Part 5 out of 22
listen to Kaunitz the great. I not only allow, but order you to continue
your intrigue with Count Palffy. Take every thing he offers; wring his
purse dry; and the sooner you ruin him the better."
"That means that I importune you with my love. Farewell, prince, and may
you never repent of your cruelty to poor Olympia."
"Stay," said Kaunitz, coolly. "I have not done with you. Continue your
amours with the Hungarian, and love him as much as you choose,
"Provided?" echoed the singer anxiously, as Kaunitz paused.
"Provided you affect before the world to be still my mistress."
"Oh, my beloved prince," cried Foliazzi, "you will not cast me off!" and
in spite of his disinclination she folded Kaunitz to her heart.
The prince struggled to get free. "You have disarranged my whole dress,"
said he, peevishly. "On account of your folly I shall have to make my
toilet again. Hear me, and let me alone. I said that you would AFFECT to
be my mistress. To this end you will drive as usual to the side-door by
which you have been accustomed to enter the palace, and while your
carriage stands there for one hour, you shall be treated to a costly
breakfast in my little boudoir every morning."
"By your side, my own prince?"
"By yourself, my own Olympia. I have not time to devote an hour to you
every day. Your carriage shall stand at my door in the morning. Every
evening mine will be for an hour before yours, and while it remains
there I forbid you to be at home to any one whatsoever."
"I shall think of nothing but you until that hour," said the signora,
"Vraiment, you are very presuming to suppose that I shall trouble myself
to come in the carriage," replied Kaunitz, contemptuously. "It is enough
that the coach being there, the world will suppose that I am there also.
A man of fashion must have the name of possessing a mistress; but a
statesman cannot waste his valuable time on women. You are my mistress,
ostensibly, and therefore I give you a year's salary of four thousand
"You are an angel--a god!" cried La Foliazzi, this time with genuine
rapture. "You come upon one like Jupiter, in a shower of gold."
"Yes, but I have no wish to fall into the embraces of my Danae. Now,
hear my last words. If you ever dare let it transpire that you are not
really my mistress, I shall punish you severely. I will not only stop
your salary, but I will cite you before the committee of morals, and you
shall be forced into a marriage with somebody."
The singer shuddered and drew back. "Let me go at once into my boudoir.
Is my breakfast ready?"
"No--your morning visits there begin to-morrow. Now go home to Count
Palffy, and do not forget our contract."
"I shall not forget it, prince," replied the signora, smiling. "I await
your coach this evening. You may kiss me if you choose."
She bent her head to his and held out her delicate cheek, fresh as a
"Simpleton," said he, slightly tapping her beautiful mouth, "do you
suppose that the great Kaunitz would kiss any lips but those which, like
the sensitive mimosa, shrink from the touch of man Go away. Count Palffy
will feel honored to reap the kisses I have left."
He gave her his hand, and looked after her, as with light and graceful
carriage she left the room.
"She is surpassingly beautiful," said Kaunitz to himself. "Every one
envies me; but each one thinks it quite a matter of course that the
loveliest woman in Vienna should be glad to be my mistress. Ah! two
o'clock. My guests await me. But before I go I must bring down the
Countess Clary from the airy heaven which she has built for herself."
He rang, and a page appeared; for from the time he became a prince,
Kaunitz introduced four pages in his household, and kept open table
daily for twelve persons.
"Tell the Countess Clary," said he, "that in a few moments I will
conduct her to the dining-room. Then await me in my puderkammer."
PRINCE KAUNITZ AND RITTER GLUCK.
Prince Kaunitz had finished his promenade in the powder-room, and having
ascertained by means of his mirror that his peruke was in order, he
betook himself to the apartments of the Countess Clary, to conduct her
The young countess, Kaunitz's niece, and a widow scarcely thirty years
of age, flew to greet her uncle, radiant with smiles and happiness.
"What an unexpected honor you confer upon me, my dear uncle!" said she,
with her sweet low voice. "Coming yourself to conduct me to the table!
How I thank you for preparing me a triumph which every woman in Vienna
will envy me."
"I came with no intention whatever of preparing you a triumph or a
pleasure. I came solely because I wish to have a few words with you
before we go to dinner."
"I am all ears, your highness," said the countess, smiling.
Kaunitz looked at his young and lovely niece with uncommon scrutiny.
"You have been crying," said he, after a pause.
"No, indeed," said she, blushing.
"Do you suppose that you can deceive me? I repeat it, you have been
crying. Will you presume to contradict me?"
"No, dear uncle, I will not."
"And wherefore? No prevarication; I must know."
The young countess raised her soft blue eyes to the face of the haughty
prince. "I will tell the truth," said she, again blushing. "I was crying
because La Foliazzi was so long with you to-day."
"Jealous, too!" said Kaunitz, with a sneer. "And pray, who ever gave
you the right of being jealous of me?"
The countess said nothing, but her eyes filled with tears.
"Allow me to discuss this matter with you. I came for this purpose. Our
relations must be distinctly understood if they are to last. You must
have the goodness to remember their origin. When you were left a widow
you turned to me, as your nearest relative, for assistance. You were
unprotected, and your husband had left you nothing. I gave you my
protection, not because I was in any way pleased with you, but because
you were my sister's child. I invited you hither to do the honors of my
house, to give orders to the cooks and steward, to overlook my household
arrangements, and to receive my guests in a manner worthy of their host.
To insure you the appearance and consideration due to you as my niece
and as the lady of my house, I gave you a remuneration of two thousand
guilders a year. Were not these my terms?"
"Yes, your highness, they were. They filled me with gratitude and joy;
and never will I forget your kindness."
"It seems, however, that you do forget it," replied the heartless uncle.
"How does it happen that you take the liberty of being unhappy because
La Foliazzi is in my room! What business is it of yours, whom I receive
or entertain? Have I ever given you the slightest hope that from my
niece I would ever raise you to the eminence of being my wife?"
"Never, never, dear uncle," said the countess, scarlet with shame. "You
have never been otherwise to me than my generous benefactor."
"Then oblige me by silencing the absurd rumors that may have led you
into the delusion of supposing that I intended to make of you a
princess. I wish you to know that I have no idea of marrying again; and
if ever I should form another matrimonial alliance, it will either be
with an imperial or a royal princes. Will you be so good as to remember
this and to act accordingly?"
"Certainly," replied the countess, her eyes filling with tears. "I
assure your highness that I have never been so presuming as to regard
you otherwise than as my kinsman and guardian. My feelings of admiration
for you are indeed enthusiastic; but I have never felt any thing toward
you but the attachment of a daughter."
"Pray do not trouble yourself to feel any thing at all on my account,"
said Kaunitz, ill-humoredly. "I am not under the necessity of playing
the part of a tender father toward you; therefore, dry up the tears you
took the trouble to shed on La Foliazzi's account. But enough of this
folly. I hope that we understand each other, and that I will not have to
repeat this conversation. Be so good as to take my arm. We will go
forward to meet our guests."
The young countess took the arm of the prince, and they entered the
drawing-room. The guests had long been assembled there, but it never
occurred to Kaunitz to make any apology for his late appearance.
Nevertheless, his guests were all noble; some of them representatives of
princely houses or powerful kingdoms. Kaunitz, however, was not only the
all-powerful minister of Maria Theresa; it was well known that his
slender, diamond-studded fingers directed the policy of all Europe. No
one in that room had the courage to resent his rudeness. All seemed to
feel honored as he walked haughtily forward with a slight inclination of
his head to the many, and a condescending smile to the few whom it
pleased him to distinguish by his notice. [Footnote: Wraxall, "Memoirs,"
vol. i., page 380.]
Prince Kaunitz did not choose to perceive that several distinguished
ambassadors, as well as a German prince, himself a reigning sovereign,
were present as his guests. He passed them all by to accost a small,
graceful man who, seated in a recess, had received no further attention
from the high-born company than a condescending nod. Kaunitz gave him
his hand, and welcomed him audibly. The honored guest was Noverre, the
inventor of the ballet as it is performed to-day on the stage. Noverre
blushed with pleasure at the reception given him, while the other guests
scarcely concealed their chagrin.
Just then the folding-doors were thrown wide open, and the steward
announced in a loud voice that the table of his lord the prince was
served. The company arose, and the ladies looked to see which of them
was to have the honor of being conducted to the table by the host.
Kaunitz feigned neither to see nor to hear. He continued his
conversation with Noverre, and when he had quite done, he sauntered
carelessly up to his other guests. Suddenly he paused, and his eyes
wandered from one to another with a searching glance.
"Good Heaven!" exclaimed he, "of what a rudeness we were about to be
guilty. I had invited Ritter Gluck to meet us to-day, and he has not yet
arrived. It shall not be said of me that I was ever wanting in respect
to genius as transcendent as his. I must beg of my distinguished guests
to await his arrival before going to dinner." [Footnote: Swinburne, vol.
I., page 80.]
