Part 2 out of 22
"Well--what of her?"
"The countess has been de--gone for a week."
"Gone, without taking leave? Where?"
"There, my lord," replied the valet in a low voice, pointing upward
"What does he mean, Binder?" asked Kaunitz, with a shrug.
Binder shrugged responsive.
"The good countess," said he, "had been ill for some time, but did not
wish to disturb you. You must have been partially prepared for the
melancholy event, for the countess has not appeared at table for three
"Me? Not at all. Do you suppose that during these last three weeks I
have had time to think of her? I never remarked her absence. When did
the--the--ceremony take place?"
"Day before yesterday. I attended to every thing."
"My dear friend, how I thank you for sparing me the sight of these
hideous rites! Your arrangements must have been exquisite, for I never
so much as suspected the thing. Fortunately, it is all over, and we can
enjoy ourselves as usual. Here, Philip. Let the house look festive:
flowers on the staircases and in the entrance-hall; oranges and roses in
the dining-room; vanilla-sticks in the coffee-cups instead of teaspoons.
Away with you!"
The valet bowed, and when he was out of hearing Kaunitz renewed his
thanks to the baron.
"Once more, thank you for speeding my sister on her journey, and for
saving me all knowledge of this unpleasant affair. How glad the signoras
will be to hear that the countess has positively gone, never to return!
Whom shall I get to replace her? Well, never mind now; some other time
we'll settle that little matter. Now to my toilet."
He bent his head to the baron, and with light, elastic step passed into
When Kaunitz entered his dressing-room, his features had resumed their
usual immobility. He walked in, without seeming to be aware of the
presence of his attendants, who, ranged on either side of the apartment,
awaited his commands.
He went up to his large Venetian mirror, and there surveyed himself at
full length. With anxious glance his keen eyes sought out every faint
line that told of the four-and-thirty years of his life. The picture
seemed deeply interesting, for he stood a long time before the glass.
Alt last the scrutiny was ended, and he turned slightly toward the
"Is the peruke ready?"
The hair-dresser fluttered off to a bandbox, that lay on the
toilet-table; and lifted out a fantastic-looking blond peruke,
constructed after "his excellency's own design." Kaunitz was not aware
of it, but this wig of his, with its droll mixture of flowing locks
before, and prim purse behind, was an exact counterpart of the life and
character of its inventor. He had had no intention of being symbolic in
his contrivance; it had been solely designed to conceal the little
tell-tale lines that were just about to indent the smooth surface of his
white forehead. He bent his proud head, while the hair-dresser placed
the wonderful wig, and then fell to studying its effect. Here he drew a
curl forward, there he gently removed another; placing each one in its
position over his eyebrows, so that no treacherous side-light should
reveal any thing he chose to hide. Finally the work was done.
"Hippolyte," said he, to the hair-dresser, who stood breathlessly by,
"this is the way in which my wig is to be dressed from this day
forward." [Footnote: From this time Kaunitz wore his wig in this
eccentric fashion. It was adopted by the exquisites of Vienna, and
called "the Kaunitz peruke."]
Hippolyte bowed low, and stepped back to give place to the valets who
came in with the count's costume. One bore a rich habit embroidered with
gold, and the other a pair of velvet-shorts, red stockings, and
"A simpler habit--Spanish, without embroidery, and white stockings."
White stockings! The valets were astounded at such high treason against
the court regulations of Vienna. But Kaunitz, with a slight and
contemptuous shrug, ordered them a second time to bring him white
stockings, and never to presume to bring any other.
"Now, go and await me in the puderkammer." [Footnote: Literally,
The valets backed out as if in the presence of royalty, and the
eccentric statesman was left with his chief valet. The toilet was
completed in solemn silence. Then, the count walked to the mirror to
take another look at his adored person. He gave a complaisant stroke to
his ruff of richest Alencon, smoothed the folds of his habit, carefully
arranged the lace frills that fell over his white hands, and then
turning to his valet he said, "Powder-mantle."
The valet unfolded a little package, and, with preter-careful hands,
dropped a long white mantle over the shoulders of the ministerial
coxcomb. Is light folds closed around him, and, with an Olympian nod, he
turned toward the door, while the valet flew to open it. As soon as the
count appeared, the other valets, who, with the hair-dresser, stood on
either side of the room, raised each one a long brush dipped in
hair-powder, and waved it to and fro. Clouds of white dust filled the
room; while through the mist, with grave and deliberate gait, walked
Kaunitz, every now and then halting, when the brushes all stopped; then
giving the word of command, they all fell vigorously to work again. Four
times he went through the farce, and then, grave as a ghost, walked back
to his dressing-room, followed by the hair-dresser.
At the door, the chief valet carefully removed the powder-mantle, and
for the third time Raunitz turned to the mirror. Then he carefully wiped
the powder from his eyes, and, with a smile of extreme satisfaction he
turned to the hair-dresser.
"Confess, Hippolyte, that nothing is more beautifying than powder. See
how exquisitely it lies on the front ringlets, and how airily it is
distributed over the entire peruke. Vraiment, I am proud of my
Hippolyte protested that it was worthy of the godlike intellect of his
excellency, and was destined to make an era in the annals of
"The annals of hair-dressing," replied his excellency, "are not to be
enriched with any account of my method of using powder. If ever I hear a
word of this discovery breathed outside of these rooms, I dismiss the
whole pack of you. Do you hear?"
Down went the obsequious heads, while Kaunitz continued, with his fine
cambric handkerchief, to remove the last specks of powder from his
eyelids. When he had sufficiently caressed and admired himself, he went
to the door. It opened, and two valets, who stood outside, presented
him, one with a jewelled snuff-box, the other with an embroidered
handkerchief. A large brown dog, that lay couchant in the hall, rose and
followed him, and the last act of the daily farce was over.
The count passed into his study, and going at once to the table, he
turned over the papers. "No message yet from the empress," said he,
chagrined. "What if Bartenstein's visit was NOT a politic, but a
triumphant one? What a--"
Here the door opened, and Baron Binder entered. "Your excellency," said
he, smiling, "I have taken upon myself to bear you a message which your
servants declined to bring. It is to announce a visitor. The hour for
reception has gone by, but he was so urgent, that I really could not
refuse his entreaties that you might be told of his presence. Pardon my
officiousness, but you know how soft-hearted I am. I never could resist
"Who is your suppliant friend?"
"Count Bartenstein, my lord."
"Bartenstein! Bartenstein back already!" exclaimed Kaunitz, exultingly.
"And he begged--he begged for an interview, you say?"
"Begged! the word is faint to express his supplications."
"Then I am not mistaken!" cried Kaunitz, with a loud, triumphant voice:
"if Bartenstein begs, it is all over with him. Twice in my anteroom in
one day! That is equivalent to a message from the empress." And Kaunitz,
not caring to dissimulate with Binder, gave vent to his exceeding joy.
"And you will be magnanimous--you will see him, will you not?" asked
"What for?" asked the heartless statesman. "If he means business, the
council-chamber is the place for THAT; if he comes to visit ME--'I beg
to be excused.'"
"But when I beg you, for MY sake, count," persisted the good-natured
baron; "the sight of fallen greatness is such a painful one! How can any
one add to it a feather's weight of anguish?"
Kaunitz laid his hands upon the broad shoulders of his friend, and in
his eye there kindled something like a ray of affection.
"Grown-up child, your heart is as soft as if it had never been breathed
upon by the airs of this wicked world. Say no more about Bartenstein,
and I will reward your interest in his misfortune by making you his
successor. You shall be state referendarius yourself. Come along, you
chicken-hearted statesman, and let us play a game of billiards."
"First," said Binder, sadly, "I must deliver my painful message to Count
"Bah! the page can be sent to dismiss him."
"But there is no reason why we should keep the poor man waiting."
"Him, the poor man, say you? I remember the day when I waited in HIS
anteroom, and as I am an honest man, I shall pay him with interest, Come
along, my dear future state referendarius."
THE RED STOCKINGS.
At Kaunitz's dinner-table on that day revelry reigned triumphant. No
jest was too bold for the lips of the men; and if perchance upon the
cheeks of their beautiful companions there rose the slightest flush of
womanly shame, the knights of the revel shouted applause, and pealed
forth their praises in wildest dithyrambics. With glowing faces and eyes
of flame they ate their highly-spiced viands, and drank their fiery
wines, until all restraint was flung aside, and madness ruled the hour.
The lovely Ferlina, whom Kaunitz had placed next to himself, was
beautiful as Grecian Phryne; and Sacco, who was between her adorers,
Harrach and Colloredo, was bold and bewitching as Lais.
The odor of flowers--the sound of distant music, every thing that could
intoxicate the senses, was there. It was one of those orgies which
Kaunitz alone knew how to devise, and into which all the lesser
libertines of Vienna longed to be initiated; for once admitted there,
they were graduates in the school of vice.
The guests were excited beyond control, but not so the host. He who
invoked the demon that possessed the rest, sat perfectly collected. With
the coolness of a helmsman he steered the flower-laden bark of
voluptuousness toward the breakers, while he befooled its passengers
with visions of fatal beauty.
The feast was at an end, and as Kaunitz reviewed the faces of the
company and saw that for the day their passions were weary from
indulgence, he said to himself, with diabolical calmness: "Now that they
have exhausted every other pleasure, we will sharpen the blunted edge of
desire with gambling! When the life of the heart is burnt to ashes, it
will still revive at the chink of gold."
"To the gaming-table, friends, to the gaming-table!" cried he. And the
dull eyes grew bright, while the guests followed him to the
green-covered table, which stood at the farther end of the dining-room.
Kaunitz took from a casket a heap of gold, while La Ferlina gazed upon
it with longing sighs. Harrach and Colloredo poured showers from their
purses, and Sacco looked from one to the other with her most ineffable
smiles. Kaunitz saw it all, and as he threw the dice into the golden
dice-box, he muttered, "Miserable worms, ye think yourselves gods, and
are the slaves of a little fiend, whose name is GOLD."
As he raised the dice-box, the door opened, and his first valet appeared
on the threshold.
