Part 18 out of 22
"It was precisely because of his faults that I sent for you!"
"You--Gregory Orloff, the truest of the true! You have done me good
service in your life; to you I am indebted for my crown, and you are its
brightest jewel. But I have a favor now to ask of you which concerns my
happiness more than any thing you have ever done for me before, my
"Speak, my empress, speak, and I will die to serve you;" replied Orloff,
inspired by Catharine's earnestness.
She laid her white hand upon his shoulder, and said in her most enticing
tones: "Be the friend of Potemkin. Let him learn by your example to be
more careful of the great trusts which he holds from me; more
conciliating, and more grateful. For, indeed, in return for all the
favors I bestow upon him, he makes my life one long martyrdom. For God's
sake, Orloff, be friendly with Potemkin, and try to rescue me from the
tempests which daily and hourly burst over my devoted head." [Footnote:
Catharine's own words.] She leaned her head upon his bosom, and looked
imploringly into his face.
"Your majesty," said Orloff, warmly, "you know that I am your slave. If
Potemkin is obnoxious to you, speak the word, and I annihilate him. But
my reputation will not permit me to consort with a man whom I despise,
and whom I should be forced, nevertheless, to regard as the first
subject of the empire. Pardon me if I cannot grant your majesty's
"Go, then, cruel man, and leave me to my fate," said Catharine in tears.
"Since your majesty desires it, I retire." And Orloff bowing, turned to
leave the room, but Catharine threw herself upon the sofa with a sob and
"Do you weep for Potemkin?" said he. "Spare your tears. He loves no one
but himself, and his only aim in life is to enervate and weaken YOUR
mind, that he may reign in your stead."
"Oh, Orloff, be merciful!" said Catharine, clasping her hands.
But Orloff continued: "Potemkin has essentially damaged your fleet; he
has ruined your army; and what is worse, he has lowered you in the
estimation of your subjects, and of the world. If you are willing to be
rid of so dangerous a man, my life is at your disposal: but if you must
temporize with him, I do nothing to further measures which are to be
carried out by flattery and hypocrisy."
"I believe you, unhappily I believe you," said Catharine, weeping.
"Potemkin deserves all that you say of him, but I have not the heart to
punish him as he deserves. I cannot bid you destroy the giant whose
shadow darkens my throne. You see, Orloff, that I am a poor, weak woman,
and have not the strength to punish the guilty."
"I see that your majesty prizes the oppressor of my country far more
than that country's self; and since it is so, I have nothing more to do
here. Farewell, Catharine--I must return to Gatzchina."
He kissed the hand of the empress, and passed into the adjoining
apartment. He went slowly through the magnificent state-rooms, through
which he had to pass to the corridor, and with weeping eyes Catharine
followed his tall form from door to door. She would have leaned for
support upon that strong man, but he refused to shelter her, and she
felt a sense of desolation which seemed to her a presentiment of evil.
"Orloff, Orloff!" cried she, imploringly; and she hastened after him. He
was passing out into the corridor, when he heard her voice, and saw her
coming fleet as a dove toward him.
"Orloff," said she, panting for breath, "do not leave St. Petersburg
to-day. Remain for three days, and, perhaps, in that time I may gather
courage to accept your help, and rid myself of this man."
"I will await your majesty's decision," replied Orloff; "and if then my
sword is not required in your service, I shall leave St. Petersburg
He bowed, and the heavy portiere fell behind him as he passed from the
czarina's sight. Slowly she returned to her cabinet, murmuring, "Three
days he will wait to know if--"
But suddenly she started, appalled at the sight of an apparition that
occupied the divan on which she was about to repose her weary limbs. She
uttered a wild scream of terror, for on this divan sat--Potemkin.
THE CZARINA AND HER MASTER.
With flashing eyes, folded arms, and pale, stern, face, sat Potemkin,
and his glance seemed about to annihilate the terrified woman, who had
neither strength to call for help nor self-possession to greet her
unwelcome visitor. He rose, however, and came forward. Catharine
trembled and shuddered as he passed her by, locked the door and put the
key in his pocket.
The empress looked around, and in deadly fear saw that there was no hope
of rescue. She was alone with Potemkin, entirely alone!
Not a word had yet been spoken, but this fearful silence affrighted her
more than a tempest of angry words would have done.
At last Potemkin stood directly before her, and spoke. "If Potemkin is
obnoxious to you, speak the word, and I annihilate him."
"Oh!" screamed Catharine, "he knows all."
"Yes, I know all--I heard Orloff offer to be my executioner. Pray, why
did you not accept the offer at once?"
He had come so near, that Catharine felt his hot breath upon her brow,
like the blast from a furnace.
"I ask you again," said he, stamping his foot with fury, "why do you not
let the axe of your executioner fall upon my neck? Answer me!"
Catharine was speechless with fright, and Potemkin, exasperated at her
silence, raised his clinched hand, and looked so fierce, that the
czarina fell backward almost upon her knees, murmuring--"Potemkin,
would you kill me!"
"And if I did," cried he, grinding his teeth, "would death not be the
just punishment of your treachery? Your treachery to me, who have given
you my heart, my soul, my life, while you betray and accuse me, not face
to face, as would an honorable woman, but behind my back as becomes a
coward and a hypocrite! Look at me, and answer my question, I command
Again he raised his hand, and his deep voice rolled like angry thunder
in her ear. Catharine, against her will, obeyed his voice, and raised
her eyes to his. She saw his lofty brow, like that of an angry demi-god,
his dark, dangerous, fiery eyes, his glistening teeth, his magnificent
frame, lithe, athletic, and graceful as that of "The statue that
enchants the world," and a sensation of shuddering ecstasy flooded her
whole being. Forgotten were her fears, her terror, her dream of
vengeance; and, regardless of the hand which was still raised to
threaten her, she cried out, in tones of mingled love and anguish:
"Oh, Alexandrowitsch, how preter-human is your beauty! You stand, like
an avenging god, before me; and I--I can only worship and tremble!"
With faltering steps she approached, and folding her arms around his
stalwart form, she laid her head upon his breast, and wept.
"See," murmured she, "I am here to receive the stroke. Let me die by
your hand, Gregory Alexandrowitsch, for since you love me no longer, I
am weary of life!"
Potemkin heaved a sigh, and freeing himself from Catharine's arms, fell
back upon the sofa, buried his face in his hands, and sobbed
"Why do you weep, Potemkin?" said Catharine, hastening to his side.
"Why I weep!" exclaimed he. "I weep because of my own crime. Despair had
well-nigh made of me a traitor. Why does not this hand wither, which was
uplifted to touch the anointed of the Lord! Why does not Heaven smite
the wretch whose misery had tempted him to such irreverence of his
And Potemkin flung himself at Catharine's feet, crying out:
"Kill me, Catharine, that I may not go mad for remorse of my treason!"
Catharine smiled, and tried to raise him up.
"No," said she, tenderly, "live, and live for me."
But Potemkin still clung to her feet.
"No, let me lie here as the sinner lies before the altar of the Most
High! I am a traitor--but despair has made me criminal. As I stood
behind the tapestry, and heard how my empress accused me, I felt that
the spectral hand of madness was hovering above my brain. Oh, Catharine,
it is you whom I adore, you who have made of me a lunatic!"
Again he buried his face in Catharine's robes, and wept. She, perfectly
disarmed, leaned over him, caressing him with her hands, and imploring
him to be comforted.
"Let me lie here and weep," continued her Alexandrowitsch, "not for me,
but for my Catharine--the star of my life! She, whom my enemies would
deceive; that deceiving they might ruin her, when her only friend is
lost to her forever!"
"Of whom do you speak?" asked the czarina, frightened.
"I speak of those who hate me, because I will not join them in their
treachery toward my empress--of those who hold out to me gold and
diamonds, and who hate me because I will not sell my loyalty for pelf.
Oh, I was flattered with orders and honors, promises and presents. But I
would not listen. What cared I for future security? What mattered it to
me that I was to be the victim of Paul's vengeance? I thought of you
alone; and more to me was the safety of your crown than that of my
worthless life! I was loyal and incorruptible!"
Catharine had listened with distended eyes and lips parted in suspense.
When Potemkin named her son, her whole bearing changed. From the
love-stricken woman she leaped at once into the magnificent Czarina.
"Potemkin," said she, imperiously, "I command you to rise and answer my
Potemkin rose with the promptness of a well-trained slave, and said,
"Imperial mistress, speak--and, by the grave of my mother, I will answer
"What means your allusion to the Grand Duke Paul? Who are the enemies
that sought to corrupt you? What are their aims?"
"The grand duke is weary of his subordinate position, and yearns for the
crown which he thinks it is his right to wear."
Catharine's two hands clutched at her head, as though to defend her
"He shall not have it!" she screamed. "He will not dare to raise his
impious hands to snatch his mother's rights away!"
"He will find other hands to do it; for you well know, Catharine, that
the crime from which we recoil ourselves, we transfer to other hands,
while we accept its fruits."
Catharine shuddered, and grew pale.
"Yes, yes," murmured she to herself, "yes, I know it--well I know it,
for it has murdered sleep for me!"
"And the grand duke has accomplices, Catharine. Not one, nor two--but
half of your subjects mutter within themselves that the crown you wear
has been Paul's since his majority. Russia is one grand conspiracy
against you, and your enemies have pitched their tents at the foot of
your throne. They may well hate the only man who stands between you and
destruction. Their arrows have glanced harmlessly from the adamantine
shield of his loyalty, and there remained but the alternative of
calumniating him to his empress. Oh, Catharine, my angel; beware of
Paul, who has never forgotten how his father lost his life! Beware of
Orloff, who has never forgiven you for loving me! Both these traitors,
with Panin to truckle to them, are in league with Von Gortz to force you
into a league destructive of Russian aggrandizement. Oh, my beloved! sun
of my existence! mount into the heaven of your own greatness, and let
not the cloud of intrigue obscure your light. And when safe in the
noonday of your splendor, you think of this day, let one warm ray of
memory stream upon the grave of the man who died because his empress
ceased to love him!"
At the conclusion of his peroration, Potemkin knelt down and
passionately kissed the hem of Catharine's robe. Then, springing up, he
clasped his hands, and turned away. But the empress darted after him
like an enraged lioness, and, catching his arm, gasped:
"What! you would leave me, Alexandrowitsch?"