Hereupon he resumed his conversation with Noverre. The other guests
were indignant, for they all felt the insult. The nobles disapproved of
the fashion, which had been introduced by Kaunitz, of mingling artists
and savans of no birth with the aristocracy of Vienna; and the
ambassadors felt it as a personal injury that Kaunitz, who yesterday had
refused to wait for them, to-day called upon them to wait for a
Kaunitz pretended not to see the displeasure which, nevertheless, his
guests were at no great pains to conceal, and he went on talking in an
animated strain with Noverre. The poor dancer, meanwhile, gave short and
embarrassed answers. He had remarked the discontent of the company, and
the prince's over-politeness oppressed him, the more so as he perceived
one of the lords gradually approaching with the intention of addressing
the prince. With the deepest respect the dancer attempted to withdraw,
but the merciless Kaunitz caught him by one of the buttons of his velvet
coat, and held him fast.
"Do not stir," said the prince. "I see the duke quite as well as you do,
but he is a liar and a braggart--I dislike him, and he shall not speak
with me. Tell me something about the new ballet that you are arranging
for the emperor's festival. I hear that Gluck has composed the music.
But hush! Here comes the maestro."
Kaunitz walked rapidly forward and met Gluck in the middle of the room.
They greeted one another cordially, but proudly--as two princes might
have done. Around them stood the other guests, frowning to see these two
men, both so proud, so conscious of greatness, scarcely seeming aware
that others besides themselves were present. Gluck was in full
court-dress; at his side a sword; on his breast the brilliant order of
the pope. With unembarrassed courtesy he received the greeting of the
prince, and made no apology for his tardy appearance.
"Thank Heaven, you have come at last!" exclaimed Kaunitz, in an audible
voice. "I was afraid that the gods, angels, and spirits who are the
daily associates of the great maestro would deprive us poor mortals of
the honor of dining with the favorite of the Muses and the Graces."
"The gods, the Muses, and the Graces are the associates of Prince
Kaunitz," returned Gluck. "If they are not to be found in their temples,
we may be sure that they have taken refuge here."
Kaunitz, who never vouchsafed a civil word in return for compliments,
bowed his head, and with a gratified smile turned to his assembled
"Ladies and gentlemen," said he, "let us sit down to dinner."
But the company waited for the signal to rise which would be given when
the host offered his arm to the lady whom he complimented by taking her
in to dinner.
The prince looked around, and his eyes rested again on Gluck.
"I beg of the Ritter Gluck," said he, graciously, "the honor of
conducting him to the table." And with a courteous bow he offered his
arm. "Favorite of the Muses, come with me. I am too true a worshipper of
your nine lovely mistresses, to resign you to any one else."
Gluck, with a smile appreciative of the honor conferred upon him, took
the arm of the prince, and was led into the dining-room.
Behind them came the other guests. All wore discontented faces; for this
time the slight had been offered not only to dukes and ambassadors, but
to the ladies themselves, who could not help feeling bitterly this utter
disregard of all etiquette and good-breeding.
On the day after the dinner Kaunitz started for Innspruck to superintend
the festivities preparing for the marriage of the Archduke Leopold.
Count Durazzo, the director of the theatre, had preceded the prince by a
week. Noverre, with his ballet-dancers, was to follow. The great opera
of "Orpheus and Eurydice," whose fame was now European was being
rehearsed at Innspruck, for representation on the first night of the
Although Florian Gassman was a leader of acknowledged skill, Gluck, at
the request of the emperor, had gone to Innspruck to direct and oversee
The furies had just concluded their chorus, and Gluck had given the
signal for dismissal, when Prince Kaunitz entered the theatre, and came
forward, offering his hand to the maestro.
"Well, maestro," said be, "are you satisfied with your artistes? Are we
to have a great musical treat to-morrow?"
Gluck shrugged his shoulders. "My singers are not the angels who taught
me this music, but for mortals they sing well. I scarcely think that
Donna Maria Louisa has ever heard any thing comparable to the music
which is to welcome her to Innspruck."
"I am glad to hear it," said Kaunitz, with his usual composure, although
he was inwardly annoyed at Gluck's complacency. "But as I promised the
empress to see and hear every thing myself, I must hear and judge of
your opera also. Be so good as to have it repeated."
Gluck looked at the prince in amazement.
"What," cried he, "your highness wishes them to go through the whole
opera without an audience?"
Prince Kaunitz raised his lofty head in displeasure, and said: "Ritter
Gluck, quality has always been esteemed before quantity. I alone am an
audience. Let the opera begin, the audience is here." [Footnote: The
prince's own words. Swinburne, vol. 1, page 302.]
Gluck did not answer immediately. He frowned and looked down. Suddenly
he raised his head, and his face wore its usual expression of energy and
"I will gratify your highness. I myself would like to hear the opera
without participating in it. Ladies and gentlemen of the coulisses, be
so kind as to return! Gentlemen of the orchestra, resume your
instruments! Gassman, have the goodness to lead. Do your best. Let us
have your highest interpretation of art--for you have an audience such
as you may never have again. Prince Kaunitz and Ritter Gluck are your
AN UNFORTUNATE MEETING.
Festival followed festival. The streets of the beautiful capital of
Tyrol were gay with the multitudes who thronged to the marriage of the
empress's second son.
It was the second day after the wedding. On the first evening the opera
of "Orpheus and Eurydice" had been triumphantly represented before the
elite of the city. A second representation had been called for by the
delighted audience, although at the imperial palace a magnificent mask
ball was to be given, for which two thousand invitations had been
issued. It was a splendid confusion of lights, jewels, velvet, satins,
and flowers. All the nations of the world had met in that imperial
ballroom; not only mortals, but fairies, sylphides, and heathen gods and
goddesses. It was a bewildering scene, that crowd of fantastic
revellers, whose faces were every one hidden by velvet masks, through
which dark eyes glittered, like stars upon the blackness of the night.
The imperial family alone appeared without masks. Maria Theresa, in a
dress of blue velvet, studded with golden embroidery, her fair white
forehead encircled by a coronet of diamonds and sapphires, walked
among her guests with enchanting smiles and gracious words. She leaned
upon the arm of the King of Rome, who, looking more cheerful than usual,
chatted gayly with his mother or with the crowd around them. Near them
were the Grand Duke Leopold and his bride, so absorbed in one another
that it was easy to see that they at least were happy in their
affections. Behind them flocked the young archduchesses, who were
enjoying the ball to the utmost. Whenever the empress approached a group
of her guests, they stood in respectful silence while she and her
handsome family passed by: but as soon as she had left them, their
admiration burst forth in every imaginable form of words. The empress,
who overheard these murmured plaudits, smiled proudly upon her young
daughters, who, even if they had been no archduchesses, would still have
been the handsomest girls in Austria.
While the empress, in the full splendor of her rank and beauty, was
representing the sovereign of Austria, the emperor, mingling with the
guests, was taking the liberty of amusing himself as ordinary mortals
love to do at a masked ball. On his arm hung a mask of most graceful
figure, but so completely was she disguised that nothing could be
ascertained with regard to her name or rank. Some whispered that it was
the emperor's new favorite, the Countess of Auersberg.
As the pair went by, the emperor overheard the conjectures of the crowd,
and he turned with a smile to the lady who accompanied him.
"Do not fear," said he; "there is no danger of your being recognized.
You are mistaken for another lady. I promised you that you should meet
Joseph here, and I will keep my promise. Let us try to make our way
through the crowd, that we may join him as soon as possible; for I feel
oppressed this evening, I know not why."
"Oh, then, your majesty, let me go back into the anteroom," said the
veiled lady. "I begin to feel all the rashness of my undertaking, and
although it has the sanction of your majesty and the empress, I feel
like a criminal, every moment dreading discovery. Let us go back."
"No, no," replied the emperor, "let us remain until the interview with
Joseph is over. I shall feel no better in the anteroom than here. I
never shall be well until I leave this beautiful, fearful Tyrol. Its
mountains weigh heavily upon my head and my breast. But let us sit down
awhile. I love to listen to the people's talk, when the court is not
"But while your majesty is present the court is here," said the lady.
"Not so, my dear," whispered the emperor; "the empress and my children
are the court, I am but a private nobleman. Ah, there they come! See how
beautiful and stately the empress looks! Who would suppose that this
grown-up family were her children!--But she, she signs us to approach.
Take courage, and await me here."
So saying, the emperor hastened toward his wife, who received him with a
loving smile of welcome.
"Now, my son," said she, withdrawing her arm from Joseph, "I give you
your freedom. I advise you to mix among the masks, and to go in search
of adventures. We have done enough for ceremony, I think we may now
enjoy ourselves a little like the rest of mankind. If we were younger,
Franzel, we, too, would mix with yonder crowd, and dance awhile. But I
suppose we must leave that to our children, and betake ourselves to the
card-table or to the opera-house."
"If your majesty leaves me the choice," said the emperor, "I vote for
The empress took his arm, while she turned to the Countess Lerchenfeld,
the governess of the archduchesses. "To the dancing-room, countess,"
said she; "the archduchesses may dance, but no masks must enter the
room. Now, my dear husband, follow me. Adieu, Joseph! To-morrow I expect
to hear what fortune has befallen you to-night."
"Your majesty forgets that Fortune is a woman," returned Joseph,
smiling, "and you know that I have no luck with women."
"Or you will not have it," said the empress, laughing, and leaving her
son to his thoughts.