"Pardon me, your excellency, that I presume to enter the room. But there
is a messenger from the empress, and she begs your excellency's
With an air of consummate indifference, Kaunitz replaced the dice on the
table. "My carriage," was his reply to the valet; and to his guests,
with a graceful inclination, he said, "Do not let this interrupt you.
Count Harrach will be my banker. In this casket are ten thousand
florins--I go halves with the charming Ferlina."
Signora Ferlina could not contain herself for joy, and in the exuberance
of her gratitude, she disturbed some of the folds of Kaunitz's lace
ruff. Kaunitz was furious; but, without changing a muscle, he went on.
"Farewell, my lords--farewell, ladies! I must away to the post of duty."
Another bend of the head, and he disappeared. The valets and
hair-dresser were already buzzing around his dressing-room with
court-dress and red stocking, but Kaunitz waved them all away, and
called Hippolyte to arrange a curl of his hair that was displaced.
The chief valet, who had been petrified with astonishment, now came to
life; and advanced, holding in his hand the rich court-dress.
"Pardon, your excellency; but my lord the count is about to have an
audience with her imperial majesty?"
"I am," was the curt reply.
"Then your excellency must comply with the etiquette of the empress's
court, which requires the full Spanish dress, dagger, and red
"MUST?" said Kaunitz contemptuously. "Fool! From this day, no one shall
say to Count Kaunitz, 'Must.' Bear that in mind. Hand me my muff."
"Muff, my lord?" echoed the valet.
"Yes, fool, my hands are cold."
The valet looked out of the window, where flamed the radiance of a June
sun, and with a deep sigh for the waywardness of his master, handed the
Kaunitz thrust in his hands, and slowly left the room, followed by the
dog, the valets, and the hair-dresser. Every time his excellency went
out, this procession came as far as the carriage door, to see that
nothing remained imperfect in this toilet. With the muff held close to
his mouth, for fear a breath of air should enter it, Kaunitz passed
through the lofty corridors of his house to his state-carriage. The dog
wished to get in, but he waved her gently back, saying:
"No, Phaedra, not to-day. I dare not take you there."
The carriage rolled off, and the servants looked after in dumb
consternation. At last the first valet, with a malicious smile, said to
"I stick to my opinion--he is crazy. Who but a madman would hope to be
admitted to her imperial majesty's presence without red stockings and a
Hippolyte shook his head. "No, no, he is no madman; he is only a
singular genius, who knows the world, and snaps his fingers at it."
The valet was not far from right. The simple dress, white stockings, and
the absence of the dagger, raised a commotion in the palace.
The page in the entrance-hall was afraid to announce the count, and he
rushed into the anteroom to consult the marshal of the imperial
household. The latter, with his sweetest smile, hastened to meet the
"Have the goodness, my lord," said Kaunitz imperiously, "not to detain
me any longer. The empress has called me to her presence; say that I am
"But, count," cried the horror-stricken marshal, "you cannot seriously
mean to present yourself in such a garb. Doubtless you have forgotten,
from absence of mind, to array yourself as court etiquette exacts of her
majesty's servants. If you will do me the favor to accompany me to my
own apartments, I will with great pleasure supply the red stockings and
Count Kaunitz shrugged his shoulders disdainfully. "Her majesty sent for
ME, not for my red stockings; therefore, please to announce me."
The marshal retreated, in his surprise, several steps. "Never," cried he
indignantly, "never would I presume to do so unheard-of a thing! Such a
transgression of her majesty's orders is inadmissible."
"Very well," replied Kaunitz coolly, "I shall then have the pleasure of
He passed by the marshal and dismayed page, and was advancing to the
door that led to the imperial apartments.
"Hold! hold!" groaned the marshal, whose consternation was now at its
height. "That were too presuming! Since her majesty has commanded your
attendance, I will do my duty. I leave it to yourself, my lord, to
excuse your own boldness, if you can carry it so far as to attempt a
justification of your conduct."
He bowed, and passed into the next room; then into the cabinet of the
empress, whence he returned with word for Count Kaunitz to enter.
The empress received the count with a most gracious smile. "You are
late," she said, reaching out her hand for him to kiss.
"I came very near not reaching your majesty's presence at all, for those
two wiseacres in the anteroom refused me entrance, because I had neither
red stockings nor a dagger."
The empress then perceived the omission, and she frowned. "Why did you
present yourself here, without them?" asked she.
"Because, your majesty, I detest red stockings; and I really cannot see
why I should be compelled to wear any thing that is so distasteful to
Maria Theresa was so surprised, that she scarcely knew what reply to
make to the argument; so Kaunitz continued:
"And as for the dagger, that is no emblem of my craft. I am not a
soldier, but a statesman; my implement is the crowquill."
"And the tongue," replied the empress, "for you certainly know how to
use it. Let us dismiss the dagger and red stockings, then, and speak of
your pen and your tongue, for I need them both. I have well weighed the
matters under consideration, and have taken counsel of Heaven and of my
own conscience. I hope that my decision will be for the best."
Count Kaunitz, courtier though he was, could not repress a slight
shiver, nor could he master the paleness that overspread his anxious
The empress went on: "I have irrevocably decided. I abide by what I said
in council. A new day shall dawn upon Austria--God grant that it prove a
happy one! Away, then, with the old alliance! we offer our hand to
France, and you shall conduct the negotiations. I appoint you lord high
chancellor in the place of Count Uhlefeld. And you owe me some thanks,
for I assure you that, to carry out my opposition to my ministers, I
have striven with countless difficulties."
"I thank your majesty for resolving upon an alliance with France," said
Kaunitz, earnestly; "for I do believe that it will conduce to Austria's
"And do you not thank me for making you prime minister, or is the
"I shall be the happiest of mortals if I can accept; but that question
is for your majesty to decide."
The empress colored, and looked displeased, while Kaunitz, "himself
again," stood composed and collected before her.
"Ah," said she, quickly, "you wish me to beg you to accept the highest
office in Austria! Do you think it a favor you do me to become my prime
"Your majesty," replied Kaunitz in his soft, calm tones, "I think not of
myself, but of Austria that I love, and of you, my honored empress, whom
I would die to serve. But I must know whether it will be allowed me to
serve my empress and my fatherland as I can and will serve them both."
"What do you mean? Explain yourself."
"If I am to labor in your behalf, my empress, I must have free hands,
without colleagues by my side, to discuss my plans and plot against
"Ah!" said the empress, smiling, "I understand. You mean Bartenstein and
Counts Harrach and Colloredo. True, they are your rivals."
"Oh, your majesty, not my rivals, I hope."
"Well, then, your enemies, if you like that better," said the empress.
"I shall not chain you together, then. I will find other places
wherewith to compensate them for their past services, and you may find
"I desire no colleagues, your majesty," replied Kaunitz, "I wish to be
prime and only minister. Then together we will weld Austria's many
dependencies into one great empire, and unite its governments under one
"Yours, count?" asked Maria Theresa, in a slight tone of irony.
"Yours, my sovereign. Whatever you may think, up to this moment you have
not reigned supreme in Austria. By your side have Bartenstein and
Uhlefeld reigned like lesser emperors. Is not Lombardy governed by its
own princes, and does not the Viceroy of Hungary make laws and edicts,
which are brought to you for signature?"
"Yes, I am truly hemmed in on every side. But I see no remedy for the
evil--I cannot govern everywhere. Hungary and Lombardy have their own
constitutions, and must have their own separate governments."
"So long as that state of things lasts, neither Hungary nor Lombardy
will be portions of the Austrian empire," said Kaunitz.
"There is no remedy, Kaunitz," returned Maria Theresa; "I have thought
these difficulties over and over. My arm is too short to reach to the
farthest ends of my realms, and I must be content to delegate some of my
power. One hand cannot navigate the ship of state."
"But one head can steer it, your majesty, and one head can direct the
hands that work it."
"And will the count be one of my hands?"
"Yes, indeed, your majesty. But the fingers must be subject to this
hand, and the hand will then carry out, in all security, the plans of
its august head, the empress."
"You mean to say that you wish to be alone as my minister?"
"If I am truly to serve your majesty, it must be so. Let not the
sovereignty of Austria be frittered away in multitudinous rivulets;
gather it all in one full, fertilizing stream. One head and one hand
over Austria's destiny, and then will she grow independent and
"But, man," cried the empress, "you cannot sustain the burden you
"I will have ample help, your majesty. I will seek ready hands and
willing hearts that believe in me, and will do my behests. These must
not be my coadjutors, but my subalterns, who think through me, and work
for me. If your majesty will grant me this privilege, then I can serve
Austria. I know that I am asking for high prerogatives; but for
Austria's sake, Maria Theresa will dare every thing; and together we
will accomplish the consolidation of her disjecta membra into one great
empire. The policy which conducts our financial affairs must emanate
from yourself, and our foreign policy must be bold and frank, that
friends and foes may both know what we mean. We must coffin and bury old
Austria with the dead that sleep on the battle-grounds of lost Silesia;
and from her ashes we must build a new empire, of which Hungary and
Lombardy shall be integral parts. Hand in hand with France, we will be
the lawgivers of all Europe; and when, thanks to our thrift and the rich
tribute of our provinces, we pay our national debt, then we may laugh at
English subsidies and Dutch commerce. And lastly, we will cast our eyes
once more upon Silesia, and methinks if France and Austria together
should demand restitution of King Frederick, he will scarcely be so rash
as to say nay. The ministers of Louis XV., who were adverse to our
alliance, are about to retire, and the Duke de Choiseul, our firm friend
and the favorite of Mme. de Pompadour, will replace Richelieu. Choiseul
seeks our friendship, and the day of our triumph is dawning. Such, your
majesty, are my dreams for Austria; it rests with you to make them
The empress had listened with increasing interest to every word that
Kaunitz had spoken. She had risen from her seat and was pacing the room
in a state of high excitement. As he ceased she stopped in front of him,
and her large, sparkling orbs of blue glowed with an expression of
happiness and hope.
