Part 16 out of 22
enemies are trying to make my subjects hate me! I know that about these
very rooms, lewd songs are sung on the Pont-Neuf which make the Count de
Provence hold his sides with laughter."
"Yes, Antoinette, I have heard these things, and I came hither expressly
to visit this 'asylum.'"
"Well, Joseph, it is before you. The room through which you passed, and
this one, form my suite. The door yonder leads to the apartments of the
Princess de Lamballe, and I have never opened it to enter my retreat
except in her company."
"You had never the right to enter it at all. A retreat of this kind is
improper for you; and woe to you, Antoinette, if ever another man beside
myself should cross its threshold! It would give a coloring of truth to
the evil reports of your powerful enemies."
"Gracious God of Heaven!" cried the queen, pale with horror, "what do
they say of me?"
"It would avail you nothing to repeat their calumnies, poor child. I
have come hither to warn you that some dark cloud hangs over the destiny
of France. You must seek means to disperse it, or it will burst and
destroy both you and your husband."
"I have already felt a presentiment of evil, dear brother, and for that
very reason I come to these little simple rooms that I may for a few
hours forget the destiny that awaits me, the court which hates and
vilifies me, and in short--my supremest, my greatest sorrow--the
indifference of my husband."
"Dear sister, you are wrong. You should never have sought to forget
these things. You have too lightly broken down the barriers which
etiquette, hundreds of years ago, had built around the Queens of
"This from YOU, Joseph, you who despise all etiquette!"
"Nay, Antoinette, I am a man, and that justifies me in many an
indiscretion. I have a right to attend an opera-ball unmasked, but you
"I had the king's permission, and was attended by my ladies of honor,
and the princes of the royal family."
"An emperor may ride in a hackney-coach or walk, if the whim strike him,
but not a queen, Antoinette. "
"That was an accident, Joseph. I was returning from a ball with the
Duchess de Duras, when our carriage broke, and Louis was obliged to seek
a hackney-coach or we would have returned to the palace on foot."
"Let it pass, then. An emperor or a king, were he very young, might
indulge himself in a game of blind man's buff without impropriety; but
when a queen ventures to do as much, she loses her dignity.
Nevertheless, you have been known to romp with the other ladies of the
court, when your husband had gone to his room and was sound asleep."
"But who ever went to bed as early as the king?" said Marie Antoinette
"Does he go to bed too early, Antoinette? Then it is strange that on one
evening when you were waiting for him to retire so that you and your
ladies might visit the Duchess de Duras, you should have advanced the
clock by half an hour, and sent your husband to bed at half-past ten,
when of course he found no one in his apartments to wait upon him.
[Footnote: Campan. 129.] All Paris has laughed at this mischievous prank
of the queen. Can you deny this, my thoughtless sister?"
"I never tell an untruth, Joseph; but I confess that I am astounded to
see with what police-like dexterity you have ferreted out every little
occurrence of my private life;."
"A queen has no private life. She is doomed to live in public, and woe
to her if she cannot account to the world for every hour of her
existence! If she undertake to have secrets, her very lackeys
misrepresent her innocence and make it crime."
"Good Heaven, Joseph!" cried the queen, "you talk as if I were a
criminal before my accusers."
"You are a criminal, my poor young sister. Public opinion has accused
you; and accusation there is synonymous with guilt. But I, who give you
so much pain, come as your friend and brother, speaking hard truths to
you, dearest, by virtue of the tie which binds us to our mother. In the
name of that incomparable mother, I implore you to be discreet, and to
give no cause to your enemies for misconstruction of your youthful
follies. Take up the load of your royalty with fortitude; and, when it
weighs heavily upon your poor young heart, remember that you were not
made a queen to pursue your own happiness, but to strive for that of
your subjects, whose hearts are still with you in spite of all that your
enemies have done or said. Give up all egotism, Antoinette--set aside
your personal hopes; live for the good of the French nation; and one of
these days you will believe with me, that we may be happy without
The queen shook her head, and tears rolled down her cheeks. "No, no,
dear Joseph, a woman cannot be happy when she is unloved. My heart is
sick with solitude, brother. I love my husband and he does not return my
love. If I am frivolous, it is because I am unhappy. Believe me when I
tell you that all would be well if the king would but love me."
"Then, Antoinette, all shall be well," said a voice behind them; and,
starting with a cry of surprise and shame, the queen beheld the king.
"I have heard all," said Louis, closing the door and advancing toward
Joseph. With a bright, affectionate smile, he held out his hand, saying
as he did, "Pardon me, my brother, if I am here without your consent,
and let me have a share in this sacred and happy hour."
"Brother!" repeated Joseph, sternly. "You say that you have overheard
us. If so, you know that my sister is solitary and unhappy. Since you
have no love for her, you are no brother to me; for she, poor child, is
the tie that unites us! Look at her, sire; look at her sweet, innocent,
tear-stricken face! What has she done that you should thrust her from
your heart, and doom her to confront, alone, the sneers and hatred of
your cruel relatives? She is pure, and her heart is without a stain. I
tell you so--I, who in unspeakable anxiety have watched her through
hired spies. Had I found her guilty I would have been the first to
condemn her; but Antoinette is good, pure, virtuous, and she has but one
defect--want of thought. It was your duty to guide her, for you received
her from her mother's hands a child--a young, harmless, unsuspecting
child. What has she ever done that you should refuse her your love?"
"Ask, rather, what have I done, that my relatives should have kept us so
far asunder?" replied Louis, with emotion. "Ask those who have poisoned
my ears with calumnies of my wife, why they should have sought to deny
me the only compensation which life can offer to my royal station--the
inestimable blessing of loving and being loved. But away with gloomy
retrospection! I shall say but one word more of the past. Your majesty
has been watched, and your visit here discovered. I was told that you
were seeking to identify the queen with her mother's empire--using your
influence to make her forget France, and plot dishonor to her husband's
crown. I resolved to prove the truth or falsehood of these accusations
myself. I thank Heaven that I did so; for from this hour I shall honor
and regard you as a brother."
"I shall reciprocate, sire, if you will promise to be kind to my
The king looked at Marie Antoinette, who, seated on the sofa whence her
brother had risen, was weeping bitterly. Louis went toward her, and,
taking both her hands in his, pressed them passionately to his lips.
"Antoinette," said he, tenderly, "you say that I do not love you. You
have not then read my heart, which, filled to bursting with love for my
beautiful wife, dared not ask for response, because I had been told that
you--you--but no--I will not pain you with repetition of the calumny.
Enough that I am blessed with your love, and may at last be permitted to
pour out the torrent of mine! Antoinette, will you be my wife?"
He held open his arms, and looked--as lovers alone can look. The queen
well knew the meaning of that glance, and, with a cry of joy, she rose
and was pressed to his heart. He held her for some moments there, and
then, for the first time in their lives, the lips of husband and wife
met in one long, burning kiss of love.
"My beloved, my own," whispered Louis. "Mine forever--nothing on earth
shall part us now."
Marie Antoinette was speechless with happiness. She leaned her head upon
her husband's breast and wept for joy, while he fondly stroked and
kissed tier shining hair, and left the trace of a tear with every kiss.
Presently he turned an imploring look upon the emperor, who stood by,
contemplating the lovers with an ecstasy to which he had long been a
"My brother," said Louis, "for I may call you so now--seven years ago,
our hands were joined together by the priest; but, the policy that would
have wounded Austria through me, has kept us asunder. This is our
wedding-day, this is the union of love with love. Be you the priest to
bless the rites that make us one till death."
The emperor came forward, and, solemnly laying his hands upon the heads
of the king and queen, spoke in broken accents "God bless you, beloved
brother and sister--God give you grace to be true to each other through
good and evil report. Be gentle and indulgent one toward the other,
that, from this day forward, your two hearts may become as one!
Farewell! I shall take with me to Austria the joyful news of your
happiness. Oh, how Maria Theresa will rejoice to know it, and how often
will the thought of this day brighten my own desolate hearth at Vienna!
DEATH OF THE ELECTOR OF BAVARIA.
A large and brilliant assemblage thronged the state apartments of the
imperial palace at Vienna. The aristocracy not only of the capital, but
of all Austria, had gathered there to congratulate the emperor upon his
It was the first of January, 1778, and as New Year's day was the only
festival which Joseph's new ordinance allowed, the court took occasion
to celebrate it with all the pomp of embroidery, orders, stars, and
The empress had never thrown off her mourning, so that her dark gray
dress with its long train was in striking contrast with the rich,
elegant costumes, the flowers and diamonds of the other ladies present.
Still, there was something in this tall, noble form which distinguished
it above the rest, and spoke to all beholders of the sovereign will that
resided there. Maria Theresa was still the majestic empress--but she was
now an old woman.
Time as well as disease had marred her beauty, and the cares, anxieties,
and afflictions of sixty years had written their inexorable record upon
the tablet of her once fair brow. Not only these, but accident also had
destroyed the last lingering traces of Maria Theresa's youthful
comeliness. Returning from Presburg, she had been thrown from her
carriage, and dashed with such force against the stones on the road,
that she had been taken up bloody, and, to all appearances, lifeless.
Her face had suffered severely, and to her death she bore the deep-red
scars which had been left by her wounds. Her figure, too, had lost its
grace, and was now so corpulent that she moved slowly and heavily
through the rooms, where, in former years, she had stood by the side of
her "Francis," the most beautiful woman of her own or of any European
Her magnificent eyes, however, had defied time, they were large,
flashing, expressive as ever--as quick to interpret anger, enthusiasm,
or tenderness as in the days of her youth.
On the evening of which we speak, the empress was at the card-table. But
those great, glowing eyes were roving from one side of the room to the
other in restless anxiety. Sometimes, for a moment, they rested upon the
emperor who was standing near the table in conversation with some
provincial nobleman. The cheerful and unconcerned demeanor of her son
seemed to reassure the empress, who turned to her cards, and tried to
become interested in the game. Not far off, the archduchesses, too, were
at cards, and the hum of conversation subsided almost to a whisper, that
the imperial party might not be disturbed. Gradually the empress became
absorbed in her cards, so that she was unobservant of the entrance of
one of the emperor's lords in waiting who whispered something in
Joseph's ear, whereupon the latter left the room in haste.
Not very long after the emperor returned pale and excited, and
approached the card-tables. Maria Theresa, at that moment, had just
requested Count Dietrichstein to deal for her, and she was leaning back
in her chair, awaiting the end of the deal.
