this casket were the letters her lover had written to her from the
camp. They were all short, hurried notes, many of them very dirty from
the numerous hands they had passed through before they reached her. She
knew them all by heart, those love greetings that said so little and
yet so much, that she had waited for with such longing, that she had
received with such exulting joy, that she had read and read again with
such happiness.

Mechanically she took one of the letters, and allowed her eyes slowly
to follow the lines.

Then she threw away the paper with a movement of horror.

"And with the same hand," she cried, "with which he wrote these
words--" She did not finish the sentence, but gazed gloomily before
her.

"But is it true?" she cried, suddenly; "can it not be malice, envy? Oh,
I knew that this woman was once no stranger to him. I have not seen the
writings side by side to compare them. Good heavens!" she cried, with
horror, "that wretched letter lies in the drawing-room; if one of the
servants----" And hastily springing up, she hurried from the room,
glided swiftly through the intervening apartments, reached the
drawing-room, and advanced at once to the table where the fatal letter
lay between two vases of flowers upon some tapestry work.

The sound of her footsteps aroused the young officer from his reverie.
He rose hastily from his half-recumbent position, in which he had been
completely concealed by the high back of the chair, and he saw her his
dreams had pictured standing really before him, her face expressing
indescribable agitation.

It would be impossible to find words to tell the feelings that passed
through the young girl's mind in one moment. Her heart beat high with
joyful surprise when she saw her lover so unexpectedly; but the next
instant bitter sorrow rushed upon her as she remembered she was for
ever separated from the happiness that had been hers. Her thoughts grew
indistinct, she had neither the strength to speak nor to withdraw, she
stood motionless, her large dilated eyes fixed upon him whom she so
unexpectedly beheld.

With one bound the young man was beside her, he opened his arms as if
about to embrace her, but quickly recollecting himself, he sank down on
one knee, seized her hand, which she yielded involuntarily, and
impressed upon it a long, warm, and affectionate kiss.

"Here, sweet joy of my heart, star of my love," he cried, "here is your
true knight again; your talisman has been my protection; the holy light
of my star was stronger than all the threatening clouds that surrounded
me."

And with bright eyes, filled with happiness, love, and adoring
admiration, he looked up at her.

She gazed at him, but there was no expression in her widely opened
eyes, it seemed as if all her blood had flowed back to her heart, as if
all her ideas, all her powers of will, were banished by the
overwhelming feelings of the last few moments.

He was rejoiced at this motionless silence, which he ascribed to
surprise at his sudden return, and he said:

"General Gablenz has been sent for by the emperor, and he brought me
here, so that I greet my darling sooner than I expected!" And taking
from his uniform a gold case set with a C in brilliants, he added with
a happy smile, "here is the talisman from my lady's hand, which
preserved me through every danger; it has rested on my heart, and it
can tell you that its every beat has been true to my love."

He opened the case, and in the interior, upon blue velvet beneath a
glass setting, lay a faded rose.

"Now," he cried, "I need the dead talisman no longer, I see my living
rose blooming before me!"

He stood up, gently laid his arm around her shoulder and pressed a kiss
upon her brow.

A slight shudder passed through her, her eyes sparkled with anger and
contempt, a brilliant red glowed on her cheeks.

With a hasty movement she tore herself free.

"Baron," she cried, "I must beg--you surprise me!"

She stammered; her lips trembled, she could not find words to express
what she thought and felt, she could not say what she wished to say.

After a moment's silence she turned to leave the room.

The young officer stood as if struck by lightning, her strange words,
the expression on her face, told him that something must have taken
place to cause a breach between him and his love, but it was impossible
for him to form any clear idea as to what it could be, and he looked at
her in blank amazement. But when she turned to leave him and had
actually reached the door, he stretched out both his arms towards her,
and cried in a voice so full of love and regret, of grief and inquiry,
that it could only proceed from the deepest and truest feeling,
"Clara!"

She started at this voice, which found an echo in her heart, she stood
still, her strength left her, she tottered.

He was beside her in a moment, he supported her, and led her to an
easy-chair, in which he gently placed her.

Then he knelt before her and cried in an imploring tone, "For God's
sake, Clara, what has happened, what distresses you?"

She held her handkerchief before her eyes and wept, struggling
violently for composure.

The door opened, and Countess Frankenstein entered.

She looked at the scene before her in utter amazement.

Herr von Stielow sprang to his feet.

"Countess!" he cried, "can you explain the riddle I find here--what has
happened to Clara?" The countess looked at him with grave severity.

"I did not expect you to-day, Herr von Stielow," she said, "or I should
have given orders for you to be told at once that my daughter is
suffering, and very unwell. We must leave Vienna for a long time; and I
think under the circumstances it would be better to annul the plans we
had formed for the future. My child," she said, turning to her daughter
who sat still, weeping quietly, "go to your room."

"Clara ill?" cried the young man in the greatest alarm. "My God, how
long has this been so? but no, no, something else has happened. I beg
you----"

Suddenly the young countess stood up. She raised her head proudly,
fixing her eyes firmly on Herr von Stielow, then turning to her mother
she said,--

"Chance, or rather Providence has brought him here, there shall be
truth between us; I at least will not be guilty of the sin of
falsehood." And before the countess could say a word she had walked to
the table with a firm step, seized the letter still lying there, and
with a movement full of proud dignity handed it to the young officer.
Then she again burst into tears and threw herself into her mother's
arms.

Herr von Stielow glanced at the paper.

A deep blush overspread his face.

He ran his eyes hastily over the writing, then casting his eyes on the
ground, he said:

"I do not know how this letter came here, yet I thought, from a few
words Clara once said, that she knew of an error into which I fell: I
thought that in spite of the past she gave me her heart, and I cannot
understand----"

Clara rose and looked at him with flaming eyes.

"In spite of the past!" she cried; "yes, because I believed your word,
that all this past was at an end; I did not know that this past was to
share my present!"

"But, my God!" exclaimed Herr von Stielow, looking at her with great
surprise, "I do not understand; how can this old letter----"

"An old letter?" said the Countess Frankenstein severely, "it is a week
old."

"It bears the date of your last letter to me!" cried Clara.

Herr von Stielow looked at the paper with amazement.

His eyes opened widely. He stared blankly at the letter which he held
motionless before him.

At last he turned to the ladies with sparkling eyes, and a face much
heightened in colour.

"I know not what demon has been at work--I know not who desires to tear
asunder two hearts that God destined for each other. Countess," he
said, "you owe me the truth, I demand who gave you this paper?"

Clara's eyes were fixed anxiously on the young man's face, her bosom
rose and fell.

The face of the countess expressed the repugnance she had felt during
the whole conversation; she replied coldly:

"Your word of honour to be silent!"

"I give it," said Herr von Stielow.

"Then," said the countess, "this letter accidentally fell into the
hands of this lady's husband, and he----"

"Deceit! shameful deceit!" cried von Stielow, half angrily, half
joyfully, "I do not yet quite see through it, but be it as it may,
countess--Clara--this letter is a year old; see, if you look closely,
the date is freshly written. This is a scandalous intrigue!"

He handed the letter to the countess.

She did not hold out her hand to take it. She looked at the young man
coldly. In Clara's eyes gleamed a ray of hope; it is so easy to a
loving heart to believe and to trust.

Herr von Stielow threw down the paper.

"You are right, countess," he cried, drawing himself up proudly; "such
proofs are for lawyers!"

Then he approached Clara, knelt on one knee before her, drew the case
with the faded rose from his uniform, and placed his hand upon it.

"Clara," he said in an earnest loving voice that came from the depth of
his soul, "by the holy remembrance of the first hours of our love, by
this talisman, which has been with me through all the dangers of
battle, I swear;--this letter was written a year ago, before I ever saw
you." He raised his hand and lightly touched her breast with his finger
point. "By your own pure noble heart I swear that no thought of this
erring meteor, whose rays once led me astray, has ever dwelt within me,
since your love arose to be the pure star of my life--your love to
which I will be true to death!"

He stood up.

"Countess," he said in a calm grave voice, "I give you my word of
honour as a nobleman; by the name which my ancestors have borne with
honour from generation to generation for centuries, by my sword which I
used in those dreadful days without reproach, against the enemies of
Austria--the date of this letter is false. Since Clara gave me her love
I have never exchanged a syllable with this woman, I have never thought
of her, except in repentant remembrance of a past error! I do not ask
if you believe my word," he proceeded, "a Countess Frankenstein cannot
doubt the word of an Austrian nobleman, nor think he would purchase a
life's happiness by a lie. But I ask you," he said in a warmer tone,
turning to Countess Clara, whose eyes were beaming with happiness, "I
ask you if you believe my heart is yours without reserve or doubt? if
now that the past is unveiled between us, and we have spoken of it, you
will continue to be the star of my life, or whether in darkness I must
pursue a solitary path, which my hopes once promised should be full of
sunshine and flowers?"

With downcast eyes he waited in silence.

The young countess looked at him with the deepest love. A smile of
happiness hovered on her lips. With a light step she glided towards
him; stood still before him, and with a charming movement held out her
hand.

He raised his eyes, and saw her gentle sparkling looks, her lovely
smile, her slight blush. He opened his arms quickly and she leaned
against him, and hid her face on his breast.

The countess looked at the beautiful pair with a mild and happy smile,
and a long silence prevailed in the lofty room.

But the old clock measured these moments with its calm pendulum, the
moments follow each other with eternal regularity, and never change for
the short joys and long sorrows which form the life of man on earth.

When Clara returned to her room late in the evening, she laid the
golden case with the faded rose at the foot of the crucifix, and now
her prayers went up as lightly winged to heaven as the perfume of
spring flowers, and in her heart as pure and wondrous melodies arose,
as the song of praise of the angels who surround the throne of eternal
love.



                             CHAPTER XXII.

                                RUSSIA.


In a large well-lighted cabinet of his palace in St. Petersburg,
before an enormous table covered with heaps of papers, which,
notwithstanding their number, were evidently in exemplary order, sat
the vice-chancellor of the Russian empire, Prince Alexander
Gortschakoff.

Although it was still early morning, the prince was carefully dressed.
He wore a black frock coat, unbuttoned and thrown back on account of
the heat, over under-clothes of some white summer material. The fine
intelligent face, with its expression of suppressed irony about the
mouth, and with short, grey hair, was buried behind a high black cravat
and tall linen collar, and the eyes that usually looked out so keenly,
so prudently, with such good-tempered, almost roguish humour, through
their gold-rimmed spectacles, gazed into the young day displeased and
discontented.

Before the prince stood his confidential secretary, Monsieur von
Hamburger; a slender man, of the middle height, with an open,
intelligent expression, and lively, clever eyes.

He was in the act of bringing before the prince various personal
affairs, without any connexion to diplomacy. Before him, on the
prince's table, lay a large packet of acts and papers.

He had just ended a report, and with a pencil he held in his hand he
noted down the minister's resolution on its contents. Then he laid the
paper on the large pile of acts, took it up from the table and bowed,
to show that his business was concluded.

The prince looked at him with some surprise.

"Have you finished?" he asked shortly.

"At your command, Excellency."

"You have a heap of things you are taking away again?" said the prince,
glancing at the thick packet von Hamburger held beneath his arm.

"I shall have the honour of bringing these matters before you on some
future day," said the secretary.

"Why not to-day? You have been here but a quarter of an hour, and we
have still time!" said the minister, with a slight accent of impatience
in his voice.

Monsieur von Hamburger allowed his quick eyes to rest for a moment on
the prince's face in silence, then he said calmly, with a slight
smile,--

"Your Excellency must, I fear, have passed a bad night, and you feel in
no gracious mood. I have, besides these reports, various matters which,
on the ground of justice and courtesy, it is very desirable to consider
in a friendly spirit before presenting them to his majesty the emperor.
I think your Excellency will be angry with me by-and-bye if I expose
these affairs to the reception that at the present moment seems
probable."

The prince looked at him for a moment firmly through his gold
spectacles without his secretary's casting down his eyes, or at all
changing the smiling, cheerful expression of his countenance.

"Hamburger," he then said, still in a peevish voice, though the first
appearance of returning good humour was seen in the corners of his
eyes, "I shall make you my doctor! Alas! you don't know how to find the
remedy, but as far as the diagnosis is concerned, you are a born
physician. I shall no longer have the right of being in a bad temper
before you."

"Your Excellency will certainly never state," said von Hamburger,
smiling and bowing, "that I took the liberty of remarking upon your
temper; I only begged permission to defer my business until this
temper--your Excellency yourself used the expression--had passed away."

"Ought I not to be in a bad temper?" cried the prince, half laughing,
half impatient, "when the whole world is departing from its old orderly
course, when the balance of European power, already severely shaken,
kicks the beam,--and when all this takes place without Russia having
any part in it, without gaining anything for itself in the new
arrangement of affairs! I am glad," he added thoughtfully, "that
Austria is beaten, Austria, who with unheard-of ingratitude forsook us
in the hour of need, and with false friendship injured us more than our
open foes; but that victory should go so far as to enable Prussia to
dethrone the legitimate princes in Germany, and that the German nation
should be close to us, able to threaten our frontier, causes me heavy
anxiety. Prussia," he said, after a short pause, "was our friend--it
was, it must be so; but what now arises is not Prussia, it is Germany;
and I remember with what hatred against Russia the German nation was
saturated in 1848. In Paris they will do nothing, except ask for
compensation, which I think they will not get. Yes, if Napoleon could
have determined to act, then the moment would have come in which we
could have interfered; but to act alone is to us impossible."

"Your Excellency will hear what General Manteuffel brings; he will soon
be here," said von Hamburger, drawing out his watch.

"What will he bring?" cried the prince, impatiently; "forms of speech,
declarations--nothing more; and what shall we reply? we shall put a
good face on a bad game--_voilà tout_."

Hamburger gave a meaning smile.

"Your Excellency must permit me to say," said he, "that personally I am
convinced it is not right to regard the new formation of Germany with
enmity; to prevent it is impossible; the old European balance of power
has long been out of joint, and Russia is weighty enough," he added
proudly, "not to fear any fresh distribution of power. Russia, that
great and mighty nation, must not hang on to old traditions; she must
go forth to meet the future free and unprejudiced; if the possessions
of other states are increased, so be it--the power of Russia is not
curtailed by an unalterable frontier."

He took from a portfolio he had brought with him a folded parchment,
and laid it on the table beside the prince. He had listened
attentively, and his quick eyes looked thoughtfully before him.

"What are you placing on the table?" he asked.

"The Treaty of Paris, your Excellency," replied Hamburger.

A fine smile appeared on the lips of the prince, a flashing glance flew
from his eyes towards his secretary.

"Hamburger," he said, "you are a very remarkable man; I think we must
be careful in your company."

"Why, Excellency?" asked the secretary, in a calm, naïve tone.

"I think you can read people's thoughts," replied the prince, whose ill
humour had gradually vanished.

"In your Excellency's school one must learn a little of everything,"
said von Hamburger, laughing and bowing.

The prince took the Treaty of Paris and turned it over.

For a short time he pursued his thoughts in silence.

Then he looked up and asked,--

"Is General von Knesebeck, whom the King of Hanover has sent here,
already at Zarskoë Selo?"

"He went there immediately after your Excellency had given him an
audience; his imperial majesty had commanded apartments to be prepared
for him."

"Has the emperor seen him yet?" asked the prince.

"No, your Excellency," replied von Hamburger; "you requested the
emperor not to receive him until you had spoken to General Manteuffel."

"True," replied the prince, thoughtfully; "the emperor feels great
sympathy for the King of Hanover, but I would rather that he did not
enter into any engagement. We could do little alone; the only thing
would be for the emperor to use his personal influence with the King of
Prussia to dissuade him from a policy of annexation. It is, however,
highly important to proceed most cautiously in this affair; before
taking each step his majesty must be perfectly clear as to its results
and consequences."

A groom of the chambers entered and announced,--

"General von Manteuffel."

The secretary rose, and withdrew by a side door leading from the
cabinet.

The prince stood up.

Every trace of displeasure had vanished from his countenance, there was
nothing to be seen but calm and complete courtesy.

General von Manteuffel entered. He wore the full uniform of an
adjutant-general of the King of Prussia, the blue enamelled cross of
the Order of Merit around his neck, upon his breast the stars of the
Russian orders of Alexander Nevsky and of the White Eagle, with the
broad ribbon of the first, and the star of the Prussian Order of the
Red Eagle.

The general's sharply-marked features, with the thick bushy hair
growing low down upon the forehead, and the full beard only slightly
cut away at the chin, had not the severe, almost gloomy expression
which they were accustomed to wear. He approached the Russian minister
with great cordiality and easy politeness, as if he were about to pay a
simple visit of courtesy; but the quick, animated grey eyes glanced
searchingly from beneath their thick brows, and were fixed with an
expression of restless expectation upon the prince.

The prince held out his hand to the general, and invited him by a
courteous movement to place himself in an easy chair near the
writing-table.

"I rejoice," he said, "to welcome your Excellency to St. Petersburg,
and I beg you to excuse me," he added, with a hasty glance at the
general's full uniform, "for receiving you in my morning dress. I
expected a private and friendly conversation."

"I have to deliver a letter from my gracious sovereign to his majesty
the emperor," replied the general, "and I wished to be ready to appear
before his majesty at any moment, of course after I have spoken with
your Excellency upon the object of my mission."

The prince bowed slightly.

"The object of your mission is explained in the royal letter?" he
inquired.

"It simply accredits me," replied the general, "and refers to my
personal explanations of its contents. The political situation is so
peculiar that it is impossible for an ambassador to proceed entirely by
written instructions."

"Count Redern imparted this to me," said Prince Gortschakoff, "when he
informed me of the honour of your visit."

And leaning lightly on the arm of his chair, he looked at the general
with an expression of polite attention.

"The king has commanded me," said General Manteuffel, "to lay before
your Excellency and his majesty the emperor the principles that must at
the present moment govern the Prussian policy in Germany and in Europe,
with the perfect candour and the complete confidence demanded by the
close connection between the two royal families, and the friendly
relations between the governments."

The prince bowed.

"The success of the Prussian arms," proceeded the general, "the
sacrifices which the government and the people have made to attain this
success, impose upon Prussia the duty of providing for its own
advantage, and also of securing on a firm and lasting basis the new
formation of Germany and its national unity. Before all things the
recurrence of those difficulties which have just been overcome must be
rendered impossible."

The prince was silent, his eyes only expressed courteous attention.

"The king," continued General von Manteuffel, "has accepted the
conditions of peace proposed by the French mediation; they are already
known to your Excellency, at the same time he has declared that one of
the principles which I just now mentioned renders the increase of
Prussia's power by territorial acquisitions absolutely imperative, and
Austria has already consented to such extension of Prussia in the
north."

A half compassionate, half contemptuous smile appeared for a moment on
the prince's lips, then his features resumed their expression of calm
attention.

"The king," added General Manteuffel, fixing his gaze immoveably upon
the eyes of the prince, "the king has now decided that the extension of
power necessary for Prussia and Germany will be obtained by the
incorporation of Hanover, Hesse Cassel, Nassau, and the town of
Frankfort."

The general was silent, as if awaiting a remark from the minister.

Not a feature of the prince's face moved. His eyes looked cordially at
the general through his gold spectacles, and those eyes plainly said:
"I hear."

General von Manteuffel calmly proceeded.

"The king is deeply and painfully touched by this necessity of causing
princely families related to him to undergo the hard lot of the
vanquished; his majesty would have struggled against it longer, had not
his duty to Prussia and to Germany been victorious in his royal heart
over his natural clemency and his regard to family ties."

Again the general appeared to expect an answer, or at least a remark
from the prince, but his countenance remained as quiet and unchanged as
a portrait, and there was still only one expression visible in it--a
firm determination to listen with the most respectful and polite
attention to everything that might be said to him.

General von Manteuffel continued:

"The events which have just taken place necessitate various alterations
in the European relations prescribed by the treaty of Vienna, and the
king therefore holds it needful to lay before his majesty the emperor
the constraining principles upon which he acted, and upon which he must
continue to act; he especially desires that these principles should
find full and complete justification from this government, who in
common with Prussia is almost alone in Europe in adhering to the
intentions of that treaty."

The prince bowed slightly.

"The treaty of Vienna," he said, shrugging his shoulders, "is scarcely
ever spoken of in modern diplomacy."

"His majesty the king," proceeded General von Manteuffel, "is so
penetrated by the justice of the principles laid down by that treaty
and by the Holy Alliance; he has so deeply complained of Austria's
renunciation of that treaty and that alliance, the Prussian policy in
the year 1855 testified so strongly to her faithfulness to that treaty,
that my most gracious sovereign most ardently desires his majesty the
emperor should be convinced that only absolute necessity could induce
him to decide on the approaching alterations in Germany, or to permit
royal families related to him to feel the hard consequences of war."

"We are acquainted with the consequences that war brings upon the
vanquished," said the prince, with quiet courtesy, "for ten years we
have borne those consequences on the shores of the Black Sea."

"A misfortune in which Prussia is free from blame," replied General von
Manteuffel, "which we have always deeply deplored, the removal of which
we should welcome with joy."

The prince was silent, but a slight gleam in his eye showed the
watchful general that his words were well received.

He continued:--

"His majesty would deeply regret that the necessities of German policy
should in any way alter the bands of friendship, and the perfect
confidence subsisting between the courts of Berlin and St. Petersburg.
He rather hopes, not only that these will continue to unite Prussia and
the newly constituted Germany with Russia, but also that a new, and
politically a still stronger basis of alliance between these two powers
may in the nature of things be formed."

The prince cast down his eyes for a moment. Then he said in a calm
conversational tone:--

"Here we feel--and I assure you the emperor, my most gracious
sovereign, feels most of all, the great importance of close and true
friendship with Prussia--and I do not doubt," he added, courteously,
"that under any circumstances this friendship would ensure an active
alliance. Only at the present moment I can scarcely discover its basis.
Russia is recovering and collecting herself," he continued, with a
shade of greater animation in his voice; "and has no intention of
mixing herself up in the affairs of European policy, or in the
reconstruction of national groups, so long as Russian interests are not
directly and unmistakeably injured. We might," he said, with an
expressive look, "complain of alterations in Germany by which royal
families, nearly related both to your king and to the emperor, are
disinherited; in this circumstance I find it impossible to perceive a
motive for more friendly policy, or the foundations for a more
practical alliance. Besides, to speak candidly, I think that the new
state of affairs in Germany is not calculated to strengthen the
political friendship of the court of Berlin with us. You best know how
inimical the German movement of 1848 was towards Russia--Germany will
scarcely accept entirely the political guidance of Prussia."

"I think your Excellency is mistaken on this point," said General von
Manteuffel, with some animation; "the democratic movement of 1848 only
used the national ideas as its banner; it beheld in Russia the
principle of reaction, and following the lead of its orators, it
used hatred to Russia as one of those catch words which move the
masses--true national feeling in Germany has no enmity to Russia, and
would welcome any accession to her national strength, or to her
powerful position in Europe!"

The prince was silent. His features expressed doubt.

General von Manteuffel continued:--

"Permit me, your Excellency, to explain the views which his majesty the
king, my master, entertains on this matter, and which, as I need hardly
say, are thoroughly shared by the Minister President Count Bismarck."

The prince slightly inclined his head, and listened with the utmost
attention.

The general's features kindled, and he spoke in a voice full of
conviction.

"History teaches us that all alliances arising from momentary and
fleeting political combinations, even though sealed by the most solemn
treaties, pass away as quickly as the circumstances that have created
them. When, on the contrary, firm political relations between two
nations and governments have arisen in the natural course of events,
the alliance remains firm through every change of time, and reappears
on every practical opportunity, whether founded on treaties or not. The
first and most important condition of such a natural combination is a
negative one, namely, that the interests of the two states should in no
way cross each other, in no way clash. This first and indispensable
condition exists in an eminent way in the relations between Prussia and
Russia. I am sure your Excellency will agree with me. It is Prussia's
mission to act towards the west. The German nation longs for unity,
longs for a strong and powerful leader; Prussia's calling, Prussia's
noblest ambition is and must ever be, to place this leadership in the
strong hand of her king. Prussia must struggle to command the whole of
Germany; she cannot rest until she has attained this high aim for
herself and the whole nation. What is now gained is a step--an
important step--on the great path which Prussia's German policy must
pursue--but it is not its completion. But this completion will come;
for its greatest hindrance, Austria's power and influence in Germany,
is broken--broken for long enough--as I believe, for ever. The path
upon which Prussia has entered, which she must pursue to the end, may
be crossed by the interests of France, of Italy, of England, but never
by those of the grand Russian nation, ever increasing in preponderance
and strength. For what is the aim, the legitimate aim, of Russian
policy?"

Prince Gortschakoff's keen eyes looked inquiringly at the general's
animated countenance; the conversation now approached its most
important point.

The general looked down for a moment; then he continued with some
slight hesitation:--

"Your Excellency must forgive me, if to you, whose genius inspires and
guides the policy of Russia, I venture to describe the aim and object
of this policy; nevertheless perfect candour is the foundation of
friendship, and in proportion to our comprehension of opposing
political problems, we see the reason, the necessity for this
friendship."

The prince bowed again in silence, and waited.

"The problem of the great founder of the present Russian monarchy,"
proceeded General von Manteuffel slowly, as if he sought carefully for
the most correct expressions for his thoughts, "Peter the Great's
problem, was the creation of a state possessing European culture, and
in order to solve this mighty problem he was forced to establish the
seat of his government as near as possible to cultured Europe; he
formed canals through which civilization poured in through the veins of
his vast kingdom, and made it live and bear fruit. So I understand the
choice of St. Petersburg as a capital for new Russia, for with regard
to the interior affairs and the resources of the great nation, this
spot could never have risen to be its capital. Russia's resources lie,
not in the north, not in this distant corner of the empire, they lie in
the south, they lie there, where the great national powers of
productiveness stream in rich abundance from the soil, they lie there,
where the natural course of the world's commerce unites Asia to Europe,
those continents to which Russia stretches out her two hands; these
resources," he added, after a moment's silence, during which he gazed
firmly at the prince, "lie near the Black Sea!"

Some slight emotion passed rapidly over the features of the Russian
statesman; involuntarily his eyes turned towards the parchment which
von Hamburger had laid before him on the table.

Manteuffel continued:--

"The first great problem which Peter the Great proposed to himself is
solved--Russia's broad, gigantic and national organization is saturated
with European cultivation, and we must own with some shame that in one
century you have outrun the whole of Europe."

"We had only to acquire what Europe had laboriously created," said
Prince Gortschakoff politely.

"The last great measure of the Emperor Alexander," continued
Manteuffel, "completed the work, and opened even the lowest strata of
the people to the living spirit of civilization--in short, the first
phase of Russian policy is completed, St. Petersburg has fulfilled its
mission. In my opinion the problem of the future is this--to use
Russia's internal productiveness as a centre-point for the fruitful
development of her national strength, to inspire the organization
already created, and to urge it to greater activity. For this you
require the Black Sea and its rich basin; there lies the real centre of
Russia, there must she develop her future, as the far-seeing eye of the
Emperor Nicholas rightly discerned, when he endeavoured to secure the
future of Russia in that direction."

Again the prince's eyes glided towards the parchment containing the
document so important to Russia.

"But upon this path," said the general, with emphasis, "which I am
convinced Russia ought to take, and to pursue to the very end, as we
must continue our path in Germany, the Russian interests will never
clash with those of Germany; rather shall we rejoice to see our
powerful neighbour as fortunately accomplishing her national mission as
we hope to accomplish our own."

He was silent, and looked at the prince inquiringly.

He said in a calm tone, with a slight sigh:

"Alas! the sad result of the Crimean war has placed an insurmountable
barrier in the path, which your Excellency so brilliantly describes;
and----"

"We too," cried Manteuffel, "have been often and long delayed upon our
path; nevertheless we never forsook it,--we never gave up the hope of
reaching the goal."

The prince was silent a moment. Then he said slowly:

"I agree with your Excellency, that the interests of Prussia, even of
the new Prussia and Germany, will not jostle those of Russia. I will
not doubt, too, what your Excellency tells me, that the national
movement in the Germany of to-day does not inherit the hatred to Russia
by which the democratic movement of 1848 was actuated. I regard these
assurances with satisfaction, as a guarantee that no cloud will arise
between us. Yet with the same candour with which your Excellency has
spoken to me, I must say that I cannot perceive how the present
situation and (if the lawful claims of treaties are regarded, the
lamentable) alterations in the European balance of power can form a
stronger political connection--can offer a firmer basis of eventual
alliance in the future. You pursue your path with victorious
success,--our own is closed for a long time, perhaps for ever."

"Permit me, your Excellency," said General von Manteuffel quickly, "to
express myself on this point with the reckless freedom which," he
added, laughingly, "you must expect in a soldier fresh from the camp,
who only dabbles in diplomacy."

The prince's eyes half closed, and he looked at the general with an
expression of good-natured satire.

Manteuffel passed his hand lightly over his moustache, and said:

"The Emperor Napoleon desires compensation for his consent to the new
acquisitions of Prussia and the new constitution of Germany."

"Ah!" cried the prince.

"And," proceeded Manteuffel, "they are far from bashful in Paris in
pointing out what they shall require as compensation."

"I have not been initiated in this bargaining," said the prince, with a
look of great interest and lively anxiety.

"I can inform your Excellency fully," returned General Manteuffel;
"they will demand the frontier of 1814, Luxemburg and Mayence."

The prince's face grew still more animated.

"_Will_ demand?" he asked.

"The demand is not yet stated officially," replied the general;
"Benedetti has only named it in confidence."

"And what did Count Bismarck reply?" asked the prince.

"He put off the discussion of the question and its answer until after
the conclusion of peace with Austria."

The prince gave a fine smile and a slight nod with his head.

"I can, however, tell your Excellency the answer beforehand," said the
general.

"And it will be?" asked the prince.

"Not a foot's breadth of land, not a fortress,--no compensation," said
General Manteuffel, in a firm, clear voice.