"Yes--I go to Orloff, to receive my death! The empress has willed it,
and she shall find me obedient even unto my latest breath."
"No, Gregory," said Catharine, weeping profusely, "you shall remain to
shield me from my enemies."
So saying, she put her arms around his neck, but he drew them away.
"No, Catharine, no! After what I have heard to-day. I do not desire to
live. Let me die! let me die!"
"Potemkin," cried she, struggling to detain him, "I shall never, never
mistrust you again. And I promise you that Gregory Orloff shall never
pass this threshold again."
"How? Do you promise to sacrifice Orloff to me?" cried Potemkin,
eagerly, cured in a thrice of his desire for death.
"I do, Gregory, I do. There shall be but one Gregory to reign over my
court and my heart, and he shall be Gregory Potemkin!"
"You swear it, Catharine?"
"My imperial word thereupon. Now will you remain and protect me?"
"Yes, I remain, to confound your enemies. It shall not be said that I am
flown in the hour when your noble head is endangered. I shall remain for
your sake, for the peril is very great, Catharine."
"Gracious Heaven, Gregory, what danger threatens me?"
"You ask me such a question while Paul lives, and has Orloff and Panin
for his accomplices, and Frederick for his friend?"
"Oh, no, dear Gregory, your anxiety leads you into error. I know that
Paul hates me, but I do not believe that Prussia is his ally; for it is
clearly the interest of Prussia to conciliate me, and he is too wise to
entangle himself in such conspiracies just at the expiration of our
"Oh, you noble, unsuspecting woman!" cried Potemkin, ardently, "you know
nothing of the egotism of the world. You believe in the honesty of
Frederick, while he speculates upon the consequences of your death!"
The empress grew pale and her eyes flashed with anger. "Prove it to me,"
said she, imperiously.
Potemkin drew from his bosom the letter he had that morning received
from Frederick. Catharine read it, and then said, "Much flattery, and
many mysterious promises. What do they mean?"
"Count von Gortz was so good as to explain. The king offered to make me
Duke of Courland, to give me a German princess in marriage, and to
secure me the favor of your successor."
"That is not possible!" exclaimed Catharine, "those were idle words."
"Oh, no, your majesty, I will prove to you that they are not, as soon as
Von Gortz is announced."
The empress looked at the clock, which pointed to two.
"It is exactly the hour I appointed to receive him." said she. "He must
be in the anteroom."
"Have I your permission to go to him?"
The empress nodded, and Potemkin, drawing the key from his pocket,
unlocked the door and disappeared. Catharine locked after him, and
heaving a bitter sigh, said: "No more hope of rescue! He rules over me
like irresistible destiny!"
In a few moments Potemkin returned with the paper. Catharine having
looked over it, returned it with a smile.
"I thank the King of Prussia for this," said she, gently, "for my last
hours will no longer be embittered by anxiety for your safety,
Alexandrowitsch. Preserve this paper with care."
Potemkin took it from her hand and tore it to pieces.
"Are you mad?" cried Catharine, "that you tear this promise of
protection from Paul?"
"When Catharine dies, I no longer desire to live, and I hope that Paul
may release me of life at once--I shall die rejoicing."
"Oh, Gregory," exclaimed Catharine, again moved to tears, "I shall never
forget these words! You have sacrificed much for me, and you shall have
princely reward; on my word you shall! Let the grand duke be careful to
utter no inconsiderate words, for the steppes of Siberia are as
accessible to the prince as to the peasant; and every traitor, were he
the heir of the crown itself, is amenable to justice before me! And
Panin, with his eternal pratings of honesty and frankness, let him, too,
beware, for he wavers on the edge of a precipice!" "And Prussia?" asked
Potemkin, with a significant smile.
Catharine smiled in return. "I cannot chide HIM, Potemkin, for he would
have befriended YOU."
"And the treaty? Do you intend to renew it with this wise, far-seeing
"I cannot say. It depends upon the offers he makes. Stay in this room,
Gregory; and I will receive Von Gortz in the next one, where you can
hear what passes between us."
A DIPLOMATIC DEFEAT.
The empress entered the small audience-chamber adjoining her cabinet,
and ringing a bell, gave orders that Count von Gortz and Count Partin
should be admitted. Then she glided to an arm-chair, the only one in the
room, and awaited her visitors, who, conformable to the etiquette of the
Russian court, bowed three times before the all-powerful czarina.
Panin's salutation was that of a serf who is accustomed to kiss the dust
from his tyrant's feet; Von Gortz, on the contrary, had the bearing of a
man of the world, accustomed to concede homage and to exact it.
"Well, count," said the empress, graciously, "what pleasant news do you
bring from Sans-Souci? Has your accomplished sovereign recovered from
"The king has recovered, and will be overjoyed to learn that your
majesty takes so much interest in his health."
"Oh," exclaimed Catharine, "the great Frederick knows how much interest
I feel in his life--perhaps as much as he has in my death!"
Count von Gortz looked in astonishment at the smiling face of the
empress. "What! Your majesty says that my sovereign has an interest in
your majesty's death!"
"Did I say so?" said Catharine, carelessly. "It was a slip of the
tongue, my dear count. I should have said TAKES, not HAS; for many
people fancy they have what they would like to take. I should have said
then, that the king cannot TAKE more interest in my death than I do in
"The king, your majesty, is much older than you, and war has added to
"If war adds to our years," replied Catharine, laughing, "then I
certainly must be superannuated."
"I trust that the time has arrived when their majesties of Russia and
Prussia may sheathe the sword, and enjoy the unspeakable blessings of
permanent peace," said Von Gortz, with emphasis.
"Are you of the same mind, Panin?" asked Catharine, quickly.
"I know from my sovereign's noble heart that she would gladly bestow
peace upon the world, and I believe that the time has come when that is
possible," replied Panin, evasively.
"It is true, we have for the moment no pretext for war. The troubles
between the Porte and myself were settled at the last peace convention,
and he will take good care not to provoke a renewal of hostilities. We
have no reason to apprehend any breach of peace in Poland, and our
relations with the other European powers are equally friendly. England,
Holland, and France seek our good-will; Prussia is our firm ally; and
Austria, by sending her emperor himself, has given the most flattering
proof of her consideration for Russia. It would appear that we enter
upon an epoch of universal concord."
"And to give stability to this great blessing," replied Von Gortz, "it
is the duty of all sovereigns to fuse their separate interests into one
great alliance, whose watchword shall be 'Peace!' In presence of those
who are bound together by the tie of one common policy, no ambitious
enemy will venture to disturb the great international rest."
"I think we are already able to present the scarecrow of such an
alliance to covetous princes, for we have a firm ally in Prussia, have
we not?" said Catharine, smiling.
"Our treaty was but for eight years, your majesty," interposed Panin,
"and the eight years have expired."
"Have they, indeed?" exclaimed Catharine, surprised. "Well--certainly
years do fly, and before we have time to think of death, our graves open
to receive us. I feel that I am growing old, and the King of Prussia
would be wise if he were to direct his new negotiations toward my
successor, and make him the partner of his magnanimous schemes for
"Your majesty is pleased to jest," said Von Gortz, reverentially. "But
to show you how heartily my sovereign desires to cement his friendship
with the mighty Empress of Russia, I am empowered by him to make new
proposals for a renewal of the eight years' treaty."
"Are you acquainted with these proposals, Panin?" asked Catharine.
"No, your majesty. I only know from Count von Gortz that his proposals
are merely preliminary, and not until they obtain your majesty's
approbation, will the king present them formally."
"Very well, count, let us hear your preliminaries," said Catharine.
"My sovereign desires nothing so much as a permanent alliance with
Russia, which shall give peace to Europe, and deter over-ambitious
princes from trenching upon the possessions of other crowns. To secure
this end, my sovereign thinks that nothing would be so favorable as an
offensive and defensive alliance, with a guaranty of permanent
boundary-lines between Russia, Prussia, Poland, and Turkey. Such an
alliance, in the opinion of my sovereign, would give durable peace to
Western Europe. If the conditions be acceptable to your majesty, my
sovereign will make like propositions to Poland and Turkey, and the
treaty can be signed at once; for it has been ascertained that France
approves, and as for Austria, the very nature of the alliance and its
strength will force her to respect the rights of nations, and give up
her pretensions to territorial aggrandizement."
The czarina had listened to this harangue with growing displeasure. Her
impatience had not escaped the eyes of Panin, and he saw that the scheme
would be unsuccessful. He had promised to second the proposals of the
Prussian minister, but the stormy brow of the empress was mightier than
his promise, and he boldly determined to change his front.
When Count von Gortz ceased, a silence ensued; for the czarina was too
incensed to speak. She looked first at the Prussian ambassador, and then
at her minister of foreign affairs, who was turning over in his mind
what he should say.
"And these are the proposals of the King of Prussia?" cried she, when
she found breath to vent her indignation. "Instead of a simple renewal
of our mutual obligations, you wish to entangle us into alliances with
Turkey! Count Panin, you are my minister. I therefore leave it to you to
answer the Prussian ambassador as beseems the dignity and interest of my
She leaned back in her arm-chair, and bent a piercing glance upon the
face of her minister. But he bore the test without change of feature,
and turning with perfect composure to his ex-confederate, he said:
"As my sovereign has commanded me to deliver her reply, I must express
my surprise at the extraordinary preliminaries presented by your
excellency. His majesty of Prussia proposes an alliance of Russia with
Turkey. The thing is so preposterous that I cannot conceive how so wise
a prince as your sovereign could ever have entertained the idea!"
[Footnote: Panin's own words. "Dohm's Memoirs," vol. i. pp. 400, 401]
"Good, Panin!" said Catharine, nodding her head.
Panin, encouraged by the applause, went on: "Peace between Russia and
Turkey can never be any thing but an armistice; an alliance with the
Porte, therefore, is incompatible either with our policy or with the
sentiments of my revered sovereign." [Footnote: Panin's own words.
"Dohm's Memoirs." vol. i.. pp. 400, 401]
"In this case," replied Von Gortz, bowing, "my sovereign withdraws the
proposal which was merely thrown out as an idea upon which he was
desirous of hearing the opinion of his august ally, the empress."
