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´╗┐Title: Joseph II. and His Court: An Historical Novel
Author: M├╝hlbach, L. (Luise)
Language: English
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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 "Joseph II. and His Court: An Historical Novel" ***

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JOSEPH II. AND HIS COURT

An Historical Novel


by L. MUHLBACH



AUTHOR OF

FREDERICK THE GREAT AND HIS COURT,
    THE MERCHANT OF BERLIN,
    BERLIN AND SANS-SOUCI,

FREDERICK THE GREAT AMD HIS FAMILY,
    STORY OF A MILLIONAIRE,
    TWO LIFE PATHS,  ETC.

TRANSLATED  FROM THE  GERMAN

BY ADELAIDE DEV. CHAUDRON

AKRON, OHIO



            MARIA THERESA

I.          The Conference.
II.         The Letter.
III.        The Toilet of the Empress.
IV.         Husband and Wife.
V.          The Archduke Joseph.
VI.         Kaunitz.
VII.        The Toilet.
VIII.       The Red Stockings.
IX.         New Austria.


            ISABELLA

X.          The Young Soldier.
XI.         The Empress and her Son.
XII.        An Italian Night.
XIII.       Isabella of Parma.
XIV.        The Ambassador Extraordinary.
XV.         The Dream of Love.
XVI.        Gluck.
XVII.       The New Opera.
XVIII.      Ranier Von Calzabigi.
XIX.        The Birthday.
XXI.        "In Three Years, We Meet Again."
XXII.       Che Faro Senza Eurydice.


            KING OF ROME

XXIII.      Father Porhammer and Count Kaunitz.
XXIV.       Matrimonial Plans.
XXV.        Josepha of Bavaria.
XXVI.       The Marriage Night.
XXVII.      An Unhappy Marriage.
XXVIII.     A Statesman'S Hours of Dalliance.
XXIX.       Prince Kaunitz and Ritter Gluck.
XXX.        An Unfortunate Meeting.
XXXI.       Mourning.
XXXII.      The Imperial Abbess.
XXXIII.     The Co-Regent.
XXXIV.      Haroun Al Raschid.
XXXV.       The Disguise Removed.
XXXVI.      Rosary and Sceptre.
XXXVII.     The Difference Between an Abbess and an Empress.
XXXVIII.    The Reigning Empress.
XXXIX.      The Co-Regent Deposed.
XL          Mother and Son.
XLI.        Death the Liberator.
XLII.       The Mirror.
XLIII.      The Interview with Kaunitz.
XLIV.       The Archduchess Josepha.
XLV.        The Departure.
XLVI.       Inoculation.
XLVII.      An Adventure.
XLVIII.     The Judgment of Solomon.
XLIX.       Two Affianced Queens.


            EMPEROR OF AUSTRIA

L.          The Dinner at the French Ambassador's.
LI.         Marianne's Disappearance.
LII.        Count Falkenstein.
LIII.       What they found at Wichern.
LIV.        The Somnambulist.
LV.         The Prophecy.
LVI.        The Gift.
LVII.       The Conference.
LVIII.      Kaunitz.
LIX.        Souvenir d'Eperies.
LX.         Frederick The Great.
LXI.        The Prima Donna.
LXII.       Frederick the Great and Prince Kaunitz.
LXIII.      Russia a Foe to all Europe.
LXIV.       The Map of Poland.
LXV.        The Countess Wielopolska.
LXYI.       The Emperor and The Countess.
LXVII.      Maria Theresa.
LXVIII.     Marie Antoinette and Court Etiquette.
LXIX.       The Triumph of Diplomacy.
LXX.        Gossip.
LXXI.       An Explanation.
LXXII       Famine in Bohemia.
LXXIII.     The Black Broth.
LXXIV.      The Extortioners of Quality.
LXXV.       Diplomatic Esoterics.
LXXVI.      Russia Speaks.
LXXVII.     The Last Petition.
LXXVIII.    Finis Polonie.
LXXIX.      The Mad Countess.
LXXX.       The Betrothal.
LXXXI.      Franz Antony Mesmer.
LXXXII.     Therese Von Paradies.
LXXXIII.    The First Day of Light.
LXXXIV.     Diplomatic Strategy.
LXXXV.      Dominus ac Redemptor Noster.
LXXXVI.     Heart-Struggles.
LXXXVII.    The Forced Bridal.
LXXXVIII.   Prince Louis de Rohan.
LXXXIX.     The Poles at Vienna.
XC.         The Last Farewell.
XCI.        The Concert.
XCII.       The Catastrophe.


            MARIE ANTOINETTE

XCIII.      Le Roi ist Mort, Vive Le Roi!
XCIV.       The Memoranda.
XCV.        France and Austria.
XCVI.       The King's List.
XCVII.      The First Pasquinade.
XCVIII.     The New Fashions.
XCIX        The Temple of Etiquette.
C.          The New Fashions and their Unhappy Results.
CI.         Sunrise.
CII.        The Following Day.
CIII.       The Last Appeal.
CIV.        The Flight.
CV.         Joseph in France.
CVI.        The Godfather.
CVII.       The Godfather.
CVIII.      The Arrival at Versailles.
CIX.        Count Falkenstein In Paris.
CX.         The Queen and The "Dames de la Halle."
CXI.        The Adopted Son of the Queen.
CXII.       "Chantons, Celebrons Notre Reine."
CXIII.      The Hotel Turenne.
CXIV.       The Denouement.
CXV.        The Parting.
CXVI.       Joseph and Louis.
CXVII.      The Promenade and the Epigram.
CXVIII.     The Dinner en Famille.
CXIX.       A Visit to Jean Jacques Rousseau.
CXX.        The Parting.
CXXI.       Death of the Elector of Bavaria.
CXXII.      A Page From History.
CXXIII.     The Emperor as Commander-In-Chief.
CXXIV.      Secret Negotiations for Peace.
CXXV.       Fraternal Discord.
CXXVI.      The Defeat.
CXXVII.     The Revenge.
CXXVIII.    A Letter to the Empress of Russia.
CXXIX.      The Gratitude of Princes.
CXXX.       Frederick The Great.
CXXXI,      "The Darkest Hour is Before Day."
CXXXII.     The Emperor and his Mother.
CXXXIII.    Prince Potemkin.
CXXXIV.     The Prussian Ambassador.
CXXXV.      The Austrian Ambassador.
CXXXVI.     The Empress Catharine.
CXXXVII.    The Czarina and her Master.
CXXXVIII    A Diplomatic Defeat.
CXXXIX.     The Czarina and the Kaiser.


            THE REIGN OF JOSEPH

CXL.        The Oath.
CXLI.       Prince Kaunitz.
CXLII.      The Banker and his Daughter.
CXLIII.     The Countess Baillou,
CXLIV.      The Expulsion of the Clarisserines.
CXLV.       Count Podstadsky'S Escort.
CXLVI.      The Lampoon.
CXLVII.     The Petitioners.
CXLVIII.    The Petitioners.
CXLIX.      The Lady Patroness.
CL.         Mother and Son.
CLI.        The Two Oaths.
CLII.       New-Fashioned Obsequies.
CLIII.      The Pope in Vienna.
CLIV.       The Flight.
CLV.        The Marriage before God.
CLVI.       The Park.
CLVII.      The Parting.
CLVIII.     Colonel Szekuly.
CLIX.       The Pope's Departure.
CLX.        The Repulse.
CLXI.       The Count in the Pillory.
CLXII.      The Nemesis.
CLXIII.     Horja and the Rebellion In Hungary.
CLXIV.      The Jew's Revenge.
CLXV.       The Favor of Princes.
CLXVI.      The Deputation from Hungary.
CLXVII.     The Recompense.
CLXVIII.    The Rebellion in the Netherlands.
CLXIX.      The Imperial Suitor.
CLXX.       The Last Dream of Love.
CLXXI.      The Turkish War.
CLXXII.     Marriage and Separation.
CLXXIII.    The Last Dream of Glory.
CLXXIV.     The Hungarians Again.
CLXXV.      The Revocation.
CLXXVI.     The Death of The Martyr.



JOSEPH II. AND HIS COURT

MARIA THERESA.



CHAPTER I.

THE CONFERENCE.

In the council-chamber of the Empress Maria Theresa, the six lords, who
composed her cabinet council, awaited the entrance of their imperial
mistress to open the sitting.

At this sitting, a great political question was to be discussed and its
gravity seemed to be reflected in the faces of the lords, as, in low
tones, they whispered together in the dim, spacious apartment, whose
antiquated furniture of dark velvet tapestry corresponded well with the
anxious looks of its occupants.

In the centre of the room stood the Baron von Bartenstein and the Count
von Uhlefeld, the two powerful statesmen who for thirteen years had been
honored by the confidence of the empress. Together they stood, their
consequence acknowledged by all, while with proud and lofty mien, they
whispered of state secrets.

Upon the fair, smooth face of Bartenstein appeared an expression of
haughty triumph, which he was at no pains to conceal; and over the
delicate mouth of Von Uhlefeld fluttered a smile of ineffable
complacency.

"I feel perfectly secure," whispered Von Bartenstein. "The empress will
certainly renew the treaties, and continue the policy which we have
hitherto pursued with such brilliant results to Austria."

"The empress is wise," returned Uhlefeld. "She can reckon upon our
stanch support, and so long as she pursues this policy, we will sustain
her."

While he spoke, there shot from his eyes such a glance of conscious
power, that the two lords who, from the recess of a neighboring window,
were watching the imperial favorites, were completely dazzled.

"See, count" murmured one to the other, "see how Count Uhlefeld smiles
to-day. Doubtless he knows already what the decision of the empress is
to be; and that it is in accordance with his wishes, no one can doubt
who looks upon him now."

"It will be well for us," replied Count Colloredo, "if we subscribe
unconditionally to the opinions of the lord chancellor. I, for my part,
will do so all the more readily, that I confess to you my utter
ignorance of the question which is to come before us to-day. I was
really so preoccupied at our last sitting that I--I failed exactly to
comprehend its nature. I think, therefore, that it will be well for us
to vote with Count von Uhlefeld--that is, if the president of the Aulic
Council, Count Harrach, does not entertain other opinions."

Count Harrach bowed. "As for me," sighed he, "I must, as usual, vote
with Count Bartenstein. His will be, as it ever is, the decisive voice
of the day; and its echo will be heard from the lips of the empress. Let
us echo them both, and so be the means of helping to crush the
presumption of yonder crafty and arrogant courtier."

As he spoke he glanced toward the massive table of carved oak, around
which were arranged the leathern arm-chairs of the members of the Aulic
Council. Count Colloredo followed the glance of his friend, which, with
a supercilious expression, rested upon the person to whom he alluded.
This person was seated in one of the chairs, deeply absorbed in the
perusal of the papers that lay before him upon the table. He was a man
of slight and elegant proportions, whose youthful face contrasted
singularly with the dark, manly, and weather-beaten countenances of the
other members of the council. Not a fault marred the beauty of this fair
face; not the shadow of a wrinkle ruffled the polish of the brow; even
the lovely mouth itself was free from those lines by which thought and
care are wont to mark the passage of man through life. One thing,
however, was wanting to this beautiful mask. It was devoid of
expression. Those delicate features were immobile and stony, No trace of
emotion stirred the compressed lips; no shadow of thought flickered over
the high, marble brow; and the glance of those clear, light-blue eyes
was as calm, cold, and unfeeling as that of a statue. This young man,
with Medusa-like beauty, was Anthony Wenzel von Kaunitz, whom Maria
Theresa had lately recalled from Paris to take his seat in her cabinet
council.

The looks of Harrach and Colloredo were directed toward him, but he
appeared not to observe them, and went on quietly with his examination
of the state papers.

"You think, then, count," whispered Colloredo, thoughtfully, "that young
Kaunitz cherishes the absurd hope of an alliance with France?"

"I am sure of it. I know that a few days ago the French ambassador
delivered to him a most affectionate missive from his friend the
Marquise de Pompadour; and I know too that yesterday he replied to it in
a similar strain: It is his fixed idea, and that of La Pompadour also,
to drive Austria into a new line of policy, by making her the ally of
France."

Count Colloredo laughed. "The best cure that I know of for fixed ideas
is the madhouse," replied he, "and thither we will send little Kaunitz
if--"

He ceased suddenly, for Kaunitz had slowly raised his eyes from the
table, and they now rested with such an icy gaze upon the smiling face
of Colloredo, that the frightened statesman shivered.

"If he should have heard me!" murmured he. "If he--" but the poor count
had no further time for reflection; for at that moment the folding-doors
leading to the private apartments of the empress were thrown open, and
the lord high steward announced the approach of her majesty.

The councillors advanced to the table, and in respectful silence awaited
the imperial entrance.

The rustling of silk was heard; and then the quick step of the Countess
Fuchs, whose duty it was to accompany the empress to the threshold of
her council-chamber, and to close the door behind her.

And now appeared the majestic figure of the empress. The lords laid
their hands upon their swords, and inclined their heads in reverence
before the imperial lady, who with light, elastic step advanced to the
table, while the Countess Fuchs noiselessly closed the door and
returned.

The empress smilingly acknowledged the salutation, though her smile was
lost to her respectful subjects, who, in obedience to the strict Spanish
etiquette which prevailed at the Austrian court, remained with their
heads bent until the sovereign had taken her seat upon the throne.

One of these subjects had bent his head with the rest, but he had
ventured to raise it again, and he at least met the glance of royalty.
This bold subject was Kaunitz, the youngest of the councillors.

He gazed at the advancing empress, and for the first time a smile
flitted over his stony features. And well might the sight of his
sovereign lady stir the marble heart of Kaunitz; for Maria Theresa was
one of the loveliest women of her day. Though thirty-six years of age,
and the mother of thirteen children, she was still beautiful, and the
Austrians were proud to excess of her beauty. Her high, thoughtful
forehead was shaded by a profusion of blond hair, which lightly powdered
and gathered up behind in one rich mass, was there confined by a golden
net. Her large, starry eyes were of that peculiar gray which changes
with every emotion of the soul; at one time seeming to be heavenly-blue,
at another the darkest and most flashing brown. Her bold profile
betokened great pride; but every look of haughtiness was softened away
by the enchanting expression of a mouth in whose exquisite beauty no
trace of the so-called "Austrian lip" could be seen. Her figure, loftier
than is usual with women, was of faultless symmetry, while her graceful
bust would have seemed to the eyes of Praxiteles the waking to life of
his own dreams of Juno.

Those who looked upon this beautiful empress could well realize the
emotions which thirteen years before had stirred the hearts of the
Hungarian nobles as she stood before them; and had wrought them up to
that height of enthusiasm which culminated in the well-known shout of

"MORIAMUR PRO REGE NOSTRO!"

"Our king!" cried the Hungarians, and they were right. For Maria
Theresa, who with her husband, was the tender wife; toward her children,
the loving mother; was in all that related to her empire, her people,
and her sovereignty, a man both in the scope of her comprehension and
the strength of her will. She was capable of sketching bold lines of
policy, and of following them out without reference to personal
predilections or prejudices, both of which she was fully competent to
stifle, wherever they threatened interference with the good of her
realm, or her sense of duty as a sovereign.

The energy and determination of her character were written upon the
lofty brow of Maria Theresa; and now, as she approached her councillors,
these characteristics beamed forth from her countenance with such power
and such beauty, that Kaunitz himself was overawed, and for one moment a
smile lit up his cold features.

No one saw this smile except the imperial lady, who had woke the Memnon
into life; and as she took her seat upon the throne, she slightly bent
her head in return.

Now, with her clear and sonorous voice, she invited her councillors also
to be seated, and at once reached out her hand for the memoranda which
Count Bartenstein had prepared for her examination.

She glanced quickly over the papers, and laid them aside. "My lords of
the Aulic Council," said she, in tones of deep earnestness, "we have
to-day a question of gravest import to discuss. I crave thereunto your
attention and advice. We are at this sitting to deliberate upon the
future policy of Austria, and deeply significant will be the result of
this day's deliberations to Austria's welfare. Some of our old treaties
are about to expire. Time, which has somewhat moderated the bitterness
of our enemies, seems also to have weakened the amity of our friends.
Both are dying away; and the question now before us is, whether we shall
extinguish enmity, or rekindle friendship? For seventy years past
England, Holland, and Sardinia have been our allies. For three hundred
years France has been our hereditary enemy. Shall we renew our alliance
with the former powers, or seek new relations with the latter? Let me
have your views, my lords."

With these concluding words, Maria Theresa waved her hand, and pointed
to Count Uhlefeld. The lord chancellor arose, and with a dignified
inclination of the head, responded to the appeal.

"Since your majesty permits me to speak, I vote without hesitation for
the renewal of our treaty with the maritime powers. For seventy years
our relations with these powers have been amicable and honorable. In our
days of greatest extremity--when Louis XIV. took Alsatia and the city of
Strasburg, and his ally, the Turkish Sultan, besieged Vienna--when two
powerful enemies threatened Austria with destruction, it was this
alliance with the maritime powers and with Sardinia, which, next to the
succor of the generous King of Poland, saved our capital, and Savoy held
Lombardy in check, while England and Holland guarded the Netherlands,
which, since the days of Philip II., have ever been the nest of
rebellion and revolt. To this alliance, therefore, we owe it that your
majesty still reigns over those seditious provinces. To Savoy we are
indebted for Lombardy; while France, perfidious France, has not only
robbed us of our territory, but to this day asserts her right to its
possession! No, your majesty--so long as France retains that which
belongs to Austria, Austria will neither forgive her enmity nor forget
it. See, on the contrary, how the maritime powers have befriended us! It
was THEIR gold which enabled us first to withstand France, and afterward
Prussia--THEIR gold that filled your majesty's coffers--THEIR gold that
sustained and confirmed the prosperity of your majesty's dominions. This
is the alliance that I advocate, and with all my heart I vote for its
renewal. It is but just that the princes and rulers of the earth should
give example to the world of good faith in their dealings; for the
integrity of the sovereign is a pledge to all nations of the integrity
of his people."

Count Uhlefeld resumed his seat, and after him rose the powerful
favorite of the empress, Count Bartenstein, who, in a long and animated
address, came vehemently to the support of Uhlefeld.

Then came Counts Colloredo and Harrach, and the lord high steward, Count
Khevenhuller--all unanimous for a renewal of the old treaty. Not one of
these rich, proud nobles would have dared to breathe a sentiment in
opposition to the two powerful statesmen that had spoken before them.
Bartenstein and Uhlefeld had passed the word. The alliance must continue
with those maritime powers, from whose subsidies such unexampled wealth
had flowed into the coffers of Austria, and--those of the lords of the
exchequer! For, up to the times of which we write, it was a fundamental
doctrine of court faith, that the task of inquiry into the accounts of
the imperial treasury was one far beneath the dignity of the sovereign.
The lords of the exchequer, therefore, were responsible to nobody for
their administration of the funds arising from the Dutch and English
subsidies.

It was natural, then, that the majority of the Aulic Council should vote
for the old alliance. While they argued and voted, Kaunitz, the least
important personage of them all, sat perfectly unconcerned, paying not
the slightest attention to the wise deductions of his colleagues. He
seemed much occupied in straightening loose papers, mending his pen, and
removing with his finger-tips the tiny, specks that flecked the lustre
of his velvet coat. Once, while Bartenstein was delivering his long
address, Kaunitz carried his indifference so far as to draw out his
repeater (on which was painted a portrait of La Pompadour, set in
diamonds) and strike the hour! The musical ring of the little bell
sounded a fairy accompaniment to the deep and earnest tones of
Bartenstein's voice; while Kaunitz, seeming to hear nothing else, held
the watch up to his ear and counted its strokes. [Footnote: Vide
Kormayr, "Austrian Plutarch," vol. xii., p.352.] The empress, who was
accustomed to visit the least manifestation of such inattention on the
part of her councillors with open censure--the empress, so observant of
form, and so exacting of its observance in others--seemed singularly
indulgent to-day; for while Kaunitz was listening to the music of his
watch, his imperial mistress looked on with half a smile. At last, when
the fifth orator had spoken, and it became the turn of Kaunitz to vote,
Maria Theresa turned her flashing eyes upon him with a glance of anxious
and appealing expectation.

As her look met his, how had all coldness and unconcern vanished from
his face! How glowed his eyes with the lustre of great and world-swaying
thoughts, as, rising from his chair, he returned the gaze of his
sovereign with one that seemed to crave forbearance!

But Kaunitz had almost preternatural control over his emotions, and he
recovered himself at once.

"I cannot vote for a renewal of our worn-out alliance with the maritime
powers," said he, in a clear and determined voice. As he uttered these
words, looks of astonishment and disapprobation were, visible upon the
faces of his colleagues. The lord chancellor contented himself with a
contemptuous shrug and a supercilious smile. Kaunitz perceived it, and
met both shrug and smile with undisturbed composure, while calmly and
slowly he repeated his offending words. For a moment he paused, as if to
give time to his hearers to test the flavor of his new and startling
language. Then, firm and collected, he went on:

"Our alliance with England and Holland has long been a yoke and a
humiliation to Austria. If, in its earlier days, this alliance ever
afforded us protection, dearly have we paid for that protection, and we
have been forced to buy it with fearful sacrifices to our national
pride. Never for one moment have these two powers allowed us to forget
that we have been dependent upon their bounty for money and defence.
Jealous of the growing power and influence of Austria, before whose
youthful and vigorous career lies the glory of future greatness--jealous
of our increasing wealth--jealous of the splendor of Maria Theresa's
reign--these powers, whose faded laurels are buried in the grave of the
past, have compassed sea and land to stop the flow of our prosperity,
and sting the pride of our nationality. With their tyrannical commercial
edicts, they have dealt injury to friends as well as foes. The closing
of the Scheldt and Rhine, the Barrier treaty, and all the other
restrictions upon trade devised by those crafty English to damage the
traffic of other nations, all these compacts have been made as binding
upon Austria as upon every other European power. Unmindful of their
alliance with us, the maritime powers have closed their ports against
our ships; and while affecting to watch the Netherlands in our behalf,
they have been nothing better than spies, seeking to discover whether
our flag transcended in the least the limits of our own blockaded
frontiers; and whether to any but to themselves accrued the profits of
trade with the Baltic and North Seas. Vraiment, such friendship lies
heavily upon us, and its weight feels almost like that of enmity. At
Aix-la-Chapelle I had to remind the English ambassador that his
unknightly and arrogant bearing toward Austria was unseemly both to the
sex and majesty of Austria's empress. And our august sovereign herself,
not long since, saw fit to reprove the insolence of this same British
envoy, who in her very presence spoke of the Netherlands as though they
had been a boon to Austria from England's clemency. Incensed at the tone
of this representative of our friends, the empress exclaimed: 'Am I not
ruler in the Netherlands as well as in Vienna? Do I hold my right of
empire from England and Holland?'" [Footnote: Coxe, "History of the
House of Austria," vol. v., p. 51.]

"Yes," interrupted Maria Theresa, impetuously, "yes, it is true. The
arrogance of these royal traders has provoked me beyond all bearing. I
will no longer permit them to insinuate of my own imperial rights that I
hold them as favors from the hand of any earthly power. It chafes the
pride of an empress-queen to be CALLED a friend and TREATED as a vassal;
and I intend that these proud allies shall feel that I resent their
affronts!"

It was wonderful to see the effect of these impassioned words upon the
auditors of the empress. They quaked as they thought how they had voted,
and their awe-stricken faces were pallid with fright. Uhlefeld and
Bartenstein exchanged glances of amazement and dismay; while the other
nobles, like adroit courtiers, fixed their looks, with awakening
admiration, upon Kaunitz, in whom their experienced eyes were just
discovering the rising luminary of a new political firmament.

He, meanwhile, had inclined his head and smiled when the empress had
interrupted him. She ceased, and after a short pause, Kaunitz resumed,
with unaltered equanimity: "Your majesty has been graciously pleased to
testify, in your own sovereign person, to the tyranny of our two
northern allies. It remains, therefore, to speak of Sardinia
alone--Sardinia, who HELD LOMBARDY IN CHECK. No sooner had Victor
Amadeus put his royal signature to the treaty made by him with Austria,
than he turned to his confidants and said (loud enough for us to hear
him in Vienna): 'Lombardy is mine. I will take it, but I shall eat it
up, leaf by leaf, like an artichoke.' And methinks his majesty of
Sardinia has proved himself to be a good trencherman. He has already
swallowed several leaves of his artichoke, in that he is master of
several of the fairest provinces of Lombardy. It is true that this royal
gourmand has laid aside his crown; and that in his place reigns Victor
Emanuel, of whom Lord Chesterfield, in a burst of enthusiasm, has said,
that `he never did and never will commit an act of injustice.' Concede
that Victor Emanuel is the soul of honor; still," added Kaunitz with a
shake of the head, and an incredulous smile "still--the Italian princes
are abominable geographers--and they are inordinately fond of
artichokes. [Footnote: Kaunitz's own words. Kotmayr, "Austrian
Plutarch," vol. xi.] Now their fondness for this vegetable is as
dangerous to Austria as the too loving grasp of her northern allies, who
with their friendly hands not only close their ports against us, but lay
the weight of their favors so heavily upon our heads as to force us
down upon our knees before them. What have we from England and Holland
but their subsidies? And Austria can now afford to relinquish them--
Austria is rich, powerful, prosperous enough to be allowed to proffer
her friendship where it will be honorably returned. Austria, then, must
be freed from her oppressive alliance with the maritime powers. She has
youth and vitality enough to shake off this bondage, and strike for the
new path which shall lead her to greatness and glory. There is a moral
and intangible greatness, of whose existence these trading Englishmen
have no conception, but which the refined and elevated people of France
are fully competent to appreciate. France extends to us her hand, and
offers us alliance on terms of equality. Cooperating with France, we
shall defy the enmity of all Europe. With our two-edged sword we shall
turn the scales of future European strife, and make peace or war for
other nations. France, too, is our natural ally, for she is our
neighbor. And she is more than this, for she is our ally by the sacred
unity of one faith. The Holy Father at Rome, who blesses the arms of
Austria, will no longer look sorrowfully upon Austria's league with
heresy. When apostolic France and we are one, the blessings of the
Church will descend upon our alliance. Religion, therefore, as well as
honest statesmanship, call for the treaty with France."

"And I," cried Maria Theresa, rising quickly from her seat, her eyes
glowing with enthusiastic fire, "I vote joyfully with Count Kaunitz. I,
too, vote for alliance with France. The count has spoken as it stirs my
heart to hear an Austrian speak. He loves his fatherland, and in his
devotion he casts far from him all thought of worldly profit or
advancement. I tender him my warmest thanks, and I will take his words
to heart."

Overcome with the excitement of the moment, the empress reached her hand
to Kaunitz, who eagerly seized and pressed it to his lips.

Count Uhlefeld watched this extraordinary scene with astonishment and
consternation. Bartenstein, so long the favorite minister of Maria
Theresa, was deadly pale, and his lips were compressed as though he were
trying to suppress a burst of rage. Harrach, Colloredo, and Khevenhuller
hung their heads, while they turned over in their little minds how best
to curry favor with the new minister.

The empress saw nothing of the dismayed faces around her. Her soul was
filled with high emotions, and her countenance beamed gloriously with
the fervor of her boundless patriotism.

"Everything for Austria! My heart, my soul, my life, all are for my
fatherland," said Maria Theresa, with her beautiful eyes raised to
heaven. "And now, my lords," added she, after a pause, "I must retire,
to beg light and counsel from the Almighty. I have learned your
different views on the great question of this day; and when Heaven shall
have taught me what to do, I will decide."

She waved her hand in parting salutation, and with her loftiest imperial
bearing left the room.

Until the doors were closed, the lords of the council remained standing
with inclined heads. Then they looked from one to another with faces of
wonder and inquiry. Kaunitz alone seemed unembarrassed; and gathering up
his papers with as much unconcern as if nothing had happened, he
slightly bent his head and left the room.

Never before had any member of the Aulic Council dared to leave that
room until the lord chancellor had given the signal of departure. It was
a case of unparalleled violation of court etiquette. Count Uhlefeld was
aghast, and Bartenstein seemed crushed. Without exchanging a word, the
two friends rose, and with eyes cast down, and faces pale with the
anguish of that hour, together they left the council-chamber toward
which they had repaired with hearts and bearing so triumphant.

Colloredo and Harrach followed silently to the anteroom, and bowed
deferentially as their late masters passed through. But no sooner had
the door closed, than the two courtiers exchanged malicious smiles.

"Fallen favorites," laughed Harrach. "Quenched lights which yesterday
shone like suns, and to-day are burnt to ashes! There is to be a soiree
to-night at Bartenstein's. For the first time in eleven years I shall
stay away from Bartenstein's soirees."

"And I," replied Colloredo, laughing, "had invited Ulhlefeld for
to-morrow. But, as the entertainment was all in his honor, I shall be
taken with a sudden indisposition, and countermand my supper."

"That will be a most summary proceeding," said Harrach. "I see that you
believe the sun of Uhlefeld and Bartenstein has set forever."

"I am convinced of it. They have their death-blow."

"And the rising sun? You think it will be called Kaunitz?"

"Will be? It is called Kaunitz: so take my advice. Kaunitz I know, is
not a man to be bribed; but he has two weaknesses--women and horses.
You are, for the present, the favorite of La Fortina; and yesterday you
won from Count Esterhazy an Arabian, which Kaunitz says is the finest
horse in Vienna. If I were you, I would present to him both my mistress
and my horse. Who knows but what these courtesies may induce him to
adopt you as a PROTEGE?"



CHAPTER II.

THE LETTER.

From her cabinet council the empress passed at once to her private
apartments. When business was over for the, day, she loved to cast the
cares of sovereignty behind, and become a woman--chatting with her
ladies of honor over the "on dits" of the court and city. During the
hours devoted to her toilet, Maria Theresa gave herself up unreservedly
to enjoyment. But she was so impetuous, that her ladies of honor were
never quite secure that some little annoyance would not ruffle the
serenity of her temper. The young girl whose duty it was to read aloud
to the empress and dress her hair, used to declare that she would sooner
wade through three hours' worth of Latin dispatches from Hungary, than
spend one half hour as imperial hair-dresser.

But today, as she entered her dressing-room, the eyes of the empress
beamed with pleasure, and her mouth was wreathed with sunny smiles. The
little hair-dresser was delighted, and with a responsive smile took her
place, and prepared for her important duties. Maria Theresa glided into
the chair, and with her own hands began to unfasten the golden net that
confined her hair. She then leaned forward, and, with a pleased
expression, contemplated the beautiful face that looked out from the
silver-framed Venetian glass before which she sat.

"Make me very charming today, Charlotte," said she. [Footnote: Charlotte
von Hieronymus was the mother of Caroline Pichler.]

"Your majesty needs no help from me to look charming," said the gentle
voice of the little tire-woman. "No hair-dresser had lent you her aid on
that day when your Magyar nobles swore to die for you, and yet the world
says that never were eyes of loyal subjects dazzled by such beauty and
such grace."

"Ah, yes, child, but that was thirteen years ago. Thirteen years! How
many cares have lain upon my heart since that day! If my face is
wrinkled and my hair grown gray, I may thank that hateful King of
Prussia, for he is the cause of it all."

"If he has no greater sins to repent of than those two," replied
Charlotte, with an admiring smile, "he may sleep soundly. Your majesty's
forehead is unruffled by a wrinkle, and your hair is as glossy and as
brown as ever it was."

Brighter still was the smile of the empress, as she turned quickly round
and exclaimed: "Then you think I have still beauty enough to please the
emperor? If you do, make good use of it today, for I have something of
importance to ask of him, and I long to find favor in his eyes. To work,
then, Charlotte, and be quick, for--"

At that moment, the silken hangings before the door of the dressing-room
were drawn hastily aside, and the Countess Fuchs stepped forward.

"Ah, countess," continued the empress, "you are just in time for a
cabinet toilet council."

But the lady of honor showed no disposition to respond to the gay
greeting of her sovereign. With stiffest Spanish ceremony, she
courtesied deeply. "Pardon me, your majesty, if I interrupt you," said
she, solemnly, "but I have something to communicate to yourself alone."

"Oh, countess!" exclaimed Maria Theresa, anxiously, "you look as if you
bare me sad tidings. But speak out-Charlotte knows as many state secrets
as you do; you need not be reserved before her."

"Pardon me," again replied the ceremonious lady, with another deep
courtesy, "I bring no news of state--I must speak with your majesty
alone."'

The eyes of the empress dilated with fear. "No state secret," murmured
she; "oh, what can it be, then? Go, Charlotte, go, child, and remain
until I recall you."

The door closed behind the tired woman, and the empress cried out: "Now
we are alone, be quick, and speak out what you have to say. You have
come to give me pain, I feel it."

"Your majesty ordered me, some time since," began the countess in her
low, unsympathizing tones, "to watch the imperial household, so that
nothing might transpire within it that came not to the knowledge of your
majesty. I have lately watched the movements of the emperor's valet."

"Ah!" cried the empress, clasping her hands convulsively together, "you
watched him, and"

"Yes, your majesty, I watched him, and I was informed this morning that
he had left the emperor's apartments with a sealed note in his hands,
and had gone into the city."

"No more just yet," said the empress, with trembling lip.

"Give me air! I cannot breathe." With wild emotion she tore open her
velvet bodice, and heaving a deep sigh, signed to the countess to go on.

"My spy awaited Gaspardi's return, and stopped him. He was forbidden, in
the name of your majesty, to go farther. "

"Go on."

"He was brought to me, your majesty, and now awaits your orders."

"So that if there is an answer to the note, he has it," said Maria
Theresa, sharply. The countess bowed.

"Where is he?"

"In the antechamber, your majesty."

The empress bounded from her seat, and walked across the room. Her face
was flushed with anger, and she trembled in every limb. She seemed
undecided what to do; but at last she stopped suddenly, and blushing
deeply, without looking at the countess, she said in a low voice, "Bring
him hither."

The countess disappeared and returned, followed by Gaspardi. Maria
Theresa strode impetuously forward, and bent her threatening eyes upon
the valet. But the shrewd Italian knew better than to meet the lightning
glance of an angry empress. With downcast looks and reverential
obeisance he awaited her commands. "Look at me, Gaspardi," said she, in
tones that sounded in the valet's ears like distant thunder. "Answer my
questions, sir"

Gaspardi raised his eyes.

"To whom was the note addressed that was given you by the emperor this
morning?"

"Your majesty, I did not presume to look at it," replied Gaspardi,
quietly. "His imperial majesty was pleased to tell me where to take it,
and that sufficed me."

"And whither did you take it?"

"Imperial majesty, I have forgotten the house."

"What street, then?"

"Pardon me, imperial majesty; these dreadful German names are too hard
for my Italian tongue. As soon as I had obeyed his majesty's commands, I
forgot the name of the street."

"So that you are resolved not to tell me where you went with the
emperor's note?"

"Indeed, imperial majesty, I have totally forgotten."

The empress looked as if she longed to annihilate a menial who defied
her so successfully.

"I see," exclaimed she, "that you are crafty and deceitful, but you
shall not escape me. I command you, as your sovereign, to give up the
note you bear about you for the emperor. I myself will deliver it to his
majesty."

Gaspardi gave a start, and unconsciously his hand sought the place where
the note was concealed. He turned very pale and stammered, "Imperial
majesty, I have no letter for the emperor."

"You have it there!" thundered the infuriated empress, as with
threatening hand she pointed to the valet's breast. "Deliver it at once,
or I will call my lackeys to search you."

"Your majesty forces me then to betray my lord and emperor?" asked
Gaspardi, trembling.

"You serve him more faithfully by relinquishing the letter than by
retaining it," returned Maria Theresa, hastily. "Once more I command you
to give it up."

Gaspardi heaved a sigh of anguish, and looked imploringly at the
empress. But in the trembling lips, the flashing eyes, the flushed
cheeks that met his entreating glance, he saw no symptoms of relenting,
and he dared the strife no longer. His hand shook as he drew forth the
letter.

The empress uttered a cry, and with the fury of a lioness snatched the
paper and crushed it in her hand.

"Your majesty," whispered the countess, "dismiss the valet before
he learns too much. He might--"

"Woe to him if he breathes a word to one human being!" cried the
empress, with menacing gesture. "Woe to him if he dare breathe one word
to his master!"

"Heaven forbid that I should betray the secrets of my sovereign!" cried
the affrighted Gaspardi. "But, imperial majesty, what am I to say to my
lord the emperor?"

"You will tell your lord that you brought no answer, and it will not be
the first lie with which you have befooled his imperial ears," replied
Maria Theresa coutemptuously, while she waved her hand as a signal of
dismissal. The unhappy Mercury retired, and as he disappeared, the
pent-up anguish of the empress burst forth.

"Ah, Margaretta," cried she, in accents of wildest grief, "what an
unfortunate woman I am! In all my life I have loved but one man! My
heart, my soul, my every thought are his, and he robs me, the mother of
his children, of his love, and bestows it upon another!"

"Perhaps the inconstancy is but momentary," replied the countess, who
burned to know the contents of the letter. "Perhaps there is no
inconstancy at all. This may be nothing but an effort on the part of
some frivolous coquette to draw our handsome emperor within the net of
her guilty attractions. The note would show--" The empress scarcely
heeded the words of her confidante. She had opened her hand, and was
gazing upon the crumpled paper that held her husband's secret.

"Oh!" murmured she, plaintively. "Oh, it seems to me that a thousand
daggers have sprung from this little paper, to make my heart's blood
flow. Who is the foolhardy woman that would entice my husband from his
loyalty to me? Woe, woe to her when I shall have learned her name! And I
will learn it!" cried the unhappy wife. "I myself will take this letter
to the emperor, and he shall open it in my presence. I will have
justice! Adultery is a fearful crime, and fearful shall be its
punishment in my realms. The name! the name! Oh, that I knew the name of
the execrable woman who has dared to lift her treasonable eyes toward my
husband!"

"Nothing is easier than to learn it, your majesty," whispered the
countess, "squat like a toad, close to the ear of Eve"--"the letter will
reveal it."

The empress frowned. Oh, for Ithuriel then!

"Dost mean that I shall open a letter which was never intended to be
read by me?"

The countess pointed to the paper. "Your majesty has already broken the
seal. You crushed it unintentionally. There remains but to unfold the
paper, and every thing is explained. I will wage that it comes from the
beautiful dancer Riccardo, whom the emperor admired so much last night
in the ballet, and whom he declared to be the most bewitching creature
he had ever seen."

The eyes of the empress dropped burning tears, and, covering her face
with her hands, she sobbed aloud. Then she seemed ashamed of her
emotion, and raised her beautiful head again.

"It is contemptible so to mourn for one who is faithless," said she. "It
is for me to judge and to punish, and that will I! It is my duty as
ruler of Austria to bring crime to light. I will soon learn who it is
that dares to exchange letters with the husband of the reigning empress.
And after all, the speediest, the simplest way to do this, lies before
me. I must open the letter, for justice sake; but I swear that I will
not read one word contained within its stages. I will see the name of
the writer alone; and then I can be sure that curiosity and personal
interest have not prompted me."

And so Maria Theresa silenced her scruples, and persuaded herself that
she was compelled to do as the tempter had suggested. She tore open the
note; but true to her self-imposed vow, she paused on the threshold of
dishonor, and read nothing but the writer's name.

"Riccardo!" cried she, wildly. "You were right, Margaretta: an intrigue
with the Riccardo. The emperor has written to her--the emperor, my
husband!"

She folded the fatal letter, and oh, how her white hands trembled as she
laid it upon the table I and how deadly pale were the cheeks that had
flushed with anger when Gaspardi had been by!

The countess was not deceived by this phase of the empress's grief. She
knew that the storm would burst, and she thought it better to divide its
wrath. She stepped lightly out to call the confessor of her victim.

Maria Theresa was unconscious of being alone. She stood before the table
staring at the letter. Gradually her paleness vanished, and the hue of
anger once more deepened on her cheeks. Her eyes, which had just been
drooping with tears, flamed again with indignation; and her expanded
nostrils, her twitching mouth, and her heaving chest, betrayed the fury
of the storm that was raging within.

"Oh, I will trample her under foot!" muttered she between her teeth,
while she raised her hand as if she would fain have dealt a
leach-stroke. "I will prove to the court--to the empire--to the world,
how Maria Theresa hates vice, and how she punishes crime, without
respect of persons. Both criminals shall feel the lash of justice. If my
woman's heart break, the empress shall do her duty. It shall not be said
that lust holds its revels in Vienna, as at the obscene courts of
Versailles and St. Petersburg. No! Nor shall the libertines of Vienna
point to the Austrian emperor as their model, nor shall their weeping
wives be taunted with reports of the indulgence of the Austrian empress.
Morality and decorum shall prevail in Vienna. The fire of my royal
vengeance shall consume that bold harlot, and then--then for the
emperor!"

"Your majesty will never consent to bring disgrace upon the father of
your imperial children," said a gentle voice close by, and, turning at
the sound, the empress beheld her confessor.

She advanced hastily toward Father Porhammer. "How!" exclaimed she
angrily, "how!--you venture to plead for the emperor? You come hither to
stay the hand of justice?"

"I do indeed," replied the father, "for to-day at least, her hand, if
uplifted against the emperor, must recoil upon the empress. The honor of
my august sovereigns cannot be divided. Your majesty must throw the
shield of your love over the fault of your imperial husband."

"Oh, I cannot! I cannot suffer this mortal blow in silence," sobbed the
empress.

"Nay," said the father, smiling, "the wife may be severe, though the
empress be clement."

"But she, father--must she also be pardoned? she who has enticed my
husband from his conjugal faith?"

"As for the Riccardo," replied Father Porhammer, "I have heard that she
is a sinful woman, whose beauty has led many men astray. If your majesty
deem her dangerous, she can be made to leave Vienna; but let retribution
go no further."

"Well, be it so," sighed the empress, whose heart was already softening.
"You are right, reverend father, but La Riccardo shall leave Vienna
forever."

So saying, she hastened to her escritoire, and wrote and signed the
order for the banishment of the danseuse.

"There." cried she, handing the order to the priest. "I pray you, dear
father, remit this to Count Bartenstein, and let him see that she goes
hence this very day. And when I shall have laid this evil spirit,
perchance I may find peace once more. But, no, no!" continued she, her
eyes filling with tears; "when she has gone, some other enchantress will
come in her place to charm my husband's love away. Oh, father, if
chastity is not in the heart, sin will always find entrance there."

"Yes, your majesty; and therefore should the portals of the heart be
ever guarded against the enemy. As watchmen are appointed to guard the
property, so are the servants of God sent on earth to extend the
protection of Heaven to the hearts of your people."

"And why may I not aid them in their holy labors?" exclaimed the
empress, glowing suddenly with a new interest. "Why may I not appoint a
committee of good and wise men to watch over the morals of my subjects,
and to warn them from temptation, ere it has time to become sin? Come,
father, you must aid me in this good work. Help me to be the earthly, as
the Blessed Virgin is the heavenly mother of the Austrian people. Sketch
me some plan whereby I may organize my scheme. I feel sure that your
suggestions will be dictated by that Heaven to which you have devoted
your whole life."

"May the spirit of counsel and the spirit of wisdom enlighten my
understanding," said the father, with solemn fervor, "that I may
worthily accomplish the mission with which my empress has intrusted me!"

"But, your majesty," whispered the Countess Fuchs, "in your magnanimous
projects for your people, you are losing sight of yourself. The Riccardo
has not yet been banished; and the emperor, seeing that no answer is
coming to his note, may seek an interview: Who can guess the
consequences of a meeting?"

The empress shivered, as the countess probed the wounds herself had made
in that poor, jealous heart.

"True, true," returned she, in an unsteady voice. "Go, father, and begin
my work of reform, by casting out that wicked woman from among the
unhappy wives of Vienna. I myself will announce her departure to the
emperor. And now, dear friends, leave me. You, father, to Count
Bartenstein. Countess, recall Charlotte, and send me my tire-women. Let
the princes and princesses be regally attired to-day. I will meet the
emperor in their midst."

The confessor bowed and retired, and the countess opening the door of
the inner dressing-room, beckoned to Charlotte, who, in the recess of a
deep bay-window, sat wearily awaiting the summons to return.



CHAPTER III.

THE TOILET OF THE EMPRESS.

SO dark and gloomy was the face of the empress, that poor Charlotte's
heart misgave her, as with a suppressed sigh she resumed her place, and
once more took down the rich masses of her sovereign lady's hair. Maria
Theresa looked sternly at the reflection of her little maid of honor's
face in the glass. She saw how Charlotte's hands trembled and this
increased her ill-humor. Again she raised her eyes to her own image, and
saw plainly that anger was unbecoming to her. The flush on her face was
not rosy, but purple; and the scowl upon her brow was fast deepening
into a wrinkle. Her bosom heaved with a heavy, heavy sigh.

"Ah," thought she, "if I am ever again to find favor in his eyes, I must
always smile; for smiles are the last glowing tints of beauty's sunset.
And yet, how can I smile, when my heart is breaking? He said that the
Riccardo was the loveliest woman he had ever seen. Alas! I remember the
day when he knelt at my feet, and spoke thus of me. Oh, my Franz! Am I
indeed old, and no longer lovable?"

In her anxiety to scrutinize her own features, the empress bent suddenly
forward, and the heavy mass of puffs and braids that formed the coiffure
she had selected for the day, gave way. She felt the sharp points of the
hair-pins in her head, and, miserable and nervous as she was, they
seemed to wound her cruelly. Starting from her chair, she poured forth a
torrent of reproaches upon Charlotte's head, who, pale and trembling
more than ever, repaired the damage, and placed among the braids a
bouquet of white roses. These white roses deepened the unbecoming
redness of the empress's face. She perceived this at once, and losing
all self-control, tore the flowers from her hair, and dashed them on the
floor.

"You are all leagued against me." cried she, indignantly. "You are
trying your best to disfigure me, and to make me look old before my
time. Who ever saw such a ridiculous structure as this headdress, that
makes me look like a perambulating castle on a chessboard? Come, another
coiffure, and let it not be such a ridiculous one as this."

Charlotte, of course, did not remind her mistress that the coiffure and
roses had been her own selection. She had nothing to do but to obey in
silence, and begin her work again.

At last the painful task was at an end. The empress looked keenly at
herself in the glass, and convinced that she really looked well, she
called imperatively for her tire-women. In came the procession, bearing
pooped-skirt rich-embroidered train, golden-flowered petticoat, and
bodice flashing with diamonds. But the empress, usually so affable at
her toilet, surveyed both maids and apparel with gloomy indifference. In
moody silence she reached out her feet, while her slippers were
exchanged for high-heeled shoes. Not a look had she to bestow upon the
magnificent dress which enhanced a thousandfold her mature beauty.
Without a word she dismissed the maids of honor, all except Charlotte,
whose crowning labor it was to give the last touch to the imperial head
when the rest of the toilet had been declared to be complete.

Again Maria Theresa stood before that high Venetian glass, and certainly
it did give back the image of a regal beauty. For a while she examined
her costume from head to foot; and at last---at last, her beautiful blue
eyes beamed bright with satisfaction, and a smile rippled the corners of
her mouth.

"No," said she, aloud. "No, it is not so. I am neither old nor ugly. The
light of youth has not yet fled from my brow. My beauty's sun has not
yet set forever. My Franz will love me still; and however charming
younger women may be, he will remember the beloved of his boyhood, and
we will yet be happy in reciprocal affection, come what may to us as
emperor and empress. I do not believe that he said he had never seen so
lovely a woman as Riccardo. Poor, dear Franz! He has a tedious life as
husband of the reigning sovereign. From sheer ennui he sometimes wanders
from his wife's heart, but oh! he must, he must return to me; for if I
were to lose him, earthly splendor would be valueless to me forever!"

Charlotte, who stood behind her mistress with the comb in her hand, was
dismayed at all that she heard; and the plaintive tones of this
magnificent empress, at whose feet lay a world of might, touched her
heart's core. But she sickened as she thought that her presence had been
unheeded, and that the empress had fancied herself alone, while the
secrets of her heart were thus struggling into words. The ample train
completely screened little Charlotte from view, and a deadly paleness
overspread her countenance as she awaited discovery.

Suddenly the empress turned, and putting her hand tenderly on
Charlotte's head, she said, in a voice of indescribable melancholy "Be
warned, Charlotte, and if you marry, never marry a man who has nothing
to do. Men will grow inconstant from sheer ennui." [Footnote: Maria
Theresa's words. See Caroline Pichler. "Memoirs of My Life."]

"I never expect to marry, beloved mistress," said the young girl, deeply
touched by this confidence. "I wish to live and die in your majesty's
service."

"Do you? And can you bear for a lifetime with my impatience, dear
child?" asked the empress, kissing the little devotee on the forehead.
"You know now, my little Charlotte, why I have been so unkind to-day;
you know that my heart was bleeding with such anguish, that had I not
broken out in anger, I must have stifled with agony. You have seen into
the depths of my heart, and why should I not confide in you, who know
every secret of my state-council? No one suspects what misery lies under
the regal mantle. And I care not to exhibit myself to the world's pity.
When Maria Theresa weeps, let her God and those who love her be the
witnesses of her sorrow. Go, now, good little Charlotte, and forget
every thing except your sovereign's love for you. Tell the governess of
the Archduke Ferdinand to bring him hither. Let the other imperial
children await me in my reception-room; and tell the page in the
anteroom to announce to his majesty that I request the honor of a visit
from him."

Charlotte, once more happy, left the room, her heart filled with joy for
herself, and gentle sorrow for her sovereign.

Meanwhile the empress thought over the coming interview. "I will try to
recall him to me by love," murmured she, softly. "I will not reproach
him, and although as his empress I have a double claim upon his loyalty,
I will not appeal to any thing but his own dear heart; and when he hears
how he has made his poor Theresa suffer, I know--"

Here her voice failed her, and tears filled her eyes. But she dashed
them quickly away, for steps approached, and the governess entered, with
the infant prince in her arms.



CHAPTER IV.

HUSBAND AND WIFE.

A half an hour later, the princes and princesses of Austria were all
assembled in their mother's private parlor. They were a beautiful group.
The empress, in their midst, held little Ferdinand in her arms.
Close-peeping through the folds of their mother's rich dress, were three
other little ones; and a few steps farther were the Archduchesses
Christine and Amelia. Near the open harpsichord stood the graceful form
of the empress's eldest child, the Princess Elizabeth, who now and then
ran her fingers lightly over the instrument, while she awaited the
arrival of her father.

In the pride of her maternity and beauty stood the empress-queen; but
her heart throbbed painfully, though she smiled upon her children.

The page announced the coming of the emperor, and then left the room.
The empress made a sign to her eldest daughter, who seated herself
before the harpsichord. The door opened, and on the threshold appeared
the tall, elegant form of the Emperor Francis. Elizabeth began a
brilliant "Welcome," and all the young voices joined in one loud chorus,
"Long live our emperor, our sovereign, and our father!" sang the
children; but clear above them all were heard the sonorous tones of the
mother, exclaiming in the fulness of her love, "Long live my emperor,
and my husband!" As if every tender chord of Maria Theresa's heart had
been struck, she broke forth into one of Metastasio's most passionate
songs; while Elizabeth, catching the inspiration, accompanied her mother
with sweetest melody. The empress, her little babe in her arms, was
wrapped up in the ecstasy of the moment. Never had she looked more
enchanting than she did as she ceased, and gave one look of love to her
admiring husband.

The emperor contemplated for a moment the lovely group before him, and
then, full of emotion, came forward, and bending over his wife, he
kissed the round white arm that held the baby, and whispered to the
mother a few words of rapture at her surpassing beauty.

"But tell me, gracious empress," said he, aloud, "to what am I indebted
for this charming surprise?"

The eyes of the empress shot fire, but instead of a reply, she bent down
to the little Archduchess Josepha, who was just old enough to lisp her
father's name, and said:

"Josepha, tell the emperor what festival we celebrate to-day" the little
one, turning to her father, said, "To-day is imperial mamma's
wedding-day."

"Our wedding-day!" murmured the emperor, "and I could forget it!"

"Oh, no! my dear husband," said the empress, "I am sure that you cannot
have forgotten this joyous anniversary. Its remembrance is burned in
your heart, and the presence of your children here, my trust, has
awakened that remembrance, and carried you back with me to the happy,
happy days of our early love."

The voice of the wife was almost tearful, as she spoke those tender
words; and the emperor, touched and humbled at the thought of his own
oversight, sought to change the subject. "But why," asked he, looking
around, "why, if all our other children are here to greet their father,
is Joseph absent from this happy family gathering?"

"He has been disobedient and obstinate again," said the empress, with a
shrug of her shoulders, "and his preceptor, to punish him, kept him
away"

The emperor walked to the door. "Surely," exclaimed he, "on such a day
as this, when all my dear children are around me, my son and the future
emperor should be the first to bid me welcome."

"Stay, my husband," cried the empress, who had no intention of allowing
the emperor to escape so easily from his embarrassment.

"You must be content to remain with us, without the future emperor of
Germany, whose reign, I hope I may be allowed to pray, is yet for some
years postponed. Or is this a happy device of the future emperor's
father to remind me, on my wedding-day, that I am growing old enough to
begin to think of the day of my decease?"

The emperor was perfectly amazed. Although he was accustomed to such
outbursts on the part of his wife, he searched vainly in his heart for
the cause of her intense bitterness to-day. He looked his astonishment;
and the empress, mindful of her resolve not to reproach him, tried her
best to smile. The emperor shook his head thoughtfully as he watched her
face, and said half aloud: "All is not right with thee, Theresa; thou
smilest like a lioness, not like a woman."

"Very well, then," said she sharply, "the lioness has called you to look
upon her whelps. One day they will be lions and lionesses too, and in
that day they will avenge the injuries of their mother."

The empress, as she spoke, felt that her smothered jealousy was bursting
forth. She hastily dismissed her children, and going herself to the
door, she called for the governess of the baby, and almost threw him in
her arms.

"I foresee the coming of a storm," thought the emperor, as the door
being closed, Maria Theresa came quickly back, and stood before him.

"And is it indeed true," said she bitterly, "that you had forgotten your
wedding-day? Not a throb of your heart to remind you of the past!"

"My memory does not cling to dates, Theresa," replied the emperor.
"What, if to-day be accidentally the anniversary of our marriage? With
every beating of my heart, I celebrate the hour itself, when I won the
proud and beautiful heiress of Austria; and when I remember that she
deigned to love ME, the poor Archduke of Lorraine, my happiness
overwhelms me. Come, then, my beautiful, my beloved Theresa; come to my
heart, that I may thank you for all the blessings that I owe to your
love. See, dearest, we are alone; let us forget royalty for to-day, and
be happy together in all the fulness of mutual confidence and
affection."

So saying, he would have pressed her to his heart, but the empress drew
coldly back, and turned deadly pale. This unembarrassed and confident
tenderness irritated her beyond expression. That her faithless spouse
should, without the slightest remorse, act the part of the devoted
lover, outraged her very sense of decency.

"Really, my husband, it becomes you well to prate of confidence and
affection, who have ceased to think of your own wife, and have eyes
alone for the wife of another!"

"Again jealous?" sighed the emperor wearily. "Will you never cease to
cloud our domestic sky by these absurd and groundless suspicions?"

"Groundless!" cried the empress, tearing the letter violently from her
bosom. "With this proof of your guilt confronting you, you will not dare
to say that I am jealous without cause!"

"Allow me to inquire of your majesty, what this letter is to prove?"

"It proves that to-day you have written a letter to a woman, of whom
yesterday you said that she was the most beautiful woman in the world."

"I have no recollection of saying such a thing of any woman; and I am
surprised that your majesty should encourage your attendants to repeat
such contemptible tales," replied the emperor, with some bitterness.
"Were I like you, the reigning sovereign of a great empire, I should
really find no time to indulge in gossip and scandal."

"Your majesty will oblige me by refraining from any comment upon affairs
which do not concern you. I alone am reigning empress here, and it is
for my people to judge whether I do my duty to them; certainly not for
you, who, while I am with my ministers of state, employ your leisure
hours in writing love-letters to my subjects."

"I? I write a love-letter?" said the emperor.

"How dare you deny it? "cried the outraged empress. "Have you also
forgotten that this morning you sent Gaspardi out of the palace on an
errand?"

"No, I have not forgotten it," replied the emperor, with growing
astonishment. But Maria Theresa remarked that he looked confused, and
avoided her eye.

"You confess, then, that you sent the letter, and requested an answer?"

"Yes, but I received no answer," said the emperor, with embarrassment.

"There is your answer," thundered the enraged wife. "I took it from
Gaspardi myself."

"And is it possible, Theresa, that you have read a letter addressed to
me?" asked the emperor, in a severe voice.

The empress blushed, and her eyes sought the ground.

"No," said she, "I have not read it, Franz."

"But it is open," persisted he, taking it from his wife's hand. "Who,
then, has dared to break the seal of a letter addressed to me?"

And the emperor, usually so mild toward his wife, stood erect, with
stormy brow and eyes flashing with anger.

Maria Theresa in her turn was surprised. She looked earnestly at him,
and confessed inwardly that never had she seen him look so handsome; and
she felt an inexplicable and secret pleasure that her Franz, for once in
his life, was really angry with her.

"I broke the seal of the letter, but I swear to you that I did not read
one word of it," replied she. "I wished to see the signature only, and
that signature was enough to convince me that I had a faithless husband,
who outrages an empress by giving her a dancer as her rival!"

"The signature convinced you of this?" asked the emperor.

"It did!"

"And you read nothing else?"

"Nothing, I tell you."

"Then, madam," returned he, seriously, handing the letter back to her,
"do me the favor to read the whole of it. After breaking the seal, you
need not hesitate. I exact it of you."

The empress looked overwhelmed. "You exact of me to read a love-letter
addressed to you?"

"Certainly I do. You took it from my valet, you broke it open, and now I
beg you will be so good as to read it aloud, for I have not yet read it
myself."

"I will read it, then," cried the empress, scornfully. "And I promise
you that I shall not suppress a word of its contents."

"Read on," said the emperor, quietly.

The empress, with loud and angry tone, began:

"To his Gracious Majesty, the Emperor:

"Your majesty has honored me by asking my advice upon a subject of the
highest importance. But your majesty is much nearer the goal than I. It
is true that my gracious master, the count, led me to the vestibule of
the temple of science, but further I have not penetrated. What I know I
will joyfully impart to your majesty; and joyfully will I aid you in
your search after that which the whole world is seeking. I will come at
the appointed hour.

"Your majesty's loyal servant,

"RICCARDO."

"I do not understand a word," said the mystified empress.

"But I do," returned the emperor, with a meaning smile. "Since your
majesty has thrust yourself into the portals of my confidence, I must
e'en take you with me into the penetralia, and confess at once that I
have a passion, which has cost me many a sleepless night, and has
preoccupied my thoughts, even when I was by your majesty's side."

"But I see nothing of love or passion in this letter," replied Maria
Theresa, glancing once more at its singular contents.

"And yet it speaks of nothing else. I may just as well confess, too,
that in pursuit of the object of my love, I have spent three hundred
thousand guilders, and thrown away at least one hundred thousand
guilders' worth of diamonds."

"Your mistress must be either very coy or very grasping," said Maria
Theresa, almost convulsed with jealousy.

"She is very coy," said the emperor. "All my gold and diamonds have won
me not a smile--she will not yield up her secret. But I believe that she
has responded to the love of one happy mortal, Count Saint-Germain."

"Count Saint-Germain!" exclaimed the empress, amazed.

"Himself, your majesty. He is one of the fortunate few, to whom the coy
beauty has succumbed; and to take his place I would give millions. Now,
I heard yesterday that the confidant of the count was in Vienna; and,
hoping to learn something from him, I invited him hither. Signor
Riccardo--"

"SIGNOR Riccardo! Was this letter written by a man?"

"By the husband of the dancer."

"And your letter was addressed to him?"

"Even so, madame."

"Then this passion of which you speak is your old passion--alchemy."

"Yes, it is. I had promised you to give it up, but it proves stronger
than I. Not to annoy you, I have ever since worked secretly in my
laboratory. I have just conceived a new idea. I am about to try the
experiment of consolidating small diamonds into one large one, by means
of a burning-glass."

The empress answered this with a hearty, happy laugh, and went up to her
husband with outstretched hands.

"Franz," said she, "I am a simpleton; and all that has been for
tormenting in my heart is sheer nonsense. My crown does not prevent me
from being a silly woman. But, my heart's love, forgive my folly for the
sake of my affection."

Instead of responding to this appeal, the emperor stood perfectly still,
and gazed earnestly and seriously at his wife.

"Your jealousy," said he, after a moment's silence, "I freely forgive,
for it is a source of more misery to you than to me. But this jealousy
has attacked my honor as a man, and that I cannot forgive. As reigning
empress, I render you homage, and am content to occupy the second pace
in Austria's realms. I will not deny that such a rule is irksome to me,
for I, like you, have lofty dreams of ambition; and I could have wished
that, in giving me the TITLE, you had allowed me sometimes the
privileges of a co-regent. But I have seen that my co-regency irritated
and annoyed you; I have, therefore, renounced all thought of governing
empires. I have done this, not only because I love you, Theresa, but
because you are worthy by your intellect to govern your people without
my help. In the world, therefore, I am known as the husband of the
reigning empress; but at home I am lord of my own household, and here I
reign supreme. The emperor may be subordinate to his sovereign, but the
man will acknowledge no superior; and the dignity of his manhood shall
be respected, even by yourself."

"Heaven forbid that I should ever seek to wound it!" exclaimed Maria
Theresa, while she gazed with rapture upon her husband's noble
countenance, and thought that never had he looked so handsome as at this
moment, when, for the first time, he asserted his authority against
herself.

"You HAVE wounded it, your majesty," replied the emperor, with emphasis.
"You have dogged my steps with spies; you have suffered my character to
be discussed by your attendants. You have gone so far as to compromise
me with my own servants; forcing them to disobey me by virtue of your
rights as sovereign exercised in opposition to mine as your husband. I
gave Gaspardi orders to deliver Riccardo's note to me alone. I forbade
him to tell any one whither he went. YOU took my note from him by force,
and committed the grave wrong of compelling a servant, hitherto
faithful, to disobey and betray his master."

"I did indeed wrong you, dear Franz," said the empress, already
penitent. "In Gaspardi's presence I will ask your pardon for my
indelicate intrusion, and before him I will bear witness to his
fidelity. I alone was to blame. I promise you, too, to sin no more
against you, my beloved, for your love is the brightest jewel in my
crown. Without it, no happiness would grandeur give to me. Forgive me,
then, my own Franz--forgive your unhappy Theresa!"

As she spoke, she inclined her head toward her husband, and looked up to
him with such eyes of love, that he could but gaze enraptured upon her
bewitching beauty.

"Come, Franz, come!" said she tenderly; "surely, that wicked jest of
yours has amply revenged you. Be satisfied with having given me a
heartache for jealousy of the coy mistress upon whom you have wasted
your diamonds, and be magnanimous."

"And you, Theresa?--will you be magnanimous also? Will you leave my
servants and my letters alone, and set no more spies to dog my steps?"

"Indeed, Franz, I will never behave as I have done to-day, while we both
live. Now, if you will sign my pardon, I will tell you a piece of news
with which I intend shortly to surprise all Austria."

"Out with it, then, and if it is good news I sign the pardon," said the
emperor, with a smile.

"It is excellent news," cried the empress, "for it will give new life to
Austria. It will bring down revenge upon our enemies, and revenge upon
that wicked infidel who took my beautiful Silesia from me, and who,
boasting of his impiety, calls it enlightenment."

"Have you not yet forgiven Frederick for that little bit of Silesia that
he stole from you?" asked the emperor, laughing.

"No, I have not yet forgiven him, nor do I ever expect to do so. I owe
it to him, that, years ago, I came like a beggar before the Magyars to
whimper for help and defence. I have never yet forgotten the humiliation
of that day, Franz."

"And yet, Theresa, we must confess that Frederick is a great man, and it
were well for Austria if we were allies; for such an alliance would
secure the blessings of a stable peace to Europe."

"It cannot be," cried the empress. "There is no sympathy between Austria
and Prussia, and peace will never come to Europe until one succumbs to
the other. No dependence is to be placed upon alliances between
incongruous nations. In spite of our allies, the English, the Dutch, and
the Russians, the King of Prussia has robbed me of my province; and all
the help I have ever got from them was empty condolence. For this reason
I have sought for alliance with another power--a power which will
cordially unite with me in crushing that hateful infidel, to whom
nothing in life is sacred. This is the news that I promised you. Our
treaty with England and Holland is about to expire, and the new ally I
have found for Austria is France."

"An alliance with France is not a natural one for Austria, and can never
be enduring," exclaimed the emperor. [Footnote: The emperor's own words.
Coxe, "History of the House of Austria," vol. v., p. 67.]

"It WILL be enduring," cried Maria Theresa, proudly, "for it is equally
desired by both nations. Not only Louis XV., but the Marquise de
Pompadour is impatient to have the treaty signed."

"That means that Kaunitz has been flattering the marquise, and the
marquise, Kaunitz. But words are not treaties, and the marquise's
promises are of no consequence whatever."

"But, Franz, I tell you that we have gone further than words. Of this,
however, no one knows, except the King of France, myself, Kaunitz, and
the marquise."

"How in the world did you manage to buy the good-will of the marquise?
How many millions did you pay for the precious boon?"

"Not a kreutzer, dear husband, only a letter."

"Letter! Letter from whom?"

"A letter from me to the marquise."

"What!" cried the emperor, laughing. "You write to La Pompadour--YOU,
Theresa?"

"With my own hand, I have written to her, and more than once," returned
Maria Theresa, joining in the laugh. "And what do you suppose I did, to
save my honor in the matter? I pretended to think that she was the wife
of the king, and addressed her as 'Madame, ma soeur et cousine.'"

Here the emperor laughed immoderately. "Well, well!" exclaimed he. "So
the Empress-Queen of Austria and Hungary writes with her own hand to her
beloved cousin La Pompadour!"

"And do you know what she calls me?" laughed the empress in return.
"Yesterday I had a letter from her in which she calls me, sportively,
'Ma chere reine.'"

The emperor broke out into such a volley of laughter, that he threw
himself back upon a chair, which broke under him, and the empress had to
come to his assistance, for he was too convulsed to get up alone.
[Footnote: Historical.]

"Oh dear! oh dear!" groaned the emperor, still continuing to laugh. "I
shall die of this intelligence. Maria Theresa in correspondence with
Madame d'Etoiles!"

"Well, what of it, Franz?" asked Maria Theresa. "Did I not write to the
prima donna Farinelli when we were seeking alliance with Spain? and is
the marquise not as good as a soprano singer?" [Footnote: The empress's
own words. Coxe, vol. v., p. 69.]

The emperor looked at her with such a droll expression that she gave up
all idea of defending herself from ridicule, and laughed as heartily as
he did.

At this moment a page knocked, and announced the Archduke Joseph and his
preceptor.

"Poor lad!" said the emperor; "I suppose he comes, as usual, accompanied
by an accuser."



CHAPTER V.

THE ARCHDUKE JOSEPH.

The emperor was right; Father Francis came in with complaints of his
highness. While the father with great pathos set forth the reason of the
archduke's absence from the family circle, the culprit stood by,
apparently indifferent to all that was being said. But, to any one
observing him closely, his tremulous mouth, and the short, convulsive
sighs, which he vainly strove to repress, showed the real anxiety of his
fast-beating heart. He thrust back his rising tears, for the little
prince teas too proud to crave sympathy; and he had already learned how
to hide emotion by a cold and haughty bearing. From his childhood he had
borne a secret sorrow in his heart--the sorrow of seeing his young
brother Carl preferred to himself. Not only was Carl the darling of his
parents, but he was the pet and plaything of the whole palace. True, the
poor little archduke was not gifted with the grace and charming naivete
of his brother. He was awkward, serious, and his countenance wore an
expression of discontent, which was thought to betray an evil
disposition, but which, in reality, was but the reflection of the heavy
sorrow which clouded his young heart. No one seemed to understand--no
one seemed to love him. Alone in the midst of that gay and splendid
court, he was never noticed except to be chided. [Footnote: Hubner,
"Life of Joseph II.," page 15.] The buds of his poor young heart were
blighted by the mildew of neglect, so that outwardly he was cold,
sarcastic, and sullen, while inwardly he glowed with a thousand
emotions, which he dared reveal to no one, for no one seemed to dream
that he was capable of feeling them.

To-day, as usual, he was brought before his parents as a culprit; and
without daring to utter a word in his own defence, he stood by, while
Father Francis told how many times he had yawned over the "Lives of the
Martyrs;" and how he had refused to read, longer than one hour, a most
edifying commentary of the Fathers on the Holy Scriptures.

The empress heard with displeasure of her son's lack of piety; and she
looked severely at him, while he gazed sullenly at a portrait that hung
opposite.

"And can it be, my son," exclaimed she, "that you close your heart
against the word of God, and refuse to read religious books?"

The boy gave her a glance of defiance. "I do not know," said he,
carelessly, "whether the books are religious or not; but I know that
they are tiresome, and teach me nothing."

"Gracious Heaven!" cried the empress, with horror, "hear the impious
child!"

"Rather, your majesty," said Father Francis, "let us pray Heaven to
soften his heart." The emperor alone said nothing; but he looked at the
boy with a friendly and sympathizing glance. The child saw the look, and
for one moment a flush of pleasure passed over his face. He raised his
eyes with an appealing expression toward his father, who could no longer
resist the temptation of coming to his relief.

"Perhaps," suggested he, "the books may be dull to a child of Joseph's
years."

"No book," returned the empress, "should be dull that treats of God and
of His holy Church."

"And the work, your majesty, which we were reading, was a most learned
and celebrated treatise," said Father Francis; "one highly calculated to
edify and instruct youth."

Joseph turned away from the father, and spoke to the emperor.

"We have already gone through five volumes of it, your majesty, and I am
tired to death of it. Moreover, I don't believe half that I read in his
stupid books."

The empress, as she heard this, uttered a cry of pain. She felt an icy
coldness benumb her heart, as she remembered that this unbelieving boy
was one day to succeed her on the throne of Austria. The emperor, too,
was pained. By the deadly paleness of her face, he guessed the pane that
was rending his wife's heart, and he dared say no more in defence of his
son.

"Your majesty sees," continued Father Francis, "how far is the heart of
his highness from God and the Church. His instructors are grieved at his
precocious unbelief, and they are this day to confer together upon the
painful subject. The hour of the conference is at hand, and I crave your
majesty's leave to repair thither."

"No," said the empress, with a deprecating gesture; "no. Remain, good
father. Let this conference he held in the presence of the emperor and
myself. It is fitting that we both know the worst in regard to our
child."

The emperor bowed acquiescence, and crossing the room, took a seat by
the side of the empress.

He rang a little golden bell; and the page who came at the summons, was
ordered to request the attendance of the preceptors of his highness the
Crown Prince of Austria.

Maria Theresa leaned her head upon her hand, and with a sad and
perplexed countenance watched the open door. The emperor, with his arm
thrown over the gilded back of the divan, looked earnestly at the young
culprit, who, pale, and with a beating heart, was trying his best to
suppress his increasing emotion.

"I will not cry," thought he, scarcely able to restrain his tears; "for
that would be a triumph for my detestable teachers. I am not going to
give them the pleasure of knowing that I am miserable."

And, by dint of great exertion, he mastered his agitation. He was so
successful, that he did not move a muscle nor turn his head when the
solemn procession of his accusers entered the room.

First, at the head, came Father Porhammer, who gave him lessons in logic
and physic; after him walked the engineer Briguen, professor of
mathematics; then Herr von Leporini, who instructed him in general
history; Herrvson Bartenstein, who expounded the political history of
the house of Austria; Baron von Beck, who was his instructor in
judicature; and finally, his governor, Count Bathiany, the only one
toward whom the young prince felt a grain of good-will.

The empress greeted them with grave courtesy, and exhorted them to say
without reserve before his parents what they thought of the progress and
disposition of the archduke.

Count Bathiany, with an encouraging smile directed toward his pupil,
assured their majesties that the archduke was anxious to do right--not
because he was told so to do by others, but because he followed the
dictates of his own conscience. True, his highness would not see through
the eyes of any other person; but this, though it might be a defect in a
child, would be the reverse in a man--above all, in a sovereign. "In
proof of the archduke's sincere desire to do right," continued Count
Bathiany, "allow me to repeat to your majesties something which he said
to me yesterday. We were reading together Bellegarde on knowledge of
self and of human nature. The beautiful thoughts of the author so
touched the heart of his highness, that, stopping suddenly, he exclaimed
to me, 'We must read this again; for when I come to the throne I shall
need to know, not only myself, but other men also.'"

"Well said, my son!" exclaimed the emperor.

"I cannot agree with your majesty," said the empress, coldly. "_I_ do
not think it praiseworthy for a child of his age to look forward with
complacency to the day when his mother's death will confer upon him a
throne. To rile it would seem more natural if Joseph thought more of his
present duties and less of his future honors."

A breathless silence followed these bitter words. The emperor, in
confusion, withdrew behind the harpsichord. The archduke looked
perfectly indifferent. While Count Bathiany had been repeating his
words, his face had slightly flushed; but when he heard the sharp
reproof of his mother, he raised his head, and gave her back another
defiant look. With the same sullen haughtiness, he stared first at one
accuser, and then at another, while each one in his turn gave judgment
against him. First, and most vehement in his denunciations, was Count
Bartenstein. He denounced the archduke as idle and inattentive. He never
would have any political sagacity whatever. Why, even the great work, in
fifteen folios, which he (Count Bartenstein) had compiled from the
imperial archives for the especial instruction of the prince, even THAT
failed to interest him! [Footnote: Hormayer says that this book was
heavy and filled with tiresome details. (No wonder! In fifteen
folios.--Trane.)]

Then followed the rest of their professorships. One complained of
disrespect; another of carelessness; a third of disobedience; a fourth
of irreligion. All concurred in declaring the archduke to be obstinate,
unfeeling, and intractable.

His face, meanwhile, grew paler and harder, until it seemed almost to
stiffen into marble. Although every censorious word went like a dagger
to his sensitive heart, he still kept on murmuring to himself, "I will
not cry, I will not cry."

His mother divined nothing of the agony which, like a wild tornado, was
desolating the fair face of her child's whole being. She saw nothing
beyond the portals of that cold and sullen aspect, and the sight filled
her with sorrow and anger.

"Alas," cried she bitterly, "you are right! He is a refractory and
unfeeling boy."

At this moment, like the voice of a conciliatory angel, were heard the
soft tones of the melody with which the empress had greeted her husband
that morning. It was the emperor, whose hands seemed unconsciously to
wander over the keys of the harpsichord, while every head bent entranced
to listen.

When the first tones of the heavenly melody fell upon his ear, the young
prince began to tremble. His features softened; his lips, so scornfully
compressed, now parted, as if to drink in every sound; his eyes filled
with tears, and every angry feeling of his heart was hushed by the magic
of music. With a voice of love it seemed to call him, and unable to
resist its power and its pathos, he burst into a flood of tears, and
with one bound reached his father's arms, sobbing--

"Father, dear father, pity me!"

The emperor drew the poor boy close to his heart. He kissed his blond
curls, and whispering, said: "Dear child, I knew that you were not
heartless. I was sure that you would come when your father called."

The empress had started from her seat, and she now stood in the centre
of the room, earnestly gazing upon her husband and her child. Her
mother's heart beat wildly, and tears of tenderness suffused her eyes.
She longed to speak some word of pardon to her son; but before all
things, Maria Theresa honored court ceremony. She would not, for the
world, that her subjects had seen her otherwise than self-possessed and
regal in her bearing.

With one great effort she mastered her emotions; and before the strength
of her will, the mighty flood rolled back upon her heart. Not a tear
that glistened in her eyelids fell; not a tone of her clear, silvery
voice was heard to falter.

"Count Bathiany," said she, "I perceive that in the education of the
archduke, the humanizing influences of music have been overlooked. Music
to-day has been more powerful with him than filial love or moral
obligation. Select for him, then, a skilful teacher, who will make use
of his art to lead my son back to duty and religion." [Footnote: Maria
Theresa's own words. Coxe, "House of Austria," vol. v.]



CHAPTER VI.

KAUNITZ.

Three weeks had elapsed since the memorable sitting at which Maria
Theresa had declared in favor of a new line of policy. Three long weeks
had gone by, and still no message came for Kaunitz; and still
Bartenstein and Uhlefeld held the reins of power.

With hasty steps, Kaunitz paced the floor of his study. Gone was all
coldness and impassibility from his face. His eyes glowed with restless
fire, and his features twitched nervously.

His secretary, who sat before the writing-table, had been gazing
anxiously at the count for sometime. He shook his head gloomily, as he
contemplated the strange sight of Kaunitz, agitated and disturbed.

Kaunitz caught the eye of his confidant, and coming hastily toward the
table, he stood for a few moments without speaking a word. Suddenly he
burst into a loud, harsh laugh--a laugh so bitter, so sardonic, that
Baron Binder turned pale as he heard the sound.

"Why are you so pale, Binder?" asked Kaunitz, still laughing. "Why do
you start as if you had received an electric shock?"

"Your laughing is like an electric shock to my heart," replied the
baron. "Its sound was enough to make a man pale. Why, for ten years I
have lived under your roof, and never have I heard you laugh before."

"Perhaps you are right, Binder, for in sooth my laugh echoes gloomily
within the walls of my own heart. But I could not help it--you had such
a droll, censorious expression on your face."

"No wonder," returned Baron Binder. "It vexes me to see a statesman so
irresolute and unmanned."

"Statesman!" exclaimed Kaunitz, bitterly. "Who knows whether my role of
statesman is not played out already?"

He resumed his walk in moody silence, while Binder followed him with his
eyes. Suddenly Kaunitz stopped again before the table. "Baron," said he,
"you have known me intimately for ten years. In all my embassies you
have been with me as attache. Since we have lived together, have you
ever known me to be faint-hearted?"

"Never!" cried the baron, "never! I have seen you brave the anger of
monarchs, the hatred of enemies, the treachery of friends and
mistresses. I have stood by your side in more than one duel, and never
before have I seen you otherwise than calm and resolute."

"Judge, then, how sickening to me is this suspense, since, for the first
time in my life, I falter. Oh! I tremble lest--"

"Lest what?" asked the baron, with interest.

"Binder, I fear that Maria Theresa may prove less an empress than a
woman. I fear that the persuasions of the handsome Francis of Lorraine
may outweigh her own convictions of right. What if her husband's
caresses, her confessor's counsel, or her own feminine caprice, should
blind her to the welfare of her subjects and the interest of her empire?
Oh, what a giant structure will fall to the earth, if, at this crisis,
the empress should fail me! Think what a triumph it would be to dash
aside my rivals and seize the helm of state to gather, upon the deck of
one stout ship, all the paltry principalities that call themselves
'Austria;' to band them into one consolidated nation; and then to steer
this noble ship into a haven of greatness and glorious peace! Binder, to
this end alone I live. I have outlived all human illusions. I have no
faith in love--it is bought and sold. No faith in the tears of men; none
in their smiles. Society, to me, is one vast mad house. If, in its
frenzied walls, I show that I am sane, the delirious throng will shout
out, 'Seize the lunatic!' Therefore must I seem as mad as they, and
therefore it is that, outside of this study, I commit a thousand
follies. In such a world I have no faith; but, Binder, I believe in
divine ambition. It is the only passion that has ever stirred my
heart--the only passion worthy to fill the soul of a MAN! My only love,
then, ambition. My only dream is of power. Oh! that I might eclipse and
outlive the names of my rivals! But alas! alas! I fear that the
greatness of Kaunitz will be wrecked upon the shoals of Maria Theresa's
shallowness!"

"No, no," said the baron vehemently. "Fear nothing, Kaunitz; you are the
man who is destined to make Austria great, and to disperse the clouds of
ignorance that darken the minds of her people."

"You may be sure that if ever I attain power, Binder, nor church nor
churchman shall have a voice in Austria. Kaunitz alone shall reign. But
will Maria Theresa consent? Will she ever have strength of mind to burst
the shackles with which silly love and silly devotion have bound her? I
fear not. Religion--"

Here the door opened, and the count's valet handed a card to the
secretary.

"A visit from Count Bartenstein!" exclaimed the baron triumphantly. "Ah!
I knew--"

"Will you receive him here, in the study?"

"I will receive him nowhere," replied Kaunitz coldly. "Say to the
count," added he to the valet, "that I am engaged, and beg to be
excused."

"What! You deny yourself to the prime minister?" cried Binder,
terrified.

Kaunitz motioned to the servant to withdraw.

"Binder," said he exultingly, "do you not see from this visit that MY
day is about to dawn, and that Bartenstein is the first lark to greet
the rising sun? His visit proves that he feels a presentiment of his
fall and my rebuff shall verify it. The whole world will understand that
when Bartenstein was turned away from my door, I gave old Austria, as
well as himself, a parting kick. Away with anxiety and fear! The deluge
is over, and old Bartenstein has brought me the olive-branch that
announces dry land and safety."

"My dear count!"

"Yes, Binder, dry land and safety. Now we will be merry, and lift our
head high up into clouds of Olympic revel! Away with your deeds and your
parchments! We are no longer bookworms, but butterflies. Let us sport
among the roses!"

While Kaunitz spoke, he seized a hand-bell from the table, and rang
vehemently.

"Make ready for me in my dressing-room," said he to the valet. "Let the
cook prepare a costly dinner for twenty persons. Let the steward select
the rarest wines in the cellar. Tell him to see that the Champagne is
not too warm, nor the Johannisberg to cold; the Sillery too dry, nor the
Lachryma Christi too acid. Order two carriages, and send one for Signora
Ferlina, and the other for Signora Sacco. Send two footmen to Counts
Harrach and Colloredo, with my compliments. Stay--here is a list of the
other guests. Send a messenger to the apartments of my sister, the
countess. Tell her, with my respects, to oblige me by dining to-day in
her own private rooms. I will not need her to preside over my
dinner-table to-day."

"But, my lord," stammered the valet, "the countess--"

"Well--what of her?"

"The countess has been de--gone for a week."

"Gone, without taking leave? Where?"

"There, my lord," replied the valet in a low voice, pointing upward
toward heaven.

"What does he mean, Binder?" asked Kaunitz, with a shrug.

Binder shrugged responsive.

"The good countess," said he, "had been ill for some time, but did not
wish to disturb you. You must have been partially prepared for the
melancholy event, for the countess has not appeared at table for three
weeks."

"Me? Not at all. Do you suppose that during these last three weeks I
have had time to think of her? I never remarked her absence. When did
the--the--ceremony take place?"

"Day before yesterday. I attended to every thing."

"My dear friend, how I thank you for sparing me the sight of these
hideous rites! Your arrangements must have been exquisite, for I never
so much as suspected the thing. Fortunately, it is all over, and we can
enjoy ourselves as usual. Here, Philip. Let the house look festive:
flowers on the staircases and in the entrance-hall; oranges and roses in
the dining-room; vanilla-sticks in the coffee-cups instead of teaspoons.
Away with you!"

The valet bowed, and when he was out of hearing Kaunitz renewed his
thanks to the baron.

"Once more, thank you for speeding my sister on her journey, and for
saving me all knowledge of this unpleasant affair. How glad the signoras
will be to hear that the countess has positively gone, never to return!
Whom shall I get to replace her? Well, never mind now; some other time
we'll settle that little matter. Now to my toilet."

He bent his head to the baron, and with light, elastic step passed into
his dressing-room.



CHAPTER VII.

THE TOILET.

When Kaunitz entered his dressing-room, his features had resumed their
usual immobility. He walked in, without seeming to be aware of the
presence of his attendants, who, ranged on either side of the apartment,
awaited his commands.

He went up to his large Venetian mirror, and there surveyed himself at
full length. With anxious glance his keen eyes sought out every faint
line that told of the four-and-thirty years of his life. The picture
seemed deeply interesting, for he stood a long time before the glass.
Alt last the scrutiny was ended, and he turned slightly toward the
hair-dresser.

"Is the peruke ready?"

The hair-dresser fluttered off to a bandbox, that lay on the
toilet-table; and lifted out a fantastic-looking blond peruke,
constructed after "his excellency's own design." Kaunitz was not aware
of it, but this wig of his, with its droll mixture of flowing locks
before, and prim purse behind, was an exact counterpart of the life and
character of its inventor. He had had no intention of being symbolic in
his contrivance; it had been solely designed to conceal the little
tell-tale lines that were just about to indent the smooth surface of his
white forehead. He bent his proud head, while the hair-dresser placed
the wonderful wig, and then fell to studying its effect. Here he drew a
curl forward, there he gently removed another; placing each one in its
position over his eyebrows, so that no treacherous side-light should
reveal any thing he chose to hide. Finally the work was done.
"Hippolyte," said he, to the hair-dresser, who stood breathlessly by,
"this is the way in which my wig is to be dressed from this day
forward." [Footnote: From this time Kaunitz wore his wig in this
eccentric fashion. It was adopted by the exquisites of Vienna, and
called "the Kaunitz peruke."]

Hippolyte bowed low, and stepped back to give place to the valets who
came in with the count's costume. One bore a rich habit embroidered with
gold, and the other a pair of velvet-shorts, red stockings, and
diamond-buckled shoes.

"A simpler habit--Spanish, without embroidery, and white stockings."

White stockings! The valets were astounded at such high treason against
the court regulations of Vienna. But Kaunitz, with a slight and
contemptuous shrug, ordered them a second time to bring him white
stockings, and never to presume to bring any other.

"Now, go and await me in the puderkammer." [Footnote: Literally,
"powder-room."]

The valets backed out as if in the presence of royalty, and the
eccentric statesman was left with his chief valet. The toilet was
completed in solemn silence. Then, the count walked to the mirror to
take another look at his adored person. He gave a complaisant stroke to
his ruff of richest Alencon, smoothed the folds of his habit, carefully
arranged the lace frills that fell over his white hands, and then
turning to his valet he said, "Powder-mantle."

The valet unfolded a little package, and, with preter-careful hands,
dropped a long white mantle over the shoulders of the ministerial
coxcomb. Is light folds closed around him, and, with an Olympian nod, he
turned toward the door, while the valet flew to open it. As soon as the
count appeared, the other valets, who, with the hair-dresser, stood on
either side of the room, raised each one a long brush dipped in
hair-powder, and waved it to and fro. Clouds of white dust filled the
room; while through the mist, with grave and deliberate gait, walked
Kaunitz, every now and then halting, when the brushes all stopped; then
giving the word of command, they all fell vigorously to work again. Four
times he went through the farce, and then, grave as a ghost, walked back
to his dressing-room, followed by the hair-dresser.

At the door, the chief valet carefully removed the powder-mantle, and
for the third time Raunitz turned to the mirror. Then he carefully wiped
the powder from his eyes, and, with a smile of extreme satisfaction he
turned to the hair-dresser.

"Confess, Hippolyte, that nothing is more beautifying than powder. See
how exquisitely it lies on the front ringlets, and how airily it is
distributed over the entire peruke. Vraiment, I am proud of my
invention."

Hippolyte protested that it was worthy of the godlike intellect of his
excellency, and was destined to make an era in the annals of
hair-dressing.

"The annals of hair-dressing," replied his excellency, "are not to be
enriched with any account of my method of using powder. If ever I hear a
word of this discovery breathed outside of these rooms, I dismiss the
whole pack of you. Do you hear?"

Down went the obsequious heads, while Kaunitz continued, with his fine
cambric handkerchief, to remove the last specks of powder from his
eyelids. When he had sufficiently caressed and admired himself, he went
to the door. It opened, and two valets, who stood outside, presented
him, one with a jewelled snuff-box, the other with an embroidered
handkerchief. A large brown dog, that lay couchant in the hall, rose and
followed him, and the last act of the daily farce was over.

The count passed into his study, and going at once to the table, he
turned over the papers. "No message yet from the empress," said he,
chagrined. "What if Bartenstein's visit was NOT a politic, but a
triumphant one? What a--"

Here the door opened, and Baron Binder entered. "Your excellency," said
he, smiling, "I have taken upon myself to bear you a message which your
servants declined to bring. It is to announce a visitor. The hour for
reception has gone by, but he was so urgent, that I really could not
refuse his entreaties that you might be told of his presence. Pardon my
officiousness, but you know how soft-hearted I am. I never could resist
importunity."

"Who is your suppliant friend?"

"Count Bartenstein, my lord."

"Bartenstein! Bartenstein back already!" exclaimed Kaunitz, exultingly.
"And he begged--he begged for an interview, you say?"

"Begged! the word is faint to express his supplications."

"Then I am not mistaken!" cried Kaunitz, with a loud, triumphant voice:
"if Bartenstein begs, it is all over with him. Twice in my anteroom in
one day! That is equivalent to a message from the empress." And Kaunitz,
not caring to dissimulate with Binder, gave vent to his exceeding joy.

"And you will be magnanimous--you will see him, will you not?" asked
Binder, imploringly.

"What for?" asked the heartless statesman. "If he means business, the
council-chamber is the place for THAT; if he comes to visit ME--'I beg
to be excused.'"

"But when I beg you, for MY sake, count," persisted the good-natured
baron; "the sight of fallen greatness is such a painful one! How can any
one add to it a feather's weight of anguish?"

Kaunitz laid his hands upon the broad shoulders of his friend, and in
his eye there kindled something like a ray of affection.

"Grown-up child, your heart is as soft as if it had never been breathed
upon by the airs of this wicked world. Say no more about Bartenstein,
and I will reward your interest in his misfortune by making you his
successor. You shall be state referendarius yourself. Come along, you
chicken-hearted statesman, and let us play a game of billiards."

"First," said Binder, sadly, "I must deliver my painful message to Count
Bartenstein."

"Bah! the page can be sent to dismiss him."

"But there is no reason why we should keep the poor man waiting."

"Him, the poor man, say you? I remember the day when I waited in HIS
anteroom, and as I am an honest man, I shall pay him with interest, Come
along, my dear future state referendarius."



CHAPTER VIII.

THE RED STOCKINGS.

At Kaunitz's dinner-table on that day revelry reigned triumphant. No
jest was too bold for the lips of the men; and if perchance upon the
cheeks of their beautiful companions there rose the slightest flush of
womanly shame, the knights of the revel shouted applause, and pealed
forth their praises in wildest dithyrambics. With glowing faces and eyes
of flame they ate their highly-spiced viands, and drank their fiery
wines, until all restraint was flung aside, and madness ruled the hour.

The lovely Ferlina, whom Kaunitz had placed next to himself, was
beautiful as Grecian Phryne; and Sacco, who was between her adorers,
Harrach and Colloredo, was bold and bewitching as Lais.

The odor of flowers--the sound of distant music, every thing that could
intoxicate the senses, was there. It was one of those orgies which
Kaunitz alone knew how to devise, and into which all the lesser
libertines of Vienna longed to be initiated; for once admitted there,
they were graduates in the school of vice.

The guests were excited beyond control, but not so the host. He who
invoked the demon that possessed the rest, sat perfectly collected. With
the coolness of a helmsman he steered the flower-laden bark of
voluptuousness toward the breakers, while he befooled its passengers
with visions of fatal beauty.

The feast was at an end, and as Kaunitz reviewed the faces of the
company and saw that for the day their passions were weary from
indulgence, he said to himself, with diabolical calmness: "Now that they
have exhausted every other pleasure, we will sharpen the blunted edge of
desire with gambling! When the life of the heart is burnt to ashes, it
will still revive at the chink of gold."

"To the gaming-table, friends, to the gaming-table!" cried he. And the
dull eyes grew bright, while the guests followed him to the
green-covered table, which stood at the farther end of the dining-room.

Kaunitz took from a casket a heap of gold, while La Ferlina gazed upon
it with longing sighs. Harrach and Colloredo poured showers from their
purses, and Sacco looked from one to the other with her most ineffable
smiles. Kaunitz saw it all, and as he threw the dice into the golden
dice-box, he muttered, "Miserable worms, ye think yourselves gods, and
are the slaves of a little fiend, whose name is GOLD."

As he raised the dice-box, the door opened, and his first valet appeared
on the threshold.

"Pardon me, your excellency, that I presume to enter the room. But there
is a messenger from the empress, and she begs your excellency's
immediate attendance."

With an air of consummate indifference, Kaunitz replaced the dice on the
table. "My carriage," was his reply to the valet; and to his guests,
with a graceful inclination, he said, "Do not let this interrupt you.
Count Harrach will be my banker. In this casket are ten thousand
florins--I go halves with the charming Ferlina."

Signora Ferlina could not contain herself for joy, and in the exuberance
of her gratitude, she disturbed some of the folds of Kaunitz's lace
ruff. Kaunitz was furious; but, without changing a muscle, he went on.
"Farewell, my lords--farewell, ladies! I must away to the post of duty."

Another bend of the head, and he disappeared. The valets and
hair-dresser were already buzzing around his dressing-room with
court-dress and red stocking, but Kaunitz waved them all away, and
called Hippolyte to arrange a curl of his hair that was displaced.

The chief valet, who had been petrified with astonishment, now came to
life; and advanced, holding in his hand the rich court-dress.

"Pardon, your excellency; but my lord the count is about to have an
audience with her imperial majesty?"

"I am," was the curt reply.

"Then your excellency must comply with the etiquette of the empress's
court, which requires the full Spanish dress, dagger, and red
stockings."

"MUST?" said Kaunitz contemptuously. "Fool! From this day, no one shall
say to Count Kaunitz, 'Must.' Bear that in mind. Hand me my muff."

"Muff, my lord?" echoed the valet.

"Yes, fool, my hands are cold."

The valet looked out of the window, where flamed the radiance of a June
sun, and with a deep sigh for the waywardness of his master, handed the
muff.

Kaunitz thrust in his hands, and slowly left the room, followed by the
dog, the valets, and the hair-dresser. Every time his excellency went
out, this procession came as far as the carriage door, to see that
nothing remained imperfect in this toilet. With the muff held close to
his mouth, for fear a breath of air should enter it, Kaunitz passed
through the lofty corridors of his house to his state-carriage. The dog
wished to get in, but he waved her gently back, saying:

"No, Phaedra, not to-day. I dare not take you there."

The carriage rolled off, and the servants looked after in dumb
consternation. At last the first valet, with a malicious smile, said to
the others:

"I stick to my opinion--he is crazy. Who but a madman would hope to be
admitted to her imperial majesty's presence without red stockings and a
dagger?"

Hippolyte shook his head. "No, no, he is no madman; he is only a
singular genius, who knows the world, and snaps his fingers at it."

The valet was not far from right. The simple dress, white stockings, and
the absence of the dagger, raised a commotion in the palace.

The page in the entrance-hall was afraid to announce the count, and he
rushed into the anteroom to consult the marshal of the imperial
household. The latter, with his sweetest smile, hastened to meet the
indignant count.

"Have the goodness, my lord," said Kaunitz imperiously, "not to detain
me any longer. The empress has called me to her presence; say that I am
here."

"But, count," cried the horror-stricken marshal, "you cannot seriously
mean to present yourself in such a garb. Doubtless you have forgotten,
from absence of mind, to array yourself as court etiquette exacts of her
majesty's servants. If you will do me the favor to accompany me to my
own apartments, I will with great pleasure supply the red stockings and
dagger."

Count Kaunitz shrugged his shoulders disdainfully. "Her majesty sent for
ME, not for my red stockings; therefore, please to announce me."

The marshal retreated, in his surprise, several steps. "Never," cried he
indignantly, "never would I presume to do so unheard-of a thing! Such a
transgression of her majesty's orders is inadmissible."

"Very well," replied Kaunitz coolly, "I shall then have the pleasure of
announcing myself."

He passed by the marshal and dismayed page, and was advancing to the
door that led to the imperial apartments.

"Hold! hold!" groaned the marshal, whose consternation was now at its
height. "That were too presuming! Since her majesty has commanded your
attendance, I will do my duty. I leave it to yourself, my lord, to
excuse your own boldness, if you can carry it so far as to attempt a
justification of your conduct."

He bowed, and passed into the next room; then into the cabinet of the
empress, whence he returned with word for Count Kaunitz to enter.



CHAPTER IX.

NEW AUSTRIA.

The empress received the count with a most gracious smile. "You are
late," she said, reaching out her hand for him to kiss.

"I came very near not reaching your majesty's presence at all, for those
two wiseacres in the anteroom refused me entrance, because I had neither
red stockings nor a dagger."

The empress then perceived the omission, and she frowned. "Why did you
present yourself here, without them?" asked she.

"Because, your majesty, I detest red stockings; and I really cannot see
why I should be compelled to wear any thing that is so distasteful to
me."

Maria Theresa was so surprised, that she scarcely knew what reply to
make to the argument; so Kaunitz continued:

"And as for the dagger, that is no emblem of my craft. I am not a
soldier, but a statesman; my implement is the crowquill."

"And the tongue," replied the empress, "for you certainly know how to
use it. Let us dismiss the dagger and red stockings, then, and speak of
your pen and your tongue, for I need them both. I have well weighed the
matters under consideration, and have taken counsel of Heaven and of my
own conscience. I hope that my decision will be for the best."

Count Kaunitz, courtier though he was, could not repress a slight
shiver, nor could he master the paleness that overspread his anxious
face.

The empress went on: "I have irrevocably decided. I abide by what I said
in council. A new day shall dawn upon Austria--God grant that it prove a
happy one! Away, then, with the old alliance! we offer our hand to
France, and you shall conduct the negotiations. I appoint you lord high
chancellor in the place of Count Uhlefeld. And you owe me some thanks,
for I assure you that, to carry out my opposition to my ministers, I
have striven with countless difficulties."

"I thank your majesty for resolving upon an alliance with France," said
Kaunitz, earnestly; "for I do believe that it will conduce to Austria's
welfare."

"And do you not thank me for making you prime minister, or is the
appointment unwelcome?"

"I shall be the happiest of mortals if I can accept; but that question
is for your majesty to decide."

The empress colored, and looked displeased, while Kaunitz, "himself
again," stood composed and collected before her.

"Ah," said she, quickly, "you wish me to beg you to accept the highest
office in Austria! Do you think it a favor you do me to become my prime
minister, Kaunitz?"

"Your majesty," replied Kaunitz in his soft, calm tones, "I think not of
myself, but of Austria that I love, and of you, my honored empress, whom
I would die to serve. But I must know whether it will be allowed me to
serve my empress and my fatherland as I can and will serve them both."

"What do you mean? Explain yourself."

"If I am to labor in your behalf, my empress, I must have free hands,
without colleagues by my side, to discuss my plans and plot against
them."

"Ah!" said the empress, smiling, "I understand. You mean Bartenstein and
Counts Harrach and Colloredo. True, they are your rivals."

"Oh, your majesty, not my rivals, I hope."

"Well, then, your enemies, if you like that better," said the empress.
"I shall not chain you together, then. I will find other places
wherewith to compensate them for their past services, and you may find
other colleagues."

"I desire no colleagues, your majesty," replied Kaunitz, "I wish to be
prime and only minister. Then together we will weld Austria's many
dependencies into one great empire, and unite its governments under one
head."

"Yours, count?" asked Maria Theresa, in a slight tone of irony.

"Yours, my sovereign. Whatever you may think, up to this moment you have
not reigned supreme in Austria. By your side have Bartenstein and
Uhlefeld reigned like lesser emperors. Is not Lombardy governed by its
own princes, and does not the Viceroy of Hungary make laws and edicts,
which are brought to you for signature?"

"Yes, I am truly hemmed in on every side. But I see no remedy for the
evil--I cannot govern everywhere. Hungary and Lombardy have their own
constitutions, and must have their own separate governments."

"So long as that state of things lasts, neither Hungary nor Lombardy
will be portions of the Austrian empire," said Kaunitz.

"There is no remedy, Kaunitz," returned Maria Theresa; "I have thought
these difficulties over and over. My arm is too short to reach to the
farthest ends of my realms, and I must be content to delegate some of my
power. One hand cannot navigate the ship of state."

"But one head can steer it, your majesty, and one head can direct the
hands that work it."

"And will the count be one of my hands?"

"Yes, indeed, your majesty. But the fingers must be subject to this
hand, and the hand will then carry out, in all security, the plans of
its august head, the empress."

"You mean to say that you wish to be alone as my minister?"

"If I am truly to serve your majesty, it must be so. Let not the
sovereignty of Austria be frittered away in multitudinous rivulets;
gather it all in one full, fertilizing stream. One head and one hand
over Austria's destiny, and then will she grow independent and
all-powerful."

"But, man," cried the empress, "you cannot sustain the burden you
covet!"

"I will have ample help, your majesty. I will seek ready hands and
willing hearts that believe in me, and will do my behests. These must
not be my coadjutors, but my subalterns, who think through me, and work
for me. If your majesty will grant me this privilege, then I can serve
Austria. I know that I am asking for high prerogatives; but for
Austria's sake, Maria Theresa will dare every thing; and together we
will accomplish the consolidation of her disjecta membra into one great
empire. The policy which conducts our financial affairs must emanate
from yourself, and our foreign policy must be bold and frank, that
friends and foes may both know what we mean. We must coffin and bury old
Austria with the dead that sleep on the battle-grounds of lost Silesia;
and from her ashes we must build a new empire, of which Hungary and
Lombardy shall be integral parts. Hand in hand with France, we will be
the lawgivers of all Europe; and when, thanks to our thrift and the rich
tribute of our provinces, we pay our national debt, then we may laugh at
English subsidies and Dutch commerce. And lastly, we will cast our eyes
once more upon Silesia, and methinks if France and Austria together
should demand restitution of King Frederick, he will scarcely be so rash
as to say nay. The ministers of Louis XV., who were adverse to our
alliance, are about to retire, and the Duke de Choiseul, our firm friend
and the favorite of Mme. de Pompadour, will replace Richelieu. Choiseul
seeks our friendship, and the day of our triumph is dawning. Such, your
majesty, are my dreams for Austria; it rests with you to make them
realities!"

The empress had listened with increasing interest to every word that
Kaunitz had spoken. She had risen from her seat and was pacing the room
in a state of high excitement. As he ceased she stopped in front of him,
and her large, sparkling orbs of blue glowed with an expression of
happiness and hope.

"I believe that you are the man for Austria," said she. "I believe that
together we can carry out our plans and projects. God grant that they be
righteous and just in His sight! You have read my heart, and you know
that I can never reconcile myself to the loss of Silesia. You know that
between me and Frederick no harmony can ever exist; no treaty can ever
be signed to which he is a party. [Footnote: Maria Theresa's own words.]
I will take the hand of France, not so much for love of herself as for
her enmity to Prussia. Will you work with me to make war on Frederick if
I appoint you sole minister, Kaunitz? For I tell you that I burn to
renew my strife with the King of Prussia, and I would rather give him
battle to-day than to-morrow." [Footnote: Maria Theresa's own words.
Coxe.]

"I comprehend your majesty's feelings, and fully share them. As soon as
France and ourselves understand one another, we will make a league
against Frederick, and may easily make him strike the first blow; for
even now he is longing to appropriate another Silesia."

"And I am longing to cross swords with him for the one he has stolen. I
cannot bear to think of going to my fathers with a diminished
inheritance; I cannot brook the thought that my woman's hands have not
been strong enough to preserve my rights; for I feel that if I have the
heart of a woman, I have the head of a man. To see Austria great and
powerful, to see her men noble and her women virtuous--that is my dream,
my hope, my aim in life. You are the one to perfect what I have
conceived, Kaunitz; will you give me your hand to this great work?"

"I will, your majesty, so help me God!"

"Will you have Austria's good alone in view, in all that you counsel as
my minister?"

"I will, so help me God!"

"Will you take counsel with me how we may justly and righteously govern
Austria, without prejudice, without self-love, without thought of
worldly fame, not from love or fear of man, but for the sake of God from
whose hands we hold our empire?"

"I will, so help me God!"

"Then," said Maria Theresa, after a pause, "you are my sole minister,
and I empower you to preside over the affairs of state, in the manner
you may judge fittest for the welfare of the Austrian people."

Kaunitz was as self-possessed a worldling as ever sought to hide his
emotions; but he could not suppress an exclamation of rapture, nor an
expression of triumph, which lit up his face as nothing had ever
illumined it before.

"Your majesty," said he, when he found words, "I accept the trust, and
as there is a God above to judge me, I will hold it faithfully. My days
and nights, my youth and age, with their thoughts, their will, their
every faculty, shall be laid upon the shrine of Austria's greatness; and
if for one moment I ever sacrifice your majesty to any interest of mine,
may I die a death of torture and disgrace!"

"I believe you; your countenance reflects your heart, and Almighty God
has heard your words. One thing remember--that Maria Theresa suffers no
minister to dictate to her. She is the reigning sovereign of her people,
and will not suffer a finger to be laid upon her imperial rights. Were
he a thousand times prime minister, the man that presumed too far with
me I would hurl from his eminence to the lowest depths of disgrace. And
now that we understand one another, we will clasp hands like men, who
are pledged before God to do their duty."

She extended her hand to Kaunitz, who grasped it in his own. "I swear,"
said he, solemnly, "to do my duty; and never can I forget this hour. I
swear to my SOVEREIGN, Maria Theresa, loyalty unto death; and before my
EMPRESS I bow my knee, and so do homage to the greatest woman of her
age."

The empress smiled, while Kaunitz knelt and kissed her fair, jewelled
hand. "May God grant that you speak truth, Kaunitz, and may my posterity
not have to blush for me! 'Every thing for Austria,' shall be your motto
and mine; and this flaming device shall light us on our way through
life. Now go, lord high chancellor, and see that the world finds a
phoenix in the ashes of the old regime which to-day we have consigned to
the dust!" [Footnote: From this time, Kaunitz was the sole minister of
the empress; and he kept his promise to Binder, who became state
referendarius, in the place of the once-powerful Bartenstein.]



ISABELLA



CHAPTER X.

THE YOUNG SOLDIER.

Kaunitz's prophecy had been fulfilled. No sooner was it known that
Austria and France were allies, than Frederick of Prussia, with all
haste, made treaties with England. These opposite alliances were the
signal for war. For seven years this war held its blood-stained lash
over Austria, and every nation in Europe suffered more or less from its
effects. Maria Theresa began it with sharp words, to which Frederick had
responded with his sharper sword.

The king, through his ambassador, asked the meaning of her extensive
military preparations throughout Austria, to which the empress, nettled
by the arrogance of the demand, had replied that she believed she had a
right to mass troops for the protection of herself and her allies,
without rendering account of her acts to foreign kings. Upon the receipt
of this reply, Frederick marched his troops into Saxony, and so began
the "Seven Years' War," a war that was prosecuted on both sides with
bitter vindictiveness.

Throughout Austria the wildest enthusiasm prevailed. Rich and poor,
young and old, all rushed to the fight. The warlike spirit that pervaded
her people made its way to the heart of the empress's eldest son. The
Archduke Joseph had for some time been entreating his mother to allow
him to join the army; and, at last, though much against her will, she
had yielded to his urgent desire. The day on which news of a victory,
near Kunnersdorf, over Frederick, reached the palace, the empress had
given her consent, and her son was to be allowed to go in search of
laurel-wreaths wherewith to deck his imperial brow.

This permission to enter the army was the first great joy of Joseph's
life. His heart, at last freed from its weight of conventional duties,
and forced submission to the requirements of court etiquette, soared
high into regions of exultant happiness. His countenance, once so cold
and impassible, was now full of joyous changes; his eyes, once so dull
and weary, glowed with the fire of awakened enthusiasm, and they looked
so brilliant a blue, that it seemed as if some little ray from heaven
had found its way into their clear, bright depths. The poor boy was an
altered creature. He was frolicsome with his friends; and as for those
whom he considered his enemies, he cared nothing for their likes or
dislikes. He had nothing to lose or gain from them; he was to leave the
court, leave Vienna, leave every troublesome remembrance behind, and go,
far from all tormentors, to the army.