Prince Gortschakoff looked at him with surprise, as if he had not
expected this short and simple answer.

"And what will France do?" he asked.

The general shrugged his shoulders.

"Perhaps declare war," he replied,--"perhaps be prudently silent, wait,
and arm; any way, it will be a sharp disappointment, and war must be
the final result."

The prince looked at this man with astonishment, who had just discussed
with such fine intellect all the aims and threads of political
interests, and who now, with soldier-like bluntness, spoke as of an
ordinary event, of a war whose thunders must shake Europe to its very
foundations.

"That is the situation," said Manteuffel; "I beg your Excellency's
permission to express my views on its consequences, and the position of
Russia with regard to them."

"I am most curious to hear!" said the prince.

"The situation I have just described," proceeded the general, "gives
Russia the power of deciding for all future time the relations
that shall exist between that empire and Germany. If the Russian
policy uses adverse circumstances to make difficulties for us, this
policy,--forgive me, your Excellency, I must touch on every possibility
to make my views clear,--this policy, even though it secures success to
France for a time, will not prevent the regeneration of Germany; and
under all future circumstances--for ever--Prussia and Germany will
regard Russia as a foe, who is ready to come to an understanding with
the western powers upon the affairs of Europe, and to make their
interests her own."

General von Manteuffel spoke in a firm and decided voice, and fixed his
eyes firmly on the vice-chancellor.

The prince's eyes fell, and he bit his lips.

"I beg your Excellency to forgive me," said the general, "for having
touched upon an eventuality, which is doubtless far removed from your
enlightened policy. I now come to the other course--namely, that
Russia, according to the old traditions of the two courts, shall regard
the enlargement of Prussia with friendly and favourable eyes, and shall
make use of the present opportunity to arrange with new Germany the
foundations of that close connection which, according to my
convictions, ought to exist in future, and which will so greatly
further the interests of both nations. The compensation being refused,"
he proceeded, "France will probably declare war immediately,--we do not
fear her; at this moment the whole of Germany would unite and accept
war without hesitation, especially if we had Russia as a well-wisher to
back us. But Russia can have no more favourable opportunity for
breaking the bann which the treaty of 1856 laid upon her development
and her natural and needful aims. Whilst we hold France in check, no
one will prevent you from bursting asunder the unnatural chains with
which the western allied powers, in conjunction with ungrateful
Austria, fettered you upon the Black Sea, that spot where lies the
future of Russia."

The prince's eyes brightened, his features expressed a smiling consent
to the ideas so forcibly and convincingly unfolded by General von
Manteuffel.

He continued:

"If, however, as I personally believe will be the case, France, who has
already let the right moment go by----"

Prince Gortschakoff several times nodded his head.

"If France," said the general, "is silent for the present, assembles
her forces, and arms, our position is even better, because it is more
certain. During the period of suspense which will precede the
inevitable war, we gain time to bind the national strength of Germany
more strongly and closely together, and you have time to complete your
preparations in the south and west, and to form ties across the ocean
which will, under any circumstances, secure to you your natural
confederates."

"General," said the prince, smiling; "you have comprehensively and
successfully studied the affairs of Russia."

"Because I love Russia," replied the general, with perfect frankness;
"and because I regard a close and indissoluble friendship between
Russia and Germany as the salvation of Europe in the future. But I am
coming to a conclusion. When, after a longer or a shorter interval from
the reconstruction of Germany, a decisive war breaks out with France,
then that alliance of the western powers so prejudicial to you falls to
pieces; you will have nothing to do, except to hold in check Austria's
desire for revenge, and you will obtain perfect freedom again to open
the Black Sea to your national interests, and your national progress.
We, as we press onwards on the path leading to our national aims, shall
behold with joy the swift and mighty strides which Russia will make in
the fulfilment of her national destiny. Yes," he continued, "we will at
all times and in every way support you. Could I for a moment doubt what
decision would be made by so enlightened a policy as your own, I would
say,--'Choose, your Excellency, whether two states, whose interests can
never be inimical, shall mutually harass each other--or whether by a
perfect and close understanding they shall support each other in
gaining the powerful position that nature assigns them--whether hand in
hand they shall guide the fate of Europe?'"

He ceased and looked at the prince in suspense.

From his face all trace of the cold reserve he had assumed at the
commencement of the interview had completely vanished. A deep
earnestness appeared on his features. His gaze rested on the Prussian
ambassador.

"My dear general," he said, in a firm, clear voice, "if the principles
and the views which you have so candidly, so warmly, and so
convincingly stated are those of your government----"

"They are in every respect those of my gracious sovereign, and of his
ministers," said Manteuffel, calmly and decidedly.

"Then," replied the prince, "I will tell you with the same frankness,
that in all fundamental principles our judgment on the present state of
affairs perfectly coincides with your own."

A flash of joy shone in the general's deep grave eyes.

"It only remains," said the prince, "to use these common principles and
views in practical arrangements, and to make them the firm basis of
common action in the future."

"I am ready to do this at any moment," said the general.

"But first of all," continued the prince, "we must gain the consent of
his majesty the emperor to, our agreement; if it is agreeable to you,
let us drive at once to Zarskoë Selo. You will have the trouble," he
said, smiling, "of repeating to the emperor what you have just said to
me."

General von Manteuffel bowed.

"I hope," he said, "that my devotion to my country, and my honest love
to Russia, will give my words clearness and conviction."

Prince Gortschakoff rang.

"Order the carriage," he said to the groom of the chambers.

"Will you excuse me for a moment," said he to General von Manteuffel,
"I shall be ready to accompany you immediately."

He withdrew by a side door. Manteuffel walked to the window and looked
thoughtfully through the panes.

After five minutes the prince returned. He wore his ministerial undress
uniform, the broad orange ribbon of the Black Eagle beneath his coat,
and upon his breast the star of this highest Prussian Order, above the
star of the Order of Andreas.

The groom of the chambers opened the door.

"Precede me, I beg," said the minister, with a courteous movement, "I
am at home."

General von Manteuffel left the room and awaited the prince who
followed him.

                           *   *   *   *   *

Late in the afternoon of the same day the splendour of the evening sun
flooded the magically beautiful park surrounding the imperial palace of
Zarskoë Selo; that park of which it is said, that a fallen leaf is
never allowed to remain on the well-kept roads, that magnificent
creation of the first Catharine, which a succession of mighty autocrats
have embellished until it has attained the charms of Fairyland.

General von Knesebeck appeared from one of the side doors of the
enormous castle, which with its ornaments of gilded bronze, and its
colossal caryatides glittered in the rays of the setting sun from
amidst dark masses of lofty trees. He had arrived that morning at
Zarskoë Selo at the emperor's command, and he awaited an audience,
during which he was to deliver a letter to the emperor from his king,
who had sent the general to beg Alexander II. to interfere on his
behalf.

Grave and sad, the general walked through the glorious alleys, lost in
gloomy thought. The distinguished attention with which he had been
received, the equipages and servants placed at his disposal, had not
removed the impression made on him, both from his conversation with
Prince Gortschakoff, and from the remarks of gentlemen about the court,
that there was little hope for his king. They had all expressed
sympathy and interest; but in the atmosphere of a court there is a
certain fluid, always perceptible to those accustomed to such circles,
from which they can almost always tell beforehand whether or no a
mission will be successful.

The general had not approved of the policy of the Hanoverian court, his
quick eyes had perceived the weakness of Austria, and he had deeply
deplored the unaccountable command of the Hanoverian army during its
short campaign. Many ties bound him to Prussia, and with his whole
heart he grasped the thought of a United Germany; but he was a true
servant to his king, and deep grief overwhelmed him when he thought of
the future that was now inevitable, unless his mission attained
success.

He walked slowly on, farther and farther, lost in thought.

Suddenly an artistically contrived ruin, producing an excellent effect,
arose before him in the solitude, amongst lofty trees. He went up to
it, a doorkeeper in the imperial livery obsequiously opened the door
after glancing at the general's uniform, and he entered a lofty
circular space lighted only from above, dark, severe, and simple, an
English chapel. Before him in exquisite Carara marble rose a figure of
Christ, Dannecker's marvellously beautiful creation. The Saviour with
one hand points to his breast, the other is raised with inexpressible
grandeur towards heaven.

The general stood still for a long time before this affecting figure.

"We must lay our sorrows on the Saviour's divine breast, and humbly
await wisdom from heaven," he whispered, "does a secret warning draw me
hither now, and lead me to this beautiful and holy image?"

Overcome by the powerful impression made upon him by this work of
genius, he folded his hands and stood before it for some time.

He slightly moved his lips as he said:

"If the wheel of fate, as it rolls along unceasingly, must crush so
much in its path, grant at least that the German Fatherland may gain
might and greatness, and the German people happiness, from the
struggles and the sufferings of the days that are gone!"

With a long look at the sculptured figure he turned away, and passing
by the door-keeper, he returned to the park.

He walked again towards the palace, and stood still before the large
lake, compelled by art to flow out from between the two halves of the
castle, and to fall down in waterfalls with many cascades. Here is the
so-called Admiralty, where the grand dukes exercise themselves in
building the models of ships; near the pretty landing place boats are
crowded from all the five divisions of the world; the Turkish kaik, the
Chinese junk, the Russian tschelónok, and the whaling boat of the
Greenlander, lie side by side, and skilful sailors in the emperor's
employment are at the disposal of those who wish to embark.

The general was looking at this interesting and varied picture, when a
servant approached him hurriedly, and informed him that an equerry had
just come to his rooms to lead him to the emperor.

With quick footsteps and hastily drawn breath, the general went back to
his apartments, and after donning scarf and plumed hat, hurried with
the equerry along the large and magnificent terrace leading to the part
of the palace inhabited by the emperor.

In the ante-chamber there was only a groom of the chambers, who
immediately opened the door of the emperor's room. The equerry after
simply announcing him, requested General Knesebeck to enter.

In the brightly lighted apartment, with large windows leading out upon
the terrace, and the mild aromatic summer air streaming in through
them, stood the lofty form of Alexander the Second. He wore the uniform
of a Russian general, his perfect features, always grave and even
melancholy, showed emotion, and his large expressive eyes gazed at the
general with a look of deep sorrow. He advanced a step towards
Knesebeck and said in his full, melodious voice, in the purest German:

"You come late, general; nevertheless, I rejoice to see you here, a
true servant to your king."

And he held out his hand to the general, who seized it respectfully,
and with deep feeling.

"If it might be possible," he said, "for me to be of service to my
master so severely smitten by fate! But first of all I must discharge
my commission;" he drew a sealed letter from his uniform; "and place
this communication from my king in the mighty hands of your imperial
majesty."

Alexander took the letter, seated himself in an easy, chair, and
pointed to a seat near, where the general placed himself.

The emperor opened the letter and read its contents slowly and
attentively.

For a moment he looked down sorrowfully, then he fixed his penetrating
eyes upon the general and spoke.

"Have you anything more to say to me?"

"I have to add," said von Knesebeck, "that his majesty the king my
gracious master, fully acknowledging the completeness of events that
have made the King of Prussia the conqueror in Germany, is ready to
conclude peace with his Prussian majesty and to accept the conditions
made unavoidable by necessity. My gracious sovereign expressed this in
a letter he wrote to his majesty King William, but the letter was
refused. The king hopes, well knowing your majesty's tried friendship,
that you will undertake to mediate, and to preserve him from the hard
measures already spoken of by the public newspapers."

The emperor sighed deeply and looked on the ground.

"My dear General," he then said, "you have come too late. I have indeed
the most affectionate and honest friendship for the king, and from my
soul I wished to see the sad conflict avoided whose unhappy
consequences are now being accomplished. I have endeavoured to work in
this spirit, it has been in vain. I must be quite frank with you," he
continued, "the position of affairs demands it. The wish of my heart to
be useful to your king is opposed by an unalterable political
necessity, which King William, my uncle, deplores as deeply as I do
myself."

The general sighed. His face quivered with pain and tears shone in his
eyes.

The emperor looked at him for some time with an expression of deep
sorrow and affectionate sympathy.

"I scarcely venture," he then said in a gentle voice, "to make the only
proposition to you that the circumstances permit, and which if the king
accepts it, I am sure I can prevail upon the King of Prussia to grant;
if the king will abdicate," he proceeded with hesitation, "the
Brunswick succession shall be secured to the Crown Prince Ernest
Augustus."

The general was silent for a moment.

"Thus," said he, "must the house of Guelph be reduced to its cradle and
its oldest inheritance! Will your majesty permit me to lay this
proposition to which I am not in a position to reply, before my king at
once?"

"I request you will do so," said the emperor, "you will," he added,
"have no cipher at hand, send the despatch to Count Stackelberg, he can
also receive the answer under his cipher."

"At your majesty's command," said General von Knesebeck.

"Be convinced," said the emperor in a hearty tone, "that I feel the
deepest and warmest sympathy for your king; may God make the future of
his family as happy as possible, and if I can help him in any way, I am
ready to do so. Though the occasion is sad, I am glad that I have had
the opportunity of making your acquaintance, my dear general."

He took his hand and pressed it heartily.

Then he rang and called his equerry.

"Take the despatch which the general will give you to Prince
Gortschakoff at once. It must be sent in cipher to my ambassador in
Vienna immediately. The answer must be sent here to the general without
delay."

With a low bow General von Knesebeck left the cabinet.

An hour later the electric wire bore his despatch to Vienna.

The night fell; restless and sleepless the general watched the sun
which only at midnight sank for a short time below the horizon, and
soon reappeared, mingling the twilight of evening with the morning
dawn.

At noon a secretary arrived from Prince Gortschakoff and brought him a
sealed letter.

The general hastily broke the seal with its large double eagles, and in
the neatest handwriting saw the reply to his despatch.

It ran thus:

"The king cannot trade upon the succession to Brunswick, which will
devolve upon himself and his heirs, by right of family inheritance, and
the lawful transmission of land. He is however ready to abdicate
immediately, provided the government of the kingdom of Hanover is
guaranteed to the Crown Prince."

"I expected this," said the general with a sigh.

And sticking the paper into his uniform, he seized his plumed hat, and
descended the stairs to the carriage already waiting to convey him to
the Emperor Alexander.



                             CHAPTER XXIII.

                        THE MARSHALS OF FRANCE.


Again the Emperor Napoleon sat in his cabinet at the Tuileries, but his
wearied and anxious features no longer expressed content and calm
security. A short sojourn at the baths of Vichy had not strengthened
his health, and the political situation had not answered his
expectations. Gloom and gravity overspread his face, he supported his
elbows on his knees and bent down his head, slightly twisting the
points of his moustache with his left hand, whilst listening to the
report of the minister of foreign affairs, who sat before him.

Monsieur Drouyn de Lhuys was extremely excited, a pale flush was upon
his usually quiet countenance, and in his keen and brilliant eyes shone
a fire only repressed by a strong effort of will.

"Sire," he said, "your majesty beholds the result of the uncertain and
vacillating policy I have so long implored you to abandon. Had your
majesty prevented the war between Prussia and Austria, or had you
marched the army to the Rhine a month ago, either the present difficult
position could not have arisen, or France would have gained that which,
from the new constitution of Germany, she _must have_. Our situation
now is most painful, and it will cost us double the effort successfully
to uphold the interests of France."

The emperor raised his head a little, and from beneath his drooping
eyelashes stole a look at the excited face of his minister.

"Do you think," he said, "that in Berlin they will really refuse our
demands for compensation? Mayence we might perhaps abandon, if it
ceases to be a fortress, or is reduced to a fortress of the second
rank, but would they dare--?"

He paused.

"I am convinced," said Drouyn de Lhuys, "that they will give us
_nothing_ of their own free-will. Peace with Austria is concluded, the
Prussian army is free to march where it lists, and as it is prepared
for war it has a great advantage over us; from Russia too the reports
are very unfavourable, the feeling of displeasure in St. Petersburg has
given place to extreme reserve, and during the last few days all Baron
Talleyrand's remarks upon the dangers of a united military Germany have
been met with evasive answers. Benedetti's short announcement leaves us
in no doubt as to how his propositions were received in Berlin. We must
make the greatest exertions."

Again the emperor looked up with a thoughtful gaze. He drew out his
watch.

"Benedetti must have returned this morning, I am anxious to hear his
report myself," he said.

"He will have gone to the Quai d'Orsay," returned Drouyn de Lhuys.

The curtain which hung over the door leading to the private secretary's
room moved, and Piétri's fine intelligent head appeared from behind the
portière.

"Sire," he said, "Monsieur Benedetti is here, and asks whether your
majesty is inclined to receive him?"

"Immediately!" said the emperor with animation, "bring him here!"

A minute afterwards the portière opened and the ambassador entered the
cabinet.

He was in black morning dress, his pale features showed traces of
fatigue from his journey, his eyes shone with nervous excitement.

He bowed deeply to the emperor, and shook hands with Drouyn de Lhuys.

"I have expected you with impatience," said Napoleon, "be seated, and
tell me how matters stand in Berlin."

"Sire," said Benedetti, as he took a chair, and placed himself opposite
to the emperor and Drouyn de Lhuys, "I had driven to the Quai d'Orsay
to announce myself to the minister, and as I heard he was here, I took
the liberty of coming at once."

"You were right," said the emperor, "you now find the whole apparatus
of the constitutional government together," he added laughingly;
"relate,--I listen with impatience."

Monsieur Benedetti drew a deep breath and said:

"As your majesty is aware, I laid the sketch of the treaty which I
received from Vichy before Count Bismarck, in a confidential
conversation, immediately after his return to Berlin."

"And--?" asked the emperor.

"Any compensation, but above all the cession of Mayence, he plainly and
roundly--refused."

"Your majesty perceives," said Drouyn de Lhuys.

The emperor twisted his moustache and his head sank.

"I produced," continued Benedetti, "all the reasons which make it our
imperative duty at this moment to demand compensation for France, I
laid before him the regard we must have to public opinion in France, I
insisted how small was the compensation demanded, in comparison to the
large acquisitions of Prussia, how militarily concentrated Germany owed
France a guarantee of peace for the future: all was in vain,--the
minister president was obstinate in his refusal, and only repeated
again and again, that the national feeling in Germany would not bear
such compensation."

The emperor was silent.

"Two days afterwards," proceeded Benedetti, "I had a second interview
with Count Bismarck--it had the same result. I pointed out in the most
careful way that the refusal of our just demands might endanger the
future good understanding between Prussia and France, and the only
result of this intimation was that Count Bismarck as carefully, yet in
a manner not to be misunderstood, hinted that though he perceived this
danger he must persist in his refusal, and that he was not to be
frightened from his determination even by the most extreme measures. I
must however remark," added the ambassador, "that our conversation
never for a moment overstepped the bounds of courtesy or even of
friendship, and that Count Bismarck repeatedly told me how greatly he
desired a continuance of a good understanding with France, and how
convinced he was that in the new state of affairs the interests of
France and Germany in Europe would have so many points in common, that
a friendly policy on each side would be determined upon by both
governments after due consideration. I considered it better under these
circumstances," said Benedetti after a short pause, during which the
emperor remained silent, "not to carry on the discussion any farther,
but to return here at once, and to make a personal report upon the
negotiation, and the position of affairs in Berlin."

Drouyn de Lhuys bit his lips. The emperor raised his eyes slowly, and
looked at Monsieur Benedetti enquiringly.

"And do you think," he asked, "that public opinion in Prussia and in
Germany, will take Count Bismarck's part, if he dares to provoke a war
with France--do you think that the king?--"

"Sire," said Benedetti with energy, "that is what I especially desired
personally to impart to your majesty, in order that you may make no
decision without a perfect knowledge of the situation. The war with
Austria," he proceeded, "was unpopular in Prussia itself, and had it
been disastrous, serious commotions would have arisen in the interior;
nevertheless, I cannot conceal from your majesty, that success has
borne its accustomed fruit. The Prussian people feel as if aroused from
slumber; the aims of the minister president, now clearly revealed to
all eyes, the firmness and daring energy with which he politically
followed up their military success, find not only approval, they call
forth general enthusiasm. Count Bismarck is the popular idol in
Prussia, and if anything could raise his popularity to a higher
pinnacle, it would be a war caused by his refusal to alienate German
soil. The army, the generals, and the princes of the royal family fully
share these views; in military circles, indeed, they are expressed more
vehemently and more decidedly. The king would not for a moment flinch
from such a war. Such is the state of affairs which regard to truth
compels me to divulge to your majesty."

"But Germany--vanquished, but not annihilated Germany?" asked Drouyn de
Lhuys, as the emperor still remained silent.

"Of course I cannot be so perfectly acquainted with the opinions of the
rest of Germany as I am with those of Berlin," said Benedetti; "but I
have attentively perused the newspapers, and I have spoken of the
feeling in Germany to persons certain to be well informed: the result
of my observations is, that at this moment not a single German
government would dare to side with France against Prussia, and the
German people (of this I am sure) would--with some few exceptions,
which are certain to be instantly suppressed,--place themselves on the
side of Prussia. We should have all Germany against us."

"France must fear no enemy, when her honour and her interests are at
stake!" cried Drouyn de Lhuys proudly.

Benedetti looked on the ground, and said, with some hesitation,--

"I must also impart to your majesty, that I hear from a source which
for a long time past has supplied me with true and important
intelligence, and which is known to your majesty,--I hear that a secret
treaty is concluded between Prussia and the South German states, which
in case of war delivers the armies of these states to the King of
Prussia as their Commander-in-Chief."

"Impossible!" cried the emperor vehemently as he rose, "it would make
the Treaty of Peace an illusion!"

"Our representatives at the South German courts tell us nothing about
this," said Drouyn de Lhuys.

"I believe my information is true," said Benedetti, calmly.

The emperor stood up. Both the gentlemen rose at the same moment.
Drouyn de Lhuys looked at his sovereign in anxious suspense.

"My dear Benedetti," said Napoleon with charming kindness, "you are
tired after your exhausting journey, I beg you will rest yourself
thoroughly. I thank you for your communications, and for the zeal you
have shown in making them to me personally. To-morrow I will see you
again and will give you further instructions."

And with engaging courtesy he held out his hand to Benedetti.

The ambassador bowed deeply and withdrew by the door leading to
Piétri's room.

"Your majesty is now convinced," said Drouyn de Lhuys, "that our
propositions are refused."

Napoleon drew himself up proudly, his features expressed energy and
determination, his eyes were widely opened, and courage flashed in his
clear glance.

"Now for action," said he.

The minister's face shone with joy.

"France will thank your majesty for this decision," he cried.

The emperor rang.

"General Fleury," he cried to the groom of the chambers as he entered.

The general's strong lean form, with his animated, expressive
countenance, large moustache, and Henri Quatre beard, appeared a moment
afterwards in the cabinet.

"Are the marshals assembled?" asked Napoleon.

"At your majesty's command."

Drouyn de Lhuys gazed with surprise at the emperor.

He responded with a smile.

"You shall be convinced, my dear minister," said he, "that I have not
been idle, and that I have thought of preparing for the action you hold
to be needful. You will, I hope, be satisfied with me. I beg you to
accompany me."

And leaving the cabinet, followed by the minister, he walked through an
anteroom, and entered a large salon richly yet simply decorated, in the
midst of which stood a table surrounded by fauteuils.

Here were assembled the highest dignitaries of the French army, the
bearers of that honour, so highly prized for centuries, wrestled for
with so much blood--the marshal's baton of France.

There was the grey-haired Marshal Vaillant, looking more like a
courtier than a soldier; the snow-white, brave, and military-looking
Count Regnault de St. Jean d'Angely; Canrobert, with his long hair,
resembling a philosopher rather than a warrior; Count Baraguay
d'Hilliers, elegant and chivalrous, notwithstanding his age; the
minister of war, Count Randon; the slender MacMahon, all muscle and
nerve, with his gentle face and quick bright eyes; there was Niel, with
his earnest, intelligent countenance, showing signs of sickness and
suffering, but bearing also the stamp of unyielding energy and of an
iron will; there was Marshal Forey, with his stiff, military carriage.

The youngest of the marshals, Bazaine, was wanting: he was in Mexico,
preparing to leave the unhappy Emperor Maximilian to his tragic fate.
All the marshals were in plain black civilian dress.

The emperor returned the low bow of the assembly by a greeting full of
graceful dignity. With a firm step he walked towards the head of the
table, and placed himself in the arm-chair which stood there,
commanding the marshals, by a sign with his hand, also to be seated.

Drouyn de Lhuys sat opposite to the emperor; on his right hand, Marshal
Vaillant; on his left, Count Baraguay d'Hilliers; the others according
to their seniority.

"I have assembled you here, messieurs mes maréchals," began Napoleon,
in a firm voice, "even the gentlemen who hold foreign commands, even
you, Duc de Magenta, I have called hither, because, at the present
grave moment, I desire to receive the advice, and to hear the views of
the trusty leaders of the French army."

The marshals looked at the emperor full of expectation.

"You all know," said Napoleon, "the events which have just been
accomplished in Germany. Prussia, misusing her victory at Sadowa, is
creating a German military state, continually to threaten the frontiers
of France. I did not consider myself justified in interfering in the
inner development of Germany. The German nation has the same right
freely to reconstitute itself as France claims, and as all foreign
nations allow to her; but as the sovereign of France, it was my
duty to care for the safety of her frontier, menaced by the increased
strength of Germany. For this cause, I opened negotiations to obtain
for France that frontier which would secure her natural and strategical
defence--the frontier of 1814--Mayence and Luxemburg."

The emperor allowed his eyes to glide over the assembly. He seemed to
expect joyful and animated applause.

But grave and silent the marshals sat, with downcast looks; even
MacMahon's bright eyes did not kindle with joy at the prospect of war
expressed in the emperor's words.

Napoleon proceeded:

"I have sounded them in Berlin, and it appears that they are not
disposed to accede to the just claims I thought it needful to make in
the name of France. Before I go further, and bring matters to an
ultimatum, I wish to hear your views upon a war with Prussia, the
greatest and the gravest war that France could undertake."

Drouyn de Lhuys looked up impatiently. This was not the turn he wished
matters to take.

"I know," said the emperor, whose quick eyes had perceived the gloomy
looks of his marshals, and whose natural moderation inclined him to
prudence; "I know that France is always armed, and strong enough to
repel every attack; but before we begin a war of such immense
importance, we must be quite clear as to our strength, and readiness
for battle. I therefore pray you, gentlemen, to give me your opinions
as to the probable result of a war with Germany, and upon the way in
which such a war must be carried out."

Old Marshal Vaillant looked down before him thoughtfully.

"Sire," he then said, with grave calmness, "twenty years ago my heart
would have beat high at the thought of such a war--revenge for
Waterloo!--now the prudence of old age is victorious over the fire of
youth, over the throbs of my French heart. Before we decide so grave,
so important a question, it will be needful to ascertain by a
commission, the state of the army and the means at our disposal for
offensive war, and for the defence of the country, to consider the
influence of Prussia's new weapon upon tactics, and thus to form a
well-grounded judgment. I cannot venture at once to decide a question
so deeply affecting the fate of France. If I am too prudent," he added,
"I beg your majesty to blame not me, but my years."

Count Baraguay d'Hilliers and Marshal Canrobert signified their assent
to the views expressed by Vaillant.

The minister of war, Count Randon, said:--

"I believe that the condition of the army, to which I have devoted all
my care, is excellent, and that the means of defence throughout the
country are in the best possible state; nevertheless, I am the last
person in the world to disapprove of an examination, which will to a
certain extent control my administration as minister of war--a careful
examination upon the influence of the needle-gun I most urgently
advise."

The grey-haired Count Regnault de St. Jean d'Angely said, in a firm
voice,--

"Sire, I have the great honour of commanding your majesty's guards.
This corps is in perfect readiness to march against the enemies of
France. If your majesty declared war to-day, the guards could start for
the frontier to-morrow, full of zeal to twine fresh laurels round our
ancient eagle. But we cannot carry on a war with the guards alone. I
must therefore entirely agree with the views of Marshal Vaillant."

Drouyn de Lhuys shrugged his shoulders with impatience, which he
scarcely troubled himself to conceal. The emperor looked thoughtfully
before him.

"Sire," said MacMahon, in his voice so gentle in conversation,
but which in front of his troops resounded metallic as a trumpet
blast--"Sire, your majesty knows I would rather see my sword flash in
the sunshine against the enemies of France than wear it in its
scabbard, yet I must fully concur in the wise view of Marshal Vaillant.
Let us examine--let us examine quickly, and then as quickly do that
which is needful."

Slowly Marshal Niel raised his eyes, so full of genius, to the emperor.
He hesitated for a moment, then he spoke in a calm, firm tone:--

"I must beg our honoured _doyen's_ forgiveness if I, so much younger
than himself, am of a different opinion."

The marshals all looked at the speaker with astonishment. Drouyn de
Lhuys, with joyful expectation, hung on his lips. The emperor raised
his head and looked at him in the greatest suspense.

"Sire," he added, his features growing animated, "I do not consider a
commission needful, because without an examination my opinion is
formed."

"And your opinion is?" asked Napoleon.

"My opinion is that your majesty is not in a position to fight."

Drouyn de Lhuys looked at Niel with horror. The emperor showed no
emotion, only he cast down his eyes and bent his head a little to one
side, as was his custom when he listened with unusual attention.

