Part 10 out of 22
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
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,
"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!"
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
With these words she went back to her carriage and drove off.
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
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
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,
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
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,
"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
"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
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
"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
"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
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.
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
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
And he looked anxiously at Gunther.
"It is a large jar, your majesty," said Gunther, "and I think it will
"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.
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
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
"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
"But how came this fearful famine among you?" asked Lacy. "Did you not
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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."
"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
"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
"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."
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
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,
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
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
"There are seven of you present, and none needing grain!" exclaimed Von
"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
"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
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
"The emperor! it is the emperor!" groaned the terror-stricken
extortioners, while Joseph looked contemptuously upon their pale and
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
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
"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
"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
"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."
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
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
"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
"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
"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
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
"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.
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
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