"Or you will not have it," repeated a soft voice near, and Joseph,
turning, saw an elegant-looking woman, veiled and masked.
"Fair mask," said he, smiling, "although you have the qualities of Echo,
you have not yet pined away to invisibility."
"Perhaps, sire, my body is only the coffin of my heart, and my heart the
unfortunate Echo that has grieved herself to death and invisibility. But
perhaps your majesty does not believe in the power of grief, for
doubtless you are unacquainted with its pangs."
"And why should you imagine that I am unacquainted with grief?" asked
"Because your majesty's station is exalted above that of other men;
because God has blessed you with a noble heart, that is worthy of your
destiny--the destiny which gives you the power of making other mortals
"How do you know all this?"
"I see it," whispered she, "in your eyes--those eyes that reflect the
blue of heaven. Oh, sire, may never a cloud darken that heaven!"
"I thank you for your pious wish," replied the king sadly, "but if you
are mortal, you know that in this world there are no such things as
cloudless skies. Let us not speak of such serious matters; give me your
arm, and let us join in the mirth that is around us."
"If your majesty will permit me, I will while away the hour by relating
to you a sad story of life."
"Why a sad story, why not a merry one?"
"Because I came here for no other object than to relate this sad story
to yourself. I came to crave your majesty's sympathy and clemency in
behalf of a suffering fellow-creature."
"Can I do any thing in the matter?" asked the king.
"From your majesty alone do I hope for succor."
"Very well; if so, let me hear the story. I will listen."
"Sire, my mournful history will ill accord with the merriment of a
ballroom. If you will condescend to go with me to one of the boxes in
the gallery, I will there confide my secret to your ear, and there I
hope to soften your heart. Oh, sire, do not tarry; it is a case of life
"Well," said Joseph, after a pause, "I will go. After all, I am about to
have an adventure."
The mask bowed, and made her way through the crowd to a side-door which
opened upon the private staircase leading to the boxes. Joseph looked
with interest at the light and elegant form that preceded him, and said
to himself, "Truly an adventure! I will follow it to the end."
They were now in the galleries, from whence a beautiful view of the
ballroom was obtained. The lady entered a box, the king followed. The
sound of the music, and the gay voices of the dancers, came with
softened murmur to the ears of the king. He thought of the past, but
rousing himself to the exigencies of the present, he turned to the lady
and said: "Now, fair mask, to your narrative."
"Swear first to bear me to the end! Swear it by the memory of Isabella,
whom you so passionately loved!"
"Isabella!" cried Joseph, turning pale. "You are very bold, madame, to
call that name, and call it here! But speak. By her loved memory I will
She took his hand, and pressed it to her lips. Then she begged the king
to be seated, and took her place by his side.
"Sire, I wish to relate to you the history of a woman whom God has
either blessed or cursed; a woman who, if she were not most unfortunate,
would be the happiest of mortals."
"You speak as the Sphinx did before the gates of Thebes. How can one be
at the same time blessed and cursed?"
"Sire, it is a blessing to be capable of loving with passion; it is a
curse to love, and not be loved in return."
"And a greater curse," murmured Joseph, "to feign love and not to feel
it. I have been a victim of such hypocrisy, and never shall I outlive
its bitter memories."
"Sire," began the lady, "the woman of whom I speak would willingly give
a year of her life if the man she loves would but vouchsafe to her
thirsting heart one single glance of love. Think how wretched she must
be, when even the appearance of love would satisfy her. But do not
suppose, sire, that this woman is the victim of a guilty passion which
she dare not own. She is a wife, and the man she adores, and who loves
her not, is her husband."
"Why does he not love her?" asked Joseph quickly.
"Because," said the mask, in an agitated voice, "because she has sinned
against him. On the day of her marriage, although he nobly invited her
confidence, she hid from him a--a--malady. Oh, in mercy, do not go! You
MUST hear me" cried she; almost frenzied, "you swore by the memory of
Isabella to listen."
Joseph resumed his seat, and said roughly, "Go on, then."
"It was a crime," continued she in a voice of deepest emotion, "but she
has paid dearly for her sin. Her husband repulsed her, but her heart was
still his; he despised her, and yet she adores him. Her malady has long
since disappeared; her heart alone is sick; that heart which will break
if her lord refuse to forgive her the offence that was born of her love
for him! But oh, sire, he has no pity. When she meets him with imploring
looks, he turns away; her letters he sends to her unopened. Oh, he is
severe in his wrath; it is like vengeance from Heaven! But still she
loves, and still she hopes that one day he will be generous, and forgive
her another crime--that of not being blessed with beauty. For months she
has longed to tell him that she repents of her faults, that her
punishment is just; but, oh! oh! she begs for mercy. She was forbidden
to follow him to Innspruck, but she could not stay behind. His parents
gave their consent, and she is here at your knees, my lord and king, to
plead for mercy. Oh! has there not been enough of cruelty? See me
humbled at your feet; reach me your beloved hand, and bid me sit by your
She had sunk to the ground, and now tearing from her face the mask and
veil, the King of Rome beheld the death-like countenance of his despised
Joseph rose from his seat and looked at her with inexorable hate.
"Madame," said he, "thanks to the name which you used to force me into
compliance, I have heard you out. I married you without affection, and
you had been my wife but a few short hours when you turned my
indifference into undying hate. You come and whine to me for my love;
and you inform me that you are love sick on my account. If so, I dare
say that Van Swieten, who cured you of leprosy, can also cure you of
your unfortunate attachment. If you never knew it before, allow me to
inform you that YOUR love gives you no claim to MINE; and when a woman
has the indelicacy to thrust herself upon a man who has never sought
her, she must expect to be despised and humbled to the dust. And now,
madame, as I still have the misfortune to be your husband, listen to my
commands. You came here in spite of my prohibition; as you pass in the
world for my wife, you shall at least be obedient to my will. Go back
this night to Vienna, and never again presume to entrap me into another
interview like this!"
Without vouchsafing a look at the fainting woman who lay at his feet,
Joseph left the box, and descended to the ballroom. But what wail was
that, which, coming from the imperial banqueting-hall, hushed every
sound of music and mirth, and drove the gay multitude in terror from the
The King of Rome was hastily making his way through the terrified crowd,
when he was met by one of his own officers.
"I have been seeking your majesty," said he in a trembling voice. "The
"In Heaven's name, what of the emperor?"
"He is very ill, your majesty. On leaving the theatre, he was struck
down by apoplexy."
The king made no reply. He dashed on from room to room until he reached
his father's sleeping-apartment.
And there on the bed, that white, motionless body; that cold, insensible
piece of clay; that marble image without breath--was all that earth now
held of the Emperor Francis of Lorraine. He was dead, and his wish had
been granted. He had gone forever from the "beautiful, fearful Tyrol;"
and its mountains lay no longer heavily on his breast.
The sound of rejoicings was hushed. The people of Innspruck had hastened
to remove from the streets every symbol of festivity. The flowers and
flags, the triumphal arches, and the wreathed arcades had disappeared.
The epithalamium had been followed by the dirge.
Night had set in--the first night of the emperor's death. The corpse
still lay on the bed where its last breath had been drawn, and no one
was with the deceased sovereign except two night-watchers, whose drowsy
heads were buried in the arm-chairs wherein they sat. Death had banished
ceremony. In the presence of their dead emperor, his attendants were
seated and slept. In the centre of the room stood the coffin that
awaited the imperial remains; for on the morrow the funeral ceremonies
were to begin. But the empress had ordered that on this night all
ceremony should be suspended.
Deep silence reigned throughout Innspruck. The citizens, worn out with
the excitement of the day, had all retired to rest. Even the children of
the deceased had forgotten their sorrow in sleep. Maria Theresa alone
sought no rest.
All that day she had been overwhelmed by grief; even prayer seemed to
bring no relief to her heart. But now she was tranquil, she had thrust
back her tears; and the empress-widow, all etiquette forgetting, was
making her husband's shroud.
As a woman, she grieved for the partner of her joys and sorrows; as a
woman, she wished to pay the last sad honors to the only man whom she
had ever loved. She whose hands were accustomed to the sceptre, now held
a needle, and to all offers of assistance she made but one reply.
"None of you are worthy to help me in this holy work, for none of you
loved him. For you, he was the beneficent and honored sovereign, but for
me, he was the joy, the light, the air of my life. I, who loved him,
have alone the right to work upon his shroud."
"Oh, your majesty," cried the Countess Dann, while her eyes filled with
sympathizing tears, "would that the world could see with what devotion
the great Maria Theresa sits in the stillness of the night, and with her
own hands prepares her husband's shroud!"
The empress quickly raised her head, and, with something like her
accustomed imperiousness, said: "I forbid any one of you to speak of
what you have seen to-night. In the simplicity of my grief, I do what my
heart urges me to do; but let not my sorrow become the subject of the
world's idle gossip. When the husband dies his wife, be she empress or
beggar, is nothing but a sorrowing widow. Ah! I am indeed beggared of
all my wealth, for I have lost the dearest treasure I possessed on
earth. All my joys will die with him."
The empress's sobs choked her utterance; and burying her face in the
shroud, she wept aloud.
