Part 19 out of 22
liberty to marry me, and inherit my father's ducats."
At mention of her father's wealth Podstadsky felt that he had laughed
too soon. The thought of the banker's millions made him feel rather
grave. They were worth any thing short of such a lese noblesse as
"What to me are your father's ducats?" cried he, vehemently. "I love
nothing here but his daughter, and my love is sufficient for me. I ask
nothing but the priceless treasure of your heart. Come, sweet one,
"Away with you!" cried Rachel, unable to endure his insolence longer.
"If I have permitted you to sully the purity of my home with your
presence, it was that I might tell you once for all how I despise you!
Now, begone, sir."
"And allow me to accompany you home," said a mocking voice behind; and
as Podstadsky turned with a start to see whence it came, he met the
fiery black eyes of Eskeles Flies, who approached with a tall wax-light
in his hand.
The count trembled inwardly, but recovering his self-possession, he
asked, with a haughty smile: "Are we in the carnival, and do you
represent the Israelitish god of love?"
"Yes, count," said the banker, "and his torch shall light you home, lest
you stumble on your way, and fall into the pit of dishonor. Come and
receive the ovation prepared for you."
So saying, Eskeles Flies opened the door, and the count looked out with
The long hall was lined on both sides with the liveried servants of the
banker, each holding in his hand a wax-light, whose yellow flame flared
to and fro, as the air from the open door below came in fitful puffs up
the wide marble staircase.
"Come," said the banker, advancing with his flambeau. Podstadsky
hesitated. If his sense of honor was dead, his vanity was not; and it
winced at the slightest touch of ridicule. Was there no escape from this
absurd escort? He looked around and saw no hope of rescue. Behind him
Rachel had locked the door, and the servants were so closely ranged
together that it was vain to attempt a passage through that living wall
of fire. He had no alternative but to laugh derisively and step into the
ranks. The procession moved on, and gathered strength as it moved; for
on the staircase in the lower hall, and at the front of the house, they
were joined by throng after throng, each man of which, like the
commander-in-chief, was armed with a flambeau. This was bad enough of
itself, but the count's body-guard were all in a titter, and every man
enjoyed the jest except himself.
By this time they had reached the street, and what was the rage and
mortification of the proud Austrian grandee, when he saw that curiosity
had drawn thither a concourse of people, who kept up with the
procession, wondering what on earth could be the meaning of it!
[Footnote: This scene is historical. See "Letters of a French
Traveller," vol. i., p. 405. Frieders "Letters from Vienna," vol. ii.,
"See," cried one, "Herr Eskeles Flies has caught a marten in his
hen-roost and is lighting him home."
"And the marten is the fine Count Podstadsky-Liechtenstein," cried
another. "I know him. He rejoices in the title of 'woman-killer.' Only
look how he sneaks along as the tribe of Israel are dogging him home!"
"The Israelites are escorting him home," jeered the multitude, and the
procession moved on, never stopping until it reached the count's own
hotel. Once there, Eskeles Flies, in a loud voice, bade him adieu, and
requested to know whether he should accompany him farther.
"No," replied Count Podstadsky, trembling with passion, "and you shall
answer to me for this outrage. We shall see whether the unbelieving Jew
can mock the Christian with impunity!"
"Accuse me before the public tribunals," answered the banker, "and I
shall enter MY complaint against you."
"Indeed!" said Podstadsky, contemptuously. "The Jew will be allowed to
accuse an Austrian nobleman, will he?"
"Yes, by the God of Israel, he will," replied Eskeles Flies, so loud
that his voice was heard by the people around. "Yes, thanks to the
emperor, his subjects before the law are all equal, and Jew and
Christian are alike amenable to its judgments. Long live Joseph the
Second, the father of his people!"
"Long live the father of his people!" shouted the fickle multitude; and
glad that the attention of the crowd had been diverted from himself,
Count Podstadsky-Liechtenstein slunk away to ruminate over the
mortifying occurrences of the morning.
The emperor, with his confidential secretary, had been at work through
the entire night. Day had dawned, and still he wrote on, nor seemed to
be conscious of the hour. In his restless zeal, he felt no fatigue, no
exhaustion, nor yet any excitement, and not until the last document had
been read and signed, did he rise from his chair to take a few turns
around the room, while Gunther was sorting the papers, and placing them
in a portfolio.
"Gunther," said the emperor, "what is the matter? You look pale and
Gunther raised his head, and smiled. "Nothing, sire, is the matter, but
want of rest. A few hours' sleep will restore me"
"Not so, Gunther; you belie yourself when you say so, for never in my
life have I seen such an indefatigable worker as you. Ah! you look down,
so that I know you are not frank with me. Come, have you no confidence
"Oh, sire, I have the most unbounded confidence in your goodness; but
since you force me to speak, I am uneasy about yourself."
"How so, Gunther?"
"Because, your majesty strides forward in your projects of reform
without the least apprehension of the danger that attends such changes.
You rush through the flames without ever dreaming that they may some day
The emperor shrugged his shoulders. "Always the same song--an echo of
Lacy and Rosenberg. I have no time to temporize as you would advise me
to do. Who knows how long I shall live to carry out my own free will?"
"Certainly, if your majesty works as you have done of late, your chance
for life is not very great. You seem to forget that mind is subordinate
to matter--not matter to mind--that physical nature must have her
rights, and no man can withstand her exactions. Pardon me these bold
words, sire, but if I speak at all, I must speak the truth. You have
begun a gigantic edifice, and if you die, it must remain forever
"For that very reason, I must complete it myself; for, indeed, Gunther,
you are right--when I die, I leave no man worthy to succeed to my
stupendous undertakings. I shall, therefore, live until I have
accomplished them all."
"Then your majesty must work less," exclaimed Gunther, warmly. "You do
not believe that in pleading for you, sire, I give one thought to
myself, for nothing is too laborious for me when I work for my emperor."
Joseph laid his hand softly upon Gunther's shoulder. "I believe you,
Gunther. I esteem you as one of my best friends, and well you know that
from you I have no political secrets."
"I would sooner die than betray your majesty, even unwittingly," said
Gunther, looking with his large, honest eyes into the emperor's face.
"I know it, Gunther; but as you enjoy my confidence without reserve, you
ought to know that I have too much to do to think of rest. Oh, it would
be dreadful for me to die before my structure is complete! Gunther,
Gunther, the priests would transform my fairy palace into a gloomy
church; and from its towers, in lieu of the noble clock which is to
strike the hour of reformation for my people, would frown the cross that
is the symbol of the unenlightened past. Oh, let me not hear in my dying
moments the crash of the temple I would rear to Truth!"
"Then recreate your mind, sire, with literature or art. It is long since
the speaking tones of your violoncello have been heard in the palace."
"Very true, Gunther, but I cannot invite the Muses into my study. A
prince has no right to associate with such frivolous ladies, for he is
not on earth to pass away time. The King of Prussia heads a royal sect
who devote themselves to authorship. The Empress of Russia follows after
him with Voltaire in her hand. I cannot emulate their literary
greatness. I read to learn, and travel to enlarge my ideas; and I
flatter myself that as I encourage men of letters, I do them a greater
service than I would, were I to sit at a desk and help them to weave
sonnets. [Footnote: The emperor's own words. "Letters of Joseph," p.
67.] So let us eschew Apollo and his light-footed companions; I aim to
be nothing but an imperial statesman. But," continued the emperor,
frowning, "I get little sympathy from my subjects. Counsellors, nobles,
burghers, priests, all heap obstacle upon obstacle in my path, and the
work advances slowly. The revenues, too, are inadequate to the state.
The financial affairs of the crown are disordered, and it is only by the
strictest economy that I am able to sustain the army. The people call me
a miser, because Maria Theresa's prodigality of expenditure forces upon
me measures of retrenchment, and necessitates unusual expedients for the
raising of funds."
"Which unhappily were extorted from convents and shrines."
"Unhappily! HAPPILY, you mean to say. The treasures which were wasted on
convent-chapels and shrines, have saved us from bankruptcy; and God will
look down with favor upon the sacrifice which dead superstition has made
to living love, and will bestow a blessing upon the work of my hands!
True, those heroes of darkness, the monks and priests, will cry
Anathema! and the earth will be filled with their howls."
"Like that which greeted Alcides, when he stormed the gates of
Tartarus," said Gunther, smiling.
"You are right. The work is worthy of Alcides, but with the blessing of
God it shall be done. Little care I for the wail of nuns or the groans
of priests; let them shriek and tear their hair, or, if they like it
better, let them vent their spleen in lampoons and caricatures. See,
Gunther, what a compliment I received yesterday."
And the emperor drew from his escritoire a paper which he unfolded.
"Look at this. It takes off one of my great crimes. You know I have
deprived the court of the privilege of living in the palace, and I have
given them wherewith to find lodgings in the city. Here go the ladies
with their bundles under their arms, and the lord high-steward has a
broom sweeping after them as they go. This charming individual in the
corner with a hunting-whip, is myself. And here is the pith of the joke.
'Rooms to let here. Inquire of the proprietor on the first floor.'
[Footnote: Hubner, i., p. 190.] What do you think of it?"
"Abominable! Inconceivable!" ejaculated Gunther. "As unjust as it is
"It does not sting me. I have a sound hide. When it itches it is cured
by scratching. [Footnote: Joseph's own words.] Here is another
pasquinade. It was thrown before my horse's feet as I was riding in the
"'Joseph Premier, aimable et charmant: Joseph Seconde, scorpion et
"How can your majesty laugh at such unparalleled insolence?" cried the
"No one can deny that I have stung priests and nuns," said Joseph,
laughing, "so they are welcome to roar, since their tongues are the only
weapons wherewith they may revenge themselves upon their tyrant. As I
have proclaimed freedom of speech and press, you see they take advantage
of the privilege."
"Well, if your majesty takes so magnanimous a view of these insulting
lampoons," said Gunther, drawing a paper from his pocket, "I must show
you one which yesterday was posted on the wall of the Konigskloster."