"Then you know my opinion upon this 'idea.'" cried Catharine, rising
from her seat, and darting fiery glances at the ambassador. "Count Panin
has expressed it distinctly, and I desire you to repeat his words to the
King of Prussia. And that the great Frederick may see that I make no
secret of my policy, he shall hear it. Know, then, that my last treaty
of peace with Turkey was but a hollow truce, whereby I hoped to gain
time and strength to carry out the plans which I shall never abandon
while I live. The king has guessed them, and therefore he has sent me
these unworthy proposals. Russia has not reached the limit of her
boundaries; her ambition is co-extensive with the world, and she means
to grow and prosper, nor yet be content when Poland bows her neck to the
yoke, and the crescent has given place to the Greek cross!"
So saying, the czarina bowed her bead, and haughtily left the room. When
she raised the portiere, there sat Potemkin in the fulness of his
satisfaction, ready to greet her with his most beaming smiles. Catharine
motioned him to follow, and they returned to the cabinet. Once there,
the czarina threw herself upon the divan and sighed:
"Shut the door, Potemkin, close the portiere, for in good sooth I know
not whether I am about to laugh or cry. I feel as if I had been hearing
a fable in which all my schemes were transformed into card houses, and
were blown away by the wind! But indeed I must laugh! The good King of
Prussia! Only think, Gregory, an offensive and defensive alliance with
Turkey. Is it not enough to make you laugh until you cry?"
"I cannot laugh at such a disregard for the sacred rights of man,"
replied Potemkin, "This proposal of Prussia is an outrage to the faith
of the whole Russian nation, and a challenge to you, my noble sovereign,
whose bold hand is destined to tear down the symbol of the Moslem, and
replace it with that of the Christian!"
"And believe me, dearest friend, I am ever mindful of that destiny,"
"And the treaty between Russia and Prussia--"
"Will not be renewed."
"Check to the king, then," cried Potemkin, "and checkmate will soon
"Yes, the king is old, and would gladly end his days in a myrtle-grove;
while I long to continue my flight, higher and higher, till I reach the
sun. But who will go with me to these dizzy heights of power--"
"His majesty, the Emperor of Austria," said the loud voice of a
gentleman in waiting, who knocked at the door of the cabinet.
"The emperor!" exclaimed Catharine. "You know I granted his request to
come to me unannounced; but I have given orders to the sentries to send
the word forward, nevertheless, so that I always know when he is about
"Farewell, Catharine," said Potemkin. "The crow must give place to the
imperial falcon. Why am I not an emperor, to offer you my hand, and be
your only protector?"
"Could I love you more if you were an emperor, Gregory? But, hush! He
comes, and as soon as his visit is ended, return to me, for I must see
Potemkin kissed her hand again and again, and vanished through the
tapestry by a secret door, which led to a small corridor connected with
the czarina's private apartments. But instead of crossing this corridor,
he turned into a little boudoir, through which the emperor would have to
pass and there awaited his appearance. He came, and seeing Potemkin,
looked surprised, but bowed with a gracious smile.
Potemkin laid his finger upon his lip, and pointed to the cabinet.
"Sire," said he in a whisper, "I have anticipated you. Prussia has
received an important check, and the treaty will not be renewed. It
rests with your majesty now, to improve the opportunity and supplant the
King of Prussia. Be sympathetic and genial with the czarina--ABOVE ALL
THINGS flatter her ambition, and the game is yours. Depend upon my
"A thousand thanks," whispered Joseph in return. Potemkin made a deep
and respectful salutation, and left the room. As he closed the door
noiselessly behind him, the emperor crossed the threshold of the
THE CZARINA AND THE KAISER.
When Joseph entered, he found the empress reclining with careless grace
upon the divan, perfectly unconscious that he was anywhere within her
palace walls. But when she saw him, she sprang up from the cushion on
which she lay, and, with protestations of delighted surprise, gave him
both her hands. He bent over those soft white hands, and kissed them
"I come to your majesty because I am anxious and unhappy, and my heart
yearned for your presence. I have bad news from Vienna. My mother is
ill, and implores me to return home."
"Bad news, indeed!" exclaimed Catharine, sadly. "The noblest and
greatest woman that ever adorned a throne is suffering, and you threaten
to leave me? But you must not go, now that the barriers which have so
long divided Austria from Russia have fallen."
"Your majesty may well speak of barriers," laughed Joseph, "for we were
parted by a high Spanish wall, and the King of Prussia walked the
ramparts, that we might never get a glimpse at each other. Well! I have
leaped the walls, and I consider it the brightest act of my life that I
should have journeyed thither to see the greatest sovereign of the age,
the woman before whom a world is destined to succumb."
"Do not give me such praise, sire." replied Catharine, with a sigh; "the
soil of Maria Theresa should not bestow such eulogium upon me. It is the
Empress of Austria who unites the wisdom of a lawgiver and the bravery
of a warrior with the virtues of a pure and sinless woman! Oh, my
friend, I am not of that privileged band who have preserved themselves
spotless from the sins of the world! I have, bought my imperial destiny
with the priceless gem of womanly innocence!--Do not interrupt me--we
are alone, and I feel that before no human being can I bow my guilty
head with such a sense of just humiliation as before the son of the
peerless Empress of Austria!"
"The Empress of Austria is still a woman, reigning through the
promptings of her heart, while Catharine wears her crown with the vigor
of a man. And who ever thought of requiring from an emperor the primeval
innocence of an Arcadian shepherdess? He who would be great must make
acquaintance with sin; for obscurity is the condition of innocence. Had
you remained innocent, you had never become Catharine the Great. There
are, unhappily, so many men who resemble women, that we must render
thanks to God for vouchsafing to our age a woman who equals all and
surpasses many men."
"You have initiated a new mode of flattery, sire," said Catharine,
blushing with gratification; "but if this is your fashion of praising
women, you must be a woman-hater. Is it so?"
"I would worship them if they resembled Catharine; but I have suffered
through their failings, and I despise them. You know not how many of my
bold schemes and bright hopes have been brought to naught by women! I am
no longer the Joseph of earlier days--I have been shorn of my strength
by petticoats and cassocks."
"How can you so belie yourself?" said Catharine. "It is but a few months
since we had good proof that the ambition of the Emperor Joseph was far
from being quenched forever."
"Ah! your majesty would remind me of that ridiculous affair with
Bavaria. It was my last Quixotism, the dying struggle of a patriotism
which would have made of Germany one powerful and prosperous nation! And
it was YOU who opposed me--YOU who, of all the potentates in Europe, are
the one who should have understood and sustained me! Believe me, when I
say, that had Catharine befriended me there, she would have won the
truest knight that ever broke a lance in defence of fair ladye. But, for
the sake of a dotard, who is forever trembling lest I rob him of some of
his withered bays, the bold Athene of the age forgot her godlike origin
and mission, and turned away from him whom she should have countenanced
and conciliated. Well! It was the error of a noble heart, unsuspicious
of fair words. And fair words enough had Frederick for the occasion. To
think of such a man as HE, flaunting the banner of Germany in my
face--he who, not many years ago, was under the ban of the empire as an
ambitious upstart! He thought to scare me with the rustling of his dead
laurel-leaves, and when he found that I laughed at such Chinese warfare,
lo! he ran and hid himself under my mother's petticoats; and the two old
crowns fell foul of one another, and their palsied old wearers plotted
together, until the great war upon which I had staked my fame was
juggled into a shower of carnival confetti! Oh, you laugh at me, and
well may you laugh! I am a fool to waste so much enthusiasm upon such a
"No, I do not laugh at you," replied Catharine, laying her arm upon his.
"I laugh for joy, to see how lustily you hate. A man who hates fiercely,
loves ardently, and my whole heart glows with sympathy for such a being.
So, then, you hate him soundly, this King of Prussia?"
"Hate him," cried Joseph, clinching his hand, "ay, indeed, I hate him!
He has instigated Germany to oppose me; he wrested Bavaria from me,
which was mine by right of twofold inheritance; and I detest him the
more that he is so old, so gouty, and so contemptible, that to defeat
him now would not add one hair's breadth to my reputation as a general."
"It is true," said Catharine, thoughtfully, "Frederick is growing very
old. Nothing remains of the former hero but a dotard, who is incapable
of comprehending the march of events--"
"And, yet, is ambitious to legislate. Oh, Catharine, beware of this old
king, who clings to you to support his own tottering royalty, and to
obstruct your schemes of conquest. But he will not succeed with you as
he has done by me. You have no mother to thrust you aside, while she
barters away your rights for a mess of pottage! I see your eagle
glance--it turns toward the south, where roll the stormy waves of the
Black Sea! I see this fair white hand as it points to mosques of
Constantinople, where the crescent is being lowered and the cross is
Catharine uttered a cry of ecstasy, and putting her arms around Joseph's
neck, she imprinted a kiss upon his brow.
"Oh, I thank you, Joseph!" exclaimed she, enthusiastically. "You have
comprehended the ambitious projects which, identified as they are with
my existence as a sovereign, I never yet have dared to speak above my
"I have guessed and I approve," said Joseph, earnestly. "Fate has
assigned you a mission, and you must fulfil it."
"Oh, my God!" ejaculated Catharine, "I have found a friend who has read
"And who will aid you, when you call him to your side."
"I accept the offer, and here is my hand. And so, hand in hand, we shall
conquer the world. God be praised, there is room enough for us both, and
we will divide it between us. Away with all little thrones and their
little potentates! Oh, friend, what joy it must be to dwell among the
heights of Olympus, and feel that all below is ours! I am intoxicated
with the dream! Two thrones--the throne of the Greek and the throne of
the Roman emperors; two people so mighty, that they dare not war with
one another; while, side by side, their giant swords forever sheathed,
they shed peace and happiness upon the farthermost ends of the earth!
Will you realize with me this godlike dream?"
"That will I, my august friend, and may God grant us life and
opportunity to march on to victory together!"
"To victory," echoed Catharine, "and to the fulfilment of the will of
Peter the Great! He enjoined it upon his successors to purge Europe of
the infidel, and to open the Black Sea to Christendom. In Stamboul I
shall erect the throne of my grandson, Constantine, while in Petersburg,
Alexander extends the domains of Russia in Europe and in Asia. You do
not know all that I have already done for classic Greece. From his
birth, I have destined Constantine to the Greek throne. His nurses, his
playfellows, and his very dress are Greek, so that his native tongue is
that of his future subjects. Even now, two hundred boys are on their way
from Greece, who are to be the future guards of the Emperor Constantine!