The preparations were at an end; the archduke bad taken formal leave of
his mother's court; this evening he was to spend in the imperial family
circle; and early on the next morning his journey would begin. He had
just written a last note of farewell to a friend. Alone in his room, he
stood before a mirror, contemplating with a smile his own image. He was
not looking at his handsome face, though happiness was lending it
exquisite beauty; the object of his rapturous admiration was the white
uniform, which, for the first time, he wore in place of his court-dress.
He was no longer the descendant of Charles the Fifth, no longer the son
of the empress, he was a soldier--a free, self-sustaining man, whose
destiny lay in his own hands, and whose future deeds would prove him
worthy to be the son of his great ancestor.

As, almost intoxicated with excess of joy, he stood before the glass,
the door opened gently, and a youth of about his own age entered the
room.

"Pardon me, your highness," said the youth, bowing, "if I enter without
permission. Doubtless your highness did not hear me knock, and I found
no one in your anteroom to announce me."

The prince turned around, and reached out his hand, saying, with a
laugh: "No, no, you found nobody. I have discharged old Dame Etiquette
from my service, and you see before you not his imperial highness, the
Archduke Joseph, crown prince of Austria, but a young soldier, brimful
of happiness, master of nothing but his own sword, with which he means
to carve out his fortunes on the battlefield. Oh, Dominick! I have
dropped the rosary, and taken up the sabre; and I mean to twist such a
forest of laurels about my head, that it will be impossible for me ever
to wear a night-cap again, were it even sent me as a present from the
pope himself."

"Do not talk so loud, your highness; you will frighten the proprieties
out of their wits."

Joseph laughed. "Dominick Kaunitz" said he, "you are the son of your
respected father, no doubt of it; for you behave prettily before the
bare walls themselves. But fear not, son of the mighty minister, MY walls
are dumb, and nobody is near to tell tales. We are alone, for I have
dismissed all my attendants; and here I may give loud vent to my
hallelujahs, which I now proceed to do by singing you a song which I
learned not long ago from an invalid soldier in the street."

And the prince began, in a sonorous bass voice, to sing:

"Oh! the young cannon is my bride! Her orange-wreath is twined with bay,
And on the blood-red battle-field We'll celebrate our wedding-day.
Trara! trara! No priest is there To bless the rites, No--"

Here young Kaunitz, all etiquette despising, put his hands before the
mouth of the prince; and, while the latter strove, in spite of him, to
go on with his song, he said, in low but anxious tones:

"For Heavens sake, your highness, listen to me. You plunge yourself
wantonly into danger. Do you suppose that your powerful voice does not
resound through the corridors of the palace?"

"Well, if it is heard, Dominick, what of it? I bid farewell to my
enemies, and this is my 'Hosanna.' You ought to be ashamed of yourself
to stop me. My tormentors, you think, have heard the beginning of my
song; well, the devil take it, but they shall have the end!"

Once more the archduke began to sing; but Dominick caught his arm. "Do
you wish," said he, "to have the empress revoke her permission?"

The archduke laughed, "Why, Dominick, you are crazed with grief for my
loss, I do believe; the empress revoke her imperial word, now, when all
my preparations are made, and I go to-morrow?"

"Empresses do revoke their words, and preparations are often made, to be
followed by--nothing," replied Dominick.

The prince looked in consternation at his young friend. "Are you in
earnest, dear Dominick?" asked he. "Do you indeed think it possible that
I could be hindered from going to the army, on the very eve of my
departure?"

"I do, your highness."

The archduke grew pale, and in a tremulous voice said, "Upon what do you
found your supposition, my friend?"

"Oh, my dear lord," replied Dominick, "it is no supposition, I fear it
is a fact; and I fear, too, that it is your own fault if this
disappointment awaits you."

"Good Heaven!" exclaimed the prince, in tones of anguish, "what can I
have done to deserve such fearful chastisement?"

"You have displeased the empress by neglect of your religious duties.
For more than two weeks you have not entered a place of worship; and,
yesterday, when the Countess Fuchs remonstrated with your highness, you
replied with an unseemly jest. You said, 'Dearest countess, I hope to
prove to you that, although I neglect my mass, I can be pious on the
battle-field. There, on the altar of my country, I mean to sacrifice
countless enemies, and that will be an offering quite as pleasing in the
sight of God.' Were those not your words, prince?"

"Yes, yes, they were--but I meant no impiety. My heart was so full of
joy that it effervesced in wild words; but surely my mother cannot mean,
for such a harmless jest, to dash my every hope to the earth!"

"Oh, your highness, this is only one offence out of many of which you
are accused. I have no time to repeat them now, for my errand here is
important and pressing."

"Where learned you all this?" asked the poor archduke.

"Bend down your ear, and I will tell you. My father told me every word
of it."

"The lord high chancellor? Impossible!"

"Yes, it would seem impossible that he should repeat any thing, and
therefore you may know how seriously the matter affects your highness
when I tell you that he sent me to warn you."

A quick, loud knock at the door interrupted him, and before the archduke
could say "Come in," the Emperor Francis was in the room. His face
looked careworn, and he cast a glance of tender compassion upon his son.

"My child," said he, "I come to speak to you in private a thing I cannot
compass in my own apartments."

Dominick bowed to take leave, but the emperor withheld him. "Stay," said
he, "for you may serve us, Dominick. I know you to be Joseph's best
friend, and you will not betray him. But I have no time for words. Tell
me quickly, Joseph, is there any secret outlet to these apartments? Do
you know of any hidden stairway by which you could escape from the
palace?"

"I, father! I have secret doors in my apartments? Is this some new
device of my enemies to injure me in the eyes of the empress?"

"Hush, hush, Joseph!--How like he is in temperament to his
mother!--Answer me at once; there is no question of enemies, but of
yourself."

"What would you have me do with secret doors and stairways?" asked
Joseph.

The emperor came close to his son, and, in low, cautious tones,
whispered, "I would have you, this very hour, leave the palace
privately, mount your horse, and speed away from Vienna."

"Fly, my dear father?" cried Joseph. "Has it come to this, that the son
must fly from the face of his own mother? Am I a criminal, who must not
be told of what crime I am accused? No, your majesty; if death, or
imprisonment for life, were here to threaten me, I would not fly."

"Nor would I counsel flight, my son, were you accused of wrong; but this
is not a question of crime, of poisoned beaker, or of castle dungeon--it
is simply this: Do you wish to join the army, or are you ready to give
up your commission and stay at home?"

"Oh, my dear father," cried Joseph, "you well know that I have but one
desire on earth--and that is, to go."

"Then, hear me. It has been represented to the empress that your lust
for war has made you so reckless, so bloodthirsty, and so impious, that
camp-life will prove your ruin. In her excess of maternal love, she has
taken the alarm, and has resolved to shield you from danger by
withdrawing her consent to your departure."

The archduke's eyes filled with tears. The emperor laid his hand
sympathizingly upon his shoulder.

"Do not despair, dear child," said he, tenderly; "perhaps all is not
lost, and I may be able to assist you. I can comprehend the nature of
your sorrow, for I have suffered the same bitter disappointment. If,
instead of leading a useless life, a mere appanage of the empress, I had
been permitted to follow the dictates of my heart, and command her
armies, I might have--but why speak of my waning career? You are young,
and I do not wish to see your life darkened by such early
disappointment. Therefore, listen to me. You know nothing of the change
in your prospects--you have not as yet, received no orders to remain.
Write to your mother, that, preferring to go without the grief of taking
leave, you have presumed to start tonight without her knowledge, hoping
soon to embrace her again, and lay your first-earned laurels at her
feet."

The archduke hastened to obey his father, and sat down to write. The
emperor, meanwhile, signed to young Kaunitz, who had kept himself
respectfully aloof.

"Have you a courser," asked he, "to sell to Joseph, and two good
servants that can accompany him until his own attendants can be sent
after him?"

"I came hither, your majesty, prepared to make the same proposition,
with the fleetest horse in my father's stables, and two trusty servants,
well mounted, all of which await his highness at the postern gate."

"Your father's best horse? Then he knows of this affair?" "It was he who
sent me to the archduke's assistance. He told me, in case of necessity,
to propose flight, and to be ready for it."

"The letter is ready," said the archduke, coming forward.

"I myself will hand it to the empress," said his father, taking it, "and
I will tell her that I counselled you to go as you did."

"But dear father, the empress will be angry."

"Well, my son," said the emperor, with a peculiar smile, "I have
survived so many little passing storms, that I shall doubtless survive
this one. The empress has the best and noblest heart in the world, and
its sunshine is always brightest after a storm. Go, then, my child, I
will answer for your sin and mine. The empress has said nothing to me of
her change of purpose; she looks upon it as a state affair, and with her
state affairs I am never made acquainted. Since accident has betrayed it
to me, I have a right to use my knowledge in your behalf, and I
undertake to appease your mother. Here is a purse with two thousand
louis d'ors; it is enough for a few days of incognito. Throw your
military cloak about you, and away!"

Young Kaunitz laid the cloak upon the shoulders of the archduke, whose
eyes beamed forth the gratitude that filled his heart.

"Oh my father and my sovereign," said he in a voice that trembled with
emotion, "my whole life will not be long enough to thank you for what
yon are doing for me in this critical hour. Till now I have loved you
indeed as my father, but henceforth I must look upon you as my
benefactor also, as my dearest and best friend. My heart and my soul are
yours, dear father; may I be worthy of your love and of the sacrifice
you are making for me to-day!"

The emperor folded his son to his heart, and kissed his fair forehead.
"Farewell, dear boy," whispered he; "return to me a victor and a hero.
May you earn for your father on the battle-field the laurels which he
has seen in dreams! God bless you!"

They then left the room, Count Kaunitz leading the way, to see if the
passage was clear.

"I will go with you as far as the staircase," continued the emperor,
"and then--"

At that moment Dominick, who had gone forward into the corridor, rushed
back into the room pale and trembling, "It is too late!" exclaimed he in
a stifled voice; "there comes a messenger from the empress!"



CHAPTER XI.

THE EMPRESS AND HER SON.

The young count was not mistaken. It was indeed a message from the
empress. It was the marshal of the household, followed by four pages who
came to command the presence of the archduke, to whom her majesty wished
to impart something of importance.

A deadly paleness overspread the face of the young prince, and his whole
frame shivered. The emperor felt the shudder, and drew his son's arm
closer to his heart. "Courage, my son, courage!" whispered he: then
turning toward the imperial embassy, he said aloud, "Announce to her
majesty that I will accompany the arch-duke in a few moments." And as
the marshal stood irresolute and confused, the emperor, smiling, said:
"Oh, I see that you have been ordered to accompany the prince
yourselves. Come, then, my son, we will e'en go along with the
messengers."

Maria Theresa was pacing the floor of her apartment in great excitement.
Her large, flashing eyes now and then turned toward the door; and
whenever she fancied that footsteps approached, she stopped, and seemed
almost to gasp with anxiety.

Suddenly she turned toward Father Porhaminer, who, with the Countess
Fuchs, stood by the side of the sofa from which she had risen. "Father,"
said she, in a tremulous voice, "I cannot tell why it is that, as I
await my son's presence here, my heart is overwhelmed with anguish. I
feel as if I were about to do him an injustice, and for all the kingdoms
of the world I would not do him wrong."

"Nay," replied the father, "your majesty is about to rescue that beloved
son from destruction; but as your majesty is a loving mother, it
afflicts you to disappoint your child. Still, our Lord has commanded if
the right eye offend, to pluck it out; and so is it your majesty's duty
to pluck from your son's heart the evil growing there, even were his
heart's blood to follow. The wounds you may inflict upon your dear
child, for God's sake, will soon be healed by His Almighty hand."

"He was so happy to become a soldier!" murmured the empress, who had
resumed her agitated walk; "his eyes were so bright, and his bearing was
so full of joy and pride! My boy is so handsome, so like his dear
father, that my heart throbs when I see him, as it did in the days when
we were young lovers! A laurel-wreath would well become his fair brow,
and I--how proudly I should have welcomed my young hero to my heart once
more! Dear, dear boy, must I then wake you so rudely from your first
dream of ambition?--I must. He would come to evil in the lawless life of
the camp; God forgive him, but he is as mad for the fight as Don John of
Austria! I should never see him again; he would seek death in his first
battle.. Oh, I could not survive it; my heart would break if I should
have to give up my first-born! Four of my children lie in the vaults of
St. Stephen's--I cannot part with my Joseph! Countess," she said,
turning suddenly to her lady of Honor, "is it not true that Joseph told
you he thought that the altar of the battle-field and the sacrifice, of
his enemies was--"

"His majesty the emperor and his imperial highness, the Archduke
Joseph!" said the marshal of the household; and the door was flung open
for their entrance.

Maria Theresa advanced, and bowed slightly to the emperor. "Your
majesty's visit at this unusual hour surprises me," said she with
emphasis.

"I am aware," replied the emperor graciously, "that I was not expected;
but as this is the last day of our son's residence under the parental
roof, I am sure that my wife will see nothing strange in my visit. I was
with the archduke when your majesty's message reached him, and knowing
that you could have no secrets with the son which the father might not
hear, I followed the impulse of my affection, and came with him."

"And what signifies this singular and unseemly dress in which my son
presents himself before his sovereign?" asked Maria Theresa, angrily
surveying the uniform which, nevertheless, she acknowledged in her heart
was beyond expression becoming to him.

"Pardon me, your majesty," replied the son, "I had tried on one uniform,
and if I was to obey your summons at once, there was no time for a
change in my dress."

"And, indeed," said the emperor, "I think the dress becoming. Our boy
will make a fine-looking soldier."

The empress being precisely of that opinion herself, was so much the
more vexed at her husband for giving it expression. She bit her lip, and
her brow contracted, as was usual with her when she was growing angry.

"You held it then as a fact, my son, that you were a soldier?" said she,
catching her breath with anxiety.

Joseph raised his fine eyes, with an imploring expression, to the face
of his mother. "Your majesty had promised me that I should be a
soldier," replied he firmly, "and I have never yet known my mother to
break her imperial word to the least of her subjects."

"Hear him!" cried the empress, with a laugh of derision, "he almost
threatens me! This young sir will try to make it a point of honor with
me to keep my word."

"Pardon me, your majesty," replied Joseph calmly, "I have never allowed
myself to doubt your imperial word for one moment of my life."

"Well, then, your highness has my imperial permission to doubt it now,"
cried the empress, severely humiliated by the implied rebuke; "I allow
you to doubt whether I will ever hold promises that have been rashly and
injudiciously made."

"Why, your majesty," cried the emperor, "surely you will not retract
your word in the face of the whole world, that knows of Joseph's
appointment!"

"What to me is the opinion of the world?" returned the haughty empress.
"To God and my conscience alone I am responsible for my acts, and to
them I will answer it that I take back my promise, and declare that
Joseph shall not go into the army!"

Joseph uttered a cry of anguish. "Mother! mother!" sobbed the unhappy
boy, "it cannot be!"

"Why can it not be?" said the empress, haughtily.

"Because it would be a cruel and heartless deed," cried the archduke,
losing all control over himself, "so to make sport of my holiest and
purest hopes in life; and because I never, never can believe that my own
mother would seek to break my heart."

The empress was about to return a scathing reply, when the emperor laid
his gentle hand upon her shoulder, and the words died upon her lips.

"I beseech of you, my wife," said he, "to remember that we are not
alone. Joseph is no child; and it ill becomes any but his parents to
witness his humiliation. Have the goodness, then, to dismiss your
attendants, and let us deal with our son alone."

"Why shall I dismiss them?" cried the empress, "they are my trusty
confidants; and they have a right to hear all that the future Emperor of
Austria presumes to say to his mother!"

"Pardon me," replied the emperor, "I differ with you, and desire that
they should not hear our family discussions. In these things I too have
my right; and if your majesty does not command them to leave the room, I
do."

Maria Theresa looked at the countenance of her husband, which was firm
and resolved in its expression. In her confusion she could find no
retort. The emperor waited awhile, and seeing that she did not speak, he
turned toward the two followers, who stood, without moving, at their
posts.

"I request the Countess Fuchs and Father Porhammer to leave the room,"
said he, with dignity. "Family concerns are discussed in private."

The pair did not go. Father Porhammer interrogated the face of the
empress; and the countess, indignant that her curiosity was to be
frustrated, looked defiant.

This bold disregard of her husband's command was irritating to the
feelings of the empress. She thought that his orders should have
outweighed her mere remonstrance, and she now felt it her duty to
signify as much.

"Countess Fuchs," said she, "doubtless the emperor has not spoken loud
enough for you to hear the command he has just given you. You have not
understood his words, and I will take the trouble to repeat them. The
emperor said, 'I request the Countess Fuchs and Father Porhammer to
leave the room. Our family concerns we will discuss in private.'"

The lady of honor colored, and, with deep inclinations, Father Porhammer
and herself left the room.

Maria Theresa looked after them until the door was shut, then she
smilingly reached her hand to the emperor, who thanked her with a
pressure and a look of deepest affection. The archduke had retired to
the embrasure of a window, perhaps to seek composure, perhaps to hide
his tears.

"Now," said Maria Theresa, sternly, while her fiery eyes sought the
figure of her son, "now we are alone, and Joseph is at liberty to speak.
I beg him to remember, that in the person of his mother, he also sees
his sovereign, and that the empress will resent every word of disloyalty
spoken to the parent. And I hold it to be highly disloyal for my son to
accuse me of making sport of his hopes. I have not come to my latest
determination from cruelty or caprice; I have made it in the strength of
my maternal love to shield my child from sin, and in the rectitude of my
imperial responsibility to my people, who have a right to claim from me
that I bestow upon them a monarch who is worthy to reign over Austria.
Therefore, my son, as empress and mother, I say that you shall remain.
That is now my unalterable will. If this decision grieves you, be humble
and submissive; and remember that it is your duty, as son and subject,
to obey without demurring. Then shall we be good friends, and greet one
another heartily, as though you had at this moment returned from the
victorious battle-field. There is my hand. Be welcome, my dear and
much-beloved child."

The heart of the empress had gradually softened, and as she smiled and
extended her hand, her beautiful eyes were filled to overflowing with
tears. But Joseph, deathly pale, crossed his arms, and returned her
glances of love with a haughty, defiant look, that almost approached to
dislike.

"My son," said the emperor, "do you not see your dear mother's hand
extended to meet yours?"

"I see it, I see it," cried Joseph, passionately, "but I cannot take
it--I cannot play my part in this mockery of a return. No, mother, no, I
cannot kiss the hand that has so cruelly dashed my hopes to earth. And
you wish to carry your tyranny so far as to exact that I receive it with
a smile? Oh, mother, my heart is breaking! Have pity on me, and take
back those cruel words; let me go, let me go. Do not make me a byword
for the world, that hereafter will refuse me its respect. Let me go, if
but for a few weeks, and on the day that you command my return, I will
come home. Oh, my heart was too small to hold the love I bore you for
your consent to my departure. It seemed to me that I had lust begun to
live; the world was full of beauty, and I forgot all the trials of my
childhood. For one week I have been young, dear mother; hurl me not back
again into that dark dungeon of solitude where so much of my short life
has been spent. Do not condemn me to live as I have hitherto lived; give
me freedom, give me my manhood's rights!"

"No, no! a thousand times no!" cried the exasperated empress; "I see now
that I am right to keep such an unfeeling and ungrateful son at home. He
talks of his sufferings forsooth! What has he ever suffered at my
hands?"

"What have I suffered?" exclaimed Joseph, whose teeth chattered as if he
were having a chill, and who was no longer in a state to suppress the
terrible eruption of his heart's agony. "What have I suffered, ask you?
I will tell you, empress-mother, what I have suffered since first I
could love, or think, or endure. As a child I have felt that my mother
loved another son more than she loved me. When my longing eyes sought
hers, they were riveted upon another face. When my brother and I have
sinned together, he has been forgiven, when I have been punished. Sorrow
and jealousy were in my heart, and no one cared enough for me to ask why
I wept. I was left to suffer without one word of kindness--and you
wondered that I was taciturn, and mocked at my slighted longings for
love, and called them by hard names. And then you pointed to my caressed
and indulged brother, and bade me be gay like him!"

"My son, my son!" cried the emperor, "control yourself; you know not
what you say."

"Let him go on, Francis," said the pale mother, "it is well that I
should know his heart at last."

"Yes," continued the maddened archduke, "let me go on, for in my heart
there is nothing but misery and slighted affection. Oh, mother, mother!"
exclaimed he, suddenly changing from defiance to the most pathetic
entreaty, "on my knees I implore you to let me go; have mercy, have
mercy upon your wretched son!"

And the young prince, with outstretched hands, threw himself upon his
knees before his mother. The long-suppressed tears gushed forth, and the
wild tempest of his ungovernable fury was spent, and now he sobbed as if
indeed his young heart was breaking.

The emperor could scarcely restrain the impulse he felt to weep with his
son; but he came and laid his hand upon the poor boy's head, and looked
with passionate entreaty at the empress.

"Dear Theresa," said he, "be compassionate and forgiving. Pardon him,
beloved, the hard and unjust words which, in the bitterness of a first
sorrow, he has spoken to the best of mothers. Raise him up from the
depths of his despair, and grant the boon, for which, I am sure, he will
love you beyond bounds."

"I wish that I dared to grant it to yourself, Francis," replied the
empress, sadly and tearfully; "but you see that he has made it
impossible. I dare not do it. The mother has no right to plead with the
empress for her rebellious son. What he has said I freely forgive--God
grant that I may forget it! Well do I know how stormy is youth, and I
remember that Joseph is my son. It is the wild Spanish blood of my
ancestry that boils in his veins, and, therefore, I forgive him with all
my heart. But revoke my last sentence--that I cannot do. To do so would
be to confirm him in wrong. Rise, my son Joseph--I forgive all your
cruel words; but what I have said, I have said. You remain at home."

Joseph rose slowly from his knees. The tears in his eyes were dried; his
lips were compressed, and once more he wore the old look of cold and
sullen indifference. He made a profound inclination before his mother.
"I have heard the empress's commands," said he, in a hoarse and
unnatural voice; "it is my duty to obey. Allow me to go to my prison,
that I may doff this manly garb, which is no longer suitable to my
blasted career."

Without awaiting the answer, he turned away, and with hasty strides left
the room.

The empress watched him in speechless anxiety. As the door closed upon
him, her features assumed an expression of tenderness and she said: "Go
quickly, Franz--go after him. Try to comfort and sustain him. I do not
know why, but I feel uneasy--"

At that moment a cry was heard in the anteroom, and the fall of a heavy
body to the floor.

"God help me--it is Joseph!" shrieked the empress; and, forgetting all
ceremony, she darted from the room, and rushed by her dismayed
attendants through the anteroom, out into the corridor. Stretched on the
floor, insensible and lifeless, lay her son.

Without a word the empress waved off the crowd that was assembled around
his body. The might of her love gave her supernatural strength, and
folding her arms around her child, she covered his pale face with
kisses, and from the very midst of the frightened attendants she bore
him herself to her room, where she laid him softly upon her own bed.

No one except the emperor had ventured to follow. He stood near, and
reached the salts, to which the empress had silently pointed. She rubbed
her son's temples, held the salts to his nostrils, and at last, when he
gave signs of life, she turned to the emperor and burst into tears.

"Oh, Franz," said she, "I almost wish that he were sick, that day and
night I might watch by his bedside, and his poor heart might feel the
full extent of a mother's love for her first-born child."

Perhaps God granted her prayer, that these two noble hearts might no
longer be estranged, but that each might at last meet the other in the
fullest confidence of mutual love.

A violent attack of fever followed the swoon of the archduke. The
empress never left his side. He slept in her own room, and she watched
over him with gentlest and most affectionate care.

Whenever Joseph awaked from his fever-dreams and unclosed his eyes
there, close to his bedside he saw the empress, who greeted him with
loving words and softest caresses. Whenever, in his fever-thirst, he
called for drink, her hand held the cup to his parched lips; and
whenever that soft, cool hand was laid upon his hot brow, he felt as if
its touch chased away all pain and soothed all sorrow.

When he recovered enough to sit up, still his mother would not consent
for him to leave her room for his own. As long as he was an invalid, he
should be hers alone. In her room, and through her loving care, should
he find returning health. His sisters and brothers assembled there to
cheer him with their childish mirth, and his young friend, Dominick
Kaunitz, came daily to entertain him with his lively gossip. Altogether,
the archduke was happy. If he had lost fame, he had found love.

One day, when, cushioned in his great soft arm-chair, he was chatting
with his favorite tutor, Count Bathiany, the empress entered the room,
her face lit up with a happy smile, while in her hands she held an etui
of red morocco.

"What think you I have in this etui, dear?" she said, coming forward,
and bending over her son to bestow a kiss.

"I do not know; but I guess it is some new gift of love from my mother's
dear hand."

"Yes--rightly guessed. It is a genuine gift of love and, with God's
grace, it may prove the brightest gift in your future crown. Since I
would not let you leave my house, my son, I feel it my duty, at least,
to do my best to make your home a happy one. I also wish to show you
that, in my sight, you are no longer a boy, but a man worthy to govern
your own household. Look at the picture in this case, and if it pleases
you, my darling son, I give you, not only the portrait but the ORIGINAL
also."

She handed him the case, in which lay the miniature of a young girl of
surpassing beauty, whose large, dark eyes seemed to gaze upon him with a
look of melancholy entreaty.

The archduke contemplated the picture for some time, and gradually over
his pale face there stole a flush of vague delight.

"Well!" asked the empress, "does the maiden please you?"

"Please me!" echoed the archduke, without withdrawing his eyes from the
picture. "'Tis the image of an angel! There is something in her look so
beseeching, something in her smile so sad, that I feel as if I would
fall at her feet and weep; and yet, mother--"

"Hear him, Franz," cried Maria Theresa to the emperor, who, unobserved
by his son, had entered the room. "Hear our own child! love in his heart
will be a sentiment as holy, as faithful, and as profound as it has been
with us for many happy years! Will you have the angel for your wife,
Joseph?"

The archduke raised his expressive eyes to the face of his mother. "If I
will have her!" murmured he, sadly. "Dear mother, would she deign to
look upon me? Will she not rather turn away from him to whom the whole
world is indifferent?"

"My precious child, she will love and honor you, as the world will do,
when it comes to know your noble heart." And once more the empress bent
over her son and imprinted a kiss upon his pale brow. "It is settled
then, my son, that you shall offer your hand to this beautiful girl. In
one week you will have attained your nineteenth birthday, and you shall
give a good example to your sisters. Do you like the prospect?"

"Yes, dear mother, I am perfectly satisfied."

"And you do not ask her name or rank?"

"You have chosen her for me; and I take her from your hand without name
or rank."

"Well," cried the delighted empress, "Count Bathiany, you have ever been
the favorite preceptor of the archduke. Upon you, then, shall this
honorable mission devolve. To-morrow, as ambassador extraordinary from
our court, you shall go in state to ask of Don Philip of Parma the hand
of his daughter Isabella for his imperial highness, the crown prince of
Austria."



CHAPTER XII.

AN ITALIAN NIGHT.

The moon is up, but she is hidden behind heavy masses of clouds
--welcome clouds that shelter lovers' secrets. The fountains, whose
silvery showers keep such sweet time to the murmurings of love, plash
gently on, hushing the sound of lovers' voices; on the bosom of yonder
marble-tinctured lake, two snow-white swans are floating silently; and,
far amid groves of myrtle and olive, the nightingale warbles her notes
of love. Not a step echoes through the long avenues of the ducal park,
not a light glimmers from the windows of the ducal palace. 'Tis the hour
of midnight, and gentle sleep hath come to all.

To all, save two. Stay yet awhile behind the cloud, O tell-tale moon!
for there--there are the lovers. See where fair Juliet leans from the
marble balcony; while Romeo, below, whispers of plighted vows that
naught shall cancel save--death!

"To-morrow, beloved, to-morrow, thou wilt be mine forever?"

"I will be thine in the face of the whole world."

"And wilt thou never repent? Hast thou strength to brave the world's
scorn for my sake?"

"Do I need strength to stretch forth my hand for that which is dearer to
me than all the world beside? Oh, there is selfishness in my love,
Riccardo, for it loses sight of the dangers that will threaten thee on
the day when thou callest me wife!"

"There is but one danger, dearest--that of losing thee! I know no
other."

"Still, be cautious, for my sake. Remember, we live on Spanish soil,
though Italy's skies are overhead; and Spanish vengeance is sharp and
swift. Betray not thy hopes by smile or glance--in a few davs we will be
far away in the paradise where our happiness shall be hidden from all
eyes, save those of angels. Be guarded therefore, dear one--for see!
Even now the moon is forth again in all her splendor; and were my
father's spies to track thee!--Gracious Heaven, go! Think of Spanish
daggers, and let us part for a few short hours."

"Well, I will go, strengthened to turn my eyes from thy beauty, by
thoughts of to-morrow's bliss! In the chapel I await thee."

"I will be there. The priest will not betray us?"

"He was the friend of my childhood--we may trust him, Isabella."

"Then, Heaven bless thee! good-night. Hark!--did I not hear something
rustle in the thicket?"

"The wind sighing through the pine-trees, love."

"Then, adieu, till morning."

"Adieu, sweet one!"

The moon burst forth in full radiance, and revealed the manly form that
hurried through the avenue; while clear as in noonday could be seen the
slender white figure that watched his retreating steps.

He is hidden now, but she still lingers, listening enraptured to the
fountain's murmur and the nightingale's song; looking upward at the moon
as she wandered through heaven's pathless way, and thinking that never
had earth or sky seemed so lovely before--

But hark! What sounds are those? A cry, a fearful cry rends the air; and
it comes from the thicket where, a moment before, he disappeared from
her sight.

She started--then, breathless as a statue, she listened in deadly
suspense. Again that cry, that dreadful cry, pierces through the
stillness of the night, freezing her young heart with horror! "His
death-wail!" cried the wretched girl; and careless of danger, scarce
knowing what she did, heeding nothing but the sound of her lover's
voice, she sprang from the balcony, and as though moonbeams had drawn
her thither, she swung herself to the ground. For one moment her slight
form wavered, then she darted forward and flew through the avenue to the
thicket. Away she sped, though the moon shone so bright that she could
be distinctly seen, her own shadow following like a dusky phantom
behind.

Be friendly, now, fair moon, and light her to her lover, that she may
look into his eyes once more before they close forever!

She has reached the spot, and, with a low cry, she throws herself by the
side of the tall figure that lies stretched at its length upon the green
sward.

Yes, it is he; he whom she loves; the soul of her soul, the life of her
life! And he lies cold and motionless, his eyes staring blindly upon the
heavens, his purple lips unclosing to exhale his last sighs, while from
two hideous wounds in his side the blood streams over the white dress of
his betrothed. But he is not dead; his blood is still warm.

She bends over and kisses his cold lips; she tears her lace mantle from
her shoulders, and, pressing it to his wounds, tries to stanch the
life-blood welling from his side. The mantle grows scarlet with his
gore, but the lips are whiter and colder with each kiss. She knows,
alas! that there is one nearer to him now than she--Azrael is between
her and her lover. He grows colder, stiffer; and--O God!--the
death-rattle!

"Take me with thee, take me, take me!" screamed the despairing girl; and
her arms clasped frantically around the body, until they seemed as if
they were indeed stiffening into one eternal embrace.

"Have pity, Riccardo! My life, my soul, leave me not here without thee!
One word--one look, beloved!"

She stared at him in wild despair, and seeing that he made no sign of
response to her passionate appeal, she raised her hands to heaven, and
kneeling by his side, she prayed.

"O God, merciful God, take not his fleeting life until he has given me
one last word--until he has told me how long we shall be parted!"

Her arms sank heavily down, and she sought the face of the dying man,
whispering--oh, how tenderly!--"Hear me, my own; tell me when I shall
follow thee to heaven!"

She ceased, for suddenly she felt him tremble; his eyes moved until they
met hers, and once more a smile flitted across those blanched lips. He
raised his head, and slowly his body moved, until, supported in HER
arms, he sat erect. Enraptured, he laid her cheek to his, and waited;
for love had called him back to life, and he would speak.

"We shall meet again in three--"

He fell back, and with a last cry expired. Love had struggled hard with
death; but death had won the victory.

Isabel shed no tears. She closed her lover's eyes; gave him one long,
last kiss; and, as she bent over him, her hair was soaked in his blood.
She took the mantle, wet with gore, and pressed it to her heart.
"Precious mantle," said she, "we need not part; in three days--or
perchance he said three hours--we shall lie together in the coffin!
Until then, Riccardo, farewell!"

Slowly she turned and left the horrible place. Without faltering she
came up the long moonlit avenue, her head thrown back, and her large,
lustrous eyes fixed upon heaven, as though she sought to find her
lover's soul somewhere among the floating clouds.

The moon flung its radiance around her path; and ever, as she walked, it
grew brighter, until the poor, stricken child of earth looked like a
glorified saint. "God grant that it be three hours!" murmured she;
"three days were an eternity!"

She reached the palace, without having thought that there was no door
open by which she could enter, when suddenly a form emerged from the
shadowed wall, and a woman's voice whispered:

"Quick, for Heaven's sake! the side-door is open, and all in the palace
sleep!"

"I, too, in three hours shall sleep!" cried Isabella, triumphantly, and
with these words she fell to the ground in a swoon. [Footnote: Caroline
Pichler, "Memoirs of My Life." Part I. page 139.]



CHAPTER XIII.

ISABELLA OF PARMA.

The Princess Isabella slept unusually late the next morning. Her little
bell, that summoned the ladies of honor, had not yet rung, and the day
was far advanced. The first cameriera seemed troubled, and whispered her
apprehensions that the princess was sick; for she had observed, for some
days, she said, that her highness had looked pale.

"But we must go into her room, ladies," added she; "for it is almost
time for her highness to visit the duke, and he never forgives an
omission of ceremonial. Follow me, then; _I_ will undertake to awaken
the princess."

She opened the door softly, and entered the sleeping-room of the
princess, followed by the other maids of honor.

"She sleeps yet," said the cameriera; "but I MUST waken her," murmured
she to herself, "it is my duty."

She advanced, and drew aside the heavy folds of the pink silk curtains
that hung around the bed.

"Pardon me, your highness," she whispered; "but--"

She stopped; for, to her great surprise, the princess was awake. She lay
in her long white night-dress, with her hands crossed over her breast,
and her head cushioned on the rose-colored pillow that contrasted
painfully with the pallor of her marble-white face. Her large eyes were
distended, and fixed upon a picture of the blessed Virgin that hung at
the foot of the bed. Slowly her looks turned upon her attendants, who,
breathless and frightened, gazed upon the rosy pillow, and the pallid
face that lay in its midst, dazzling their eyes with its whiteness.

"Pardon me," again whispered the cameriera, "it is almost noonday."

"What hour?" murmured the princess.

"It is ten o'clock, your highness."

The princess shivered, and exclaimed, "For three days, then!" And
turning away, she began to pray in a low voice, and none but God knew
the meaning of that whispered prayer.

Her prayer over, she passed her little white hand over the dark locks
that fell around her face and made an effort to rise.

Her maids of honor saw that she was ill, and hastened to assist her. The
hour of the princess's toilet was to her attendants the most delightful
hour of the day. From her bedchamber all ceremonial was banished; and
there, with her young companions, Isabella was accustomed to laugh,
jest, sing, and be as merry and as free from care as the least of her
father's subjects.

Philip of Parma was by birth a Spaniard, one of the sons of Philip the
Fifth. After the vicissitudes of war which wrested Naples and Parma from
the hands of Austria, Don Carlos of Spain became king of Naples, and Don
Philip, duke of Parma. Isabella, then a child of seven years, had been
allowed the privilege of taking with her to Italy her young playmates,
who, for form's sake, as she grew older, became her maids of honor. But
they were her dear and chosen friends, and with them she was accustomed
to speak the Spanish language only.

Her mother, daughter of Louis XV., had introduced French customs into
the court of Parma, and during her life the gayety and grace of French
manners had rendered that court one of the most attractive in Europe.
But the lovely Duchess of Parma died, and with her died all that made
court life endurable. The French language was forbidden, and French
customs were banished. Some said that the duke had loved his wife so
deeply, that in his grief he had excluded from his court every thing
suggestive of his past happiness. Others contended that he had made her
life so wretched by his jealous and tyrannical conduct, that remorse had
driven him to banish, if possible, every reminder of the woman whom he
had almost murdered.

In the hearts of her children the mother's memory was enshrined; and the
brother and sister were accustomed for her sake, in their private
intercourse, to speak HER language altogether.

At court they spoke the language of the country; and Isabella--who with
her friends sang boleros and danced the cachuca; with her brother, read
Racine and Corneille--was equally happy while she hung enraptured upon
the strains of Pergolese's music, or gazed entranced upon the pictures
of Correggio and the Veronese. The princess herself was both a painter
and musician, and no one, more than she, loved Italy and Italian art.

Such, until this wretched morning, had been the life of young Isabella.
What was she now? A cold, white image, in whose staring eyes the light
was quenched--from whose blanched lips the smile had fled forever!

Her grieved attendants could scarcely suppress their tears, as sadly and
silently they arrayed her in her rich robes; while she, not seeming to
know where she was, gazed at her own reflected image with a look of
stupid horror. They dressed her beautiful hair, and bound it up in massy
braids. They smoothed it over her death-cold forehead, and shuddered to
see how like a corpse she looked. At last the task was at an end, and
the cameriera coming toward her, offered the cup of chocolate which she
was accustomed to drink at that hour. Tenderly she besought the unhappy
girl to partake of it, but Isabella waved away the cup, saying:

"Dear friend, offer me no earthly food. I pine for the banquet of
angels. Let the chaplain be called to bring the viaticum. I wish to
receive the last sacraments of the dying."

A cry of horror burst from the lips of the maids of honor.

"The chaplain! The last sacraments! For you, my beloved child?" asked
the sobbing cameriera.

"For me," replied Isabella.

"Heavenly Father!" exclaimed the aja. "Have you then presumed to
anticipate the will of God, and to go before His presence, uncalled?"

"No, no, death will come to me, I will not seek it. I will endure life
as long as God wills, but, in three days, I shall be called hence."

The young girls crowded around her, weeping, and imploring her not to
leave them.

Isabella's white lips parted with a strange smile. "You tell me not to
die, dear friends; do you not see that I am already dead? My heart is
bleeding."

The hand of the cameriera was laid upon her arm, and she whispered: "My
child, be silent; you know not what you say."

Isabella bowed her head, and then looking tenderly around at her
kneeling companions, she said: "Rise and sit by me, my dear girls, and
listen to what I am about to say, for we speak together for the last
time on earth. "

The maidens arose, and obeyed, while Isabella leaned her head for a few
moments upon the bosom of her mother's friend, the cameriera. There was
a pause, during which the poor girl seemed to have received some comfort
in those friendly arms; for she finally sighed, and, raising her head
again, she spoke solemnly, but not unnaturally.

"I had last night a singular vision," she said. "The spirit of my mother
appeared to me, and said that in three days I was to die. I believe in
this vision. Do not weep, dear sisters; I go to eternal rest. Life is
bitter, death is sweet. Pray for me, that my mother's prophetic words be
verified; and you, beloved friend of that mother," added she, kissing
the cameriera's cheek, "you who know the depths of my heart, and its
secret, silent agony, pray for your child, and praying, ask of her
heavenly Father--death."

The aja made no reply, she was weeping with the others.

Isabella contemplated the group for a moment, while a ray of life lit up
her eyes, showing that, even now, it was sad to part from her friends
forever. But the expression was momentary. Her face returned to its
deadly paleness, as gasping for breath, she stammered:
"Now--now--for--my father! Estrella, go to the apartments of the duke,
and say that I desire an interview with his royal highness."

The young girl returned in a few moments with an answer. His royal
highness had that morning gone some distance in the country on a hunting
excursion, and would be absent for several days.

Isabella looked at the cameriera, who still stood beside her, and her
pale lips quivered. "Did I not know it?" whispered she; "I told you
truly, HE did it! God forgive him, I cannot.--And now," continued she,
aloud, "now to my last earthly affairs."

So saying, she called for her caskets of jewels and divided them between
the young maids of honor; and cutting from her hair one rich, massy
lock, she placed it in Estrella's hand, saying, "Share it among you
all."

To the cameriera she gave a sealed packet, and then bade them leave her
to herself; for the ringing of the chapel bell announced the departure
of the priest thence, with the blessed sacrament.

The sacred rites were ended. On her knees the Princess Isabella had made
her confession, and had revealed to the shuddering priest the horrible
secrets of the preceding night. She had received absolution, and had
partaken of the holy communion.

"Now, my child," said the priest, in a voice tremulous with sympathy,
"you have received the blessing of God, and you are prepared for His
coming. May He be merciful to you, and grant your prayer for release
from this earth! I, too, will pray that your martyrdom be short."

"Amen!" softly murmured Isabella.

"But the ways of the Lord are inscrutable, and it may be that He wills
it otherwise. If, in His incomprehensible wisdom, He should declare that
your days shall be long on this earth, promise me to endure your lot
with resignation, nor seek to hasten what He has deemed it best to
delay?"

"I promise, holy father."

"Make a vow, then, to the Lord, that by the memory of your mother you
will fulfil every duty that presents itself to you in life, until God
has spoken the word that will call you to Himself."

"I swear, by the memory of my mother, that I will live a life of
resignation and of usefulness until God in His mercy, shall free me from
my prison."

"Right, dear unhappy child," said the father, smoothing, with his
trembling hands, the soft hair that lay on either side of her forehead.
"May God reward thee, and in His infinite mercy shorten thy sufferings!"

He stooped, and kissing her pale brow, made the sign of the cross above
her kneeling figure. Then, with eyes blinded by tears, he slowly
retreated to his own room, where he threw himself upon his knees and
prayed that God would give strength to them both to bear the cross of
that dreadful secret.

Isabella, too, remained alone. In feverish longing for death, she sat,
neither hearing the voices of her friends who begged for admission, nor
the pleadings of her brother, who besought her to see him and give him
one last embrace. Through the long night that followed, still kneeling,
she prayed. When the sun rose, she murmured, "To-morrow!" and through
the day her fancy wandered to the verge of madness. Sometimes visions of
beckoning angels swarmed around her; then they fled, and in their places
stood a hideous skeleton, that, with ghastly smile, held out his
fleshless hand, and strove to clasp hers.

Again the night set in, and the next morning at break of day, Isabella
rose from her knees, and, hailing the rising sun, cried exultingly,
"To-day!"

Exhausted from fasting and such long vigils, her head reeled, and she
staggered to her couch. A cold shudder crept over her limbs; all was
dark as night about her; she tried to clasp her hands in prayer and
could not, for they were numb and powerless. "This is welcome death!"
thought she, and her lips parted with a happy smile. Her head fell
backward on the pillow, and her senses fled.



CHAPTER XIV.

THE AMBASSADOR EXTRAORDINARY.

The Princess Isabella opened her eyes, and in their dark and lustrous
depths shone returning reason; they glared no more with fever-madness,
but were sadder and sweeter than ever.

She gazed at the forms that surrounded her bedside; at the priest, who,
with folded hands, was praying at her head; at the cameriera, who knelt
beside him; at the young girls, who, gathered in a lovely group at her
feet, smiled and wept by turns as she looked upon them; and lastly, she
felt a kiss upon her hand, and, looking there, she beheld her brother,
who wept with joy.

"Where am I?" asked she, feebly.

"You are with those who love you best, darling," said Fernando,
joyfully. "With us, who have prayed so long, that the good God has heard
and restored you to life."

"I still live, then," said she, sadly. "And how long have I lain here,
friends?"

The priest advanced, and blessing her, took her by the hand. "For four
weeks, daughter, you have been unconscious of every thing that passed
around you. You see, therefore, that your heavenly Father bids you
live."

"Four weeks?" whispered the poor girl. "Then, in three months we shall
meet again."

She closed her eyes, and lay silent for a while. At length, the priest,
bending close to her ear, whispered, "Think, daughter, of the vows,
which, by the memory of your mother, you have made to God!"

"I will remember them," murmured she, sadly.

And from this day she mended, until life and strength were restored to
her even as before. She thought of her vow, and made no resistance to
the will of Heaven; but she hoped for death, and awaited her three
months.

Sustained by these hopes, she recovered. But her heart was wounded past
all cure; gone were her smiles and her songs. Quietly, sadly, and
solemnly glided away the new life to which she had been born through
death.

The first day on which she felt able to leave her room, she sent to
crave an audience of her father. She had been told that, during her
delirium, he had often visited her chamber; but, since her
convalescence, he had not sent so much as an inquiry after her health.

He did not, however, deny the interview she sought. He awaited his
daughter, said the messenger, in his own apartments.

The princess shuddered, and a deadly faintness came over her.

"My God! my God! will I ever be able to go through this bitter hour?
Must I, indeed, look upon him who--"

She closed her eyes to shut out the frightful remembrance. Then,
gathering all her strength for the trial, she rose to seek her father,
and make one last request of him.

With her head thrown proudly back, and her dark eyes flashing with
resolve, she entered his cabinet.

The duke was entirely alone. He had dismissed his attendants, and now
stood in the centre of the room, awaiting his daughter in gloomy
silence. His cold, stern features had grown more repulsive than ever to
the unhappy girl; his piercing eyes more revengeful; his thin, pale lips
more cruel. He seemed to her a pitiless stranger, and she could not
advance to meet him. Powerless and faint, she stood at the door; all her
strength gone.

A few moments of anguish went by, and then the duke, extending his hand,
said, in a tone of command, "Come hither, Isabella."

She stepped forward, and almost touched his hand, when, shuddering, her
arm dropped heavily down, and forgetting all caution, she murmured, in
tones of deepest agony, "I cannot! I cannot!"

The duke's eyes shot fire, as he, too, dropped his extended hand, and
deep, angry folds wrinkled his forehead.

"Why have you desired this interview?" asked he.

"I have a request to prefer, my father," replied Isabella.

He bent his head. "Speak," said he.

"I come to entreat of my father the permission to take the veil."

"And wherefore, I should like to know?" said the duke, carelessly.

"That I may dedicate my few remaining days to the service of the Lord."

"Girlish folly!" said he, with a contemptuous laugh, while he paced up
and down the room.

Isabella made no reply, but stood awaiting a more direct answer to her
petition. Suddenly, he came up to her, and spoke:

"I cannot grant your request," said he. "I have other plans for you. The
grandchild of the King of Spain cannot be permitted to die a penitent in
a cloister; if she has atonement to make for crime, let her make it, not
under the serge of the nun, but under the purple of the empress."

"I have no ambition," said Isabella, trembling. "Allow me, I entreat
you, to enter a convent."

"I repeat that I have other plans for you. I, too, have no ambition for
YOU," said the father, coldly, "but I am ambitious for my house, and
through you I shall attain my end. One of the greatest monarchs of
Europe has sought your hand for the heir of her throne, and I have
resolved that you shall become his wife."

"Fate will refuse it to him--Fate, more merciful than my father. I have
but a few weeks to live--before a month has elapsed, I shall be in my
grave."

"Go there, if it pleases you," cried the duke, "but die with royal robes
about you. You shall not die a nun."

"No one on earth, my father, has a right to detain me. If your highness
refuse your consent. I will fly to a convent without your permission.
And princely though you be, you shall not drag from the altar the bride
of the Lord."

"Ah, you rebel against my authority!" cried the duke, with a look that
sent a deadly pang to the heart of his daughter. "Know, that I have
power to judge you for such treason, and lay your defiant head upon the
block!"

"I do not fear death," replied Isabella; "I await it with impatience."

"Ah! you are possessed with a lovesick desire to die! But hear what I
have to say, and mark it well. I will relate to you an affair that took
place--whilst you were ill. The only son of one of the noblest families
in Parma, the pride of his race, and the idol of his parents, conceived
a plot against my house, whose treason was equal to parricide. I learned
his designs; and with my own eyes and my own ears, I verified his guilt.
He was an archtraitor; he had deserved to die on the scaffold. But I had
pity on his family, and spared them the disgrace of a public execution.
I took his life secretly, and his parents are spared the shame of
knowing how he died. Shall I tell you the name of this dead traitor?"

Isabella raised her hand, and parting her blanched lips, she said
hoarsely, "No no! in mercy, no!"

"Very well, then I proceed. This traitor, whom I judged, and to whom I
deat his death-stab, had an accomplice. Do you listen?"

Like a broken lily, Isabella's head sank down upon her breast.

"Ah! you listen. The accomplice is placed in a position which makes it
inexpedient for me to punish her in her own person. But should she
thwart me, should she not fully and cheerfully comply with my demands
upon her loyalty, I will see that she suffers more than death in the
family of her accomplice. I shall publish the guilt of the dead criminal
to the whole world; I will disgrace and dishonor his whole race, and his
young sister, with her parents, shall be driven penniless from my
realms, to beg or starve in a stranger land."

"Father!" cried the wretched girl, while her every limb quivered with
the torture he inflicted, "I am ready to do your will. I will marry whom
you choose, and so long as God condemns me to earth, I will obey you in
all things. But you shall promise me on your princely honor to shield
from all shame or harm the family of--of--the deceased; to befriend his
sister, and if she should ever wish to marry, to honor and favor her
choice. Promise me this, and as long as I live I submit to your will."

"I promise, on my honor, to do all this, and to forget for their sakes
the crime of their son."

"I promise also, on my sacred honor, to accept the husband you have
chosen for me. But I will not suffer long, for my life is almost spent."

The duke shrugged his shoulders.

"Your highness," continued his daughter, "will inform me on what day I
am to be affianced. I await your commands, and beg your highness's
permission to withdraw to my apartments."

"Have you nothing more to say to your father, Isabella?" asked he in a
faltering voice.

"Nothing more to say to your royal highness." She courtesied deeply,
and, without a glance at her father, left the room.

The duke looked after her with an expression of sorrow. "I have lost her
forever!" said he. "When I struck him, I pierced her heart also. Well,
so let it be! Better a dead child than a dishonored house!"

He then rang a little golden bell, and ordered preparations to be made
for another grand hunt on the morrow.

Isabella accepted her destiny nobly. She resolved to fulfil her promises
strictly; but she hoped that God would be satisfied with the sacrifice,
and release her before the day of her nuptials.

Finally came the day on which, for the third time, she had hoped to die.
She felt a solemn joy steal over her heart, and she desired her maids of
honor to deck her in bridal white. Her dark hair was wreathed with
orange-blossoms, and in her bosom she wore an orange-bud. She was lovely
beyond expression, and her attendants whispered among themselves, though
Isabella neither saw nor heard them. She who awaited death took no heed
of what was going on around her in the palace.

And yet her stake in that palace was great. On the day before the
embassy had arrived, which was to change her fate, and open to her a new
life at the court of the Austrian empress.

The duke had received his guests with royal courtesy. But he had
besought the count to postpone his interview with the princess until the
morrow; for with cruel mockery of his child's sorrow, Philip of Parma
had contrived that the day on which she had hoped to meet her dead
lover, should be the day of her betrothal to the Archduke of Austria.

Isabella was the only person in the palace who had not heard of the
arrival. She had withdrawn into her private cabinet, and there she
counted every pulsation of her heart. She dared not hope to die a
natural death; she was looking forward to some accident that was to
release her from life; something direct from the hand of God she thought
would, on that day, make good the prophecy of her lover.

She hoped, watched, prayed. She was startled from her solitude by a
knocking at the door, and her father's voice called for admission.

The princess, obedient to her promise, rose and opened the door. Her
father surveyed her with a smile of derision. "You have done well," said
he, "to deck yourself as a bride; not as the bride of Death, but as the
affianced wife of the LIVING lover who will one day make you empress of
Austria. His ambassador awaits us now in the great hall of state. Follow
me into the next room, where your maids of honor are assembled to attend
you. Mark me, Isabella! When we arrive in the hall, the ambassador will
advance, and in terms befitting the honor conferred, he will request
your acceptance of the archduke's hand. I leave it to your tact and
discretion to answer him as becomes the princess of a great and royal
house."

"And will your highness perform your promise to ME?" asked Isabella
calmly. "Shall his parents live secure in possession of their noble name
and estates; and shall his sister be the special object of your
highness's protection and favor?"

"I will do all this, provided you give me satisfaction as relates to
your marriage."

Isabella bowed. "Then I am ready to accompany your royal highness to the
hall of state, and to accept with courtesy the offer of the Austrian
ambassador."

Forth went the beautiful martyr and her train through the gorgeous
apartments of the palace, until they reached the hall of the throne.

In the centre of the hall the duke left his daughter and her attendants,
while he mounted the throne and took his seat upon the ducal chair.

And now advanced Count Bathiany. With all the fervor which her matchless
beauty inspired, he begged of the princess her fair hand for his future
sovereign the Archduke of Austria. As the count ceased, every eye turned
toward the infanta. She had listened with calm dignity to the words of
the ambassador, and her large, melancholy eyes had been riveted upon his
face while he delivered his errand. There was a pause--a few moments
were needed by that broken heart to hush its moanings, and bare itself
for the sacrifice. The brow of the duke darkened, and he was about to
interpose, when he saw his daughter bow her head. Then she spoke, and
every one bent forward to listen to the silvery tones of her voice.

"I feel deeply honored," said she, "by the preference of her imperial
majesty of Austria; an alliance with her eldest son is above my deserts;
but since it is their desire, I accept the great honor conferred upon
me. I regret, however, that their majesties should have directed their
choice toward me; for I am convinced that I shall not live long enough
to fulfil the destiny to which this marriage calls me." [Footnote: The
infanta's own words; as veritably historical as is this whole relation
of her death-prophecy and its unhappy fulfilment. See Wraxall, "Memoirs
of the Courts," etc., and Caroline Pichler.]

When at last the ceremonies of this day of agony were ended; when the
infanta had dismissed her ladies of honor, and was once more
alone--alone with God and with the past, she threw herself upon her
couch, and, with her hands meekly folded across her breast, she lay,
looking up, far beyond the palace dome to heaven.

There she prayed until midnight, and when the clock had told the hour,
she arose to the new life that awaited her, with its new promises, new
expectations, new ties--but no new hopes.

"Heavenly Father," exclaimed she, "it has begun, and I will bear it to
the bitter end! I am now the betrothed, and soon will be the wife of
another. If I have sinned in my consent to marry one whom I can never
love, pardon me, O Lord! and hear me vow that I will faithfully fulfil
my duty toward him. I am the affianced of another! Farewell, my beloved,
farewell, FOR THREE LONG YEARS!"



CHAPTER XV.

THE DREAM OF LOVE.

The wedding-festival was over, and Vienna was resting from the fatigue
of the brilliant entertainments by which the marriage of the archduke
had been followed, both in court and city. And indeed the rejoicings had
been conducted with imperial magnificence. For eight days, the people of
Vienna, without respect of rank, had been admitted to the palace, to
witness the court festivities; while in the city and at Schonbrunn,
nightly balls were given at the expense of the empress, where the happy
Viennese danced and feasted to their hearts' content.

They had returned the bounty of their sovereign by erecting triumphal
arches, strewing the ground with flowers, and rending the air with
shouts, whenever the young archduchess had appeared in the streets.

The great maestro Gluck had composed an opera for the occasion; and
when, on the night of its representation, the empress made her
appearance in the imperial loge, followed by the archduke and his bride,
the enthusiasm of the people was so great that Gluck waited a quarter of
an hour, baton in hand, before he could begin his overture.

But now the jubilee was over, the shouts were hushed, the people had
returned to their accustomed routine of life, and the exchequer of the
empress was minus--one million of florins.

The court had withdrawn to the palace of Schonbrunn, there to enjoy in
privacy the last golden days of autumn, as well as to afford to the
newly-married pair a taste of that retirement so congenial to lovers.

Maria Theresa, always munificent, had devoted one wing of the palace to
the exclusive use of her young daughter-in-law; and her apartments were
fitted up with the last degree of splendor. Elegant mirrors, buhl and
gilded furniture, costly turkey carpets and exquisite paintings adorned
this princely home; and as the princess was known to be skilled both as
a painter and musician, one room was fitted up for her as a studio, and
another as a music-hall.

From the music-room, a glass door led to a balcony filled with rare and
beautiful flowers. This balcony overlooked the park, and beyond was seen
the city, made lovely by the soft gray veil of distance, which lends
such beauty to a landscape.

On this perfumed balcony sat the youthful pair. Isabella reclined in an
arm-chair; and at her feet on a low ottoman sat Joseph, looking up into
her face, his eyes beaming with happiness. It was a lovely sight--that
of these two young creatures, who, in the sweet, still evening, sat
together, unveiling to one another the secrets of two blameless hearts,
and forgetting rank, station, and the world, were tasting the pure joys
of happily wedded love.

The evening breeze whispered Nature's soft low greeting to them both;
and through the myrtle-branches that, hanging over the balcony,
clustered around Isabella's head, the setting sun flung showers of gold
that lit up her face with the glory of an angel. Bright as an angel
seemed she to her husband, who, sitting at her feet, gazed enraptured
upon her. How graceful he thought the contour of her oval face; how rich
the scarlet of her lovely mouth; what noble thoughts were written on her
pale and lofty brow, and how glossy were the masses of her raven black
hair! And those wondrous eyes! Dark and light, lustrous and dim, at one
moment they flashed with intellect, at another they glistened with
unshed tears. Her form, too, was slender and graceful, for Nature had
denied her nothing; and the charm of her appearance (above all, to an
eve weary of splendor) was made complete by the vapory muslin dress that
fell around her perfect figure like a silver-white cloud. The only
ornament that flecked its snow was a bunch of pink roses, which the
archduke with his own hand had culled for his wife that morning. She
wore them in her bosom, and they were the crowning beauty of that
simple, elegant dress.

Isabella's head rested amongst the myrtle-branches; her eyes were fixed
upon the heavens, with a look of ineffable sadness, and gradually the
smile had died from her lips. Her countenance contrasted singularly with
that of the archduke. Since his marriage, he had grown handsomer than
ever; and from his bright expressive face beamed the silent eloquence of
a young and joyful existence.

In his joy he did not see the painful shadows that were darkening his
wife's pale beauty. For a while, a deep stillness was about them.
Flooded by the gold of the setting sun, lay the park at their feet;
farther off glimmered the domes of St. Stephen at Vienna, and faint over
the evening air came the soothing tones of the vesper-bell.

"How beautiful is the world!" said Joseph, at length; and, at the sound
of his voice, suddenly breaking the stillness that had been so congenial
to her reveries, Isabella started. A slight shiver ran through her
frame, and her eyes unwillingly came back to earth. He did not see it.
"Oh, how lovely is life, my Isabella, now that the music of thy heart
replies to mine! Never has earth seemed to me so full of beauty, as it
does now that I call thee wife."

Isabella laid her soft hand upon her husband's head, and looked at him
for a while. At length she stifled a sigh, and said, "Are you then
happy, my husband?"

He drew down the little hand that was resting on his blonde curls and
kissed it fervently. "A boon, my beloved. When we are alone, let us
banish Spanish formality from our intercourse. Be the future empress
before the world, but to me be my wife, and call me 'thou.'"

"I will," replied she, blushing. "And I repeat my question, art thou
happy, my husband?"

"I will tell thee, dearest. There seems within me such a flood of melody
seeking voice, that sometimes, for very ecstasy, I feel as if I must
shout aloud all the pent-up joy that other men have frittered away from
boyhood, and I have garnered up for this hour. Again I feel intoxicated
with happiness, and fear that I am dreaming. I tremble lest some rude
hand awake me, and I look around for proof of my sober, waking bliss. I
find it, and then breaks forth my soul in hosannas to God. And when,
mingling among men, I see a face that looks sad or pale, I feel such
sympathy for him who is less happy than I, that I make vows, when I am
emperor, to heal all sorrow, and wipe away all tears. Then come great
and noble aspirations, and I long to give back to my people the
blessings with which they greeted thee, my own Isabella. This is not one
feeling, but the meeting of many. Is it happiness, dearest?"

"I cannot tell," replied she; "for happiness is a thing so heavenly in
its nature, that one hardly dares to give it a name, lest it take
flight, and soar back to its home above the skies. Let us not press it
too closely, lest we seek it and it be gone."

"We shall do as it pleases thee," said Joseph, snatching her two hands,
and pressing them to his heart. "I know that when thou art by, Happiness
is here, and she cannot go back to heaven, unless she take thee too."
And again he looked at his wife, as if he would fair have blended their
dual being into one.

"I wish to make thee a confession, Isabel," resumed he. "It is a great
crime, dearest, but thou wilt give me absolution, I know. As I look
back, I can scarce believe it myself, but--hear. When the empress gave
me thy miniature, beautiful though it was, I gave my consent to marry,
but my heart was untouched. When Count Bathiany departed on his mission,
I prayed that every obstacle might encumber his advance: and oh, my
beloved! when I heard that thou wert coming, I almost wished thee buried
under Alpine avalanches. When I was told of thy arrival, I longed to fly
away from Vienna, from rank and royalty, to some far country, some
secluded spot, where no reasons of state policy would force me to give
my hand to an unknown bride. Was I not a barbarian, sweetest, was I not
an arch-traitor?"

"No, thou wert only a boy-prince, writhing under the heavy load of thy
royalty."

"No, I was a criminal; but oh, how I have expiated my sin! When I saw
thee my heart leaped into life; and now it trembles lest thou love not
me! But thou wilt love me, wilt thou not? thou who hast made me so happy
that I wish I had a hundred hearts; for one is not enough to contain the
love I feel for thee!" [Footnote: These are his own words. Caroccioli
"Life of Joseph II."]

Isabella was gazing at him with a melancholy smile. "Dreamer!" said she,
in a low trembling tone, that sounded to Joseph like heavenly music--"
dreamer! the heart that through God's goodness is filled with love is of
itself supernaturally magnified; for love is a revelation from heaven."

"Sweet priestess of love! how truly thou art the interpreter of our
passion! For it is OURS, my Isabella, is it not? It is our love of which
we speak, not mine alone. I have confessed to thee; now do the same by
me. Tell me, my wife, didst thou hate the man to whom thy passive hand
was given, without one thought of thee or of thy heart's predilections?"

How little he guessed the torture he inflicted! He looked into her eyes
with such trusting faith, with such calm security of happiness, that her
sweet face beamed with tender pity, while her cheeks deepened into
scarlet blushes, as she listened to his passionate declarations of love.
Poor Isabella!

"No," said she, "no, I never hated thee, Joseph. I had already heard
enough to feel esteem for my future husband; and, therefore, I did not
hate, I pitied him."

"Pity him, my own, and wherefore?"

"Because without consulting HIS heart, he was affianced to an unknown
girl, unworthy to be the partner of his brilliant destiny. Poor Isabella
of Parma was never made to be an empress, Joseph."

"She was, she was! She is fit to be empress of the world, for all
poetry, all goodness, all intellect and beauty look out from the depths
of her lustrous eyes. Oh, look upon me, star of my life, and promise to
guide me ever with thy holy light!"

So saying, he took her in his arms, and pressed her to his tender, manly
heart.

"Promise me, beloved;" whispered he, "promise never to leave me."

"I promise," said the pale wife, "never to forsake thee, until God calls
me hence to--"

"Oh!" interrupted Joseph, "may that hour never strike till I be in
heaven to receive thee; for love is selfish, Isabella, and my daily
prayer is now, that thy dear hand may close my eyes."

"God will not hear that prayer, Joseph," replied Isabella; and as she
spoke, her head sank upon his shoulder, and her long hair fell from its
fastening, and, like a heavy mourning-veil, shrouded them both. Her
husband held her close to his heart, and as he kissed her, she felt his
tears drop upon her cheek.

"I do not know," said he, "why it is, but I feel sometimes as if a
tempest were gathering above my head. And yet, the heavens are
cloudless, the sun has set; and see, the moon rises, looking in her pale
beauty, even as thou dost, my love. She has borrowed loveliness from
thee to-night, for, surely, she was never so fair before. But all seems
lovely when thou art near, and, I think, that, perchance--thou lovest
me. Tell me, Isabella, tell me, dearest, that thou dost love me."

She raised her head, and met his passionate gaze with a look so sad that
his heart grew cold with apprehension. Then her eyes turned heavenward,
and her lips moved. He knew that she was praying. But why, at such a
moment?

"Tell me the truth!" cried he, vehemently--"tell me the truth!"

"I cannot answer thee in words," murmured Isabella, "but thou shalt have
music--love's own interpreter. Come, let us go into the music-room."

And, light as a fairy, she tripped before, opening herself the door,
though he strove to prevent her.

"No, this is MY temple, and my hands unclose the doors," said she, once
more self-possessed.

Her husband followed her, enchanted. She looked around at the various
instruments, and struck a few chords on the piano.

"No. This is too earthly. My own favorite instrument shall speak for
me."

So saying, she opened a case that lay on the table, and took from it a
violin.

"This," said she to her husband, "is the violin that came with me from
Italy."

"How, Isabella," exclaimed he, "dost thou play on my favorite
instrument?"

"The violin, to me, is dear above all instruments," replied she; "it
alone has tones that respond to those of the human heart." [Footnote:
The infanta, who played on several instruments, excelled on the violin.
Wraxall, vol. ii., page 390.]

With indescribable grace she raised the violin to her shoulder, and
began to play. At first her chords were light and airy as the sounds
from an AEolian harp; then the melody swelled until it broke into a gush
of harmony that vibrated through every chord of the archduke's beating
heart. As he stood breathless and entranced, she seemed to him like that
picture by Fiesole, of the angel that comforts the dying. This
picture had always been, above all others, the archduke's favorite, and
now it stood embodied before him, a living, breathing divinity.

The music died away to his ear, though still she played; but now it
seemed to stream from her eyes that shone like luminous stars, and flow
from her softly moving lips, that whispered to the spirits which now
low, now loud, laughed, sighed, or sobbed out their responses from the
magic violin.

Isabella was no longer a woman and his wife. She was a glorified spirit;
and now he trembled lest his angel should vanish, and leave him nothing
but the memory of a heavenly vision. His eyes filled with tears; a
convulsive sigh broke from his breast, and, burying his face in his
hands, he sank down upon the sofa.

A light shudder ran through Isabella's frame; her eyes, which had
wandered far, far beyond the portals that shut us out from heaven,
looked wildly around. Her husband's sigh had awakened her from a
blissful dream, and once more her weary heart sank desolate to the
earth. But with an expression of tenderest pity she turned toward him
and smiled. Then her music changed; it pealed out in rich harmony, fit
for mortal ears. She saw her complete mastery over the archduke's soul;
his eyes grew bright and joyful once more, and from his countenance
beamed the light of perfect contentment.

"Our epithalamium!" exclaimed he, overjoyed, and no longer able to
control his exultation, he darted from his seat, and clasped the dear
musician in his arms.

"I thank thee, my Isabella," said he, with a voice that trembled with
excess of happiness. "Yes, this is the voice of love; thou hast answered
me with our wedding-song. In this melody is drowned every bitter
remembrance of my life; the discords of the past have melted into
richest harmony--for thou returnest my love. A thousand times I thank
thee; this hour is sacred to me forever.

"Thou hast said that thou lovest me," continued the happy husband, "and
now I feel the power and strength of a god. I am ready for the battle of
life."

"But I think that I saw the god weep. Poor mortal friend, gods shed no
tears--tears are the baptism of humanity."

"Oh, gods must weep for joy, Isabella, else they could not feel its
perfection!"

"May Heaven grant that thou weep no other tears!" said the wife,
solemnly. "But hear," continued she, raising her little hand, "the
palace clock strikes eight, and we promised her majesty to spend this
evening with the imperial family circle. We must be punctual, and I have
scarcely time to dress."

"Why, wilt thou change that sweet simple dress? Art thou not always the
pride of the court? Come--thy muslin and roses will shame all the silk
and jewels of my sisters. Come!"

She laid her hand gently upon the arm that drew her forward, and
courtesied before him with mock ceremony.

"My lord and husband," said she, laughing, "although your imperial
highness has banished Madame Etiquette from our balcony, remember that
she stands grimly awaiting us by yonder door, and we must take her with
us into the presence of our august empress. Madame Etiquette would never
permit me to pass in this simple dress. She would order me indignantly
from her sight, and your highness also. Go, therefore, and don your
richest Spanish habit. In fifteen minutes I await your highness here."

She made another deep courtesy. The archduke, taking up the jest,
approached her, and, kissing her hand, replied:

"I obey your imperial highness, as your loyal husband and loving
subject. I shall deck myself with stars and orders; and in princely
splendor I shall return, as becomes the spouse of the archduchess of
Austria. Your highness's obedient servant."

And in true Spanish fashion, he bent his knee and kissed the hem of her
robe. Backing out of her presence he bowed again as he reached the door,
but catching her laughing eyes, he suddenly dashed right over Madame
Etiquette, and catching his wife in his arms, he gave her a last and a
right burgher-like kiss. The archduke was very happy, and the
archduchess--well! One day God will reward her!

As the door closed, the expression of her face changed. The smile died
from her lips, and her eyes were dim with tears.

"Poor boy!" murmured she, "he loves me, and I--I suffer him to believe
that I return his love, while--But I am right," said the devoted girl,
and she clasped her hands convulsively together.

"O my Saviour!" cried she "in mercy give me grace while I live, to be
true to the vows, that before thine altar, I have sworn to the Archduke
of Austria! It were cruel in me to wound his noble heart--cruel to awake
him from his dream of love! Let him at least be happy while I live; and
Lord give me strength that I faint not under my burden!"



CHAPTER XVI.

GLUCK.

The sun had risen, flooding the earth with light, and the people of
Vienna had already begun their labors for the day. But the curtains had
not yet been drawn from a richly-furnished room, whose walls were lined
with books; and in whose centre stood a table covered with papers,
whereon the lights, not yet extinguished, were dropping their waxen
tears from two lofty silver candelabra. At this table sat a man, looking
earnestly at a paper covered with notes of music. He had sat there the
whole night long, and his countenance gave no indication of the
exhaustion that follows upon night-watching. His large, dark, gray eyes
flashed whenever he raised his head thoughtfully, as he frequently did;
and when music was born of his thoughts, a smile illuminated his
otherwise plain face, and a wonderful light played about his magnificent
forehead; the glory of that genius which had made it her dwelling-place.

The form of this man was as striking as his face. Tall and commanding in
stature, his wide shoulders seemed proudly to bear the weight of the
head that towered above them, and in his lofty bearing there was a
dignitv that betokened either rank or genius.

He had both; for this man was Christopher von Gluck, son of a huntsman
of Prince Eugene, who was born in 1714 in the village of Weidenwang.

This son of the poor huntsman was known throughout all Europe; and in
Italy, the nobles in their palaces and the people on the streets sang
the melodies of Phedra, Antigone, Semiramide, and Telemacco. In Germany
he was less known; and in Vienna alone, was he truly appreciated.

There he sat, unconscious of the daylight. On a chair at his side lay a
violin and a flute; near them, a violoncello leaned against the wall and
within reach of his hand stood one of those upright pianos just then
coming into fashion.

At one moment he wrote rapidly, at another he hummed a melody; again,
half declaiming, half singing, he read off a recitative; and then bent
over and wrote with all his might. The light began to smoke, and the wax
dropped over his music, but he saw none of it; neither saw he the
daylight that had replaced his candles. He was so absorbed in his work
as not to hear a knock at his door.

But now the knock was repeated; and this time so distinctly that it
waked him from his dream of harmony, and he frowned. He rose, and
striding to the door, withdrew the bolt.

The door opened, and a tall, elegant woman, in a tasteful morning-dress
came in. Her fine, regular features were disturbed, and her eyes were
red with weeping or watching. When she saw Gluck looking so fresh and
vigorous, she smiled, and said, "Heaven be praised, you are alive and
well! I have passed a night of anxious terror on your account."

"And why, Marianne?" asked he, his brow unbent, and his face beaming
with tenderness; for Gluck idolized his beautiful wife.

She looked at his quiet, inquiring face, and broke into a merry laugh.

"Oh, the barbarian," cried she, "not to know of what he has been guilty
of! Why, Christopher, look at those burnt-out wax lights--look at the
daylight wondering at you through your curtains. Last night, at ten
o'clock, I lit these candles, and you promised to work for only two
hours more. Look at them now, and see what you have been doing."

"Indeed, I do believe that I have been here all night," said Gluck, with
naive astonishment. "But I assure you, Marianne, that I fully intended
to go to bed at the end of two hours. Is it my fault if the night has
seemed so short? Twelve hours since we parted? Can it be?"

He went to the window and drew the curtains. "Day!" cried he, "and the
sun so bright!" He looked out with a smile; but suddenly his brow grew
thoughtful, and he said in a low voice:

"Oh, may the light of day shine upon me also!"

His wife laid her hand upon his arm. "And upon whom falls the light of
day, if not upon you?" asked she, reproachfully. "Look back upon your
twenty operas, and see each one bearing its laurel-wreath, and shouting
to the world your fame! And now look into the future, and see their
unborn sisters, whose lips one day will open to the harmony of your
music, and will teach all nations to love your memory! And I,
Christopher, I believe more in your future than in your past successes.
If I did not, think you that I would indulge you as I do in your
artistic eccentricities, and sit like a lovelorn maiden outside of this
door, my ear strained to listen for your breathing--dreading lest some
sudden stroke should have quenched the light of that genius which you
overtask--yet daring not to ask entrance, lest my presence should
affright your other loves, the Muses? Yes, my dear husband, I have faith
in the power of your genius; and for you this glorious sun has risen
to-day. Chase those clouds from the heaven of your brow. They are
ill-timed."

In the height of her enthusiasm she twined her arms around his neck, and
rested her head upon Gluck's bosom.

He bent down and kissed her forehead. "Then, my wife has faith, not in
what I have done, but in what I can do? Is it so, love?"

"It is, Christopher. I believe in the power of your genius."

Gluck's face wore an expression of triumph as she said this, and he
smiled. His smile was very beautiful, and ever, when she saw it, his
wife felt a thrill of happiness. Never had it seemed to her so full of
heavenly inspiration.

"Since such is your faith in me, my Egeria, you will then have courage
to hear what I have to tell. Tear away the laurel-wreaths from my past
works, Marianne--burn them to ashes. They are dust and to dust they will
surely return. Their mirth and their melody, their pomp and their
pathos, are all lies. They are not the true children of
inspiration--they are impostors. They are the offspring of our affected
and falsely sentimental times, and deserve not immortality. Away with
them! A new day shall begin for me, or I shall hide my head in bitter
solitude, despising my race, who applaud the juggler, and turn away in
coldness from the veritable artiste."

"What!" exclaimed Marianne, "those far-famed operas that delight the
world--are they nothing more than clever deceptions?"

"Nothing more," cried Gluck. "They did not gush from the holy fount of
inspiration; they were composed and arranged to suit the taste of the
public and the dexterity of the singers, who, if they trill and juggle
with their voices, think that they have reached the summit of musical
perfection. But this must no longer be. I have written for time, I shall
now work for immortality. Let me interpret what the angels have
whispered, and then you shall hear a language which nothing but music
can translate. What are the lame efforts of speech by the side of its
thrilling tones? Music is a divine revelation, but men have not yet
received it in their hearts. I have been made its messenger, and I shall
speak the message faithfully."

"Ah, Christopher," interposed Marianne, "I fear you will find no
followers. If the message be too lofty for the hearers, the messenger
will be driven away in disgrace."

"Hear the coward!" cried Gluck vehemently; "see the woman's nature
shrinking from the path of honor because it is beset with danger. I did
well not to let you know the nature of my last labors, for with your
sighs and croakings you would have turned me back again into the highway
of falsehood. But you are too late, poltroon. The work is done, and it
shall see light." Gluck looked at his wife's face, and the expression he
saw there made him pause. He was already sorry, and ready to atone. "No,
no! I wrong you, my Egeria: not only are you the wife of my love, but
the friend of my genius. Come, dearest, let us brave the world together;
and even if that fail us, let us never doubt the might of truth and the
glory of its interpreters."

So saying, Gluck reached out his hands; and his wife, with a trusting
smile laid both hers upon them. "How can you doubt me, Christopher?"
asked she. "Look back into the past, to the days of our courtship, and
say then who was faint-hearted, and who then declared that his little
weight of grief was too heavy for those broad shoulders to bear."

"I! I!" confessed Gluck; "but I was in love, and a man in love is always
a craven."

"And I suppose," laughed Marianne, "that I was not in love, which will
account for my energy and patience on that occasion. To think that my
rich father thought me too good for Gluck!--Heaven forgive me but I
could not mourn him as I might have done, had his death not left me free
to marry you, you ill-natured giant. Yes! and now that twelve years have
gone by, I love you twice as well as I did; and God, who knew there was
no room in my heart for other loves, has given me no children, for I
long for none. You are to me husband, lover, friend, and--you need not
shake your head, sir--you are child, too. Then why have you kept your
secrets from me--tell me, traitor, why?"

"Not because you were faint-hearted, my beloved," said Gluck with
emotion; "my violent temper wronged us both, when it provoked me to
utter a word so false. But genius must labor in secret and in silence;
its works are like those enchanted treasures of which we have
read--speak of their existence, and lo! they are ashes, Sometimes genius
holds an enchanted treasure before the eyes of the artiste, who in holy
meditation must earn it for himself. One word spoken breaketh the spell,
and therefore it was, Marianne, that I spoke not the word. But the
treasure is mine; I have earned it, and at my wife's feet I lay it,
perchance that she may stand by my side, while the world rejects it as
worthless, and heaps obloquy upon my head."

"His will be a bold hand that casts the first stone at the giant!" said
Marianne, looking proudly upon the tall and stalwart figure of her
husband.

"You call me giant, and that recalls to me a fact which bears upon the
subject of our conversation now," said Gluck, with a laugh. "It was the
fall of my 'Giant' that first showed me the precipice toward which I, my
works, and all my musical predecessors, were hastening."

"You mean your 'Cuduta de Giganti,' which you tried to exhibit before
those icy English people?"

"Do not speak against the English, Marianne; they are a good, upright
nation. It is not their fault if they are better versed in bookkeeping
than in music; and I do not know that they are far wrong when they
prefer the chink of gold to the strumming and piping which, until now,
the world, turning up the whites of its eyes, has called music. I, who
had been piping and strumming with the rest, suddenly rushed out of the
throng, and thrusting my masterpiece in their faces, told them that it
was music. Was it their fault if they turned their backs and would not
believe me? I think not."

"Oh I you need not excuse the English, Christopher. I know the history
of the 'Cuduta de Giganti,' although Master Gluck has never told it me.
I know that the young artist met with no favor at English hands; and I
know that because his works were not a lame repetition of Italian music
and water, the discerning Londoners voted it worthless. I know, too,
that Master Gluck, in his distress, took counsel with the great Handel,
and besought him to point out the opera's defects. Then said Handel--"

"How, dear prattler, you know what Handel said?"

"I do, Master Gluck. Handel said: 'You have given yourself too much
trouble, man. To please the English public you must make a great noise.
Give them plenty of brass and sheep-skin.'"

"So he did," cried Gluck, convulsed with laughter. "I followed his
advice. I sprinkled the choruses with trumpet and drum, and the second
time the opera came out it was a complete success."

Marianne joined in the mirth of her husband.

"But now, if all this is true, why do you like the English?"

"Because my failure in England taught me the utter worthlessness of our
present school of music, and inspired me with the desire to reform it."

He drew her arm within his, and seated her on the divan by his side.



CHAPTER XVII.

THE NEW OPERA.

"Now, Marianne," said he, putting his arm around her waist, "hear the
secret history of my musical career. I will tell you of the misfortunes
which my genius has encountered through life. I begin with England. It
is of no use to go back to the privations of my boyhood, though they
were many; for hunger and thirst are the tribute that man must pay to
fate for the capital which genius gives to him, and which he must
increase with all his might and all his strength. Even as a boy I craved
less for bread than for fame; and I consecrated my life and soul to art.
I thought that I was in the right way, for I had written eight operas,
which the Italians lauded to the skies. But the 'Caduta de Giganti' was
a failure, and 'Artamene' likewise. This double fiasco enraged me (you
know my bad temper, Marianne). I could not bear to be so misconceived. I
was determined to show the English that, in spite of them, I was an
artiste. I longed to bring them to my feet, as Jupiter did the Titans.
So I ordered from one of those poetasters to be found in every land, a
sort of libretto called, in theatrical parlance, a lyric drama; and to
the words of this monstrosity I arranged the very finest airs of my
several operas. When I had completed this musical kaleidoscope I called
it 'Pyramus and Thisbe.' I dished up my olla podrida, and set it before
the hungry English; but they did not relish it. The public remained
cold, and, what was far worse, I remained cold myself. I thought over
this singular result, and wondered how it was that music which, as a
part of the operas for which it was written, had seemed so full of soul,
now faded into insipidity when transplanted to the soil of other
dramatic situations. I found the answer in the question. It was because
I had transplanted my music from its native soil, that its beauty had
flown. Then it burst upon my mind that the libretto is the father of the
opera, the music its mother; and so, if the father be not strong and
lusty, the mother will bring forth a sickly offspring, which offspring
cannot grow up to perfection. Now, my operas are sickly, for they are
the children of an unsound father, who is no true poet."

"Still, still, rash man!" whispered Marianne, looking around as though
she feared listeners. "Do you forget that the father of your operas is
Metastasio?"

"I remember it too well; for many of my works have perished from their
union with his weak and sentimental verses. Perished, in MY estimation,
I mean; for to make my operas passable, I have often been obliged to
write fiery music to insipid words; and introduce fioritures out of
place, that the nightingales might compensate to the world for the
shortcomings of the poet. Well, my heart has bled while I wrote such
music, and I prayed to God to send me a true poet--one who could write
of something else besides love; one, who could rise to the height of my
own inspiration, and who could develop a genuine lyric drama, with
characters, not personages, and a plot whose interest should increase
unto its end."

"And have you found him?" asked Marianne, with a meaning smile. "I have.
It is-"

"Calzabigi," interrupted she.

"How!" cried the fiery Gluck, "after promising secrecy, has he been
unable to curb his tongue?"

"Nonsense, Christopher! he has not said a word to me. I guessed this
long ago."

"And how comes it that you never hinted a word of it to ME?"

"I waited for the hour when you deemed it best to speak, my love; for I
fully comprehend the reasons for your silence. I waited therefore until
Minerva should come forth, full armed, to challenge Jove's opponents to
the strife. Meanwhile I had faith in God and thee, Christopher, and I
prayed for Heaven's blessing on thy genius."

"Heaven will hear thy prayer, my better self," cried Gluck, drawing his
wife close to his heart. "Oh, how happy I feel to be permitted to speak
with thee of my past labors! How gladly shall I listen to thy criticisms
or thy approval! both, more to me than those of all the world beside.
Come, Marianne, I will begin now."

He sprang up from the divan, and would have hurried to the piano, but
Marianne held him back. "Maestro," said she, "before we sacrifice to
Apollo, let us give to life and mortality their rights. Prose awaits us
in the dining-room, and we shall give her audience before we open the
pages of this nameless opera."

"You shall hear its name, Marianne. It is--"

Marianne put her arms around his neck, and whispered, "Hush, my Orpheus!"

"How! You know that also?"

She raised her hand, as if in menace. "Know, Christopher, that little
Hymen tolerates no man who has secrets from his wife. You tried to be
silent, but betrayed yourself in your sleep. You do not know how often
during the night you have called Eurydice in tones of plaintive music.
Nor do you know how, as you appealed to the deities of the infernal
regions, I shuddered at the power of your weird notes!"

"You heard, then," cried Cluck, enchanted. "And you--"

"My friend Prose, Prose calls with angry voice. Away to the dining-room!
A man who has revelled all night with the Muses, needs refreshment in
the morning. Nay--you need not frown like Jupiter Tonans--you must go
with me to eat earthly food, before I taste your nectar and ambrosia.
Come, and to reward your industry you shall have a glass of Lacrimae
Christi from the cellar of the Duke of Bologna."

She drew him from the room, and succeeded in landing him at the
breakfast-table.

"Now, I will not hear a word about art," said Marianne, when the
servants had brought in the breakfast. "I am the physician, both of body
and mind, and condemn you to a silence of fifteen minutes. Then you may
talk."

"Of my opera, carissima?"

"Heaven forbid! of the wind and weather--nothing else. Now hush, and
drink your chocolate."

So Gluck, obedient, drank his chocolate, and ate his biscuit and
partridge-wing in silence.

All at once, the comfortable stillness was broken by a loud ringing of
the door-bell, and a servant announced Signor Calzabigi.

Gluck darted off from the table, but Marianne, laughing, brought him
back again. "First, your glass of Lacrimae Christi," said she.
"Calzabigi will be indulgent and wait for us a moment."

He took the glass, and inclining his head, drank her health.

"Marianne," said he cheerfully, "I have been amiable and tractable as a
good child. Enough of Prose, then--give me my freedom now, will you?"

"Yes, maestro; you are free; your body is refreshed, and can bear the
weight of that strong soul that has no infirmities to impede its flight.
Fly, if you list--to Calzabigi!"



CHAPTER XVIII.

RANIER VON CALZABIGI.

The door of the drawing-room bad scarcely opened before Calzabigi
hastened forward to meet Gluck. But, seeing his wife, he stopped, and
made a profound inclination.

"Speak out, friend," cried Gluck merrily. "She knows every thing, and
think what a treasure of a wife she is! She has known it all along,
without betraying herself by a word."

"And does that surprise you?" answered Calzabigi, "It does not me, for
well I know that the signora is an angel of prudence as well as of
goodness. The signora will allow me to speak before her? Well, then,
maestro, the die is cast. I am just from the house of Count Durazzo, to
whom, at your request, I took the opera yesterday. The count sat up all
night to examine it; and this morning, when I was ushered into his room,
I found him still in his evening-dress, the score on the table before
him."

"Hear, Marianne," exclaimed Gluck, triumphantly, "it is not only the
composer who forgets to sleep for the sake of this opera. And what said
the theatrical director, Raniero?"

"He said that no intrigue and no opposition should prevent him from
representing this magnificent opera. He says that he feels proud of the
privilege of introducing such a chef-d'oeuvre to the world. He has
already sent for the transcribers; he has chosen the performers, and
begs of the author to distribute the parts. But every thing must be done
at once, for the opera comes out in October to celebrate the birthday of
the young Archduchess Isabella."

"That is impossible," cried Gluck. "We are in July, and such an opera
cannot be learned in three months."

"With good-will, it can be done, Christopher," said Marianne,
imploringly. "Do not leave your enemies time to cabal against you;
snatch the victory from them before they have time for strategy."

"You do not know what you require at my hands," returned he,
passionately. "You do not know how an ill-timed pause or a slighted rest
would mar the fair face of my godlike music, and travesty its beauty."

"Hear how he defames himself!" laughed Marianne, "as if it were so easy
to desecrate Gluck's masterpiece."

"It is precisely because it is my masterpiece that it is easy to
travesty," returned Gluck, earnestly. "The lines which distinguish the
hand of a Raphael from that of a lesser genius are so delicate as to be
almost imperceptible. Slight deviations of the pencil have no effect
upon a caricature; but you well know how completely a beautiful face
maybe disfigured by a few unskilful touches. I will cite as an example
the aria of 'Orpheus,' 'Che faro senza Euridice' Change its expression
by the smallest discrepancy of time or modulation, and you transform it
into a tune for a puppet-show. In music of this description a misplaced
piano or forte, an ill-judged fioriture, an error of movement, either
one, will alter the effect of the whole scene. The opera must,
therefore, be rehearsed under my own direction, for the composer is the
soul of his opera, and his presence is as necessary to its success as is
that of the sun to the creation." [Footnote: These are Gluck's own
words. Anton Schmid, "Life of Gluck," page 152.]

"Well, I am sure, you can manage the whole troupe with that stentor
voice of yours," replied Marianne.

"If you do not consent, Gluck," interposed Calzabigi, "they will have to
rehearse for the birthday fete an opera of Hasse and Metastasio."

"What!" shrieked Gluck, "lay aside my 'Orpheus' for one of Hasse's puny
operas? Never! My opera is almost complete. It needs but one last aria
to stand out before the world in all its fulness of perfection, and
shall I suffer it to be laid aside to give place to one of his tooting,
jingling performances? No, no. My 'Orpheus' shall not retire before
Hasse's pitiful jeremiades. It shall be forthcoming on the birthday, and
I must train the singers by day and by night."

"Right!" exclaimed Marianne, "and we shall crown you with new laurels,
Christopher, on that eventful night."

"I am not so sure of that, Marianne. It is easier to criticise than to
appreciate, and every thing original or new provokes the opposition of
the multitude. In our case, they have double provocation, for
Calzabigi's poem is as original as my music. We have both striven for
simplicity, nature, and truth; we have both discarded clap-trap of every
sort. Oh, Calzabigi, my friend, how happy for me that I have found such
a poet! If, through his 'Orpheus,' Gluck is to attain fame, he well
knows how much of it is due to the inspiration of your noble poem."

"And never," exclaimed Calzabigi, grasping the extended hand of the
composer, "never would the name of poor Calzabigi have been known, had
Gluck not borne it along upon the pinions of his own fame. If the world
calls me poet, it is because my poem has borrowed beauty from Gluck's
celestial music."

"Yes," said Gluck, laughing, "and if your poem fails, you will be
equally indebted to Gluck's music. Those half-learned critics, so
numerous in the world, who are far more injurious to art than the
ignorant, will rave against our opera. Another class of musical pedants
will be for discovering carelessness, and, for aught we know, the
majority of the world may follow in their wake, and condemn our opera as
barbarous, discordant, and overstrained."

"We must try to forestall all these prejudices, and win the critics to
the side of truth and real art," said Marianne.

"The signora is right," said Calzabigi. "It is not so much for our own
sake, as for the sake of art, that we should strive to have a fair
hearing before the world. We have the powerful party of Metastasio and
Hasse to gain. But I will deal with them myself. You, maestro, speak a
word of encouragement to Hasse, and he will be so overjoyed, that he
will laud your opera to the skies. And pray, be a man among men, and do
as other composers have done before: pay a visit to the singers, and ask
them to bring all their skill to the representation of your great work;
ask them to--"

Here, Gluck, boiling over with indignation, broke in upon Calzabigi, so
as actually to make the poet start back.

"What!" cried he, in a voice of thunder, "shall I visit the ladies'
maids also, and make them declarations of love? Shall I present each
singer with a golden snuff-box, while I entertain the troupe at a
supper, where champagne shall flow like water, and Indian birds-nests
shall be served up with diamonds? Shall I present myself in full
court-dress at the anteroom of the tenor, and, slipping a ducat in the
hand of his valet, solicit the honor of an interview? Shall I then bribe
the maid of the prima donna to let me lay upon her mistress's
toilet-table a poem, a dedication, and a set of jewels? Shame upon you,
cravens, that would have genius beg for suffrages from mediocrity!
Rather would I throw my 'Orpheus' behind the fire, and let every opera I
have ever written follow it to destruction. I would bite out my tongue,
and spit it in Hasse's face, sooner than go before him with a mouth full
of flattering lies, to befool him with praise of that patchwork he has
made, and calls AN OPERA! When I was obscure and unknown, I scorned
these tricks of trade; and think you that to-day I would stoop to such
baseness? Eight years ago, in Rome, a cabal was formed to cause the
failure of my 'Trionfo de Camillo,' Cardinal Albini came to assure me
that his influence should put down the plots of my enemies. I thanked
him, but refused all protection for my opera: and I told his eminence
that my works must depend upon their own worth for success. [Footnote:
This is true. Anton Schmid, page 88.] And you dare, at this time, to
come with such proposals to me? You are not worthy of my friendship. I
will have nothing further to say to either of you, you cringing
puppets!"

So saying, with his dark-blue dressing-gown flying out like an angry
cloud behind him, Gluck strode across the room, and sailed off to his
private study.

Marianne, smiling, reached out her hand to the astounded poet. "Forgive
his stormy temper," said she, gently; "he can no more bear contradiction
than a spoiled child. His wrath looks formidable; but though there is
much thunder, there is no lightning about him. Wait a quarter of an
hour, kind friend, and he will be back, suing for pardon and imploring
us to take his hand, just like a naughty child that he is. Then he will
smile, and look so ashamed that you will never have the heart to feel
resentful."

"I have none already," replied Calzabigi; "his thunder has rolled
grandly over our heads, and right noble are its sounds; but the
lightning has spared us. We are safe, and--unconvinced. For, indeed,
signora," continued Raniero, with earnestness, "we are right. No
reliance is ever to be placed upon the justice or good taste of the
world, and since the maestro refuses to propitiate his judges; I will
undertake the task myself. I shall go at once to Metastasio, and after
that I shall invite the performers to a supper."



CHAPTER XIX.

THE BIRTHDAY.

It was the birthday of the Archduchess Isabella, and all Vienna was
alive with festivity. The passionate love of the archduke for his
beautiful young wife was well known, and the people hastened to offer
homage to the beloved partner of their future emperor.

From early morning the equipages of the nobility were seen hurrying to
the palace, where the archduchess in state, surrounded by the other
members of the imperial family, received the congratulations of the
court. In an adjoining room, on a table of white marble, were exhibited
the rich gifts by which her new relatives had testified their affection;
for Isabella was adored by her husband's family.

The Emperor Francis, usually so simple, had presented her with a set of
jewels, worth half a million; and the empress, whose joy in the
happiness of her son's wedded life knew no bounds, was lavish in her
demonstrations of love to the woman who had awakened his heart to gentle
emotions.

Not only had every variety of rich costumes been ordered for Isabella
from Paris, but the empress had gone so far as to present a set of
bridal jewels to her little grand-daughter, a child scarcely a year old.
This magnificent parure of diamonds, sapphires, and pearls, was the
admiration of the whole court. Around it lay the offerings of the young
sisters-in-law, all of whom, with one exception, had presented
something. The Princess Christina, the dearest friend of Isabella, had
painted her miniature, and this beautiful likeness was intended as a
present to the Archduke Joseph. [Footnote: Wraxall, page 80.] He
received it with delight; and while his large blue eyes wandered from
the portrait to the original, he testified his pleasure by every
possible expression of rapture and gratitude. "And yet," said he, "there
is something in this picture which I have never seen in your
countenance, Isabella. Your eyes, which to me have always seemed to
borrow their light from heaven, here look dark and unfathomable, as if
within their melancholy depths there lay a secret full of untold
sorrow."

Joseph did not perceive the look of intelligence that passed between his
wife and sister as he spoke these words: he still gazed upon the
picture, and at last his face, which had been lit up with joy, grew
sorrowful and full of thought. Suddenly he laid the miniature down, and
placing his hands upon Isabella's shoulders, he looked searchingly at
her pale countenance.

"Look at me, my beloved," whispered he, tenderly, "let me see your
bewitching smile, that it may give the lie to yonder strange image. I
see there your beautiful features, but instead of my loving and beloved
wife, my happy, smiling Isabella, I see an angel, but, oh, I see a
martyr, too, dying of some secret sorrow. That is not your face--is it
my wife? YOU have never looked so wretched, so heart-broken! Speak,
Isabella, you are happy, are you not, my own one?"

"Yes, dear husband," whispered she, scarcely moving her blanched lips,
"I am happy and contented in your happiness, But see, the empress
beckons to you. She seems about to present some stranger to your
notice."

The archduke left to obey the summons, and Isabella and Christina
remained together, looking vacantly upon the birthday-table and the
splendid gifts that lay in such rich profusion before their eyes.

"Poor brother!" murmured Christina, "he loves as few have ever loved
before! And you, dear sister, can you not kindle one spark from the
embers of your heart to warm--"

"Why speak of my dead heart?" said Isabella, mournfully. "Did I not long
ago confide to you its terrible secret? You, my trusted and dearest
friend, have you not seen how I pray Heaven for strength to hold before
my husband's eyes the faint ray of light which he mistakes for the
sunshine of love? Dear Joseph! His heart is so noble and so rich with
love that he sees not the poverty of mine. May God be merciful that his
delusion last at least as long as my life! then will I die happy; for I
shall have done my duty in the face of a sorrow transcending all other
sorrows."

Christina bent her head over the glittering heaps before her, that no
one might see her tears. But Isabella saw them as they fell upon the
bridal gifts of her little daughter.

She pointed to the jewels. "See, Christina, your tears are brighter than
our dear mother's diamonds. Now, were the emperor here--"

"Heaven forbid!" said Christina, as with her gossamer handkerchief she
wiped away the fallen tear. "If the empress were to know this, she would
be justly displeased, that, on such a day, my tears should dim the
splendor of your little daughter's bridal jewels."

"Give yourself no concern for my daughter's jewels, Christina; she will
never see her bridal-day."

"How? Do you expect her to be an old maid, like my two eldest sisters?"
asked Christina, with assumed playfulness.

Isabella laid her hand on Christina's shoulder. "I believe," said she,
solemnly, "or rather I know, that my daughter will ere long be an
angel."

"Oh, Isabella," cried Christina, almost impatiently, "is it not enough
that you prophesy your own death, to make me wretched, without adding to
my grief by predicting that of your child, too?"

"I cannot leave her behind, Christina; I should be unhappy without her.
She must follow me--but hush! Here comes the empress --let us be happy
for her sake."

And with a sweet smile, Isabella advanced to greet her mother-in-law.

"My dearest daughter," said the empress, "I long for this ceremonial to
end, that we may enjoy our happiness en famille. We must dine in
private, unless you wish it otherwise, for to-day you are empress of all
hearts, and your wishes are commands."

Isabella raised the hand of the empress to her lips. "I have but one
wish to-day, your majesty," said she; "it is that you love me."

"That wish was granted before it was uttered, my beloved child," replied
the empress, tenderly, "for indeed I love you more and more each day of
my life; and when I see you and my son together, your happiness seems
like the old melody of my own happy bridal so many years ago."

"And yet," said Isabella, "your majesty looks so young--"

"No, child, I am a grandmother," replied the empress, smiling proudly,
"but my heart is as young as ever, and it leaps with joy when I look
upon the son whom you have made so happy. Why, HIS heart looks out of
his great, blue eyes with such--But see for yourself, here he comes!"

At this moment the archduke entered the room, and advanced toward his
mother, while at the door, apparently awaiting his return, stood the
emperor and the lord high chancellor, Kaunitz.

"Pardon me, your majesty, if I interrupt you," said the archduke. "I
have just learned from the marshal of the imperial household that your
majesty has declined going to the opera to-night. Can this be possible,
when Gluck's new opera has been rehearsing for two months with especial
reference to this occasion?"

"It can," replied the empress, "for I do not interdict the
representation--I only absent myself from it."

The archduke crimsoned, and he was about to make some hasty reply, when
he felt the pressure of his wife's hand upon his arm. He smiled, and
controlled himself at once.

"Forgive me, if I venture to remonstrate with your majesty," replied he,
good-humoredly. "This new opera of Gluck is a musical gem, and is well
worthy your majesty's notice."

"I have been told, on the contrary, that it is very tiresome," exclaimed
the empress with impatience. "The libretto is heavy, and the music also.
It is highly probable that the opera will fail, and it would certainly
be unfortunate if, on this day of rejoicing, we should assemble there to
witness the failure."

"But your majesty may have been misinformed," persisted Joseph. "Let me
beg of you, my dear mother, for the sake of the great maestro, who would
take your absence sorely to heart, as well as for the sake of the
director, Count Durazzo, who has taken such pains to produce this new
masterpiece--let me beg you to reconsider your decision."

"And allow me to add my entreaties to those of Joseph," said the
emperor; entering the room. "All Vienna awaits the new representation as
a high artistic gratification. Without your majesty's presence the
triumph of the maestro will be incomplete."

"And the emperor, too, opposes me?" said Maria Theresa. "Does he, too,
desert the old style, to follow these new-fangled musical
eccentricities? Have we not all enjoyed the opera as it exists at
present? And if so, why shall this Master Gluck step suddenly forward
and announce to us that we know nothing of music, and that what we have
hitherto admired as such was nothing more than trumpery? Why does he
disdain the poetry of Metastasio, to adopt that of a man whom nobody
knows? I will not lend my hand to mortify the old man who for thirty
years has been our court-poet. I owe it to him, at least, not to appear
at this representation, and that is reason enough for me to refuse my
presence there."

"But Calzabigi's poem is of surpassing beauty," remonstrated the
emperor; "for Kaunitz himself has seen it, and is in raptures with it."

"Ah, Kaunitz, too, has given his adherence to the new musical caprice of
Master Gluck?" said the empress, signing to the count to come forward.

"Yes, your majesty," said Kaunitz, bowing, "I also am for the new and
startling, whether in politics or in music. I have learned this lesson
from my imperial mistress, whose new line of policy now commands the
admiration of all Europe."

The empress received these flattering words with an emotion of visible
pleasure; for it was seldom that Kaunitz paid compliments, even to
sovereigns.

"You mean, then, that Gluck has not only produced something new, but
something of worth, also?"

"Yes, your majesty, music has cut off her queue, and really in her new
coiffure she is divinely beautiful. Moreover, your majesty has rewarded
the seventy years of Metastasio with a rich pension, proof enough to him
of the estimation in which his talents are held. Metastasio belongs to
the old regime you have pensioned off; Calzabigi and Gluck are children
of our new Austria. Your majesty's self has created this Austria, and
you owe to her children your imperial countenance and favor."

"But I have been told there will be some strife to-night between the
rival parties," said the empress.

"And since when has your majesty shunned the battle-field?" asked
Kaunitz.

"But the defeat, count, I fear the defeat. The opera is sure to fail."

"No one knows better than your majesty how to console the vanquished.
Your majesty was never greater than when, after the defeat of
Field-marshal Daun, you went forth to meet him with all the honors which
you would have awarded to a victorious general. [Footnote: After the
battle of Torgau, which Daun lost.] If Gluck fails to-day, he will not
be the less a great artiste, and your majesty will sustain him under his
reverses."

The empress laughed. "It is dangerous to contend with Kaunitz, for he
slays me with my own weapons. And you, too, my husband, would have me
abandon Hasse and Metastasio, who are so pious and so good, for this
Gluck, whom I have never met inside of a church? Gluck is not even a
Christian."

"But he is a genius," cried out Joseph, "and genius is pleasing in the
sight of God. Metastasio and Hasse are old, and having nothing better to
do, they go to church. If they were young, your majesty would not meet
them so often, I fancy."

The face of the empress grew scarlet while the archduke poured forth
these thoughtless words; and all present felt that Gluck and his cause
were lost.

But Isabella came to the rescue. Approaching the empress and kissing her
hand, she said: "Your majesty has been so good as to say that to-day you
would refuse me nothing. I have two requests to make. May I speak?"

"Yes, dear child, you may," replied the empress, already appeased by the
gentle voice of her beloved daughter-in-law. "I know so well that you
will ask nothing unseemly that I do not fear to grant your requests.
What are they?"

"First, your majesty, I beg that my husband and I be permitted to attend
the mass that is to be celebrated in your private chapel, that by your
side we may beg of God to give peace to Austria, and to bless us, your
majesty's own family, with unity and love among ourselves. Will you
permit this?"

The empress, in her animated way, drew the archduchess toward her, and
kissed her tenderly.

"You are an angel, Isabella," said she, "and discord ceases at the very
sound of your voice. Yes, dearest child, you shall come with Joseph; and
side by side we will pray for peace and family concord. For the second
boon, I guess it. Is it not that I grant your husband's petition?"

Isabella, smiling, bowed her head, and the empress turned toward the
emperor.

"Well, your majesty," continued she, "since my presence is
indispensable, I bow to your superior judgment in art, and the court
must attend the opera to-night. Are you satisfied, my son?" asked she of
the archduke. "Are you satisfied now that I have sacrificed my
prejudices to give you pleasure? And on some future occasion will you do
as much for me, should I require it?"

"With shame I shall remember your majesty's goodness in pardoning my
ungracious behavior to-day" replied the archduke, fervently pressing his
mother's hands to his lips.

"I not only forgive but forget it, my son," said Maria Theresa, with one
of her enchanting smiles; "this is a day of rejoicing, and no clouds
shall darken our happiness. Let us now retire to the chapel, for,
believe me, dear son, it is not well to forget our heavenly Father until
age forces us to remember our dependence. A great and brilliant destiny
is before you, Joseph, and much you need help from Heaven. Watch and
pray while you are young, that you may call down the blessing of God
upon your career."



CHAPTER XX.

ORPHEUS AND EURYDICE.

On that night, all Vienna sped to the Imperial Opera-house. Not lords
and ladies alone, but commoners and artisans with their wives, thronged
to hear the wonderful music which for three weeks had divided the
Viennese into two bitter factions. On one side stood Metastasio, the
venerable court-poet, whose laurels dated from the reign of the
empress's father. Linked with his fame was that of Hasse, who for forty
years had been called "Il caro Sassone" Hasse, who had composed so many
operas, was often heard to say, that, when it came upon him unawares, he
did not know his own music.

All Italy had declared for Hasse and Metastasio, and in scornful
security the Italians had predicted the discomfiture of the new school
of music.

On the other hand were Gluck and his friend Calzabigi, whose partisans
disdained the old style, and lauded the new one to the skies. Gluck was
perfectly indifferent to all this strife of party. Not once, since the
first day of rehearsal, had his countenance lost its expression of calm
and lofty security. Resolved to conquer, he receded before no obstacle.
In vain had the prima donna, the renowned Gabrielle, complained of
hoarseness: Gluck blandly excused her, and volunteered to send for her
rival, Tibaldi, to take the role of Eurydice. This threat cured the
hoarseness, and Gabrielle attended the rehearsals punctually. In vain
had Guadagni attempted, by a few fioritures, to give an Italian turn to
the severe simplicity of Orpheus's air. At the least deviation from his
text, Gluck, with a frown, would recall the ambitious tenor, and do away
with his embellishments. In vain had the chorus-singers complained of
the impossibility of learning their parts. Gluck instructed them one by
one. He had trained the orchestra, too, to fullest precision; and
finally, every difficulty overcome, the great opera of "Orpheus and
Eurydice" was ready for representation on the birthday of the
Archduchess Isabella.

Shortly before the hour of performance, Gluck entered his drawing-room
in a rich court-dress, his coat covered with decorations. His wife met
him, elegantly attired, and sparkling with diamonds. She held out her
hand, and smiled a happy smile.

"Look at me, my hero," said she. "I have arrayed myself in my
wedding-jewels. I feel to-night as I did on the day when we plighted our
faith to one another before the altar. Then, dear Christopher, our
hearts were united; to-day--our souls. Is it not so? And are we not one
in spirit?"

"Yes, dearest, yes," replied Gluck, folding her in his arms, "never have
I so prized and loved you as in these later days of strife and struggle.
Well do I feel what a blessing to man is a noble woman! Often during our
rehearsals, when I have encountered the supercilious glances of
performers and orchestra, the thought of your dear self has given me
strength to confront and defy their scorn. And when, weary in mind and
body, I have found my way home, the touch of your hand has refreshed and
cooled the fever in my heart. And often when others have pronounced my
music worthless, I might have despaired, but for the remembrance of your
emotion. I thought of your tears and of your rapture, and hope revived
in my sick heart. Your applause, dear wife, has sustained me to the
end."

"No, dear Christopher," replied Marianne, "not my applause, but the
might of your own inspiration. That which is truly great must sooner or
later prevail over mediocrity."

"The world is not so appreciative as you fancy. Marianne! Else had
Socrates not drunk of the poisoned beaker, nor Christ, our Lord, been
crucified. Mediocrity is popular, because it has the sympathy of the
masses. Not only does it come within their comprehension, but it is
accommodating; it does not wound their littleness. I know, dear wife,
that my opera is a veritable work of art, and therefore do I tremble
that its verdict is in the hands of mediocrity. Poor Marianne! You have
arrayed yourself for a bridal, and it MAY happen that we go to the
funeral of my masterpiece."