"So the Konigskloster irritates the servants of the lord, does it?"
laughed Joseph. "They cannot forgive me for selling it to the banker
Flies, to transfigure into a Jewish palace!--Well, let us see the
"Sire, my tongue refuses to pronounce the words," replied Gunther,
handing it to the emperor.
"Nay, you must accustom your tongue to pronounce them, for we are likely
to have many more of the same sort to read. So go on, and speak out
The emperor threw himself into an arm-chair, and making himself
comfortable, prepared to listen.
The lampoon denounced him as the persecutor of the brides of the Lord,
and the enemy of the church. It accused him of having converted a holy
temple into the abode of sin, that he might gratify his greed for money.
When Gunther had concluded, he cried out impatiently, "This time at
least your majesty will show your enemies that forbearance has its
limits, and that the liberty of the press shall not degenerate into
"By no means. That would look as if I were afraid. I commission you to
have the lampoon reprinted and to expose it for sale in the bookstores
at six kreutzers a copy, the proceeds to be given to the poor."
"Oh that your majesty's enemies were here to sink with shame at your
feet, and beg your forgiveness!" cried Gunther.
"Hush," said Joseph. "Were my enemies to hear you, they would liken me
to other princes, who make a parade of their good qualities so that
flatterers may immortalize them in laudatory dithyrambics.--But the time
for chatting and resting has expired," continued Joseph, rising from his
chair. "The labors of the day call me. I must go to receive my
petitioners, who must be weary with waiting, for I am a quarter of an
hour behind the time."
The wide corridor in which Joseph was accustomed receive his petitioners
was crowded. People of all ages and conditions were there, waiting with
trembling impatience the appearance of the emperor, who received the
applications of his subjects every day from nine o'clock until twelve.
Suddenly a commotion was perceptible among the crowd, and a pressure was
felt toward the door which led to the cabinet of the emperor. The ears
of those who have suits to urge are keen; and every one of that motley
throng heard the footsteps of him who held their destinies in his hand.
The door opened, and Joseph was before them. At once every hand that
held a paper was eagerly stretched forward. The emperor went from one to
another, and, while he collected their petitions, entered into friendly
converse with the applicants.
The last petitioner was an old man in the garb of a Hungarian peasant.
His white hair fell in locks from beneath his wide-brimmed hat of dark
brown, and the cloak which was thrown carelessly over his stalwart
shoulders was embroidered with shells and silver spangles. His sun-burnt
face was free from the Runic characters which the slow finger of Time is
apt to trace upon the brow of the human race; and but for the color of
his hair, he would have been mistaken for a man in the prime of life.
The emperor was favorably struck with his bearing, and smiled with more
than usual benignity.
"Whence come you?" said he.
"From Hungary, sire," replied the peasant, with a smile that revealed
two rows of regular, white teeth. "I was one week on my journey; at
night the open field my bed, and by day a drink of water more than once
my only breakfast."
"You must have had important business in Vienna."
"Yes, sire. I was sent with this petition to your majesty."
"It must be urgent, to have induced you to travel so far."
"Urgent, indeed, sire. I promised the peasants of our district to give
it into your majesty's own hand. It has the name of every man in the
district; but if I had had time to go around with it, I might have
brought with me the name of every peasant in Hungary. It was arranged
that I should present the petition this morning, and now, while we stand
here, every man, woman, and child at home is praying for my success. "
"What can I do for you? Speak, and if possible, I will grant your
"Then, your majesty, read it aloud, that I may say to my brethren, that
our cry of distress has reached the imperial ear."
Joseph smiled, and opening the paper, read aloud:
"Compassionate emperor! Four days of hard labor as socmen; the fifth day
at the fisheries; the sixth day following our lords in the hunt--the
seventh day is the Lord's. Judge, then, whether we are able to pay our
"Yes, yes," murmured the man to himself, "he cannot say that if we are
oppressed, he knows nothing of it."
"I will not say so, my friend," said the emperor, with emotion. "The
whole history of your wrongs is written in these few touching lines. I
know that you are oppressed, and that, when you sink with exhaustion at
your tasks, you are roused with the lash. I know that you are treated
like cattle, that you have neither property nor rights, and that
agriculture suffers sorely from the obstacles which your masters place
in your paths. I know all; and by the God above us, to whom your wives
and children are even now at prayer, I swear to free the Hungarian serf
"To free the Hungarian serf!" shouted the peasant. "Do I hear aright?
Does your majesty promise freedom to the Hungarian serf?"
"As God hears me, I will free him," replied the emperor, solemnly.
"Servitude shall cease, and free socage shall replace villeinage. Your
tax-bill shall be revised, and your rights guaranteed by the crown. If,
after this, you are oppressed, come confidently to me, and your tyrants
shall be punished; for under my reign all men shall be equal before the
The peasant sank on his knees and looked up with glistening eyes. "Oh,
my lord and emperor," said he, "I had heard of tears of joy, but, until
to-day, I knew not what they meant. I have been scourged for refusing to
kneel to my lord; but I bend the knee to you for I feel that you are a
mighty sovereign and a merciful father to your people. God bless you for
the words by which you have recognized our right to live and to be
He bent down and kissed the emperor's feet; then rising, he said
"Farewell, gracious lord of Hungary. I must return home."
"Will you not remain a day or two to see the beauties of Vienna?" asked
"No, your majesty. I carry too much joy with me to tarry on my way; and
what could I see in Vienna to rival the snow-white mountains that mirror
themselves in the blue lakes of Hungary?"
"Then, at least, take this purse to defray your expenses."
"No, your majesty, I cannot take gold to defray the expenses of a holy
pilgrimage. Farewell! And may the blessings of a grateful people be
echoed for you in heaven!"
The emperor laid his hand upon the peasant's shoulder.
"Tell me the name of my Hungarian friend!"
"My name? It is Horja, [Footnote: Unhappy Horja! This sentimental
interview cost him his life.] sire."
"Farewell, then, Horja; let me hear from you."
As the door closed behind Horja, the emperor continued his rounds, but
no more petitions were presented. Here and there, however, was heard a
request for an audience, which Joseph granted, and then retired to his
cabinet, leaving the door open.
"Have the goodness to walk in," said he to the lady, who was in advance
of the others. She obeyed, and the emperor, closing the door, took a
seat at his escritoire.
"Now, madam, I am ready to hear you; but, as there are nine persons to
follow, I must request you to be brief. What is your name?"
"I am the widow of the President von Kahlbaum."
"He was a worthy man. Have you any children, madam?"
"Yes, your majesty; I have two daughters and a son."
"Two daughters? I once had a little maiden of my own, but she is dead,"
said the emperor, sadly. "How can I serve you and your children?"
"Oh, sire, the fearful ordinance by which the pensions from her late
majesty's privy-purse were withdrawn, has ruined me. I beseech of you,
sire, restore to me my pension extraordinary."
"Are you not aware that the pensions extraordinary are abolished?"
"Yes, sire; but through your majesty's liberality, I hope to retain the
pension I held from the empress. The loss of it heightens my grief for
the death of my husband, and makes life unendurable. Without it I should
have to part with my carriage, with a portion of my household, and live
in complete retirement. I am sure that your majesty's own sense of
justice will plead for me."
"Justice is the motive power of all my actions, madam," replied the
emperor, curtly, "and for that very reason you cannot retain your
"Sire, I am sorely stricken. The merits of my husband--my position--"
"Your husband's merits have earned you the pension you already receive
from the crown; and as for your position, that can in no way concern me.
I grant that your loss is great; but your special pension will maintain
three poor families, and I cannot allow you to receive it longer."
"Alas!" cried the lady, "what are my daughters to do?"
"They can become good house-keepers or governesses, if they have
received good educations."
"Impossible, sire. My daughters are of noble birth, and they cannot
descend to the humiliation of earning a living."
"Why not? I am sure I earn my living, and earn it by hard work, too. No
one is too good to work; and since the aristocracy cannot shield their
children from want, it is clear that they cannot free them from the
necessity of labor."
"Then, your majesty, have mercy upon my son--the only son of a man of
"What profession has he chosen?"
"He wishes to be an officer in the army; but he was so severely dealt
with in his examination, that he has not been able to obtain a
commission. Oh, your majesty, I beseech of you, grant him a command in
"Madam," cried the emperor, impatiently, "a man may be the son of a
distinguished father without having the slightest claim to serve as an
officer. As your son was not able to stand his examination, he must
content himself with being the 'son of a man of noble extraction.'
Excuse me, but time is limited. I regret to refuse your requests, but
justice compels me to do so."
The lady burst into tears, and making her inclination to the emperor,
left the room. The latter, following her, said, "Let the next petitioner
This was an old hussar, a captain of cavalry, with lofty bearing and
snow-white beard. He came in, making a military salute.
"What can I do for you, my friend?" asked Joseph.
"I come to ask of your majesty not to deprive me of the pension
extraordinary which the empress of blessed memory bestowed upon me from
her privy purse," said the old soldier, bluntly.
"Oh, another pension extraordinary!" said the emperor, with a laugh.
"That cannot be, captain. The privy purse of the empress, which, in the
goodness of her heart, was thrown indiscriminately to all who asked for
alms, this purse exists no longer. It has a large hole in it, and its
contents have all run out."
The old hussar gave a grim look to the emperor, and raised his peruke.
Pointing with his finger to three wide, purple scars upon his head, he
"Sire, my head is somewhat in the condition of your privy-purse, it has
several holes in it. They were made by your majesty's enemies."
"To stop such holes as those is my sacred duty," said Joseph, smiling,
"and enough remains yet in the bottom of the privy-purse to satisfy the
wants of a brave officer, who has served me to his own prejudice.
Forgive my refusal. The petition which you wear on your head is more
eloquent than words, and your pension shall be returned to you."
"I thank your majesty," said the captain, and with another stiff salute,
he marched out.
The emperor looked after him, laughing heartily.