"I believe that you are the man for Austria," said she. "I believe that
together we can carry out our plans and projects. God grant that they be
righteous and just in His sight! You have read my heart, and you know
that I can never reconcile myself to the loss of Silesia. You know that
between me and Frederick no harmony can ever exist; no treaty can ever
be signed to which he is a party. [Footnote: Maria Theresa's own words.]
I will take the hand of France, not so much for love of herself as for
her enmity to Prussia. Will you work with me to make war on Frederick if
I appoint you sole minister, Kaunitz? For I tell you that I burn to
renew my strife with the King of Prussia, and I would rather give him
battle to-day than to-morrow." [Footnote: Maria Theresa's own words.
"I comprehend your majesty's feelings, and fully share them. As soon as
France and ourselves understand one another, we will make a league
against Frederick, and may easily make him strike the first blow; for
even now he is longing to appropriate another Silesia."
"And I am longing to cross swords with him for the one he has stolen. I
cannot bear to think of going to my fathers with a diminished
inheritance; I cannot brook the thought that my woman's hands have not
been strong enough to preserve my rights; for I feel that if I have the
heart of a woman, I have the head of a man. To see Austria great and
powerful, to see her men noble and her women virtuous--that is my dream,
my hope, my aim in life. You are the one to perfect what I have
conceived, Kaunitz; will you give me your hand to this great work?"
"I will, your majesty, so help me God!"
"Will you have Austria's good alone in view, in all that you counsel as
"I will, so help me God!"
"Will you take counsel with me how we may justly and righteously govern
Austria, without prejudice, without self-love, without thought of
worldly fame, not from love or fear of man, but for the sake of God from
whose hands we hold our empire?"
"I will, so help me God!"
"Then," said Maria Theresa, after a pause, "you are my sole minister,
and I empower you to preside over the affairs of state, in the manner
you may judge fittest for the welfare of the Austrian people."
Kaunitz was as self-possessed a worldling as ever sought to hide his
emotions; but he could not suppress an exclamation of rapture, nor an
expression of triumph, which lit up his face as nothing had ever
illumined it before.
"Your majesty," said he, when he found words, "I accept the trust, and
as there is a God above to judge me, I will hold it faithfully. My days
and nights, my youth and age, with their thoughts, their will, their
every faculty, shall be laid upon the shrine of Austria's greatness; and
if for one moment I ever sacrifice your majesty to any interest of mine,
may I die a death of torture and disgrace!"
"I believe you; your countenance reflects your heart, and Almighty God
has heard your words. One thing remember--that Maria Theresa suffers no
minister to dictate to her. She is the reigning sovereign of her people,
and will not suffer a finger to be laid upon her imperial rights. Were
he a thousand times prime minister, the man that presumed too far with
me I would hurl from his eminence to the lowest depths of disgrace. And
now that we understand one another, we will clasp hands like men, who
are pledged before God to do their duty."
She extended her hand to Kaunitz, who grasped it in his own. "I swear,"
said he, solemnly, "to do my duty; and never can I forget this hour. I
swear to my SOVEREIGN, Maria Theresa, loyalty unto death; and before my
EMPRESS I bow my knee, and so do homage to the greatest woman of her
The empress smiled, while Kaunitz knelt and kissed her fair, jewelled
hand. "May God grant that you speak truth, Kaunitz, and may my posterity
not have to blush for me! 'Every thing for Austria,' shall be your motto
and mine; and this flaming device shall light us on our way through
life. Now go, lord high chancellor, and see that the world finds a
phoenix in the ashes of the old regime which to-day we have consigned to
the dust!" [Footnote: From this time, Kaunitz was the sole minister of
the empress; and he kept his promise to Binder, who became state
referendarius, in the place of the once-powerful Bartenstein.]
THE YOUNG SOLDIER.
Kaunitz's prophecy had been fulfilled. No sooner was it known that
Austria and France were allies, than Frederick of Prussia, with all
haste, made treaties with England. These opposite alliances were the
signal for war. For seven years this war held its blood-stained lash
over Austria, and every nation in Europe suffered more or less from its
effects. Maria Theresa began it with sharp words, to which Frederick had
responded with his sharper sword.
The king, through his ambassador, asked the meaning of her extensive
military preparations throughout Austria, to which the empress, nettled
by the arrogance of the demand, had replied that she believed she had a
right to mass troops for the protection of herself and her allies,
without rendering account of her acts to foreign kings. Upon the receipt
of this reply, Frederick marched his troops into Saxony, and so began
the "Seven Years' War," a war that was prosecuted on both sides with
Throughout Austria the wildest enthusiasm prevailed. Rich and poor,
young and old, all rushed to the fight. The warlike spirit that pervaded
her people made its way to the heart of the empress's eldest son. The
Archduke Joseph had for some time been entreating his mother to allow
him to join the army; and, at last, though much against her will, she
had yielded to his urgent desire. The day on which news of a victory,
near Kunnersdorf, over Frederick, reached the palace, the empress had
given her consent, and her son was to be allowed to go in search of
laurel-wreaths wherewith to deck his imperial brow.
This permission to enter the army was the first great joy of Joseph's
life. His heart, at last freed from its weight of conventional duties,
and forced submission to the requirements of court etiquette, soared
high into regions of exultant happiness. His countenance, once so cold
and impassible, was now full of joyous changes; his eyes, once so dull
and weary, glowed with the fire of awakened enthusiasm, and they looked
so brilliant a blue, that it seemed as if some little ray from heaven
had found its way into their clear, bright depths. The poor boy was an
altered creature. He was frolicsome with his friends; and as for those
whom he considered his enemies, he cared nothing for their likes or
dislikes. He had nothing to lose or gain from them; he was to leave the
court, leave Vienna, leave every troublesome remembrance behind, and go,
far from all tormentors, to the army.
The preparations were at an end; the archduke bad taken formal leave of
his mother's court; this evening he was to spend in the imperial family
circle; and early on the next morning his journey would begin. He had
just written a last note of farewell to a friend. Alone in his room, he
stood before a mirror, contemplating with a smile his own image. He was
not looking at his handsome face, though happiness was lending it
exquisite beauty; the object of his rapturous admiration was the white
uniform, which, for the first time, he wore in place of his court-dress.
He was no longer the descendant of Charles the Fifth, no longer the son
of the empress, he was a soldier--a free, self-sustaining man, whose
destiny lay in his own hands, and whose future deeds would prove him
worthy to be the son of his great ancestor.
As, almost intoxicated with excess of joy, he stood before the glass,
the door opened gently, and a youth of about his own age entered the
"Pardon me, your highness," said the youth, bowing, "if I enter without
permission. Doubtless your highness did not hear me knock, and I found
no one in your anteroom to announce me."
The prince turned around, and reached out his hand, saying, with a
laugh: "No, no, you found nobody. I have discharged old Dame Etiquette
from my service, and you see before you not his imperial highness, the
Archduke Joseph, crown prince of Austria, but a young soldier, brimful
of happiness, master of nothing but his own sword, with which he means
to carve out his fortunes on the battlefield. Oh, Dominick! I have
dropped the rosary, and taken up the sabre; and I mean to twist such a
forest of laurels about my head, that it will be impossible for me ever
to wear a night-cap again, were it even sent me as a present from the
"Do not talk so loud, your highness; you will frighten the proprieties
out of their wits."
Joseph laughed. "Dominick Kaunitz" said he, "you are the son of your
respected father, no doubt of it; for you behave prettily before the
bare walls themselves. But fear not, son of the mighty minister, MY walls
are dumb, and nobody is near to tell tales. We are alone, for I have
dismissed all my attendants; and here I may give loud vent to my
hallelujahs, which I now proceed to do by singing you a song which I
learned not long ago from an invalid soldier in the street."
And the prince began, in a sonorous bass voice, to sing:
"Oh! the young cannon is my bride! Her orange-wreath is twined with bay,
And on the blood-red battle-field We'll celebrate our wedding-day.
Trara! trara! No priest is there To bless the rites, No--"
Here young Kaunitz, all etiquette despising, put his hands before the
mouth of the prince; and, while the latter strove, in spite of him, to
go on with his song, he said, in low but anxious tones:
"For Heavens sake, your highness, listen to me. You plunge yourself
wantonly into danger. Do you suppose that your powerful voice does not
resound through the corridors of the palace?"
"Well, if it is heard, Dominick, what of it? I bid farewell to my
enemies, and this is my 'Hosanna.' You ought to be ashamed of yourself
to stop me. My tormentors, you think, have heard the beginning of my
song; well, the devil take it, but they shall have the end!"
Once more the archduke began to sing; but Dominick caught his arm. "Do
you wish," said he, "to have the empress revoke her permission?"
The archduke laughed, "Why, Dominick, you are crazed with grief for my
loss, I do believe; the empress revoke her imperial word, now, when all
my preparations are made, and I go to-morrow?"
"Empresses do revoke their words, and preparations are often made, to be
followed by--nothing," replied Dominick.
The prince looked in consternation at his young friend. "Are you in
earnest, dear Dominick?" asked he. "Do you indeed think it possible that
I could be hindered from going to the army, on the very eve of my
"I do, your highness."
The archduke grew pale, and in a tremulous voice said, "Upon what do you
found your supposition, my friend?"
"Oh, my dear lord," replied Dominick, "it is no supposition, I fear it
is a fact; and I fear, too, that it is your own fault if this
disappointment awaits you."
"Good Heaven!" exclaimed the prince, in tones of anguish, "what can I
have done to deserve such fearful chastisement?"
"You have displeased the empress by neglect of your religious duties.
For more than two weeks you have not entered a place of worship; and,
yesterday, when the Countess Fuchs remonstrated with your highness, you
replied with an unseemly jest. You said, 'Dearest countess, I hope to
prove to you that, although I neglect my mass, I can be pious on the
battle-field. There, on the altar of my country, I mean to sacrifice
countless enemies, and that will be an offering quite as pleasing in the
sight of God.' Were those not your words, prince?"
"Yes, yes, they were--but I meant no impiety. My heart was so full of
joy that it effervesced in wild words; but surely my mother cannot mean,
for such a harmless jest, to dash my every hope to the earth!"