As the medal which was struck on the day of his birth prefigured his
destiny, so shall his surroundings of every kind animate him to its
glorious fulfilment. Look--I have already a chart on which Constantine
is to study the geography that my hand is to verify for him and for his
The empress had risen and approached her escritoire. From a secret
drawer within another drawer she took a roll of parchment which, after
beckoning to the emperor, she placed upon the table. They unrolled it,
and both bent over it with beating hearts.
"Observe first the marginal illustrations," said Catharine. "Here stands
the genius of Russia, leaning upon the Russian shield. To the left you
see arrows, horses' tails, Turkish banners, and other trophies--here at
the top, you see the Black Sea, where a Russian ship is in the act of
sinking a Turk.
"Here in the centre, are the empire of Greece and the Archipelago. Take
notice of the colors on the map, for they show the boundaries. The
yellow is the boundary-line of the Greek empire. It begins in the
northwest by Ragusa, takes in Skopia, Sophia Phillippolis and Adrianople
as far as the Black Sea. It then descends and includes the Ionian
islands, the Archipelago, Mitylene, and Samos. That is the empire of
Constantine, whose capital is to be Constantinople. The red lines show
the future boundaries of Russia. They pass through Natolia, beginning in
the north by Pendavaschi, and end with the Gulf of Syria."
The emperor, who had been following Catharine's jewelled hand with
anxious scrutiny, now looked up with a significant smile.
"Your majesty's map reminds me of an incident among my travels. In the
beginning of my unhappy regency, I was inspecting the boundaries of my
own empire. In Moravia I ascended a steep mountain whence I had a view
of the surrounding country. 'To whom belongs the pretty village?' said
I. 'To the Jesuits,' was the reply. 'And this tract with the chapels?'
'To the Benedictines.' 'And that abbey?' 'To the Clarissarines.' 'But
where then are my possessions?' said I."
"And your majesty would put the same question to me," interrupted the
czarina. "Look at the colors of the map. We have appropriated the yellow
and the red, but there is another color to be accounted for."
"I see a boundary of green, which includes Naples and Sicily," said
Joseph, looking down upon the map with new interest.
"Those are the boundary-lines of new Austria," said the empress, with a
triumphant smile. "As I hope for the reestablisbment of empire in
Greece, so must your majesty accomplish that of Rome. Since you have no
objection to give me the Black Sea, I shall make no opposition to the
extension of your empire to the shores of the Mediterranean. Italy, like
Germany, is a prey to petty princes. Rescue the Italians from their
national insignificance, sire, and throw the aegis of your protection
over the site of the old Roman empire. Do you not bear the title of King
of Rome? Give to that title, meaning and substance. Yours is the south
and west, mine is the east, and together we shall govern the world."
Joseph had listened with breathless attention. At first he grew pale,
then a flush of triumph suffused his face, and he took the hand of the
czarina and drew it to his heart.
"Catharine!" cried he, deeply moved, "from my soul I thank you for this
inspiration! Oh, my heart's interpreter, you have read my secret
yearnings to be in deed, as well as in word, 'King of Rome!' Yes--I
would free Italy from the oppression of the church, and lead her on to
greatness that shall rival her glorious past! God is my witness, I would
have done as much for Germany; but Germany has rejected me, and I leave
her to her fate. For the future I remain Emperor of Austria; and my
empire shall be so vast, so prosperous, and so powerful, that Catharine
of Russia shall esteem me an ally worthy of the greatest woman of modern
"Two faithful allies," exclaimed Catharine--"allies bound by one common
policy, whose watchword shall be 'Constantinople and Rome!'"
"Ay," returned Joseph, with a laugh, "though while YOU raise the
standard of the cross in Constantinople, _I_ shall overturn it in Rome.
As soon as my shackles fall, I shall set to work!"
"I see that you have faith in my plans," cried Catharine, joyfully.
"Such faith that I would aid them from my heart, were they even to
require the cooperation of Frederick." [Footnote: Raumer. Contributions,
etc., vol. v., p. 444.]
"I shall have no cooperation but yours," was the reply. "Besides, I know
that you owe a grudge to Turkey."
"I do; for she has taken Belgrade, and I must retake it. The Danube is
my birthright, as the Black Sea is yours. I give up Germany, to
concentrate my forces upon Turkey and Italy."
"Let us await the proper time, and when I see it, I shall call upon you
to come with me and crush the intrusive Moslem."
"Look upon me as your general, and upon my army as yours," replied
Joseph, kissing the hand which the czarina extended. "And now,"
continued he, "I must say farewell, and I fear it is for a long
"Indeed!" cried Catharine. "Must I lose you so soon?"
"My mother is sick, and yearns for my presence," said Joseph. "The
emperor parted from her in displeasure; but the son must not slight the
call of a mother, who perchance is on her death-bed. I start for Vienna
to-day; and before I leave, at the risk of being accused of flattery, I
must express to your majesty the admiration, respect and love which I
feel for the noblest woman I have ever known." [Footnote: The emperor's
own words. Raumer, vol. v., p. 552.]
The empress, overcome, put her arms around Joseph's neck, and folded him
to her heart.
"Oh, were you my son!" whispered she, "I might thank Heaven for the gift
of a noble child who was soul of my soul! Were you mine, I should not be
the victim of courtiers' intrigues, but with my proud arm within yours,
I might defy the world."
As she spoke these words, Catharine raised the emperor's hand to her
Joseph uttered a cry, and sinking on his knees, kissed the hem of her
robe. Then rising, as if reluctant to break the solemnity of their
parting by a sound, he turned and left the room.
Catharine looked after him with tearful eyes. "O God, he has left me! I
have found a noble heart, only to grieve that it can never be mine. I am
alone, alone! It is so dreadful to be--"
Suddenly she ceased, for a deep, melodious voice began to sing.
Catharine knew that the voice was Potemkin's, and that he was calling
her to the secret apartments which she had fitted up, for her lover.
The song awakened bitter memories. Potemkin had written it in former
years, and she had shed tears of emotion when she heard it--tears which
at that time were as precious to him as were his finest diamonds to-day.
The music ceased, and two tears which had gathered in the czarina's eyes
stole down her cheeks. As if drawn by an invisible hand, she crossed the
room, and, stooping down, pressed a tiny golden button which was
fastened to the floor. A whirr was heard, the floor opened and revealed
a winding staircase which led from her cabinet to the room of her
As her foot touched the first step, she raised her eyes with a look of
despair to heaven, and her trembling lips murmured these words,
"Catharine once more in chains!"
THE REIGN OF JOSEPH.
Maria Theresa was no more. On the 29th day of November, of the year
1780, she went to rejoin her much-loved "Franz"--him to whom her last
words on earth were addressed. In her dying moments, her pale
countenance illuminated by joy, the empress would have arisen from the
arm-chair in which she sat awaiting her release. The emperor, who had
devoted himself to her with all the tenderness of which hid nature was
capable, held her bank.
"Whither would your majesty go?" asked he, terified.
Maria Theresa opened her arms, exclaiming, "To thee, to thee, I come!"
Her head fell back, and her dying lips were parted ones more. Her son
bent his head to catch the fluttering words, "Franz, my Franz--"
Maria Theresa was no more! The tolling of bells, and the roll of the
muffled drum, announced to Vienna that the body of their beloved empress
was being laid in the vault of the Capuchins, and that after so many
years of parting, she rested once more by the side of the emperor.
The iron doors of the crypts were closed, and the thousands and tens of
thousands who had followed the empress to her grave, had returned to
their saddened homes. The emperor, too, followed by his confidants Lacy
and Rosenberg, had retired to his cabinet. His face was inexpressibly
sad, and he paced his room with folded arms, utterly forgetful of his
friends, whom nevertheless he had requested to follow him, and who, both
in the embrasure of a window, were silently awaiting the awakening of
the emperor from his dumb grief.
At last he remembered their presence. Directing his steps toward the
window he stood before them, and looked anxiously first at one, then at
"Was I an undutiful son?" asked he, in a faltering voice. "I implore
you, my friends, make me no courtier's reply, but speak the plain,
unvarnished truth, and tell me whether I was an ungrateful son to my
noble mother. Lacy, by the memory of your own mother, be honest."
"By the memory of my mother, sire," said Lacy, solemnly, "no! You bore
the burden of your filial duty with exemplary patience, and bowed your
will to the will of your mother, even when you knew that she erred in
"And you, Rosenberg?" asked Joseph, with a sad smile.
"My opinion, sire, is that you were a noble, all-enduring son, whose
heart was not hardened against his mother, although from your childhood
it had provocation to become so. Your majesty bore with more than any
other man would have done whose lips had not been locked by filial
"I was silent but resentful," said Joseph, mournfully. "I bore my
burdens ungraciously, and Maria Theresa was aware of it. I have often
been angered by her, but she has often wept for my sake. Oh, those tears
disturb my conscience."
"Your majesty should remember that the empress forgave and forgot all
the dissensions of by-gone years, and that in her last illness she
expressed herself supremely happy in your majesty's care and
"You should remember also, that with the sagacity which is often
vouchsafed to the dying, Maria Theresa confessed that she had
unwillingly darkened your majesty's life by her exactions, and in the
magnanimity of her regret asked your forgiveness."
"I have said all this to myself," replied Joseph, "I have repeated it
over and over in these wretched sleepless nights; but still the dagger
of remorse is in my heart, and now I would gladly give years of my life,
if my mother were living, that I might redeem the past by cheerful
submission to her every wish."
"Let the great empress rest in peace!" exclaimed Lacy. "She was weary of
life, and died with more than willingness. Your majesty must cherish
YOUR life, mindful of the vast inheritance which your mother has left
"You are right, Lacy," cried Joseph, warmly. "It is a noble inheritance,
and I swear to you both to cherish it, not for my own sake, but for the
sake of the millions of human beings of whose destinies I shall be the
arbiter. I swear to be a good sovereign to my people. By the tears which
my mother has shed for me, I will dry the tears of the unfortunate, and
the blessing she left me with her dying breath, I shall bestow upon the
Austrians whom she loved so well. If I should ever forget this vow, you
are here to remind me of it. And now that my reign begins, I exact of
you both a proof of your loyalty."