As he disappeared, a pale, delicate woman came forward, accompanied by
several young children, two of which were hiding their heads in her
skirt. The group filed up the door like a picture, and the children
clung so to the pallid mother that she could not advance a step.
"As you cannot come to me, I will go to you," said the emperor,
contemplating them with a benevolent smile. "Give me your petition,
"These are my petitions, your majesty," said the woman pointing to her
children. "My husband served for many years in the twelfth regiment, and
died of the wounds he received in the Bavarian war. He left me nothing
but these orphans."
The emperor looked kindly at the little golden heads that were peeping
from among the folds of their mother's dress, and a cloud came over his
face. "You grieve for your poverty, poor woman," said he, "and know not
how I envy your riches. How many millions would I give if one of those
children were mine! Children are a great blessing."
"Yes, sire, when they have fathers to work for them."
"I will be their father," said Joseph, and at the sound of these loving
words, the children raised their bashful heads, to steal a look at the
speaker. "Come, boys," continued he, offering his hand, "will any of you
"Yes, yes," replied the two eldest, standing erect and making the
"That is right. You are brave fellows, and if you behave well, you shall
belong to my body-guard.--Come to-morrow," continued he to the mother,
"and the lord-chancellor will attend to the maintenance and education of
your four eldest. Meanwhile, you shall have a pension for yourself and
the youngest. In a few years I will do as much for the little one there.
Be punctual in your visit to the chancery. You will be received at ten
"God reward your majesty!" faltered the happy mother. "Oh, my children,
my dear children, the emperor is the father of the orphan! Reward your
gracious sovereign by being good, and pray for him with all your
With these words the woman courtesied and withdrew, and the audience for
that day was at an end.
"And pray for him with all your hearts," whispered the emperor. "May God
hear the petitions of these innocents! Perchance they may weigh against
the curses of others. They are the little roses which I sometimes find
beneath my crown of thorns. But away with sentiment! I have no time to
indulge in heart-reveries. My vocation is to work. Here is a portfolio
filled with petitions. Gunther must help me to examine them."
He rang the bell, and Gunther seated himself and went to work.
Meanwhile, the emperor had taken up one of the papers and was reading
it. Suddenly he put it down and began to laugh.
"Listen, Gunther," said he, "listen to this touching appeal. One of the
discharged counselors orders me to give him a larger pension that he may
live in a manner befitting his position. Now hear the conclusion of the
petition. 'Our emperor is a poor callow mouse.'" [Footnote: Hubner, i.,
"And your majesty can laugh at such insolence!" exclaimed Gunther,
coloring with indignation.
"Yes, I do," replied Joseph. "Nothing can be franker and more to the
"And I, pardon me, sire, think that the writer of this insolent letter
should be severely--"
"Nay," interrupted the emperor. "You would not have me punish him for
being man enough to say to my face what thousands say of me behind my
back, would you? Now, I am so disinclined to punish him that I intend to
increase his pension just because he is an honest, plain-spoken fellow.
You need not make such a grimace, Gunther. If you feel badly, console
yourself with your work."
The emperor seated himself at the table and went on looking over his
petitions, occasionally murmuring to himself, "Our emperor is a poor,
THE LADY PATRONESS.
The days of the Countess Baillou glided away in one continued round of
pleasure. She was the cynosure of all eyes at concert, ball, or
festival. Even women ceased to envy the conquering beauty, and seemed to
think it just that all mankind should succumb to her unparalleled
attractions. The emperor had shared the common enthusiasm, and, at a
ball given by Prince Esterbazy, had danced twice with the countess.
Those therefore who, through their rank or station, were ambitious of
the emperor's presence at their entertainments, hastened one and all to
issue pressing invitations to the enchantress of whom their sovereign
had said that she was the most fascinating woman in Vienna.
Count Podstadsky-Liechtenstein was about to give a ball, and the
Countess Baillou had consented to receive his guests. It would perhaps
have been more natural that the mother of the count should play the
hostess on this occasion, but it was known that the old couple were at
variance with their only son; and the more lavish he grew in his
expenditure, the more penurious became his parents. The avarice of the
latter was as well known as the extravagance of the former, and whenever
there was a new anecdote current, illustrative of the prodigality of the
son, another was related to exemplify the increasing parsimony of the
It was no wonder, therefore, that the bewitching countess should have
been selected to preside over the ball given by her aristocratic friend.
Everybody was delighted. The emperor was to be there, and it was to be
the most magnificent entertainment of the season. Long before the hour
fixed for the arrival of the guests, the street before the count's
palace was thronged with people, eager to obtain a glance at any thing
appertaining to the fairy spectacle. While they were peering through the
illuminated windows at a wilderness of flowers, mirrors, silk, and
velvet, a carriage drawn by four splendid horses came thundering down
the street, and drew up before the door of the palace. Two footmen in
sky-blue velvet picked out with silver, leaped down to open the door,
and in a trice the large portals of the palace were thrown open, and a
rich carpet rolled to the carriage door, while six liveried servants
ranged themselves on either side.
And now from the carriage emerged the lady patroness, resplendent in
silver gauze, and diamonds that glittered like a constellation just
fallen from the heavens. The people enraptured by the beauty of the
countess, gave vent to their admiration without stint. As she reached
the top of the marble steps, she turned and smiled upon her worshippers,
whereupon they shouted as an audience is apt do at the appearance of a
favorite prima donna.
In the midst of this applause, the lady entered the hotel, and until the
door closed and shut out the enchanted scene within, the crowd watched
her graceful form as it glided along followed by a train of lackeys.
Count Podstadsky came forward to meet her with ceremonious courtesy.
They entered the gay saloons, but, as if led by one common impulse, both
traversed the long suite of apartments in silence, and approached a door
which led into a small boudoir evidently not lit up for the occasion.
Once within, the door was closed, and the purple velvet portiere was
dropped before it.
"Do not be afraid," said the countess, with a bewitching smile, "we are
alone. You are at liberty to congratulate me upon my appearance, for I
see by your eyes that you are dying to tell me how beautiful I am."
"Neither eyes nor tongue could give expression to a hundredth part of
the rapture which my heart feels at your approach, Arabella," replied
Podstadsky, gazing upon her with passionate admiration. "Surely every
woman must hate you, and every man be intoxicated by your charms."
"They are intoxicated, Carlo," replied she. "They are such fools! To
think that they are willing to commit any deed of folly for the sake of
a fair face and two bright eyes."
"And you, my angel, are cruel to all, and for me alone has the proud
Countess Baillou a heart."
"A heart!" ejaculated the countess, with irony. "Do you believe in
hearts, silly Carlo? My dear friend, I at least am without such an
inconvenience. If I love any thing it is gold. Its chink to my ear is
sweetest harmony, its touch thrills through my whole being."
"How you have changed, Arabella! The time was when your lips murmured
words of love and despair, too?"
"Ay, Carlo! But the woman who murmured of love and despair--she who
believed in innocence and loyalty, is buried in the Tiber. She whom you
rescued thence has received the baptism of shame; and you, Count
Podstadsky, were her sponsor. You taught me the art of lying and
deceiving, and now you prate to me of a heart!"
"It is because your maddening beauty will not suffer me to forget that
mine is still susceptible of love," replied Podstadsky.
The countess laughed, but there was no mirth in her voice. "Podstadsky,"
said she, throwing back her superb head, "you have about as much heart
as a hare, who runs from a rustling leaf, taking it to be the clink of
the hunter's rifle."
"And yet, Arabella," replied Podstadsky, with a sickly smile, "I am
here, although sometimes I do start, and fancy that I hear the hunter's
step behind me."
"Hare-like fright," said Arabella, raising her shoulders. "I wonder at
you, Carlo, when you look upon what we are, and reflect upon what we
have been. Everybody in Vienna admires and envies us. The highest nobles
of the land are our willing guests, and the emperor himself (dit-on) has
fallen in love with the Countess Baillou. Oh, Carlo! Is it not enough to
make all the gods of Olympus laugh?"
"You are right," replied Podstadsky, encouraged. "The emperor's visit
here to-night will silence the clamor of my creditors."
"Creditors! What of them? Was there ever a nobleman without creditors!
They are one of the appendages of rank. And, then, Carlo--if your
creditors annoy you, what prevents you from paying them?"
Podstadsky shuddered. "Do you mean--"
"What is the matter with the man?" asked Arabella, as he paused, and she
saw how ghastly he looked. "Of course, I mean you to pay as you have
paid before. Pay, and pay promptly. Then when every thing--furniture,
plate, jewels, horses, and equipages are ours, we sell out, and realize
our fortune in GOLD--(no bank-notes, Carlo)--and, then, we take up our
abode in the city of cities--Paris! Gold--gold! There is--"
A light knock was heard at the door. The countess disappeared, and the
count put out his head. It was his steward, who announced that a lady,
closely veiled, wished to speak with Count Podstadsky on urgent business.
"Show her into the anteroom. The Countess Baillou will do me the favor
to receive her."
"My lord," said the steward, "the lady wishes to see you alone."
"Indeed? Then show her in here."
The steward retired, and the count stepped into one of the lighted
rooms. The countess came forward, smiling.
"I heard it all," said she playfully, threatening him with her finger.
"I am not going to allow you to have a tete-a-tete in the dark. No, no,
my Jupiter, your mysterious beauty shall be received just here under the
light of the chandelier, and I shall watch you both from the boudoir.
That will be safer for all parties. I suspect a certain dark-eyed beauty
of this stratagem, and I long to see the haughty prude."
"Do you suspect Rachel Eskeles?"
Arabella nodded affirmatively. "Doubtless she comes to implore
forgiveness for her father's insolence, and to deny all complicity with
the old Jewish dragon. Here she comes, Carlo, but mark me! if I see
danger ahead, I come to the rescue."
The countess, like a graceful gazelle, then bounded into the boudoir,
while the count advanced to meet the veiled visitor.
MOTHER AND SON.
With the bow and smile of a veritable libertine, Count Podstadsky
offered his arm to the lady, whose face was completely hidden by a long
black veil. The accommodating steward retired in haste, and the lady,
looking around with anxiety, murmured, "Are we alone?"