"Oh, your highness, this is only one offence out of many of which you
are accused. I have no time to repeat them now, for my errand here is
important and pressing."
"Where learned you all this?" asked the poor archduke.
"Bend down your ear, and I will tell you. My father told me every word
"The lord high chancellor? Impossible!"
"Yes, it would seem impossible that he should repeat any thing, and
therefore you may know how seriously the matter affects your highness
when I tell you that he sent me to warn you."
A quick, loud knock at the door interrupted him, and before the archduke
could say "Come in," the Emperor Francis was in the room. His face
looked careworn, and he cast a glance of tender compassion upon his son.
"My child," said he, "I come to speak to you in private a thing I cannot
compass in my own apartments."
Dominick bowed to take leave, but the emperor withheld him. "Stay," said
he, "for you may serve us, Dominick. I know you to be Joseph's best
friend, and you will not betray him. But I have no time for words. Tell
me quickly, Joseph, is there any secret outlet to these apartments? Do
you know of any hidden stairway by which you could escape from the
"I, father! I have secret doors in my apartments? Is this some new
device of my enemies to injure me in the eyes of the empress?"
"Hush, hush, Joseph!--How like he is in temperament to his
mother!--Answer me at once; there is no question of enemies, but of
"What would you have me do with secret doors and stairways?" asked
The emperor came close to his son, and, in low, cautious tones,
whispered, "I would have you, this very hour, leave the palace
privately, mount your horse, and speed away from Vienna."
"Fly, my dear father?" cried Joseph. "Has it come to this, that the son
must fly from the face of his own mother? Am I a criminal, who must not
be told of what crime I am accused? No, your majesty; if death, or
imprisonment for life, were here to threaten me, I would not fly."
"Nor would I counsel flight, my son, were you accused of wrong; but this
is not a question of crime, of poisoned beaker, or of castle dungeon--it
is simply this: Do you wish to join the army, or are you ready to give
up your commission and stay at home?"
"Oh, my dear father," cried Joseph, "you well know that I have but one
desire on earth--and that is, to go."
"Then, hear me. It has been represented to the empress that your lust
for war has made you so reckless, so bloodthirsty, and so impious, that
camp-life will prove your ruin. In her excess of maternal love, she has
taken the alarm, and has resolved to shield you from danger by
withdrawing her consent to your departure."
The archduke's eyes filled with tears. The emperor laid his hand
sympathizingly upon his shoulder.
"Do not despair, dear child," said he, tenderly; "perhaps all is not
lost, and I may be able to assist you. I can comprehend the nature of
your sorrow, for I have suffered the same bitter disappointment. If,
instead of leading a useless life, a mere appanage of the empress, I had
been permitted to follow the dictates of my heart, and command her
armies, I might have--but why speak of my waning career? You are young,
and I do not wish to see your life darkened by such early
disappointment. Therefore, listen to me. You know nothing of the change
in your prospects--you have not as yet, received no orders to remain.
Write to your mother, that, preferring to go without the grief of taking
leave, you have presumed to start tonight without her knowledge, hoping
soon to embrace her again, and lay your first-earned laurels at her
The archduke hastened to obey his father, and sat down to write. The
emperor, meanwhile, signed to young Kaunitz, who had kept himself
"Have you a courser," asked he, "to sell to Joseph, and two good
servants that can accompany him until his own attendants can be sent
"I came hither, your majesty, prepared to make the same proposition,
with the fleetest horse in my father's stables, and two trusty servants,
well mounted, all of which await his highness at the postern gate."
"Your father's best horse? Then he knows of this affair?" "It was he who
sent me to the archduke's assistance. He told me, in case of necessity,
to propose flight, and to be ready for it."
"The letter is ready," said the archduke, coming forward.
"I myself will hand it to the empress," said his father, taking it, "and
I will tell her that I counselled you to go as you did."
"But dear father, the empress will be angry."
"Well, my son," said the emperor, with a peculiar smile, "I have
survived so many little passing storms, that I shall doubtless survive
this one. The empress has the best and noblest heart in the world, and
its sunshine is always brightest after a storm. Go, then, my child, I
will answer for your sin and mine. The empress has said nothing to me of
her change of purpose; she looks upon it as a state affair, and with her
state affairs I am never made acquainted. Since accident has betrayed it
to me, I have a right to use my knowledge in your behalf, and I
undertake to appease your mother. Here is a purse with two thousand
louis d'ors; it is enough for a few days of incognito. Throw your
military cloak about you, and away!"
Young Kaunitz laid the cloak upon the shoulders of the archduke, whose
eyes beamed forth the gratitude that filled his heart.
"Oh my father and my sovereign," said he in a voice that trembled with
emotion, "my whole life will not be long enough to thank you for what
yon are doing for me in this critical hour. Till now I have loved you
indeed as my father, but henceforth I must look upon you as my
benefactor also, as my dearest and best friend. My heart and my soul are
yours, dear father; may I be worthy of your love and of the sacrifice
you are making for me to-day!"
The emperor folded his son to his heart, and kissed his fair forehead.
"Farewell, dear boy," whispered he; "return to me a victor and a hero.
May you earn for your father on the battle-field the laurels which he
has seen in dreams! God bless you!"
They then left the room, Count Kaunitz leading the way, to see if the
passage was clear.
"I will go with you as far as the staircase," continued the emperor,
At that moment Dominick, who had gone forward into the corridor, rushed
back into the room pale and trembling, "It is too late!" exclaimed he in
a stifled voice; "there comes a messenger from the empress!"
THE EMPRESS AND HER SON.
The young count was not mistaken. It was indeed a message from the
empress. It was the marshal of the household, followed by four pages who
came to command the presence of the archduke, to whom her majesty wished
to impart something of importance.
A deadly paleness overspread the face of the young prince, and his whole
frame shivered. The emperor felt the shudder, and drew his son's arm
closer to his heart. "Courage, my son, courage!" whispered he: then
turning toward the imperial embassy, he said aloud, "Announce to her
majesty that I will accompany the arch-duke in a few moments." And as
the marshal stood irresolute and confused, the emperor, smiling, said:
"Oh, I see that you have been ordered to accompany the prince
yourselves. Come, then, my son, we will e'en go along with the
Maria Theresa was pacing the floor of her apartment in great excitement.
Her large, flashing eyes now and then turned toward the door; and
whenever she fancied that footsteps approached, she stopped, and seemed
almost to gasp with anxiety.
Suddenly she turned toward Father Porhaminer, who, with the Countess
Fuchs, stood by the side of the sofa from which she had risen. "Father,"
said she, in a tremulous voice, "I cannot tell why it is that, as I
await my son's presence here, my heart is overwhelmed with anguish. I
feel as if I were about to do him an injustice, and for all the kingdoms
of the world I would not do him wrong."
"Nay," replied the father, "your majesty is about to rescue that beloved
son from destruction; but as your majesty is a loving mother, it
afflicts you to disappoint your child. Still, our Lord has commanded if
the right eye offend, to pluck it out; and so is it your majesty's duty
to pluck from your son's heart the evil growing there, even were his
heart's blood to follow. The wounds you may inflict upon your dear
child, for God's sake, will soon be healed by His Almighty hand."
"He was so happy to become a soldier!" murmured the empress, who had
resumed her agitated walk; "his eyes were so bright, and his bearing was
so full of joy and pride! My boy is so handsome, so like his dear
father, that my heart throbs when I see him, as it did in the days when
we were young lovers! A laurel-wreath would well become his fair brow,
and I--how proudly I should have welcomed my young hero to my heart once
more! Dear, dear boy, must I then wake you so rudely from your first
dream of ambition?--I must. He would come to evil in the lawless life of
the camp; God forgive him, but he is as mad for the fight as Don John of
Austria! I should never see him again; he would seek death in his first
battle.. Oh, I could not survive it; my heart would break if I should
have to give up my first-born! Four of my children lie in the vaults of
St. Stephen's--I cannot part with my Joseph! Countess," she said,
turning suddenly to her lady of Honor, "is it not true that Joseph told
you he thought that the altar of the battle-field and the sacrifice, of
his enemies was--"
"His majesty the emperor and his imperial highness, the Archduke
Joseph!" said the marshal of the household; and the door was flung open
for their entrance.
Maria Theresa advanced, and bowed slightly to the emperor. "Your
majesty's visit at this unusual hour surprises me," said she with
"I am aware," replied the emperor graciously, "that I was not expected;
but as this is the last day of our son's residence under the parental
roof, I am sure that my wife will see nothing strange in my visit. I was
with the archduke when your majesty's message reached him, and knowing
that you could have no secrets with the son which the father might not
hear, I followed the impulse of my affection, and came with him."
"And what signifies this singular and unseemly dress in which my son
presents himself before his sovereign?" asked Maria Theresa, angrily
surveying the uniform which, nevertheless, she acknowledged in her heart
was beyond expression becoming to him.
"Pardon me, your majesty," replied the son, "I had tried on one uniform,
and if I was to obey your summons at once, there was no time for a
change in my dress."
"And, indeed," said the emperor, "I think the dress becoming. Our boy
will make a fine-looking soldier."
The empress being precisely of that opinion herself, was so much the
more vexed at her husband for giving it expression. She bit her lip, and
her brow contracted, as was usual with her when she was growing angry.
"You held it then as a fact, my son, that you were a soldier?" said she,
catching her breath with anxiety.
Joseph raised his fine eyes, with an imploring expression, to the face
of his mother. "Your majesty had promised me that I should be a
soldier," replied he firmly, "and I have never yet known my mother to
break her imperial word to the least of her subjects."
"Hear him!" cried the empress, with a laugh of derision, "he almost
threatens me! This young sir will try to make it a point of honor with
me to keep my word."
"Pardon me, your majesty," replied Joseph calmly, "I have never allowed
myself to doubt your imperial word for one moment of my life."
"Well, then, your highness has my imperial permission to doubt it now,"
cried the empress, severely humiliated by the implied rebuke; "I allow
you to doubt whether I will ever hold promises that have been rashly and
"Why, your majesty," cried the emperor, "surely you will not retract
your word in the face of the whole world, that knows of Joseph's
"What to me is the opinion of the world?" returned the haughty empress.