"Well, even so," replied the spirited wife, "I shall not have decked
myself in vain; I shall die like the Indian widow, upon the funeral pile
of my dear husband's greatness. I will both live and die with you,
maestro; whether you are apotheosized or stoned, your worth can neither
be magnified nor lessened by the world. My faith in your genius is
independent of public opinion; and whether you conquer or die, your
opera must live."

"How I wish," said Gluck thoughtfully, "that from above, I might look
down a hundred years hence and see whether indeed my works will have
value on earth, or be thrown aside as antiquated trumpery! But it is
useless--an impenetrable cloud covers the future, and we must e'en
content ourselves with the verdict of the day. Let me be strong to meet
it!--Come, Marianne, the carriage is coming to the door, and we must go.
But is all this splendor to be hidden behind the lattice-work of my
little stage-box?"

"Oh, no, Christopher," said his wife gayly; "on such a night as this, I
have taken another box; from whence I can be a happy witness of my
husband's triumph."

"What intrepid confidence the woman possesses!" exclaimed Gluck,
catching his wife's gayety. "But how will my brave champion feel, if she
has to see as well as hear the hisses that may possibly greet us
to-night!"

"I shall feel heartily ashamed of the audience," replied Marianne, "and
shall take no pains to conceal my contempt."

"We shall see," answered Gluck, handing her to the carriage, and
following her with a merry laugh. "Now, forward!"

Within the theatre all was commotion. On one side, the partisans from
the old school, who, from prejudice or custom, adhered to Hasse and
Metastasio, predicted failure. This party was composed of Italians, and
of all those who had "gone out" with old Austria. New Austria, on the
other hand, with all the young dilettante of Vienna, were resolved to
sustain Gluck, and, if possible, secure to his new opera an
unprecedented triumph. The excitement reached even those boxes where sat
the elite of the Viennese nobility. Even THEIR voices were to be heard
discussing the merits or demerits of the musical apple of discord. The
Gluckites related that Guadagni who, at first, had been strongly
prejudiced against the opera, had finally been moved to tears by its
exquisite harmony, and had said to Gluck that he was learning for the
first time to what heights of beauty music might soar. The Hasseites
replied that the opera was none the less tedious for Guadagni's word.
Moreover, if Hasse and Metastasio had not openly condemned Gluck's
musical innovations, it was because they were both satisfied that the
opera would damn itself, and they were present to witness the
discomfiture of its composer. [Footnote: Anton Schmid, "Ritter von
Gluck," page 92.]

Suddenly there was a hush in the theatre. The attention of the
disputants was directed toward a small box, in the first tier, the door
of which had opened to give entrance to two persons. One was an old man
with silver-white hair, which flowed in ringlets on either side of his
pale and delicate face. His thin lips were parted with an affable smile,
and the glance of his small dark eyes was mild, benevolent, and in
keeping with the rest of his countenance. His small, bent figure was
clothed in the cassock of an abbe, but the simplicity of his costume was
heightened by the order of Theresa which, attached to a silk ribbon,
hung around his neck.

The other was a tall, gaunt man, in the dress of court maestro de
capello. His lean face was proud and serious, his large mouth wore an
expression of scorn, and his full-orbed, light-blue eyes had a glance of
power which accorded well with his lofty stature. The two advanced arm
in arm toward the railing, and, at their appearance, a storm of applause
arose from the parterre, while the partisans of the Italian school
cried; "Long live Hasse! Long live Metastasio!"

They bowed and took their seats. While this was transpiring, the wife of
Gluck entered her box. With a quiet smile she listened to the shouts
that greeted her husband's rivals.

"He too" thought she, "will have his greeting and his triumph."

She was not mistaken. No sooner had Gluck appeared in the orchestra,
than, from boxes as well as parterre, a thousand voices pealed forth his
welcome: "Long live Gluck! long live the great maestro!"

Gluck bowed gracefully, while Marianne, happy but tranquil, unfolded her
jewelled fan, and leaned back in supreme satisfaction. Metastasio
whispered something to Hasse, who nodded his head, and then began to run
his fingers through the masses of his bushy, gray hair.

Suddenly were heard these words: "Her majesty the empress, and the
imperial court!"

Hushed now was every sound. Every eye was turned toward the box
surmounted by the double-headed eagle of Austria. The marshal of the
household appeared with his golden wand, the doors of the box flew
asunder, the audience rose, and the empress, leaning on the arm of the
emperor, entered her box. Magnificently dressed, and sparkling with
diamonds, her transcendent beauty seemed still more to dazzle the eyes
of her enraptured subjects. She was followed by the archduke, who, in
conversation with his wife, seemed scarcely to heed the greetings of his
future subjects. Behind them came a bevy of princes and princesses, all
of whom, including little Marie Antoinette and Maximilian, the two
youngest, had been permitted to accompany the imperial party. It was a
family festival, and Maria Theresa chose on this occasion to appear
before her people in the character of a mother.

The empress and her husband came forward and bowed. The former then
glided gracefully into her large gilt arm-chair, while the latter signed
to his children to be seated.

This was the signal of the music to begin. The audience resumed their
seats, Gluck raised the leader's staff, and signed to the musicians.

The overture began. In breathless silence the audience listened to that
short, earnest overture, whose horns, trumpets, and hautboys seemed to
herald the coming of kings and heroes.

The curtain rose, and, in a funeral hall, Orpheus poured forth his grief
for the loss of his Eurydice. With this pathetic complaint mingled the
voices of the chorus of mourners; then a solo from Orpheus, in which he
bewails anew the fate of the noble woman who had died for his sake. The
god of love appears, counselling him to descend himself to the infernal
regions. Orpheus, strengthened and revived by hope, resolves to tempt
the dangerous descent, and calls upon his friends to share his fate.

At the end of the first act the curtain fell amid the profoundest
silence. The Hasseites shrugged their shoulders, and even Gluck's
warmest adherents felt undecided what to say of this severe Doric music,
which disdained all the coquetries of art, and rejected all superfluous
embellishment.

"I am glad that Metastasio is here," said the empress, "for his presence
will prove to Calzabigi that he is not a pensioned dotard. And what
thinks my daughter of the opera?" asked Maria Theresa of the infanta.

But when she saw Isabella's face, her heart grew faint with fear. The
archduchess was pale as death, and her countenance wore an expression of
grief bordering on despair. Her large, dark eyes, distended to their
utmost, were fixed upon the ceiling; and she seemed as if she still
heard the wailings of Orpheus and the plaintive chorus of his friends.

Joseph saw nothing of this. He had taken a seat farther back, and was
chatting gayly with his little brothers and sisters.

"God help me!" murmured the empress; "she looks as if she were dying!
Oh, if she were right with her dismal prophecy of death! What if indeed
she is to leave us? Have mercy, O God! I know that I love her too well.
She will be taken from me; Heaven will claim from me this sacrifice!"
[Footnote: The empress's words. Caraccioli, "Life of Joseph II.," page
87.]

Isabella shuddered, and awakened from her horrid dream. Her eyes fell,
her cheeks flushed, and once more her lips parted with a gentle smile.
With a tender and appealing look, she turned toward the empress and
kissed her hand.

"Pardon me, your majesty," whispered she; "the music has entranced and
bewildered me. I was in another world, and was lost to the present."

"The music pleases you, then?" asked the empress.

"Oh, your majesty," cried Isabella, "this is no music to give pleasure;
it is the sublimest language of truth and love!"

"Then," said the empress tenderly, "if you prize it so highly, dearest,
I will prove to you how dearly I love you, for your verdict and mine
disagree. Our next festive day will be that on which Joseph is to be
crowned King of Rome. And we shall do homage to the taste of the Queen
of Rome by ordering that this opera be repeated on the occasion of her
coronation."

Isabella shook her head. "I shall not live long enough to be crowned
Queen of Rome." [Footnote: Isabella's own words. Wraxall, ii., page 394.]

Maria Theresa was about to murmur a reply, when the curtain rose, and
the second act of the opera opened.

The audience, who had been loudly canvassing the music, were silenced,
and awaited in breathless expectation the unfolding of the plot. Soon
came the wonderful scene between Orpheus and the furies who guard the
gates of Avernus. The beseeching tones of Orpheus, and the inexorable
"No!" of the furies, made every listener tremble. Even Hasse, overcome
by the sublimity of the music, bowed his head with the rest; and
Metastasio, enraptured with the words, murmured, "Ah, che poesia
divina!" Murmurs of applause were heard from every side of the theatre;
they grew with every scene, and at last burst forth in wild shouts. It
seemed as if the audience were gradually rising to the appreciation of
this new and unknown music, until with one accord its matchless beauty
burst upon their hearts and overpowered them.

When the curtain fell a second time, the applause knew no bounds. The
Gluckites, in triumphant silence, hearkened to the voices of the
deeply-moved multitude, who gave full vent to their emotions, and
noisily exchanged the thoughts to which the wonderful opera had given
birth.

Marianne, supremely happy, listened enraptured, while wreaths fell in
showers around the head of her beloved husband. The adherents of Hasse
and Metastasio no longer dared to raise their voices in opposition to
the public verdict. In this state of excitement the third act began.
With increasing delight, the audience listened. When Eurydice, condemned
to return to the infernal regions, sang her plaintive aria, sobs were
heard throughout the theatre, and murmurs of applause were audible
during the whole scene. But when Orpheus concluded his passionate aria
'Che faro senza Eurydice,' the people could contain their enthusiasm no
longer. Exalted, carried away, with beating hearts and tearful eyes,
they cried "Da capo!" and when Guadagni, in compliance with the call,
had repeated his solo, the audience shouted out so often the name of
Gluck, that he could resist his joy no longer. He turned, and they saw
his noble face scarlet with blushes; then arose another storm. Again and
again the "vivas" and the clappings were renewed, each time more frantic
than before.

Hasse, tired of the spectacle of his rival's triumph, had disappeared.
Metastasio, more magnanimous, had remained, and applauded as loudly as
any. Marianne, to conceal her tears, had hidden her face behind her open
fan; and as the applause of the people increased, until it resembled the
shouts of victory, she murmured: "I knew it, I knew it! The true and
beautiful must always prevail."

The fire of enthusiasm had spread to the imperial box. The emperor had
more than once been heard to call out, "Bravo!" and Maria Theresa had
several times felt her eyes grow dim. But she brushed away her tears and
exclaimed: "It is beautiful, certainly; but it is a heathen opera, in
which not God but gods are invoked!"

Isabella said nothing. She had held up before her face the bouquet which
her husband had gathered for her, that her tears might fall unseen among
its flowers. Joseph saw those tears shining like dew-drops upon its
rose-leaves, and, taking it from her hands, he kissed them away. "Do not
weep, my Isabella," whispered he tenderly; "your tears fall like a
weight of sorrow upon my heart. Wipe them away, beloved. The day will
come when you also shall be an empress, and your people will do you
homage as I do now; and then you will have it in your power to heal
their sorrows, and wipe away their tears; and they will love and bless
you as I--"

A final burst of applause drowned the voice of the archduke. The opera
was at an end, and the people were calling again for Gluck, the creator
of the lyric drama.



CHAPTER XXI.

"IN THREE YEARS, WE MEET AGAIN."

The war was over. All Vienna was rejoicing that the struggle which had
caused so much bloodshed was at an end, and that Austria and Prussia had
made peace.

Neither of the two had gained any thing by this long war, except
glorious victories, honorable wounds, and a knowledge of the power and
bravery of its enemy. Both had serious burdens to bear, which, for many
years to come, would be painful reminders of the past. Austria, to cover
the expenses of the war, had invented paper money, and had flooded the
empire with millions of coupons. Prussia had coined base money, and all
the employes of the state had received notes, which were nicknamed
"Beamtenscheine." After the war these notes were exchanged for this base
currency, which soon afterward was withdrawn from circulation as
worthless. But Prussia had obtained from Austria full recognition of her
rights to Silesia, and she in return had pledged herself to vote for
Joseph as candidate for the crown of Rome, and to support the
pretensions of the empress to the reversion of the duchy of Modena.

We have said that all Vienna was rejoicing, and turned out to receive
the returning army with laurel wreaths and oaken boughs. The people
breathed freely once more; they shouted and feasted, and prepared
themselves to enjoy to their utmost the blessings of peace.

But while the nation shouted for joy, a cloud was gathering over the
imperial palace, and its black shadow darkened the faces of the once
happy family.

There wanted now but a few months to complete the third year of the
archduke's marriage, and the young princesses seized every opportunity
to make schemes of pleasure for the joyous anniversary. Isabella viewed
these projects with a mournful smile. Her countenance became sadder and
more serious, except when in the presence of her husband. There she
assumed an appearance of gayety: laughing, jesting, and drawing from her
violin its sweetest sounds. But, with her attendants, or in the company
of the other members of the imperial family, she was melancholy, and
made her preparations for death, which she foretold would overtake her
very soon.

"You believe this terrible presentiment, my daughter?" said the empress
to her one day. "Will you indeed forsake us who love you so dearly?"

"It is not that I will, but that I MUST go," replied she. "It is God who
calls me, and I must obey."

"But why do you think that God has called you?"

Isabella was silent for a moment, then she raised her eyes with a
strange, unspeakable look to the face of the empress. "A dream has
announced it to me," said she, "a dream in which I place implicit
faith."

"A dream?" said the pious empress to herself. "It is true that God
sometimes speaks to men in dreams; sometimes reveals to us in sleep
secrets which He denies to our waking, earthly eyes. What was your
dream, love?"

"What I saw?" whispered she, almost inaudibly. "There are visions which
no words can describe. They do not pass as pictures before the eye, but
with unquenchable fire they brand themselves upon the heart. What I saw?
I saw a beloved and dying face, a breathing corpse. I lay overwhelmed
with grief near the outstretched form of my--my--mother. Oh, believe me,
the prayer of despair has power over death itself, and the cry of a
broken heart calls back the parting soul. I wept, I implored, I prayed,
until the dim eyes opened, the icy lips moved and the stiffening corpse
arose and looked at me, at me who knelt in wild anguish by its side."

"Horrible! "cried the empress. "And this awful dream did not awake you?"

"No, I did not awake, and even now it seems to me that all these things
were real. I saw the corpse erect, and I heard the words which its
hollow and unearthly voice spoke to me: `We shall meet again in
three--'"

"Say no more, say no more," said the pale empress, crossing herself.
"You speak with such an air of conviction, that for a moment I too
seemed to see this dreadful dream. When had you your dream?"

"In the autumn of 1760, your majesty."

The empress said nothing. She imprinted a kiss upon the forehead of the
infants, and hastily withdrew to her own apartments.

"I will pray, I will pray!" sobbed she. "Perhaps God will have mercy
upon us."

She ordered her private carriage and drove to St. Stephens, where,
prostrate among the tombs of her ancestors, she prayed for more than an
hour.

From this day Maria Theresa became sad and silent, anxiously watching
the countenance of Isabella, to see if it betokened death. But weeks
passed by, and the infanta's prophecy began to be regarded as a delusion
only fit to provoke a smile. The empress alone remained impressed by it.
She still gazed with sorrowing love at the pale and melancholy face of
her daughter-in-law.

"You have made a convert of my mother," said the Archduchess Christina
one day to Isabella, "although," added she, laughing, "you never looked
better in your life."

"And you, Christina, you do not believe?" said Isabella, putting her arm
around Christina's neck. "You, my friend, and the confidante of my
sorrows, you would wish to prolong the burden of this life of secret
wretchedness and dissimulation?"

"I believe in the goodness of God, and in the excellence of your own
heart, dear Isabella. These three years once passed away, as soon as you
will have been convinced that this prophecy was indeed nothing but a
dream, your heart will reopen to life and love. A new future will loom
up before you, and at last you will reward the love of my poor brother,
not by noble self-sacrifice, but by veritable affection."

"Would that you spoke the truth!" returned Isabella sadly. "Had my heart
been capable of loving, I would have loved him long ago--him, whose
noble and confiding love is at once my pride and my grief. Believe me
when I tell you that in these few years of married life I have suffered
terribly. I have striven with my sorrows, I have tried to overcome the
past, I have desired to live and to enjoy life--but in vain. My heart
was dead, and could not awake to life--I have only suffered and waited
for release."

"Gracious Heaven!" cried Christina, unmoved by the confidence with which
Isabella spoke, "is there nothing then that can bind you to life? If you
are cold to the burning love of your husband, are you indifferent to
your child?"

"Do you think that I will leave my child?" said Isabella, looking
surprised. "Oh, no! She will come to me before she is seven years old."
[Footnote: The infanta's own words. This interview of Isabella with
Christina is historical, and the most extraordinary part of it is, that
the prophecy of her child's death was fulfilled.]

"Oh, Isabella, Isabella, I cannot believe that you will be taken from
us," cried Christina, bursting into tears, and encircling her sister
with her arms, as though she fancied that they might shield her from the
touch of death. "Stay with us, darling, we love you so dearly!"

Her voice choked by emotion, she laid her head upon Isabella's shoulder,
and wept piteously. The infanta kissed her, and whispered words of
tenderness, and Christina's sobs died away. Both were silent. Together
they stood with sad hearts and blanched cheeks, two imperial princesses
in the prime of youth, beauty, and worldly station, yet both bowed down
by grief.

Their lips slightly moved in prayer, but all around was silent. Suddenly
the silence was broken by the deep, full sound of a large clock which
stood on the mantel-piece. Isaella raised her pale face, and listened
with a shudder.

For many months this clock had not struck the hour. The clockmaker, who
had been sent to repair it, had pronounced the machinery to be so
completely destroyed, that it would have to be renewed. Isabella could
not summon resolution to part with the clock. It was a dear memento of
home, and of her mother. She had therefore preferred to keep it,
although it would never sound again.

And now it struck! Loud, even, and full-toned, it pealed the hour, and
its clear, metallic voice rang sharply through the room.

Isabella raised her head, and, pointing to the clock, said, with a
shudder: "Christina, it is the signal--I am called!" [Footnote:
Historical. Wraxall, p. 387.]

She drew back, as if in fear, while the clock went on with its
relentless strokes. "Come, come, let us away!" murmured Christina, with
pale and trembling lips.

"Yes, come," sighed Isabella.

She made a step, but her trembling feet refused to support her. She grew
dizzy, and sank down upon her knees.

Christina uttered a cry, and would have flown for help but Isabella held
her back. "My end approaches," said she. "My senses fail me. Hear my
last words. When I am dead, you will find a letter for you. Swear that
you will comply with its demands."

"I swear!" said Christina, solemnly.

"I am content. Now call the physician."

Day after day of anguish went by--of such anguish as the human heart can
bear, but which human language is inadequate to paint.

Isabella was borne to her chamber, and the imperial physician was called
in. The empress followed him to the bedside, where pale and motionless
sat Joseph, his eyes riveted upon the beloved wife who, for the first
time, refused to smile upon him, for the first time was deaf to his
words of love and sorrow.

The physician bent over the princess and took her hand. He felt her
head, then her heart, while the empress, with folded hands, stood
praying beside him: and Joseph, whose eyes were now turned upon him,
looked into his face, as if his whole soul lay in one long gaze of
entreaty.

Van Swieten spoke not a word, but continued his examination. He bade the
weeping attendants uncover the feet of the princess, and bent over them
in close and anxious scrutiny. As he raised his eyes, the archduke saw
that Van Swieten was very pale.

"Oh, doctor," cried he, in tones of agony, "do not say that she will
die! You have saved so many lives! Save my wife, my treasured wife, and
take all that I possess in the world beside!"

The physician replied not, but went again to the head of the bed, and
looked intently at the face of the princess. It had now turned scarlet,
and here and there was flecked with spots of purple. Van Swieten
snatched from Joseph one of the burning hands which he held clasped
within his own.

"Let me hold her dear hands," said he, kissing them again and again.

The doctor held up the little hand he had taken, which, first as white
as fallen snow, was now empurpled with disease. He turned it over,
looked into the palm, opened the fingers, and examined them closely.

"Doctor, in mercy, speak!" said the agonized husband. "Do you not see
that I shall die before your eyes, unless you promise that she shall
live!"

The empress prayed no longer. When she saw how Van Swieten was examining
the fingers of the archduchess, she uttered a stifled cry, and hiding
her head with her hands, she wept silently. At the foot of the bed knelt
the attendants, all with their tearful eyes lifted to the face of him
who would promise life or pronounce death. Van Swieten gently laid down
the hand of his patient, and opened her dress over the breast. As though
he had seen enough, he closed it quickly and stood erect.

His eyes were now fixed upon Joseph with an expression of deep and
painful sympathy. "Speak," said Joseph, with trembling lips, "I have
courage to hear."

"It is my duty to speak," replied Van Swieten, "my duty to exact of her
majesty and of your highness to leave the room. The archduchess has the
small-pox."

Maria Theresa sank insensible to the floor. From the anteroom where he
was waiting the emperor heard the fall, and hastening at the sound, he
bore his wife away.

Joseph, meanwhile, sat as though he had been struck by a thunderbolt.

"Archduke Joseph," cried Van Swieten, "by the duty you owe to your
country and your parents I implore you to leave this infected spot."

Joseph raised his head, and a smile illumined his pale face. "Oh," cried
he, "I am a happy man; I have had the small-pox! I at least can remain
with her until she recovers or dies."

"Yes, but you will convey the infection to your relatives."

"I will not leave the room, doctor," said Joseph resolutely. "No inmate
of the palace shall receive the infection through me. I myself will be
Isabella's nurse until--"

He could speak no more; he covered his face with his hands, and his
tears fell in showers over the pillow of his unconscious wife.

Van Swieten opposed him no longer. He was suffered to remain, nursing
the archduchess with a love that defied all fatigue.

Of all this Isabella was ignorant. Her large, staring eyes were fixed
upon her tender guardian, but she knew him not; she spoke to him in
words of burning tenderness, such as never before had fallen from her
lips; but while she poured out her love, she called him by another name,
she called him Riccardo--and while she told him that he was dearer to
her than all the world beside, she warned him to beware of her father.
Sometimes, in her delirium, she saw a bloody corpse beside her, and she
prayed to die by its side. Then she seemed to listen to another voice,
and her little hands were clasped in agony, while, exhausted with the
horror of the vision, she murmured, "Three years! three years! O God,
what martyrdom! In three years we meet again!"

Her husband heeded not her wild language, he listened to the music of
her voice. That voice was all that was left to remind him of his once
beautiful Isabella; it was still as sweet as in the days when her beauty
had almost maddened him--that beauty which had flown forever, and left
its possessor a hideous mass of blood and corruption.

On the sixth day of her illness Isabella recovered from her delirium.
She opened her eyes and fixed them upon her husband with a look of calm
intelligence. "Farewell, Joseph!" said she softly. "Farewell! It is over
now, and I die."

"No, no, darling, you will not die," cried he, bursting into tears. "You
would not leave me, beloved, you will live to bless me again."

"Do not sorrow for me," said she. "Forgive and forget me." As Joseph,
overcome by his emotion, made no reply, she repeated her words with more
emphasis: "Forgive me, Joseph, say that you forgive me, for otherwise I
shall not die in peace."

"Forgive thee!" cried he. "I forgive thee, who for three years hast made
my life one long sunny day!"

"Thou wert happy, then," asked she, "happy through me?"

"I was, I AM happy, if thou wilt not leave me."

"Then," sighed the wife, "I die in peace. He was happy, I have done my
duty, I have atoned--"

Her head fell back. A long, fearful silence ensued. Suddenly a
shriek--the shriek of a man, was heard. When the attendants rushed in,
Isabella was dead, and Joseph had fallen insensible upon the body.
[Footnote: This extraordinary account of the life and death of the
infanta, Isabella of Parma, is no romance; it rests upon facts which are
mentioned by historians of the reign of Maria Theresa. Caroline Pichler,
whose mother was tire-woman to the empress when the archduchess died,
relates the history of the prophecy, wherein Isabella, first in three
hours, then in as many days, weeks, months, and years, awaited her
death. She also relates the fact of her death at the expiration of three
years, "in the arms of her despairing husband." Caroline Fichler,
"Memoirs of my Life."]



CHAPTER XXII.

CHE FARO SENZA EURYDICE.

The funeral rites were ended, and Isabella of Parma slept in St.
Stephen's, in the tomb of the kaisers.

Joseph had refused to attend the funeral. From the hour his
consciousness had returned to him he had locked himself within his
apartments, and night and day he was heard pacing the floor with dull
and measured tread. Not even the empress, who had stood imploring at the
door, could obtain a word in answer to her entreaties. For two days and
nights lie remained within. On the third day the emperor knocked at the
door, and announced to his son that all was now ready for the funeral,
and his presence was indispensable.

Joseph opened the door, and, without a word, leaned upon his father's
arm, and traversed the long suite of apartments hung in black, until
they reached the room where lay the body of his wife. There, amid
burning wax-lights, was the hideous coffin that enclosed his beloved
one, and was about to bear away forever his life, his love, and his
happiness. When he saw the coffin, a stifled cry arose from his breast.
He darted with open arms toward it, and, bending down, hid his face upon
the lid.

At this moment the doors of the room were opened, and the empress
entered, attended by her daughters, all in deep mourning. Their faces
were wan with weeping, as were those of all who followed the bereaved
sovereign. Meanwhile Joseph neither saw nor heard what passed around
him. The ceremonies began, but while the priest performed the funeral
rites, the archduke murmured words which brought tears to the eyes of
his father and mother.

Maria Theresa approached her stricken son. She kissed his hair, and laid
her hand lovingly upon his shoulder.

"My son," said she, with quivering lip, "arise and be a man. Her soul is
with God and with us; let us give her body to the earth that bore it."

While the empress spoke, the bells of the churches began to toll, and
from the streets were heard the beating of muffled drums, and the
booming of the cannon that announced to Vienna the moving of the funeral
procession.

"Come, my son, come," repeated the empress. "Our time of trial is at
hand."

Joseph raised his head from the coffin, and stared wildly around. He saw
the priests, the acolytes with their smoking censers, the weeping
attendants of his wife; he saw the black hangings, the groups of
mourners, and his father and mother standing pale and sad beside him; he
heard the tolling of the bells and the dull sound of the funeral drum;
and now, now indeed he felt the awful reality of his bereavement, and
knew that as yet he had suffered nothing. Tears filled his eyes, and he
sank upon his father's breast. Sobs and wailings filled the funeral
hall, while without the inexorable knell went on, the drums still beat,
the cannon roared, all calling for the coffin, for whose entrance the
imperial vault lay open.

Once more Joseph approached this dreadful coffin. He kissed it, and
taking from it one of the roses with which it had been decked, he said,
"Farewell, my wife, my treasure; farewell, my adored Isabella!" Then
turning toward the empress, he added, "Thank you, dearest mother, for
the courage which bears you through this bitter trial; for me, I cannot
follow you. Greet my ancestors and say to them that never came a nobler
victim to the grave than the one which you bear thither to-day."

"You will not go with us!" said the empress, astounded.

"No, mother, no. Mingle dust with dust, but do not ask me to look into
my Isabella's grave."

He turned, and without a word or another look at the coffin, he left the
room.

"Let him go," whispered the emperor. "I believe that it would kill him
to witness the funeral ceremony."

The empress gave a sign, and the cortege moved with the coffin to the
catafalque, which, drawn by twelve black horses, awaited the body in
front of the palace.

Joseph once more retreated to his room, and there, through the stillness
of the deserted palace, might be heard his ceaseless tramp, that sounded
as though it might be the hammer that was fashioning another coffin to
break the hearts of the imperial family. At least it seemed so to the
sorrowing empress, who listened to the dull sound of her son's footsteps
with superstitious fear. She had gone to him, on her return from the
funeral, to console him with her love and sympathy. But the door was
locked, and her affectionate entreaties for admission were unanswered.

She turned to the emperor. "Something must be done to bend the obstinacy
of this solitary grief," said she anxiously. "I know Joseph. His is a
passionate and obdurate nature, strong in love as in hate. He had
yielded his whole soul to his wife, and now, alas! I fear that she will
draw him with her to the grave. What shall we do, Franz, to comfort him?
How shall we entice him from this odious room, which he paces like a
lion in his cage?"

"Go once more and command him to open the door. He will not have the
courage to defy you," said the emperor.

Maria Theresa knocked again, and cried out, "My son Joseph, I command
you, as your sovereign and mother, to open the door."

No answer. Still the same dull, everlasting tread.

The empress stood awhile to listen; then, flushing with anger, she
exclaimed, "It is in vain. We have lost all control over him. His sorrow
has made him cruel and rebellious, even toward his mother."

"But this is unmanly," cried the emperor with displeasure. "It is a
miserable weakness to sink so helpless under grief."

"Think you so?" said the empress, ready to vent upon the emperor her
vexation at the conduct of her son. "In your pride of manhood you deem
it weak that Joseph grieves for his wife. I dare say that were your
majesty placed in similar circumstances, you would know full well how to
bear my loss like a man. But your majesty must remember that Joseph has
not your wisdom and experience. He is but a poor, artless youth, who has
been weak enough to love his wife without stint. This is a fault for
which I crave the emperor's indulgence."

"Oh, your majesty," replied the emperor, smiling, "God forbid that he
should ever grow less affectionate! I was only vexed that the voice of
Maria Theresa should have less power over my son than it has over his
father; that silvery voice which bewitched me in youth, and through life
has soothed my every pang."

The empress, completely softened, reached out her hand.

"Would you, indeed, mourn for me, Franz?" said she tenderly. "Would you
refuse to listen to father or mother for my sake? My dearest, you would,
I believe. From our childhood we were lovers, we will be lovers in our
old age, and when we part the one that is left will mourn as deeply as
Joseph. Let us, then, be lenient with his grief, until our love and
forbearance shall have won him to come and weep upon his mother's
breast."

"If your majesty permit," said Christina, stepping forward, "I will try
to soften his grief."

"What can you do, dear child?" asked the empress of her favorite
daughter.

"I have a message for him," replied Christina. "I swore to Isabella that
no one but myself should reveal it to Joseph. I know that it will prove
consolatory, and Isabella also knew it. For this reason she intrusted it
to me."

"Try, then my daughter, try if your voice will have more power than
mine. Meanwhile I will essay the power of music. It over-came him once
when he was a boy. We will try him with the music that Isabella loved
best."

She called a page and spoke with him in a low voice. In conclusion she
said, "Let the carriage go at once and bring him hither in a quarter of
an hour."

The page withdrew, and the imperial family were again alone. "Now, my
daughter," said the empress, "see if he will speak to you."

Christina approached the door. "My brother Joseph," said she, "I beseech
you open the door to me. I come from Isabella; it is she who sends me to
you."

The bolt was withdrawn, and for a moment the pale face of Joseph
appeared at the door.

"Come in," said he, waving his hand to Christina. She followed him into
the room where so many, many tears had been shed. "Now speak," said he,
"what did Isabella say to you?"

His sister looked with pity upon his ghastly face and those hollow eyes
grown glassy with weeping. "Poor, poor Joseph!" said she softly, "I see
that your love for her was beyond all bounds."

He made a motion of impatience. "Do not pity me," said he. "My grief is
too sacred for sympathy. I do not need it. Tell me at once, what said
Isabella?"

Christina hesitated. She felt as if the balm she was about to bring
would prove more painful than the wounds it was intended to heal.

"Speak, I tell you," cried Joseph angrily. "If you have made use of
Isabella's name to gain access to my presence, it is a trick for which I
will never forgive you. Why did you disturb me? I was with her,"
continued he, staring at the divan where so often they had sat together.
"She wore her white dress and the pink roses, and she smiled with her
enchanting smile. I lay at her feet, I looked into her eyes, I heard the
melody of her voice."

"Did she ever say that she loved you?" asked Christina.

He looked at her intently and grew thoughtful. "I do not know," said he
after a pause, "whether she ever told me so in words. But there needed
no words. I saw her love in every glance, in every smile. Her whole life
was love, and oh! I have lost it forever!"

"You have not lost it, for you never possessed it," said Christina

Joseph drew back and frowned. "What is that?" said be hastily

Christina approached him, and laying her hand upon his shoulder, she
looked into his face until her eyes filled with tears.

"I say," whispered she in a tremulous voice, "do not mourn any longer,
dear brother. For she for whom you grieve, she whom you call your
Isabella, never loved you."

"That is not true," cried Joseph vehemently. "It is a lie, a wicked lie
that you have devised to lessen my grief."

"It is nothing but the truth, and I promised Isabella to tell it to
you."

Joseph sank almost insensible upon the divan. Christina seated herself
near him, and throwing her arms around him, sobbed, "My brother, my
darling brother, think no more of the dead, but turn your heart toward
us; for we love you, and Isabella never did. She merely endured your
love."

"Endured my love!" murmured Joseph, and his head sank powerless upon
Christina's bosom. But suddenly he rose, and looking with a beseeching
expression at his sister's beautiful face, he said

"Bethink you, Christina, of what you do. Think that I love Isabella with
all the strength and glow of my heart; think that for me she was the
embodiment of all beauty, goodness, and purity. Do not seek to comfort
me by destroying my faith in the truth of the only woman I have ever
loved. In whom shall I have faith, if not in her? If HER love was a lie,
is there love in this world? Oh, Christina, in mercy say that you have
sought to comfort by deceiving me!"

"I have sought to comfort you, by telling you the truth. If you will not
believe me, believe her own words."

She drew a paper from her dress and handed it to Joseph. "It is a
letter," said she, "which Isabella gave me, and she made me swear that I
would fulfil its behests. Read, and be satisfied."

Joseph unfolded the letter. "It is her handwriting," said he to himself,
and he tried to read it but in vain; his hand trembled, and his eyes
filled with tears.

He gave it back to Christina, who read it aloud:

"My Christina--confidant of my sufferings and sorrow--hear my dying
request. To you I leave the task of consoling my husband. His noble
tears shall not be shed over the grave of one who is unworthy of them.
Tell him the truth, tell him all you know, show him this letter, and bid
him not grieve for one who never loved him. Do this for me, it is my
last request. ISABELLA."

Suddenly, from the adjoining room, the sweet tones of music were heard;
the air was tremulous with melody, which at first soft and low, swelled
louder and louder until it filled the room with a gush of harmony that
stirred the hearts of those who listened with sweetest and holiest
emotions.

Joseph bent eagerly forward. He knew those strains so well! He
remembered the night when Isabella's tears had fallen among the
rose-leaves, and he had kissed them away. He saw her once more in the
pride of her beauty, looking at him from the depths of those glorious
dark eyes which he had so madly loved. The music gave life and being to
these memories, and its glamour brought back the dead from her grave! He
remembered how he had asked her if she loved him, and how, avoiding the
words so difficult to speak, she had answered with the witching tones of
her violin. Oh, that heavenly evening hour upon the balcony! She had
said, "Love has its own language: come and listen." And Christina said
SHE HAD NOT LOVED! He could not, would not believe her!

He took the letter from Christina's hand and kissed the paper. "I do not
believe you," he said softly. "My trust in her is like my sorrow--for
eternity!"

This imperturbable faith had the effect of hardening Christina, and
making her cruel. "You shall believe me," said she hastily. "You shall
see in her own handwriting that she loved another."

"ANOTHER! "cried the wretched husband. "I will kill him!"

"He died before you ever knew her," said Christina, frightened at the
effect of her own heartlessness.

A smile overspread his face. "Dead, before I knew her! Then she forgot
him when I loved her." He took up the letter and read it again. "Oh,"
said he, "see how magnanimous was my Isabella. She has been false to her
own heart that she might save me from sorrow. She thought it would dry
my tears to think that she did not love me. Oh, beloved, I see through
thy noble falsehood--in death as in life I know every working of that
unselfish heart!"

Christina said nothing, but she grew more inflexible in her purpose. "He
shall be convinced," said she to herself. "I will give him her letters
to me, and then he will know that he never has been loved."

Again pealed forth the sounds of that heavenly music. Now the violin,
mingling with the tones of the harpsichord, glide into a melody of
divinest beauty; and the full, rich tones of a woman's voice warbled the
complaint of Orpheus: "Che faro senza Eurydice!"

Joseph sighed convulsively, and a faint color tinged his pale cheeks.
This was Isabella's favorite air; and once more the vision started up
before him, once more he saw the tears, he kissed them, and looked into
the depths of those starry eyes!

He rose from the divan, and, drawn thither by a power which he could not
contend, he left the room, and followed the music that was calling him
from madness back to reason.

At the harpsichord sat Ritter Gluck, and by him stood the Archduchess
Elizabeth, whose rich and beautiful voice had exorcised the evil spirit.

The emperor and empress, with all their children, came forward to meet
the unhappy one, and all with tearful eyes kissed and welcomed him with
tender words of love.

Gluck alone seemed not to have seen the archduke. He was chiding
Elizabeth for singing falsely, and called upon her to repeat her song.
Nevertheless, while he corrected his pupil, the big tears were coursing
one another down his cheeks, and fell upon his hands, as they wandered
over the instrument, enrapturing every ear.

Elizabeth began again; and again were heard the heart-breaking tones of
"Che faro senza Eurydice!"

All eyes turned upon the bereaved Orpheus. The empress opened her arms,
and completely subdued, he darted to his mother's heart, and cried out,
"Che faro senza Eurydice!"

Again and again the mother kissed her weeping son. The emperor folded
them both to his loving heart. The brothers and sisters wept for mingled
grief and joy. Elizabeth's voice failed her, and she sang no more. But
Gluck played on, his hands weaving new strains of harmony such as earth
had never heard before. His head thrown back, his eyes upturned toward
heaven, his face beaming with inspiration, he listened to his music,
while from Joseph's anguish was born the wonderful song in Alceste, "No
crudel, no posso vivere, to to sai, senza de te."

The melody went on, the parents caressed their child, and on his
mother's bosom Joseph wept the last tears of his great youthful sorrow.
The dream of love was over! Grief had made of him a man.



KING OF ROME.



CHAPTER XXIII.

FATHER PORHAMMER AND COUNT KAUNITZ.

The empress paced her cabinet with hasty steps. Near the large table,
covered with papers of state, stood Father Porhammer.

"Are you sure of what you say?" said Maria Theresa with impatience. "Are
you sure that the lord chancellor so far forgets his honor and dignity
as to spend his hours of leisure in the company of disreputable
actresses? Is it true that his house is the scene of shameful orgies and
saturnalian feasts?"

"It is even so, your majesty," replied Porhammer. "It is unhappily true
that he whom your majesty has raised to the first place in the empire
of--"

"The first place!" echoed the empress angrily. "Know, sir, that the
first place in the empire is mine. From God I hold my power and my
crown, and I depute them to no man--I alone reign in Austria."

"Your majesty," resumed the father, "did not allow me to finish. I was
about to say that he whom your majesty has made your most illustrious
subject, he who ought to give to all your subjects an example of moral
conduct, is a profligate and libertine. That infamous school of Paris,
where reigns the wanton Marquise de Pompadour, the debauched court of
Versailles--"

"Hold, father, and remember that France is Austria's dearest ally,"
interrupted the empress.

The father bowed. "The school of Parisian gallantry, of which the lord
chancellor is a graduate, has borne its fruits. Count Kaunitz mocks at
religion, chastity, and every other virtue. Instead of giving an
honorable mistress to his house, it is the home of Foliazzi, the singer,
who holds him fast with her rosy chains."

"We must send her away from Vienna."

"Ah, your majesty, if you send her, Count Kaunitz will go with her. He
cannot live without La Foliazzi. Even when he comes hither to your
majesty's august presence, La Foliazzi is in his coach, and she awaits
his return at the doors of the imperial palace."

"Impossible! I will not believe such scandalous reports. Count Kaunitz
never would dare bring his mistresses to my palace doors; he never would
have the audacity to treat his official visits to myself as episodes in
a life of lasciviousness with an unchaste singer. You shall withdraw
your words, Father Porhammer, or you shall prove them."

"I will prove them, your majesty."

Just then the door opened, and a page announced the lord chancellor,
Count Kaunitz.

"Admit Count Kaunitz," said the empress, "and you, Father Porhammer,
remain."

The father withdrew within the embrasure of a window, while the lord
chancellor followed the page into the presence of the empress. The
count's face was as fair and his cheeks as rosy as ever; he wore the
same fantastic peruke of his own invention, and his figure was as
straight and slender as it had ever been. Ten years had gone by since he
became prime minister, but nothing had altered HIM. So marble-like his
face, that age could not wrinkle, nor care trace a line upon its stony
surface.

He did not wait for the imperial greeting, but came forward in his
careless, unceremonious way, not as though he stood before his
sovereign, but as if he had come to visit a lady of his own rank.

"Your majesty sees," said he, with a courteous inclination of the head,
"that I use the permission which has been granted me, of seeking an
audience whenever the state demands it. As I come, not to intrude upon
your majesty with idle conversation, but to speak of grave and important
matters of state, I do not apologize for coming unbidden."

The easy and unembarrassed manner in which Kaunitz announced himself had
its effect upon the empress. She who was so accustomed to give vent to
the feelings of the moment, overcame her displeasure and received her
minister with her usual affability.

"Your majesty, then, will grant an audience to your minister of state?"
said Kaunitz, looking sharply at the priest who stood unconcerned at the
window.

"Since the lord chancellor comes at such an unusual hour," replied the
empress, "I must conclude that his business is of an imperative nature.
I am therefore ready to hear him."

Kaunitz bowed, and then turning with an arrogant gesture toward the
empress's confessor, he said, "Do you hear, Father Porhammer? the
empress will hold a council with me."

"I hear it, my lord," said the priest.

"Then as we are not on the subject of religion, you will have the
goodness to leave the room."

"I was ordered by her majesty to remain," replied Father Porhammer
quietly.

Kaunitz turned toward the empress, who, with knit and angry brow, was
listening to her minister.

"If it be the empress's pleasure," said he, bowing, "I will take the
liberty of retiring until her majesty is at leisure for earthly affairs.
Religion and politics are not to be confounded together; the former
being the weightier subject of the two, I give way."

He bowed again, and was about to leave the room, when the empress
recalled him.

"Stay!" said she. "Father Porhammer will leave us for a while."

Without a word, the father bowed and withdrew.

"Now speak, Count Kaunitz," said the empress, hastily, "and let the
affair be important that has led you to drive my confessor, in such an
uncourteous fashion, from my presence."

"Weighty, most weighty is the news that concerns the imperial house of
Austria," said Kaunitz, with his unruffled equanimity. "A courier has
brought me tidings of the archduke's election as King of Rome."

"Is that all?" said Maria Theresa. "That is no news. The voice of Prussia
decided that matter long ago; and this is the only advantage we have
ever reaped from our long and terrible war with Frederick?"

"No, your majesty, no, this is not the only thing we have obtained. This
war has yielded us material advantages. It has increased the military
strength of the country; it has placed before the eyes of all Europe the
inexhaustible nature of Austria's resources; it has brought all the
little Germanic principalities under Austria's dominion. It has united
Hungary, Sclavonia, Italy, Bohemia, and Lombardy under Austria's flag
and Austria's field-marshals. Indeed, your majesty, this war has given
us something of far more value than Prussia's vote. The bloody baptism
of the battle-field has made Austrians of all those who bled for
Austria's rights."

"That does not prevent that abominable man from clinging to my fair
domain of Silesia. How will my ancestor, the great Charles, greet me
when I go to my grave, bearing the tidings that under my reign Austria
has been shorn of a principality?"

"No such tidings shall your majesty bear to your forefathers," replied
Kaunitz, fervently. "Leave Frederick alone with his bit of a
principality; more trouble than profit may it be to him! Long before he
will have transformed his Silesian Austrians into loyal Prussians, we
shall have repaired the damage he has done us by new and richer
acquisitions."

"No, no, no!" cried the empress, "let us have no more war. What we do
not possess by just right, I never will consent to win with the sword."

"But inheritance and alliance bestow rights," persisted the minister.
"Your majesty has marriageable daughters and sons, and it is time to
think of negotiating honorable alliances for them."

The eyes of the empress sparkled, and her face beamed with happy smiles.
The establishment of her children was her constant thought by night and
day, and in broaching this subject, Kaunitz was meeting her dearest
wishes. Her displeasure against him melted away like snow before the
sun, and she gave herself up entirely to the pleasing discussion.

"It will be difficult to find husbands for my daughters" said she. "All
the reigning heads of European families are married, and their sons are
too young for Elizabeth and Amelia. I cannot marry my grown-up daughters
to boys; nor can I bring a set of insignificant sons-in-law to hang
about the court. My husband the emperor would never consent to bestow
his daughters upon petty princes, who, instead of bringing influence
with them, would derive their reflected consequence from an alliance
with us. If we cannot find them husbands worthy of their station, my
daughters must remain single, or devote their lives to God."

"If your majesty's eldest daughters choose that holy vocation, politics
need not interfere with their inclinations, the boyish heirs of European
kingdoms can await the advent of the younger princesses."

"Let them wait," said the empress; "we will train noble queens for
them."

"But the Archduke Leopold need not wait," said Kaunitz; "we will begin
with him. The Spanish ambassador has received from his sovereign, Carlos
IV., a letter directing him to offer his daughter Maria Louisa to your
majesty's second son. Knowing that his highness the Archduke Joseph is
your majesty's successor, he supposes that the Emperor Francis will
bestow upon his second son the grand duchy of Tuscany. "

"A very good alliance," returned Maria Theresa, nodding her head. "The
women of the house of Bourbon are all estimable. Our lost Isabella was a
lovely woman. Well, the grand-daughter of the King of Spain having died,
let us renew our connection with him through his daughter; and may God
grant to Leopold happier nuptials than were those of my poor Joseph."

"The Archduke Joseph, too, must marry," said Kaunitz. "Poor Joseph!"
sighed the empress; "even now his heart is full of sorrow; and while he
mourns his dead, we make plans to marry him to another! But you are
right, count; he must marry. We cannot listen to his heart, he must
sacrifice himself to duty. Austria must have another heir. But let us
give him a little respite."

"He will forget his sorrow when he is crowned King of Rome," said
Kaunitz. "Ambition is certain to cure love; and the possession of a
crown may well console any man for the loss of a woman."

Maria Theresa was displeased. "Do you deem it, then, so light a thing?"
said she, with a frown, "to lose a beloved wife? Do you think it great
happiness to wear a crown? You know nothing either of the pains of power
or the joys of marriage; but I can tell you that many a time I would
have fainted under the burden of my crown, had my Franz not sustained me
with his loving and beloved hand. But what know you of love? Your heart
is a market-place wherein you seek slaves for your harem, but no
honorable woman would make it her home. I have heard scandalous reports
concerning your house, Count Kaunitz; I have--"

A light knock was heard at the door, and as the empress gave the word,
Father Porhammer entered the room.



CHAPTER XXIV.

MATRIMONIAL PLANS.

Father Porhammer came forward, while the empress looked at him with a
glance of astonishment.

"Forgive me, your majesty, for this intrusion. It is in accordance with
your gracious commands, whose fulfilment I have no right to delay. I was
ordered by your majesty to prove the fact which I asserted."

"Well, have you the proof?" said the empress, impatiently.

"I have, your majesty. It is in the carriage of the lord chancellor, at
the great door of the palace."

The empress made an exclamation; and her face grew scarlet with anger.
Her stormy looks rested upon Kaunitz, who, perfectly unconcerned, seemed
not to have heard what Porhammer had said. This undisturbed serenity on
the part of her minister gave the empress time for recollection. She
knew from experience that the lightning of her wrath would play
harmlessly about the head of this living statue, and she felt more
keenly than she had ever done before, that however Kaunitz's private
life might shock her own sense of honor and decency, his vast intellect
as minister of state was indispensable to Austria.

With a quick and haughty gesture, she motioned the priest away, and then
began to pace up and down the length of the apartment.

Kaunitz remained tranquil near the table, his cold glances resting now
on the papers, now on the pictures that hung opposite to him. He was
busily engaged arranging his Alengon ruffles, when the empress stopped,
and fixed her fiery eyes upon him.

"My lord chancellor, Count Kaunitz, tell me who sits in your carriage
before the doors of my palace, awaiting your return from this
conference?"

"Who sits in my carriage, your majesty? I was not aware that any one was
there whose name it was necessary for me to announce to your imperial
majesty."

"I can well believe that you would not dare to pronounce the name of
that person in my presence," cried the empress, indignantly "but let me
tell you, sir count, that your behavior is highly displeasing to me, and
that I blush to hear the things I do, to the disparagement of your honor
and morality."

"Has your majesty any complaint to make of me as minister, or as
president of council?" asked Kaunitz, almost roughly. "Have I not
fulfilled the vows I made to your majesty ten years ago? Have I
discharged my duties carelessly? The ship of state which, in her hour of
peril, was confided to my hands, have I not steered her safely through
rocks and reefs? Or, have I been unfaithful to my trust? If your majesty
can convict me of crime, or even of negligence, then sit in judgment
upon the culprit. Tell me of what state offence am I accused?"

"I do not speak of my prime minister," replied the empress somewhat
embarrassed. "I have no fault to find with HIM. On the contrary, he has
nobly kept the pledge he made to me and to my Austria, and he has been a
wise, faithful, and conscientious servant. But this is not enough; there
are also duties to perform toward God, toward society, and toward one's
self."

"For your majesty, as well as for me, it suffices that I am true to my
duties as your subject. As to my duty as a man, this is no place to
discuss a matter which lies between God and myself it would be
indecorous for me to raise the veil of my private life before the eyes
of your majesty. I came here to speak of Austria's welfare and yours,
not of me or mine."

Without giving the empress time to make any reply, Kaunitz resumed the
subject which had been interrupted by the visit of Father Porhammer.

"Though your majesty may deem it expedient to postpone the marriage of
the Archduke Joseph, still, that need not prevent us from taking the
steps that will be necessary to secure an advantageous alliance for the
heir to the throne. We can grant a respite to the Archduke of Austria,
but the King of Rome must stifle his grief, and attend to the calls of
duty. He must silence his heart, for the Emperor of Austria must have a
successor."

"At least let us choose him a bride worthy to succeed in his affections
the angelic wife he has lost," said the empress, with feeling.

Something like a smile flitted over Kaunitz's sardonic face. "Your
majesty must pardon me, but you view this matter entirely too much as a
thing of sentiment; whereas, in effect, it is an affair of policy. The
main object of the archduke's marriage is to find a princess whose
family can advance the interests of the state, and who is in a condition
to bear children."

"And have you already found such a wife for my poor child?" asked the
empress. "Have you one to propose whom policy will approve, and who will
not be distasteful to the eye or the heart?"

"She must be a German princess," said Kaunitz.

"Why MUST?"

"Because the house of Hapsburg must court the good-will of all Germany,
which, through this long war and from the divided interests of the
German people, it is in danger of losing. Prussia, grown morally strong
by the war, is about to become the rival of Austria, and even now she
seeks to have a voice in German politics. Northern Germany already
inclines to Prussia by its sympathies of creed and opinion. If we allow
this to go on, Prussia will divide Germany into two halves. The northern
half, that which is Protestant, and in my opinion the wiser half,
because free from the prejudices of religion, will belong to enlightened
Prussia; the southern half, the bigoted Catholic portion, that which
believes in the pope and his Jesuits, may perhaps adhere to Austria.
Then comes revolution. Prussia will have for her allies, not only
northern Germany, but Sweden, England, Holland, Denmark, even Russia.
Every step she takes in advance will drive back Austria; and the day may
come when Prussia, our powerful enemy, will seek for the Margrave of
Brandenburg the crown of the Kaisers."

"Never! never!" exclaimed Maria Theresa, passionately--"To think of this
little Burgrave of Nuremberg, the vassal of Rudolf of Hapsburg, growing
to be the rival of the stately house of Austria! No, no! Never shall the
day dawn when Austria descends to an equality with Prussia! We are
natural enemies; we can no more call the Brandenburgs brothers than the
eagle can claim kindred with the vulture! You are right, count; the
strife of the battle-field is over, let us gird ourselves for that of
diplomacy. Let us be wary and watchful; not only the state but the holy
church is in danger. I can no longer allow this prince of infidels to
propagate his unbelief or his Protestantism throughout my Catholic
fatherland. We are the ally and the daughter of our holy father, the
pope, and we must be up and doing for God and for our country. Now let
us think how we are to check this thirst of Prussia for power."

"There are two expedients," said Kaunitz, calmly interrupting the
empress in her torrent of indignation.

"Let us hear them."

"The first one is to strengthen our interest with Germany either by
offers of advantages and honors, payment of subsidies; or by matrimonial
alliances. For this reason it is that the future king of Rome must
choose his wife among the princesses of Germany. Through your majesty's
other children we will ally ourselves to the rest of Europe. The
Bourbons reign in the south, and they must all be allied to the house of
Hapsubrg. Through the marriage of Archduke Leopold with the daughter of
the King of Spain, we shall gain a powerful ally; and the archduke
himself, as Grand Duke of Tuscany, will represent Austria's interest in
Italy. If the Crown Prince of Parma and the young King of Naples unite
themselves to two of your majesty's daughters, then all Italy will be
leagued with Austria. When this is accomplished, the word 'Italy' will
be a geographical designation, but the country will be an Austrian
dependency. Now for Western Europe. For France, we must confirm our
alliance with her also. The son of the dauphin, the grandson of Louis
XV., is now eleven years old; just three years older than the
Archduchess Marie Antoinette."

"Truly, Kaunitz, your plans are great," cried the empress, her face full
of smiles and radiant with joy. "The emperor often calls me a
match-maker, but I am an insignificant schemer by YOUR side. I must say
that I approve your plans, and will do all that I can to insure them
success."

"The most of them are for the future; before all things we must bestir
ourselves about the present. You have seen how later, we can secure the
friendship of the south; that of the north must come through the
marriage of the King of Rome. His selection of a German princess will
incline all Germany toward your majesty's imperial house. Naarest to
Prussia are the two important principalities of Bavaria and Saxony."

"And both have unmarried princesses," exclaimed the empress, joyfully.
"I wish we might select the daughter of the Elector of Saxony, for that
house has suffered so much for Austria, that I would gladly do it this
favor. But I have heard that the Princess Mary Kunigunde has very few
charms."

"Perhaps Josepha of Bavaria may be handsomer," said Kaunitz dryly.

"She is nevertheless the daughter of Charles VII., and he has never been
my friend. I have suffered much from this man, and would you have me
accept his daughter as mine?"

"There can be no resentment for bygones in politics," said Kaunitz,
deliberately.

"But there may be gratitude for past services," exclaimed the empress,
warmly. "I shall never forget how Hungary sustained me when this man
would have robbed me of my crown. I never would have worn my imperial
diadem but for the help of God, and the sword of St. Stephen, which my
brave Magyars drew for me on the battle-field! Without Hungary I would
have been dethroned, and shall I now place the crown of St. Stephen's
upon the brow of an enemy's daughter! It would be an injustice to my
loyal Hungarians. I shall give my voice to Mary of Saxony, but if Joseph
prefers Josepha, I will not oppose his choice. And this matter settled,
tell me your other plans for strengthening the power of Austria."

"My second plan is to humanize the Hungarian nobles. These nobles reign
in Hungary like so many petty sovereigns. There is no such thing as
nationality among them. The country is divided into nobles and vassals.
The nobles are so powerful that the government is completely lost sight
of, and the real sovereigns of Hungary are the Magyars."

"That is in some sense true," answered the empress. "I have often felt
how dangerous to my rights was the arrogance of my Hungarian subjects.
They lift their haughty heads too near the regions of royalty."

"And your majesty's great ancestor, Charles V. once said that nothing
had a right to lift its head in the vicinity of a king. The very trees
would he lop, that their branches might not grow too near to heaven; how
much more the heads of men, when they were raised too high."

"But such a policy shall never be mine--I will never buy obedience with
oppression. Besides, I have already said that I am under obligations to
my Hungarian nobles, and I will not injure a hair of their heads."

"There are other ways of conquering besides the sword," said the crafty
Kaunitz. "Coercion would but fortify the Magyars in their insolence.
These haughty lords must be enticed from their fastnesses to Vienna.
They must be greeted with honors, titles, and estates. They must be
taught to love splendor, to spend money, to accumulate debts, until they
become bankrupt, and their possessions in Hungary fall into the hands of
the crown."

"What an infamous policy!" cried the empress.

"Good, nevertheless," said Kaunitz calmly. "Nothing can be done with the
Magyars by force. They must be vanquished by pleasure, and also by
marriage. They must be made to take home Viennese wives, who will
initiate them into the arts of refined life, who will help them to waste
their money, and so cut off the wings of their freedom. He who has
learned to love pleasure will have no taste for sedition, and he who is
in debt is no longer free. Your majesty must bestow gifts and places at
court; the Magyars will grow ambitious--they will become hangers-on of
princes, and--dissipation, ostentation, and extravagance will do the
rest."

While Kaunitz was unfolding his satanic schemes, the empress walked up
and down, in visible agitation. When he ceased, she came and stood
before him, and with her searching eyes tried to look through the mask
of his impenetrable countenance.

"What you have said there," said she, "is a mournful leaf from the book
of worldly wisdom which guides your actions, and it is enough to make an
honest heart ache to think that good is to be reached by such foul
means. My heart struggles against such a course, but my head approves
it, and I dare not listen to my womanly scruples, for I am a sovereign.
May the wiles of the women of Vienna make loyal subjects of my brave
Hungarians! I will bestow honors without end; but for aught else, let it
come as it may. Extravagance, debt, and sequestration, they must bring
about themselves."

"They will follow; and then sequestered estates must go to Austrian
nobles, that our own people may mingle with the Magyars at home, and
strengthen the influence of your majesty's house in Hungary."

"Say no more," said the empress, mournfully. "Bring them hither, if you
can. But my heart aches, and my ears burn to have heard what you have
said. Say no more of Hungary to me--let us speak of our bright plans for
my children. It makes me happy to think that so many of them will wear
crowns."

"The first will be that of the King of Rome, and I trust that, before
his coronation, your majesty will have persuaded him to marry one of the
two German princesses of whom we have spoken."

"The Saxon or the Bavarian," said the empress. "I think he will
comply--for he will understand as well as ourselves the urgency of the
case. When is the coronation to take place?"

"In two weeks, your majesty." "Then poor Joseph has but fourteen days
for his grief. When he returns from Frankfort, I shall remind him of his
duty as a sovereign. But hark! It is twelve o'clock--the hour for mass.
If the lord chancellor has nothing more to propose, I--"

"Pardon me, your majesty. I have an insignificant petition to
present--it concerns myself."

"It is a pleasure to me," said Maria Theresa, "to think that in any way
I can gratify you. Speak, then, without fear. What can I do to serve
you?"

"It is only for the sake of decorum, your majesty," replied Kaunitz.
"You say that I have been useful to the country. I confess that I, too,
think that I deserve something from Austria. If I were another man, and
Kaunitz stood by, as I reviewed in my mind all that he has done and is
trying still to do to make Austria powerful, I would speak thus to your
majesty: 'It is in the power of the empress to distinguish merit by
elevating it to a position above the common herd. Your majesty has
honored Count Kaunitz by calling him your right hand. When the head of a
body politic is an empress, it is not enough for the right hand to be
called a count.'"

"Shall I call you prince?" laughed Maria Theresa.

"Just what I was about to propose to your majesty," said Kaunitz, as he
made a deeper inclination than usual before the empress.

"Then it shall be so," said she, warmly. "From this moment my esteemed
minister is Prince Kaunitz, and the letters patent shall be made out
this very day."

She extended her hand to the new-made prince, who kissed it fervently.

"I take this title, so graciously bestowed, not because it will confer
splendor upon my own name, but because it will prove to the world that
those who serve Maria Theresa with fidelity, she delights to honor. And
now that this trifling matter is arranged, I beg your majesty's
permission to retire."

"Until to-morrow," replied the empress, with a smile.

She waved her hand; but as Kaunitz left the room, he heard her following
him into the anteroom. He had already opened the door leading into the
hall, but hearing her still advance, he turned again, and made a
profound inclination.

"Au revoir, my dear prince," said the empress, loud enough for Father
Porhammer, who waited to accompany her to the chapel, to hear her
greeting.

The father could not withhold some trace of his displeasure from his
countenance, while Kaunitz, with a faint, derisive smile, passed on. The
empress, at that moment, reopened the door, and came out into the hall.
Father Porhammer, advancing to her, said, "Did I not prove to your
majesty the truth of my statement concerning the immorality of--"

"The what?" said the empress, with an absent air. "Oh yes, yes. I had
forgotten. You wished to prove to me that the lord chancellor had some
person in his carriage awaiting his return. I believe you,
father--doubtless there is some one in the carriage of the lord
chancellor, whom it would be improper to name in my presence. But listen
to what I have to say on this subject. It is better for you and for me
not to see what goes on either in the lord chancellor's house or in his
carriage. Close your eyes, as I shall mine, to whatever is objectionable
in his life. I cannot afford to lose his services. So far as I am
concerned, he is blameless. His life may be loose, but his loyalty is
firm; he is a wise and great statesman, and that, you will allow, is a
virtue which may well cover a multitude of sins."

Father Porhammer bowed to the will of his sovereign; Prince Kaunitz went
on with his life of debauchery.

"Let us hasten to the chapel," added the empress; and a page throwing
open the doors of another apartment, Maria Theresa joined her lords and
ladies in waiting, and the imperial court entered the chapel.

But the thoughts of the empress were more of earth than heaven, on that
morning. Her heart was filled with maternal cares, and when the services
were over, and she had arrived at the door of her cabinet, she dismissed
her attendants, and summoned to her presence the marshal of the
household, Count Dietrichstein.

As soon as he appeared, Maria Theresa said eagerly: "Come hither, count.
I wish to have a confidential conversation with you. You are an old and
faithful servant of my family, and I know that I can depend upon your
discretion."

"Your majesty well knows that I would sooner die than betray a secret of
my imperial mistress," exclaimed good, fat, old Dietrichstein,
fervently.

The empress looked kindly at his real, good-humored face. "And you would
rather die than tell me an untruth also, is it not so?" said she,
smiling.

"That," replied Count Dietrichstein, with another smile, "that is an
embarrassing question; for there are cases, when even your majesty's
self--"

"Yes, yes; but in this instance I earnestly desire to hear the
unvarnished truth."

"If so, your majesty's desire is for me a command, and I will answer
truthfully whatever you ask."

"Well, then, listen to me. You have just returned from a tour in Bavaria
and Saxony. Of course you have seen the two princesses. Mary Kunigunde
and Josepha."

"I know them both," said Dietrichstein, puffing.

"Well, tell me what sort of person is the Princess Mary Kunigunde?"

"She is slender," replied Dietrichstein, shrugging his shoulders;
"slender as a bean-pole. If your majesty will pardon me the expression
in favor of its truth, her bones rattle as she walks, and if you should
chance to touch her by accident, I pity you."

"What for?"

"Because you will retreat from the collision bruised."

"You are a wicked slanderer, count," replied the empress. "You mean to
say that the Princess of Saxony is frail and feminine in her
appearance."

"If your majesty pleases, so be it; but if you looked into her serene
Highness's face, you might mistake her for a man, nevertheless."

"Holy Virgin! what does the man mean?" cried the empress, astounded.

"I mean," said the count, with a sort of comic seriousness, "that the
frail and feminine princess has a black beard which a cornet might
envy."

"Nonsense, count! you saw her at twilight, and mistook a shadow on her
face for a beard."

"Pardon me, your majesty, you commanded me to tell the truth. I saw the
princess by sunlight as well as by candlelight. Under all circumstances,
this black shadow overhung her not very small mouth; and I have strong
reason for persisting in my opinion that it was a flourishing beard."

"But Josepha of Bavaria--is she handsomer?"

"Handsomer, your majesty," cried the old count. "It is said that she is
a good and estimable person; if this be true, her soul is very, very
different from her body. Indeed, her beauty may be said to rival that of
the Princess Mary."

"You are a keen critic," sighed the empress. "But suppose you were
obliged to marry either one of the princesses, which one would you
choose?"

"Your majesty!" exclaimed the old count, horror stricken. "I never would
have the assurance to raise my eyes to thoughts of marriage with a
serene highness."

"Well, then," said the empress, "suppose you were a prince and her equal
in birth, which one then would you prefer?"

The count looked at the floor, and was silent.

"The truth, the truth!" cried the empress. "Speak out and do not fear.
Whatever you say shall be sacred with me. Now tell me, which of the two
would you take to wife?"

"Well, then," said Count Dietrichstein, with a grimace of excessive
disgust, "since your majesty obliges me to suppose the case, I will tell
the truth. If by any artifice I could escape, nothing on earth would
induce me to marry either one of them. But if the knife were at my
throat, and I had no other way of saving my life, I would take the
Princess Josepha, for she--"

"Speak out," said the empress, amused, though sorely disappointed. "You
would marry Josepha of Bavaria because--"

"Because," sighed the fat old count, "if she is horribly ugly, she has,
at least, something like a woman's bosom."

Maria Theresa broke out into a hearty laugh. "You are right," said she,
"the reason is a very good one, and has its weight. I thank you for your
candor, and will turn over in my mind what you have told me."

"But your majesty has promised not to betray me," protested the count
with imploring look.

"And I will keep my promise faithfully," replied the empress, reaching
him her hand. "Nevertheless, I cling to the hope that you have
exaggerated the defects of the princesses, and that they are not
altogether as ugly as you have pictured them to me." [Footnote: This
conversation is historical, and the criticism of Count Dietrichstein
upon the two princesses, as here related, is almost verbatim. See
Wraxall's "Memoirs," vol. ii., page 406.]



CHAPTER XXV.

JOSEPHA OF BAVARIA.

Festivity reigned at the court and throughout the city of Vienna. The
weather was cold, but the streets were thronged with people and hung
with garlands. Nothing was thought of but balls, illuminations, and
dress. Every one was curious to see the splendid spectacle of the
day--the entrance of the bride of the King of Rome into Vienna.

The plans of the lord chancellor were beginning to unfold themselves.
The Archduke Joseph had been crowned King of Rome at Frankfort, and the
empress on his return, had prepared him for his second bridal. He had
stoutly refused at first, but finally had yielded to the reasonings of
his mother and the persuasions of his father. He had been told to choose
between Mary Kunigunde and Josepha.

Not far from Toplitz, as if by accident, he met the Princess Mary out on
a hunting party. The princess was on horseback; but she rode awkwardly,
and her demeanor was shy and ungraceful. She well knew the object of
this casual meeting, and when the King of Rome approached to greet her,
she turned pale and trembled as she felt the gaze of his large blue
eyes. Her paleness did not increase her beauty, nor did her shyness
contribute to make her interesting. Joseph was annoyed at her
taciturnity and disgusted with her ugliness. After a few brief words he
bowed, and galloped off to join his retinue. The princess looked sadly
after him, and returned home with a troubled heart. She knew that she
had been disdained, and that the King of Rome would never choose her for
his bride.

She was right. Joseph preferred the Princess Josepha, whom he had also
"met by chance." He, like Count Dietrichstein, having the knife at his
throat, selected her for his bride who was minus the flourishing black
beard.

It was the 22d of January of the year 1765, and the wedding-day of the
King of Rome. From early morning the archduchesses at the palace had
been practising a lyric drama from the pen of Metastasio called "Il
Parnasso Confuso." The music was by Gluck, and his deep bass was heard
accompanying the sweet rich voices of the bridegroom's sisters. They had
studied their parts diligently, and felt quite confident of success, as
they gathered around the maestro. But Gluck was never satisfied, and he
kept Apollo and the Muses at their music-lesson until their ladies of
honor were obliged to inform them that they must positively retire to
their toilets, a courier having arrived to say that the princess had
entered the gates of the city.

While all these preparations were going on around him, the King of Rome
tarried in his private apartments. He was in the room wherein he had
locked himself after the death of Isabella, the room where day and night
he had deplored his lost happiness, until Christina had so rudely
awakened him from his dream of love and sorrow.

This miserable consolation had had its effect. Joseph wiped away his
tears, and having read Isabella's letters and convinced himself that she
never had loved him, he had forborne to murmur at her loss.

On this, his bridal-day, he was thinking of the time when alone and
heart-broken he had paced this room for three days and nights; and now,
surrounded by festivity and splendor, he paced the floor again, awaiting
the moment when he should have to mount his horse and meet the princess.
He was not with the living bride, but with the dead one; and as he
thought of her grace, her smiles, her surpassing beauty, his lip curled
with a sneer, and his brow grew dark and stormy.

"And she, too, deceived me," said he; "those smiles, those glances, that
love, all were false. While she lay in my arms and listened to my words
of love, her heart was in the grave with her murdered lover! Oh, my God!
now that I know that she deceived me, in whom can I place my trust? Even
now, what am I but a dependent boy, the slave of the empress and of her
all-powerful minister, who force upon me a woman whom I hate, and bid me
make her the mother of my children? Oh, when will my shackles fall, when
shall I be free!"

In the distance was heard the dull sound of a cannon. "Already!" cried
the unhappy bridegroom. "It is time for me to meet my bride, and to
begin the loathsome farce of a second bridal. Verily, if I did not hate
this Josepha, I could pity her. She will not find me a loving husband.
The Queen of Rome will never be an enviable woman!"

So saying, he threw around his shoulders his velvet cloak edged with
ermine, and left the room to join his retinue. They were to meet the
princess and accompany her to the castle of Schonbrunn. It was there
that the imperial family awaited the bridal party, and there in the
chapel the marriage was to be solemnized.

The streets were thronged with people that shouted for joy: the
balconies and windows were filled with elegant women, who smiled and
waved their hands in greeting to the royal pair. For all the world this
was a day of rejoicing, except for the two persons for whose sake the
rest rejoiced. These had no part in the universal gayety; and the mirth
which was inspired by their presence found no echo in their
souls--Joseph's heart was full of dislike and ill-will toward his
betrothed, and she was unhappy, fearing the reception that awaited her.
She had trembled as she thought of the meeting with Joseph, and then of
the proud, powerful, and beautiful woman who was his mother. The fame of
her intellect, fascinations, and beauty had reached the court of Munich,
and poor Josepha knew very well that SHE was neither handsome,
cultivated, nor charming. Her education had been neglected, and if she
had attained to the honor of being Queen of Rome and Empress-elect of
Austria, it was not that she had any right to a station so exalted, it
was that her brother was childless and had promised his inheritance to
Austria.

Josepha was sad as she thought of these things, but she could not
suppress an emotion of joy when she saw the brilliant cortege hat was
coming from Vienna to meet her. This proud and handsome horseman, whose
blue eyes shone like stars, this was her husband, the lord of her
destiny! She had seen him once before, and had loved him from that
moment. True, he had not chosen her from inclination, but she could not
shut her heart to the bliss of being his wife, he who, to-day a king,
would in future years place an imperial crown upon her brow.

And now the two cavalcades met; the carriage of the princess drew up,
and the King of Rome dismounting, came toward her with a low inclination
of the head. Around them stood the noblemen of his suite, whose splendid
uniforms and decorations dazzled the eye with their brilliancy. They
sprang from their horses and each one reverentially saluted the
bride-elect. This done, the King of Rome assisted her to alight, that
she might mount the magnificent horse which was now led forward by the
empress's chief master of the horse.

When her betrothed held out his hand to her, Josepha, blushing, looked
at him with a timid and tender glance, which seemed to implore a return
of her love. She could not speak a word, but she pressed his hand.

Joseph, so far from returning the pressure, looked surprised--almost
disdainful; and, stepping back, he left to the master of the horse and
the other lords in waiting the care of assisting the princess to mount.
She sprang into the saddle with perfect confidence, and grasped her
reins with so much skill, that although the beautiful animal reared and
pranced until his bridle was covered with foam, his rider was perfectly
at ease.

"She is, at least, a good horsewoman," said Joseph to himself, as he
took his place by her side.

And now the bells chimed merrily, and the cannon proclaimed to all
Vienna that the royal pair were about to enter the city.

Silently they rode through the flower-strewn streets, silently they
heard the joyous shouts of the multitude, here and there smiling wearily
in return, but both tired of splendor, and both longing for rest.
Neither spoke to the other; what had they to say to one another--they
whom policy had chained together for life?

At the farther end of the city the state-coach of the empress awaited
the princess. With an indifferent and careless air, Joseph handed
Josepha to the carriage. This time she dared not press his hand; but as
the door closed upon herself and her governess, she threw herself back
upon the velvet cushions and wept bitterly.

"For the love of Heaven, what mean these tears, your highness?" cried
the governess. "Your highness's head-dress will be ruined, and your eyes
will be swollen."

"'Tis true," murmured Josepha, "I have no right to weep as other women
do, at such a time. I am nothing but a puppet, that laughs or weeps as
etiquette ordains."

"Your highness is excited and does not see your destiny in its true
light," replied the lady, with sympathy. "It is one which any woman on
earth might envy. You are about to become the wife of the handsomest
prince in all Europe, an emperor in prospect, and son of the great Maria
Theresa, whose beauty and goodness are the theme of the whole world. And
then the lovely and accomplished Archduchesses of Austria--they are to
be your sisters-in-law!"

"Yes," said the princess, passionately, "and look at me. You have known
me since my infancy, dear friend, therefore you need not flatter me
because of my station. Look at me, and tell me if it is not enough to
break my heart, that I must appear before this beautiful empress and her
daughters, and that I must try to win the affections of this prince, the
glance of whose eye is enough to kindle love in the heart of every woman
living--oh say, and speak without reserve--tell me if a woman so
obscure, so ignorant, and so destitute of charms, can ever hope to be
loved or cherished by such a family?"

"Your highness is worthy of all affection, and deserves the choicest of
the blessings that are in store for you," replied the lady of honor
warmly. "No one knowing your noble heart would say that any station is
too exalted for you."

"Oh! who will be troubled with looking into my heart in imperial
Vienna?" sobbed the disheartened Josepha. "Externals are every thing in
court; and I, unhappy one, who scarcely dare not utter my heart's
yearnings to those who encourage me, what will become of me if I meet
with cold glances or scornful words? I feel how little I am skilled to
win love, and the consciousness of my defects heightens them and renders
me still more repulsive."

"Your highness is unjust toward yourself. No one else would ever dream
of speaking in such terms of you. Be happy, dear lady, and you will soon
grow comely, too."

"Happy!" sighed the princess, looking from the window at the elegant and
graceful prince, who, cold and stern as though he had been following the
dead, vouchsafed not a look toward the carriage where sat his bride.

With another sigh she turned her head. Her eyes encountered those of the
governess, fixed upon her in wondering sympathy. With a bitter smile
Josephs, laid her hand upon the shoulder of her friend.

"I must tell you something, Lucy," said she--"something terrible and
sad. Hear well my words, and mark them! I already love my betrothed
beyond power of expression; but he will never return my love. I shall
worship him, and I feel that he will hate me!"

Blushing painfully at the sound of her own words, the princess hid her
face in her hands.

The carriage stopped, and now the confused and self-tortured girl had to
go forward to meet the emperor, who waited at the foot of the great
staircase to conduct her to the presence of the empress. Maria Theresa
came gracefully forward, surrounded by her beautiful daughters and a
dazzling train of lords and ladies. Josepha's head reeled when she saw
them, and almost fainting, she sank down at the feet of the empress.

"Mercy, gracious empress, mercy!" sobbed the poor girl, almost beside
herself with terror; while, regardless of all courtly decorum, she
covered the hand of Maria Theresa with tears and kisses.

A sneer was perceptible on the faces of the courtiers, and the young
archduchesses smiled derisively; but Maria Theresa, whose generous heart
beat in sympathetic response to the emotion and fright of the poor young
stranger, kindly raised her up, and, kissing her forehead, encouraged
her with gracious words.

"Be welcome, my daughter," said she, in her clear and silvery voice,
"May all the happiness be yours through life! Come, my children, let us
hasten to the chapel."

She made a sign to her husband, and took the arm of the King of Rome.
The emperor followed with the Princess Josepha, and now through the
splendid halls, that dazzled the eye with festive magnificence, came the
long train of courtiers and ladies that graced the pageant of this royal
bridal. In the chapel, before the altar, stood Cardinal Megazzi,
surrounded by priests and acolytes, all arrayed in the pomp and splendor
attendant on a solemn Catholic ceremony.

The princess had not been wedded by proxy; it was therefore necessary
that she should be married with the blessings of the church, before she
proceedcd in state to the throne-room to receive the homage due to her
as a queen. No time had therefore been given her to retire before the
ceremony, and she was married in her travelling-dress. At the entrance
of the chapel stood the new ladies in waiting of the Queen of Rome. One
of them relieved her of her hat, which the empress replaced by a wreath
of myrtle. Then Maria Theresa, having placed the hand of Josepha in that
of her son, the imperial cortege approached the altar.

As they stood before the chancel, the King of Rome, overcome by the
bitterness of the moment, bowed his head to his unfortunate bride and
whispered, "Poor Josepha, I pity you!"



CHAPTER XXVI.

THE MARRIAGE NIGHT.

The ceremonial was over. The empress herself had conducted the young
Queen of Rome to her apartments; and she had stood by her side, while
her tire-woman exchanged her dress of golden tissue for a light white
negligee of finest cambric trimmed with costly lace. With her own hand
Maria Theresa unfastened the myrtle-wreath and coronet of diamonds that
encircled her daughter-in-law's brow. She then kissed Josepha
affectionately, and, bidding her good-night, she besought the blessing
of God upon both her children.

And now the princess was alone in this vast apartment. On one side,
under a canopy of blue velvet embroidered with gold, was the state-bed
of the Queen of Rome. Close by stood the toilet of gold with its
wilderness of jewels and etuis, all the gifts of the empress. On the
walls of blue velvet hung large Venetian mirrors, filling the room with
images of that gorgeous bed of state. In the centre, on a marble table,
thirty wax-lights in silver candelabra illumined the splendor of the
scene. The heavy velvet window curtains were closed; but they threw no
shadow, for the park of Schonbrunn was illuminated by two hundred
thousand lamps, which far and near lit up the castle on this festive
evening with a flood of fiery splendor. [Footnote: Hormayer,
"Reminiscences of Vienna," vol. v., page 81.]

The Queen of Rome was alone, her bridesmaids and attendants had left
her, and she awaited her husband, who would enter her room through a
private door which, close to the bed of state, led to his own
apartments.

With beating heart and in feverish suspense, trembling with hope and
fear, Josepha paced her magnificent room. Heavy sighs broke from her
bosom, hot tears fell from her eyes.

"He will come," cried she, wringing her hands, "he will come and look
into my face with his heavenly blue eyes, and I--I shall cast down mine
like a culprit, and dare not confide my secret to him. O God! O God! I
have sworn to conceal my infirmity, for it is not contagious and will
harm no one--and yet my heart misgives me when I think that--Oh, no! no!
It will soon be over, and he will never have known it. Were he told of
it, it might prejudice him against me, and how could I bear to see those
beauteous eyes turned away from me in disgust? I will keep my secret;
and after--my love shall atone to him for this one breach of faith. Oh,
my God! teach me how to win him! I have nothing to bring to this
splendid court save the gushing fountains of my love for him--oh, my
father, why have I nothing but this to offer--why have I neither beauty
nor grace to please my husband's eyes--for I love him, oh, I love him
already more than my life!"

She started, for she heard a sound near the side door. Now the key
turned in the lock, and in another moment the king walked in. He still
wore the magnificent Spanish court-dress in which he had received the
homage of his marriage guests. The order of the Golden Fleece was on his
breast, and also the sparkling diamond cross of the imperial house of
Hapsburg. Josepha, blushing, recalled to mind her night negligee, and
dared not raise her eyes.

For a while they stood opposite to one another, Josepha, in painful
confusion; Joseph, his eyes bent with cold scrutiny upon her person. At
length he approached and touched her gently on the arm.

"Why do you tremble so?" asked he kindly. "Raise your head and look at
me."

Slowly she lifted her eyes, and looked at him with a gaze of entreaty.

"Now," said be, with a bitter smile, "am I so frightful that you have
reason to tremble at my coming?"

"I did not tremble from fear or fright," said she, in a voice scarcely
audible.

"Ah, you have no confidence in me," said he, "you wish to hide your
emotions from me. And yet madame, let me tell you that nothing but
mutual and perfect confidence will help us through this hour and through
life. Come, then. Josepha, I will set you the example. I will confide in
you without reserve. Give me your hand and let us sit together on yonder
divan."

She placed her trembling hand within his, and he led her to the sofa. A
flood of deep and silent joy overwhelmed her heart, as alone in that
royal apartment, which was hers, she sat by the side of this man whom
she had already loved with passion.

"First, madame, let me ask your forgiveness for accepting a hand which
was not freely bestowed by yourself, but was placed in mine by the
inexorable policy of the destiny that rules kings. In obeying the
commands of your brother, you have not only married one whom you did not
know, but perhaps you have been forced to stifle other wishes, other
inclinations."

"No," cried she, earnestly, "no. I have left nothing to regret, I have
made no sacrifice, I--"

"Yes, you have sacrificed your freedom, the most precious boon that
Heaven has bestowed on man, to become the galley-slave of policy and
princely station. Poor Josepha, I pity you!"

"Do not pity me," said Josepha, tearfully, "pity yourself, whose freedom
has been sacrificed to me. You have given your honored hand to a woman
whom you do not love, a woman who would be too happy--"

"Had she the power to free herself and me from this compulsory union,"
interrupted Joseph. "I believe you, for I read in your countenance that
your heart is good and noble, and gladly would contribute to the
happiness of your fellow-creatures. But we must both accept the destiny
which the hand of diplomacy has woven for us. The heads that wear the
crowns must also wear the thorns. But we will try to lighten the pain to
one another. You have become my wife without love, and I, too, have
become your HUSBAND--without love."

Josepha's head fell, she sighed, and murmured something which Joseph
could not hear.

He went on: "I do not come to you with vain pretensions of a man who
fancies he has won an honorable woman's heart because the priest has bid
them love one another. I will not take advantage of the rights which
either diplomacy or church has given me over you. Here at least there
shall be no dissimulation; here we shall both be privileged to avow
honestly and honorably that we are not lovers. Then let us be friends. I
come to you in all frankness, offering myself to be to you as a brother.
Perhaps it may come to pass that I win your love; perchance your
goodness and your worth may win my sad heart back again to life--the day
may come when we shall be able to say that we love each other. Let us
await this day, and soften the interval by mutual confidence and trust.
And should it ever come to us, Josepha, we will then seal with
heart-felt embrace the bond which the church has made between us to-day.
Take me, then, as brother and friend, and be to me a sister and
companion. Will you, Josepha?"

He reached out his hand, and looked at her with a glance of brotherly
kindness. She gave him hers with a mournful smile, and her eyes sought
the ground.

"Welcome, then, my friend and sister," said Joseph warmly. "Now for
unreserved confidence. You promise me that, do you not?"

"I promise," gasped the poor girl.

"And you will open your heart that I may read its every page?"

"I will--I promise to keep nothing from you." "I promise the same to
you, and perhaps this plant of friendship may one day bear the flowers
of love. You are inexperienced in the ways of court-life. You will need
a pilot to steer you safe amid reefs and breakers. I will be this pilot
to you, I will teach you what to suspect and to avoid. Above all, never
venture to have an opinion that does not coincide with that of the
empress. We are all a pious and well-brought-up family who see with her
eyes, and hear with her ears, and never dare confess that we possess
sight or hearing in our own persons. Recollect that you, too, must fall
in the line of puppets, and give up your senses to the empress."

"But in the depths of my own heart I trust that I may see with the eyes
of the King of Rome," replied Josepha with a smile. "For if I am to
learn from you, I must surely dare to use my senses."

"Yes; but let no one suspect that you learn any thing from me. In this
court we tread on flowers; and if one of our flowers chances to wither
we cover it over with a pater-noster, and that makes all right again."

"But suppose it will not be made right?" returned Josepha. "Suppose that
prayer should fail?"

"Gracious Heaven, what do I hear!" cried Joseph. "What profane doubt are
you so bold as to utter! You do not belong to the stupid, pious band,
who think that prayer cures all woes? Poor Josepha, let no one but me
hear such heresy from your lips--pray, pray; or make believe to pray; no
one will ever ask you whether your heart is in it or not. And if any one
seeks to know, answer nothing. Pray on, and mistrust every one."

"What! mistrust the generous friend whom kind Providence has given to me
this day!" cried Josepha with feeling. "That I can never do. You have
encouraged me to confide in you, and even had you not done so, you would
have won my confidence unsought. "

"I am glad that you think so," returned Joseph. "Let us begin at once,
then. Have you a wish that I have it in my power to gratify? Or have you
any thing in your heart which you will confide to me as a proof of your
faith in my friendship?"

Josepha started, and her cheeks grew white with fear. This question
awakened her from her short dream of hope and happiness, and she
remembered that she had a secret which it was her duty to reveal to her
husband. She looked furtively at him. Perhaps he had heard something,
and this was a trial of her truth. But no! His face was tranquil and
unsuspecting; there was nothing searching in the glance of his deep-blue
eyes. No! he knew nothing, and wherefore cloud the brightness of the
hour with a confession which might crush its promise of future bliss?

"Well," said Joseph kindly, "is there nothing on your heart that you
would confide to your friend?"

"No!" at last said Joseplia resolutely. "My life has been dull and
uneventful. It is only today that I begin to live; the sun of hope is
dawning upon my heart; I feel as if I might--"

"Hark!" said Joseph, "I think I hear some one coming. Yes; there is
surely a light tap at the door."

The king rose hastily and crossed the room toward the little side-door.

"Is any one there?" asked he in a loud tone of displeasure.

"Yes, your majesty," whispered a trembling voice, "and I pray you
earnestly to open the door."

"It is my valet Anselmo," said Joseph to the princess, while he withdrew
the bolt.

It was Anselmo, in truth, who, with mysterious mien, beckoned to his
lord to come out.

"Will your majesty condescend to step into the corridor, that I may
deliver the message with which I am intrusted?" said the valet.

"Is it so weighty, Anselmo, that it cannot lie upon your conscience
until morning?"

"Not one moment can I defer it, your majesty, for I was told that your
majesty's well-being and health depended upon my speed."

The king stepped outside and closed the door. "Who sent you hither,
Anselmo?" asked he.

"I do not know, sire, but I suspect. It was a female form enveloped in a
long black cloak, with a hood which concealed her face. She came from
the gallery which leads to the apartments of their imperial highnesses,
your majesty's sisters, and entered your majesty's own cabinet, which I
had left open while I was lighting your majesty hither."

"And what said she?" asked the king impatiently.

"She asked if your majesty had gone into the queen's apartments When I
told her that you had, she held out this note and said: 'Speed to the
king, and as you value his health and welfare, give him this note at
once.' She disappeared, and here, your majesty, is the note."

The king took the paper, which by the dim light of the corridor he could
not read.

"And who do you think is the mysterious lady, Anselmo?" asked he.

"Sire, I do not know. Perhaps your majesty will recognize the
handwriting."

"I wish to know, Anselmo, who YOU think was hidden under that cloak?"

"Well, then, your majesty," said Anselmo, in a whisper scarcely audible,
"I think it was the Archduchess Christina."

"I suspected as much," said the king to himself. "It is some intrigue of
hers against the Princess Josepha, whom she hates because I selected her
in preference to the sister of Christina's lover, the Elector of
Saxony." [Footnote: The Princess Christina was in love with the Elector
of Saxony; but the Emperor Francis was opposed to the marriage.
Christina used all her influence to bring about a marriage between her
brother and Mary Kunigunde the sister of her lover, hoping thereby to
pave the way for her own union with the handsome Albert. Failing in
this, she became the bitter enemy of the unhappy woman to whom Joseph
had given the preference.]

Perhaps Anselmo understood a few words of this soliloquy, for he
continued: "A courier arrived from Saxony, and I was told by my sister,
the tire-woman of her highness, that the Archduchess Christina had
received a packet of letters."

"Very well, Anselmo," said the king, "if to-morrow you should be asked
whether you delivered the note, say that I tore it up without opening
it. Do you hear?"

Dismissing the valet with a wave of the hand, he returned to the
princess.

"Pardon me," said he, "for leaving you, and allow me in your presence to
read a note which has just been mysteriously delivered into my hands. I
wish to give you a proof of my confidence, by entrusting you at once
with my secrets."

So saying, he approached the marble centre-table, and opened the letter.

What was it that blanched Josepha's cheek and made her tremble, as
Joseph smiled and looked at her? Why did she stare at him while he read,
and why did her heart stand still with fright, as she saw his expression
change?

He seemed shocked at the contents of the note, and when he raised his
eyes and their glance met that of Josepha, she saw them filled with
aversion and scorn.

"Madame," said he, and his voice had grown harsh, "madame, I asked you
in good faith whether you had anything to confide to my honor. I
expressed a desire to win your confidence. You answered that you had
nothing to tell. Once more I ask, have you any thing to say? The more
humiliating the confession, the more will I appreciate your candor.
Speak, therefore."

Josepha answered not a word. Her teeth chattered so painfully that she
could not articulate; she trembled so violently that she had to grasp
the back of an arm-chair for support.

Joseph saw this, and he laughed a hoarse and contemptuous laugh. She did
not ask him why he sneered. She threw herself at his feet, and raised
her arms imploringly.

"Mercy," cried the unhappy woman, "mercy!"

He laughed again, and held the paper before her eyes.

"Read, madame, read!" said he rudely.

"I cannot," sobbed she. "I will not read what has been written of me. I
will tell you myself all that I know. I will confide my secret to you; I
will indeed."

"You have nothing to confide, madame," cried Joseph. "With a sincere and
holy desire to perform my duty I asked for your friendship and your
confidence. I cast them both back, for you have allowed the hour of
trust to go by! Now it is too late! You are accused. Do not look to me
for protection; vindicate yourself if you can. Read this letter, and
tell me if the writer speaks the truth."

Josepha still knelt at his feet; but her arms had fallen in despair. She
knew that she had nothing more to hope from her husband: she felt that
she was about to be sentenced to a life of utter misery.

"You will not read?" said Joseph, as unnoticed, Josepha lay at his feet.
"If so, I must read the letter for you myself. It warns me not to come
too near to your royal person. It--"

"I will spare you, sire," exclaimed she, as with the energy of despair
she rose to her feet. "You will not let me speak, you shall see for
yourself!"

With a frantic gesture, she tore her dress from her neck and shoulders,
and heedless that she stood with arms and bosom exposed, she let it fall
to the floor, and bowed her head as if to receive the stroke of the
headsman's axe.

"Know my secret," said she, as she folded her hands and stood before her
outraged husband. "And now hear me. A few months ago I had a beloved
brother, whom I loved the more that he was unfortunate and afflicted.
From his childhood he had suffered from a malady which his physicians
called leprosy. The very servants deserted him, for it was said that the
disease was contagious. I loved my brother with devotion; I went to him
and nursed him until he died. God shielded me, for I did not take the
malady. But on my neck and back there came dark spots which, although
they are painful, are not contagious. My physicians tod me that my
strong constitution had rejected the leprosy, and these spots were a
regeneration of my skin, which would soon disappear. This, sire, is my
fatal secret; and now judge me. It is in your power to make me the
happiest of mortals, by granting me a generous pardon; but I will not
complain if you condemn and despise me."

"Complain if you choose, it is indifferent to me," cried Joseph, with a
hoarse laugh. "Never in this world shall you be my wife. If the hateful
tie that binds me to you cannot be unloosed, I will make you answerable
for every day of disgust and misery that I am forced to pass under the
same roof with you. If I am cursed before the world with the name of
your husband. I shall punish you in secret with my everlasting hate."

As if stricken by lightning, she fell to the floor. Her fallen dress
exposed to view her beautiful form. Her arms, which were folded above
her head, were round and white as those of a Greek statue; and as she
lay with her full, graceful shoulders bared almost to the waist, she
looked like Niobe just stricken by the wrath of a god.

Joseph was unmindful of this. He had no sympathy with the noble
sacrifice which her loving heart had offered to a dying brother. He saw
neither her youth nor her grace; he saw but those dark spots upon her
back, and he shuddered as she raised her arm to clasp his feet.

"Do not touch me," exclaimed he, starting back. "Your touch is
pollution. We are forever divorced. To day the priest joined our bands
together, but to-night I part them never more to meet. Farewell."

And hurling at her prostrate form the letter which had betrayed her, he
turned and left the room.



CHAPTER XXVII.

AN UNHAPPY MARRIAGE.

It was the morning after the wedding. Maria Theresa had just completed
her toilet, and was smiling at her own beautiful image reflected in the
looking-glass. She looked every inch an empress in her rich crimson
velvet dress, with its long and graceful train, and its border of
ermine. Her superb blond hair had been exquisitely dressed by her little
favourite Charlotte von Hieronymus. It was sprinkled with gold-powder,
and the coiffure was heightened by a little cap of crimson velvet,
attached to the hair by arrows of gold set with costly brilliants. The
complexion of the empress was so lovely, that she never wore rouge; and
surely such eyes as hers needed none of the "adulteries of art" to
heighten their brilliancy or beauty. Although she was in her forty-ninth
year, and had given birth to sixteen children, Maria Theresa was still
beautiful not only youthful in appearance, but youthful in heart, and in
the strength and greatness of her intellect. She loved the emperor as
fondly as she had done twenty-eight years before, and each of her ten
living children was as dear to her maternal heart as if each had been an
only child.

She had arrayed herself with unusual magnificence to celebrate the entry
of the newly-married couple into Vienna. The imperial cortege was to
stop at the cathedral of St. Stephen, there to witness the bridals of
twenty-five young couples, all of whom the empress had dowered in honor
of her son's second marriage.

"Surely the prayers of these fifty lovers will bring happiness upon the
heads of my son and his wife," said the empress to herself. "They need
prayers indeed, for poor Josepha is very unlike our peerless Isabella,
and I fear she will not be attractive enough to cause the dead to be
forgotten. Still, she seems mild and kind-hearted, and I have already
read in her eyes that she is in love with Joseph. I hope this will lead
him to love her in return. Sometimes a man will love a woman through
pity, afterward through habit."

A nervous and impatient knock at her door interrupted the current of the
empress's thoughts; the door was flung open without further ceremony,
and the King of Rome entered the room. He was pale and agitated, and to
his mother's affectionate welcome he replied by a deep inclination of
the head.

The empress perceived at once that something was wrong, and her heart
beat rapidly.

"My dear boy," said she, "you do not wear a holiday face, and your young
bride--"

"I have no bride," interrupted Joseph, angrily. "I have come to beg of
your majesty to discontinue these rejoicings, or at least to excuse me
from appearing in public at the side of the Princess of Bavaria. She is
not my wife, nor ever shall be!"

"What means this?" stammered the empress, bewildered.

"It means that my marriage is null and void; and that no human power
shall force me to be husband of a creature tainted with leprosy."

The empress uttered a cry of horror.

"My son, my son!" exclaimed she, "what unheard of charge is this!"

"A charge which is a miserable truth, your majesty. Do you not remember
to have heard that the natural son of Charles of Bavaria had died, not
long ago, of leprosy which he had contracted during a journey to the
East? Well, his tender and self-sacrificing half-sister volunteered to
nurse him, and was with him until he died. Your majesty, no doubt, will
look upon this as something very fine and Christian-like. I, on the
contrary, would have found it more honorable, if the princess had
advised us of the legacy she wears upon her back."

"Woe to her and to the house of Bavaria, if you speak the truth, my
son!" cried the empress, indignantly.

"If your majesty will send Van Swieten to her, you may convince yourself
of the fact."

A few moments later Van Swieten entered the room. His fame was European.
He was well known as a man of great skill and science; added to this,
his noble frankness and high moral worth had greatly endeared him to the
imperial family. Maria Theresa went hastily forward to meet him.

"Van Swieten," said she, with a voice trembling from agitation, "you
have been our friend in many an hour of sorrow, and many a secret of the
house of Hapsburg has been faithfully buried in your loyal heart. Help
me again, and, above all, let it he in secrecy. The King of Rome says
fearful things of his wife. I will not believe them until I hear your
verdict. Go at once, I implore you, to the princess, and command her, in
my name, to declare her malady."

"But, your majesty, she has not called for my advice," replied Van
Swieten, with surprise.

"Then she must take it unasked," said the empress. "The princess will
receive you, and you will know how to win her to reveal her condition.
As soon as you leave her, return to me."

Van Swieten bowed and left the room. The empress and her son remained
together. Neither spoke a word. The King of Rome stood in the embrasure
of a window, looking sullenly up at the sky. The empress walked
hurriedly to and fro, careless that her violent motions were filling her
dress with the gold powder that fell from her head like little showers
of stars.

"Christina, was right to warn me," said she, after a long pause. "I
never should have consented to this alliance with the daughter of my
enemy. It is of no use to patch up old enmities. Charles was humbled and
defeated by me, and now comes this Josepha, to revenge her father's
losses, and to bring sorrow to my child. Oh, my son, why did you not
allow my counsel, and marry the Princess of Saxony? But it is useless to
reproach you. The evil is done--let us consult together how best we may
bear it."

"Not at all!" cried Joseph." We must consult how we may soonest cast it
away from us. Your majesty will never require of me the sacrifice of
remaining bound to that woman. I obeyed your behest; and in spite of my
disinclination to a second marriage, I bent my will before the
necessities of diplomacy, and the command of my sovereign. But we are
now on a ground where the duty of a subject ends, and the honor of a man
stands preeminent. I never will consent to be the husband of this woman
whose person is disgusting to me. Far above all claims of political
expediency, I hold my right as a man."

"But you hold them with unbecoming language," replied the empress, who
did not at all relish the tone of the King of Rome. "And let me tell
you, my royal son, that an upright and honorable prince thinks less of
his rights as a man than of his duties as a ruler. He strives, while a
prince, to be a man; and while a man, to sacrifice his inclinations to
the calls of a princely station."

"But not his personal honor," cried Joseph. "Your majesty's code is that
of Macchiavelli, who counsels a prince never to let his feelings as a
man interfere with his policy as a ruler."

The empress was about to make an angry rejoinder to this remark, when
the door opened, and Van Swieten reappeared.

"Ah!" said the empress, "did you see her, Van Swieten?"

"Yes, your majesty," replied Van Swieten, with emphasis, "I have seen
the Queen of Rome."

"Do you mean to say that she has no disease that unfits her to be the
wife of the King of Rome?" asked Maria Theresa.

"Her only malady is a cutaneous one, which in a short time will be
completely cured. Some persons are so happily organized that they throw
off disease, even when in contact with it. The princess possesses this
sound and healthy organization The poison which she inhaled by her
brother's bedside, has settled upon her skin in a harmless eruption--her
constitution is untouched. In a few weeks all trace of it will
disappear, and nothing will remain to remind us of her noble disregard
of self, save the memory of her heroism and magnanimity. For, indeed,
your majesty, it is easier to confront death on the battle-field than to
face it in the pestiferous atmosphere of a sick-room. "

Maria Theresa turned with a radiant smile toward her son. "You see, my
son "said she," that you have done injustice to your noble wife. Go,
then, and entreat her forgiveness."

"No, your majesty," said a soft voice behind them, "it is for me to
implore my husband's forgiveness."

The empress turned and beheld her daughter-in-law, splendidly attired,
but pale and wan with unmistakable grief.

"Josepha, how came you hither?" asked she.

"I followed Herr van Swieten," replied Josepha. "He told me that your
majesty and the King of Rome were here, awaiting his verdict, and I
judged from his manner that it would be in my favor. Therefore I came,
and having heard his flattering words, which I do not deserve, I am here
to inculpate myself. No, Herr van Swieten, if there were any merit in
suffering for a brother whom I dearly loved, it would all be effaced by
the wrong which I have done to the King of Rome. I feel that I was
guilty in not confiding my malady to your majesty, and I bow my head
before the justice of my punishment, severe though it maybe."

"It shall not be severe, my daughter," said the empress, whose kind
heart was completely overcome by Josepha's humility--"I, for my part,
forgive you; you are already sufficiently punished."

"I thank your majesty," returned Josepha, kissing her outstretched hand.
"It is easy for one so magnanimous, to pardon the guilty; but my
husband, will he also forgive me?"

She turned her pale and imploring face toward Joseph, who, with his arms
crossed, looked scornfully back.

"No," said she sadly, "no. To obtain his forgiveness, I must make a full
confession of my fault."

She approached the window, but her head was cast down so that she did
not see with what a look of hate Joseph beheld her advancing toward him.

"To obtain your pardon, sire," said she, "I must say why I deceived you.
It was because I preferred perjury to the loss of my earthly
happiness--the unspeakable happiness of being your wife. I was afraid of
losing my treasure. For I love you beyond all power of expression; from
the first moment of our meeting, I have loved you, and this love which,
thanks to Almighty God, I have a right to avow before the world--this
love it was that misled me. Oh, my husband, have mercy, and forgive the
fault that was born of my excessive love for you. A whole life of love
and obedience shall atone for my sin. Forgive me, forgive me, for the
sake of my love!"

And, overwhelmed by her grief, the princess knelt at the feet of her
husband, and raised her hands in supplication for pardon.

The empress looked on with sympathetic heart and tearful eyes; she
expected at every moment to see Joseph raise up his wife, and press her
to his heart for her touching avowal of love. She expected to hear HIM
implore forgiveness; but she was sadly mistaken.

Joseph stood immovable, his eyes flashing scorn and fury at the kneeling
princes before him.

This outraged all the pride of Maria Theresa's womanhood. Hastily
approaching Josepha, and stretching her arms toward her, she said: "If
Joseph has no mercy in his obdurate heart, I at least will not witness
such humiliation on the part of his wife. Rise, my daughter, and take
shelter under my love; I will not suffer you to be oppressed--not even
by my own son."

She would have raised Josepha, but the poor girl waved her gently back.
"No, dear lady," said she, sobbing, "let me remain until he forgives
me."

"Let her remain, your majesty," cried Joseph with a burst of wrath, "she
is in her proper place. But if she means to kneel until she has obtained
my forgiveness, let her kneel throughout all eternity! I consented to
this marriage for expediency's sake, and I would have done my best to
make the burden as light for us both as lay in my power. Your majesty
knows how she has deceived me; you have heard her pitiful lie with its
pitiful excuse. I might have forgiven her for marrying me, with her
disgusting disease, but for being a liar--never!"

"Enough," cried the empress, as much excited by her son's obduracy as by
Josepha's touching confession. "This scene must end, and so help me God,
it shall never be enacted a second time! You are bound to one another
for life, and together you shall remain. Each mortal has his weight of
grief to bear. Bear yours in silence, and bear it as becomes your
dignity and station. Have the manliness to smile before the world, my
son, as beseems a prince who has more regard for his princely duties
than for his rights as a man to happiness."

And with that imposing grandeur which Maria Theresa knew so well how to
assume, she continued: "Rise, Queen of Rome, and never again forget
either your own royal station or the dignity of your womanhood. Give her
your hand, my son; if you will not love, you must at least honor and
respect your wife. The bells of Vienna even now are pealing your
welcome; the people await their sovereigns, and it does not become us to
keep them in suspense on such an occasion as this."

Without looking back to see the effect of her words, the empress left
the room, and called to her pages to fling wide the palace doors.

"Apprise the court that we are ready to move," said she, in a commanding
voice, "and let the carriages approach."

The pages threw open the wide doors; the emperor and the archduchesses
entered, and following them came the courtiers and ladies of the
imperial household in all the splendor of flashing jewels and costly
robes.

The empress, with unruffled serenity, advanced to meet them. Not once
were her eyes cast behind toward the unhappy couple, whom she knew
perfectly well had yielded to the force of circumstances, and were
already throwing the veil of etiquette and courtly decorum over their
bleeding hearts.

An hour later the imperial family made its entry into Vienna. In her
gilded state-carriage sat the proud and beautiful empress, and at her
side was the pale Queen of Rome. On either side of the carriage rode the
two husbands, the Emperor Francis of Lorraine and the King of Rome. The
people once more shouted for joy, wishing long life to the imperial
pair, and joy to the newly-married couple. From one side to another the
empress and the queen bowed and smiled to all, while the King of Rome
thanked the enraptured Viennese for their welcome. On this clay appeared
a new color in Vienna, so called in honor of Joseph's deep-blue eyes; it
was called "imperial blue."

And the bells chimed; the cannon roared; while in the cathedral the
fifty lovers awaited the King and Queen of Rome, whose marriage filled
all hearts with joy, and seemed to realize every dream of happiness on
earth.



CHAPTER XXVIII.

A STATESMAN'S HOURS OF DALLIANCE.

"Are there many people in the anteroom?" asked Prince Kaunitz of the
state referendarius, Baron Binder.

"Yes, your highness," returned Binder, "all waiting impatiently for your
appearance."

"Let them wait, the stupid, strutting representatives of littleness! The
more insignificant the petty masters, the more conceited are the petty
ambassadors. I have no time to see them to-day. We are at peace with the
whole world, and our only diplomacy regards marrying and giving in
marriage."

"So far you have nothing to boast or in that line," said Binder,
laughing. "There are all sorts of stories afloat about the unhappy
marriage of the King of Rome. Sorne go so far as to say that he shows
his dislike in public."

"Bah! what matters it whether a prince is a happy husband or not? When a
king sets up pretensions to conjugal felicity, he is either an egotist
or a fool. If the King of Rome cannot love his good, stupid, ugly wife,
he can make love to the dowry she brings him. A goodly inheritance comes
with her; what matters it if a woman be thrown into the bargain?"

"Ah, prince, a woman is sometimes harder to conquer than a province; and
I think the King of Rome would much rather have won his Bavaria with the
sword."

"Because he is a blockhead full of sublime nonsense, who mistakes his
love of novelty for wisdom. He would break his head against a wall, this
obstinate King of Rome, while I crept safely through a mouse-hole. Walls
are not so easily battered down as he supposes; but mouse-holes abound
everywhere, as this sapient king will find out some of these days. It
was much easier for us to creep into Bavaria with the help of the lovely
Josepha, than to flourish our sword in her brother's face. He has not
long to live, and we shall come peacefully in possession of his fair
province."

"Or rather, the war for its possession will be waged in the king's
private apartments."

"On that silly subject again!" exclaimed Kaunitz, impatiently. "If your
heart bleeds so freely for the sentimental sorrows of the King of Rome,
you may have another opportunity for your sensibilities in the marriage
of his brother Leopold; for I assure you that his intended is not one
whit handsomer, or more intelligent, than Josepha of Bavaria. So you see
that the King of Rome will not be apt to envy his brother."

"Your highness is to escort the Infanta of Spain to Innspruck?"

"Not I, indeed; that honor I do not confer upon insignificant princesses
who are nothing but grand-duchesses elect. I go to Innspruck one day
sooner than the imperial family, to inspect the preparations for the
festivities, and then I shall go as far as the gates of Innspruck--no
farther, to receive Donna Maria Louisa."

"That is the reason why your levee is so crowded to-day," replied Binder
laughing. "The foreign ministers wish to take leave of their master. And
now they have waited long enough for you, prince."

"I shall not see one of them. Austria, thanks to me, is now so powerful
that I need give myself no concern to soothe the anger of a dozen petty
envoys, and to-day there are none other in the anteroom."

"The Dutch and Saxon ministers," urged Binder.

"Little nobodies," said Kaunitz, with a shrug. "I will not see them."

"But, indeed, you presume too much upon their littleness. Only yesterday
you invited the Hessian ambassador to dine, and then you sat down to
table without him."

"He was three minutes behind the time. And do you imagine that Prince
Kaunitz waits for a poor little Hessian envoy? I did it on purpose to
teach him punctuality."

Here the prince rang a bell, and ordered a page to dismiss the gentlemen
in the anteroom. [Footnote: Report of the Prussian ambassador Baron
Furst to Frederick II.]

Baron Binder looked after the page and shook his head. Kaunitz smiled.
"Enough of ambassadors for to-day. The ship of Austria lies proudly and
safely in the haven of her own greatness; and would you deprive the
pilot of a few hours of relaxation? I shall have to take the helm again
to-morrow, when I go to Innspruck, and do you grumble if for a few hours
I enjoy life to-day?"