"In the name of Heaven, your majesty, do not let your tears fall upon
the shroud!" cried the Countess Dann, while she tried with gentle force
to wrest the cloth from the empress's hands. "I have heard it said that
what is laid in the coffin bedewed with tears, draws after it to the
grave the one who sheds them."
"Would it were true!" exclaimed the empress, who had already resumed her
work. "Would that my Francis could open his arms to receive me, that I
might rest by his side from the cares of life! Would that I were with
him, who was my lover from earliest childhood; for cold and cheerless
will be the life that is no longer lit up by his smile."
She bent over her work, and nothing further was said; but her ladies of
honor gazed with tearful eyes upon the high-born mourner, who, in her
long, black dress, was making a shroud for her lost husband.
At last the task was completed, and she rose from her seat. With a sad
smile she threw the shroud over her head, and it fell around her
majestic form like a white veil.
"My veil of eternal widowhood!" said she. "Let me warm it with my love,
that it may not lie too cold upon my darling's breast. Now, my friends,
go and rest. Pray for the emperor, and for his heart-broken wife."
"Surely," said the Countess Daun, "your majesty will not send us away
until we have attended to your wants. Let us remain; we will watch by
"No, countess, I will dispense with your services to-night. Charlote von
Hieronymus will stay with me."
Turning to her beloved little tire-woman she said: "I want your
attendance yet awhile, Charlotte; you are to dress my hair to-night as
becomes a widow. Good-night, ladies."
The ladies of honor, with deep courtesies, left the room. As the door
closed behind them, she said to Charlotte: "Now, Charlotte, dear child,
you shall go with me on my last visit to the emperor. Take a pair of
scissors, and come."
"Scissors, your majesty?" said Charlotte.
"Yes, my dear," replied she, as she advanced to her work-table from
whence she took up a silver candelabrum, and signed to Charlotte to
Wrapping the shroud close about her, the empress went forward through
the long suite of magnificent but dark and empty rooms, that lay between
her and her husband. Her tall white figure, enveloped in the shroud,
looked in the gloom of night like a ghost. The light which she carried,
as it flashed across her face gave it a weird aspect; and as the two
wanderers went flitting by the large mirrors that here and there
ornamented the rooms, they looked like a vision which had started up for
a moment, then vanished into utter darkness.
At last they came to a door which stood ajar, through which a light was
"We are here," said the empress, leaning against the door for support.
"Step lightly, Charlotte, and make no noise, for the emperor sleeps."
There on the bed, with its yellow, sunken face, was the corpse that had
been her husband--the only man she had ever loved. And that hideous
black coffin, which looked all the gloomier for the wax-lights that
burned around it, was his last resting-place.
Maria Theresa shuddered when she saw all this; but her strong will came
to her help, and she went steadily forward until she reached the
night-watchers. She awoke them and said, "Go, wait in the next room
until I call you." Charlotte was already on her knees, praying.
The empress stood once more irresolute, then rushing forward with a cry
she leaned over the body.
Presently she laid her hand lovingly upon the staring eyes of the
corpse, and looked long and tenderly at the face.
"Shut your eyes, my Franz," said she softly, "shut your eyes, for never
have they looked so coldly upon me before. Do not forget me in heaven,
my beloved; but leave your heart with me; mine has been with you for so
many years! First I loved you as a child--then as a maiden--and lastly,
I loved you as a wife and the mother of your children. And I will ever
love you, my own one. I was true as your wife, and I will be true as
your widow. Farewell, my beloved, farewell!"
She bent over and kissed the emperor's mouth, and for a moment laid her
head upon his cold, still bosom. Then again she drew her hand softly
across his eyes, and tried to close them. A proud smile flitted over her
wan face, for the eyes of the corpse closed. The loving hand of the wife
had prevailed where every other effort had failed. True to her wishes in
death as in life, the dead emperor had shut his eyes to earth forever.
"Come, Charlotte, come," cried the empress, almost joyfully, "see how my
emperor loves me! He hears me still, and has granted my last request. I
will mourn no more, but will think of the day when I shall go to him
again and share his home in heaven. Until then, my Franz, farewell!"
She bent her head, and taking the shroud from her shoulders, she spread
it carefully over the coffin, smoothing every wrinkle with her hands,
until it lay as perfect as the covering of a couch.
"Call the valets, Charlotte," said she; and as they entered the room,
she motioned them to advance. "Help me to lay the emperor on yonder
bed," said she. "Take the feet and body, and I will bear his head."
With her strong arms, she raised him as a mother would move her sleeping
child, and, with the help of the valets, she laid her husband in his
coffin. This done, she again sent away the attendants, and then wrapped
the body in the shroud as though she had been protecting it from the
"Come hither, Charlotte," said she, "with your scissors." Charlotte
approached noiselessly. "Cut off my hair," continued she, taking out her
comb, and letting down the rich masses until it fell about her person
like another shroud.
"No, your majesty, no," cried Charlotte, bursting into tears. "I never
can cut off that magnificent hair."
"Good child," said the empress, "many a weary hour has that magnificent
hair cost you, and do you ask to have it spared? It shall give you no
more trouble. Take the scissors and cut it off!"
"Has your majesty then forgotten," pleaded Charlotte, "how dearly the
emperor loved this hair?"
"No, Charlotte, and therefore he must have it. 'Tis the last love-token
I have to give him. I cannot die with him like an Indian wife; but
religion does not forbid me to lay this offering at least in his coffin.
He used so often to pass his hands through it--he was so proud of its
beauty, that now he is gone, no one else shall see it. Say no more,
Charlotte, but cut it off."
The empress bent her head, while Charlotte, with a heart-felt sigh and
trembling hands, cut off the long and beautiful blond hair which Maria
Theresa laid as a love-token in the coffin of her husband. [Footnote:
Caroline Pichler. "Memoirs," vol. i., p.23.]
THE IMPERIAL ABBESS.
The funeral rites were over. In the crypt of the church of the
Capuchins, under the monument which, twenty years before, the empress
had built for herself and her husband, lay the body of Emperor Francis.
In this vault slept all the imperial dead of the house of Hapsburg. One
after another, with closed eyes and folded hands their marble effigies
were stretched across their tombs, stiff and cold as the bones that were
buried beneath. The eternal night of death reigned over those couchant
images of stone and bronze.
But Maria Theresa and her emperor had conquered death. Both rising from
the tomb, their eyes were fixed upon each other with an expression of
deepest tenderness; while Azrael, who stood behind with a wreath of
cypress in his hands, seemed to have transformed himself into an angel
of love that sanctified their union even beyond the tomb.
All had left the vault save the widowed empress; she had remained behind
to weep and pray. Her prayers ended, she drew her long black cloak
around her and strode through the church, unmindful of the monks, who,
on either side of the aisle, awaited her appearance in respectful
silence. She heeded neither their inclined heads nor their looks of
sympathy; stunned by grief, she was unmindful of externals, and scarcely
knew that she had left the vault, when her coach stopped before the
Once there Maria Theresa passed by the splendid apartments which she had
inhabited during her husband's life, and ascending the staircase to the
second story of the palace, she entered upon the dwelling which had been
prepared for her widowhood. It was simple to coldness. Hung with black,
nothing relieved the gloom of these rooms; neither mirror, picture,
gilding, nor flowers were there. The bedroom looked sad in the extreme.
The walls were hung in gray silk; gray velvet curtains were drawn in
front of the small widow's bed; the floor was covered with a gray carpet
studded with white lilies, and the furniture was like the curtains, of
dim, dull gray velvet. [Footnote: Caroline Pichler, "Memoirs," vol. i.,
As the empress entered this dismal room she saluted her ladies of honor
who had followed her, and now stood awaiting her commands at the door.
"Bring all my dresses, shawls, laces, and jewels to me in the
reception-room, and send a messenger to Prince Kaunitz to say that I
await his presence."
The ladies of honor left the room silently, and the empress, closing the
door, began again to weep and pray. Meanwhile her attendants were
occupied bringing up the costly wardrobe of their imperial mistress. In
a little while the dark rooms were brightened with velvet and silk of
every color, with gold and silver, with jewels and flowers.
The ladies looked with eager and admiring eyes at the magnificence which
had transformed this funereal apartment into a bazaar of elegance and
luxury, scarcely daring to speak the hopes and wishes that were filling
all their hearts. Suddenly their curious eyes sought the ground, for the
empress appeared and entered the room. What a contrast between this pale
figure, clad in simplest mourning, and the rich costumes which in the
days of her happiness had heightened her beauty; those days which seemed
to lie so far, far away from the bitter present
The empress laid her hand upon her heart, as if to stifle a cry of
anguish; then approaching the black marble table, she took up some of
the dresses that lay upon it.
With a voice softer and more pathetic than ever they had heard before,
she begged the companions of her happier days to accept and wear these
costly things as a legacy from the emperor. She then divied them as se
thought best; assigning to each lady what best became her and was most
Her ladies stood weeping around, while Maria Theresa besought each one
to pardon the trouble she had given in her joyous days, for the sake of
the misery she now endured. And as she entreated them to forget that she
had been imperious and exacting, they knelt weeping at her feet, and
earnestly implored her not to leave them.