The emperor bent over and whispered something in her ear, when she
started, and the cards, which she was just gathering, fell from her
hands. With unusual agility she rose, and taking the emperor's arm,
turned away without a word of apology, and left the room.
The archduchesses had not yet perceived their mother's absence, when
Count Dietrichstein, on the part of the emperor, came forward, and
whispered a few words to each one of them. Precisely as their mother had
done the princesses rose, and without apology retired together.
The company started, and whispered and wondered what could have happened
to discompose the imperial family; but no one present was competent to
solve the mystery.
Meanwhile Maria Theresa had retired to her cabinet, where she met Prince
Kaunitz, furred like a polar bear, by way of protection from the
temperature of the palace, which was always many degrees below zero, as
indicated by the thermometer of his thin, bloodless veins. The minister
was shaking with cold, although he had buried his face in a muff large
enough to have been one of his own cubs. The empress returned his
greeting with an agitated wave of her hand, and seated herself in an
arm-chair at the large round table that always stood there.
Exhausted by the unusual haste with which she had walked as well as by
the excitement, which, in her old age, she was physically inadequate to
bear, she leaned back to recover her breath. Opposite stood the emperor,
who, with a wave of his hand, motioned to Kaunitz to enter also.
Maria Theresa's large eyes were fixed upon him at once.
"Is it true." said she. "that the Elector of Bavaria is dead?"
"Yes, your majesty," said Kaunitz. "Maximilian reigns no longer in
Bavaria. Here are the dispatches from our ambassador at Munich."
He held them out, but the empress put them back, saying:
"I am not sufficiently composed to read them. Give them to my son, and
have the goodness to communicate their contents to me verbally."
The face of Kaunitz grew pale, as he turned with the dispatches to the
emperor. The latter at once comprehended the prince's agitation, and
"I beg of your majesty," said he, "to excuse the prince, and to allow me
to read to you the particulars of Maximilian's demise. His highness must
be fatigued, and, doubtless, your majesty will allow him to retire
within the embrasure of yonder window, until I have concluded the
perusal of the dispatches."
Kaunitz brightened at once as the empress gave her consent, and he
gladly withdrew to the window which was far enough from the table to be
out of reach of the emperor's voice.
Joseph could not restrain another smile as he watched the tall, stiff
form of the old prince, and saw how carefully he drew the window
curtains around him, lest a word of what was going on should reach his
"Pardon me, your majesty," said Joseph, in a low voice, "but you know
what a horror Kaunitz has of death and the small-pox. As both these
words form the subject of our dispatches, I was glad to relieve the
prince from the necessity of repeating their contents."
"That you should have remembered his weakness does honor to your heart,
my son," replied Maria Theresa. "In my agitation I had forgotten it.
Maximilian, then, must have died of small-pox."
"He did, your majesty, like his sister, my unhappy wife."
"Strange!" said Maria Theresa, thoughtfully. "Josepha has often spoken
to me of the presentiment which her brother had that he would die of the
"It proves to us that man cannot fly from his destiny. The elector
foresaw that he would die of small-pox, and took every precaution to
avert his fate. Nevertheless, it overtook him."
The empress sighed and slowly shook her head. "Where did he take the
infection'?" asked she.
"From the daughter of the marshal of his household, who lived at the
palace, and took the small-pox there. Every attempt was made to conceal
the fact from the elector, and indeed he remained in total ignorance of
it. One day while he was playing billiards, the marshal, who had just
left his daughter's bedside, entered the room. The elector, shuddering,
laid down his cue, and turning deathly pale, murmured these words: 'Some
one here has the small-pox. I feel it.' He then fell insensible on the
floor. He recovered his consciousness, but died a few days afterward.
[Footnote: Wraxall, "Memoirs of the Courts of Berlin, Vienna, etc.,"
vol. i., p. 306.] This is the substance of the dispatches. Shall I now
"No, no, my son," said the empress, gloomily. "Enough that the son of my
enemy is dead, and his house without an heir."
"Yes; he is dead," replied Joseph, sternly. "The brother of my enemy--of
that wife with whom for two years I lived the martyrdom of an abhorred
union! He has gone to his sister, gone to his father, both our bitter,
bitter foes. I hated Josepha for the humiliation I endured as the
husband of such a repulsive woman; but to-day I forgive her, for 'tis
she who from the grave holds out to me the rich inheritance which is the
fruit of our marriage."
The empress raised her eyes with an expression of alarm.
"What!" exclaimed she, "another robbery! Lies not the weight of one
injustice upon my conscience, that you would seek to burden my soul with
another! Think you that I have forgotten Poland!--No! The remembrance
of our common crime will follow me to the bitter end, and it shall not
be aggravated by repetition. I am empress of Austria, and while I live,
Joseph, you must restrain your ambition within the bounds of justice and
The emperor bowed. "Your majesty must confess that I have never
struggled against your imperial will. I have bowed before it, sorely
though it has humiliated me. But as there is no longer any question of
death before us, allow me to recall Prince Kaunitz, that he may take
part in our discussion."
Maria Theresa bowed in silence, and the emperor drew the minister from
his retreat behind the curtains.
"Come, your highness," whispered Joseph. "Come and convince the empress
that Bavaria must be ours. We are about to have a struggle."
"But I shall come out victor," replied Kaunitz, as he rose and returned
to the table.
Maria Theresa surveyed them both with looks of disapprobation and
apprehension. "I see," said she, in a tremulous voice, "that you are two
against one. I do not think it honorable in Kaunitz to uphold my son
against his sovereign. Tell me, prince, do you come hither to break your
faith, and overthrow your empress?"
"There lives not man or woman in the world who can accuse Kaunitz of bad
faith," replied the prince. "I swore years ago to dedicate myself to
Austria, and I shall keep my word until your majesty releases me."
"I suppose that is one of your numerous threats to resign," said the
empress, with irritation. "If there is difference of opinion between us,
I must yield, or you will not remain my minister. But be sure that to
the last day of my life I shall retain my sovereignty, nor share it with
son or minister; and this conceded, we may confer together. Let the
emperor sit by my side, and you, prince, be opposite to us, for I wish
to look into your face that I may judge how far your tongue expresses
the convictions of your conscience. And now I desire the emperor to
explain his words, and tell me how it is that the succession of Bavaria
concerns the house of Hapsburg."
"Frankly, then," cried Joseph, with some asperity, "I mean that our
troops must be marched into Bavaria at once; for by the extinction of
the finale line of Wittelsbach, the electorate is open to us as an
imperial thief, and--"
"Austria, then, has pretensions to the electorate of Bavaria,"
interrupted Maria Theresa, with constrained calmness.
The emperor in his turn looked at his mother with astonishment. "Has
your majesty, then, not read the documents which were drawn up for your
inspection by the court historiographer?"
"I have seen them all," replied the empress, sadly. "I have read all the
documents by which you have sought to prove that Austria has claims upon
Lower Bavaria, because, in 1410, the Emperor Sigismund enfeoffed his
son-in-law, Albert of Austria, with this province. I have read further
that in 1614 the Emperor Matthias gave to the archducal house the
reversion of the Suabian estate of Mindelheim, which subsequently, in
1706, when the Elector of Bavaria fell under the ban of the empire, was
actually claimed by the Emperor of Austria. I have also learned that the
Upper Palatinate, with all its counties, by the extinction of the
Wittelsbach dynasty, becomes an open feoff, to which the Emperor of
Austria thinks that he may assert his claims."
"And your majesty is not convinced of the validity of my claims?"
exclaimed the emperor.
Maria Theresa shook her head. "I cannot believe that we are justifies in
annexing to Austria an electorate which, not being ours by indisputable
right of inheritance, may be the cause of involving us in a bloody war."
"But which, nevertheless, is the finest province in all Germany," cried
Joseph impatiently; "and its acquisition the first step toward
consolidation of all the German principalities into one great empire.
When the Palatinate, Suabia, and Lower Bavaria are ours, the Danube will
flow through Austrian territory alone; the trade of the Levant becomes
ours; our ships cover the Black Sea, and finally Constantinople will be
compelled to open its harbor to Austrian shipping and become a mart for
the disposal of Austrian merchandise. Once possessed of Bavaria, South
Germany, too, lies open to Austria, which like a magnet will draw toward
one centre all its petty provinces and counties. After that, we approach
Prussia, and ask whether she alone will stand apart from the great
federation, or whether she has patriotism and magnanimity enough to
merge her name and nationality in ours. Oh, your majesty, I implore you
do not hesitate to pluck the golden fruit, for it is ours! Think, too,
how anxiously the Bavarians look to us for protection against the
pretensions of Charles Theodore, the only heir of the deceased elector.
"The people of Bavaria well know what is to be their fate if they fall
into the hands of the elector palatine. Surrounded by mistresses with
swarms of natural children, his sole object in life will be to plunder
his subjects that he may enrich a progeny to whom he can lave neither
name nor crown. Oh, your majesty, be generous, and rescue the Bavarians
from a war of succession; for the elector palatine has no heir, and his
death will be the signal for new strife."
"Nay, it seems to me that the Duke of Zweibrucken [Footnote: Called in
English history, Duke of Deux-ponts.--Trans.] is the natural heir of
Charles Theodore, and I suppose he will be found as willing to possess
his inheritance as you or I, or any other pretender, replied Maria
Theresa. "But if, as you say, the Bavarians are sighing to become
Austrian subjects, it seems to me that they might have character enough
to give us some indication of their predilections; for I declare to you
both that I will not imitate the treachery of Frederick. I will not
bring up mouldy documents from our imperial archives to prove that I
have a right to lands which for hundreds of years have been the property
of another race; nor will I, for mad ambition's sake, spill one drop of
honest Austrian blood."
"And so will Austria lose her birthright," returned Joseph angrily. "And
so shall I be doomed to idle insignificance, while history ignores the
only man who really loves Germany, and who has spirit to defy the malice
of his contemporaries, and in the face of their disapproval, to do that
which is best for Germany's welfare. Is it possible that your majesty
will put upon me this new humiliation? Do you really bid me renounce the
brightest dream of my life?"
"My dear son," said the empress, "I cannot view this undertaking with
your eyes; I am old and timid, and I shudder with apprehension of the
demon that follows in the wake of ambition. I would not descend to my
grave amid the wails and curses of my people--I would not be depicted
in history as an ambitious and unscrupulous sovereign. Let me go to my
Franz blessed by the tears and regrets of my subjects--let me appear
before posterity as an upright and peace-loving empress. But I have said
that I am old--so old that I mistrust my own judgment. It may be that I
mistake pusillanimity for disinterestedness. Speak, Kaunitz--so far you
have been silent. What says your conscience to this claim? Is it
consistent with justice and honor?"