"I was not aware that dismissing one's visitors was a way to enjoy
life," said Binder.

"I do not mean that, you old pedant. Do you hear that tapping at the
door?"

"Yes, I hear it. It is from the little private door that leads to the
corridor."

"Well, that corridor, as you know, leads to a side-entrance of the
palace, and if you look out of the window you will see there the
equipage of the handsomest, frailest, and most fascinating actress in
all Vienna--the equipage of the divine Foliazzi. Hear how the knocking
grows louder. My charmer becomes impatient."

"Allow me to retire, then," said Binder, "and leave the field to the
prima donna." As he left the room, he muttered: "If Kaunitz were not a
great statesman, he would be a ridiculous old fop!"

Kaunitz listened with perfect a unconcern to the repeated knocking of
his charmer until Binder was out of of sight, then he walked up to the
looking-glass, smoothed his locks, straightened his ruffles, and drew
the bolt of the door. The beautiful Foliazzi, in a coquettish and most
becoming morning-costume, radiant with smiles and beauty, entered the
room.

Kaunitz greeted her coldly, and answered her rapturous salutation by a
faint nod. "Your impatience is very annoying, Olympia," said he; "you
beat upon my door like a drum-major."

"Your highness, it is the impatience of a longing heart," said the
singer. "Do you know that it seems to me a thousand years since last I
was allowed to enter these gates of Paradise! For eight days I have been
plunged in deepest sorrow, watching your carriage as it passed by my
house, snatching every note from my footman's hands in the hope that it
might be one from you--hoping in vain, and at last yielded myself up to
fell despair."

"You express yourself warmly," said Kaunitz, umnoved.

"Yes, indeed; for a feeling heart always finds strong expression,"
answered the signora, showing a row of teeth between her rosy lips that
looked like precious pearls. "And now my adored reprobate, why have you
banished me from your presence for an eternity? Which of my two enemies
have prevailed against me, politics or the Countess Clary? Justify
yourself, unkind but beloved prince; say that you have not deceived me,
for my heart yearns to forgive you?"

She came very, very near, and with her bewitching smiles looked up into
Kaunitz's face.

Kaunitz bent to receive the caress, and laid his hand fondly upon her
raven black hair. "Is it true that you have longed for me--very true
indeed?" said he.

"I never knew how dear you were to me until I had endured the
intolerable pangs of your absence," replied Foliazzi, leaning her head
upon the prince's shoulder.

"You love me, then, Olympia? Tell me, dearest, tell me truly?"

"Unjust! You ask me such a question!" cried the signora, putting her
arms around the prince's neck. "If I love you? Do you not feel it in
every pulsation of my heart? do you not read it in every glance of my
eyes? Can you not FEEL that my only thought is of you--my only life,
your love?"

"I am really glad to hear it," said Kaunitz, with statue-like
tranquillity. "And now I will tell you why I have not sent for you this
past week. It was that I might not interrupt your tender interviews with
Count Palffy, nor frighten away the poor enamoured fool from the snares
you were laying for him."

The signora looked perfectly astounded. "But surely," stammered she,
"your highness does not believe--"

"Oh, no! I believe nothing; I know that the Olympia who loves me so
passionately, has been for two days the fair friend of the young, rich,
and prodigal Count Palffy."

Here the signora laughed outright. "But, your highness, if you knew
this, why did you not stop me in my protestations, and tell me so?"

"I only wanted to see whether, really, you were a finished actress. I
congratulate you, Olympia; I could not have done it better myself."

"Prince," said the signora, seriously, "I learned the whole of this
scene from yourself; and in my relations with you I have followed the
example you gave me. While you swore eternal love to me, you were making
declarations to the Countess Clary. Oh, my lord, I have suffered at your
hands, and the whole world sympathizes with my disappointment! The whole
world knows of your double dealings with women, and calls you a
heartless young libertine."

"Does it?" cried Kaunitz, for a moment forgetting his coldness, and
showing his satisfaction in his face. "Does it, indeed, call me a
heartless young libertine?"

"Yes," replied the signora, who seemed not to see his gratification.
"And when people see a man who is adored by women, and is false to them
all, they say, 'He is a little Kaunitz.'"

When the signora said this, Kaunitz did what he had not done for years,
he broke out into a laugh, repeating triumphantly, "A little Kaunitz.
But mark you," continued he, "other libertines are called little
Kaunitzes, but I alone am the great Kaunitz."

"True," sighed the signora, "and this great Kaunitz it is who has
abandoned me. While I worshipped the air he breathed, he sat at the feet
of the Countess Clary, repeating to her the self-same protestations with
which an hour before he had intoxicated my senses. Oh, when I heard
this, jealousy and despair took possession of my soul. I was resolved to
be revenged, and so I permitted the advances of Count Palffy. Ha! while
I endured his presence, I felt that my heart was wholly and forever
yours! Oh, my adored, my great Kaunitz, say that you love me, and at
your feet I throw all the lesser Kaunitzes in token of my fealty!"

The signora would have flung her arms around him, but Kaunitz with a
commanding gesture waved her off.

"Very well done, Olympia," said he, nodding his head. "You are as
accomplished as you are beautiful; and well I understand how it is that
you infatuate by your charms all manner of little Kaunitzes. But now
listen to Kaunitz the great. I not only allow, but order you to continue
your intrigue with Count Palffy. Take every thing he offers; wring his
purse dry; and the sooner you ruin him the better."

"That means that I importune you with my love. Farewell, prince, and may
you never repent of your cruelty to poor Olympia."

"Stay," said Kaunitz, coolly. "I have not done with you. Continue your
amours with the Hungarian, and love him as much as you choose,
provided--"

"Provided?" echoed the singer anxiously, as Kaunitz paused.

"Provided you affect before the world to be still my mistress."

"Oh, my beloved prince," cried Foliazzi, "you will not cast me off!" and
in spite of his disinclination she folded Kaunitz to her heart.

The prince struggled to get free. "You have disarranged my whole dress,"
said he, peevishly. "On account of your folly I shall have to make my
toilet again. Hear me, and let me alone. I said that you would AFFECT to
be my mistress. To this end you will drive as usual to the side-door by
which you have been accustomed to enter the palace, and while your
carriage stands there for one hour, you shall be treated to a costly
breakfast in my little boudoir every morning."

"By your side, my own prince?"

"By yourself, my own Olympia. I have not time to devote an hour to you
every day. Your carriage shall stand at my door in the morning. Every
evening mine will be for an hour before yours, and while it remains
there I forbid you to be at home to any one whatsoever."

"I shall think of nothing but you until that hour," said the signora,
fondly.

"Vraiment, you are very presuming to suppose that I shall trouble myself
to come in the carriage," replied Kaunitz, contemptuously. "It is enough
that the coach being there, the world will suppose that I am there also.
A man of fashion must have the name of possessing a mistress; but a
statesman cannot waste his valuable time on women. You are my mistress,
ostensibly, and therefore I give you a year's salary of four thousand
guilders."

"You are an angel--a god!" cried La Foliazzi, this time with genuine
rapture. "You come upon one like Jupiter, in a shower of gold."

"Yes, but I have no wish to fall into the embraces of my Danae. Now,
hear my last words. If you ever dare let it transpire that you are not
really my mistress, I shall punish you severely. I will not only stop
your salary, but I will cite you before the committee of morals, and you
shall be forced into a marriage with somebody."

The singer shuddered and drew back. "Let me go at once into my boudoir.
Is my breakfast ready?"

"No--your morning visits there begin to-morrow. Now go home to Count
Palffy, and do not forget our contract."

"I shall not forget it, prince," replied the signora, smiling. "I await
your coach this evening. You may kiss me if you choose."

She bent her head to his and held out her delicate cheek, fresh as a
rose.

"Simpleton," said he, slightly tapping her beautiful mouth, "do you
suppose that the great Kaunitz would kiss any lips but those which, like
the sensitive mimosa, shrink from the touch of man Go away. Count Palffy
will feel honored to reap the kisses I have left."

He gave her his hand, and looked after her, as with light and graceful
carriage she left the room.

"She is surpassingly beautiful," said Kaunitz to himself. "Every one
envies me; but each one thinks it quite a matter of course that the
loveliest woman in Vienna should be glad to be my mistress. Ah! two
o'clock. My guests await me. But before I go I must bring down the
Countess Clary from the airy heaven which she has built for herself."

He rang, and a page appeared; for from the time he became a prince,
Kaunitz introduced four pages in his household, and kept open table
daily for twelve persons.

"Tell the Countess Clary," said he, "that in a few moments I will
conduct her to the dining-room. Then await me in my puderkammer."



CHAPTER XXIX.

PRINCE KAUNITZ AND RITTER GLUCK.

Prince Kaunitz had finished his promenade in the powder-room, and having
ascertained by means of his mirror that his peruke was in order, he
betook himself to the apartments of the Countess Clary, to conduct her
to table.

The young countess, Kaunitz's niece, and a widow scarcely thirty years
of age, flew to greet her uncle, radiant with smiles and happiness.

"What an unexpected honor you confer upon me, my dear uncle!" said she,
with her sweet low voice. "Coming yourself to conduct me to the table!
How I thank you for preparing me a triumph which every woman in Vienna
will envy me."

"I came with no intention whatever of preparing you a triumph or a
pleasure. I came solely because I wish to have a few words with you
before we go to dinner."

"I am all ears, your highness," said the countess, smiling.

Kaunitz looked at his young and lovely niece with uncommon scrutiny.
"You have been crying," said he, after a pause.

"No, indeed," said she, blushing.

"Do you suppose that you can deceive me? I repeat it, you have been
crying. Will you presume to contradict me?"

"No, dear uncle, I will not."

"And wherefore? No prevarication; I must know."

The young countess raised her soft blue eyes to the face of the haughty
prince. "I will tell the truth," said she, again blushing. "I was crying
because La Foliazzi was so long with you to-day."

"Jealous, too!" said Kaunitz, with a sneer. "And pray, who ever gave
you the right of being jealous of me?"

The countess said nothing, but her eyes filled with tears.

"Allow me to discuss this matter with you. I came for this purpose. Our
relations must be distinctly understood if they are to last. You must
have the goodness to remember their origin. When you were left a widow
you turned to me, as your nearest relative, for assistance. You were
unprotected, and your husband had left you nothing. I gave you my
protection, not because I was in any way pleased with you, but because
you were my sister's child. I invited you hither to do the honors of my
house, to give orders to the cooks and steward, to overlook my household
arrangements, and to receive my guests in a manner worthy of their host.
To insure you the appearance and consideration due to you as my niece
and as the lady of my house, I gave you a remuneration of two thousand
guilders a year. Were not these my terms?"

"Yes, your highness, they were. They filled me with gratitude and joy;
and never will I forget your kindness."

"It seems, however, that you do forget it," replied the heartless uncle.
"How does it happen that you take the liberty of being unhappy because
La Foliazzi is in my room! What business is it of yours, whom I receive
or entertain? Have I ever given you the slightest hope that from my
niece I would ever raise you to the eminence of being my wife?"

"Never, never, dear uncle," said the countess, scarlet with shame. "You
have never been otherwise to me than my generous benefactor."

"Then oblige me by silencing the absurd rumors that may have led you
into the delusion of supposing that I intended to make of you a
princess. I wish you to know that I have no idea of marrying again; and
if ever I should form another matrimonial alliance, it will either be
with an imperial or a royal princes. Will you be so good as to remember
this and to act accordingly?"

"Certainly," replied the countess, her eyes filling with tears. "I
assure your highness that I have never been so presuming as to regard
you otherwise than as my kinsman and guardian. My feelings of admiration
for you are indeed enthusiastic; but I have never felt any thing toward
you but the attachment of a daughter."

"Pray do not trouble yourself to feel any thing at all on my account,"
said Kaunitz, ill-humoredly. "I am not under the necessity of playing
the part of a tender father toward you; therefore, dry up the tears you
took the trouble to shed on La Foliazzi's account. But enough of this
folly. I hope that we understand each other, and that I will not have to
repeat this conversation. Be so good as to take my arm. We will go
forward to meet our guests."

The young countess took the arm of the prince, and they entered the
drawing-room. The guests had long been assembled there, but it never
occurred to Kaunitz to make any apology for his late appearance.
Nevertheless, his guests were all noble; some of them representatives of
princely houses or powerful kingdoms. Kaunitz, however, was not only the
all-powerful minister of Maria Theresa; it was well known that his
slender, diamond-studded fingers directed the policy of all Europe. No
one in that room had the courage to resent his rudeness. All seemed to
feel honored as he walked haughtily forward with a slight inclination of
his head to the many, and a condescending smile to the few whom it
pleased him to distinguish by his notice. [Footnote: Wraxall, "Memoirs,"
vol. i., page 380.]

Prince Kaunitz did not choose to perceive that several distinguished
ambassadors, as well as a German prince, himself a reigning sovereign,
were present as his guests. He passed them all by to accost a small,
graceful man who, seated in a recess, had received no further attention
from the high-born company than a condescending nod. Kaunitz gave him
his hand, and welcomed him audibly. The honored guest was Noverre, the
inventor of the ballet as it is performed to-day on the stage. Noverre
blushed with pleasure at the reception given him, while the other guests
scarcely concealed their chagrin.

Just then the folding-doors were thrown wide open, and the steward
announced in a loud voice that the table of his lord the prince was
served. The company arose, and the ladies looked to see which of them
was to have the honor of being conducted to the table by the host.
Kaunitz feigned neither to see nor to hear. He continued his
conversation with Noverre, and when he had quite done, he sauntered
carelessly up to his other guests. Suddenly he paused, and his eyes
wandered from one to another with a searching glance.

"Good Heaven!" exclaimed he, "of what a rudeness we were about to be
guilty. I had invited Ritter Gluck to meet us to-day, and he has not yet
arrived. It shall not be said of me that I was ever wanting in respect
to genius as transcendent as his. I must beg of my distinguished guests
to await his arrival before going to dinner." [Footnote: Swinburne, vol.
I., page 80.]

Hereupon he resumed his conversation with Noverre. The other guests
were indignant, for they all felt the insult. The nobles disapproved of
the fashion, which had been introduced by Kaunitz, of mingling artists
and savans of no birth with the aristocracy of Vienna; and the
ambassadors felt it as a personal injury that Kaunitz, who yesterday had
refused to wait for them, to-day called upon them to wait for a
musician.

Kaunitz pretended not to see the displeasure which, nevertheless, his
guests were at no great pains to conceal, and he went on talking in an
animated strain with Noverre. The poor dancer, meanwhile, gave short and
embarrassed answers. He had remarked the discontent of the company, and
the prince's over-politeness oppressed him, the more so as he perceived
one of the lords gradually approaching with the intention of addressing
the prince. With the deepest respect the dancer attempted to withdraw,
but the merciless Kaunitz caught him by one of the buttons of his velvet
coat, and held him fast.

"Do not stir," said the prince. "I see the duke quite as well as you do,
but he is a liar and a braggart--I dislike him, and he shall not speak
with me. Tell me something about the new ballet that you are arranging
for the emperor's festival. I hear that Gluck has composed the music.
But hush! Here comes the maestro."

Kaunitz walked rapidly forward and met Gluck in the middle of the room.
They greeted one another cordially, but proudly--as two princes might
have done. Around them stood the other guests, frowning to see these two
men, both so proud, so conscious of greatness, scarcely seeming aware
that others besides themselves were present. Gluck was in full
court-dress; at his side a sword; on his breast the brilliant order of
the pope. With unembarrassed courtesy he received the greeting of the
prince, and made no apology for his tardy appearance.

"Thank Heaven, you have come at last!" exclaimed Kaunitz, in an audible
voice. "I was afraid that the gods, angels, and spirits who are the
daily associates of the great maestro would deprive us poor mortals of
the honor of dining with the favorite of the Muses and the Graces."

"The gods, the Muses, and the Graces are the associates of Prince
Kaunitz," returned Gluck. "If they are not to be found in their temples,
we may be sure that they have taken refuge here."

Kaunitz, who never vouchsafed a civil word in return for compliments,
bowed his head, and with a gratified smile turned to his assembled
guests.

"Ladies and gentlemen," said he, "let us sit down to dinner."

But the company waited for the signal to rise which would be given when
the host offered his arm to the lady whom he complimented by taking her
in to dinner.

The prince looked around, and his eyes rested again on Gluck.

"I beg of the Ritter Gluck," said he, graciously, "the honor of
conducting him to the table." And with a courteous bow he offered his
arm. "Favorite of the Muses, come with me. I am too true a worshipper of
your nine lovely mistresses, to resign you to any one else."

Gluck, with a smile appreciative of the honor conferred upon him, took
the arm of the prince, and was led into the dining-room.

Behind them came the other guests. All wore discontented faces; for this
time the slight had been offered not only to dukes and ambassadors, but
to the ladies themselves, who could not help feeling bitterly this utter
disregard of all etiquette and good-breeding.

On the day after the dinner Kaunitz started for Innspruck to superintend
the festivities preparing for the marriage of the Archduke Leopold.
Count Durazzo, the director of the theatre, had preceded the prince by a
week. Noverre, with his ballet-dancers, was to follow. The great opera
of "Orpheus and Eurydice," whose fame was now European was being
rehearsed at Innspruck, for representation on the first night of the
festival.

Although Florian Gassman was a leader of acknowledged skill, Gluck, at
the request of the emperor, had gone to Innspruck to direct and oversee
the rehearsals.

The furies had just concluded their chorus, and Gluck had given the
signal for dismissal, when Prince Kaunitz entered the theatre, and came
forward, offering his hand to the maestro.

"Well, maestro," said be, "are you satisfied with your artistes? Are we
to have a great musical treat to-morrow?"

Gluck shrugged his shoulders. "My singers are not the angels who taught
me this music, but for mortals they sing well. I scarcely think that
Donna Maria Louisa has ever heard any thing comparable to the music
which is to welcome her to Innspruck."

"I am glad to hear it," said Kaunitz, with his usual composure, although
he was inwardly annoyed at Gluck's complacency. "But as I promised the
empress to see and hear every thing myself, I must hear and judge of
your opera also. Be so good as to have it repeated."

Gluck looked at the prince in amazement.

"What," cried he, "your highness wishes them to go through the whole
opera without an audience?"

Prince Kaunitz raised his lofty head in displeasure, and said: "Ritter
Gluck, quality has always been esteemed before quantity. I alone am an
audience. Let the opera begin, the audience is here." [Footnote: The
prince's own words. Swinburne, vol. 1, page 302.]

Gluck did not answer immediately. He frowned and looked down. Suddenly
he raised his head, and his face wore its usual expression of energy and
power.

"I will gratify your highness. I myself would like to hear the opera
without participating in it. Ladies and gentlemen of the coulisses, be
so kind as to return! Gentlemen of the orchestra, resume your
instruments! Gassman, have the goodness to lead. Do your best. Let us
have your highest interpretation of art--for you have an audience such
as you may never have again. Prince Kaunitz and Ritter Gluck are your
listeners!"



CHAPTER XXX.

AN UNFORTUNATE MEETING.

Festival followed festival. The streets of the beautiful capital of
Tyrol were gay with the multitudes who thronged to the marriage of the
empress's second son.

It was the second day after the wedding. On the first evening the opera
of "Orpheus and Eurydice" had been triumphantly represented before the
elite of the city. A second representation had been called for by the
delighted audience, although at the imperial palace a magnificent mask
ball was to be given, for which two thousand invitations had been
issued. It was a splendid confusion of lights, jewels, velvet, satins,
and flowers. All the nations of the world had met in that imperial
ballroom; not only mortals, but fairies, sylphides, and heathen gods and
goddesses. It was a bewildering scene, that crowd of fantastic
revellers, whose faces were every one hidden by velvet masks, through
which dark eyes glittered, like stars upon the blackness of the night.

The imperial family alone appeared without masks. Maria Theresa, in a
dress of blue velvet, studded with golden embroidery, her fair white
forehead encircled by a coronet of diamonds and sapphires, walked
among her guests with enchanting smiles and gracious words. She leaned
upon the arm of the King of Rome, who, looking more cheerful than usual,
chatted gayly with his mother or with the crowd around them. Near them
were the Grand Duke Leopold and his bride, so absorbed in one another
that it was easy to see that they at least were happy in their
affections. Behind them flocked the young archduchesses, who were
enjoying the ball to the utmost. Whenever the empress approached a group
of her guests, they stood in respectful silence while she and her
handsome family passed by: but as soon as she had left them, their
admiration burst forth in every imaginable form of words. The empress,
who overheard these murmured plaudits, smiled proudly upon her young
daughters, who, even if they had been no archduchesses, would still have
been the handsomest girls in Austria.

While the empress, in the full splendor of her rank and beauty, was
representing the sovereign of Austria, the emperor, mingling with the
guests, was taking the liberty of amusing himself as ordinary mortals
love to do at a masked ball. On his arm hung a mask of most graceful
figure, but so completely was she disguised that nothing could be
ascertained with regard to her name or rank. Some whispered that it was
the emperor's new favorite, the Countess of Auersberg.

As the pair went by, the emperor overheard the conjectures of the crowd,
and he turned with a smile to the lady who accompanied him.

"Do not fear," said he; "there is no danger of your being recognized.
You are mistaken for another lady. I promised you that you should meet
Joseph here, and I will keep my promise. Let us try to make our way
through the crowd, that we may join him as soon as possible; for I feel
oppressed this evening, I know not why."

"Oh, then, your majesty, let me go back into the anteroom," said the
veiled lady. "I begin to feel all the rashness of my undertaking, and
although it has the sanction of your majesty and the empress, I feel
like a criminal, every moment dreading discovery. Let us go back."

"No, no," replied the emperor, "let us remain until the interview with
Joseph is over. I shall feel no better in the anteroom than here. I
never shall be well until I leave this beautiful, fearful Tyrol. Its
mountains weigh heavily upon my head and my breast. But let us sit down
awhile. I love to listen to the people's talk, when the court is not
by."

"But while your majesty is present the court is here," said the lady.

"Not so, my dear," whispered the emperor; "the empress and my children
are the court, I am but a private nobleman. Ah, there they come! See how
beautiful and stately the empress looks! Who would suppose that this
grown-up family were her children!--But she, she signs us to approach.
Take courage, and await me here."

So saying, the emperor hastened toward his wife, who received him with a
loving smile of welcome.

"Now, my son," said she, withdrawing her arm from Joseph, "I give you
your freedom. I advise you to mix among the masks, and to go in search
of adventures. We have done enough for ceremony, I think we may now
enjoy ourselves a little like the rest of mankind. If we were younger,
Franzel, we, too, would mix with yonder crowd, and dance awhile. But I
suppose we must leave that to our children, and betake ourselves to the
card-table or to the opera-house."

"If your majesty leaves me the choice," said the emperor, "I vote for
the opera."

The empress took his arm, while she turned to the Countess Lerchenfeld,
the governess of the archduchesses. "To the dancing-room, countess,"
said she; "the archduchesses may dance, but no masks must enter the
room. Now, my dear husband, follow me. Adieu, Joseph! To-morrow I expect
to hear what fortune has befallen you to-night."

"Your majesty forgets that Fortune is a woman," returned Joseph,
smiling, "and you know that I have no luck with women."

"Or you will not have it," said the empress, laughing, and leaving her
son to his thoughts.

"Or you will not have it," repeated a soft voice near, and Joseph,
turning, saw an elegant-looking woman, veiled and masked.

"Fair mask," said he, smiling, "although you have the qualities of Echo,
you have not yet pined away to invisibility."

"Perhaps, sire, my body is only the coffin of my heart, and my heart the
unfortunate Echo that has grieved herself to death and invisibility. But
perhaps your majesty does not believe in the power of grief, for
doubtless you are unacquainted with its pangs."

"And why should you imagine that I am unacquainted with grief?" asked
Joseph.

"Because your majesty's station is exalted above that of other men;
because God has blessed you with a noble heart, that is worthy of your
destiny--the destiny which gives you the power of making other mortals
happy."

"How do you know all this?"

"I see it," whispered she, "in your eyes--those eyes that reflect the
blue of heaven. Oh, sire, may never a cloud darken that heaven!"

"I thank you for your pious wish," replied the king sadly, "but if you
are mortal, you know that in this world there are no such things as
cloudless skies. Let us not speak of such serious matters; give me your
arm, and let us join in the mirth that is around us."

"If your majesty will permit me, I will while away the hour by relating
to you a sad story of life."

"Why a sad story, why not a merry one?"

"Because I came here for no other object than to relate this sad story
to yourself. I came to crave your majesty's sympathy and clemency in
behalf of a suffering fellow-creature."

"Can I do any thing in the matter?" asked the king.

"From your majesty alone do I hope for succor."

"Very well; if so, let me hear the story. I will listen."

"Sire, my mournful history will ill accord with the merriment of a
ballroom. If you will condescend to go with me to one of the boxes in
the gallery, I will there confide my secret to your ear, and there I
hope to soften your heart. Oh, sire, do not tarry; it is a case of life
or death."

"Well," said Joseph, after a pause, "I will go. After all, I am about to
have an adventure."

The mask bowed, and made her way through the crowd to a side-door which
opened upon the private staircase leading to the boxes. Joseph looked
with interest at the light and elegant form that preceded him, and said
to himself, "Truly an adventure! I will follow it to the end."

They were now in the galleries, from whence a beautiful view of the
ballroom was obtained. The lady entered a box, the king followed. The
sound of the music, and the gay voices of the dancers, came with
softened murmur to the ears of the king. He thought of the past, but
rousing himself to the exigencies of the present, he turned to the lady
and said: "Now, fair mask, to your narrative."

"Swear first to bear me to the end! Swear it by the memory of Isabella,
whom you so passionately loved!"

"Isabella!" cried Joseph, turning pale. "You are very bold, madame, to
call that name, and call it here! But speak. By her loved memory I will
listen."

She took his hand, and pressed it to her lips. Then she begged the king
to be seated, and took her place by his side.

"Sire, I wish to relate to you the history of a woman whom God has
either blessed or cursed; a woman who, if she were not most unfortunate,
would be the happiest of mortals."

"You speak as the Sphinx did before the gates of Thebes. How can one be
at the same time blessed and cursed?"

"Sire, it is a blessing to be capable of loving with passion; it is a
curse to love, and not be loved in return."

"And a greater curse," murmured Joseph, "to feign love and not to feel
it. I have been a victim of such hypocrisy, and never shall I outlive
its bitter memories."

"Sire," began the lady, "the woman of whom I speak would willingly give
a year of her life if the man she loves would but vouchsafe to her
thirsting heart one single glance of love. Think how wretched she must
be, when even the appearance of love would satisfy her. But do not
suppose, sire, that this woman is the victim of a guilty passion which
she dare not own. She is a wife, and the man she adores, and who loves
her not, is her husband."

"Why does he not love her?" asked Joseph quickly.

"Because," said the mask, in an agitated voice, "because she has sinned
against him. On the day of her marriage, although he nobly invited her
confidence, she hid from him a--a--malady. Oh, in mercy, do not go! You
MUST hear me" cried she; almost frenzied, "you swore by the memory of
Isabella to listen."

Joseph resumed his seat, and said roughly, "Go on, then."

"It was a crime," continued she in a voice of deepest emotion, "but she
has paid dearly for her sin. Her husband repulsed her, but her heart was
still his; he despised her, and yet she adores him. Her malady has long
since disappeared; her heart alone is sick; that heart which will break
if her lord refuse to forgive her the offence that was born of her love
for him! But oh, sire, he has no pity. When she meets him with imploring
looks, he turns away; her letters he sends to her unopened. Oh, he is
severe in his wrath; it is like vengeance from Heaven! But still she
loves, and still she hopes that one day he will be generous, and forgive
her another crime--that of not being blessed with beauty. For months she
has longed to tell him that she repents of her faults, that her
punishment is just; but, oh! oh! she begs for mercy. She was forbidden
to follow him to Innspruck, but she could not stay behind. His parents
gave their consent, and she is here at your knees, my lord and king, to
plead for mercy. Oh! has there not been enough of cruelty? See me
humbled at your feet; reach me your beloved hand, and bid me sit by your
side! "

She had sunk to the ground, and now tearing from her face the mask and
veil, the King of Rome beheld the death-like countenance of his despised
wife.

Joseph rose from his seat and looked at her with inexorable hate.

"Madame," said he, "thanks to the name which you used to force me into
compliance, I have heard you out. I married you without affection, and
you had been my wife but a few short hours when you turned my
indifference into undying hate. You come and whine to me for my love;
and you inform me that you are love sick on my account. If so, I dare
say that Van Swieten, who cured you of leprosy, can also cure you of
your unfortunate attachment. If you never knew it before, allow me to
inform you that YOUR love gives you no claim to MINE; and when a woman
has the indelicacy to thrust herself upon a man who has never sought
her, she must expect to be despised and humbled to the dust. And now,
madame, as I still have the misfortune to be your husband, listen to my
commands. You came here in spite of my prohibition; as you pass in the
world for my wife, you shall at least be obedient to my will. Go back
this night to Vienna, and never again presume to entrap me into another
interview like this!"

Without vouchsafing a look at the fainting woman who lay at his feet,
Joseph left the box, and descended to the ballroom. But what wail was
that, which, coming from the imperial banqueting-hall, hushed every
sound of music and mirth, and drove the gay multitude in terror from the
ballroom?

The King of Rome was hastily making his way through the terrified crowd,
when he was met by one of his own officers.

"I have been seeking your majesty," said he in a trembling voice. "The
emperor--"

"In Heaven's name, what of the emperor?"

"He is very ill, your majesty. On leaving the theatre, he was struck
down by apoplexy."

The king made no reply. He dashed on from room to room until he reached
his father's sleeping-apartment.

And there on the bed, that white, motionless body; that cold, insensible
piece of clay; that marble image without breath--was all that earth now
held of the Emperor Francis of Lorraine. He was dead, and his wish had
been granted. He had gone forever from the "beautiful, fearful Tyrol;"
and its mountains lay no longer heavily on his breast.



CHAPTER XXXI.

MOURNING.

The sound of rejoicings was hushed. The people of Innspruck had hastened
to remove from the streets every symbol of festivity. The flowers and
flags, the triumphal arches, and the wreathed arcades had disappeared.
The epithalamium had been followed by the dirge.

Night had set in--the first night of the emperor's death. The corpse
still lay on the bed where its last breath had been drawn, and no one
was with the deceased sovereign except two night-watchers, whose drowsy
heads were buried in the arm-chairs wherein they sat. Death had banished
ceremony. In the presence of their dead emperor, his attendants were
seated and slept. In the centre of the room stood the coffin that
awaited the imperial remains; for on the morrow the funeral ceremonies
were to begin. But the empress had ordered that on this night all
ceremony should be suspended.

Deep silence reigned throughout Innspruck. The citizens, worn out with
the excitement of the day, had all retired to rest. Even the children of
the deceased had forgotten their sorrow in sleep. Maria Theresa alone
sought no rest.

All that day she had been overwhelmed by grief; even prayer seemed to
bring no relief to her heart. But now she was tranquil, she had thrust
back her tears; and the empress-widow, all etiquette forgetting, was
making her husband's shroud.

As a woman, she grieved for the partner of her joys and sorrows; as a
woman, she wished to pay the last sad honors to the only man whom she
had ever loved. She whose hands were accustomed to the sceptre, now held
a needle, and to all offers of assistance she made but one reply.

"None of you are worthy to help me in this holy work, for none of you
loved him. For you, he was the beneficent and honored sovereign, but for
me, he was the joy, the light, the air of my life. I, who loved him,
have alone the right to work upon his shroud."

"Oh, your majesty," cried the Countess Dann, while her eyes filled with
sympathizing tears, "would that the world could see with what devotion
the great Maria Theresa sits in the stillness of the night, and with her
own hands prepares her husband's shroud!"

The empress quickly raised her head, and, with something like her
accustomed imperiousness, said: "I forbid any one of you to speak of
what you have seen to-night. In the simplicity of my grief, I do what my
heart urges me to do; but let not my sorrow become the subject of the
world's idle gossip. When the husband dies his wife, be she empress or
beggar, is nothing but a sorrowing widow. Ah! I am indeed beggared of
all my wealth, for I have lost the dearest treasure I possessed on
earth. All my joys will die with him."

The empress's sobs choked her utterance; and burying her face in the
shroud, she wept aloud.

"In the name of Heaven, your majesty, do not let your tears fall upon
the shroud!" cried the Countess Dann, while she tried with gentle force
to wrest the cloth from the empress's hands. "I have heard it said that
what is laid in the coffin bedewed with tears, draws after it to the
grave the one who sheds them."

"Would it were true!" exclaimed the empress, who had already resumed her
work. "Would that my Francis could open his arms to receive me, that I
might rest by his side from the cares of life! Would that I were with
him, who was my lover from earliest childhood; for cold and cheerless
will be the life that is no longer lit up by his smile."

She bent over her work, and nothing further was said; but her ladies of
honor gazed with tearful eyes upon the high-born mourner, who, in her
long, black dress, was making a shroud for her lost husband.

At last the task was completed, and she rose from her seat. With a sad
smile she threw the shroud over her head, and it fell around her
majestic form like a white veil.

"My veil of eternal widowhood!" said she. "Let me warm it with my love,
that it may not lie too cold upon my darling's breast. Now, my friends,
go and rest. Pray for the emperor, and for his heart-broken wife."

"Surely," said the Countess Daun, "your majesty will not send us away
until we have attended to your wants. Let us remain; we will watch by
your bedside."

"No, countess, I will dispense with your services to-night. Charlote von
Hieronymus will stay with me."

Turning to her beloved little tire-woman she said: "I want your
attendance yet awhile, Charlotte; you are to dress my hair to-night as
becomes a widow. Good-night, ladies."

The ladies of honor, with deep courtesies, left the room. As the door
closed behind them, she said to Charlotte: "Now, Charlotte, dear child,
you shall go with me on my last visit to the emperor. Take a pair of
scissors, and come."

"Scissors, your majesty?" said Charlotte.

"Yes, my dear," replied she, as she advanced to her work-table from
whence she took up a silver candelabrum, and signed to Charlotte to
follow.

Wrapping the shroud close about her, the empress went forward through
the long suite of magnificent but dark and empty rooms, that lay between
her and her husband. Her tall white figure, enveloped in the shroud,
looked in the gloom of night like a ghost. The light which she carried,
as it flashed across her face gave it a weird aspect; and as the two
wanderers went flitting by the large mirrors that here and there
ornamented the rooms, they looked like a vision which had started up for
a moment, then vanished into utter darkness.

At last they came to a door which stood ajar, through which a light was
visible.

"We are here," said the empress, leaning against the door for support.
"Step lightly, Charlotte, and make no noise, for the emperor sleeps."

There on the bed, with its yellow, sunken face, was the corpse that had
been her husband--the only man she had ever loved. And that hideous
black coffin, which looked all the gloomier for the wax-lights that
burned around it, was his last resting-place.

Maria Theresa shuddered when she saw all this; but her strong will came
to her help, and she went steadily forward until she reached the
night-watchers. She awoke them and said, "Go, wait in the next room
until I call you." Charlotte was already on her knees, praying.

The empress stood once more irresolute, then rushing forward with a cry
she leaned over the body.

Presently she laid her hand lovingly upon the staring eyes of the
corpse, and looked long and tenderly at the face.

"Shut your eyes, my Franz," said she softly, "shut your eyes, for never
have they looked so coldly upon me before. Do not forget me in heaven,
my beloved; but leave your heart with me; mine has been with you for so
many years! First I loved you as a child--then as a maiden--and lastly,
I loved you as a wife and the mother of your children. And I will ever
love you, my own one. I was true as your wife, and I will be true as
your widow. Farewell, my beloved, farewell!"

She bent over and kissed the emperor's mouth, and for a moment laid her
head upon his cold, still bosom. Then again she drew her hand softly
across his eyes, and tried to close them. A proud smile flitted over her
wan face, for the eyes of the corpse closed. The loving hand of the wife
had prevailed where every other effort had failed. True to her wishes in
death as in life, the dead emperor had shut his eyes to earth forever.

"Come, Charlotte, come," cried the empress, almost joyfully, "see how my
emperor loves me! He hears me still, and has granted my last request. I
will mourn no more, but will think of the day when I shall go to him
again and share his home in heaven. Until then, my Franz, farewell!"

She bent her head, and taking the shroud from her shoulders, she spread
it carefully over the coffin, smoothing every wrinkle with her hands,
until it lay as perfect as the covering of a couch.

"Call the valets, Charlotte," said she; and as they entered the room,
she motioned them to advance. "Help me to lay the emperor on yonder
bed," said she. "Take the feet and body, and I will bear his head."

With her strong arms, she raised him as a mother would move her sleeping
child, and, with the help of the valets, she laid her husband in his
coffin. This done, she again sent away the attendants, and then wrapped
the body in the shroud as though she had been protecting it from the
cold.

"Come hither, Charlotte," said she, "with your scissors." Charlotte
approached noiselessly. "Cut off my hair," continued she, taking out her
comb, and letting down the rich masses until it fell about her person
like another shroud.

"No, your majesty, no," cried Charlotte, bursting into tears. "I never
can cut off that magnificent hair."

"Good child," said the empress, "many a weary hour has that magnificent
hair cost you, and do you ask to have it spared? It shall give you no
more trouble. Take the scissors and cut it off!"

"Has your majesty then forgotten," pleaded Charlotte, "how dearly the
emperor loved this hair?"

"No, Charlotte, and therefore he must have it. 'Tis the last love-token
I have to give him. I cannot die with him like an Indian wife; but
religion does not forbid me to lay this offering at least in his coffin.
He used so often to pass his hands through it--he was so proud of its
beauty, that now he is gone, no one else shall see it. Say no more,
Charlotte, but cut it off."

The empress bent her head, while Charlotte, with a heart-felt sigh and
trembling hands, cut off the long and beautiful blond hair which Maria
Theresa laid as a love-token in the coffin of her husband. [Footnote:
Caroline Pichler. "Memoirs," vol. i., p.23.]



CHAPTER XXXII.

THE IMPERIAL ABBESS.

The funeral rites were over. In the crypt of the church of the
Capuchins, under the monument which, twenty years before, the empress
had built for herself and her husband, lay the body of Emperor Francis.
In this vault slept all the imperial dead of the house of Hapsburg. One
after another, with closed eyes and folded hands their marble effigies
were stretched across their tombs, stiff and cold as the bones that were
buried beneath. The eternal night of death reigned over those couchant
images of stone and bronze.

But Maria Theresa and her emperor had conquered death. Both rising from
the tomb, their eyes were fixed upon each other with an expression of
deepest tenderness; while Azrael, who stood behind with a wreath of
cypress in his hands, seemed to have transformed himself into an angel
of love that sanctified their union even beyond the tomb.

All had left the vault save the widowed empress; she had remained behind
to weep and pray. Her prayers ended, she drew her long black cloak
around her and strode through the church, unmindful of the monks, who,
on either side of the aisle, awaited her appearance in respectful
silence. She heeded neither their inclined heads nor their looks of
sympathy; stunned by grief, she was unmindful of externals, and scarcely
knew that she had left the vault, when her coach stopped before the
imperial palace.

Once there Maria Theresa passed by the splendid apartments which she had
inhabited during her husband's life, and ascending the staircase to the
second story of the palace, she entered upon the dwelling which had been
prepared for her widowhood. It was simple to coldness. Hung with black,
nothing relieved the gloom of these rooms; neither mirror, picture,
gilding, nor flowers were there. The bedroom looked sad in the extreme.
The walls were hung in gray silk; gray velvet curtains were drawn in
front of the small widow's bed; the floor was covered with a gray carpet
studded with white lilies, and the furniture was like the curtains, of
dim, dull gray velvet. [Footnote: Caroline Pichler, "Memoirs," vol. i.,
p. 20.]

As the empress entered this dismal room she saluted her ladies of honor
who had followed her, and now stood awaiting her commands at the door.

"Bring all my dresses, shawls, laces, and jewels to me in the
reception-room, and send a messenger to Prince Kaunitz to say that I
await his presence."

The ladies of honor left the room silently, and the empress, closing the
door, began again to weep and pray. Meanwhile her attendants were
occupied bringing up the costly wardrobe of their imperial mistress. In
a little while the dark rooms were brightened with velvet and silk of
every color, with gold and silver, with jewels and flowers.

The ladies looked with eager and admiring eyes at the magnificence which
had transformed this funereal apartment into a bazaar of elegance and
luxury, scarcely daring to speak the hopes and wishes that were filling
all their hearts. Suddenly their curious eyes sought the ground, for the
empress appeared and entered the room. What a contrast between this pale
figure, clad in simplest mourning, and the rich costumes which in the
days of her happiness had heightened her beauty; those days which seemed
to lie so far, far away from the bitter present

The empress laid her hand upon her heart, as if to stifle a cry of
anguish; then approaching the black marble table, she took up some of
the dresses that lay upon it.

With a voice softer and more pathetic than ever they had heard before,
she begged the companions of her happier days to accept and wear these
costly things as a legacy from the emperor. She then divied them as se
thought best; assigning to each lady what best became her and was most
appropriate.

Her ladies stood weeping around, while Maria Theresa besought each one
to pardon the trouble she had given in her joyous days, for the sake of
the misery she now endured. And as she entreated them to forget that she
had been imperious and exacting, they knelt weeping at her feet, and
earnestly implored her not to leave them.

The empress sadly shook her head. "I am no longer an empress," said she,
"I am a poor, humbled woman, who needs no more attendance, whose only
aim on earth is to serve God and die in His favor! Pray for the emperor,
char friends, and pray for me also."

Slowly turning away, she left the room and entered her cabinet, which
opened into the gray bedroom.

"And now to my last worldly task," said she, as ringing a silver
hand-bell she bade a page conduct Prince Kaunitz to her presence.

The page opened the door, and the prince came in.

The empress greeted him with a silent bend of her head, and exhausted,
sank into an arm-chair that stood before her writing-desk. Kaunitz,
without awaiting permission, took a seat opposite.

There was a long pause. At length Kaunitz said: "Your majesty has
honored me by commanding my presence hither."

"Yes, I sent for you because I have something of great importance to
say," replied the empress.

"I am all attention," replied the minister. "For it is worthy of your
noble self so soon to stifle your grief and to attend to the duties of
your crown. You have sent for me that we may work. And your majesty has
done well, for much business has accumulated on our hands since we last
held a cabinet council."

The empress shook her head. "Business no longer troubles me," replied
she; "I have sent for you to say that we are no longer to work
together."

"Does that mean that your majesty is about to dismiss me in disgrace?
Are you no longer satisfied with your minister?" asked Kaunitz.

"No, prince. It means that I myself must retire from the bustle and
vanities of this world. My hands are no longer fit to wield a sceptre;
they must be folded in prayer--in prayer for my emperor, who was called
away without receiving the sacraments of the church. My strength is gone
from me; my crown oppresses me; I can no longer be an empress."

"Were you made a sovereign by any power of yours?" asked Kaunitz. "Had
you the choice of becoming an empress or remaining an archduchess? What
did your majesty say to me when the insolent Charles of Bavaria tried to
wrest your imperial crown from your head?--'I received my crown from the
hands of God, and I must defend my divine right!' Floods of noble blood
were spilled that Maria Theresa might preserve her right; and does she
now intend to dim the glory of her crown by sacrificing it to her sorrow
as a wife?"

"I am tired of life and of the world, and I intend to take refuge from
their troubles in a cloister. Say no more! I am resolved to go, and the
palace at Innspruck shall be my convent. There, on the spot where he
died, will I make my vows; and as an abbess will I spend my life praying
that God may give him eternal rest. My vocation as a sovereign is at an
end; I resign my sceptre to my son." [Footnote: Coxe, "History of the
House of Austria," vol. v., page 188.]

"That means that your majesty will destroy with your own hands the
structure you had commenced; that you have grown faint-hearted, and are
unfaithful to your duty and to your subjects."

"I will follow the steps of my great ancestor, Charles V.," cried the
empress with energy. "I lay down my earthly dignity to humble myself
before God."

"And your majesty will be quite as unhappy as your ancestor. Do you
suppose that the poor monk ever was able to forget that he had been a
great prince?"

"And yet Charles V. remained for several years in a cloister." "But what
a life, your majesty! A life of regret, repentance, and despair. Believe
me, it is far better like Caesar to die pierced by twenty daggers on the
steps of a throne, than voluntarily to descend from that throne to enter
the miserable walls of a cloister."

"Better perhaps for those who have not renounced the world and its
pomps," cried the empress, raising her beautiful eyes to heaven. "But it
is neither satiety nor weariness of grandeur that has drive me to a
cloister. It is my love for my emperor, my yearning to be alone with God
and the past."

"But, your majesty," said Kaunitz with emphasis, "you will not be alone
with the past; the maledictions of your people will follow you Will they
hold you guiltless to have broken your faith with them?"

"I shall not have broken my faith; I shall have left to my people a
successor to whom sooner or later they will owe the same allegiance as
they now owe me."

"But a successor who will overturn all that his mother has done for
Austria's welfare. Your majesty laid the foundations of Austria's
greatness. To that end you called me to the lofty station which I now
occupy. Remember that together we pledged our lives and love to Austria.
Be not untrue to the covenant. In the name of that people which I then
represented, I claim from their emperor, Maria Theresa, the strict
fulfilment of her bond. I call upon her to be true to her duty as the
ruler of a great nation, until the hand of God releases her from her
crown and her life."

While Kaunitz spoke, Maria Theresa walked up and down the room with
troubled brow and folded arms. As lie ceased, she came and stood before
him, looking earnestly into his face, which now had cast aside its mask
of tranquillity, and showed visible signs of agitation.

"You are a bold advocate of my people's claims," said she; "a brave
defender of my Austria. I rejoice to know it, and never will take
umbrage at what you have so nobly spoken. But you have not convinced me;
my sorrow speaks louder than your arguments. You have termed me 'your
emperor.' I know why you have once more called me by that flattering
title. You wish to remind me that in mounting the throne of my ancestors
I lost the right to grieve as a woman, and pledged myself to gird on the
armor of manhood. Hitherto I have made it my pride to plan, to reign, to
fight like a man. I have always feared that men might say of me that my
hand was too weak to grasp the reins of power. But God, who perhaps gave
me the head of a man while leaving me the heart of a woman, has punished
me for my ambition. He has left me to learn that, alas! I am but a
woman--with all the weakness of my sex. It is that womanly heart which,
throbbing with an anguish that no words can paint, has vanquished my
head; and loud above all thoughts of my duty as an empress is the wail
of my sorrow as a widow! But I will show you, Kaunitz, that I am not
stubborn. I shall communicate my intentions to no one. For four weeks I
will retire to my cloister. Instead of naming Joseph my successor, I
will appoint him co-regent. If, after four weeks of probation, I still
feel that I can without guilt retire from the world, shall I then be
absolved from my oath, and suffered to lay down my crown without
reproach from my faithful minister?"

"If, after four weeks of unlimited power delegated to the Emperor
Joseph, your majesty still thinks that you have a right to abdicate,"
replied Kaunitz, "I shall make no opposition to your majesty's choice of
a private vocation, for I shall feel that after that time remonstrance
with you would be useless."

"Well, then, my novitiate shall begin to-morrow. Apprise the court and
the foreign representatives that I wish to meet them in the throne-room,
where in their presence I will appoint my son emperor co-regent."



CHAPTER XXXIII.

THE CO-REGENT.

Maria Theresa had kept her word. She had appointed her son co-regent,
investing the young emperor with full power to reign, to make laws, to
punish, to reward, and to govern her people, while she retired to the
palace of Innspruck. There she dwelt in strictest privacy, scarcely
seeing her children, and restricting her intercourse to the first lady
of honor, her confessor, and a few chosen friends, whom she sometimes
admitted to her mournful rooms.

Joseph, the young emperor of four-and-twenty years, was now monarch of
all Austria, Hungary, Lombardy, and the Netherlands. He had reached the
goal of his longings for power, and now he could begin to think about
the happiness of his people.

Since the intoxicating moment when Maria Theresa, in the presence of the
whole court, had named him co-regent, and delivered over to his hands
her vast empire, Joseph felt as if he had suddenly been transported to a
world of enchantment. He had, together with her ministers, dissuaded the
empress from her resolution of retiring to Innspruck; but even as he
joined his voice to theirs, his heart was trembling with fear lest she
should yield. He felt that if she revoked the power she had conferred,
he would almost die with disappointment. But the empress remained firm,
and her son was triumphant.

She had gone from the throne to the solitude of her own apartments, and
left him lord and emperor of Austria! He would no longer be obliged to
conceal his thoughts; they should come out into the broad day as deeds,
for he was sovereign there!

A day and night had passed by since his mother had renounced her rights
to him. He could not sleep. His head was full of plans, his heart of
emotion. He dared not sleep--he who was the guardian of millions of his
fellow-beings--he who felt ready to shed his heart's blood for their
good.

On the first day, Joseph had been in council with the ministers of
state. The will of the deceased emperor had been opened, and his son now
learned, that while his mother was conferring upon him power, his father
had left him boundless wealth. The Emperor Francis had left his eldest
son sole heir to his estates in Hungary and Galicia, to his jewels and
treasures, and also to the millions of money which he had accumulated
through manufactures and trade.

He had also left to his eldest son the twenty-two millions of coupons
which he had taken for the gold which he had advanced to the state for
the prosecution of the Seven Years' War. Joseph was therefore the
richest prince in all Germany, for his father's vast estates amounted to
one hundred and fifty-nine millions of guilders. [Footnote: Hubner,
"Life of Joseph II." vol. i., page 28.] But he who had been so
intoxicated with joy at his mother's gift, seemed scarcely moved at all
as he received the tidings of his vast inheritance.

"I wish that my father had bought all the coupons that were issued, and
that they were all mine," said he, with a sigh.

"Your majesty would be no gainer thereby," replied the lord keeper of
the finances, Von Kinsky. "These coupons bear but little interest, and
paper money is not gold. Its value is nominal."

"But it has one merit," replied the emperor, smiling; "it can be burned.
Oh, what a miserable invention is this paper money, which represents
value, but possesses none! Suppose that all the holders of these coupons
were to come in this morning and ask for their redemption, could the
imperial coffers meet their obligations?"

"Not if they all came at once, your majesty."

"But the people have a right to call for them," said the emperor. "In
lending their money, they showed their confidence in the government, and
this confidence must not be betrayed. Let the twenty-two millions of
coupons be put in a package and brought to my private apartments. I wish
to dispose of them."

Throughout this day Joseph was so absorbed by business, both private and
official, that he had no opportunity of exhibiting himself in his new
character, either to his family or his subjects.

But, on the second day of his co-regency, the young emperor appeared in
public. On this day, the Viennese celebrated the deliverance of Vienna
from the Turks by John Sobieski and his brave Polish legions. The
mourning of the female members of the imperial family did not permit
them to mingle as usual with the people on this favorite festival; but
the emperor resolved to show himself on this occasion in the character
of a sovereign. All Vienna was eager to see him as soon as it became
rumored that he would certainly attend the mass in honor of the day at
the cathedral of St. Stephen.

Meanwhile, the young emperor was in his palace. The anterooms were
filled with petitioners of every sort, who, through bribes offered to
the members of the imperial household, had penetrated thus far, and were
now awaiting the appearance of the emperor. The anterooms of Maria
Theresa had always been thronged with these petitioners, and now they
jostled each other without ceremony, each one hoping to be remarked by
the emperor as he passed on to his carriage.

Suddenly the commotion ceased and took the form of a panic as the door
opened and the valets of the emperor came forward, their hands filled
with the petitions which they had just taken in. They had all been
refused!

A few moments afterward the door opened again, and the lord chamberlain,
Count Rosenberg, advanced to the centre of the room.

There was no necessity for the pages to order silence, for the crowd
were breathless with expectation, and the deepest stillness reigned
throughout the thronged rooms while Count Rosenberg read the first
greeting of the emperor to his people.

It was sharp, and to the point. It forbade, in strongest terms, all
indirect efforts to obtain promotion or pensions; and it declared once
for all that merit alone would be the test of all applications presented
to the Emperor Joseph II.

When the count had done reading the proclamation, the valets laid the
petitions upon a table, that each man might select and remove his own
paper.

"Your majesty has made some enemies to-day," said Count Rosenberg, as he
reentered the cabinet of the emperor. "I saw many a scowl in the
anteroom as I passed by the disappointed multitude that thronged my
way."

"I do not wish the friendship of intriguers and flatterers," replied the
emperor with a merry laugh. "If my proclamations make me enemies, I
think they will also make me friends. The good shall be satisfied with
my rule; for, during my mother's reign, I have observed much and thought
much. And now the day has come when the power is mine to reward virtue
and punish vice."

"May Heaven grant that your majesty's day draw to a close without clouds
or storms!" said Rosenberg.

The emperor laughed again. "What do you fear, my friend?" asked he.
"Have you so long shared with me my burden of dissimulation, that you
are frightened to see our shackles fall? Are you afraid of the fresh
air, because we wear our masks no longer? Patience, Rosenberg, and al
will be well with us. Our dreams are about to be fulfilled: what we have
whispered together in the twilight of mutual trust, we may now cry out
with free and joyous shouts--'Reform! reform!' My people have prayed
quite enough, they shall now learn to do something better--they shall
think; they have been long enough led by faith, like little children. I
will give them confirmation, and they shall enter upon the
responsibilities of manhood. I mean to be a blessing to the virtuous,
and a terror to the vicious."

"Unhappily, there is more evil than good in this world," said Count
Rosenberg, sighing, "and a man, though he can seldom count his friends,
is never at a loss to count his enemies."

"I do not understand you," said Joseph, smiling. "I intend to draw out
the fangs of the wicked, so that they shall have power to injure no
one."

"Your majesty will do this if time be granted you," said the count.
"If--"

"What do you mean?" cried the emperor, impatiently, as Rosenberg
hesitated. "Speak on. What do you fear?"

"I fear," whispered the count, "that your day will be darkened by bigots
and priests. I fear that the empress will not leave you freedom to carry
out your reformation. I fear that your enemies will dry up her tears,
and unclasp her folded hands, to force within their grasp the sceptre to
which your manhood gives you exclusive right. I fear the influence of
her confessor, Father Porhammer: try to conciliate him. It is far better
to win over our opponents by forbearance, than to exasperate them by
open warfare."

"But open warfare is my right," cried Joseph, "and I am powerful enough
to despise all opponents, as well as strong enough to pursue my way
without regard to the wickedness of all the bigots in Christendom. Face
to face shall we stand, and I defy them all! We have had enough, too, of
Spanish etiquette and Italian mummery here. Now we shall have honest
German customs; we shall be Germans in thought, in speech, and in
sentiment. This is my dream, my bright and beautiful dream! Austria
shall one day be Germanized; the kingdoms and provinces which compose my
dominions shall no longer be separate nationalities, but all shall be
the branches of one lofty tree. The limbs shall lose their names, and be
called by that of the trunk; and the trunk shall bear the name of
Germany. High above the boughs of this noble tree, which shall extend
from France to Poland, I will place my banner and my crown, and before
their might all Europe shall bow. This is my dream, Rosenberg, my dream
of future greatness!"

"While I listen and look upon your majesty's countenance, bright with
inspiration, I, too, bow before the grandeur of your thought, and feel
as if this godlike dream must surely become a glorious truth."

"It shall be glorious truth, Rosenberg," exclaimed the emperor. "Why
should Germany be severed into many parts, when France and Spain are
each a kingdom in itself? Why is England so powerful? Because Scotland
and Ireland have lost their identity in hers. Sweden and Norway, are
they not, or rather ought they not to be, one? And Russia, how many
different races own the sway of the mighty Czar? My empire, too, shall
become strong through unity, and I shall be not only emperor of Austria,
but, in very deed and truth, emperor of all Germany!"

Rosenberg shook his head, and sighed. "Ah, your majesty," said he, "you
are so young that you believe in the realization of mortal dreams."

"I do, and I intend to workout their realization myself. I shall begin
by being German myself. I intend to do away with ceremony, priestcraft,
and foreign influence. To that intent, my lord chamberlain, you will see
that all foreigners are dismissed from the palace, and their places
supplied by Germans. My two Italian valets I make over to Porhammer.
Nothing but German shall be spoken at court. I will have neither French
nor Italian actors here. Count Durazzo shall dismiss his foreign troupes
and employ Germans in their stead. [Footnote: Gross-Hoffinger, "History
of Joseph II.," vol. i., p. 91.] Let him see that the German stage
flourishes and does honor to the metropolis of the German empire."

"This is an ordinance that will enchant the youths of Vienna," replied
the count, gayly.

"Here is another which will equally rejoice their hearts as well as
those of all the pretty women in Vienna," added the emperor.

"Your majesty means to revoke the power of the committee on morals?"

"Not quite. I dare not fly so soon in the face of my lady-mother's pet
institutions," returned Joseph, laughing; "but I shall suspend them
until further notice. Now the pretty sinners may all go to sleep in
peace. Now the young girls of Vienna may walk the streets without being
asked whither they go, or whence they come. Reform! reform! But hark!
there are the church-bells; I go to exhibit myself to my subjects. Come,
let us away."

"But your majesty has not made your toilet. The valets are now waiting
with your Spanish court-dress in your dressing-room."

"I make them a present of it," said the emperor. "The day of Spanish
court-dresses is over. The uniform of my regiment shall be my
court-dress hereafter, so that you see I am dressed and ready."

"Then allow me to order that the carriage of state be prepared for your
majesty."

"Order that the carriage of state be left to rot in the empress's
stables," returned Joseph. "The day of etiquette, also, is over. I am a
man like other men, and have as much use of my limbs as they. Let
cripples and dotards ride--I shall go to church on foot."

"But your majesty," remonstrated Rosenberg, "what will the people say
when they see their emperor stripped of all the pomp of his high
station? They will think that you hold them too cheaply to visit them in
state."

"No, no. My people will feel that I come among them, not with the cold
splendor of my rank, but with the warmth of human sympathy and human
nature, and they will greet me with more enthusiasm than if I came in my
carriage of state."

The emperor was right. The people who had thronged every street through
which he was to pass, shouted for joy, when they saw the ruler of all
Austria on foot, accompanied by a few of his friends, making his way
among them with as much simplicity as a burgher.

At first astonishment had repressed the enthusiasm of the Viennese, but
this momentary reticence overcome, the subjects of Joseph the Second
rent the air with their cries of welcome, and pressed around his path,
all eager to look into the face of the sovereign who walked among his
people as an equal and a man.

"See him! see him!" cried they. "See the German prince who is not
ashamed to be a German! See our emperor in the uniform of the German
infantry! Long live the emperor! Long live our fatherland! Long live the
emperor!" shouted the multitude while Joseph, his heart overflowing with
joy, made his way at last to the cathedral of St. Stephen.

And now the trumpets sounded, and the mighty organ thundered forth a
welcome, while cardinals and priests lifted their voices, and the clergy
sang the "Salvum fac imperatorum nostrum."

And ever and anon, through the open windows of the cathedral, the people
shouted, "Long live the emperor! Long live our fatherland!"

Overcome by the ovation, Joseph sank down upon his knees, and his heart
softened by the scene, the circumstances, and the sublime chants of the
church, he prayed. Clasping his hands, he prayed that God might give him
strength to do his duty to his subjects, and to make them happy.

The "Salvum fac imperatorum" over, the mass for the repose of the soul
of Sobieski and his twelve thousand Poles was intoned. The emperor
prayed for them, and thanked the Almighty Ruler of all things for the
rescue they had brought to Vienna in her hour of danger from the
infidel.

This was the first public act of Joseph's reign as co-regent.

The mass over, the people witnessed another public act of the young
emperor's reign. While Joseph, smiling and bending his head to the
crowds that pressed around him, was quietly pursuing his way back to the
palace, a procession was seen coming through the streets which attracted
the attention of the multitude, and called forth their wonder.

First came a file of soldiers, with shouldered carbines, then an open
vehicle drawn by horses from the imperial stables, then another file of
soldiers. Within the wagons sat several officers of the emperor's
household, with large rolls of paper in their hands, and behind it was a
detachment of cavalry with drawn sabres.

"What means this pageant?" asked the people of one another.

For all answer to this question, the multitudes pressed forward and fell
in with the mysterious procession.

The train moved on, until it arrived at an open market-place, where it
halted. In the centre of the square was a heap of fagots, near which
stood two men with lighted torches in their hands.

"An execution!" cried the terror-stricken multitude. "But what an
execution! Who was to be burnt at the stake?"

While the crowd were murmuring within themselves, the officers of the
emperor's household advanced to the pile, and laid the rolls of papers
which they had brought, upon it. They then signed to the people for
silence, and one of the officers addressed the crowd.

"The Emperor Joseph, co-regent with the Empress Maria Theresa, sends
greeting to his subjects," cried he in a clear, loud voice. "To-day, the
first of his reign, and the festival of John Sobieski the deliverer of
Vienna, he wishes to prove to his people how much he loves them. In
testimony whereof, he presents to them twenty-two millions of coupons,
bequeathed to him by his father the late Emperor Francis. These papers
are the coupons. In the name of the Emperor Joseph approach, ye
torch-bearers, and kindle the pile, that the people of Austria, made
richer by twenty-two millions, may recognize, in this sacrifice, the
love of their sovereign."

The torches were applied, and high in the air soared the flames that
were consuming the emperor's bequest, while the faces of the multitude
around were lit up by the glare of the burning pile.

The bells of the churches began to chime, the flames soared higher and
higher, and the people looked on in wondering gratitude at the
twenty-two millions of consuming guilders, which were the first offering
of Joseph II to his subjects. [Hormayer. "Austrian Plutarch." vol. i. p
129]



CHAPTER XXXIV.

HAROUN AL RASCHID.

The emperor was alone in his dressing-cabinet. He stood before a mirror,
covering his rich blond curls with a large wig, which fell in long
ringlets over his shoulders, and completed the very singular costume in
which it had pleased is majesty to array himself.

The emperor surveyed himself with evident satisfaction, and broke out
into a hearty laugh. "I think," said he, "that in this dark-haired fop,
with his fashionable costume, no one will recognize the emperor. I
suppose that in this disguise I may go undetected in search of
adventures. If I am to be of use as a prince, I must see all things,
prove all things, and learn all things. It is written, 'Prove all
things, and hold fast to that which is good.' I am afraid that I shall
not hold fast to much that comes under my observation."

He drew back from the mirror, threw over his shoulders a little cloak,
bordered with fur, set a three-cornered hat upon the top of his wig,
took up a small gold-headed cane, and then returned to survey himself a
second time.

"A fop of the latest style--that is to say, a fool of the first water
--looks out upon himself from this looking-glass," said he, laughing.
"It would be an affront to my majesty if any one were to presume to
suspect the emperor under this absurd disguise. I hope I shall be as
successful in the way of adventures as was my predecessor Haroun al
Raschid."

He drew his cloak close around him, and stepped from a little private
door that opened from his dressing-room into the corridor which led to
the apartments of his wife. Retired and unobserved, the Empress Josepha
lived within these rooms, which from the first night of their marriage,
her husband had never reentered. The corridor was empty. Joseph could
therefore pass out unobserved, until he reached a private staircase
leading to the lower floor of the palace. Once there, he raised his
head, and stepped boldly out into the hall. The porters allowed him to
pass without suspicion, and, unrecognized, the young adventurer reached
the public thoroughfares.

"Now," thought he, with a sensation of childish delight, "now I am free,
a man just like other men. I defy any one to see my divine right upon my
brow, or to observe any difference between the 'imperial blue' of my
eyes, and the ordinary blue of those of my subjects."

"Halt, there!" cried a threatening voice to the careless pedestrian.
"Out of the way, young coxcomb; do you suppose that I must give way to
you?"

"Not at all, your worship," replied Joseph, smiling, as with an active
bound he cleared the way for a colossal carman, who, covered with sweat
and dust, was wheeling a load of bricks in a barrow.

The carman stopped, and surveying the emperor angrily, cried out in a
voice of thunder, "What do you mean by calling me 'your worship?' Do you
mean to insult me because you are wasting your father's money on your
pretty person, decked out like a flower-girl on a holiday?"

"Heaven forbid that I should seek to insult you!" replied the emperor.
"The size of your fists is enough to inspire any one with respect. For
all the world I would not offend their owner."

"Well, then, go your way, you whippersnapper," muttered the carman,
while the emperor congratulated himself upon having gotten out of the
scrape without detection.

"It would have been a pretty anecdote for the history of the Emperor
Joseph, had he been discovered in a street brawl with a carman," said he
to himself. "A little more, and my imperial face would have been pounded
into jelly by that Hercules of a fellow! It is not such an easy matter
as I had supposed, to mix on equal terms with other men! But I shall
learn by bitter experience how to behave."

At this moment Joseph heard the sounds of weeping. Turning, he beheld
coming toward him a young girl of about sixteen, whose slight figure, in
spite of the cool autumn day, was scarcely covered by a thin, patched
dress of dark stuff. An old, faded silk handkerchief was thrown over her
shoulders; her sweet, pale face was bedewed with tears, and her lips
were murmuring gentle complaints, though no one stopped to listen. On
her right arm she carried a bundle, which every now and then she
watched, as if afraid that some one might rob her of its treasures.

Suddenly a kind voice whispered, "Why do you weep, my child?"

The young girl started and met the gaze of a young man, whose blue eyes
were fixed upon her with an expression of tenderest sympathy.

"I weep," said she, "because I am unhappy," and she quickened her steps
that she might leave him behind. But the emperor kept pace with her.

"Why do you walk so fast? are you afraid of me?"

"I fear the committee of morals," said she, blushing. "If they should
see me with you, I might be mistaken for--"

"Have you ever been suspected by them?"

"Yes, sir, although I have always tried, when I was in the streets, to
avoid observation. Go, sir, go. Do not heed my tears. I am accustomed to
misfortune."

"But it is said that the emperor has suspended the office of that
committee."

"I am glad of it," replied the girl, "for good and evil are alike
exposed to suspicion; and I would like to walk the streets without fear
of being taken for what I am not."

"Where are you going, child?"

"I am going," replied she, with a fresh burst of tears, "to sell the
clothes I carry in this bundle."

"What clothes, child?"

"The last decent covering that my poor mother owns," sobbed the girl.

"You are, then, very poor?" asked the emperor, softly.

"Very poor. We are often hungry, and have no food but our own bitter
tears. These are the last clothes we have, but they must go for bread,
and then perhaps we shall perish of cold."

"Poor girl! have you no father?"

"My father died in defence of Austria and the empress, and as a reward
of his devotion to his sovereign, his wife and child have been left to
die of want."

"Your father was a soldier?" asked the emperor, much affected.

"He was an officer, who served with distinction in the Seven Years' War.
But he never was promoted. He died for Maria Theresa, and his widow and
child will soon follow him to the grave."

"Why have you never applied to the empress for relief? Her purse is
always open to the wants of the needy."

"To obtain any thing from royalty, sir, you know that one must have
influence," replied the girl, bitterly. "We have no influence, nor would
we know how to intrigue for favor."

"Why, then, do you not go to the emperor? He at least has no fancy for
intriguers and flatterers. You should have gone to him."

"To be haughtily repulsed?" said she. "Oh, sir, the new emperor is a man
whose only love is a love of power, and whose only pleasure is to make
that power felt by others. Has he not already refused to listen to any
petition whatever? Did he not forbid his people to come to him for
favors?"

"He did that," replied Joseph, "because he wished to do justice to all;
and for that reason he has done away with all presentation of petitions
through courtiers or other officers of his household. But he has
appointed an hour to receive all those who present their petitions in
person."

"So he has said," returned the girl, "but no one believes him. His
guards will turn away all who are not richly dressed, and so the emperor
will have promised to see the people, though the people will never be
allowed to come into his presence."

"Have the Austrians so little faith in the sincerity of the emperor?"
asked Joseph. "Do they think that his heart--"

"His heart!" exclaimed the girl. "The emperor is without a heart. Even
toward his mother he is said to be undutiful and obstinate. He hates his
wife, and she is as mild as an angel. He whose pleasure it is to see an
empress at his feet, do you suppose that he can sympathize with the
misfortunes of his subjects? No, no; he has already stopped all pensions
which the generous empress had given from her private purse."

"Because he intends to bestow them upon worthier objects."

"No, no; it is because he is a miser."

"He a miser!" cried Joseph. "Did he not some days ago burn up twenty-two
millions of coupons?"

"It was said so; but no one saw them; and it is whispered that the
twenty-two millions were nothing but pieces of waste paper."

The emperor was speechless. He looked at this young traducer with an
expression of real horror.

"How!" at length said he, in a voice choked by emotion, "the emperor is
suspected of such baseness!"

"He is known to be selfish and miserly," replied his tormentor.

Joseph's eyes flashed with anger; but conquering his bitterness, he
constrained himself to smile.

"My child," said he, "you have been deceived. If you knew the emperor,
you would find that he is generous and ready to do justice to all men.
Go home and write your petition; and come to-day at noon to the imperial
palace. The guards will allow you to pass, and a servant will be there
to conduct you to me. I, myself, will present your petition, and I know
that the emperor will not refuse a pension to the widow and child of a
brave Austrian officer."

The girl's eyes filled with tears as she attempted to thank her unknown
benefactor.

But the emperor, who had allowed her to abuse him without interruption,
would not listen to her praises.

"Your mother is sick, and needs care," said he. "Go home, and do not
sell your clothes, for you will need them to visit the emperor. How much
did you expect to get for them?"

"I expected seven ducats, for a portion of this clothing is my mother's
wedding-dress."

"Then, my child, let me beg you to accept twelve," said he, drawing out
his purse. "I hope they will suffice for your wants until the emperor
fills them all."

The young girl bent over and kissed Joseph's hand. "Oh, sir," said she,
"you save us from death, and we have nothing to offer in return but our
poor prayers."

"Pray for the emperor," said he, gently. "Pray God that he may win the
love of his people. Farewell! I shall wait for you today, at noon."

With these words, Joseph quickened his pace, and was soon lost to view.

"My second adventure," thought he. "I must confess that it is not very
flattering to walk incognito about the streets and hear the sentiments
of one's own subjects. How often do kings mistake the murmurings of
discontent for the outpourings of joy! It is so pleasant to believe in
the love of our subjects, and to shut our eyes to all doubts of their
loyalty! But I am resolved to see and judge of the people for myself. My
path will often be beset with thorns, but Fate has not made me a monarch
for my own good; I am an emperor for the good of others. That child has
revealed some painful truths to me; it would seem as if I were fated
forever to be misjudged."



CHAPTER XXXV.

THE DISGUISE REMOVED.

At mid-day the emperor reentered the palace gates. This time he came
through the principal entrance, feeling quite secure in his disguise.

He proceeded at once to the hall of reception, wondering whether his
young protegee would present herself as he had requested her to do.

The sentries allowed him to pass, supposing him to be one of those about
to seek an audience with the emperor. Unsuspected he reached the hall.

Yes, there was his little accuser. She stood trembling and blushing in
one corner of the room, holding in her hand a paper. As she recognized
her unknown protector, she hastened to meet him, and timidly gave him
her hand.

"Oh, sir," said she, "you have been true to your word. I was so afraid
you would forget me, that I was several times on the point of leaving
this grand place. I feel lonely and ashamed; for you see that no one is
here but myself. Nobody trusts the emperor. And I, who am here, will
surely be repulsed; he never will be as kind as you have been to a poor
friendless girl. My mother has no hope; and if she has sent me to the
palace, it was that I might see you again, and once more pour forth my
gratitude for your kindness. If you would add another to the generous
gift you have already bestowed, tell me your name, that my mother and I
may beg God's blessing upon it, and then let me go, for I feel that my
visit here will be vain!"

"My dear child," said Joseph, laughing, "if all the emperor's opponents
were as headstrong as you, the poor man would have but little hope of
ever gaining the good-will of his subjects. But I intend to prove to you
that you are unjust. Give me your petition. I myself will present it for
you. Wait awhile, until I send a messenger who will conduct you to the
emperor. Follow him and fear nothing, for I shall be there, too, and
there I will tell you my name. Au revoir."

The young girl looked anxiously after him as he disappeared and once
more betook herself to the window. Gradually the room filled with a sad,
humble, and trembling crowd, such as often throngs the anterooms of
princes and nobles--a crowd which, with tearful eyes and sorrowing
hearts, so often returns home without succor and without hope.

But the people who were assembled in this hall of reception seemed more
sanguine than is usual with petitioners for imperial favor. They chatted
together of their various expectations; they spoke of the emperor's
benevolence; and all seemed to hope that they would be heard with
patience, and favorably answered. A door opened, and an officer entered.
He looked sharply around the room, and then went directly to the window,
where the young girl, with a beating heart, was listening to the praises
of that emperor whom in her soul she believed to be a tyrant.

"The emperor will he here presently," said the officer, in answer to a
storm of inquiries from every side. "But I have been ordered first to
conduct this young lady, the daughter of a deceased officer, to his
majesty's presence."

She followed him, silent and anxious. They went through suites of
splendid rooms, whose costly decorations struck the child of poverty
with new dismay. At last they stopped in a richly gilded saloon, covered
with a carpet of Gobelin, and hung with the same rich tapestry.

"Remain here," said the officer, "while I announce you to his majesty."

He disappeared behind the velvet portiere, and the frightened girl
remained with a crowd of richly-dressed nobles, whose embroidered
court-dresses and diamond crosses, almost blinded her with their
splendor.

Once more the portiere was drawn aside, and the officer beckoned the
girl to advance. She did so with trembling limbs and throbbing heart.
The hangings fell, and she was in the dread presence of the emperor. He
stood near a window with his back toward her--a tall, graceful man, in a
white uniform.

The poor girl felt as if she would cease to breathe, for this was the
decisive moment of her young life. The emperor could either consign her
to misery, or raise her to comfort, and wipe away the tears of her dear,
suffering mother.

He turned and looked at her with a benevolent smile. "Come hither, my
child," said he. "You would speak with the emperor. I am he."

The girl uttered a stifled cry, and falling on her knees, she hid her
death-like face in her hands. For she had recognized her unknown
protector. Yes, this noble man, who had proffered help and promised
protection, this was the emperor, and to his face she had called him
miser and tyrant!

She never for one moment thought whether he would punish her insolence;
she had but one feeling, that of unspeakable anguish for having wounded
a noble and generous heart. This alone caused her shame and grief.

The emperor approached, and looked with tenderness at the kneeling
maiden, through whose fingers her tears were flowing in streams.

"I have read your petition, and have found that you spoke the truth.
From this day your father's pay falls to your mother; and at her death
it shall revert to you. I beg you both to forgive the tardiness of this
act of justice; for neither the empress nor I had ever heard that your
father had any family. Once more forgive us for all that you have
endured since his death. And now, my child, rise from your knees; for
human beings should kneel before God alone. Dry your tears, and hasten
to your mother. Tell her that the emperor is not as heartless as he has
been pictured to her by his enemies."

"No, no," cried she, "I cannot rise until my sovereign has forgiven my
presumption and my calumnies."

"They are forgiven; for what could you know of me, you poor child, but
what you had been told? But now you know me yourself; and for the future
if you hear me traduced, you will defend me, will you not?" [Footnote:
Historical.] He reached out his hand, which she kissed and bedewed with
her tears.

The emperor raised her tenderly. "Be comforted; for if you cry so
bitterly my courtiers will think that I have been unkind to you. You
told me just now that you wished to know the name of your protector that
you might pray for him. Well, my child, pray for me--my name is Joseph."



CHAPTER XXXVI.

ROSARY AND SCEPTRE.

The four weeks to which Maria Theresa had limited her novitiate had
almost expired. She still secluded herself from the world, and, in the
deep retirement of her palatial cloister, would suffer no mention of
worldly affairs in her presence.

In vain her confessor and her attendants strove to awaken her interest
to the dissatisfaction of the people with the wild projects of reform
that threatened the subversion of all social order. From the day of her
retirement, Maria Theresa had forbidden the slightest allusion to
politics. Her confesser had on one occasion ventured a hint on the
subject of the changes which were being made by the emperor, but the
empress had turned her flashing eyes upon him, and had reminded him
that, as the servant of the Lord, he was there to exhort and to pray,
not to concern himself about the trivialities of this world.

On another occasion the Countess Fuchs had presumed to mention the
changes in the imperial household. The empress interrupted her coldly,
saying that if she had not lost her relish for the vanities of the
court, the countess must absent herself until further orders.

This severity had put an end to all plans for inducing the empress to
resume the cares of empire. She was now at liberty to weep and pray
without distraction. Even her children, who came daily to kiss her hand,
were allowed no conversation but that which turned upon religion. When
the morning services were ended, they silently withdrew to their rooms.

For a few days past, the Archduchess Christina had absented herself from
this mournful levee. On the first day of her nonappearance the empress
had not appeared to remark her absence. But on the second day her eyes
wandered sadly from her prayer book to her children, and her lips seemed
ready to frame some question. Instead of speaking, she bent her head
over her rosary, and strove to pray with more devotion than usual.

Finally came a third day, and still Christina was absent. The empress
could no longer master her maternal anxiety, and as the Archduchess
Elizabeth approached to kiss her hand, she spoke. "Where is Christina?
Why is she not with you?"

"My sister is sick, your majesty," replied the archduchess. And as
though she feared to displease her mother by further speech, she bent
her head and withdrew.

The next day when the imperial children entered their mother's
apartment, her prayer-book was lying on the table, while she, pale and
agitated, was pacing the room with hasty steps. She received her family
with a slight motion of her head, and looked anxiously toward the door,
until it had closed after the entrance of little Marie Antoinette. Then
the empress sighed, and turned away her head lest her children should
see the tears that were gushing from her eyes.

But when mass was over, and little, Marie Antoinette approached her
mother, she took the child up in her arms, and tenderly kissing her
cheek, said: "How is Christina, my darling?"

"Sister Christina is very sick, imperial mamma," replied the child, "and
she cries all day long. But she loves you very dearly, and longs to see
you."

The empress put down her little daughter without a word, and as if she
thought to mortify her worldliness, she signed to all present to
withdraw, and falling upon her knees, prayed long and fervently. An hour
or two after she sent for her confessor. As he left her room and passed
through the anteroom, the attendants saw that his countenance looked
joyous in the extreme. They flocked to hear if there was any hope of
convincing the empress of the necessity of her return to the world.

"I think there is much," replied the father. "God be thanked, her
maternal love has overcome the dangerous lethargy into which sorrow had
plunged our beloved sovereign. For a time she was overcome by her grief
as a widow; but she begins to feel that her children have a right to her
counsels and care. Later she will recognize the claims of her people and
Austria will be saved from the mad schemes of that unbelieving dreamer,
her son."

"Do you really believe that her majesty will return to the throne'?"
asked the countess.

"I do. She besought me in trembling tones to tell her something of her
beloved child--and I did nothing to tranquillize her, --for she has no
right to seclude herself from her people. Maria Theresa is a greater
sovereign than her son will ever be, and Austria cannot afford to lose
her now. She will visit her daughter to-day. Tell the archduchess not to
fear her brother's opposition; for her mother, once resolved to return
to her people, will see that her own daughters are not made wretched by
a tyrannical brother. The princess will marry her lover."

"I hasten. How soon may we expect the empress?"

"She will surely be there before many hours. Solitude is not congenial
to Maria Theresa's heart; her active mind craves occupation, and her
grief requires it. Let us appeal to her affections through the illness
of her child, and complete reaction will ensue. If once we can persuade
her to quit her seclusion, the cloister-dream is over. Let us all work
in concert to restore her to the world. It is not the sovereign of a
great nation who has a right like Mary to sit at the feet of Jesus. Go
at once, Count Bathiany, and may God bless the efforts we are making to
restore our empress to her sense of duty. Church and state are alike
endangered by the fatal step she has taken."



CHAPTER XXXVII.

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN AN ABBESS AND AN EMPRESS.

IT was the hour of dinner. Complete silence reigned throughout the
imperial palace, except in the halls and stairways that led from the
imperial dining-hall to the kitchens below. Both lay far from the
apartments of the empress-abbess. She, therefore, felt that she could
visit her child without fear of observation. She had just concluded her
own solitary dinner, and was trying to collect her thoughts for prayer.
In vain. They WOULD wander to the sick-bed of her daughter, whom fancy
pictured dying without the precious cares that a mother's hand alone is
gifted to bestow. Maria Theresa felt that her heart was all too
storm-tossed for prayer. She closed her book with a pang of
self-reproach, and rose from her arm-chair.

"It is useless," said she, at last. "I must obey the call of my
rebellious heart, and tread once more the paths of earthly love and
earthly cares. I cannot remain here and think that my Christina longs
for her mother's presence, and that I may not wipe her tears away with
my kisses. It is my duty to tend my sick child. I am not in the right
path, or a merciful God would strengthen me to tread it courageously. I
must replace their father to my children. Poor orphans! They need twice
the love I gave before, and, God forgive me, I was about to abandon them
entirely. It is no injury to the memory of my Francis, for, through his
children, I shall but love him the more. How I long once more to press
them to my heart! Yes, I must go, and this is the hour. I will pass by
the private corridors, and surprise my Christina in her solitude."

With more activity than she bad been able to summon to her help since
the emperor's burial, Maria Theresa to her dressing-room, and snatching
up her long, black cloak, threw it around her person. As she was drawing
the hood over her face, she caught a glimpse of herself in a mirror
close by. She was shocked at her own image; her face so corpse-like, her
cloak so like a hideous pall.

"I look like a ghost," thought the empress. "And indeed I am dead to all
happiness, for I have buried my all! But Christina will be shocked at my
looks. I must not frighten the poor child."

And actuated partly by maternal love, partly by womanly vanity, Maria
Theresa slipped back the ugly hood that hid her white forehead and
opened the black crape collar which encircled her neck, so that some
portion of her throat was visible.

"I will always be my Franz's poor widow," said the empress, while she
arranged her toilet, "but I will not affright my children by my
dress--now I look more like their mother. Let me hasten to my child."

And having again flung back the hood so that some portions of her
beautiful hair could be seen, she left the room. She opened the door
softly and looked into the next apartment. She had well calculated her
time, for no one was there; her ladies of honor had all gone to dinner.

"That is pleasant," said she. "I am glad not to meet their wondering
faces; glad not to be greeted as an empress, for I am an empress no
longer. I am a poor, humble widow, fulfilling the only earthly duties
now left me to perform."

She bent her head and went softly through the second anteroom to the
hall. Again, all was empty and silent; neither page, nor sentry, nor
lackey to be seen. She knew not why, but a feeling of desolation came
over her. She had bidden adieu to the etiquette due to her rank, but
this, she thought, was carrying the point too far.

"If I had had the misfortune to fall suddenly ill," said she, "I must
have called in vain for succor. No one is by to hear my voice. But at
least there must be sentries in the other hall." No! That hall too was
empty. No lackeys were there, no guards! For the first time in her life,
Maria Theresa was out of hearing of any human being, and she felt a pang
of disappointment and humiliation. She started at the sound of her own
footsteps, and walked faster, that she might come within sight of some
one-any one. Suddenly, to her joy, she heard the sound of voices, and
paused to listen.

The door of the room whence the voices were heard was slightly ajar, and
the empress overheard the following conversation. The speakers were
Father Porhammer and the Countess Fuchs. "Do not despair," said the
father; "the empress is forgiving and magnanimous; and when she shall
have admitted you again to her presence, it will be your duty to aid all
those who love Austria, by using your influence to recall her majesty to
the throne. Woe to Austria if she persists in elevating her grief above
her duty as a sovereign! Woe to the nation if her son, that rebellious
child of the church, reign over this land! His insane love of novelty--"
"For Heaven's sake, father," replied the countess, "say nothing against
the emperor! His mother's will has placed him on the throne, and we must
submit."

The empress heard no more. With noiseless tread she hurried on, until
she turned the corner of a side-hall and then she relaxed her pace. She
pondered over what she had just heard, and it did not contribute to
tranquillize her mind.

"What can he be doing?" thought she." What are those mad schemes of
which my friends have tried to apprise me? He was ever self-willed and
stubborn; ever inclined to skepticism. Alas! alas! I foresee sad days
for my poor Austria!"

At that moment the empress had gained a small landing which led to a
staircase which she had to descend. She was about to proceed on her way
when she perceived a man, whose back was turned toward her, seated on
the topmost step. He was so quiet that she thought he was asleep. But as
her foot touched him he turned carelessly round, and perceiving the
empress, rose slowly, and bent his head as though to any lady whom he
might pass.

Maria Theresa was astonished. She knew not what to think of the
irreverent bearing of this man, who was no other than Stockel, one of
the servants whose duty it had been, for thirty years, to light the
fires in her dressing-room.

He had been accustomed every morning to appear before his imperial lady,
in winter, to see that her fires were burning; in summer, to distribute
her alms. Steckel was from Tyrol, he had been a favorite servant of the
empress; and being an upright and intelligent man, his word was known to
have some weight with her. [Footnote: Thiebault, "Memoires de Vlugt
Ans."] Stockel had been the most respectful and loyal of servants; the
appearance alone of the empress had always made his old wrinkled face
light up with joy. How did it happen that now, when he had been parted
from her for four weeks, he seemed indifferent?

"He is offended because I have never sent for him," thought the
kind-hearted empress;' "I must try to appease him."

"I am glad to see you, Stockel," said she, with one of her own
bewitching smiles; "it is long since you have visited me in my room. I
am such a poor, sorrowing widow, that I have not had heart enough to
think of the poverty of others."

Steckel said nothing. He turned and slightly shrugged his shoulders.

"How?" said Maria Theresa good-humoredly, "are you offended? Have you
the heart to be angry with your empress?"

"Empress?" returned Stockel; "I took your highness for a pious nun. The
whole world knows that Maria Theresa is no longer an empress; she no
longer reigns in Austria."

Maria Theresa felt a pang as she heard these words, and her cheeks
flushed--almost with anger. But overcoming the feeling she smiled sadly
and said: "I see that you are really angry, poor Stockel. You do not
like to see my palace made a cloister. You think, perhaps, that I have
done wrong?"

"I do not pretend to judge of the acts of the rulers of earth," replied
he gloomily. "Perhaps the deeds which in ordinary people would be called
cowardly, may with them be great and noble. I know nothing about it; but
I know what my beloved empress once said to me. She was then young and
energetic, and she had not forgotten the oath she had taken when the
archbishop crowned her at St. Stephen's--the oath which bound her to be
a faithful ruler over her people until God released her."

"What said your empress then?"

"I will tell your highness. I had lost my young wife, the one I loved
best on earth, and I came to beg my discharge; for my longing was to go
back to my native mountains and live a hermit's life in Tyrol. My
empress would not release me. `How!' said she, 'are you so weak that you
must skulk away from the world because Almigthy God has seen fit to
bereave you of your wife? He tries your faith, man, and you must be
firm, whether you face the storm or bask in the sunshine. Did you not
promise to serve me faithfully, and will you now cast away your useful
life in vain sorrow? What would you think of me were I so lightly to
break my oath to my people--I who must lift my head above every tempest
of private sorrow, to fulfill my vow until death,' Thus spoke my
empress; but that was many years ago, and she was then sovereign of all
Austria."

Maria Theresa looked down, and the tear-drops that had been gathering in
her eyes fell upon her black dress, where they glistened like diamonds.

"It is true," whispered she, "I was sovereign of all Austria."

"And what prevents you from being sovereign to-day?" asked Stockel
eagerly. "Have your people released you?"

The empress waved her hand impatiently. "Enough," said she, "let me go
my way!"

"But I have a petition to make, and as it is the last favor I shall ever
ask, I hope your majesty will not deny me."

"Speak your wish," replied Maria Theresa hastily.

"I beg of your majesty to allow me to quit your service," replied the
man moodily. "I cannot forget the words of Maria Theresa. I will not
skulk away from the world while I have strength to work. I am tired of
the idle life I lead. It is summer, and there is no fire to kindle. As
for the poor unfortunates whom I used to visit, I can do them no good;
their benefactress is no more. I must do something, or life will be a
burden; and if your majesty will condescend to give me leave, I shall
seek another place."

"Another place, Stockel!" said the empress. "What other place?"

"A place in the household of the REIGNING empress," answered Stockel
with a low inclination.

Maria Theresa raised her head, and her astonishment was visible in her
large, open eyes.

"The reigning empress?" said she musing. "Who can that be?"

"The wife of the reigning emperor, your majesty," said Stockel grimly.

The empress threw back her proud head, and drew her mantle convulsively
around her.

"It is well," said she, "Come to me to-morrow, and you shall hear my
decision."



CHAPTER XXXVIII.

THE REIGNING EMPRESS.

The empress went slowly down the staircase. This staircase led to the
left wing of the palace, where the apartments of the imperial children
were situated. From earliest childhood the daughters of Maria Theresa
had had each one her separate suite. Each one had her governess, her
ladies of honor, and her train of servants, and lived as if in a
miniature court.

On great festivals, national or domestic, the younger members of the
imperial family were invited to the table of the empress; otherwise they
ate in private with their retinue, and each child had a separate table.

It was now the dinner-hour, and Maria Theresa had selected it, because
she felt sure that all the attendants of her children were at table, and
no one would know of her visit to Christina. But she was mistaken. As
she passed by the anteroom leading to the apartments of her children,
she heard the voices of the lords and ladies in waiting, and through the
half-opened door, saw them chatting together in groups. They did not
seem to observe their ex-sovereign; they went on conversing as if
nothing had happened. But as the empress was passing the apartments of
little Marie Antoinette, her governess appeared, and, with a cry of joy,
threw herself at Maria Theresa's feet, and covered her hand with kisses.
The empress smiled. A thrill of pleasure ran through her frame, as she
received the homage to which from her birth she had been accustomed.

"Rise, countess," said she, kindly, "and do not let Marie Antoinette
know that I am near. But, tell me, how comes it that at this hour I find
the retinue of my children at leisure, while they are at table?"

"We are at leisure, your majesty," replied the countess, "because we are
waiting for their highnesses to rise from the table."

"Is it then a festival, that my children should be dining at the
imperial table?"

"Please your majesty, the reigning emperor has abolished the private
tables of their highnesses your children. He finds it cheaper and more
convenient for all the members of the imperial family to be served at
once and at one table."

"Where, then, do my children dine?" asked the empress, with asperity.

"En famille, with her imperial majesty, the reigning empress."

"The reigning empress!" echoed Maria Theresa, with a frown. "But how
comes it that my children leave their rooms without a retinue? Have you,
then, already forgotten that I never permit a breach of court-ceremonial
on any account?"

"Please your majesty, the emperor dislikes etiquette, and he has
strictly forbidden all Spanish customs as laughable and ridiculous. He
has forbidden all attendance upon the imperial family, except on new
year's day. He has also forbidden us to kneel before his majesty,
because it is an outlandish Spanish custom, and a homage due to God
alone. All the French and Italian servants of the palace are dismissed,
and their places are supplied by natives. The emperor wishes to have
every thing at his court essentially German. For that reason he has
ordered the mass to be translated and celebrated in the German
language."

The empress heaved a sigh, and drew her mantilla over her face, as if to
shut out the future which was unrolling itself to her view. She felt
sick at heart; for she began to comprehend that her successor was not
only creating a new order of things, but was speaking with contempt of
his mother's reign. But she would not comtemplate the sad vision; she
strove to turn back her thoughts to the present.

"But if you no longer have your private table," continued she, "why not
accompany the princesses?"

"Because the emperor deems it fitting that the imperial family should
dine alone. We, ladies in waiting, dine in a small room set apart for
us, and then return to our apartments to await their highnesses."

"But the lords in waiting, do they not dine with you?"

"No, your majesty, they have received orders at one o'clock to go to
their own houses, or to their former lodgings to dine. The court table
is abolished, and the emperor finds that by so doing he has economized a
very considerable sum."

A deep flush of anger passed over the face of Maria Theresa, and her lip
curled contemptuously. Economy was one of the few virtues which the
profuse and munificent empress had never learned to practise. She
considered it beneath the dignity of a sovereign to count the cost of
anything.

"Enough," said she, in a constrained voice, "I will go to Christina. Let
no one know of my visit. I desire to see my sick daughter alone."

She bent her lofty head, and walked rapidly away. With a beating heart
she opened the door that led to the sleeping-room of the princess. There
on a couch lay a pale, weeping figure, the empress's darling, her
beautiful Christina.

She stopped for a moment on the threshold, and looked lovingly at the
dear child, whom, for four days, she had not seen; then a thrill of
unutterable joy pervaded her whole being. At this moment Christina
raised her languid eyes; her glance met that of her mother; and with a
piercing cry, she sprang from the couch. But, overcome by weakness and
emotion, she faltered, grew paler, and sank to the floor.

The empress darted forward and caught her fainting daughter in her arms.
She carried her to the divan, laid her softly down, and, with quivering
lip, surveyed the pale face and closed eyes of the princess.

She recovered slowly, and at length, heaving a deep sigh unclosed her
eyes. Mother and child contemplated each other with loving glances, and
as the archduchess raised her arms and clasped them around her mother's
neck, she whispered feebly: "Oh, now, all is well! I am no longer
desolate; my dear, dear mother has returned to me. She has not forsaken
us; she will shield us from oppression and misfortune."

Like a frightened dove Christina clung to the empress, and burying her
face in her mother's breast, she wept tears of relief and joy.

The empress drew her close to her heart. "Yes, darling," said she, with
fervor, "I am here to shield you, and I will never forsake you again. No
one on earth shall oppress you now. Tell me, dear child, what goes wrong
with you?"

"Oh, mother, "whispered Christina, "there is one in Austria, more
powerful than yourself, who will force me to his will. You cannot shield
me from the emperor, for you have given him the power to rule over us;
and, oh, how cruelly he uses his right!"

"What I have given, I can recall, "cried the empress. "Mine are the
power and the crown, and I have not yet relinquished them. Now speak,
Christina; what grieves you, and why are your eyes so red with weeping?"

"Because I am the most unhappy of mortals," cried Christina,
passionately. "Because I am denied the right which every peasant-girl
exercises; the right of refusing a man whom I do not love. Oh, mother,
if you can, save me from the detested Duke of Chablais,--whom my cruel
brother forces upon me as a husband."

"Is that your sorrow, my child?" exclaimed the empress. "Joseph is like
his father; he loves wealth. The emperor had proposed this half-brother
of the King of Sardinia for you, Christina, but I refused my consent;
and, now without my knowledge, Joseph would force him upon you, because
of his great riches. But patience, patience, my daughter. I will show
you that I am not so powerless as you think; I will show you that no one
in Austria shall give away my Christina without her mother's
approbation."

While the empress spoke, her cheeks flushed, and her eyes glowed with a
proud consciousness of might not yet renounced forever. The sorrowing
widow was being once more transformed into the stately sovereign, and
the eyes, which had been so dimmed by tears, were lit up by the fire of
new resolves.

"Oh, mother, my own imperial mother," said Christina, "do not only free
me from the man whom I detest, but bless me with the hand of the man I
love. You well know how long I have loved Albert of Saxony, you know how
dear I am to him. I have sworn never to be the wife of another, and I
will keep my oath, or die! Oh, mother, do not make me the sport of
policy and ambition! Let me be happy with him whom I love. What are
crowns and sceptres and splendor, when the heart is without love and
hope? I am willing to lead a simple life with Albert--let me be happy in
my own way. Oh, mother! I love him so far above all earthly creatures,
that I would rather be buried with him in the grave than be an empress
without him."

And she fell upon her knees and wept anew. The empress had listened
musingly to her daughter's appeal. While Christina was speaking, the
glamour of her own past love was upon her heart.

She was a girl again; and once more her life seemed bound up in the love
she bore to young Francis of Lorraine. Thus had she spoken, so had she
entreated her father, the proud emperor, until he had relented, and she
had become the wife of Christina's own father! Not only maternal love,
but womanly sympathy pleaded for her unhappy child.

She bent over her, and with her white hand fondly stroked the rich
masses of Christina's golden-brown hair.

"Do not weep, my daughter," said she tenderly. "True, you have spoken
words most unseemly for one of your birth; for it is the duty of a
princess to buy her splendor and her rank with many a stifled longing
and many a disappointment of the affections. Kind fate bestowed upon me
not only grandeur, but the husband of my love, and daily do I thank the
good God who gave me to my best beloved Franz. I do not know why you,
too, may not be made a happy exception to the lot of princesses. I have
still four beautiful daughters for whom state policy may seek alliances.
I will permit one of my children to be happy as I have been. God grant
that the rest may find happiness go hand in hand with duty."

The princess, enraptured, would have thrown her arms around her mother's
neck; but suddenly, her face, which had grown rosy with joy, became pale
again, and her countenance wore an expression of deep disappointment.

"Oh, mother," cried she, "we build castles, while we forget that you are
no longer the sovereign of Austria. And while you weep and pray in your
dark cell, the emperor, with undutiful hand, overturns the edifice of
Austria's greatness--that edifice which you, dearest mother, had reared
with your own hands. He is like Erostratus; his only fame will be to
have destroyed a temple which he had not the cunning to build."

"We will wrest the fagots from his sacrilegious hands," cried the
empress.

The archduchess seemed not to have heard her mother's words She threw
her arms around the empress, and, clinging convulsively to her,
exclaimed, "Oh, do, not forsake me, my mother and my empress. That
horrible woman, who was dragged from her obscurity to curse my brother's
life; that tiresome, hideous Josepha--do not suffer her to wear your
title and your crown. O God! O God! Must I live to see Maria Theresa
humbled, while Josepha of Bavaria is the reigning empress of Austria?"

The empress started. This was the third time she had heard these words,
and each time it seemed as if a dagger had pierced her proud heart.

"Josepha of Bavaria the reigning empress of Austria!" said she
scornfully. "We shall see how long she is to bear my title and wear my
crown! But I am weary, my daughter. I must go to my solitude, but fear
nothing. Whether I be empress or abbess, no man on earth shall oppress
my children. The doors of the cloister have not yet closed upon me; I am
still, if I choose to be, the reigning empress of Austria."

She pressed a kiss upon Christina's forehead, and left the room.

On her return she encountered no one, and she was just about to open the
door of her own anteroom, when she caught the sound of voices from
within.

"But I tell you, gentlemen," cried an angry voice, "that her majesty,
the ex-empress, receives no one, and has no longer any revenues. She has
nothing more to do with the administration of affairs in Austria."

"But I must see the empress," replied a second and a deprecating voice.
"It is my right, for she is our sovereign, and she cannot so forsake us.
Let me see the empress. My life depends upon her goodness."

"And I," cried a third voice, "I too must see her. Not for myself do I
seek this audience, but for her subjects. Oh, for the love of Austria,
let me speak with my gracious sovereign!"

"But I tell you that I dare not," cried the ruffled page. "It would ruin
me not only with her majesty, but with the reigning emperor. The widowed
empress has no more voice in state affairs, and the emperor never will
suffer her to have any, for he has all the power to himself, and he
never means to yield an inch of it."

"Woe then to Austria!" cried the third speaker.

"Why do you cry, 'Woe to Austria?'" asked a voice outside; and the tall,
majestic form of the empress appeared at the door.

"Our empress!" cried the two petitioners, while both fell at her feet
and looked into her voice with unmistakeable joy.

The empress greeted them kindly, but she added: "Rise, gentlemen. I hear
that my son, the emperor, has forbidden his subjects to kneel to him;
they shall not, therefore, kneel to me, for he is right. To God alone
belongs such homage. Rise, therefore, Father Aloysius; the brothers of
the holy order of Jesus must never kneel, to fellow-mortal. And you,
Counsellor Bundener, rise also, and stand erect. Your limbs have grown
stiff in my service; in your old age you have the right to spare them.
You," added she, turning to the page, "return to your post, and attend
more faithfully to your duty than you have done to-day. When I left this
room, no one guarded the entrance to it."

"Your majesty," stammered the confused page, "it was the dinner-hour,
and I had never dreamed of your leaving your apartments. His majesty the
emperor has reduced the pages and sentries to half their number, and
there are no longer enough of us to relieve one another as we were
accustomed to do under the reign of your majesty."

"It is well," said the empress haughtily. "I will restore order to my
household before another day has passed. And now, gentlemen, what brings
you hither? Speak, Father Aloysius."

"My conscience, your majesty," replied Father Aloysius, fervently. "I
cannot stand by and see the hailstorm of corruption that devastates our
unhappy country. I cannot see Austria flooded with the works of French
philosophers and German infidels. What is to become of religion and
decency if Voltaire and Rousseau are to be the teachers of Austrian
youth!"

"It rests with yourself, my friend," replied the empress, "to protect
the youth of Austria from such contaminating influences. Why do those
whom I appointed censors of the press permit the introduction of these
godless works in my realms?"

"Your majesty's realms!" replied the father sadly. "Alas, they are no
longer yours. Your son is emperor and master of Austria, and he has
commanded the printing and distribution of every infidel work of modern
times. The censors of the press have been silenced, and ordered to
discontinue their revision of books."

"Has my son presumed so far?" cried the empress, angrily. "Has he dared
to overthrow the barriers which for the good of my subjects I had raised
to protect them from the corrupt influences of French infidelity? Has be
ordered the dissemination of obscene and ungodly books? O my God! How
culpable have I been to the trust which thou hast placed in my hands! I
feel my guilt; I have sinned in the excess of my grief. But I will
conquer my weak heart. Go in peace, father. I will ponder your words,
and to-morrow you shall hear from me."

The father bowed and retired, while the empress turned toward Counsellor
Bundener and inquired the cause of his distress.

"Oh, your majesty," cried the old man in accents of despair, "unless you
help me I am ruined. If you come not again to my assistance my children
will starve, for I am old and--"

"What!" interrupted the empress, "your children starve with the pension
I gave you from my own private purse?"

"You did, indeed, give me a generous pension," replied Bundener, "and
may God bless your majesty, for a more bountiful sovereign never bore
the weight of a crown. But desolation and despair sit in the places
where once your majesty's name was mingled each day with the prayers of
those whom you had succored. The emperor has withdrawn every pension
bestowed by you. He has received a statement of every annuity paid by
your majesty's orders, and has declared his intention of cleaning out
the Augean stables of this wasteful beneficence." [Footnote: Hubner,
"Life of Joseph II.," vol. i., p. 28.]

The empress could not suppress a cry of indignation. Her face grew
scarlet, and her lips parted. But she conquered the angry impulse that
would have led her to disparage her son in the presence of his subject,
and her mouth closed firmly. With agitated mien she paced her apartment,
her eyes flashing, her breast heaving, her whole frame convulsed with a
sense of insulted maternity. Then she came toward the counsellor, and
lifting her proud head as though Olympus had owned her sway, she spoke:

"Go home, my friend," said she imperiously, "and believe my royal word
when I assure you that neither you nor any other of my pensioners shall
be robbed of your annuities. Princely faith shall be sacred above all
consideration of thrift, and we shall see who dares impeach mine!"

So saying, Maria Theresa passed into her dressing-room, where her ladies
of honor were assembled. They all bent the knee as she entered, and
awaited her commands in reverential silence. At that moment the flourish
of trumpets and the call of the guards to arms were heard. The empress
looked astounded, and directed an inquiring glance toward the window.
She knew full well the meaning of that trumpet signal and that call to
arms; they were heard on the departure or the return of one person only
in Austria, and that person was herself, the empress.

For the third time the trumpet sounded. "What means this?" asked she,
frowning.

"Please your majesty," answered a lady of the bedchamber, "it signifies
that her imperial majesty, the reigning empress, has returned from her
walk in the palace gardens."

Maria Theresa answered not a word. She walked quickly past her
attendants and laid her hand upon the lock of the door which led into
her private study. Her head was thrown back, her eyes were full of
flashing resolve, and the tone of her voice was clear, full, and
majestic. It betokened that Maria Theresa was "herself again."

"Let Prince Kaunitz be summoned," said she. "Send hither the Countess
Fuchs and Father Porhammer. Tell the two latter to come to my study when
the prince leaves it."



CHAPTER XXXIX.

THE CO-REGENT DEPOSED.

Scarcely a quarter of an hour had elapsed since the empress's orders had
been issued, when a page announced Prince Kaunitz.

Maria Theresa went forward to receive him. Her whole being seemed filled
with a feverish excitement which contrasted singularly with the
unaltered demeanor of her prime minister, who, cold and tranquil as
ever, advanced to meet his sovereign, and bowed with his usual phlegm.

"Well," said Maria Theresa, after a pause, "every thing has not changed
in the four weeks of my retirement from court. You at least are the same
in appearance. Let me hope that you are the same in spirit and in mind."

"Please your majesty," replied Kaunitz, "four weeks have not yet gone by
since I had the honor of an interview with you."

"What do you mean by that?" asked the empress, impatiently. "Do you wish
to remind me that I had resolved to wait four weeks before I decided
upon a permanent course of action?"

"Yes, your majesty," said Kaunitz. "I am somewhat vain, as everybody
knows, and I have already seen my triumph in your majesty's face. I read
there that my noble empress has proved me a true prophet. She has not
yet been away from her subjects four weeks, and already her head has
silenced the weakness of her heart. Three weeks have sufficed to bring
Maria Theresa once more to her sense of duty."

"Ah!" said the empress, "are you then so sure that my novitiate will not
end in a cloister?"

"I am convinced of it. For never shall I forget the day on which your
majesty swore to be a faithful ruler over Austria as long as you lived.
I am convinced of it, too, because I know that, although my empress has
the heart of a woman, she has the head of a man, and in all well-ordered
unions the head rules the household."

The empress smiled faintly, but said nothing. Her arms were crossed over
her breast, her head was bent in thought, and she went slowly back and
forth from one end of her study to the other. Kaunitz followed her with
his large, tranquil eyes, which seemed to penetrate to the remotest
regions of her throbbing heart.

Suddenly she stood before him, and for a moment gazed earnestly in his
face.

"Kaunitz," said she, "I have not only considered you for many years as a
wise and great statesman, but, what is better yet, I have esteemed you
as a man of honor. I exact of you that you act honorably and openly
toward me in this hour. Do you promise?"

"An honorable man, your majesty, need not promise to do that which honor
requires of him."

"True, true. But you might pay unconscious deference to my rank or to my
sex. Courtesy might mislead you. This is precisely what I warn you to
avoid. I wish you to speak candidly without thought or consideration for
empress or woman. Remember how you pledged your life to Austria's
good--and, forgetting all else, answer me truthfully and without fear.
Will you, Kaunitz?"

"I will, your majesty. Ask, and you shall be truthfully answered--so
help me God."

"Then, tell me, which of us is better calculated to reign in
Austria--Joseph or myself? Which of us will best promote the welfare of
the Austrian people? Do not answer me at once. Take time to reflect upon
the subject, for a, weighty question lies in the balance of this hour. I
cannot trust myself in this decision, for I have wept so many tears that
I have not the strength to see wherein my duty lies. I cannot even trust
my own misgivings, for pride or vanity may have blinded my eyes to
truth. I am not sure that I view things in their proper light. It is
useless, therefore, for me to speak. I desire to hear no one but
yourself. I swear to you by the memory of Charles V., that, whatever you
say shall be sacred; for I have exacted of you candor--and say what you
will, your candor shall not offend. Who, then, is best fitted to reign,
Joseph or I?"