"Speak, sire," said Lacy, with a bright and affectionate smile.
"Put me to the test," cried Rosenberg, "and I shall not flinch."
The emperor laid his hands upon the shoulders of his friends, and looked
at them with unmistakable affection. "Happy is the man who possesses two
such friends. But hear what I exact of you. I stand upon the threshold
of a new order of things. I am at last an emperor, free to carry out the
designs which for so many long years I have been forced to stifle in my
sorrowing heart. I am resolved to enlighten and to elevate my subjects.
But if in my zeal to do well. I should lack discretion, it is for you to
check and warn me. And if I heed not your warnings, you shall persist,
even if your persistence becomes offensive. Will you promise me to do
so, dear friends?"
"We promise," said both with one breath.
"God and the emperor have heard the promise. Give me your honest hands,
my best and truest friends. You, at least, I shall never doubt; I feel
that your friendship will be mine until the day of my death!"
"Your majesty is the youngest of us three," said Lacy, "and you speak as
if we would outlive you."
"Age is not reckoned by years," replied the emperor, wearily, "but by
wounds; and if I count the sears that disappointment has left upon my
heart, you will find that I have lived longer than either of you.
Promise, then, to be with me to the last, and to close my eyes for me."
"Your wife and children will do that for you, sire," said Rosenberg.
"I will never marry again. My nephew Francis shall be my heir, and I
shall consider him as my son. The Empress of Russia has consented to
give him her adopted daughter in marriage, and I trust that Francis may
be happier in wedlock than his unfortunate uncle. My heart is no longer
susceptible of love."
"And yet it beats with such yearning love toward mankind!" exclaimed
"Yes--my heart belongs to my people, and there is nothing left of it for
woman. For my subjects alone I shall live. Their souls shall be free
from the shackles of the church, and they shall no longer be led like
children by the hands of priests or prelates! You have tranquillized my
conscience, and I have received your vow of fidelity till death. With
two such mentors to advise me, I may hope, at last, to do something for
For three days Prince Kaunitz had not left his cabinet. No one was
allowed to approach him, except the servant who brought the meals, which
the prince sent away almost untouched. His household were sorely
troubled at this, for no one had as yet ventured to communicate the
tidings of the empress's death. Still he seemed to know it, for
precisely on the day of her demise, Kaunitz had retired to his cabinet,
whence he had not emerged since.
To-day the tolling of bells and the dull sound of muffed drums had
doubtless revealed to him that the funeral was at hand. Still he had
questioned nobody, and sat in stupid silence, apparently unmindful of
the tumult without. Even when the procession passed his own house, he
remained rigidly in his chair, his large eyes glaring vacantly at the
Baron Binder, who had noiselessly entered the room, and had been
watching the prince, saw two large tears rolling slowly down his face,
and the sight of these tears emboldened him to approach the solitary
When he saw Binder, his lips quivered slightly, but he made no other
sign. Binder laid his hand upon the shoulder of the prince, and felt a
"Take compassion upon us who love you," said he, in a low, trembling
voice. "Tell us what it is that grieves you, dear friend."
"Nothing," replied Kaunitz.
"This is the first time that I have ever known your highness to speak an
untruth," cried Binder, boldly. "Something grieves you; if not--why
those blanched cheeks, those haggard eyes, and the tears that even now
are falling upon your hands?"
Prince Kaunitz moved uneasily, and slowly turned his head.
"Who gave you the right to criticise my behavior?" asked he, in a
freezing tone of displeasure. "Does it become such as you to measure or
comprehend the sufferings of a great mind? If it pleases you to parade
your troubles go out and ask sympathy of the contemptible world, but
leave to me the freedom of sorrowing alone: My grief is self-sustaining.
It needs no prop and no consolation. Attend to your affairs of state,
and go hence. I wish no spies upon my actions."
"Ah!" said Binder, tenderly, "'tis not my eyes that have acted the
spies, but my heart, and--"
"Baron Binder," interrupted Kaunitz, "you are not under this roof to
dissect my sentiments, or to confide to me your own; you are here to
assist me as a statesman. Go, therefore, and confine your efforts to the
business of your office."
Binder heaved a sigh, and obeyed. It was useless to offer sympathy when
it provoked such stinging resentment.
The state referendarius had scarcely reached his study, before the
folding-doors of Prince Kaunitz's entrance-rooms were flung wide open,
and the valet in attendance announced--
"His majesty the emperor."
A shudder was perceptible through the frame of the prince, and he
clutched at the arms of the chair in an attempt to rise.
"Do not rise," said Joseph, coming forward; "I have intruded myself upon
you without ceremony, and you must receive me in like manner."
Kaunitz sank back, and inclined his head. He had not the power to make a
reply. Joseph then motioned to the valet to withdraw, and drew a chair
to the prince's side.
There was a short silence and the emperor began: "I bring you greetings
from my mother."
Kaunitz turned and gazed at the emperor with a look of indescribable
anguish. "Her last greeting," said he, almost inaudibly.
"You know it, then? Who has been bold enough to break this sad
intelligence to you?"
"No one, your majesty. For three days I have received no bulletins. When
they ceased, I knew that--Maria Theresa was no more."
"Since you know it, then, my friend, I am relieved from a painful task.
Yes, I bring you the last greetings of a sovereign who loved you well. "
A sigh, which was rather a sob, indicative of the inner throes that were
racking the statesman's whole being, burst from his heart. His head fell
upon his breast, and his whole body trembled. Joseph comprehended the
immensity of his grief, and made no ineffectual attempt to quell it.
"I know," said he, "that you grieve, not only for her children, but for
"I grieve for you--I grieve for Austria--and, oh! I grieve for myself,"
"You have been a faithful friend to my mother," continued Joseph, "and
the empress remembered it to her latest hour. She bade me remind you of
the day on which you dedicated your life to Austria's welfare. She told
me to say to you that the departure of your empress had not released
you. It had increased your responsibilities, and she expected of you to
be to her son what you have ever been to her, a wise counsellor and a
cherished friend. Do you accept the charge and transfer the rich boon of
your services to me?"
The prince opened his lips, but not a sound came forth. For the second
time an expression of agony fluttered over his face, and no longer able
to control his feelings, he burst into tears. The sight so moved the
emperor, that he, too, shed tears abundantly.
Kaunitz gradually recovered himself. With an impatient movement he
dashed away the last tears that had gathered in his eyes, and dried his
moist cheeks with his delicate cambric handkerchief. He was himself
"Pardon me, your majesty," said he, respectfully inclining his head.
"You see how grief has mastered me. I have behaved like a child who is
learning his first difficult lesson of self-control. Forgive this
momentary weakness, and I promise that you shall never see me so
overwhelmed as long as I live."
The emperor, with an affectionate smile, pressed the old statesman's
hand. "I have nothing to forgive, dear prince. I have to thank you for
permitting me to view the penetralia of a great man's heart. And still
more have I to thank you for the sincerity with which you have loved
Maria Theresa. I accept it as a pledge of your obedience to her last
wishes. May I not?"
Kaunitz looked up, and answered with firmness, "Sire, this is the hour
of unreserve, and I will speak the unvarnished truth. I have been
expecting the last greeting of my empress, and had I not received her
command to serve your majesty, I should have known that Austria had need
of me no more, and ere long I would have followed my peerless mistress
to the grave."
"How! you would have laid violent hands upon your life?"
"Oh, no, sire--I would simply have starved to death; for I never could
have tasted food again, had I once obtained the conviction that I had
become superannuated and useless. Your majesty has saved my life, for I
have eaten nothing since she--went; and, now, since I must still live
for Austria, let me implore you to forget what you have seen of me
to-day. If I have ever served Austria, it has been in virtue of the mask
which I have always worn over my heart and features. Let me resume it
then, to wear it for life. Had we worn our political mask a little
longer, Frederick would not have foiled us in our Bavarian projects. We
must beware of him, old though he be, for he is a shrewd, far-seeing
"Oh, I do not fear his prying propensities!" cried Joseph. "Let him
watch our proceedings--and much good may it do him. He will see a new
order of things in Austria. Will you stand by me, prince, and lend me a
helping hand until my stately edifice is complete?"
"Your edifice, above all things, will need to be upon a secure
foundation. It must be fast as a mountain, behind which we can intrench
ourselves against the stormings of the clergy and the nobility."
The emperor gave a start of joyful surprise. "You have guessed my
projects of reform, and I have not yet uttered a word!"
"I had guessed them long ago, sire, I had read them more than once upon
your countenance when priests and nobles were by; and I triumphed in
secret, as I thought of the day that was to come, when you would be the
sole arbiter of their destinies."
"The day has come! it has come!" exclaimed Joseph, exultingly. "Now
shall begin the struggle in church and convent, in palace and castle;
and we shall shake off ambitious prelates and princes as the lion does
the insect that settles upon his mane!"
"Let the lion beware, for the insect bears a sting, and the sting bears
"We shall rob it of its sting before we rob it of its treasures. And
whence comes the sting of these troublesome gnats? It resides in the
riches of the church and the privileges of the nobles. But the noble
shall bow his haughty head to my laws, and the church shall yield up her
wealth. The lord of the soil shall come down to the level of his serf,
and by the eternal heavens above me, the priest shall he made as
homeless as Christ and His apostles!"
"If your majesty can compass this, your people will adore you as a
"I will do it! I will free my people from bondage, and if I am made to
die the death of the cross, I shall exult in my martyrdom," exclaimed
Joseph, with flashing eyes. "The internal administration of Austria
calls for reform. The empire over which I am to reign must be governed
according to my principles. Religious prejudices, fanaticism, and party
spirit must disappear, and the influence of the clergy, so cherished by
my mother, shall cease now and forever. Monks and nuns shall quit their
idle praying, and work like other men and women; and I shall turn the
whole fraternity of contemplatives into a body of industrious burghers."
[Footnote: This whole conversation is historical. The expressions are
those of the emperor. See "Letters of Joseph II.," p. 98.]
"Oh, sire," exclaimed Kaunitz, "your words affright me. Bethink you that
you throw the brand of revolt among a numerous and influential class."