"Your majesty knows that I will speak my honest convictions even though
they might be unacceptable to the ear of my sovereign," replied Kaunitz.
"I understand," said the empress, disconsolately. "You are of one mind
with the emperor."
"Yes," replied Kaunitz, "I am. It is the duty of Austria to assert her
right to an inheritance which her ancestors foresaw, hundreds of years
ago, would be indispensable to her future stability. Not only your
majesty's forefathers, but the force of circumstances signify to us that
the acquisition is natural and easy. It would be a great political error
to overlook it; and believe me that in no science is an error so fatal
to him who commits it as in the science of government. Bavaria is
necessary to Austria, and your majesty may become its ruler without so
much as one stroke of the sword."
"Without a stroke of the sword!" exclaimed Maria Theresa, impetuously.
"Does your highness suppose that such a stupendous acquisition as that,
is not to provoke the opposition of our enemies?"
"Who is to oppose us?" asked Kaunitz. "Not France, certainly; she is too
closely our relative and ally."
"I do not rely much upon the friendship of France," interrupted the
empress. Marie Antoinette is mistress of the king's affections; but his
ministers guide his policy, and they would gladly see our friendly
"But France is not in a condition to oppose us," continued Kaunitz. "Her
finances are disordered, and at this very moment she is equipping an
army to aid the American rebellion. We have nothing to fear from Russia,
provided we overlook her doings in Turkey, and look away while she
absorbs the little that remains of Poland. England is too far away to be
interested in the matter, and Frederick knows by dear-bought experience
that her alliance, in case of war, is perfectly worthless. Besides,
George has quite enough on his hands with his troubles in North America.
Who, then, is to prevent us from marching to Bavaria and taking
peaceable possession of our lawful inheritance?"
"Who?" exclaimed the empress. "Our greatest and bitterest enemy--the
wicked and unprincipled parvenu who has cost me so many tears, my people
so many lives, and who has robbed me of one of the fairest jewels in my
Kaunitz shrugged his shoulders. "Your majesty is very magnanimous to
speak of the Margrave of Brandenburg as a dangerous foe."
"And if he were a dangerous foe," cried Joseph vehemently, "so much the
more glory to me if I vanquish him in battle and pluck the laurels from
Kaunitz looked at the emperor and slightly raised his finger by way of
warning. "The King of Prussia," said he, "is no longer the hero that he
was in years gone by; he dare not risk his fame by giving battle to the
emperor. He rests upon his laurels, plays on the flute, writes bad
verses, and listens to the adulation of his fawning philosophical
friends. Then why should he molest us in Bavaria. We have documents to
prove that the heritage is ours, and if we recognize his right to
Bayreuth and Anspach, he will admit ours to whatever we choose to
Maria Theresa was unconvinced. "You make light of Frederick, prince; but
he is as dangerous as ever, and after all I think it much safer to fear
our enemies than to despise them."
"Frederick of Prussia is a hero, a philosopher, and a legislator," cried
Joseph. "Let me give him battle, your majesty, that I may win honor by
vanquishing the victor."
"Never will I give my consent to such measures, unless we are forced to
adopt them in defence of right."
"Our right here is indisputable," interposed Kaunitz. "Copies of our
documents have already been circulated throughout Germany; and I have
received from Herr von Ritter, the commissioner of Charles Theodore, the
assurance that the latter is ready to resign his pretensions in
consideration of the advantages we offer."
"What are these advantages?" asked Maria Theresa.
"We offer him our provinces in the Netherlands, and the privilege of
establishing a kingdom in Burgundy," replied Joseph. "We also bestow
upon his multitudinous children titles, orders, and a million of
"And shame all virtue and decency!" cried the empress, coloring
"The elector loves his progeny, and cares little or nothing for
Bavaria," continued Joseph. "We shall win him over, and Bavaria will
certainly be ours."
"Without the shedding of one drop of blood," added Kaunitz, drawing from
his coat-pocket a paper which he unfolded and laid upon the table.
"Here is a map of Bavaria, your majesty," said Kaunitz, "and here is
that portion of the electorate which we claim, through its cession to
Albert of Austria by the Emperor Sigismund."
"We must take possession of it at once," cried Joseph; "at once, before
any other claimant has time to interpose."
The empress heaved a sigh. "Yes," said she, as if communing with
herself, "it all looks smooth and fair on paper. It is very easy to draw
boundary lines with your finger, prince. You have traced out mountains
and rivers, but you have not won the hearts of the Bavarians; and
without their hearts it is worse than useless to occupy their country."
"We shall win their hearts by kindness," exclaimed the emperor. "True,
we take their insignificant fatherland, but we give them instead, the
rich inheritance of our own nationality; and future history will record
it to their honor that theirs was the initiatory step which subsequently
made one nation of all the little nationalities of Germany."
The empress answered with another sigh, and looked absently at the
outspread map, across which Kaunitz was drawing his finger in another
"Here," said he, "are the estates which the extinct house held in fief
from the German emperor."
"And which I, as Emperor of Germany, have a right to reannex to my
empire," cried Joseph.
"And here, finally," pursued Kaunitz, still tracing with his finger,
"here is the lordship of Mindelheim, of which the reversion was not only
ceded to Austria by the Emperor Matthias, but actually fell to us and
was relinquished to the Elector of Bavaria by the too great magnanimity
of an Austrian sovereign. Surely, your majesty is not willing to abandon
your inheritance to the first comer?"
Maria Theresa's head was bent so low that it rested upon the map whereon
her minister had been drawing lines of such significance to Austria.
Close by, stood the emperor in breathless anxiety; while opposite sat
Kaunitz, impassable as ever.
Again a deep sigh betokened the anguish that was rending the honest
heart of the empress; and she raised her head.
"Alas for me and my declining energies!" said she, bitterly. "Two
against one, and that one a woman advanced in years! I am not convinced,
but my spirit is unequal to strife. Should we fail, we will be made to
feel the odium of our proceedings; should we triumph, I suppose that the
justice of our pretensions will never be questioned. Perhaps, as the
world has never blamed Frederick for the robbery of Silesia, it may
forgive us the acquisition of Bavaria. In the name of God, then, do both
of you what you deem it right to do; but in mercy, take nothing that is
not ours. We shall be involved in war; I feel it, and I would so gladly
have ended my life in the calm, moon-like radiance of gentle peace."
[Footnote: The empress's own sentiments. Wraxall, i, p. 311.]
"Your majesty shall end your life in peace and prosperity; but far in
the future be the day of your departure!" cried Joseph, kissing the hand
of the empress. "May you live to see Austria expand into a great empire,
and Germany rescued from the misrule of its legions of feeble princes!
The first impulse has been given to-day. Bavaria is rescued from its
miserable fate, and becomes an integral portion of one of the most
powerful nations in Europe."
"May God be merciful, and bless the union!" sighed the empress. "I shall
be wretched until I know how it is to terminate, and day and night I
shall pray to the Lord that He preserve my people from the horrors of
"Meanwhile Kaunitz and I will seek a blessing on our enterprise by
taking earthly precautions to secure its success. You, prince, will use
the quill of diplomacy, and I shall make ready to defend my right with a
hundred thousand trusty Austrians to back me. To-night I march a portion
of my men into Lower Bavaria."
"Oh," murmured the unhappy empress, "there will be war and bloodshed!"
"Before your majesty marches to Bavaria," said Kaunitz inclining his
bead, "her majesty, the empress, must sign the edict which shall apprise
her subjects and the world of the step we meditate. I haves drawn it up,
and it awaits her majesty's approbation and signature."
The prince then drew from his muff a paper, which he presented to the
empress. Maria Theresa perused it with sorrowful eyes.
"It is nothing but a resume of our just claims to Bavaria," said Joseph,
"It is very easy to prove the justice of a thing on paper," replied
Maria Theresa; "may God grant that it prove to be so in deed as well as
in word. I will do your bidding, and sign your edict, but upon your head
be all the blood that follows my act!"
She wrote her name, and Joseph, in an outburst of triumph, shouted,
"Bavaria is ours!"
A PAGE FROM HISTORY.
Maria Theresa's worst apprehensions were realized, and the marching of
the Austrian troops into Bavaria was the signal for war. While all the
petty sovereigns of Germany clamored over the usurpation of Austria,
pamphlet upon pamphlet issued from the hands of Austrian jurists to
justify the act. These were replied to by the advocates of every other
German state, who proved conclusively that Austria was rapacious and
unscrupulous, and had not a shadow of right to the Bavarian succession.
A terrible paper war ensued, during which three hundred books were
launched by the belligerents at each other's heads. [Footnote:
Schlosser's History of the Eighteenth Century, vol. iv., p. 363.] This
strife was productive of one good result; it warmed up the frozen
patriotism of all the German races. Bavarians, Hessians, Wurtembergers,
and Hanoveriana, forgot their bickerings to join the outcry against
Austria; and the Church, to which Joseph was such an implacable enemy,
encouraged them in their resistance to the "innovator," as he was called
by his enemies.
Of all the malcontents, the noisiest were the Bavarians. The elector
palatine, whose advent all had dreaded, was greeted upon his entrance
into Munich with glowing enthusiasm; and the people forgot his
extravagance and profligacy to remember that upon him devolved the
preservation of their independence as a nation.
But Charles Theodore was very little edified by the sentiments which
were attributed to him by the Bavarians. He longed for nothing better
than to relieve himself of Bavaria and the weight of Austrian
displeasure, to return to the palatinate, and come into possession of
the flesh-pots that awaited his children in the form of titles, orders,
and florins. He lent a willing ear to Joseph's propositions, and a few
days after his triumphant entrance into Munich, he signed a contract
relinquishing in favor of Austria two-thirds of his Bavarian
inheritance. Maria Theresa, in the joy of her heart, bestowed upon him
the order of the Golden Fleece, and on January 3, 1778, entered into
possession of her newly acquired territory.
Meanwhile, in Bavaria, arose a voice which, with the fire of genuine
patriotism, protested against the cowardly compliance of the elector
palatine. It was that of the Duchess Clemens, of Bavaria. She hastened
to give information of his pusillanimity to the next heir, the Dune of
Zweibrucken, and dispatched a courier to Berlin asking succor and
protection from the crown of Prussia.