"Your majesty, I have had full time to reflect upon this weighty
question; for since first you announced your intention to resign the
throne, I have thought of nothing else. In politics we know neither
predilection nor prejudice. Necessity and interest decide all things.
Your majesty has so often called me a good politician, that I have ended
by believing myself to be one. It follows thence that, in deliberating
upon this great question, I have laid aside all personal inclination and
sympathy, and have had in view the welfare of Austria alone. But for
this, the matter would have required no thought, for the Emperor Joseph
and I have nothing in common. He fears me, and I do not love him.
[Footnote: Kaunitz's own words. Wrazall, vol. ii., p. 490.] We never
could be made to understand one another; for the language of the heart
is not to be forced by edicts, as is the language of the court. The
emperor has forbidden all tongues in Germany, save one. If he persist in
this, he will alienate his subjects, and Austria will soon lose her
greatness. When a titan intends to force his people to forget their
mother-tongue, he must do it by degrees; and if he succeeds, he will be
a skilful teacher. The best reforms are to be introduced through the
byways of life. If we trust them on the highway, they shock and terrify
the people. The young emperor, regardless of these considerations, has
violently suppressed whatever seemed injudicious to him in your
majesty's administration. Perhaps you had done too much; your son,
certainly, does too little. I hear everywhere of interdicts, but nowhere
of concessions. Old things destroyed, but nothing created to replace
them. What will be the result of this? Austria must soon be reduced to a
mass of ruins, and your son will go down to posterity with a fame like
that of Attila. Save Austria! save him from the curse that threatens
both. We have not yet completed the noble edifice of which eleven years
ago we laid the foundations. We must finish the structure, and so solid
must be its walls that our thoughtless young reformer shall not have
strength to batter them down. Your majesty must remain the reigning
Empress of Austria. You cannot resign your empire to your son. Duty and
the welfare of your subjects forbid it."

The empress inclined her head approvingly. "I believe that you are
right, Kaunitz," replied she. "It is not in the pride, but in the deep
humility of my heart, that I reassume the crown which God himself placed
upon my head. I have no right to say that the load is too heavy since He
wills me to bear it. Indeed I feel that He will give me strength to
accomplish His will in me, and I am now ready to say, 'Behold the
handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to His word.' I will
never again lift my treasonable hand against that crown which I pray
Heaven I may wear for the good of my people. But you, prince, you must
be at my side; together we have planned for Austria, together we must
complete the noble structure of her greatness."

"I remain, your majesty, and will never cease to labor until the banner
of the Hapsburg floats proudly from its battlements. But we must
decorate as well as strengthen. We have beautiful young princesses whose
alliances will bring wealth and splendor to our imperial edifice.
Within, we shall have solid walls that will insure the durability of our
structure; without, we shall have brilliant alliances that will perfect
its beauty."

"You have a marriage to propose?" said the empress, smiling.

"I have, your majesty, a marriage with the young King of Naples."

"For which of my daughters?" asked Maria Theresa uneasily.

"For the one your majesty shall select."

"Then it shall be Johanna. She is very beautiful, and has a proud and
ambitious heart which craves less for love than for rank and splendor.
But if I give one of my daughters to diplomacy, you must leave me
another for domestic happiness. Christina has undertaken to think that
she must marry for love, and I think we ought to make her happy in her
own modest way. We owe amends to Albert of Saxony for having declined an
alliance with his sister; we also owe him something for his fidelity and
good faith as an ally. Let the young lovers be united, then; we have
gold and daughters enough to tolerate one marriage of inclination in our
imperial house."

"But your majesty will give up the youngest, Marie Antoinette, to
diplomacy, will you not?"

"You destine her to the throne of France, prince--is it not so?"

"Yes, your majesty. The son of the dauphin is a noble youth, and
although his father was unfriendly to Austria, Choiseuil and La
Pompadour are for us. Marie Antoinette, therefore, is to be Queen of
France. This, however, must be a profound secret between ourselves.
While her little highness is being fashioned for her future dignity, we
must marry her elder sisters, if not so brilliantly, at least as
advantageously as we can. First, then, upon the list is the Archduchess
Christina. We must find some suitable rank for herself and her husband,
and your majesty will of course bestow a dowry worthy of your daughter's
birth and station."

"I will present them the duchy of Teschen as a wedding-gift, and it must
be your care, prince, to find an appointment for the Elector of Saxony
that will be worthy of my son-in-law."

"Let us name him Captain-General and Stadtholder of Hungary. That will
be an effectual means of converting the Hungarians into Austrians, and
the appointment is in every way suitable to the elector's rank." The
empress nodded, smiling acquiescence. "Your head," said she, "is always
in the right place; and sometimes I cannot help thinking that your heart
is better than the world believes it to be, else how could you so
readily divine the hearts of others? How quickly have you devised the
best of schemes to promote my daughter's happiness, without compromising
her imperial station! Christina shall be Stadthalterin of Hungary; and
in her name and my own I thank you for the suggestion. One thing,
however, lies heavy on my heart. It is the thought of the blow I am
about to inflict upon my poor Joseph. How will he bear to be deprived of
his sovereignty?"

"I think your majesty named him co-regent only," said Kaunitz.

"I did," replied the empress, "and in very truth I withdraw nothing but
a temporary privilege. As empress I know my right to resume the reins of
power; but it grieves my maternal heart to exercise it. I think I see
him now, poor boy, with his great blue eyes fixed in despair upon me. I
never shall have the courage to announce my return to him."

"There will be no need to restrict him in his co-regency. He can be
removed to the war department, where he may reign unfettered."

"He shall have unlimited power there," exclaimed the empress, joyfully.
"It is the proper province of a man, and Joseph will fill the station
far better than I have ever done. I promise not to interfere with him in
the field. For other state affairs, I shall attend to them myself, and I
do not think that I will ever delegate my power a second time. You had
best inform Joseph of my resumption of the throne, and let the Frau
Josepha also be advised that she is no longer reigning empress of
Austria. For me, I must always remain at heart a sorrowing widow. My
sorrows I can never overcome; my widow's weeds I shall never lay aside.
[Footnote: She kept her word. Every month, on the day of her husband's
death, she spent the day in solitary prayer and on every yearly
anniversary of her widowhood, she knelt for hours by the side of the
emperor's tomb, praying for the repose of his soul. Her private
apartments were ever after hung with gray, and her coaches and liveries
were of the same sad hue.--Caroline Pichler, "Memoirs."] But above the
weeds I will wear the mantle of royalty; and since you have so
determined for me, Austria shall once more own the sway of Maria
Theresa. "



CHAPTER XL

MOTHER AND SON.

The dream was over--the blessed dream of philanthropy and reform! The
reins of power had been snatched from his hands, and Joseph was once
more consigned to a life of insignificant inactivity. Like a wounded
bird, whose broken wing no longer bears him aloft his heart fluttered
and fell--its high hopes dashed to earth. The old influences which he
hated, were at work again, and he had no recourse but absolute silence.
His deep humiliation, he was constrained to hide under a mask of
serenity; but he knew that his spirit was crushed, and night fell over
his stricken soul. Still, he struggled against the chill of his despair,
and with all the strength of his being he strove against misfortune.

"I will not succumb," thought he, "I will not be vanquished by this
secret grief. I will not be a cause of sorrow to my friends and of
triumph to my enemies--I will live and overpower misfortune. Since all
in Vienna is so dark, let me seek sunshine elsewhere--I will
travel!--Away from this stifling court, to breathe the free air of
heaven! Here I am an emperor without an empire; there at least I shall
be a man, to whom the world belongs, wherever his steed has strength and
speed to bear him. Yes, let me travel, that I may gird up my loins for
the day when the sun of royalty shall rise for me. It will come! it will
come! And when it dawns, it must find me strong, refreshed, and ready
for action."

The emperor made his preparations to depart, and then, in compliance
with the requisitions of court etiquette, he sought his mother, to
obtain her consent to his journey. Maria Theresa received her son with
that half-mournful tenderness which lent such an indescribable
fascination to her appearance and manners. She looked at him with a
smile so winning and affectionate, that Joseph, in spite of himself,
felt touched and gladdened; and the hand which his mother held out was
most fervently pressed to his lips. It was the first time they had met
in private since the empress had reascended her throne, and both felt
the embarrassment and significance of the hour.

"I have longed for this moment with anxious and beating heart, my son,"
said the mother, while she drew him toward her. "I know, my child, that
your heart is embittered toward me. You think that I would have been
wiser as well as kinder had I never left my widow's cloister. But
reflect, my dear son, as I have done, that my sceptre was given me by
the hand of God, and that it would be sinful and cowardly in me to give
it into the hands of another until He, in His wisdom, releases me from
durance."

Joseph looked with genuine emotion at the agitated countenance of his
mother. He saw the tears gather and fall from her eyes; he saw the
quivering lip, the trembling frame; he felt that her integrity was
beyond suspicion, her love for him beyond all question. The icy barriers
that had closed upon his heart, gave way; he felt the warm and sunny
glow of a mother's unspeakable love, and, yielding to the impulse of the
moment, he flung his arms around the empress's neck, while he covered
her face with kisses. "Mother, my dear mother!" sobbed he; and as if
these words had opened the floodgates of all the love which filled his
heart, he leaned his head upon her bosom, and was silent.

She smiled fondly upon him as he lay there; she returned his kisses, and
stroked his fair, high forehead with her loving hand.

"Have you come back once more to your mother's heart, my darling?"
whispered she. "Have you found your way back to the nest whence you have
wandered away so long, you stray birdling? Do you feel, my son, that the
mother's bosom is the resting-place for her children? Oh! promise me, my
heart's treasure, to trust and love me from this hour? We are human, and
therefore we are sinful and erring. I well know, dear boy, that I have
many failings. From my heart I regret them; and if in your short life,
as boy or man, I have grieved you, pardon me, dearest, for I have not
meant it in unkindness."

"No, mother,"' said Joseph, "it is I who should sue for pardon. My heart
is wild and stubborn; but I believe that it beats with a love as true
and warm for my empress as that of any other man in Austria. Have
patience with me, then, my mother, for I am indeed a wandering bird;
and, in my wild flight, the shafts of this life have wounded and maimed
me. But let us not speak of life--mine is a blasted one."

"Yes, my son, let us speak of your life, and of its misfortunes; for I
know that Josepha of Bavaria is its chiefest sorrow. I have heard
something of your unhappiness as a husband, and I pity you both."

"You pity her!" cried Joseph, hastily. "How does she deserve my mother's
compassion?"

The empress laid her hand gently upon her son's shoulder. "She loves
you, Joseph," said she, "and I cannot refuse my sympathy to a woman who
loves without hope of return."

"She loves me!" exclaimed Joseph with a laugh of derision. "Yes--and her
love is my abhorrence and my shame. Her ogling glances make me shudder
with disgust. When she turns upon me her blotched and pimpled face, and
calls me by the name of husband, the courtiers sneer, and I--I feel as
if I would love to forget my manhood and fell her to the earth."

"She is certainly ugly," said the empress, shaking her head, "but uglier
women than she have inspired love. And remember, Joseph, that you chose
her yourself. Besides, she has an excellent heart, if you would but take
the trouble to explore its unknown regions. Moreover, you will one day
be sole Emperor of Austria, and you should seek to give an heir to your
throne. If Josepha were the mother of your children, you would no longer
think her ugly."

"SHE the mother of my children!" cried Joseph, with such keenness of
hate, that the empress shuddered. "Do you think me capable of such a
degradation? You have not seen Van Swieten lately, or he would have told
you that this woman, in addition to her other attractions, is troubled
with a new malady."

"Van Swieten did not mention it to me."

"Well, then, your majesty, I will mention it. This so-called empress has
the scurvy."

"Oh, my son, my poor boy!" cried the empress, putting her arm around
Joseph's neck as though she would have shielded him from infection.
"That is a disgusting malady, but Van Swieten's skill will soon conquer
it."

"Yes; but neither he nor you will ever conquer my hate for her. Not all
the world could make me forgive the deception that was practised upon me
when she was allowed to become my wife. THIS woman the mother of my
children! No! No one shall ever force me to be the father of any thing
born of Josepha of Bavaria!"

The empress turned away and sighed. It was in vain. This was hatred
strong as death. "May God comfort you both!" said she, mournfully.

"Then He must put us asunder!" cried out Joseph, almost beside himself.
"Believe me, mother," continued he, "death alone can bring us
consolation; and may God forgive me when I pray that this atoning angel
may come to my relief! She or I! No longer can I bear this ridicule of
hearing this leper called an empress!"

"Travel, then, my dear son," said his mother. "Travel and try to enjoy
life away from Vienna. Perchance when you will have seen how little true
happinesss there is on earth, experience may come to your help, and
teach you to be less unhappy."

The emperor shook his head. "Nothing," replied he, moodily, "can ever
console me. Wherever I go, I shall hear the rattle of my prisoner's
chain. Let us speak of it no more. I thank your majesty for the
permission to leave Vienna, and I thank you for this bright and sacred
hour, whose memory will bless me as long as I live. You have been to me
this day a tender and sympathizing mother. May I henceforward be to you
a grateful and obedient son."

"You have not yet told me whither you desire to travel," said the
empress, after a pause.

"With your majesty's permission, I would wish to travel in Bohemia and
Moravia, and then I wish to visit the courts of Dresden and Munich. Both
sovereigns, through their ambassadors, have sent me urgent invitations."

"It would be uncourteous to refuse," said the empress, earnestly. "It is
politic for us, as far as possible, to bind all the German princes to us
by interchange of kindness."

"Since this is your majesty's opinion, I hope that you will also consent
to my acceptance of a third invitation. The King of Prussia has
requested to have an interview with me at Torgau."

The brow of the empress darkened.

"The King of Prussia?" said she, almost breathless.

"Yes, your majesty, and to be frank with you it is of all my invitations
the one which I most desire to accept. I long to see face to face the
king whom all Europe, friend or foe, unites in calling 'Frederick the
Great'--great not only as a hero, but also as a lawgiver."

"Yes," cried the empress, with indignation, "the king whom infidels
delight to honor. I never supposed that he would presume to approach my
son and heir as an equal. The Margrave of Brandenburg has a right to
hold the wash-basin of the Emperor of Germany, but methinks he forgets
his rank when he invites him to an interview. "

"Ah, your majesty," replied Joseph, smiling, "the Margrave of
Brandenburg, to our sorrow and our loss, has proved himself a king; in
more than one battle has he held the wash-basin for Austria's sovereign,
but it was to fill it with Austrian blood."

Maria Theresa grew more and more angry as she heard these bold words.
"It ill becomes my son," said she, "to be the panegyrist of the victor
whose laurels were snatched from his mother's brow."

"Justice impels me to acknowledge merit, whether I see it in friend or
foe," answered the emperor. "Frederick of Prussia is a great man, and I
only hope that I may ever resemble him."

The empress uttered an exclamation, and her large eyes darted lightning
glances.

"And thus speaks my son of the man who has injured and robbed his
mother!" exclaimed she indignantly. "My son would press his hand who has
spilled such seas of Austrian blood--would worship as a hero the enemy
of his race! But so long as I reign in Austria, no Hapsburger shall
condescend to give the hand to a Hohenzollern. There is an old feud
between our houses; it cannot be healed."

"But if there is feud, your majesty perceives that it is not the fault
of the King of Prussia, since he holds out the right hand of friendship.
I think it much more Christian-like to bury feuds than to perpetuate
them. Your majesty sees, then, how Frederick has been calumniated, since
he follows the Christian precept which commands us to forgive our
enemies."

"I wish to have nothing to do with him," said the empress.

"But, as I had the honor of saying before, the king has sent me a
pressing invitation, and you said just now that it would be uncourteous
to refuse."

"Not the invitation of Frederick. I will not consent to that."

"Not even if I beg it as a favor to myself?" asked Joseph fervently.
"Not even if I tell you that I have no wish so near at heart as that of
knowing the King of Prussia? Think of this day, so brightened to me by
the sunshine of your tenderness! Let the mother plead for me with the
sovereign; for it is not to my empress, it is to my mother that I
confide my hopes and wishes. Oh, do not drown the harmony of this hour
in discord! Do not interpose a cloud between us now."

The empress threw back her head. "You threaten me, sir, with your
displeasure? If there are clouds between us, see that they disperse from
your own brow, and show me the face of a loyal subject and a respectful
son. I will not consent to this visit to the King of Prussia; the very
thought of it is galling to my pride."

"Is that your majesty's last word?"

"It is my last."

"Then I have nothing further to say, except that, as in duty bound, I
will obey the orders of my sovereign," replied Joseph, turning deathly
pale. "I shall refuse the invitation of the King of Prussia, and beg
leave to retire."

Without awaiting the answer of his mother, he bowed, and hastily left
the room.

"Dismissed like a school-boy," muttered he, while tears of rage flowed
down his cheeks. "Two chains on my feet--the chains of this accursed
marriage, and the chains of my filial duty, impede my every step. When I
would advance, they hold me back and eat into my flesh. But it is of no
use to complain, I must learn to bear my fate like a man. I cannot rebel
openly, therefore must I be silent. But my time will come!"

He raised his head proudly, and with a firm step took the way to his
private apartments. He went at once into his study, where, on his
writing-desk, lay the letter of the King of Prussia.

The emperor seated himself at the desk, and, with a heavy sigh, took up
his pen. "Tell the king, your master," wrote he, "that I am not yet my
own master; I am the slave of another will. But I will find means some
day to atone for the rudeness which I have been forced to offer him in
return for his kindness." [Footnote: Hubner, "Life of Joseph II.," vol.
i., p. 87.--Gross-Hofflinger, vol. 1., p. 116.]



CHAPTER XLI.

DEATH THE LIBERATOR.

The cruel enemy which had laid low so many branches of the noble house
of Hapsburg, had once more found entrance into the imperial palace at
Vienna. This terrific invisible foe, which, from generation to
generation, had hunted the imperial family with such keen ferocity, was
the small-pox. Emperors and Empresses of Austria had been its victims,
and almost every one of Maria Theresa's children bore, sooner or later,
its brand upon their faces. This fiend had robbed them of the fair
Isabella; and now its envenomed hand was laid upon the affianced bride
of the King of Naples. The beautiful young Johanna was borne to the
vaults of the Capuchins, while in the palace its inmates were
panic-stricken to hear that Josepha of Bavaria, too, had taken the
infection.

With such lightning swiftness had the venom darted through the veins of
the unhappy empress, that her attendants had fled in disgust from the
pestiferous atmosphere of her chamber.

And there, with one hired nurse, whom the humane Van Swieten had
procured from a hospital, lay the wife of the Emperor of Austria.

No loving hand smoothed the pillow beneath her burning head or held the
cooling cup to her blood-stained lips; no friendly voice whispered words
of sympathy; no familiar face bent over her with looks of pity.

Alone and forsaken, as she had lived, so must she die! At his first
wife's bedside Joseph had watched day and night; but Josepha's he did
not approach. In vain had she sent each day, through Van Swieten, a
petition to see him, if only once; Joseph returned, for all answer, that
his duty to his mother and sisters forbade the risk.

And there lay the woman whose princely station mocked her misery; there
she lay unpitied and unloved. The inmates of the palace hurried past the
infected room, stopping their breathing as they ran: the daughters of
Maria Theresa never so much as inquired whether their abhorred
sister-in-law were living or dead.

But the poor dying empress was not even alone with her misery. Memory
was there to haunt her with mournful histories of her past life: pale,
tearful, despairing were these ghosts of an existence uncheckered by one
ray of happiness. Ah, with what a heart full of trembling hope had she
entered the walls of this palace, which to her had proved a prisoner's
cell! With what rapture had she heard the approaching step of that
high-born emperor, her husband, on their wedding-night; and oh, how
fearful and how swift had fallen the bolt of his vengeance upon her sin!
Memory whispered her of this.

She thought of the Emperor Francis, of his tender sympathy with her
sorrow; she remembered how he had conspired with her on that fatal night
at Innspruck. Then she remembered her husband's scorn, his withering
insults, and her loss of consciousness. She thought how she had been
found on the floor, and awakened by the terrifying intelligence of the
emperor's sudden death. Her tears, her despair, she remembered all; and
her wail of sorrow at the loss of her kindest friend. [Wraxall, vol.
ii., page 411.] Memory whispered her of this.

She thought of her dreary life from that day forward: forever the
shrinking victim of Christina's sneers, because she, and not the sister
of Albert of Saxony, had become the emperor's wife. Even the
kind-hearted Maria Theresa had been cold to her; even she, so loving, so
affectionate, had never loved Josepha. And the wretched woman thought
how one day when the imperial family had dined together, and her
entrance had been announced as that of "Her majesty, the reigning
empress," the archduchesses had sneered, and their mother had smiled in
derision. Memory whispered her of this. [Footnote: Hubner, "Life of
Joseph II.," p. 27.]

She thought how her poor, martyred heart had never been able to give up
all hope of love and happiness; how day by day she had striven, through
humility and obedience, to appease her husband's anger. But he had
always repulsed her. One day she had resolved that he SHOULD see her.
She knew that the emperor was in the daily habit of sitting on the
balcony which divided her apartments from his. She watched his coming,
and went forward to meet him. But when he saw her, in spite of her tears
and supplications, with a gesture of disgust, he left the balcony and
closed the window that led to it. The next day, when she ventured a
second time on the balcony, she found it separated by a high partition,
shutting out all hope of seeing her husband more. And she remembered
how, one day afterward, when she stepped out upon it, and her husband
became aware of her presence, he had, in sight of all the passers-by,
started back into his room, and flung down his window with violence.
[Footnote: Caroline Pichler, "Memoirs," vol. i., p. 182.] Memory
whispered her of this.

But now that she had expiated her first fault by two years of bitter
repentance, now that death was about to free him from her hated presence
forever, surely he would have mercy, and forgive her the crime of having
darkened his life by their unhappy union.

Oh, that once more she could look into the heaven of those deep-blue
eyes! That once more before she died she could hear the music of that
voice, which to her was like the harmony of angels' tongues!

In vain! Ever came Van Swieten with the same cold message--"The emperor
cannot compromise the safety of his relatives."

At last, in the energy of despair, Josepha sat erect in her bed, and
with her livid, bloody hands, wrote a letter which Van Swieten, at her
earnest entreaty, delivered to the emperor.

When, after a short absence, he returned with another denial, she gave
such a shriek of anguish that it was heard throughout the palace.

Van Swieten, overwhelmed by pity for the poor martyr, felt that he must
make one more effort in her behalf. He could do nothing for her: bodily,
she was beyond his power to heal; but he was resolved to be the
physician of her broken heart, and, if it lay within the power of man,
to soothe and comfort her dying moments.

With the letter which Joseph had returned to him, he hastened to the
Empress Maria Theresa. To her he pictured the agony of her dying
daughter-in-law, and besought her to soften the emperor's heart.

The empress listened with deep emotion to the long-tried friend of her
house. Tears of sympathy gathered in her eyes, and fell over her pale
cheeks.

"Joseph will not grant her request, because he fears the infection for
us?" asked she.

"Yes, your majesty, that is his pretext."

"He need not fear for me, and he can remain at a distance from the other
members of the family," said Maria Theresa. "But I know what are his
real sentiments. He hates Josepha, and it is his hatred alone that
prevents him from granting her petition. He has a hard, unforgiving
heart, he never will pardon his wife--not even when she lies cold in her
grave."

"And she will not die until she has seen him," returned Van Swieten,
sadly. "It seems as if she had power to keep off death until the last
aim of her being has been reached. Oh, it is fearful to see a soul of
such fire and resolution in a body already decaying."

The empress shuddered. "Come, Van Swieten," said she, resolutely, "I
know how to force Joseph to the bedside of his poor, dying wife."

She rose, and would have gone to the door, but Van Swieten, all ceremony
forgetting, held her back.

"I will call the emperor myself," said he; "whither would your majesty
go?"

"Do not detain me," cried the empress, "I must go to the emperor."

"But what then?" asked Van Swieten, alarmed.

The empress, who had already crossed her anteroom, looked back with a
countenance beaming with noble energy.

"I will do my duty," replied she. "I will do what Christian feeling
prompts. I will go to Josepha."

"No, your majesty, no," cried Van Swieten, again laying hands upon his
sovereign. "You owe it to your people and your children not to expose
yourself to danger."

The empress smiled sadly. "Doctor, where did Isabella and Johanna take
the infection? God called them to Himself, and God has shielded me, If
it pleases Him that I also shall suffer this fearful scourge, it will
not be from contagion. It will be from His divine hand."

"No, no, your majesty, it will be my fault," cried Van Swieten. "On my
head will be the sin."

"I free you from all responsibility," replied she, "and say no more; for
it is my duty to visit this deserted woman's death-bed. I have been less
kind to her than I should have been, and less indulgent than on MY
death-bed I will wish to have been. I have not been a tender mother to
her, living--let me comfort her, at least, now that she is dying."

"But she has not asked for your majesty," persisted Van Swieten.
"Wherefore--"

But suddenly he stopped, and a cry of horror was stifled between his
lips. He had seen upon the forehead and cheeks of the empress those
small, dark spots which revealed to his experienced eye that it was too
late to shield her from infection.

Maria Theresa was too excited to remark the paleness of Van Swieten. She
continued:

"Go to Joseph, and tell him that I await him at the death-bed of his
wife. He will not dare refuse her now. Go, doctor, we must both do our
duty."

Van Swieten stepped aside, for he had blocked the door.

"Go, your majesty," said he, almost inaudibly. "I will not detain you,
but will see the emperor." He turned away, sick at heart. "One empress
dying, and another!--O God! grant me help that I may save my beloved
Maria Theresa!"

Meanwhile the empress hurried through the deserted halls of the palace
to the room of the unhappy Josepha. As she approached the door, she
heard her voice in tones of bitterest anguish. The sound filled the
heart of Maria Theresa with deepest sympathy and sorrow.

For one moment she stood irresolute; then, gathering all her strength,
she opened the door, and went in. At the foot of the bed knelt two
Ursuline nuns, those angels of mercy who are ever present to comfort the
dying. The entrance of the empress did not interrupt their prayers. They
knew that no one could rescue the dying woman; they were praying Heaven
to comfort her departing soul.

But was she comforted? She ceased her lamentations, and now lay still.
She had heard the door open, and had struggled to rise; but she was too
weak, and sank back with a groan.

But she had seen the empress, who, with the courage of a noble spirit,
had conquered her disgust, and advancing to the bed, bent over Josepha
with a sweet, sad smile. Josepha saw it, and the empress looked more
beautiful to her dying eyes than she had ever looked before.

"God bless you, my poor daughter," whispered she, in broken accents. "I
come to give you a mother's blessing, and to beg of Almighty God to give
you peace."

"Peace, peace!" echoed the sufferer, while the empress, with a shudder
surveyed her black and bloated face.

Suddenly she uttered a cry, and opened her arms. "He comes! he comes!"
cried she; and her dying eyes unclosed with a ray of joy.

Yes, he came--he, whom she had so longed to see.

When Van Swieten told him that the empress had gone to Josepha's room,
he started from his seat, and hurried through the corridor with such
wild speed that the physician had been unable to follow him.

Hastily approaching the bed, he put his arms gently around his mother,
and sought to lead her away.

"Mother," said he, imploringly, "leave this room. It is my duty to be
here, not yours. Bid adieu to the Empress Josepha, and go hence."

"Oh, oh!" groaned Josepha, falling back upon her pillow, "he does not
come for my sake, but for his mother's."

"Yes, Josepha," replied Joseph, "I am here for your sake also, and I
shall remain with you."

"I also will remain," said Maria Theresa. "This sacred hour shall unite
in love those who so long have been severed by error and
misapprehension. Life is a succession of strivings to do well, and
relapses into wrong. We feel that we have erred toward you, and we come
with overflowing hearts to crave forgiveness. Forgive us, Josepha, as
you hope to be forgiven!"

"Forgive me also, Josepha," said Joseph, with genuine emotion. "Let us
part in peace. Forgive me my obduracy, as from my soul I forgive you. We
have both been unhappy--"

"No," interrupted Josepha, "I have not been unhappy; for I--I have
loved. I die happy; for he whom I love no longer turns abhorrent from my
presence. I shall die by the light of your pardoning smile. Death, that
comes every moment nearer, death, to me, brings happiness. He comes with
his cold kiss, to take my parting breath--the only kiss my lips have
ever felt. He brings me love and consolation. He takes from my face the
hideous mask which it has worn through life; and my soul's beauty, in
another world, shall win me Joseph's love. Oh death, the comforter! I
feel thy kiss. Farewell, Joseph, farewell!"

"Farewell!" whispered Joseph and Maria Theresa.

A fearful pause ensued--a slight spasm--a gasp--and all was over.

"She is released!" said Van Swieten. "May her soul rest in peace!"

The Ursulines intoned the prayers for the dead, and Maria Theresa, in
tears, clasped her hands and faltered out the responses. Suddenly she
reeled, heaved a sigh, and fell back in the emperor's arms.

"My mother, my dear mother!" cried he, terrified.

Van Swieten touched him lightly. "Do not arouse her. Yonder sleeps the
one empress in death--her pains are past; but this one, our beloved
Maria Theresa, has yet to suffer. May God be merciful and spare her
life!"

"Her life!" cried Joseph, turning pale.

"Yes, her life," said Van Swieten, solemnly. "The empress has the
small-pox." [Footnote: The Empress Josepha died May 28, 1767, at the age
of twenty nine years. Her body was so decayed by small pox, that, before
her death the flesh fell from her in pieces. It was so completely
decomposed, that it was impossible to pay it the customary funeral
honors. It was hurriedly wrapped up in a linen cloth, and coffined. From
these circumstances a rumor prevailed in Bavaria that she had not died,
but had been forced into a cloister by her husband.]



CHAPTER XLII.

THE MIRROR.

Six fearful weeks had gone by--six weeks of anxiety, suspense, and care,
not only for the imperial family, but for all Austria.

Like the lightning flash, intelligence had gone through the land that
the empress was in danger, and her subjects had lost interest in every
thing except the bulletins issued from the palace where Van Swieten and
Von Storck watched day and night by the bedside of their beloved
sovereign. Deputations were sent to Vienna, sympathizing with the
emperor, and the avenues to the palace were thronged with thousands of
anxious faces, each waiting eagerly for the bulletins that came out four
times a day.

At last the danger passed away. Van Swieten slept at home, and the
empress was recovering.

She had recovered. Leaning on the arm of the emperor, and surrounded by
her happy children, Maria Theresa left her widow's cell to take up her
abode in the new and splendid apartments which, during her
convalescence, Joseph had prepared for her reception.

She thanked her son for his loving attention, so contrary to his usual
habits of economy, and therefore so much the more a proof of his earnest
desire to give pleasure to his mother. She, in her turn, sought to give
strong expression to her gratitude, by admiring with enthusiasm all that
had been done for her. She stopped to examine the costly Turkey carpets,
the gorgeous Gobelin tapestries on the walls, the tables carved of
precious woods, or inlaid with jewels and Florentine mosaic, the rich
furniture covered with velvet and gold, the magnificent lustres of
sparkling crystal, and the elegant trifles which here and there were
tastefully disposed upon etageres or consoles.

"Indeed, my son," cried the empress, surveying the beautiful suite, "you
have decorated these rooms with the taste and prodigality of a woman. It
adds much to my enjoyment of their beauty to think that all this is the
work of your loving hands. But one thing has my princely son forgotten;
and therein he betrays his sex, showing that he is no woman, but in very
truth a man."

"Have I forgotten something, your majesty?" asked Joseph.

"Yes; something, my son, which a woman could never have overlooked.
There are no mirrors in my splendid home."

"No mirrors!" exclaimed Joseph, looking confused. "No--yes --indeed,
your majesty is right, I had forgotten them. But I beg a thousand
pardons for my negligence, and I will see that it is repaired. I shall
order the costliest Venetian mirrors to be made for these apartments."

While Joseph spoke, his mother looked earnestly at his blushing face,
and perfectly divined both his embarrassment and its cause. She turned
her eyes upon her daughters, who, with theirs cast down, were sharing
their brother's perplexity.

"I must wait then until my mirrors are made," said the empress, after a
pause. "You must think that I have less than woman's vanity, my son, if
you expect me to remain for weeks without a greeting from my
looking-glass. Of course the small-pox has not dared to disfigure the
face of an empress; I feel secure against its sacrilegious touch. Is it
not so, my little Marie Antoinette? Has it not respected your mother's
comeliness?"

The little archduchess looked frightened at the question, and timidly
raised her large eyes. "My imperial mamma is as handsome as ever she
was," said the child, in a trembling voice.

"And she will always be handsome to us, should she live until old age
shall have wrinkled her face and paled her cheeks," cried Joseph warmly.
"The picture of her youthful grace and beauty is engraved upon our
hearts, and nothing can ever remove it thence. To the eyes of her
children a noble and beloved mother is always beautiful. "

The empress said nothing in reply. She smiled affectionately upon her
son, and inclining her head kindly to the others, retired to her
sitting-room. She walked several times up and down, and finally
approached her mirror. In accordance with an old superstition, which
pronounces it ill-luck to allow a looking-glass in the room of a sick
person, this large mirror had been covered with a heavy silk curtain.
The empress drew it back; but instead of her looking-glass, she was
confronted by a portrait of her late husband, the emperor. She uttered
an exclamation of surprise and joy, and contemplated the picture with a
happy smile. "God bless thee, my Franz, my noble emperor!" whispered
she. "Thou art ever the same; thy dear smile is unaltered, although I am
no longer thy handsome bride, but a hideous and disfigured being, from
whom my children deem it fit to conceal a looking-glass. Look at me with
thy dear eyes, Franz; thou wert ever my mirror, and in thy light have I
seen my brightest day of earthly joy. My departed beauty leaves me not
one pang of regret, since thou art gone for whom alone I prized it.
Maria Theresa has ceased to be a woman--she is nothing more than a
sovereign, and what to her are the scars of the small-pox? But I must
see what I look like," said she, dropping the curtain. "I will show them
that I am not as foolish as they imagine."

She took up her little golden bell and rang. The door of the next room
opened, and Charlotte von Hieronymus entered. The empress smiled and
said: "It is time to make my toilet. I will dine to-day en famille with
the emperor, and I must be dressed. Let us go into my dressing-room."

The maid of honor courtesied and opened the door. Every thing there was
ready for the empress. The tire-woman, the mistress of the wardrobe, the
maids of honor were all at their posts; and Charlotte hastened to take
her place behind the large arm-chair in which the empress was accustomed
to have her hair dressed.

But Maria Theresa saw that she had not been expected in her
dressing-room, for her cheval-glass was encumbered with shawls, dresses,
and cloaks. She took her seat, smilingly saying to herself, "I shall see
myself now, face to face."

Charlotte passed the comb through the short hair of the empress, and
sighed as she thought of the offering that had been laid in the
emperor's coffin; while the other maids of honor stood silent around.
Maria Theresa, usually so familiar and talkative at this hour, spoke not
a word. She looked sharply at the cheval-glass, and began carelessly,
and as if by chance, to remove with her foot, the dresses that
encumbered it; then, as if ashamed of her artifice, she suddenly rose
from the chair, and with an energetic gesture unbared the mirror.

No mirror was there! Nothing greeted the empress's eyes save the empty
frame. She turned a reproachful glance upon the little coiffeuse.

Charlotte fell upon her knees, and looked imploringly at the empress.
"It is my fault, your majesty," said she, blushing and trembling; "I
alone am the culprit. Pardon my maladroitness, I pray you?"

"What do you mean, child?" asked the empress.

"I--I broke the looking-glass, your majesty. I stumbled over it in the
dark, and shivered it to pieces. I am very, very awkward--I am very
sorry."

"What! You overturned this heavy mirror!" said Maria Theresa. "If so,
there must have been a fearful crash. How comes it that I never heard
any thing--I who for six weeks have been ill in the adjoining room?"

"It happened just at the time when your majesty was delirious with
fever; and--"

"And this mirror has been broken for three weeks!" said Maria Theresa,
raising her eyebrows and looking intently at Charlotte's blushing face.
"Three weeks ago! I think you might have had it replaced, Charlotte, by
this time; hey, child?"

Charlotte's eyes sought the floor. At length she stammered, in a voice
scarcely audible, "Please your majesty, I could not suppose that you
would miss the glass so soon. You have made so little use of mirrors
since--"

"Enough of this nonsense," interrupted the empress. "You have been well
drilled, and have played your part with some talent, but don't imagine
that I am the dupe of all this pretty acting. Get up, child; don't make
a fool of yourself, but put on my crape cap for me, and then go as
quickly as you can for a looking-glass."

"A looking-glass, your majesty?" cried Charlotte in a frightened voice.

"A looking-glass," repeated the empress emphatically.

"I have none, your majesty."

"Well, then," said Maria Theresa, her patience sorely tried by all this,
"let some one with better eyes than yours look for one. Go, Sophie, and
bid one of the pages bring me a mirror from my old apartments below. I
do not suppose that there has been a general crashing of all the mirrors
in the palace. In a quarter of an hour I shall be in my sitting-room. At
the end of that time the mirror must be there. Be quick, Sophie; and
you, Charlotte, finish the combing of my hair. There is but little to do
to it now, so dry your tears."

"Ah!" whispered Charlotte, "I would there were more to do. I cannot help
crying, your majesty when I see the ruins of that beautiful hair."

"And yet, poor child, you have spent so many weary hours over it,"
replied the princess. "You ought to be glad that your delicate little
hands are no longer obliged to bear its weight--Charlotte," said she
suddenly, "you have several times asked for your dismissal. Now, you
shall have it, and you shall marry your lover, Counsellor Greiner. I
myself will give you away, and bestow the dowry."

The grateful girl pressed the hand of the empress to her lips, while she
whispered words of love and thanks.

Maria Theresa smiled, and took her seat, while Charlotte completed her
toilet. Match-making was the empress's great weakness, and she was in
high spirits over the prospect of marrying Charlotte.

The simple mourning costume was soon donned, and the empress rose to
leave her dressing-room. As she passed the empty frame of the Psyche,
she turned laughing toward her maid of honor.

"I give you this mirror, Charlotte," said she. "If the glass is really
broken, it shall be replaced by the costliest one that Venice can
produce. It will be to you a souvenir of your successful debut as an
actress on this day. You have really done admirably. But let me tell you
one thing, my child," continued Maria Theresa, taking Charlotte's hand
in hers. "Never be an actress with your husband; but let your heart be
reflected in all your words and deeds, as yonder mirror will give back
the truthful picture of your face. Let all be clear and bright in your
married intercourse; and see that no breath of deception ever cloud its
surface. Take this wedding-gift, and cherish it as a faithful monitor.
Truth is a light that comes to us from Heaven; let us look steadily at
it, for evil as well as for good. This is the hour of my trial--no great
one--but still a trial. Let me now look at truth, and learn to bear the
revelation it is about to make."

She opened the door, and entered her sitting-room. Her commands had been
obeyed; the mirror was in its place. She advanced with resolute step,
but as she approached the glass her eyes were instinctively cast down,
until she stood directly before it. The decisive moment had arrived; she
was to see--what?

Slowly her eyes were raised, and she looked. She uttered a low cry, and
started back in horror. She had seen a strange, scarred, empurpled face,
whose colorless lips and hard features had filled her soul with
loathing.

But with all the strength of her brave and noble heart, Maria Theresa
overcame the shock, and looked again. She forced her eyes to contemplate
the fearful image that confronted her once beautiful face, and long and
earnestly she gazed upon it.

"Well," said she at last, with a sigh, "I must make acquaintance with
this caricature of my former self. I must accustom myself to the
mortifying fact that this is Maria Theresa, or I might some of these
days call for a page to drive out that hideous old crone! I must learn,
too, to be resigned, for it is the hand of my heavenly Father that has
covered my face with this grotesque mask. Since He has thought fit to
deprive me of my beauty, let His divine will be done."

For some moments she remained silent, still gazing intently at the
mirror. Finally a smile overspread her entire countenance, and she
nodded at the image in the glass.

"Well! you ugly old woman," said she aloud, "we have begun our
acquaintance. Let us be good friends. I do not intend to make one effort
to lessen your ugliness by womanly art; I must seek to win its pardon
from the world by noble deeds and a well-spent life. Perhaps, in future
days, when my subjects lament my homeliness, they may add that
nevertheless I was a GOOD, and--well! in this hour of humiliation we may
praise one another, I think--perchance a GREAT sovereign."

Here the empress turned from the mirror and crossing over to the spot
where the emperor's portrait hung, she continued her soliloquy. "But
Franz, dear Franz, you at least are spared the sight of your Theresa's
transformation. I could not have borne this as I do, if you had been
here to witness it. Now! what matters it? My people will not remind me
of it, and my children have already promised to love me, and forgive my
deformity. Sleep, then, my beloved, until I rejoin you in heaven. There,
the mask will fall for me, as for poor Josepha, and there we shall be
glorified and happy."

The empress then returned to the dressing-room, where her attendants,
anxious and unhappy, awaited her reappearance. What was their
astonishment to see her tranquil and smiling, not a trace of discontent
upon her countenance!

"Let the steward of the household be apprised that I will have mirrors
in all my apartments. They can be hung at once, and may be replaced by
those which the emperor has ordered, whenever they arrive from Venice.
Let my page Gustavus repair to Cardinal Migazzi and inform him that
to-morrow I make my public thanksgiving in the cathedral of St. Stephen.
I shall go on foot and in the midst of my people, that they may see me
and know that I am not ashamed of the judgments of God. Let Prince
Kaunitz be advised that on to-morrow, after the holy sacrifice, I will
receive him here. Open my doors and windows, and let us breathe the free
air of heaven. I am no longer an invalid, my friends; I am strong, and
ready to begin life anew."



CHAPTER XLIII.

THE INTERVIEW WITH KAUNITZ.

From earliest morning the streets of Vienna had been thronged by a
joyous multitude, eagerly awaiting the sight of their restored
sovereign. All Vienna had mourned when the empress lay ill; all Vienna
now rejoiced that she had recovered. Maria Theresa's road to the church
was one long triumph--the outpouring of the sincere love which filled
the hearts of her subjects. The empress had done nothing to court this
homage; for the notice given to the cardinal had been as short as it
possibly could be; but the news of the thanksgiving had flown from one
end of Vienna to the other; and every corporation and society, the
students of every college, and every citizen that was at liberty to
leave home, flocked to congratulate the well-beloved sovereign. The
streets through which she had to pass were lined with people bearing
flags, banners, and emblems, while near them stood the children of the
educational and orphan asylums, which had been endowed by the
munificence of the empress. Lofty and lowly, rich and poor, stood in
friendly contact with each other; even the nobles, imitating Maria
Theresa's affability, mixed smiling and free among the people. All sense
of rank and station seemed lost in the universal joy of the hour.

The bells chimed, and the people rent the air with shouts; for this was
the signal of the empress's sortie from the palace, and her people knew
that she was coming to meet them. At last they saw her; leaning on the
arm of the emperor, and followed by her other children, she came, proud
and resolute as ever. It was a beautiful sight, this empress with her
ten lovely sons and daughters, all joyful and smiling, as like simple
subjects they walked through the streets toward the church, to thank God
for her recovery.

Inexpressible joy beamed from Maria Theresa's eyes--those superb eyes
whose light the small-pox could not quench. Her great and noble soul
looked out from their azure depths, and her head seemed encircled by a
glory. In this hour she was no "ugly old crone," she was the happy,
proud, triumphant empress, who in the eyes of her people was both
beautiful and beloved. For the moment her widow's sorrows were
forgotten; and when surrounded by so many loyal hearts, she sank on her
knees before the altar of St. Stephen, she thanked God for the joy of
this hour, and made a vow that her whole life should be devoted to the
welfare of the people who on this day had given her so touching a
welcome.

Exhausted not only by emotion, but by the heat of the July sun which
shone on her head as she returned, the empress at last reached her own
rooms. Her tire-women hastened to relieve her of her coverings and to
dry her moistened hair and face. But she waved them back.

"No, no, my friends, let me refresh myself in my own way. The air is
more skilful than your hands, and is softer than your napkins. Open the
doors and the windows, and place my arm-chair in the middle of the
room."

"But, your majesty," remonstrated one of the maids of honor, "you forget
your condition. The draught will do you injury."

"I do not know what such fastidious people mean by a draught," replied
the empress, laughing and taking her seat; "but I know that the good God
has sent this air from heaven for man's enjoyment; and when I feel its
cool kiss upon my cheek, I think that God is nigh. I have always loved
to feel the breath of my Creator, and therefore it is that I have always
been strong and healthy. See! see! how it blows away my mantle! You are
right, sweet summer wind, I will throw the burden away."

She let fall her mantle, and gave her bare shoulders to the wind,
enjoying the breeze, and frightening her maids of honor out of their
propriety.

"Now, let me have some refreshment," cried she. Away sped two or three
of the ladies, each one anxious to escape from the gust that was driving
every thing before it in the empress's rooms. A page brought in a tray,
and there, in the centre of the room, the empress, although yet
overheated, ate a plate of strawberries, and drank a glass of lemonade,
cooled in ice. [Footnote: Caroline Pichler, "Memoirs," vol i., pp.
18,19.  Maria Theresa supported without pain extreme degrees of heat and
cold. Summer and winter her windows stood open, and often the
snow-flakes have been seen to fall upon her escritoire while she wrote.
In winter, the Emperor Joseph always came into his mother's rooms
wrapped in furs.]

She was interrupted, in the midst of all this comfort, by another page,
who announced Prince Kaunitz. Maria Theresa rose hastily from her seat.
"Shut all the doors and windows," exclaimed she, "do not let him scent
the draught." [Footnote: Wraxall, vol. ii., p. 380.]

While her orders were being obeyed, she looked around to convince
herself that every avenue was closed through which the wind might
penetrate, and that done, she ordered the door to be thrown open, and
the prince admitted.

Prince Kaunitz approached with his usual serious and tranquil demeanor.
He bowed low, and said: "I congratulate your majesty and the Austrian
empire, upon your happy recovery. I, who have no fear of any other
enemy, have trembled before this deadly foe of your imperial house. For
all other dangers we have craft and valor; but against this one no
bravery or statesmanship can avail."

"But skill has availed; and to Van Swieten, under Providence, I am
indebted for my life," cried the empress, warmly. "I know, Kaunitz, that
you have but little faith in heavenly or earthly physicians; and I pray
God that you may never acquire it through the bitter experience of such
suffering as I have but lately endured! Often during my sleepless nights
I have longed for a sight of your grave face, and it grieved me to think
that perchance we might never meet again to talk of Austria, and plan
for Austria's welfare. "

"But I knew that your majesty would recover," said Kaunitz, with unusual
warmth; "I knew it, for Austria cannot spare you, and as long as there
is work for you here below, your strong mind will bid defiance to
death."

Maria Theresa colored with pleasure. It was so seldom that Kaunitz gave
utterance to such sentiments, that his praise was really worth having.

"You think, then, that Austria needs me?" said she.

"I do, indeed, your majesty."

"But if God had called me to Himself, what would you have done?"

"I would still have labored, as in duty bound, for my country; but I
would have owed a lifelong grudge to Providence for its want of wisdom."

"You are a scoffer, Kaunitz," said the empress. "Your Creator is very
merciful to allow you time to utter the unchristian sentiments which are
forever falling from your lips. But God sees the heart of man, and He
knows that yours is better than your words. Since the loving,
all-suffering Lord forgives you, so will I. But tell me, how has my
empire fared during these six long weeks?"

"Well, your majesty. Throughout the day I worked for myself, throughout
the night for you, and nothing is behindhand. Each day adds to our
internal strength, that gives us consideration abroad, and soon we shall
hold our own as one of the four great European powers, mightier than in
the days when the sun never set upon Austrian realms. The empire of
Charles V. was grand, but it was not solid. It resembled a reversed
pyramid, in danger of being crushed by its own weight. The pyramid
to-day is less in size, but greater in base and therefore firmer in
foundation. [Footnote: "Letters of a French Traveller," volt i., p.
421.] Strength does not depend so much upon size as upon proportion: and
Austria, although her territory has been vaster, has never been so truly
powerful as she is in this, the reign of your majesty."

"If Silesia were but ours again! As for Naples and Alsatia, they were
never more than disjecta membra of our empire; and they were always less
profit than trouble. But Silesia is ours--ours by a common ancestry, a
common language, and the strong tie of affection. I shall never recover
front the blow that I received when I lost Silesia."

"We shall have restitution some of these days, your majesty," said
Kaunitz.

"Do you mean to say that I shall ever recover Silesia?" asked the
empress, eagerly.

"From the King of Prussia? No--never! He holds fast to his possessions,
and his sharp sword would be unsheathed to-morrow, were we to lay the
weight of a finger upon his right to Silesia. But we shall be otherwise
revenged, in the day when we shall feel that we have attained the
noontide of our power and strength."

"You do not intend to propose to me a war of aggression!" said the
empress, shocked.

"No, your majesty, but if we should see two eagles tearing to pieces a
lamb which is beyond hope of rescue, our two-headed eagle must swoop
down upon the robbers, and demand his share of the booty. I foresee evil
doings among our neighbors. Catharine of Russia is bold and
unscrupulous; Frederick of Prussia knows it, and he already seeks the
friendship of Russia, that he may gain an accomplice as well as an
ally."

"God forbid that I should follow in the wake of the King of Prussia!"
cried Maria Theresa. "Never will I accept, much less seek an alliance
with this cruel woman; whose throne is blood-stained and whose heart is
dead to every sentiment of womanly virtue and honor!"

"Your majesty need have no intercourse with the woman; you have only to
confer with the sovereign of a powerful neighboring empire."

"Russia is not a neighboring empire," exclaimed the empress. "On one
occasion I wrote to the Empress Elizabeth, 'I will always be your
friend, but with my consent you shall never be my neighbor.' [Footnote:
Historical.] Poland lies between Russia and Austria."

"Yes," said Kaunitz, with one of his meaning smiles, "but how long will
Poland divide us from Russia?"

"Man!" exclaimed Maria Theresa with horror, "you do not surely insinuate
that we would dare to lay a hand upon Poland?"

"Not we, but the Empress of Russia will--"

"Impossible! impossible! She dare not do it--"

Kaunitz shrugged his shoulders. "DARE, your majesty? Some things we dare
not attempt because they are difficult; others are difficult because we
dare not attempt them. [Footnote: Kaunitz's own words. Hormayer,
"Plutarch," vol. xii., p. 271.] The Empress of Russia dares do any
thing; for she knows how to take things easily, and believes in her own
foresight. Despots are grasping, and Catharine is a great despot. We
must make haste to secure her good-will, that when the time comes we may
all understand one another."

"I!" exclaimed the empress, "I should stoop so low as to seek the
good-will of this wicked empress, who mounted her throne upon the dead
body of her husband, while her lovers stood by, their hands reeking with
the blood of the murdered emperor! Oh, Kaunitz! you would never ask me
to do this thing?"

"Your majesty is great enough to sacrifice your personal antipathies to
the good of your country. Your majesty once condescended to write to
Farinelli and THAT act won us the friendship of the King of Spain and of
his sons; THAT letter will be the means of placing an Archduchess of
Austria on the throne of Naples."

"Would have been," said Maria Theresa, heaving a sigh. "The bride of the
King of Naples is no more! My poor Johanna! My beautiful child!"

"But the Archduchess Josepha lives, and I had intended to propose to
your majesty to accept the hand of the King of Naples for her highness."

"Is the house of Naples then so desirous of our alliance that it has
already offered its heir to another one of my daughters? I am sorry that
we should be obliged to accept, for I have heard of late that the king
is an illiterate and trifling fellow, scarcely better than the lazzaroni
who are his chosen associates. Josepha will not be happy with such a
man."

"Your majesty, her highness does not marry the young ignoramus who, to
be sure, knows neither how to read nor write--she marries the King of
Naples; and surely if any thing can gracefully conceal a man's faults,
it is the purple mantle of royalty."

"I will give my child to this representative of royalty," said Maria
Theresa sadly, "but I look upon her as a victim of expediency. If she is
true to her God and to her spouse, I must be content, even though, as a
woman, Josepha's life will be a blank."

"And this alliance," said Kaunitz, still pursuing the object for which
he was contending, "this marriage is the result of one letter to
Farinelli. Your majesty once condescended to write to La Pompadour. THAT
letter won the friendship of France, and its fruits will be the marriage
of the Archduchess Marie Antoinette, and her elevation to the throne of
France. Your majesty sees then what important results have sprung from
two friendly letters which my honored sovereign has not disdained to
write. Surely when wise statesmanship prompts your majesty to indite a
third letter to the Empress of Russia, you will not refuse its counsels
and suggestions. The two first letters were worth to us two thrones; the
third may chance to be worth a new province."

"A new province!" exclaimed the empress, coming closer to Kaunitz, and
in her eagerness laying her hand upon his shoulder. "Tell me--what wise
and wicked stratagem do you hatch within your brain to-day?"

"My plans, so please your majesty," said the prince, raising his eyes so
as to meet those of the empress, "my plans are not of to-day. They--"

But suddenly he grew dumb, and gazed horror-stricken at the face of
Maria Theresa. Kaunitz was short-sighted, and up to this moment be had
remained in ignorance of the fearful change that had forever transformed
the empress's beauty into ugliness. The discovery had left him
speechless.

"Well?" cried the empress, not suspecting the cause of his sudden
silence. "You have not the courage to confide your plans to me? They
must be dishonorable. If not, in the name of Heaven, speak!"

The prince answered not a word. The shock had been too great; and as he
gazed upon that scarred and blotched face, once so smooth, fair, and
beautiful, his presence of mind forsook him, and his diplomacy came to
naught.

"Forgive me your majesty" said he, as pale and staggering he retreated
toward the door. "A sudden faintness has come over me, and every thing
swims before my vision. Let me entreat your permission to retire."

Without awaiting the empress's reply, he made a hasty bow, and fled from
the room.

The empress looked after him in utter astonishment. "What has come over
the man?" said she to herself. "He looks as if he had seen a ghost!
Well--I suppose it is nothing more than a fit of eccentricity."

And she flung back her head with a half-disdainful smile. But as she did
so, her eyes lit accidentally upon the mirror, and she saw her own image
reflected in its bright depths.

She started; for she had already forgotten the "ugly old woman" whom she
had apostrophized on the day previous. Suddenly she burst into a peal of
laughter, and cried out. "No wonder poor Kaunitz looked as if he had
seen something horrible! HE SAW ME--and I am the Medusa that turned him
into stone. Poor, short-sighted man! He had been in blissful ignorance
of my altered looks until I laid my hand upon his shoulder. I must do
something to heal the wound I have inflicted. I owe him more than I can
well repay. I will give him a brilliant decoration, and that will be a
cure-all; for Kaunitz is very vain and very fond of show."

While the empress was writing the note which was to accompany her gift,
Kaunitz, with his handkerchief over his mouth, was dashing through the
palace corridors to his carriage. With an impatient gesture he motioned
to his coachman to drive home with all speed.

Not with his usual stateliness, but panting, almost running, did Kaunitz
traverse the gilded halls of his own palace, which were open to-day in
honor of the empress's recovery, and were already festive with the sound
of the guests assembling to a magnificent dinner which was to celebrate
the event. Without a word to the Countess Clary, who came forward
elegantly attired for the occasion, Kaunitz flew to his study, and
sinking into an arm-chair, he covered his face with his hands. He felt
as if he had been face to face with death. That was not his beautiful,
majestic, superb Maria Theresa; it was a frightful vision--a messenger
from the grave, that forced upon his unwilling mind the dreadful
futurity that awaits all who are born of woman.

"Could it be? Was this indeed the empress, whose beauty had intoxicated
her subjects, as drawing from its sheath the sword of St. Stephen, she
held it flashing in the sun, and called upon them to defend her rights?
Oh, could it be that this woman, once beautiful as Olympian Juno, had
been transformed into such a caricature?"

A thrill of pain darted through the whole frame of the prince, and he
did what since his mother's death he had never done--he wept.

But gradually he overcame his grief, the scanty fountain of his tears
dried up, and he resumed his cold and habitual demeanor. For a long time
he sat motionless in his chair, staring at the wall that was opposite.
Finally he moved toward his escritoire and took up a pen.

He began to write instructions for the use of his secretaries. They were
never to pronounce in his presence the two words DEATH and SMALL-POX. If
those words ever occurred in any correspondence or official paper that
was to come before his notice, they were to be erased. Those who
presented themselves before the prince were to be warned that these
fearful words must never pass their lips in his presence. A secretary
was to go at once to the Countess Clary, that she might prepare the
guests of the prince, and caution them against the use of the offensive
words. [Footnote: Hormayer, "Austrian Plutarch," vol. xii., p. 374.]

When Kaunitz had completed these singular instructions, he rang, and
gave the paper to a page. As he did so, a servant entered with a letter
and a package from her majesty the empress.

The package contained the grand cross of the order of St Stephen but
instead of the usual symbol the cross was composed of costly brilliants.
The letter was in the empress's own hand--a worthy answer to the
"instructions" which Kaunitz was in the act of sending to his
secretaries.

The empress wrote as follows: "I send you the grand cross of St.
Stephen; but as a mark of distinction you must wear it in brilliants.
You have done so much to dignify it, that I seize with eagerness the
opportunity which presents itself to offer you a tribute of that
gratitude which I feel for your services, and shall continue to feel
until the day of my death. MARIA THERESA." [Footnote: Wraxall, vol.
ii., p. 479.]



CHAPTER XLIV.

THE ARCHDUCHESS JOSEPHA.

The plan of the empress and her prime minister approached their
fulfilment; Austria was about to contract ties of kindred with her
powerful neighbors.

Maria Theresa had again consented to receive the King of Naples as her
son-in-law, and he was the affianced husband of the archduchess Josepha.
The palace of Lichtenstein, the residence of the Neapolitan ambassador
was, in consequence of the betrothal, the scene of splendid festivities,
and in the imperial palace preparations were making for the approaching
nuptials. They were to be solemnized on the fifteenth of October, and
immediately after the ceremony the young bride was to leave Vienna for
Naples.

Every thing was gayety and bustle; all were deep in consultation over
dress and jewels; and the great topic of court conversation was the
parure of brilliants sent by the King of Spain, whose surpassing
magnificence had called forth an expresson of astonishment from the lips
of the empress herself.

The trousseau of the archduchess was exposed in the apartments which had
once been occupied by the empress and her husband; and now Maria
Theresa, followed by a bevy of wondering young archduchesses, was
examining her daughter's princely wardrobe, that with her own eyes she
might be sure that nothing was wanting to render it worthy of a
queen-elect. The young girls burst into exclamations of rapture when
they approached the table where, in its snowy purity, lay the bridal
dress of white velvet, embroidered with pearls and diamonds.

"Oh!" cried little Marie Antoinette, while she stroked it with her
pretty, rosy hand, "oh, my beautiful Josepha, you will look like an
angel, when you wear this lovely white dress."

"Say rather, like a queen," returned Josepha, smiling. "When a woman is
a queen, she is sure to look like an angel in the eyes of the world."

"It does not follow, however, that because she is a queen, she shall be
as happy as an angel," remarked the Archduchess Maria Amelia, who was
betrothed to the Duke of Parma.

"Nevertheless, I would rather be the unhappy queen of an important
kingdom than the happy wife of a poor little prince," replied Josepha,
as, raising her superb diadem of brilliants, she advanced to a mirror
and placed it upon her brow. "Do you think," asked she proudly, "that I
can be very miserable while I wear these starry gems upon my forehead?
Oh no! If it were set with thorns that drew my blood, I would rather
wear this royal diadem than the light coronet of an insignificant
duchess."

"And I," exclaimed Amelia, "would rather wear the ring of a beggar than
be the wife of a king who neither reads nor writes, and throughout all
Europe is known by the name of a lazzarone."

"Before whom millions of subjects must, nevertheless, bend the knee, and
who, despite of all, is a powerful and wealthy monarch," returned
Josepha, angrily.

"That is, if his master, the Marquis Tannucci allows it," cried the
Archduchess Caroline, laughing. "For you know very well, Josepha, that
Tannucci is the king of your lazzaroni-king, and when he behaves amiss,
puts him on his knees for punishment. Now when you are his wife, you can
go and comfort him in disgrace, and kneel down in the corner by his
side. How interesting it will be!"

Upon this the Archduchess Amelia began to laugh, while her sisters
joined in--all except Marie Antoinette, who with an expression of
sympathy, turned to Josepha.

"Do not mind them, my Josepha," said she; "if your king can not read,
you can teach him, and he will love you all the better; and in spite of
every thing, you will be a happy queen in the end."

"I do not mind them, Antoinette," returned Josepha, her eyes flashing
with anger, "for I well know that they are envious of my prosperity, and
would willingly supplant me. But my day of retaliation will come. It
will be that on which my sisters shall be forced to acknowledge the rank
of the Queen of Naples, and to yield her precedence!"

A burst of indignation would have been the reply to these haughty words,
had the Archduchess Caroline not felt a hand upon her shoulder, and
heard a voice which commanded silence.

The empress, who, at the beginning of this spicy dialogue, had been
absent on her survey in a neighboring apartment, had returned, and had
heard Josepha's last words. Shocked and grieved, she came forward, and
stood in the midst of her daughters.

"Peace!" exclaimed the imperial mother. "I have heard such words of
arrogance fall from your lips as must be expiated by humble petition to
your Creator. Sinful creatures are we all, whether we be princesses or
peasants; and if we dare to lift our poor heads in pride of birth or
station, God will surely punish us. With a breath He overturns the
sceptres of kings--with a breath He hurls our crowns to earth, until,
cowering at His feet, we acknowledge our unworthiness. It becomes a
queen to remember that she is a mortal, powerless without the grace of
God to do one good action, and wearing under the purple of royalty the
tattered raiment of humanity. But it is these absurd vanities that have
stirred up the demon of pride in your hearts," continued the empress,
giving a disdainful toss to the velvet wedding-dress; "let us leave
these wretched gew-gaws and betake ourselves to the purer air of our own
rooms."

She waved her hand, and motioning to her daughters, they followed her,
silent and ashamed. All had their eyes cast down, and none saw the tears
that now fell like rain from Josepha's eyes. She was thoroughly
mortified and longed to escape to her room; but as she bent her head to
take leave of the empress, the latter motioned her to remain.

"I have as yet a few words to speak with you, my daughter," said Maria
Theresa, as she closed the door of her dressing-room. "Your haughty
conduct of this day has reminded me that you have a sacred duty to
perform. The vanities of the world will have less weight with you when
you return from the graves of your ancestors. Go to the imperial vault,
and learn from the ashes of the emperors and empresses who sleep there,
the nothingness of all worldly splendor. Kneel down beside your dear
father's tomb, and pray for humility. Tell him to pray for me, Josepha,
for my crown weighs heavily upon my brow, and I fain would be at rest."

Josepha made no answer. She stared at her mother with an expression of
horror and incredulity, as though she meant to ask if she had heard her
words aright.

"Well, my daughter!" cried Maria Theresa, surprised at Josepha's
silence. "Why do you linger? Go--go, child, and recalling the sins of
your life, beg pardon of God, and the blessing of your deceased father."

"Give me that blessing yourself, dear mother," faltered the princess,
clasping her hands, and looking imploringly at the empress. "My father's
spirit is here, it is not in that fearful vault."

The empress started. "I cannot believe," said she, with severity, "that
my daughter has cause to tremble before the ashes of her father. The
guilty alone fear death; innocence is never afraid!"

"Oh mother, mother! I have no sin upon my soul, and yet I--"

"And yet," echoed the empress as Josepha paused.

"And yet I shiver at the very thought of going thither," said the
archduchess. "Yes your majesty, I shiver at the thought of encountering
the black coffins and mouldering skeletons of my forefathers. Oh,
mother, have pity on my youth and cowardice! Do not force me to that
horrid place!"

"I have no right to exempt you from the performance of this sacred duty,
Josepha," replied the empress firmly. "It is a time-honored custom of
our family, that the princesses of Austria, who marry kings, should take
leave of the graves of their ancestors. I cannot release the Queen of
Naples from her duty. She is to wear the crown, she must bear the
cross."

"But I dread it! I dread it so!" murmured Josepha. "I shudder at the
thought of Josepha's corpse. I never loved her, and she died without
forgiving me. Oh, do not force me to go alone in the presence of the
dead!"

"I command you to go into the vault where repose the holy ashes of your
fathers," repeated the empress sternly. "Bend your lofty head, my
daughter, and throw yourself with humility upon the graves of your
ancestors, there to learn the vanity of all human greatness and human
power."

"Mercy, mercy!" cried the terrified girl. "I cannot, I cannot obey your
dreadful behest."

"Who dares say 'I cannot,' when duty is in question?" exclaimed the
empress. "You are my daughter and my subject still, and I will see
whether you intend to defy my authority."

So saying, she rose and rang her little golden bell. "The carriage of
the Archduchess Josepha," said she to the page who answered the summons.
"Let a courier be dispatched to the Capuchin fathers to inform them that
in a quarter of an hour the princess will visit the imperial vault. Now,
princess," continued the empress as the page left the room, "you will
not surely have the hardihood to say again, 'I cannot?'"

"No," faltered Josepha, "I will obey. But one thing I must ask. Does
your majesty wish to kill me?"

"What do you mean, child?"

"I mean that I will die, if you force me to this vault," replied
Josepha, pale as death. "I feel it in the icy chill that seizes my heart
even now. I tell you, mother, that I will die, if you send me to the
fearful place where Josepha's corpse infects the air with its
death-mould. Do you still desire that I shall go?"

"You need not seek to frighten me, Josepha; stratagem will avail you
nothing," replied the empress, coldly. "It is not given to mortals to
know the hour of their death, and I cannot allow myself to be influenced
by such folly. Go, my child, there is nothing to fear; the spirits of
your forefathers will shield you from harm," added she kindly.

"I go," replied Josepha; "but my mother has sentenced me to death."

She bent her head and left the room. The empress looked after her
daughter as she went, and a sudden pang shot through her heart. She felt
as though she could not let her go--she felt as if she must call her
back, and pressing her to her heart, release her from the ordeal which
tried her young soul so fearfully.

Just then the princess, who had reached the door, turned her large dark
eyes with another look of entreaty. This was enough to restore the
empress to her self-possession.

She would not call her back. She saw rather than heard the trembling
lips that strove to form a last appeal for mercy, and the graceful
figure vanished.

When she was out of sight, all the tenderness, all the anxiety of the
empress returned. She rushed forward, then suddenly stood still and
shaking her head, she murmured, "No! no! It would be unpardonable
weakness. I cannot yield. She must go to the grave of her fathers."



CHAPTER XLV.

THE DEPARTURE.

The messenger had returned, the carriage waited, and Josepha had no
longer a pretext for delaying her visit to the vault. She must obey her
mother's behest--she must perform the horrible pilgrimage! Pale and
speechless she suffered her attendants to throw her mantle around her,
and then, as if in obedience to some invisible phantom that beckoned her
on, she rose from her seat and advanced rigidly to the door. Suddenly
she paused, and, turning to her maid of honor, she said, "Be so kind as
to call my sister Antoinette, I must bid her farewell."

A few moments elapsed, when the door opened and the Archduchess Marie
Antoinette flew into her sister's arms. Josepha pressed her closely to
her heart.

"I could not go, my darling" whispered she, "without once more seeing
you. Let me look, for the last time, upon that sweet face, and those
bright eyes that are lit up with the blue of heaven. Kiss me, dear, and
promise not to forget me."

"I can never forget, never cease to love you, sister," replied the
child, returning Josepha's caresses. "But why do you say farewell? Why
are you crying? Are you going to leave us already for that young king
who is to take you away from us? Oh, Josepha, how can you love a man
whom you have never seen?"

"I do not love the King of Naples, dear child," said Josepha, sadly.
"Oh, Antoinette! would you could understand my sorrows!"

"Speak, dear sister," replied Antoinette, tenderly. "Am I not twelve
years old, and does not the Countess Lerchenfeld tell me, every time I
do wrong, that I am no longer a child? Tell me, then, what grieves you?
I will keep your secret, I promise you."

"I weep," said Josepha, "because it is so sad to die before one has
known the happiness of living."

"Die!" exclaimed Antoinette, turning pale. "Why do you speak of dying,
you who are about to become a queen?"

"I shall never live to be a queen, my sister. The empress has commanded
me to visit the imperial vault. I go thither to-day; in a few days I
shall be carried thither, never to return. [Footnote: The princess's own
words. See "Memoires sur la Vie Privee de Marie Antoinette," par Madame
Campan, vol i., p. 38.] Farewell, Antoinette; I leave you to-day, but
I leave you for the grave."

"'No, no, no!" screamed the child. "You shall not go. I will throw
myself at the feet of the empress, and never rise until she has released
you, dear sister."

"Have you yet to learn that the empress never retracts her words? It is
useless. I trust go, and my death-warrant is signed."

"It shall not be!" cried Antoinette, beside herself with grief. "Wait
dear, Josepha, until I return. I go to obtain your release."

"What can you say to the empress, my poor little one?"

"I will beg for mercy, and if she will not listen, I shall rise and tell
her fearlessly, 'Your majesty, Josepha says that you have sentenced her
to death. No mortal has power over the life of an imperial princess; God
alone has that power. My sister must not go into the vault, for if she
does, she dies, and that by your hand.'"

And as the child spoke these words, she threw back her head, and her
eyes darted fire. She looked like her mother.

"I see, Antoinette," said Josepha, with a smile, "that you would not
submit tamely to death. You have a brave soul, my little sister, and
will know how to straggle against misfortune. But I--I have no spirit, I
can only suffer and obey; and before I die, I must open my heart to
you--you shall receive my last thoughts."

Marie Antoinette looked with tearful eyes at her sister, and sank, white
as a lily, on her knees.

"I am ready," said she, folding her hands, while Josepha bent forward,
and laid her hand, as with a blessing, upon Antoinette's soft blond
hair.

"When I am dead," said Josepha, "go to my sisters, and beg them to
forgive my unkind words. Tell them that I loved them all dearly. Say to
Maria Amelia that she must pardon my unsisterly conduct. It arose, not
from haughtiness, but from despair. For, Antoinette, I hated the King of
Naples, and well I knew what a miserable fate awaited me as his queen.
But there was no rescue for me, that I knew; so I tried to hide my grief
under the semblance of exultation. Tell her to forgive me for the sake
of the tears I have shed in secret over this hated betrothal. How often
have I called upon death to liberate me! and yet, now that the dark
shadow of Azrael's icy wing is upon me, I fear to die."

"Let me die for you, sister!" exclaimed Antoinette, resolutely. "Give me
the hood and mantle. I will cover my face, and no one will know that it
is I, for I am almost as tall as you. If I never return from the vault
alive, the empress will pardon you for my sake. Oh, I should die happy,
if my death would rescue you, Josepha."

And Antoinette attempted to draw off her sister's mantle, and put it
around her own shoulders. But Josepha withheld her.

"Dear child," said she, kissing her, "is it possible that you are
willing to die for me, you who are so young and happy?"

"For that very reason, Josepha," said Antoinette, "it might be well to
die. Who knows what sorrows the world may have in reserve for me? Let me
die to-day, dear sister, let me--"

At that moment the door opened, and the maid of honor of the Archduchess
Josepha appeared.

"Pardon me, your highness," said she deprecatingly. "A page of her
majesty is here to know if you have gone to the imperial vaults."

"Apprise her majesty that I am about to leave," replied Josepha, with
dignity. Taking Antoinette in her arms, she said, in a whisper: "You
see, it is I who must die. Farewell, dearest; may you live and be
happy!"

So saying, she tore herself away from the weeping child and hastened to
her carriage. Antoinette, with a shriek, rushed forward to follow, but
Josepha had fastened the door. The poor child sank on her knees and
began to pray. But prayer brought no consolation. She thought of her
sister dying from terror, and wrung her hands while she cried aloud.

Suddenly she ceased, started to her feet, and the blood mounted to her
pale face.

"The secret door!" exclaimed she. "I had forgotten it." She crossed the
room toward a picture that hung on a wall opposite, and touching a
spring in its frame, it flew back and revealed a communication with one
of the state-apartments. She sprang through the opening, her golden hair
flying out in showers behind her, her cheeks glowing, her eyes flashing,
and her heart beating wildly as she sped through the palace to the
empress's apartments. The sentry would have stopped her; but throwing
him off with an imperious gesture, she darted through the door, and all
ceremony forgetting, flew to the sitting-room of the empress, and threw
herself at her mother's feet.



CHAPTER XLVI.

INOCULATION.

Maria Theresa was standing in the embrasure of a window, and she
scarcely turned her head as she heard the rustling behind her. She took
no notice of the breach of etiquette of which Antoinette was guilty, in
rushing unannounced upon her solitude. Her eyes were fixed upon the
chapel of the Capuchins in whose vaults lay so many whom she had loved.
Her heart and thoughts were within those gray walls, now with her
husband and her dead children, now with Josepha, for whom she felt pang
after pang of anxiety. In an absent tone she turned and said:

"What brings you hither, little Antoinette?"

"Josepha, dear mother. Have pity on Josepha!"

The empress, with a thrill of joy at her heart, replied, "She did not
go, then?"

"Yes, yes, she went because you forced her to go, but she went with a
broken heart. Oh, mamma, Josepha says that the dead are waiting to take
her with them! May I not order my carriage and fly to bring her back?"

Maria Theresa said nothing. Her eyes turned first upon the beautiful
little suppliant at her feet, then they wandered out through the evening
haze, and rested on the dark towers of the Capuchin chapel.

"Oh, dear mamma," continued Antoinette, "if I may not bring her back, at
least let me share her danger. Be good to your poor little Antoinette.
You promised, if I behaved well, to do something for me, mamma, and now
I deserve a reward, for Count Brandeis says that I have been a good girl
of late. Do not shake your head, it would make me better if I went to
pray with Josepha. You do not know how vain and worldly I am. When I saw
Josepha's beautiful jewels I was quite envious of her; and indeed,
mamma, no one needs solitude and prayer more than I. Let me go and pray
for grace by the grave of my father."

The empress laid her hand upon her daughter's head, and looked at her
beautiful countenance with an expression of deepest tenderness.

"You are a noble-hearted child, my Antoinette," said she. "With such
sensibility as yours, you are likely to suffer from the faults and
misconceptions of the world; for magnanimity is so rare that it is often
misunderstood. You would share your sister's danger, while believing in
its reality. No, no, darling, I cannot accept your generous sacrifice.
It would be useless, for Josepha's terror will shorten her prayers.
Before you could reach the chapel, she will have left it--"

Maria Theresa paused, and again looked out from the window. The rolling
of carriage-wheels was distinctly heard coming toward the palace. Now it
ceased, and the sentry's voice was heard at the gates.

"Ah!" cried the empress, joyfully, "I was right. It is Josepha. Her
devotions have not been long; but I will confess to you, Antoinette,
that a weight is lifted from my heart. I have not breathed freely since
she left my presence. Oh, I will forgive her for her short prayers, for
they have shortened my miserable suspense!"

"Let me go and bring her to you, mamma." cried Antoinette, clapping her
hands and darting toward the door. But the empress held her back.

"No, dear, remain with me. Josepha's heart will reveal to her that her
mother longs to welcome her back."

At that moment a page announced the Countess Lerchenfeld.

"It is not my child!" cried the empress, turning pale.

The countess, too, was very pale, and she trembled as she approached the
imperial mother.

"She is dead!" murmured Marie Antoinette, sinking almost fainting to the
floor.

But the empress called out, "Where is my child! In mercy, tell me why
you are here without her?"

"Please your majesty," replied the countess, "I come to beg that you
will excuse her highness. She has been suddenly taken sick. She was
lifted insensible to the carriage, and has not yet recovered her
consciousness."

Maria Theresa reeled, and a deathly paleness overspread her countenance.
"Sick!" murmured she, with quivering lip. "What--what happened?"

"I do not know, your majesty. Accordng to your imperial command I
accompanied her highness to the chapel. I went as far as the stairway
that leads to the crypts. Her highness was strangely agitated. I tried
to soothe her, but as she looked below, and saw the open door, she
shuddered, and clinging to me, whispered: 'Countess, I scent the
loathesome corpse that even now stirs in its coffin at my approach.'
Again I strove to comfort her, but all in vain. Scarcely able to support
herself, she bade me farewell, and commended herself to your majesty.
Then, clinging to the damp walls, she tottered below, and disappeared."

"And did you not hold her back!" cried Marie Antoinette. "You had the
cruelty to leave her--"

"Peace, Antoinette," said the empress, raising her hand, imploringly.
"What else?" asked she, hoarsely.

"I stood at the head of the stairway, your majesty, awaiting her
highness's return. For a while all was silent; then I heard a piercing
shriek and I hastened to the vault--"

"Was it my child?" asked the empress, now as rigid as a marble statue.

"Yes, your majesty. I found her highness kneeling, with her head resting
upon the tomb of the emperor."

"Insensible?"

"No, your majesty. I approached and found her icy cold, her eyes
dilated, and her face covered with drops of cold sweat. She was scarcely
able to speak, but in broken accents she related to me that, as she was
making her way toward the altar at the head of the emperor's tomb, she
suddenly became sensible that something was holding her back.
Horror-stricken, she strove to fly, but could not. When, as she turned
her head, she beheld the coffin of the Empress Josepha, and saw that
from thence came the power that held her back. With a shriek she bounded
forward, and fell at the foot of the emperor's tomb. I supported her
until we reached the chapel--door, when she fainted, and I had to call
for help to bear her to her carriage."

"And now?" asked the empress, who was weeping bitterly.

"She is still unconscious, your majesty. Herr van Swieten and the
emperor are at her bedside."

"And I," cried the unhappy empress, "I, too, must be with my poor,
martyred child."

Marie Antoinette would have followed, but her mother bade her remain,
and hastening from the room, Maria Theresa ran breathless through the
corridors until she reached her daughter's apartments.

There, like a crushed lily, lay the fair bride of Naples, while near her
stood her brother in speechless grief. At the foot of the bed Van
Swieten and one of the maids of honor were rubbing her white feet with
stimulants.

The empress laid her hand upon Josepha's cold brow, and turning to Van
Swieten, as though in his hands lay the fate of her child, as she asked:

"Will she die?"

"Life and death," replied the physician, "are in the hands of the Lord.
As long as there is life, there is hope."

Maria Theresa, shook her head. "I have no hope," said she, with the
calmness of despair. "'Tis the enemy of our house. Is it not, Van
Swieten? Has she not the small-pox?"

"I fear so, your majesty."

"She must die, then--and it is I who have murdered her!" shrieked the
empress, wildly; and she fell fainting to the floor.

On the fifteenth of October, the day on which Josepha was to have given
her hand to the King of Naples, the bells of Vienna tolled her funeral
knell.

Not in her gilded carriage rode the fair young bride, but cold and
lifeless she lay under the black and silver pall on which were placed a
myrtle-wreath and a royal crown of gold.

Another Spouse had claimed her hand, and the marriage-rites were
solemnized in the still vaults of the chapel of the Capuchins.

The empress had not left her daughter's room since the fatal day of her
return from the chapel. With all the tenderness of her affectionate
nature she had been the nurse of her suffering child. Not a tear was in
her eye, nor a murmur on her lips. Silent, vigilant, and sleepless, she
had struggled with the foe that was wresting yet another loved one from
her house.

Day by day Josepha grew worse until she lay dying. Still the empress
shed no tear. Bending over her daughter's bed, she received her last
sigh. And now she watched the corpse, and would not be moved, though the
emperor and Van Swieten implored her to seek rest.

When the body was removed, the poor, tearless mourner followed it from
the room through the halls and gates of the palace until it was laid in
the grave.

Then she returned home, and, without a word, retired to her own
apartments. There, on a table, lay heaps of papers and letters with
unbroken seals. But the empress heeded nothing of all this. Maternity
reigned supreme in her heart--there was room in it for grief and remorse
alone. She strode to the window, and there, as she had done not many
days before, she looked out upon the gray towers of the chapel, and
thought how she had driven her own precious child into the dismal depths
of its loathsome vaults.

The door was softly opened, and the emperor and Van Swieten were seen
with anxious looks directed toward the window where the empress was
standing.

"What is to be done?" said Joseph. "How is she to be awakened from that
fearful torpor?"

"We must bring about some crisis," replied Van Swieten, thoughtfully.
"We must awake both the empress and the mother. The one must have
work--the other, tears. This frozen sea of grief must thaw, or her
majesty will die."

"Doctor," cried Joseph, "save her, I implore you. Do something to
humanize this marble grief."

"I will try, your majesty. With your permission I will assemble the
imperial family here, and we will ask to be admitted to the presence of
the empress. The Archduchess Marie Antoinette and the Archduke
Maximilian I shall not summon."

Not long after, the door was once more softly opened, and the Emperor
Joseph, followed by his sisters and the doctor, entered the empress's
sitting-room.

Maria Theresa was still erect before the window, staring at the dark
towers of the chapel.

"Your majesty," said Joseph, approaching, "your children are here to
mourn with you."

"It is well," replied Maria Theresa, without stirring from her position.
"I thank you all. But leave me, my children. I would mourn alone."

"But before we go, will not your majesty vouchsafe one look of
kindness?" entreated the emperor. "May we not kiss your hand? Oh, my
beloved mother, your living children, too, have a right to your love! Do
not turn away so coldly from us. Let your children comfort their sad
hearts with the sight of your dear and honored countenance."

There was so much genuine feeling in Joseph's voice, as he uttered these
words, that his mother could not resist him. She turned and gave him her
hand.

"God bless you, my son," said she, "for your loving words. They fall
like balsam upon my sore and wounded heart. God bless you all, my
children, who have come hither to comfort your poor, sorrowing mother."

The archduchesses flocked, weeping to her side, and smiled through their
tears, as they met her glance of love. But suddenly she started, and
looked searchingly around the room.

"Where are my little ones?" said she anxiously.

No one spoke, but the group all turned their eyes upon Van Swieten,
whose presence, until now, had been unobserved by the empress.

Like an angry lioness, she sprang forward to the threshold, and laid her
hand upon Van Swieten's shoulder.

"What means your presence here, Van Swieten?" cried she loudly. "What
fearful message do you bear me now? My children my children! where are
they?"

"In their rooms, your majesty," replied Van Swieten, seriously. "I came
hither expressly to apologize for their absence. It was I who prevented
them from coming."

"Why so?" exclaimed the empress.

"Because, your majesty, they have never had the small-pox; and contact
with you would be dangerous for them. For some weeks they must absent
themselves from your majesty's presence."

"You are not telling me the truth, Van Swieten!" cried Maria Theresa,
hastily. "My children are sick, and I must go to them."

"Your majesty may banish me forever from the palace," said he, "but as
long as I remain, you cannot approach your children. It is my duty to
shield them from the infection which still clings to your majesty's
person. Would you be the probable cause of their death?"

The earnest tone with which Van Swieten put this question so overcame
the empress, that she raised both her arms, and cried out in a voice of
piercing anguish: "Ah! it is I who caused Josepha's death!--I who
murdered my unhappy child!"

These words once uttered, the icy bonds that had frozen her heart gave
way, and Maria Theresa wept.

"She is saved!" whispered Van Swieten to the emperor. "Will your majesty
now request the archduchesses to retire? The empress does not like to be
seen in tears; and this paroxysm once over, the presence of her
daughters will embarrass her."

The emperor communicated Van Swieten's wish, and the princesses silently
and noiselessly withdrew. The empress was on her knees, while showers of
healing tears were refreshing her seethed heart.

"Let us try to induce her to rise," whispered Van Swieten. "This hour,
if it please God, may prove a signal blessing to all Austria."

The emperor approached, and tenderly strove to lift his mother, while he
lavished words of love and comfort upon her. She allowed him to lead
tier to a divan, where gradually the tempest of her grief gave place to
deep-drawn sighs, and, finally, to peace. The crisis, however, was long
and terrible, for the affections of Maria Theresa were as strong as her
will; and fierce had been the conflict between the two.

For some time a deep silence reigned throughout the room. Finally, the
empress raised her eyes and said, "You will speak the truth, both of
you, will you not?"

"We will, your majesty," replied the emperor and Van Swieten.

"Then, Joseph, say--are my children well and safe?"

"They are, my dearest mother, and but for the doctor's prohibition, both
would have accompanied us thither."

Maria Theresa then turned to the physician. "Van Swieten," said she,
"you, too, must swear to speak the truth. I have something to ask of you
also."

"I swear, your majesty," replied Van Swieten.

"Then say if I am the cause of my daughter's death. Do not answer me at
once. Take time for reflection, and, as Almighty God hears us, answer me
conscientiously."

There was a pause. Nothing was heard save the heavy breathing of the
empress, and the ticking of the golden clock that stood upon the mantel.
Maria Theresa sat with her head bowed down upon her hands; before her
stood Joseph, his pale and noble face turned toward the physician, and
his eyes fixed upon him with an expression of deepest entreaty. Van
Swieten saw the look and answered it by a scarcely perceptible motion of
his head.

"Now, speak, Van Swieten," said the empress, raising her head, and
looking him full in the face." Was Josepha's visit to the chapel-vault
the cause of her death?"

"No, your majesty," said the physician gravely. "In THIS SENSE you
were not guilty of her highness's death; for the body, in smallpox, is
infected long before it shows itself on the surface. Had her highness
received the infection in the crypts of the chapel, she would be still
living. Her terror and presentiment of death were merely symptoms of the
disease."

The empress reached out both her hands to Van Swieten, and said: "Thank
you, my friend. You surely would not deceive me with false comfort; I
can, therefore, even in the face of this great sorrow, find courage to
live and do my duty. I may weep for my lost child, but while weeping I
may feel that Heaven's will, and not my guilt, compassed her death.
Thank you, my dear son, for your sympathy and tenderness. You will never
know what comfort your love has been to me this day."

So saying, she drew the emperor close to her, and putting both her arms
around his neck, kissed him tenderly.

"Van Swieten," said she, then, "what do you mean by saying that 'in this
sense' I was not guilty of Josepha's death."

"I think, your majesty," replied the emperor, "that I can explain those
words. He means to say that had you yielded to his frequent petitions to
make use of inoculation as a safeguard against the violence of the
small-pox, our dear Josepha might have survived her attack. Is it not
so, Van Swieten?"

"It is, your Majesty. If the empress would consent to allow the
introduction in Austria of inoculation for the small-pox, she would not
only shield her own family from danger, but would confer a great
blessing on her subjects."

"Indeed, Van Swieten," replied the empress, after a pause, "what you
propose seems sinful to me. Besides, I have heard that many who were
inoculated for small-pox have died of its effects. But for this, they
might have lived for many years. How can I reconcile it to my conscience
to assume such an awful responsibility?" "But," urged Van Swieten,
"thousands have been rescued, where two or three have perished. I do not
say that the remedy is infallible; but I can safely say that out of one
hundred cases, ninety, by its use, are rendered innoxious. Oh, your
majesty! when you remember that within ten years five members of your
family have been victims to this terrific scourge--when you remember how
for weeks Austria was in extremest sorrow while your majesty lay so ill,
how can you refuse such a boon for yourself and your people?"

"It is hard for me to refuse any thing to the one whose skilful hand
restored me to life," replied the empress, while she reached her hand to
Van Swieten.

"My dear, dear mother!" exclaimed Joseph, "do not refuse him! He asks
you to save the lives of thousands. Think how different life would have
been for me had my Isabella lived! Think of my sister;--think of
Antoinette and Maximilian, who long to be with you and cannot."

"Doctor," said the empress, "if my children were inoculated, how long
would it be before I could see them?"

"In two hours, your majesty; for in that time the poison would have
permeated their systems."

By this time the empress had resumed her habit of walking to and fro
when she was debating any thing in her mind. She went on for some time,
while Van Swieten and the emperor followed her movements with anxious
looks.

Finally sire spoke. "Well, my son," said she, coming close to Joseph,
and smiling fondly upon him, "I yield to you as co-regent of Austria.
You, too, have some right to speak in this matter, and your wishes shall
decide mine. To you, also, Van Swieten, I yield in gratitude for all
that you have done for me and mine. Let Austria profit by this new
discovery, and may it prove a blessing to us all! Are you satisfied,
Joseph?"

"More than satisfied," exclaimed he, kissing his mother's hand.

"Now, Van Swieten," continued Maria Theresa, "hasten to inoculate my
children. I long to fold them to my poor aching heart. Remember, you
have promised that I shall see them in two hours!"

"In two hours they shall be here, your majesty," said Van Swieten, as he
hurried away.

"Stop a moment," cried Maria Theresa. "As you have been the instigator
of this thing, upon your shoulders shall fall the work that must arise
from it. I exact of you, therefore, to superintend the inoculation of my
subjects, and your pay as chief medical inspector shall be five thousand
florins. I also give my palace at Hetzendorf as a model hospital for the
reception of the children of fifty families, who shall there be
inoculated and cared for at my expense. This is the monument I shall
erect to my beloved Josepha; and when the little ones who are rescued
from death thank God for their recovery, they will pray for my poor
child's departed soul. Does this please you, my son?"

The emperor did not answer--his heart was too full for speech. The
empress saw his agitation, and opening her arms to clasp him in her
embrace, she faltered out, "Come, dear child, and together let us mourn
for our beloved dead." [Footnote: The institution founded on that day by
the empress went very soon into operation. Every spring the children of
fifty families among the nobles and gentry were received at the hospital
of Hetzendorf. The empress was accustomed to visit the institution
frequently; and at the end of each season, she gave its little inmates a
splendid ball, which was always attended by herself and her daughters.
The festivities closed with concerts, lotteries, and a present to each
child. Caroline Pichler, "Memoirs," Vol. i., p. 68. Coxe, "History of
the House of Austria," vol. v. p. 188.]



CHAPTER XLVII.

AN ADVENTURE.

It was a lovely day in June--one of those glorious days when field and
wood are like a lofty cathedral, where the birds are the choir, and the
wind stirring the censers of the forest perfume, is the organ; while
man, in ecstasy with nature's beauty, glances enraptured from heaven to
earth--from earth again to heaven.

But pleasantest of all on such a day are the reveries that come and go
over the heart, under the shade of a noble oak that lifts its crowned
head to the clouds, while birds twitter love-songs among its branches,
and lovers lie dreaming on the green sward below.

So thought a young man as he reclined under the shadow of a tall
beech-tree that skirted the green border of a meadow, somewhere near the
woods around Schonbrunn. He had fastened his horse to a tree not far
off, and while the steed cropped the fresh grass, its owner revelled in
the luxury of sylvan solitude. With an expression of quiet enjoyment he
glanced now upon the soft, green meadow, now at the dim, shady woods,
and then at the blue and silver sky that parted him from heaven.

"Oh! how delightful it is," thought he, "to drop the shackles of
royalty, and to be a man! Oh, beautiful sky, with livery of 'kaiser
blue,' change thy hue, and hide me in a dark cloud that I may be safe
from the homage of courtiers and sycophants! If they knew that I was
here, how soon would they pursue and imprison me again in my gilded cage
of imperial grandeur!"

Just then, in the distance, was heard the sound of a hunting horn, and
the emperor's soliloquy was cut short. An expression of annoyance was
visible on his features, as he listened. But instead of advancing, the
sounds receded until finally they were lost in the sighing of the wind
among the forest-trees.

"They have passed by," exclaimed he joyfully. "This day is mine, and I
am free. What a charm is in that word FREEDOM! I feel it now; no emperor
am I, but a man, to whom the animals will turn their backs, without
suspecting that they refuse to look upon an anointed sovereign. But
hark! what is that? A doe--a timid doe--perhaps an enchanted princess
who can resume her shape at the bidding of a prince only. Here am I,
sweet princess--ready, as soon as you become a woman, to leap into your
arms."

The emperor grasped his fowling-piece that was leaning against the
beech. But the doe caught the sound, raised her graceful head, and her
mild eye sought the enemy that threatened her. She saw him, and as he
raised the gun to take aim, she cleared the road with one wild bound,
and in a few moments was lost in a thicket.

The emperor leaped on his horse, exclaiming, "I must catch my enchanted
princess;" and giving his steed the rein, away they flew on the track of
the doe; away they flew over fallen trunks and through brier and copse,
until the panting steed would have recoiled before a wide hedge--but the
emperor cried, "Over it! over it! The princess is beyond!" and the
foaming horse gathered up his forelegs for the leap. He made a spring,
but missed, and with a loud crash, horse and rider fell into the ditch
on the farther side of the hedge.

The emperor fell under the horse, who, in its efforts to rise, inflicted
dreadful suffering upon its master. He felt that his senses were leaving
him, and thought that he was being crushed to death. The load upon his
breast was insufferable, and in his ears there came a sound like the
roaring of the ocean. He uttered one cry for help, commended himself to
Heaven, and fainted.

How long he lay there, he never knew. When he opened his weary eyes
again, he lay on the sward near the hedge, with his head resting upon
the lap of a beautiful girl, who was contemplating him with looks of
tenderest pity. By her side knelt another young girl, who was bathing
his temples with water.

"Look, Marianne," exclaimed she joyfully; "he begins to move. Oh, dear
sister, we have saved his life."

"Still, Kathi," whispered the other. "He has not yet his senses. He
looks as if he were dreaming of angels. But he will soon awake."

"I don't wonder that be dreams of angels, Marianne, when he looks at
you," said Kathi, contemplating her beautiful sister. "But now that he
is safe, I will go and look after his horse. Poor animal! he trembles
yet with fright, and I think he has lamed his leg. I will lead him to
the spring where he can drink and cool his foot. You know the curate
says that water is a great doctor for man and beast."

So saying she took up the bridle, and coaxing the horse gently, he
followed her, although he shuddered with the pain of his limb.

She disappeared behind a little grove of trees, while her sister
contemplated their handsome patient. He lay perfectly quiet, his eyes
open, but feeling too weary for speech. He felt uncertain whether he
waked or dreamed, nor did he care; for the present moment was
unutterably sweet. His pain was slight, and with his head pillowed upon
the lap of the lovely girl whose face was beautiful as that of Eve in
the groves of Eden, the emperor gazed on in rapture.

Marianne became gradually aware that his glances spoke admiration, for
her color slowly deepened, until it glowed like the petals of a
newly-opened rose. The emperor smiled as he watched her blushes. "Do
angels then blush?" asked he softly.

"He still dreams," said Marianne, shaking her head. "I thought just now
that his senses were returning."

"No, child," replied Joseph, "I do not dream. I see before me the
loveliest vision that ever blessed the eyes of man, or else--I have
overtaken the enchanted princess. Oh, princess! it was cruel of you to
lure one over that treacherous hedge!" Marianne looked alarmed. "Poor,
poor young man!" murmured she in a low voice, "he is delirious. I must
moisten his head again."

She extended her hand to the little pail that held the water, but Joseph
caught it, and pressed it warmly to his lips. Marianne blushed anew,
with painful embarrassment, and sought to withdraw her hand.

The emperor would not yield it. "Let me kiss the hand of the angel that
has rescued me from death," said he. "For 'tis you, is it not, who saved
my life?"

"My sister and I, sir, were coming through the wood," replied Marianne,
"when we saw your horse galloping directly toward the hedge. We knew
what must happen, and ran with all our might toward you, but before we
reached you, the horse had made the leap. Oh, I shudder when I think of
it!"

And her face grew white again, while her lustrous eyes were dimmed with
tears.

"Go on, go on, my--. No, I will not call you princess lest you should
think me delirious. I am not delirious, beautiful Marianne! but I dream,
I dream of my boyhood and almost believe that I have come upon enchanted
ground. Your sweet voice--your lovely face --this delicious wood--it all
seems like fairy-land! But speak on; where did you find me?"

"Under the horse, sir; and the first thing we did was to free you from
its weight. We took the rein, and, after some efforts, we got him to his
feet. Kathi led him away, and I--I--"

"You, Marianne! tell me--what did you do?"

"I," said she, looking down--"I bore you as well as I was able to this
spot. I do not know how I did it, but fright gives one very great
strength."

"Go on, go on!"

"We had been gathering mushrooms in the woods, when we saw you. As soon
as Kathi had tied the horse, she ran for her little pail, poured out the
mushrooms, and filling it with water, we bathed your head until you
revived. This, sir, is the whole history, and now that you have
recovered, I will help you to rise."

"Not yet, not yet, enchantress. I cannot raise my head from its
delicious pillow. Let me dream for a few moments longer. Fairy-land is
almost like heaven."

Marianne said no more, but her eyes sought the ground, and her face grew
scarlet. The emperor still gazed upon her wonderful beauty, and thought
that nothing he had ever seen in gilded halls could approach this
peasant-girl, whose red dress and black bodice were more dazzling to his
eyes than the laces and diamonds of all Vienna assembled.

"Where," asked he, observing that her snowy shoulders were bare, "where
did you get a kerchief to bathe my head?"

Marianne started and laid her hands upon her neck. "Good Heaven!"
murmured she to herself; "it was the kerchief from my own bosom!"
Unconsciously she reached her hand to take it from the pail.

"What!" said Joseph, stopping her; "would you wear that dripping
kerchief? No, no! let the sky, the birds, and the wood-nymphs look at
those graceful shoulders; and if I may not look, I will shut my eyes."

"Oh! do not shut your eyes; they are blue as the sky itself!" replied
Marianne. But as she spoke she drew forward the long braids that trailed
behind her on the ground, and quickly untwisting them, her hair fell in
showers around her neck and shoulders, so that they were effectually
concealed.

"You are right," said the emperor. "Your hair is as beautiful as the
rest of your person. It surpasses the sables of a Russian princess. You
know perfectly well how to adorn yourself, you bewitching child."

"I did not mean to adorn myself, sir," said Marianne. "Why, then, did
you cover yourself with that superb mantle?"

"Because, sir, I--I was cold."

"Are you so icy, then, that you freeze in midsummer?"

She said nothing, but bent her head in confusion. Luckily, at that
moment, Kathi came in sight with the horse.

"Now, sir," exclaimed Marianne, "you can rise, can you not?"

"Not unless you help me, for my head is yet very light."

"Well, sir, if that be so, then stay where you are, and try to sleep,
while I pray to the blessed Virgin to protect you."

Meanwhile Kathi came forward, and, when she saw the emperor, nodded her
head.

"God be praised, sir," cried she, "you have your senses once more! You
have gotten off cheaply with nothing but a black eye. But, bless me! how
quiet you are, Marianne! Who would think, that while the gentleman was
out of his senses, you were crying as if he had been your sweetheart!
Why, sir, her tears fell upon your face and waked you."

"Pardon me," whispered Marianne, "I wiped them away with the kerchief."

"Why did you deprive me of those sweet tears?" whispered the emperor.
But Kathi was talking all the while.

"Now," continued she, "try to get up. Put one arm around me, and the
other around Marianne, and we will set you upon your legs, to find out
whether they are sound. Come--one, two, three; now!" With the help of
the strong peasant-girl, the emperor arose and stood erect. But he
complained of dizziness, and would have Marianne to sustain him.

She approached with a smile, while he, drawing her gently to his side,
looked into her eyes. The poor girl trembled, she knew not why, for
assuredly she was not afraid.

Kathi, who had gone back for the horse, now came up, leading him to his
master. "Now," said she, "we are all ready to go. Your horse is a little
lame, and not yet able to bear you. Whither shall we lead you, sir?
Where is your home?"

"My home!" exclaimed the emperor, with troubled mien. "I had forgotten
that I had a home." This question had awakened him from his idyl.

"Where is my home?" echoed he sadly. "It is in Vienna. Can you put me on
the road thither?"

"That can we, sir; but it is a long way for such a gentleman as you to
travel on foot."

"Let us go, then, to the highway, and perhaps I may there find some
conveyance."

"Well, then," cried the gleeful Kathi, "forward, march!"

"Not yet, Kathi. Not until I have thanked you for the great service you
have rendered me. Let me give you some testimony of my gratitude. Before
we part, let me gratify some wish of yours. Speak first, Kathi."

"H'm," said Kathi, "I have many wishes. It is not so easy to say what I
want."

"Well, take time, and think for a moment, child."

Kathi looked as if she were making a bold resolve.

"That ring upon your finger--it is the prettiest thing I ever saw. Will
you give it to me?"

"Kathi!" exclaimed Marianne, "how can you ask such a thing?"

"Why not?" returned Kathi, reddening; "did he not tell me to say what I
wanted?"

"Yes," said Marianne in a low voice, "but it may be a gift--perhaps it
is from his sweetheart!"

"No, Marianne," replied the emperor sadly, "I have no sweetheart. No one
cares whether I give or keep the ring. Take it, Kathi."

Kathi held out her hand, and when it had been placed upon her finger she
turned it around to see it glisten, and laughed for joy.

"And you, Marianne," said Joseph, changing his tone as he addressed the
beautiful creature who stood at his side, "tell me your wish. Let it be
something hard to perform, for then I shall be all the happier to grant
it."

But Marianne spoke not a word.

"Why, Marianne," cried Kathi impatiently, "do you not see that he is a
rich and great lord, who will give you any thing you ask? Why do you
stand so dumb?"

"Come, dear Marianne," whispered the emperor, "have you no wish that I
can gratify?"

"Yes, sir," cried Marianne, in a voice scarcely audible.

"Speak it, then, sweet one, and it shall be granted."

"Then, sir," said Marianne, her cheeks glowing, though her eyes were
still cast down, "my father's house is hard by. Come and rest awhile
under his roof, and let me give you a glass of milk, and to your horse
some fresh hay."

The emperor seemed to grow very weak while Marianne spoke, for he clung
to her as though he had been afraid to fall.

"Yes, Marianne," replied he, "and God bless you for the kind suggestion!
Let me for once forget the world and imagine that I, too, am a peasant,
with no thought of earth beyond these enchanted woods. Take me to the
cottage where your father lives, and let me eat of his bread. I am
hungry."

And the emperor, with his strange suite, set off for the cottage of
Conrad the peasant.



CHAPTER XLVIII.

THE JUDGMENT OF SOLOMON.

Old Conrad stood in his doorway, shading his old eyes from the sunbeams,
while he looked anxiously down the road that led to the village. It was
noonday, and yet the hearth of the kitchen was empty and cold. No kettle
was on the hob, no platter upon the table. And yet his daughters had
started early for the woods, and surely they must have gathered their
mushrooms hours ago.

The old peasant began to be anxious. If it had been Kathi alone, it
would have been easy enough to guess at the delay. She was gossiping
with Valentine, and forgetting that she had father or sister, home or
dinner. But Marianne was along, and she never flirted or loitered. What
could be the matter? But--what was that coming up the road? Marianne!
Yes, truly, Marianne with a fine lord at her side, who seemed closer to
her than propriety seemed to allow.

"Gracious Heaven!" thought the old man, "what has come over my bashful
Marianne? What would the villagers say if they should see her now? And
what comes behind? Kathi, with a horse. Are the maidens bewitched?"

They came nearer; and now Kathi, from the top of her voice, bade him
good-day.

"Are we not fine, father?" cried she, with a loud laugh. But Marianne,
coming forward with the emperor, bent gracefully before her old father.

"See, dear father," said she in her soft, musical tones, "we bring you a
guest who to-day will share our humble dinner with us."

"A guest whose life has been saved by your daughters," added Joseph,
extending his hand.

"And a very rich somebody he must be, father," cried Kathi, "for see how
he has paid us for our help. Look at this brave ring, how it glistens!
It is mine; and Marianne might have had as much if she had chosen. But
what do you think she asked him?--to come home and get a glass of milk!"

"That was well done of my Marianne," said the father, proudly. "It would
have been a pity not to let me see the brave gentleman, if indeed you
have been so happy as to save his life. Come in, my lord, come in. You
are welcome. What we have we give cordially."

"And therefore what you give will be gratefully received," replied the
emperor, entering and seating himself.

"Now, sir," said Marianne, "I will go and prepare the dinner." So
saying, she passed into the cottage kitchen.

"That is a beautiful maiden," said Joseph, looking wistfully after the
graceful figure as it disappeared.

"They are my heart's joy, both of them," replied Conrad. "They are brisk
as fawns, and industrious as bees. And yet I am often sad as I look at
them."

"Why so?"

"Because I am old and poor. I have nothing to leave them, and when I
die, they will have to go to service. That frets me. It is because I
love the maidens so dearly that I am troubled about them."

"Let their poverty trouble you no longer, my friend. I will provide for
them. I have it in my power to make them both comfortable, and that they
shall be, I promise you."

The old man spoke his thanks, and presently came Marianne to announce
the dinner. It was served in an arbor covered with honeysuckles and red
beans, and the emperor thought that he had never had a better dinner in
his imperial palace. The shackles of his greatness had fallen from him,
and he drank deeply of the present hour, without a thought for the
morrow. Marianne was at his side, and as he looked into the lustrous
depths of her dark eyes, he wished himself a peasant that he might look
into them forever.

Meanwhile Kathi and her father walked together in the garden. They were
both examining the diamond ring, and the hearts of both were filled with
ambitious thoughts and hopes.

"He must be very rich," said Kathi, in a low voice. "He has fallen in
love with Marianne, 'tis plain, and she has only to ask and have any
thing she likes. Look, father, he is kissing her! But don't let them see
you. The more he loves her, the more he will give us. But you must speak
to Marianne, father. She is as silly as a sheep, and doesn't care
whether we are poor or rich. Call her here, and tell her that she MUST
ask for a great sum of money--enough for us to buy a fine farm. Then
Valentine will marry me at once, and I shall be able to give a
wedding-dress to all the other maidens in the village."

"But suppose that the lord should want Marianne?" asked Conrad, turning
pale.

Kathi still held up her ring, and she turned toward the sun until it
seemed to be in a blaze. "Look, father," said she, in a low tone,
"look."

The eyes of the old man were fixed upon the jewel; and strange hopes,
with which, until now, he had been unacquainted, stirred his heart. The
serpent had found its way into Eden, and it spoke to both in the glitter
of this unhappy ring.

"Father," said Kathi, at length, "if Marianne had such a ring as this on
her finger she would find many hundred wooers who would forgive her for
having had ONE before them."

"Silence!" cried the old man. "If your mother were alive to hear these
guilty words, she would think that you were no longer innocent yourself.
How I wish she were here in this trying hour! But since you have no
parent but me, I must protect you from shame."

With these words the old man walked resolutely to the arbor, followed by
Kathi, who implored him not to ruin their fortunes.

"My lord," said Conrad, "the day wanes. If you intend to reach Vienna
tonight, you have no time to lose."

"Alas!" thought Joseph, "my dream is over. You are right," said he to
the peasant, "unless you will shelter me to-night."

"I have but one bed in my house, sir," replied Conrad, "and that is in
the little room of my daughters."

"Then let me sleep there," said Joseph, with the arrogance of one
accustomed to command.

"Oh!" faltered Marianne, springing to her father's side, as though she
would seek protection from these ensnaring words.

But Kathi shook her sister's arm, and surveying her blushing face,
exclaimed with a loud laugh, "You are a fool. What harm can it do us, if
the gentleman sleeps in our room? We can make ourselves a bed of hay on
the floor, and give him the bedstead. No one will ever think any the
less of us."

"I think so, too," said Joseph, who was now resolved to see of what
stuff the peasant was made. "Do not hesitate so. Let me sleep in your
daughters' room, and I will give you a handful of gold for my lodging."

Kathi gave a cry of delight, and going close to her father, she
whispered, "Father, you will not refuse! Think--a handful of gold! We
will be the richest farmers in the village! There are two of us--there
can be no danger."

"Well!" asked Joseph, impatiently, "have you decided? Did you not tell
me that you were poor? and is this not an opportunity I offer you to
enrich your daughters!"

"Sir," replied the old man, solemnly, "I do not know whether this
opportunity may not be for evil, instead of good. I am a poor and simple
farmer, and cannot decide for myself whether the mere fact of your
sleeping in the same room with my daughters is right or not. Our curate
is a very holy man; I will apply to him for advice."

"Very well," said Joseph, "go and fetch him, he shall decide."

Old Conrad left the garden, followed again by Kathi, who was resolved to
leave the great lord alone with her sister. Marianne, who before had
been so happy and unembarrassed, now started forward with the intention
of going with her father. But the emperor would not allow it. He caught
her by both hands and held her fast.

"Stay, frightened doe," said he softly. "You are right, dear child, to
tremble before men, for they are full of deceit; but do not be afraid of
me; I will not harm you."