"Entirely alone, my charming sphinx," replied Podstadsky. "The god of
love alone shall hear the secrets which are to fall from your coral
lips. But, first, let me remove this envious veil, my mysterious
The lady stood perfectly still, while Podatadsky, by way of exordium,
embraced her affectionately. Neither did she offer any opposition to his
daring hands, as first they removed her long mantilla, and then threw
back her black crape veil which had so faithfully concealed her
When he saw her face, he started back with a cry of remorse.
"My mother, oh, my mother!" exclaimed he, covering his face with his
Behind the portiere there was the faint sound of a mocking laugh, but
neither mother nor son heard it. They heard naught but the insufferable
throbs of their own hearts; they saw, each one, naught but the
death-like face of the other.
"Yes, it is your unhappy mother--she who once vowed never again to cross
your threshold--but maternity is merciful, Carl, and I come hither to
pardon and to rescue you, while yet there is time for flight."
The young count made no reply. At the astounding revelation made by the
dropping of that black veil, he had retreated in mingled shame and
surprise. He had accosted his own mother in the language of libertinism,
and he stood gazing upon her with looks of sorrow and regret. He had
scarcely heard her speak, so absorbed was he in self-reproach. And now
as she ceased, he murmured:
"Is that my mother? My mother, with the wrinkled brow and the white
The countess returned his gaze with a mournful smile. "You have not seen
me for two years, Carl, and since then sorrow has transformed me into an
old woman. I need not tell you why I have sorrowed. Oh, my child! Whence
comes the gold with which this fearful splendor is purchased? Your
"My father!" echoed the count, recalled to self-possession by the word.
"What am I to him, who cursed me and forbade me his house! Tell him,"
cried he, fiercely, "that if I am lost, it is he who shall answer to
Heaven for my soul!"
"Peace!" exclaimed the mother, in a tone of authority. "Nor attempt to
shift your disgrace upon him who has been, not the cause of your crimes,
but their victim. Why did he curse you, reprobate, tell me why?"
The count was so awed by her words and looks that he obeyed almost
"Because I had forged," was the whispered reply.
"Yes--forged your father's name for a million, and forced him, for the
honor of his house, to sell all that he possessed. We are so poor that
we have scarcely the necessaries of life; nevertheless, we have borne in
silence the contumely of the world that scorns us as misers. And now,
although you have nothing to inherit, we hear of your wealth, the
magnificence of your house, of your unbounded expenditure!"
"Yes, mother," replied the count, beginning to recover from his shock,
"it is plain that I have discovered a treasure--somewhere."
"Then you will have to explain the nature of your discovery, for your
father is about to reveal the state of his affairs to the world."
"If he does that, I am lost!" cried Podstadsky, in tones of despair.
"Ah!" gasped the unhappy mother. "Then we were right in fearing that
your wealth was ill-gotten. Oh, Carl, Carl! look into the face of the
mother who bore you, and has loved you beyond all things earthly--look
into her face, and say whence comes this magnificence."
The count tried to raise his eyes, but he could not meet his mother's
glance. Alas! he remembered how often in childhood, after some trifling
misconduct, he had looked into those loving eyes, and read forgiveness
The mother trembled, and could scarcely support her limbs. She caught at
a chair, and leaned upon it for a moment. Then, with faltering steps she
approached her son, and raised his head with her own hands. It was a
touching scene, and Count Podstadsky himself was not unmoved by its
silent eloquence. His heart beat audibly, and his eyes filled with
"Tell me, my child, tell me whence comes your wealth? I will not betray
you, for I am your unhappy mother!"
"You can do nothing for me, mother," sobbed the count. "I am lost beyond
power of redemption."
"Alas! alas! Then, you are guilty! But, Carl, I will not ask you any
questions--only let me save you from public disgrace. Your father is
inexorable, but I can save you, my beloved child. I will leave
home--country--name--every thing for your sake; even the husband of my
life-long love. Come, my son, let us go together where no one shall ever
hear your story, and where, with the grace of God, you may repent of
your sins and amend."
The strength of her love lent such eloquence to the words of the
countess that her son was borne away by the force of her pleadings.
"Oh, my mother! if I could--if I could--" but here his voice faltered,
and the tears, which he had been striving to keep back, gushed out in
torrents. He covered his face with his hands, and sobbed aloud.
His mother smiled and made a silent thanksgiving to Heaven. "God will
accept your tears, my dear prodigal child. Come, ere it be too late.
See, I have gold. My family diamonds have yielded enough to maintain us
in Switzerland. There, among its solitudes--"
A clear, musical laugh was heard, and the melodious voice of a woman
spoke these scornful words:
"Count Podstadsky a peasant! a Swiss peasant! Ha! ha!"
The old countess turned, and saw, coming from the boudoir, a vision of
such beauty as dazzled her eyes. The vision came forward, smiling, and,
Podstadsky dashing away his tears, passed in one instant from the
heights of saving repentance to the unfathomable depths of hopeless
The two women, meanwhile, faced each other: the one laughing,
triumphant, beautiful, alas, as Circe; the other pale, sorrowful a, the
guardian angel of the soul which has just been banished from the
presence of God forever!
"Pray, Carlo, introduce me to your mother," said Arabella. "You are not
yet a Swiss peasant. Pending your metamorphosis, be a little more
observant of the conventions and courtesies of high life!"
"She has been eaves-dropping," exclaimed the Countess Podstadsky,
"Yes," said Arabella, with perfect equanimity. "I have enjoyed the
privilege of witnessing this charming scene. You, madame, have acted
incomparably, but your son has not sustained you. The role you have
given him is inappropriate. To ask of him to play the repentant sinner,
is simply ridiculous. Count Podstadsky is a gentleman, and has no taste
"Who is this woman?" asked the old countess.
Her son had regained all his self-possession again. He approached
Arabella, and, taking her hand, led her directly up to his mother.
"My mother, I beg to present to you the Countess Baillou, the
lady-patroness of the ball I give to-night."
The old countess paid no attention to Arabella's deep courtesy. She was
too much in earnest to heed her.
"Will you come, Carl? Every moment is precious."
"My dear lady," exclaimed Arabella, "you forget that not only the
aristocracy of Vienna, but the emperor himself, is to be your son's
"Do not listen to her, my son," cried the wretched mother. "Her voice is
the voice of the evil spirit that would lure you on to destruction.
Carl! Carl!" cried she, laying her vigorous grasp upon his arm, "be not
so irresolute! Come, and prove yourself to be a man!"
"Ay!" interposed Arabella, "be a man, Carl, and suffer no old woman to
come under your own roof and chide you as if you were her naughty boy.
What business, pray, is it of this lady's, where you gather your riches?
And what to the distinguished Podstadsky are the clamors of two
unnatural parents, who have long since lost all claim to his respect?"
"Carl! Carl!" shrieked the mother, "do not heed her. She is an evil
spirit. Come with me."
There was a pause. Arabella raised her starry eyes, and fixed them with
an expression of passionate love upon the count. That simulated look
sealed his fate.
"No, mother, no. Importune me no longer, for I will not leave Vienna.
Enough of this tragi-comedy--leave me in peace!"
Arabella flung him a kiss from the tips of her rosy fingers.
"Spoken like a man, at last," said she.
For a while not a word was beard in that gorgeous room, where the
chandeliers flung their full red glare upon the group below--the
white-haired mother-the recusant son--the beautiful enchantress--whose
black art had just sundered them forever.
At length she spoke, that broken-hearted mother, and her voice was
hollow as a sound from the grave.
"Thou hast chosen. God would have rescued thee, but thou hast turned
away from His merciful warning! Farewell, unhappy one, farewell!"
She wrapped her dark mantle around her, and concealed her face again in
Her son dared not offer his hand, for evil eyes were upon him, and he
allowed her to depart without a word. Slowly she traversed the scene of
sinful splendor, her tall, dark figure reflected from mirror to mirror
as she went; and before the receding vision of that crushed and
despairing mother the lights above seemed to pale, and the gilding of
those rich saloons grew dim and spectral.
Farther and farther she went, Podstadsky gazing after her, while
Arabella gazed upon him. She reached the last door, and he started as if
to follow. His tempter drew him firmly back, and calmed his agitation
with her magic smile.
"Stay, beloved," said she, tenderly. "From this hour I shall be mother,
mistress, friend--all things to you!"
He clasped her passionately to his heart, sobbing, "I wish for nothing
on earth but your love, the love which will follow me even to the
"Pshaw!" exclaimed Arabella, "what an ugly word to whisper to these
beautiful rooms! Look here, Carl, the diamonds we own in common are
worth half a million. We must do a good business to-night. When the
emperor has retired, the hostess will have a right to preside over the
faro table, and you know that my cards never betray me."
"I know it, my enchantress," cried Carl, kissing her. "Let us make haste
and grow rich. I would go anywhere with you, were it even to
"But not as a peasant, Carl. First, however, we must have our millions.
Now, be reasonable to-night, and don't play the Italian lover. Colonel
Szekuly is desperately enamored of me, and he will be sure to sit next
to me at the faro-table. The place he covets shall cost him a fortune."
At that moment the steward entered the room.
"A message from the emperor, my lady."
"What can it be?"
"His majesty regrets that he cannot keep his engagement this evening
with Count Podstadsky."
"This is a disappointment. What else?" asked the countess, as the
servant still stood there.
"Several other excuses, my lady. The two Princesses Lichtenstein,
Countess Thun, and Princess Esterhazy also have sent apologies."
"Very well, Duval. Go, for the guests will be corning."
The steward went, and the pair looked at each other in anxious silence.
Both were pale, both were frightened.
"What can it mean? What can it mean?" faltered the countess.
"What can it mean?" echoed the count, and he stared, for again he
thought that he saw his mother's shadow darkening the splendor of those
princely halls, whose lights were flickering as though they were about
to be extinguished and leave the guilty accomplices in irretrievable
"Arabella, something threatens us!" whispered Podstadsky.