The energy of this Bavarian patriot decided the fate of the Austrian
claim. The Duke of Zweibrucken protested against the cession of the
smallest portion of his future inheritance, and declared that he would
never relinquish it to any power on earth. Frederick pronounced himself
ready to sustain the duke, and threatened a declaration of war unless
the Austrian troops were removed. In vain Maria Theresa sought to
indemnify the duke by offers of orders, florins, and titles, which had
been so successful with Charles Theodore--in vain she offered to make
him King of Burgundy--he remained incorruptible. He coveted nothing she
could bestow, but was firm in his purpose, to preserve the integrity of
Bavaria, and called loudly for Frederick to come to the rescue.
Frederick responded: "He was ready to defend the rights of the elector
palatine against the unjust pretensions of the court of Vienna,"
[Footnote: Dohm's Memoirs, vol. i.] and removed his troops from Upper
Silesia to the confines of Bohemia and Saxony. This was the signal for
the advance of the Austrian army; and despite her repugnance to the act,
Maria Theresa was compelled to suffer it. She was also forced to allow
Joseph to take command in person. This time her representations and
entreaties had been vain; Joseph was thirsting for military glory, and
he bounded like a war-horse to the trumpet's call. The empress felt that
her hands were now powerless to restrain him, and she was so much the
feebler, that Kaunitz openly espoused the side of the ambitious emperor.
With convulsive weeping Maria Theresa saw her son assume his command,
and when Joseph bade her farewell, she sank insensible from his arms to
THE EMPEROR AS COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF.
The Emperor Joseph was pacing the floor of his cabinet. Sometimes he
paused before a window, and with absent looks surveyed the plain where
his troops were encamped, and their stacked arms glistened to the sun;
then he returned to the table where Field-Marshal Lacy was deep in plans
Occasionally the silence was broken by the blast of a trumpet or the
shouts of the soldiery who were arriving at headquarters.
"Lacy," said the emperor, after a long, dreary pause, "put by your
charts, and give me a word of consolation."
The field-marshal laid aside his papers and rose from the table. "Your
majesty had ordered me to specify upon the chart the exact spot which
Frederick occupies by Welsdorf, and Prince Henry by Nienberg."
"I know, I know," answered Joseph impatiently. "But what avails their
encampment to-day, when to-morrow they are sure to advance?"
"Your majesty thinks that he will make an attack?"
"I am sure of it."
"And I doubt it. It is my opinion that he will avoid a collision."
"Why then should he have commenced hostilities?" cried Joseph angrily.
"Have you forgotten that although the elector palatine is ready to
renounce Bavaria, Frederick opposes our claims in the name of Germany
and of the next heir?"
"No, sire; but Frederick has spies in Vienna, who have taken care to
inform him that Maria Theresa is disinclined to war. He has, therefore,
declared against us, because he hopes that the blast of his coming will
suffice to scatter the armies of Austria to the winds."
"The time has gone by when the terror of his name could appal us," cried
Joseph, proudly throwing back his head. "I hope to convince him ere long
that I am more than willing to confront him in battle, Oh, how weary is
the inactivity to which my mother's womanish fears condemn me! Why did I
heed her tears, and promise that I would not make the attack? Now I must
wait, nor dare to strike a blow, while my whole soul yearns for the
fight, and I long either to lead my troops to victory or perish on the
field of battle."
"And yet, sire, it is fortunate that you have been forced to inactivity.
To us time is every thing, for Frederick's army outnumbers ours. He has
seventy thousand men with him near the Elbe, and fifty thousand under
Prince Henry near Nienberg."
"Yes, but I shall oppose his hundred and twenty thousand men with twice
their number," cried Joseph impatiently.
"Provided we have time to assemble our men. But we must have several
days to accomplish this. At the end of a week our army will be complete
in numbers, and we can then await the enemy behind our intrenchments,
and the natural defences afforded us by the steep banks of the Elbe."
"Await--nothing but await," said Joseph scornfully. "Forever condemned
"In war, delay is often the best strategy, sire. The great Maurice, of
Saxony, has said that fighting is an expedient by which incompetent
commanders are accustomed to draw themselves out of difficult positions.
When they are perplexed as to their next move, they are apt to stumble
into a battle. I coincide with the great captain, although I well know
that I shall incur your majesty's displeasure thereby. Our policy is to
remain upon the defensive, and await an attack. Frederick has been
accustomed to win his laurels by bold and rapid moves, but we have now
for us an ally who will do better service in the field against him than
our expertest generalship."
"Who is that?" asked Joseph, who was listening in no amiable mood to
Lacy's dissertation on strategy.
"It is old age, sire, which hourly reminds Frederick that his hand is
too feeble to wield a sword or pluck new laurels. Frederick accompanied
his army in a close carriage; and yesterday, as he attempted to mount
his horse, he was so weak that he had to be helped into the saddle; in
consequence of which he reviewed his troops in an ill-humor, cursed the
war, and wished Austria to the devil."
"And this is the end of a great military chieftain," said Joseph sadly;
"the close of a magnificent career! May God preserve me from such a
fate! Sooner would I pass from exuberant life to sudden death, than drag
my effete manhood through years of weariness to gradual and ignominious
"But," continued the emperor, after a pause, "these are idle musings,
Lacy. Your picture of the great Frederick has made me melancholy; I
cannot but hope that it is overdrawn. It cannot be that such a warrior
has grown vacillating; he will surely awake, and then the old lion will
shake his mane, and his roar--"
At this moment a horseman at full speed was seen coming toward the
house. He stopped immediately before the window. A little behind came
another, and both dismounting, spoke several words to the soldiery
around, which evidently produced a sensation.
"Lacy," said Joseph, "something has happened; and from the countenances
of the men, I fear that these messengers have brought evil tidings. Let
us go out and see what has occurred."
As the emperor was about to lay his hand upon the door, it opened, and
one of his adjutants appeared.
"Sire," said he, almost breathless, "a courier has arrived from the
borders of Bohemia, and he brings startling intelligence."
"Tell us at once what it is," said the emperor.
"The King of Prussia has left the county of Glatz and has marched into
The emperor's face brightened instantaneously. "That is glorious news!"
"Glorious news, sire?" exclaimed the astounded adjutant. "The courier
who brings the intelligence has no words strong enough to depict the
terror of the inhabitants. They were gathering their effects and flying
to the interior, while the Prussian troops occupied the villages without
"The count is correct," said Lacy, who just then reentered the room. "I
have spoken with the man who brought the tidings. He is the mayor of his
village, and he fled as the staff of the king entered the place."
"I must speak with him myself," cried Joseph quickly; and the adjutant
opening the door, the villager was introduced into the room.
"Did you see the King of Prussia?" asked the emperor.
"Yes, sire, I saw him," replied the man, gloomily. "I heard him order
his men to forage their horses from our barns, and to strip our gardens
of their fruit and vegetables. I heard him give orders to spare nothing;
for, said he, 'the people must be made to feel that the enemy is in
their midst.'" [Footnote: Frederick's own words. Dohm's Memoirs, vol.
i., p. 130.]
"I shall remember the king's words," said Joseph, while his eyes flashed
with anger. "How did he look?"
"Like the devil in the likeness of an old man," said the peasant. "His
voice is as soft as that of a bridegroom; but his words are the words of
a hangman, and his eyes dart fire like those of an evil spirit. Even his
own men have nothing good to say of him. His generals call him a selfish
old man, who wants to do every thing, and knows nothing. He has not even
appointed a general staff, and has no one to attend to the wants of his
army." [Footnote: Historical. See Dohm, vol. i., p. 183.]
"Further, further!" cried Joseph, as the man paused.
"I have nothing further to tell, sire. As the king and his people left
my house, it was growing dark, so I slipped out. The curates were in the
churches with the women and children, and we men ran to the next
village, where the people gave us horses; and I have come to entreat the
emperor not to let the King of Prussia take us, as he did Silesia."
"I give you my word that you shall not be given over to Prussia. Remain
true to your country, and oppose the enemy whenever and wherever you
can. Go back to your village, greet your friends for me, and promise
them my protection. Count, be so good as to see that these men get some
refreshment before they start."
The adjutant bowed, and, followed by the villager, left the room.
"Lacy," cried the emperor, "the time for deliberation has gone by. The
hour for decision has struck, and I am free to give battle. It is
Frederick who has thrown down the glove, and I too, shall emerge from
obscurity, and prove to the world that others besides the King of
Prussia are worthy to lead their men to victory. It would be
dishonorable to refuse the challenge he has sent through his invasion of
Bohemia. Let orders be given to march to Jaromirs. We shall await the
enemy there; and there at last I shall measure swords with the greatest
captain of the age!"
SECRET NEGOTIATIONS FOR PEACE.
After the departure of the emperor for the seat of war, the court of
Vienna became supremely dull. All the state apartments were closed, the
gentlemen and ladies in waiting went about silent as ghosts, the
archduchesses were pale and sad, and the empress, disconsolate, spent
all her days in the solitude of her own apartments.
Not only at court, but in the city were all sounds of joy hushed into
speechless anxiety. Above all, since it had become known that Frederick
had invaded Bohemia, the Viennese were in a state of painful excitement,
convinced as they were that the warlike king would never stop his
marches until they brought him to the gates of Vienna.
Finally the panic reached the palace. The rich were conveying their
treasures to places of security, and the archduchesses and ladies of
honor were importuning the empress to leave Vienna, and remove the court
to Presburg. [Footnote: Dohm's Memoirs, vol. i., p. 187.]
Maria Theresa turned a deaf ear to these entreaties. Her eyes, which had
grown dull through weeping, flashed with defiant courage as she replied:
"I remain here in Vienna, and if the King of Prussia lays siege to my
capital, I shall die like an empress in imperial panoply. I have never
known what it was to fear for my life, and if now my heart throbs with
uneasiness, it is for my people, it is not for myself. I mourn for my
subjects, should Heaven, in its wrath, permit Frederick to prevail. For
this it is that my life is spent in seclusion and prayer. Come, my
daughters, come, ladies all, let us betake ourselves to the house of
And leaning upon the arms of the Archduchesses Elizabeth and Christina,
the empress proceeded to the chapel. Behind them, with downcast eyes and
reluctant steps, came the ladies of the court, all of one mind as to the
weariness of too much godliness and too much praying.
"When will the empress's private chapel be completed?" whispered one of
the ladies to another. "When will this daily martyrdom cease? Is it not
too bad to be forced to church five times a day?"
"You may thank fortune for your headache yesterday. It was my turn to
accompany the empress to the chapel, and we stayed so long that the
Archduchess Elizabeth told me that toward the end her senses began to
fail her, and she was scarcely able to utter the responses. How is the
Archduchess Marianna to-day?"