Marianne raised her dark, tearful eyes to his face, and gradually a
smile lit up her lovely features.

"I believe you, my lord," said she. "You have, perhaps, already seen
that I would do any thing on earth for you, were it even to give up my
life; but for no one would I do that which my mother would blame if she
were living--on no account would I do that which I might not tell in
prayer to my heavenly Father."

The emperor looked once more at her lovely face.

"Oh, Marianne! why are you a peasant!" exclaimed he. Then raising his
eyes to heaven. "Almighty God," continued he, "shield her from harm. In
Thy presence I swear to protect her honor--even from myself. "

At that moment old Conrad appeared in the road. At his side was a little
old man in a faded cassock, whose spare white hair scarcely covered his
bald head.

Joseph came forward, holding Marianne by the hand. Kathi darted from the
house, laughing vociferously. The priest advanced, his eyes fixed upon
the face of the stranger. All at once, pointing with his finger to
Joseph, he cried out:

"Conrad, a great honor has befallen your house. Your guest is the
emperor!"

"The emperor!" exclaimed three voices--two in joyous notes, the third
with the cry of despair.

Conrad and Kathi were on their knees; Marianne leaned deathly pale
against the arbor.

"Yes, father," replied Joseph, mastering his annoyance at the
revelation; "yes, I am the emperor. But, my friends, do not offer me
such homage as belongs to God alone. Rise, Conrad. Old men should not
kneel before young ones. Rise, Kathi. Men should kneel before pretty
maidens, no matter whether they be princesses or peasants. And now,
father, hear my petition. I am tired and suffering. I have had a fall
from my horse, and I do not wish to go to-night to Vienna. I have
offered this old man a handful of gold to give me his only bed--the one
in his daughters' room. But he will not give his consent without your
approval. Decide between us, and remember who it is that asks for
lodging here."

The head of the old priest sank upon his breast.

"Oh," thought Kathi, "I hope he will say yes."

Marianne made not a movement, while her father looked anxiously toward
the priest.

"Well, father, well," cried Joseph. "You say nothing--and yet I have
told you that the emperor craves a night's lodging in the room of these
young girls. You see that I ask where I might command. I should think
that the lord of the whole land is also lord of the little room of two
peasant-girls."

"Yes, your majesty. You are lord of the room, but not of the honor of
these peasant-girls," replied the curate, raising his eyes, and steadily
meeting those of Joseph. [Footnote: "Life of Joseph II., Emperor of
Austria," vol iii., p. 89.]

"Nobly answered, father," replied the emperor, taking the old priest's
hand, and pressing it between his own. "Had you decided otherwise, I
would not have forgiven you. Before the servant of the Lord, the claims
of the sovereign are on an equality with those of his subject. Pardon
me, Conrad, for testing your honor as I did, and accept my horse as a
token of my respect. If you should ever wish to sell him, bring him to
the imperial stables, and he will be ransomed by me for a thousand
florins."

"Oh, your majesty," said the happy old man, "I shall die content for my
children are provided for."

"Now we are rich," cried Kathi, "the best match in the village will be
proud to marry either one of us."

The emperor, meanwhile, took out his pocket-book, and, tearing out a
leaf, wrote some words upon it.

Folding the paper, he advanced to Marianne, and handing it to her, said:

"My dear child, when your father presents this paper to the marshal of
my household, Count Rosenberg, he will give him in return for you five
hundred florins."

"Five hundred florins!" exclaimed Kathi, with envious looks.

"Take the paper, Marianne," pleaded the emperor. "It is your dowry."

Marianne raised her tearful eyes, but her hands did not move to take the
gift. She reflected for a moment, and then spoke.

"Five hundred florins," said she, "is not that a large sum?"

"It is, my child," replied Joseph.

"More than the value of the ring you gave my sister, is it not?" asked
she.

The emperor looked disappointed. "Yes, Marianne," replied he, with a
sigh. "You have no reason to envy your sister. Kathi's ring is not worth
more than a hundred florins."

He still held the paper in his hands. Suddenly Marianne took it from
him, and crossed over to her sister.

"You hear, Kathi," said she, "you hear what the emperor says. This paper
is worth five times as much as your ring. Let us exchange."

So saying, she held out the paper, while Kathi with a scream of delight,
snatched it from her hand, and as quick as thought, drew the ring from
her own finger.

"If you repent your bargain, Marianne," said she, "so much the worse for
you. The dowry is mine--and mine it shall remain."

Marianne did not listen. She placed the ring upon her own hand, and
contemplated it with a smile of satisfaction. Then going up to the
priest, she addressed him with a grace that would have been winning in a
countess.

"Father," said she, "you have heard the exchange that Kathi and I have
made. The dowry is hers--the ring is mine. As long as I live, I shall
wear this token of my emperor's condescending goodness. And when I die,
father, promise me that my ring shall go with me to the grave."

The emperor, all etiquette forgetting, made a step forward, with his
arms extended. But recovering himself, he stopped; his arms dropped
heavily to his side, and he heaved a deep, deep sigh.

Instead of approaching Marianne, he drew near to the priest.

"Father," said he, "my mother will perhaps feel some anxiety on my
account. Will you be so kind as to accompany me to the post-house, where
I may perhaps be able to procure some vehicle for Vienna."

"I am ready, your majesty," replied the curate; "and if it pleases you,
we will set out at once."

"So be it," sighed Joseph. "Farewell, Conrad," continued he; "hearken to
the counsels of your excellent pastor, for he is a faithful servant of
God. Farewell, Kathi; now that you have a dowery, you will speedily find
a husband. Let me be godfather to the first baby."

Kathi blushed and laughed, while the emperor turned to the pale
Marianne. He took her hand, and, pressing it to his lips, he said to the
priest, who was looking on with anxious eyes--

"A man has the right to kiss the hand of a lovely and innocent girl like
this, even though he have the misfortune to be born an emperor. Has he
not, father?"

Without waiting for an answer, Joseph dropped the poor little cold hand,
and turned away.

The old priest followed, while Conrad and his daughters looked on,
scarcely crediting the evidence of their senses.

The emperor had reached the cottage-gate, when suddenly he turned, and
spoke again.

"Marianne, one last request. Will you give me the kerchief with which
you were bathing my head to-day? The evening air is pool about my
throat. I am subject to hoarseness."

Marianne was trembling so that she could not answer. But Kathi came
forward, and taking the kerchief from a rosebush where It had been hung
to dry, she ran forward, and gave it into the emperor's hands.

He bowed, and continued his way.

Marianne gazed wistfully down the road at the tall and noble form that
was disappearing from her sight--perhaps forever.



CHAPTER XLIX.

TWO AFFIANCED QUEENS.

There was great activity in the private apartments of the empress. Maria
Theresa, whose forenoons were usually dedicated to business of state,
was now engaged in giving audience to jewellers, milliners, and
mantuamakers.

For whom were these preparations? No one knew, although every one
desired to know. The secret seemed especially to interest the two young
Archduchesses Caroline and Marie Antoinette. These silks, satins, laces,
and jewels signified--marriage. Of that, there could be no doubt. But
who was to be the bride? The Archduchess Elizabeth was past thirty.
Could it be that there was any truth in the rumor of a projected
marriage between herself and the old King of France? She was tired of
life at the court of Austria, and would have welcomed the change, had
the negotiations which were pending on that subject ever come to
anything. But they did not. [Footnote: They were frustrated by the
Countess du Barry, who never forgave the Duke de Choiseul for
entertaining the project. Du Barry prevailed upon the king to say that
he was too old to marry, and she revenged herself on Choiseul by
bringing about his disgrace. Alex. Dumas, "History of Louis XV."]

Caroline and Marie Antoinette were very incredulous when it was hinted
that their mother's preparations were intended for their eldest sister.
They laughed at the absurdity of Elizabeth's faded pretensions.

"It must be that I am about to be married," said Caroline, as she
entered her little sister's room one morning, in full dress. "The
empress has commanded my presence in her cabinet to-day, and that
betokens something unusual and important. But bless me you, too, are in
full dress?"

"Yes," said Marie Antoinette, laughing, and echoing her sister's words,
"it must certainly be myself that is about to be married, for the
empress has commanded my presence in her cabinet, and, of course, she
has something of great importance to communicate."

"How! You also?" exclaimed Caroline. "At what hour?"

"At twelve exactly, your highness," answered Marie Antoinette, with a
deep courtesy.

"The same hour. Then we must go together. I suppose that the empress
intends to propose a husband for me, and a new tutor for you,
Antoinette."

"Pray, why not a husband?" laughed Marie Antoinette.

"Because, you saucy child," replied her sister, "husbands are not dolls
for little girls to play with."

Marie Antoinette tossed her pretty bead, saying, "Let me tell you,
Caroline, that little girls are sometimes as wise as their elders, and I
shall give you a proof of my superior wisdom, by not returning irony for
irony. Perhaps it may be you who is to be married--perhaps it may be
both of us. There are more crowns in Europe than one. But hark! there
sounds the clock. The empress expects us."

She gave her hand to her sister, and the two princesses went laughing
together to their mother's room.

The empress received them with an affectionate smile, and although her
daughters were accustomed to stand in her presence, to-day she told them
to sit on either side of her.

They were both beautiful, and their mother surveyed them with pride and
pleasure.

"Come, dear children," said she, "we will banish etiquette for a while.
To-day I am no empress, I am but a mother. But why do you both smile so
significantly at one another? Are you guessing at what is to be the
subject of our interview?"

"What can it be, your majesty," said Caroline gayly, "but the
explanation of the riddle that has been puzzling all the brains in the
palace for a month past?"

"You have guessed," answered Maria Theresa, laughing. "It is of your own
marriage that I would speak. I have accepted a crown for you, my
Caroline, and the ambassador who will conduct you to your kingdom is
already on his way. Your trousseau is magnificent and worthy of a queen.
Your fair brow was made for a royal diadem, and in yonder room lies one
that is made up of a constellation of diamonds."

"But the king--the man--who is he?" asked Caroline anxiously. "Tell me,
your majesty, to whom I am affianced?"

The empress's brow grew ruffled.

"My daughter," said she, "a princess marries not a king, but a kingdom.
It is given to few mortals wearing crowns to add to their royalty
domestic happiness. It becomes you more to ask whether you are to be a
great and powerful queen, than the name of the man who is to place his
crown upon your head."

The princess was silent, but she said to herself, "If she means to hand
me over to the horrid old King of France, I shall say emphatically--No!"

The empress went on. "Diplomacy is the wooer of royal maidens, and
diplomacy has chosen you both. For you, too, my little Antoinette, are
promised to the heir of a crown."

Marie Antoinette nodded to Caroline. "I told you so," said she. "Mamma
did not call me hither to propose a new tutor."

"Yes, my dear," said the empress, laughing, "I did call you hither for
that object also. A little girl who is destined to reign over one of the
greatest nations in the world must prepare herself conscientiously to
fill her station worthily. You have a noble mission, my child; through
your marriage the enmity so long subsisting between Austria and France
shall be converted into amity and concord."

"France!" screamed Antoinette. "Your majesty would surely not marry me
to the horrid old Louis XV.!"

"Oh no!" replied the empress, heartily amused. "You are affianced to his
grandson, who one of these days will be called Louis XVI."

Marie Antoinette uttered a cry and started from her seat. "Oh my God!"
exclaimed she.

"What--what is the matter?" cried Maria Theresa. "Speak, my child, what
ails you?"

"Nothing," murmured Antoinette, shaking her head sadly. "Your majesty
would only laugh."

"What is it? I insist upon knowing why it is that you shudder at the
name of Louis XVI.? Have you heard aught to his disadvantage? Has your
brother the emperor--"

"No, no," interrupted Marie Antoinette, quickly, "the emperor has never
mentioned his name to me. No one has ever spoken disparagingly of the
dauphin in my presence. What made me shudder at the mention of his
title, is the recollection of a fearful prophecy which was related to me
yesterday, by my French teacher, as we were reading the hisory of
Catherine de Medicis."

"Tell it to me, then, my daughter."

"Since your majesty commands me, I obey," said the young girl,
gracefully inclining her head. "Catherine de Medicis, though she was
very learned, was a very superstitious woman. One of her astrologers
owned a magic looking-glass. He brought it before the queen, and she
commanded him to show her in the mirror the destiny of her royal house.
He obeyed, and drew back the curtain that covered the face of the
looking-glass."

"And what did she see there?" asked the empress, with interest.

Marie Antoinette continued: "She saw the lily-decked throne of France;
and upon it appeared, one after another, her sons, Henry, Francis, and
Charles. Then came her hated son-in-law, Henry of Navarre; after him,
Louis XIII.--then his grandson, Louis XIV., then Louis XV."

"And what then?"

"Then she saw nothing. She waited a few moments after Louis XV. had
disappeared, and then she saw a figure with a crown upon his head, but
this figure soon was hidden by a cloud; and, in his place, the throne
was filled with snakes and cats, who were tearing each other to pieces."

"Fearful sight!" said Maria Theresa, rising from her seat and walking
about the room.

"It was fearful to Catherine de Medicis, your majesty, for she fainted.
Now you know why I dread to be the bride of the one who is to be called
Louis XVI."

The empress said nothing. For a while, she went to and fro through the
room; then she resumed her seat, and threw back her proud head with a
forced smile.

"These are silly fables," said she, "tales with which nurses might
frighten little children, but only fit to provoke laughter from rational
beings."

"Pardon me, your majesty," interposed Antoinette "but Louis XV. is not
too rational to be affected by them."

"How do you know that, child?"

"I know it, your majesty, because Monsieur le Maitre, who published this
prophecy in his journal 'L'Espion Ture,' was imprisoned for fifteen
years in the Bastile, on account of it. He is still there, although he
has powerful friends who have interceded for him in vain." [Footnote:
Swinburne, p. 60.]

"And Aufresne told you all this?"

"Yes, your majesty."

"He ought to go to the Bastile with Le Maitre, then. But I hope that my
little Antoinette has too much sense to be affected by Aufresne's
nonsense, and that she will accept the husband whom her sovereign and
mother has chosen for her. It is a bright destiny, that of a Queen of
France; and if snakes and cats should come near your throne, you must
tread them under foot. Look up, my child, and have courage. In two years
you will be the bride of the dauphin. Prepare yourself meanwhile to be a
worthy representative of your native Austria. The Queen of France must,
as far as she is able, assimilate herself to the customs and language of
her people. With that intention, Prince Kaunitz has commissioned the
Duke de Choiseul to select you a new teacher. He will be accompanied by
two French ladies of honor. These people, my dear, are to form your
manners according to the requirements of court etiquette in France; but
in your heart, my child, I trust that you will always be an Austrian.
That you may not be too French, Gluck will continue to give you music
lessons. I flatter myself that the French cannot compete with us in
music. Study well, and try to deserve the brilliant destiny in store for
you."

She drew Antoinette close to her and kissed her fondly.

"I will obey your majesty in all things," whispered the child, and sadly
she resumed her seat.

"Now, Caroline," continued the empress, "a word with you. You see with
what modesty and submission your sister has accepted her destiny. Follow
her example, and prepare yourself to receive your affianced husband,
Ferdinand of Naples."

It was Caroline, now, who turned pale and shuddered. She uttered a cry
of horror, and raised her hands in abhorrence. "Never! Never, your
majesty," cried she, "I cannot do it. You would not be so unnatural as
to--"

"And why not?" asked the empress, coldly.

"Because God Himself has declared against our alliance with the King of
Naples. He it is who interposed to save my sisters from this marriage.
In mercy, my mother, do not sentence me also to death!"

The empress grew pale, and her lip quivered. But Maria Theresa, was
forever warring with her own emotions, so that nothing was gained for
Caroline by this appeal to her maternal love.

"What!" exclaimed she, recovering her self-possession. "do you also seek
to frighten me? I am not the cowardly simpleton for which you mistake
me. As if the King of Naples were a vampire, to murder his wives at dead
of night! No, Caroline, no! If it has pleased the Almighty to afflict
me, by taking to Himself the two dear children who were to have been
Queens of Naples, it is a sad coincidence--nothing more."

"But I cannot marry him!" cried Caroline, wringing her hands; "I should
be forever seeing at his side the spectral figures of my dead sisters.
Mother, dear mother, have pity on me!"

"Have pity on her!" echoed Antoinette, kneeling at the empress's feet.

"Enough!" exclaimed Maria Theresa, in a commanding voice. "I have
spoken, it is for you to obey; for my word has been given, and I cannot
retract. If, as your mother, I feel my heart grow weak with sympathy for
your weakness, as your empress, I spurn its cowardly promptings; for my
imperial word shall be held sacred, if it cost me my life. Rise, both of
you. It ill becomes the Queens of France and Naples to bow their knees
like beggars. Obedience is more praiseworthy than humiliation. Go to
your apartments; pray for courage to bear your crosses, and God's
blessing will shield you from all evil."

"I will pray God to give me grace to die in His favor," faltered
Caroline.

"I will pray Him to take my life at once, rather than I should live to
share the destiny of Louis XVI.!" whispered Antoinette, while the two
imperial martyrs bowed low before their mother, and retired each to her
room.

Maria Theresa looked after their sweet, childish figures, and when the
door had closed upon them, she buried her face in the cushions of the
sofa where they had been sitting together, and wept.

"My children! my children! Each a queen, and both in tears! Oh, Heavenly
Father, grant that I may not have erred, in forcing this weight of
royalty upon their tender heads. Mother of God, thou hast loved a child!
By that holy love, pray for those who would faint if their crowns should
be of thorns!"



EMPEROR OF AUSTRIA.



CHAPTER L.

THE DINNER AT THE FRENCH AMBASSADOR'S.

Prince Kaunitz sat lazily reclining in his arm-chair, playing with his
jewelled snuff-box and listening with an appearance of unconcern to a
man who, in an attitude of profoundest respect, was relating to him a
remarkable story of a young emperor and a beautiful peasant-girl, in
which there was much talk of woods, diamonds, milk, and an Arabian
steed.

The smile that was upon the face of the minister might either betoken
amusement or incredulity.

The detective was at that period of his story where the emperor parted
from old Conrad and his daughters. He now paused to see the effect of
his narration.

"Very pretty, indeed," said the prince, nodding his head, "but romances
are out of fashion. In these days we prefer truth."

"Does your highness suppose I am not speaking truth'?" said the man.

Kaunitz took a pinch of snuff, and replied coldly, "I suppose nothing
about it. Somebody, I know, has been playing upon your love of the
marvellous. I know that you are not telling me the truth."

"Your highness!" exclaimed Eberhard, with the air of an injured man, "no
one can impose upon my credulity, for I believe nothing but that which I
see. I had this adventure from old Conrad himself, and I saw him receive
a thousand ducats for the horse. In the joy of his foolish old heart, he
told me the whole story; and as he saw the deep interest which I felt in
the tale, he invited me to his house, where I saw the beautiful
Marianne, with her diamond on her finger."

"Then you acted like a fool; for the emperor knows you as well as all
Vienna does, and he will be furious when he discovers that we have been
watching his pastoral amours."

"Indeed, your highness is right, I would be a poor fool to go there
without great precaution; for, as you very justly remarked, I am well
known in Vienna. But when I made the old peasant's acquaintance I was
disguised, and I defy anybody to know me when I choose to play
incognito. I wore a gray wig and a black patch over one eye. In this
dress I visited them, and had the story all over again, with variations,
from that coquettish village beauty, Kathi."

"How long ago?"

"Three weeks, your highness."

"How many times since then has the emperor visited his inamorata?"

"Six times, your highness. Old Conrad has bought a farm, where he lives
in a handsome house, in which each of his daughters now has a room of
her own. Marianne's room opens on the garden, where the emperor drinks
his milk and enjoys the privilege of her society."

"Have the girls any lovers?"

"Of course, your highness; but they have grown so proud that Kathi will
have nothing to say to her sweetheart, Valentine; while Marianne, it is
said has never encouraged any of the young men in the village. Indeed,
they are all afraid of her."

"Because they know that the emperor honors her with his presence?"

"No, your highness, the emperor has not allowed the family to whisper a
word of his agency in their newly-gotten wealth. They give out that it
is a legacy."

"Do the emperor and Marianne see one another in secret, without the
curate and the father's knowledge?"

Eberhard shrugged his shoulders. "Day before yesterday, Marianne went
alone to the woods to gather mushrooms, and never came home until dusk.
She had been lost in the woods. It was the day on which the emperor was
to visit the farm, but he did not come. Perhaps he got lost too.
To-morrow, Marianne is to gather mushrooms again. I, too, shall go--to
cut wood,"

"Is that all?" asked Kaunitz.

"That is all, for to-day, your highness."

"Very well. Go home and invent a continuation of your story. Let no one
know of it meanwhile except myself. You can boast of more than some
poets and literati can say, for you have amused me, and I will reward
you. Here are two gold ducats for you."

Eberhard bowed low as he received them, but when he had left the room,
and was out of sight of Kaunitz, he turned toward the door muttering,
"As if I were such a fool as to sell my precious secret to you for two
paltry ducats! I know of others who will pay me for my news, and they
shall have it."

Meanwhile Kaunitz, buried in his arm-chair, was revolving the story is
his mind.

"An emperor, a widower of two wives," said he to himself, "and he treats
us to an idyl of the genuine Gessner stamp! An imperial Damon who spends
his time twining wreaths of roses with his Philis! Well--he had better
be left to play the fool in peace; his pastoral will keep him from
meddling in state affairs. Men call me the coachman of European
politics; so be it, and let no one meddle with my coach-box. That noble
empress is of one mind with me, but this emperor would like to snatch
the reins, and go careering over the heavens for himself. So much the
better if he flirts and drinks milk with a dairymaid. But how long will
it last? Eberhard, of course, has gone to Porhammer, who being piously
disinclined to such little pastimes, will go straight to the empress;
and then Damon will be reproved, and I--I may fall under her displeasure
for having known and concealed her son's intrigue. What shall I do?
Shall I warn the emperor so that he can carry off his Semele, and go on
with his amours? Or shall I--bah! Let things shape themselves. What do I
care for them all? I am the coachman of Europe, and they are my
passengers."

So saying, Kaunitz threw back his head, and, being alone, indulged
himself in a chuckle. It was speedily smothered, however, for three taps
at the door announced the approach of the minister's valet.

"The fool intends to remind me that it is time to dress," said he to
himself. "There must be some important engagement on hand to make him so
audacious. Come in, Hippolyte!--Any engagement for dinner?" asked he, as
Hippolyte made his appearance.

"So please your highness, you dine to-day with the Frenoh ambassador."

"What o'clock is it?"

"Three o'clock, your highness."

"It is time. Tell the cook to send my dinner to the palace of the French
ambassador. His excellency knows the terms on which I dine out of my own
house?"

"I had the honor to explain them fully, your highness."

"And he acceded to them?"

"He did, your highness. Your highness, he said, was welcome to bring
your dinner, if you preferred it to his. He had one request, however, to
make, which was that you would not bring your post-dessert; a request
which I did not understand."

"I understand it perfectly. The Count de Breteuil means that he would
like me to leave my mouth-cleaning apparatus at home. Come, since it is
time, let us begin to dress."

So saying, he rose, and presently he was walking to and fro in the
powder-room, buried in his white mantle, while the servants waved their
powder-brushes, and the air was dense with white clouds.

"Order the carriage," said the prince, when Hippolyte had presented the
snuff-box and the handkerchief of cobweb cambric and lace. "Three
footmen to stand behind my chair."

Hippolyte went to order the footmen to the hotel of the Count de
Breteuil, while his master slowly made his way to the anteroom where six
lackeys awaited him, each one bearing aloft a long silk cloak.

"What says the thermometer to-day?" asked he.

The lackey with the first cloak stepped to a window and examined the
thermometer that was fastened outside.

"Sixty degrees, your highness--temperate," said the man.

"Cold! Four cloaks," said Kaunitz; and stepping through the row of
servants, one after the other laid cloak upon cloak over his shoulders.
When the fourth one had been wrapped around him, he ordered a fifth for
his return, and putting his handkerchief to his mouth for fear he might
swallow a breath of air, the coachman of Europe proceeded to his
carriage, where Hippolyte was ready to help him in.

"Is my mouth-cleaning apparatus in the rumble?" asked the prince, as he
sank back in the soft cushions.

"Your highness said that his excellency had requested--"

"Yes, but I did not say that I should heed his excellency's request.
Quick, and bring it hither! Cups, brushes, essences, and every thing!"

Off started Hippolyte, and Kaunitz drew his four cloaks around his
precious person while he muttered to himself, "I shall show my lord,
Count de Breteuil, that the man who has the honor of receiving Kaunitz
at his table, makes no conditions with such a guest. The French
ambassador grows arrogant, and I must teach him that the rules of
etiquette and customs of society are for him and his compeers, but not
for me. Whatever Kaunitz does is becoming and en regle. Voila
tout.--Forward!"

Meanwhile the Count de Breteuil was receiving his distinguished guests.
After the topics of the day had been discussed, he informed them that he
was glad to be able to promise that Prince Kaunitz would come to dinner
without his abominable apparatus.

"Impossible!" exclaimed the ladies.

"Not at all," replied the count. "I have complied with one of his absurd
conditions--he brings his dinner; but I made it my especial request that
he would omit his usual post-dessert."

"And he agreed?"

"It would appear so, since he has accepted. It must be so, for see, he
is here."

The count went forward to meet the prince, who deigned not the smallest
apology for having kept the guests waiting a whole hour.

They repaired to the dining-room, where a costly and luxurious dinner
made amends to the company for their protracted fast.

Kaunitz, however, took no notice of these delicate viands. He ate his
own dinner, and was served by his own lackeys.

"Your highness," said his neighbor, the Princess Esterhazy, "you should
taste this pate a la Soubise, it is delicious."

"Who knows what abominable ingredients may not have gone into its
composition?" said Kaunitz. "I might poison myself if I tasted the
villanous compound. It is all very well for ordinary people to eat from
other men's kitchens. If they die the ranks close up and nobody misses
them; but I owe my life to Austria and to Europe. Eat your pate a la
Soubise, if it suit you; I eat nothing but viands a la Kaunitz, and I
trust to no cook but my own."

It was the same with the Tokay, the Johannisberg and the Champagne.
Kaunitz affected not to see them, while one of his lackeys reached him a
glass of water on a golden salver. Kaunitz held it up to the light. "How
dare you bring me water from the count's fountain?" said he, with a
threatening look.

"Indeed, your highness," stammered the frightened servant, "I drew it
myself from your highness's own fountain."

"How," laughed the Princess Esterhazy, "you bring your water, too?"

"Yes, madame, I do, for it is the purest water in Vienna, and I have
already told you that my health is of the first importance to Austria.
Bread, Baptiste!"

Baptiste was behind the chair, with a golden plate, on which lay two or
three slices of bread, which he presented.

"And bread, too, from his house," cried the princess, laughing
immoderately.

"Yes, madame," replied Kaunitz, gravely, "I eat no bread but that of my
own baker."

"Oh," replied the gay young princess. "I am not surprised at your taking
such wondrous good care of yourself; what astonishes me is, that you
should be allowed to enjoy such privileges in a house that is not your
own. Why, Louis XIV. could not have been more exacting when he
condescended to dine with a subject!"

Kaunitz raised his cold blue eyes so as to meet the look of the bold
speaker. "Madame," said he, "Louis XIV. was Louis XIV., and I am
Kaunitz."

So saying, he took a glass of water from HIS fountain, and ate a piece
of bread from HIS baker. He then leaned back in his chair and took an
animated part in the conversation.

This was only because thereby he knew that he would dazzle his hearers
by speaking English, French, Italian, or Spanish, as occasion required.

The dinner was at an end and dessert came on the table. Of course
Kaunitz refused to partake of it; but while the other guests were
enjoying their confections, he took advantage of a pause in the
conversation, to say to his pretty neighbor:

"Now, princess, that the company have enjoyed THEIR dessert, I shall
take the liberty of ordering MINE."

"Ah! you have your own dessert?" asked the princess, while the guests
listened to hear what was coming.

"I have," said Kaunitz. "I have brought my dessert, of course.
Hippolyte, my etui."

Hippolyte brought the offensive etui and laid it on the dinner-table,
while Baptiste approached with a glass of water. Kaunitz opened the case
with quiet indifference and examined its content. There were several
small mirrors, various kinds of brushes, scissors, knives, a whet-stone,
and a pile of little linen napkins. [Footnote: Swinburne, vol i., page
353.]

While Kaunitz examined and took out his disgusting little utensils the
ladies looked at Count Breteuil, who could scarcely credit the evidence
of his senses. But as Kaunitz set a looking-glass before him, raised his
upper lip, and closed his teeth, preparatory to a cleaning, the count
rose indignant from his seat.

"Ladies and gentlemen," said he, "we will return to the drawing-room for
coffee; Prince Kaunitz desires this room to himself."

The company departed, leaving Kaunitz alone. He did not look as if he
had heard or seen any thing. He went on grinning, brushing his teeth,
drying them in and out with his napkins, and finished off with washing
his hands and cleaning his nails. This done, he walked deliberately back
to the drawing-room, and, going immediately toward the host, he said:

"Count, I am about to return home. You have taken very great pains to
prepare a dinner for me, and I shall make you a princely return. From
this day forward I dine no more from home; your dinner, therefore, will
be immortal, for history will relate that the last time Prince Kaunitz
dined away from his own palace, he dined at that of the French
ambassador." With this he bowed, and slowly left the room.



CHAPTER LI.

MARIANNE'S DISAPPEARANCE.

Kaunitz remained true to his policy in the drama of "The Emperor and the
Dairy-Maid." He allowed things to run their course. Twice a week,
Eberhard came with additional information to which the minister listened
with deep interest, but his interest never took the shape of action.
What did he care?

"This imperial idyl is a disease," thought he. "It will have its crisis
by and by, like a cutaneous eruption. Let it come. Why should I help the
patient when I have not been called in?"

Not long after, however, he was called in. One morning he was lying in
his dressing-gown on a divan, his head bound up in half a dozen silk
handkerchiefs, and his whole person in the primeval disorder of a
slovenly neglige, when his valet announced--the Emperor Joseph.

Kaunitz half rose, saying with a yawn, "Show his majesty to the state
reception-room, and beg him to await me there."

"I have no time to wait, my dear prince," said a soft and melancholy
voice behind him; and, as Kaunitz turned round, he saw the emperor who
was already at his side.

The prince motioned to Hippolyte to leave the room. He went out on
tiptoe, and, as he reached the threshold, the emperor himself closed the
door and locked it. Kaunitz, who had risen, stood in the middle of the
room, looking as indifferent to the visit of an emperor as to that of a
tailor.

"Prince," said Joseph, returning and offering his hand, "we have not
hitherto been good friends, but you see that I hold you in esteem, for I
come to claim your assistance."

"I expected your majesty," replied Kaunitz.

The emperor cast his eyes over the velvet dressing-gown and the half
dozen head handkerchiefs, and looked his astonishment. The prince
understood the glance, and replied to it.

"I did not expect your majesty quite so soon. A few hours later I would
have been ready to receive you. Will you permit me to retire for a few
moments, that I may at least make my head, if not the rest of my person,
presentable?"

The emperor took the hand of the prince and led him back to the divan.
"My dear Kaunitz," said he, "when a man's head is in such a maze as mine
to-day, he concerns himself very little about the looks of other men.
Sit down again, and I will take this armchair by you."

He drew Kaunitz, with gentle force, upon the divan, and then seated
himself at his side.

"Do you know what brings me to you?" said Joseph, blushing.

"I believe that I do, your majesty. It is no state affair, for on state
affairs, unhappily, we are ever at variance."

The emperor laughed a sardonic laugh. "What need have I of a state
councillor, I who am but a puppet in the hands of my mother, I who must
stand, with shackled arms, and look on while she reigns? But it is in
vain to murmur. I watch and wait; and while I wait, I find myself
inclining fast to your policy. I believe you to be an honorable
statesman, and I believe also that the course you have pursued, you have
chose because you are convinced that it is wise."

"Your majesty means the French alliance," said Kaunitz. "You, like your
deceased father, have always opposed it, and but for the firmness of and
wisdom of the empress, it would have failed. But we need not discuss
this matter to-day; I owe the honor conferred upon me to another
question."

"Then you know why I am here?"

"I believe that I know," replied Kaunitz, playing with the silk tassels
of his dressing-gown. "I have lately heard a tale about an emperor who
was lost in a forest and rescued by a peasant-girl. The sovereign was
grateful, as a matter of course, and the damsel forthwith melted away
with love at the sight of him, as Semele did for Jupiter. That, too, may
be very natural; but let me tell your majesty, it is dangerous for the
committee on morals do not approve of such pastorals, and the empress--"

"That accursed committee!" cried Joseph. "It is they who discovered it,
and you who betrayed me."

Kaunitz slightly elevated his shoulders, and his eyes rested, unmoved,
upon the emperor's glowing face. "I have never yet," said he, "descended
to the office of an informer. Had your majesty addressed me on this
subject some weeks ago, I should have said to you, 'You are dreaming a
very pretty dream of innocence, moonshine, and childishness. If you do
not wish to be roughly awakened, go and dream at a distance from Vienna;
for here there are certainly some people who will think it their duty to
disturb you!'"

"Why did you not warn me, Kaunitz?"

"I did not wish to have the appearance of forcing myself into your
majesty's confidence. I had not been intrusted with your secret, and had
no right to warn you."

"No, you warned the empress instead," said Joseph, bitterly.

"I warned nobody, your majesty. I said to myself, 'He is an enviable man
to be able, in the midst of an artificial life, to enjoy the sweets of
rural intercourse.' I foresaw what must inevitably happen; and pitied
the innocent Eve, who will, ere long, be exiled from paradise."

"She is exiled!" cried the emperor. "She has been removed, I know not
where. She has disappeared, and no trace of her can I find."

"Disappeared!" exclaimed Kaunitz, astonished. "Then I have not heard the
whole truth. I did not even know that she was to be removed; I only
suspected it."

"Tell me the truth!" cried the emperor, sharply.

"Sire," said Kaunitz, proudly, "there may be times when it is the part
of wisdom to be silent; but it is never permitted to a man of honor to
be untruthful. I know nothing of this girl's disappearance. The most
that I anticipated was a forced marriage. This, I knew, would occasion
new differences between the empress and your majesty, and I had supposed
that you were coming to me to call for my mediation."

"I must believe you," sighed the emperor. "But prove your integrity by
helping me to find her. Oh, Kaunitz, I beseech of you, help me, and earn
thereby my gratitude and undying regard!"

"Have I waited so long for your majesty's regard, to earn it on account
of a silly peasant?" said Kaunitz, with a bitter smile. "I hope that I
shall have a niche in the temple of the world's esteem, even if I do
fail in finding the daughter of Conrad the boor. If your majesty has
never esteemed me before, you will not begin to do so today; and, as
regards your promised gratitude; the whole world knows, and your majesty
also knows, that I am not to be bribed; but I am ready, from the depths
of my own attachment to you, to do all that I can to help you."

"Kaunitz," said the emperor, offering him his hand, "you intend to force
me to love you."

"If I ever did force your majesty to love me," replied Kaunitz, with
animation, "I should count it the happiest day of my life. If I ever
succeed in winning your confidence, then I may hope to complete the work
I have begun--that of uniting your majesty's dominions into one great
whole, before which all Europe shall bow in reverence."

"Let us speak of other things," interrupted the emperor. "Help me to
find Marianne."

"Allow me one question, then--am I the only person to whom your majesty
has spoken on this subject?"

"No, I have spoken to one other man. I have consulted the shrewdest
detective in all Vienna, and have promised him a large reward if he will
serve me. He came to me this morning. He had discovered nothing, but
gave me to understand that it was you who had betrayed me to the
empress."

"What is his name, your majesty?"

"Eberhard. He has sworn to unravel the mystery for me."

"Then it certainly will be unravelled, for he it is who has been
tracking your majesty, and who has been the means of betraying you to
the empress. I, too, have been giving him gold, with this difference,
that your majesty trusted him, and I did not. He is at the bottom of the
whole plot."

The emperor sprang from his seat, and hastened to the door. Kaunitz
followed, and ventured to detain him.

"I must go," cried Joseph, impatiently. "I must force Eberhard to tell
me what has been done with Marianne."

"You will not find him. He, too, has disappeared."

"Then I must go to the empress to beg her to be merciful to that poor
child who is suffering on my account. I will exact it of her."

"That will only make the matter worse."

Joseph stamped his foot, and uttered a cry of fury. "What must I do,
then?" exclaimed he.

"Be silent and affect indifference. As soon as the empress believes that
you have grown careless on the girl's account, she will begin to think
that she has taken the matter too seriously to heart. Conrad must sell
his farm, and remove far away from Vienna. Once settled, let him come
and claim his daughter, and the empress will be very glad to be rid of
her. Do this, and all will be right."

Joseph frowned, and seemed reluctant to follow this advice.

Kaunitz saw his unwillingness, and continued "This is the only means of
restoring the girl to peace of mind, and your majesty owes her this
reparation. The poor thing has been rudely precipitated from the clouds;
and as the comedy is over, the best thing we can do for her is to
convince her that it as a comedy, and that the curtain has fallen. Your
majesty, however, must not again lay your imperial hand upon the simple
web of her destiny: leave it to your inferiors to gather up its broken
threads. Go away from Vienna; travel, and seek recreation. Leave
Marianne to me, and I swear to you that I will rescue and befriend her.
When you have gone, I shall go to the empress and relate the whole
story. I shall tell all the truth; Maria Theresa has a noble, generous
heart; and she will not do any injury to the one who was instrumental in
saving the life of her darling son. She will do any thing for her
happiness, provided it do not compromise the honor of her imperial
house. And she is right. But you must go, and once gone, Marianne shall
be free."

"Free not only from others, but from me also," said the emperor, deeply
affected. "I feel I have erred toward this innocent young girl. I have
deeply sinned; for, regardless of her peace of mind, I have allowed
myself to dream of a love that could bring naught and misery to both.
For I will not conceal from you, my friend, how much it costs me to
renounce this sweet creature, and to promise that I will see her no
more. My intercourse with her was the last dying sigh of a love which
has gone from my heart forevermore. But--it must be sacrificed. Rescue
her, and try to make her happy, Kaunitz; try to efface from her heart
the memory of my blasting love."

"I promise to free her, but I cannot promise to rescue her from the
memory of your majesty's love. Who knows that from the ring which she
has sworn to wear forever, she may not have inhaled a poison that will
shorten her young life? To rescue her from such a fate lies not in the
power of man. Time--the great comforter--may heal her wounds, but your
majesty must promise never to ask whither she has gone. For you she must
be dead."

"I promise, on my imperial honor, never to see her again," said Joseph,
in a faltering voice. "I will leave to-morrow. Thank God, the world is
wide; and, far away from Vienna, I, too, can seek for oblivion, and,
perchance, for another ray of earthly happiness." And so ended the
pastoral of the emperor and the village maid.



CHAPTER LII.

COUNT FALKENSTEIN.

"Away with care and sorrow! Away with royalty and state!" cried the
emperor, as the long train of wagons, which had accompanied him from
Vienna, were disappearing in the distance.

The empress had caused preparation for her son's journey to be made with
imperial pomp. A brilliant cortege of nobles and gentleman had followed
the emperor's caleche, and behind them came twelve wagons with beds,
cooking utensils, and provisions--the whole gotten up with true princely
magnificence.

The emperor had said nothing, and had left Vienna amid the chiming of
bells and the loud greetings of the people. For two days he submitted to
the tedious pageants of public receptions, stupid addresses, girls in
white, and flower-decked arches; but on the morning of the third day,
two couriers announced not only to the discomfited gentlemen composing
his suite, but to the conductors of the provision-train, that the
emperor would excuse them from further attendance.

Everybody was astonished, and everybody was disappointed. The emperor,
meanwhile, stood by laughing, until the last wagon was out of sight.

"Away with sorrow and care!" cried he, approaching his two carriage
companions, Counts Rosenberg and Coronini. "Note, any friends,"
exclaimed he, putting a hand upon the shoulder of each one, "now the
world is ours! Let us enjoy our rich inheritance! But--bless me, how
forlorn you both look! What is the matter? have I been mistaken in
supposing you would relish my plan of travel?"

"No, your majesty," replied Rosenberg, with a forced smile, "but I am
afraid you will scarcely relish it yourself. You have parted with every
convenience that snakes travelling endurable."

"Your majesty will have to put up with many a sorry dinner and many an
uncomfortable bed," sighed Comnini.

"I am tired of comforts and conveniences," rejoined the emperor,
laughing, "and I long for the variety of privation. But, in my
thoughtlessness, I had taken it for granted that you, too, were weary of
grandeur, and would like to get a taste of ordinary life. If I am
mistaken, you are free to return with my discharged cortege; I force no
one to share my hardships. Speak quickly, for there is yet time for me
to select other fellow-travellers."

"No, no, your majesty," said Rosenberg gayly, "I will go whither you go,
and share your privations!"

"Here I stay, to live and die at your majesty's side!" cried Coronini,
with comic fervor.

The emperor nodded. "Thank you both, my friends; I had counted upon you,
and would have regretted your refusal to go with me. Thank Heaven, we
are no longer under the necessity of parading our rank about the world!
I cannot express to you the joy I feel at the prospect of going about
unnoticed, like any other man."

"That joy will be denied your majesty," said Rosenberg, with a slight
inclination. "The Emperor Joseph can never go unnoticed, like ordinary
men."

"Do not hope it, your majesty!" cried Coronini. "Your majesty's rank is
stamped upon your brow, and you cannot hide it."

The emperor looked down on the sandy hillock on which they stood, then
upward at the bright-blue sky above their heads.

"Are we then under the gilded dome of my mother's palace," sail he,
after a pause, "that I should still hear the language of courtly
falsehood? Awake, my friends, for this is not Austria's imperial
capital! It is the world which God created, and here upon our mother
earth we stand as man to mail. A little shining beetle is creeping on my
boot as familiarly as it would on the sabot of a base-born laborer. If
my divine right were written upon my brow, would not the insects
acknowledge my sovereignty, as in Eden they its golden wings and leave
me without a sign--Happy beetle! Would that I too had wings, that I
might flee away and be at rest!"

The emperor heaved a sigh, and his thoughts evidently wandered faraway
from the scene before him. But presently recalling himself, he spoke
again. Pointing to the sky, he said:

"And now, friends, look above you where the heavens enthrone a Jehovah,
in whose sight all men are equal: and so long as we dwell together under
the open sky, remember him who has said, 'Thou shalt have no other gods
before me!"'

"But, your majesty--"

"Majesty! Where is any majesty here? If I were a lion, to shake the
forest with my roar I might pretend to majesty among the brutes; but you
see that I am, in all things, like yourself--neither nobler nor greater
than you. In Vienna I am your sovereign: so be it; but while we travel,
I am simply Count Falkenstein. I beg you to respect this name and title,
for the Falkensteins are an older race of nobles than the Hapsburgs, and
the turreted castle of my ancestors, the counts, is one of the oldest in
Germany. Away, then, with royalty! I ask for admittance into your own
rank. Will you accept me, and promise that we shall be on terms of
equality?"

He offered a hand to each of his friends, and would not permit them to
do otherwise than press it, in token of assent.

"Now let me tell you my plans. We travel like three happy fellows, bent
upon recreation alone. We go and stay as it best suits us; when we are
hungry, we will dine; when we are tired, we will sleep. A little straw
will make our beds, and our cloaks shall keep us warm. [Footnote: The
emperor, during his tour as Count Falkenstein, repeatedly slept on
straw, over which a leathern cover was spread. Hubner, i., p. 43.] In
Florence I shall be forced to play the emperor, as the reigning duke is
my brother; but he, too, will join us, and then we shall all go on
travelling incognito. First we visit Rome, then Naples. We must find out
whether our sister Caroline has taught her lazzaroni-king to read and
write; and when we shall have learned something of her domestic life, we
will turn our faces homeward. In Milan I roust again play the emperor,
for Lombardy needs my protection, and I must give it. From Lombardy I
return to Vienna. Does the route please you?"

"Exceedingly, count," replied Rosenberg.

"It does, indeed, your highness," added Coronini.

"And why, my highness?" asked Joseph, laughing.

"Because the Counts of Falkenstein were princes, and the title being
appropriate, I hope your majesty will allow me to use it." "I regret
very much, most worthy master-of-ceremonies-itinerant, that I cannot do
so. Pack up your court-manners, Coronini, and carry them in your trunk
until we get back to Vienna. "

"So be it, then," sighed Coronini, "since your m--, I mean my lord count,
will have it so, we must be content to have you hidden under a cloud,
like Jupiter, when he made acquaintance with Io."

"By Jupiter, Coronini, you are ambitious in your similes," replied the
emperor, laughing. "You look very much like Io, do you not?"

"I hope we may be as lucky as the gods," interrupted Rosenberg, "for
every time they visited the earth they were sure to fall in with all the
pretty women."

"True; but mythology teaches that the women who aspired to love gods,
forfeited both happiness and life," replied the emperor, with a touch of
sadness in his voice. "But pshaw!" continued he, suddenly, "what do I
say? Away with retrospection! Let us come out of the clouds, and
approach, both of you, while I intrust you with a great secret--I am
hungry. "

The two counts started in breathless haste for the carriage, near which
the emperor's valet and the postilion were in earnest conversation; but
they returned with very long faces.

"Count," said Rosenberg, sadly, "we have nothing to eat."

"The valet says that Count Falkentstein ordered every thing to be sent
back to Vienna except our trunks," sighed Coronini. "All the wine,
bread, game, and delicacies remained in the wagons."

"Very well," cried the emperor, laughing heartily at the contretemps,
"let us go and ask for dinner in yonder village behind the wood."

"The postilion says that there is not a public house anywhere about,"
continued Coronini, in great distress. "He says that we will find
nothing to eat in the village."

Instead of making a reply, the emperor walked to the hillock, and
questioned the postilion himself.

"What is the name of the village beyond the forest?" asked he.

"Wichern, your majesty."

"Do we change horses there?"

"No, your majesty, we harness up at Unterbergen."

"Can we get any breakfast at Wichern, think you?"

"No, no, your majesty, not a morsel of any thing--none but peasants live
in the village."

"Well, my friend, do the peasants live without eating?"

"Oh, your majesty, they eat anything! They live on bread, bacon, eggs,
and milk, with sometimes a mess of cabbage or beans."

"And you call that having nothing to eat?" exclaimed Joseph, hastening
joyfully back to his friends. "Come, come; we shall find dinner at
Wichern, and if nobody will cook for us, we will cook for ourselves."

Coronini opened his eyes like full moons.

"Why do you stare so, Coronini? Are not all soldiers cooks? I, at least,
am resolved to learn, and I feel beforehand that I shall do honor to
myself. Cook and butler, I shall fill both offices. Come, we are going
to enjoy ourselves. Thomas, tell the postilion to drive as far as the
entrance of the village. We will forage on foot."

The emperor bounded into the carriage, the two noblemen followed, the
postilion cracked his whip, and they were soon at Wichern.



CHAPTER LIII.

WHAT THEY FOUND AT WICHERN.

The carriage stopped, and before the valet had had time to open the
door, the emperor leaped to the ground.

"Come," said he, merrily, "come and seek your fortunes. Thomas, you
remain with the carriage. Drive under the shade of that tree and wait
for our return. Before all things, I forbid you to tell anybody who we
are. From this day forward, my name is Count Falkenstein. Mark me! I
expect you to preserve my incognito."

"I will obey you, my lord count," said the valet, with a bow.

The emperor with his two companions walked toward the village. Nothing
very hopeful was to be seen as they looked up the dirty little streets.
The wretched mud cottages stood each one apart, their yards separated by
scraggy willow-hedges, upon which ragged old garments were hanging in
the sun to dry. Between the hedges were muddy pools, over which the
ducks were wrangling for the bits of weed that floated on the surface of
the foul waters. On their borders, in the very midst of the rubbish and
kitchen offal that lay about in heaps, dirty, half-naked children, with
straw-colored hair, tumbled over one another, or paddled in the water.
In the farm-yards around the dung-heaps, the youngest children of the
cottagers kept company with the sow and her grunting pigs. Before the
slovenly entrances of the huts here and there sat dirty, unseemly old
men and women, who stared at the three strangers as they surveyed the
uninviting picture before them.

"I congratulate the emperor that he is not obliged to look upon this
shocking scene," said Joseph. "I am glad that his people cannot cry out
to him for help, since help for such squalor as this there is none on
earth."

"They are not as wretched as you suppose," said Rosenberg. "These people
are scarcely above the brute creation; and they know of nothing better
than the existence which is so shocking to you. They were born and bred
in squalor, and provided their pastures yield forage, their hens lay
eggs and their cows give milk, they live and die contented."

"If so, they are an enviable set of mortals," replied Joseph, laughing,
"and we, who require so much for our comfort, are poorer than they. But
as there is no help for our poverty, let us think of dinner. Here are
three streets; the village seems to have been divided for our especial
accommodation. Each one shall take a street, and in one hour from now we
meet at the carriage, each man with a dish of contribution. En avant! I
take the street before me; you do the same. Look at your watches, and be
punctual."

So saying, he waved his hand and hastened forward. The same solitude and
misery met his view as he walked on; the same ducks, hens, sows, and
tumbling children; with now and then the shrill treble of a scolding
woman, or the melancholy lowing of a sick cow.

"I am curious now," thought the emperor, "to know how and where I am to
find my dinner. But stay--here is a cottage less slovenly than its
neighbors; I shall tempt my fortunes there."

He opened the wicker gate and entered the yard. The lazy sow that lay on
the dunghill grunted, but took no further notice of the imperial
intruder. He stopped before the low cottage door and knocked, but no one
came. The place seemed silent and deserted; not the faintest hum of life
was to be heard from within.

"I shall take the liberty of going in without awaiting an invitation,"
said the emperor, pushing open the door and entering the cottage. But he
started at the unexpected sight that met his view as he looked around
the room. It was a miserable place, cold and bare; not a chair or any
other article of household furniture was to be seen; but in the centre
of the room stood a small deal coffin, and in the coffin was the corpse
of a child. Stiff and cold, beautiful and tranquil, lay the babe, a
smile still lingering around its mouth, while its half-open eyes seemed
fixed upon the white roses that were clasped in its little dimpled
hands. The coffin lay in the midst of flowers, and within slept the dead
child, transfigured and glorified.

The emperor advanced softly and bent over it. He looked with tender
sympathy at the little marble image which yesterday was a poor, ragged
peasant, to-day was a bright and winged angel. His thoughts flew back to
the imperial palace, where his little motherless daughter was fading
away from earth, and the father prayed for his only child. He took from
the passive hands a rose, and softly as he came, he left the solitary
cottage, wherein an angel was keeping watch.

He passed over to the neighboring yard. Here too, everything seemed to
be at rest: but a savory odor saluted the nostrils of the noble
adventurer which at least betokened the presence of beings who hungered
and thirsted, and had some regard for the creature comforts of life.

"Ah!" said the emperor, drawing in the fragrant smell, "that savors of
meat and greens," and he hurried through the house to the kitchen. Sure
enough, there blazed a roaring fire, and from the chimney-crane hung the
steaming pot whence issued the delightful aroma of budding dinner. On
the hearth stood a young woman of cleanly appearance, who was stirring
the contents of the pot with a great wooden spoon.

"Good-morning, madame," said the emperor, in a loud, cheerful voice. The
woman started, gave a scream, and turned her glowing face to the door.

"What do you mean by coming into strange people's houses and frightening
them so?" cried she, angrily. "Nobody asked you in, I am sure."

"Pardon me, madame," said the emperor. "I was urgently invited."

"I should like to know who invited you, for nobody is here but myself,
and I don't want you."

"Yes, madame; but your steaming kettle, I do assure you, has given me a
pressing invitation to dine here."

"Oh! you are witty, are you? Well, carry your wits elsewhere; they won't
serve you here. My kettle calls nobody but those who are to eat of my
dinner."

"That is the very thing I want, madame. I want to eat of your dinner."
As he spoke, the emperor kept advancing until he came close upon the
kettle and its tempting contents; but the peasant-woman pushed him
rudely back, and thrusting her broad person between himself and the
coveted pot, she looked defiance at him, and broke out into a torrent of
abuse.

The emperor laughed aloud. "I don't wish to rob you," said he. "I will
pay you handsomely if you will only let me have your dinner. What have
you in that pot?"

"That is none of your business. With my bacon and beans you have no
concern."

"Bacon and beans! Oh, my craving stomach! Here, take this piece of gold
and give the some directly."

"Do you take me for a fool, to sell my dinner just as the men will be
coming from the field!"

"By no means for a fool," said the emperor, soothingly; "but if you show
the men that golden ducat they will wait patiently until you cook them
another dinner. Your husband can buy himself a fine holiday suit with
this."

"He has one, and don't want two. Go your way; you shall not have a
morsel of my dinner."

"Not if I give you two gold pieces? Come, do be accommodating, and give
me the bacon and beans."

"I tell you yon shall not have them," screamed the termagant. "I have no
use for your gold, but I want my dinner. So be off with you. You will
get nothing from me if you beg all day long."

"Very well, madame; I bid you good-morning," said Joseph, laughing, but
inwardly chagrined at his fiasco. "I must go on, however," thought he;
and he entered the yard of the next house. Before the door sat a pale
young woman, with a new-born infant in her arms. She looked up with a
languid smile.

"I am hungry," said Joseph, after greeting her with uncovered head.
"Have you any thing good in your kitchen?"

She shook her head sadly. "I am a poor, weak creature, sir, and cannot
get a meal for my husband," replied she; "he will have to cook his own
dinner when he comes home."

"And what will he cook to-day, for instance?"

"I suppose he will make an omelet; for the hens have been cackling a
great deal this morning, and an omelet is made in a few minutes."

"Is it? So much the better, then; you can show me how to make one, and I
will pay you well."

"Go in the hen-coop, sir, and see if you find any eggs. My husband will
want three of them; the rest are at your service."

"Where is the hen-coop?" asked Joseph, much pleased.

"Go through the kitchen out into the yard, and you will see a little
room with a wooden bolt; that is the hen-coop."

"I go," cried Joseph merrily. Presently great commotion was heard among
the hens, and the emperor returned with a glowing face, his hair and
coat well sprinkled with straw. He came forward with both hands full of
eggs.

"Here are eight," said he. "Three for your husband, and five for me. Now
tell me how I must cook them."

"You will have to go to the kitchen, sir. There you will find a flitch
of bacon. Cut off some slices, put them in a pan you will see there, and
set it on the fire. My neighbor has just now made some for poor John.
Then look on the dresser and take some milk and a little flour. Make a
batter of them with the eggs, pour it upon your bacon, and when the eggs
are done, the omelet is made. It is the easiest thing in the world."

"My dear good woman, it will be a desperately hard task for me," said
the emperor with a sigh. "I'm afraid I shall make a very poor omelet.
Won't you come into the kitchen and make it for me? Do, I will pay you
well."

"Dear gentleman," said the young woman, blushing "do you think I am so
idle as to sit here, if I could get up and help you? I was brought to
bed yesterday of this baby; and I am such a poor, sickly thing that I
shall not be able to get up before two days. As the day was bright, dear
John brought me and the baby out here, because it was more cheerful on
the door-sill than within. I am a weak, useless creature, sir."

"Weak! useless!" cried the emperor, astounded; "and you expect to be up
in three days after your confinement? Poor little thing! Have you no
physician and no medicine?"

"The Lord is my physician, sir," said the simple creature, "and my
medicine is the fresh air. But let me think of your omelet. If you
cannot make it yourself, just step to the cottage on the left, and call
my neighbor. She is very good to me, and she will make your omelet for
you with pleasure."

"A thousand thanks," said the emperor, hastening to follow the
directions. He, returned in a few moments with a good-humored, healthy
young woman, who went cheerfully to work, and the omelet was soon made.

One hour after he had parted from his friends, the emperor was seen
coming along the street with a platter in his hand and a little bucket
on his arm. He walked carefully, his eyes fixed upon his precious dish,
all anxiety lest it should fall from his hands.

Thomas was thunderstruck. An emperor carrying an earthen platter in his
hand! He darted forward to receive it, but Joseph motioned him away.

"Don't touch me, Thomas," said he, "or I shall let it fall. I intend to
place it with my own hands. Go, now, and set the table. Pile up some of
those flat stones, and bring the carriage cushions. We will dine under
that wide-spreading oak. Make haste, I am very hungry."

Off went Thomas, obedient, though bewildered; and he had soon improvised
a, table, over which he laid a shining damask cloth. Luckily, the
emperor's camp-chest had not been put in the baggage-wagon, or his
majesty would have had to eat with his fingers. But the golden service
was soon forthcoming, with goblets of sparkling crystal, and three
bottles of fine old Hungarian wine.

"Now," said Joseph triumphantly, "let me place my dishes." With these
words he put on his platter and basket, with great ceremony and
undisguised satisfaction.

A curious medley of wealth and poverty were these golden plates and
forks, with the coarse red platter, that contained the hard-earned
omelet. But the omelet was smoking and savory, and the strawberries were
splendid.

While the emperor was enjoying the result of his foraging expedition,
Rosenberg and Coronini were seen approaching, each with his earthen
platter in his hand.

"The hour is up and we are here," said Coronini. "I have the honor of
laying my dish at your m--feet, count."

"Potatoes! beautiful roasted potatoes!" cried Joseph. "Why, count, you
have brought us a treat."

"I rejoice to hear it, my lord count; for I was threatened with a
broomstick when I tore it from the hands of the woman, who vowed I
should not have a single potato. I dashed two ducats at her feet and
made off with all speed; for the hour was almost up, and I had exhausted
all my manners in the ten houses, which I had visited in vain, before my
successful raid upon hers."

"And will not my lord count cast an eye upon my dish?" asked Rosenberg.

"He has obtained that for which I sued in vain!" cried Joseph. "He has
actually brought bacon and beans."

"But I did not sue; I stormed and threatened. Neither did I waste my
gold to obtain my end. I threw the woman a silver thaler and plenty of
abuse in the bargain."

"Let us be seated!" said the emperor, "and pray admire my omelet and my
strawberries. Now, Coronini, the strawberries are tempting, but before
you taste them, I must tell you that they are tainted with treason:
treason toward my own sacred person. Reflect well before you decide to
eat them. What I am going to relate is as terrible as it is true. While
my omelet was cooking, I strolled out into the road to see if there was
any thing else in Wichern besides poultry, pigs, and dirty children.
Coming toward me I perceived a pretty little barefoot boy, with a basket
full of red, luscious strawberries. I asked where he was going. He said
to the neighboring village to sell his strawberries to the farmer's
wife, who had ordered them. I offered to buy them, but my gold could not
tempt the child--he refused peremptorily to sell them to me at any
price. I argued, pleaded, threatened; all to no purpose. At length,
seeing there was no other alternative, I snatched his strawberries away,
threw him a ducat, and walked off with the prize. He picked up the gold,
but as he did so, he saluted my imperial ears with an epithet--such an
epithet! Oh, you will shudder when you hear what language the little
rascal used to his sovereign! You never will be able to bear it,
Coronini: you, whose loyalty is offended every time you address me as
Count Falkenstein. I only wonder that the sun did not hide its head, and
the earth tremble at the sacrilege! What do you suppose he called
me?--An ass! He did, I assure you. That little bare-legged boy called
his emperor an ass! Now, Coronini, do you think you can taste of the
strawberries that were gathered by those treacherous little hands?"

"If my lord count allows it, I will venture to eat," replied Coronini,
"for I really think there was no treason committed."

"Why! not when he called me an--"

"Pray do not say it again," entreated Coronini, raising his hands
deprecatingly; "it cuts me to the heart. But Count Falkenstein had
already proclaimed that no majesty was by, and when no majesty, was
there, no majesty could be insulted."

"Oh, you sophist! Did you not say that I wore my title upon my brow? Did
you not tell me that I could not hide my majesty from the sons of men?
But I forgive you, and the boy also. Let us drink his health while we
enjoy his strawberries. Fill your glasses to the brim, and having done
honor to those who furnished our repast, allow me to propose--ourselves:
To the health of those who are about to eat a dinner which they have
earned by the sweat of their brow."

So saying, the emperor touched the glasses of his friends.

"Now, postilion," cried he, before they drank, "blow us a blast on your
horn--a right merry blast!"

The postilion put the horn to his lips, and while he blew the glasses
clinked gayly; and the friends laughed, jested, and ate their dinner
with a relish they had seldom known before. [Footnote: Hubner, "Life of
Joseph II.," vol. i., page 40.]



CHAPTER LIV.

THE SOMNAMBULIST.

The policy instituted by Kaunitz, when he became sole minister of the
empress, had now culminated in the alliance of Austria with France,
through the solemn betrothal of the childish Marie Antoinette with the
dauphin. The union was complete--it was to be cemented by the strong tie
of intermarriage; and now, that success had crowned the schemes to which
she had yielded such hearty consent, Maria Theresa was anxious,
restless, and unhappy. Vainly she strove to thrust from her memory the
prophecy which had been foretold in relation to the destinies of France.
With anguish she remembered the cry of Marie Antoinette; with horror she
recurred to the vision which had overcome Catherine de Medicis.

"It is sinful in me," thought the empress, as one morning she left her
pillow from inability to sleep. "God alone is Lord of futurity, and no
human hand dare lift its black curtain! But stay," cried she, suddenly
springing up, and in her eager haste beginning to dress without
assistance. "There is in Vienna a holy nun, who is said to be a
prophetess, and Father Gassner, to whom I have extended protection, he,
too, is said at times to enjoy the privilege of God's prophets of old.
Perhaps they have been sent in mercy to warn us, lest, in our ignorance
of consequences, we stumble and sin."

For some time the empress walked up and down her room, undecided whether
to turn the sibylline leaves or not. It might be sinful to question, it
might be fatal to remain ignorant. Was it, or was it not the will of
God, that she should pry into the great mystery of futurity? Surely it
could not be sinful, else why should He have given to His servants the
gift of prophecy?

"I will go to the Ursuline nun," concluded she, "and Father Gassner
shall come to me."

She rang, and ordered a carriage, with no attendant but her first lady
of honor. "No footman, no outriders, but a simple court equipage; and
inform Father Gassner that in one hour I shall await him in the palace."

In less than half an hour the carriage of the empress was at the gate of
the Ursuline Convent. Completely disguised in a long black cloak, with
her face hidden under a thick veil, Maria Theresa leaped eagerly to the
ground.

Her attendant was about to follow, but the empress motioned her to
remain. "Await me here," said she, "I do not wish to be known in the
convent. I am about to imitate my son, and visit my subjects incognito."

The porteress, who had recognized the imperial liveries, made no
opposition to the entrance of the tall, veiled figure. She supposed her
to be some lady of the empress's household, and allowed her to pass at
once into the hall, following her steps with undisguised curiosity.

She had already ascended the staircase, when she turned to the
porteress.

"In which cell is the invalid nun?" asked she.

"Your highness means Sister Margaret, the somnambulist?" asked the
porteress. "She has been taken to the parlor of the abbess, for the
convenience of the many who visit her now."

"Does she pretend to reveal the future?"

"It would make your highness's hair stand on end to hear her! She has
been asleep this morning, and do you know what she said in her sleep.
She prophesied that the convent would be honored by a visit from the
empress on this very day."

"Did she, indeed?" faltered Maria Theresa. "When? How long ago?"

"About two hours ago, your highness. And as she is never mistaken, the
abbess has prepared all things for her majesty's reception. Doubtless
your ladyship has been sent to announce her?"

"You really feel sure that she will come?"

"Certainly. Sister Margaret's visions are prophetic--we cannot doubt
them."

The empress shuddered, and drew her cloak close around her. "Gracious
Heaven!" thought she, "what if she should prophesy evil for my
child?--It is well," added she, aloud; "where shall I find her?"

"Your highness has only to turn to the left; the last door leads into
the parlor of the abbess."

A deep silence reigned throughout the convent. The empress went on
through the dim, long corridor, now with hurried step and wildly-beating
heart, now suddenly pausing faint and irresolute, to lean against a
pillar, and gather courage for the interview. As she turned the corner
of the corridor, a flood of light, streaming through an oriel window,
revived and cheered her. She stepped forward and looked. The window
opened upon the chapel, where the lights were burning upon the altar,
and high mass was about to begin; for Sister Margaret had said that the
empress was very near.

"It is true. They are waiting for me. Oh, she must be a prophetess, for,
two hours ago, I had not dreamed of coming hither! I feel my courage
fail me. I will go back. I dare not hear, for it is too late."

The empress turned and retraced her steps; then once more calling up all
her fortitude, she returned. "For," thought she, "if God permits me to
see, why should I remain blind? He it is who has sent me to this holy
prophetess. I must listen for my Antoinette's sake."

A second time she went forward, reached the parlor, and opened the door.
She had scarcely appeared on the threshold, cloaked and screened by her
thick black veil, when a clear voice, whose tones were preterhuman in
their melody, addressed her. "Hail, Empress of Austria! All hail to her
who cometh hither!"

"She is indeed a prophetess!" murmured the empress. "She knows me
through my disguise."

She approached the bed and bent over it. The nun lay with closed eyes;
but a heavenly smile was upon her lips, and a holy light seemed to play
around her pale but beautiful face. Not the least tinge of color was on
her cheeks; and but for the tint of carmine upon her lips--so unearthly,
so seraphic was her beauty--that she might have been mistaken for a
sculptor's dream of Azrael, the pale angel of death.

While the empress gazed awe-stricken, the abbess and the nuns, who had
been kneeling around the bed, arose to greet their sovereign.

"Is it indeed our gracious empress?" asked the abbess.

Maria Theresa withdrew her hat and veil, and revealed her pale, agitated
face.

"I am the empress," said she,, "But I implore you let there be no
ceremony because of my visit. In this sacred habitation, God alone is
great, and His creatures are all equal before Him. We are in the
presence of the servant to whom He has condescended to speak, while to
the sovereigns of earth He is silent. To Him alone belongs homage."

"Gracious empress, Sister Margaret had announced your majesty's visit,
and we were to have greeted you as becomes Christian subjects. The
chapel is prepared, the altar is decked."

"I will repair later to the church, mother. At present, my visit is to
Sister Margaret."

"If so, your majesty must not delay. She sleeps but three hours at a
time, and she will soon awake. She has the gift of prophecy in her sleep
only."

"Then go, holy mother, and leave me alone with her. Go and await me in
the church."

The abbess glanced at the clock on the wall. "She will awake in ten
minutes," said she, and with noiseless steps the nuns all left the room.

The empress waited until the door was closed and the sound of their
light footfall had died away; then again approaching the bed, she
called, "Sister Margaret."

The nun trembled, and her brow grew troubled. "Oh," said she, "the
angels have flown! Why have you come with your sad notes of sorrow to
silence the harmony of my heavenly dreams?"

"You know then that I am sad?" asked the empress.

"Yes, your heart is open to me. I see your anguish. The mother comes to
me, not the empress."

Maria Theresa feeling herself in the presence of a supernatural being,
glided down upon her knees. "You are right," said she, "it is indeed a
sorrowing mother who kneels before you, imploring you, in the humility
of my heart, to say what God hath revealed of her daughter s fate!"

"Oh!" cried the nun, in a voice of anguish.

But the empress went on. "My soul trembles for Marie Antoinette.
Something seems to warn me not to trust my child to the foul atmosphere
of that court of France, where Du Barry sits by the side of the king,
and the nobles pay her homage as though she were a virtuous queen. Oh!
tell me, holy sister, what will become of my Antoinette in France?"

"Oh! oh!" wailed the nun, and she writhed upon her bed.

"She is so sweet, so pure, so innocent!" continued the empress. "My
spotless dove! Will she soil her wings? Oh, sister, speak to me!"

"Oh!" cried the nun, for the third time, and the empress trembled, while
her face grew white as that of the prophetess.

"I am on my knees," murmured she, "and I await your answer. Sister
Margaret! Sister Margaret! in the name of God, who has endowed you with
superhuman wisdom, tell me what is to be the fate of Marie Antoinette?"

"Thou hast called on the name of God," said the nun, in a strange, clear
voice, "and I am forced to answer thee. Thou wouldst know the fate of
Marie Antoinette? Hear it: She will live through much evil, but will
return to virtue." [Footnote: Swinburne vol. i., p. 351.]

"She will then cease to be virtuous," cried the empress, bursting into
tears.

"She will learn much evil," repeated the nun, turning uneasily on her
bed. "She will endure--poor Marie Antoinette! Unhappy Queen of France!
Woe! woe!"

"Woe unto me!" cried the wretched mother. "Woe unto her who leadeth her
children into temptation!"

"She will return to virtue!" murmured the nun, indistinctly. "Poor
Queen--of--France!"

With a loud cry she threw out her arms, and sat upright in the bed. Her
eyes opened, and she looked around the room.

"Where is the reverend mother?" cried she. "Were are the sisters?"

Suddenly her eyes rested upon the black and veiled figure of the
empress.

"Who are you?" exclaimed she. "Away with you, black shadow! I am not yet
dead! Not yet! Oh, this pain! this pain!" and the nun fell back upon her
pillow.

Maria Theresa rose from her knees, and, wild with terror, fled from the
room. Away she sped through the long, dark corridor to the window that
overlooked the chapel, where the nuns were awaiting her return--away
down the wide stone staircase, through the hall, out into the open air.
She hurried into the carriage, and, once seated, fell back upon the
cushions and wept aloud.



CHAPTER LV.

THE PROPHECY.

The empress spoke not a word during the drive to the palace. She was so
absorbed in her sorrow as to be unconscious of the presence of another
person, and she wept without restraint until the carriage stopped. Then,
stifling her sobs and hastily drying her tears, she dropped her veil and
walked with her usual majestic gait through the palace halls. In her
anteroom she met a gentleman in waiting coming toward her.

"Father Gassner, your majesty."

"Where is he?"

"Here, so please your majesty."

"Let him follow me into my cabinet," said the empress, going forward,
while the courtier and the priest came behind. When she reached the door
of her cabinet she turned. "Wait here," said she. "When I ring, I beg of
you to enter, father. The count will await your return in this room."

She entered her cabinet and closed the door. Once more alone, she gave
vent to her sorrow. She wept aloud, and in her ears she seemed to hear
the clear, metallic voice of the sick nun pealing out those dreadful
words: "She will live through much evil, but will return to virtue."

But Maria Theresa was no coward. She was determined to master her
credulity.

"I am a simpleton," thought she. "I must forget the dreams of a
delirious nun. How could I be so weak as to imagine that God would
permit an hysterical invalid to prophesy to a sound and strong woman
like myself? I will speak with Father Gassner. Perhaps he may see the
future differently. If he does, I shall know that they are both false
prophets, and their prophecies I shall throw to the winds."

Strengthened by these reflections, the empress touched her bell. The
door opened, and Father Gassner entered the room. He bowed, and then
drawing his tall, majestic figure to its full height, he remained
standing by the door, with his large, dark-blue eyes fixed upon the face
of the empress. She returned the glance. There seemed to be a strife
between the eyes of the sovereign, who was accustomed to see others bend
before her, and those of the inspired man, whose intercourse was with
the Lord of lords and the King of kings. Each met the other with dignity
and composure.

Suddenly the empress strode haughtily up to the priest and said in a
tone that sounded almost defiant:

"Father Gassner, have you the courage to look me in the face and assert
yourself to be a prophet?"

"It requires no courage to avow a gift, which God, in the superabundance
of His goodness, has bestowed upon one who does not deserve it," replied
the father, gently. "If my eyes are opened to see, or my hand to heal,
glory be to God who has blessed them! The light, the grace are not mine,
why should I deny my Lord?" [Footnote: Father Gassner was one of the
most remarkable thaumaturgists of the eighteenth century. He healed all
sorts of diseases by the touch of his hand and multitudes flocked to him
for cure. His extraordinary powers displeased the bishop of his diocese,
and, to avoid censure, Father Gassner sought protection from the
empress, who held him in great reverence. His prediction concerning the
fate of Marie Antoinette was generally known long before its
accomplishment. It was related to Madame Campan, by a son of Kaunitz,
years before the Revolution.]

"Then, if I question you as to the future, you will answer?"

"If it is given to me to do so, I will answer."

"Tell me, then, whether Antoinette will be happy in her marriage?" The
priest turned pale, but he said nothing.

"Speak, speak; or I will denounce you as a false prophet!"

"Is this the only thing your majesty has to ask of me?"

"The only one."

"Then denounce me--for I cannot answer your majesty."

Gassner turned, and his hand was upon the lock of the door.

"Stay!" cried the empress, haughtily. "I command you, as your sovereign,
to speak the truth."

"The truth?" cried Gassner, in a voice of anguish, and his large eyes
opened with an expression of horror.

What did he see with those eyes that seemed to look far out into the dim
aisles of the terrible future?

"The truth!" echoed the unhappy mother. "Tell me, will my Antoinette be
happy?"

Deep sighs convulsed the breast of the priest, and, with a look of
inexpressible agony, he answered, solemnly:

"Empress of Austria, WE HAVE ALL OUR CROSS TO BEAR!"
[Footnote: "Memoires de Madame Campan," vol. ii., p. 14.]

The empress started back, with a cry.

"Again, again!" murmured she, burying her face in her hands. But
suddenly coming forward, her eyes flaming like those of an angry
lioness, she said:

"What mean these riddles? Speak out at once, and tell me, without
equivocation--what is to be the fate of Antoinette?"

"WE HAVE ALL OUR CROSS TO BEAR," repeated the priest, "and the Queen of
France will surely have hers."

With these words he turned and left the room.

Pale and rigid, the empress stood in the middle of the room, murmuring
to herself the two fearful prophecies: "She will live through much evil,
but will return to virtue."--"We have all our cross to bear, and the
Queen of France will surely have hers."

For a while Maria Theresa was overwhelmed by the double blow she had
received. But it was not in her nature to succumb to circumstances. She
must overrule them.

She rang her bell, and a page entered the room.

"Let a messenger be dispatched to Prince Kaunitz, I wish to see his
highness. He can come to me unannounced."

Not long after the prince made his appearance. A short sharp glance at
the agitated mien of the empress showed to the experienced diplomatist
that to-day, as so often before, he must oppose the shield of
indifference to the storm of passion with which he was about to contend.

"Your majesty," said he, "has sent for me, just as I was about to
request an audience. I am in receipt of letters from the emperor. He has
spent a day with the King of Prussia."

He attempted to give the letters into the hands of the empress, but she
put them back with a gesture of impatience.

"Prince Kaunitz," said she, "it is you who have done this-you must undo
it. It cannot, shall not be."

"What does your majesty mean?" asked Kaunitz, astonished. "I speak of
that which lies nearest my heart," said the empress, warmly.

"Of the meeting of the emperor with the King of Prussia," returned
Kaunitz, quietly. "Yesterday they met at Neisse. It was a glorious
interview. The two monarchs embraced, and the emperor remarked-"

"Enough, enough!" cried Maria Theresa, impatiently. "You affect to
misunderstand me. I speak of Antoinette's engagement to the dauphin. It
must be broken. My daughter shall not go to France."

Kaunitz was so completely astounded, so sincerely astounded, that he was
speechless. The paint upon his face could not conceal the angry flush
that colored it, nor his pet locks cover the wrinkles that rose up to
disfigure his forehead.

"Do not stare at me as if you thought I was parting with my senses,"
cried the empress. "I know very well what I say. I will not turn my
innocent Antoinette into that den of corruption. She shall not bear a
cross from which it is in my power to save her."

"Who speaks of crosses?" asked Kaunitz, bewildered. "The only thing of
which I have heard is a royal crown wherewith her brow is to be decked."

"She shall not wear that crown?" exclaimed Maria Theresa. "God himself
has warned me through the lips of His prophets, and not unheeded shall
the warning fall."

Kaunitz breathed more freely, and his features resumed their wonted
calmness.

"If that is all," thought he, gayly, "I shall be victorious. An ebullition
of superstition is easily quieted by a little good news." "Your majesty
has been following the new fashion," said he, aloud; "you have been
consulting the fortune-tellers. I presume you have visited the nun who
is subject to pious hysterics; and Father Gassner, I see, has been
visiting your majesty, for I met him as I was coming to the palace. I
could not help laughing as I saw his absurd length of visage."

Maria Theresa, in reply to this irony, related the answers which had
been made to her questions.

Kaunitz listened with sublime indifference, and evinced not a spark of
sympathy. When the empress had concluded her story, he merely said

"What else, your majesty?"

"What else?" echoed the empress, surprised "Yes, your majesty. Surely
there must be something more than a pair of vague sentences, a pair of
'ohs' and 'ahs;' and a sick nun and a silly priest. These insignificant
nothings are certainly not enough to overturn the structure which for
ten years we have employed all our skill to build up."

"I well know that you are an infidel and an unbeliever, Kaunitz," cried
the empress, vexed at the quiet sneers of her minister. "I know you
believe that only which you can understand and explain."

"No, your majesty, I believe all that is reasonable. What I cannot
comprehend is unreasonable."

The empress glanced angrily at his stony countenance. "God sometimes
speaks to us through the mouths of His chosen ones," cried she; "and, as
I believe in the inspiration of Sister Margaret and Father Gassner, my
daughter shall not go to France."

"Is that your majesty's unalterable resolution?"

"It is."

"Then," returned Kaunitz, bowing, "allow me to make a request for
myself."

"Speak on."

"Allow me at once to retire from your majesty's service."

"Kaunitz!" exclaimed Maria Theresa, "is it possible that you would
forsake me?"

"No, your majesty; it is you who forsake me. You are willing, for the
sake of two crazy seers, to destroy the fabric which it has been the
work of my life to construct. Your majesty desires that I should remain
your minister, and with my own hand should undo the web that I have
woven with such trouble to myself? All Europe knows that the French
alliance is my work. To this end I have labored by day and lain awake by
night; to this end I have flattered and bribed; to this end I have seen
my friend De Choiseul disgraced, while I bowed low before his miserable
successor, that I might win him and that wretched Du Barry to my
purpose!"

"You are irretrievably bent upon this alliance?" asked the empress,
thoughtfully. "It was then not to gratify me that you sought to place a
crown upon my dear child's head?"

"Your majesty's wishes have always been sacred to me, but I should never
have sought to gratify them, had they not been in accordance with my
sense of duty to Austria. I have not sought to make a queen of the
Archduchess Maria Antoinette. I have sought to unite Austria with
France, and to strengthen the southwestern powers of Europe against the
infidelity and barbarism of Prussia and Russia. In spite of all that is
taking place at Neisse, Austria and Prussia are, and ever will be,
enemies. The king and the emperor may flatter and smile, but neither
believes what the other says. Frederick will never lose an opportunity
of robbing. He ogles Russia, and would gladly see her our 'neighbor,' if
by so doing he were to gain an insignificant province for Prussia. It is
to ward off these dangerous accomplices that we seek alliance with
France, and through France, with Spain, Portugal, and Italy. And now,
when the goal is won, and the prize is ours, your majesty retracts her
imperial word! You are the sovereign, and your will must be, done. But I
cannot lend my hand to that which my reason condemns as unwise, and my
conscience as dishonorable. I beg of your majesty, to-day and forever,
to dismiss me from your service!"

The empress did not make any reply. She had risen, and was walking
hastily up and down, murmuring low, inarticulate words and heaving deep,
convulsive sighs. Kaunitz followed her with the eye of a cool physician,
who watches the crisis of a brain-fever. He looked down, however, as the
empress, stopping, raised her dark, glowing eyes to his. When he met her
glance his expression had changed; it had become as usual.

"You have heard the pleadings of the mother," said she, breathing hard,
"and you have silenced them with your cold arguments. The empress has
heard, and she it is who must decide against herself. She has no right
to sacrifice her empire to her maternity. May God forgive me," continued
she, solemnly clasping her hands, "if I err in quelling the voice of my
love which cries so loudly against this union. Let it be accomplished!
Marie Antoinette shall be the bride of Louis XVI."

"Spoken like the noble Empress of Austria!" cried Kaunitz, triumphantly.

"Do not praise me," returned Maria Theresa sadly; "but hear what I have
to say. You have spoken words so bold, that it would seem you fancy
yourself to be Emperor of Austria. It was not you who sought alliance
with France, but myself. You did nothing but follow out my intentions
and obey my commands. The sin of my refusal, therefore, was nothing to
you or your conscience--it rested on my head alone."

"May God preserve your majesty to your country and your subjects! May
you long be Austria's head, and I--your right hand!" exclaimed Kaunitz.

"You do not then wish to retire?" asked she, with a languid smile.

"I beg of your majesty to forgive and retain me."

"So be it, then," returned the empress, with a light inclination of the
head. "But I cannot hear any more to-day. You have no sympathy with my
trials as a mother. I have sacrificed my child to Austria, but my heart
is pierced with sorrow and apprehension. Leave me to my tears. I cannot
feel for any one except my child--my poor, innocent child!"

She turned hastily away, that he might not see the tears that were
already streaming down her face. Kaunitz bowed, and left the cabinet
with his usual cold, proud step.

The minister once gone, Maria Theresa gave herself up to the wildest
grief. No one saw her anguish but God; no one ever knew how the powerful
empress writhed and wrung her hands in her powerless agony; no one but
God and the dead emperor, whose mild eyes beamed compassion from the
gilt frame in which his picture hung, upon the wall. To this picture
Maria Theresa at last raised her eyes, and it seemed, to her excited
imagination, that her husband smiled and whispered words of consolation.

"Yes, dear Franz, I hear you," said she. "You would remind me that this
is our wedding-day. Alas, I know it! Once a day of joy, and from this
moment the anniversary of a great sorrow! Franz, it is OUR child that is
the victim! The sweet Antoinette, whose eyes are so like her father's!
Oh, dear husband, my heart is heavy with grief; Why may I not go to rest
too? But thou wilt not love me if my courage fail. I will be brave,
Franz; I will work, and try to do my duty."

She approached her writing-table, and began to overlook the heaps of
papers that awaited her inspection and signature. Gradually her brow
cleared and her face resumed its usual expression of deep thought and
high resolve. The mother forgot her grief, and the empress was absorbed
in the cares of state.

She felt so strongly the comfort and sustenance derived from labor, that
on that day she dined alone, and returned immediately to her
writing-desk. Twilight came on, and still the empress was at work.
Finally the rolling of carriages toward the imperial theatre was heard,
and presently the shouts of the applauding audience. The empress heard
nothing. She had never attended the theatre since her husband's death,
and it was nothing to her that to-night Lessing's beautiful drama,
"Emilia Galotti," was being represented for the first time in Vienna.

Twilight deepened into night, and the empress rang for lights. Then
retiring to her dressing-room, she threw off her heavy court costume,
and exchanged it for a simple peignoir, in which she returned to her
cabinet and still wrote on.

Suddenly the stillness was broken by a knock, and a page entered with a
golden salver, on which lay a letter.

"A courier from Florence, your majesty," said he.

Maria Theresa took the letter, and dismissed the page. "From my
Leopold," said she, while she opened it. "It is an extra courier. It
must announce the accouchement of his wife. Oh, my heart, how it beats!"

With trembling hands she held the missive and read it. But at once her
face was lighted up with joy, and throwing herself upon her knees before
the portrait of the emperor, she said, "Franz, Leopold has given us a
grandson. Do you hear?"

No answer came in response to the joyful cry of the empress, and she
could not bear the burden of her joy alone. Some one must rejoice with
her. She craved sympathy, and she must go out to seek it.

She left her cabinet. Unmindful of her dress, she sped through the long
corridors, farther and still farther, down the staircase and away to the
extremest end of the palace, until she reached the imperial theatre.

That night it was crowded. The interest of the spectators had deepened
as the play went on. They were absorbed in the scene between Emilia and
her father, when a door was heard to open and to shut.

Suddenly, in the imperial box, which had so long been empty, a tall and
noble figure bent forward, far over the railing, and a clear, musical
voice cried out:

"Leopold has a son!"

The audience, as if electrified, rose with one accord from their seats.
All turned toward the imperial box. Each one had recognized the voice of
the adored Maria Theresa, and every heart over-flowed with the joy of
the moment.

The empress repeated her words:

"Leopold has a son, and it is born on my wedding-day. Wish me joy, dear
friends, of my grandson!"

Then arose such a storm of congratulations as never before had been
heard within those theatre walls. The women wept, and the men waved
their hats and cheered; while all, with one voice, cried out. "Long live
Maria Theresa! Long live the imperial grandmother!"



CHAPTER LVI.

THE GIFT.

All prophecies defying, Maria Theresa had given her daughter to France.
In the month of May, 1770, the Archduchess Marie Antoinette was married
by proxy in Vienna; and amid the ringing of bells, the booming of
cannon, and the shouts of the populace, the beautiful young dauphiness
left Austria to meet her inevitable fate.

Meanwhile, in the imperial palace, too, one room was darkening under the
shadow of approaching death. It was that in which Isabella's daughter
was passing from earth to heaven.

The emperor knew that his child was dying; and many an hour he spent at
her solitary bedside, where, tranquil and smiling, she murmured words
which her father knew were whispered to the angels.

The emperor sorrowed deeply for the severance of the last tie that bound
him to the bright and beautiful dream of his early married life. But he
was so accustomed to sorrow, that on the occasion of his sister's
marriage, he had gone through the forms required by etiquette, without
any visible emotion.

But the festivities were at an end. The future Queen of France had
bidden farewell to her native Vienna, and the marriage guests had
departed; while darker and darker grew the chamber of the dying child,
and sadder the face of the widowed father. The emperor kissed his
daughter's burning forehead, and held her little transparent hand in
his. "Farewell, my angel," whispered he; "since thy mother calls thee,
go, my little Theresa. Tell her that she was my only love--my first and
last. Go, beloved, and pray for thy unhappy father."

Once more he kissed her, and when he raised his head, her face was
moistened with his tears. He turned hastily away and left the room.

"And now," thought he, "to my duty, I must forget my own sorrows that I
may wipe away the tears of my sorrowing people. There is so much grief
and want in Austria! Oh, my child, my little one! Amid the blessings of
the suffering poor shalt thou stretch forth thy wings and take the
flight to heaven!"

He was on his way to seek an audience of his mother. Maria Theresa was
in her cabinet, and was somewhat surprised to see her son at this
unusual hour of the day.

"I come to your majesty to beg a boon," said Joseph, with a sad smile.
"Yesterday you were distributing Antoinette's wedding-gifts to your
children; I alone received nothing. Is there nothing for me?"

"Nothing for you, my son!" exclaimed Maria Theresa, astonished. "Why,
every thing is yours, and therefore I have nothing to give. Where your
right is indisputable, my presents are superfluous."

"Yes, mother; but it does not become one so generous as you, to let her
eldest son wait for an inheritance, when she might make him a handsome
present of her own free will. Be generous, then, and give me something,
too. I wish to be on an equality with the other children."

"Well, then, you grown-up child, what will you have?" asked the empress,
laughing. "Of course you have already chosen your gift, and it is mere
gallantry on your part to beg for what you might take without leave. But
let us hear. What is it? You have only to ask and have."

"Indeed! May I choose my wedding-gift?"

"Yes, you imperial beggar, you may."

"Well, then, give me the government claims upon the four lower classes."

The empress looked aghast. "Is it money you desire?" said she. "Say how
much, and you shall have it from my private purse. But do not rob the
poor! The claim that you covet is the tax levied upon all the working
classes, and you know how numerous they are."

"For that very reason, I want it. It is a princely gift. Shall I have
it?"

The empress reflected for a few moments. "I know," said she, looking up
with one of her sweetest smiles, "I know that you will not misuse your
power; for I remember the fate of your father's legacy, the three
millions of coupons. You shall have the claim, my son. It is yours."

"Will your majesty draw out the deed of gift?"

"I will, my son. It is YOUR wedding-gift from our darling Antoinette.
But you will acquaint me, from time to time, with the use you are making
of your power over the poor classes?"

"I will render my account to your majesty. But first draw out the deed."

The empress stepped to her escritoire and wrote a few lines, to which
she affixed the imperial signature and seal.

"There it is," said she. "I bestow upon my son, the emperor, all the
government claims to the impost levied upon the four lower classes. Will
that do?"

"It will, and from my heart I thank my dear mother for the gracious
gift."

He took the hand of the empress to kiss it, but she held his fast in her
grasp, and looked at him with an expression of tenderness; and anxiety.

"You are pale, my son," said she, affectionately. "I see that your heart
is sad."

"And yet," replied Joseph, with quivering lip, "I should rejoice, for I
am about to have an angel in heaven."

"Poor little Theresa!" murmured the empress, while the tears rose to her
eyes. "She has never been a healthy child. Isabella calls her hence."

"Yes," replied Joseph, bitterly; "she calls my child away, that, she may
break the last link that bound her to me."

"We must believe, my child, that it is for the best. The will of God,
however painful its manifestations, is holy, wise and merciful. Isabella
declared to us that she would call the child when it had reached its
seventh year; she goes to her mother. And now that this bitter dream of
your early love is past, perhaps your heart may awaken once more to
love. There are many beautiful princesses in Europe, and not one of them
would refuse the hand of the Emperor of Austria. It is for you to
choose, and no one shall dictate your choice."

"Would your majesty convert me into a bluebeard?" cried Joseph,
coloring. "Do you not see that I murder my wives? Enough, that two of
them are buried in the chapel of the Capuchins, and that to-morrow,
perhaps, my child will join them. Leopold has given an heir to my
throne, and I am satisfied."

"Why do you talk of a successor, my son?" said the empress, "you who are
so young?"

"Your majesty, I am old," replied Joseph, mournfully--"so old that I have
no hope of happiness on earth. You see that to-day, when you have been
so gracious, I am too wretched to do aught but thank you for your
splendid gift. Let me retire, then, to my unhappy solitude; I am not fit
to look upon your sweet and honored countenance. I must exile myself
until my trial is past."

He left the room, and hastening to his cabinet, "Now," exclaimed he,
"now for my mother's gift."

He sat dozen and wrote as follows:

"MY DEAR PRINCE KALUITZ: By the enclosed, you will see that the empress,
my mother, has presented me with all the government claims upon the
working-classes. Will you make immediate arrangements to acquaint the
collectors with the following:

"'No tax shall be collected from the working-classes during the
remainder of my life.' "Joseph." [Footnote: Historical. Hubner, vol.
ii., p, 86.]

"Now," thought he, as he laid aside his pen, "this document will gladden
many a heart, and it will, perchance, win forgiveness for my own
weakness. But, why should monarchs have hearts of flesh like other men,
since they have no right to feel, to love, or to grieve? Be still,
throbbing heart, that the emperor may forget himself, to remember his
subjects! Yes, my subjects--my children --I will make you happy! I
will--'

There was a light tap at the door, and the governess of the little
Archduchess Maria Theresa entered the room.

"I have come," said she, in a faltering voice, "to announce to your
majesty that the princess has breathed her last."

The emperor made no reply. He motioned the lady to retire, and bowing
his head, gave way to one long burst of grief.

For hours he sat there, solitary and broken-hearted. At length the
paroxysm was over. He raised his head, and his eyes were tearless and
bright.

"It is over!" exclaimed he, in clear and unfaltering tones. "The past is
buried; and I am born anew to a life whereof the aim shall be Austria's
greatness and her people's welfare. I am no more a husband, no more a
father. Austria shall be my bride, and every Austrian my child."



CHAPTER LVII.

THE CONFERENCE.

Great excitement prevailed at Neustadt. All work was suspended, all the
shops were shut, and although it was not Sunday, the people, in their
holiday attire, seemed to have cast away all thought of the wants,
cares, and occupations of everyday life. For, although it was not
Sunday, it was a holiday--a holiday for Neustadt, since this was the
birthday of Neustadt's fame. For hundreds of years the little village
had existed in profound obscurity, its simple inhabitants dreaming away
their lives far from the clamor of the world and its vicissitudes. Their
slumbers had been disturbed by the Seven Years' War, and many a father,
son, husband, and lover had fought and fallen on its bloodthirsty
battlefield. But with the return of peace came insignificance, and
villagers of Neustadt went on dreaming as before.

Today, however, on the 3d of September, in the year 1770, they were
awakened by an event which gave to Neustadt a place in history. The two
greatest potentates in Germany were to meet there to bury their past
enmity, and pledge to each other the right hand of fellowship.

These two potentates were the Emperor of Austria and the King of
Prussia. It was, therefore, not surprising that all Neustadt should be
out of doors to witness the baptism of Neustadt's celebrity.

The streets were thronged with well-dressed people, the houses were hung
with garlands and wreaths, the church-bells were ringing, and all the
dignitaries of the town had turned out to witness the pageant.

And now the moment had arrived. The thunder of cannon, the shouts of the
people who thronged the avenue that led to the palace, and the clang of
martial music, announced the approach of the emperor, whom his people
were frantic to welcome.

He came, a young man, on a jet-black Arabian, who rode ahead of those
glittering nobles--this was the Emperor Joseph, the hope of Austria.

A thousand voices rent the air with shouts, while Joseph smiled, and
bowed, and raised his eyes to the balconies, whence showers of bouquets
were falling around him.

He was inclining his head, when a wrest, of red roses and
orange-flowers, aimed by some skilful hand, fell directly upon his
saddle-bow. He smiled, and taking up the wreath, looked around to see
whence it came. Suddenly his eye brightened, and his countenance
expressed increased interest, while he reined in his horse that he might
look again at a lady who was leaning over a balcony just above him. Her
tall and elegant figure was clothed in a dress of black velvet, closed
from her white throat to her round waist by buttons of large and
magnificent diamonds, whose brilliancy was almost dazzling. Her youthful
and beautiful face was colorless, with that exquisite and delicate
pallor which has no affinity to ill-health, but resembles the spiritual
beauty of a marble statue. Her glossy black hair defined the exquisite
oval of that fair face, as a rich frame sets off a fine painting. On her
head she wore a diadem of brilliants, which confined a rich black-lace
veil, that fluttered like a dark cloud around her graceful figure. Her
countenance wore an expression of profound sadness, and her large,
lustrous eyes were riveted with an earnest gaze upon the emperor.

He bowed to his saddle-bow, but she did not seem to recognize the
compliment, for her glance and her sadness were unchanged.

"The wreath is not from her," thought Joseph, with a feeling of
disappointment; but as he turned for one more look at her lovely face,
he remarked a bouquet which she wore in her bosom. It was similar to the
wreath which he held. The same white orange-blossoms and red roses,
fastened together by the same white and red ribbon, whose long streamers
were now fluttering in the wind.

A triumphant smile overspread the features of the emperor, as blushing,
he bowed again and passed on. But his face no longer wore its expression
of careless gratification. He grew absent and thoughtful; he forgot to
return the greetings of the people; and vainly the ladies, who crowded
window and balcony, threw flowers in his way, or waved their
handkerchiefs in greeting. He saw nothing but the beautiful vision in
the black veil, and wondered whence she came and what could be the
hidden meaning of the red and white flowers which she wore and gave to
him.

He was glad when the pageant of his entry into Neustadt was over, and,
dismounting quickly, he entered the palace, followed by Field-Marshal
Lacy and Count Rosenberg.

The people looked after them and shouted anew. But their attention was
directed from the emperor to a carriage, drawn by four horses, which,
advancing in the very centre of the brilliant cortege, seemed to contain
some imperial personage, for the staff were around it, as though forming
its escort. The curtains of the carriage were all drawn, so that nothing
could be seen of its occupant.

Who could it be? A woman, of course; since no man would dare to be
driven, while the Emperor of Austria rode. It could be no other than the
Empress Maria Theresa, who had taken the journey to Neustadt, that she
might look, face to face, upon her celebrated opponent, and offer him
her own hand in pledge of future good understanding.

While the populace hoped and speculated, the mysterious equipage arrived
before the palace gates. The rich-liveried footmen sprang from the
rumble, and stationed themselves at the door of the coach. The two
others, who were seated on the box, did likewise; bringing with them, as
they alighted on the ground, a roll of rich Turkey carpeting, which they
laid, with great precision, from the carriage to the palace steps.

Then the people were convinced that it was the empress. Who but the
sovereign lady of Austria and Hungary would walk the streets upon a
carpet of such magnificence? And they thronged nearer, eager to catch
the first glance of their beloved and honored empress.

The carpet was laid without a wrinkle. One of the footmen opened the
carriage door, while another approached the fore-wheel.

"She comes! she comes!" cried the populace, and they crowded around in
eager delight.

One foot was put forward--not a foot encased in a satin slipper, but a
foot in a buckled shoe, which, glistening though it was with diamonds,
was not that of an empress. The occupant of the carriage was a man!

"A man!" exclaimed the bystanders, astounded. Yes. Here he came, wrapped
up in a bearskin, which, on this warm summer day, was enough to dissolve
an ordinary human being into vapor. Not content with his wrapping, his
hands were encased in a huge muff, which he held close to his face, that
he might not inhale one single breath of the air that was refreshing
everybody else. His head was covered by a hood which concealed his face,
of which nothing was visible save a pair of light-blue eyes.

When he had disappeared within the palace doors, the footmen rolled up
the carpet and replaced it on the coach-box.

The populace, who had been looking on in speechless wonder, now began to
laugh and whisper. Some said it was the King of the North Pole; others
declared it was an Arctic bear; others again thought the gentleman had
started for Siberia and had lost his way. Finally the desire to know who
he was grew uncontrollable, and, thronging around his lackeys, the
people shouted out:

"Who is he? Tell us, who is be?"

The lackeys, with the gravity of heralds-at-arms, shouted out in return:

"This is his highness Prince Kaunitz, prime minister of their majesties
the Empress Maria Theresa and the Emperor Joseph of Austria!"



CHAPTER LVIII.

KAUNITZ.

"What an abominable idea!" exclaimed Prince Kaunitz, as, perfectly
exhausted from his journey, he fell into an armchair in his own room.
"What an abominable idea to undertake this journey! These German roads
are as rough and uncouth as the Germans themselves, and I only wonder
that we have arrived without breaking our ribs!"

"It would certainly have been more convenient," said Baron Binder, "if
the King of Prussia had visited us in Vienna."

Kaunitz turned his large eyes full upon his friend.

"I suppose," said he, "that you jest, Binder; for you MUST know that it
is never safe to have your enemy under your own roof."

"Your highness, then, has no confidence in the protestations of love
that are going on between the emperor and the king?"

The prince made no reply. He was looking at himself in a mirror,
criticising his toilet, which had just been completed by the expert
Hippolyte. Apparently it was satisfactory, for he looked up and spoke:

"You are a grown-up child, Binder; you stare, and believe every thing.
Have you not yet learned that statesmanship recognizes nothing but
interests? To-day it is to the interest of Frederick to squeeze our
hands and protest that he loves us; to-morrow (if he can), he will put
another Silesia in his royal pocket. We, too, have found it convenient
to write him a love-letter or two; but to-day, if we would, we would
pluck off his crown, and make him a little margrave again! Our intimacy
reminds me of a sight I once saw while we were in Paris. It was a cage,
in which animals, naturally antagonistic, were living in a state of
perfect concord. A dog and cat were dining sociably together from one
plate, and, not far off, a turkey-hen was comfortably perched upon the
back of a fox, who, so far from betraying any symptom of appetite for
the turkey, looked quite oblivious of her proximity. I gave the keeper a
louis d'or, and he told me his secret. The dog's teeth were drawn, and
the cat's claws were pared off; this, of course, forced both to keep the
peace. As for the turkey-hen, she was fastened to the back of the fox
with fine wire, and this was the secret of her security."

"Ah!" cried Binder, laughing, "this is the history of many a human
alliance. How many foxes I have known who carried their hens upon their
backs and made believe to love them, because they dared not do
otherwise!"

"Peace, Binder, my story is not yet ended. One morning the dog and the
cat were found dead in THEIR corner; and in the other, the fox lay
bleeding and moaning; while of the hen, nothing remained save her
feathers. Time--the despot that rules us all, had outwitted the keeper
and asserted the laws of Nature. The cat's claws had grown out, and so
had the dog's teeth. The fox, after much pondering over his misfortunes,
had discovered the reason why he could not reach the hen; and this done,
he worked at the wires until they broke. Of course he revenged himself
on the spot by gobbling her up; but in his wrath at the wires, he had
thrust them so deeply into his own flesh that the wounds they made upon
his body caused his death. And so ended the compulsory alliance of four
natural enemies."

"Does your highness apply that anecdote to us?" asked Binder. "Are we to
end like the cat and the dog?"

"For the present," said Kaunitz, thoughtfully, "our teeth and claws are
harmless. We must wait until they have grown out again!"

"Your highness, then, assigns us the role of the dog?"

"Certainly. I leave it to Prussia to play the cat--she has scratched us
more than once, and even to-day, when she covers her paws with velvet, I
feel the claws underneath. I came hither to watch her. I am curious to
know what it is in Frederick that has so bewitched the young Emperor of
Austria."

"It would appear that his majesty of Prussia has extraordinary powers of
fascination. No one can resist him."

"I shall resist him," said Kaunitz, "for against his fascinations I am
defended by the talisman of our mutual hate."

"Do not say so, your highness. The King of Prussia may fear, but he
cannot hate you. And did he not make it a special request that you
should accompany the emperor?"

"He did; and however disinclined I might be to accept his invitation, I
have come lest he should suppose that I am afraid to encounter his eagle
eyes. [Footnote: Ferrand, "History of the Dismemberment of Poland," vol.
i., p. 103.] I fear HIM! HE intimidate me! It is expedient for the
present that Austria and Prussia should be quasi allies, for in this way
peace has been secured to Europe. But my system of diplomacy, which the
empress has made her own, forbids me to make any permanent alliance with
a prince who lives politically from hand to mouth, and has no fixed line
of policy. [Footnote: Kaunitz's own words. See Ferrand. vol. i., v. 69.]
No--I do not fear him; for I see through his hypocritical professions,
and in spite of his usurped crown I feel myself to be more than his
equal. If he has won thirteen victories on the battle-field, I have
fought twice as many in the cabinet, where the fight is hand to hand,
and the victor conquers without an army. On this field he will scarcely
dare to encounter me. If he does, he will find his master for once!

"Yes," repeated Kaunitz emphatically, "he will find his master in me. I
have never failed to make other men subservient to my schemes, and the
King of Prussia shall grace my triumph with the rest. He is the vassal
of Austria, and I will be the one to force him back to his allegiance.
It is scandalous that this petty king should have been suffered to play
an important part in European affairs. I will drive him from his
accidental grandeur, and he shall return to his duty. I will humble him
if I can; for this King of Prussia is the only man in Europe who has
denied me the honors and consideration due me as a politician and a
prince." [Footnote: Kaunitz's own words. Ferrand, vol. i., p. 104]

While Kaunitz spoke, his marble face grew animated, and his eyes glowed
with the fire of hate.

"Nay, prince!" exclaimed Binder, anxious to subdue the fiend that was
rising in his friend's heart, "everybody knows that you are the coachman
of Europe, and that it is in the power of no man to wrest the reins from
your hands."

"May this Prussian ride behind as my footman!" cried Kaunitz, gnashing
his teeth. "Oh, I know him! I know why he pays a million of subsidy
annually to his accomplice, the virtuous Catherine, that she may
continue her assaults upon Poland and Turkey! I know whither his
longings travel; but when he stretches his hand out for the booty, we
too will be there to claim our share, and he shall yield it."

"Your highness speaks in riddles," said Binder, shrugging his shoulders.
"I am accustomed, as you know, to look through your political
spectacles; and I beg you to explain, for I am perfectly at a loss to
understand you."

The countenance of Kaunitz had resumed its impassible look. He threw
back his head, and fixed his cold, heartless blue eyes upon the baron.

"Do you know," said he, "what William the Silent once said of himself?
'If I knew that my night-cap had found out my thoughts I would throw it
in the fire.' Now, Binder, do not aim to be my night-cap, or I shall
burn you to a cinder.--But enough of this. It would seem that the
Emperor Joseph expects me to wait upon him. Well--if it please him that
I should make the first visit, I will humor him. When a man feels that
he is lord and master of another, he can afford to be condescending! I
will indulge the emperor's whim."

He rang, and one of his valets entered the room.

"Is his majesty in the castle?"

"Yes, your highness. His majesty has been reviewing the troops."

"Where is his majesty now?"

"He is with his suite in the parlor that overlooks the square."

"Is it far from this room?"

"No, your highness. It is close by."

"Then reach me a cloak and muff, and woe to you if I encounter a draught
on my way!"



CHAPTER LIX.

SOUVENIR D'EPERIES.

The emperor stood in the centre of the room in lively conversation with
the gentlemen of his suite. As Kaunitz entered, he stopped at once, and
coming forward, received the prince with a cordial welcome.

Kaunitz replied by a low bow, and nodded slightly to Prince de Ligne and
General Lacy.

"Your highness is just in time," said the emperor. "These gentlemen need
encouragement. They have been blushing and trembling like two young
debutantes."

"Before whom, your majesty?"

"Oh!--before the great Frederick, of course. And De Ligne, who is
considered the most elegant man in Vienna, actually trembled more than
anybody else."

"Actors trembling before their manager!" said Kaunitz, with a slight
shrug. "Compose yourselves, gentlemen; the King of Prussia is too much
absorbed in his own role to take any notice of you."

"That is right," cried the emperor. "Encourage the debutantes, prince!"

"I scarcely think that the prince will succeed where your majesty has
failed," said General von Lacy proudly.

"And his highness will hardly have any time to devote to us, for
doubtless he too is practising the role which he must play before the
King of Prussia," added De Ligne.

"I beg to impress upon the Prince de Ligne," interrupted Kaunitz, "that
the verb 'must' is one which I am well accustomed to conjugate for
others but never allow others to conjugate for me."

"I for one have had it conjugated for me by your highness," said the
emperor, laughing. "Nobody in Austria knows it in all its moods and
tenses better than I. But I have always recognized you as my teacher,
and hope always to remain your faithful pupil."

The clouds which were gathering on Kaunitz's brow now shifted to the
faces of Lacy and De Ligne.

"I have nothing to teach your majesty," replied Kaunitz, almost smiling;
"but allow me as a faithful servant to offer you a suggestion. Present
to the King of Prussia that beautiful wreath which you hold in your
hand, as an emblem of the friendship which to-day we pledge to Prussia."

"Not I," cried Joseph, while he held up his wreath and admired its white
and red roses. "I shall keep my bouquet, were it only for the sake of
the beautiful donor. You, prince, who penetrate all things, have pity on
me, and find out her name."

"Your majesty saw her, then?"

"Saw her? Yes, by Aphrodite, I did; and never in my life did I see a
lovelier woman. She stood there in her velvet dress and veil, looking
for all the world like the queen of night, of starry night. You see how
she has impressed me, since I, who am so prosaic, launch out into
extravagance of speech to describe her."

"She was in mourning?" asked Kaunitz thoughtfully.

"Clothed in black, except the diamonds that sparkled on her bodice, and
the bouquet (a match to mine) which she wore in her bosom. Ah, your
highness, how you look at my poor flowers, as if treason were lurking
among their leaves!"

"It is a beautiful bouquet," said Kaunitz, eying it critically, "and
very peculiar. Will your majesty allow me to examine it?"

The emperor handed over the wreath. "Take it," said he, "but be merciful
to my pretty delinquents."

Kaunitz took the flowers and looked at them as he would have done at any
other thing that might be the links in a chain of evidence, and passed
his slender, white fingers through the long ribbons that fastened them
together.

"The lady who threw these flowers is a Pole," said he, after a pause.

"How do you know that?" cried the emperor.

"It is certainly not accidental that the wreath should be composed of
white and red roses, and tied with a knot of white and red ribbons.
White and red, you remember, are the colors of the so-called Republic
of Poland."

"You are right!" exclaimed Joseph, "and she wears mourning because a
noble woman must necessarily grieve for the sufferings of her bleeding
country."

"Look," said Kaunitz, who, meanwhile, was opening the leaves and
searching among them, "here is a paper. Does your majesty permit me to
draw it out?"