"Nonsense! Our guests are arriving." said she, rallying "Cour age, Carl,
courage! A smooth brow and bright smile for the aristocratic world,
The doors opened, and crowds of splendid women, accompanied by their
cavaliers, floated in toward the lady patroness, who received them all
with bewitching grace, and won all hearts by her affability.
THE TWO OATHS.
"Already, beloved? Think that for three long weeks I have not seen you,
Gunther! It is so early: no one misses me in the house, for my father
returns from his bank at nine only. Who knows when we shall meet again?"
"To-morrow, my Rachel, if you will permit me to return, and every
morning at this hour, I shall be here behind the grove, waiting for my
angel to unlock the gates of Paradise, and admit me to the heaven of her
"I will surely come! Nor storm nor rain shall deter me. Here, in this
pavilion, we are secure from curious eyes. God alone, who blesses our
love, shall see into our hearts!"
"Oh, Rachel, how I honor and love your energetic soul! When I am with
you, I fear nothing. But away from the influence of those angelic eyes,
I tremble and grow faint."
"What do you fear, Gunther?"
"The pride of riches, Rachel. Your father would laugh me to scorn were
he to hear that his peerless daughter is loved by a man without rank or
"But whose heart has a patent of nobility from God!" exclaimed Rachel,
with enthusiasm. "And besides, Gunther, are you not a confidential
friend of the emperor?"
"Yes," said Gunther, bitterly. "The emperor calls me 'friend,' and in
'grateful acknowledgment of my services,' he has raised my salary to
three thousand florins. But what is that to your father, who pays twice
the amount to his book-keeper! Why are you the daughter of a man whose
wealth reflects discredit upon my love!"
"No one who looks into your noble face will suspect the purity of your
love, dear Gunther. But, alas, my lover! there is an obstacle greater
than wealth, to part us--the obstacle of your cruel faith, which does
not permit the Christian to wed with the Jew."
"If you were poor, my Rachel, I would try to win you over from the
Jewish God of vengeance to the merciful God of the Christian. Would I
could bring such an offering to Jesus as that of your pure young heart!"
"My father would die were I to renounce my faith," said Rachel, suddenly
growing sad. "But before he died, he would curse me."
"How calmly you speak, and yet your words are the death-warrant of my
hopes!" exclaimed Gunther, despairingly.
"I speak calmly, because I have long since resolved never to be the wife
of another man," replied Rachel. "If I must choose between father and
lover, I follow you. If my father drives me from his home, then,
Gunther, I will come and seek shelter upon your faithful heart."
"And you shall find it there, my own one!--I dare not call you, beloved,
but oh! I await with longing the hour of your coming--the hour when, of
your own free will, your little hand shall be laid in mine, to journey
with me from earth to heaven! Adieu, sweetest. I go, but my soul remains
"And mine goes with you," replied Rachel. He clasped her in his arms and
over and over again imprinted his passionate kisses upon her willing
"To-morrow," whispered she. "Here is the key of the gate. I shall be in
Again he turned to kiss her, and so they parted. Rachel watched his
tall, graceful figure until it was hidden by the trees, then she clasped
her hands in prayer:
"O God, bless and protect our love! Shelter us from evil, but if it must
come, grant me strength to bear it!"
Slowly and thoughtfully she returned to the house. Her heart was so
filled with thoughts of her lover, that she did not see the stirring of
the blind, through which her father's dark, angry eyes had witnessed
their meeting. It was not until she had entered her room that she
awakened from her dream of bliss. Its splendor recalled her senses, and
with a sob she exclaimed:
"Why am I not a beggar, or a poor Christian child? Any thing--any thing
that would make me free to be his wife!--"
She ceased, for she heard her father's voice. Yes, it was indeed he! How
came he to be at home so soon? His hand was upon the door, and now he
spoke to her.
"Are you up, my daughter? Can I come in?"
Rachel hastened to open the door, and her father entered the room with a
"So soon dressed, Rachel! I was afraid that I might have disturbed your
slumbers," said he, drawing her to him, and kissing her. "Not only
dressed, but dressed so charmingly, that one would suppose the sun were
your lover, and had already visited you here. Or, perhaps you expect
some of your adoring counts this morning--hey!"
"No, father, I expect no one."
"So much the better, for I have glorious news for you. Do you remember
what I promised when you consented to let me punish Count Podstadsky
after my own fashion?"
"No, dear father, I do not remember ever to have been bribed to obey
"Then, I will tell you my news, my glorious news. I have become a
"You were always a free man, my father; your millions have long ago made
you a freiherr."
"Bravely spoken, my Jewess," cried Eskeles Flies. "I will reward you by
telling you what I have bought for you. A carriage-load of illuminated
manuscripts decorated with exquisite miniatures, that you may enrich
your library with Christian Bibles and papal bulls of every size and
"My dear father, how I thank you for these treasures!"
"Treasures, indeed! They are part of the library of a convent. The
emperor has destroyed them as the Vandals once did the treasures of the
Goths. I bought them from one of our own people. And that is not all. I
have a communion-service and an ostensorium for you, whose sculptures
are worthy of Benvenuto Cellini. I purchased these also from a Jew, who
bought them at one of the great church auctions. Ha, ha! He was going to
melt them up--the vessels that Christian priests had blessed and held
"That was no disgrace for him, father; but it is far different with the
emperor, who has desecrated the things which are esteemed holy in his
own curch. The emperor is not likely to win the affections of his people
by acts like these."
"Pshaw! He wanted gold, and cared very little whence it came," cried
Eskeles Flies, with a contemptuous shrug. "His munificent mother having
emptied the imperial treasury, the prudent son had to replenish it.
True, his method of creating a fund is not the discreetest he could have
chosen; for while teaching his people new modes of financiering, he has
forgotten that he is also teaching them to pilfer their own gods. What
an outcry would be raised in Christendom, if the Jew should plunder his
own synagogue. But I tell you, Rachel, that when the lust of riches
takes possession of a Christian's heart, it maddens his brain. Not so
with the Jew. Were he starving, he would never sell the holy of holies.
But the Jew never starves--not he! He lays ducat upon ducat until the
glistening heap dazzles the Christian's eyes, and he comes to barter his
wares for it. So is it with me. My gold has bought for me the
merchandise of nobility."
"Are you really in earnest, father? Have you thought it necessary to add
to the dignity of your Jewish birthright the bawble of a baron's title?"
"Why not, Rachel? The honor is salable, and it gives one consideration
with the Christian. I have bought the title, and the escutcheon, as I
buy a set of jewels for my daughter. Both are intended to dazzle our
enemies, and to excite their envy."
"But how came it to pass?" asked Rachel. "How came you to venture such
an unheard-of demand? A Jewish baron is an anomaly which the world has
"For that very reason I demanded it. I had rendered extraordinary
services to the emperor. He sent for me to repay me the millions I had
lent him without interest; and I took occasion there to speak of my
thriving manufactures and my great commercial schemes. 'Ah,' said he,
putting his hand affectionately upon my shoulder (for the emperor loves
a rich man), 'ah, if I had many such merchant-princes as you, the Black
Sea would soon be covered with Austrian ships.' Then he asked what he
could do in return for the favor I had done him."
"And you asked for a baron's title!"
"I did. The emperor opened his large eyes, and looked knowingly at me.
He had guessed my thoughts. 'So,' said he, 'you would like to provoke
the aristocracy to little, would you? Well--I rather like the idea.
They are in need of a lesson to bring down their rebellious spirit, and
I shall give it to them. You are a more useful man to me than any of
them, and you shall be created a baron. I shall also elevate several
other distinguished Jews to the rank of nobles, and the aristocracy
shall understand that wherever I find merit I reward it.'"
"So then it was your worth, and not your gold, that earned for you the
distinction!" cried Rachel, gratified.
"Nonsense! 'Merit' means wealth, and I assure you that titles cost
enormous sums. I must pay for my patent ten thousand florins, and if I
should wish to be a count, I must pay twenty thousand. But enough of all
this. Suffice it that I shall prove to the nobles that my money is as
good as their genealogical trees, and now we shall have crowds of noble
adorers at the Baroness Rachel's feet. But be she baroness or countess,
she is forever a Jewess, and that parts her eternally from any but a
wooer of her own faith. Does it not, my Rachel, my loyal Israelitish
"Do you doubt me, my father?" asked Rachel in a faltering voice, while
she averted her face.
"No, my child, for if I did, I would curse you on the spot."
"Dear, dear father, do not speak such fearful words!" cried Rachel,
trembling with fright.
"You are right, child. I am childish to indulge the supposition of my
Hebrew maiden's treachery. She is pure before the Lord, loyal and true
to the faith of her fathers. But we must be armed against temptation,
and before we part for the day, we must both swear eternal fidelity to
our creed. These wily Christians may come with flattery and smiles, and
some one of them might steal my Rachel's heart. I swear, therefore, by
all that is sacred on earth or in heaven, never to abandon the Jewish
faith, and never to enter a Christian church. So help me God!"
Rachel gazed upon her father with blanched cheeks and distended eyes;
her muscles stiffened with horror, until she seemed to be turning to
"Did you hear my oath, Rachel?" said he.
She parted her lips, and they faltered an inaudible "Yes."
"Then," said he, gently, "repeat the oath, for we both must take it."
She raised her head with a quick, convulsive motion, and stammered,
"What--what is it, father?"
"Swear, as I have done, never to leave the faith of your fathers, never
to enter a Christian church."
Rachel made no reply. She stared again as though her senses were
forsaking her. She thought she would go mad. Her father's brow
contracted, and his mien grew fierce as he saw that his daughter's heart
had gone irrevocably from him. There was a long, dreadful pause.
"Are you at a loss for words?" asked the baron, and his voice was so
savage that Rachel started at the ominous sound.
"Repeat my words, then," continued he, seeing that she made no answer,
"Say, on, my father," replied the despairing girl.