"Sire," proceeded Kiel, "if one who wears the marshal's baton of
France, in such an assemblage, before his monarch, expresses such an
opinion as my own, it is his duty to give the reasons upon which it is
founded. Allow me to do this on their principal points. I am ready
hereafter to lay my reasons before your majesty in a special memorial.
Firstly," he continued, "a war against Prussia and Germany--for I
believe in this case Germany would stand beside Prussia--needs the
whole and entire force of the French nation. At the present moment this
is not at our command. The expedition to Mexico draws away both men and
money which we could not spare, and I should not wish that, following
the example of Austria, we engaged upon two wars at once, when opposed
to a foe whose dangerous strength we must, above all things, duly
estimate if we hope for success. Secondly," he added, "according to my
opinion, no examination is necessary to convince us that we must oppose
to the Prussian needle-gun a weapon at least as good, if not superior.
I venture to doubt whether, as they now affirm in Austria, it was
entirely the needle-gun that Prussia must thank for her great and
astonishing success. I doubt it; nevertheless, apart from the undoubted
efficacy of this weapon, it is absolutely necessary for the _morale_
and self-confidence of our soldiers, to give them a needle-gun of an
equally good or superior kind, especially now that the newspapers and
common rumour have surrounded this gun with the nimbus of a magic
weapon. I should hold it to be extremely dangerous to lead the
army, as it is at present equipped, against Prussian regiments. A new
weapon, sire, necessitates new tactics. I will only allude to the
completely altered functions of cavalry in war, and the new problem of
artillery,--on which your majesty's views will be clearer than my own,"
he added, bowing to the emperor. "Then," he proceeded, "without any
commission, it is perfectly clear that the strongholds on our frontier
have neither the fortifications, the provisions, nor the ammunition
needful to make them really effective in war. This is no reflection
upon the military administration," he said, turning to Count Randon;
"it is a fact whose full explanation is found in the circumstance that
the state of politics during the last few years has directed our
military attention to other points. Finally," he said in a convincing
tone, "there is one point to consider, which I believe to be the most
important of all. We have opposed to us in Prussia a nation whose
military organization causes every man up to a great age to be a
soldier. In case of need Prussia can, after a lost battle, after the
annihilation even of an army upon the field, produce another army in an
effective condition, with all the discipline and all the requisites of
well-trained soldiers. I will not speak of the influence such an
excessive expenditure of strength must have on home affairs--on the
welfare of the country, but in a military point of view its success is
immense. We have but our regular army, and were it broken, defeated--in
the quiet contemplation of affairs it is the duty even of a French
mouth to pronounce this hard word--we have nothing--except perhaps,
undisciplined masses with a good courage, who would be sacrificed
without result. I will not maintain that it would be advisable, or,
indeed, with our national peculiarities, that it would be possible to
imitate the Prussian system, nevertheless we must create something
which will be a true national reserve. I wish to express that we must
have, to back up our regular army, material sufficiently trained to
form another army in case of need, if we would avoid entering on the
war with unequal forces. I will shortly recapitulate my opinion. We
must, in the first place, be completely freed from Mexico, that we may
be able to concentrate the whole power of France upon one point. We
must then supply the whole army with an excellent breach-loader; we
must modify our drill to our new weapon; our fortresses must be in
perfect readiness for war. Finally, we must create a mobile and
efficient national reserve. I consider all these preparations
indispensable before commencing so grave and decisive a war."

Deep silence reigned for a moment throughout the apartment.

The emperor fixed his eyes upon Marshal Forey, the youngest in the
assembly.

"I perfectly coincide in the views that Marshal Niel has so clearly and
convincingly expressed," he said.

The other marshals were silent, but their looks plainly showed that
they had nothing to say against the views Niel had advanced.

"Sire," cried Drouyn de Lhuys, vehemently, "I am not a soldier, and I
am convinced that from a military point of view the gallant marshal is
perfectly right; but the completion of the preparations he deems
needful for a successful campaign requires time, much time, and I think
we have none to lose if we are to guard the honour and the interests of
France. The favourable moment will go by, Prussia will grow stronger
and stronger, the military strength of Germany will become more and
more organized and concentrated, and if all is carried out that the
marshal desires, the increase to our strength, however important, will
perhaps be met by a still more considerable increase of strength on the
part of the enemy. Sire," he proceeded, with extreme excitement and
with flashing eyes, "I implore your majesty that two men and one
officer with the banner of France, may stand at the frontier and
support the needful demands which we must make upon Prussia; if they
see we are in earnest in Berlin they will yield, and if they do not, in
a few days all France would be formed into battalions to strengthen our
armies. It was with such battalions, sire, that your illustrious uncle
conquered the world; from these he formed those mighty armies, educated
not in the barrack-yard but on the battle-field, with which he subdued
Europe."

A deeply pained expression appeared for a moment on the emperor's face.

Then he raised his eyes enquiringly to Marshal Niel.

"What do you say to this, Monsieur le Maréchal?" he asked.

"Sire," replied Niel, "your minister's words must find an echo in every
French heart, and my strong conviction of my duty towards your majesty
and France alone prevents me from agreeing with him. Immediately after
the battle of Sadowa, whilst Germany was still armed, when Austria had
not yet concluded peace, when the Prussian army was still much
exhausted by the hard blows it had received during a severe struggle,
it might have been possible to do what the minister counsels. To-day it
would be too dangerous a game for France's glory and greatness; it
would be," he added, with a meaning look at the emperor, "a game which
your majesty might perhaps dare to play, but which no conscientious
general would dare to advise."

"And if I dare to play this game," cried the emperor, a brilliant flash
sparkling in his eyes, "which of you gentlemen would stand at my side
and lead the armies of France?"

A deep silence replied to the emperor's question.

"Sire," at last cried Marshal MacMahon, fixing his bright blue eyes
firmly on the emperor, "we are all ready, if you command, to march at
the head of the armies of France, and to die; but first we beg your
majesty to listen to Marshal Niel, and not to hazard the fate of
France, of imperial France, to such uncertain success."

All the marshals bent their heads, and their countenances expressed
their full approval of the Duke of Magenta's words.

Drouyn de Lhuys allowed his head to sink sorrowfully upon his breast.

The emperor fixed his eyes upon Marshal Niel without a sign of emotion.

"How long a time should you require to carry out what you have asserted
to be needful?"

"Two years, sire," replied the marshal, in a calm, clear voice.

"My best wishes will accompany the marshal in his work, if your majesty
deputes him to carry it out," said Count Randon, bowing to the emperor.

After a few moments of deep silence Napoleon rose.

"I thank you, gentlemen," he said, quietly, "for your opinions, and the
frankness with which you have expressed them. It will make it easier to
me to form a decision at this important moment. I shall see you all
again to-day at dinner."

And with his own peculiar courtesy he greeted them, and returned to his
cabinet alone.

He looked thoughtfully and gravely before him, and several times paced
slowly up and down the room.

"Rash indeed would it be to decide on action under these
circumstances," said he; "and wherefore, if time can ripen the fruit,
if waiting can make our aim more sure? Drouyn de Lhuys, that quiet
prudent man, talks like a Jacobin of 1793! He holds intercourse with
Orleans," he said, gloomily, as he stood still and fixed his eyes on
the ground.

Then he went to his writing-table, seated himself and wrote. His hand
hurried over the paper; sometimes he looked up as if seeking for a
word, then he wrote again, filling one page after another.

When he had finished he called Piétri.

"Make me a copy of this," said the emperor, holding out the written
sheets; "yet," he added, "read it first and tell me what you think of
it."

Piétri read slowly and attentively, whilst the emperor made a
cigarette, lighted it at the taper always burning on his table, and
then walked leisurely up and down the room, from time to time casting a
look of enquiry at his secretary's countenance.

When he saw that he had finished reading he said:

"Well, have you any remark to make?"

"Sire," said Piétri, "your majesty will not then act?"

"Perhaps it is better to wait," said the emperor.

"But this programme," said Piétri,--"for, what your majesty has just
sketched out is a political programme for the future--accepts the
alterations in Germany."

"Accepts them," said the emperor; and half speaking to himself he
added, "to accept is not to acknowledge--to accept indicates a
fictitious position which we permit to continue as long as we will."

"I admire, as I have often done before, the dexterity with which your
majesty chooses your words," said Piétri. "But," he proceeded, "this
theory of nonintervention, this declaration that the three portions
into which Germany is dividing completely reassure us as to the
interests of France, will not accord with the views of M. Drouyn de
Lhuys. I do not believe he will accept this programme without
discussion."

The emperor looked steadfastly at his secretary.

"I cannot compel him to do so," he then said.

"And your majesty is firmly determined to abide by this programme."

"Firmly determined?" said the emperor, thoughtfully. "How difficult it
is to decide at such a time. Do you know, Piétri," he said, as he laid
his hand upon his shoulder, "determination is something that hurts my
nerves; I do not know fear,--danger makes me cold and calm; but I am
always thankful to those who compel me by an impulse to do what is
needful to be done. Make me the copy,--I will drive out."



                             CHAPTER XXIV.

                         THE EMPRESS CHARLOTTE.


Monsieur Piétri finished his business with Napoleon the next morning,
and rose to withdraw to his own room.

The emperor looked down gravely.

"I must visit the Empress Charlotte," he said in a low tone.

"The poor empress! she is indeed to be pitied," remarked Piétri.

"Why does she cling so madly to that absurd Mexican crown?" cried
Napoleon. "Can I uphold the Emperor Maximilian on a throne which he has
himself undermined with his liberal ideas? He has estranged himself
from the Church party, and has deeply offended the clergy, the only
power that can lead the masses out there, and above all, that can get
him money, which he needs so greatly; for without money he will soon
have neither troops, nor generals, nor ministers, nor friends. Ought
I," he continued after a pause, "ought I to continue pouring into this
Mexican abyss streams of French blood and French money, without being
able to fill it, now, when this German danger, which I must bear in
smiling silence because I cannot act, threatens the frontier of
France?" He clenched his teeth firmly together, a look of anger crossed
his face. "This Mexican expedition was a great idea," he then said,
"the establishment of the monarchical principle on the other hemisphere
opposed to threatening North America; the rule of the Latin races. With
the subjugation of the Southern States these plans became impossible;
the Emperor Maximilian has not known how to find supporters for his
throne; I have no longer any interest in upholding him, and I cannot do
it."

"If your majesty had supported the Southern States vigorously?"
suggested Piétri, with some diffidence.

"How could I alone?" cried the emperor with animation. "Did not England
leave me in the lurch? England, who had a much greater interest than I,
in opposing the growth and consolidation of this American Republic? who
sheathed the sword that should have cut through those cotton threads,
which are threads of life to proud Great Britain. Shall I draw down
upon myself alone the hatred and enmity of that nation for the future,
without being sure of victory, that I may maintain an emperor upon a
throne where he wishes to rule with constitutional theories, joined to
wild experimental politics? I am sorry for Maximilian," he continued,
taking a few steps about the room; "there is something noble, something
great in him; but also much mistiness; he has something of his
predecessor, of Joseph II., who came into the world a hundred years too
soon, and of that other Maximilian, who was born as much too late, whom
the German poet called the last of the knights, forgetting Francis I. I
pity him," he said, sighing; "but I cannot help him. After all, it is
not so bad after this expedition again to become an archduke of
Austria; there are princes who have no such line of retreat if their
thrones are wrecked! I wish the Empress Charlotte had gone," he said in
a gloomy voice; "she was much excited yesterday--it will be a painful
visit!"

He caused the equerry on duty to be summoned, ordered his carriage, and
withdrew into his dressing-room.

                           *   *   *   *   *

In a salon, on the _bel étage_ of the Grand Hôtel in the Boulevard des
Italiens, sat the Empress Charlotte of Mexico, dressed entirely in
black. Her face once so lovely, fresh, and charming, was pale and sad;
it was already marked with deep lines which gave her the appearance of
premature old age, her hair was entirely concealed beneath the black
lace handkerchief which came low down on her forehead, her mouth had a
restless nervous movement, and her wearied eyes shone at times with an
unsteady feverish brilliancy.

Before the empress stood General Almonte, the Mexican ambassador in
Paris, a pleasing-looking man of the southern type. He gazed sadly at
the princess, who not long before had crossed the sea to ascend the
dazzling throne of Montezuma, in fabulous splendour, and who now sat
before him broken down by the deepest sorrow; instead of Montezuma's
diadem, she had found Guatimozin's crown of martyrdom.

"You do not believe then, general," asked the empress in a trembling
voice, "that anything is to be hoped from France?"

"I do not believe it," replied the general gravely; "according to all
that I have seen and heard here, the emperor is quite determined to
withdraw quickly and definitely from the whole affair. If his majesty
the Emperor Maximilian wishes to maintain his throne, (which I ardently
desire for the sake of an unhappy country robbed by one adventurer
after another)--he must not rely on France--he must find supporters in
the country itself. Before all, he must endeavour to win back the
firmest and mightiest support, which he has lost--the Church and the
clergy; they will procure him both money and soldiers. Not here," added
the general, "is help to be found; if your majesty takes my advice you
will go to Rome--the pope alone can restore to the emperor the mighty
power of the Mexican clergy--certainly he would require conditions, but
quick action is needful, before it is too late," he added in a gloomy
voice.

"Oh!" cried the empress, standing up and walking up and down the room
with hasty footsteps, "oh! that my noble, unhappy husband should have
listened to the enticing words of that fiend, whom men call Napoleon;
that he should have forsaken our beautiful Miramar, to hurl himself
into this abyss, in which we sink deeper and deeper. If you knew," she
cried, with sparkling eyes, as she stood still before the general, "how
I entreated him, this man--he went to St.-Cloud, to avoid me," she
cried, speaking quicker and with still greater excitement; "I followed
him there, I pressed myself upon him, I begged and implored him, I
repressed all the anger in my heart, I prayed to him as we pray to God,
I threw myself at his feet, I, the grand-daughter of Louis Philippe,
threw myself at the feet of the son of that Hortense--oh! my God!"

She sank back exhausted on the sofa.

"And what did the emperor reply?" asked the general, looking with deep
compassion at the unhappy lady, whose diadem weighed so heavily upon
her brow.

"Nothing," sighed the empress; "phrases of regret, cold words of
comfort, which sounded like scorn from his mouth. General," she cried,
rising suddenly, and fixing a tragic look upon him, "general, I fear
that my reason will give way. So much sorrow no human soul can bear, so
many tears no eyes can shed, without falling a prey to the powers of
darkness. At night," she cried, gazing into space as if her mind
pursued a vision, "at night, if after long tearful watching an uneasy
slumber falls upon me, I see him creep up towards me, this demon--this
demon brought forth by hell; he holds out a goblet, green flames dart
from it! I shudder to my heart's core, but he holds the goblet to
my lips, the flames beat on my brow with frightful pain; I must
quaff,--quaff the terrible drink he offers me, and this drink is
blood!--the blood of my husband!" she cried, shrieking aloud, and
stretching out her hands with a movement of convulsive horror.

"Your majesty! for God's sake, calm yourself!" cried the general,
dismayed.

A sound was heard in the antechamber.

A lacquey entered.

"His majesty the emperor has just driven into the _porte cochère_," he
cried, and threw open the folding door leading to the anteroom.

The Empress Charlotte rose quickly. She passed her handkerchief across
her brow, the bewildered look vanished from her features, and she said
with a calm and sorrowful smile:

"Leave me alone with him, general, perhaps God has softened his heart."

Napoleon appeared in the antechamber, he wore a black coat with the
star and ribbon of the Order of Our Lady of Guadaloupe. Colonel Favé
accompanied him.

The empress met him at the threshold of her room.

General Almonte with a deep bow withdrew into the antechamber. The
servants closed the door.

Napoleon kissed the hand of the empress, led her to the sofa and placed
himself in an arm-chair beside her. The empress looked at him in
breathless suspense, his veiled eyes were cast on the ground.

"Is your majesty comfortable here?" he asked in a courteous tone. "I
should have been happier if you would have accepted hospitality at one
of my palaces."

"I want nothing," said the empress with slight impatience, "I have come
to hear my fate. I implore your majesty to say if it is pronounced, and
what I have to hope."

"I think I told your majesty yesterday my determination, and the
political reasons upon which it was founded," said the emperor in a
calm voice. "I can only regret that circumstances forbid, absolutely
forbid my compliance with your majesty's wishes, as I should so much
have wished," he added, with a polite bow.

The Empress Charlotte's lips trembled convulsively.

"Sire," said she in a repressed voice, "it is not a question of my
wishes, they have never been directed to that distant throne. It is a
question of the honour, perhaps of the life of my husband, for he will
sacrifice his life to his honour."

"But madame," said the emperor, slightly twirling his moustache, "I
cannot see how honour can require him madly to bury himself beneath the
ruins of a throne that cannot be upheld. Your husband undertook a great
and good cause; that it cannot be carried out is the fault, not of
himself, but of circumstances,--no one could reproach him."

A bitter smile curved the lips of the empress.

"My husband does not thus regard it," said she, "he will not pass
through life as a dethroned prince,--in his opinion a prince who has
once ascended a throne should only abandon it with his life."

"The Emperor Maximilian will not drive this opinion, which really does
not apply to present circumstances, to extremes," replied Napoleon. "I
will send General Castelnau to him, he shall lay before him in my name
a full explanation of the circumstances to which I am forced to yield,
the emperor will understand them, he will return, and I heartily beg
you, madame, to support the general's mission by your persuasions."

A flush passed quickly over the empress's face, her eyes sparkled, her
lips quivered, and she said in a hoarse voice:

"The mission will be in vain, and I will never advise my husband to do
anything he holds to be at variance with his honour and his noble
chivalrous heart."

The emperor slightly bit his lips, his veiled eyes opened for a moment,
and a hard, almost an inimical look, flashed upon the empress.

She saw this look, a shudder passed through her, in violent excitement
she pressed her hand to her heart, and she said with a deep breath,
fixing her burning eyes upon the emperor:

"Sire, it is not a question of my husband's honour alone; to care for
this is certainly our own affair, but something else is staked upon
this, something that touches your majesty more nearly,--and that is the
honour of France."

The emperor gave a cold smile.

"My armies only withdraw from Mexico at my command, and they bring rich
laurels with them," he said.

"Laurels?" cried the empress with flashing eyes, "yes, the soldiers who
have bravely fought bring laurels with them, and laurels grow on the
graves of the fallen, but the banners of France, who now desert the
throne raised by France's emperor, the prince who went thither
at the call of France, and who is rewarded by humiliation and
desertion,--these banners should be veiled in crape, for they have
forsaken France's honour! Oh! sire," she exclaimed, restraining herself
with a great effort, "I beg you once more--I conjure you--recall your
hard decision!"

The emperor's brow wore a gloomy frown, an icy smile was on his lips.

"Madame," he said, "your majesty will allow that I am the best, the
only competent judge of what the honour of France demands."

The eyes of the empress flashed, a look of proud contempt appeared on
her face.

"Your majesty is the _judge_," she said, "then let me be the _advocate_
of the honour of France, my blood gives me this right, the blood of
Henri Quatre flows in my veins, and my grandfather was the French
king!"

The emperor's long eyelashes were raised, and his angry eyes gazed on
the excited woman who sat trembling before him.

He stood up.

The empress also rose.

She pressed both hands upon her heart, her whole form swayed to and fro
with the violent effort she made to recover her calmness.

"Sire," she said in a low soft voice, "forgive the wife who pleads for
the honour and the life of her husband, if her zeal has made her speak
too boldly in a cause which must ever be to her the highest and the
holiest on earth. Sire, I implore you for God's sake, for the sake of
eternal mercy,--have pity on us, give us your protection one year
longer, or give us money, if the blood of France is too precious."

And with an imploring look of indescribable anguish she gazed up at
this man, from whose mouth the words of hope could come, which she
might bear back to the husband longing for her with such weary anxiety,
refreshing his harassed soul with new strength.

Napoleon spoke in a cold voice.

"Madame, the greatest service at this grave moment is perfect truth and
openness. I should sin against your majesty, if I allowed you to
entertain vain hopes. My decision is as unalterable as the necessity
that dictates it. I have nothing more for Mexico--not a man, not a
franc!"

The features of the empress grew frightfully distorted, the whites of
her eyes grew red as blood, a flaming brightness glowed in her gaze,
her lips receded and showed her gloaming white teeth; with outstretched
arms she walked close up to the emperor, and with hissing breath that
seemed to drive the words from her breast, she cried in a voice which
no longer sounded human:

"Yes! it is true, the image of my dream, the horrible apparition
of my sleep! there he stands with his goblet of blood!--demon of
hell!--executioner of my family!--murderer of my husband!--laughing
devil!--murder me, the grand-daughter of Louis Philippe,--of that king
who rescued you from misery, and saved you from the scaffold."

As if before some supernatural appearance the emperor slowly stepped
backwards to the door. The empress stood still, and stretching out her
hand towards him she cried, whilst her features grew more frightfully
convulsed, and her eyes glowed more wildly:

"Hence, fiend! but take with thee my curse. The curse which God hurled
at the head of the first murderer shall destroy thy throne! flames
shall blot out thy house! and when thou liest in the dust from whence
thou hast risen, expiring in shame and weakness, the avenging angel
shall shake the depths of thy despairing soul with the cry of
'Charlotte and Maximilian!'"

Seized with horror the emperor turned round, covering his eyes with his
hands. He hurried to the door, and rushed into the anteroom, where he
found his equerry, and General Almonte much shocked at the dreadful
sound of the empress's voice. He cried scarcely audibly--"Come, Favé,
come quickly, the empress is ill."

He hurried down the steps, looking anxiously back; the equerry rushed
after him.

General Almonte hastened back into the empress's room.

The unhappy princess had sunk on her knees in the middle of the salon,
her left hand was pressed to her heart, her right stretched upwards,
and with upturned eyes she stared vacantly at the ceiling--a statue of
despair.

The general hastened to her.

"For God's sake," he cried, bending over her, "I conjure your majesty,
calm, collect yourself! What has happened?"

A slight shiver passed through her limbs, she slowly turned her eyes
towards the general, she looked at him with surprise, passed her hand
over her brow, and allowed him to raise her, and lead her to the sofa.
A lady in waiting had entered in great anxiety, and assisted the
general, the lacquey stood with a frightened face at the door of the
ante-room.

Suddenly the empress rose, her eyes wandered round the room. "Where is
he?" she cried in a hoarse voice, "he has gone, he must not go. I will
dog his heels, day and night my shrieks for revenge shall pierce his
ears!"

"Your majesty!" cried the general.

"Away!" screamed the empress, "leave me: my carriage, my carriage;
after him, the traitor, my husband's murderer!"

And she tore herself free from the general, and the lady in attendance,
rushed through the anteroom and down the stairs, still crying, "My
carriage! my carriage!"

The general hastened after her. The servant followed.

In the large court of the Grand Hôtel there was a concourse of
inquisitive people, attracted by the arrival of the imperial carriage.
On the large balcony sat foreigners reading newspapers and chatting.

Suddenly they heard the loud out-cry of a woman clad in black, with
distorted features and blood-shot starting eyes. She appeared at the
foot of the large staircase, and shrieked incessantly: "My carriage, my
carriage!"

General Almonte overtook the empress. He sought to calm her, it was
impossible. All eyes were fixed on the surprising apparition.

The general in great distress wishing to bring the dreadful scene to an
end, desired the lacquey who was in the empress's service, to bring a
carriage into the court of the hotel.

The equipage drove round.

With one spring the empress threw herself in. The general seized the
door to follow her. Then her strength failed her--she collapsed, her
eyes closed, white foam appeared on her lips; unconscious, with
convulsive shudders, she fell back on the cushions.

Several servants hastily appeared. They carried her gently upstairs to
her own room.

"What a tragedy begins," said General Almonte, shuddering, as he
followed slowly; "and what a conclusion lies in the lap of the future!"

                           *   *   *   *   *

Late in the afternoon, the brilliant carriages belonging to the
aristocracy, the _haute finance_, and the foreign diplomacy, drove
slowly round the Bois de Boulogne. The whole Paris world had remained
in town, the universal interest in the European crisis chained them to
the capital; and the whole world took its accustomed slow drive before
dinner, along the beautiful shores of the two lakes, in the charming,
wonderfully-kept Bois de Boulogne. Between the imposing heavy-looking
carriages with their powdered servants, drove the carriages belonging
to the 'demi-monde,' light and graceful, with spirited prancing steeds;
and the young gentlemen, without regarding the displeased looks of the
ladies of the 'grande monde,' rode close to these carriages, laughingly
and jestingly replying to the piquant remarks made by the ladies of the
avant-scène and the Café anglais.

In an open caleche drawn by four beautiful brown horses, preceded by
two piqueurs in green and gold, with an officer riding near the door,
drove the emperor amongst the lively varied throng. Beside him sat
General Fleury. Napoleon's face beamed with good humour, he conversed
with animation to the general, responding with gracious empressement,
right and left, to the salutes he received, whilst the brilliant
equipage drove slowly three times round the lake. An hour later all
Paris knew that the emperor was in excellent health, and that affairs
must be going on well, since his majesty showed such remarkable
cheerfulness.

The emperor was in the same good spirits at the dinner to which the
marshals and several distinguished officers were invited. The _cercle_
was over, the sun had set, and the warm darkness of evening was spread
over the gigantic city.

The emperor entered his cabinet. He laid aside the uniform he had worn
at dinner, and put on a plain black frock coat.

As soon as his valet had gone he called Piétri.

"Is my carriage without livery ready?" he asked.

"It is waiting at the side door as your majesty commanded."

"You have told me of that remarkable pupil of Lenormand," said the
emperor. "Morny, too, has spoken to me of her, Madame Moreau, is she
not?"

Piétri smiled.

"She has really foretold things in a wonderful way; I once visited her
myself, and I was much struck by her prophecies."

"And were they fulfilled?" asked the emperor.

"Much, sire, that she foretold happened."

"I will hoar her," said Napoleon; "come with me."

And he went down the staircase leading to his room; followed by his
secretary.

They walked along a corridor, and passed through a side door into an
inner court of the Tuileries; here stood a plain carriage with two
black horses, a coachman, not in livery, sat on the box; it looked like
a doctor's carriage.

The emperor stepped in.

Piétri followed him and cried to the coachman, "5, Rue Tournon."

The carriage started at a brisk trot, and drove down the Rue de Rivoli.

A second carriage, equally unremarkable, followed at a little distance.

It contained the chief of the palace police, and one of his officers.

In the old part of Paris, near the palace of the Luxembourg, is the Rue
Tournon, one of those ancient streets bearing the stamp of past times,
with low houses, old sashes, and small windows. The emperor's carriage
stopped before No. 5; Piétri went first through a large open doorway
leading into a small _porte-cochère_. The emperor followed him. The
second carriage stopped at the corner of the street, its occupants got
out, and began smoking and chatting as they slowly paced the trottoir.

Napoleon followed his secretary through the _porte-cochère_, and at the
end of it walked up some high dark steps leading to a door. A small
landing at the top of the first flight was lighted by a plain but
elegant lamp, and a white china door-plate bore the name of Madame
Moreau.

"It is the same house and the same apartment that Lenormand occupied,"
said Piétri, as he rang the bell near the door-plate.

The emperor looked round with great interest.

"Here then came Napoleon the First," said he, thoughtfully, "and here
the crown was prophesied which he afterwards obtained."

The door opened. A young woman dressed like a Parisian housemaid
appeared. The emperor pulled up the collar of his coat, and held his
handkerchief before the lower part of his face.

Piétri stepped forwards and concealed him.

"Madame Moreau?" he asked.

"I do not know whether madame still receives," replied the girl; "it is
very late."

"We are friends," said Piétri. "Madame will admit us."

"Walk into the salon, gentlemen; I will announce you."

She led the emperor and his secretary to a small, but richly and
elegantly furnished room. Thick carpets covered the floor, large
fauteuils stood around a table, on which lay several illustrated
journals, a large lamp hung from the ceiling, and brightly lighted up
the room.

"Your majesty must learn to wait in the ante-room," said Piétri,
jestingly, as he wheeled a chair towards Napoleon.

He only placed his hand lightly on the back, and looked round the room
with great interest. On the wall hung a large engraving, his own
likeness in his coronation robes. With a slight sigh the emperor
glanced at the slender, youthful figure represented; then he said,
pointing it out laughingly to Piétri:

"This lady appears well disposed."

"She is a scholar of Lenormand, sire," replied Piétri, "and holds to
the traditions of her mistress; also she was an especial favourite of
the Duke de Morny."

A small door concealed by a very thick dark _portière_ opened, the
curtain was pushed aside, and a short, rather stout lady in a plain
black dress appeared in the doorway. She was about fifty years of age,
with dark smooth hair and lively black eyes, so keen and piercing, that
they were an almost startling contrast to the somewhat puffy and very
commonplace face to which they belonged.

Piétri advanced.

"I thank you, madame," he said, "for receiving us at this late hour.
You have already given me such brilliant proofs of your art, that I
have brought a friend who is travelling through Paris, and who begs you
to unveil his future."

"Walk this way, messieurs," said Madame Moreau quietly, in an agreeable
voice and with the manner of a lady of good society.

And she returned to her cabinet. Piétri and the emperor followed her.

This cabinet was a small square room, which had besides the door
leading into the salon, a second door, through which visitors could
depart who did not care to face those who might be waiting in the other
apartment. This cabinet had a dark carpet. The window looking towards
the courtyard was concealed by ample thick green curtains. A tall old
chest stood against the wall, near to the window was a somewhat small
table covered with a green cloth, and before it a large chair in which
the prophetess generally sat. Upon the table stood a lamp with a dark
green shade, which lighted up the surface of the table, and left the
rest of the room in deep shadow. Upon the other side of the table stood
a few dark green chairs and a small divan of the same colour.

The emperor seated himself in an arm-chair in the shadow, and put his
handkerchief to his face.

Madame Moreau took no notice. She was accustomed to guests who desired
to preserve a strict incognito.

She took her place at the table and asked, "Do you wish the _grand
jeu?_"

"Certainly," replied Piétri, who stood close to Napoleon's chair.

"Will monsieur then show me his hand? The left if he pleases."

Napoleon rose and walked to the table, so that the shadow of the dark
lamp shade fell on his face, and he held out his hand to the
soothsayer; long, slender, and soft it looked much younger than his
face or figure.

Madame Moreau seized this hand, turned the palm upwards, and opened the
line between the thumb and forefinger to its utmost extent.