"Certainly. I gave you the wreath to examine, and you shall have the
benefit of all that you discover."

Kaunitz bowed his thanks, and began to untwist the stems of the flowers.
The emperor and the two courtiers looked on with interest. The prince
drew forth a little folded paper, and reached it over to the emperor.

"Have the goodness, your majesty, to read it yourself. A declaration of
love from a lady is not intended for my profane eyes."

The emperor sighed. "No," said he, "it is no declaration for me. I am
not so happy. Read, your highness, read it aloud."

Kaunitz unfolded the paper, and read. "Souvenir d'Eperies"

"Nothing more?" asked Joseph.

Kaunitz replied by handing him the note.

"How strange! Only these words, and no explanation. I cannot understand
it."

"These words prove my supposition, your majesty. The donor is a Polish
lady and one of the Confederates."

"You think so?"

"I am convinced of it. When your majesty was travelling in Hungary, did
you not spend a day at Eperies, and honor the Confederates by receiving
them both publicly and privately?"

"I did," replied Joseph, warmly. "And it gladdened my heart to assure
these brave, struggling patriots of my sympathy."

"Did not your majesty go so far as to promise them mediation with
Prussia and Russia?" [Footnote: Ferrand. vol. i., p. 79.]

"I did," replied the emperor, with a faint blush.

"Well, then, this female confederate meant to remind you of your promise
on the day when you are to hold a conference with Frederick," said
Kaunitz, allowing the wreath to slip through his fingers to the floor.
"There, your majesty," continued he, "your beautiful Pole is at your
feet. Will you rescue her, or unite in crushing her to the earth?"

"Oh, I will rescue her," replied Joseph, "that she may not fall into the
hands of ambitious Catharine. It would give her great pleasure to deck
her Muscovite head with these sweet Polish roses; but she shall not have
them."

With these words, and before his courtiers could anticipate his action,
the emperor stooped and picked up the wreath.

"Have a care, your majesty," said the wary Kaunitz, "how you espouse
Polish quarrels. The Poles are unlucky. They can die like men, but they
do not live like men. Beware of Polish roses, for their perfume is not
wholesome."

Just then a shout was heard in the distance, and the emperor hastened to
the window.

"It is the King of Prussia!" cried he, joyfully, and he walked toward
the door.

Prince Kaunitz took the liberty of going immediately up and interposing
his tall person between Joseph and the doorway.

"Your majesty," said he, reproachfully, "what are you about to do?"

"I am about to go forward to meet the King of Prussia. He is just
descending from his carriage. Do not detain me," replied Joseph,
hastily.

"But has your majesty forgotten that at Neisse, when the King of Prussia
was the host, he came no farther than the stairway to meet you? It is
not seemly that Austria should condescend to Prussia."

"My dear prince," said the emperor, with a peculiar laugh, "it is your
business to respect these conventions. It is mine to regulate them. As
the LITTLE sovereign of Austria I hasten to do homage to the GREAT King
of Prussia."

And gently putting the minister aside: the emperor walked rapidly out,
followed by his suite.

Kaunitz looked after him with stormy brow.

"Incorrigible fanatic!" said he to himself. "Will you never cease to
butt your empty head against the wall? You will butt in vain as long as
_I_ have power and life. Go. It befits such a little emperor as you to
humble yourself before your great king; but Austria is represented in MY
person, and I remain here!"

He looked around the room, and his eyes fell upon the wreath, which the
emperor had laid by the side of his hat, on the table. A sneer
overspread his countenance as he went toward it, and shook off some of
the leaves which were already fading.

"How soon they fall!" said he. "I think that the glorious republic will
be quite as short-lived as they. Meanwhile I shall see that the
'Souvenir d'Eperies' lives no longer than roses have a right to live."

He left the room, resolved to find out who it was that had bestowed the
wreath. "For," thought he, "she may prove a useful instrument with which
to operate on either side."



CHAPTER LX.

FREDERICK THE GREAT.

With youthful ardor, unconscious that his head was uncovered, the
emperor hurried down the staircase into the street. Looking neither to
the right nor to the left, his eyes fixed upon the spot whence the king
was advancing, the emperor rushed onward, for the first time in his life
slighting the people who thronged around, full of joy at sight of his
elegant and handsome person.

Frederick was coming with equal rapidity, and now, in the very centre of
the square, the monarchs met.

At this moment all was quiet. The military, ranged in lines around, were
glistening with gold lace and brightened arms. Behind them came the
people, who far and near were seen flowing in one great stream toward
the square, while on the balconies and through the open windows of the
houses around richly-dressed matrons and beautiful maidens enclosed the
scene, like one long wreath of variegated flowers.

They met; and in the joy of his youthful enthusiasm, the emperor threw
himself into the arms of the King of Prussia, and embraced him with a
tenderness that was almost filial. The king returned the caress, and
pressed the young monarch to his heart.

While the King of Prussia had been advancing, the people in silence were
revolving in their minds the blood, the treasure, the long years of
struggle which Austrians had owed to this warlike Frederick. But when
they saw how Joseph greeted him, they forgot every thing, and he now
seemed to their excited imaginations to come like a resplendent sun of
peace, whose rays streamed far into the distance of a happy and
prosperous futurity.

It was peace! peace!--the hopes of peace that filled every eye with
tears, and bowed every unconscious knee in prayer to Almighty God.

From the midst of the kneeling multitude, a voice was heard to cry out,
"Long live peace!" A thousand other voices echoed the words, "Long live
peace!"

"Long live the emperor and the king!" cried the same voice; and now the
air was rent with shouts, while from street and square, and from every
house, the cry went up to heaven, "Long live the emperor! Long live the
king!"

Frederick withdrew from Joseph's embrace, and bowed to the multitude
with that bright and fascinating smile which no one was ever known to
resist.

He then turned to the emperor, and presenting the young Prince of
Prussia and the two Princes of Brunswick, he pointed to the white
uniforms which they wore, and said: "Sire, I bring you some new
recruits. [Footnote: The king wore the Austrian uniform, embroided with
silver. The princes and the king's suite also wore it.] We are all
desirous of serving under your banner. And we feel that it would be an
honor," continued he, looking around the square, "to be the
companions-in-arms of your majesty's soldiers, for each man looks like a
true son of Mars."

"If so," replied the emperor, "they have reason to rejoice, since to-day
they are permitted, for the first time, to do homage to their father."

Frederick smiled, and taking Joseph's arm, they walked together to the
palace. The king was conducted at once to the apartments prepared for
his occupation, whence he shortly emerged to join the noble company
assembled in the hall that led into the dining-room.

The brilliant suite of the emperor were awaiting the princely pair, and
when they entered the hall together, followed by the cortege of Prussia,
every head bowed with deferential awe, and every eye sought the ground.
One head only bent slightly, and one pair of eyes looked boldly into the
face of Frederick the Great.

The eagle eye of the king remarked him at once, and with an affable
smile he approached the haughty minister.

"I rejoice, at last, to meet Prince Kaunitz face to face," said he, in
his soft and musical voice. "We need no introduction to one another. I
am not such a barbarian as to require that he should be pointed out to
me whom all Europe knows, admires, and respects."

Something happened to which Kaunitz was totally unaccustomed--he
blushed. In spite of himself, he smiled and bowed very, very low; but he
found no words wherewith to reply to Frederick's flattering address.

"Sire," said the emperor, coming to the rescue, "you are making the most
self-possessed men in Austria grow speechless with ecstasy. Even Kaunitz
is at a loss to answer you; and as for poor De Ligne, he is completely
dazzled. But by an by, he will get accustomed to the sun's splendor, and
then he will recover his accustomed address." [Footnote: The emperor's
words. "Conversations with Frederick the Great," by Prince de Ligne, p.
11.]

"I know him well," said Frederick, with another bewitching smile. "I
have read your letter to Jean Jacques Rousseau, prince; and I know it to
be genuine, for it is too beautiful to be a forgery."

"Ah, sire!" replied De Ligne, "I am not of such renown that obscure
writers should seek to forge my name." [Footnote: Not long before this,
a letter had been written to Jean Jacques, and signed with the king's
name. The writer of this letter was Horace Walpole.]

The king bowed, and turned to Field-Marshal von Lacy.

"Your majesty need not present this man either," said he, laying his hand
upon Lacy's shoulder, "he has given me entirely too much trouble for me
not to be familiar with his features. I have good reason to remember Von
Lacy, and to rejoice that he is not quartermaster-general to-day; for in
that capacity, I and my soldiers have suffered enough from him."

"But where is Loudon?" asked the emperor. "He is very late to-day."

"That is not his habit," replied Frederick, quickly, "I have seldom been
able to come upon the field as soon as he. But, sire, we have done him
injustice, for he is here, punctual as though he waited his enemies, not
his friends."

Crossing over to Loudon, and disregarding his stiff demeanor, Frederick
took his hand, and greeted him with the most cordial expressions of
regard.

"If it be agreeable to your majesty," said the emperor, as the doors
were flung open, "we will proceed to dinner." And he offered his arm.

Frederick took it, but he still kept his eyes upon Loudon.

"Sire," said he to Joseph, "if I am to have the honor of sitting beside
your majesty at the table, pray, let me have Loudon on the other side. I
would much rather have him there than opposite--I feel safer."

So saying, the king walked on, and the company passed into the
dining-room.

"If he turns the heads of all the court with his flattery," muttered
Kaunitz, following just after the princely pair, "he shall not succeed
with me. What fine things, to be sure! But flattery indiscriminately
bestowed leaves a bitter taste in the mouth. He wishes Loudon for his
neighbor, forsooth, as if a man could have any rational intercourse with
such an ignorant, ill-bred, awkward dolt as he is."

And Kaunitz, who was secretly chagrined at the choice of the king, took
the seat which bad been assigned to him by the emperor. It was at
Joseph's own table, directly opposite the two sovereigns

"Ah!" exclaimed Frederick, laughing and nodding to Kaunitz, "now I am
satisfied. If I would rather have Loudon beside me, I would rather have
the greatest statesman in Europe before me, for it is only when I can
see him that I feel quite safe from his diplomatic grasp. I take shelter
under your highness's eye. Be indulgent to an old soldier, whose sword
has so often been struck from his hands by your magic pen."

"Your majesty's pen is as sharp as your sword," replied Kaunitz, "and
the world has learned to fear and admire the one as much as the other.
We offer resistance to neither; but pay willing homage to the prince who
is at once a statesman, an author, and a warrior."

The emperor whispered to Frederick: "Sire, a compliment from Kaunitz is
like the flower upon the aloe-it blooms once in a century."



CHAPTER LXI.

THE PRIMA DONNA.

The festivities of the first day were concluded with a ballet. Great
preparations had been made for the reception of the King of Prussia.
Noverre with his dancers, and Florian Gassman with his opera corps had
been summoned to Neustadt. They came in twenty wagons laden with
scenery, coulisses, machinery, and costumes, all of which was intended
to prove to Frederick that, although the court of Berlin was the
acknowledged seat of literature and the fine arts, Vienna was not
altogether forsaken by the Muses.

"Your majesty must be indulgent to our theatrical efforts," said the
emperor, as they took their seats in the box which had been prepared for
their occupation. "We all know that in Berlin the Muses and Graces have
their home; they seldom visit Vienna, for they are loyal and love to sit
at the feet of their master."

"Ah, sire, you speak of the past. Time was when the Muses were not
unpropitious; but now that I am an old man, they have proved inconstant,
and have fled from Sans-Souci forever. The Muses themselves are young,
and it is but natural that they should seek your majesty's protection. I
am thankful through your intervention, to be admitted once more to
Parnassus."

Just as the king was about to seat himself he remarked Kaunitz, who,
with his usual grave indifference, was advancing to a chair not far off.

Frederick turned smilingly to Joseph. "Your majesty and I," said he,
"might stand to-night as representatives of youthful and aged
sovereignty. We both need wisdom in our councils. Let us invite Prince
Kaunitz to sit between us."

The emperor bowed, and beckoned to the prince, who, having heard
distinctly what had been intended for his ears, could not suppress a
momentary expression of exultation. Never in his life bad lie made a bow
so profound as that with which he took the seat which a king had
resigned to him. He was so exultant that in the course of the evening he
was actually heard to laugh. The ballet began. Gods and goddesses
fluttered about the stage, Muses and Graces grouped themselves together
in attitudes of surpassing beauty; and finally, with one grand tableau,
composed of all the dancers, the curtain fell.

After the ballet came a concert. It was to open with an air from Gluck's
opera of "Alceste," sung in costume by the celebrated Bernasconi.

The orchestra played the introduction, and the curtain rose but the
prima donna did not appear. The leader looked toward the coulisses, but
in vain; and the audience began to express their impatience in audible
murmurs.

The curtain fell slowly, and the marshal of the emperor's household,
coming forward, spoke a few words to Joseph, in a low voice.

He turned to the king. "Sire, I have to apologize to you for this
unlucky contretemps. Signora Bernasconi has been taken suddenly sick."

"Oh!" replied Frederick, laughing, "I am quite au fait to the sudden
illness of prima donnas. But since I have ordered a half month's salary
to be withdrawn from every singer who falls sick on a night of
representation, my cantatrices at Berlin enjoy unprecedented health."

"Bernasconi must have been made sick by her anxiety to appear well in
your majesty's critical eyes."

"Do not believe it. These princesses of the stage are more capricious
than veritable princesses. Above all, the Italians."

"But Bernasconi," said Kaunitz, "is not an Italian. She belongs to a
noble Polish family."

"So much the worse," laughed Frederick. "That Polish blood is forever
boiling over. I am surprised that your highness should permit your
director to give to a Polish woman a role of importance. Wherever the
Poles go, they bring trouble and strife."

"Perhaps so, sire," replied Kaunitz; "but they are excellent actors, and
no people understand better how to represent heroes."

As he said this, Kaunitz drew out his jewelled snuff-box, enriched with
a medallion portrait of his imperial mistress, Maria Theresa.

"To represent heroes, I grant you; but just as we are beginning to feel
an interest in the spectacle of their heroism, To the stage-armor falls
off, the tin sword rattles, and we find that we were wasting our
sympathies upon a band of play-actors."

"Perhaps," said Kaunitz, as he dipped his long, white fingers into the
snuff-box, "perhaps we may live to see the stage break under them, and
then they may cease to be actors, and become lunatics."

Frederick's eagle eyes were fixed upon Kaunitz while he spoke, but the
minister still continued to play with his snuff-box.

"Prince," said he, laughing, "we have been antagonists for so many years
that we must celebrate our first meeting by a pledge of future
good-will. The Indians are accustomed at such times to smoke the calumet
of peace. Here we have tobacco under another form. Will you allow me a
pinch from your snuff-box?"

This was a token of such great condescension that even the haughty
Kaunitz was seen to blush with gratified vanity. With unusual eagerness,
he presented his snuff-box to the king.

The king took the snuff and as he did so, remarked, "This is the first
time I have ever taken snuff from another man's box."

"Pardon me, your majesty," replied Kaunitz, quickly. "Silesia was a
pinch from our snuff-box."

"True," said Frederick, laughing, "but the tobacco was so strong that it
has cost me many an uncomfortable sneeze; and nobody as ever been civil
enough to say, `Heaven bless you.'"

While the king and Kaunitz jested together, Signor Tobaldi had been
singing his aria; and now that he ceased, Frederick, for the first time,
became aware that any music had been going on.

"Your majesty," said the emperor, "has done injustice, for once, to a
prima donna. Bernasconi is really sick, but she has sent a substitute."

"These substitutes," said Frederick, "are always on the look-out for
such opportunities of sliding into notice; but unhappily they are not
often equal to the tasks they are so eager to perform."

"This substitute," said Joseph, "is no rival opera-singer. She is a dear
friend of Bernasconi's, who speaks of her singing with enthusiasm."

"Is that possible? Does one singer go into raptures over another? By all
means let us hear the phoenix."

The king looked toward the stage, and his countenance assumed at once an
expression of genuine interest.

Once more the orchestra began the introduction to Gluck's beautiful
aria. Meanwhile a tall and elegant person was seen to advance toward the
foot-lights. Her pure Grecian robe, half covered with a mantle of purple
velvet, richly embroidered in gold, fell in graceful folds froth her
snowy shoulders. Her dark hair, worn in the Grecian style, was confined
by a diadem of brilliants; and the short, white tunic which she wore
under her mantle, was fastened by a girdle blazing with jewels.

She was so transcendently beautiful that Frederick could not resist the
temptation of joining in the applause which greeted her entrance. She
seemed unconscious of the effect she produced, so earnestly and
anxiously were her large, lustrous eyes fixed upon the spot where
Frederick and Joseph were sitting together. She raised her graceful arms
as she began the prayer of Alceste; but her looks were riveted upon the
sovereigns, who represent divinity on earth. When she sang, the tones of
her glorious voice sank deep into the hearts of all who listened. Now it
was clear, pure, and vibrating, wooing the air like a clarionet--now it
caressed the ear like a speaking violin--and upon it poured forth
volumes of harmony that filled all space, as the the booming organ fills
the aisles of a vast and lofty cathedral. Gluck, the hypercritical
Gluck, would have been ravished to hear his music as she sang it; and
Frederick, who, up to this hour, had refused to acknowledge the genius
of the great German, now sat breathless with rapture, as he listened to
such music and such interpretation of music as never had been heard
before.

The Emperor Joseph was unmindful of it all. He had a vague idea of
celestial sounds that seemed to drown him in an ocean of melody; but he
heard not a note of Alceste's prayer. Every sense was stunned save
one--and that one was sight.

"It is she," murmured he, as the siren ceased to sing: "it is she, the
beautiful Pole. How resplendent she is to-night!" Then turning to
Kaunitz, whose observing eyes bad been watching his face and whose sharp
ears had caught his words, he whispered:

"Do you remember the bouquet that was thrown to me this morning?"

"I forget nothing your majesty deigns to communicate to me," replied
Kaunitz.

"This is she. Who can she be?"

"Ah!" exclaimed Kaunitz, slightly elevating his eyebrows. "The 'Souvenir
d'Eperies.' Now I comprehend Bernasconi's illness. She felt ill through
patriotism, that this adroit countrywoman of hers might have the
opportunity of being remarked by your majesty. I would not be at all
surprised if she went out of the way of prima donnas to attract your
majesty's attention. These Polish women are fanatics in their love of
country."

The emperor said nothing in reply. He scarcely listened. His eyes were
still upon the descending curtain that hid the mysterious beauty from
his sight. If her object had been to attract him, she had certainly
succeeded.

The audience were waiting for some signal from either Joseph or
Frederick that they might give vent to their admiration. The king
understood the general feeling, and began to applaud with his hands. In
a moment the applause became vociferous, and it did not cease until the
curtain drew up a second time, and the prima donna came forward to
receive her ovation.

For one moment they surveyed the enchanting singer, and then broke out
into another wild storm, in which the emperor joined so heartily that
his voice was heard above the din, crying out, "Brava! bravissima!"

The singer sought his glance, and meeting it, blushed deeply. Then,
coming forward a few steps, she began once more to sing.

Her song was a passionate appeal to the two princes, whom she addressed
openly, in behalf of Poland.

It was over, and not a sound was heard in the theatre. The audience
hung, in breathless anxiety, upon the verdict that must come from those
who had been addressed. They were so intent upon Frederick and Joseph
that they did not see the singer leave the stage. They were not
destined, however, to be enlightened or relieved, for no demonstration
was made in the imperial box.

But Joseph, rising from his seat, signed to the marshal of the household
to approach.

"Go, count," said he, "go quickly, and ask her name. Tell her it is the
emperor who desires to know her."

"Her name is Poland," said Kaunitz, in an absent tone. Then, addressing
Joseph, he continued: "Did I not tell your majesty that your adventure
was not to end with the throwing of a bouquet? I know these Polish
women; they coquette with every thing--above all, with the throes of
their dying fatherland."

The emperor smiled, but said nothing. He was watching the return of the
marshal of the household.

"Well, count, what is her name?" cried he earnestly.

"Sire, I am unable to find it out. The lady has left the theatre, and no
one here, not even the director, knows her name."

"Strange," said the emperor. "Let a messenger, then, be sent to
Bernasconi: she, of course, must know."

"Pardon me, your majesty, I have been to Bernasconi. She is here,
preparing to sing her second air. She has suddenly recovered and will
have the honor of appearing before your majesties in a few moments."

"But what said Bernasconi of the Polish singer?"

"She does not know her name, your majesty. She showed me a letter from
Colonel Dumourriez, the French plenipotentiary to the Polish Republic.
He designates her only as a Polish lady of noble birth, whose remarkable
vocal powers were worthy of your majesty's admiration."

"Do you hear that?" said Frederick to Kaunitz. "Do you hear that? The
French plenipotentiary sends this prima donna to sing before the
emperor. Vraiment, it seems that France is disgusted with war, and
intends to try her hand at sentiment. Petticoat-government is so
securely established there, that I suppose the French are about to throw
a petticoat over the heads of their allies. France and Poland are two
fevimes galantes."

"Yes, sire," replied Kaunitz, "but one of them is old and ugly. Lindaine
La Pologne is an old coquette, who puts on youthful airs, and thinks she
hides her wrinkles with paint."

"Does your highness, then, believe that her youth is forever past? Can
she never be rejuvenated?" asked Frederick, with a searching look at
Kaunitz's marble features.

"Sire, people who waste their youth in dissipation and rioting, have no
strength when the day of real warfare dawns."

"And it would seem that the Empress of Russia has some intention of
making a serious attack upon the poor old lady," said Frederick, while
for the second time he took a pinch from the snuff-box of the crafty
Austrian.

Meanwhile the concert was going on. Bernasconi, completely restored,
sang the beautiful air from "Orpheus and Eurydice," and Frederick
applauded as before. But the emperor sat silent and abstracted. His
thoughts were with that Polish woman, whose love of country had brought
her to Neustadt to remind him of the promises he had made to the
Confederates at Eperies.

"How enthusiastically she loves Poland!" said he to himself. "She will
of course find means to cross my path again, for she seeks to interest
me in the fate of her fatherland. The next time she comes, I will do
like the prince in the fairy-tale, I will strew pitch upon the
threshold, that she may not be able to escape from me again."

Kaunitz, too, was preoccupied with thoughts of the bewitching
Confederate, but the fact that she would be sure to come again was not
quite so consoling to him as to Joseph.

As soon as he returned home, he called for his private secretary, who
was one of the most dexterous detectives in Vienna.

"You will make inquiries at once as to the whereabout of the prima donna
who sang before me and their majesties to-night. Tomorrow at nine
o'clock I must know who she is, where she lodges, and what is her
business here."



CHAPTER, LXII.

FREDERICK THE GREAT AND PRINCE KAUNITZ.

The great review, which had been gotten up in honor of the King of
Prussia, was over. In this review Frederick had become acquainted with
the strength of the Austrian army, the superiority of its cavalry, and
the military capacity of the emperor who was its commander-in-chief.

The king had been loud in his praises of all three, and had embraced the
emperor in presence of the whole army.

Immediately after the review, Frederick sent a page to announce to
Prince Kaunitz that he woud be glad to see him in his own private
apartments.

Kaunitz at once declared his readiness to wait upon the king, and to the
unspeakable astonishment of his valet, had actually shortened his toilet
and had betrayed some indifference to the arrangement of his peruke. As
he left the room, his gait was elastic and active, and his countenance
bore visible marks of the excitement with which he was looking forward
to the coming interview.

But Kaunitz himself became suddenly aware of all this, and he set to
work to force back his emotion. The nearer he came to the king's suite
of rooms, the slower became his step and the calmer his mien. At last it
was tranquillized, and the minister looked almost as cold and
indifferent as ever.

Arrived at the door of the antechamber, he looked around, and having
convinced himself that no one was in sight, he drew from his
breast-pocket a small mirror which he always wore about his person.
Sharply he viewed himself therein, until gradually, as he looked, his
face resumed the stony aspect which like a thickening haze concealed his
emotions from other men's eyes.

"It is really not worth my while," thought he, "to get up an excitement
because I am about to have a conference with that small bit of royalty,
Frederick. If he should discover it, he might suppose that I, like the
rest of the world, am abashed in the presence of a king because he has
some military fame. No--no--what excites me is the fact that I am about
to write a bit of history; for this interview between Prussia and
Austria will be historical. It is the fate of Europe--that fate which I
hold in my hands, that stirs me with such unwonted emotion. This King of
Prussia has nothing to do with it. No doubt he hopes to hoodwink me with
flattery, but I shall work him to my ends, and force him to that line of
policy which I have long ago laid down for Austria's welfare."

Here the mirror was returned to his pocket, and he opened the door of
the anteroom. The sweet sounds of a flute broke in upon his ear as he
entered. The king's aide-de-camp came up and whispered that his
sovereign was accustomed to play on the flute daily, and that he never
failed even when in camp to solace his solitude with music.

Prince Kaunitz answered with a shrug, and pointing to the door, said,
"Announce me to his majesty."

The aide-de-camp opened the door and announced his highness Prince
Kaunitz.

The flute ceased, and the rich, musical voice of Frederick was heard to
say, "He can enter."

Kaunitz was not much pleased to receive a permission where he fancied
himself entitled to an invitation; but he had no alternative, so he
walked languidly forward while the officer held the door open.

"Shut the door, and admit no one during the visit of Prince Kaunitz,"
said the king. Then turning to the prince, he pointed to his flute. "I
suspect you are amused to see such an old fellow as I coquetting with
the fine arts; but I assure you that my flute is one of my trustiest
friends. She has never deceived me, and keeps my secrets faithfully. My
alliance with her is for life. Ask her, and she will tell you that we
live on terms of truest friendship."

"Unhappily, I do not understand the language of your lady-love. Your
majesty will perhaps allow me to turn my attention to another one of
your feminine allies, toward whom I shall venture to question your
majesty's good faith."

"Of what lady do you speak?" cried Frederick, eagerly.

"Of the Empress Catharine," replied Kaunitz, slightly inclining his
head.

"Oh!" said the king, laughing, "you dart like an arrow to the point, and
transfix me at once upon the barb of politics. Let us sit down, then.
The arm-chair which you are taking now, may boast hereater that it is
the courser which has carried the greatest statesman in Europe to a
field where he is sure to win new victories."

Kaunitz was careful to seat himself at the same time as the king, and
they both sat before a table covered with charts, papers, and books.

A short pause ensued. Both were collecting their energies for the
strife. The king, with his eagle eye, gazed upon the face of the astute
diplomatist while he, pretending not to see it, looked perfectly
oblivious of kings or emperors.

"So you will ask of Catharine whether I am a loyal ally or not'!" asked
the king at last.

"Yes, sire, for unluckily the Empress of Russia is the one who can give
me information."

"Why unluckily?"

"Because I grieve to see that a German prince is willing to form
alliances with her, who, if she could, would bring all Europe under her
yoke, and make every European sovereign her vassal. Russia grows hourly
more dangerous and more grasping. She foments discord and incites wars,
for she finds her fortune in the dissensions of other nations, and at
every misunderstanding between other powers, she makes a step toward the
goal whither she travels."

"And what is that goal?"

"The subjugation of all Europe," cried Kaunitz, with unusual warmth."
Russia's policy is that of unprincipled ambition; and if so far she has
not progressed in her lust of dominion, it is Austria, or rather the
policy which I dictate to Austria, that has checked her advance. It is I
who have restored the balance of power, by conquering Austria's
antipathy to France, by isolating haughty England, and hunting all
Europe against rapacious Russia. But Russia never loses sight of the
policy initiated by Peter the Great; and as I have stemmed the tide of
her aggression toward the west, it is overflowing toward the south and
the east. All, justice disregarding. Russian armies occupy Poland; and
before long the ships of Russia will swarm in the Black Sea and threaten
Constantinople. Russia is perforce a robber, for she is internally
exhausted, and unless she seeks new ports for her commerce, and new
sources of revenue, she is ruined."

"You err, I assure you," cried Frederick, eagerly. "Russia is in a
condition to sustain any burden; her revenues this year show an increase
over the last of five hundred thousand rubles."

"Then this increase comes probably from the million of subsidy which
your majesty has agreed to pay to Russia," said Kaunitz, bowing.
[Footnote: Ferrand, "History of the Dismemberment of Poland," vol. i.,
p. 84.] "Such rich tribute may well give her strength to attempt any
thing; but every thaler which your majesty pays into her treasury is a
firebrand which will one day consume all Europe. If indeed, as you say,
Russia is strong and formidable, it is for your majesty to hold her in
check; if she is exhausted, her alliance is not worth having."
[Footnote: Kaunitz's own words. Ferrand, vol. i., p. 108.]

"Your highness seems eager to have me break off my connection with
Russia," said the king, while a cloud passed over his face. "You wish to
prove that Russia is a power whose friendship is worthless and whose
enmity is to be despised. And yet it is well known to me how zealously
the Austrian ambassador was intriguing not long ago to induce Russia to
cast me aside and enter into an alliance with you. Your highness must
excuse me if I throw aside the double-edged blade of courtly
dissimulation. I am an old soldier and my tongue refuses to utter any
thing but unvarnished truth."

"If your majesty permits," replied Kaunitz with some warmth, "I, too,
will speak the unvarnished truth. You are pleased to charge me with
seeking to alienate Russia from Prussia while striving to promote an
alliance of the former with Austria. Will your majesty allow me to reply
to this accusation in full without interruption?"

"I will," replied Frederick, nodding his head. "Speak on, I shall not
put in a word."



CHAPTER LXIII.

RUSSIA A FOE TO ALL EUROPE.

Prince Kaunitz remained silent for a time, as though he were turning
over in his mind what he should say to the king. Then slowly raising his
head, he met the scrutinizing glance of Frederick with perfect
composure, and spoke as follows:

"At the conclusion of the unhappy war which desolated both Austria and
Prussia, I had to consider what course for the future was likely to
recuperate the prostrate energies of Austria. I resolved in my mind
various schemes, and laid them before her imperial majesty. The one
which I advocated and which was adopted by the empress, had mainly for
its object the pacification of all European broils, and the restoration
of the various Austrian dependencies to order and prosperity. For some
time I waited to see whether your majesty would not seek to conciliate
France, and renew your old league of friendship with her king. But the
policy pursued by your majesty at the court of Russia convinced me that
you were thinking exclusively of securing your provinces in the east.
This once understood, it became the interest of Austria to rivet the
links which bound her to France; for an alliance with her offered the
same advantages to us as that of Russia did to Prussia. Moreover, it was
Austria's opinion that Prussia was now too closely bound to Russia for
her ever to seek an alliance with France. It therefore appeared that our
good understanding with the latter would conduce to preserve the balance
of power among European nations, and that it would meet with the favor
of all those potentates who were anxious for peace. It follows thence
that the court of Vienna is perfectly content with her relations toward
France; and I expressly and distinctly declare to your majesty that we
never will seek to alienate Russia from Prussia, that we never will
encourage any advances from Russia, and that your majesty may rest
assured that we never will deviate from our present line of policy. This
was what I desired to explain, and I thank your majesty for the courtesy
with which You have listened to me." [Footnote: This discourse of Kannitz is
historical. It is found in Ferrand's "Histoire des Trois Demembrements
de la Pologue," vol. i., p. 112.]

The face of the king, which at first had looked distrustful, was now
entirely free from suspicion. He rose from his chair, and giving his
hand to Kaunitz, said with a cordial smile

"This is what I call noble and candid statesmanship. You have not spoken
as a diplomatist, but as a great minister, who, feeling his strength,
has no reason to conceal his actions. I will answer in the same spirit.
Sit down again and hear me. You fear Russia, and think that if she gains
too great an ascendency among nations, she will use it to the detriment
of all Europe. I agree with you, and I myself would view the
aggrandizement of Russia under Catharine with disapprobation and
distrust. You are right, and I feel the embarrassment of my present
political condition. At the commencement of this Turkish war, I would
have used my honest endeavors to check the usurping advances of Russia,
not only in Turkey but also in Poland. But I myself was in a critical
position. You, who had been represented to me as the most rapacious of
diplomatists, you had prejudiced all Europe against me, so that for
seven long years my only allies were my rights and my good sword. The
only hand reached out to me was that of Russia; policy constrained me to
grasp and retain it. It is both to my honor and my interest that I keep
faith with Russia,, and eschew all shifts and tergiversations in my
dealings with her. Her alliance is advantageous to Prussia, and
therefore I pay her large subsidies, give her advice, allow my officers
to enlist in her armies, and finally I have promised the empress that
should Austria interfere in behalf of the Turks, I will use all my
influence to mediate between you." [Footnote: Dolan. "Memoirs of My
Times," vol. i., p. 458.]

"Does that mean that if Russia and Austria should go to war, your
majesty will stand by the former?"

"It means that I will make every effort to prevent a war between Russia
and Austria. If, in spite of all that I could do, there should be war
between you, it would not be possible for Prussia to remain neutral.
Were she to do so, she would deserve the contempt both of friend and
foe. I would fulfil my obligations to Russia, that I might secure the
duration of our alliance. But I sincerely hope that it may be my good
fortune to mediate with such results as will spare me the espousal of
either party's quarrel."

"If so, Russia must abandon her ambitious projects in Turkey, and she
must speedily consent to secure peace to Poland," replied Kaunitz
warmly.

The king smiled, and taking from the table a sealed packet, he presented
it to Kaunitz.

"A letter for me!" exclaimed the minister, surprised.

"Yes, your highness. A few moments before you came hither, a courier
arrived from Constantinople with dispatches for you and for me."

"Does your majesty allow me to open them?"

"I request you to read them while I read mine, Which are, as yet,
unopened. I have only read the report of my ambassador at
Constantinople. Let us see what news we have."

The king, with a smiling inclination of the head, settled himself in his
arm-chair, and began to read.

A long pause ensued. Both tried to seem absorbed in the dispatches from
Turkey, yet each one gave now and then a hasty, furtive glance at the
other. If their eyes met, they were quickly cast, down again, and so
they continued to watch and read; until there was no more excuse for
silence.

"Bad news from Turkey," said Frederick, speaking first, and putting down
his letters.

"The Porte has been unfortunate," said Kaunitz, shrugging his shoulders
and looking perfectly indifferent. "Russia has not only gained a great
victory on land, but has defeated him at sea, and has burnt his fleet."

"The consequence of all this is, that Turkey now turns to Austria and
Prussia for help, "replied the king." Upon our intervention now, hangs
the peace of all Europe. We have a most important mission to perform."

"Your majesty intends to undertake it?" asked Kaunitz carelessly.

"I am resolved to do all that I can to prevent war. It is such a
terrible scourge, that no nation has a right to fold her hands and see
its horrors, if by any step of hers it can be averted or stopped. Turkey
asks for intervention, that she may be restored to the blessings of
peace. Shall we refuse her?"

"Austria cannot mediate in this affair unless Russia first proposes it,"
said Kaunitz, in a listless tone. "The court of Vienna cannot make
propositions to Russia. It therefore rests with your majesty to induce
the Empress Catharine to make the same request of Austria, as Turkey has
made of us both."

"I will propose it to the empress," said the king eagerly; "and I feel
sure that she will agree to do so."

Kaunitz bowed loftily. "Then," replied he, "Austria will mediate; but
let it be understood that the peace is to be an honorable one for
Turkey, and that Russia ceases any further aggression in that quarter."

"The Porte will be under the necessity of making some concessions," said
the king, "since he it is whose arms have sustained reverses. But Turkey
may still remain a second-rate power, for I think that Russia will be
satisfied with the Crimea and the Black Sea for herself and a guaranty
of independent sovereigns for Wallachia and Moldavia."

"Independent princes appointed by Russia!" cried Kaunitz.

"My imperial sovereign will never consent to have a Russian province
contiguous to Austria; and should Moldavia and Wallachia be governed by
hospodars and petty despots, their pretended independence would soon
melt away into a Russian dependency. Austria, too, would esteem it a
great misfortune if Russia should come into possession of the Crimea and
the Black Sea. Her dominion over the Black Sea would be more dangerous
to Europe than an extension of her territory. Nothing, in short, would
be so fatal to that independence which is dear to all nations, as the
cession of this important outlet to Russia." [Footnote: The prince's
own words. Ferrand, i., p. 112.

"Your highness may be right," said the king; "and Austria has more to
fear from this dominion than Prussia; for the Danube is a finger of the
Black Sea, which might be used to seize some of your fairest provinces.
We will keep this in view when we enter upon our negotiations with
Russia."

"Before we begin them at all, we must exact of Russia to restore peace
to Poland."

"Ali, you wish to draw Poland info the circle of intervention?" said
Frederick, laughing.

"The court of Vienna cannot suffer Russia to oppress this unfortunate
people as she has hitherto done. Not only has she forced Stan islaus
Augustus upon them, but she has also compelled them to alter their
constitution, and, in the face of all justice, her armies occupy Poland,
devastating the country, and oppressing both royalists and
republicans."

"You are resolved to speak of Poland," said Frederick, again taking so
large a pinch of snuff that it bedaubed not only his face, but his white
Austrian uniform. He brushed it off with his fingers, and shaking his
head, said: "I am not neat enough to wear this elegant dress. I am not
worthy of wearing the Austrian livery." He then resumed: "You interest
yourself in Poland. I thought that Polish independence had been thrown
to the winds. I thought, also, that your highness was of the same
opinion on this question as the Empress Catharine, who says that she
neither knows where Polish territory begins nor where it ends. Now I am
equally at a loss to know what is and what is not Poland, for in Warsaw
a Russian army seems to be perfectly at home, and in the south of Poland
an Austrian regiment affirms that they occupy Polish ground by command
of the Austrian government."

"Your majesty is pleased to speak of the county of Zips. Zips has always
belonged to Hungary. It was mortgaged by the Emperor Sigismund to his
brother-in-law ZVladislaw Jagello for a sum of money. Hungary has never
parted with her right to this country; and, as we have been compelled to
send troops to our frontier to watch Russia, the opportunity presents
itself for us to demonstrate to Poland that Austria can never consent to
regard a mortgaged province as one either given or sold. Zips belongs to
Austria, and we will pay back to the King of Poland the sum for which it
was mortgaged. That is all."

"Yes, but it will be difficult not only for Poland, but for all Europe,
which is accustomed to consider Zips as Polish territory, to remember
your highness's new boundaries. I, for my part, do not understand it,
and I will be much obliged to you if, according to your new order of
things, you will show the where Hungary ends and Poland begins."
[Footnote: The kng's own words. Ferrand, P. 112.]

"Where the county of Zips ends, and where the boundaries of Hungary
began in olden times, there the line that separates Austria from Poland
should be drawn."

"Ah!" sighed the king, "you speak of the olden time. But we must settle
all these things now with regard to the present. I happen, by chance, to
have a rnah of Poland on my table. Oblige me now by showing me Poland as
your highness understands its boundaries."

The king stood up, and unfolding a map, laid it on the table. Kaunitz
also rose, and stood on the opposite side. "Now," said Frederick, "let
me see the county of Zips."



CHAPTER LXIV.

THE MAP OF POLAND.

"HERE, your majesty, is Zips," said Kaunitz, as he passed his delicate
white finger over the lower part of the map.

The king leaned over, and looked thoughtfully at the moving finger. For
some time he kept silence. Then he raised his head, and suet the gaze of
the prince.

"A very pretty piece of land which Austria takes from her neighbor," said
he, with a piercing glance at Kaunitz. "Austria takes nothing from her
neighbor, sire, except that which belongs to her," replied Kaunitz,
quietly.

"How very fortunate it is that this particular piece of land should
belong to Austria!" said the king; with a slight sneer. "You see that
Poland, who for so many centuries had supposed herself to be the
rightful owner of the Zips, has, in virtue of such ownership, projected
beyond the Carpathian Mountains quite to the interior of Hungary. Now a
wedge of that sort is inconvenient, perhaps dangerous, and it is lucky
for Austria that she has found out her right of possession in that
quarter. It not only contracts her neighbor's domains, but essentially
increases her own. It now concerns Austria to prove to Europe her right
to this annexation, for Europe is somewhat astonished to hear of it. "

"In the court-chancery, at Vienna, are the documents to prove that the
Zips was mortgaged by the Emperor Sigismund to his brother-in-law
Wladislaw, in the year 1412, for the sum of thirty-seven thousand
groschen."

"Since 1412!" cried Frederick. "Three hundred and fifty-five years'
possession on the part of Poland has not invalidated the title of
Austria to the Zips! My lawful claim to Silesia was of more modern date
than this, and yet Austria would have made it appear that it was
superannuated."

"Your majesty has proved, conclusively, that it was not so," replied
Kaunitz, with a slight inclination of the head.

"Will Austria take the course which I pursued to vindicate my right?"
asked the king, quickly.

"Stanislaus will not allow us to proceed to extremities," replied the
Prince. "True, he complained at first, and wrote to the empress-queen to
demand what he called justice."

"And will your highness inform me what the empress-queen replied in
answer to these demands?"

"She wrote to the King of Poland that the time had arrived when it
became incumbent upon her to derive the boundaries of her empire. That,
in her annexation of the Zips to Austria, she was actuated, not by any
lust of territorial aggrandizement, but by a conviction of her just and
inalienable rights. She was prepared, not only to assert, but to defend
them; and she took this opportunity to define the lines of her frontier,
for the reason that Poland was in a state of internal warfare, the end
of which no man could foresee." [Footnote: Ferrand, i., p. 94.]

"If I were King of Poland, such plain language as this would put me on
my guard."

"Sire, if you were King of Poland, no foreign power would employ such
language toward you," said Kaunitz, with a half smile.

"That is true," replied the king, shaking his head. "The King of Poland
is a weak, good-natured fellow. He cannot forget that he has been the
lover of Catharine of Russia, and I verily believe, that if she were to
make a sign, he would lay, not only himself, but all Poland, at her
feet."

"Austria would never suffer her to accept it," cried Kauuitz.

The king shrugged his shoulders. "And yet, it would appear that when
Zips lay at her feet, the Empress of Austria was ready to embrace it.
But everybody grows eccentric when Poland is in question. My brother
Henry, who is in St. Petersburg, was one day discussing this matter of
the annexation of Zips with the empress. As Catharine, like myself, has
never had the privilege of examining the records in the court of
chancery at Vienna, she expressed some doubt as to the justice of
Austria's appropriation in that quarter. 'It seems,' said she, 'as if
one had noting to do but stoop down to pick up something in
Poland.'[Footnote: Ruthfore's "History of Poland," vol. iv., p. 210.]
Now, when proud Austria and her lofty Kaunitz condescend to stoop and
pick up, why shall not other people follow their example? I, too, shall
be obliged to march my troops into Poland, for every misfortune seems
about to visit this unhappy land. Who knows that in the archives at
Berlin there may not be some document to prove that I, also, have a
right to extend the lines of my frontier?"

While Frederick spoke, he kept his eyes fixed upon the face of Prince
Kaunitz, as though he would have read to the very bottom of his soul.
The latter pretended not to be aware of it; he looked perfectly blank,
while he affected to be still interested in examining the map.

"It would be fortunate if your majesty could discover such documents in
YOUR archives," replied he, coolly. "I have been told that you have,
heretofore, sought for them in Warsaw; unhappily, without being able to
find any."

The king could not repress a slight start as he heard this revelation of
his own machinations. Kaunitz again affected to see nothing, although he
was looking directly in the king's eyes.

"I say," continued Kaunitz, "that it would be most fortunate if, JUST AT
THIS TIME, your majesty could recover your titles to that portion of
Poland which lies contiguous to Russia. Austria, I assure you, will
place no difficulties in the way."

"Really," replied the king, "I must say that these lines form a better
natural frontier than my present boundaries." Here he passed his hand
somewhere through the north-western provinces of Poland, while he
continued: "Would my word suffice if I were to say to Austria that the
documents, proving my right to this territory, are to be found in the
archives at Berlin?"

"Your majesty's word, as regards this question, is worth more than the
documents," said Kaunitz, deliberately.

"But what would Catharine say?--she who looks upon Poland as her own?"

"If she says any thing, it is high time she were undeceived in that
respect," said Kaunitz, hastily. "She must be satisfied to share equally
with others. Your majesty was pleased to relate to me a portion of the
conversation between the empress and Prince Henry. The empress said, 'It
seems as if one had nothing to do but stoop down to pick up something in
Poland.' But you forgot the sequel. She added these words: 'If the court
of Vienna begins the dismemberment of Poland I think that her neighbors
have a right to continue it.'" [Footnote: La Roche Aymon "Vie du Prince
Henry" p. 171.]

"Vraiment, your highness has trusty reporters, and your agents serve you
admirably!" exclaimed the king.

Kaunitz bowed haughtily.

"We are your majesty's imitators," replied he. "First during the
Silesian war, then at the court of Dresden, we learned from you the
value of secret information. [Footnote: Through his ambassador at
Dresden, Frederick had bribed the keeper of the Saxon archives to send
him copies of the secret treaties between Austria and Saxony. He did
even worse, for the attache of the Austrian embassy at Berlin was in his
pay, and he sent the king copies of all the Austrian dispatches.--L.
Muhlbach, "Life of Frederick the Great."] Having been apprised of the
remarkable words of the empress, I began to fear that she might encroach
upon Poland without regard to the claims of Austria. Your majesty is
aware that the Russian army occupy Warsaw, and that a cordon of Russian
troops extend as far as the frontiers of Turkey."

"And if I draw my cordon beyond the district of Netz," cried the king,
drawing his finger across the map as if it had been a sword, "and
Austria extends her frontier beyond Galicia and the Zips, the republic
of Poland will occupy but a small space on the map of Europe."

"The smaller the better; the fewer Poles there are in the world the less
strife there will be. The cradle of the Poles is that apple of discord
which Eris once threw upon the table of the gods; they were born of its
seeds, and dissension is their native element. As long as there lives a
Pole on the earth, that Pole will breed trouble among his neighbors."

"Ah!" said the king, taking a pinch of snuff, "and yet your highness was
indignant at Catharine because she would force the Poles to keep the
peace. She appears to ME to be entirely of one mind with yourself. She,
too, looks upon Poland as the apple of Eris, and she has found it so
over-ripe that it is in danger of falling from the tree. She has
stationed her gardener, Stanislaus, to guard it. Let him watch over it.
It belongs to him, and if it come to the ground, he has nobody to blame
but himself. Meanwhile, should it burst, we will find means to prevent
it from soiling US. Now let us speak of Turkey. That unlucky Porte must
have something done for him, and while we mediate in his behalf, I hope
to bring about a good understanding between Austria and Russia. Let us
do our best to promote a general peace. Europe is bleeding at every
pore; let us bind up her wounds, and restore her to health."

"Austria is willing to promote the general welfare," replied Kaunitz,
following the king's example and rising from his chair, "but first
Russia must conclude an honorable peace with Turkey, and she must
abandon her rapacious designs upon the rest of Europe. But should the
Empress of Russia compel us to war with her on this question we will not
have recourse to arms until we have found means to alienate from her the
most formidable of her allies."

The king laughed. "I approve your policy," said he, "but I am curious to
know how you would manage to prevent me from keeping my word. I am
certainly pledged to Russia, but I hope that the negotiations into which
we are about to enter will end in peace. I shall send a resume of our
conference to the empress, and use every effort to establish friendly
relations between you."

"Will your majesty communicate her reply to me?" asked Kaunitz.

"I certainly will; for I am a soldier, not a diplomatist, and I am so
much in love with truth that I shall be her devotee until the last
moment of my life."

"Ah, sire, a man must be a hero like yourself to have the courage to
love so dangerous a mistress. Truth is a rose with a thousand thorns. He
who plucks it will be wounded, and woe to the head of him who wears it
in his crown!"

"You and I have fought and bled too often on the field of diplomacy to
be tender about our heads. Let us, then, wear the crown of truth, and
bear with its thorns."

So saying, the king reached out his hand, and Kaunitz took his leave.

After the prince had left the room, Frederick remained for a few minutes
listening, until he heard the door of the farther anteroom closed.

"Now, Hertzberg," cried he, "come out--the coast is clear."

A gigantic screen, which divided the room in two, began to move, and
forth came Count Herizberg, the king's prime minister.

"Did you hear it all?" asked Frederick, laughing.

"I did, so please your majesty."

"Did you write it down, so that I can send its resume to the Empress
Catharine?"

"Yes, your majesty, as far as it was possible to do so, I have written
down every word of your conference," said Hertzberg, with a dissatisfied
expression of countenance.

The king raised his large eyes with an inquiring look at the face of his
trusty minister. "Are you not satisfied, Hertzberg? Why do you shake
your head? You have three wrinkles in your forehead, and the corners of
your mouth turn down as they always do when something has displeased
you. Speak out, man. Of what do you complain?"

"First, I complain that your majesty has allowed the old fox to perceive
that you, as well as himself, entertain designs upon Poland, and that in
a manner you are willing to guarantee to Austria her theft of the Zips.
I also complain that you have consented to induce Russia, through the
intervention of Austria, to make peace with Turkey."

"Is that all?" asked the king.

"Yes, your majesty; that is all."

"Well, then, hear my defence. As regards your first complaint, I allowed
the old fox (as you call him) to scent my desire for Polish game,
because I wished to find out exactly how far I could venture to go in
the matter."

"Yes, sire, and the consequences will be, that Austria, who has already
appropriated the Zips, will stoop down to pick up something else. She
has already had her share of the booty, why should she divide with your
majesty?"

"Let Austria have her second share," cried the king, laughing. "It will
earn for her a double amount of the world's censure. [Footnote: The
king's own words. Coxe, "History of Austria," vol. v., p. 20.] As regards
your second complaint, let me tell you, that at this moment peace is
indispensable to us all, and for this reason I desire to bring Russia
and Austria into friendly relations with one another. I think it not
only wiser but more honorable to pacify Europe than to light the torch
of war a second time. It is not an easy matter to secure a general
peace, and we must all make some concessions to achieve a result so
desirable. Do you suppose that it is as easy to conciliate unfriendly
powers as it is to write bad verses? I assure you, Hertzberg, that I
would rather sit down to render the whole Jewish history into madrigals,
than undertake to fuse into unanimity the conflicting interests of three
sovereigns, when two out of the three are women! But I will do my best.
When your neighbor's house is on fire, help to put it out, or it may
communicate and burn down your own." [Footnote: The king's own
words. "Ceuvres Posthumes," vol. ii., p. 187]



CHAPTER LXV.

THE COUNTESS WIELOPOLSKA.

"You really think that he will come, Matuschka?" asked the Countess
Wielopolska of her waiting-woman, who, standing behind the chair, was
fastening a string of pearls in her lady's dusky hair.

"I know he will come, your ladyship," replied Matuschka.

"And you have seen the emperor and spoken to him!" exclaimed the
countess, pressing her delicate white hands upon her heart, as though
she strove to imprison its wild emotions.

"Indeed I have, my lady."

"Oh, tell me of it again, Matuschka; tell me, that I may not fancy it a
dream!" cried the countess, eagerly.

"Well, then, my lady, I took your note to the palace, where the emperor
has given positive orders that every one who wishes it shall be admitted
to his presence. The guard before the door let me pass into the
antechamber. One of the lords in waiting told me that the emperor would
be there before a quarter of an hour. I had not waited so long when the
door opened and a handsome young man in a plain white uniform walked in.
I should never have taken him for the emperor, except that the lord
stood up so straight when he saw him. Then I knelt down and gave the
letter. The emperor took it and said: 'Tell your lady that I am not
prepared to receive ladies in my palace; but since she wishes to see me,
I will go to her. If she will be at home this evening, I will find time
to call upon her myself.'"

"Ah!" cried the countess, "he will soon be here. I shall see him--speak
to him--pour out the longings of my bursting heart! Oh, Matuschka, as
the moment approaches, I feel as if I could fly away and plunge into the
wild waters of the Vistula that bear my husband's corpse, or sink
lifeless upon the battle-field that is reddened with the blood of my
brothers."

"Do not think of these dreadful things, dear lady," said Matuschka,
trying to keep back her tears; "it is twilight, and the emperor will
soon be here. Look cheerful--for you are as beautiful as an angel when
you smile, and the emperor will be much more apt to be moved by your
smiles than by your tears."

"You are right, Matuschka," cried the countess, rising hastily from her
seat. "I will not weep, for I must try to find favor in the emperor's
eyes."

She crossed the room and stood before a Psyche, where for some time she
scrutinized her own features; not with the self-complacency of a vain
woman, but with the critical acuteness of an artist who contemplates a
fine picture. Gradually her eyes grew soft and her mouth rippled with a
smile. Like a mourning Juno she stood in the long black velvet dress
that sharply defined the outlines of her faultless bust and fell in
graceful folds around her stately figure. Her bodice was clasped by an
agrafe of richest pearls; and the white throat and the jewel lay
together, pearl beside pearl, each rivalling the snowy lustre of the
other. Had it not been for those starry eyes that looked out so full of
mournful splendor, her face might have seemed too statuesque in its
beauty; but from their dark depths all the enthusiasm of a nature that
had concentrated its every emotion into one master-passion, lit up her
face with flashes that came and went like summer lightning.

"Yes, I am beautiful," whispered she, while a sad smile played around
her exquisite month. "My beauty is the last weapon left me wherewith to
battle for Poland. I must take advantage of it. Life and honor, wealth
and blood, every thing for my country!"

She turned to her waiting-woman as a queen would have done who was
dismissing her subjects.

"Go, Matuschka," said she, "and take some rest. You have been laboring
for me all day, and I cannot bear to think that the only friend left me
in this world should be overtasked for me. Sometimes you look at me as
my mother once did; and then I dream that I feel her hand laid lovingly
upon my head, and hear her dear voice exhorting me to pray that God
would bless me with strength to do my duty to my bleeding country."
Matuschka fell upon her knees and kissed the hem of her mistress's robe.

"Do not give way," sobbed she, "do not grieve now."

The countess did not hear. She had thrown back her head and was gazing
absently above. "Oh, yes, I am mindful of my duty," murmured she. "I
have not forgotten the vow I made to my mother and sealed upon her dying
lips with my last kiss! I have been a faithful daughter of my
fatherland. I have given every thing--there remains nothing but myself,
and oh, how gladly would I give my life for Poland! But God has forsaken
us; His eyes are turned away!"

"Accuse not the Lord, dear lady," prayed Matuschka. "Put your trust in
Him, and take courage."

"It is true. I have no right to accuse my Maker," sighed the
countess. "When the last drop of Polish blood is spent and the last
Polish heart is crushed beneath the tramp of the enemy's hosts, then it
will be time to cry to Heaven! Rise, Matuschka, and weep no more. All is
not yet lost. Let us hope, and labor that hope may become reality, and
Poland may be free!"

She reached her hand to Matuschka and passed into an adjoining room. It
was the state apartment of the inn, and was always reserved for
distinguished guests. It had been richly furnished, but the teeth of
time had nibbled many a rent in the old-fashioned furniture, the faded
curtains, and the well-worn carpet. Matuschka, however, had given an air
of some elegance to the place. On the carved oak table in the centre
stood a vase of flowers; and, that her dear mistress might have
something to remind her of home, Matuschka had procured a piano, to
which the countess, when weary of her thoughts, might confide the hopes
and fears that were surging in her storm-tossed heart.

The piano was open, and a sheet of music lay on the desk. As the
countess perceived it, she walked rapidly toward the instrument and sat
down before it.

"I will sing," said she. "The emperor loves music, above all things the
music of Gluck."

She turned over the leaves, and then said, softly:

"`Orpheus and Eurydice!' La, Bernasconi told me that this was his
favorite opera. Oh, that I knew which aria he loved the best?"

She struck a few chords, and in a low voice began to sing. Gradually her
beautiful features lost their sadness, she seemed to forget herself and
her sorrows, and to yield up her soul to the influence of Gluck's
heavenly music. And now, with all the power, the melody, the pathos of
her matchless voice, she sang, "Che faro senza Eurydice!"

The more she sang, the brighter grew her lovely face. Forgetful of all
things around, she gave herself wholly up to the inspiration of the
hour, and from its fountains of harmony she drew sweetest draughts of
consolation and of hope.

The door had opened, and she had not beard it. On the threshold stood
the emperor, followed by Matuschka, while the countess, all unmindful,
filled the air with strains so divine, that they might have been the
marriage-hymns of Love wedded to Song.

The emperor had stopped for a moment to listen. His face, which at first
had worn an expression of smiling flippancy, now changed its aspect. He
recognized the music, and felt his heart heat wildly. With a commanding
gesture, he motioned Matuschka to withdraw, and noiselessly closed the
door.



CHAPTER LXYI.

THE EMPEROR AND THE COUNTESS.

The countess continued to sing, although Joseph had advanced as far as
the centre of the room. The thickness of the carpet made his footfall
inaudible. He stood with his right hand resting upon the oak table,
while he leaned forward to listen, and one by one the dead memories of
his youthful love came thronging around his heart, and filling it with
an ecstasy that was half joy and half sorrow.

More and more impassioned grew the music, while the air was tremulous
with melody. It softened and softened, until it melted away in sobs. The
hands of the enchantress fell from the keys; she bowed her head, and
leaning against the music, burst into tears. The emperor, too, felt the
tear-drops gather in his eyes; he dashed them away, and went rapidly up
to the piano.

"Countess," said he, in his soft, mellow tones, "I felt it no
indiscretion to listen unseen to your heavenly music, but no one save
God has a right to witness your grief."

She started, and rising quickly, the emperor saw the face of the lady
who had thrown him the wreath.

"It is she!" cried he, "the beautiful Confederate! I thank you from my
heart for the favor you have done me, for I have sought you for some
days in vain."

"Your majesty sought me?" said she, smiling. "Then I am sure that you
are ready to sympathize with misfortune."

"Do you need sympathy?" asked he, eagerly.

"Sire, I am a daughter of Poland," replied she.

"And the Wielopolskas are among the noblest and richest of Poland's
noble families."

"Noble! Rich! Our castles have been burned by the Russians, our fields
have been laid waste, our vassals have been massacred, and of our
kinsmen, some have died under the knout, while others drag out a life of
martyrdom in Siberia."

"One of the Counts Wielopolska was a favorite of the king, was he not?"
asked Joseph, much moved.

"He was my husband," replied she, bitterly. "Heedless of his
countrymen's warnings, he believed in the patriotism of Stanislaus. When
he saw his error, he felt that he merited death, and expiated his fault
by self-destruction. His grave is in the Vistula."

"Unhappy wife!" exclaimed the emperor. "And had you no other kinsman?"

"I had a father and three brothers."

"You had them?"

"Yes, sire, but I have them no longer. My brothers died on the field of
battle; my father, oh, my father!--God grant that he be no more among
the living, FOR HE IS IN SIBERIA!"

The emperor raised his hands in horror; then extending them to the
countess, he took hers, and said in a voice of deepest sympathy "I thank
you for coming to me. Tell me your plans for the future, that I may
learn how best I may serve you."

"Sire, I have none," sighed she. "Life is so mournful, that I long to
close my eyes forever upon its tragedies, but--"

"But what?"

"I should then be robbed of the sight of him who has promised succor to
my fatherland," cried she, passionately, while she sank upon her knees
and clasped her hands convulsively together.

Joseph bent over, and would have raised her from the floor. "It ill
becomes such beauty to kneel before me," said he, softly.

"Let me kneel, let me kneel!" exclaimed she, while her beautiful eyes
suffused with tears. "Here, at your feet, let me implore your protection
for Poland! Have mercy, sire, upon the Confederates, whose only crime is
their resistance to foreign oppression. Reach out your imperial band to
THEM, and bid them be free, for they must either be slaves, or die by
their own hands. Emperor of Austria, save the children of Sobieski from
barbarous Russia!"

"Do not fear," replied Joseph, kindly. "I promised the Confederates that
Austria would recognize their envoy, and I will redeem my word. Rise,
countess, I implore you, rise, and may the day not be distant when I
shall extend my hand to Poland as I now do to you. You have a pledge of
my sincerity, in the fact that we have both a common enemy, and it will
not be my fault if I do not oppose her, sword in hand. Still, although
men call me emperor, I am the puppet of another will. The crown of
Austria is on my mother's head; its shadow, alone, is upon mine. I speak
frankly to you; but our acquaintance is peculiar, and, by its nature,
has broken down the ordinary barriers of conventional life. Your songs
and your tears have spoken directly to my heart recalling the oniy happy
days that I have ever known on earth. But I am growing sentimental. You
will pardon me, I know, for you are a woman, and have known what it is
to love."

She slowly shook her head. "No, sire," replied she, "I have never known
what it was to love."

The emperor looked directly in her eyes. SHE! Beautiful and majestic as
Hera,--SHE, not know what it was to love! "And your husband--" asked he.

"I was married to him as Poland was given to Stanislaus. I never saw him
until he became my husband."

"And your heart refused allegiance?"

"Sire, I have never yet seen the man who was destined to reign over my
heart."

"Ah, you are proud! I envy him who is destined to conquer that
enchanting domain."

She looked for one moment at the emperor, and then said, blushing:
"Sire, my heart will succumb to him who rescues Poland. With rapture it
will acknowledge him as lord and sovereign of my being."

The emperor made no reply. He gazed with a significant smile at the
lovely enthusiast, until she blushed again, and her eyes sought the
ground.

"Ah, countess," said Joseph, after a pause, "if all the women of Poland
were of your mind, a multitudinous army would soon flock to her
standard."

"Every Polish woman is of one mind with me. We are all the daughters of
one mother, and our love for her is stronger than death."

The emperor shook his lead. "Were this true," replied he, "Poland would
never have fallen as she has done. But far be it from me to heap
reproaches upon the unfortunate. I will do what it lies in my power to
do for the Poles, provided they are willing to second my efforts for
themselves. If they would have peace, however, with other nations, they
must show strength and unity of purpose among themselves. Until they can
stand before the world in the serried ranks of a national unanimity,
they must expect to be assailed by their rapacious neighbors. But let us
forget politics for a moment. I long to speak to you of yourself. What
are your plans? How can I serve you?"

"Sire, I have no plans. I ask nothing of the world but a place of
refuge, where I can sorrow unseen."

"You are too young, and, pardon me, if I add, too beautiful, to fly from
the world. Come to Vienna, and learn from me how easy it is to live
without happiness."

"Your majesty will allow me to go to Vienna?" cried the countess,
joyfully. "Ever since I have felt that I could do nothing for Poland, I
have longed to live in Vienna, that I might breathe the same atmosphere
with your majesty and the Empress Maria Theresa. You are the only
sovereigns in Europe who have shown any compassion for the misfortunes
of my country, and before your generous sympathy my heart bows down in
gratitude and admiration."

"Say you so, proud heart, that has never bowed before?" exclaimed the
emperor, smiling, and taking the countess's white hand in his. "Come,
then, to Vienna, not to do homage, but to receive it, for nothing
becomes your beauty more than pride. Come to Vienna., and I will see
that new friends and new ties awaken your heart to love and happiness."

"I have one relative in Vienna, sire, the Countess von Salmour."

"Ah! one of the empress's ladies of honor. Then you will not need my
protection there, for the countess is in high favor with the empress;
and I may say, that she has more influence at court than I have."

"Sire," said the countess, raising her large eyes with an appealing
look, "I shall go to Vienna, if I go under your majesty's protection and
with your sanction."

"You shall have both," replied Joseph, warmly. "I will write to my
mother to-day, and you shall present my letter. When will you leave? I
dare not ask you to tarry here, for this is no place for lovely and
unprotected women. Moreover, the King of Prussia has no sympathy with
Poland, and he will like you the less for the touching appeal you made
in her behalf when you sang at the concert. Greet the empress for me,
and let me hope that you will stir her heart as you have stirred mine.
And now farewell. My time has expired: the King of Prussia expects me to
supper. I must part from you, but I leave comforted, since I am enabled
to say in parting, 'Au revoir.'"

He bowed, and turned to quit the room. But at the door he spoke again.

"If I ever win the right to claim any thing of you, will you sing for me
the aria that I found you singing to-night?"

"Oh! your majesty," said the countess, coming eagerly forward. "you have
already earned the right to claim whatsoever you desire of me. I can
never speak my gratitude for your condescension; perhaps music will
speak for me. How gladly, then, will I sing when you command me!"

"I shall claim the promise in Vienna," said he, as he left the room.

The countess remained standing just where he had met her, breathlessly
listening to his voice, which for a while she heard in the anteroom, and
then to the last echoes of his retreating steps.

Suddenly the door was opened, and Matuschka, with joyful mien, came
forward with a purse in her hand.

"Oh, my lady," exclaimed she, "the emperor has given me this purse to
defray our expenses to Vienna!"

The countess started, and her pale face suffused with crimson shame.

"Alms!" said she, bitterly. "He treats me like a beggar!"

"No, lady," said Matuschka abashed; "the emperor told me that he had
begged you to go to Vienna for business of state, and that he had a
right to provide the expenses of our journey there. He said--"

The countess waved her hand impatiently. "Go back to the emperor," said
she haughtily. "Tell him that you dare not offer this purse to your
lady, for you know that she would rather die than receive alms, even
from an emperor."

Matuschka cast down her eyes, and turned away. But she hesitated, and
looked timidly at her mistress, whose great, glowing eyes were fixed
upon her in unmistakable displeasure.

"My lady," said she, with embarrassment, "I will do your bidding, but
you who have been so rich and great, know nothing of the troubles of
poverty. Your money is exhausted. I would rather melt my own heart's
blood into gold than tell you so; but indeed, dear lady, if you refuse
the emperor's gift you wilt be without a kreutzer in your purse."

The countess raised her hands to her hair and unfastened the pearl
wreath with which Matuschka had decorated it in anticipation of the
emperor's visit.

"There--take this and sell it. You will readily find a jeweller who
understands its value, and if he pays us but the half, it will be twice
the sum which you hold in the emperor's purse."

"My lady, would you sell your family jewels? Have you forgotten that
your family are pledged not to sell their heirlooms?"

"God will forgive me if I break my vow. It is more honorable to part
with my ancestral jewels than to receive alms. I have no heirs, and no
one will be wronged by the act. I have but my mother--Poland. For her I
am ready to sacrifice the little I possess, and when nothing else
remains, I shall yield my life. Go, Matuschka, go!"

Matuschka took the wreath and wept. "I go, lady," sobbed she. "This will
last you for half a year, and then the armlets, then the diadem of
brilliants, the bracelets, and the necklace, must all go. God grant you
may live so long on these family treasures, that old Matuschka may be
spared the humiliation of selling the rest! I have lived too long, since
I must chaffer with a base-born tradesman for the jewels that were the
royal gift of John Sobieski to my lady's noble ancestors."

She raised the countess's robe to her lips, and left the room. Her
mistress looked after her, but her thoughts were wandering elsewhere.
Slowly sinking on her knees, she began to pray, and the burden of her
prayer was this:

"Oh, my God, grant that I may win his love!"



CHAPTER LXVII.

MARIA THERESA.

The pearls were sold, the countess had arrived in Vienna; and she was in
the presence of the empress, whom, although they had never met before,
she had so long regarded with affectionate admiration.

"I rejoice to see you," said Maria Theresa, graciously extending her
hand. "It gives me pleasure to receive a relative of the Countess von
Salmour. But you have another claim upon my sympathy, for you are a
Polish woman, and I can never forget that, but for John Sobieski, Vienna
would have been a prey to the infidel."

"Upon your majesty's generous remembrance of Sobieski's alliance rests
the last hope of Poland!" exclaimed the countess, kneeling and kissing
the hand of the empress. "God has inclined to her redemption the heart
of the noblest woman in Europe, and through her magnanimity will the
wicked Empress of Russia receive her check. Oh, your majesty, that
woman, in the height of her arrogance, believes to-day that you are only
too willing to further her rapacity and participate in her crimes!"

"Never shall it be said that she and I have one thought or one object in
common!" cried Maria Theresa, her face glowing with indignation. "Let
her cease her oppression of Poland, or the Austrian eagle will seize the
Russian vulture!"

The face of the countess grew radiant with joy. Raising her beautiful
arms to heaven, she cried out exultingly: "King of kings, Thou hast
heard! Maria Theresa comes to our help! Oh, your majesty, how many
thousand hearts, from this day, will bow down in homage before your
throne! Hereafter, not God, but Maria Theresa, will be our refuge!"

"Do not blaspheme," cried the empress, crossing herself. "I am but the
servant of the Lord, and I do His divine will on earth. God is our
refuge and our strength, and He will nerve my arm to overcome evil and
work out good. I will countenance and uphold the Confederates, because
it is my honest conviction that their cause is just, and that they are
the only party in Poland who act in honor and good faith." [Foonote: The
empress's own words. See Ferrand, i., p. 72.]

"Hitherto, they would have died to vindicate that honor and that faith;
now they will live to defend it from their oppressors. Oh, your majesty,
pardon me, if, in my rapture at your goodness, I forget what is due to
your exalted station. My heart will burst if I may not give utterance to
my joy. I am a lonely creature, with no tie but that which binds me to
my unhappy mother, Polonia!"

"So young, and without home or kindred!" said the empress, kindly. "I
have already heard of your misfortunes, poor child, from my son the
emperor."

At the name of the emperor, the countess's pale face was tinged with a
faint rosy color. The empress did not remark it, for she was already
thinking what a pity it was that such a surpassingly beautiful woman
should be a widow; that such an enchanting creature should be unloved
and unwedded.

"You are too handsome," said she, "to remain single. Woman was made for
love and marriage. Happy is she who can devote her whole heart to the
sweet responsibilities of domestic life, and who is not called upon to
assume the duties that weigh down the head of royalty."

While the empress spoke, her eyes were fixed upon the portrait of the
Emperor Francis, which still hung between the windows in the place of
the mirror, which had been removed from its frame. The Countess
Wielopolska had been admitted to the gay sitting-room.

"Earthly grandeur," continued she, "is beset with pains and cares; but
the happy wife, whose subjects are her own dear children, is one degree
removed from the bliss of angels. You must marry, my dear, and I will
find for you a brilliant parti."

"I am poor, your majesty, and am too proud to enter a rich man's palace
without a dowry. "

"You shall have your dowry. I shall instruct my ambassador at St.
Petersburg to demand the return of your estates. It will be one good
deed by which that woman [Footnote: The words by which Maria Theresa
always designated Catharine.] may expiate some of her many crimes. Your
estates once restored, you will be an equal match for any nobleman in
Europe. "

"If I should receive my estates through your majesty's intercession,"
replied the countess, "my home would be an asylum for all the
unfortunate Poles. I should think it treason to dream of personal
happiness, while Poland lies shackled and bleeding."

"But Poland shall be free!" cried the empress, with enthusiasm. "With
the cooperation of France, the voice of Austria will be so loud that
Russia will hear, and withdraw her unjust claims. We will strike off the
fetters of Poland, while we forge a gentle chain for the Countess
Wielopolska: a chain that falls so lightly upon woman, that its burden
is sweeter than freedom."

"Your majesty must forgive me," reiterated the countess; "I have sworn
on my mother's grave, that as long as I can be useful, I will live for
Poland. Should she regain her freedom, I will retire to a convent, where
every breath I draw shall be a thanksgiving to God. Should she be doomed
to slavery, she will need her sons and daughters no more, and then I
will die. Your majesty sees that I am already betrothed. I shall soon be
the bride of Heaven, or the bride of Death."

"The bride of Heaven!" repeated the empress, her eyes swimming with
tears. "Then be it so; it is not I who would entice Mary from her
Master's feet. The world is full of Marthas, troubled about many things.
Go, choose the better part, sweet enthusiast, and I will see that you
have cause for thanksgiving. "

She reached her hand to the countess, who kissed it and withdrew. As she
opened the door, she felt the bolt turn from the outside.

"His highness Prince Kaunitz," cried a page; and as the countess was
making one last inclination of the head, the tall, slender form of
Kaunitz filled the space behind her.

"Have I permission to enter, your majesty?" said the minister.

"You are always welcome, prince," replied the empress.

Kaunitz bowed slightly, and as he raised his cold eye to the face of the
countess, a faint smile flitted over his features, but it was followed
by a sneer. Without acknowledging her presence by the smallest courtesy,
he advanced to the empress, and the door closed upon Poland forever.



CHAPTER LXVIII.

MARIE ANTOINETTE AND COURT ETIQUETTE.

"Letters from France, your majesty," said Kaunitz, and the face of the
empress grew bright as she recognized the handwriting of her daughter.

"The dauphiness is well?" said she. "Next to her dear self, I love to
see her writing. Ah, I have grown very lonely since my little Antoinette
has left me! One by one my children go; one dear face alone remains,"
continued she, pointing to the portrait of the emperor. Then looking at
the letters in the hands of the prince, she said:

"Have you good news?"

"Yes, your majesty. The dauphiness is adored by the French people. They
repeat her bon mots, write odes and madrigals to her beauty, and hang up
her portrait in their houses. When she drives out in her caleche they
impede its progress with their welcomes; and when she appears at the
theatre, the prima donnas are forgotten. Half a year ago, when she made
her entry into Paris and more than a hundred thousand people went out to
meet her, the Duke de Brissac said, 'Madame, you have one hundred
thousand lovers, and yet the dauphin will never be jealous of them.'
[Footnote: "Memoirs of Madame de Campan," vol. i., p. 60.] The dear old
Duke! He little knew what literal truth he spoke of the dauphin on that
occasion."

"What do you mean?" asked the empress, hastily. "I know by the
expression of your face that you have something unpleasant to tell."

"I mean to say the dauphin is not jealous, because he is the only man in
France who is not in love with the dauphiness."

The empress turned scarlet. "This is a serious charge which you presume
to make against the dauphin," said she, frowning.

"It is unhappily true," replied Kaunitz, coolly,

"The dauphiness makes no mention of such a state of things in her letter.
It does not breathe a word of complaint."

"Perhaps the dauphiness, in the innocence of her heart, has no idea of
the grounds which she has for complaint."

The empress looked displeased. "Do you know that your language is
offensive?" said she. "You assert that the dauphin is insensible to the
charms of his beautiful young wife."

"Your majesty well knows that I never assert a falsehood. The dauphin is
not in love with his wife, and I do not believe that she has an advocate
at the court of Louis XV. Since the shameless partisans of Du Barry have
triumphed over the noble Duke of Choiseul, the dauphiness is without a
friend. The Duke d'Arguillon is anti-Austrian, and your majesty knows
what an enemy to Austria was the father of the dauphin."

"Why do you seek to torture me, Kaunitz?" said the empress, impatiently.
"You are not telling me all this for nothing. Say at once what you have
to say."

"Your majesty has not yet read the letter which I had the honor of
handing to you just now, I believe," said Kaunitz.

Maria Theresa took up the letter from the gueridon on which she had
laid it, and began to look it over.

"It is true," sighed she. "The dauphiness complains of solitude. 'Since
the Duke de Choiseul has left,' writes she, 'I am alone, and without a
friend.' You are right. The dauphiness is in danger. She writes that her
enemies are intriguing to part her from the dauphin. They attempted in
Fontainebleau to assign her a suite of apartments remote from those of
her husband."

"Yes, the anti-Austrian party, seeing that he is indifferent to her, are
doing their best to convert this indifference into dislike. But the
dauphiness saw through the affair, and complained to the king."

"That was right and bold!" cried the empress, joyfully.

"Yes, it was bold, for it gained another enemy for the dauphiness. She
should have spoken to the king through the Duke d'Arguillon, instead of
which she applied to his majesty herself. The duke will never forgive
her; and when the Duchess de Noailles reproved the dauphiness, she
replied that she would never take counsel of etiquette where her family
affairs were concerned. The consequence is that the duchess also has
gone over to the enemy."

"To the enemy?" exclaimed the empress, anxiously. "Has she, then, other
enemies?"

"Madame de Marsan, the governess of the sisters of the dauphin, will
never forgive her for having interfered in the education of the young
princesses."

"But surely the daughters of the king will be kind to my poor Marie
Antoinette!" exclaimed the empress, ready to burst into tears. "They
promised to love her; and it is but natural and womanly that they should
shun the party which upholds the profligate woman who rules the King of
France!"

Prince Kaunitz slightly elevated his shoulders. "Madame Adelaide, the
eldest, until the marriage of the dauphin, held the first place at
court. Now, the daupbiness has precedence of her, and the court
card-parties are held in her apartments. Madaine Adelaide, therefore,
has refused to be present, and retires to her own rooms, where she holds
rival card-parties which are attended by the anti-Austrians, who are
opposed to Du Barry. This is the second party who intrigue against the
dauphiness.--Madame Sophie perchance remembers her in her prayers; but
she is too pious to be of use to anybody. Madame Victoire, who really
loves the dauphiness, is so sickly, that she scarcely ever leaves her
room. For a while she held little reunions there, which, being very
pleasant, were for a while attended by the dauphiness; but Madame de
Noailles objected, and court etiquette required that they should be
discontinued."

The empress had risen and was acing the floor in great agitation. "So
young, so lovely, and slighted by her husband!" murmured she, bitterly,
while large tear-drops stood in her eyes. "The daughter of the Caesars
in strife with a king's base-born mistress and a vile faction who hate
her without cause! And I--her mother --an empress, am powerless to help
her!"

"No, your majesty," said Kaunitz, "not altogether powerless. You cannot
help her with armies, but you can do so with good advice, and no one can
advise her as effectually as her mother."

"Advise her? What advice can I give?" cried the empress, angrily. "Shall
I counsel her to attend the petits soupers of the king, and truckle to
his mistress? Never! never! My daughter may be unhappy, but she shall
not be dishonored!"

"I should not presume to make any such proposition to the dauphiness,"
said Kaunitz, quietly. "One cannot condescend to Du Barry as we did to La
Pompadour. The latter was at least a woman of mind, the former is
nothing more than a vulgar beauty. But there is another lady whose
influence at court is without limit--one whom Du Barry contemns, but
whom the dauphiness would do well to conciliate."

"Of what lady do you speak, Kaunitz?"

"I speak of Madame Etiquette, your majesty. She is a stiff and tiresome
old dame, I grant you, but in France she presides over every thing.
Without her the royal family can neither sleep nor wake; they can
neither take a meal if they be in health, nor a purge if they be
indisposed, without her everlasting surveillance. She directs their
dress, amusements, associates, and behavior; she presides over their
pleasures, their weariness, their social hours, and their hours of
solitude. This may be uncomfortable, but royalty cannot escape it, and
it must he endured."

"It is the business of Madame de Noailles to attend to the requisitions
of court etiquette," said the empress, impatiently. "And of the
dauphiness to attend to her representations," added Kaunitz.

"She will certainly have enough discretion to conform herself to such
obligations!"

"Your majesty, a girl of fifteen who has a hundred thousand lovers is
not apt to be troubled with discretion. The dauphiness is bored to death
by Madame de Noailles's eternal sermons, and therein she may be right.
But she turns the mistress of ceremonies into ridicule, and therein she
is wrong. In an outburst of her vexation the dauphiness one day called
her 'old Madame Etiquette,' and, as the bon mots of a future queen are
apt to be repeated, Madame de Noailles goes by no other name at court.
Again--not long ago the dauphiness gave a party of pleasure at
Versailles. The company were mounted on donkeys."

"On donkeys!" cried the empress with horror.

"On donkeys," repeated Kaunitz, with composure. "The donkey on which the
dauphiness rode was unworthy of the honor conferred upon it. It threw
its royal rider."

"And Antoinette fell off?"

"She fell, your majesty--and fell without exercising any particular
discretion in the matter. The Count d'Artois came forward to her
assistance, but she waved him off, saying with comic earnestness, 'Do
not touch me for your life! Send a courier for Madame Etiquette and wait
until she has prescribed the important ceremonies with which a
dauphiness is to be remounted upon the back of her donkey.' Every one
laughed of course, and the next day when the thing was repeated,
everybody in Paris was heartily amused--except Madame de Noailles. She
did not laugh."

Neither could the empress vouchsafe a smile, although the affair was
ludicrous enough. She was still walking to and fro, her face scarlet
with mortification. She stopped directly in front of her unsympathizing
minister, and said: "You are right. I must warn Antoinette that she is
going too far. Oh, my heart bleeds when I think of my dear,
inexperienced child cast friendless upon the reef, of that dangerous and
corrupt court of France! My God! my God! why did I not heed the warning
I received? Why did I consent to let her go?"

"Because your majesty was too wise to be guided by lunatics and
impostors, and because you recognized, not only the imperative necessity
which placed Marie Antoinette upon the throne of France, but also the
value and the blessing of a close alliance with the French."

"God grant it may prove a blessing!" sighed the empress. "I will write
to-day, and implore her to call to aid all her discretion--for Heaven
knows it is needed at the court of France!"

"It is not an easy thing to call up discretion whenever discretion is
needed," said Kaunitz, thoughtfully. "Has not your majesty, with that
goodness which does so much honor to your heart, gone so far as to
promise help to the quarrelsome Poles?"

"Yes," said the empress, warmly, "and I intend to keep my promise."

"Promises, your majesty, are sometimes made which it is impossible to
keep."

"But I make no such promises, and therefore honor requires that I fulfil
my imperial pledge. Yes, we have promised help and comfort to the
patriotic Confederates, the defenders of liberty and of the true faith,
and God forbid that we should ever deceive those who trust to us for
protection!"

Kaunitz bowed. "Then your majesty will have the goodness to apprise the
emperor that the army must be put upon a war footing; our magazines must
be replenished, and Austria must prepare herself to suffer all the
horrors of a long war."

"A war? With whom?" exclaimed the astounded empress.

"With Russia, Prussia, Sweden, perchance with all Europe. Does your
majesty suppose that the great powers will suffer the establishment of a
republic here, under the protection of Austria?--a republic upon the
body politic of a continent of monarchies, which, like a scirrhous sore,
will spread disease that must end in death to all?"

"Of what republic do you speak?"



CHAPTER LXIX.

THE TRIUMPH OF DIPLOMACY.

"I speak of Poland," said Kaunitz, with his accustomed indifference. "I
speak of those insolent Confederates, who, emboldened by the
condescension of your majesty and the emperor, are ready to dare every
thing for the propagation of their pernicious political doctrines. They
have been pleased to declare Stanislaus deposed, and the throne of
Poland vacant. This declaration has been committed to writing, and with
the signatures of the leading Confederates attached to it, has been
actually placed in the king's hands, in his own palace at Warsaw. Not
content with this, they have distributed thousands of these documents
throughout Poland, so that the question to-day, in that miserable
hornets' nest, is not whether the right of the Confederates are to be
guaranteed to them, but whether the kingdom of Poland shall remain a
monarchy or be converted into a republic."

"If this be true, then Poland is lost, and there is no hope for the
Confederates," replied the empress. "I promised them protection against
foreign aggression, but with their internal quarrels I will not
interfere."

"It would be a dangerous precedent if Austria should justify those who
lay sacrilegious hands upon the crown of their lawful sovereign; and,
for my part, my principles forbid me to uphold a band of rebels, who are
engaged in an insolent conspiracy to dethrone their king."

"You are right, prince; it will never do for us to uphold them. As I
have openly declared my sympathy with the Confederates, so I must openly
express to them my entire disapprobation of their republican
proclivities."

"If your majesty does that, a war with France will be the consequence of
your frankness. France has promised succor to the Confederates, and has
already sent Dumouriez with troops, arms, and gold. France is longing to
have a voice in the differences between Russia and Turkey, and she only
awaits cooperation from Austria to declare openly against Russia. She
will declare against ourselves, if, after your majesty's promises, we
suddenly change front and take part against the seditious Poles."

"What can we do, then, to avert war?" cried the empress, anxiously. "Ah,
prince, you see that the days of my youth and my valor are past! I
shudder when I look back upon the blood that has been shed under my
reign, and nothing but the direst necessity will ever compel me to be
the cause of spilling another drop of Austrian blood. [Footnote: The
empress's own words. F. V. Raumor, "Contributions to Modern History."
vol. iv., p. 419.] How, then, shall we shape our course so as to avoid
war?"

"Our policy," said Kaunitz, "is to do nothing. We must look on and be
watchful, while we carefully keep our own counsel. We propitiate France
by allowing her to believe in the continuance of our sympathy with the
Poles, while we pacify Russia and Prussia by remaining actually
neutral."

"But while we temporize and equivocate," cried the empress, with fervor,
"Russia will annihilate the Poles, who, if they have gone too far in
their thirst for freedom, have valiantly contended for their just
rights, and are now about to lose them through the evils of disunion. It
grieves me to think that we are about to abandon an unhappy nation to
the oppression of that woman, who stops at nothing to compass her wicked
designs. She who did not shrink from the murder of her own husband, do
you imagine that she will stop short of the annexation of Poland to
Russia?"

"We will not suffer her to annex Poland," said Kaunitz, slowly nodding
his head. "As long as we are at peace with Russia, she will do nothing to
provoke our enmity; for France is at our side, and even Prussia would
remonstrate, if Catharine should be so bold as to appropriate Poland to
herself alone."

"You are mistaken. The King of Prussia, who is so covetous of that which
belongs to others, will gladly share the booty with Russia,."

"Austria could never suffer the copartnership. If such an emergency
should arise, we would have to make up our minds to declare war against
them both, or--"

"Or?" asked the empress, holding her breath, as he paused.

"Or," said Kaunitz, fixing his cold blue eye directly upon her face, "or
we would have to share with them."

"Share what?"

"The apple of discord. Anarchy is a three-headed monster; if it is to be
destroyed, every head must fall. It is now devouring Poland; and I think
that the three great powers are strong enough to slay the monster once
for all."

"This is all very plausible," said Maria Theresa, shaking her head, "but
it is not just. You will never convince me that good can be born of
evil. What you propose is neither more nor less than to smite the
suppliant that lies helpless at your feet. I will have nothing in common
with the Messalina who desecrates her sovereignty by the commission of
every unwomanly crime; and as for Frederick of Prussia, I mistrust him.
He has been my enemy for too many years for me ever to believe that he
can be sincerely my friend."

"France was our enemy for three hundred years, and yet we are allied by
more than ordinary ties."

"Our alliance will soon come to naught if we walk in the path to which
you would lead us, prince. France will not be dear to the misery of
Poland. She will hear the death-cry, and come to the rescue."

"No, your majesty, France will wait to see what we propose to do until
it is too late, and she will perceive that a resort to arms will in no
wise affect a fait accompli. I, therefore, repeat that the only way to
prevent the Polish conflagration from spreading to other nations is for
us to preserve a strict neutrality, taking part with neither disputant."

"War must be averted," exclaimed Maria Theresa, warmly. "My first duty is
to Austria, and Austria must have peace. To preserve this blessing to my
subjects, I will do any thing that is consistent with my honor and the
dictates of my conscience."

"Ah, your majesty, diplomacy has no conscience; it can have but one
rule--that of expediency."

"You concede, then, that the policy you advocate is not a conscientious
one?"

"Yes, your majesty; but it is one which it is imperative for us to
follow. Necessity alone decides a national course of action. A good
statesman cannot be a cosmopolitan. He looks out for himself, and leaves
others to do the same. If Poland succumbs, it will be because she has
not the strength to live. Therefore, if her hour be come, let her die.
We dare not go to her relief, for, before the weal of other nations, we
must have peace and prosperity for Austria."

"But suppose that France should insist that we define our position?"

"Then we can do so--in words. It is so easy to hide one's thoughts,
while we assure our allies of our 'distinguished consideration!'"

The empress heaved a deep sigh.

"I see," said she, "that clouds are gathering over the political
horizon, and that you are resolved to shield your own house, while the
tempest devastates the home of your neighbor. Be it so. I must have
peace; for I have no right to sacrifice my people before the altars of
strange gods. This is my first great obligation, and all other claims
must give way to it.--

"THEY MUST GIVE WAY," continued the empress, slowly communing with
herself, "but oh! it seems cruel. I scarcely dare ask myself what is to
be the fate of Poland? Heaven direct us, for all human wisdom has come
to naught!"

Then, turning toward Kaunitz, she held out her hand.

"Go, prince," said she, "and be assured that what we have spoken to each
other to-day shall remain sacred between us."

The prince bowed, and left he room.

The empress was alone. She went to and fro, while her disturbed
countenance betrayed the violent struggle that was raging in her noble,
honest heart.

"I know what they want," murmured she. "Joseph thirsts for glory and
conquest, and Kautnitz upholds him. They want their share of the booty.
And they will overrule my sympathy, and prove to me that I am bound to
inaction. Poland will be dismembered, and I shall bear my portion of the
crime. I shudder at the deed, and yet I cannot raise my hand without
shedding my people's blood. I must take counsel of Heaven!"

She rang, and commanded the presence of her confessor.

"Perhaps he will throw some light upon this darkness, and the just God
will do the rest!"



CHAPTER LXX.

GOSSIP.

The Countess Wielopolska was alone in her room. She walked to and fro;
sometimes stopping before a large pier-glass to survey her own person,
sometimes hastening to the window, at the sound of a carriage passing
by; then retiring disappointed as the vehicle went on.

"He comes late," thought she. "Perhaps he has forgotten that he promised
to come. Gracious Heaven! what, if he should be proof against the
blandishments of woman! I fear me he is too cold--and Poland will be
lost. And yet his eye, when it rests upon me, speaks the language of
love, and his hand trembles when it touches mine. Ah! And I--when he is
by, I sometimes forget the great cause for which I live, and--no, no,
no!" exclaimed she aloud, "it must not, shalt not be! My heart must know
but one love--the love of country. Away with such silly, girlish
dreaming! I am ashamed--"

Here the countess paused, to listen again, for this time a carriage
stopped before the door, and the little French clock struck the hour.

"He comes," whispered she, scarcely breathing, and she turned her bright
smiling face toward the door. It opened, and admitted a young woman
whose marvellous beauty was enhanced by all the auxiliaries of a superb
toilet and a profusion of magnificent jewels.

"Countess Zamoiska," exclaimed the disappointed hostess, coming forward,
and striving to keep up the smile.

"And why such a cold reception, my dear Anna," asked the visitor, with a
warm embrace. "Am I not always the same Luschinka, to whom you vowed
eternal friendship when we were school-girls together?"

"We vowed eternal friendship," sighed the Countess Wielopolska, "but
since we were happy school-girls, six years have gone by, and fearful
tragedies have arisen to darken our lives and embitter our young
hearts."

"Pshaw!" said the lady, casting admiring glances at herself in the
mirror. "I do not know why these years should be so sad to you. They
have certainly improved your beauty, for I declare to you, Anna, that
you were scarcely as pretty when you left school as you are today. Am I
altered for the worse? My heart, as you see, has not changed, for as
soon as I heard you were in Vienna, I flew to embrace you. What a pity,
your family would mix themselves up in those hateful politics! You might
have been the leader of fashion in Warsaw. And your stupid husband, too,
to think of his killing himself on the very day of a masked ball, and
spoiling the royal quadrille!"

"The royal quadrille," echoed the countess, in an absent tone; "yes, the
king, General Repnin, he who put to death so many Polish nobles, and the
brutal Branicki, whose pastime it is to set fire to Polish villages,
they were to have been the other dancers."

"Yes and they completed their quadrille, in spite of Count Wielopolska.
Bibeskoi offered himself as a substitute, and sat up the whole night to
learn the figures. Bibeskoi is a delightful partner."

"A Russian," exclaimed the countess.

"What signifies a man's nation when he dances well?" laughed the lady.
"Tris done, ma chere, are you still mad on the subject of politics? And
do you still sympathize with the poor crazy Confederates?"

"You know, Luschinka, that Count Pac was my father's dearest friend."

"I know it, poor man; he is at the top and bottom of all the trouble. I
beseech you, chere Anna, let us put aside politics; I cannot see what
pleasure a woman can find in such tiresome things. Mon Dieu, there are
so many other things more pleasing as well as more important! For
instance: how do people pass their time in Vienna? Have you many lovers?
Do you go to many balls?"

"Do you think me so base that I could dance while Poland is in chains?"
said the countess, frowning.

The Countess Zamoiska laughed aloud. "Voyons--are you going to play
Jeanne d'Arc to bring female heroism into fashion? Oh, Anna! We have
never had more delightful balls in Warsaw than have been given since so
many Russian regiments have been stationed there."

"You have danced with those who have murdered your brothers and
relatives?--danced while the people of Poland are trodden under foot!"

"Ah, bah! Ne parlez pas du people!" cried the Countess Zamoiska, with a
gesture of disgust. "A set of beastly peasants, no better than their own
cattle, or a band of genteel robbers, who have made it unsafe to live
anywhere on Polish soil, even in Warsaw."

"You are right," sighed the Countess Wielopolska, "let us drop politics
and speak of other things."

"A la bonne heure. Let us have a little chronique scandaleuse. Ah, ma
chere, I am at home there, for we lead an enchanting life in Warsaw. The
king is a handsome man, and, in spite of the Empress Catharine, his
heart is still susceptible of the tender passion. You remember his
liaison with the Countess Kanizka, your sister-in-law?"

"A base, dishonored woman, who stooped to be the mistress of the man who
has betrayed her country!"

"A king, nevertheless, and a very handsome man; and she was inconsolable
when he ceased to love her."

"Ah! she was abandoned, then, was she?" cried the Countess Wielopolska.

"Oh no, dear Anna! Your sister-in-law was not guilty of the belise of
playing Queen Dido. As she felt quite sure that the king would leave her
soon or late, she anticipated the day, and left him. Was it not
excellent? She went off with Prince Repnin."

"Prince Repnin!" exclaimed the countess with horror. "The Russian
ambassador!"

"The same. You should have seen the despair of the king. But he was
amiable even in his grief. He tried all sorts of lover's stratagems to
win back the countess; he prowled around her house at night singing like
a Troubadour; be wrote her bushels of letters to implore an interview.
All in vain. The liaison with Repnin was made public, and that, of
course, ended the affair. The king was inconsolable. [Footnote: Wraxall,
"Memoirs of the Court of Vienna," vol. ii., p. 96.] He gave ball after
ball, never missed an evening at the theatre, gambled all night, gave
sleighing parties, and so on, but it was easy to see that his heart was
broken; and had not Tissona, the pretty cantatrice, succeeded in
comforting him, I really do believe that our handsome king would have
killed himself for despair."

"Ah, he is consoled, is he?" said the countess with curling lips. "He
jests and dances, serenades and gambles, while the gory knout reeks with
the noblest blood in Poland, and her noblest sons are staggering along
the frozen wastes of Siberia! Oh Stanislaus! Stanislaus! A day of
reckoning will come for him who wears the splendor of royalty, yet casts
away its obligations!"

"Vraiment, dear Anna, to hear your rhapsodies, one would almost believe
you to be one of the Confederates who lately attempted the life of the
king," cried the Countess Zamoiska, laughing.

"Who attempted the king's life?" said the countess, turning pale.

"Why three robbers: Lukawski, Strawinski, and Kosinski."

"I never heard of it," replied the countess, much agitated. "Tell me
what you know of it, if you can, Luschinka."

"It is an abominable thing, and long too," said Luschinka, with a shrug.
"The conspirators were disguised as peasants, and actually had the
assurance to come to Warsaw. There were thirty of them, but the three I
tell you of were the leaders. The king was on his way to his uncle's
palace, which is in the suburbs of Warsaw. They had the insolence to
fall upon him in the streets, and his attendants got frightened and ran
off. Then the conspirators tore the king from his coach and carried him
off, swearing that if he uttered one cry they would murder him. Wasn't
it awful? Do you think that the dear king didn't have the courage to
keep as quiet as a mouse while they took him off with them to the forest
of Bielani? Here they robbed him of all he had, leaving him nothing but
the ribbon that belonged to the order of the White Eagle. Then they
dispersed to give the news of his capture to their accomplices, and
Kosinski was left to dispatch him. Did you ever!"

"Further, further!" said the countess, scarcely able to speak, as her
old school-mate paused in her narrative.

Luschinka laughed. "Doesn't it sound just like a fairy tale, Anna? But
it is as true as I live, and happened on the third of November of this
blessed year 1771. So Kosinski and six others dragged and dragged the
king until he lost his shoes, and was all torn and scratched, and even
wounded. Whenever the others wanted to stop and kill the king, Kosinski
objected that the place was not lonely enough. All at once they came
upon the Russian patrol. Then the five other murderers ran off, leaving
the king and Kosinski alone."

"And Kosinski?" asked the countess, with anxiety.

"Kusinski went on with his sword drawn over the king's head, although he
begged him for rest. But the king saw that Kosinski looked undecided and
uneasy, so as they came near to the Convent of Bielani, he said to
Kosinski, 'I see that you don't know which way to act, so you had
better let me go into the convent to hide, while you make your escape by
some other way.' But Kosinski said no, he had sworn to kill him. So they
went on farther, until they came to Mariemont, a castle belonging to the
Elector of Saxony. Here the king begged for rest, and they sat down and
began to talk. Then Kosinkski told the king he was not killing him of
his own will, but because he had been ordered to do so by others, to
punish the king for all his sins, poor fellow! against Poland. The king
then said it was not his fault, but all the fault of Russia, and at last
he softened the murderer's heart. Kosinski threw himself at the king's
feet and begged pardon, and promised to save him. So Stanislaus promised
to forgive him, and it was all arranged between them. They went on to a
mill near Mariemont, and begged the miller to let in two travellers who
had lost their way. At first the miller took them to be robbers, but
after a great deal of begging, he let them in. Then the king tore a leaf
out of his pocket-book, and wrote a note to General Cocceji. The
miller's daughter took it to Warsaw, not without much begging on the
king's part; and you can conceive the joy of the people when they heard
that the king was safe, for everybody seeing his cloak in the streets,
and his hat and plume on the road, naturally supposed that he had been
murdered. Well, General Cocceji, followed by the whole court, hurried to
the mill; and when they arrived, there was Kosinski standing before the
door with a drawn sword in his hand. He let in the general, and there on
the floor, in the miller's shirt, lay the king fast asleep. So Cocceji
went down on his knees and kissed his hand, and called him his lord and
king, and the people of the mill, who had never dreamed who it was, all
dropped on their knees and begged for mercy. So the king then forgave
everybody, and went back to Warsaw with Cocceji. This, my dear, is a
true history of the attempt that was made by the Confederates on the
life of the handsomest man in Poland!" [Footnote: Wraxall, "Memoirs,"
vol. ii., p. 76.]

"A strange and sad history," said the Countess Anna. "However guilty the
king may be, it would be disgraceful if he were murdered by his own
subjects."

"Oh, my love, these Confederates refuse to acknowledge him for their
king! Did you not know that they had been so ridiculous as to depose
him?"

"What have the Confederates to do with a band of robbers who plundered
the king and would have murdered him?" asked Anna indignantly." Are they
to be made answerable for the crimes of a horde of banditti?"

"Ma chere, the banditti were the tools of the Confederates. They have
been taken, and every thing has been discovered. Pulawski, their great
hero, hired the assassins and bound them by an oath. Letters found upon
Lukawski, who boasts of his share in the villany, shows that Pulawski
was the head conspirator, and that the plot had been approved by Zaremba
and Pac!"

"Then all is lost!" murmured Anna. "If the Confederates have sullied the
honor of Poland by consenting to crime as a means to work out her
independence, Poland will never regain her freedom. Oh, that I should
have lived to see this day!"

She covered her face with her hands, and sobbed aloud.

"Vraiment, Anna," said the Countess Zamoiska pettishly, "I cannot
understand you. Instead of rejoicing over the king's escape, here you
begin to cry over the sins of his murderers. All Poland is exasperated
against them, and nothing can save them. [Footnote: Lukawski and
Strawinski were executed. They died cursing Kosinski as a traitor.
Wraxall, vol. ii., p. 83.] So, dear Anna, dry your eyes, or they will be
as red as a cardinal's hat. Goodness me, if I hadn't wonderful strength
of mind, I might have cried myself into a fright long ago; for you have
no idea of the sufferings I have lived through. You talk of Poland, and
never ask a word about myself. It shows how little interest you feel in
me, that you still call me by the name of my first husband."

"Are you married a second time?" asked Anna, raising her head.

"Ah, ma chere, my name has not been Zamoiska for four years. Dear me!
The king knows what misery it is to be tied to a person that loves you
no longer; and luckily for us, he has the power of divorce. He does it
for the asking, and every divorce is a signal for a succession of
brilliant balls; for you understand that people don't part to go on and
pout. They marry at once, and, of course everybody gives balls, routs,
and dinners, in honor of the weddings."

"Have you married again in this way?" asked the countess, gravely.

"Oh yes," replied the unconscious Luschinka; "I have been twice married
and twice divorced; but it was not my fault. I loved my first husband
with a depth of passion which he could not appreciate, and I was in an
agony of despair when six months after our marriage he told me that he
loved me no longer, and was dying for the Countess Luwiendo. She was my
bosom friend, so you can imagine my grief; mais j'ai su faire bonne mine
a mauvais jeux. I invited the countess to my villa, and there, under the
shade of the old trees in the park, we walked arm in arm, and arranged
with my husband all the conditions of the separation. Every one praised
my generous conduct; the men in particular were in raptures, and Prince
Lubomirski, on the strength of it, fell so desperately in love with me,
that he divorced his wife and offered me his hand."

"You did not accept it!" exclaimed Countess Anna.

"What a question!" said the ex-countess, pouting. "The prince was young,
rich, charming and a great favorite with the king. We loved each other,
and, of course, were married. But, indeed, my dear, love does seem to
have such butterfly wings that you scarcely catch it before it is gone!
My second husband broke my heart exactly as my first had done; he asked
me to leave him, and of course I had to go. Men are abominable beings,
Anna: scarcely were we divorced before he married a third wife."
[Footnote: Wraxall, ii., p. 110.]

"Poland is lost--lost!" murmured the Countess Anna. "She is falling
under the weight of her children's crimes. Lost! O Poland, my unhappy
country!"

"Au contraire, ma chere, Warsaw was never gayer than it is at present.
Did I not tell you that every divorce was followed by a marriage, and
that the king was delighted with the masquerades and balls, and all that
sort of thing? Why, nothing is heard in Warsaw at night but laughter,
music, and the chink of glasses."

"And nevertheless you could tear yourself away" said the Countess
ironically.

"I had to go," sighed the princess. "I am on my way to Italy. You see,
ma chere, it would have been inconvenient and might have made me
ridiculous to go out in society, meeting my husbands with their two
wives, and I--abandoned by both these faithless men. I should have been
obliged to marry a third time, but my heart revolted against it." "Then
you travel alone to Italy?"

"By no means, mon amour, I am travelling with the most bewitching
creature!--my lover. Oh, Anna, he is the handsomest man I ever laid my
eyes upon; the most delightful! and he paints so divinely that the
Empress Catharine has appointed him her court painter. I love him beyond
all expression; I adore him! You need not smile, Anna, que voulez-vous?
Le coeur toujours vierge pour un second amour."

"If you love him so dearly, why, then, does your heart revolt against a
marriage with him?" asked the Countess Anna.

"I told you he was a painter, and not a nobleman," answered the
ex-princess, impatiently. "One loves an artist, but cannot marry him. Do
you suppose I would be so ridiculous as to give up my title to be the
respectable wife of a painter? The Princess Lubomirski a Madame Wand,
simple Wand! Oh, no! I shall travel with him, but I will not marry him."

"Then go!" exclaimed the Countess Anna, rising, and casting looks of
scorn upon the princess. "Degenerate daughter of a degenerate
fatherland, go, and drag your shame with you to Italy! Go, and enjoy
your sinful lusts, while Poland breathes her last, and vultures prey
upon her dishonored corpse. But take with you the contempt of every
Polish heart, that beats with love for the land that gave you birth!"

She turned, and without a word of farewell, proudly left the room. The
princess raised her brow and opened her pretty mouth in bewilderment;
then rising, and going up to the mirror, she smoothed her hair and began
to laugh.

"What a pathetic fool!" said she. "Anybody might know that her mother
had been an actress. To think of the daughter of an artiste getting up a
scene because a princess will not stoop to marry a painter! Queulle
betise!"

With these words she went back to her carriage and drove off.



CHAPTER LXXI.

AN EXPLANATION.

The Countess Anna, meanwhile, had retired to her room. Exhausted by her
own emotions, she sank into a chair, and clasping her hands
convulsively, she stared, with distended eyes, upon the blank wall
opposite.

She was perfectly unconscious that, after a time, the door had opened
and Matuschka stood before her. It was not until the old woman had taken
her hand and raised it to her lips, that she started from her mournful
reverie.

"What now, Matuschka?" said she, awakening from her dream.

"My lady, I come to know what we are to do. The pearl necklace and
wreath are sold, and they have maintained the Countess Wielopolska as
beseems her rank; but we live upon our capital, and it lessens every
day. Oh, my lady, why will you conceal your poverty, when the emperor--"

"Peace!" interrupted the countess. "When we speak of our poverty don't
name the emperor. If there is no more money in our purse, take the
diadem of brilliants, sell the diamonds and replace them with false
stones. They will bring a thousand ducats, and that sum will last us for
a whole year."

"And then?" sobbed Matuschka.

"And then," echoed the countess, thoughtfully, "then we will either be
happy or ready for death. Go, Matuschka, let no one know that I am
selling my diamonds; but replace them by to-morrow morning; for I must
wear them at the emperor's reception."

"Your whole set, pearls and diamonds, are now false," said the
persevering servant. "What will the emperor say when he hears of it?"

"He must never know of it. Now go, and return quickly."

Matuschka, looking almost angrily at her lady, left the room. In the
anteroom stood a man wrapped in a cloak. She went quickly up to him with
the open etui.

"The diamond coronet," whispered she. "I am to sell the jewels and have
their places filled with false ones. It is to be done before to-morrow."

"How much does she expect for it?" asked the visitor in a low voice

"A thousand ducats, sire."

"I will send the sum to-night. Hide the coronet until to-morrow and then
return it to her. Where is she?"

"In her cabinet, your majesty."

"Let no one enter until I return."

He then threw down his cloak, and without knocking opened the door. The
countess was still lost in thought. She still gazed at the blank wall,
still heard the flippant voice which had poured out its profanity as
though life had been a jest and immorality a dream.

The emperor stopped to contemplate her for a moment, and his large,
loving eyes rested fondly on her noble form.

"Countess Anna," said he, softly.

"The emperor!" exclaimed she, rising and coming joyfully forward, while
a deep blush overspread her face.

"What! Will you not respect my incognito? Will you not receive me as
Count Falkenstein?"

"Is not the name of the emperor the first that is pronounced by the
priest when he prays before the altar for his fellow-creatures?" replied
she, with an enchanting smile. "Think of my heart as a priest, and let
that name be ever the first I speak in my prayers to Heaven."

"By heaven, if priests resembled you, I should not hate them as I do.
Come, my lovely priestess, then call me emperor if you will, but receive
me as Count Falkenstein."

"Welcome, count," replied she, cheerfully.

"God be praised, then, my royalty has disappeared for a while," said
Joseph.

"And yet, my lord and emperor, it is the privilege of royalty to heal
all wounds, to wipe away all tears, and to comfort all sorrow. What a
magnificent prerogative it is to hold in one's own hand the happiness of
thousands?"

"What is happiness, sweet moralist?" cried Joseph. "Mankind are forever
in search of it, yet no man has ever found it." "What is happiness!"
exclaimed she, with enthusiasm. "It is to have the power of ruling
destiny--it is to stand upon the Himalaya of your might; when,
stretching forth your imperial hand, you can say to the oppressed among
nations, 'Come unto me, ye who strive against tyranny, and I will give
you freedom!'"

"In other words," replied the emperor, with an arch smile, "it is to
march to Poland and give battle to the Empress of Russia."

"It is, it is!" cried she, with the fervor of a Miriam. "It is to be the
Messiah of crucified Freedom, to redeem your fellows from bondage, and
to earn the blessings of a people to whom your name, for all time, will
stand as the type of all that is great in a sovereign and good in a man!
Oh, Emperor of Austria, be the generous redeemer of my country!"

And scarcely knowing what she said, she took his hand and pressed it to
her heart.