The empress sadly shook her head. "I am no longer an empress," said she,
"I am a poor, humbled woman, who needs no more attendance, whose only
aim on earth is to serve God and die in His favor! Pray for the emperor,
char friends, and pray for me also."
Slowly turning away, she left the room and entered her cabinet, which
opened into the gray bedroom.
"And now to my last worldly task," said she, as ringing a silver
hand-bell she bade a page conduct Prince Kaunitz to her presence.
The page opened the door, and the prince came in.
The empress greeted him with a silent bend of her head, and exhausted,
sank into an arm-chair that stood before her writing-desk. Kaunitz,
without awaiting permission, took a seat opposite.
There was a long pause. At length Kaunitz said: "Your majesty has
honored me by commanding my presence hither."
"Yes, I sent for you because I have something of great importance to
say," replied the empress.
"I am all attention," replied the minister. "For it is worthy of your
noble self so soon to stifle your grief and to attend to the duties of
your crown. You have sent for me that we may work. And your majesty has
done well, for much business has accumulated on our hands since we last
held a cabinet council."
The empress shook her head. "Business no longer troubles me," replied
she; "I have sent for you to say that we are no longer to work
"Does that mean that your majesty is about to dismiss me in disgrace?
Are you no longer satisfied with your minister?" asked Kaunitz.
"No, prince. It means that I myself must retire from the bustle and
vanities of this world. My hands are no longer fit to wield a sceptre;
they must be folded in prayer--in prayer for my emperor, who was called
away without receiving the sacraments of the church. My strength is gone
from me; my crown oppresses me; I can no longer be an empress."
"Were you made a sovereign by any power of yours?" asked Kaunitz. "Had
you the choice of becoming an empress or remaining an archduchess? What
did your majesty say to me when the insolent Charles of Bavaria tried to
wrest your imperial crown from your head?--'I received my crown from the
hands of God, and I must defend my divine right!' Floods of noble blood
were spilled that Maria Theresa might preserve her right; and does she
now intend to dim the glory of her crown by sacrificing it to her sorrow
as a wife?"
"I am tired of life and of the world, and I intend to take refuge from
their troubles in a cloister. Say no more! I am resolved to go, and the
palace at Innspruck shall be my convent. There, on the spot where he
died, will I make my vows; and as an abbess will I spend my life praying
that God may give him eternal rest. My vocation as a sovereign is at an
end; I resign my sceptre to my son." [Footnote: Coxe, "History of the
House of Austria," vol. v., page 188.]
"That means that your majesty will destroy with your own hands the
structure you had commenced; that you have grown faint-hearted, and are
unfaithful to your duty and to your subjects."
"I will follow the steps of my great ancestor, Charles V.," cried the
empress with energy. "I lay down my earthly dignity to humble myself
"And your majesty will be quite as unhappy as your ancestor. Do you
suppose that the poor monk ever was able to forget that he had been a
"And yet Charles V. remained for several years in a cloister." "But what
a life, your majesty! A life of regret, repentance, and despair. Believe
me, it is far better like Caesar to die pierced by twenty daggers on the
steps of a throne, than voluntarily to descend from that throne to enter
the miserable walls of a cloister."
"Better perhaps for those who have not renounced the world and its
pomps," cried the empress, raising her beautiful eyes to heaven. "But it
is neither satiety nor weariness of grandeur that has drive me to a
cloister. It is my love for my emperor, my yearning to be alone with God
and the past."
"But, your majesty," said Kaunitz with emphasis, "you will not be alone
with the past; the maledictions of your people will follow you Will they
hold you guiltless to have broken your faith with them?"
"I shall not have broken my faith; I shall have left to my people a
successor to whom sooner or later they will owe the same allegiance as
they now owe me."
"But a successor who will overturn all that his mother has done for
Austria's welfare. Your majesty laid the foundations of Austria's
greatness. To that end you called me to the lofty station which I now
occupy. Remember that together we pledged our lives and love to Austria.
Be not untrue to the covenant. In the name of that people which I then
represented, I claim from their emperor, Maria Theresa, the strict
fulfilment of her bond. I call upon her to be true to her duty as the
ruler of a great nation, until the hand of God releases her from her
crown and her life."
While Kaunitz spoke, Maria Theresa walked up and down the room with
troubled brow and folded arms. As lie ceased, she came and stood before
him, looking earnestly into his face, which now had cast aside its mask
of tranquillity, and showed visible signs of agitation.
"You are a bold advocate of my people's claims," said she; "a brave
defender of my Austria. I rejoice to know it, and never will take
umbrage at what you have so nobly spoken. But you have not convinced me;
my sorrow speaks louder than your arguments. You have termed me 'your
emperor.' I know why you have once more called me by that flattering
title. You wish to remind me that in mounting the throne of my ancestors
I lost the right to grieve as a woman, and pledged myself to gird on the
armor of manhood. Hitherto I have made it my pride to plan, to reign, to
fight like a man. I have always feared that men might say of me that my
hand was too weak to grasp the reins of power. But God, who perhaps gave
me the head of a man while leaving me the heart of a woman, has punished
me for my ambition. He has left me to learn that, alas! I am but a
woman--with all the weakness of my sex. It is that womanly heart which,
throbbing with an anguish that no words can paint, has vanquished my
head; and loud above all thoughts of my duty as an empress is the wail
of my sorrow as a widow! But I will show you, Kaunitz, that I am not
stubborn. I shall communicate my intentions to no one. For four weeks I
will retire to my cloister. Instead of naming Joseph my successor, I
will appoint him co-regent. If, after four weeks of probation, I still
feel that I can without guilt retire from the world, shall I then be
absolved from my oath, and suffered to lay down my crown without
reproach from my faithful minister?"
"If, after four weeks of unlimited power delegated to the Emperor
Joseph, your majesty still thinks that you have a right to abdicate,"
replied Kaunitz, "I shall make no opposition to your majesty's choice of
a private vocation, for I shall feel that after that time remonstrance
with you would be useless."
"Well, then, my novitiate shall begin to-morrow. Apprise the court and
the foreign representatives that I wish to meet them in the throne-room,
where in their presence I will appoint my son emperor co-regent."
Maria Theresa had kept her word. She had appointed her son co-regent,
investing the young emperor with full power to reign, to make laws, to
punish, to reward, and to govern her people, while she retired to the
palace of Innspruck. There she dwelt in strictest privacy, scarcely
seeing her children, and restricting her intercourse to the first lady
of honor, her confessor, and a few chosen friends, whom she sometimes
admitted to her mournful rooms.
Joseph, the young emperor of four-and-twenty years, was now monarch of
all Austria, Hungary, Lombardy, and the Netherlands. He had reached the
goal of his longings for power, and now he could begin to think about
the happiness of his people.
Since the intoxicating moment when Maria Theresa, in the presence of the
whole court, had named him co-regent, and delivered over to his hands
her vast empire, Joseph felt as if he had suddenly been transported to a
world of enchantment. He had, together with her ministers, dissuaded the
empress from her resolution of retiring to Innspruck; but even as he
joined his voice to theirs, his heart was trembling with fear lest she
should yield. He felt that if she revoked the power she had conferred,
he would almost die with disappointment. But the empress remained firm,
and her son was triumphant.
She had gone from the throne to the solitude of her own apartments, and
left him lord and emperor of Austria! He would no longer be obliged to
conceal his thoughts; they should come out into the broad day as deeds,
for he was sovereign there!
A day and night had passed by since his mother had renounced her rights
to him. He could not sleep. His head was full of plans, his heart of
emotion. He dared not sleep--he who was the guardian of millions of his
fellow-beings--he who felt ready to shed his heart's blood for their
On the first day, Joseph had been in council with the ministers of
state. The will of the deceased emperor had been opened, and his son now
learned, that while his mother was conferring upon him power, his father
had left him boundless wealth. The Emperor Francis had left his eldest
son sole heir to his estates in Hungary and Galicia, to his jewels and
treasures, and also to the millions of money which he had accumulated
through manufactures and trade.
He had also left to his eldest son the twenty-two millions of coupons
which he had taken for the gold which he had advanced to the state for
the prosecution of the Seven Years' War. Joseph was therefore the
richest prince in all Germany, for his father's vast estates amounted to
one hundred and fifty-nine millions of guilders. [Footnote: Hubner,
"Life of Joseph II." vol. i., page 28.] But he who had been so
intoxicated with joy at his mother's gift, seemed scarcely moved at all
as he received the tidings of his vast inheritance.
"I wish that my father had bought all the coupons that were issued, and
that they were all mine," said he, with a sigh.
"Your majesty would be no gainer thereby," replied the lord keeper of
the finances, Von Kinsky. "These coupons bear but little interest, and
paper money is not gold. Its value is nominal."
"But it has one merit," replied the emperor, smiling; "it can be burned.
Oh, what a miserable invention is this paper money, which represents
value, but possesses none! Suppose that all the holders of these coupons
were to come in this morning and ask for their redemption, could the
imperial coffers meet their obligations?"
"Not if they all came at once, your majesty."