"To God and my conscience alone I am responsible for my acts, and to
them I will answer it that I take back my promise, and declare that
Joseph shall not go into the army!"
Joseph uttered a cry of anguish. "Mother! mother!" sobbed the unhappy
boy, "it cannot be!"
"Why can it not be?" said the empress, haughtily.
"Because it would be a cruel and heartless deed," cried the archduke,
losing all control over himself, "so to make sport of my holiest and
purest hopes in life; and because I never, never can believe that my own
mother would seek to break my heart."
The empress was about to return a scathing reply, when the emperor laid
his gentle hand upon her shoulder, and the words died upon her lips.
"I beseech of you, my wife," said he, "to remember that we are not
alone. Joseph is no child; and it ill becomes any but his parents to
witness his humiliation. Have the goodness, then, to dismiss your
attendants, and let us deal with our son alone."
"Why shall I dismiss them?" cried the empress, "they are my trusty
confidants; and they have a right to hear all that the future Emperor of
Austria presumes to say to his mother!"
"Pardon me," replied the emperor, "I differ with you, and desire that
they should not hear our family discussions. In these things I too have
my right; and if your majesty does not command them to leave the room, I
Maria Theresa looked at the countenance of her husband, which was firm
and resolved in its expression. In her confusion she could find no
retort. The emperor waited awhile, and seeing that she did not speak, he
turned toward the two followers, who stood, without moving, at their
"I request the Countess Fuchs and Father Porhammer to leave the room,"
said he, with dignity. "Family concerns are discussed in private."
The pair did not go. Father Porhammer interrogated the face of the
empress; and the countess, indignant that her curiosity was to be
frustrated, looked defiant.
This bold disregard of her husband's command was irritating to the
feelings of the empress. She thought that his orders should have
outweighed her mere remonstrance, and she now felt it her duty to
signify as much.
"Countess Fuchs," said she, "doubtless the emperor has not spoken loud
enough for you to hear the command he has just given you. You have not
understood his words, and I will take the trouble to repeat them. The
emperor said, 'I request the Countess Fuchs and Father Porhammer to
leave the room. Our family concerns we will discuss in private.'"
The lady of honor colored, and, with deep inclinations, Father Porhammer
and herself left the room.
Maria Theresa looked after them until the door was shut, then she
smilingly reached her hand to the emperor, who thanked her with a
pressure and a look of deepest affection. The archduke had retired to
the embrasure of a window, perhaps to seek composure, perhaps to hide
"Now," said Maria Theresa, sternly, while her fiery eyes sought the
figure of her son, "now we are alone, and Joseph is at liberty to speak.
I beg him to remember, that in the person of his mother, he also sees
his sovereign, and that the empress will resent every word of disloyalty
spoken to the parent. And I hold it to be highly disloyal for my son to
accuse me of making sport of his hopes. I have not come to my latest
determination from cruelty or caprice; I have made it in the strength of
my maternal love to shield my child from sin, and in the rectitude of my
imperial responsibility to my people, who have a right to claim from me
that I bestow upon them a monarch who is worthy to reign over Austria.
Therefore, my son, as empress and mother, I say that you shall remain.
That is now my unalterable will. If this decision grieves you, be humble
and submissive; and remember that it is your duty, as son and subject,
to obey without demurring. Then shall we be good friends, and greet one
another heartily, as though you had at this moment returned from the
victorious battle-field. There is my hand. Be welcome, my dear and
The heart of the empress had gradually softened, and as she smiled and
extended her hand, her beautiful eyes were filled to overflowing with
tears. But Joseph, deathly pale, crossed his arms, and returned her
glances of love with a haughty, defiant look, that almost approached to
"My son," said the emperor, "do you not see your dear mother's hand
extended to meet yours?"
"I see it, I see it," cried Joseph, passionately, "but I cannot take
it--I cannot play my part in this mockery of a return. No, mother, no, I
cannot kiss the hand that has so cruelly dashed my hopes to earth. And
you wish to carry your tyranny so far as to exact that I receive it with
a smile? Oh, mother, my heart is breaking! Have pity on me, and take
back those cruel words; let me go, let me go. Do not make me a byword
for the world, that hereafter will refuse me its respect. Let me go, if
but for a few weeks, and on the day that you command my return, I will
come home. Oh, my heart was too small to hold the love I bore you for
your consent to my departure. It seemed to me that I had lust begun to
live; the world was full of beauty, and I forgot all the trials of my
childhood. For one week I have been young, dear mother; hurl me not back
again into that dark dungeon of solitude where so much of my short life
has been spent. Do not condemn me to live as I have hitherto lived; give
me freedom, give me my manhood's rights!"
"No, no! a thousand times no!" cried the exasperated empress; "I see now
that I am right to keep such an unfeeling and ungrateful son at home. He
talks of his sufferings forsooth! What has he ever suffered at my
"What have I suffered?" exclaimed Joseph, whose teeth chattered as if he
were having a chill, and who was no longer in a state to suppress the
terrible eruption of his heart's agony. "What have I suffered, ask you?
I will tell you, empress-mother, what I have suffered since first I
could love, or think, or endure. As a child I have felt that my mother
loved another son more than she loved me. When my longing eyes sought
hers, they were riveted upon another face. When my brother and I have
sinned together, he has been forgiven, when I have been punished. Sorrow
and jealousy were in my heart, and no one cared enough for me to ask why
I wept. I was left to suffer without one word of kindness--and you
wondered that I was taciturn, and mocked at my slighted longings for
love, and called them by hard names. And then you pointed to my caressed
and indulged brother, and bade me be gay like him!"
"My son, my son!" cried the emperor, "control yourself; you know not
what you say."
"Let him go on, Francis," said the pale mother, "it is well that I
should know his heart at last."
"Yes," continued the maddened archduke, "let me go on, for in my heart
there is nothing but misery and slighted affection. Oh, mother, mother!"
exclaimed he, suddenly changing from defiance to the most pathetic
entreaty, "on my knees I implore you to let me go; have mercy, have
mercy upon your wretched son!"
And the young prince, with outstretched hands, threw himself upon his
knees before his mother. The long-suppressed tears gushed forth, and the
wild tempest of his ungovernable fury was spent, and now he sobbed as if
indeed his young heart was breaking.
The emperor could scarcely restrain the impulse he felt to weep with his
son; but he came and laid his hand upon the poor boy's head, and looked
with passionate entreaty at the empress.
"Dear Theresa," said he, "be compassionate and forgiving. Pardon him,
beloved, the hard and unjust words which, in the bitterness of a first
sorrow, he has spoken to the best of mothers. Raise him up from the
depths of his despair, and grant the boon, for which, I am sure, he will
love you beyond bounds."
"I wish that I dared to grant it to yourself, Francis," replied the
empress, sadly and tearfully; "but you see that he has made it
impossible. I dare not do it. The mother has no right to plead with the
empress for her rebellious son. What he has said I freely forgive--God
grant that I may forget it! Well do I know how stormy is youth, and I
remember that Joseph is my son. It is the wild Spanish blood of my
ancestry that boils in his veins, and, therefore, I forgive him with all
my heart. But revoke my last sentence--that I cannot do. To do so would
be to confirm him in wrong. Rise, my son Joseph--I forgive all your
cruel words; but what I have said, I have said. You remain at home."
Joseph rose slowly from his knees. The tears in his eyes were dried; his
lips were compressed, and once more he wore the old look of cold and
sullen indifference. He made a profound inclination before his mother.
"I have heard the empress's commands," said he, in a hoarse and
unnatural voice; "it is my duty to obey. Allow me to go to my prison,
that I may doff this manly garb, which is no longer suitable to my
Without awaiting the answer, he turned away, and with hasty strides left
The empress watched him in speechless anxiety. As the door closed upon
him, her features assumed an expression of tenderness and she said: "Go
quickly, Franz--go after him. Try to comfort and sustain him. I do not
know why, but I feel uneasy--"
At that moment a cry was heard in the anteroom, and the fall of a heavy
body to the floor.
"God help me--it is Joseph!" shrieked the empress; and, forgetting all
ceremony, she darted from the room, and rushed by her dismayed
attendants through the anteroom, out into the corridor. Stretched on the
floor, insensible and lifeless, lay her son.
Without a word the empress waved off the crowd that was assembled around
his body. The might of her love gave her supernatural strength, and
folding her arms around her child, she covered his pale face with
kisses, and from the very midst of the frightened attendants she bore
him herself to her room, where she laid him softly upon her own bed.
No one except the emperor had ventured to follow. He stood near, and
reached the salts, to which the empress had silently pointed. She rubbed
her son's temples, held the salts to his nostrils, and at last, when he
gave signs of life, she turned to the emperor and burst into tears.
"Oh, Franz," said she, "I almost wish that he were sick, that day and
night I might watch by his bedside, and his poor heart might feel the
full extent of a mother's love for her first-born child."
Perhaps God granted her prayer, that these two noble hearts might no
longer be estranged, but that each might at last meet the other in the
fullest confidence of mutual love.
A violent attack of fever followed the swoon of the archduke. The
empress never left his side. He slept in her own room, and she watched
over him with gentlest and most affectionate care.
Whenever Joseph awaked from his fever-dreams and unclosed his eyes
there, close to his bedside he saw the empress, who greeted him with
loving words and softest caresses. Whenever, in his fever-thirst, he
called for drink, her hand held the cup to his parched lips; and
whenever that soft, cool hand was laid upon his hot brow, he felt as if
its touch chased away all pain and soothed all sorrow.
When he recovered enough to sit up, still his mother would not consent
for him to leave her room for his own. As long as he was an invalid, he
should be hers alone. In her room, and through her loving care, should
he find returning health. His sisters and brothers assembled there to
cheer him with their childish mirth, and his young friend, Dominick
Kaunitz, came daily to entertain him with his lively gossip. Altogether,
the archduke was happy. If he had lost fame, he had found love.
One day, when, cushioned in his great soft arm-chair, he was chatting
with his favorite tutor, Count Bathiany, the empress entered the room,
her face lit up with a happy smile, while in her hands she held an etui
of red morocco.