Joseph withdrew it gently, saying, "Peace, lovely enthusiast, peace!
Give politics to the winds! She is an abominable old hag, and the very
rustling of her sibylline leaves as she turns them over in the cabinet
of the empress makes me shudder with disgust. Let us drive her hence,
then. I came hither to taste a few drops of happiness at YOUR side,
sweet Anna."

The countess sighed wearily as the emperor drew her to his side; and her
pale, inspired face was turned upon him with a look of unutterable
anguish.

The emperor saw it, and leaned his head back upon the cushion of the
sofa. After a pause he said: "How sweet it is to be here!"

"And yet you came late," whispered she, reproachfully.

"Because I travelled by a circuitous route; got into one hackney-coach
and out of another; drove hither, thither, and everywhere, to baffle my
mother's spies. Do you suppose that any one of her bigoted followers
would believe in a chaste friendship like ours? Do you suppose they
would understand the blameless longings I have to see your lovely face,
and to listen to the melody of your matchless voice? Tell me, Countess
Anna, how have I deserved the rich boon of your friendship?"

"Nay, Count Falkenstein," replied she, with a bewitching smile, "tell me
how I have earned yours? Moreover, who tells you that I am disinterested
in my sentiments? The day may come when you will understand how entirely
I rely upon you for assistance."

"But you have not given your friendship exclusively for the sake of the
day that may come? Have you?" said the emperor, with a piercing glance
at her beautiful pale face.

The countess cast down her eyes and blushed. "Do you mistrust me?" asked
she in a low, trembling voice.

"Give me a proof of your confidence in me," said Joseph, rising and
taking both her hands in his. "You call me friend--give me, then, the
right of a friend. Let me in some degree replace to you the fortune of
which the Russian empress has robbed you."

"You are mistaken, sire," said the countess, proudly; "the Russian did
not rob me of every thing. She took my lands, but I have invested funds
in foreign securities which yield me an ample income. I have also my
family jewels, and as long as you see me wearing them you may feel sure
that I have other means of support."

The emperor shook his head. "You are not wearing your family jewels,
Anna," said he.

"How, sire!" exclaimed she, blushing.

He leaned over, and in a low voice said, "Your jewels are false, your
pearls are imitation, and there is not a single diamond in that coronet
you intend to wear at my mother's reception to-morrow."

The cheeks of the countess grew scarlet with confusion, and her head
dropped with shame. The emperor laid his hand upon her arm. "Now, Anna,"
said he, tenderly, "now that I know all, grant me the happiness of
relieving you from your temporary embarrassments. Gracious Heaven! You
who are not ashamed to confide your distress to pawnbrokers and
jewellers, you refuse to trust ME!"

"I would rather be under obligations to a stranger than to a friend,"
returned the countess in a voice scarcely audible.

"But, Anna," cried the emperor, with a sudden burst of feeling, "you
would rattler be obliged to the man whom you loved than to a stranger.
Oh, if you but loved me, there would be no question of 'mine or thine'
between us! It is said--I have betrayed myself, and I need stifle my
passion no longer; for I love you, beautiful Anna, I love you from my
soul, and, at your feet, I implore you to give me that which is above
all wealth or titles. Give me your love, be mine. Answer me, answer me.
Do you love me?"

"I do," whispered she, without raising her head.

The emperor threw his arm around her waist. "Then," said he, "from this
hour you give me the right to provide for you. Do you not?"

"No, sire, I can provide for myself."

"Then," cried Joseph, angrily, "you do not love me?"

"Yes, sire, I love you. You predicted that my heart would find its
master. It has bowed before you and owns your sway. In the name of that
love I crave help for Poland. She cries to Heaven for vengeance, and
Heaven has not heard the cry. She is threatened by Russia and Prussia,
and if noble Austria abandon her, she is lost! Oh, generous Austria,
rescue my native land from her foes!"

"Ah!" exclaimed the emperor, sarcastically, "you call me Austria, and
your love is bestowed upon my station and my armies! It is not I whom
you love, but that Emperor of Austria in whose hand lies the power that
may rescue Poland. "

"I love YOU; but my love is grafted upon the hope I so long have
cherished that in you I recognize the savior of my country."

"Indeed!" cried the emperor, with a sneer.

The countess did not hear him. She continued: "Until I loved you, every
throb of my heart belonged to Poland. She, alone, was the object of my
love and of my prayers. But since then, sire, the holy fire that burned
upon the altar is quenched. I am faithless to my vestal vow, and I feel
within my soul the tempest of an earthly passion. I have broken the oath
that I made to my dying mother, for there is one more dear to me than
Poland now, and for him are the prayers, the hopes, the longings, and
the dreams that all belonged to Poland! Oh, my lord and my lover,
reconcile me to my conscience! Let me believe that my loves are one; and
on the day when your victorious eagles shall have driven away the
vultures that prey upon my fatherland, I will throw myself at your feet,
and live for your love alone."

"Ah, indeed," said the emperor, with a sardonic laugh: "you will go to
such extremity in your patriotism! You will sell yourself, that Poland
may be redeemed through your dishonor. I congratulate you upon your
dexterous statesmanship. You sought me, I perceive, that by the magic of
your intoxicating beauty, you might lure me to sacrifice the lives of my
people in behalf of yours. Your love is a stratagem of diplomacy,
nothing more."

"Oh, sire," cried she, in tones of anguish, "you despise then?"

"Not at all; I admire your policy, but unhappily it is only partially
successful. You had calculated that I would not be proof against your
beauty, your talents, your fascinations. You are right; I am taken in
the snare, for I love you madly."

"And do I not return your love from my heart?" asked she.

"Stay," cried Joseph, "hear me out. One-half your policy, I say, was
successful; the other has been at fault. As your lover I will do any
thing that man can do to make you happy; but my head belongs to my
fatherland, and you cannot rule it, through my heart."

"Sire, I seek nothing that is inconsistent with Austria's welfare. I ask
help for Poland."

"Which help might involve Austria in a ruinous war with two powerful
nations, and leave her so exhausted that she would have to stand by and
witness the partition of Poland without daring to claim a share for
herself."

"The partition of Poland!" exclaimed the countess, with a cry of horror.
"Avenging God, wilt Thou suffer such culmination of human wickedness!
And you, sire, could you share in such a crime? But, no! no! no!--see
how misfortune has maddened me, when I doubt the honor of the noble
Emperor of Austria! Never would the lofty and generous Joseph stoop to
such infamy as this!"

"If Poland must succumb, I will act as becomes my station and
responsibilities as the sovereign of a great empire, and I will do that
which the wisdom and prudence of my mother shall dictate to her son. But
Anna, dear Anna," continued he, passionately, "why should the sweet
confession of our love be lost in the turbid roar of these political
waters? Tell me that you love me as a woman ought to love, having no
God, no faith, no country, but her lover; losing her identity and living
for his happiness alone!"

"I love you, I love you," murmured she, with indescribable tenderness;
and clasping her hands, she fell upon her knees and raised her eyes to
him with a look that made him long to fold her to his heart, and yield
up his empire, had she requested it, at his hands.

"Help for Poland," prayed she again, "help for Poland, and I am yours
forever!"

Joseph grew angry with himself and with her. "Love does not chaffer,"
said he, rudely. "When a woman loves, she must recognize her master and
bow before his will--otherwise there is no love. For the last time I
ask, do you love me?"

"More than life or honor."

"Then be a woman, and yield yourself to me. Away with nationality--it
is an abstraction. What are Poland and the world to you? Here, upon my
heart, are your country and your altars. Come, without condition and
without reserve. I cannot promise to free Poland, but, by the bright
heaven above us, I swear to make you happy!"

She shook her head mournfully, and rose from her knees.

"Make me happy?" echoed she. "For me there can be no happiness while
Poland sorrows."

"Say that again," thundered the emperor, "and we part forever!"

"I say it again!" said she, with proud tranquillity, but pale as death.

"And yet, if I am not ready to sacrifice my own people for yours, you
will not believe in my love! You are unwilling to give up an idle dream
of Polish freedom; and you ask of me, a man and an emperor, that I shall
bring to you the offering of my own honor and of my people's happiness!"

She said nothing.

"It is enough!" cried Joseph, his eyes flashing with anger. "Pride
against pride! We part. For the first thing I require of a woman who
loves me, is submission. It grieves me bitterly to find you so
unwomanly. I would have prized your love above every earthly blessing,
had you given it freely. Conditionally I will not accept it; above all,
when its conditions relate to the government of my empire. No woman
shall ever have a voice in my affairs of state. If, for that reason, she
reject me, I must submit; although, as at this moment, my heart bleeds
at her rejection."

"And mine? MY HEART?" exclaimed the countess, raising her tearful eyes
to his.

"Pride will cure you," replied he, with a bitter smile. "Go back to your
fatherland that you love so well and I shall imitate you, and turn to
mine for comfort. There is many a mourning heart in Austria less haughty
than yours, to which, perchance, I may be able to bring joy or
consolation. God grant me some compensation in life for the supreme
misery of this hour! Farewell, Countess Wielopolska. To-night I leave
Vienna."

He crossed the room, while she looked after him as though her lips were
parting to utter a cry.

At the door he turned once more to say farewell. Still she spoke not a
word, but looked as though, like Niobe, she were stiffening into marble.

The emperor opened the door, and passed into the anteroom.

As he disappeared, she uttered a low cry, and clasped both her hands
over her heart.

"My God! my God! I love him," sobbed she, and reeling backward, she fell
fainting to the floor.



CHAPTER LXXII

FAMINE IN BOHEMIA.

The cry of distress from Bohemia reached Vienna, and came to the
knowledge of the emperor. Joseph hastened to bring succor and comfort to
his unhappy subjects.

The need great. Two successive years of short harvest had spread want
and tribulation throughout all Germany, especially in Bohemia and
Moravia, where a terrible inundation, added to the failure of the crops,
had destroyed the fruits and vegetables of every field and every little
garden.

The country was one vast desert. From every cottage went forth the wail
of hunger. The stalls were empty of cattle, the barns of corn. The
ploughs lay empty on the ground, for there was neither grain to sow nor
oxen to drive. There were neither men nor women to till the soil, for
there was no money to pay nor food to sustain them. Each man was alone
in his want, and each sufferer in the egotism of a misery that stifled
all humanity, complained that no one fed him, when all were fainting for
lack of food.

"Bread! bread!" The dreadful cry arose from hundreds of emaciated
beings, old and young, who, in the crowded cities, lay dying in the
streets, their wasted hands raised in vain supplication to the
passers-by.

"Bread! bread!" moaned the peasant in his hut, and the villager at the
way-side; as with glaring eyes they stared at the traveller, who, more
fortunate than they, was leaving Bohemia for happier climes, and,
surely, in gratitude for his own rescue, would throw a crust to the
starving wretches whom he left behind.

There they lay, watching for the elegant carriages, the horsemen, the
wagons, that were accustomed to pass there on their road to Prague. But
now the high-road was empty, for the famine had extended to Prague, and
no one cared to go thither.

And yet on either side of the road were hundreds of beings who long ago
had left their miserable huts, and now lay in heaps upon the ground, the
heavens their only shelter, the wide world their home. These were the
inhabitants of the mountains, who had come down to the neighboring
villages for help, but had been rudely driven away by those whose
sufferings had maddened them, and turned their hearts to stone.

They had lain there for a day, and yet not one trace of a traveller had
they seen. The mid-day sun had blistered their foreheads, but they had
not felt it, for the fiery pangs of hunger were keener than the sun; and
now the evening air that fanned their burning brows, brought no relief,
for fiercer and more cruel grew the gnawings of the fiend within.

"There is no help on earth," cried an old woman, the grandmother of a
whole generation of stalwart mountaineers who lay stricken around her.
There were her son and his wife, once such a stately pair, now reduced
to two pale spectres; there were troops of grandchildren, once
round-cheeked as the carved angels on the altar of the village chapel,
now hollow-eyed and skinny, with their blanched faces upturned
imploringly to the parents who were scarcely conscious of their presence
there. Hunger had extinguished youth, strength, beauty, and had almost
uprooted love. Not only had it destroyed their bodies, but it had even
corrupted their souls.

"There is no help on earth," cried the old woman again, with such energy
of despair that her voice found its way to the dull ear of every
sufferer around. And now from every hollow voice came back the mournful
chorus, "There is no help on earth!"

"There is no help in heaven!" shrieked an old man, who with his family
was lying in a hollow, whence their moans were heard as though coming
from the grave. "There is no God in heaven, else He would hear our
cries? There is no God!"

"There is no God!" echoed the maddened wretches, and many a wasted arm
was raised in defiance to heaven.

"Peace, peace, my friends!" cried the grandmother, "let us not sin
because we starve. We can but die, and the Lord will receive us!" And as
she spoke, she raised her trembling body and stretched forth her poor,
withered arms, as though she would have calmed the tempest she had
raised.

"Peace, Father Martin!" cried she, in a voice of authority. "There is a
God above, but He has turned away His face because of our sins. Let us
pray to see the light of His countenance. Come, friends, let its gather
up all our strength and pray."

She arose and knelt, while, inspired by her example, the multitude knelt
also. Old and young, men and women, all with one supreme effort lifted
up their hands to heaven.

But the prayer was over, the petitioners fell prostrate to the earth,
and still no sign of help from above!

"You see, Mother Elizabeth," groaned Father Martin, "your prayers are
all in vain. Heaven is empty, and we must die."

"We must die, we must die!" howled the famishing multitude, and,
exhausted by the might of their own despair, they fell to rise no more.
A long, tearful silence ensued. Here and there a faint moan struggled
for utterance, and a defiant arm was raised as though to threaten
Omnipotence; then the poor, puny creatures, whom hunger had bereft of
reason, shivered, dropped their hands, and again lay still.

Suddenly the silence was broken by the faint sound of carriage-wheels.
Nearer and more near it came, until the horses' heads were to be seen
through the clouds of dust that enveloped the vehicle. The poor peasants
heard, but scarcely heeded it. They stared in mute despair, or
murmured, "It is too late!"

Still the carriage rolled on, the dust grew thicker, and now it hid from
the travellers' view the miserable wretches that lay dying around them.
But. Heaven be praised, they stop!

There were two carriages, followed by outriders. The first carriage
contained three persons, all clad in dark, plain civilian's clothes; but
it was easy to recognize, in the youngest of the three, the most
important personage of all. It was he who had given the order to halt,
and now without waiting for assistance, he leaped from the carriage and
walked at once to the foremost group of sufferers. He bent down to, the
old woman, who, turning her fever-stricken face to him, moaned feebly.

"What is the matter?" said the traveller, in a gentle and sympathizing
tone. "How can I help you?"

The old mother made a violent effort and spoke. "Hunger!" said she. "I
burn--burn--hunger!"

"Hunger! hunger!" echoed the people around, shaking off their lethargy,
and awakening once more to hope.

"Oh, my God, this woman will die before we can succor her!" exclaimed
the young man, sorrowfully. "Hasten; Lacy, and bring me some wine."

"We have none," replied Lacy. "Your majesty gave away your last bottle
in the village behind."

"But she will die!" exclaimed the emperor, as bending over the poor old
woman, he took her skinny hand in his.

"We must die," murmured she, while her parched tongue protruded from her
mouth.

"Sire, you are in danger," whispered Lacy,

"Rise, your majesty," interrupted Rosenberg, "these unhappy people have
the typhus that accompanies starvation, and it is contagious."

"Contagious for those who hunger, but not for us," replied Joseph. "Oh,
my friends," continued he, "see here are three generations all dying for
want of food. Gracious Heaven! They have lost all resemblance to
humanity. Hunger has likened them to animals. Oh, it is dreadful to
think that a crust of bread or a sip of wine might awaken these
suffering creatures to reason; but flour and grain can be of no avail
here!"

"They may avail elsewhere, sire," said Rosenberg, "and if we can do
nothing for these, let us go on and help others."

"It is fearful," said the emperor, "but I will not leave until I have
made an effort to save them."

He signed to one of his outriders, and taking out a leaf of his
pocket-book, wrote something upon it. "Gallop for your life to Prague,"
said he, "and give this paper to the lord steward of the palace. He must
at once send a wagon hither, laden with food and wine, and that he may
be able to do it without delay, tell him to take the stores from the
palace and all the viands that are preparing in the kitchen for my
reception. This paper will be your warrant. As soon as you shall have
delivered your message, fill a portmanteau with old Hungarian wine and
gallop back to me. Be here within two hours, if you kill two of my best
horses to compass the distance."

The outrider took the paper and, setting spurs to his horse, galloped
off to Prague.

"And now, my friends," continued the emperor, "although we have no wine,
we have bread and meat. Not much, it is true, but I think it will save
these people from death."

The emperor hastened in the direction of his carriage. "Quick, Gunther,
hand me the camp-chest."

"But your majesty has not eaten a morsel to-day," urged Rosenberg,
following him. "I cannot consent to see the food prepared for you,
bestowed upon any one. You will lose your health if you fast for such a
length of time. You owe it to your mother, the empress, and to your
subjects, not to deprive yourself of food."

"Do you think I could eat in the presence of such hunger?" cried the
emperor, impatiently. "Come, Gunther, come all of you, and help me. Here
is a large fowl. Cut it into little morsels, and--oh, what a
discovery!--a jar of beef jelly. While you carve the fowl, I will
distribute the jelly. Come, Lacy and Rosenberg, take each a portion of
this chicken, and cut it up."

"Good Heaven, Lacy, come to my relief!" cried Rosenberg. "The emperor is
about to give away his last morsel. We both have had breakfast, but he
has not tasted food for a day."

"He is right, our noble emperor," replied Lacy, "in the presence of such
suffering he is right to forget himself; if he could not do so, he would
not be worthy to be a sovereign."

The emperor heard none of this; he was already with the sufferers,
distributing his food. With earnest look, and firm and rapid hand, he
put a teaspoonful of jelly between the parched, half-opened lips of the
grandmother, while Gunther, imitating him, did the same for her son.

For a moment the emperor looked to see the effect of his remedy. He saw
an expression of joy flit over the features of the poor old woman, and
then her lips moved, and she swallowed the jelly.

"See, see!" cried the emperor, overjoyed, "she takes it. Oh, Gunther,
this will save them until help comes from Prague! But there are so many
of them! Do you think we have a hundred teaspoonfuls of jelly in the
jar?"

And he looked anxiously at Gunther.

"It is a large jar, your majesty," said Gunther, "and I think it will
hold out."

"Be sparing of it at any rate, and do not heap up your spoons. And now,
not another word! We must go to work."

He stooped down and spoke no more, but his face was lit up by the fire
of the Christian charity that was consuming his noble heart. He looked
as must have looked his ancestor Rudolph of Hapsburg, who, once meeting
a footsore priest bearing the viaticum to a dying parishioner, gave up
his horse to the servant of God, and continued his way on foot.

While the emperor flew from group to group, resuscitating his expiring
subjects, Lacy and Rosenberg were carefully cutting up the fowl that had
been roasted for his dinner. A deep silence reigned around, all nature
seemed to be at peace, and over the reclining sufferers the evening sun
threw long rays of rosy light, that illumined their pallid faces with
the hue of hope and returning life.

Gradually there was motion in the scene. Here and there a head arose
from the ground, then a body, and presently a gleam of intelligence shot
athwart those glaring, bloodshot eyes. The emperor watched them with a
happy smile. His errand of mercy was at an end. The jar was empty, but
every one had received a share, and all were reviving.

"Now give them a morsel of chicken," said Joseph. "A small piece will
suffice, for after their long fast they can only eat sparingly of food;
and they will have had enough until help come to us from Prague."

"Then," said Rosenberg, affectionately, "I hope that your majesty, too,
will take something. There will certainly be enough left for you to eat
your dinner without remorse."

"Never mind me, Rosenberg," laughed the emperor. "I shall not die of
starvation, I promise you. When the creature cries out for nourishment,
I shall give it; but I think that my Maker will not love me the less for
having, voluntarily, felt the pangs of hunger for once in my life. I can
never forget this day in Bohemia; it has confirmed my resolution to
reign for the good of my people alone, and as God hears me, they shall
be happy when I govern them.--But your chicken is ready. To satisfy
you, I will go and beg my supper in yonder village, and, as there are
enough of you to attend to these poor sufferers, I will take Lacy to
keep me company. Come, Lacy."

He took the arm of the field-marshal, and both presently disappeared
behind the trees.



CHAPTER LXXIII.

THE BLACK BROTH.

In a quarter of an hour they had reached the village. The same absence
of all life struck painfully upon the emperor's heart as they walked
along the deserted streets and heard nothing save the echo of their own
footsteps. Not the lowing of a cow nor the bleating of a sheep, not one
familiar rural sound broke the mournful stillness that brooded over the
air. Occasionally a ghastly figure in tattered garments, from whose
vacant eyes the light of reason seemed to have fled, was seen crouching
at the door of a hut, wherein his wife and children were starving. This
was the only token of life that greeted the eyes of the grave and silent
pair.

"Lacy," at last sighed the emperor, "how fearful is this deadly silence!
One might fancy that he walked in Pompeii; and Pompeii, alas, is not
more lonely. To think that I, an emperor, must look on and give no
help!"

"Oh, yes, sire, you can give help," said Lacy, encouragingly. "There
must be some means by which this fearful famine can be arrested."

"I have ordered corn from Hungary, where the harvest has been abundant.
To encourage the importation of grain in Bohemia, I have promised,
besides good prices, a premium of one hundred guilders for each
well-laden, four-horse wagon of grain that arrives before the expiration
of three weeks."

"But the people will be exhausted before three weeks."

"I have also ordered the commissary store-houses to be opened in Prague,
and the grain to be distributed."

"This will last but for a few days." returned Lacy, shaking his head.

"Then what can I do?" exclaimed the emperor, sorrowfully.

"The famine is so great that it can scarcely have arisen from natural
causes. Where scarcity is, there will always be found the extortioner,
who profits by it. Those who have grain are withholding it for higher
prices."

"Woe to them, if I light upon their stores!" exclaimed Joseph,
indignantly. "Woe to those who traffic in the fruits of the earth, which
God has bestowed for the use of all men!"

"Your majesty will not find them. They will be carefully hidden away
from your sight."

"I will seek until I find," replied the emperor. "But look there, Lacy,
what a stately dwelling rears its proud head beyond that grove of trees!
Is it the setting sun that gilds the windows just now?"

"No, your majesty, the light is from within. I suppose it is the castle
of the nobleman, who owns the village."

They walked a few paces farther, when the emperor spoke again. "See,
Lacy, here is a hut, from whose chimney I see smoke. Perhaps I shall
find something to eat within."

He opened the door of the cottage, and there on the floor, in a heap,
lay a woman with four children. Their hollow eyes were fixed without the
slightest interest upon the strangers, for they were in the last stage
of hunger-typhus, and saw nothing.

Lacy hurried the emperor away, saying, "Nothing can help these except
death. I know this terrible fever. I saw it in Moravia in '62."

They stepped from the cottage to the kitchen. A fire was burning in the
chimney, and before it stood a man who was stirring the contents of a
pot.

"God be praised!" exclaimed the emperor, "here is food."

The man turned and showed a sunken, famished countenance.

"Do you want supper?" said he roughly. "I have a mess in my pot that an
emperor might covet."

"He does covet it, my friend," said the emperor, laughing. "What have
you there?"

The man threw sinister glances at the well-dressed strangers, who jarred
the funeral air of his cottage with untimely mirth.

"Did you come here to mock me?" said he. "Fine folks, like you, are
after no good in a poor man's cottage. If you come here to pasture upon
our misery, go into the house, and there you will see a sight that will
rejoice the rich man's heart."

"No, my friend," replied the emperor, soothingly, "we come to ask for a
share of your supper."

The man broke out into a sardonic laugh. "My supper!" cried he. "Come,
then, and see it. It is earth and water!"

"Earth and water!" cried the horror-stricken Joseph.

The peasant nodded. "Yes," said he, "the earth gives growth to the corn,
and as I have got no corn, I am trying to see what it will do for me! I
have already tasted grass. It is so green and fresh, and seems so sweet
to our cattle, that we tried to eat the SWEET GREEN GRASS." And he
smiled, but it was the smile of a demon.

"Oh, my God!" cried the emperor.

"But it seems," continued the man, as though speaking to himself, "that
God loves cattle better than he does men; for the grass which
strengthens them, made us so sick, so sick, that it would have been a
mercy if we had all died. It seems that we cannot die, however, so now I
am going to eat the glorious earth. Hurrah! My supper is ready."

He swung the kettle upon the table and poured the black mass into a
platter.

"Now," said he, with a fiendish grin, "now will the great folks like to
sup with me?"

"Yes," said the emperor, gravely, "I will taste of your supper."

He stepped to the table, and took the spoon which the bewildered peasant
held out to him. Pale with excitement, the emperor put the spoon to his
mouth, and tasted. Then he reached it to Lacy.

"Taste it, Lacy" said he. "Oh, to think that these are men who suffer
the pangs of starvation!" And completely overcome by his sorrowing
sympathy, the emperor's eyes overflowed with tears.

The peasant saw them and said, "Yes, my lord, we are men, but God has
forsaken us. He has been more merciful to the cattle, for they have all
died."

"But how came this fearful famine among you?" asked Lacy. "Did you not
plant corn?"

"How could we plant corn when we had none? For two years our crops have
failed, and hunger has eaten our vitals until there is not a man in the
village who has the strength to raise a fagot."

"But I saw a castle as we came thither," said Lacy.

"Yes, you saw the castle of the Baron von Weifach. The whole country
belongs to him; but we are free peasants. As long as we made any thing,
we paid him our tithes. But we have nothing now."

And with a groan he sank down upon the wooden settle that stood behind
him.

"The baron does nothing for you, then?"

"Why should he?" said the man, with a bitter laugh. "We pay no more
tithes, and we are of no use to him. He prays every day for the famine
to last, and God hears his prayers, for God forsakes the poor and loves
the rich."

"But how does he profit by the famine?" asked Lacy.

"We have been profitable laborers to him, my lord. For several years
past, his corn-fields have been weighed down with golden tassels that
made the heart leap with joy at sight of their beauty. He had so much
that his barns would not hold it, and he had to put up other great
barns, thatched with straw, to shelter it. This year, it is true, he has
reaped nothing, but what of that? His barns are still full to
overflowing."

"But how comes there such famine, when his barns are full of corn?"
asked the emperor, who was listening with intense interest.

"That is a question which does little honor to your head, sir," said the
peasant, with a grating laugh. "The famine in Bohemia is terrible
precisely because the extortioners hold back their grain and will not
sell it."

"But there is a law against the hoarding of grain."

"Yes, there are laws made so that the poor may be punished by them and
the rich protected," said the peasant, with a sinister look. "Oh, yes,
there are laws! The rich have only to say that they have no corn, and
there the law ends."

"And you think that the Baron von Weifach has grain?"

The peasant nodded. "I know it," said he, "and when the time comes, he
will put it in the market."

"What time?"

"When the need of the people will be so great that they will part with
their last acre of land or last handful of gold for a few bushels of
grain. Several years ago, when corn was cheap, he sent his corn abroad
to a country where the harvest had been short; but he will not do so
this year, for the rich men have speculated so well that corn is dearer
here than it is over the frontiers. [Footnote: Gross-Hoffinger, "Life
and Reign of Joseph II.," vol. i., p. 138. Carl Ramshorn, "Life and
Times of Joseph II.," p. 99.] But I have enough of your questions. Let
me alone, and go about your business."

"Can you buy food with money?" asked the emperor, kindly.

"Yes, indeed, sir," said the peasant, while a ray of hope entered the
dark prison of his desponding heart. "If I had money, the housekeeper of
the baron would sell me bread, wheat, meat--oh, she would sell me any
thing if I had money to pay for it."

"Take this, then," said the emperor, laying several gold pieces on the
table. "I hope to bring you more permanent relief, later."

The peasant, with a cry, threw himself upon the gold. He paid no
attention whatever to the donor. Shouting for joy at the same time that
he was shedding tears in profusion, he darted, with his prize, to his
starving wife and children, to bid them live until he brought them food.

Without, stood the emperor and Lacy. "O God!" murmured he to himself,
"and I have thought myself a most unhappy man! What is the grief of the
heart to such bodily torture as this! Come, Lacy, come. The day of
reckoning is here, and, by the eternal God, I will punish the guilty!"

"What means your majesty?" asked Lacy, as the emperor, instead of
returning to the village, strode forward toward the path that led to the
castle.

"I mean to go at once to yonder castle," cried lie, with a threatening
gesture, "and my hand shall fall heavily upon the extortioner who
withholds his grain from the people."

"But your majesty," urged Lacy, "the word of one discontented peasant is
not enough to convict a man. You must have proofs before you condemn
him."

"True, Lacy, you are right. I must seek for proofs."

"How, your majesty?"

"By going to the castle. My plan is already laid. As they seem to be
feasting to-day, I am likely to find a goodly assemblage of rich men
together. I must get an invitation to the feast, and once there, if the
charge be just, I promise to furnish the proofs."

"Your majesty's undertaking is not a safe one. I must, therefore,
accompany you," said Lacy.

"No, Lacy, I intend that you shall meet me there. Return to the place
where we left Rosenberg and the others, take one of the carriages, and
drive with him to the castle. When you arrive there, ask for me, and say
that you are now ready to proceed on our journey. Gunther can remain
with the mountaineers, and if our provisions arrive from Prague, he can
dispatch a courier to let us know it."

"Shall we ask for your majesty at the castle, sire?"

"Not by my own name. Ask for Baron von Josephi, for by that title I
shall introduce myself. Now farewell, and au revoir."



CHAPTER LXXIV.

THE EXTORTIONERS OF QUALITY.

The drawing-room of the Freiherr von Weifach was splendidly illuminated.
Hundreds of wax lights were multiplied to infinity in the spacious
mirrors that lined the walls, and separated one from another the
richly-framed portraits of the freiherr's noble ancestors. In the
banquet-hall, the dinner-table was resplendent with silver and
gold--with porcelain and crystal. Flowers sent out their perfume from
costliest vases of Dresden china, and rich old wines sparkled in goblets
of glittering glass. Around the table sat a company of richly-dressed
ladies and gentlemen of rank. They had been four hours at dinner, and
the sense of enjoyment, springing from the satisfaction of appetite, was
visible, not only on the flushed faces of the men, but betrayed itself
upon the rosy-tinted faces of the elegant women who were their
companions.

The dessert was on the table. The guests were indulging themselves in
some of those post-prandial effusions which are apt to blossom from
heads overheated by wine, and are generally richer in words than in
wisdom. The host, with flattering preliminaries, had proposed the health
of the ladies, and every goblet sparkled to the brim. Just at that
moment a servant entered the room and whispered a few words in his ear.
He turned, smiling to his guests and, apologizing for the interruption,
said:

"Ladies and gentlemen, I leave it to you to decide the question just
proposed to me. A gentleman has at this moment arrived at the castle,
requesting permission to remain until some repairs can be made to his
carriage, which has met with an accident in the neighboring village.
Shall we invite him to join us while he awaits the return of his
vehicle?"

"Let us not be rash in our hospitality," replied the freiherrin, from
the opposite side of the table. "In the name of the noble ladies
assembled here, I crave to know whether the stranger who comes so sans
fagon to our castle, is worthy of the honor proposed by my husband. In
other words, is he a personage of rank?"

"He presents himself as the Baron von Josephi," said the freiherr.

"One of the oldest families in Hungary!" exclaimed one of the guests.

"Then he can be admitted," responded the hostess. "At least, if it be
agreeable to the ladies?"

Unanimous consent was given, and the freiherr arose from his seat to
convey the invitation to the stranger.

"The Baron von Josephi!" said he, reentering with the gentleman, and
leading him at once to the freiherrin. She received him with smiling
courtesy, while the rest of the company directed their glances toward
him, anxious to see how he would acquit himself in his rather
embarrassing position. He was perfectly self-possessed, and in every
gesture showed himself to be a man of the world.

With quiet grace he took his seat at the side of the hostess, and,
as he looked around with his large blue eyes, he seemed rather to be
criticising than criticised. With a sharp, searching expression, his
glances went from one of the company to another, until they in their
turn felt not only embarrassed, but harassed and uneasy.

"I do not know why," whispered one of them to the lady who sat next to
him, "but this newcomer's face seems very familiar to me. I must have
met him somewhere before this."

"You certainly might remember him," replied the lady, "if it were only
for his beautiful eyes. I never saw such eyes in my life. His manners,
too, are distinguished. I judge that he must have lived at court."

"In other words, you prefer a man who fawns at court to one who reigns
like a prince over his own estates," said the first speaker, warmly.
"I, for my part--"

"Hush! Let us hear what he is saying," interrupted the lady.

"I am under many obligations for your hospitality," said the Baron von
Josephi to the hostess. "For three days that I have travelled in
Bohemia, I have met with nothing but poverty and starvation. Thanks to
my entrance into your splendid home, I see that plenty still reigns in
the castle, although it may have departed from the cottage."

"Yes, thank Heaven, we know how to take care of our own interests here,"
said the freiherr, laughing.

"And yet you see how things are exaggerated," replied the Baron von
Josephi, laughing. "Such dreadful tidings of the famine in Bohemia
reached Vienna that the emperor is actually on his way to investigate
the matter. I met him not far from Budweis, and he seemed very sad I
thought."

"By the saints, he has reason to feel sad," exclaimed one of the guests.
"He will find nothing here for his howling subjects. He would have been
wiser had he stayed in Vienna!"

"Yes, poor, sentimental little emperor!" cried another with a laugh. "He
will find that the stamp of his imperial foot will conjure no corn out
of the earth, wherewith to feed his starving boors."

"I do not see why he should meddle with the boors at all," added a
third. "Hungry serfs are easy to govern; they have no time to cry for
rights when they are crying for bread."

"If the gentlemen are going to talk of politics," said the hostess,
rising from her seat, "it is time for ladies to retire. Come, ladies,
our cavaliers will join us when coffee is served."

The gentlemen rose, and not until the last lady had passed from the room
did they resume their seats.

"And now, gentlemen," said Baron von Josephi, "as our political gossip
can no longer annoy the ladies, allow me to say that my presence here is
not accidental, as I had led you to suppose."

"And to what are we indebted for the honor?" asked the host.

"I will explain," said the baron, inclining his head. "You have received
me with the hospitality of the olden time, without inquiring my rank,
lineage, or dwelling-place. Permit me to introduce myself. I have
estates in Moravia, and they are contiguous to those of Count Hoditz."

"Then," replied Freiherr von Weifach, "I sympathize with you, for
nowhere in Austria has the famine been more severe."

"Severe, indeed! The poor are dying like flies, for they cannot learn to
live upon grass."

"Neither will they learn to live upon it in Bohemia," said the freiherr,
laughing. "The people are so unreasonable! The noblest race-horse lives
upon hay and grass; why should it not be good enough for a peasant of
low degree?"

"Mere prejudice on the part of the peasant!" returned the baron. "I have
always suspected him of affectation. I have no patience with grumblers."

"You are right, baron," said his neighbor, nodding and smiling. "The
people are idle and wasteful; and if we were to listen to their
complaints, we would soon be as poor as they."

"And what if a few thousand perish here and there?" interposed another.
"They never would be missed, for they multiply like potatoes."

"You say, baron," resumed the host, "that you paid no attention to the
complaints of your peasantry?"

"I did like Ulysses, gentlemen; I stopped my ears with wax, that my
heart might not grow weak."

"A melodious siren song, to be sure," laughed the company; "a dirge of
bread! bread! bread!"

"Ah, you know the song, I perceive," said the Baron von Josephi, joining
in the laugh.

"Yes; and we do as you have done, baron. We stop our ears."

"The consequence is," continued Josephi, "that my granaries are full to
overflowing. I was on my way to Prague to dispose of it, but the want
which I have seen on your estates, freiherr, has touched my heart.
Nowhere have I beheld any thing to equal it. Hundreds of starving
peasants are on the high-road, not a mile off."

"Did you honor us with your presence to tell me this?" asked the host,
with lowering brow. "If so, you might have spared your trouble, for I
know it."

"Oh no; I came to you with the best intentions. I have no pity for the
peasant, but some for yourself. The health of his workmen is the
nobleman's wealth. Now my own people are almost all dead, and as I
grieve to see your lands wasted, I offer you my corn."

"Which means that you wish me to buy it," said the freiherr, with a
significant smile.

"Yes; and you can have it at once. I know that I might do better by
waiting, but I have a tender heart, and am willing to part with it now.
I make you the offer."

"How much a strich?" [Footnote: A strich, in Prague, was something more
than two bushels.] asked the freiherr.

"Twenty florins. You will find it cheap."

"Very cheap, forsooth!" cried the host, with a loud laugh, in which his
guests all joined. "You wish me to buy your corn for my peasants? Why,
it will be worth its weight in gold, and they have none wherewith to pay
me."

"You are a humane landlord and a nobleman; and I take it for granted
that you will make it a gift to your peasantry."

"Why did you not do as much yourself?" asked the freiherr, scornfully.
"Have you not just now said that your people were dying, while your
granaries are full? No, no; I want no corn; but when corn has truly
risen to twenty florins, then I shall open my granaries, and my crops
shall be for sale."

And the freiherr filled his glass and drank a bumper.

"You should not speak so loud," said Josephi "for you know that the
emperor has issued an edict, exacting that all those who have grain
shall meet him in Prague, that the government may buy their grain at a
reasonable price."

"What fool would heed such an edict?" cried the freiherr. "The emperor
is not master of our granaries. In the rural districts the nobleman is
emperor, and God forbid that it should ever be otherwise!"

"But the emperor has appointed commissioners, who go from place to
place, and inspect the crops."

"Yes they came hither, and they came to all of us--did they not, my
lords?"

"Yes, yes!" cried a chorus of merry noblemen.

"But they found nothing--nothing but a few hundred florins that glided,
unaccountably, into their hands, and caused them to abscond in a hurry.
This people-loving emperor deserves the eternal gratitude of his
commissioners, for although they found no corn for him, they found an
abundance of gold for themselves."

Josephi colored violently, and his whole frame trembled. His hand
clutched the wine-glass which he held, and he seemed to breathe with
difficulty.

No one observed it. The company were excited by wine, and their senses
were dim and clouded. But for this sumptuous dinner, at which he had
indulged himself too far, the freiherr would never have betrayed the
secret of his overflowing barns.

Josephi, meanwhile, controlled his indignation, and spoke again. "So,
freiherr, you all reject my proposal."

"I do. God be praised, I have enough and to spare!"

"Then, gentlemen." continued the baron, "I offer it to any one of you.
You are all from this unhappy district, and some one of you must be in
need of grain."

"We are the freiherr's neighbors, and have borrowed his wisdom," said
one of the company, "and I can answer for all present that they are well
provided."

"There are seven of you present, and none needing grain!" exclaimed Von
Josephi.

"Yes. Seven noblemen, all abounding in grain."

"Seven extortioners!" cried Josephi, rising from his seat, and looking
as if he would have stricken them to the earth with the lightning of his
flashing eyes.

"What means this insolence?" asked the host.

"It means that I have found here seven men of noble birth, who have
disgraced their caste by fattening upon the misery of their fellows. But
by the eternal God! the extortioner shall be branded throughout the
world. And be he gentle or base-born, he shall feel the weight of my
just indignation."

While the emperor spoke, the company had been awaking from the stupor
caused by the wine they had been drinking. Gradually their heads were
raised to listen, and their eyes shot fire, until, at last, they sprang
from their seats, crying out:

"Who dares speak thus to us? By what right do you come to insult us?"

"By what right?" thundered the emperor. "The emperor has given me the
right--the little chicken-hearted emperor, whose commissioners you have
bribed, and whose subjects you have oppressed, until nothing remains for
him but to come among you and drag your infamy to daylight with his own
hands."

"The emperor! it is the emperor!" groaned the terror-stricken
extortioners, while Joseph looked contemptuously upon their pale and
conscience-stricken faces.

Suddenly the host burst into a maudlin laugh.

"Do you not see," said he, "that our facetious guest is making game of
us to revenge himself for our refusal to buy his corn?"

"True, true," cried the lords together. "It's a jest--a trick to--"

"Peace!" cried the emperor. "The hour for jesting has passed by, and the
hour of retribution is here. I came to Bohemia to feed my starving
subjects, and I will feed them! But I shall also punish those who,
having bread, have withheld it from the poor. You shall not bribe ME
with your parchments of nobility or with your pride of family. The
pillory is for the criminal, and his rank shall not save him."

"Mercy, gracious sovereign, mercy!" cried the freiherr, whose glowing
cheeks were now as pale as death. "Your majesty will not condemn us for
the idle words we have spoken from excesss of wine?"

"What mercy had you upon the wailing wretches, of whose misery you have
made such sport to-day?"

"Your majesty," said one of the noblemen, sullenly, "there is no law to
prevent a man from holding his own, and the Bohemian nobleman has his
own code of justice, and is amenable to no other."

"The Bohemian nobleman shall enjoy it no longer!" exclaimed the outraged
emperor. "Before their earthly judges men shall be equal, as they are
before the throne of God."

At that moment the door opened, and the emperor's suite came in. "Lacy,
Lacy!" cried Joseph, "you were right. The famine is not the result of a
short harvest. It is due to these monsters of wickedness, whom you see
before you in the enjoyment of every luxury that sensuality can crave."

"Mercy, sire, mercy!" cried a chorus of imploring voices, and looking
behind him, the emperor saw the ladies, who all sank upon their knees at
his feet.

While Joseph had been speaking with Lacy, the lord of the castle had
hastened to communicate their disgrace, and to bring the wives of the
criminals to their assistance.

The emperor frowned. "Ladies," said he, "we are on the subject of
politics, the same subject which banished you hence not long ago. Rise,
therefore, and retire--this is no place for you."

"No, sire," cried the Freiherrin von Weifach, "I will not rise until I
obtain pardon for my husband. I do not know of what he has been guilty,
but I know that our noble emperor cannot condemn the man under whose
roof he has come as an invited guest. I know that the emperor is too
generous to punish him, who, confiding in him as a man, little suspected
that he who came under a borrowed name was the sovereign lord of all
Austria."

"Ah, madame, you reproach me with an hour spent at your table, and you
expect me to overlook crime in consideration of the common courtesy
extended to me as a man of your own rank. I was so fortunate as to
overhear the little discussion that preceded my entrance here. Rise,
madame, I am not fond of Spanish customs, nor do I like to see women on
their knees."

"Mercy for my husband!" reiterated the freiherrin. "Forgive him for
thinking more of his own family than of others. What he did was for love
of his wife and children."

"Ah!" exclaimed the emperor, "you call that love of his family! You
would elevate his cruel avarice into a domestic virtue. I congratulate
you upon your high standard of ethics! But rise, I command you.
Meanwhile, you are right on one point at least. I have eaten of your
salt, and I am too true a nobleman to betray you to the emperor. I will
merely tell him that the corn is found, and that his poor people may
rejoice. Open your granaries, therefore, my lords. Let each of you this
night send a courier to your tenants, proffering grain to all, free of
charge stipulating only that, as a return for the gift, the peasantry
shall bestow a portion of their corn upon their mother earth. [Footnote:
Gross-Hoffinger, vol. i., p. 141.] You will see how magical is the
effect of generosity. Your stores will scatter blessings over this
unhappy land, and the poor will bless you as their benefactors. Yes,
gentlemen, from this day forward you will be the friends of the needy;
for, God be praised, you have corn, and, for the sake of your corn, I
forgive you. But see that the future makes full atonement for the past."

No one answered a word. With sullen mien and downcast eyes they stood,
while the emperor surveyed them with surprise.

"What!" said he, after a long and painful pause, "not a word of thanks!
Joy has made you dumb, I perceive. And no wonder; for to feel (for the
first time) the pleasures of benevolence may well make you speechless
with happiness. As for you, madame," continued the emperor, addressing
his hostess, "I will not deprive you of a share in your husband's
generosity. You will be so kind as to call up your servants and bid them
load a wagon with the remains of our excellent dinner, not forgetting
the wines; and you will then send it, with your greetings, to your
tenants in yonder village. Your servants can go from house to house
until the store is exhausted."

"I will do what your majesty commands," said the freiherrin, pale with
rage.

"I do not doubt it," replied the emperor, laughing. "And as I will be
glad to hear how your bounty is received in the village, two of my own
attendants will accompany yours. Farewell, my lords, I must leave you,
for I have a large company on the high-road whom I have invited to
supper. The freiherrin will oblige me by receiving them to-night as her
guests. In this stately castle there are, doubtless, several rooms that
can be thrown open to these weary, suffering mountaineers. Have I your
permission to send them hither?"

"I will obey your majesty's commands," sobbed the lady, no longer able
to control her tears.

The emperor bowed, and turning to his attendants, said, "Come, my
friends, our messengers have probably arrived before this, and our
guests await us."

He advanced to the door, but suddenly stopped and addressed the company.
"My lords," said he, "for once your wisdom has been at fault. It is well
that the sentimental little emperor did not remain, as you advised, in
Vienna; for the stamp of his imperial foot has struck abundance out of
the earth, and it will save the lives of his starving boors."



CHAPTER LXXV.

DIPLOMATIC ESOTERICS.

Prince Kaunitz was in his cabinet. Baron Binder was reading aloud the
secret dispatches which had just come in from the Austrian ambassador at
Berlin, the young Baron van Swieten. Meanwhile, Kaunitz was busy with a
brush of peacock's feathers, dusting the expensive trifles that covered
his escritoire, or polishing its ebony surface with a fine silk
handkerchief which he kept for the purpose. This furbishing of trinkets
and furniture was a private pastime with the all-powerful minister; and
many a personage of rank was made to wait in the anteroom, while he
finished his dusting or rearranged his bijouterie, until it was grouped
to his satisfaction.

The dispatches which were being read were of the highest importance; for
they related to a confidential conversation with the King of Prussia on
the subject of the political apple, at which all were striving for the
largest bite. The King of Prussia, wrote the ambassador, had spoken
jestingly of the partition of Poland. He had bespoken for himself the
district of Netz and Polish Prussia, premising that Dantzic, Thorn, and
Cracow were to be left to Poland.

"Very well arranged," said Kaunitz, with his accustomed sang froid,
while he brightened the jewels of a Sevres inkstand which had been
presented to him by Madame de Pompadour. "Vraiment the naivete of this
Frederick is prodigious. He appropriates the richest and most cultivated
districts of Poland to himself; and then inserts, as an unimportant
clause, the stipulation that Cracow, with its adjacent territory, the
rich salt mines of Wieliczka, shall not belong to Austria."

"Van Swieten would not agree to the arrangement," said Binder, "and he
furthermore declared to the king that such a distribution would be
prejudicial to Austria. He proposed, however, that Austria might be
indemnified by the possession of Bosnia and Servia, which the Porte
should be made to yield."

"What a preposterous fool!" exclaimed Kaunitz. "Who gave him the right
to make such a proposition--"

"Why, your highness, I suppose he thought--"

"He has no right to think," interrupted Kaunitz. "I ask of no employe of
mine to think. My envoys have nothing to do but to work out MY thoughts,
and that without any intervention of their own fancies. It is very
presuming in my little diplomatic agents to think what I have not
thought, and of their own accord to make propositions to foreign courts.
Write and tell him so, Binder, and add, that neither our permanent
peaceful relations with Turkey, nor the sentiments of consideration
which are entertained by the empress for the Porte, will allow of any
attempt to lessen his territory." [Footnote: Wilhelm von Dohm, "Memoirs
of My Time," vol. i., 489.]

"Then you are really in earnest, and intend to be a firm ally of the
Porte?" inquired Binder with astonishment.

"In earnest!" repeated Kaunitz, with a shrug. "You statesman in
swaddling-clothes! You do not know the first principles of your
profession; and yet you have lived with me for thirty years! In
diplomacy there is no such thing as stability of policy. Policy shapes
itself according to circumstances, and changes as they change. The man
who attempted to follow fixed principles in international policy, would
soon find himself and his government on the verge of a precipice."

"And yet there is no statesman in Europe who adheres so closely to his
principles as yourself," exclaimed Binder, with the enthusiasm of true
friendship.

Kaunitz majestically inclined his head. "My principles are these: To
make Austria rich, great, powerful. Austria shall be quoeungue modo, the
first power in Europe; and in after-years the world shall say that the
genius of Kaunitz placed her on the mountain-peaks of her greatness. For
this end, it is indispensable that I remain at the head of European
affairs. Not only Austria, but all Europe, looks to me to guide her
through the storm that is threatening the general peace. I dare not
leave the helm of state to take one hour's rest; for what would become
of the great continental ship if, seeking my own comfort, I were to
retire and yield her fortunes to some unsteady hand? There is no one to
replace me! No one! It is only once in a century that Heaven vouchsafes
a great statesman to the world. This makes me fear for Austria when I
shall have gone from earth and there is no one to succeed me."
[Footnote: The prince's own words. See Swinburne, vol. i., p. 230.]

"May you live many years to rule in Austria!" cried Binder, warmly; "you
are indispensable to her welfare."

"I know it," said Kaunitz, gravely. "But there are aspirants for
political fame in Austria, who would like to lay their awkward hands
upon the web that I weave? No one knows how far the youthful impetuosity
and boundless vanity of such ambition may go. It might lead its
possessor to entertain the insane idea that he could govern Austria
without my guidance."

"You speak of the Emperor Joseph?"

"Yes, I do. He is ambitious, overbearing, and vain. He mistakes his
stupid longings to do good for capacity. He lusts for fame through war
and conquest, and would change every thing in his mother's empire, for
the mere satisfaction of knowing that the change was his own work. Oh,
what would become of Austria if I were not by, to keep him within
bounds? It will task all my genius to steer between the Scylla of a
bigoted, peace-loving empress, and the Charybdis of this reckless
emperor; to reconcile their antagonisms, and overrule their prejudices.
Maria Theresa is for peace and a treaty with the Porte, who has lately
been a good-natured, harmless neighbor--Joseph thirsts for war that he
may enlarge his dominions and parade himself before the world as a
military genius. If his mother were to die to-morrow, he would plunge
headlong into a war with Russia or Turkey, whichever one he might happen
to fancy. I am obliged to hold this prospect forever before his eyes to
keep him quiet. I must also pay my tribute to the whims of the reigning
empress; and if we declare war to pacify Joseph, we must also make it
appear to Maria Theresa that war is inevitable."

"By Heaven, that is a delicate web, indeed!" cried Binder, laughing.

"Yes, and let no presuming hand ever touch a thread of it!" replied
Kaunitz. "I say as much as I have said to you, Binder, because the
greatest minds must sometimes find a vent for their conceptions, and I
trust nobody on earth except you. Now you know what I mean by 'permanent
treaties with the Porte,' and I hope you will not ask any more silly
questions. You ignoramus! that have lived so long with Kaunitz and have
not yet learned to know him!"

"Your highness is beyond the comprehension of ordinary men," said
Binder, with a good-humored smile.

"I believe so," replied Kaunitz, with truthful simplicity; while he
carefully placed his paper, pens, lines, and penknife in the drawer
wherein they belonged.

The door opened, and a servant announced his excellency Osman Pacha,
ambassador of the Ottoman Porte.

"Very well," replied Kaunitz with a nod, "I will see him presently."

"You see," said he to Binder, as the door closed upon the servant, "we
are about to begin in earnest with the Porte. I shall receive him in the
drawing-room. Meanwhile, remain here, for I shall need you again."

He smiled kindly upon his friend, and left the room. Binder looked after
him with tenderest admiration. "He is a very great man," said he to
himself, "and he is right. But for him, Austria would fall to the rank
of a second power. What if he does know it and boast of it? He is a
truthful and candid man. Voild tout."

And he sat down to write to Van Swieten in Berlin to beware of saying
any thing prejudicial to the interests of the Porte.

He had just concluded his letter when Kaunitz returned. His countenance
was beaming with satisfaction and his lips were half parting with a
smile. "Binder," said he, laying a roll of papers on the escritoire,
"here are sugar-plums for the emperor. Can you guess what I have in
these papers?"

"Not a declaration of war from Russia!" exclaimed Binder.

"Hm; something very like it, I assure you. Listen! It is the secret
treaty that our minister at Constantinople, Herr von Thugut, has just
concluded with the Porte. The Sultan has already signed it, and to-day I
shall present it for signature to the empress. She will do it readily;
for although she may not absolutely dote on the infidel, she hates
Russia; and the unbelieving Turk is dearer to her than her Christian
cousin, the Empress Catharine."

"Then, after all, we are the firm allies of Turkey?" said Binder.

The prince gave a shrug, and trifled with the papers he had brought with
him. "We have bound ourselves," said he, reading here and there among
the leaves, "to bring about a peace between Russia and Turkey, by which
the former shall restore to the latter all the provinces which she has
conquered from the Porte; or, if not all, those which are indispensable
to preserve the honor of Turkey intact. We have furthermore bound
ourselves to secure the independence of the Republic of Poland."

"But, prince, that contradicts all your previous understandings with
Prussia and Russia; it contradicts your plans for the partition of
Poland. It will certainly lead to war, for our highness has forgotten
that Prussia and Russia have already agreed, for the soi disant
pacification of Poland, to appropriate the greater part of her provinces
to themselves."

"I beg you to believe, my verdant friend, that I never forget any
thing," said Kaunitz, somewhat haughtily. "I am perfectly au fait to the
Russo-Prussian treaty; but I have not been invited to the banquet, and I
do not intend to go uninvited. When they speak, we will consider their
offers. If they say nothing, we go to war. If they speak, we will allow
ourselves to be persuaded to share the booty which we cannot restore to
its owners. In that way, we are in a manner forced into this coalition,
and the opprobrium of the act falls upon those who devised it, while
Maria Theresa's scruples will be more easily overcome."

"Prince," said Binder, with a sigh, "I give it up. I never will make a
statesman. I listen to your words as to a Delphic oracle, and do not
pretend to understand their ambiguous meaning. I understand, however, do
I not, that we are the allies of the Sultan? Now we thereby do him a
great favor--what does he give in return?"

"Not much, but still something," said Kaunitz, with composure, while his
fingers again turned over the leaves. "The Porte, who, like yourself,
apprehends war with Russia, understands that if Austria is to befriend
him, she must put her army upon a war footing. If Austria is to do this
for the sake of Turkey, Turkey of course must furnish the means. The
Porte then, in the course of the next eight months, will pay us the sum
of twenty thousand purses, each containing five hundred silver piasters.
Four thousand purses will be paid down as soon as the treaty is signed."
[Footnote: Dohm, "Memoirs of My Time," vol. i., p. 471.]

"Ten millions of piasters!" exclaimed Binder, with uplifted hands. "By
Heaven, prince, you are a second Moses. You know how to strike a rock so
that a silver fountain shall gush from its barrenness."

"I shall make good use of it, too. Our coffers need replenishing, and
the emperor will rejoice to see them filled with the gold of the
infidel. It will enable him to raise and equip a gallant army, and that
will give him such unbounded delight that we are sure of his signature.
Besides this, the Porte presents us with a goodly portion of Wallachia;
he fixes the boundaries of Transylvania to our complete satisfaction,
and allows us free trade with the Ottoman empire, both by land and by
water."

"But all these concessions will cost us a war with Russia. The rapacious
Czarina will be furious when she hears of them."

"She will not hear of them," said Kaunitz, quietly. "I have made it a
stringent condition with Osman Pacha that the treaty with Turkey shall
be a profound secret. The Sultan and his vizier have pledged their word,
and the Mussulman may always be trusted. We will only make the treaty
public in case of a war with Russia."

"Whence it follows that as Russia is much more likely to court our
friendship than our enmity, the treaty with the Porte is all moonshine."

"With the exception of the ten millions of piasters, which are terrene
and tangible. It remains now to see whether Turkey will keep silence or
Russia will speak! In either case, the peace of all Europe now lies in
Austria's hands. We will preserve or destroy it as is most advantageous
to our own interests."

At that moment the door leading to the anteroom was opened, and a page
announced Prince Gallitzin, ambassador of her majesty the Empress of
Russia.

This announcement following the subjects which had been under
discussion, was so significant, that Kaunitz could not conceal his sense
of its supreme importance. He was slightly disturbed; but recovering
himself almost instantaneously, he said:

"In five minutes I will receive his highness in this room. Now begone,
and open the door punctually."

"What can the Russian minister want to-day?" said Binder.

"He has come to speak at last," replied Kaunitz, taking breath.

"Not of the partition of Poland, but of your Turkish treaty. You will
see that he if he gain any thing by talking, the Porte will not keep
silence."

"Three minutes gone," said Kaunitz, taking out his watch.

"Not another word, Binder. Step behind that screen and listen to our
discussion. It will save me the trouble of repeating it to you."

While Binder was concealing himself, Kaunitz was composing his visage
before a looking-glass. It soon reached its accustomed serenity, and not
a lock of the peruke was out of place.

In five minutes the page reopened the door and announced the entrance of
the Russian ambassador.



CHAPTER LXXVI.

RUSSIA SPEAKS.

Prince Kaunitz stood in the centre of the room when the Russian minister
made his appearance. He raised his cold blue eyes with perfect
indifference to the smiling face of the Russian, who bowed low, while
his host vouchsafed him a slight inclination of the head. Prince
Gallitzin seemed to be as unconscious of this haughty reception as of
the fact that Kaunitz had not moved forward a singe step to greet him.
He traversed with unruffled courtesy the distance that separated him
from Austria, and offered his hand with the grace of a finished
courtier.

Kaunitz raised his languidly, and allowed it to rest for a moment in the
palm of his cordial visitor.

"See, what a propitious incident," said Prince Gallitzin; "Austria and
Russia have given each other the hand. "

"Pardon me, your highness," replied Kaunitz gravely, "Russia has offered
her hand, and Austria takes it."

"But without returning my cordial pressure," said the Russian.

Prince Kaunitz appeared not to hear this affectionate reproach. He
pointed to the arm-chairs on either side of the escritoire, saying, "Let
us be seated."

Prince Gallitzin waited until Kaunitz had taken his seat, which he did
in a most deliberate manner, then he took the chair opposite. "Your
highness has been so good as to look over the new proposals for peace
which Russia has offered to Turkey?" asked Prince Gallitzin.

"I have read them," replied Raunitz, curtly.

"Your highness will then have remarked that, accommodating herself to
the wishes of Austria, Russia has retained only such of her conditions
as were necessary to the preservation of her dignity before the world.
But my imperial mistress has instructed me to say explicitly that her
moderation toward Turkey is exclusively the fruit of her consideration
for Austria. But for this consideration, Turkey would have felt the full
weight of the empress's vengeance; and it might have come to pass that
this Porte, who already totters with his own weakness, would have been
precipitated by Russia far into the depths of the Black Sea."

"In that case Russia would have learned that Austra is a diver that
knows how to fish for pearls. We would have rescued the Porte from the
Black Sea, and if he had not been strong enough to sustain himself, we
would have exacted a tonic at your hands in the form of more
advantageous conditions of peace."

"Then our conditions are not satisfactory?"

"They are of such a nature that Austria cannot entertain them for a
moment. Turkey can never consent to the independence of the Crimea and
Wallachia, nor will Austria counsel her to such an indiscreet
concession. This would be so contrary to the interests of Austria that
we would oppose it, even should Turkey be forced by untoward
circumstances to yield the point."

"Ah!" cried Gallitzin, laughing, "Austria would find herself in the
singular position of a nation warring with another to force that nation
to take care of its own interests. Will your highness then tell me, what
are the conditions which Austria is willing to accept for Turkey?"

"They are these: that the right of the Sultan to appoint the Khan of the
Crimea and the Hospodar of Wallachia remain untouched. If Russia will
recognize the sovereignty of the Porte in that quarter, then Austria
will induce him to withdraw his pretensions in Tartary."

"And to leave to Russia the territory she has conquered there?" asked
Gallitzin with his ineffable smile. "The czarina has no desire to
enlarge her vast empire. Russia does not war in the Crimea for herself,
but for a noble race of men who feel rich and powerful enough to elect
their own rulers. Her struggle in Tartary is simply that of civilization
and freedom against barbarism and tyranny."

"How beautiful all this sounds in the mouth of a Russian!" said Kaunitz,
smiling. "You will acknowledge that Russia is not always consistent; for
instance--in Poland, where she does not perceive the right of a noble
race of men to elect their own rulers, but forces upon them a king whom
they all despise. I must now declare to you that my sovereign will enter
into negotiations with Turkey on one condition only: that the
territorial rights of Poland be left untouched, not only by Russia, but
by any other European power!" [Footnote: V. Dohm. "Memoirs" vol. i., p.
492.]

Prince Gallitzin stared at Kaunitz as he heard these astounding words;
but the Austrian met his gaze with perfect unconcern.

"Your highness defends the integrity of Polish territory," said
Gallitzin, after a short pause, "and yet you have been the first to
invade it. Is not the Zips a portion of the kingdom of Poland?"

"No, your highness, no. The Zips was originally a Hungarian dependency,
and was mortgaged to Poland. We intend to resume our property and pay
the mortgage in the usual way. This is not at all to the point. We speak
of the fate of Poland. As for Austria, she aims at nothing but her
rights; and as soon as the Empress of Russia withdraws her troops from
Polish ground, we will withdraw ours, as well as all pretensions
whatever to the smallest portion of Polish territory."

"And doubtless your highness intends to restore every thing for which
the Poles are now contending. Her ancient constitution, for instance;
that constitution which has been thrown upon the political system of
Europe like the apple of Eris, threatening discord and conflict without
end."

"No," said Kaunitz, quickly, "their constitution must be modified as the
interests of their neighbors may require. We must unite on some
modifications that are suitable to us, and if Poland refuse to accept
there, she must be forced to do it."

"Ah!" cried Gallitzin, much relieved, "if your highness is of this mind
we will soon understand one another; and I may, therefore, be permitted
to speak with perfect frankness on the part of Russia."

"At last!" exclaimed Kaunitz, taking a long breath. "Russia will speak
at last! So far she has only acted; and I confess that her actions have
been inexplicable."

"Russia keeps pace with Austria," said Gallitzin. "The court of Vienna
says that the integrity of Poland must be respected; nevertheless she is
the first to lay her hand upon it."

"Some things we dare not do because they seem too difficult, others only
seem to be difficult because we dare not do them. We have taken our
slice of Poland because it belonged to us, and the difficulty of the
step has not deterred us."

"Ah, your highness, as regards your right to the Zips, there is not a
kingdom in Europe that has not some old forgotten right to her
neighbor's territory! Russia and--Prussia, too, have similar claims on
Poland, so that if it be agreeable to the empress-queen and to--your
highness we will meet together to have an understanding on the subject.
Some little time may be required to define our several claims, but this
once settled, there will be no further difficulty in the way."

"I see," said Kaunitz, with a satisfied air, "that we already understand
one another. As Russia has spoken and has made proposals, Austria is
ready to respond. But before we attend to our own affairs, let us give
peace to Turkey. The court of Vienna will negotiate between you. Let me
advise you to be exorbitant in your demands; go somewhat beyond your
real intentions, so that Austria may be obliged to decline your
proposals."

"And in this way your highness proposes to bring about a peace with
Turkey?" asked Prince Gallitzin, astounded.

"Certainly I do. Austria declines the proposals; Russia moderates her
demands, that is, she concedes what she never intended to exact, and
presents this as her ultimatum. Austria, satisfied with the concessions
now offered to her ally, is of opinion that he should accept them; and
if he prove unreasonable, must force him to do it."

"Your highness is indeed a great statesman!" exclaimed Gallitzin, with
enthusiasm.

"When a Russian ambassador says so it must be true," replied Kaunitz,
bowing. "As to Poland, the great question there is to preserve the
balance of power. I beg, therefore, that Russia and Prussia will make
known at once the extent of their claims there, that Austria may shape
hers accordingly. I shall enter at once into correspondence with the
King of Prussia, to ascertain his views as to the future boundaries of
Poland. Two things are indispensable to insure the success of this
affair."

"What are they?"

"First: perfect frankness between the three powers who are to act as
one; and celerity of action, lest Poland should be quieted before we
come in with our remedy."

"I agree with you. And second?"

"Second: profound secrecy. If France or England were to scent the
affair, there would be troublesome intervention, and we might all be
disappointed. Europe must not learn the partition of Poland until it is
a fait accompli."

"I promise discretion both for Russia and Prussia," said Gallitzin,
eagerly. "Europe shall not hear of it until our troops are on the spot
to defend us from outside interference. All that is necessary now is to
find three equal portions, so that each claimant shall be satisfied."

"Oh," said Kaunitz carelessly, as he played with the lace that edged is
cuffs, "if three equal parts are not to be found on Polish ground, we
can trespass upon the property of another neighbor who has too much
land; and if he resists, we can very soon bring him to reason."

Prince Gallitzin looked with visible astonishment at the cold and calm
face of the Austrian. "Another neighbor?" echoed he, with embarrassment.
"But we have no neighbor unless it be the Porte himself."

"Precisely the neighbor to whom I have reference," said Kaunitz, nodding
his head. "He is almost as troublesome as Poland, and will be the better
for a little blood-letting. I authorize your highness to lay these
propositions before your court; and I await the answer."

"Oh!" cried Gallitzin, laughing while he arose from his chair, "you will
always find Russia ready for a surgical operation upon the body of her
hereditary enemy. The law, both of nature and of necessity, impels her
to prey upon Turkey, and the will of Peter the Great can never be
carried out until the foot of Russia rests upon the Sultans throne at
Stamboul."

"Well," said Kaunitz, when Prince Gallitzin had taken his leave, "did
you understand our conference, Binder?"

"Understand!" exclaimed Binder, coming from behind the screen. "No,
indeed! I must have been drunk or dreaming. I surely did not hear your
highness, who, not an hour since, concluded a treaty with Turkey by
which the independence of Poland was to be guaranteed--I surely did not
hear you agree to a partition between Russia, Prussia, and Austria!"

"Yes, you did. We are driven to accept our share of Poland merely by way
of decreasing that of our neighbors."

"Then I DID understand as regards Poland. But I must have been dreaming
when I thought you had told me that we had concluded a treaty with the
Porte by which he pays us ten millions of piasters for our good offices
with Russia."

"Not at all. I certainly told you so."

"Then, dear prince, I have lost my senses," cried Binder, "for indeed I
dreamed that you had proposed to Russia, in case there was not land
enough to satisfy you all in Poland, to take some from the Sultan. "

"You have heard aright. You are very tiresome with your questions and
your stupid, wonder-stricken face. I suppose if a piece of Poland were
thrown at your feet, you would pick it up and hand it over to
Stanislaus; and if the Porte stood before you with a million of
piasters, you would say, 'Not for the world!' It is easy to see what
would become of Austria in your dainty hands! An enviable position she
would hold, if conscience were to guide her policy!"

"No danger while YOU hold the reins, for there will never be a trace of
conscience in your policy," muttered Binder, gathering up his papers and
passing into the adjoining room.

Prince Kaunitz shrugged his shoulders and rang his bell.

"My new state-coach," said he to Hippolyte, who, instead of flying off
as usual to obey, remained standing at the door.

"Why do you stand there?" asked the Prince.

"Pardon me, your highness, the state-coach is not ready," stammered the
valet.

"Not yet ready?" repeated the prince, accenting each word. "Did I not
order it to be here at two o'clock?"

"Yes, your highness, but the upholsterer could not understand the
drawings which were given him. He began to work by them, but was obliged
to undo his work, and this caused the delay."

"The man has the assurance to say that he could not work after the
drawings made by my own hand?" asked Kaunitz, with a firey glance of
anger in his eyes. "Because he is an ass does the churl dare to
criticise my drawings? Let him bring the body of the coach to the
palace, and I will show him that he is a bungler and knows nothing of
his trade."

And the prince, in his rage, stalked to the door. Suddenly he stopped.
"What is the state of the thermometer to-day?" said he.

The valet flew to the window and examined the little thermometer that
hung outside.

"Sixty degrees, your highness."

"Sixty degrees!" sighed the prince. "Then I dare not go to the
coach-house. Is the coach mounted on the wheels?"

"No, your highness."

"Then let the upholsterer have the carriage brought to my room, with the
drawings and his tools. Be off! In ten minutes all must be here!"

Just ten minutes later the door opened, and in came a handbarrow, upon
which stood the body of the coach. It was one mass of bronze,
plate-glass mirrors, and gilding. Behind it appeared the upholsterer,
pale with fright, carrying on one arm a bundle of satin and velvet, and
in his right hand holding the drawings of the prince. "Set it down in
the centre of the room," said Kaunitz, imperiously, and then turning a
look of wrath upon the unhappy upholsterer, he said, with terrible
emphasis: "Is it true that you have the audacity to say that you cannot
work after my drawings?"

"I hope your highness will forgive me," stammered the upholsterer, "but
there is not room in the inside of the coach for all the bows and
rosettes. I would have been obliged to make them so small that the coach
would have looked like one of the patterns we show to our customers. "

"And you dare tell me that to my face? Do you suppose that I do not know
your miserable trade, or do you mean that it is easier to govern an
empire than to trim up a coach? I will prove to you that I am a better
upholsterer than you are. Open the door, and I will decorate the coach
myself."

The upholsterer opened the richly-gilded glass door, and Kaunitz, as
much in earnest as when he had been giving and taking a kingdom, entered
the coach and seated himself.

"Give me the satin and velvet, and hold up the drawings, that I may work
after them. Some of you hand me the nails, and some one have the needle
ready. You shall see how Prince Kaunitz, through the stupidity of his
upholsterer, is obliged to decorate the interior of his own coach."

The prince began to work; and in the same room where he had signed
treaties and received ambassadors, the great Austrian statesman sewed
and hammered until he had decorated his carriage to his own
satisfaction.



CHAPTER LXXVII.

THE LAST PETITION.

Maria Theresa paced her cabinet in visible agitation. Her face was sad
beyond expression, and her eyes turned anxiously toward the door.

"I tremble," murmured she; "for the first time in my life I mistrust the
deed I am about to do. All is not clear in the depths of my conscience;
the voice that whispers such misgivings to my heart, is one which shames
the worldly wisdom of my councillors. We are about to do a wicked deed,
and we shall answer for it before Heaven! Would that my right hand had
lost its cunning, ere ever it had been forced to sign this cruel
document! Oh, it is an unholy thing, this alliance with an unbelieving
king and a dissolute empress! And an alliance for what? To destroy a
kingdom, and to rob its unhappy people of their nationality forever!"

"But what avails remorse?" continued she, heaving a deep sigh. "It is
too late, too late! In a few moments Joseph will be here to exact my
signature, and I dare not refuse it. I have yielded my right to protest
against this crime, and--ah, he comes!" cried the empress, pressing her
hands upon her heart, as she heard the lock of the door turning.

She fell into an arm-chair and trembled violently. But it was not the
emperor who appeared as the door opened; it was the Baroness von
Salmour, governess to the archduchesses.

"Baroness!" cried the empress, "it must be something of most imminent
importance that brings you hither. What is it?"

"I come in the name of misfortune to ask of your majesty a favor," said
the baroness, earnestly.

"Speak, then, and speak quickly."

"Will your majesty grant an audience to my unhappy country-woman, the
Countess Wielopolska?"

"The Countess Anna!" said the empress, with a shudder. Then, as if
ashamed of her agitation, she added, quickly.

"Admit her. If the emperor comes, let him enter also."

The baroness courtesied and withdrew, but she left the door open; and
now was seen advancing the tall and graceful figure of the countess. Her
face was pale as that of the dead. She still wore her black velvet
dress, and the long veil which fell around her person, hovered about her
like a dark, storm-heralding cloud.

"She looks like the angel of death," murmured the empress. "It seems to
me that if those pale, transparent hands, which she folds over her
breast, were to unclasp, her icy breath would still the beatings of my
heart forever!"

The countess glided in like a vision, and the door closed behind her.
The empress received her with an affable smile.

"It is very long since I have seen you," said the proud Maria Theresa,
with an embarrassment to which her rank had hitherto made her a
stranger.

"I was waiting to be summoned by your majesty," replied the countess.

"And as I did not summon you, you came voluntarily. That was kind. I am
very glad to see you."

The lady replied to these flattering words by an inclination of the
head, and a pause ensued. Each one seemed waiting for the other to
speak. As the empress perceived, after a while, that the lips of the
pale countess did not move, she resolved to break the irksome silence
herself. In her own frank way, scorning all circumlocution, she went at
once to the subject nearest their hearts.

"I know why you are here to-day," said she, with a painful blush. "You
have heard of the fate which threatens Poland, and you have come to ask
if thus I fulfil the promises I made to you! Speak--is it not so? Have I
not rightly read the meaning of that lovely but joyless face?"

"It is so," sighed the countess, and her voice trembled with unshed
tears. "Yes, from the solitude wherein I had buried my grief since last
I saw your majesty, I have heard the fatal tidings of my country's woe,
and yet I live! Oh, why should the body survive, when the soul is dead?"

Her words died away upon her lips, and she seemed to grow paler and more
pale as though every drop of blood in her veins had stiffened and turned
to ice. But she heaved a sigh and rallied, for hope now touched her
heart, and the statue awoke to life.

"Ah, great empress," said she, with fervor, "I come to you, in whose
powerful hand lies the issue of my country's fate, whose mighty word can
bid us live, or doom us to death."

"Oh, were it so, you would not sue in vain!" cried the empress,
sorrowfully. "Had the fate of Poland lain in MY hands, she would have
risen triumphant from the arena, where she has battled so bravely for
her sacred rights!"

"Poland's fate lies in your majesty's hand!" exclaimed the countess,
vehemently. "You have not yet signed the warrant for my country's
execution; you are still innocent of her blood; your hand is still free
from participation in the crime of her enemies and yours! Oh, let me
kiss that hand and bless it, while yet it is spotless and pure as your
noble heart."

Hurried away by the might of the sorrow that overwhelmed her, the
countess darted forward, and throwing herself at the feet of the
empress, drew her hand fervently to her lips.

"Rise, dear countess Anna, rise," said the empress, soothingly. "I cannot
bear to see you at my feet, when I can do nothing to avert the fate of
Poland."

"Who, then, can help her, if not your majesty?" cried the countess. "Oh,
I did not come hither to reproach you; I came but to entreat you to
speak the word that will disenthrall my country!"

"I cannot do it; as God hears me, I cannot," repeated Maria Theresa, in
a voice of anguish. "I have striven against it with all my might. What I
have suffered for your countrymen, no one will ever know! The anxious
days and wretched nights that I have spent for their sakes, have
threatened my life." [Footnote: The empress's own words. See Raumer,
"Contributions to Modern History," vol. iv., p. 539.]

"I CANNOT!" echoed the countess, who seemed to have heard nothing but
these few words. "An empress!--an empress! who, with a wave of her hand,
sways millions of men, and is responsible for her actions to no earthly
power!"

"Save that which resides in the claims of her subjects upon the
sovereign, who is bound to reign for their good. I am responsible to my
people for the preservation of peace. Too much blood has been shed since
I came to the throne; and nothing would induce me to be the cause that
the soil of Austria should be crimsoned by another drop." [Footnote: The
empress's own words. See Wolf, "Austria under Maria Theresa," p. 527.]

"And to spare a drop of Austrian blood, your majesty will deal the blow
that murders a whole nation!" cried the countess, rising to her feet and
looking defiance at the empress. "In your egotism for Austria, you turn
from a noble nation who have as good a right to freedom as your own
people!"

"Countess, you forget yourself. By what right do you reprove me?"

"By the right which misfortune gives to truth," replied she, proudly,
"and by the right which your imperial word has given me to speak. For
now I recall to you that promise, and I ask where is the eagle that was
to swoop down upon the vultures which are preying upon Poland?"

"Oh, they have caged the eagle," said the empress, sadly. "God in heaven
knows how manfully I have battled for Poland. When I threatened
interference, the answer was this: 'We have resolved to dismember
Poland, and you shall not prevent us.' What, then, could I do? Declare
war? That were to ruin my people. Remain passive, while my enemies
enlarged their frontiers, so as to endanger my own? We then had recourse
to stratagem. We defended our soil inch by inch, and gave up when
resistance became fanaticism. We required for our share more than we
desired, hoping to be refused. But no! To my sorrow and disappointment,
even more was apportioned than we had claimed. Oh! the whole thing has
been so repugnant to my sense of justice, that I refused to take any
share in its arrangements, and all the negotiations have been conducted
by the emperor, Prince Kaunitz and Marshal Lacy." [Footnote: This
discourse is historical. See Wolf, p. 825. Raumer, vol. iv., p. 540.]

"And these are the ashes of the mighty promises of emperors and
empresses!" exclaimed the countess, bitterly. "Oh, empress, think of the
time when you shall appear before God, to give account of your deeds!
How will you answer, when the record of this day is brought before you?
For the last time I am at your feet. Oh, as you hope for mercy above, do
not sign the act that dismembers Poland!"

She was again on her knees; her beautiful eyes drowned in tears, and her
hands clasped convulsively above her head.

"Oh, my God!" exclaimed the empress, rising to her feet, "she does not
believe me." Then bending tenderly over the countess, she pressed her
hands between her own, and gently raised her to a seat.

"Do you not see how deeply I suffer, when I have no spirit to chide your
hard words to me? It is because I comprehend your sorrow, poor child,
that I forgive your injustice. And now, to prove my sincerity," added
she, going to her escritoire and taking from it a letter, "read this! I
was about to send it to Prince Kaunitz when your visit caused me to
forget it. Read it aloud, that I may know whether you understand me at
last."

The countess unfolded the letter and read:

"When my own empire was threatened, and I knew not where to lay my head;
when the sorrows of childbirth were overtaking me, I threw myself upon
God and my just rights. But to-day, when humanity, justice, ay--reason
itself, cry aloud against our acts, I confess to you that my anxiety
transcends all that I have ever suffered in my life before. Tell me,
Prince Kaunitz, have you thought of the evil example we are giving to
the nations of earth, when, for the sake of a few acres of additional
territory, we cast away our reputation, our dignity, and our honor?

"If I yield to-day, it is because I struggle alone, and no longer have
the vigor of mind to contend for right, as in years gone by I would have
done. I am overpowered, but I surrender with a bleeding heart."
[Footnote: This letter was written by Maria Theresa's own hand. See
Hormayer, "Pocket History of Our Native Land," 1831, p. 66.]

The countess remained looking at the parer for a time, then she raised
her tearful eyes to the face of the empress. "I thank your majesty,"
said she, deeply moved, "for allowing me to see this letter. It will
remain in history as a noble monument of Maria Theresa's rectitude. I
have no longer a word of blame for you; and once again, in love and
reverence, I kiss this hand, although I know that to-day it must sign
the death-warrant of unhappy Poland."

She drew near, and raised the hand of the empress to her lips. But Maria
Theresa threw her arms around the countess, exclaiming: "To my heart,
dear, unhappy one! I cannot save Poland, but I can weep with her
loveliest and noblest daughter!"

The countess, overcome by this unexpected tenderness, leaned upon the
bosom of the empress, and wept. Maria Theresa stroked her lustrous black
hair, and, as she kissed her marble cheek, the tears that had gathered
in her eyes, fell upon the head of the countess, where they glittered
like stars upon the darkness of the night.



CHAPTER LXXVIII.

FINIS POLONIE.

Neither saw the door open; but both heard a soft, melodious voice,
saying: "Pardon me, your majesty, I thought you were alone."

The countess uttered a low cry, and trembled from head to foot.

"Do not fear," said the empress, as she gently withdrew her arms, "it is
my son the emperor. We need not hide our tears from him, for he knows
that this is not the first time his mother has wept for Poland."

The emperor said nothing; he stood staring at the pale and trembling
Anna. He, too, grew deathly pale as he looked, and now his trembling
limbs answered to the agitation that was overpowering her. Suddenly, as
though awaking from a painful dream, he approached, and offering his
hand, said:

"I rejoice to see you. I have long sought you in vain."

She did not appear to see him. Her arm hung listlessly at her side,
while her figure swayed to and fro like a storm-tossed lily.

"I have not been in Vienna," answered she, in a voice scarcely audible.
"I had gone to bury my sorrow in solitude."

"But her love for Poland brought her hither," said the empress, putting
her arm affectionately around the countess's waist.

"I believe you," returned Joseph, bitterly. "The fate of Poland is the
only thing worthy of touching the Countess Wielopolska. She is not a
woman, she is a Pole--nothing more."

One low wail struggled from the depths of her breaking heart, but she
spoke not a word.

The emperor went on: "The Countess Wielopolska is not a woman. She is a
monad, representing patriotism; and he who cannot think as she does, is
a criminal unworthy of her regard."

"You are cruel, my son," said the empress, deprecatingly. "If the
countess has been bitter in her reproaches to you, we must remember her
grief and her right to reproach us. We should be gentle with
misfortune--above all, when we can bring no relief."

"Let him go on, your majesty," murmured the wretched Anna, while her
eyes were raised with a look of supreme agony upon the stern face of the
emperor.

"Your majesty is right. I am nothing but a Pole, and I will die with my
fatherland. Your hands shall close our coffin-lids, for our fates will
not cost you a tear. The dear, noble empress has wept for us both, and
the remembrance of her sympathy and of your cruelty we will carry with
us to the grave."

The emperor's eyes flashed angrily, and he was about to retort, but he
controlled himself and approached the empress.

"Your majesty will pardon me if I interrupt your interesting
conversation, but state affairs are peremptory, and supersede all other
considerations. Your majesty has commanded my presence that I might sign
the act of partition. The courier, who is to convey the news to Berlin
and St. Petersburg, is ready to go. Allow me to ask if your majesty has
signed?"

The countess, who understood perfectly that the emperor, in passing her
by, to treat with his mother of this dreadful act of partition, wished
to force her to retire, withdrew silently to the door.

But the empress, hurt that her son should have been so unfeeling, went
forward, and led her back to her seat.

"No, countess, stay. The emperor says that you represent Poland. Then
let him justify his acts to us both, and prove that what he has done is
right. I have suffered such anguish of mind over the partition of
Poland, that Joseph would lift a load from my heart, if he could show me
that it is inevitable. My son, you have come for my signature. Before
God, your mother, and Poland herself, justify our deed, and I will sign
the act."

"Justify? There are many things which we may defend without being able
to justify them: and stern necessity often forces us to the use of
measures which conscience disapproves."

"Prove to me, then, the necessity which has forced us to dismember a
country whose people have never injured us," said the empress,
authoritatively.

"But whose disunion at home has become dangerous to their neighbors.
Poland lies like a sick man in our midst, whose dying breath infects the
land. When there is a fire in our neighborhood, we are sometimes obliged
to tear down the burning house lest the fire spread to our own."

"Yes," interrupted the countess, "but you do not rob the neighbor of his
land. The soil belongs to him who owns the house."

"But the Poles are not worthy to own their soil. What is Poland to-day?
A race of slaves and peasants, without law or order, driven hither and
thither by a lewd and corrupt aristocracy, who, instead of blushing for
the degeneracy of their caste, hold their saturnalia over the very
graves of their noble ancestors. And at the head of this degenerate
people is their king, the minion of a foreign court, who promulgates the
laws which he receives from his imperial Russian mistress. Verily, God
has weighed the Polish nation in His balance, and they have been found
wanting."

"Enough!" faltered the countess, raising her hand in deprecation. "Why
will you vilify a people who are in the throes of death?"

"No, it is not enough," said the emperor, sternly. "The empress says
that I must justify the acts of the three powers to Poland--that pale
and beautiful statue before me which lives--and yet is not a woman. I
say it again: a nation dies by its own corruption! Poland bears within
herself the seeds of her destruction. Her people have been false to
their antecedents, false to themselves, to their honor, and even to
their faith." [Footnote: Wolf. "Austria under Maria Theresa." p. 535.]

"You accuse, but you bring no proofs!" exclaimed the countess, her eyes
now flashing with wounded pride.

"It will not be difficult to collect my proofs," said the emperor,
sneering. "Look at what takes place in Poland, since your countrymen
have foreseen the fate of their fatherland. What are the Polish diet
doing since they anticipate the close of their sittings? Voting
themselves pensions, property, and every conceivable revenue, at the
expense of the republic, and giving her, with their own parricidal
hands, the coup de grace. Such shameless corruption has never come to
light in the history of any other nation. Freedom and fatherland are in
every mouth, but, in reality, no people care less for either than do the
Poles. Slaves, who, while they hold out their hands to be manacled, are
striving to reign over other slaves! [Footnote: Raumer, "Contributions,"
Vol. iv., p. 551.] This is a picture of the Poland whom you love, and
through her own crimes she is dying."

"It is not true!" cried the indignant countess. "She dies through the
covetousness and greed of her neighbors. It is they who have sown
dissension in Poland, while forcing upon her unhappy people a king who
is nothing but the despicable tool of their despicable intrigues."

"All this has no reference to Austria," objected the emperor. "We had
nothing to do with the selection of the king--nothing to do with the
projects of dismemberment. They were resolved upon, with or without our
sanction, and the law of self-preservation demands that if we cannot
prevent, we must endeavor to profit by them. I know that the partition
of Poland has an appearance of gross outrage which is obvious to every
eye; while the stringent necessity which has driven Austria to
participate in it is known to few. I confess that I would be grieved if
the world should misjudge me on this question; for I try, both in public
and private life, to be an honest man; and I believe that honesty in
statesmanship is the wisest and soundest policy. [Footnote: The
emperor's own words. See Raumer, "Contributions," &c., Vol. iv., p.
539.] We could not do otherwise than we have done, and now, with the
full conviction of the exigency which has called for the act, I repeat
my question to your majesty, have you signed the act, or will you be so
kind as to sign it now?"

The empress had listened with profound attention to her son's discourse,
and her countenance, which before had been pale with anxiety, had
assumed an expression of blended serenity and resolution. A pause
ensued. Marble-white and speechless the countess, with half-open mouth,
started and bent forward, her eyes fixed upon the empress; the emperor,
stern and proud, threw back his head and gazed defiantly.

In the midst of this throbbing silence, Maria Theresa went forward and
took her seat at the escritoire. She dipped her pen in the silver
inkstand, and a sob, that sounded like the last death-sigh, escaped from
the lips of the countess. The empress turned quickly around; but the
glance of her eye was resolute and her hand was firm.

She bent over the parchment and wrote; then, throwing her pen on the
floor, she turned to the emperor and pointed with her right hand to the
deed. "Placet," cried she, with her clear, ringing voice--"placet, since
so many great and wise men will have it so. When I am dead, the world
will learn what came of this violation of all that man holds sacred."
[Footnote: The empress's own words.]

And either that she might conceal her own emotion, or avoid an outburst
of grief from the countess, the empress walked hastily through the room,
and shut herself up in her dressing-room.

The countess moaned, and murmuring, "Finis Poloniae!" she, too,
attempted to cross the room.

The emperor watched her, his eyes beaming with tenderness, his heart a
prey to violent anguish. As she reached the door, he saw her reel and
cling to a column for support.

With one bound he reached her, and flinging his arms around her swaying
figure, she fell, almost unconscious, upon his bosom. For one
bewildering moment she lay there.

"Finis Poloniae!" murmured she again, and, drawing herself up to her
full height, she again approached the door.

"Farewell!" said she, softly.

The emperor seized her hand. "Anna," said he, imploringly, "Anna, do we
part thus? Is this our last interview? Shall we never meet again?"

She turned, and all the love that she had struggled to conquer was in
her eyes as they met his. "We shall meet once more," replied she.

"When?" cried Joseph, frantic with grief.

"When the hour has come for us to meet again, I will send for you.
Promise to be there to receive my last farewell."

"I swear to be there."

"Then, farewell."

"Farewell, beloved Anna! Oh, let me touch your hand once more!"

"No!" said she, harshly; and, opening the door, she disappeared, and the
emperor was left alone.



CHAPTER LXXIX.

THE MAD COUNTESS.

Count Starhemberg paced his splendid drawing-room in a state of great
excitement. Sometimes he murmured broken sentences, then he sighed
heavily, and again he seemed to be a prey to fear. Occasionally, his
eyes glanced almost reproachfully toward the figure of a young man, who,
with folded arms and smiling countenance, stood in the embrasure of a
window watching the old man's agitation.

As the clock on the marble mantel struck the hour, the count stopped
before his young visitor, and looked searchingly at his mild and
effeminate farce.

"The half hour has elapsed, Count Esterhazy," said he, solemnly. "I have
told you frankly that my niece, although a beautiful and perchance a
good-hearted woman, has a temper which is the terror of my household.
She inherits this misfortune from her deceased father, and, unhappily,
her lovely and amiable mother did not long survive him. There has been
no one, therefore, to control her; and her terrible temper has never
been restrained. Do not say to me that I might have conquered it! I have
dedicated my whole life to her; and lest she should make another being
unhappy, I have remained a bachelor, as you perceive. But I had made a
solemn promise to her parents that I would be a father to her, and I
have kept my promise. It is not my fault if their child is less amiable
than other women. She has an energetic character, and I fear that if she
marries, she will find means to tyrannize over her husband. I repeat
this to you count, that we may clearly understand each other; and now
that the half hour has gone by, do you still urge your suit?"

"Yes, count, I do," replied Esterhazy in a, soft, treble voice. "I
repeat to you the offer of my hand to the Countess Margaret
Starhemberg."

The count bowed. "I have done my duty, and, being cleared of all
responsibility in the affair, I give my consent. You must now try to win
hers."

"I would like to see the countess in your presence," said Esterhazy,
unmoved.

Count Starhemberg rang the bell, and ordered a servant to bear a request
to his niece to join him in the drawing-room.

"The countess would have the honor of joining her uncle immediately,"
was the answer.

"This promises well," said the old count, looking relieved. "She
generally practises her music at this hour; and I am surprised that--"

Just then the sharp tones of an angry female voice were heard without,
then the jingling of glasses, then a crash, and the fall of some heavy
metallic body.

"That is my niece," said the old man with a shiver. "With that fanfare
she usually announces her coming."

Now the door was flung violently open, and a tall, magnificent woman
dashed into the room. Her features, marvellously chiselled as those of
the antique Venus, would have been irresistible in beauty, if their
expression had corresponded to their symmetry--But in her large black
eyes glared the fire of ungoverned passion, and her rosy mouth was
curled with contempt.

Her tall figure was of exquisite proportions; and her arms, adorned but
not hidden by the lace which fell from the short sleeves of her crimson
velvet dress, were as fair and beautiful as those of the Venus of Milo.

Count Esterhazy, intoxicated by the sight of her wondrous beauty,
withdrew abashed behind the window-curtain, while the countess, graceful
as an angry leopardess, bounded through the room, and stood before her
uncle.

"Who has annoyed you, my child?" asked he timidly.

"He is an idiot, an awkward animal, and shall be driven from the house
with the lash!" cried she. "Just imagine, uncle, that as I was coming
hither, I met him in the anteroom with a plateau of cups and glasses.
When he saw me, the fool fell to trembling as if he had seen an evil
spirit--the plateau shook; and my dear mother's last gift, the goblet
from which she had cooled her dying lips, fell to the floor and was
broken."

Her voice, at first so loud and angry, was now soft and pathetic, and
her eyes glistened with tears. She shook them off impatiently.

"I can well understand, dear child, how much it must have grieved you to
lose this precious relic," said her uncle, soothingly.

She blushed as though she had been surprised in a fault.

"Oh, it was not that," said she, pettishly, "it is all the same to me
whether the goblet was a relic or not, for I hate sentiment. But I
detest such an awkward fool. He never COULD carry any thing without
letting it fall."

"Nay, my child, he has often carried you for hours in his arms, and yet
he never let you fall."

"Uncle, your jests are insupportable," cried she, stamping with her
little satin-slippered foot upon the carpet. "You excuse this
gray-headed dunce merely to vex me, and to remind me that I am an orphan
without a home."

"But my dear--"

"Peace! I will not be interrupted. If I am tyrannized over in every
other way, I will at least claim the right to speak--I wish to say that
this old plague shall not remain here another day to torment my life
with his nonsense. This time, however, I made him feel the weight of my
hand. His face was as red as my dress after it."

"You struck my faithful old Isidor?" cried the count, shocked.

"Yes, I did," replied she, looking defiantly into her uncle's mild face.
"I beat him well, and then I threw the whole waiter of cups and glasses
upon the floor. Have you any fault to find with that, my sympathizing
uncle?"

"None, none," said the old man. "If it gave you pleasure to break the
glasses, we will go out and buy others."

"WE! No, indeed, we shall not. Isidor shall pay for them from his wages.
It was his fault that I was obliged to break them, and no one shall
suffer for it except himself. I claim that as an act of bare justice to
myself. "

"But, my dear countess--"

She stamped her foot again. "Great God! have you no object in life
except that of contradicting and ill-treating me?"

The count sighed and approached the door. She heard him, and an exulting
smile lit up her beautiful, stormy face.

"Well, as you will not tell him, I shall do it myself. Yes--I shall do
it myself. Do you hear, uncle? You shall not say a word to him."

"I will say nothing, Margaret. Will you now allow me to speak of other
things? Is your vehemence--"

"UNCLE!"

"In your just displeasure, you have overlooked the fact that we are not
alone."

He pointed to the window where, half hidden by the heavy silk drapery,
stood Count Frank Esterhazy. The countess followed her uncle's glance,
and as she became aware of the visitor's presence, burst into a merry
laugh.

"Do not be frightened, young man," said she then; "you may come out from
your corner. I am not a cat, and I don't devour mice. Ah, you have heard
our discussion? What a pity you are not a dramatic poet, you have had
such an opportunity for depicting a foolish old guardian and his
spirited ward!"

"Unfortunately, I am not a poet," said the young count, coming forward
and bowing to the floor. "If I were, I could write to-day a hundred
sonnets to the eyes of the majestic Hera whose anger heightens her
wonderful beauty."

"Uncle," said the countess, suddenly assuming a stately and court-like
demeanor, "be so good as to present me this young stranger, who pays
such insipid compliments."

"My dear niece, let me introduce Count Frank Esterhazy, a nobleman just
returned from Italy, who is in high favor with the empress."

"The latter is no recommendation, uncle, for am I not also a favorite
with the empress? Have you not often told me so, when the empress was
humbling me with some of her tyrannical condescension?"

"Certainly, my child, I have said so."

"Then you see that it is not necessary to be estimable for one to gain
the empress's good-will. For my part, I wish she loved me less, for then
she would spare me some of the long sermons with which she edifies me,
when I happen to appear at court."

"That, probably, is the reason you appear so seldom," said Count
Esterhazy. "I have heard your absence complained of."

"By her majesty?" asked Count Starhemberg.

"No, your excellency, by the emperor."

"What did he say?"

"Dare I repeat his words?" asked Esterhazy, appealing to the countess.
She bowed her head, and leaned against the back of an arm-chair.

"I was yesterday at the empress's reception. The emperor was so kind as
to do the honors of the court to me. He pointed out the several beauties
of Vienna, who were all strangers to me--'But,' said he, 'the most
beautiful woman in Austria I cannot show you, for she is not here. The
Countess Margaret von Starhemberg has the beauty of Juno and Venus
united.'"

The countess said nothing; she stood with downcast eyes. Her cheek had
paled, and her lips were firmly compressed together. Suddenly she
rallied and said, with a careless laugh

"I wager that the empress and her ladies made some amiable commentary on
the emperor's words. Come, tell me, what said the empress?"

"If you command me, countess, I will tell you. The empress added, with a
sigh, 'It is true, she is as beautiful as a goddess, but it is Eris whom
she resembles."'

"Very witty!" exclaimed the countess, with a sneer.

"And the emperor?" inquired the uncle.

"The emperor frowned at the ladies, who began to laugh. 'Your majesty
may be right,' said he, 'but Grecian mythology has forgotten to say
whether the fierce goddess was ever vanquished by love. Love tames the
most turbulent of women."'

The countess uttered a sharp cry, and caught with both her hands at the
back of the arm-chair. Her eyes closed, and a deadly paleness overspread
her countenance. Her uncle hastened to put his arm around her, inquiring
tenderly, "Dearest child, what ails you?"

She leaned for a while upon his shoulder; then raising her head while
deep blushes crimsoned her cheeks, she said, haughtily: "It is nothing.
A sudden faintness to which I am subject." With an inclination of the
head to Count Esterhazy, she continued

"You will be so good as not to mention this weakness of mine. It is
purely physical, and I hope to conquer it in time. I am rejoiced to
think that I have verified the words of the empress and have appeared
before you to-day as an Eris. I suppose you came hither to see me out of
curiosity."

"No Countess Margaret, the purport of my visit was any thing but
curiosity. I come, with the sanction of your guardian, to offer you my
hand."

The black eyes of the countess darted fire at the smiling suitor.

"You do not answer me," said he blandly. "I say that I have won the
consent of your uncle, and respectfully solicit yours. It shall be the
study of my life to make you happy, and, perhaps, at some future day, my
untiring devotion may win a return of my love. Speak, then, countess;
say that you will be my wife."

"Never, never!" cried she, stretching forth her arms as though to ward
away some threatening evil. "I shall never be the wife of any man. I was
not made for marriage, I cannot bow my will before that of any other
fellow-mortal."

"I shall not require you to do so," replied the count, as though he had
now removed every objection. "You will be in my house as you are here,
absolute mistress of all things, and I shall claim nothing but the right
of being your humblest and most devoted servant."

"Unhappily for you, you know not what you claim," exclaimed the countess
angrily. "Ask my uncle, ask his household, and they will tell you that I
am a tyrant, changing my will twenty times an hour; hating to-day the
thing I shall love to-morrow. You would aspire to be my husband, would
you? Have you no friends to warn you of the reefs upon which you are
running that poor little crazy bark of yours? Why the very people, as
they see me pass, tell of my frantic doings; and every child in Vienna
knows that I beat my servants, rage about my uncle's house like the foul
fiend, and dash through the streets on horseback like the Wild
Huntsman."

"'Love tames the wildest hearts,' so says the emperor."

Margaret started, and darted a fiery glance at his tranquil face.

"But I do not love you, I tell you; and it is useless to say another
word on the subject."

"Nay," said the count, taking her hand, "it is not useless. I beseech
you, do not deny my suit."

At this moment the door opened, and a servant came in with a golden
tray, on which lay a letter.

"From her majesty the empress," said the servant, handing it to Count
Starhemberg. The count took the letter and went into the embrasure of
the window, while the servant retired noiselessly.

"Countess Margaret," said Count Esterhazy, in an imploring voice, "once
more I entreat you to accept me as your husband."

She looked at him with withering contempt. "Have I not told you," cried
she, passionately, "that I do not love you? A man of honor ceases to
importune a woman after such an avowal."

"A man of spirit never gives up; he perseveres, in the hope that sooner
or later, he will reach his goal. No man has the right to expect that he
will obtain a treasure without trouble."

"Cant! miserable cant!" And the great glowing eyes that were looking
with such scorn at the alight figure of the count, encountered their own
image in the glass before which they both were standing.

"Look!" cried she, pointing to the mirror, "yonder reflection gives its
answer to your suit. Do you see that tall woman, whose head towers above
the blond mannikin that stands beside her? Look at her black hair, her
fiery eyes, and resolute bearing! And now look at the little fair-haired
puppet, that resembles a man about as much as do the statuettes on my
toilet-table. Ah, sir count, if you were the woman and I the man there
might be marriage between us! But as it is, you would die of my
violence, or I of your insipidity. So, excuse me."

She made a deep courtesy and turned to leave the room. But she felt a
touch upon her shoulder, and looking back, she saw her uncle gazing at
her with a face of great anxiety.

"My child," said he, in a faltering voice, "do not send Count Esterhazy
so rudely away. He is rich, noble, and distinguished, and in every way
worthy of my lovely niece. Do not refuse him, Margaret."

"The count has recovered from his stupid delusion, uncle; I have told
him how impossible it is for me to accept his hand."

"But, my poor child, you must try to love him. You dare not reject his
offer."

"What! _I_ dare not reject whom I please!" cried she, in a voice shrill
with passion.

"No, you dare not. The empress commands you to accept the hand of Count
Esterhazy. Here is the note I have at this moment received from her
majesty."

Margaret tore the paper savagely from her uncle's hand. With staring
eyes she read its contents, while her whole body trembled violently, and
her lips were bloody with the efforts she was making to suppress a
scream.

At last she gave it back. "Read it," said she, hoarsely; "the letters
swim before my eyes."

The count took the note and read:

"Dear Count Starhemberg: It is my desire that your niece, the Countess
Margaret, shall become the wife of some honorable man. In this way she
may hope to conquer her ungovernable temper, and become a reasonable
woman. I have heard that Count Esterhazy intends to become her suitor,
and I command her to accept his hand. She has led a life of wild
independence, and it is time she were tamed by the cares, duties, and
responsibilities of matrimony. I am both her empress and godmother, and
I use my double right for her good. The marriage shall take place in one
week, or she goes into a convent. That is my ultimatum. "I remain yours
with sentiments of esteem, "MARIA THERESA."



CHAPTER LXXX.

THE BETROTHAL.

A long pause ensued after the reading of the letter. The countess stood
with her eyes riveted upon her uncle's face, as though she were waiting
for something more. The young count watched her furtively, but he looked
determined.

"You see, my child," at last sighed the old count, "it is inevitable.
The empress must be obeyed."

"No, no!" screamed the wretched girl, awaking from her stupor, "I will
not be the wife of that man."

"Then you will have to go into a convent."

"No!" cried she, her face suddenly lighting up with a flash of
hope--"no, I will do neither. There is a means of rescuing me from
both."

She turned with a bewitching smile to Count Esterhazy, and in a voice
whose softness was music to his ear, she addressed him:

"In your hands lies the power to rescue me from a forced bridal. You
have heard that despotic note from the empress. Match-making is a
monomania with Maria Theresa: it is useless, therefore, for me to appeal
to her, for on a question of marriage she is inexorable. But you, Count
Esterhazy," continued she, in tones of caressing melody, "you will
rescue me, will you not? I cannot be your wife, for I do not love you; I
cannot go into a convent, for I have no piety. Go, then, to the empress,
and tell her that you do not wish to marry me. You, at least, are free.
Refuse to accept me for your wife, and this miserable comedy is at an
end."

She had clasped her little white hands, and was looking imploringly in
his face.

The young man shook his head. "I cannot say this to the empress," said
he, quietly, "for it is she who sent me hither to woo you."

"The empress sent you hither!" cried the countess, springing forward
like a lioness. "You came not as a free suitor, but as an obedient slave
of the empress."

"I came at the command of the empress," said the young man, mildly.

The countess burst into a loud laugh.

"That, then, was the glowing love which you were describing just now;
that your tender wish to live for my happiness alone. Obedient
school-boy! You were told to come and ask for my hand, and you came--for
fear of being whipped--Oh! why am I not a man? By the heaven above! no
woman should inflict upon me such contumely!"

"It is true," said Count Esterhazy, taking no note of her words, "that
the empress ordered me hither. But since I have seen you, I need no
prompting save that of my own heart."

"Peace, fool! nobody believes you. You had consented to woo me, in
obedience to your despotic sovereign. But you have seen me; now you know
with how much justice I am called 'The Mad Countess,' and now, surely,
you have manhood enough to reject a termagant like me. Go, then, and
tell the empress that I was willing, but you were not--"

"I would not thus belie you, lovely Margaret."

"What do I care whether you belie me or not, so that I am rid of you?"
said she, contemptuously.

"Submit, my dear child," said the old count, with tears in his eyes.
"'Tis the first time in your life that you have been thwarted, and
therefore it is hard for you to succumb."

"I will not submit!" cried Margaret, flinging back her head. "I will not
marry this man. Uncle, dear uncle, leave me one moment with him. I have
something to say that he alone must hear."

The count withdrew at once into another room.

"Now, sir, that we are alone, I have a secret to reveal--to God and to
yourself. Swear by the memory of your mother that you will not betray
me."

"I swear."

She bowed her head, as though accepting the oath. "And now," raid she,
faltering and blushing, "I will tell you why I can never be your wife.
I--" she hesitated, and her head sank upon her bosom, while she stifled
a sigh. "I love another," whispered she, almost inarticulately. "Yes, I
love another. I love him with every throb of my heart, with all the
strength of my being. My every breath is a prayer for him. Every wish,
hope, and longing of my soul points to him alone. I would die to give
him one hour of joy. Now, that I have made this avowal, you retract your
suit, do you not? You will go now to the empress and say that you will
not accept me for your wife. You give me my freedom, surely--you give it
to me now."

Count Esterhazy smiled compassionately. "This is a fable, countess,
which you have invented to escape me. A few moments ago you said that
you would never love."

"I said that to disincline you to marry me."

"I do not believe you," said Esterhazy, calmly. "You have invented this
story of your love for that end; but it is a falsehood, for you are as
cold as an icicle."

"Oh, I wish that I were. For this love is my greatest misfortune. Look
at me, count. Does this seem like dissimulation?"

And she raised up to his view a face, scarlet with blushes, and eyes
filled with burning tears.

"No, countess," sail Esterbazy, after contemplating her earnestly, "I
will believe the tears that glisten in your speaking eyes. But now,
answer me one question. Your confidence gives me the right to ask it. Is
your love returned?"

She remained silent, as if communing with herself, while every trace of
color vanished from her cheeks.

"No," said she, at last, with quivering lips. "No, he does not know it;
and if he did, he could not offer me his hand."

"Then," replied Esterhazy, coolly, "your love is no impediment to our
marriage. Cherish it, if you choose; raise altars to this unknown god,
and deck them with the brightest flowers of devotion. I will not inquire
the name of your deity. Your secret is safe, even from myself. I, on the
contrary, have never loved. My heart stands with doors and windows open,
ready to receive its mistress; and as the empress has selected you, it
waits joyfully for you to take possession."

The countess laid her hand upon his arm, and grasped it like a vise.

"You will not recede!" said she, hoarsely. "You still persist in
desiring me for your wife?"

"You have told me that your love is hopeless, therefore is mine hopeful.
Perhaps one day it may succeed in winning yours."

"But you do not love me," shrieked the maddened girl. "You are here by
command of the empress."

"And the Esterhazys have always been the loyal servants of the empress.
Whenever she commands, they obey--were it at the cost of life and
happiness. Allow me, then, to persevere in my obedience, not only to her
desires, but to my own. I once more solicit the honor of your hand."

"Woe to you if, after this, I yield!" cried she, with threatening
gesture. "I have stooped to entreat you, and my prayers have been vain.
I have withdrawn the womanly veil that concealed my heart's cherished
secret, and you have not renounced your unmanly suit. I said that I did
not love you. Look at me, and hear me, while I vow eternal hatred,
should I be forced to give you my hand."

"There is but one step from hate to love. Allow me to hope that you will
think better of it, and take that step."

A fearful cry rang from her lips, her eyes glowed like burning coals,
and she raised her clinched hand as though she had hoped it might fell
him to the earth. But suddenly it sank helpless to her side, and she
looked long and searchingly into Count Esterhazy's face.

A long silence ensued. "It is well," said she, at length, in clear,
shrill tones. "You have challenged me to mortal combat, and it may be
that you will win. But, oh, believe me when I tell you that victory will
bring you no glory! Your strength is not your own; it lies in the
imperial hand of Maria Theresa. I swear to you that if I become your
wife, my whole life shall be consecrated to hatred and revenge. Count
Esterhazy, I hold my word inviolate, whether I pledge it to friend or
foe; tend when the blight shall fall upon your head that will grow out
of this hour we have spent together, remember that had you been a man of
honor you might have spared yourself the shame!"

Without another word she lifted her proud head, and, with a look of
withering scorn, left the room.

Count Esterhazy's eyes followed her retreating figure, and his placid
brow grew troubled. "Beautiful as she is," murmured he, "it is dangerous
to woo her. She has the beauty of Medusa. My heart positively seems to
petrify under her glance. I would be more than willing to renounce the
honor of wedding this beautiful demon, but I dare not refuse."