"Her highness," whispered the first lady, "is too sensible to recover in
a hurry. The wound in her cheek has reopened, and she really suffers a
great deal at present. But she bears her pain with great fortitude.
Yesterday the English ambassador was paying her a visit of condolence,
and as he was expressing his sympathy, the archduchess interrupted him
with a laugh. 'Believe me,' said she, 'for a princess of forty, who is
an old maid, even a hole in her own cheek is a godsend. Nothing that
varies the dull uniformity of my life comes amiss.'" [Footnote: The
archduchess's own words. See "Courts of Europe at the Close of the Last
Century," by Henry Swinburne, vol. i., p. 342.]
Both ladies tittered, but perceiving that the empress was turning her
head, they resumed their sanctimonious faces, and folded their hands.
"Was it you, ladies," said Maria, Theresa, with severity, "who were
interrupting our solemn silence by frivolous whisperings?"
"Yes, your majesty," replied the first lady of honor. "We were preparing
ourselves for prayer by edifying conversation."
The empress smiled kindly upon the speaker. "I know that you are
inclined to religion," said she, "and I am glad that you have had so
good an influence over the Countess Julia, for she is not wont to be too
zealous at prayer. I will remember you both for your piety, dear
children and will see that you are both well married. There is the young
Baron of Palmoden and Count--",
But the empress, who, in her darling schemes of marriage, had forgotten
for a moment whither they were going, suddenly crossed herself, saying,
"Forgive me, ladies; let us hasten our steps."
On this day the empress remained for three hours in the chapel, and
while her attendants, worn out by ennui, were some sleeping, or others
whispering to keep themselves awake, Maria Theresa, before the altar,
was on her knees, praying with all the fervor of her honest and
believing soul. As she prayed, she heaved many a sigh, and many a tear
fell unheeded from her eyes upon her tightly-clasped hands.
Certainly her prayers proved consolatory, for when they were ended, she
rose from her knees, calm and resolved. As she reached the door of her
own room, she turned to her favorite daughter. "Is your heart still
disconsolate, Christina`?" said she, with a look of supreme tenderness.
"How can it be otherwise, my mother?" said Christina, sobbing. "Has not
my cruel and avaricious brother forced my husband into this wicked war?
Oh, dearest mother, if you would but speak the word, Albert might be
relieved from the disgraceful contingency of appearing in arms against
his native land! He has no alternative, he must either become a traitor
to his own country, or perjure himself by deserting his colors. Oh, your
majesty, have mercy upon your subjects, and force the rapacious emperor
to forego his unjust claims, and obey your imperial commands!"
"Dry your tears, my daughter," replied the empress, kissing her
tenderly; "I have prayed so fervently for wisdom in this matter, that I
feel as if my prayers had been answered. What He has commanded I will
do, and may His grace strengthen and guide me! Hope for the best, my
child, and do not speak so unkindly of your brother. He is not as cruel
as you represent him; he has always been a dear, obedient son, and I
trust, I may find him so to the end. Go, now, Christina, and remember
that God directs all things."
The empress dismissed her daughters and entered her room, passing
rapidly to the place where hung the portrait of the Emperor Francis. For
a long, long while she looked at it without any thing but a vague
yearning to be united to her adored husband. Finally, as was her custom,
she began to speak to it.
"Franz, I have prayed from my soul for light. It seems to me that God
has spoken, but, oh, my darling, if what I am about to do is unwise,
whisper me one word of warning, and I shall be passive. Sometimes I
think that you visit me, beloved, and whisper words of angelic sweetness
in my ear. Speak now, my Franz, speak if I am wrong--I will obey your
She clasped her hands, and looked imploringly at the picture. Finally
she sighed. "Your dear face still smiles upon me," murmured she, "and I
must believe that I have decided for the best. I will act."
So saying, she rang her bell, and a page answered the summons.
"Send hither my private secretary, and let a carriage be dispatched for
Baron Thugut. I wish to see him immediately."
A few moments afterward, Koch made his appearance, and in half an hour
after a page announced Baron Thugut.
"Baron," said the empress, "I wish to put a serious question to you.
Remember that God hears you, and answer me without reservation."
"Your majesty has forgotten," replied Thugut, "that I have been so long
in the kingdom of unbelief that I am an unbeliever myself. I do not know
whether God hears me or not; but as I know that your majesty exacts of
me to be candid, I shall obey your commands."
"Then, tell me what is your opinion of the war of the Bavarian
succession. Do you think it an equitable one?"
The baron's small black eyes turned from the empress to the secretary.
Maria Theresa understood the glance.
"Speak without reserve; Baron Koch is loyal, and knows all my secrets.
Do you think, then, that our claims to Bavaria are just?"
"Just, your majesty?" repeated Thugut, in his sharp, cutting tones.
"Their success or their failure must decide that question. He who wins
will have proved his right. If we succeed in holding Bavaria, Germany
will uphold us--for Germany never raises her voice against a fait
accompli. Should Frederick unhappily defeat us, not only Germany, but
all Europe will cry out against the greed and injustice of ambitious
"I do not wish to expose myself to this contingency," replied the
empress. "I must have peace with God, the world, and my conscience, and
you must come to my assistance, Thugut."
An ironical smile played over Thugut's face. "With God and your
majesty's conscience, I would be a poor mediator," said he, "but toward
the world I am ready to serve your majesty in any shape or form."
"Then you shall mediate between myself and Frederick."
"Between your majesty and the King of Prussia!" said Thugut, astonished.
The empress nodded her head, and, just then, the door opened, admitting
a page who handed two letters on a golden plate. "The answer of Prince
Gallitzin," said he, bowing and retiring.
Maria Theresa opened the letters, which were unsealed, saving
"Now we have every thing requisite. Here is a passport for you as
private secretary to the Russian ambassador; and here is a letter which
you are to bear from Gallitzin to the king. This is the pretext of your
visit to Frederick."
"And the real motive is--"
"You will find it in the letter which I shall intrust to you for him.
Read my letter aloud, Koch."
The secretary read as follows
"From the recall of Baron von Reidsel and the marching of your majesty's
troops into Bohemia, I perceive with profoundest sorrow that we are on
the eve of another war. My age, and sincere love of peace, are known to
all the world, and I can give no greater proof of this love than I do by
writing to your majesty. My maternal heart, too, is sorely grieved with
the thought that I have two sons and a beloved son-in-law in the army. I
have taken this step without the knowledge of the emperor, and whatever
its result, I exact that it shall remain a secret between us. It is my
desire to resume the negotiations which were broken off by my son. Baron
Thugut, who will deliver this into your majesty's hands, has received my
instructions, and is empowered to treat with you. I trust that your
majesty may deem it consistent with our common dignity to meet my wishes
in this matter, and hope that you also correspond to the earnest desire
which I cherish for a continuation of friendly relations with your
majesty. With this hope I remain, "Your majesty's affectionate sister
and cousin, "MARIA THERESA." [Footnote: This letter was written in the
French language, and is to be found in Cross-Hoffinger's "Life and
History of the Reign of Joseph II.," vol. iv., p. 89.]
"Your majesty wishes me to bring about a peace. But what sort of peace?"
asked Thugut. "A conditional one, or peace at any price?"
Maria Theresa's eyes flashed fire.
"Is Austria so weak that she should crave peace at any price?" cried
"No, indeed, your majesty. She seems, on the contrary, so powerful that
she undertakes war at any price. But Bavaria is well worth a war with
Prussia. Allow me one more question. What is the emperor to do with his
army, while we negotiate?"
"They must await the result. I have written to Leopold to use all his
influence to reconcile Joseph, for he will be indignant when he hears
what I have done. But until it becomes evident that we cannot treat with
Frederick, the emperor and his generals must remain passive. Should I
fail, my son may then give battle, while his mother intercedes for him.
If the medicine of diplomacy fails this time, we shall have to resort to
the knife to heal our political wounds."
"Your majesty is right," said Thugut, with a heartless laugh. "When
medicine fails we use the cold steel; and if that is not enough, fire is
the last resort. What are your majesty's conditions with Prussia,
medicine, iron, or fire?" [Footnote: Thugut's own application of the
old-fashioned method of cure. See Hormayer's "Contributions to the
History of my Fatherland."]
"Balsam, I trust," replied the empress. "Koch has drawn out my
propositions. And now go and make your preparations to depart, for I
long for peace with the whole world."
Very different were the preparations making by the empress's warlike
son. In company with Lacy and his staff, he had reviewed his troops for
the last time, and had ridden from one end of their encampment to the
other, that he might personally inspect the condition of his army. He
had found it cheerful, spirited, and eager for the fray, the officers
assuring him that their men were impatient to meet the enemy, and end
the campaign by one decisive blow.
Even Lacy himself ceased to preach caution. He saw in the triumphant
smile and flashing eyes of Joseph that counsel would be worse than
useless, and warning would only drive him to some deed of mad daring,
which might peril his life, or the safety of his army. The emperor
himself had planned the attack, and his generals had approved his
On the other side of the Elbe was the King of Prussia, afraid to cross,
lest the Austrian army, from their secure heights on the opposite shore,
should annihilate his troops as they attempted the passage.
But what Frederick hesitated to undertake, Joseph was resolved to
accomplish. He had determined to cross the Elbe, and force the king to
give him battle. His columns were to move under cover of night, to ford
the river below, and, by rapid marches, to reach the Prussian army at
break of day.
"We shall be victorious, I feel it," said the emperor to Lacy, on their
return from the encampment. "I have a joy within my heart that is the
forerunner either of victory or of death."
"Of death!" echoed Lacy, with surprise. "Does your majesty mean to say
that man can encounter death joyfully?"
"Why not?" said the emperor. "When a man dies, has he not won the long
and bloody battle of life?"
"These are disconsolate words to fall from YOUR lips, sire. To you life
must present a bright array of hopes and useful deeds. None but an old
and decrepit man should take such gloomy views of the world."
"I have suffered as much as older men, Lacy," returned the emperor,
laying his hand upon his friend's shoulder "But all my sufferings are
forgotten in the anticipated joy of the morrow. Let the dead past bury
its dead the birth of my happiness is at hand. I shall no mote rest my
title to the world's homage upon the station to which I was born. It
shall know at last that I am worthy to be the friend of Lacy and of
Loudon. All the years that have intervened have never yet sufficed to
blot out the remembrance of that fearful day on which the empress
recalled the consent she had given for me to meet Frederick in the
field. I have never looked upon my mother since without feeling the
wound reopen. But to-day I can forgive her. I can even forgive the hated
priests who were the cause of my misfortune. Lacy, I love the whole
The emperor interrupted himself to stare with astonishment at the figure
of a man, who just then had opened the door.