"What a tenacious, enduring will," she said, without raising her eyes
from the emperor's hand; "yet there is a weakness here, a hesitating
delay; this hand is formed to draw the bow with care and skill, but it
will hesitate before letting the arrow fly; it wishes to remain lord of
the arrow in its flight, but the arrow then belongs to fate. This hand
will not quickly loose the string even when the aim is taken, and the
eye perceives that the right moment has come; it will launch the arrow
from the concussion of a sudden doubt,--but the arrow obeys the eternal
might of Providence," she added, in a low voice. She then continued her
attentive examination of the palm. "Broken soon after its beginning,
the line of life winds in entwining curves, often crossed and stopped
by opposing lines, then it rises in a bold, broad arch, higher and
higher, until--"

She gazed with a vacant, dreamy look upon the hand, and remained
silent.

"You have a remarkable hand, monsieur," she said, without looking up;
"the great Fabius Cunctator must have had a hand like yours--yet here
are lines which must have been found in the hand of Catiline, though
without the restless haste of that conspirator, and here are the lines
of Cæsar--no, of Augustus. Sir," she said, "your hand is very
remarkable, it is formed slowly and carefully to knot the threads of
fate, it is made to build up and to collect, to uphold and to foster,
and yet fate often compels it to destroy."

"And whither does the line of life lead?" asked the emperor, in so low
a voice that the sound was scarcely heard.

Madame Moreau said slowly and thoughtfully:

"It turns back to whence it came."

Napoleon looked at Piétri.

"Uncertain as the Pythia," he whispered.

Madame Moreau might have heard and understood these words or not. She
said:

"The riddle which the line of life does not reveal, will perhaps be
read by my cards."

She let go the emperor's hand, and taking from a drawer in her table
some large cards, beautifully painted with strange figures and
characters, she handed them to the emperor to shuffle.

He did so, still keeping his face in the shadow from the lamp, and gave
her back the pack.

"Monsieur," she then said, "this is a combination that seldom occurs. I
see you surrounded by the brightest splendour of the highest on earth,
your hand links the fate of numbers. My God!" she cried, "for One only
have I seen this constellation--it is so, it must be so, here is the
eagle above your head; the star in the diagonal, the golden bees,--it
would be unworthy to remain silent, it would lower my art."

She rose hastily and bowing deeply, with a movement possessing a
certain grace and dignity, notwithstanding her short and corpulent
figure, she said:

"My poor house has the happiness of beholding the monarch of France
beneath its roof; sire, with the deepest respect I greet my great and
beloved emperor!"

Napoleon started with surprise, then he moved out of the shadow and
said laughingly:

"I must compliment you, madame, on the penetration of your cards. Since
my great uncle visited your mistress, his nephew and successor may well
visit the pupil. But now that we are without mask," he continued, "tell
me more of the fate inscribed on your cards."

Madame Moreau returned to her chair, and seated herself at a sign from
the emperor--who on his part came close to the table and sat down,
looking at the out-spread cards attentively.

"Sire," said the lady, "your majesty will believe that I, who love
France, and whose whole heart hangs upon your great race, have often
tried in solitude to read by my art the fate of the empire; wonderful
to say, this very constellation has each time appeared, the very same
which now lies unchanged before me, in the cards your imperial hand has
shuffled. I cannot be deceived. It would be absurd of me to tell of
your majesty's past, from the cards now lying before me; one thing only
I would say,"--she added with hesitation, "may I speak?" and she
glanced at Piétri.

"I have no secrets from this gentleman," said Napoleon.

"Sire," proceeded Madame Moreau, still gazing on the cards, "your
majesty is happy in a noble consort possessing every virtue--and yet--"

"And yet?" asked the emperor in a voice in which surprise mingled with
slight impatience.

"Sire," said she slowly and solemnly, "the life of your majesty lies on
the border land of the powers of light and darkness, a bright and
glittering star beams down upon it, but the deep shadow of a demon-like
fate often threatens to obscure its pure light. Beneath the brilliance
of that star, beneath the influence of its blessed rays, the young
heart of your majesty first opened to the warm breath of youthful
poetry, and an absorbing love: the great emperor's blessing, the noble
martyr of St. Helena, rested on this love; it would have lighted and
warmed your majesty's heart; and this love was responded to by a heart
in whose veins flowed the blood of your great predecessor."

The emperor looked down with emotion, a melancholy expression appeared
on his face.

"Sire," continued Madame Moreau, "the dark shadow prevailed, the night
of fate closed over that love and its hopes. The heart that beat for
you has grieved during a sad and solitary life, and you have missed the
guide, the good genius of your youth, who would have led you onwards
beneath the rays of your star, and who would often have strengthened
your doubting heart."

The emperor was silent. A sigh heaved his breast.

"Go on," he then said.

"Even now, sire," said Madame Moreau, "your heart is in doubt, to-day
two opposing spirits wrestle in your soul, you balance between war and
peace,--oh! wonderful," she proceeded, gazing attentively at the cards
and pointing to some of the pictures, "the men of the sword urge
peace."

The emperor listened with surprise.

"Sire," she said, "you have broken the pride of Russia, you have led
England's queen to the grave of your uncle, you have revenged upon the
house of Hapsburg the humiliations of the King of Rome. Sire, your
star's bright beams have lighted you brilliantly on your course; beware
of Germany," she said in a hoarse tone, "there the demon-like shadow of
your evil fate prevails. Beware! beware!" she cried vehemently, lifting
up her hands as if to conjure him, "pause, before you throw the iron
dice of war!"

The emperor gazed before him. A slight shudder passed through his
limbs.

"And you will pause," continued she, perusing the pictures on her
cards, and drawing long lines over the out-spread pack, "for I see you
surrounded by the smiling images of peace, and only in the back-ground
the god of war zealously whets his sword for future days."

"And shall France thus humble herself?" said Napoleon in a low voice,
as if expressing his thoughts aloud, "shall she yield, draw back!"

"I see no humiliation," said Madame Moreau, with sparkling eyes gazing
at the cards; "I see dazzling splendour, brighter even than that which
surrounded your uncle's throne, I see all the nations of the world
assembled around the steps of your imperial throne, I see emperors and
kings, all the princes of Europe,--almost of the earth,--surrounding
you in a brilliant circle; the Sultan greets the imperial lord of
France, the successor of Peter the Great, ah! what is this!" she cried.
"Sire, watch, watch over the duty sacred to a guest, murder lurks for
Alexander on the soil of France, yet God averts the blow. I see new
splendour, brilliant splendour and proud joy, all the people of Europe,
Asia, and America, even the swarthy Nubians of Africa, uniting in
astonished admiration at the glory of imperial France."

The emperor's eyes were fully opened, they flashed with pride.

"And then?" he asked.

"Sire," said Madame Moreau, "your conquering star has reached the
zenith, then clouds arise, bloody lightning flashes through them, I see
the points of lances sparkle, I see the war-god in tempestuous thunder
stride over the earth, I see your majesty at the head of a moving army,
I see you in Germany,"--she covered her eyes with her hands. "Ah! that
is far away!" she said slowly; "my eyes are dazzled, I have not powers
like the great Lenormand to see into the distant future, later on it
will be clear, but to enduring peace fate has not destined you sire,
see here!" And in prophetic tones she said: "If the olive tree
overshadows France, her laurels must fade!"

The emperor looked at her thoughtfully.

"For the present, then, peace will bring me happiness and glory, but I
must not let the olive trees overpower the laurels?"

She slightly nodded her head, still gazing at the cards. Her face
quivered, she opened her lips as if to speak, but she was silent.

Napoleon stood up. Once more his eyes looked searchingly round the
room.

"In this room, then, Madame Lenormand entertained the emperor?" he
asked.

"In this very room, sire," said Madame Moreau, rising, "only the
arrangement of the furniture has been slightly changed."

"I thank you, madame," said Napoleon, "follow my horoscope, I shall be
glad to hear more from you!"

And with a friendly smile, he walked to the door, which Madame Moreau
opened for him, the lamp in her hand.

On the stairs he took Piétri's arm and said:

"Stay, madame, I do not wish to be recognized. I rely on your
discretion. Adieu!"

The quiet-looking carriage drove quickly back to the Tuileries.

When he re-entered his cabinet, the emperor seated himself at his
writing-table. Piétri stood beside him:

Napoleon wrote:

"My dear Monsieur Drouyn de Lhuys,--

"I herewith send you an explanation of the reasons which, according to
my unalterable decision, render a moderate policy necessary on the part
of France, with regard to recent events in Germany. I do not doubt that
you will entirely share my views, and I beg you to believe in my
sincere friendship."

And he signed it, "Napoleon."

He handed the paper silently to Piétri.

"Sire," he said, after reading it, "who does your majesty destine to be
the successor of Monsieur Drouyn de Lhuys?"

"Moustiers knows the state of affairs in Berlin well," said the
emperor; "prepare a letter to him beforehand, to inquire if he will
undertake the guidance of foreign affairs."

Piétri bowed.

"One thing more," said Napoleon, "let Hansen come to me early to-morrow
morning, we will make _one_ more effort."

"At your majesty's command."

"What do you think of Madame Moreau?" asked the emperor, who had
already turned towards the door leading to his private apartments, as
he paused for a moment. "How could she know that episode of my youth?"
he whispered in a low voice.

"Sire," replied Piétri, "it is difficult to say."

"'There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our
philosophy,'" said Napoleon in perfect English; and with a friendly nod
he dismissed his secretary.



                              CHAPTER XXV.

                         THE SICK AND WOUNDED.


In a somewhat large salon adjoining the bedroom of his comfortable
bachelor apartments, in one of the old-fashioned houses of a quiet part
of the town, Lieutenant von Stielow, the morning after his return, lay
upon a large sofa covered with dark red silk.

Half-closed curtains of the same colour hung before the window,
admitting a subdued light into the room, where complete quiet
prevailed, only broken from time to time by a carriage belonging to one
of the aristocracy rolling swiftly past.

The young man wore a wide morning wrapping coat of black silk, with
scarlet collar and facings; beside him stood a small table with a
beautiful silver tea service; he slowly smoked a short chibouk, from
which the fragrant clouds of Turkish tobacco floated about the room,
and his features expressed perfect happiness and calm content. After
the long privations and fatigues of camp life, the young officer for
the first time enjoyed the quiet and rich comfort around him, and with
happy looks he greeted everything; the numerous objects which his room
contained, the paintings, the engravings, the curious arms, the bits of
old Dresden china, in short all the thousand things which the good
taste or passing fancy of a wealthy and cultivated young man collects
in his rooms.

All this, which he had formerly been so accustomed to that he scarcely
deemed it worthy of a glance, now smiled upon him with the charm of
novelty; for so long his eyes had only seen pictures of privation, of
horror, and of death, that the surroundings of his previous life met
him with a greeting full of charm; then he thought of his love, of the
dangers which had surrounded him upon the battle-fields, of the
frightful peril which had threatened his young pure love from wicked
machinations, of his happy preservation amidst the bullets and swords
of the enemy, of the good fortune that had brought him back at the
right moment to destroy those machinations, finally, of the hopes which
were now his own without an obstacle. No wonder that his eyes beamed,
that his lips smiled, and that the world looked as fair, as bright, and
as charming as it only can appear to a young heart who sees itself
possessed of everything that can make life one sweet enjoyment.

He had promised the Countess Frankenstein to take no step against the
person who had made the low attempt on her daughter and himself. "Let
us never again speak of those creatures, or remember anything of the
affair, except to thank God who brought their wickedness to shame,"
said Clara, with a gentle smile; and so great is the elasticity of a
heart of one-and-twenty, so great the conciliatory power of happiness,
that he scarcely remembered the circumstance which had threatened the
holiest feelings of his heart, except from the sweet feeling of higher
enjoyment which lies in the full possession of that which you feared to
lose.

The door opened quickly and a servant entered with a disturbed and
frightened face.

"My lord baron," he said with some hesitation, "I must--"

The young officer turned his head and looked at him inquiringly; but he
could not finish his sentence, for a slender female form in a light
morning dress hastily advanced through the half-open door, and with a
quick and decided movement pushed the servant aside. Her face was
concealed by a thick veil hanging from her small round hat.

Herr von Stielow rose and walked towards his visitor with an expression
of great surprise, whilst he dismissed the servant by a sign, and he,
by shrugging his shoulders endeavoured to signify that he had not been
able to announce this visitor to his master in the usual way.

Scarcely had the door closed than the lady threw back her veil. Herr
von Stielow beheld the beautiful features of Madame Balzer. She was
pale, but her cheeks were tinged with a light rosy hue, her large eyes
glowed with deep passionate fire, upon her slightly parted lips lay an
expression of bashful shame, mingled with a look of firm and energetic
decision. She was wonderfully beautiful, more charming in this plain,
almost grisette-like toilette, than in the rich and recherché elegance
which usually surrounded her.

The young man looked at the well-known face before him with blank
amazement, almost with fear; for it was the last thing he expected to
see.

"Antonia!" he exclaimed in a low voice.

"Your lips, then, have not forgotten that name," she said, fixing her
sorrowful eyes upon him; "I feared that all, all remembrance, had
vanished from your heart, even the name of her whom once you loved, and
whom you now despise,--condemn unheard."

Stielow was so amazed, so discomposed by this visit, that he still
stood opposite to her without uttering a word: a flash of anger, of
defiance had shone in his eyes, but it had disappeared--how could anger
be maintained against this gentle humility, this look so full of
entreaty and of sorrow? He gazed at her vacantly, contradictory
feelings struggling in his breast.

"You have condemned me," she continued in that soft melting voice, only
bestowed upon a few women, and which touches the heart of the listener
like a caress, "you have turned from me without asking a word of
explanation, and yet you loved me once, and yet," she whispered
hesitatingly, as she cast down her eyes, and a rosy blush passed over
her face, "yet, you must have known that I loved you!"

Herr von Stielow still found not a word to oppose to these looks, this
language; he almost felt he was really hard and cruel, and it needed
the full recollection of the evening before, to enable him to maintain
calm composure before this woman.

Antonia came one step nearer, and fixed her eyes upon him, with a
melancholy expression of unutterable tenderness. "My love," she said in
her soft voice, "was as pure, as confiding as a young maiden's, yet
fiery and glowing as the wine of the south, and it filled my whole
soul, it had enchained my pride. I lay at your feet, as a slave at the
feet of her lord!"

Tears glittered in her lovely eyes.

"I beg you--" said von Stielow, feeling quite distracted. "Why these
declarations about the past, now? Why this painful scene?"

"You are right," she replied, and a proud flash shone in her eyes
without dispersing the melancholy that veiled them, "you are right. I
ought not to touch upon that past, but there is a nearer past of which
I must speak, which leads me hither."

"But--" said von Stielow.

Without heeding him she continued:

"Before you, I had no longer pride, no longer a will, it is true; but
you coldly and cruelly forsook me"--she placed her hand upon her heart,
and pressed her lips together. "You humiliated me, and my pride again
arose. I wished to hate you, to forget you," she added in a hoarse
voice: "but all the nobler feelings of my heart rebelled against it. I
could not do it," she said in trembling tones; "and my pride said,
'Though he no longer loves, he shall not despise!'"

Herr von Stielow's face had grown calm. He looked at her coldly, a
scarcely perceptible smile upon his lips.

"You had a right," she added, "it is true, to think me false, and to
believe yourself the toy of a coquettish whim, perhaps even worse; you
shall believe it no more, the memory of me shall not be mingled with
contempt."

"Let us leave the past," said he; "I assure you--"

"No," she cried vehemently, "you shall hear me,--if the past gives me
no other right, it gives me this, to demand a hearing!"

He was silent.

"You know," she proceeded, "what my life was; with a heart full of
love, with a spirit that craved and strove for higher things, I was in
early life fettered to the husband with whom you are acquainted. He
himself encouraged a crowd of young men around me. Count Rivero came
near me, I found in him the richest genius,--the satisfying of all my
wishes, I believed I loved him," she added, casting down her eyes, "at
least he brought light and interest to my life. Is that a crime?"

Without waiting for an answer she went on passionately:--

"Then I learned to know you, I discovered my mistake, my heart told me
that before only my mind had been satisfied. I now felt how this new
feeling had taken deep root in my inmost life. Let me be silent about
that time," she said with quivering lips, "recollections that I cannot
stifle would unnerve me. I struggled long and severely," she continued
in a calm voice, as if subduing her emotion by a mighty effort; "ought
I to have spoken to you of the past? I did not dare, my love made me
cowardly; I feared to lose you. I feared to see a cloud upon the brow I
loved. I was silent; I was silent because I feared. Rivero was away. I
ought to have broken with him. Oh!" she cried in a voice of pain,
whilst her whole form trembled, "you know the humiliating position in
which I was placed; the man whose name I bear, my husband, was under
heavy obligations to him; under the circumstances I could not venture
suddenly and quickly to cease our correspondence. I awaited his return.
I knew him to be noble and generous. I wished to tell him all, to
explain,--then there was that unhappy meeting, the intercourse which I
wished quietly and prudently to drop, was torn asunder--oh! what I have
suffered!"

Herr von Stielow was moved, and looked at her with compassion.

"If I have erred," she proceeded, "I am still not so guilty as I seem,
my heart has never sinned against the truth of my love. I swear to you,
since the day I said, 'I love you'"--she pronounced the words with a
strange melting charm--"every throb of my heart, every feeling of my
soul has been yours; my first conversation with the count was an
explanation with regard to you."

She stepped nearer to him, she lifted her folded hands and gazed up at
him with a look of inexpressible love, and said:

"I have not betrayed my love. I have not forgotten it. I cannot forget
it. I have come because I must make this explanation, because I cannot
bear"--and here her voice seemed choked with tears--"that you should
despise me, that you should quite forget me," she added lower still, "I
cannot believe, that all, all has vanished from your heart. I cannot
part from you without telling you that if over your heart should feel
lonely you have a friend who never, never can deny her first love."

She looked unspeakably lovely as she stood there before him, so humble,
so gentle, her lips slightly parted, her eyes, though suffused with
tears, still glowing with a tender fire, her figure languidly bent
forward.

The young man looked at her with great compassion, the sound of her
voice, the magnetic brightness of her eyes, had aroused within him
memories of the past. But the mild gentle expression vanished from his
face, his eyes flashed and a scornful smile appeared on his lips.

"Let us leave the past," he said coldly and politely. "I have not
reproached you, and I will not reproach you, I wish you----"

She looked at him sorrowfully.

"Then my words have been in vain," she said, sadly, "you do not believe
me----"

An angry flash passed over his face.

"I believe you," he said, "and I do not want your words, for thank God!
I know everything. I think this conversation upon the earlier past will
come to an end when I give you a proof that I am acquainted with your
last proceeding."

And with a quick angry movement he turned to a casket standing upon a
console table before a mirror, opened it and held towards her the
letter she had sent by her husband to the Countess Frankenstein.

"You see," he said, "I know the way in which you use the souvenirs of
the past against the present."

She shrank back, as if struck by lightning. The paleness of death
overspread her face--her features were convulsed, her eyes fixed
immovably upon the paper.

"I think this will bring our conversation to an end," he said, with a
bitter smile.

A deep crimson flush spread over her face, her limbs trembled, burning
passion shone in her eyes.

"No," she cried in a wild voice, "no, it is not at an end--it shall not
be at an end!"

Herr von Stielow slightly shrugged his shoulders.

"It shall not be at an end," she cried in trembling excitement,
"because I love you, because I cannot leave you, because you cannot be
happy with that woman, to whom you will give your name, but whose cold
heart will never feel for you the fiery glow that streams through
mine."

"Madam, you go too far," said Stielow, and an expression of repugnance
and contempt appeared upon his face.

"You deceive yourself," she said, whilst her lips burned a rich carmine
and her feverish eyes lighted up her pale face. "I know how warmly your
heart has beaten for me, it cannot be happy in a conventional love, in
lukewarm kisses meted out by custom."

He half turned from her.

"You go too far," he said again.

"Hear me, my own, my love," and she sank down at his feet stretching
out her arms towards him; "hear me, and do not despise me, I cannot
live without you. Give your hand," she cried in a voice full of
passion, "to that woman, give her your name, but leave me your heart:
the time will come when you will long for happiness, then come
back to me, to dream, to love; I ask for nothing,--nothing, I will wait
humbly, I will live upon the remembrance of the quiet happiness of the
past during the long days when I do not see you,--do all that you
will,--only love me."

She seized his hand and pressed it to her glowing lips, then her head
fell back a little, her half-closed eyes looked at him imploringly, the
warm breath from her mouth seemed to surround him with an enchanted
atmosphere of love and passion.

A slight shudder passed through him; he closed his eyes for a moment.

Then he looked at her with calm friendship, and holding her hand firmly
he gently raised her.

"Antonia," he said quietly, "I should be unworthy to wear a sword if I
gave you any answer but this; let everything be forgotten and forgiven
that belongs to the past, no other remembrance will abide with me but
that of friendship, and if you need a friend, you will find one in me."

And he let go her hand after pressing it gently.

Was it the tone of his voice, was it the quiet pressure of his hand,
that convinced her quick womanly perceptions that she had lost his love
for ever? She stood motionless, the passionate tears left her eyes, a
flash of hatred gleamed in her look, but she hastily concealed it
beneath her downcast eyelids.

With a quiet movement she drew down her veil, and said in a voice that
retained no traces of its former emotion:

"Farewell; may you be happy!"

She turned to the door.

Stielow accompanied her silently and gravely through the ante-room to
the outer door of his apartments, which a servant hurried forwards to
open.

She went out with hasty footsteps.

The young man returned and sank into an arm-chair as if exhausted.

"Was it real, or was it acting?" he whispered thoughtfully.

"No matter," he cried after a short consideration, "it does not become
me to judge her--may she find happiness!"

And quickly springing up he said, whilst his face cleared up:

"This was the last cloud that threatened to veil my star."

He rang for his servant, made a hasty toilette, and drove in his cab to
the house of the Countess Frankenstein.

In the afternoon the most varied life filled the wide alleys of the
Prater. Upon the broad turf beneath the trees of this enormous park
some of the cavalry regiments recalled to Vienna were still encamped,
and the different scenes of camp life were picturesquely displayed.
There stood the horses picketed, as if on actual service, neighing and
whinnying with impatience, here lay a circle of soldiers around a
smouldering fire, on which, in the field kettle, their meal was
cooking; booths were erected in which food and drink, the Vienna
sausage, and camp beer, were offered for sale; and the Viennese
streamed in and out in countless numbers. Now that the real war was
over with its fears and anguish, they liked to gaze here on the last
picture of it, which only offered to the eye its romantic charm, and
not its dreadful earnest. But the groups of lookers-on were the
thickest around an open space girt in by tall trees, where the brown
sons of Hungary were displaying their fantastic national dance--the
Czardas. A man played, upon an old violin, one of those peculiar
melodies, half wailing, half wild dithyrambic movements, which even
when thus executed sounds upon the ear with a strange mysterious charm;
the others pursued a peculiar dance, with its strange pantomimic
evolutions, sometimes jingling their spurs together, sometimes stamping
on the ground with their feet, sometimes twisting the body into strange
but always graceful attitudes.

Amongst one of these groups stood old Grois, the comic actor Knaak, and
the ever-merry Josephine Gallmeyer.

"Pepi's" beautiful eyes sparkling with fun and mirth attentively
followed all the movements of the Czardas. She slightly nodded her
head, and beat time with her hand, to the sharply accentuated music.

"Look, old Grois," she then said, turning to her companion, who watched
the moving picture with sad and doleful eyes, "those are capital
fellows; I should like to choose a sweetheart from amongst them, they
please me better than all our _fade_ cavaliers put together."

"Yes," said the old actor gloomily, "there they dance, and when it came
to fighting for Austria they let them stay behind, eighty regiments of
our glorious cavalry have never been in action; it almost breaks one's
heart to think of it all."

"Fie! old blood-thirsty tiger," cried the Gallmeyer; "let us be glad
they are still left to dance, and that they have not been under those
cursed needle-guns--there would not have been many of them left!"

"Bah! needle-guns!" cried old Grois. "Now it is to be the needle-guns
that have done everything; at first everyone said it was the generals'
fault, and now the generals say it was the needle-guns. I hold to it
they were right at first, and that if the Prussians had had our
generals, their needle-guns would not have helped them much."

"Happy is he who forgets what cannot be mended," cried Fräulein
Gallmeyer; "nothing can be done against the Prussians, they surpass the
gods!"

"Why this sudden admiration for the Prussians?" asked Knaak.

"Well, you know," said the Gallmeyer, "it is true they do surpass the
gods, for one of our poets who has written such lovely rôles for my
friend the Wolter says," and here she placed herself in a comically
pathetic attitude, and imitating exactly the voice and manner of the
great actress of the Burg Theatre, repeated: "'Against folly even the
gods strive in vain!' Well, the Prussians have not striven against
folly in vain!" she cried, laughing.

"Pepi," said old Grois in a grave voice, "you can say what you please
about me, and the rest of the world; but if you make the misfortunes of
my dear Austria the subject of your wit, we shall quarrel!"

"That would be frightful!" cried the Gallmeyer, "for I should then in
the end be forced"--and she looked at him with a roguish smile.

"Well, what?" he asked, already pacified.

"To strive in vain with old Grois," she cried, and let just the tip of
her tongue appear between her fresh lips, whilst she twirled round on
the point of her toe.

"And did I speak sensibly to such a creature?" cried the old actor,
half displeased, half laughing.

The Czardas was at an end, and the different groups moved on.

"See," said Knaak, "there is our friend Stielow and his beautiful
fiancée."

And he pointed out an elegant open carriage which drove slowly along
the broad alley. Countess Frankenstein and her daughter sat facing the
horses, Lieutenant von Stielow in his rich Uhlan uniform opposite to
them. His face beamed with happiness as he talked to the young
countess, and pointed out to her the different encampments in the park.

"A handsome pair," said old Grois benevolently, as he looked at the two
smiling young creatures.

"Oh! that it may remain green for ever! the lovely period of youthful
love!" exclaimed the Gallmeyer. "That is what my friend Wolter would
say," she added laughingly; "but I am very angry with him, for I made
him a declaration of love, and he despised me; but I shall console
myself!"

They passed on.

The countess's carriage, when it had left the thick throng of
pedestrians behind it, drove rapidly towards the town.

At that time long trains, filled with sick and wounded, arrived daily
at the northern station; they were brought from the bandaging sheds and
field hospitals, to Vienna and other places more in the interior, that
they might receive more regular nursing.

The rooms belonging to the station were fitted up for the reception of
the wounded; many arrived in so weak a condition that they could not be
moved immediately, nearly all required to rest for a time, and the
further transport had to be arranged.

It was the regular custom of the ladies of Vienna in every grade, from
the highest aristocracy to the simple shopkeeper's wife, to go to the
railway station when such a train arrived, to refresh the wounded with
cooling drinks and light nourishment, to have linen and lint ready, and
to assist the surgeons as far as they could in any needful operation,
or fresh bandaging. Here was richly shown that beautiful, truly
patriotic spirit of self-denial, so abundant in the Austrian people,
that spirit which the imperial government so frequently misunderstood,
so frequently repressed; but which it scarcely ever directed aright in
its lively desire to benefit the whole nation.

"Some wounded soldiers are coming in," said the young Countess
Frankenstein to her mother, as the carriage arrived at the end of the
Prater, and drew near the northern railway station; "shall we not go? I
have brought some bandages, some raspberry vinegar, and some wine. I
want," she said, turning to her lover with a charming smile, "to help
all the poor wounded soldiers that I can, to show my gratitude to God
for helping me so graciously in my own trouble and sorrow."

Stielow affectionately pressed her hand and looked with admiration at
her lovely, blushing face.

"I thank you for recollecting it," said the countess; "we can never do
enough for those who fight and suffer for their country, and we ought
to set an example to the classes beneath us."

"I must beg you to excuse me," said von Stielow, looking at his watch,
"I must wait on General Gablenz and hear if he has any commands for
me."

Clara looked disappointed.

"But in the evening you will be free?" she asked.

"I certainly hope so," said the young man, "for there is now little for
the aides-de-camp to do."

The carriage had reached the railway station. At a sign from the
lieutenant it drew up at the entrance.

"We shall meet again then," said Countess Frankenstein to Herr von
Stielow, who took leave of the ladies, and Clara's looks said plainer
than words: "We shall soon meet again."

The footman sprang from the box, opened the carriage-door, took a
basket from the boot, and followed the ladies into the interior of the
station.

It presented a touching, grave, and melancholy picture; but at the same
time much that was pleasing and affecting.

Field-beds and litters stood close together in long rows, on which lay
wounded, sick, and dying soldiers belonging to every branch of the
service, Prussian as well as Austrian. Some bore their sufferings in
mute resignation, others sighed and groaned from the horrible tortures
that they endured.

The surgeons walked amongst them, examining into the condition of the
new arrivals, giving orders where they were to be taken, according to
the nature of their wounds, and the hopes they entertained of their
recovery. The bandages were renewed before further transport, medicine
and refreshment were administered, and operations immediately needful
were performed in cabinets erected for the purpose and prepared
beforehand. All this was sad and distressing; those who had seen the
proud regiments set out, the eyes of the soldiers flashing at the blast
of the trumpet, and who now saw the broken suffering forms brought back
from the battle-field, where the sacrifice of their blood had not
obtained victory for the banners of their country, might indeed sigh
sorrowfully, as they thought that the boasted civilization of the human
race, with all its progress, had not as yet banished cruel and
murderous war from the face of the earth; war, that scourge of mankind,
as cruel now as in the grey ages of antiquity, only with this
difference, that the inventive powers of man have discovered more
certain and annihilating weapons.

Beside the surgeons who examined the wounds with the cold looks of
science, were seen the sisters of mercy, those unwearied priestesses of
Christian love: calmly and without a sound they glided between the
beds, sometimes with gentle hand assisting in the placing of a bandage,
sometimes with a kind consoling word putting to the pale dry lips some
cooling drink, or strengthening medicine.

And everywhere amongst the busy groups were seen the beautiful and
graceful ladies of Vienna, especially the ladies of the higher
aristocracy, offering the sick refreshments, handing the surgeons linen
bandages, and calling up a smile upon some sad suffering face.