"What think you I have in this etui, dear?" she said, coming forward,
and bending over her son to bestow a kiss.
"I do not know; but I guess it is some new gift of love from my mother's
"Yes--rightly guessed. It is a genuine gift of love and, with God's
grace, it may prove the brightest gift in your future crown. Since I
would not let you leave my house, my son, I feel it my duty, at least,
to do my best to make your home a happy one. I also wish to show you
that, in my sight, you are no longer a boy, but a man worthy to govern
your own household. Look at the picture in this case, and if it pleases
you, my darling son, I give you, not only the portrait but the ORIGINAL
She handed him the case, in which lay the miniature of a young girl of
surpassing beauty, whose large, dark eyes seemed to gaze upon him with a
look of melancholy entreaty.
The archduke contemplated the picture for some time, and gradually over
his pale face there stole a flush of vague delight.
"Well!" asked the empress, "does the maiden please you?"
"Please me!" echoed the archduke, without withdrawing his eyes from the
picture. "'Tis the image of an angel! There is something in her look so
beseeching, something in her smile so sad, that I feel as if I would
fall at her feet and weep; and yet, mother--"
"Hear him, Franz," cried Maria Theresa to the emperor, who, unobserved
by his son, had entered the room. "Hear our own child! love in his heart
will be a sentiment as holy, as faithful, and as profound as it has been
with us for many happy years! Will you have the angel for your wife,
The archduke raised his expressive eyes to the face of his mother. "If I
will have her!" murmured he, sadly. "Dear mother, would she deign to
look upon me? Will she not rather turn away from him to whom the whole
world is indifferent?"
"My precious child, she will love and honor you, as the world will do,
when it comes to know your noble heart." And once more the empress bent
over her son and imprinted a kiss upon his pale brow. "It is settled
then, my son, that you shall offer your hand to this beautiful girl. In
one week you will have attained your nineteenth birthday, and you shall
give a good example to your sisters. Do you like the prospect?"
"Yes, dear mother, I am perfectly satisfied."
"And you do not ask her name or rank?"
"You have chosen her for me; and I take her from your hand without name
"Well," cried the delighted empress, "Count Bathiany, you have ever been
the favorite preceptor of the archduke. Upon you, then, shall this
honorable mission devolve. To-morrow, as ambassador extraordinary from
our court, you shall go in state to ask of Don Philip of Parma the hand
of his daughter Isabella for his imperial highness, the crown prince of
AN ITALIAN NIGHT.
The moon is up, but she is hidden behind heavy masses of clouds
--welcome clouds that shelter lovers' secrets. The fountains, whose
silvery showers keep such sweet time to the murmurings of love, plash
gently on, hushing the sound of lovers' voices; on the bosom of yonder
marble-tinctured lake, two snow-white swans are floating silently; and,
far amid groves of myrtle and olive, the nightingale warbles her notes
of love. Not a step echoes through the long avenues of the ducal park,
not a light glimmers from the windows of the ducal palace. 'Tis the hour
of midnight, and gentle sleep hath come to all.
To all, save two. Stay yet awhile behind the cloud, O tell-tale moon!
for there--there are the lovers. See where fair Juliet leans from the
marble balcony; while Romeo, below, whispers of plighted vows that
naught shall cancel save--death!
"To-morrow, beloved, to-morrow, thou wilt be mine forever?"
"I will be thine in the face of the whole world."
"And wilt thou never repent? Hast thou strength to brave the world's
scorn for my sake?"
"Do I need strength to stretch forth my hand for that which is dearer to
me than all the world beside? Oh, there is selfishness in my love,
Riccardo, for it loses sight of the dangers that will threaten thee on
the day when thou callest me wife!"
"There is but one danger, dearest--that of losing thee! I know no
"Still, be cautious, for my sake. Remember, we live on Spanish soil,
though Italy's skies are overhead; and Spanish vengeance is sharp and
swift. Betray not thy hopes by smile or glance--in a few davs we will be
far away in the paradise where our happiness shall be hidden from all
eyes, save those of angels. Be guarded therefore, dear one--for see!
Even now the moon is forth again in all her splendor; and were my
father's spies to track thee!--Gracious Heaven, go! Think of Spanish
daggers, and let us part for a few short hours."
"Well, I will go, strengthened to turn my eyes from thy beauty, by
thoughts of to-morrow's bliss! In the chapel I await thee."
"I will be there. The priest will not betray us?"
"He was the friend of my childhood--we may trust him, Isabella."
"Then, Heaven bless thee! good-night. Hark!--did I not hear something
rustle in the thicket?"
"The wind sighing through the pine-trees, love."
"Then, adieu, till morning."
"Adieu, sweet one!"
The moon burst forth in full radiance, and revealed the manly form that
hurried through the avenue; while clear as in noonday could be seen the
slender white figure that watched his retreating steps.
He is hidden now, but she still lingers, listening enraptured to the
fountain's murmur and the nightingale's song; looking upward at the moon
as she wandered through heaven's pathless way, and thinking that never
had earth or sky seemed so lovely before--
But hark! What sounds are those? A cry, a fearful cry rends the air; and
it comes from the thicket where, a moment before, he disappeared from
She started--then, breathless as a statue, she listened in deadly
suspense. Again that cry, that dreadful cry, pierces through the
stillness of the night, freezing her young heart with horror! "His
death-wail!" cried the wretched girl; and careless of danger, scarce
knowing what she did, heeding nothing but the sound of her lover's
voice, she sprang from the balcony, and as though moonbeams had drawn
her thither, she swung herself to the ground. For one moment her slight
form wavered, then she darted forward and flew through the avenue to the
thicket. Away she sped, though the moon shone so bright that she could
be distinctly seen, her own shadow following like a dusky phantom
Be friendly, now, fair moon, and light her to her lover, that she may
look into his eyes once more before they close forever!
She has reached the spot, and, with a low cry, she throws herself by the
side of the tall figure that lies stretched at its length upon the green
Yes, it is he; he whom she loves; the soul of her soul, the life of her
life! And he lies cold and motionless, his eyes staring blindly upon the
heavens, his purple lips unclosing to exhale his last sighs, while from
two hideous wounds in his side the blood streams over the white dress of
his betrothed. But he is not dead; his blood is still warm.
She bends over and kisses his cold lips; she tears her lace mantle from
her shoulders, and, pressing it to his wounds, tries to stanch the
life-blood welling from his side. The mantle grows scarlet with his
gore, but the lips are whiter and colder with each kiss. She knows,
alas! that there is one nearer to him now than she--Azrael is between
her and her lover. He grows colder, stiffer; and--O God!--the
"Take me with thee, take me, take me!" screamed the despairing girl; and
her arms clasped frantically around the body, until they seemed as if
they were indeed stiffening into one eternal embrace.
"Have pity, Riccardo! My life, my soul, leave me not here without thee!
One word--one look, beloved!"
She stared at him in wild despair, and seeing that he made no sign of
response to her passionate appeal, she raised her hands to heaven, and
kneeling by his side, she prayed.
"O God, merciful God, take not his fleeting life until he has given me
one last word--until he has told me how long we shall be parted!"
Her arms sank heavily down, and she sought the face of the dying man,
whispering--oh, how tenderly!--"Hear me, my own; tell me when I shall
follow thee to heaven!"
She ceased, for suddenly she felt him tremble; his eyes moved until they
met hers, and once more a smile flitted across those blanched lips. He
raised his head, and slowly his body moved, until, supported in HER
arms, he sat erect. Enraptured, he laid her cheek to his, and waited;
for love had called him back to life, and he would speak.
"We shall meet again in three--"
He fell back, and with a last cry expired. Love had struggled hard with
death; but death had won the victory.
Isabel shed no tears. She closed her lover's eyes; gave him one long,
last kiss; and, as she bent over him, her hair was soaked in his blood.
She took the mantle, wet with gore, and pressed it to her heart.
"Precious mantle," said she, "we need not part; in three days--or
perchance he said three hours--we shall lie together in the coffin!
Until then, Riccardo, farewell!"
Slowly she turned and left the horrible place. Without faltering she
came up the long moonlit avenue, her head thrown back, and her large,
lustrous eyes fixed upon heaven, as though she sought to find her
lover's soul somewhere among the floating clouds.
The moon flung its radiance around her path; and ever, as she walked, it
grew brighter, until the poor, stricken child of earth looked like a
glorified saint. "God grant that it be three hours!" murmured she;
"three days were an eternity!"
She reached the palace, without having thought that there was no door
open by which she could enter, when suddenly a form emerged from the
shadowed wall, and a woman's voice whispered:
"Quick, for Heaven's sake! the side-door is open, and all in the palace
"I, too, in three hours shall sleep!" cried Isabella, triumphantly, and
with these words she fell to the ground in a swoon. [Footnote: Caroline
Pichler, "Memoirs of My Life." Part I. page 139.]
ISABELLA OF PARMA.
The Princess Isabella slept unusually late the next morning. Her little
bell, that summoned the ladies of honor, had not yet rung, and the day
was far advanced. The first cameriera seemed troubled, and whispered her
apprehensions that the princess was sick; for she had observed, for some
days, she said, that her highness had looked pale.
"But we must go into her room, ladies," added she; "for it is almost
time for her highness to visit the duke, and he never forgives an
omission of ceremonial. Follow me, then; _I_ will undertake to awaken
She opened the door softly, and entered the sleeping-room of the
princess, followed by the other maids of honor.
"She sleeps yet," said the cameriera; "but I MUST waken her," murmured
she to herself, "it is my duty."
She advanced, and drew aside the heavy folds of the pink silk curtains
that hung around the bed.
"Pardon me, your highness," she whispered; "but--"
She stopped; for, to her great surprise, the princess was awake. She lay
in her long white night-dress, with her hands crossed over her breast,
and her head cushioned on the rose-colored pillow that contrasted
painfully with the pallor of her marble-white face. Her large eyes were
distended, and fixed upon a picture of the blessed Virgin that hung at
the foot of the bed. Slowly her looks turned upon her attendants, who,
breathless and frightened, gazed upon the rosy pillow, and the pallid
face that lay in its midst, dazzling their eyes with its whiteness.