"We will strip them of their armor, and so they shall become innoxious,"
"Gracious Heaven!" ejaculated Kaunitz, "your majesty, will--"
"Capture the convents, and carry off the booty."
"But that will be tantamount to a declaration of war against Rome!"
"Exactly what I propose to bring about. I desire to teach this servant
of God that I am absolute monarch of my own dominions, and that his--"
"True, sire, true, but be cautious, and go warily to work."
"I have no time to temporize," cried Joseph. "What is to be done shall
be done at once. So much the more quickly that this question of
stripping the convents is not only one of principle but of expediency
also. They abound in objects of value, and my treasury needs
replenishing. The state debt is large, and we must retrench. I shall
not, like my gracious mother, require a budget of six millions. I intend
to restrict myself to the expenditure which suffices for the King of
Prussia. Of course. I shall not, like the munificent Maria Theresa,
dispense ducats and smiles in equal profusion. My people must be
satisfied with a greeting that is not set to the music of the chink of
gold. Neither shall I, like my imperial lady-mother, keep two thousand
horses in my stables. Moreover, the pension-list shall be decreased--let
the retrenchment fall upon whom it may. But all this will not suffice to
straighten my financial affairs. I need several millions more. And as
they are to be found in church and convent, I shall seek them there."
Prince Kaunitz had listened to this bold harangue with perfect
astonishment. Several times in the course of it, he had nodded his head,
and more than once he had smiled.
"Sire," said he, "you have such an intrepid spirit that my seared old
heart beats responsive to the call like an aged war-horse that neighs at
the trumpet's note. Be it so, then. I will fight at your side like a
faithful champion, happy, if, during the strife, I be permitted to ward
off from my emperor's head a blow from his adversary's hands. Remember
that we go forth to fight thousands. For the people are with the clergy,
and they will cry out even more bitterly than they did at the expulsion
of the Jesuits."
"And they will cease to cry, as they did on that occasion," exclaimed
the emperor, with a merry laugh. "Courage, Kaunitz, courage! and we
shall prevail over Rome and all monkdom; and when we shall have utilized
their treasures, the people will return to their senses, and applaud the
deed." [Footnote: Joseph's own words. See Letters, etc., p. 49.]
"So be it then, your majesty. I will help you to pluck the poisonous
weeds, and sow in their places good secular grain."
THE BANKER AND HIS DAUGHTER.
The beautiful daughter of the Jewish banker was alone in her apartments,
which, from the munificence of her wealthy father, were almost regal in
Rachel, however, was so accustomed to magnificence that she had lost all
appreciation of it. She scarcely vouchsafed a glance to her inlaid
cabinets, her oriental carpets, her crystal lustres, and her costly
paintings. Even her own transcendent beauty, reflected in the large
Venetian mirrors that surrounded her, was unheeded, as she reclined in
simple muslin among the silken cushions of a Turkish divan.
But Rachel, in her muslin, was lovely beyond all power of language to
describe. Her youth, grace, and beauty were ornaments with which
"Nature's own cunning hand," had decked her from her birth. What diamond
ever lit up Golconda's mine with such living fire as flashed from her
hazel eyes? What pearl upon its ocean-bed ever glittered with a sheen
like that of the delicate teeth that peeped from between her pouting
coral lips? When she wandered in her vapory white dresses through her
father's princely halls, neither pictures nor statues there could
compare in color or proportion with the banker's queenly daughter
She lay on the dark silk cushions of the divan like a swan upon the
opalline waters of the lake at sunset. One arm, white and firm as
Carrara marble, supported her graceful head, while in her right hand she
held an open letter.
"Oh, my beloved!" murmured she, "you hope every thing from the
magnanimity of the emperor. But in what blessed clime was ever a Jewess
permitted to wed with a Christian? The emperor may remove the shackles
of our national bondage, but he can never lift us to social equality
with the people of another faith. There is nothing to bridge the gulf
that yawns between my beloved and me. It would kill my father to know
that I had renounced Judaism, and I would rather die than be his
murderer. Oh, my father! oh, my lover! My heart lies between you, and
yet I may not love you both!--But which must I sacrifice to the other?"
She paused and raised her eyes imploringly to heaven. Her cheeks
flushed, her bosom heaved, and no longer able to restrain her agitation,
she sprang from her divan, and light as a gazelle, crossed the room, and
threw open the window.
"No, my lover," said she, "no, I cannot renounce you! A woman must leave
father and mother, to follow him who reigns over her heart! I will leave
all things, then, for you, my Gunther!" And she pressed his letter to
her lips; then folding it, she hid it in her bosom.
A knock at the door caused her to start slightly, and, before she had
time to speak, the Jewish banker entered the room.
"My dear father!" exclaimed Rachel, joyfully, flying to him and putting
her arms around his tall, athletic form.
Eskeles Flies stroked her dark hair, and pressed a kiss upon her brow.
"I have not seen you for two days, father," said Rachel, reproachfully.
"I have been absent inspecting my new factories at Brunn, my daughter."
"And you went away without a word of adieu to me!"
"Adieu is a sorrowful word, my daughter, and I speak it reluctantly; but
a return home is a joy unspeakable, and you see that my first visit is
to YOU, dear child. To-day I come as a messenger of good tidings."
Rachel raised her head, and a flush of expectation rose to her face.
"Do the good tidings concern us both?" asked she.
"Not only ourselves, but our whole people. Look at me, Rachel, and tell
me wherein I have changed since last we met."
Rachel stepped back and contemplated her father with an affectionate
smile. "I see the same tall figure, the same energetic, manly features,
the same dear smile, and the same--no, not quite the same dress. You
have laid aside the yellow badge of inferiority that the Jew wears upon
"The emperor has freed us from this humiliation, Rachel. This burden of
a thousand years has Joseph lifted from our hearts, and under his reign
we are to enjoy the rights of men and Austrians!"
"The emperor is a great and magnanimous prince!" exclaimed Rachel.
"We have been trampled so long under foot," said the banker, scornfully,
"that the smallest concession seems magnanimity. But of what avail will
be the absence of the badge of shame? It will not change the peculiarity
of feature which marks us among men, and betrays us to the Christian's
"May our nation's type be ever written upon our faces!" exclaimed
Rachel. "The emperor will protect us from the little persecutions of
"He will have little time to think of us, he will have enough to do to
protect himself from his own enemies. He has decreed the dispersion of
the conventual orders, and as he has refused to yield up the goods of
the church, his subjects are becoming alienated from a man who has no
regard for the feelings of the pope. Moreover, he has proclaimed
"And has he included us among the enfranchised, dear father?"
"Yes, my child, even we are to be tolerated. We are also to be permitted
to rent estates, and to learn trades. Mark me--not to BUY estates, but
to rent them: We are not yet permitted to be landed proprietors.
[Footnote: Ramshorn, "Joseph II," p. 259.] But they cannot prevent the
Jew from accumulating gold--'yellow, shining gold;' and riches are our
revenge upon Christendom for the many humiliations we have endured at
its pious hands. They have withheld from us titles, orders, and rank,
but they cannot withhold money. The finger of the Jew is a magnet, and
when he points it, the Christian ducats fly into his hand. Oh, Rachel! I
look forward to the day when the Jews shall monopolize the wealth of the
world: when they shall be called to the councils of kings and emperors,
and furnish to their oppressors the means of reddening the earth with
one another's blood! We shall pay them to slaughter one another, Rachel;
and that shall be our glorious revenge!"
"My dear, dear father," interposed Rachel, "what has come over you that
you should speak such resentful words? Revenge is unworthy of the noble
sons of Israel; leave it to the Christian, whose words are love, while
his deeds are hate."
"His words to the Jew are as insolent as his deeds are wicked. But I
know very well how to exasperate and humble the Christians. I do it by
means of my rich dwelling and my costly equipages. I do it by inviting
them to come and see how far more sumptuously I live than they. The
sight of my luxuries blackens their hearts with envy; but most of all
they envy the Jewish banker that his daughter so far outshines in beauty
their Gentile women!"
"Dear father," said Rachel, coloring, "you go to extremes in praise, as
in blame. You exaggerate the defects of the Christian, and the
attractions of your daughter."
Her father drew her graceful head to him, and nestled it upon his
breast. "No, my child, no, I do not exaggerate your beauty. It is not I
alone, but all Vienna, that is in raptures with your incomparable
"Hush, dear father! Would you see me vain and heartless?"
"I would see you appreciate your beauty, and make use of it."
"Make use of it! How?"
"To help your father in his projects of vengeance. You cannot conceive
how exultant I am when I see you surrounded by hosts of Christian
nobles, all doing homage to your beauty and your father's millions.
Encourage them, Rachel, that they may become intoxicated with love, and
that on the day when they ask me for my daughter's hand, I may tell them
that my daughter is a Jewess, and can never be the wife of a Christian!"
Rachel made no reply; her head still rested on her father's bosom, and
he could not see that tears were falling in showers from her eyes. But
he felt her sobs, and guessing that something was grieving her, he drew
her gently to a seat.
"Dear, dear child," cried he, anxiously, "tell me why you weep."
"I weep because I see that my father loves revenge far more than his
only child; and that he is willing to peril her soul by defiling it with
wicked coquetry. Now I understand why it is that such a profligate as
Count Podstadsky has been suffered to pollute our home by his visits!"
The banker's face grew bright. "Then, Rachel, you do not love him?" said
he, pressing his daughter to his heart.
"Love him!" exclaimed Rachel, with a shudder, "love a man who has
neither mind nor heart!"
"And I was so silly as to fear that your heart had strayed from its
duty, my child, and that the tears which you are shedding were for him!
But I breathe again; and can exult once more in the knowledge of his
love for you."
"No, father," said Rachel, "he does not love me. He loves nothing except
himself; but he wearies me with his importunities."
"What has he done to you, my daughter?"
"During your absence he came three times to see me. As I denied myself,
he had resort to writing, and sent me a note requesting a private
interview. Read it for yourself, father. It lies on the table."
The banker read, and his eyes flashed with anger. "Unmannerly wretch!"
exclaimed he, "to use such language to my daughter! But all Vienna shall
know how we scorn him! Answer his note favorably, Rachel; but let the
hour of your interview be at mid-day, for I wish no one to suppose that
my daughter receives Christians by stealth."