"The Grand Duke of Tuscany!" exclaimed Lacy.
"My brother Leopold," murmured Joseph, in a low, tremulous voice, but
without rising from his seat, or offering his hand. A cloud passed over
the pale, sickly face of the grand duke, and the smile vanished from his
"Your majesty does not invite me to enter?" asked he, reproachfully.
"You do not bid me welcome?"
The emperor gazed upon his brother in silence, and Leopold shrank from
the keen and searching glances of Joseph's inquiring eyes.
"My brother," cried the emperor, suddenly, "you have come hither to
bring me some evil tidings."
"I have come to greet your majesty, and to enjoy a few hours of family
intercourse with you," replied the grand duke, while, without awaiting
the courtesy which Joseph would not extend, be closed the door, and
advanced into the room.
"No, no," cried the emperor, "that is false. We are not such a pair of
loving brothers that you should seek me for affection's sake."
And approaching Leopold as he spoke, he stopped just before him, and
"I implore of you be generous and tell me what you want. You have
letters from the empress, have you not?"
"I have. I have not only letters from our imperial mother to deliver to
your majesty, I am also the bearer of verbal messages, but-"
"But what?" cried Joseph, as Leopold paused.
"But I must request of your majesty to grant me a private interview."
"With his majesty's permission, I shall withdraw," said Lacy. Joseph
inclined his head, and, as Lacy disappeared, he turned his eyes once
more upon the pale, embarrassed countenance of his unwelcome relative.
"Now we are alone," said he, breathing fast. "Now--but no. Give me one
moment to collect my strength. My God! what evil has the empress in
store for me now, that she should select you as the messenger of her
cruelty? Peace--I do not wish to hear your voice until I am ready to
listen to its discordant sounds."
"I await your commands," replied Leopold, with a respectful inclination.
The emperor crossed the room several times forth and back. His cheeks
were blanched, his mouth quivered, while quick and gasping came the
breath from his heaving chest.
"Air, air!" said he in a stifled voice. "I shall suffocate!" He
approached the window, and leaning far out, inhaled the cold winter
blast, whose icy breath was welcome to his hot and fevered head. After a
while, he closed the window and turned to his brother, who, with folded
arms, still stood near the door.
"Now," said Joseph, gloomily, "I am ready to hear. Speak out, your
"I must first beg pardon of your majesty if the intelligence which I am
compelled to communicate is unwelcome," began Leopold, in a deprecating
Joseph cast a rapid, searching look athwart the perplexed face of his
brother. "You are forgiven," replied he, contemptuously. "Your message
seems to be punishment enough of itself, if I judge by your countenance.
Let us be quick, then, and be done with one another. Give me the letter,
and say at once what you have to say."
The grand duke took from his coat-pocket a sealed dispatch which he
delivered to the emperor.
"Here are the letters of the empress, but she ordered me to accompany
them with a few words explanatory of her motives. She commissioned me to
tell what she found it difficult to write."
"She was afraid," muttered Joseph.
"Yes, she was afraid to commit an injustice," returned Leopold. "She was
afraid to offend her Maker by continuing a war whose object was to break
one of His holy commandments--"
"Oh, my brother!" interrupted Joseph, sarcastically, "you are yourself
again--I recognize the dutiful son of the priests who denounce me
because I would disturb them in their comfortable Bavarian nest. I see
plainly that if I should be so unfortunate as to fall to-morrow on the
battle-field, you will throw yourself into the arms of Frederick and of
that frantic amazon, the Duchess Clemens, beg pardon for my sins, and
hand over the fairest portion of Germany to pope and Jesuits. Oh, what a
favorite you would become with the black-coats! Doubtless they would
give you absolution for all the sins you are accustomed to commit
against your wife, but, my virtuous brother, I shall outlive the
morrow, that I promise you, and shall gain such a victory over
Frederick as will astound you and the whole popedom."
"You were about to give battle to Frederick?"
"I am about to do so," replied Joseph, defiantly.
"Then it was time for me to come!" exclaimed Leopold, solemnly.
"The mercy of God has sent me to stop the carnage! My brother, the
empress earnestly entreats you, by the tears she has shed for your sake,
to desist from fighting! As your empress she commands you to sheathe
your sword until you hear the result of the negotiations now pending
between herself and the King of Prussia."
The emperor uttered a cry of rage, and the angry blood darted to his
very brow. "The empress has opened negotiations without my consent!"
cried he, in a voice of mingled indignation and incredulity.
"The empress requires the consent of no one to regulate her state
policy. In the supremacy of her own power, she has reopened negotiations
with the King of Prussia, and hopes to terminate the war honorably
"It is false, I will not believe it!" again cried Joseph. "My mother
would not offer me such indignity, when she herself placed in my hand
the sword with which I seek to defend my rights. It is a priest's lie,
and you have been commissioned to be its interpreter. But this time your
pious frauds will come to naught. Take back your packet. It is not the
"It is that of her private secretary."
"I am not bound to respect his writing, and I have no time to listen to
your stupid remonstrances. Wait till day after to-morrow. When a man is
flushed with victory, he is generous and ready to pardon. When I have
beaten Frederick, I shall have leisure to inquire into the authenticity
of your papers. Remain with me, not as the emissary of priests and
Jesuits, but as the brother of the emperor, who to-morrow is to win his
first victory and his first budding laurels. Give me your hand. On the
eve of a battle, I am willing to remember that we are brothers."
"But this is not the eve of a battle, your majesty. The empress commands
you to await the result of her efforts to end the war."
"I have already told you that I see through your intrigues."
"But I have the proofs of my veracity in these papers. You will not read
"No, I will not!"
"Then I shall read them myself," returned Leopold, breaking the seal.
"The empress commands you, and it is your duty as her subject to obey."
"I shall obey when I am convinced that the empress commands. But in this
case I am convinced that it is not my mother, the high-spirited Maria
Theresa, who intrusts you with such an abject commission."
"You surely will not deny her handwriting?" returned Leopold, extending
an open letter to his brother.
Joseph looked imploringly at his brother's calm face.
"You are resolved to show me no mercy," said he. "You will not
understand my refusal to believe. Listen to me, Leopold. Show that you
love me for once in your life. Think of my joyless youth, my sorrowing
manhood, my life of perpetual humiliation, and give me one day of
"What does your majesty mean'?" asked the grand duke.
The emperor came up to him, and putting both his hands upon Leopold's
shoulder, he said in a voice of deep emotion; "Majesty asks nothing of
you, but your brother entreats you to serve him this day. See, Leopold,
it is too late, I cannot retract upon the very eve of battle. The army
knows that we are about to engage the enemy, and my men are wild with
enthusiasm. The presence of Frederick upon Austrian soil is an indignity
which I am pledged as a man to avenge. If I allow him to retreat from
his present disadvantageous position, my name is gone forever, and all
Europe will cry out upon my incapacity to command. Remember, Leopold,
that it concerns not my honor alone, but the honor of Austria, that this
battle should be fought. Rescue us both by a magnanimous falsehood. Go
back to the empress. Tell her that you lost her letters and that I would
not take your word. Meanwhile, I shall have humiliated the enemy, and
Maria Theresa will have been forced to submit to an event which she
cannot recall. Let us burn these papers, Leopold," continued Joseph,
passionately clasping his hands, "and God will forgive you the innocent
deception by which your brother shall have won fame and glory."
"God will never pardon me for sinning so deeply against my conscience,"
replied Leopold, unmoved. "You require of me to burn those papers and
consign thousands of your own subjects to death and worse than
death--the lingering agonies of the battle-field. Never! Oh, my dear
brother, have pity on yourself, and bethink you that you peril your own
salvation by such thirst of blood--"
"Peace!--and answer my question," cried Joseph, stamping his foot. "Will
you do what I ask of you?"
"No, Joseph, I will not do it. The empress desires to spare the blood of
her people, and we must obey her just demands."
"I will not obey!" cried Joseph with such violence that his face was
empurpled with passion. "I am co-regent, and as a man and a commander,
it is my right to defend the honor of the crown. I will not read those
letters, and I choose to assert the superiority of my manhood by doing
that which they forbid. In your eyes and those of the empress, I may be
a rebel, but the world will acquit me, and I shall be honored for my
just resistance. You will not destroy the papers as I implored you to
do?--then give them to me, and so satisfy your tender conscience."
"No," replied Leopold, who had replaced the dispatches in his pocket,
"for I see that you intend to destroy them."
"That need not concern you. Give me the letters."
"No, Joseph, I will not give them."
The emperor uttered a hoarse cry, and darted toward his brother with
"Give me the papers!" said he, with his teeth set.
"What! you would strike me!" said Leopold retreating.
"Give me the papers!" thundered the emperor, "or I fell you to the earth
as I would a beast!" and he came yet nearer.
Pale and panting, their eyes flashing with anger, the brothers stood for
a moment confronting each other.
"Refuse me once again," hissed Joseph in a low, unnatural voice, "refuse
me once again, and my hand shall smite your cowardly face and disgrace
you forever; for, as God hears me, you shall never have satisfaction for
Leopold was silent, but with his eyes fixed upon Joseph, he retreated,
farther and still farther, followed by the emperor, who, still with
uplifted hand, threatened his brother's face. Suddenly Leopold reached
the door and, bursting it open, rushed into the anteroom. With a
tiger-bound he sprang forward to Lacy who had remained there in
obedience to the emperor's orders.
"Field-Marshal Lacy," said the grand duke, "I claim your protection--the
protection of a man whom the empress has honored, and who has sworn to
obey her as his lawful sovereign."
"Even unto death," added Lacy solemnly.
The emperor groaned aloud, and his upraised arm fell powerless to his
side. A triumphant smile flickered over the pale features of Leopold. He
thrust his hand into his pocket and drew forth the dispatches of the
"The empress charged me," said he, "in case the emperor refused to read
these letters, to deliver them to you, Marshal Lacy, and to bid you, in
my presence, read them to him. Come, then, your excellency, let us obey
the commands of our sovereign."
Lacy bowed, and followed the grand duke in silence. The emperor
retreated to his cabinet, and, sinking upon a sofa, buried his face in
his hands. Nothing interrupted the stillness save the measured footsteps
of Lacy and the grand duke, who entered and closed the door behind them.
A long pause ensued. The grand duke retired to a window, where, with his
arms folded, he awaited the development of affairs with recovered
composure. Joseph still sat with his face hidden by his hands, while
Lacy with military decorum stood at the door with his letters, silent
until the emperor should signify that he might read. Finding that Joseph
would not speak, Lacy took a few steps forward. "Does your majesty allow
me to read the letters which, in the name of the empress, his imperial
highness, the grand duke, has delivered to me?"