"But the people have a right to call for them," said the emperor. "In
lending their money, they showed their confidence in the government, and
this confidence must not be betrayed. Let the twenty-two millions of
coupons be put in a package and brought to my private apartments. I wish
to dispose of them."
Throughout this day Joseph was so absorbed by business, both private and
official, that he had no opportunity of exhibiting himself in his new
character, either to his family or his subjects.
But, on the second day of his co-regency, the young emperor appeared in
public. On this day, the Viennese celebrated the deliverance of Vienna
from the Turks by John Sobieski and his brave Polish legions. The
mourning of the female members of the imperial family did not permit
them to mingle as usual with the people on this favorite festival; but
the emperor resolved to show himself on this occasion in the character
of a sovereign. All Vienna was eager to see him as soon as it became
rumored that he would certainly attend the mass in honor of the day at
the cathedral of St. Stephen.
Meanwhile, the young emperor was in his palace. The anterooms were
filled with petitioners of every sort, who, through bribes offered to
the members of the imperial household, had penetrated thus far, and were
now awaiting the appearance of the emperor. The anterooms of Maria
Theresa had always been thronged with these petitioners, and now they
jostled each other without ceremony, each one hoping to be remarked by
the emperor as he passed on to his carriage.
Suddenly the commotion ceased and took the form of a panic as the door
opened and the valets of the emperor came forward, their hands filled
with the petitions which they had just taken in. They had all been
A few moments afterward the door opened again, and the lord chamberlain,
Count Rosenberg, advanced to the centre of the room.
There was no necessity for the pages to order silence, for the crowd
were breathless with expectation, and the deepest stillness reigned
throughout the thronged rooms while Count Rosenberg read the first
greeting of the emperor to his people.
It was sharp, and to the point. It forbade, in strongest terms, all
indirect efforts to obtain promotion or pensions; and it declared once
for all that merit alone would be the test of all applications presented
to the Emperor Joseph II.
When the count had done reading the proclamation, the valets laid the
petitions upon a table, that each man might select and remove his own
"Your majesty has made some enemies to-day," said Count Rosenberg, as he
reentered the cabinet of the emperor. "I saw many a scowl in the
anteroom as I passed by the disappointed multitude that thronged my
"I do not wish the friendship of intriguers and flatterers," replied the
emperor with a merry laugh. "If my proclamations make me enemies, I
think they will also make me friends. The good shall be satisfied with
my rule; for, during my mother's reign, I have observed much and thought
much. And now the day has come when the power is mine to reward virtue
and punish vice."
"May Heaven grant that your majesty's day draw to a close without clouds
or storms!" said Rosenberg.
The emperor laughed again. "What do you fear, my friend?" asked he.
"Have you so long shared with me my burden of dissimulation, that you
are frightened to see our shackles fall? Are you afraid of the fresh
air, because we wear our masks no longer? Patience, Rosenberg, and al
will be well with us. Our dreams are about to be fulfilled: what we have
whispered together in the twilight of mutual trust, we may now cry out
with free and joyous shouts--'Reform! reform!' My people have prayed
quite enough, they shall now learn to do something better--they shall
think; they have been long enough led by faith, like little children. I
will give them confirmation, and they shall enter upon the
responsibilities of manhood. I mean to be a blessing to the virtuous,
and a terror to the vicious."
"Unhappily, there is more evil than good in this world," said Count
Rosenberg, sighing, "and a man, though he can seldom count his friends,
is never at a loss to count his enemies."
"I do not understand you," said Joseph, smiling. "I intend to draw out
the fangs of the wicked, so that they shall have power to injure no
"Your majesty will do this if time be granted you," said the count.
"What do you mean?" cried the emperor, impatiently, as Rosenberg
hesitated. "Speak on. What do you fear?"
"I fear," whispered the count, "that your day will be darkened by bigots
and priests. I fear that the empress will not leave you freedom to carry
out your reformation. I fear that your enemies will dry up her tears,
and unclasp her folded hands, to force within their grasp the sceptre to
which your manhood gives you exclusive right. I fear the influence of
her confessor, Father Porhammer: try to conciliate him. It is far better
to win over our opponents by forbearance, than to exasperate them by
"But open warfare is my right," cried Joseph, "and I am powerful enough
to despise all opponents, as well as strong enough to pursue my way
without regard to the wickedness of all the bigots in Christendom. Face
to face shall we stand, and I defy them all! We have had enough, too, of
Spanish etiquette and Italian mummery here. Now we shall have honest
German customs; we shall be Germans in thought, in speech, and in
sentiment. This is my dream, my bright and beautiful dream! Austria
shall one day be Germanized; the kingdoms and provinces which compose my
dominions shall no longer be separate nationalities, but all shall be
the branches of one lofty tree. The limbs shall lose their names, and be
called by that of the trunk; and the trunk shall bear the name of
Germany. High above the boughs of this noble tree, which shall extend
from France to Poland, I will place my banner and my crown, and before
their might all Europe shall bow. This is my dream, Rosenberg, my dream
of future greatness!"
"While I listen and look upon your majesty's countenance, bright with
inspiration, I, too, bow before the grandeur of your thought, and feel
as if this godlike dream must surely become a glorious truth."
"It shall be glorious truth, Rosenberg," exclaimed the emperor. "Why
should Germany be severed into many parts, when France and Spain are
each a kingdom in itself? Why is England so powerful? Because Scotland
and Ireland have lost their identity in hers. Sweden and Norway, are
they not, or rather ought they not to be, one? And Russia, how many
different races own the sway of the mighty Czar? My empire, too, shall
become strong through unity, and I shall be not only emperor of Austria,
but, in very deed and truth, emperor of all Germany!"
Rosenberg shook his head, and sighed. "Ah, your majesty," said he, "you
are so young that you believe in the realization of mortal dreams."
"I do, and I intend to workout their realization myself. I shall begin
by being German myself. I intend to do away with ceremony, priestcraft,
and foreign influence. To that intent, my lord chamberlain, you will see
that all foreigners are dismissed from the palace, and their places
supplied by Germans. My two Italian valets I make over to Porhammer.
Nothing but German shall be spoken at court. I will have neither French
nor Italian actors here. Count Durazzo shall dismiss his foreign troupes
and employ Germans in their stead. [Footnote: Gross-Hoffinger, "History
of Joseph II.," vol. i., p. 91.] Let him see that the German stage
flourishes and does honor to the metropolis of the German empire."
"This is an ordinance that will enchant the youths of Vienna," replied
the count, gayly.
"Here is another which will equally rejoice their hearts as well as
those of all the pretty women in Vienna," added the emperor.
"Your majesty means to revoke the power of the committee on morals?"
"Not quite. I dare not fly so soon in the face of my lady-mother's pet
institutions," returned Joseph, laughing; "but I shall suspend them
until further notice. Now the pretty sinners may all go to sleep in
peace. Now the young girls of Vienna may walk the streets without being
asked whither they go, or whence they come. Reform! reform! But hark!
there are the church-bells; I go to exhibit myself to my subjects. Come,
let us away."
"But your majesty has not made your toilet. The valets are now waiting
with your Spanish court-dress in your dressing-room."
"I make them a present of it," said the emperor. "The day of Spanish
court-dresses is over. The uniform of my regiment shall be my
court-dress hereafter, so that you see I am dressed and ready."
"Then allow me to order that the carriage of state be prepared for your
"Order that the carriage of state be left to rot in the empress's
stables," returned Joseph. "The day of etiquette, also, is over. I am a
man like other men, and have as much use of my limbs as they. Let
cripples and dotards ride--I shall go to church on foot."
"But your majesty," remonstrated Rosenberg, "what will the people say
when they see their emperor stripped of all the pomp of his high
station? They will think that you hold them too cheaply to visit them in
"No, no. My people will feel that I come among them, not with the cold
splendor of my rank, but with the warmth of human sympathy and human
nature, and they will greet me with more enthusiasm than if I came in my
carriage of state."
The emperor was right. The people who had thronged every street through
which he was to pass, shouted for joy, when they saw the ruler of all
Austria on foot, accompanied by a few of his friends, making his way
among them with as much simplicity as a burgher.
At first astonishment had repressed the enthusiasm of the Viennese, but
this momentary reticence overcome, the subjects of Joseph the Second
rent the air with their cries of welcome, and pressed around his path,
all eager to look into the face of the sovereign who walked among his
people as an equal and a man.
"See him! see him!" cried they. "See the German prince who is not
ashamed to be a German! See our emperor in the uniform of the German
infantry! Long live the emperor! Long live our fatherland! Long live the
emperor!" shouted the multitude while Joseph, his heart overflowing with
joy, made his way at last to the cathedral of St. Stephen.
And now the trumpets sounded, and the mighty organ thundered forth a
welcome, while cardinals and priests lifted their voices, and the clergy
sang the "Salvum fac imperatorum nostrum."
And ever and anon, through the open windows of the cathedral, the people
shouted, "Long live the emperor! Long live our fatherland!"
Overcome by the ovation, Joseph sank down upon his knees, and his heart
softened by the scene, the circumstances, and the sublime chants of the
church, he prayed. Clasping his hands, he prayed that God might give him
strength to do his duty to his subjects, and to make them happy.