"I will obey you, father," replied Rachel, with a sigh; "but I would be
better satisfied to thrust him, without further ceremony, from the door.
I cannot write to him, however, that would be a compromise of my own
honor; but I will send him a verbal message by my own faithful old
nurse. She knows me too well to suspect me of clandestine intercourse
with a wretch like Podstadsky."
"Why not send the girl who delivered his letter?"
"Because I discharged her on the spot for her indiscretion."
"Bravely done, my precious child! You are as wise and as chaste as
Israel's beauteous daughters have ever been. I shall reward you for
despising the Christian count. But I must go. I must go to double my
millions and lay them all at my Rachel's feet."
He kissed his daughter's forehead, and rose from the divan. But as he
reached the door he turned carelessly.
"Has the emperor's private secretary visited you of late?"
"He was here yesterday," said Rachel, blushing.
"Did you receive him?"
"Yes, dear father, for you yourself presented him to me."
Eskeles Flies was silent for a while. "And yet," resumed he, "I believe
that I was wrong to invite him hither. In your unconscious modesty, you
have not perceived, my child, that Gunther loves you with all the fervor
of a true and honest heart. He may have indulged the thought that I
would bestow my daughter upon a poor little imperial secretary, whose
brother enjoys the privilege of blacking the emperor's boots. Although I
laugh at this presumption, I pity his infatuation, for he is an
excellent young man. Be careful--or rather, receive him no longer. You
see, Rachel, that toward an estimable man, I do not encourage coquetry;
on the contrary, I plead for poor Gunther. He must not be exposed to a
disappointment. It is understood, then, that you decline his visits."
He smiled kindly upon his daughter, and left the room.
Rachel looked after him with lips half parted, and face as pale as
marble. She stood motionless until the sound of her father's foot-steps
had died away: then sinking upon her knees, she buried her face in her
hands, and cried out in accents of despair
"Oh, my God! I am to see him no more!"
THE COUNTESS BAILLOU,
The beautiful Countess Baillou was about to give a ball. She had invited
all the haut ton of Vienna, and they had accepted the invitations. And
yet the countess had been but four weeks in the Austrian capital; she
had no relations there, and none of the aristocracy had ever heard her
name before. But she had come to Vienna provided with letters of
introduction, and money; and these two keys had opened the saloons of
the fashionables to the beautiful stranger.
Her splendid equipage had been seen in the parks, and her magnificent
diamonds at the theatre. All the young men of fashion had directed their
lorgnettes toward her box, admiring not only her extraordinary beauty,
but the grace and abandon of her attitude, as she leaned back in her
velvet arm-chair. She had not long been seated when the door of the box
opened, and a young man entered whom the lady greeted with a cordial
smile. Every one knew the visitor to be Count Podstadsky-Liechtenstein.
the richest, haughtiest, and handsomest cavalier in all Vienna.
Podstadsky was the son of a distinguished nobleman, high in the
emperor's favor; he had just returned from his travels, and all the
Viennese gallants were eager to imitate him in every thing. To see him
in the box of the beautiful stranger was to fire the ambition of every
man to know her; the more so that the haughty Podstadsky, instead of
accepting a seat, was standing in an attitude of profound respect, which
he maintained until he took his leave.
Podstadsky, of course, was assailed with questions in relation to the
countess. He had known her in Italy as the wife of a wealthy old
nobleman to whom her parents had sacrificed her before she was eighteen.
She had been sincerely admired in Rome, not only on account of her
beauty, but of her wit, goodness, and above all of her admirable
behavior toward her repulsive old husband. Her conduct had been so
exemplary that she had been called "La contessa del cuore freddo."
[Footnote: The countess with the cold heart.] Podstadsky confessed that
even he had been desperately in love with her, but finding her
unapproachable, had left Rome in despair. What then was his delight
when, a few moments ago, he had learned from her own lips that she was a
widow, and had come to spend a season in Vienna!
The consequence of this recital was that Podstadsky's young
acquaintances were clamorous for presentation to la contessa. He stepped
into her box to inform the lady of their wishes, but soon returned with
the unwelcome tidings that the countess would receive no male visitor
unless he came in the company of a lady. This, of course, increased the
longing of the gallants tenfold, and the next day when her equipage was
seen coming in the park, it was followed by many an eager horseman,
jealous beyond expression of Count Podstadsky, who was admitted to the
blessed privilege of riding near the lady of their thoughts.
Some days later the young countess left her cards and letters of
introduction, and as they were from Orsinis, Colonnas, and other
grandees of Rome, her hotel was crowded with elegant equipages, and she
was admitted into the charmed circles of the first society in Vienna.
As for the furniture of her hotel, it surpassed anything in the city.
Her orders of every kind had been princely. Her sofas and chairs were of
embroidered satin; her tables of inlaid wood and verde antique; her
carpets the richest Persian; her paintings and statuary of rarest value.
She had bespoken several services of gold, and jewellers were revelling
in her orders for parures such as princesses would have been proud to
One quality which the Countess Baillou possessed gave her unbounded
popularity with those whom she patronized. Her purchases were all
promptly paid in new Austrian bank-notes, and tradesman vied with
tradesman as to who should have the privilege of her custom.
Finally, her palace was furnished, and the day of her ball had dawned.
Every invitation had been accepted, for the world was curious to see the
splendors of her fairy abode, and to behold the fairy emerge from the
retreat wherein she had buried herself up to the date of this grand
And now the long suites were lit up, and room after room was one blazing
sea of light, gold, crystal, bronze, and marble. Here and there were
charming boudoirs, where those who were weary of splendor could retire
to converse in the soft, subdued light that was shed upon them from
veiled lamps. The whole was closed by magnificent conservatories, where
flourished the flowers and fruits of every clime; where tropical birds
were seen fluttering among the branches of the orange-trees, or dipping
their beaks in the classic basins of the fountains that were gently
The countess had just emerged from her dressing-room. Her dress for the
evening was of white satin, and the coronal of brilliants which flashed
among the braids of her black hair was worthy to be the bridal-diadem of
a queen. The Countess Baillou was tall and stately in her beauty, hers
was the fascination of the dark-eyed Italian, united to the majesty of a
daughter of ancient Rome, and the union was irresistible. Her throat was
slender, her head small, and her classic oval face was of a pale, pearly
hue, without a tinge of the rose, which, while it lends animation to a
woman's face, detracts from the camelia-like purity of genuine patrician
The countess glided across the room, and throwing back her head took a
critical survey of her apartments. They presented a combination of taste
with magnificence, and their mistress was satisfied.
She turned to her steward, who was breathlessly awaiting the result of
his lady's inspection. "Not bad," said she, in a rich, melodious voice.
"I am quite pleased with your labors."
"Will my lady walk through the rooms to see the conservatories?" asked
"Why so?" replied she, with indifference. "I have no doubt that all is
as it should be, I am too weary of splendor to take much interest in it.
See, however, that the tables are spread with every luxury that can
tempt the palates of my guests."
"I hope your ladyship will be satisfied. The two cooks from Paris
profess, the one to have learned his art under the Prince de Soubise,
the other to have received his receipts for pastry from the Duke de
"Let them both do their best," said the countess, languidly, "and
remember that expense is to be no obstacle to the carrying out of my
With these words she dismissed the steward, and sank back into the
recesses of an arm-chair. But when he had fairly left, and she knew that
she was alone, her aspect changed. She rose quickly from the chair, and
walked through her rooms, surveying their splendor with visible
How peerless was her beauty as she swept through those empty rooms, her
diamonds reflected from mirror to mirror, her rich dress falling in
heavy folds about her form! He who had seen her there would have taken
her for the princess who had just awakened from her hundred years'
sleep, looking around her palatial solitude to see who it was that had
broken the spell of her enchanted trance. Her face was lit up with
triumph as she went, and at times, when something of rare value met her
eyes, in the ecstasy of her pride she laughed aloud.
Suddenly the stillness was broken by the sound of a man's footstep. The
laugh of the countess ceased, and she drew on her mask of indifference.
She turned slowly around, and dropped it again--for the intruder was
Just in the midst of the dancing room, tender the blaze of a crystal
chandelier, they met. The countess gave him her hand, and he grasped it
in his own, looking earnestly at her fair, bewitching face. She returned
the glance with her large, flashing eyes, and so they stood for a time
together. There was a secret between those two.
The countess spoke first. Her mouth relaxed into a scornful smile.
"Count Carl von Podstadsky-Liechtenstein," said she, "you are a man, and
yet you tremble."
"Yes, Arabella, I tremble, but not for myself. As I look upon you, in
the fulness of your incomparable beauty, my blood freezes with terror,
and a voice whispers to me, 'Have mercy on this woman whose beauty is so
akin to that of angels! You both stand upon the edge of a precipice:
shield her at least from the ruin which threatens you!'"
The countess raised her snowy shoulders. "German sentimentality," said
she. "If you mix sentiment with your cards, we shall lose the game,
Count Podstadsky. Hear, then, what I have to say to you. It is true that
we stand upon the brow of a precipice; but we must contemplate it
fearlessly, and so we shall grow accustomed to our danger, and learn to
escape it. Why do you wish to rescue me, Carl? I do not wish to be
rescued. I like the giddy brink, and look down with defiance into the
abyss that blackens the future before me."
"Give me some of your courage," sighed the count. "Let me drink
confidence from the depths of your fearless, flashing eyes, my angel."
"Angel!" said Arabella, with a mocking laugh. "If so, call me your
fallen angel; for when I took the unfathomable leap which leads from
innocence to guilt, your arms were outstretched to receive me. But
pshaw! what bootless retrospection! I am here, Carl, true as steel;
ready to stand or fall at your side. Feel my hand, it is warm--feel my
pulse, it beats as evenly as though I had never slept a night out of
"You are a heroine, Arabella. The magnificence around us affrights my
cowardly soul; while you--surely I heard your silvery laugh when I
entered this room awhile ago."
"To be sure you did, faint-hearted knight of the card-table! I laughed
for joy when I thought of former misery; and compared it with present
splendor; the more so, that I am the bold architect who raised the
edifice of my own fortune. We need not be grateful to Heaven for our
luck, Carl, for we are not in favor with the celestial aristocracy; we
have no one to thank for our blessings but ourselves."