"Pardon me," again whispered the cameriera, "it is almost noonday."
"What hour?" murmured the princess.
"It is ten o'clock, your highness."
The princess shivered, and exclaimed, "For three days, then!" And
turning away, she began to pray in a low voice, and none but God knew
the meaning of that whispered prayer.
Her prayer over, she passed her little white hand over the dark locks
that fell around her face and made an effort to rise.
Her maids of honor saw that she was ill, and hastened to assist her. The
hour of the princess's toilet was to her attendants the most delightful
hour of the day. From her bedchamber all ceremonial was banished; and
there, with her young companions, Isabella was accustomed to laugh,
jest, sing, and be as merry and as free from care as the least of her
Philip of Parma was by birth a Spaniard, one of the sons of Philip the
Fifth. After the vicissitudes of war which wrested Naples and Parma from
the hands of Austria, Don Carlos of Spain became king of Naples, and Don
Philip, duke of Parma. Isabella, then a child of seven years, had been
allowed the privilege of taking with her to Italy her young playmates,
who, for form's sake, as she grew older, became her maids of honor. But
they were her dear and chosen friends, and with them she was accustomed
to speak the Spanish language only.
Her mother, daughter of Louis XV., had introduced French customs into
the court of Parma, and during her life the gayety and grace of French
manners had rendered that court one of the most attractive in Europe.
But the lovely Duchess of Parma died, and with her died all that made
court life endurable. The French language was forbidden, and French
customs were banished. Some said that the duke had loved his wife so
deeply, that in his grief he had excluded from his court every thing
suggestive of his past happiness. Others contended that he had made her
life so wretched by his jealous and tyrannical conduct, that remorse had
driven him to banish, if possible, every reminder of the woman whom he
had almost murdered.
In the hearts of her children the mother's memory was enshrined; and the
brother and sister were accustomed for her sake, in their private
intercourse, to speak HER language altogether.
At court they spoke the language of the country; and Isabella--who with
her friends sang boleros and danced the cachuca; with her brother, read
Racine and Corneille--was equally happy while she hung enraptured upon
the strains of Pergolese's music, or gazed entranced upon the pictures
of Correggio and the Veronese. The princess herself was both a painter
and musician, and no one, more than she, loved Italy and Italian art.
Such, until this wretched morning, had been the life of young Isabella.
What was she now? A cold, white image, in whose staring eyes the light
was quenched--from whose blanched lips the smile had fled forever!
Her grieved attendants could scarcely suppress their tears, as sadly and
silently they arrayed her in her rich robes; while she, not seeming to
know where she was, gazed at her own reflected image with a look of
stupid horror. They dressed her beautiful hair, and bound it up in massy
braids. They smoothed it over her death-cold forehead, and shuddered to
see how like a corpse she looked. At last the task was at an end, and
the cameriera coming toward her, offered the cup of chocolate which she
was accustomed to drink at that hour. Tenderly she besought the unhappy
girl to partake of it, but Isabella waved away the cup, saying:
"Dear friend, offer me no earthly food. I pine for the banquet of
angels. Let the chaplain be called to bring the viaticum. I wish to
receive the last sacraments of the dying."
A cry of horror burst from the lips of the maids of honor.
"The chaplain! The last sacraments! For you, my beloved child?" asked
the sobbing cameriera.
"For me," replied Isabella.
"Heavenly Father!" exclaimed the aja. "Have you then presumed to
anticipate the will of God, and to go before His presence, uncalled?"
"No, no, death will come to me, I will not seek it. I will endure life
as long as God wills, but, in three days, I shall be called hence."
The young girls crowded around her, weeping, and imploring her not to
Isabella's white lips parted with a strange smile. "You tell me not to
die, dear friends; do you not see that I am already dead? My heart is
The hand of the cameriera was laid upon her arm, and she whispered: "My
child, be silent; you know not what you say."
Isabella bowed her head, and then looking tenderly around at her
kneeling companions, she said: "Rise and sit by me, my dear girls, and
listen to what I am about to say, for we speak together for the last
time on earth. "
The maidens arose, and obeyed, while Isabella leaned her head for a few
moments upon the bosom of her mother's friend, the cameriera. There was
a pause, during which the poor girl seemed to have received some comfort
in those friendly arms; for she finally sighed, and, raising her head
again, she spoke solemnly, but not unnaturally.
"I had last night a singular vision," she said. "The spirit of my mother
appeared to me, and said that in three days I was to die. I believe in
this vision. Do not weep, dear sisters; I go to eternal rest. Life is
bitter, death is sweet. Pray for me, that my mother's prophetic words be
verified; and you, beloved friend of that mother," added she, kissing
the cameriera's cheek, "you who know the depths of my heart, and its
secret, silent agony, pray for your child, and praying, ask of her
The aja made no reply, she was weeping with the others.
Isabella contemplated the group for a moment, while a ray of life lit up
her eyes, showing that, even now, it was sad to part from her friends
forever. But the expression was momentary. Her face returned to its
deadly paleness, as gasping for breath, she stammered:
"Now--now--for--my father! Estrella, go to the apartments of the duke,
and say that I desire an interview with his royal highness."
The young girl returned in a few moments with an answer. His royal
highness had that morning gone some distance in the country on a hunting
excursion, and would be absent for several days.
Isabella looked at the cameriera, who still stood beside her, and her
pale lips quivered. "Did I not know it?" whispered she; "I told you
truly, HE did it! God forgive him, I cannot.--And now," continued she,
aloud, "now to my last earthly affairs."
So saying, she called for her caskets of jewels and divided them between
the young maids of honor; and cutting from her hair one rich, massy
lock, she placed it in Estrella's hand, saying, "Share it among you
To the cameriera she gave a sealed packet, and then bade them leave her
to herself; for the ringing of the chapel bell announced the departure
of the priest thence, with the blessed sacrament.
The sacred rites were ended. On her knees the Princess Isabella had made
her confession, and had revealed to the shuddering priest the horrible
secrets of the preceding night. She had received absolution, and had
partaken of the holy communion.
"Now, my child," said the priest, in a voice tremulous with sympathy,
"you have received the blessing of God, and you are prepared for His
coming. May He be merciful to you, and grant your prayer for release
from this earth! I, too, will pray that your martyrdom be short."
"Amen!" softly murmured Isabella.
"But the ways of the Lord are inscrutable, and it may be that He wills
it otherwise. If, in His incomprehensible wisdom, He should declare that
your days shall be long on this earth, promise me to endure your lot
with resignation, nor seek to hasten what He has deemed it best to
"I promise, holy father."
"Make a vow, then, to the Lord, that by the memory of your mother you
will fulfil every duty that presents itself to you in life, until God
has spoken the word that will call you to Himself."
"I swear, by the memory of my mother, that I will live a life of
resignation and of usefulness until God in His mercy, shall free me from
"Right, dear unhappy child," said the father, smoothing, with his
trembling hands, the soft hair that lay on either side of her forehead.
"May God reward thee, and in His infinite mercy shorten thy sufferings!"
He stooped, and kissing her pale brow, made the sign of the cross above
her kneeling figure. Then, with eyes blinded by tears, he slowly
retreated to his own room, where he threw himself upon his knees and
prayed that God would give strength to them both to bear the cross of
that dreadful secret.
Isabella, too, remained alone. In feverish longing for death, she sat,
neither hearing the voices of her friends who begged for admission, nor
the pleadings of her brother, who besought her to see him and give him
one last embrace. Through the long night that followed, still kneeling,
she prayed. When the sun rose, she murmured, "To-morrow!" and through
the day her fancy wandered to the verge of madness. Sometimes visions of
beckoning angels swarmed around her; then they fled, and in their places
stood a hideous skeleton, that, with ghastly smile, held out his
fleshless hand, and strove to clasp hers.
Again the night set in, and the next morning at break of day, Isabella
rose from her knees, and, hailing the rising sun, cried exultingly,
Exhausted from fasting and such long vigils, her head reeled, and she
staggered to her couch. A cold shudder crept over her limbs; all was
dark as night about her; she tried to clasp her hands in prayer and
could not, for they were numb and powerless. "This is welcome death!"
thought she, and her lips parted with a happy smile. Her head fell
backward on the pillow, and her senses fled.
THE AMBASSADOR EXTRAORDINARY.
The Princess Isabella opened her eyes, and in their dark and lustrous
depths shone returning reason; they glared no more with fever-madness,
but were sadder and sweeter than ever.
She gazed at the forms that surrounded her bedside; at the priest, who,
with folded hands, was praying at her head; at the cameriera, who knelt
beside him; at the young girls, who, gathered in a lovely group at her
feet, smiled and wept by turns as she looked upon them; and lastly, she
felt a kiss upon her hand, and, looking there, she beheld her brother,
who wept with joy.
"Where am I?" asked she, feebly.
"You are with those who love you best, darling," said Fernando,
joyfully. "With us, who have prayed so long, that the good God has heard
and restored you to life."
"I still live, then," said she, sadly. "And how long have I lain here,
The priest advanced, and blessing her, took her by the hand. "For four
weeks, daughter, you have been unconscious of every thing that passed
around you. You see, therefore, that your heavenly Father bids you
"Four weeks?" whispered the poor girl. "Then, in three months we shall
She closed her eyes, and lay silent for a while. At length, the priest,
bending close to her ear, whispered, "Think, daughter, of the vows,
which, by the memory of your mother, you have made to God!"
"I will remember them," murmured she, sadly.
And from this day she mended, until life and strength were restored to
her even as before. She thought of her vow, and made no resistance to
the will of Heaven; but she hoped for death, and awaited her three
Sustained by these hopes, she recovered. But her heart was wounded past
all cure; gone were her smiles and her songs. Quietly, sadly, and
solemnly glided away the new life to which she had been born through
The first day on which she felt able to leave her room, she sent to
crave an audience of her father. She had been told that, during her
delirium, he had often visited her chamber; but, since her
convalescence, he had not sent so much as an inquiry after her health.