They did not assist much, it is true, these self-constituted
Samaritans, whom the love of their country moved to aid in the care of
her wounded soldiers, but the sight of them did endless good to the
sick and suffering; they felt that in their tenderness there was an
acknowledgment of their pain and sacrifices; many of the eyes, misled
by fever, believed they saw in the forms around them a sister or a
sweetheart, and the vacant weary looks lighted up, the pale quivering
lip gently smiled at the kind hands which thus performed the noblest
work of woman--alleviating pain and soothing suffering.

So they brought pleasure and consolation to the poor wounded men, these
willing nurses; though the surgeons sometimes said they were in the
way; but surgeons reckon without that muscle of the heart which drives
the blood streaming through the veins, not to be found by the scalpel
in an anatomical examination of the human heart, with all its abysses
of grief, and its tender fragrant flowers of joy; they know not its
power and yet it often puts their art to shame.

The Countess Frankenstein and her daughter were soon surrounded by
several ladies of the first society, and with them they began their
round amongst the wounded.

Amongst the numerous women who were assembled here, and who it might
almost be said followed the fashion of nursing the sick, if indeed such
a word ought to be applied to so good and blessed an employment, which
was generally engaged in from the noblest motives, was the beautiful
Madame Balzer.

Dressed in the plainest dark grey toilette, a small basket containing
bandages and nourishment upon her arm, she had followed one of the
surgeons and assisted him with such skill that he had thanked her,
surprised that it was apparently a lady of distinction and not a sister
of mercy who had aided him so efficiently. She looked wonderfully
beautiful in her simple dress, with her pale perfect features; from the
unusual gracefulness of her movements, and the gentle self-possession
with which she approached the beds of the sufferers, a stranger would
have thought that amongst all these distinguished ladies of Vienna she
was the most distinguished. These ladies, however, did not know her;
several of them enquired who that lovely graceful person was, but no
one could reply, for in Vienna there is not that public life which in
Paris gives to the ladies of the great world the opportunity of knowing
perfectly well by sight, their imitators or their models in doubtful
society. The name of Madame Balzer was known to many of these ladies,
she was frequently the subject of conversation in the _salons_ of
Vienna; but only a few of them had seen her, for she went out of doors
but little and always rigorously observed _les convenances_.

She passed along by the beds of the wounded soldiers administering
comfort and refreshment; at last she reached the end of a long row, and
saw a litter standing at some little distance, on which a soldier lay
stretched.

She went up to him and bent slowly over him, his expressionless eyes
startled her, the blue corpse-like colour was spread over his pale thin
face, a large gaping wound was seen on his bare breast. The wounded man
had died during the journey, he must have expired quite an hour before.
Involuntarily she laid her hand upon his brow, it was cold as ice.

She was gazing horrified upon this dreadful sight, when animated voices
met her ear.

She looked up, and saw at a little distance a group of several ladies
standing near the litter of a soldier in the Uhlan uniform; the bandage
round his head had slipped and with a feeble hand he was endeavouring
to replace it.

Amongst these ladies stood the lovely and graceful young countess
Frankenstein. The deepest compassion shone in her eyes, but it did not
banish the brilliant happiness that she felt. With a smile she said:

"This uniform must always be first with me, I almost belong to it
myself!" and with a light elastic step she went up to the litter, and
drawing off her gloves, and throwing back her lace sleeves, she began
with her beautiful white hands to arrange the bandage for the wounded
man. Over her arms hung a long strip of fine white linen, which she
used to retain the bandage in its place until the surgeon should
arrive.

Antonia Balzer started when she heard this voice; from her dark corner
she watched the charming and beautiful young girl as she stood in the
strong light with her smiling lips and brilliant eyes.

A deadly paleness spread over her face, her complexion grew as ghastly
as that of the poor man who lay before her; a burning flash of which no
human eyes seemed capable darted from her, wild hatred distorted her
lovely features.

She gazed for one moment on the charming figure near her, then her face
assumed a gloomy, dreadful expression; an indescribable smile appeared
on her lips.

"Here is death, there is life!" she whispered hoarsely, and bent down
over the corpse until her face was hidden, and could be recognized by
no one.

She took a small pair of scissors with golden handles from her basket,
and stooping over the dead man she plunged the points of the scissors
deep into the wound upon his breast, then she pressed her fine cambric
handkerchief upon it, and saturated it with the bloody fluid that
exuded.

She sprang up hastily; her face expressed anxious excitement.

She hastened to the knot of ladies surrounding Clara Frankenstein, who
was still occupied in holding the strip of linen which she had placed
around the forehead of the wounded man.

"For heaven's sake!" cried Madame Balzer, "give me a strip of linen, a
drop of eau de cologne! I have exhausted everything; a poor wounded man
is dying!"

And hastily approaching Clara she seized her outstretched arm with both
hands, as if imploring her for a piece of the linen which hung over it.

Clara uttered a cry and hastily drew back her hand. A drop of blood
appeared just above her wrist and trickled slowly down her white arm.

"Oh, how clumsy of me!" cried Madame Balzer. "I have hurt you with my
scissors; I beg a thousand pardons!"

And she quickly pressed the handkerchief she had applied to the wound
upon the wrist of the young countess.

"Pray do not mind about it," said Clara kindly; "do not let us lose our
time over this little scratch when there are so many serious wounds to
think of."

And she slowly withdrew her arm, which Madame Balzer was still rubbing
with her handkerchief as if to remove the blood.

Clara held out the strip of linen which she had in her hand and said:

"Pray take some."

Madame Balzer quickly cut a piece off with her scissors, returned
graceful thanks, and after again apologizing for her awkwardness,
returned to the corpse.

Several ladies who had witnessed the little scene hastened to the
litter.

"The man is dead!" they cried, "nothing can be done here!"

Madame Balzer gazed sorrowfully on the corpse.

"Yes, he is dead!" she said, "we were too late!"

And folding her hands she bowed her head and moved her lips in
whispered prayer. Deep devotion appeared on her features. The ladies
around followed her example, and uttered a short prayer for the soul of
the deceased, whose return was perhaps ardently desired in some distant
home.

Then they all went on to other beds.

One of the few gentlemen dispersed amongst the numerous and
compassionate nurses, assisting and advising, was Count Rivero.

He was not far off when Madame Balzer hurried to Clara to beg for some
linen.

His large dark eyes rested thoughtfully on the two beautiful women
during their short conversation; then he turned slowly away and walked
in a contrary direction.

A few hours later the station was empty; the ladies had all returned
either to their luxurious palaces or quiet family circles; the poor
wounded soldiers had been conveyed to hospitals, to struggle to
convalescence, after long days of suffering, or to die.



                             CHAPTER XXVI.

                       INSTRUMENTS OF THE CHURCH.


The morning sun shone brightly into Lieutenant von Stielow's room. But
not as yesterday did he lie stretched upon his couch in happy dreams;
he paced to and fro, with quick and restless footsteps, his pale face
looked painfully anxious, and it was evident he had passed a sleepless
night.

He had spent the evening before with Clara, in the sweet and charming
converse of two loving hearts, who say so much, yet never can say
enough; an hour had flown rapidly, then she had complained of violent
pain from the small wound in her arm; they had applied cooling lotions,
but the pain had increased, and the arm had swelled considerably. They
sent for their usual medical attendant, and he had tried various
remedies; but the poor girl said that the pain became still more
violent; the wound was greatly inflamed and the swelling grew larger.
Stielow remained at the Countess Frankenstein's house until the small
hours of the morning; at last the doctor, after hearing how the injury
had been received, tried a different ointment, and gave the young
countess a sleeping draught.

Countess Frankenstein had insisted upon Herr von Stielow's returning
home and resting a little, and she promised him early in the morning to
call in the celebrated Oppolzer. No one thought there was any real
danger; but the young man had passed the night in great anxiety,
possessed by forebodings he could not overcome.

In the morning he sent his servant to make inquiries, and heard in
reply that the countess had slept, and that Oppolzer was expected every
moment. He dressed, and prepared to hasten to the countess's house.

He had on his uniform, and was just buckling his sword, when his
servant announced Count Rivero.

Stielow made an impatient movement; but at the same time he gave his
servant a sign to admit the visitor.

The count entered the room, looking grave, though fresh and elegant.

With a graceful bow he held out his hand to the young baron and said in
his resonant voice, whilst his eyes beamed with an expression of warm
friendship:

"I heard that you were here with Field-Marshal Gablenz, and I hastened
to visit you before you perhaps left us again, to express my joy that
you have so happily escaped the dangers of war."

"You are very kind, count," replied von Stielow in a slightly
constrained tone; "I'm heartily glad to see you again."

The count seemed to expect an invitation to sit down.

Herr von Stielow looked on the ground with some embarrassment.

Then he raised his candid eyes and said:

"Count, you will forgive me if I speak quite openly to you. I beg you
urgently, to repeat the honour of your visit at some other time, that I
may have the happiness of increasing our acquaintance, which I hope,"
he added politely, "will become much more intimate; at this moment I
must own I am pressingly engaged, and in great anxiety."

"Anxiety?" asked the count, "it is not idle curiosity that urges me to
inquire the cause."

"Oh! I hope it is nothing very serious," said von Stielow, "the young
Countess Frankenstein--you know I am engaged?"

"I have heard so," replied the count, "and I wished to offer you my
hearty congratulations."

Herr von Stielow bowed slightly, and said:

"She is unwell; an extraordinary accident has happened to her, which
makes me excessively uneasy; and I was just about to hasten to hear how
she was going on, and what Oppolzer, who was to meet her regular
attendant this morning, had said."

"Oppolzer consulted?" cried the count with a look of alarm; "my God! is
the countess then seriously ill?"

"We can scarcely think so," said von Stielow, "and yet the symptoms are
very distressing; a slight wound on her wrist has become rapidly bad,
and has caused her to feel so extremely ill."

"A wound!" cried the count: his face grew very grave and expressed the
greatest attention.

"She was visiting the wounded soldiers at the northern railway
station," said the young officer, "and another lady slightly hurt her
wrist with a small pair of scissors in cutting off a piece of linen; it
could scarcely be called a wound; but in the course of the evening the
arm swelled and grew stiff, and became violently painful. Fever came
on, and the doctor fears that there must have been some drug upon the
scissors, what, he cannot ascertain. Under these circumstances," he
said, pressing the count's hand, "you will forgive me, if I beg you to
excuse me."

The count had listened very gravely, his face had turned pale, and his
large dark eyes looked thoughtfully at the young man's excited face.

"My dear baron," he said slowly, "honestly from my heart I feel the
liveliest interest in you; perhaps I can be useful to you. In former
years I studied medicine deeply, especially the knowledge of poisons
and their antidotes; they once," he added with a slight sigh, "played
so important and frightful a part in my country, that the subject
interested me deeply. If by an unhappy accident there was anything
pernicious or dangerous on the scissors, I may be of some assistance.
Will you allow me to see the young countess?"

And in a deep voice that seemed to command conviction, he added,

"Believe me, I would not propose my help if I did not believe that if
serious danger has arisen, and help is possible, my remedy is certain."

Herr von Stielow had at first listened to the count's proposal in
silent surprise, then a look of thankfulness beamed from his eyes, and
stretching out his hand he cried hastily,--

"Come!"

"We must drive to my house to obtain the necessary apparatus," said the
count; "if it is really a case of poisoning, recovery may depend upon
moments."

Instead of replying, the young man seized the count's arm and drew him
to the door.

They jumped into a cab that stood ready, driven by one of the best and
quickest drivers in Vienna, and in a few minutes they had reached the
count's rooms, which were only at a little distance. He got out, and
soon returned with a small black casket. They then drove rapidly to
Countess Frankenstein's and entered the reception room.

In the ante-room a servant had received them with a sorrowful look, and
had replied almost weeping to Herr von Stielow's hasty question,

"Ah! my God! Herr Baron, it is terrible, the poor countess is
dreadfully bad, they have sent for the father-confessor, and also for
you, sir:" and he then hastened away to let the countess know of
Stielow's arrival.

He walked up and down the room with large strides, grief and despair
upon his face.

The count stood calm and motionless, his hand supported on the back of
a chair.

After a few moments Countess Frankenstein appeared, she was pale and
exhausted, her eyes wearied with watching and red with weeping.

She glanced with surprise at the count, whom she had seen once or twice
in society, and whose presence at that moment was inexplicable to her.

Stielow hastened up to her, seized her hand impatiently, and exclaimed
in a trembling voice,

"For God's sake! how is she? How is Clara?"

"Compose yourself, my dear Stielow," said the countess calmly, though
with a slight sob in her voice, "the hand of the Lord has smitten us
heavily; if He does not work a miracle, we must lose her!"

And she broke down and wept quietly.

"But my God! how can it be? what did the doctor say?" cried the young
man, with a look of bewildered horror. "What is this wound?"

"Clara must have touched some dead soldier, the poison from some deadly
wound has got into her blood, there is scarcely a hope of saving her,"
she said in a low voice.

"I must go to her, I must see her!" cried von Stielow wildly.

"Her confessor is with her," said the countess, "telling her of comfort
and resignation; let her first be reconciled to God!"

And raising her head, she regained her composure with a violent effort,
and cast an inquiring look at the count, who stood by in silence. His
eyes had flashed with anger when the countess had explained the medical
opinion of the nature of Clara's illness, but he had then raised them
in joyful thankfulness to heaven.

As the looks of the countess rested upon him he came forward with the
self-possession of a man of the world, and after bowing slightly he
said:--

"You will recollect me, countess, though I have only had the honour of
meeting you once or twice. I think Herr von Stielow will permit me to
call myself his friend; he told me of the alarming illness that has
attacked the young countess, and I offered to use the medical knowledge
I acquired in earlier years on her behalf, before I knew the nature of
her injury. I have now heard the dreadful danger she is in, and if you
can trust me so far, I beg your permission to apply a remedy which I
promise shall, God willing, be successful."

The countess listened in the greatest surprise.

"You, count, a physician?" she enquired.

"A physician from inclination," he replied, "but not a worse one than
many who make it their profession."

The countess looked at him and hesitated.

"I implore you, for God's sake, let the count make the attempt," cried
von Stielow, "we must accept any help,--my God, my God, I cannot lose
her!"

"Count," said the Countess Frankenstein, "I thank you from my heart for
your sympathy and your offer. Forgive me if I consider it," she added
with hesitation, "the life of my child--"

"Consideration and hesitation may be fatal," said the count quietly.

The countess looked down thoughtfully, von Stielow's eyes hung on her
face with an expression of deadly anguish.

The door leading to the inner apartments opened and Father Ignatius,
the confessor to the countess and her daughter, entered.

He wore the black dress of a priest, his manner was simple, graceful,
and dignified, his pale and regular features, surrounded by short black
hair, expressed spiritual repose, firmness, and great self-knowledge,
his dark eyes looked full of intelligence beneath the strongly marked
eyebrows.

"The countess is resigned to God's will, and desirous of receiving the
holy sacrament, that she may be prepared, should it please God not to
hear our prayers for her recovery," he said slowly in a low and
impressive voice.

"Oh! my God! my God!" cried von Stielow, in despair, "I conjure you,
countess, seize on the means that heaven has sent you!"

"Count Rivero," said Countess Frankenstein, indicating the count to her
confessor, "offers to save my daughter by means of a remedy which his
study of medicine has caused him to discover; you will understand--I
beg your forgiveness, count--that I must act cautiously where the life
of my child is at stake. I expect the doctor every moment, Oppolzer too
will come again,--he has indeed little hope."

Father Ignatius cast a quick searching glance at the count, who replied
to it with a look of calm dignity, almost of proud superiority.

"It is certainly a grave and difficult question," said the father
hesitatingly.

"Every moment makes recovery more doubtful," cried the count with some
vehemence. "I believe," he then continued calmly, "that the father will
be of my opinion, that in this unusual and extreme case we must try
everything, and place confidence in most unusual means."

As he spoke he looked firmly at the confessor, and raising his hand
slightly he made the sign of the cross in a peculiar way, over his brow
and his breast.

Amazed, almost alarmed, the father gazed at him, and casting down his
eyes before the count's large, brilliant orbs, he said:

"It would be sinning against Providence if we did not thankfully seize
on the means which God has so visibly sent us in our urgent need. Your
conscience will reproach you, countess, if you do not accept the help
now offered."

Countess Frankenstein looked at the priest with some surprise.

"Come then," she said, turning to Count Rivero, after a moment's
silence.

And they all went to the apartments of the young countess. The flowers
still bloomed in her room, the crucifix stood in the niche, and at its
feet lay the case which held the withered rose.

The portière that divided this room from her bedroom was drawn back. It
was a spacious apartment hung entirely with grey silk even to the
curtains of the bed, upon which lay the countess in a white négligé,
supported by pillows. The sleeve of her right arm was thrown back, and
the dreadfully inflamed arm was covered with a wet compress, which a
maid who sat near the bed moistened constantly with some strongly
smelling fluid from a medicine bottle.

Clara's face was much flushed, her eyes had the brilliance of fever,
but they looked calmly resigned, as her friends entered with their
sorrowful faces.

As soon as he saw the poor suffering girl, von Stielow rushed past the
others, and falling on his knees beside the bed and folding his hands,
cried in a stifled voice, "Clara, my Clara!"

"My own friend," she said gently, and stretched out her soft left hand
towards him, "how beautiful life is, how sad to think of the death that
is so near me,--God will be gracious, He will not part us!"

Stielow bent his head down upon her hand, and touched it lightly with
his lips. He could not say a word. Only a deep sob broke from him.

Count Rivero approached the bed with a quick step and a commanding
movement.

"Hope! countess," he said in a firm, clear voice, "God will bless my
hand! And now, baron, give up your place to me, moments are precious!"
He slightly touched the shoulder of the young man as he knelt.

He rose hastily and stepped aside.

The count removed the compress, and calmly examined the wound. It was
much swollen, of a bluish colour, and long streaks of inflammation
extended to the shoulder.

All eyes rested on the count's face with the most earnest anxiety; he
looked at the wound attentively and lightly followed the swelling with
his finger. Clara gazed with surprise mingled with hopeful confidence,
at this man who was quite unknown to her, but who stood so quietly
beside her and who had so confidently said to her, "hope!"

The count concluded his examination.

"It is quite true," he said; "corrupted matter has got into the wound,
the poison has spread greatly, it is almost too late!"

He opened the black casket he had brought with him, and which he had
placed beside him on the table.

It contained a small surgical apparatus, and several little cut glass
bottles.

The count took a knife with a golden handle and a highly-polished
shining blade.

"I beg your pardon, countess," he said in the tone of a man of the
world, "I must hurt you, it is necessary."

The young countess smiled.

The count took firm hold of the suffering arm, and quick as lightning
cut two deep gashes crossing each other into the wound.

Thick blood mixed with matter flowed from it.

"A handkerchief!" cried the count.

They gave him a cambric handkerchief; he quickly removed the blood,
seized a glass bottle, opened the wound widely and poured into it a
portion of the contents.

Clara's face grew deadly pale; she closed her eyes, her lips quivered
convulsively.

"Does it hurt?" asked the count.

"Horribly!" replied the young girl in a voice that was scarcely
audible.

The count took from the casket a small syringe with a sharp steel
point, filled it with fluid from the bottle, and injected the contents
into the flesh of the arm, following the direction of the swelling.

Clara's face showed even greater agony, the Countess Frankenstein
watched the count's manipulations with the deepest anxiety, Stielow
wrung his hands in silent grief, and Father Ignatius moved his lips in
prayer.

The count took another bottle, half filled a glass with pure water, and
slowly and carefully counted the drops as he let them fall from the
fluid in the phial.

The water grew blood red, a strong, peculiar odour spread through the
room.

The count touched the patient's brow lightly with his finger.

She opened her eyes; her countenance still expressed burning pain.

"Drink this!" said the count in a gentle but commanding tone. At the
same time he carefully raised her head and placed the glass to her
lips.

She took the contents. His eyes watched her attentively.

After a short time her face grew calmer, the contraction from the
violence of the pain became less. She opened her eyes, and drew in a
deep breath as if relieved.

"Ah! what good that does me!" she whispered.

An expression of satisfaction appeared on the count's face, then he
said in a grave, solemn voice:

"I have done all that is possible to human art and knowledge, let us
hope God's hand will shed a blessing upon my work. Pray to God,
countess, fervently and with all your soul, that He may give my remedy
strength to overcome the poison."

"Yes, yes," said the young girl ardently, and her eyes sought her
lover; "come to me, my beloved friend!"

Herr von Stielow hastened to the bed and sank down before it with
folded hands.

"I cannot put my hands together," she said in a low voice, looking at
him affectionately, "so let me lay my hand in yours, and our united
prayer shall ascend to heaven, that eternal mercy may permit us to
remain together."

And she began whisperingly to pray, whilst the young officer's eyes
were raised upwards with a look of the deepest devotion.

Suddenly a shudder passed through the form of the young countess, she
withdrew her hand with a look of pain, and gazed with horror at her
lover.

"Oh!" she cried in a trembling voice, "our prayers cannot really be
united; what a dreadful thought, we do not pray to the same God!"

"Clara!" cried the young man, "what an idea! there is but one God in
heaven, and He will hear us!"

"Ah!" she cried, without heeding his words, "there is but one God in
heaven, but you do not walk in the paths that lead to Him, you are not
in the bosom of the Church! Oh! I often thought of it amidst the
pleasures and distractions of life; but now in this dire necessity, at
the very gate of eternity, the thought fills me with horror! God cannot
hear us, and," she added, with a bewildered look, "if I must die, if no
help is possible, I must pass into eternity, knowing that his soul is
lost! Horrible! oh, horrible!"

"Clara! Clara!" cried von Stielow in a tone of the greatest anguish,
gazing in despair upon her painfully excited face, "God is the same for
all those who worship Him with a pure heart, and no prayer can be more
pure, more earnest than mine is now!"

Countess Frankenstein had sunk upon a chair, and covered her face with
her hands, the father looked thoughtfully at the affecting scene, and
the calm, perfect features of Count Rivero were lighted up as by a
sudden inspiration.

Clara gazed sorrowfully at her lover, and gently shook her head.

"You do not worship at the altars of my Church," she said; "we are apart
in the highest and holiest feelings that touch the human heart!"

"Clara, my own beloved!" cried the young man, raising his folded hands,
"the altar on which your pure heart worships God must be the holiest,
the best. Oh! that this altar were here, that I might throw myself
before it, and pray to God for your recovery!" And raising his eyes
with a look of inspiration, he took the hand of his betrothed and
placed it on his own. A look of unutterable delight shone in the eyes
of the young countess.

"The altar of God is here!" said Count Rivero, in a tone of deep
emotion. He drew from beneath his waistcoat a golden cross, upon which
a marvellously beautiful figure of the Saviour was chiselled in silver.
"And his priest stands beside you!"

He unfastened the crucifix from a small golden chain to which it was
attached.

"There can be no higher nor holier altar than this," said he, touching
the crucifix adoringly with his lips; "the Holy Father in Rome has
consecrated it with his apostolic blessing. Young man," he said,
turning to Stielow, who was still kneeling, but whose eyes were raised
with a look half of inquiry, half of enlightened inspiration, "young
man, God has indeed blessed you, in so wonderfully opening to you the
way of salvation. Hear the voice of God, speaking to you through the
pure lips of her you love; seize on the mercy that beckons you to the
bosom of the true Church, and acknowledge God in the confession which
perhaps may shortly arise from the dying lips of your betrothed to the
throne of the Eternal Father. You supplicate Heaven for a miracle, the
recovery of her you love, open your soul to the miraculous stream of
mercy that flows towards you."

"I will!" cried Stielow, his face glowing with ardent enthusiasm.

Clara closed her eyes and pressed her hand firmly upon her lover's.

"Thou hearest it, my God," she whispered; "I thank Thee! Thy ways of
mercy are holy, and above all our thoughts and hopes."

"Father," said the count with dignity, "do your duty as a priest, and
receive this soul, awakened to eternal salvation, into the bosom of the
one true Church!"

Father Ignatius had stood by in great emotion, his eyes beaming with
satisfaction; but he replied with hesitation:

"Is it possible? Here, without preparation?"

The count slightly raised his hand.

"I undertake the responsibility," he said proudly; "the forms can be
complied with hereafter," and he handed the crucifix to the father, who
kissed it with veneration.

"Lay your hand upon the image of the Redeemer, and repeat what the
priest of God tells you to say," said the count.

Stielow turned to the father, who approached him, and did as the count
had commanded.

Steadily and solemnly the priest repeated the words of the Catholic
confession of faith; the young officer repeated them after him with the
greatest devotion, and Clara whispered them in a low voice; the count
stood upright, his brilliant eyes raised to heaven, a smile of inspired
triumph on his lips.

Countess Frankenstein had sunk upon her knees, and laid her head upon
her folded hands.

The confession of faith was ended; with a humble gesture the father
returned the count the crucifix, he kissed it, and again attaching it
to his chain, he concealed it in his breast.

"Now unite in prayer," he said with unspeakable sympathy; "no
dissonance will part you, in pure harmony your petitions will rise to
the throne of eternal love and compassion."

Stielow placed his folded hands upon the bed; Clara pressed her left
hand upon them, and the lips of both these young and loving creatures
moved in earnest prayer to God, imploring Him to permit them to walk
along the path of life together.

Thus they prayed for a long time earnestly and unitedly; their friends
looked at this affecting picture without speaking. Deep silence
prevailed in the room.

At last Stielow rose from his knees after lightly touching the hand of
the young countess with his lips. Countess Frankenstein approached him
and kissed him upon the brow. "God's blessing be upon you, my son," she
said affectionately. The young man looked around him with dreamy,
glistening eyes; he felt as if descending from a strange world which
was suddenly closed upon him when he looked at the objects around him,
and as if he needed to recover his composure after the excitement which
had shaken his inmost soul.

The count approached the bed, and examined the injured arm.

The wound was very red, and surrounded by a wreath of blisters.

Similar blisters appeared all up the arm.

"The remedy is taking effect," he said; "the poison is beginning to
work out, I have a certain hope of recovery."

Herr von Stielow threw himself upon the count's breast.

"My friend for ever!" he cried, and tears flowed from his eyes.

"How shall I thank you, count?" cried Countess Frankenstein, with great
emotion.

"Thank God, countess," he replied. "But," he added in the easy tone of
general conversation, "I reckon upon your discretion, you must not
betray me to the doctors."

He gave instructions about the further treatment of the wound, and a
remedy to be used in his absence, he again administered a medicine, and
left the house promising to return in a few hours.

With rapid footsteps he hastened to Madame Balzer's house; his face
assumed a grave and severe expression as he ascended the steps leading
to the young lady's apartments.

In the salon he found the Abbé Rosti awaiting him. The young priest sat
opposite the _chaise-longue_ of the mistress of the house, who was
conversing gaily with him, dressed in a charming pale blue morning
toilette.

The abbé rose as the count entered, and the young lady welcomed him
with a graceful smile as she offered him her hand.

"We have expected you for some time," she said. "The poor abbé has been
wearied with his efforts to continue a conversation with me," she added
in a roguish tone. "Where were you?"

"I have been preventing the completion of a great crime," replied the
count gloomily, fixing his eyes firmly upon the lady's face.

She trembled involuntarily beneath his gaze.

"A crime?" she asked, "and where was it committed?"

"It was committed," said the count quietly, without removing his eyes,
"it was committed upon a pure and noble creature whom a ruthless hand
had destined to a horrible death, upon the Countess Clara
Frankenstein."

Madame Balzer stood stiff and motionless. A deep pallor spread over her
face, her lips trembled, her eyes sank before the firm and immovable
gaze of the count. Her breast heaved, she tried to speak; but only a
broken hissing breath came from her lips. "Abbé", said the count
raising his hand and pointing to her, "you see this woman now standing
before you, who was talking to you with smiling lips, whose eyes seemed
to reflect the feelings of a good and noble heart--this woman is a
murderess, who with cold cruelty has poisoned the warm pure blood of an
innocent human being, a being who never harmed her except that she
possessed the love of a young man, for whom this woman felt a wicked
passion. God willed it otherwise," he added, "and gave me the power of
saving this victim of her wickedness!"

Amazed, horrified, the abbé listened to the count's words; he looked
enquiringly at the beautiful and elegant woman against whom such a
frightful accusation was brought.

She had pressed her hand upon her breast, as if to calm its powerful
emotion. Her eyes were raised at the count's last word with an
expression of fear, and raging hatred; but she could not bear his gaze,
and her eyes fell again to the ground.

"Count," she said with a great effort, but in a calm and sharp voice,
"you bring strange accusations against me, you speak in the voice of a
judge. I do not understand you, nor do I recognize your right."

And exerting all her powers of will, she raised her eyes and gazed
firmly into the count's face.

He drew himself to his full height, and stepping close up to her, and
raising his hand, he said in a low voice which vibrated through the
room:

"I do not speak from suspicion, I bring an accusation against you which
it would be easy for me to prove; I speak as a judge, because if I
would, I might be your judge, Antonia von Steinfeld."

She gazed at him with horror, all her composure left her; and broken
down she sank into a chair.

"I might," proceeded the count, "be the judge of that unnatural
daughter who forsook her old sick mother, a worthy lady who had
educated her, by making great sacrifices, to follow the adventurous
life of an actress, who stole her mother's last treasure, the
title-deeds of her small estate, and whilst she lived in wild
dissipation left that unhappy mother, who would not face the shame and
publicity of bringing her to justice, to suffer from want, until sorrow
broke her heart. I might be the judge of the worthless creature who
sank deeper and deeper, until she was punished for a fresh robbery,
upon a young man whom she had ensnared, by two years' imprisonment; who
then as an actress travelled through most of the little towns of
Bohemia and Galicia, until she succeeded in finding a man but little
better than herself, who gave her his name, and placed her in a
position that enabled her to continue on a large scale the course she
had before commenced. I might be the judge of the murderess who
planned in cold blood a horrible death for a pure and innocent girl. Do
you think, wretch!" he added--and his voice sounded like distant
thunder--"do you think it would cost me more than a word to strip the
false spangled veil from the hideousness of your past life and give you
up to the abhorrence and scorn of the world? Do you think," he cried,
standing close before her, with flashing eyes, "that it would burden my
conscience, by a drop of surer poison than that you placed in the veins
of an innocent creature, to free the world from your sin-laden
existence?"