The "Salvum fac imperatorum" over, the mass for the repose of the soul
of Sobieski and his twelve thousand Poles was intoned. The emperor
prayed for them, and thanked the Almighty Ruler of all things for the
rescue they had brought to Vienna in her hour of danger from the
This was the first public act of Joseph's reign as co-regent.
The mass over, the people witnessed another public act of the young
emperor's reign. While Joseph, smiling and bending his head to the
crowds that pressed around him, was quietly pursuing his way back to the
palace, a procession was seen coming through the streets which attracted
the attention of the multitude, and called forth their wonder.
First came a file of soldiers, with shouldered carbines, then an open
vehicle drawn by horses from the imperial stables, then another file of
soldiers. Within the wagons sat several officers of the emperor's
household, with large rolls of paper in their hands, and behind it was a
detachment of cavalry with drawn sabres.
"What means this pageant?" asked the people of one another.
For all answer to this question, the multitudes pressed forward and fell
in with the mysterious procession.
The train moved on, until it arrived at an open market-place, where it
halted. In the centre of the square was a heap of fagots, near which
stood two men with lighted torches in their hands.
"An execution!" cried the terror-stricken multitude. "But what an
execution! Who was to be burnt at the stake?"
While the crowd were murmuring within themselves, the officers of the
emperor's household advanced to the pile, and laid the rolls of papers
which they had brought, upon it. They then signed to the people for
silence, and one of the officers addressed the crowd.
"The Emperor Joseph, co-regent with the Empress Maria Theresa, sends
greeting to his subjects," cried he in a clear, loud voice. "To-day, the
first of his reign, and the festival of John Sobieski the deliverer of
Vienna, he wishes to prove to his people how much he loves them. In
testimony whereof, he presents to them twenty-two millions of coupons,
bequeathed to him by his father the late Emperor Francis. These papers
are the coupons. In the name of the Emperor Joseph approach, ye
torch-bearers, and kindle the pile, that the people of Austria, made
richer by twenty-two millions, may recognize, in this sacrifice, the
love of their sovereign."
The torches were applied, and high in the air soared the flames that
were consuming the emperor's bequest, while the faces of the multitude
around were lit up by the glare of the burning pile.
The bells of the churches began to chime, the flames soared higher and
higher, and the people looked on in wondering gratitude at the
twenty-two millions of consuming guilders, which were the first offering
of Joseph II to his subjects. [Hormayer. "Austrian Plutarch." vol. i. p
HAROUN AL RASCHID.
The emperor was alone in his dressing-cabinet. He stood before a mirror,
covering his rich blond curls with a large wig, which fell in long
ringlets over his shoulders, and completed the very singular costume in
which it had pleased is majesty to array himself.
The emperor surveyed himself with evident satisfaction, and broke out
into a hearty laugh. "I think," said he, "that in this dark-haired fop,
with his fashionable costume, no one will recognize the emperor. I
suppose that in this disguise I may go undetected in search of
adventures. If I am to be of use as a prince, I must see all things,
prove all things, and learn all things. It is written, 'Prove all
things, and hold fast to that which is good.' I am afraid that I shall
not hold fast to much that comes under my observation."
He drew back from the mirror, threw over his shoulders a little cloak,
bordered with fur, set a three-cornered hat upon the top of his wig,
took up a small gold-headed cane, and then returned to survey himself a
"A fop of the latest style--that is to say, a fool of the first water
--looks out upon himself from this looking-glass," said he, laughing.
"It would be an affront to my majesty if any one were to presume to
suspect the emperor under this absurd disguise. I hope I shall be as
successful in the way of adventures as was my predecessor Haroun al
He drew his cloak close around him, and stepped from a little private
door that opened from his dressing-room into the corridor which led to
the apartments of his wife. Retired and unobserved, the Empress Josepha
lived within these rooms, which from the first night of their marriage,
her husband had never reentered. The corridor was empty. Joseph could
therefore pass out unobserved, until he reached a private staircase
leading to the lower floor of the palace. Once there, he raised his
head, and stepped boldly out into the hall. The porters allowed him to
pass without suspicion, and, unrecognized, the young adventurer reached
the public thoroughfares.
"Now," thought he, with a sensation of childish delight, "now I am free,
a man just like other men. I defy any one to see my divine right upon my
brow, or to observe any difference between the 'imperial blue' of my
eyes, and the ordinary blue of those of my subjects."
"Halt, there!" cried a threatening voice to the careless pedestrian.
"Out of the way, young coxcomb; do you suppose that I must give way to
"Not at all, your worship," replied Joseph, smiling, as with an active
bound he cleared the way for a colossal carman, who, covered with sweat
and dust, was wheeling a load of bricks in a barrow.
The carman stopped, and surveying the emperor angrily, cried out in a
voice of thunder, "What do you mean by calling me 'your worship?' Do you
mean to insult me because you are wasting your father's money on your
pretty person, decked out like a flower-girl on a holiday?"
"Heaven forbid that I should seek to insult you!" replied the emperor.
"The size of your fists is enough to inspire any one with respect. For
all the world I would not offend their owner."
"Well, then, go your way, you whippersnapper," muttered the carman,
while the emperor congratulated himself upon having gotten out of the
scrape without detection.
"It would have been a pretty anecdote for the history of the Emperor
Joseph, had he been discovered in a street brawl with a carman," said he
to himself. "A little more, and my imperial face would have been pounded
into jelly by that Hercules of a fellow! It is not such an easy matter
as I had supposed, to mix on equal terms with other men! But I shall
learn by bitter experience how to behave."
At this moment Joseph heard the sounds of weeping. Turning, he beheld
coming toward him a young girl of about sixteen, whose slight figure, in
spite of the cool autumn day, was scarcely covered by a thin, patched
dress of dark stuff. An old, faded silk handkerchief was thrown over her
shoulders; her sweet, pale face was bedewed with tears, and her lips
were murmuring gentle complaints, though no one stopped to listen. On
her right arm she carried a bundle, which every now and then she
watched, as if afraid that some one might rob her of its treasures.
Suddenly a kind voice whispered, "Why do you weep, my child?"
The young girl started and met the gaze of a young man, whose blue eyes
were fixed upon her with an expression of tenderest sympathy.
"I weep," said she, "because I am unhappy," and she quickened her steps
that she might leave him behind. But the emperor kept pace with her.
"Why do you walk so fast? are you afraid of me?"
"I fear the committee of morals," said she, blushing. "If they should
see me with you, I might be mistaken for--"
"Have you ever been suspected by them?"
"Yes, sir, although I have always tried, when I was in the streets, to
avoid observation. Go, sir, go. Do not heed my tears. I am accustomed to
"But it is said that the emperor has suspended the office of that
"I am glad of it," replied the girl, "for good and evil are alike
exposed to suspicion; and I would like to walk the streets without fear
of being taken for what I am not."
"Where are you going, child?"
"I am going," replied she, with a fresh burst of tears, "to sell the
clothes I carry in this bundle."
"What clothes, child?"
"The last decent covering that my poor mother owns," sobbed the girl.
"You are, then, very poor?" asked the emperor, softly.
"Very poor. We are often hungry, and have no food but our own bitter
tears. These are the last clothes we have, but they must go for bread,
and then perhaps we shall perish of cold."
"Poor girl! have you no father?"
"My father died in defence of Austria and the empress, and as a reward
of his devotion to his sovereign, his wife and child have been left to
die of want."
"Your father was a soldier?" asked the emperor, much affected.
"He was an officer, who served with distinction in the Seven Years' War.
But he never was promoted. He died for Maria Theresa, and his widow and
child will soon follow him to the grave."
"Why have you never applied to the empress for relief? Her purse is
always open to the wants of the needy."
"To obtain any thing from royalty, sir, you know that one must have
influence," replied the girl, bitterly. "We have no influence, nor would
we know how to intrigue for favor."
"Why, then, do you not go to the emperor? He at least has no fancy for
intriguers and flatterers. You should have gone to him."
"To be haughtily repulsed?" said she. "Oh, sir, the new emperor is a man
whose only love is a love of power, and whose only pleasure is to make
that power felt by others. Has he not already refused to listen to any
petition whatever? Did he not forbid his people to come to him for
"He did that," replied Joseph, "because he wished to do justice to all;
and for that reason he has done away with all presentation of petitions
through courtiers or other officers of his household. But he has
appointed an hour to receive all those who present their petitions in
"So he has said," returned the girl, "but no one believes him. His
guards will turn away all who are not richly dressed, and so the emperor
will have promised to see the people, though the people will never be
allowed to come into his presence."
"Have the Austrians so little faith in the sincerity of the emperor?"
asked Joseph. "Do they think that his heart--"
"His heart!" exclaimed the girl. "The emperor is without a heart. Even
toward his mother he is said to be undutiful and obstinate. He hates his
wife, and she is as mild as an angel. He whose pleasure it is to see an
empress at his feet, do you suppose that he can sympathize with the
misfortunes of his subjects? No, no; he has already stopped all pensions
which the generous empress had given from her private purse."
"Because he intends to bestow them upon worthier objects."