Baron Eskeles Flies repeated his oath, and the pale victim spoke the
words after him. But at the end of the ordeal she reeled and fell to the
floor. Her father bent over, and raising her tenderly, folded her to his
heart. His voice was now as loving as ever.
"My precious child, we are truly united now. Nothing can part us, and
your happy father will surround you with such splendor as you have never
"Oh, my father!" exclaimed she, "what has splendor to do with
"Everything," replied her father, with a careless laugh. "Misfortune is
not near so ugly in a palace as in a cottage; and I do assure you that
the tears which are shed in a softly-cushioned carriage are not half so
bitter as those that fall from the eyes of the houseless beggar. Wealth
takes the edge from affliction, and lends new lustre to happiness. And
it shall shed its brightest halo over yours, my daughter. But I must
leave you, for I expect to earn a fortune before I return, when I hope
to see you bright and beautiful as ever."
He kissed her forehead and stroked her silky hair. "The Baroness Rachel
will be a Jewess forever! Oh, how can I thank you for that promise, my
adored child! What new pleasure can I procure for my idol to-day?"
"Love me, father," murmured Rachel.
"What need you ask for love, you who are to me like the breath of life?
To show how I anticipate your wishes, I have already prepared a
gratification for you. I have remarked how much pleasure you take in the
gardens and little pavilion yonder. Since my Rachel loves to take her
morning walk there, it shall be changed into a paradise. The brightest
fruits and flowers of the tropics shall bloom in its conservatories: and
instead of the little pavilion, I shall raise up a temple of purest
white marble, worthy of the nymph who haunts the spot. For a few weeks
your walks will be somewhat disturbed, darling, for the workmen will
begin to-morrow; but they aced not be much in your way, for while the
walls are down, I shall set a watch at every gate to make sure that no
one intrudes upon your privacy. In a few months you shall have a
miniature palace wherein to rest, when you are tired of roaming about
the grounds: Farewell, my child. I shall send the workmen
to-morrow--early to-morrow morning."
"He knows all," thought poor Rachel, as he closed the door. "The oath
was to part me from Gunther; the changes in the garden are to prevent us
For a long time she sat absorbed in grief. But finally she made her
"I have sworn to love thee forever, my Gunther," said she. "When the
hour comes wherein my choice must be made, I go with thee!"
The emperor's horse was saddled, and he was about to take his daily
ride. But as he was leaving his cabinet, a page announced Field-Marshal
"Admit him," said Joseph, and he hastened to the anteroom to greet his
Lacy received the cordial greeting of the emperor with a grave, troubled
"Sire," said he, "may I beg for an audience?"
"Certainly, my friend," replied Joseph. "I am just about to ride, and
you can accompany me. We can converse together in some of the shady
alleys of the park. I will order a horse for you at once."
"Pardon me, sire, our interview must be here. I saw your majesty's horse
in readiness for your ride, but that did not prevent me from coming, for
the matter which brought me hither is one of supreme importance."
"And you cannot put it off until we take our ride?"
"Sire, my first request is that your majesty will relinquish the ride
altogether. You must not be seen in the streets to-day."
"Bless me, Lacy! you speak as if I were Louis of France, who is afraid
to show himself in public, because of the murmurs of his discontented
"Sire, assume that you are Louis, then, and give up the ride. Do it, if
you love me, my sovereign."
"If I love you!" repeated Joseph, with surprise. "Well, then, it shall
be done." And he rang, and ordered his horse to be put up. "Now speak.
What can have happened here, that I should be threatened with a
"Sire," began Lacy, "you remember the day on which we swore to speak the
truth to your majesty, even if it should become importunate, do you
"Yes, I do, Lacy; but neither of you have kept the promise up to this
"I am here to redeem my word, sire. I come to warn your majesty that you
are proceeding too rashly with your measures of reform."
"And you also, Lacy!" cried Joseph, reproachfully. "You, the bravest of
the brave, would have me retreat before the dissatisfaction of priests
"The malcontents are not only priests and bigots, they are your whole
people. You attempt too many reforms at once."
"But my reforms are all for the people's good. I am no tyrant to oppress
and trample them under foot. I am doing my best to free them from the
shackles of prejudice, and yet they harass and oppose me. Even those who
understand my aims, place obstacles in my path. Oh, Lacy, it wounds me
to see that not even my best friends sustain me!"
"I see that your majesty is displeased," replied Lacy, sadly, "and that
you reckon me among your opponents--I who am struck with admiration at
the grandeur of your conceptions. But you are so filled with the
rectitude of your intentions, that you have no indulgence for the
weakness and ignorance of those whom you would benefit, and you snake
too light of the enmity of those whom your reforms have aggrieved."
"Whom have I aggrieved?" cried Joseph, impatiently. "Priests and nobles,
nobody besides. If I have displeased them, it is because I wish to put
all men on an equality. The privileged classes may hate me--let them do
it, but the people whom I befriend will love and honor me."
"Ah, sire, you think too well of the people," said Lacy. "And mindful of
my promise, I must say that you have given cause for dissatisfaction to
all classes, plebeian as well as patrician."
"How so?" cried Joseph.
"You have despised their prejudices, and mocked at customs which in
their superstitious ignorance they hold as sacred. They do not thank you
for enlightening them. They call you an unbeliever and an apostate. Do
not be displeased, sire, if I speak so plainly of things which the
stupidity of your subjects regards as a crime. I come as your majesty's
accuser, because I come as the advocate of your people, imploring you to
be patient with their blindness and their folly."
"What now? Is there any special complaint against me?"
"Yes, sire. Your majesty has issued an edict which has wounded the
people in those relations which the world holds sacred; an edict which
is (forgive me if I speak plain)--which is--so entirely free from
prejudice, that it trenches almost--upon the limits of barbarism."
"What edict can you mean?"
"That which concerns the burial of the dead, sire. I beseech you, revoke
it; for the people cry out that nothing is sacred to the emperor--not
even death and the grave! Leave them their cemeteries and their tombs,
that they may go thither and pray for the souls of the departed!"
"That they may go thither and enjoy their superstitious rites!" cried
Joseph, indignantly. "I will not allow my subjects to seek for their
dead underground. They shall not solemnize the corruption of the body;
they shall turn their eyes to Heaven, and there seek for the immortal
spirit of the departed! They shall not love the dust of their
forefathers, but their souls!"
"Sire, you speak of an ideal people. To bring mankind to such a state of
perfection would require the reign of a Methusaleh! It is too soon for
such edicts. The people, so far from appreciating, abhor them."
"Are you really in earnest, Lacy?" exclaimed the emperor, with flashing
"Yes, sire, they are indignant. Yesterday the first burial, according to
your majesty's edict, took place, and since then the people are in a
state of revolt. To-day there are of course other bodies to be interred.
There is not a vagrant in the streets that does not utter threats
against your majesty. From the burgher to the beggar, every man feels
that his sacred rights have been invaded. They feel that the prohibition
of coffins and burying-grounds does not reach the rich, who have their
hereditary tombs in churches and chapels, but the people, who have no
"The people for whose sakes I would have converted the mould of the
burying-ground into fertile fields, and spared them the cost of a
useless coffin, which, instead of rotting in the ground, would have been
so much more wood to warm them in winter, and cook the food for their
hungry, living bodies!"
"But, your majesty, they are not sufficiently enlightened to comprehend
your ideas. Revoke the order, sire--in mercy to their ignorance, revoke
"Revoke it!" cried Joseph, furiously. "Never will I make such a
concession to stupidity and malice!"
"Then," said Lacy, gravely, "it is possible that the flames of a
revolution may burst forth to consume this unhappy land. Oh, sire, have
mercy upon the poor people, whose eyes cannot endure the light of
reform! Preserve yourself and your subjects from the horrors of a
revolt, which, although it would be ultimately quelled, might cost
bloodshed and misery! I have never seen such excitement as prevails
throughout the streets of Vienna. Thousands of men and women throng the
quarter where the body lies."
"When does the funeral take place?"
"At three o'clock this afternoon, sire."
"In one hour, then," said the emperor, glancing at the clock.
"Yes, sire; and it may be an hour of tribulation, unless your majesty
has the magnanimity to prevent it! To discourage idle assemblages, your
majesty has forbidden the people to follow funerals. The effect of this
prohibition is, that the poor woman who is to be buried this afternoon
will be followed, not by her friends, but by thousands who have never
seen or known her. The police have done their best to disperse the
rioters, but so far in vain."
"Then there is already a revolt," cried the emperor.
"But for this I never should have presumed to deter your majesty from
enjoying your ride to-day."
"Do you suppose that I would retreat before my own subjects?"
"Sire, the wrath of the populace is like that of a tiger just escaped
from its cage. In its bloodthirstiness it tears to pieces every thing
that comes in its way."
"I am curious to witness its antics," replied the emperor, touching the
"Sire," exclaimed Lacy, staying Joseph's hand, "what would you do?"
"Mount my horse, and go to the funeral."
"What! To exasperate the crowd! To endanger yourself, and drive these
poor, half-frantic creatures to desperation! Oh, by the love you bear us
all, I beseech you, have mercy upon those whose only possession on earth
is oftentimes the grave! You would deprive their children of the only
comfort left them--that of praying over the ashes of the departed. You
would deprive those who are condemned to live like brutes, of the
comfort of dying like men. You would have their bodies sewed in sacks
and thrown into ditches where they are not even allowed to moulder, but
must be destroyed by lime. No tombstone permitted over their remains,
nothing to remind their weeping relatives that they were ever alive! Oh,
this is cruel! It may be a great thought, sire, but it is a barbarous
deed! I know how bold I am, but my conscience compels me to speak; and
were I to lose the emperor's favor, I must obey its faithful monitions.
Revoke the edict, sire! There is yet time. In one hour it will be too
The emperor looked despondently at Lacy's agitated countenance. Then,
without a word, he turned to his escritoire and hastily began to write.