As the count spoke, the young woman had sunk down lower and lower; as
he ended she lay at his feet, her eyes stared at him as at some
supernatural appearance, horror and hopeless anguish were depicted in
her face.

The abbé looked with a mixture of pity and abhorrence at the
broken-down creature.

The count gazed at her in silence.

"Thank God," he then said, "that the object of your murderous hate was
saved by my hand, or my hand would have slain you without mercy. Try,"
he said after a short silence, during which, panting, and with anguish
in her eyes, she had hung on his lips, "try to gain heaven's
forgiveness, use the gifts nature has given you, and which you have
hitherto misused in sin, in the holy service of God and his Church. You
shall serve me as a tool; and for the sake of the cause to which you
shall be dedicated, perhaps it may be possible for you to gain
forgiveness of the past."

She looked at him enquiringly; life and hope returned to her face.

"I demand no promises from you, I shall see what you do, and whether
your obedience stands the test,--remember that even when I am far away,
my eyes will be upon you, that my hand can always reach you, and that
vengeance will fall upon your head if you deviate one hair's breadth
from the path which I lay down for you. I shall free you from every
chain that fetters you here, you shall be free in my service, to use
your powers under my direction; but once more: Take heed not to follow
your own way, it will lead you to hopeless destruction."

She rose slowly and stood before him, with downcast eyes, her hands
crossed upon her breast; it was hard to say what was in her mind, but
her features expressed only deep humility and submission.

The count looked at her for a moment in silence.

"I have spoken," he said; "I shall not warn, but punish, if my words
are forgotten."

She bent her head in silence.

Then the solemn earnestness vanished from his face, and his features
resumed their usual easy repose.

"Is Herr Balzer at home?" he asked.

"I think so," she replied in a low voice; "he asked to see me a short
time ago."

"I wish to speak to him," said the count.

She bowed in silence and left the room.

"What a scene!" cried the young abbé, shuddering, "and what a dreadful
woman!"

The count looked thoughtfully before him.

"Do you believe," asked the abbé, "that she will heed your warning?
that she will repent and amend?"

"I do not know," said the count calmly, "we must hope her heart may at
last be opened to grace, in that case she would be an instrument of
priceless worth."

"What are your views?" asked the young priest with surprise.

The count slowly placed himself in an arm-chair and signed to the abbé
to seat himself beside him.

"My young friend," he said in a grave mild voice, "you belong to the
Holy League, you are a soldier of the Church militant, you have genius,
courage, and faith; you are called to labour with me in the erection of
God's kingdom upon earth, to build up the temple of promise, upon the
rock of St. Peter; I tell you a great battle, a great work, is before
you, a work upon a new foundation."

He was silent--lost in thought.

"What we have done hitherto has crumbled to pieces," he said after a
time; "a now phase begins--Austria has denied the very ground-work of
her existence, she has denied the Church, upon whose soil the empire
has grown up; through which alone it could have been maintained, and
guided safely through the future. The first step upon this path will
swiftly be followed by others, according to the merciless law of
logical consequences; we must strike Austria out of our reckoning.
Whether we can rely upon France is not clear to me, it might appear so
from the first glance, but the present government of France affords no
guarantee, a hellish power prevails there, and this power has been the
first to lay hands upon the ancient and holy rights of the Church. I
see," he continued, as if lost in the contemplation of the picture
presented to his mind, "the world forming itself anew. I see the German
nation slowly arising to supreme eminence. Is it the will of Providence
that the realm of Germany, once the foremost backslider, shall now be
the firm foundation-stone of the kingdom of God? The future will show,"
he said after a pause, "but we must be upon the watch, we must regard
these new times with a sharp glance, that we may lay the foundation of
our power, and be able to guide events with a firm hand. What we may
have to do does not yet appear,--here at least _nothing_ can be done,
here are only ruins tottering to their fall. I am going to Paris," he
added, raising his head, "that is the centre of coming events, there we
shall discover the threads which will bind the world. You will
accompany me?" he asked, half as a question, half as a command.

The abbé bowed.

"I am prepared," he replied, "to follow your guidance, and it fills me
with joy and pride to labour under such a master."

"I shall take this woman with me," said the count, "I shall free her
from her present connexion, and place her in a position where her
eminent talents may be developed: she will, now that she knows she is
in my power, do us great service."

The abbé looked amazed.

"This woman?" he said; "ought we to defile our holy cause with such a
tool?"

The count fixed his large expressive eyes firmly upon the young priest.

"Are you then assailed by that doubt of weak souls," he said slowly,
"who desire the end, but fear to use the means?"

"Can sin serve heaven?" asked the abbé with hesitation.

The count rose, and spoke in a tone of firm and full conviction.

"Does not the tempest-flash, that slays and burns the huts of poverty,
serve the eternal councils of God? are not all the destructive powers
of nature wonderful instruments in the hand of God? This is the
almighty power of God, that the evil should serve the good, and lead to
a good end. Even that great German poet who did not belong to the
faith, painted his devil more truly and more rightly than the world
believes; as a power who wills evil, yet must do good! Well," he cried,
"we desire to be soldiers of the Church militant, we wish to overcome
her enemies, and to help on the triumph of the Cross; and shall we like
cowards shrink back before the devil? Shall we acknowledge and fear his
power? No, we must have strength in ourselves to compel the hellish
powers of darkness to the service of heaven; that is the true victory
over sin; not the victory of the fearful schoolboy, who flies, that he
may not be overcome, but the victory of our Master and our Lord, who in
the name of God subdued the fallen angels, and fought against the
powers of the world."

"Forgive me," said the abbé in a tone of doubt, "but is it not
presumption in us, who are but weak sinful creatures, to try to govern
the powers of darkness as the hand of Almighty God does, and can? may
we not become their prey, whilst we think we rule them?"

The count looked at him severely, almost angrily.

"The world," he said, "fights against us with every means she
possesses, she loves to choose the best and sharpest weapons; shall we
pursue our holy war unequally armed, and thus prepare for ourselves
certainty of defeat? No! a thousand times No! our hand must bear the
sharpest and the surest weapons, sharper and surer than our enemies'!
The sword slays," he added, "and it is written: 'Thou shalt not kill!'
Yet behold the thousands who wear the sword and spend their lives in
learning most scientifically the art of slaying! Why are they not
condemned, these armies? Why are they crowned with laurels, when they
return victorious after slaying thousands and thousands of innocent
men? Because they draw their swords to serve a good and a true
principle, to defend their hearths, to defend the glory and the
greatness of their country. And their country belongs to this world,
belongs to this fleeting earth! Yet shall we hesitate to draw the sword
in defence of our spiritual home? in defence of the glory, the power,
and the greatness of the eternal country of the human race, the
invisible, most holy kingdom of God? Truly, my young friend, those who
for the things of this world draw the sword, and shed the blood of
their fellow-men, have no right to fetter us in the choice of the
weapons with which we strive for the eternal and imperishable good. But
it is above all our enemies who would place only blunt weapons in our
hands, that their victory may be certain; and if they succeed in
casting doubts into our souls, the battle is gained beforehand. Banish
doubt from your heart, strengthen your soul, or your hand will bear the
sword for the warring Church of Christ in vain!"

The abbé bowed his head.

"Forgive the hesitation of a youthful heart," he said in a low voice,
"I will wrestle and pray that I may be girded with the strong panoply
of faithful obedience."

The count looked at him kindly.

"Pray to God," he said, "that your heart may be nerved and steeled,
without having to pass through the pain and despair mine suffered
before it attained to calm firmness and clear conviction."

He stepped closer to him, and laid his hand upon his shoulder.

"I too," he said in a gentle voice, "was young like yourself, I was
cheerful and happy as you are, I had a wife whom my soul adored, I had
a daughter two years old whose pure eyes seemed to me a greeting from
heaven. I was a surgeon in Rome, my hand was skilful, riches streamed
down upon me. I loved all mankind, when I put my arm around my wife and
held my sweet child upon my knee. To help all who were suffering was my
most holy endeavour, my thank-offering for all the happiness that God
had bestowed upon me. And I had a brother," he added, with a dreamy
look, searching amongst the memories of the past; "I loved him from his
tenderest childhood, I was older than he, and I had formed his mind,
and educated his heart. He was a disciple of the noble art of painting,
that fair flower of my lovely country, and I saw with pride the
creations of his pencil, in which the breath of genius lived, and which
approached nearer and nearer to the great works of the ancients. It was
a good and happy time. My brother wished to try his pencil on the
highest and holiest subject art can create, the divinely blessed Virgin
with the Child Jesus. My wife sat to him as a model, my child upon her
lap was to represent the Divine Child. Was it a sin, a presumptuous
crime? The great Raphael had painted the forms of earthly women for his
madonnas, and yet the wonderful spirit of divinity had enlightened his
eyes. I rejoiced, and was happy in the thought that by the hand of my
brother all that I loved on earth might be united to do God service. I
was absent long hours in the exercise of my profession," he continued
in a gloomy voice, "and one day when I returned, they had vanished! My
brother had tempted my wife away, or she him, I know not which--I know
nothing except that they were gone, and that they had taken my innocent
child with them, that her pure eyes might bring me no comfort in my
loneliness!"

He said the last words lower and lower, his eyes seemed far away, his
features trembled with painful emotion.

He sank down into an arm-chair as if exhausted, the abbé looked at him
with much sympathy.

"It is long since I have spoken of this," said the count after a
moment, in a calm and melancholy voice, "since I have probed my wound
with words. You see," he said, with an indescribably sad smile, "the
wound is not yet healed.--All my inquiries were in vain," he then
proceeded; "I could find no trace of the fugitives. Shall I describe my
feelings? It would be hard to find human language to express them. I
despaired of God, my soul revolted wildly against heaven; I wished to
put an end to my life, and only a slight hope of recovering my child,
my poor, innocent child, made me delay my resolution from day to day. I
abhorred mankind, I withheld the help of my knowledge from the sick,
from the dying; I rejoiced with cold malice when fathers died, when
children were torn from their parents, whilst an operation from my
skilful hand would have saved them. I hated and despised governments
and communities; could their laws, and their institutions, punish or
prevent such crimes as had been committed against me? If I could have
destroyed the whole human race with one word, I would have spoken that
word with a scornful smile, and have reduced every living creature to
eternal nothingness! Oh! my young friend," he said, with a heavy sigh,
"those were frightful days and nights that I passed through; my spirit
went down into hell, and I felt what seethes and ferments in its
depths! In my breast its horrible, yelling voices resounded; I, too,
pronounced that 'No' against the decrees of the Creator, against the
God of mercy and of love! An old worthy priest, a valiant warrior of
the Church, came to me; he forced himself upon me, and the fiery rays
of his eloquence aroused an angry tempest in the midnight of my soul,
every fibre of my being shuddered. But after the storm came light. I
learned from my wise teacher and guide, that no decree of government or
of society, however well-founded, however wise, can banish sin. That
power belongs to the Holy Church alone, that community ordained of God,
and when at last she possesses the world in her all-powerful grasp, sin
will be vanquished, and crime will vanish from the earth. I learned to
know that there is no higher, no holier calling than this, to strive
that all things may be committed to the power of the Church, that the
work of our Saviour's redemption may be completed, that the blood of
Christ may flow down upon all mankind; there is no prouder, no more
glorious deed possible, than to compel sin itself to the service of
heaven. But," he continued, and his eyes glowed with energy and
indomitable will, "I also saw the frightful weapons of the Church's
foes, and I learnt that victory can only be obtained by seizing with a
firm, relentless hand all the weapons of the will and the mind; above
all, by grasping with an iron hand all the evil powers of the sinful
world, and compelling them to serve the Holy Cause, by an annihilating
warfare against each other. I dedicated my life to the cause of the
Church militant, and God strengthened my heart and enlightened my mind,
and he gave me power over men to guide the threads of their fate. I
have often held a fearful and demoniacal power; but my good angel has
not failed me, the hellish power has served heaven, as the gigantic
power of steam obeys the pressure of the human hand. And ought I to
hesitate and doubt," he cried passionately, "in the choice of the
weapons whereby the victory, the great and holy victory, may be won?
ought I to throw away the power I have gained over the enemy, and make
myself and the cause I serve the laughing-stock of the world? Oh! I
fear not the powers of hell, this hand is strong enough to bend them to
my will, and in the name of God to compel the evil ones to work his
good pleasure!"

The abbé looked with admiration at the count's perfect and animated
face.

"Forgive me, my master," he said humbly, "if I doubted; and do not
withdraw your strong hand from me, to guide and to support."

The count held out his hand.

"Your powers, too, will be steeled in the battle," he said, "but never
forget that though man, the weak and sinful creature, may venture to
wield these weapons, only he has a right to seize them who renounces
all, that he may live and die an instrument to increase the glory of
God!"

The door opened, Herr Balzer entered.

He saluted the count with his usual vulgar familiarity, and the
shameless confidence habitual to him.

The count responded by a proud inclination of the head, and looked at
him coldly.

"You wished to speak to me, count," said Herr Balzer, "how can I serve
you?"

"I hope our conversation will be short," replied the count, "I have a
proposal to make to you which you will accept, as it will free you from
a very bad position."

Herr Balzer was alarmed at the severe, decided tone in which the count
spoke to him. His confidence seemed to give way a little.

"A proposal?" he said with surprise; then he added with a vulgar laugh,
"I always like to hear proposals, especially if acceptable."

"I wish your wife to be perfectly free," said the count shortly.

"That will be a little difficult!" cried Herr Balzer with a look
of satisfaction, "a separation--she must turn Protestant, and the
scandal----"

"She would be free--as a widow," said the count.

Herr Balzer sprang backwards from the speaker.

He looked round anxiously, then he gazed into the count's calm face,
and said, with a constrained smile:

"You jest, sir?"

"Certainly not," said the count; "you will have the goodness to listen
to me quietly and without interruption, and I do not doubt that you
will perfectly agree with me."

Herr Balzer seemed not to know what he thought of this strange calm
man, but he bent his head as an intimation that he was willing to hear.

In the simplest way in the world the count proceeded:

"Your affairs, sir, are in a desperate state; you are not only a
bankrupt, but you have almost from the commencement of your financial
existence only concealed your old debts by incurring larger ones, a
course which necessarily would bring you to complete ruin in the end."

Herr Balzer looked at the count in great surprise.

"The moment of unavoidable ruin has come," he said, "I am in possession
of a number of demands upon you, which if presented must infallibly
overthrow your credit. Beside this, your position is most unhappily
compromised, since you have, to save yourself, or rather to stave off
the time of inevitable ruin, pursued the plan of forging various bills
of exchange."

"Count," cried Herr Balzer in a voice whose impudence ill concealed his
fear, "I----"

With a proud movement the count imposed silence.

He drew from his pocket several bills of exchange.

"You see," he said, turning them over, "the forged bills are in my
hands, a prison will be your destination if I give these into the hands
of a magistrate."

Every trace of self-confidence had disappeared from Herr Balzer's
common-looking face. "With bewildered fear he looked at the count
without speaking a word.

"You are a lost man," he said coldly, "and if you have a spark of
honour left, you will prefer death to the future before you."

Herr Balzer raised his hands in speechless agony, as if imploring the
count for mercy.

He looked at him severely and proceeded:

"I will not, however, destroy you, I will give you the opportunity of
beginning a new life."

A ray of joy shone in the exchange-agent's eyes; he did not yet
understand, but he began to hope.

"Count," he cried, "command----"

"Hear first what I demand; upon your implicit obedience your future
will depend."

Herr Balzer listened anxiously.

"You will go at once to Gmünden," said the count, "from thence you will
write a letter to your wife, in which you will say that you cannot bear
the disgrace of bankruptcy, and that you prefer death; you will then
take care that your hat, your stick, and a glove or pocket-handkerchief
are found floating on the water, where the lake is the deepest. After
this is accomplished, you will cut off your beard, put on a wig, and go
to Salzburg, where at this address a certain person will provide you
with a passport and the sum of five thousand gulden."

He gave Herr Balzer a card with some writing upon it.

"You will then," he continued, "proceed to Hamburg, and embark in the
first ship for New York, and there you will go to those who will be
pointed out to you by the person in Salzburg. They will give you every
information, and assist you in commencing a new life, if you forget
your name and the past. Remember that you are watched, and that you
will be destroyed if you are not perfectly obedient!"

Herr Balzer's face had at first only expressed utter amazement, then a
look of scorn and wicked satisfaction passed over his features, finally
he gazed thoughtfully before him.

"Do you accept my proposals of safety?" asked the count.

"And my bills of exchange?" asked Balzer, looking ashamed.

"I have bought them, they will stay in my pocketbook," replied the
count.

"I accept," said Herr Balzer, "you shall be satisfied with me. But," he
added, with an extremely repulsive smile, "five thousand gulden is not
much--you value my wife at very little."

"You shall receive the same sum when you arrive in New York," said the
count coldly, "if you obey me implicitly."

"I will go," said Herr Balzer. "May I not," he added with a look of
grief that was badly acted, "bid my wife farewell?"

"No," replied the count, "she shall believe you are really dead, that
is my express will; she shall be free, even in her conscience."

Herr Balzer turned to go.

"I shall expect news of you from Salzburg in three days!" said the
count. "And now," he added solemnly and earnestly, "thank heaven, and
make use of the mercy that offers you a new life!"

He held out his hand to him, and mildness and kindness shone in his
eyes.

Herr Balzer bowed and left the room.

"We are now ready," said the count, as soon as he was alone with the
abbé; "be prepared to start in a week's time."



                             CHAPTER XXVII.

                               HIETZING.


The large and extensive Castle of Schönbrunn is beautifully situated,
it is surrounded by an enormous and ancient park with artistically
arranged ruins, with allegorical fountains, with deep shady groves, and
sunny level lawns; behind the castle, airily perched on the summit of
the height, is the triumphal arch called the Gloriette, from whence the
great Empress Maria Theresa could behold Vienna, which with the lofty
tower of St. Stephen appears upon the horizon.

Near to this imperial residence, full of remembrances of the Empress
Queen and of Napoleon I., (whose eagles may still be seen upon the two
obelisks at the principal entrance,) and around the spacious park, lies
pretty Hietzing, that favourite summer retreat of the Viennese. Villa
adjoins villa, and in the beautiful summer afternoons all the
fashionable world of Vienna streams out to hear the concerts in the
large gardens of the "Neue Welt," or of "Dommayer's Casino," and to
walk in the shady alleys of the park of Schönbrunn, which is always
open to the public.

Since the time when Napoleon I. fixed his head-quarters in Maria
Theresa's favourite residence, and caused the "old guard" to parade in
the spacious court of the castle, Hietzing had not been so animated or
so full as in the autumn of 1866.

The Saxon army was encamped in and around Hietzing; King John inhabited
the Stöckl, that small palace at the entrance of the park which Maria
Theresa had built for her celebrated physician van Swieten; and the
King of Hanover, who on his first arrival in Vienna had resided at the
house of his ambassador, General von Knesebeck, had now retired to the
Duke of Brunswick's villa at the farther end of the pretty village,
from which it was separated by a long high wall, which concealed the
wonderful art treasures and whimsical arrangements in the park and the
interior of the house.

The Saxon troops, the suites of the two princes, the equipages of the
arch-dukes and of the Austrian aristocracy, who vied with each other in
attentions to the kings who were now suffering from the effects of the
Austrian policy, filled the streets of Hietzing in a varied and
brilliant manner; the inhabitants of Vienna streamed out more
numerously than ever, and if anyone had cause to be satisfied with the
catastrophe of 1866 it was certainly the possessors of the "Neue Welt,"
and "Dommayer's Casino."

One morning in that remarkable and eventful time, two persons met in
the large central salon of the Brunswick villa.

The walls of this apartment were hung with Chinese tapestry, the
embroidered figures of the inhabitants of that great empire, with faces
exactly resembling those painted on their china, looked down
complacently from the walls, the whole of the furniture was of costly
Chinese work, life-sized pagodas stood in the corners, Chinese mats of
the finest rice-straw covered the floors; the large glass doors were
open and let the mild air blow in from the well-kept park. All the
curiosities in this salon, which gave it rather the appearance of a
museum than of a dwelling-room, did not attract one look from the two
men who paced up and down, with sad and mournful faces.

One of these persons was Count Alfred Wedel, whom we met with before in
Hanover during the catastrophe of the month of June. He wore his
undress court uniform, a blue coat with a scarlet collar; beside him
was a small and delicate-looking man of about thirty-six years of age,
with thin fair hair and a long light moustache; his features expressed
great energy, and quick lively intelligence. He wore the uniform of a
captain of infantry in the Hanoverian army.

"Yes, my dear Düring," said Count Wedel, in a melancholy voice, "all is
over,--Hanover exists no more,--you are the last man who waved our
banner; would to God," he added with a sigh, "that our generals had
been as energetic as you were, it would have been better for us."

"I cannot indeed understand," said Captain von Düring, "how everything
happened; I have only been able to follow the campaign from vague
reports; but I can comprehend neither the military nor the political
operations!"

"Who can understand them?" cried Count Wedel with bitterness, "least of
all, I believe, those who conceived them."

"Do you believe the annexation of Hanover will really take place?"
asked von Düring.

"I believe it is certain," said Count Wedel; "the expressions used by
the Prussian magistrates in Hanover leave us in no doubt about it, it
is no use ignoring the sad fact; but," he said, "we are called!"

A bell sounded from the adjoining room.

A moment afterwards the king's groom of the chambers appeared.

"His majesty requests you, gentlemen, to go to him."

He opened the door into the king's cabinet.

Count Wedel and Captain von Düring entered.

The cabinet that George V. inhabited was hung with silken tartan,
beautiful specimens of Scotch weapons, and masterly paintings
representing scenes from Sir Walter Scott's novels, adorned the walls.
Before a large table in the midst of the room stood the king; his
beautiful, expressive countenance was very sad. He wore the loose grey
overcoat belonging to the uniform of his Austrian regiment.

"God bless you, gentlemen," said King George with a gracious smile, as
he held out his hand, which Count Wedel and Captain von Düring pressed
to their lips; "much has happened since we parted, my dear Alfred."

"Your majesty," said Count Wedel in a trembling voice, "whatever has
happened, or whatever may happen, my heart remains ever the same."

"You bring me news of the queen?" asked the king.

"Certainly, your majesty," replied the count, producing several letters
and handing them to the king; "a letter from her majesty, notes from
the princesses, and a report from Herr von Malortie upon your private
estates."

The king laid the letters before him on the table.

"How is the queen?" he asked, "how does she bear these sorrowful
times?"

"Her majesty is calm and dignified," said the count, "but very unhappy,
the queen desires most earnestly to join your majesty as soon as
possible."

A deep shadow passed over the king's brow.

"Whether God will bring us together again," he said, "lies in the dark
womb of the future; at present the queen must remain where she is, and
represent the government; such is my will."

Count Wedel was silent.

"How is the countess?" asked the king.

"I thank your majesty, she is arranging the house, and will soon follow
me."

"Follow you?" asked King George.

"Your majesty," said Count Wedel with emotion, "I have not come to
bring you intelligence and to return. I have come to remain, if you do
not send me away!"

The king looked at him inquiringly.

"Your majesty," said the count, "from all I see and hear, you will not
return, at least not for a long time, to Hanover. Your majesty made me
your chamberlain, and I have performed my duty about your person with
pride. Your majesty is now in exile," he continued, his voice almost
failing him: "I beg for the great honour of sharing your exile, and
retaining my office!"

The king was silent for a moment. He slightly bit his moustache, a
sorrowful expression appeared on his face.

"My dear Alfred," he then said in a gentle voice, "you have just built
a house and newly furnished it. The countess is delicate, I am sure of
your faithfulness and devotion, but you must think of your family. You
would make too great a sacrifice; leave my service and this court,--the
court of banishment," he said sadly, "to those who are alone in life,
and have only themselves to think of."

"Your majesty," cried Count Wedel hastily, interrupting the king, "you
will hurt me much if you do not accept my service, if you forbid me the
honour of standing beside you in misfortune; I shall not leave you," he
added with blunt frankness, "and if you do not allow me to be your
chamberlain, at least I will be the courtier of misfortune."

A joyful smile passed over the king's face.

"Misfortune has its charms," he said, "it teaches us to know our true
friends. We will speak more of this hereafter. And now, my dear Captain
von Düring," he said, turning towards him, "I have heard of your
wonderful march, tell me about it, I wish to hear how you found it
possible to wave the banner of Hanover to the very end, after I had
been forced to lower it," he added, with a sorrowful sigh.

"Your majesty," said Captain von Düring, "I was at Emden with my
company, an overwhelming force of the enemy desired me to capitulate, I
declared that I would rather be buried beneath the ruins of the town
than lay down my arms; they then granted me a free retreat. I
withdrew," he continued, "with my company towards Holland. A large
number of young men from every district joined me. I procured a number
of passports partly by persuasion, partly from a list of pass
formularies, I filled them in and distributed them amongst my soldiers.
They had to pack up their arms and their uniform and thus they took
them with them to the Hague. Here I found your majesty's resident
minister, Count George Platen."

"An excellent young man!" cried the king.

"A true servant of your majesty, full of energy and zeal," said Captain
Düring; "I received from him a hearty reception and the warmest
support. Here I heard of the battle of Langensalza, and we celebrated
the victory with the greatest joy, for we were then convinced that the
army had cut its way through to the south."

"It ought to have done so!" said the king gloomily.

"We considered," proceeded Captain von Düring, "how it was possible for
my company to reach the army,--there was but one way, through France--"

"Through France!" cried the king.

"Yes, your majesty," said Captain von Düring, "it was a risk but I
ventured it. We got into the railway train as simple passengers, and
happily we all succeeded in avoiding the notice of the French
authorities, and in detached parties by the roundabout way of
Thionville, Metz, and Karlsruhe, we reached Frankfort. The order,
prudence, and punctuality of the soldiers was exemplary."

"What a marvellous march!" said the king.

"In Frankfort," continued Captain von Düring, "I applied to the
president of the Confederation, who supplied me with means for
purchasing fresh uniforms for my soldiers; the Duke of Nassau gave us
arms, a committee of the citizens provided us with linen and other
equipments, and in a fortnight I had 350 men armed and ready for the
field. I made the best non-commissioned officers into officers, and we
were about to join the garrison of Mayence, there to educate my quickly
organized troops by active service. In Frankfort I heard of the
capitulation of Langensalza,--forgive me, your majesty, I cannot
understand it."

"I was surrounded by superior forces," said the king, "I could not
uselessly sacrifice my troops to certain destruction."

"I perfectly understand that _your majesty_ was forced thus to act,"
said Captain von Düring, "but I do not understand the operations that
placed the army in such a position."

The king was silent.

"The capitulation did not affect me," continued Captain von Düring, "it
only concerned the army actually at Langensalza, and I had received no
intelligence, no commands. I remained under arms until the end."

He then added in a low sad voice:

"When all was at an end I disbanded my corps and sent my soldiers back
to their homes, but I came here to announce myself to your majesty, and
to report to you my useless attempts."

"Not useless, my dear Captain von Düring," said the king kindly, "you
could no longer obtain victory for my cause, circumstances made that
impossible, but under the greatest difficulties, to the very bounds of
possibility, you did your duty, and you set all the officers of my army
a fine example, that cannot be lost."

The king was silent for a moment.

"What are your views for the future?" he then asked.

"Your majesty," said Captain von Düring sadly, "I will not enter the
Prussian service; they want officers in Turkey, so does the Viceroy of
Egypt. I know Eastern affairs from the permission your majesty gave me
to serve for two years with the French army in Algeria, I think of
seeking a career in the East."

"Will you stay with me?" he then asked.

"Your majesty," cried Captain von Düring, "my wishes are nothing, you
have but to command,--it would be my greatest happiness; yet," he added
with some hesitation, "I must tell your majesty plainly, that idleness
is contrary to my whole nature."

"You shall not be unemployed, my dear Düring," said the king, proudly
raising his head. "I have every intention of again obtaining my
inheritance, and when the political situation permits the attempt I
shall require men capable of forming an army, and of leading it."

Captain von Düring's face brightened.

"Your majesty," he cried, "I can only lay my sword, my life, and my
future at the feet of my king."

"I appoint you my equerry," said the king, "remain here, you shall do
no court duty," he added, laughing. "Au revoir, I shall expect you to
dinner at five o'clock."

Captain von Düring bowed low.

"I cannot express to your majesty the gratitude I feel," he said; "may
I have the opportunity of proving it by my deeds!"

And he left the cabinet.

"Has your majesty any commands for me?" asked Count Wedel.

"Did the queen give you no commission to me?" asked the king in a
penetrating voice.

"Commission?" said the count, "no, only to deliver the letters which I
have had the honour of presenting to your majesty, but--"

"But?" asked the king anxiously.

"I perceived," said the count, "that the queen ardently wishes your
majesty could follow the advice given you by so many well-wishers,
and--"

"And that I should abdicate?" said the king passionately.

"Her majesty believes that thus the crown would be preserved in the
royal family," said the count, "and she regrets that your majesty does
not seize upon this sad and deplorable means of safety; the queen
thinks you might still be in time; but that your majesty is withheld by
those around you."

"And what do you think? I wish to hear your honest opinion," asked King
George.

"Your majesty," said Count Wedel slowly, "is convinced of my entire
devotion to your person; but since you ask the question, I must reply
uprightly and honestly, that if by your majesty's abdication the crown
could be saved for the house of Guelph--"

"_If_ it could!" said the king earnestly.

He came a few steps nearer, feeling his way with his hand, and seized
the count's arm.

"I wish," he said, "that this point should be perfectly plain to you;
for no accusation could pain me more, than that I had sacrificed the
future of my family to my personal inclinations. I do not know by whom,
or with what views the queen and the country have been told that my
abdication would preserve the independence of Hanover, and prevent her
annexation to Prussia; that it is only with me that Prussia refuses to
conclude peace; I will not try to discover what motives have induced
various persons to speak in this manner."