"Read," said Joseph hoarsely, but without removing his hands. Lacy
approached the table, and from the various documents which he unfolded
and examined, selected the letter which was in the empress's own hand--
"My Dearest Emperor and Son: As co-regent and heir to my throne, I
hasten to advise you of the negotiations which have just been renewed
between the King of Prussia and myself. I have every hope that they will
terminate to our satisfaction, and thus not only save the lives of many
of our subjects, but relieve my heart of the pangs it has endured during
the absence of my beloved son. The King of Prussia has promised that,
pending our diplomatic correspondence, he will not attack our armies. I
therefore hope that you, my son, will concede as much, and scrupulously
avoid all collision that might interrupt our negotiations. I send you
copies of our correspondence, and will continue to do so regularly.
Hoping that God in His goodness will restore to me my imperial son, I
remain now as ever, your affectionate mother and empress, "MARIA
A deep sign that was almost a sob was heaved by the emperor. Slowly his
hands fell from his face, while with tearful eyes he turned to Lacy, and
said, "Is it really so? Are my hopes of glory all frustrated?"
Lacy answered with another sigh and a slight raising of the shoulder.
"Read on, Lacy," continued the emperor, mildly; "my eyes are dim and I
Lacy continued reading the correspondence: first the letter of the
empress; then the reply of the king, in which he promised that Maria
Theresa should have nothing to fear for the life of her beloved son.
When the emperor heard this he started; the color mounted to his face,
then faded away and left it pale as before. His lips moved, but with a
convulsive twitch he closed them again, and listened in silence. Two
more letters followed, full of mutual and distinguished consideration;
then came the propositions of the empress and the comments of the king.
Maria Theresa pledged herself, from that portion of Bavaria of which
Austria had possession, to retain only so much as would yield a revenue
of one million, offering to cede the remainder to the elector palatine,
or to exchange with him for territory situated elsewhere.
Then followed Frederick's conditions. He stipulated that Austria should
renounce all pretensions to Bavaria, contenting herself with a small
portion of Upper Bavaria, and recognizing and upholding the claims of
Charles Theodore, as well as those of his heir, the Duke of Zweibrucken.
"Further, further!" exclaimed Joseph, as Lacy paused.
"There is nothing further, sire; the correspondence ceases there."
"And to these disgraceful propositions we are not permitted to make the
only answer of which they are deserving--that is, to wipe them out with
blood! Oh, Lacy, Lacy, is it not fearful to be compelled like a
schoolboy to submit to the punishment which my tormentor judges fit to
"It is a painful duty, sire; but it is a duty, and your majesty must
"I must not submit!" exclaimed Joseph in bitter anguish, while he sprang
from the sofa. But suddenly his eager, fluttering glances were turned
toward the window where stood the grand duke quietly surveying his
"Have you not gone?" asked the, emperor. "I thought that your mission
being fulfilled, your imperial highness had nothing more to do here."
"I await your majesty's answer," replied the grand duke. "Oh, you wish
to mock me, do you?" cried Joseph, trembling with passion, "for well you
know there is but one answer to the empress's commands, and that
is--obedience. But since you are anxious to take a message, here is one,
and mark it well. Say to the empress that I submit as becomes her
subject, and so long as it suits her without my knowledge and behind my
back to hold conferences with the enemy, I will abstain from engaging
him in battle, although by so doing I shall ruin my reputation forever.
Tell her furthermore that should she accept the dishonorable proposals
made by Frederick and conclude a peace upon the basis of his conditions,
she need never expect to see me again in Vienna. I never shall go near
her so long as I live, but shall take up my abode in Aix la Chapelle, or
in some other free city, as it was once the custom of the Emperors of
Germany to do."' [Footnote: Joseph's own words. See Dohm's Memoirs vol.
i., p. 143.]
"Oh, sire!" exclaimed Lacy, shocked, "retract those words, I implore of
"I will not retract them," replied Joseph, imperatively; "I order the
envoy of the empress to repeat them faithfully."
"I shall obey your majesty, the co-regent of the empress," said the
Grand Duke of Tuscany. "Has your majesty any other commands?"
"Yes!" shouted the emperor, fiercely. "When you shall have accomplished
your mission in Vienna, go home to your priests in Tuscany, and bid them
say a mass for the repose of your brother's soul, for from this day you
have lost him who was called Joseph. He is dead to you forever."
The grand duke returned his brother's look with one of equal hatred. "I
can scarcely lose that which I have never possessed," replied he with
composure. "Had the affront which your majesty has put upon me to-day
come from a brother, we should have measured swords together before the
sun had set upon the insult. But he who stands before me is my emperor,
and of him I am prohibited from demanding satisfaction."
"Our paths in life lie apart, and I trust that we shall never be forced
to look upon each other again," said Joseph in reply.
"Since we can never meet as brothers, I am compelled to echo the wish,"
returned Leopold. "Farewell!"
"Farewell--and let it be farewell forever!"
The grand duke crossed the room and opened the door, while Joseph
watched his disappearance with glaring eyes and stormy brow, and Lacy in
anguish of heart looked first at one brother, then at the other. The
door closed, and the jar it made caused Lacy of start. He recovered
himself and hastened to the emperor's side.
"Call him back, sire," implored he. "Call him back. He is your brother
and the son of your mother. He is also the hope of those who tremble
with apprehension of your majesty's reign."
"Oh, yes--he is the leader of my enemies, the head of the pious
conspirators who have cursed my life by their diabolical opposition. But
a day will come when I shall crush the whole brood in their owl's nest,
and put my house in order. In that day I shall remember this interview
with the Grand Duke of Tuscany." [Footnote: The two brothers never met
again. Although Leopold was next heir to the crown, Joseph would not
allow him to receive the title of King of Rome, but bestowed it upon
Leopold's son and heir, Francis. Even upon his death-bed the emperor
refused to see his brother. By his explicit commands, it was only when
his death had taken place, that a courier was sent to inform Leoold of
his accession to the throne.]
"Sire," insisted Lacy, "I entreat of you, recall him--if not as your
brother, as the envoy of your sovereign. Before it is too late, retract
those fearful words, which in a moment of--"
"Lacy!" interrupted the emperor, in a loud, angry voice, "I have this
day lost a brother and a battle. Am I also to lose a friend?"
The tears rose to Lacy's eyes. "Sire," said he in a voice of emotion,
"forgive your truest friend if he has presumed to oppose you. I have no
kindred to love: my heart is bound to you, and if I lose your regard, I
am desolate and alone in the world!"
"You shall not lose it, my dear, dear friend," exclaimed Joseph,
throwing his arms around Lacy's neck. "O God, you do not know how I
suffer I I feel as if I had lost some beloved friend. And is it not so?
Have I not buried to-day the hopes of a whole life? The hopes which from
my youth I had cherished of winning glory and fame through Frederick's
humiliation!--I would give years of my life to have measured swords with
him, for--let me tell you a secret, Lacy--I hate that man as much as I
once fancied that I loved him. He is the cause of every misfortune that
has befallen our house for forty years past. His fame is our shame, his
splendor our obscuration. I might forgive him his robbery of Silesia,
but that he has reduced me to the role of an imitator, I can never
forgive! Every thing on earth that I imagine, he executes before me. If
I desire to free my people from the dominion of the clergy, he has
already liberated his; if I seek to advance art, literature, or
manufactures, he has just afforded them protection in Prussia; if I
recommend toleration, lo! he has removed the disabilities of the Jews,
and has pronounced all sects equal before the law. Would I excel in
music, or yearn for military glory, the world has long since pronounced
him a hero, and his flute was heard before I learned the violoncello.
Oh, I hate him, I hate him, for his greatness is the rock upon which my
originality is fated to split; and his shadow projects forever before me
and my unborn deeds. He forces me to pass for a counterfeit of his true
coin, and yet I feel that my individuality is as marked as his! He is
the evil genius of my destiny, vanquishing me even in that which I would
have done for the good of my subjects and the advancement of the world!"
"Your majesty goes too far," said Lacy, smiling. "There is one thing
which Frederick has never dreamed of doing, and it is precisely there
that you are destined to eclipse him. He has never sought to do any
thing for Germany. A German prince, the ruler of a German people, he is
the patron of foreign industry, literature, and art. The most
insignificant writer in France is better known to him than Lessing or
Winklemann; and while he is perfectly familiar with the composers of
Italy, be has blundered into depreciation of Gluck's inspired music.
There is the great and glorious contrast which your majesty presents to
Frederick of Prussia; and the German people, whom he has despised, will
look up to you, sire, as to the Messiah of their decaying greatness."
"He will foil me there as in all else," replied Joseph, disconsolately.
"Has he not already guessed my plans in Germany, and has he not torn my
banner from my hand to flaunt it above his own head, as the defender of
German liberties! And Maria Theresa, too, is deceived by his infernal
logic. Oh, Lacy! I hate him beyond expression. I hate him for the letter
wherein he promises to spare her son, a man whom he loves, although he
differs with him on the subject of German nationality. [Footnote:
Gross-Hoffinger, "Records of the Life of Joseph II.," p. 41.] The
cowardly remnant of a warrior! He takes refuge under my mother's hooped
petticoat, and whispers in her credulous ear that this war is a great
sin. Do you really think that I am bound to sheathe my sword at the ipse
dixit of my mother?"
"Your mother is the reigning empress, sire, and it is for you to give to
her other subjects an example of loyalty and obedience."
"Ah," sighed Joseph, "I must still the throbbings of my bursting heart,
and suffer in silence!"
For a while he paced the room with hasty, uncertain steps, murmuring
inaudible words, and darting despairing looks toward the window, whence
gay throngs of soldiery were to be seen preparing to leave the
encampment, while they sang their martial songs, and speculated together
upon the events of the morrow. Suddenly the emperor turned his head
toward Lacy, and said:
"Field-marshal, I withdraw my plans of battle. The empress-queen has
spoken, it is for us to obey. Apprise the army of the change. We remain
where we are."
"Sire," exclaimed Lacy enthusiastically, "your victory has been won
to-day. A victory over self!"
The emperor raised his eyes with a sad, weary expression, and shook his
head: "It was harder to win than could have been that which I
contemplated for to-morrow. Go, Lacy, go, we must still hope and
pray--pray God to grant that at some future day we may be revenged."