His writing concluded, he handed the paper to Lacy, and commanded him to
read it aloud. Lacy bowed and read as follows:
"As I have learned that the living are so material in their ideas as to
set great store upon the privilege of having their bodies rot and become
carrion after death, I shall concern myself in no way as to the the
manner of their burying. Let it be known, therefore, that having shown
the wisdom of disposing of the dead after the manner described in my
edict, I shall force no man to be wise. Those who are not convinced of
its expediency, are free to dispose of their carcasses as they see fit."
[Footnote: Hubner, "Life of Joseph II.," vol. ii., p. 525.]
When Lacy had read to the end, the emperor called imperatively for
Gunther. He obeyed the summons at once.
"This letter to the lord high chancellor, Prince Kaunitz," said he, "I
wish this writing to be printed and posted at the corners of the
streets. Then hasten to the Leopold suburbs, where anyone of the police
will show you to the house whence the funeral is to take place. Go
within, and tell the relatives of the deceased that I give them
permission to bedizen their corpse in whatever style they may choose,
and to bury it in a coffin. Take a carriage and drive fast."
Gunther bowed and turned to leave. "Stop a moment," continued the
emperor. "Go to the chief of police, and tell him that the people must
not be disturbed in any way. They must be allowed to disperse at their
pleasure. Now, Gunther, be quick."
With a look of unspeakable affection Joseph gave his hand to Lacy.
"Lacy," said he, "if I have made this great sacrifice to-day, it is
neither from conviction nor fear; it is to show you what influence your
words have over me, and to thank you for the manliness with which you
have ventured to blame my acts. Few princes possess the jewel of a
faithful friend. I thank God that this jewel is mine!" [Footnote: The
burial edict was as follows: "As the burial of the dead has for its
object the speedy dissolution of the body, and as nothing hinders that
dissolution more than the casing of the corpse in a coffin, it is
ordained that all dead bodies shall be stripped of their clothing, and
sewed up in a linen sack, laid in an open coffin, and brought to the
place of interment. A hole shall be dug six feet long and four feet
wide, and the corpse being taken out of the coffin, shall be put into
this grave, strewed plentifully with quick-lime, and covered with earth.
If more than one corpse is to be buried, the bodies can all be put in
the same grave."--Gross-Hoffinger, "History of the Life and Reign of
Joseph II.," vol. ii., p. 146.]
THE POPE IN VIENNA.
A report, almost incredible, was obtaining currency in Vienna. It was
said that the pope was about to visit the emperor. Many a German
emperor, in centuries gone by, had made his pilgrimage to Rome; but
never before had the vicar of Christ honored the sovereign of Austria by
coming to him.
Pius VI., confounded by the headlong innovations of Joseph, and
trembling lest his reforms should end in a total subversion of religion,
had resolved, in the extremity of his distress, to become a pilgrim
himself, and to visit the enemy in his own stronghold.
To this intent he had dispatched an autographic letter announcing his
intention, to which the emperor had replied by another, expressive of
his extreme anxiety to become personally acquainted with his holiness,
and to do him all filial reverence. Furthermore, he begged that the pope
would relinquish his intention of taking up his abode at the nuncio, and
would consent to be the guest of the imperial family.
The pope having graciously acceded to this wish, the apartments of the
late empress were prepared for his occupation. Now Joseph was quite
aware that these apartments abounded in secret doors and private
stairways, by which Maria Theresa's many petitioners had been accustomed
to find their way to the privy purse of the munificent empress, and so
had diminished the imperial treasury of several millions.
The emperor, dreading lest these secret avenues should be used by the
friends of the church to visit the pope in private, caused the stairways
to be demolished, and all the doors to be walled up. He allowed but one
issue from the apartments of his holiness. This one led into the grand
corridor, and was guarded by two sentries, who had orders to allow
nobody to enter who was unprovided with a pass signed by Joseph himself.
He was quite willing to receive the pope as a guest; but he was resolved
that he should hold no communication with his bishops, while on Austrian
soil. [Footnote: It was to Joseph's manifest advantage that the pope
should not reside outside of the palace; and the emperor showed his
ingenuity in the various strategic movements by which he defeated the
purpose of his visit. One of the pope's most zealous adherents was the
Bishop of Gortz. When the pope left Rome for Vienna, he would pass
through Gortz. Joseph summoned the bishop to Vienna, and so prevented a
meeting between them at Gortz; and on the day of the pope's arrival in
Vienna, the bishop received peremptory orders to return to his diocese.
He was not allowed to communicate with the pope, not even to see him as
he passed,--Friedel's "Letters from Vienna," vol. i., p. 223.]
Meanwhile, every outward honor was to be paid to the head of the church.
Not only had his rooms been superbly decorated, but the churches, also,
were in all their splendor. The vestments of the clergy had been
renewed, new altar-cloths woven, and magnificent hangings ordered for
the papal throne erected for the occasion.
Finally, the momentous day dawned, and Vienna put on its holiday attire.
The houses were wreathed with garlands, the streets were hung with
arches of evergreen. A hundred thousand Viennese pressed toward the
cathedral, where the pope was to repair for prayer, and another throng
was hastening toward the palace, where the pope and the emperor were to
alight together. In their impatient curiosity the people had forsaken
their work. No one was content to remain within doors. Everybody said to
everybody, "The pope has come to Vienna;" and then followed the
"Why has his holiness come to Vienna?"
"To bless the emperor, and approve his great deeds," said the friends of
"To bring him, if possible, to a sense of his sacrilegious persecution
of the church." said his enemies.
This question was not only verbally agitated, but it formed the subject
of thousands of pamphlets, which fluttered from many a window toward the
crowds who, in breathless anxiety, were awaiting the advent of Pius VI.
"The Arrival of the Pope."
"Why has the Pope come to Vienna?"
"What is the Pope?"
These were the titles of the brochures which were converting the streets
into a vast reading-room, and preparing the minds of the readers for the
impressions it was desirable to create on the subject.
At last the deep bells of St. Stephen's opened their brazen throats.
This signified that the pope and the emperor were at the gates of the
city. The consent of the latter having been asked in the matter of the
bell-ringing, he had replied to Cardinal Megazzi: "By all means. I
wonder you should ask me the question, when bells are the artillery of
the church." [Footnote: Friedel's Letters, vol. i., p. 213.]
The people received the tidings with such wild joy that, in their
eagerness, several persons were trampled to death. But on they rushed,
seeing and hearing nothing until eight lives were sacrificed to the
fierce curiosity of the mob.
And now the iron tongues of every bell in Vienna proclaimed that the
pope had entered the city. The crowd, who, up to this moment, had
laughed, sung, and shouted, suddenly ceased their clamor. Nothing was
heard save the musical chime of the bells, while every eye was fixed
upon a small white spot which was just becoming visible. The point grew
larger, and took form. First came the outriders, then the imperial
equipage drawn by eight milk-white horses caparisoned with crimson and
gold. Nearer and nearer came the cortege, until the people recognized
the noble old man, whose white locks flowed from under his velvet cap,
the supreme pontiff, Antonio Braschi, Pope Pius VI.
Never, throughout his pontifical career, had the pope beheld such a
crowd before. And these hundreds of thousands had assembled to bid him
welcome. A smile of gratification flitted over his handsome features,
and he raised his eyes to the face of his companion.
The countenance of the emperor wore a satisfied expression; by some it
might have been regarded as derisive.
He had seen what the pope, in the simple joy of his heart, had not
observed. The people who, in the presence of the high dignitaries of the
church, had been accustomed to kneel and ask a blessing, were standing,
although the prelate who stood in their midst was the sovereign pontiff
himself; and Joseph, as he contemplated his subjects, exulted in secret.
The cortege, impeded by the throng, moved slowly toward the imperial
palace. When it drew up before the gates, Joseph, springing from the
carriage, assisted the pope to alight, and accompanied him to his
apartments. Occasionally Pius raised his mild eyes to the emperor's face
and smiled, while Joseph, in nowise discomposed by the honor of
receiving the chief pastor of Christendom, walked proudly by his side.
They passed through the magnificent state apartments designed for the
occultation of the pope; but not until they had reached his private
sitting-room, did the emperor invite him to rest after his fatiguing
"It has not fatigued me," replied Pius. "It has interested me, on the
contrary, to traverse a palace which has been the residence of so many
pious princes. I esteem it a great privilege to inhabit these rooms
whose deceased occupants have each in his turn received the benediction
of my honored predecessors--"
"But who never were blessed by the love of their subjects," replied
Joseph, interrupting him. "To my mind, this is a blessing better worth
striving for than a papal benediction; and it is the aim of my life to
"Doubtless your majesty will reach your aim," replied the pope, with
courtesy. "I have confidence in the rectitude of your majesty's
intentions, and if I have made this pilgrimage to Vienna, it is because,
relying upon your honesty of purpose, I hope to convince you that it has
been misapplied. The visit of the pope to the Austrian emperor is a
concession which I cheerfully make, if by that concession I can induce
him to pause in a career which has sorely wounded my heart, and has been
the occasion of so much scandal to our holy mother the church."
"I fear that your holiness has been mistaken in your estimate of me,"
replied Joseph, turning his flashing eyes upon the imploring face of the
pope. "However I might be moved by the pathos of your words, a sovereign
has no right to listen to the pleadings of his heart. 'Tis the head that
must guide and influence his conduct. I fear, therefore, that your
holiness will be disappointed in the result of your visit here. I accept
your journey to Vienna as a distinguished mark of your papal good-will,
and am rejoiced to have it in my power to show all possible filial
reverence to your holiness. Neither I nor my subjects will deny the
consideration which is due to the SPIRITUAL head of the church; but he
on his part must refrain from touching with his consecrated hand the
things of this world which concern him not."
"It is my duty to attend to all the affairs of holy church, whether
spiritual or temporal," replied the pope, gently.
"The temporal affairs of the church concern your nuncio and my
minister," said Joseph, with impatience. "And as your holiness has
entered at once upon a controversy with me respecting my acts toward the
church, I declare distinctly to you that I shall not recede from the
least of them; and that your journey to Vienna, if its object is to
influence my policy as sovereign of these realms, is already a failure.