He did not, however, deny the interview she sought. He awaited his
daughter, said the messenger, in his own apartments.
The princess shuddered, and a deadly faintness came over her.
"My God! my God! will I ever be able to go through this bitter hour?
Must I, indeed, look upon him who--"
She closed her eyes to shut out the frightful remembrance. Then,
gathering all her strength for the trial, she rose to seek her father,
and make one last request of him.
With her head thrown proudly back, and her dark eyes flashing with
resolve, she entered his cabinet.
The duke was entirely alone. He had dismissed his attendants, and now
stood in the centre of the room, awaiting his daughter in gloomy
silence. His cold, stern features had grown more repulsive than ever to
the unhappy girl; his piercing eyes more revengeful; his thin, pale lips
more cruel. He seemed to her a pitiless stranger, and she could not
advance to meet him. Powerless and faint, she stood at the door; all her
A few moments of anguish went by, and then the duke, extending his hand,
said, in a tone of command, "Come hither, Isabella."
She stepped forward, and almost touched his hand, when, shuddering, her
arm dropped heavily down, and forgetting all caution, she murmured, in
tones of deepest agony, "I cannot! I cannot!"
The duke's eyes shot fire, as he, too, dropped his extended hand, and
deep, angry folds wrinkled his forehead.
"Why have you desired this interview?" asked he.
"I have a request to prefer, my father," replied Isabella.
He bent his head. "Speak," said he.
"I come to entreat of my father the permission to take the veil."
"And wherefore, I should like to know?" said the duke, carelessly.
"That I may dedicate my few remaining days to the service of the Lord."
"Girlish folly!" said he, with a contemptuous laugh, while he paced up
and down the room.
Isabella made no reply, but stood awaiting a more direct answer to her
petition. Suddenly, he came up to her, and spoke:
"I cannot grant your request," said he. "I have other plans for you. The
grandchild of the King of Spain cannot be permitted to die a penitent in
a cloister; if she has atonement to make for crime, let her make it, not
under the serge of the nun, but under the purple of the empress."
"I have no ambition," said Isabella, trembling. "Allow me, I entreat
you, to enter a convent."
"I repeat that I have other plans for you. I, too, have no ambition for
YOU," said the father, coldly, "but I am ambitious for my house, and
through you I shall attain my end. One of the greatest monarchs of
Europe has sought your hand for the heir of her throne, and I have
resolved that you shall become his wife."
"Fate will refuse it to him--Fate, more merciful than my father. I have
but a few weeks to live--before a month has elapsed, I shall be in my
"Go there, if it pleases you," cried the duke, "but die with royal robes
about you. You shall not die a nun."
"No one on earth, my father, has a right to detain me. If your highness
refuse your consent. I will fly to a convent without your permission.
And princely though you be, you shall not drag from the altar the bride
of the Lord."
"Ah, you rebel against my authority!" cried the duke, with a look that
sent a deadly pang to the heart of his daughter. "Know, that I have
power to judge you for such treason, and lay your defiant head upon the
"I do not fear death," replied Isabella; "I await it with impatience."
"Ah! you are possessed with a lovesick desire to die! But hear what I
have to say, and mark it well. I will relate to you an affair that took
place--whilst you were ill. The only son of one of the noblest families
in Parma, the pride of his race, and the idol of his parents, conceived
a plot against my house, whose treason was equal to parricide. I learned
his designs; and with my own eyes and my own ears, I verified his guilt.
He was an archtraitor; he had deserved to die on the scaffold. But I had
pity on his family, and spared them the disgrace of a public execution.
I took his life secretly, and his parents are spared the shame of
knowing how he died. Shall I tell you the name of this dead traitor?"
Isabella raised her hand, and parting her blanched lips, she said
hoarsely, "No no! in mercy, no!"
"Very well, then I proceed. This traitor, whom I judged, and to whom I
deat his death-stab, had an accomplice. Do you listen?"
Like a broken lily, Isabella's head sank down upon her breast.
"Ah! you listen. The accomplice is placed in a position which makes it
inexpedient for me to punish her in her own person. But should she
thwart me, should she not fully and cheerfully comply with my demands
upon her loyalty, I will see that she suffers more than death in the
family of her accomplice. I shall publish the guilt of the dead criminal
to the whole world; I will disgrace and dishonor his whole race, and his
young sister, with her parents, shall be driven penniless from my
realms, to beg or starve in a stranger land."
"Father!" cried the wretched girl, while her every limb quivered with
the torture he inflicted, "I am ready to do your will. I will marry whom
you choose, and so long as God condemns me to earth, I will obey you in
all things. But you shall promise me on your princely honor to shield
from all shame or harm the family of--of--the deceased; to befriend his
sister, and if she should ever wish to marry, to honor and favor her
choice. Promise me this, and as long as I live I submit to your will."
"I promise, on my honor, to do all this, and to forget for their sakes
the crime of their son."
"I promise also, on my sacred honor, to accept the husband you have
chosen for me. But I will not suffer long, for my life is almost spent."
The duke shrugged his shoulders.
"Your highness," continued his daughter, "will inform me on what day I
am to be affianced. I await your commands, and beg your highness's
permission to withdraw to my apartments."
"Have you nothing more to say to your father, Isabella?" asked he in a
"Nothing more to say to your royal highness." She courtesied deeply,
and, without a glance at her father, left the room.
The duke looked after her with an expression of sorrow. "I have lost her
forever!" said he. "When I struck him, I pierced her heart also. Well,
so let it be! Better a dead child than a dishonored house!"
He then rang a little golden bell, and ordered preparations to be made
for another grand hunt on the morrow.
Isabella accepted her destiny nobly. She resolved to fulfil her promises
strictly; but she hoped that God would be satisfied with the sacrifice,
and release her before the day of her nuptials.
Finally came the day on which, for the third time, she had hoped to die.
She felt a solemn joy steal over her heart, and she desired her maids of
honor to deck her in bridal white. Her dark hair was wreathed with
orange-blossoms, and in her bosom she wore an orange-bud. She was lovely
beyond expression, and her attendants whispered among themselves, though
Isabella neither saw nor heard them. She who awaited death took no heed
of what was going on around her in the palace.
And yet her stake in that palace was great. On the day before the
embassy had arrived, which was to change her fate, and open to her a new
life at the court of the Austrian empress.
The duke had received his guests with royal courtesy. But he had
besought the count to postpone his interview with the princess until the
morrow; for with cruel mockery of his child's sorrow, Philip of Parma
had contrived that the day on which she had hoped to meet her dead
lover, should be the day of her betrothal to the Archduke of Austria.
Isabella was the only person in the palace who had not heard of the
arrival. She had withdrawn into her private cabinet, and there she
counted every pulsation of her heart. She dared not hope to die a
natural death; she was looking forward to some accident that was to
release her from life; something direct from the hand of God she thought
would, on that day, make good the prophecy of her lover.
She hoped, watched, prayed. She was startled from her solitude by a
knocking at the door, and her father's voice called for admission.
The princess, obedient to her promise, rose and opened the door. Her
father surveyed her with a smile of derision. "You have done well," said
he, "to deck yourself as a bride; not as the bride of Death, but as the
affianced wife of the LIVING lover who will one day make you empress of
Austria. His ambassador awaits us now in the great hall of state. Follow
me into the next room, where your maids of honor are assembled to attend
you. Mark me, Isabella! When we arrive in the hall, the ambassador will
advance, and in terms befitting the honor conferred, he will request
your acceptance of the archduke's hand. I leave it to your tact and
discretion to answer him as becomes the princess of a great and royal
"And will your highness perform your promise to ME?" asked Isabella
calmly. "Shall his parents live secure in possession of their noble name
and estates; and shall his sister be the special object of your
highness's protection and favor?"
"I will do all this, provided you give me satisfaction as relates to
Isabella bowed. "Then I am ready to accompany your royal highness to the
hall of state, and to accept with courtesy the offer of the Austrian
Forth went the beautiful martyr and her train through the gorgeous
apartments of the palace, until they reached the hall of the throne.
In the centre of the hall the duke left his daughter and her attendants,
while he mounted the throne and took his seat upon the ducal chair.
And now advanced Count Bathiany. With all the fervor which her matchless
beauty inspired, he begged of the princess her fair hand for his future
sovereign the Archduke of Austria. As the count ceased, every eye turned
toward the infanta. She had listened with calm dignity to the words of
the ambassador, and her large, melancholy eyes had been riveted upon his
face while he delivered his errand. There was a pause--a few moments
were needed by that broken heart to hush its moanings, and bare itself
for the sacrifice. The brow of the duke darkened, and he was about to
interpose, when he saw his daughter bow her head. Then she spoke, and
every one bent forward to listen to the silvery tones of her voice.
"I feel deeply honored," said she, "by the preference of her imperial
majesty of Austria; an alliance with her eldest son is above my deserts;
but since it is their desire, I accept the great honor conferred upon
me. I regret, however, that their majesties should have directed their
choice toward me; for I am convinced that I shall not live long enough
to fulfil the destiny to which this marriage calls me." [Footnote: The
infanta's own words; as veritably historical as is this whole relation
of her death-prophecy and its unhappy fulfilment. See Wraxall, "Memoirs
of the Courts," etc., and Caroline Pichler.]
When at last the ceremonies of this day of agony were ended; when the
infanta had dismissed her ladies of honor, and was once more
alone--alone with God and with the past, she threw herself upon her
couch, and, with her hands meekly folded across her breast, she lay,
looking up, far beyond the palace dome to heaven.
There she prayed until midnight, and when the clock had told the hour,
she arose to the new life that awaited her, with its new promises, new
expectations, new ties--but no new hopes.
"Heavenly Father," exclaimed she, "it has begun, and I will bear it to
the bitter end! I am now the betrothed, and soon will be the wife of
another. If I have sinned in my consent to marry one whom I can never
love, pardon me, O Lord! and hear me vow that I will faithfully fulfil
my duty toward him. I am the affianced of another! Farewell, my beloved,
farewell, FOR THREE LONG YEARS!"