Lacy had assembled the generals and the staff-officers to communicate
the decision of the emperor; while the latter, overcome by this supreme
disappointment, was pacing his cabinet with heavy and measured step.
Then he stood at the window, and watched the movements of his soldiers.
"They have heard it now," thought he, "and the word has gone forth, 'The
emperor is afraid to meet the old hero.' Yes, my brave soldiers, I know
full well that you despise me! Your songs have ceased--your spirit is
crushed, and, ah, mine also! This unfought battle is worth a victory to
Frederick; for the army will think that my courage failed me, and the
King of Prussia will still remain in their estimation the invincible foe
of Austria! Oh, when will the hour of retribution sound?"
At this moment a knock was heard at the door, and an adjutant announced
to the emperor that a hussar, belonging to a Galician regiment stationed
directly opposite to the Prussian encampment, wished to communicate
something of importance.
"Admit him," said Joseph, wearily.
The adjutant bowed, and returned, accompanied by a stalwart figure,
attired in the fanciful and becoming costume of a Galician hussar. The
emperor returned his salute with a slight bend of the head, and motioned
him to approach. The adjutant withdrew, and Joseph was alone with the
"Now speak," said the emperor, "and if you have important tidings, let
me hear them."
The soldier raised his head, and spoke. "I have come to do your majesty
a service, but first you must promise to reward me as becomes an
"If your service is great, your reward shall be in proportion."
The soldier bowed. "I am on picket duty immediately on the bank, of the
Elbe. As I have lain among the bushes, I have more than once seen the
King of Prussia just opposite to me, taking a survey of our strength.
Little thinks he, as he reins in his horse, that a sharpshooter's ball
is not too far off to bring him down. But I have thought of it."
"You have thought of WHAT?" exclaimed Joseph, shocked.
"I have thought that my ball has never yet missed its man, and what a
rich man I might become if I were to free Austria from its worst enemy.
I was turning this over in my mind yesterday, when here comes the king
on his gray horse, and halts directly in front of me. He held a cane in
his hand, and pointed with it toward our encampment, and beat the air
with it, as though he were showing his officers how he was going to
thrash the Austrian army. When I saw this, my blood began to boil, and I
rose half up, and cocked my gun. Many a Bosnian have I brought down with
"Go on," said the emperor, as the soldier paused, and threw an admiring
glance upon his musket.
"Yes, sire, I raised my gun, and took aim, when I began to reflect
"That what?" exclaimed Joseph, upon whose forehead great drops of sweat
had begun to gather.
"That it would be better first to ask the emperor's permission, and get
the promise of a reward," said the hussar, with a salute.
"Ah!" cried the emperor, breathing freely, "that was a lucky thought of
The soldier bowed low. "I put down my musket, and when the hour came
round for me to be relieved, I asked leave of my captain to come here to
see an old acquaintance. And, indeed, your majesty, I was not telling a
lie, for you once slept under my father's roof, and paid him so well for
the night's lodging, that he was able to buy some land to settle me upon
it, and thereupon I married my sweetheart. So that I did come to see an
old acquaintance; and now, your majesty, I have a firm hand and a sharp
eye, and if you say so, Frederick shall bite the dust before this day
"What said your captain to such a proposal?"
"Does your majesty suppose that I am such a fool as to give another man
the chance of stepping in my shoes?"
"It follows thence that I am the only person in your confidence," said
Joseph, much relieved.
"The only one, sire, and I believe that you will not misuse it."
"No, I will not, and as a reward for your trust in me, here are two gold
At first the soldier smiled as he received the gold, but presently his
brow darkened, and casting a dissatisfied look at the emperor from
behind his busby eyebrows, he said, "Is the life of the King of Prussia
worth but two ducats?"
"It is worth more than all the gold in my imperial treasury," replied
the emperor, with energy; "and no man on earth is rich enough to pay for
it. I gave you these ducats to repay what you spent in coming from your
camp hither. But I shall reward you still further if you will promise
not to divulge what you have confided to me. Not only that, but I will
also give you your discharge from the army, send you home, and give you
a situation as imperial huntsman. If you break your promise, I will
punish you with death."
"Sire, I promise, and I shall never break my word."
"Swear it in the name of God and of the Blessed Virgin."
"I swear," said the soldier, raising his right hand to heaven. "And now,
your majesty, that no one is to know it except us two, when shall I
shoot the King of Prussia, and return to my home?"
The emperor looked sternly upon the unconscious hussar. "Soldier," said
he, in loud and solemn tones, "keep the gold I have given you in
remembrance of the warning which your good angel whispered, when you
forbore to murder the King of Prussia. I hope and believe that every man
among you would risk his life in battle to take him prisoner, but God
forbid that any one of you should stoop so low as to become his
The man stared at the emperor in utter bewilderment, and not a word of
reply was be able to make to this incomprehensible harangue.
The emperor continued: "I pardon your evil thought because it did not
germinate into an evil deed. But had you followed your impulse to murder
the king, I would have hung you without giving you time to see a priest.
Thank God for your escape, and let us dismiss the disgraceful subject
forever. You can remain here for the night."
"But I have only six hours' leave of absence, sire."
The emperor looked distrustfully at the soldier. "I have discharged you
from the service, and will see that you are not molested. "
"And I am really to go home?" cried the man, overjoyed. "And the emperor
really means to fulfil his promise in spite of the dreadful reprimand I
"Yes, I mean to fulfil my promise. But you also must swear to live a
peaceful life, and never try to kill another man save in open fight,
were he even a Bosnian."
"From my heart, I swear," replied the soldier, solemnly.
"Now you can go."
The emperor then rang his bell, when the door opened, and Gunther
entered the room.
"Gunther," said he, "give this man his supper and a bed in your room,
and, while he remains here, see that his wants are attended to."
Gunther bowed, and retired with the hussar. The emperor followed the
gigantic figure of the soldier until the door closed upon him, then he
raised his eyes to heaven with a look of unspeakable gratitude.
"Lord," said he, "I have suffered cruelly since the sun rose to-day, but
oh! how I thank Thee that Thou hast preserved my name from eternal
infamy! How would the world have spurned me, if, refusing to give him
battle, I had taken the life of my enemy through the hands of an
Austrian soldier! My God! my God! the life of Frederick has become more
precious to me than my own--for HIS life is one with MY honor.
"But what, if another should execute what this Galician has conceived?"
continued the emperor, shuddering. "What if, in his ignorance, another
one of these wild huntsmen should deem it his duty to take the life of
Frederick?" The emperor grew pale with the thought, and his hand was
lifted as if to protest against the crime. "I must find means to shield
myself from such disgrace, for his safety and my honor are cast on the
Far into the night Gunther heard the tread of his Imperial master, and
he waited in vain to be called in to attend him. He watched until the
dawn of day, and when, at last, unable to contain his anxiety, he opened
the door of the cabinet, he saw the emperor asleep in an arm-chair. He
was in full uniform, and the rays of the rising sun lit up his pale
face, which, even in sleep, wore an anxious and painful expression.
Gunther approached, and touched him lightly.
"Sire," said he, in a voice of tender entreaty, "let me assist you to
undress. This is the fourth night that your majesty has slept in your
uniform. You must lie down, indeed you must."
Joseph opened his eyes, and looked at Gunther.
"Ah!" sighed he, "during three of these nights I might just as well have
slept in my bed as any respectable burgher who has nothing to trouble
him but his growing corpulence. But last night I dared not undress, for
I have much to do this morning. Good Heaven! Gunther," continued the
emperor, suddenly remembering the hussar, "what has become of the man
whom I gave into your custody last evening?"
"Your majesty's second valet is in the same bed with him, and they are
both asleep. The door between our sleeping-room and the anteroom has
been open all night, so that, while I sat there awaiting your majesty's
call, I had the hussar directly under my eyes. He seems to have pleasant
dreams, if I judge by his smiles and snatches of songs."
"Let him sleep, Gunther, and when he awakes, allow no one to hold any
conversation with him. Now give me a glass of fresh water for my
Gunther hastened to obey, and returned in a very few minutes. The
emperor emptied the glass at a draught.
"Oh!" exclaimed he, refreshed, "how delightful it is! I have not a cook
in my palace capable of brewing me such a beverage."
"And yet the meanest of your subjects, sire, would grumble if he had
nothing better than a glass of water for breakfast."
"No doubt of it, Gunther. Men set no value upon that which is easily
obtained. If I were to close up the fountains, and forbid them to drink
water for breakfast, they would raise a howl, and protest that they
could drink nothing else. And if I desired to give them a taste for
assafoetida, I would have nothing to do but forbid its use. Once
forbidden to the multitude, the multitude would go mad for it. But see,
the sun has sent a ray through the window to bid us good-morning, and to
warn me that it is time to depart. Order my horse to be saddled: Tell
some of the staff to prepare to accompany me, and then go to
Field-Marshal Lacy, and request him to go with me this morning on a tour
"Lacy," said the emperor, as they galloped off together, "you must
prepare yourself for a long ride. We had anticipated an early start
to-day, and we are punctual. To be sure, we are minus an army, and
neither our hearts nor our trumpets are sounding triumphant blasts of
victory. Ah, friend, what miserable puppets we are in the hands of
Almighty God! Yesterday I was gazing exultingly upon the heaven of the
future, so clear, so blue, so silver-bright--when lo! the rustling of a
woman's dress is heard, and the sky of my destiny grows black as night.
Yesterday I fancied myself a man--to-day I am a schoolboy in disgrace
upon my knees. Oh, Lacy, those weary knees ache me so, that I could sob
for pain, were it not laughable for a commander-in-chief to put his
handkerchief to his eyes.
"Good God! Lacy," shouted the emperor, suddenly, while he reined in his
horse until the animal almost fell upon his haunches, "why do you not
laugh? You see that I am doing my best to divert you."
"I cannot laugh, sire, when you yourself are suffering almost to
The emperor made no reply, but rode cu, relaxing his speed until his
horse ambled gently over the road. "Lacy," said he, finally, "I am
unreasonable when I murmur against destiny, for yesterday Providence was
most benign toward me. Some other time, you shall hear in what manner.
Let us quicken our pace, for to-day I must visit all the outposts. I
have an order to promulgate to the pickets, of which I shall explain to
you the reason when we return."
Shortly after the emperor had spoken, they reached the front. Joseph
sprang forward to the very edge of the river-bank, and looked earnestly
toward the opposite shore. Nothing was to be seen, save far away on the
horizon, a few black specks which showed the outposts of the enemy. The
emperor signed to the officer on duty to approach.
"Do the Prussians ever venture any nearer?" asked he.