The reasons for my conduct are satisfactory to me, and no power on earth
shall move me from the position I have taken." [The emperor's words.
-Hubner. i. p. 119.]
"I will not altogether give up the hope I have cherished of moving your
majesty's heart," replied the pope, earnestly. "I shall continue to pray
that it may be my privilege to convince you of your errors and lead you
back to the path of justice and of religion."
"Which means that you expect me to retract!" cried Joseph, impetuously.
"Never will I retract what I have said or done, for I act from
conviction, and conviction does not slip off and on like a glove! But
let us speak no more on this subject. If your holiness will write down
your canonical objections to my proceedings against the church, I will
lay them before my theologians for examination. My chancellor shall
reply to them ministerially, and the correspondence can be published for
the edification of my subjects. Meanwhile, I shall endeavor to deserve
the good-will of your holiness by acting toward my honored guest the
part of an obliging and hospitable host. This reminds me that I have
already trespassed upon your time, and have deprived you of the repose
which a traveller always craves after a long journey. I hope that your
holiness will overlook this intrusion, and pardon me if my great anxiety
to enjoy your society has caused me to forget the consideration due to
my tired guest."
With these words the emperor retired. The pope followed his retreating
figure with a glance of profound sadness.
"I fear," thought he, "that Joseph is indeed irreclaimable." Here he
raised his soft dark eyes to heaven, and continued in a low murmur, "For
a time the Lord endureth with mildness, but His mighty overcometh the
blasphemer, and he vanisheth: while holy church remaineth unchangeable
"You persist in your refusal?" cried Eskeles Flies, in an angry voice.
"You dare to oppose the will of your father?"
"I persist in my refusal," replied Rachel firmly, lifting her dark,
tearful eyes to her father's excited countenance. "I must rebel against
your authority, my father, for you would compromise my earthly happiness
and my salvation. Oh, dear father, do not harden your heart against me!
In mercy heed my prayers!"
With these words Rachel would have thrown herself upon her father's
bosom. But he thrust her from him.
"'Tis you who have hardened your heart against the law of God which bids
the child obey her father," cried he.
"I cannot recognize my father's authority when he oversteps his rights,
and trenches upon mine as a human being," urged Rachel. "I cannot
perjure myself by accepting, as a husband, a man whom I do not love. He
is a coarse, illiterate creature, who honors nothing but wealth, loves
nothing but gold!"
"He is the son of the richest merchant in Brussels, and the emperor has
made a nobleman of his father. He is your equal, or rather he is your
superior, for he is richer, much richer than we."
"He my equal! He cannot understand me," cried Rachel.
Her father laughed. "Not your equal, because he does not go into
raptures over young Mozart, and does not indulge in speculative
theology, but worships God after the manner of his fathers!--a Jew, in
short, who hates the Christian and glories in his Jewish birthright!"
"Yes," said Rachel, shuddering, "a Jew in feature, speech, and spirit.
Not such a noble Israelite as you, my father, but a man possessing every
repulsive peculiarity which has made the Jew the pariah of the civilized
world. Oh, father, dear father, do not barter me for gold! Let me remain
your child, your darling; living and dying in the home which your love
has made like Eden to my girlhood!"
"I have promised your hand to Baron von Meyer," was the curt reply.
"I will not give it!" cried Rachel, frantically. "You force me to
disobedience, by requiring of me that which is impossible."
"I shall force you to obedience, rebellious girl, for our laws invest
the father with absolute authority over his child, and I shall use my
right to rescue you from dishonor. I read your heart, Rachel, and
therein I see written the history of your perfidy and shame."
"Then you have read falsely," exclaimed Rachel, with indignation. "Up to
this day I have kept the oath I made to remain a Jewess! And no mortal,
were he ten times my father, has the right to couple my name with
perfidy or shame!"
"You dare look me in the face and deny your disgrace!" said her father,
trembling with anger. "You, who at early morning in my own garden have
listened to the vows of a false-tongued Christian! You who have sworn to
be no man's wife, if not his!"
"Ah, you know all!" cried Rachel, in accents of supreme joy. "God be
praised, there need be no more concealment between us! Yes, father, I
love Gunther, and if I be not permitted to become his wife, in the might
of my love I would not scorn to be his handmaid! I have loved him since
you first brought him hither, and proudly presented him as the emperor's
favorite. Oh, my father, we were not rich then!"
"No--and he would have scorned to ask you to wed him. Now he would
degrade the heiress of my wealth by seeking to make her his wife."
"Degrade me!" echoed Rachel, with a blush of indignation. "I should be
honored by bearing his name, not because he is the emperor's favorite,
but because he is worthy of my love."
"And yet, God be praised, Rachel Eskeles can never be the wife of a
Christian!" shouted the banker, triumphantly, "for she has sworn by the
memory of her mother to die a Jewess!"
"She will keep her oath unless her father release her," replied Rachel.
"But oh!" added she, falling on her knees and raising her white arms
above her head, "he will have pity upon the misery of his only child; he
will not condemn her to despair! Have mercy, have mercy, dear father! Be
your generous self, and take me to your heart. Release me, and let me
become a Christian and the wife of my lover! He cares nothing for your
wealth, he asks nothing but my hand!"
Her father glared at her with a look that seemed almost like hate. "You
are a Jewess," hissed he, "and a Jewess you shall die!"
"I am no Jewess at heart, father. I have been educated in a Christian
country, and after the manner of Christian women. And you, too, have
renounced your birthright. You have eaten and drunk with the Gentiles;
you have cut your hair, and have adopted their dress. Nay, more! You
have parted with your name, and have accepted a Christian title. Why,
then, have you not the manliness to abjure the god of revenge and hate,
and openly adore the Christian God of love and mercy?"
"I will live and die a Jew!" cried the banker, choking with rage. "I
swear it again, and may I be accursed if I ever break my oath!"
"Then, father, release me from the lie that follows me like an evil
shadow, blasting my life here and hereafter. Give me to my lover. Keep
your wealth to enrich your tribe, but give me your blessing and your
"You shall remain a Jewess!" thundered her father.
"Is this your last word?" cried Rachel, springing to her feet. "Is this
your last word?"
"It is," replied he, eying her with cold cruelty.
"Then hear my determination. I have sworn fidelity to Gunther, and if I
must choose between you, I give myself to him. I will not become a
Christian, for such was my oath; but I will abjure Judaism."
"And become a Deist?"
"Call it what you will. I shall adore the God of love and mercy."
"A Deist! Then you have never heard what punishment awaits the Deist
here. You do not know that the emperor, who affects toleration, has his
vulnerable heel, and will not tolerate Deism. The gentle punishment
which his majesty awards to Deism is--that of the lash. [Footnote:
Gross-Hoffinger, ii., p. 160.] So that I scarcely think you would dare
me to accuse you of that! But pshaw! I go too far in my fears. My
daughter will recognize her folly, and yield her will to mine. She will
be, as she has ever been, my adored child, for whose happiness I can
never do too much; whose every wish it shall be my joy to gratify."
"I have but one wish--that of becoming the wife of Gunther."
Her father affected not to hear her. "Yes," continued he, "she will
verify my promise, and take the husband I have chosen. This marriage
will be a fine thing for both parties, for I give my daughter one-half
million of florins, and Baron von Meyer gives his son a million cash
down. Then the father-in-law gives three hundred florins a month for
pin-money, and I seven hundred; so that Rachel has a thousand florins a
month for her little caprices, and of this she is to render no account.
That is a pretty dower for a bride. I give my daughter a trousseau equal
in magnificence to that of a princess. Upon her equipage, the arms of
our two houses are already emblazoned, and to-morrow four of the finest
horses in Vienna will conduct the Baroness von Meyer to her husband's
palace. I congratulate you, baroness. No Christian woman in Vienna shall
have an establishment like yours."
"I shall never be the Baroness von Meyer," said Rachel, calmly, but an
icy chill ran through her veins, for she loved her father, and felt that
they must shortly part forever.
"Yes, you will be the Baroness von Meyer to-morrow. I have anticipated
all your objections. The rabbi that is to marry you is a Pole. He will
not understand your reply, and the young baron has magnanimously
consented to overlook any little informality of which your folly may be
the cause; for he likes money, and is too good a Jew not to aid me in
rescuing my heiress from disgrace. You see that your poor little
struggles will all be in vain. Resign yourself, then, and accept the
brilliant destiny which awaits you."
"I will sooner die than consign myself to misery and disgrace!"
"Be easy on that subject. God will shield you from misery, and your
father's watchful eye will see that you do not consign yourself to
disgrace," replied the banker, coldly. "But enough of words. Night sets
in, and I have yet a few preparations to make for tomorrow. It is proper
that you pass the last evening of your maiden life in solitude, and that
you may not spend it in weariness, I have ordered your drawing-rooms to
be lighted, and your trousseau to be laid out for your inspection. Go,
and gladden your heart with its magnificence. Good-night."
So saying, Baron Eskeles Flies left the room. Rachel heard him turn the
key in the lock, and withdraw it. She then remembered that the
drawing-rooms were lighted. Perhaps her father had neglected to fasten
some of the doors leading thence into the hall. She sprang to the door
of communication, and flung it open. The rooms were brilliantly
illuminated, and the sparkling chandeliers of crystal looked down upon a
wilderness of velvet, satin, flowers, lace, and jewels--truly a
trousseau for a princess.
But what cared Rachel for this? Indeed, she saw nothing, save the
distant doors toward which she sped like a frightened doe. Alas! they,
too, were locked, and the only answers to her frantic calls were the
mocking echoes of her own voice.
For a few moments she leaned against the wall for support; then her
glance took in the long perspective of magnificence which was to gild
the hideous sacrifice of a whole human life, and she murmured, softly:
"I must be free. I cannot perjure myself. I shall keep my vow to Gunther
or die! My father is no father--he is my jailer, and I owe him no longer
the obedience of a child."