"And will have no one to thank but ourselves when ruin overtakes us."
"Possibly," said Arabella, with a shrug. "But remember that we have
already been shipwrecked, and have not only saved ourselves, but have
brought glorious spoils with us to shore. So away with your misgivings!
they do not become the career you have chosen."
"Right, Arabella, right. They do not, indeed! But promise me that I
shall always have you at my side to share my fate, whatever it bring
"I promise," said she, raising her starry eyes to his, and clasping with
her small, firm hand his cold and clammy fingers. "By the memory of
Rome, and the dark-rolling waters of the Tiber, from which you rescued
me that night, I promise. And now let us pledge each other in a draught
from the depths of the Styx. Look around you, Carl, and realize that all
this magnificence is ours, and to-night I play the hostess to the proud
aristocracy of Vienna. But one question before the curtain rises. How
goes the affair with the banker's lovely Rachel?"
"Gloriously! She loves me, for she has consented to receive me day after
to-morrow, during her father's absence."
"Go, then, and the blessings of your fallen angel go with you! Play your
game cautiously, and let us hear the chink of Herr Eskeles Flies' gold
near the rustling of our fragile bank-notes. And now go. Return in half
an hour, that I may receive you in presence of our fastidious guests.
They might not approve of this tete-a-tete, for you are said to be a sad
She kissed her little jewelled hand, and while her Carl disappeared
through a secret door on one side of the room, she glided forward with
grace and elegance inimitable, to receive the high-born ladies who were
just then passing the portals of her princely abode.
THE EXPULSION OF THE CLARISSERINES.
The stroke so long apprehended by the church had fallen. Joseph had
thrown down the gauntlet, and had dealt his first blow at the chair of
St. Peter. This blow was directed toward the chief pastors of the
Austrian church--the bishops. Their allegiance, spiritual as well as
temporal, was due to the emperor alone, and no order emanating from Rome
could take effect without first being submitted for his approval. The
bishops were to be reinstated in their ancient rights, and they alone
were to grant marriage dispensations and impose penances.
But this was only one step in the new "reformation" of the Emperor
Joseph. He dissociated all spiritual communities whatever from
connection with foreign superiors, and freed them from all dependence
upon them. They were to receive their orders from native bishops alone,
and these in their turn were to promulgate no spiritual edict without
the approbation and permission of the reigning sovereign of Austria.
These ordinances did away with the influence of the head of the church
in Austria, but they did not sufficiently destroy that of the clergy
over their flocks. This, too, must be annihilated; and now every thing
was ready for the great final blow which was to crush to the earth every
vestige of church influence within the dominions of Joseph the Second.
This last stroke was the dispersion of the religious communities. Monks
and nuns should be forced to work with the people. They were no longer
to he permitted to devote their lives to solitary prayer, and every
contemplative order was suppressed.
The cry of horror which issued from the convents was echoed throughout
the land, from palace to hovel. The people were more indignant--they
were terror-stricken; for the emperor was not only an unbeliever
himself, he was forcing his people to unbelief. The very existence of
religion, said they, was threatened by his tyranny and impiety.
Joseph heard all this and laughed it to scorn. "When the priests cease
their howls," said he, "the people, too, will stop, and they will thank
me for what I am doing. When they see that the heavens have not fallen
because a set of silly nuns are startled from their nests, they will
come to their senses, and perceive that I have freed them from a load of
But the people were not of that opinion. They hated the imperial
freethinker who with his brutal hands was thrusting out helpless women
from their homes, and was robbing the very altars of their sacred
vessels, to convert them into money for his own profane uses.
All this, however, did not prevent the execution of the order for the
expulsion of the nuns. In spite of priests and people, the decree was
carried out on the 12th of January, of the year 1782. A multitude had
assembled before the convent of the Clarisserines whence the sisters
were about to be expelled, and where the sacred vessels and vestments
appertaining to the altars were to be exposed for sale at auction!
Thousands of men were there, with anxious looks fixed upon the gates of
the convent before which the deputies of the emperor, in full uniform,
stood awaiting the key which the prioress was about to deliver into
their hands. Not far off, the public auctioneers were seated at a table
with writing-materials, and around them swarmed a crowd of Jewish
tradesmen eagerly awaiting the sale!
"See them," said a priest to the multitude, "see those hungry Jews,
hovering like vultures over the treasures of the church! They will drink
from the chalice that has held the blood of the Lord, and the pix which
has contained his body they will convert into coin! Alas! alas! The
emperor, who has enfranchised the Jew, has disfranchised the Christian!
Unhappy servants of the Most High! ye are driven from His temple, that
usurers and extortioners may buy and sell where once naught was to be
heard but praise and worship of Jehovah!"
The people had come nearer to listen, and when the priest ceased, their
faces grew dark and sullen, and their low mutterings were heard like the
distant murmurings of a coming storm, while many a hand was clinched at
the Jews, who were laughing and chattering together, greatly enjoying
"We will not permit it, father," cried a young burgher, "we will not
allow the sacred vessels to be bought and sold!"
"No, we will not allow it," echoed the people.
"You cannot prevent it," replied the priest, "for the emperor is
absolute master here. Neither can you prevent the expulsion of the pious
Clarisserines from the home which was purchased for them with the funds
of the church. Well! Let us be patient. If the Lord of Heaven and Earth
can suffer it, so can we. But see--they come--the victims of an
And the priest pointed to the convent-gates through which the procession
had begun to pass. At their head came the prioress in the white garb of
her order, her head enveloped in a long veil, her face pale and
convulsed with suffering, and her hands, which held a golden crucifix,
tightly clasped over her breast. Following her in pairs came the nuns,
first those who had grown gray in the service of the Lord, then the
young ones, and finally the novices.
The people looked with heart-felt sympathy at the long, sad procession
which, silent as spectres, wound through the grounds of the home which
they were leaving forever.
The imperial commissioners gave the sign to halt, while, their eyes
blinded by tears, the people gazed upon the face of the venerable
prioress, who, obedient to the emperor's cruel decree, was yielding up
the keys and the golden crucifix. She gave her keys with a firm hand;
but when she relinquished the emblem of her office and of her faith, the
courage of the poor old woman almost deserted her. She offered it, as
the commissioner extended his hand, she shrank involuntarily, and once
more pressed the cross to her quivering lips. Then, raising it on high,
as if to call upon Heaven to witness the sacrilege, she bowed her head
and relinquished it forever.
Perhaps she had hoped for an interposition from Heaven; but alas! no
sign was given, and the sacrifice was complete.
The priest who had addressed the crowd, advanced to the prioress.
"Whither are you going, my daughter?" said he.
The prioress raised her head, and stared at him with vacant, tearless
"We must go into the wide, wide world," replied she. "The emperor has
forbidden us to serve the Lord."
"The emperor intends you to become useful members of society," said a
voice among the crowd. "The emperor intends that you shall cease your
everlasting prayers, and turn your useless hands to some account.
Instead of living on your knees, he intends to force you to become
honest wives and mothers, who shall be of some use to him by bearing
children, as you were told to do when your mother Eve was driven from
Every head was turned in eager curiosity to discover the speaker of
these bold words; but in vain, he could not be identified.
"But how are you going to live?" asked the priest, when the murmurs had
"The emperor has given us a pension of two hundred ducats," said the
"But that will not maintain you without--"
"It will maintain honest women who deserve to live," cried the same
voice that had spoken before. "Ask the people around you how they live,
and whether they have pensions from the crown. And I should like to know
whether a lazy nun is any better than a peasant's wife? And if you are
afraid of the world, go among the Ursulines who serve the emperor by
educating children. The Ursulines are not to be suppressed."
"True," said some among the crowd; "why should they not work as well as
we, or why do they not go among the Ursulines and make themselves
And thus were the sympathies of the people withdrawn from the unhappy
nuns. They, meanwhile, went their way, chanting as they walked:
"Cujus animam gementem, contristanten et dolentem pertransivit gladius."
While the Clarisserines were passing from sight, the people, always
swayed by the controlling influence of the moment, returned quietly to
Three men with hats drawn over their brows, pressed through the crowd,
and followed the procession at some distance.
"You see," said one of the three, "how a few words were sufficient to
turn the tide of the people's sympathies, and to confound that fanatic
priest in his attempt to create disturbance."
"Which he would have succeeded in doing but for your majesty--"
"Hush, Lacy, hush! We are laboring men, nothing more."
"Yes," growled Lacy, "and you put us to hard labor, too, when you
embarked in this dangerous business. It was a very bold thing to come
among this excited multitude."
"I was determined to watch the people, and counteract, if possible, the
effect of the sly blackcoats upon my subjects. Was it not well that I
was there to rescue them from the miseries of revolt?"
"Yes. I think there was danger at of a time that mischief would result
from the pious comedy of the prioress."
"To be sure there was," cried the emperor. "But this time I won the
field through a few well-directed words. And now let us go and see the
show at the two other convents. Perhaps we may come in time to send
another well-directed arrow in the midst of the sisterhoods."
COUNT PODSTADSKY'S ESCORT.
"You promise that he shall remain but five minutes in my room, father?"
"I give you my word that he shall stay just long enough for me to
complete my preparations to escort him home."
"What mean you, dear father? At least tell me what you intend to do."
"I merely intend a jest, dear child," said Eskeles Flies, laughing. "A
jest which shall announce to the people of Vienna that the Jewish banker
has no desire to receive the visits of the Christian count. Ah, eleven
o'clock! The hour for your interview. Farewell, my daughter, your lover
The banker disappeared through a tapestry-door, and scarcely had he
closed it when Count Podstadsky was announced.
Rachel had so unconquerable an aversion to Podstadsky that, instead of
going forward to greet him, she actually stepped back and raised her
hand as if to ward him off. But the count was not easily repulsed.
"At last, my angel," said he, "my hour of happiness is here--at last you
are mine. And I am the happiest of mortals."
"Who tells you that I am yours?" said Rachel, still retreating.
"Yourself, my houri, when you consent to receive me alone. How shall I
prove to you the extent of my adoration?"
"Oh, you can easily do that," said Rachel, "by becoming a Jew for the
love of me."
At the idea of his becoming a Jew, Podstadsky burst out into a fit of
laughter; but Rachel affected not to hear it.
"You know that by becoming a Jew," continued she, "you would be at