"Counts Münster, Windthorst," said Count Wedel, "they certainly hope to
be all-powerful ministers under the rule of the crown prince."

"No matter who it is," proceeded the king; "I can understand how the
queen, how several of the most important members of my family, may
credit these assurances; only it hurts me to think that they can
believe I should not long ago have seized upon this means of saving the
crown, if it would have saved it. When this opinion was urged upon me
from every side; when the queen telegraphed begging me to abdicate,"
continued the king more slowly, "I determined to take a step which
should make my duty upon this point plain. If my abdication could
preserve my crown for my descendants," he said with emphasis, "it was
my duty to abdicate, if not, it was my duty to refuse all such
propositions. I sent the minister for education, von Hodenburg, who was
here, to Berlin, to ask Count Bismarck plainly, whether my abdication
would preserve the crown for my son."

"Ah!" exclaimed Count Wedel.

"Late one evening," added the king, "Herr von Hodenburg had a long
interview with Count Bismarck. He declared with a candour and honesty
that did him honour, that the incorporation of Hanover was quite
resolved upon, that for the interests and the safety of Prussia the
step was absolutely necessary, and that my abdication would not affect
it in the least. Hodenburg told the count that the people of Hanover
would greatly resent an incorporation with Prussia, and that it would
create endless difficulties; the count replied that he knew well it
would be so, but that he could not be in error in doing what he
believed to be his duty towards his king and his country. But," he
said, interrupting himself, "this is only hearsay; through Lex, I will
give you Herr von Hodenburg's report, read it all through, it is very
interesting; but, you now know the answer I received to my direct
question,--tell me, what do you think?"

"Your majesty is right,--right a thousand times," cried Count Wedel; "I
see afresh how easy it is to judge falsely when you do not know all the
circumstances."

The groom of the chambers opened both the folding doors and exclaimed:

"His majesty the King of Saxony!"

King George took the count's arm. Supported by his chamberlain he
walked quickly through the Chinese anteroom.

At the further door of this apartment appeared the somewhat bent and
slender form of King John, with his sharply-cut profile, his bright
eyes full of genius, and his grey hair. Behind him walked his equerry,
Colonel von Thielau. The king wore the uniform of a Saxon general. He
hastened to meet King George and seized his hand. Count Wedel stepped
back.

King George took the King of Saxony's arm, and guided by him returned
to his cabinet. The groom of the chambers shut the doors.

King John led the King of Hanover to the chair before his table, and
drew forward one of the arm-chairs standing near for himself. They both
seated themselves.

"I wished to come to you at once," said the King of Saxony, "to tell
you that the foundations of my peace with Prussia were concluded."

"You will then return?" asked King George.

"Not yet," replied the King of Saxony, "the completion of the
conditions requires some time, and the troops cannot return until all
the new arrangements are definitely made."

"And you are satisfied?" asked the King of Hanover.

King John sighed.

"I am satisfied," he said, "thus far,--Saxony will not be taken from my
family; for the rest, the cause for which I fought is defeated,--the
vanquished must accept their fate."

"My fate too is that of the vanquished," said King George in a sad
voice.

The King of Saxony seized his hand, in great emotion.

"Believe me," he said affectionately, "that no one feels for you more
deeply, more heartily than I do; but," he added, "believe me also when
I say, that as far as my personal feelings go, I would far rather be in
your position than in my own. Rather, far rather would I abandon public
life, withdraw into seclusion, and devote the remainder of my days to
philosophy and the arts, than begin life afresh under new and strange,
oppressive and humiliating conditions."

King George bowed his head with a sorrowful look.

"And," added King John passionately, "Germany will be divided; instead
of one united, federal Germany, we shall be split into two warring
halves. Oh!" he cried, "for Germany, for her greatness and her power, I
would make any sacrifice; but will the end be reached by this path?"

And thoughtfully he gazed before him.

"What do the Saxons themselves say to this new state of affairs? will
it not create great difficulties?" asked the King of Hanover.

"The Saxon people, as well as myself, will have to go through many
sorrowful experiences," replied King John gravely; "but when I have
once signed my name beneath the Treaty of Peace, my word must be
respected and held sacred under all circumstances, and my people will
support me. I have but one wish," he added, with a deep sigh, "that the
painful sacrifices I make may give to Germany unity and greatness."

"Germany will not in this way attain to real safety, or to true
greatness!" cried the King of Hanover.

King John was silent.

"I must give up my minister von Beust," he said after a pause.

"Do they demand this at Berlin?" asked the King of Hanover.

"Not exactly, but it comes almost to the same thing; besides, his
position would be almost an impossible one. I am sorry, for his talents
would have assisted me greatly in the difficulties arising from the new
arrangements. Perhaps," continued the king, "a wider field will be
opened to his genius. The emperor gave me an intimation from which it
appears the idea has occurred to him of employing Beust, instead of
Mensdorff, who neither can nor will remain in office."

"Herr von Beust here in Austria?" exclaimed the king in great surprise.

"Yes," said the King of Saxony thoughtfully, "he would meet with
difficulties; the Archduke Albert and the Archduchess Sophia feel a
great repugnance to the plan; it is, of course, a matter of profound
secrecy during the present uncertain state of affairs."

"Certainly," said King George. "What does Beust think he can do with
Austria? he is taking a difficult position, the more difficult from the
many inimical elements he would have to encounter at home."

"One important element he thinks he can overcome, and reconcile to the
House of Hapsburg: Hungary, who has so long been discontented, will
find it impossible to continue her displeasure, as he will at once
restore to her the self-government she demands."

"Remove the centre of gravity to Pesth," said King George with some
bitterness, "as Bismarck advised."

"A second centre of gravity will remain in Vienna," returned the King
of Saxony, "and the balance of power between the two will create the
future strength of Austria."

"But the Church," asked the King of Hanover, "will she regard Beust
favourably?"

"I avoid speaking upon Church questions," said King John gravely,
"happily, from the constitution of Saxony, I have never been placed in
the painful position of deciding between political necessity and my
religions convictions. Have you good news of the queen?" he said,
changing the subject.

"I thank you," replied King George, "she is as well as painful
circumstances permit."

"I admire her heroic courage and her dignified bearing," said the King
of Saxony; after a short pause he added--

"Shall you remain here, or go to England?"

"To England?" cried King George, "to England, who moved not a finger to
assist me, or to defend the country that had given her a glorious race
of kings, the country whose sons had shed their blood in England's
wars? No! I will remain here, here in the house my cousin has so kindly
placed at my disposal. Here, at least, I am upon Guelphic soil," he
tapped his foot on the ground, "here I will remain until the tide of
misfortune turns."

"You believe a change is possible in our present fate?" asked King John
with some surprise.

"I do believe it," said the King of Hanover firmly.

"But," said King John, "we shall embarrass Austria, about whose power
we were so much deceived, if we stay here; our position will be
painful."

"Here in quiet Hietzing," replied King George, "I shall not embarrass
the political world of Vienna, though perhaps," he added with dignity,
"I may be a living reminiscence of duties that cannot be stripped off."

The King of Saxony stood up. King George also rose.

"I expect my son," said King John, "he will pay his respects to you."

"I shall be delighted to see the crown prince," said King George.

The King of Saxony pressed the King of Hanover's hand,--he rang, the
folding doors were thrown open, and arm in arm the two princes walked
through the reception room. King George accompanied his guest to the
door of the house, and then returned, guided by Count Wedel who had
followed him, to his cabinet.

Count Platen and Herr Meding had in the meantime arrived in the
ante-room.

The groom of the chambers announced them to the king.

"Call the crown prince and the privy councillor," said King George.

After a few minutes Prince Ernest Augustus and Herr Lex entered the
king's cabinet, Count Platen and Herr Meding followed them. At a sign
from the king they all seated themselves around the table.

The king began in a grave voice:

"The incorporation of Hanover with Prussia is determined upon
irrevocably; I am in a great difficulty, gentlemen, and I wish to hear
your advice. As you are aware, the English government has offered to
mediate for the recovery of the property belonging to my family; it has
also expressed a wish that my army should be released from its oath of
fealty, by which means the negotiations as to my property would be made
much easier. My personal inclination prompts me simply to decline the
negotiations, and to await a change in our unhappy fortunes; but this
is a question which concerns not only the interests of my family, but
those of many of my officers. What do you think ought to be done, Count
Platen?"

"Your majesty," replied the count, bowing slightly, "my opinion is that
your present position requires as much money as possible, for the means
at your disposal are very limited. If then, as I believe is the case,
the Prussian government sets great value upon the release of the army
from its oath, much may be gained by your consent. I think your majesty
cannot hesitate to engage in negotiations; nevertheless, the oath of
fealty must not be released until a favourable result is gained."

"Above all things," said the crown prince, "our family domains and the
hunting grounds must be preserved."

"And what do you think?" said the king, turning his head towards
Meding, with marked attention.

"Your majesty," he replied, "I am quite of the opinion that you must
enter upon these negotiations, yet I do not share the views either of
his royal highness the crown prince or of Count Platen. From what your
majesty has always firmly expressed, I believe you will not accept the
fate that war has brought upon Hanover, but that you will make every
effort in your power to recover your rights."

"That I will," cried the king, slightly striking the table with his
hand; "should my exile endure twenty or thirty years, I will never
cease to struggle for my rights!"

"Your majesty is perfectly justified in this resolution," said Meding.
"War has been declared against you, and no peace concluded with you.
Your majesty is a recognized enemy, and you can act accordingly; but
you must then expect the other side to proceed in a similar way. For
us, your majesty's servants, duty is clearly defined. Since your
majesty has willed to continue the struggle, all our opinions must be
governed by this determination. The possession of domains in the
kingdom of Hanover would make you completely dependent upon the
Prussian government. Every landowner, in concluding arrangements, must
recognize almost daily the authority of the present possessors of the
country. All this does not accord with the attitude your majesty
desires to maintain. Besides--forgive me, your majesty, but I cannot
forget a maxim taught me by my great master in politics, Herr von
Manteuffel----"

"A Prussian maxim," said the crown prince, laughing.

"Your royal highness," replied Meding gravely, "the maxims I learnt and
followed in the Prussian service, I will never deny. From following
these maxims implicitly, I have now the honour of standing beside my
king in his misfortunes. Circumstances,--my love and my duty to my
royal master,--may make me the enemy of the land of my birth, but deny
and scoff at it I never will."

The crown prince was silent.

"You are perfectly right," cried the king energetically. "You would be
no true servant to me if you denied your former masters. Well, then,
Herr von Manteuffel--?"

"Herr von Manteuffel," continued Meding, "used to say, 'A good general
thinks first of a retreat.' In the struggle which your majesty
undertakes, I think anxiously of a retreat; and it appears to me
unworthy of the Guelphs to continue to be landowners in the country
where they wore the crown. An independent capital will be the basis of
obtaining fresh possessions in a country which, after the loss of the
throne of Hanover, opens a great and glorious future to princes of the
house of Guelph--in England."

"But shall we then give up all the possessions of our family, so full
of remembrances?" cried the crown prince.

"If his majesty recovers the crown of Hanover," said Meding, "he will
also recover possession of the royal domains; if not, these
remembrances can only be painful. I certainly believe, too," he added,
"that Prussia will grant no domains without an express recognition of
her sovereignty."

The king was thoughtfully silent.

"Your majesty," said Count Platen, "the remarks of Herr Meding are
certainly worthy of attention. But the wish of his royal highness is
also very right. We might reconcile these views, and demand a portion
of your possessions in the domains--say a third part, especially in the
capital."

"That would place the whole negotiation on a difficult basis, and draw
it out to a tremendous length," said Meding.

"Let us seize this method of escaping from the difficulty," said the
king. "What do you think, my dear Lex?"

"I am quite of Count Platen's opinion," he replied.

Meding was silent.

"You still have some idea?" said the king, turning to him.

"Your majesty," said Meding, "my second and most serious remark is upon
the connection Count Platen is inclined to establish between the
property and the release of the oath of fealty. Such a connection may
be advantageous. I think, however, it would compromise your majesty's
dignity."

The king raised his head proudly.

"You forestall me," he cried vehemently. "Never, never shall the fate
of my officers, of my true and brave army, depend upon the estates of
my family. I desire that the two questions should be kept completely
apart, and that this should be made perfectly clear to the English
government. With regard to the army," he added, after a pause, "my
decision is made. I will never release the army from its oath, but I
will give them permission to leave the service. I shall never blame any
of my officers who are compelled by circumstances to use this
permission; but I will not free those who can and will remain. I will
send military commissioners to Berlin, that they may obtain the most
favourable terms they can for these officers who refuse to enter the
Prussian service. Draw out instructions in this spirit, gentlemen, and
lay them before me. Above all things, however, avoid mixing up my
private affairs with the fate of the army. It will be needful," he
added, after some consideration, "to draw up a protest against the
incorporation of Hanover, and to have it ready to send to all the
European courts, as soon as the annexation is proclaimed. We must also
draw up a plan for diligent and energetic action in the struggle for
the recovery of my rights."

"I have already employed the minister of legation, Lumé de Luine, in
drawing up this protest in the French language," said Count Platen.
"The facts may be found in the memorial upon the Hanoverian policy
already prepared. As to our activity," he continued, "it can only be
exercised at present in causing internal agitations in the country, and
in keeping up a sharp observation upon European politics. The only
chance of regaining the crown of Hanover lies in the goodwill and
support of those powers who may possibly go to war with Prussia."

"I certainly think, your majesty," said Meding, "that the plan of our
future operations, though it cannot be definitely drawn up at the
present moment, should be framed on larger principles, and founded on a
broader basis. As to agitations in Hanover itself, they must be
conducted with great prudence, lest we should urge our unhappy country
to destruction, from which we should have no power to save her. The
point of support appears to me to lie elsewhere. The restoration of
your majesty's rights and of the crown of Hanover will only be possible
if those principles which are now defeated, namely, the federative
unity of Germany, and the self-government and independence of its
various races, renew the war, and are victorious. This, however, can
only take place if the monarchical principle joins the spirit of
progress--the democracy."

"You would restore the king to the throne by democracy?" cried Count
Platen.

"His majesty's restoration is only possible," replied Meding, "through
the support of the true spirit of pure democracy: not of that democracy
that drags everything high and noble down into the filthy mud of the
masses, but that democracy which, uniting with the spirit of progress
and development now abroad, elevates the people more and more, and
excites their sympathy and interest in public affairs. Permit me, your
majesty," he continued after a short pause, "to express myself more
plainly. Simple legitimacy, however sacred and venerable to me, is no
longer a power in public life, it no longer moves the feelings of the
people, it no longer influences the politics of the cabinet. Monarchy,
if she wishes her rule, so wise, so beneficial, sanctioned by the right
of centuries, to endure through the developments of the future, must
progress with the living movement around her, must espouse herself to
freedom. The foundations of her right must be upon the ancient soil,
established upon the granite rock, the growth of centuries; but upon
this soil the fruits of freedom must ripen. Thus only can monarchy gain
permanence and recognition in the future. This is the case throughout
the whole world. But in Germany, in addition to the universal love of
freedom, there is the love of individual government, and the desire to
preserve the various races distinct. These two principles, both
forcible powers, will rise against what has just taken place, as soon
as the present development is fully understood. The first result of
recent events will be a great diminution of freedom and individual
government. If, then, a change in the present state of affairs is ever
brought about, it will be caused by the spirit of the German nation
revolting against the oppression of forced military centralization. If
your majesty would strive successfully, you must make yourself and
Hanover the incorporation of the German national principles; you must
draw around you all those elements which move the nation's noblest
feelings; you must fight against temporal weapons with spiritual
weapons. Should a moment come when a storm assails the unfinished
edifice of to-day, then must your majesty raise the national banner,
and call upon the German people to fight for federative government and
for freedom. Though, however, our work must be chiefly mental, it is
also needful to prepare for actual war, not by agitations and
demonstrations, but by careful organization. The cadres of the army
must be formed and ready, the threads that guide the policy of Europe
must be carefully watched, that your majesty may choose the right
moment for action, and also influence the course of events as much as
possible. I am convinced that agitations and demonstrations alone would
be objectless and useless, and complete devotion to the policy of any
cabinet highly dangerous, for your majesty would never wish to regain
your crown through the Emperor of Austria, nor Napoleon III. Perfect
independence of action, both mental and material, is needful. We must
endeavour to gain the sympathy of all the European cabinets, but we
must be dependent on none. In independence alone lies your majesty's
hope of success even should certain circumstances arise, not utterly
beyond the bounds of possibility, permitting you to conclude a
favourable peace with the enemy. Without independence and a firm
alliance with the mental needs of the German nation, all your majesty's
efforts would be vain, they would compromise your dignity, and," he
added, in a low but firm voice, "you would find no organ for them."

There was a moment's silence.

"In one word," continued Meding, "your majesty must undertake the
combat with weapons that are sharp and powerful, but at the same time
noble and dignified, that even our enemies may respect us; then even
should all be in vain, the house of Guelph after the records of a
thousand years may have this inscribed in history:--They fell, they did
not sink. I have only sketched out the outlines of what I conceive
should be the course of our future work. I must, however, state I am
ready to recall anything at your majesty's command."

"Such a work would cost a great deal of money," said the crown prince.

"A great deal may be done with moderate means, your royal highness,"
replied Meding, "as I know by experience; nevertheless, when we play
for crowns, we must not narrowly count the stakes."

The king raised his head.

"I quite agree with you, my dear Meding," he said, "that legitimate
right should unite with freedom, with real and wholesome freedom; I
truly do not fear the influence of the mind, and it shall not fail
either my work, or my will. We will speak of these things again, I
desire to consider them more closely."

"It would certainly be advantageous to enter into relations with the
leaders of the people," said Count Platen, "and Herr Meding might enter
into negotiations of a personal nature: your majesty should retain the
power of disavowing them if needful."

Meding replied with some animation:

"When negotiations are carried on between two governments every
diplomatist must be prepared beforehand to have his proposals disavowed
under certain conditions, but should I negotiate with the people, at
the first disavowal, my honour and convictions would impel me to take
their side, and make their cause my own. But," he said, turning to the
king, with a bow, "I know that this would never occur in your majesty's
service."

The king drew out his repeater.

"It is time to dine," he said, "all the gentlemen will have arrived
already. Prepare the instructions, and we will then form our plan of
action."

He rose. All present also stood up. Count Platen, Lex, and Meding left
the cabinet and returned to the Chinese salon.

Here the king's guests had already assembled. Besides the equerries on
duty, Field-Marshal von Rorschach, Prince Hermann von Solms and Captain
von Düring were present.

Count Wedel had resumed his duties and carried the chamberlain's staff.

Baron Reischach was talking to Prince Hermann.

"How proud our good prince is," he said goodnaturedly, "at having smelt
powder for the first time! Yes, yes," he said, with a sigh, "those
were happy days, they will never return,--an old cripple like myself
will never again hear the cannon's music."

"But to look at you," said the prince, "so fresh, so rosy, one can
hardly believe those times were long ago, were it not for the white
hair we should take you for a young man."

"The ladies of Vienna call my head a sugared strawberry," said the
general, laughing, "but the fruit tempts them no longer, the days of
war and love are over for me, but my old heart keeps young, and
rejoices that my dear young prince should have fought so bravely."

And the old general patted the prince on the shoulder.

Count Platen entered and greeted General von Reischach.

"What news do you bring us from Vienna?"

"Very little," said the general, shrugging his shoulders, "yet stay, a
half countryman of yours, a native of Mecklenburg, is about to carry
off one of our fairest young ladies."

"Whom?" asked Count Platen.

"Baron Stielow will marry the young Countess Frankenstein in a
fortnight."

"Ah!" said Count Platen, "Herr von Stielow, one of Gablenz's staff?"

"The same."

"He is converted, I hear," said Prince Hermann.

"Through love of his bride," replied the general, "and from gratitude
for her recovery from a severe illness; she was hurt in nursing the
wounded, and suffered from poisoning of the blood. They will travel for
some time after the wedding."

The dining-room doors were thrown open.

Count Wedel entered the king's cabinet.

Immediately both the folding doors were opened, Count Wedel raised his
staff, the king appeared in the colonel's uniform of his Austrian
regiment, the star of the Order of St. Stephen upon his breast, the
cross of Maria Theresa around his neck. He leant on the arm of the
crown prince.

He greeted his guests by a slight inclination of the head, and entered
the dining-room. They all followed him.



                            CHAPTER XXVIII.

                                BLECHOW.


Lieutenant von Wendenstein slowly recovered after the crisis was
happily passed; and though at times he suffered from great weakness
there was no serious drawback in his convalescence, and the physician
gave his friends good hopes that his health in the future would not be
impaired.

But no sooner did he really progress, no sooner did his strength really
return, his eyes grow bright, and a slight colour tinge his cheek, than
Helena withdrew from her office of nurse, and left the care of the
invalid entirely to the charge of Madame von Wendenstein and his
sister, whilst she bestowed all her attentions upon the old lady, as if
anxious lest she should miss any of her home comforts.

It was very unnecessary, for Madame von Wendenstein wanted nothing more
than the sight of her son's improvement day by day.

With beaming eyes and radiant smile she watched the progress of his
recovery, and with the quick perceptions of a mother's love she noted
every shade of colour and of expression on the face of her son
betokening the return of life and youthful strength.

She grew lively and cheerful, and showed much interest in the
arrangements of the Lohmeier household; she had often expressed her
surprise and great satisfaction at the orderly way in which everything
was arranged; at the beautiful house linen, the excellent cooking, and
the order in the house work, and she was amazed that so young a girl as
Margaret should be so good a manager. She had kindly bestowed the rich
treasures of her experience upon her young hostess, for whom she felt
great affection, and old Lohmeier regarded this distinguished lady, who
yet was so well acquainted with all household details, with the
greatest veneration, especially when he saw the interest his daughter,
the pride of his heart, had excited in her mind.

The lieutenant remarked that Helena no longer appeared at his bed-side;
his eyes often rested upon her enquiringly when he was able to rise and
go into his mother's room, but he said very little, he was not quite
sure whether the sweet and charming picture which filled his mind was
the result of a feverish imagination or the truth.

Helena was quiet and dreamy; she seldom looked at Wendenstein, the
feelings she had so plainly shown in the days of anguish and danger
were now most carefully concealed.

Madame von Wendenstein often turned her mild eyes sympathizingly upon
the young girl; but she did not say a word, for she held that every
true woman's heart is a tender flower, which must bud and blossom in
its own way, shrinking back and closing at a rough touch. In her quiet
pious way she had committed both these young hearts into God's hand,
and she trusted that in His good time they would come to a happy
understanding.

The candidate came very little. He was unwearied in consoling and
exhorting the sick, and the whole town spoke of him with esteem and
admiration. He said a few kind and hearty words to Lieutenant von
Wendenstein when he first saw him, after his recovery appeared certain,
reminding him of the gratitude he ought to feel for the life restored
to him when on the threshold of death; but Wendenstein felt a strange
shudder pass through him as he spoke, and he sat still afterwards fur
some time in deep thought, pursuing the frightful and alarming
recollections which arose in his mind, but which he could not
completely recall. Whenever he saw the candidate the same feeling of
cold and deadly fear returned, and again his memory refused to recall
the reason. He blamed himself greatly for his aversion to so excellent
a man, and the more his recovery progressed and his nerves
strengthened, the more he struggled to feel kindness and friendship for
the young clergyman.

After some time of this quiet life, the day came when the ladies and
the lieutenant, who could now walk slowly, determined to return home.
Notwithstanding her joy at her son's recovery Madame von Wendenstein
had a new and deep cause for grief. The incorporation of Hanover with
Prussia was quite decided upon, and the president had told his wife in
a short and mournful letter that he should resign, as he could not at
his age change his masters. He should go to Hanover for a time, and
then he would buy an estate for his son the lieutenant, as he no longer
wished him to remain in the army under present circumstances. The whole
family could reside with him.

This letter Madame von Wendenstein received the evening before her
journey. As she read it large tears ran slowly down her cheeks. She was
then to return, only to leave the old house that for so many years had
sheltered her, the home filled with so many remembrances of her quiet
happy life. But she was accustomed always to conform to her husband's
will without questioning it, and when she thought of leaving the old
house at Blechow, which after all belonged to the office the president
was about to resign, and of going to an estate which would really be
her son's, and of the pleasure of arranging and founding a house for
him, she dried her tears. She thought of the children and grandchildren
who would always live there, and a smile played round her lips as she
again read the president's letter.

The lieutenant's eyes sparkled with joy.

"Oh! how I thank my father!" he cried; "how grateful I am to him for
allowing me to leave the service. It would have been too painful to
forget the old flag for which I shed my blood."

And holding out his hand to his mother with a smile he said--

"And how beautiful my dear mother will make our new home; oh! it will
be charming!"

He gazed at Helena who sat opposite to him, bending over her work. She
did not raise her eyes; but she felt his look, and a deep blush passed
over her face, and Madame von Wendenstein saw it with a quiet smile;
from the sorrowful present she foresaw a bright and happy future.

Whilst this went on in the apartments upstairs, Margaret sat with her
father and Fritz Deyke at their simple evening meal.

The young girl turned the new potatoes skilfully out of their brown
coats, they were first-fruits of the year, and she prepared them for
her father and the guest who had become like one of themselves.

They were all three silent, and the young peasant looked very mournful.

"You do not eat," said the old man, looking at his guest's plate,
though he himself showed but little appetite.

"Perhaps I have not done them well," said Margaret, trying to make a
little joke; but her voice was dismal.

Fritz Deyke gave a quick glance at her pale face and downcast eyes.

"I cannot!" he cried, as he threw down his knife and fork upon the
plate. "When I think that I am to go to-morrow, I really wish I had
never come; when I sit at home and think of how happy we used to be,
especially how beautifully Margaret did everything at dinner time--no
wonder I cannot eat!"

Old Lohmeier looked at him sympathetically, it was plain that he was
sorry to part with the kind, goodhearted young fellow.

"Stay here," he said simply, "you know we should like to keep you."

Margaret looked at him with bright eyes swimming with tears.

"I cannot help it," he said, "I must go some time, and the longer I
stay the worse it will be."

He sighed deeply, and his eyes met those of the young girl.

Margaret put down her head and sobbed aloud. Then she sprang up,
covered her face with her hands, and leaned her head against a large
chest that stood in the corner, weeping bitterly.

Fritz Deyke rushed to her.

"My God!" he cried, and tried to withdraw her hands from her face, "I
cannot bear it, you will break my heart!"

He stood still for a moment before the weeping girl with his eyes fixed
thoughtfully upon the ground. Then he walked quickly back to the table
and stood before the old man.

"Herr Lohmeier," he said in a firm tone, "I can no longer restrain my
feelings. I intended to go home first and come to an understanding with
my father, and then to come back here, but I cannot do it. I cannot see
her cry, I must speak, and as to my father, I know beforehand quite
well what he will say. Herr Lohmeier, I cannot be happy without
Margaret, I have enough, much more than enough to keep a wife. I know
you think me an honest fellow--give me your daughter!"

Margaret did not move, she kept her hands over her face, the low sound
of her weeping was heard throughout the room, whilst Fritz Deyke looked
at her father in breathless suspense.

He gazed gravely before him. He did not look much surprised, perhaps he
had expected something of the kind, but for a time he was silent and
thoughtful.

"It is all right as far as I am concerned," he said at last, "I have
grown very fond of you, and I can trust my daughter's happiness to you,
but there are two persons to ask about it--in the first place, my
daughter."

With one bound Fritz was by Margaret's side.

"Margaret," he cried, "will you go with me?" And putting his arm round
her, he drew her gently to the table opposite to her father.

She let her hands glide down from her face; her eyes were full of
tears, but they beamed with affection and confidence, and whilst she
gazed at her young lover, she said in a loud firm voice:

"Yes!"

"Well, that is one person," said old Lohmeier, laughing, "but the
consent of the second is a graver matter, I mean your father. These are
sad times, and your father, a thorough-going Hanoverian, will scarcely
welcome a Prussian daughter-in-law to his house; she is the daughter of
a stiff true Prussian, and I would disinherit her if she ever forgot
the love she owes her king."

Fritz Deyke was silent for a moment.

"Herr Lohmeier," he then said, "you know I am a Hanoverian with all my
heart and soul, and that it is a great grief to me that we are now to
be Prussian, but what can I do, or how can Margaret help it? We did not
make the politics and we can't change them; would to God Prussia and
Hanover could come to as good an understanding as we have done.
However," he added more warmly, "I cannot complain, for if Prussia
takes my country at least it gives me the best thing it has, and my
annexation is a peaceful one, of heart to heart."

He embraced Margaret, and looked imploringly at the old man.

But he continued grave and thoughtful--

"Will your father think so?" he asked.

Fritz considered a moment, then he cried suddenly,

"Wait a moment!" and rushed from the room.

Lohmeier looked after him with surprise. "Where is he going?" he asked.

"I think I know," said Margaret; "he has often told me what a great
respect his father has for Madame von Wendenstein, and how he will do
anything at a word from her."

Fritz soon came back.

"Madame von Wendenstein begs you to go to her," said he to old Lohmeier
with a look of delight.

He stood up at once, brushed his sleeve with the tips of his fingers,
stroked his grey hair with the palm of his hand and went upstairs.

Fritz and Margaret remained alone.

He seated himself and gently drew the young girl into a chair beside
him.

What did they say? So little and yet so much, their speech was so old
and yet so new, one more variation on the eternal melody of love, that
rings in the human heart from the cradle to the grave, and whose
endearing tones pass with the soul into the great harmony of Eternity.

Madame von Wendenstein led old Lohmeier into her son's sick room, and
there they remained together for half an hour, and the result of their
conversation was, that he consented to his daughter's betrothal to
Fritz, upon condition that old Deyke's approval was gained; and that he
might learn to know his future daughter-in-law, Madame von Wendenstein
invited Margaret to go home with her. She undertook to introduce her
lover's father to her, and to instruct her in the house-keeping
arrangements of her own country. Old Lohmeier accepted the invitation
with much pride, for his veneration for this lady who had passed many
weeks in his house, was immense. He informed the young people with
great dignity and importance, "that he had talked the matter over with
his much honoured friend Madame von Wendenstein," and they both felt
extremely happy, though Margaret was rather alarmed at the prospect of
meeting with the stern old Bauermeister, of whom Fritz always spoke in
terms of the greatest respect.

Thus their departure drew near. Some time before, Madame von
Wendenstein had endeavoured to propose some remuneration for all the
trouble and expense her son's illness had occasioned, but it had been
so decidedly refused by the old brewer, and he had appeared so hurt at
the proposal, that she had never again renewed it. On the day of her
departure she gave Margaret a beautiful cross of rubies and diamonds,
on a string of large pearls.

"I have wept many tears here," she said gently. "Let the pearls remind
you of this, my child; but the sacred love we adore in the Cross, the
sign of the Holy Passion and of our redemption, has dried my tears, and
raised and comforted my heart. Let the cross remind you of this; and if
you, too, shed tears of grief, look at this cross, with firm faith and
loving resignation."

Tears were in Margaret's eyes as she received the cross; and old
Lohmeier took Madame von Wendenstein's fine white hand in his own with
emotion, and pressed his lips upon it. He carefully locked up the pearl
necklace and the cross in an old oaken chest, in which he kept the
simple but massive ornaments of his late wife; they were all to be
Margaret's when she married, and entered the large old farmhouse as its
mistress.

And then they set out, accompanied by a thousand good wishes from old
Lohmeier, who promised, when all was arranged, to think of retiring
from his business, and of spending the last years of his life quietly
near his daughter's new home.

Thus in the spot where so bloody a battle had raged between Hanover and
Prussia, Christian compassion had caused two young hearts to reap a
harvest of love from the seeds of hatred. Thus was the will of the
Eternal accomplished, who turns evil into good; and where demons have
led men into strife and hatred, His unwearied care removes their gloomy
traces by that bright child of heaven--Reconciliation.

Their return to Blechow was grave and sad. The president silently
strained to his breast the son restored to him from the gates of death;
silently, too, he kissed the brow of his wife. The days that followed
were calm and melancholy.

The president worked hard with Auditor von Bergfeld, that he might
leave everything in the most perfect order for his successor. Madame
von Wendenstein went quietly about the house, occupied in the
melancholy task of displacing the treasures collected during more than
twenty years of house-keeping, and the remembrances they awakened were
known only to her eye and her heart. All those treasures had to be
packed in huge coffers, and conveyed to the new house. And the enormous
oaken chests looked so sad, with their opened doors and their empty
trays, and throughout the house sighed the gloomy spirit of departure
and separation, the spirit that moves through human life like a
messenger of death, touching the heart with a shrinking foreboding of
the last great farewell of eternity. Every farewell breaks a flower
from the wreath adorning the spring-time of our lives, until the last
blooms are buried beneath the wintry snows of death. But every blossom
leaves a fruit behind, whose seed is in itself; and these will bear
purer, fairer flowers, and spring up into imperishable beauty beneath
the life-breath of eternal spring.

Fritz Deyke had a long conversation with his father, who looked very
black at first, when he heard what his son had to say. He loved his
son, he had unbounded confidence in him, and he knew he would make no
unworthy choice; but to have a town young lady for his daughter-in-law,
to have a Prussian mistress in Hanoverian Wendland was not at all to
his mind. But he said nothing, and, at his son's request, he went to
the castle to see Madame von Wendenstein.

The old lady he had always regarded as a model of womanly perfection,
and she told him of all the attention and kindness her son had received
in old Lohmeier's house, taking care to describe the excellent burgher
position held by Margaret's father. Then she kindly and warmly urged
him not to visit the misfortunes of the times upon innocent heads; and
he held out his hand to her, and said,--

"It shall be as my son wishes. He is good and true: the wife he brings
to my house shall be welcome, and my blessing shall rest upon her."

Then Madame von Wendenstein opened the door into the next room, and
Margaret, blushing deeply, and trembling from agitation, entered; but
her eyes were bright and candid. She was dressed in the costume of the
rich peasant women of Wendland. She went up quickly to the old man, and
kissed his hand, and a warm tear fell upon the hand hardened with toil.

A gentle smile passed over the stern, furrowed face of the old peasant;
his eyes looked milder than they had done for many a day, as he gazed
down upon the young girl's strong, yet slender form. He stroked her
glossy hair, and said, in a low voice,--

"God bless you, my daughter!"

Then everything was said, and everything was settled. Old Deyke was a
man of few words; but his words were like a rock--you might have built
a house upon them when they were spoken.

He took Margaret to his farm, and as she walked at his side, and told
him artlessly how amazed she had been at the wonderful treasures of the
old castle, and as she let a word fall showing every now and then, how
much she knew about housekeeping, his face grew brighter and brighter.
But when she sent the maidservants out of the kitchen, and lighted the
fire, and cooked the dinner herself with skilful hands; when she laid
the cloth, arranging everything so quickly and prettily, whilst Fritz
watched her with delighted eyes; when at last she brought the old man's
pipe, and lighted it for him, and then looked up at him with loving,
imploring eyes, he looked at her through tears: the image of his dead
wife rose before him, and he held out his hand to his son, saying,--

"I thank you for bringing me such a daughter."

The young people knelt down before him, and he said, in a low half
choking voice:

"God bless and keep you, my dear, dear children!"

The lieutenant was very quiet and thoughtful. His wound was quite
healed, his nerves were grown strong again, and the wonderful
reparatory powers of youth sent his blood through his veins as quickly
as before. He seldom saw Helena: when she came up from the Vicarage she
was surrounded by the others, and he could only exchange a few words
with her. The old merry confidence between the two friends from
childhood would not return; there was something new and strange between
them, which closed their lips when it sought expression in words.

One afternoon, when the president was hard at work with Auditor von
Bergfeld, and Madame von Wendenstein, her daughters and Margaret were
busy in the melancholy occupation of dismantling the house, the
lieutenant walked slowly and thoughtfully towards the pastor's.

The roses had withered in the pretty little garden, and the autumnal
asters raised their many-coloured heads, overtopped by the tall and
brilliant sunflowers.

Helena sat at the open window, and often raised her eyes from her work
to look dreamily over the cornfields; her father and the candidate had
gone out to make some visits in the village; she was alone with her
thoughts.

Suddenly she trembled slightly, a blush spread hastily over her
delicate face, she let her work fall into her lap; Lieutenant von
Wendenstein had entered the garden, and was approaching the house.

A moment later he knocked at the door of the sitting-room; she made an
effort to cry "Come in," and he entered.

He looked delighted when he saw that Helena was alone.

He came to her quickly and took her hand.

"My father is out," she said, with downcast eyes and trembling voice,
"will you take a chair?"

The lieutenant remained standing before her, and looked at her long and
affectionately. Then he raised her hand to his lips and pressed a kiss
upon it.

Blushing deeply, she tried to draw her hand away; he held it with
gentle force.

"I am so very glad to find you alone," he said; "I have wanted so long
to ask you something I am not quite sure about."

She raised her eyes to his with surprise and enquiry, she wished to
speak, but she found no words.

"Helena," he said, in a low voice, "when I was wounded and ill in
Langensalza, without strength enough to think clearly, dizzy with
fever, a sweet image was always before me,--I saw a consoling angel
looking at me so kindly, so lovingly,--I held her helping hand in mine,
I pressed it to my lips, and from the depths of my heart I said, 'dear
Helena.'"

She withdrew her hand quickly, and seated herself on the chair near the
window; pale and trembling, her eyes sought the ground.

He went up to her and continued in urgent terms:

"Tell me,--for sometimes a gloomy veil comes over my memory,--tell me,
this image that never leaves my heart, that follows me everywhere--was
it real?"

She gave no answer, but sat still and motionless.

"Helena," he said imploringly, "I saw eyes that told me such good and
loving things in a mute language,--those eyes are near me night and
day. Helena, look at me once more, that I may see whether the image in
my heart was the dream of fever, or the truth."

He sank on his knees before her, and seized her hand as it hung beside
her, looking up at her with an earnest loving gaze.

Then she slowly raised her eyes, and in her eyes lay her answer; those
eyes again spoke the mute language that found an echo in his heart.
Again he pressed her hand to his lips, and again she permitted it with
a loving smile, and in a soft voice, happy and triumphant, he
whispered, "Dear, dear Helena!"

They sat for a long time in silence; he was never weary of gazing on
the beloved features which in the days of his deadly peril were graven
so deeply in his soul.

Then he sprang up, bent over her and held her in his arms.

The door opened, the pastor and candidate entered.

The old gentleman looked much surprised at this unexpected scene, an
evil flash of hatred darted from the candidate's sharp eyes, but he
quickly fixed them on the ground and an oily smile played around his
mouth.

Helena bent down her head in charming confusion. The lieutenant
hastened to the pastor and seized his hand energetically.

"Dear sir," he said, in a decided voice, "my dear playmate, Helena,
watched over my life, and saved it when it hung on the feeblest
thread,--I have implored her to watch over it henceforth,--for
ever,--and--she will." He looked at the young girl with eyes full of
happiness and continued, "Will you unite our hands before the altar of
our dear old church, where we made our vows at our confirmation?"

And he looked the old clergyman honestly in the face.

He was still lost in astonishment at the turn affairs had taken, and
which he had never perceived.

He looked at his daughter. Her deep blushes, and the bashful, yet
imploring expression of her eyes, convinced him that God had joined two
hearts together, and that it would ill beseem him to part them. He
loved von Wendenstein, and could only rejoice at the prospect of being
more closely connected with him; but his intentions and plans for his
daughter had been so different, he could not accommodate himself at
once to the change.

Helena sprang to her feet, she hurried to her father and threw herself
upon his breast.

The old gentleman looked gravely at his nephew, he stood with downcast
eyes, and gentle smiles.

"My dear Herr von Wendenstein," said the pastor, "you well know the
great esteem I have ever entertained for you and your family, and if my
daughter has given you her heart, as a father and as a priest I must
lay my hand upon your heads and bless you. I must own, however, that
all this has greatly surprised me. I had quite different ideas as to my
daughter's future life," and he again looked enquiringly at the
candidate.

But he came up to the pastor, and said in a calm voice, though without
raising his eyes:

"Let there be no discord in the friendly harmony of this hour, my dear
uncle. You know I am devoted above all things to my sacred calling;
earthly wishes, however dear to my heart, cannot disturb the spiritual
calm of my soul, and if heaven has decreed that my hopes and desires
are to be denied, I shall only see a gracious dispensation of
Providence, intended to turn away my soul from earthly things, that all
its powers may be devoted to the accomplishment of my sacred office. I
shall pray for my cousin's happiness with my whole soul! I congratulate
you most heartily, Herr von Wendenstein," he added, holding out his
hand to the young officer. He seized it and looked at the young
clergyman with emotion. But the hand was cold as ice, and a deep
shudder passed through his nerves, as he felt its smooth serpent-like
pressure.

The last time that all the family friends assembled around the
hospitable board of the old Castle of Blechow, was at the celebration
of the lieutenant's betrothal with Helena. The president had thus
willed it, and he also insisted that old Deyke, Fritz, and Margaret, as
well as Lohmeier, who was with them, should take part in the family
festivity, which was also a day of farewell. The president wished to
make a sad farewell less melancholy, by thus solemnizing the union of
two hearts.

He wished that all should carry away a happy recollection of their last
day at Blechow, and that the last rays of the old times should sink
brightly into the ocean of the past.

Everything was packed up, and ready to start; only the dinner service
and the heavy old plate was still used, and displayed its glories for
the last time.

The president's eldest son had arrived early in the morning, and had
had a long and serious conversation with his father.

He told him he had been offered the assistant-secretaryship in the
Ministry of the Interior in Berlin, and he expressed a wish to accept
the appointment, since he hoped by this means to alleviate the
condition of his native country, under its new circumstances. Yet he
left the decision entirely to his father.

The president stood for a long time in grave thought

"You are young, my son," he said, at last, in a gentle voice; "your
life belongs to the future--you must go forth and work in the
present--you ought not to bury yourself in the past. The king has
released all his civil servants from their oath; you are therefore
free,--seize the opportunity of making a career for yourself, and of
labouring for the general good. But never forget that good and faithful
Hanover is your fatherland,--keep that remembrance sacredly in your
heart, and when you can, work that it may be treated lovingly, for the
sake of it; fair and honourable history in the past. My blessing be
upon you in your new path!"

The son kissed his father's hand in silence, and nothing more was said
by either of them on the subject.

The guests sat around the table in the dining-room of the old castle
with grave emotion. Old Deyke took his place beside the president with
great dignity. Fritz and Margaret sat beside each other embarrassed,
but happy,--the lieutenant's eyes sparkled with joy. Helena's fair face
expressed thoughtful happiness; and though a tear sometimes shone in
Madame von Wendenstein's soft eyes, when she looked at her son and his
lovely bride, such a happy smile came to her lips, that it was hard to
say whether the pearly drop came from the bitter cup of grief or the
pure spring of joy.

"Do you remember, dearest Helena," said the lieutenant, "how you showed
me the dark cloud, which was driven away from the silver beams of the
moon? You see it has returned, and now rests in its pure, full light;
but it brings no storm, no tempest, but blessing and happiness to the
garden of our lives!"

She looked at him with her loving eyes, smilingly.

"I think," she whispered, "you have found the magic key of the kingdom
of dreams and fancies, which you once thought you could only have from
my hands."

"And did I not have it from your hands?" he said; "you gave it to me
when I was on the borders of death, and I will guard it truly in the
golden light of life!"

The dessert was brought. A post-horn was heard.

The old servant in a few minutes announced Baron von Klentzin.

"The successor to your office in Blechow, my dear father," said the
assessor; "the civil commissioner von Hardenberg has desired him to
release you."

They all rose gravely.

The Prussian entered; he was a tall, slender young man, elegant in his
appearance, graceful in his movements.

The president advanced towards him with calm dignity.

"You are welcome, Baron von Klentzin, to my house,--the house that is
still mine, and that to-morrow will be yours. We are celebrating a
family festivity,--the betrothal of my son,--and I beg you will join
us."

He introduced the young man to his wife, and to the others, and then
requested him to be seated beside Madame von Wendenstein. He signed to
the servant to fill his guest's glass with champagne.

"To-morrow I shall resign my office to you, and I hope you will find
everything in order," said the old gentleman,--"to-day allow me to
treat you as my guest."

Baron von Klentzin bowed.

"I enter your circle as a stranger," he said, "and I feel I can
scarcely be welcome. But I beg you, sir, and all here present, to
believe that I deeply respect your feelings,--we know what love to the
Fatherland is,--and," he added warmly, "we come to you with open hands
and hearts. May the future unite us all, without grief or bitterness,
in one glorious Germany! Now, permit me to empty my glass to the
happiness of the youthful pair!"

"Sir," said the president, with deep melancholy in his voice, "it has
ever been the unalterable custom at my table to drink to the health of
our king and commander-in-chief. He is no longer sovereign of this
country. You will understand how I wish this last day not to deviate
from the old custom of my house. A new time arises, but let us think of
the old with thankfulness and love!"

Baron von Klentzin seized his glass.

"Only from love of the past can bloom a blessing on the future," he
said feelingly; "and far be it from me to prevent, by my presence, the
last farewell to such a past."

They all rose.

The president said, solemnly--

"'The King!' who was our lord, and to whom the service of my life
belongs. May God's blessing be upon him!"

They all repeated the toast.

Herr von Klentzin, deeply moved, touched his glass against his host's,
and the slight sound reverberated through the room.

They all emptied their glasses silently.

That was the last toast to George V. in the old castle of Blechow.
Klentzin looked down thoughtfully.

"We have won a fair country," he said to himself; "God grant that we
may win these hearts to true brotherhood."



                             CHAPTER XXIX.

                       "GOD AND THE FATHERLAND!"


King William had returned to Berlin. The nation received him with the
wildest joy, scarcely knowing how to express its delight and enthusiasm
at this unparalleled seven days' campaign, the wonderful success of
which had placed Prussia so high amongst the first-class powers of
Europe, and had so completely consolidated the unity of Germany. The
first wild burst of delight was over in Berlin. Everything began to
return to its accustomed course, at least outwardly, for every heart
still swelled high with the proud feeling of victory.

Early one morning King William entered his cabinet. He was dressed, as
always, in uniform, with the iron cross and the Order of Merit.

"Is Schneider here?" he enquired of the attendant on duty.

"At your majesty's command. He waits in the anteroom."

At a sign from the king, Louis Schneider entered, with a large
portfolio under his arm.

"Good morning, Schneider," cried the king. "Everything has returned to
its accustomed order, and we can begin regular work. What is there in
the way of literature? What have you got in that great portfolio?"

"Allow me first, your majesty, to offer you my most hearty
congratulations on the successful termination of the war. Here,
on the very spot," said Schneider, with emotion, "where I stood last
time--that day when your majesty regarded the future so anxiously, and
found yourself so completely without allies,--your majesty has again
experienced that the King of Prussia is not weak when he stands alone!"

"If he has those two Allies who gave us our device," said the king,
with a calm smile, "God and the Fatherland!"

He was silent for a moment. Schneider opened his portfolio.

"Well, what have you in the newspapers?" asked the king.

"Nothing, your majesty, but variations upon one theme--joy at our
victories, gratitude to our royal conqueror, his soldiers, and his
ministers. The whole press is one great dithyrambus, expressing its
emotions now majestically, now pathetically, now comically. But good
advice to Prussia and the North-German Confederacy is not wanting. It
is incredible how much didactic writing is produced on the future
well-being of Germany. Would your majesty like an example?"

The king was silent, and looked thoughtfully before him.

"Schneider," he said, "how ungrateful men are!"

Schneider gazed at the king in amazement.

"Your majesty," he cried, "I cannot, alas! deny that ingratitude is a
characteristic of the human race; but I thought the present time was
really an exception, everyone is so anxious to express gratitude to
your majesty, to the generals."

"It is just at the present time," said the king gravely, "that I think
the world, and Berlin especially, so very ungrateful. They thank me, in
the most exaggerated words, my Fritz too, all my generals; but _One_
Man they forget, and yet that man had a great share in the success that
God has given us."

Schneider still looked at the king enquiringly.

"No one thinks of my brother, the late king," said King William, in a
voice that trembled slightly.

Deep emotion appeared on Schneider's animated face, a tear shone on his
eyelashes.

"Yes, by God!" he cried, in his sonorous voice, "your majesty is right;
we are ungrateful."

"How deep, how true," said the king, "was his devotion to Germany's
greatness, and to Prussia's destiny; how much he did to strengthen the
army, and to organize the government of Prussia, that she might be
ready to fulfil her high calling. Prussia's future greatness was clear
to his enlightened mind; and if the rough hand of revolution had not
interfered in the carrying-out of his plans and views----"

The king paused suddenly, and pursued his thoughts in silence.

Schneider's eyes rested with warm affection upon the thoughtful
features of his generous and simple-minded sovereign.

"If God has granted to us to pluck the fruit," continued the king, "yet
ought we not to forget whose careful hand planted the tree and watered
its roots in time of drought; truly he has not deserved it of us."

The king turned to his writing-table, and took up a sheet of paper.

"I have written down a few of my thoughts," said he with some
hesitation, "but chiefly facts, as to what the late king did for
Prussia, how he strengthened the army, and the nation, and laboured for
the unity of Germany. I should like a leading article to be written
from this and published in the 'Spener Gazette,' that all Berlin may
read it. Will you see to this?"

He held out the paper to Schneider, who took it respectfully, his eyes
resting on the king's face with admiration and surprise.

"I will attend to it at once,--does your majesty wish for an especial
title?"

"It must be made rather striking," said the king, "that every one may
read it. Let it be called 'A Royal Brother,'" he added after a moment's
thought; "if all forget him, his brother must not forget him."

"I will carry out your majesty's wishes at once," said Schneider,
"and," he added with much emotion, "I shall henceforth look upon what
has passed to-day as the most beautiful incident of my life. The victor
of Königgrätz amidst the rejoicing of his people places half his
laurels on his brother's grave."

"It hurts me to find how little they thought of my brother in their
rejoicings," said the king, with a gentle smile, "for I have only built
upon the foundation he laid. Now go, and take care that the article
appears shortly, we will do nothing else to-day. This you will do with
your whole heart. I know your faithfulness to your late king."

He offered his hand to Schneider, but would not permit him to press it
to his lips.

The king turned away and walked silently to his writing-table, and in
silence Schneider left the cabinet.

Count Bismarck too had returned, and was devoting himself with
resistless energy to the work before him of organizing and arranging
the new state of affairs.

Late one evening the count again sat in his cabinet before his large
writing-table, piled with papers, busily occupied in reading
despatches, and in thinking over what was laid before him. There was a
sharp knock at the door leading from the ante-room.

The count looked up. His confidant only would come in that manner.

"Come in!" he exclaimed. Baron von Keudell entered. The minister nodded
to him with a smile.

"What brings you here, dear Keudell?" he asked, laying aside a paper
which he had just looked through, "has anything happened?"

"Something decidedly strange has happened, your excellency, which I
must at once impart to you. Monsieur Hansen is here, and has just been
with me."

"Hansen, the Danish agitator?" asked Bismarck.

"The same," said Keudell, "only this time he is not the Danish
agitator, but the French agent."

A cloud gathered on Count Bismarck's brow.

"What do they still want in Paris?" he cried. "Are they not yet
satisfied? Benedetti must have understood me perfectly."

"I think they wish to make one more secret effort," said von Keudell.
"I beg you to hear Monsieur Hansen yourself, he is to a certain extent
accredited by Drouyn de Lhuys, and he can really tell us much that it
interests us to know."

"Drouyn de Lhuys is no longer minister," said Count Bismarck.

"He has resigned, certainly," replied Keudell, "and Lavalette is in his
place until Moustier arrives, but his credentials prove that Hansen has
something to propose, which is not to follow the usual course of
diplomacy until it is known how we shall receive it."

"Well," said Bismarck, after a short pause, "why should I not hear him?
My mind, though, is made up as to all these proposals, direct or
indirect. Where is Monsieur Hansen?"

"I brought him with me; he is waiting down stairs, and if your
excellency desires----"

"Be so kind as to bring him here," said the minister; "I shall find you
when I join the countess?"

Keudell bowed, a minute afterwards he took Monsieur Hansen to
the cabinet and withdrew as soon as Bismarck had received the
unimportant-looking little man with great cordiality, and had requested
him to be seated at his writing-table.

The count's keen grey eyes rested enquiringly on the clever face of the
Dane.

"Your excellency," said Hansen, "I thank you in the name of my country
for your generosity to Denmark, after your complete success, expressed
in Article V. of the peace stipulations."

Count Bismarck bowed slightly.

"I have nothing against Denmark," he said; "on the contrary I esteem
and respect that sturdy little nation, and I heartily wish Prussia and
Denmark to live together on friendly terms. I rely upon your countrymen
not to throw difficulties in the practical fulfilment of the principles
which must guide us in regard to Denmark."

"I wish to be of use to your excellency," said Hansen. "I have come to
impart my ideas upon the delicate relations existing between newly
constituted Germany and France."

Count Bismarck made a slight movement intimating that he was willing to
listen.

"I ought to impart to your excellency that I have been initiated into
the negociations that have already taken place."

Bismarck remained silent.

"The emperor," continued Hansen, "is in a very painful position. He has
the greatest repugnance to interrupting in any way the right of a great
people to national development, by being inimical to the great events
just accomplished in Germany."

A scarcely perceptible smile passed over the minister's grave face.

"On the other hand," added Hansen, "it is impossible to deny that the
great increase in the political and military strength of Prussia, has
greatly troubled public opinion in France. Napoleon is less able to
neglect public opinion than any other sovereign in Europe, since his
government is based on the free will of the people, and founded on the
votes of public opinion in France. At one time," said he as Bismarck
still looked at him calmly and remained silent, "the emperor believed
France would be satisfied by compensations which would increase her
defensive power, and form some balance to the great additions in the
offensive strength of Germany. He is, however, very unwilling to urge
this question in any way that can disturb or endanger the present
friendship between France and Germany."

Again a slight smile passed over Bismarck's face.

"The emperor," pursued Hansen, "thinks there is a way which might for
ever prevent disagreement. It is founded on the principle that friction
can best be prevented between two powerful military nations, not by
fortified frontiers, but by neutral territory. His idea is to form a
state in imitation of Belgium upon the Rhine, as an excellent means of
maintaining peaceful relations between France and Germany. The King of
Saxony would appear to be a suitable head to this Roman Catholic
country."

"Peace is concluded with Saxony," said Count Bismarck.

"And I did not intend to suggest this idea," replied Hansen; "it would
be better on many accounts to bestow this kingdom of the Rhine upon the
Prince of Hohenzollern, and thus to found a dynasty whose connection
with the Prussian royal family would prevent any mistrust in Germany."

"The princes of Hohenzollern are not related to our royal family," said
Count Bismarck.

"They are a branch of the same family," replied Monsieur Hansen. "I
believe I may assure your excellency that if this suggestion meets with
your approval, the affair may quickly be arranged in the usual
diplomatic way."

He was silent.

For a moment Count Bismarck looked down thoughtfully, then he raised
his eyes, and fixing them calmly on Hanson's expectant face, he said in
a firm voice:

"I will not ask who has empowered you to make this proposal. I shall
regard this idea as your private and personal notion, and in return I
will plainly and candidly express my own opinion on the subject.
Germany, by her success in a great war, has made a vast step forwards
in her national constitution. The German nation is not obliged to
account for this to any one, she need not trouble herself as to whether
other nations are pleased or displeased by the exercise of her national
rights, but above all she is not called upon to pay a bribe to any
other country, and thus to purchase the Unity of Germany. As long as I
am the Prussian minister, as long as I influence the fate of Germany,"
he cried, "such a bribe shall not be paid, under whatever form it may
be disguised! That is my private opinion," he added, "you thus see it
would be quite superfluous to express the ideas you proposed to me in
any official way; the answer of the Prussian Government would be
exactly the same as that I have just given you."

"Your excellency," said Monsieur Hansen, who was evidently disconcerted
at the count's decided refusal to continue the discussion, "I am really
grateful to you for the regard you have shown to the national feeling's
of Denmark, and I honestly desire to do you a service in this matter. I
wish you to understand," he continued gravely, "that from what I know
of the state of affairs, and the popular displeasure in Paris, war will
sooner or later be unavoidable, if this last basis of a favourable
understanding with France is refused. I may affirm, with the fullest
conviction, war can then be only a question of time."

Count Bismarck stood up, his eyes flashed proudly.

"Then let war come," he cried firmly; "I fear it not, and never will I
avoid it by sacrificing the honour of Germany! The valiant armies of
Prussia and of her allies, who smote Austria, will take the field
against France with far greater enthusiasm, if we are forced to do so.
You may tell that to anyone who is interested in knowing my views; but
you may also add, that no one prizes more highly than I do the good
understanding between France and Germany. The French and German nations
are formed rather to progress hand in hand, than to wrestle with each
other in deadly strife. I will do all in my power to maintain peace and
friendship,--all, except sacrificing the honour and dignity of
Germany."

"I beg your excellency at least to believe that I have been actuated
only by the purest motives, in making a proposal I believed conducive
to the interests of both nations."

"I thank you for it," said Bismarck politely; "it has served to clear
up the situation perfectly."

Monsieur Hansen left the cabinet with a low bow.

"He would play the same game with Germany that he did with Italy,"
cried the count as soon as he was alone; "but from me he shall gain
neither a Savoy nor a Nice!"

He left his cabinet, and repaired to his wife's drawing-room.

The ladies with Baron von Keudell sat around the tea-table.

The count entered, and greeted them affectionately.

"Have you seen the new 'Kladderadatsch?'" asked the countess, pointing
to the well-known comic face upon a newspaper that lay on the table.

The count seized it, and turned to the large picture on the last page.

It represented an infirm old beggar, with the features of the Emperor
Napoleon, standing before the door of a house, hat in hand, asking an
alms. A window was open, and the minister-president was represented
looking from it with a movement of refusal, and beneath was printed,
"Nothing given away here."

With a merry laugh, the count threw the paper on the table.

"It is strange," he said, "how cleverly they often describe the
situation by a drawing. There is more told in this picture than in many
a long leading article."

At one draught he emptied the crystal goblet of foaming beer which was
handed to him.

"I must ask you a favour, Keudell," he said gravely: "will you play me
that Funeral March of Beethoven. You remember it. You played it one
evening before the war."

Keudell rose with alacrity, and seated himself at the piano.

Again the impressive chords of the mighty Hymn of Death arose,--the
ladies listened breathlessly.

Count Bismarck drew himself to his full height; his grave,
strongly-marked features shone with enthusiasm.

He drew a deep breath as Herr von Keudell ended.

"Many heroes have fallen," he said, in a deep voice, "but the prize is
won,--their blood has not flowed in vain. Time has brought many
sorrows,--discords will still echo in the future. May the Almighty
resolve them into the glorious harmony of a great United Germany!"

His voice swelled through the room,--the countess looked at him with
tearful eyes. Solemnly, and as if involuntarily, Keudell raised his
hands, and let them sink upon the keys. Then that War-cry of the Faith
arose, in the glorious tones in which the great Reformer expressed his
rooted confidence in the God of Battles.

Count Bismarck raised his eyes upwards, a look of happiness passed over
his excited features, and, following the melody, his lips whispered
softly--


            "Ein' feste Burg ist unser Gott,
            Ein' starke Wehr und Waffen!"



                               FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 1: Where the rifle-club holds its meetings.]

[Footnote 2: The King of Saxony remained true to Napoleon, although
part of the Saxon troops went over to the Allies during the battle of
Leipsic.]



                                THE END.



                           *   *   *   *   *

          CHISWICK PRESS:--PRINTED BY WHITTINGHAM AND WILKINS,
                      TOOKS COURT, CHANCERY LANE.





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