"No, no; it is because he is a miser."
"He a miser!" cried Joseph. "Did he not some days ago burn up twenty-two
millions of coupons?"
"It was said so; but no one saw them; and it is whispered that the
twenty-two millions were nothing but pieces of waste paper."
The emperor was speechless. He looked at this young traducer with an
expression of real horror.
"How!" at length said he, in a voice choked by emotion, "the emperor is
suspected of such baseness!"
"He is known to be selfish and miserly," replied his tormentor.
Joseph's eyes flashed with anger; but conquering his bitterness, he
constrained himself to smile.
"My child," said he, "you have been deceived. If you knew the emperor,
you would find that he is generous and ready to do justice to all men.
Go home and write your petition; and come to-day at noon to the imperial
palace. The guards will allow you to pass, and a servant will be there
to conduct you to me. I, myself, will present your petition, and I know
that the emperor will not refuse a pension to the widow and child of a
brave Austrian officer."
The girl's eyes filled with tears as she attempted to thank her unknown
But the emperor, who had allowed her to abuse him without interruption,
would not listen to her praises.
"Your mother is sick, and needs care," said he. "Go home, and do not
sell your clothes, for you will need them to visit the emperor. How much
did you expect to get for them?"
"I expected seven ducats, for a portion of this clothing is my mother's
"Then, my child, let me beg you to accept twelve," said he, drawing out
his purse. "I hope they will suffice for your wants until the emperor
fills them all."
The young girl bent over and kissed Joseph's hand. "Oh, sir," said she,
"you save us from death, and we have nothing to offer in return but our
"Pray for the emperor," said he, gently. "Pray God that he may win the
love of his people. Farewell! I shall wait for you today, at noon."
With these words, Joseph quickened his pace, and was soon lost to view.
"My second adventure," thought he. "I must confess that it is not very
flattering to walk incognito about the streets and hear the sentiments
of one's own subjects. How often do kings mistake the murmurings of
discontent for the outpourings of joy! It is so pleasant to believe in
the love of our subjects, and to shut our eyes to all doubts of their
loyalty! But I am resolved to see and judge of the people for myself. My
path will often be beset with thorns, but Fate has not made me a monarch
for my own good; I am an emperor for the good of others. That child has
revealed some painful truths to me; it would seem as if I were fated
forever to be misjudged."
THE DISGUISE REMOVED.
At mid-day the emperor reentered the palace gates. This time he came
through the principal entrance, feeling quite secure in his disguise.
He proceeded at once to the hall of reception, wondering whether his
young protegee would present herself as he had requested her to do.
The sentries allowed him to pass, supposing him to be one of those about
to seek an audience with the emperor. Unsuspected he reached the hall.
Yes, there was his little accuser. She stood trembling and blushing in
one corner of the room, holding in her hand a paper. As she recognized
her unknown protector, she hastened to meet him, and timidly gave him
"Oh, sir," said she, "you have been true to your word. I was so afraid
you would forget me, that I was several times on the point of leaving
this grand place. I feel lonely and ashamed; for you see that no one is
here but myself. Nobody trusts the emperor. And I, who am here, will
surely be repulsed; he never will be as kind as you have been to a poor
friendless girl. My mother has no hope; and if she has sent me to the
palace, it was that I might see you again, and once more pour forth my
gratitude for your kindness. If you would add another to the generous
gift you have already bestowed, tell me your name, that my mother and I
may beg God's blessing upon it, and then let me go, for I feel that my
visit here will be vain!"
"My dear child," said Joseph, laughing, "if all the emperor's opponents
were as headstrong as you, the poor man would have but little hope of
ever gaining the good-will of his subjects. But I intend to prove to you
that you are unjust. Give me your petition. I myself will present it for
you. Wait awhile, until I send a messenger who will conduct you to the
emperor. Follow him and fear nothing, for I shall be there, too, and
there I will tell you my name. Au revoir."
The young girl looked anxiously after him as he disappeared and once
more betook herself to the window. Gradually the room filled with a sad,
humble, and trembling crowd, such as often throngs the anterooms of
princes and nobles--a crowd which, with tearful eyes and sorrowing
hearts, so often returns home without succor and without hope.
But the people who were assembled in this hall of reception seemed more
sanguine than is usual with petitioners for imperial favor. They chatted
together of their various expectations; they spoke of the emperor's
benevolence; and all seemed to hope that they would be heard with
patience, and favorably answered. A door opened, and an officer entered.
He looked sharply around the room, and then went directly to the window,
where the young girl, with a beating heart, was listening to the praises
of that emperor whom in her soul she believed to be a tyrant.
"The emperor will he here presently," said the officer, in answer to a
storm of inquiries from every side. "But I have been ordered first to
conduct this young lady, the daughter of a deceased officer, to his
She followed him, silent and anxious. They went through suites of
splendid rooms, whose costly decorations struck the child of poverty
with new dismay. At last they stopped in a richly gilded saloon, covered
with a carpet of Gobelin, and hung with the same rich tapestry.
"Remain here," said the officer, "while I announce you to his majesty."
He disappeared behind the velvet portiere, and the frightened girl
remained with a crowd of richly-dressed nobles, whose embroidered
court-dresses and diamond crosses, almost blinded her with their
Once more the portiere was drawn aside, and the officer beckoned the
girl to advance. She did so with trembling limbs and throbbing heart.
The hangings fell, and she was in the dread presence of the emperor. He
stood near a window with his back toward her--a tall, graceful man, in a
The poor girl felt as if she would cease to breathe, for this was the
decisive moment of her young life. The emperor could either consign her
to misery, or raise her to comfort, and wipe away the tears of her dear,
He turned and looked at her with a benevolent smile. "Come hither, my
child," said he. "You would speak with the emperor. I am he."
The girl uttered a stifled cry, and falling on her knees, she hid her
death-like face in her hands. For she had recognized her unknown
protector. Yes, this noble man, who had proffered help and promised
protection, this was the emperor, and to his face she had called him
miser and tyrant!
She never for one moment thought whether he would punish her insolence;
she had but one feeling, that of unspeakable anguish for having wounded
a noble and generous heart. This alone caused her shame and grief.
The emperor approached, and looked with tenderness at the kneeling
maiden, through whose fingers her tears were flowing in streams.
"I have read your petition, and have found that you spoke the truth.
From this day your father's pay falls to your mother; and at her death
it shall revert to you. I beg you both to forgive the tardiness of this
act of justice; for neither the empress nor I had ever heard that your
father had any family. Once more forgive us for all that you have
endured since his death. And now, my child, rise from your knees; for
human beings should kneel before God alone. Dry your tears, and hasten
to your mother. Tell her that the emperor is not as heartless as he has
been pictured to her by his enemies."
"No, no," cried she, "I cannot rise until my sovereign has forgiven my
presumption and my calumnies."
"They are forgiven; for what could you know of me, you poor child, but
what you had been told? But now you know me yourself; and for the future
if you hear me traduced, you will defend me, will you not?" [Footnote:
Historical.] He reached out his hand, which she kissed and bedewed with
The emperor raised her tenderly. "Be comforted; for if you cry so
bitterly my courtiers will think that I have been unkind to you. You
told me just now that you wished to know the name of your protector that
you might pray for him. Well, my child, pray for me--my name is Joseph."
ROSARY AND SCEPTRE.
The four weeks to which Maria Theresa had limited her novitiate had
almost expired. She still secluded herself from the world, and, in the
deep retirement of her palatial cloister, would suffer no mention of
worldly affairs in her presence.
In vain her confessor and her attendants strove to awaken her interest
to the dissatisfaction of the people with the wild projects of reform
that threatened the subversion of all social order. From the day of her
retirement, Maria Theresa had forbidden the slightest allusion to
politics. Her confesser had on one occasion ventured a hint on the
subject of the changes which were being made by the emperor, but the
empress had turned her flashing eyes upon him, and had reminded him
that, as the servant of the Lord, he was there to exhort and to pray,
not to concern himself about the trivialities of this world.
On another occasion the Countess Fuchs had presumed to mention the
changes in the imperial household. The empress interrupted her coldly,
saying that if she had not lost her relish for the vanities of the
court, the countess must absent herself until further orders.
This severity had put an end to all plans for inducing the empress to
resume the cares of empire. She was now at liberty to weep and pray
without distraction. Even her children, who came daily to kiss her hand,
were allowed no conversation but that which turned upon religion. When
the morning services were ended, they silently withdrew to their rooms.
For a few days past, the Archduchess Christina had absented herself from
this mournful levee. On the first day of her nonappearance the empress
had not appeared to remark her absence. But on the second day her eyes
wandered sadly from her prayer book to her children, and her lips seemed
ready to frame some question. Instead of speaking, she bent her head
over her rosary, and strove to pray with more devotion than usual.
Finally came a third day, and still Christina was absent. The empress
could no longer master her maternal anxiety, and as the Archduchess
Elizabeth approached to kiss her hand, she spoke. "Where is Christina?
Why is she not with you?"
"My sister is sick, your majesty," replied the archduchess. And as
though she feared to displease her mother by further speech, she bent
her head and withdrew.
The next day when the imperial children entered their mother's
apartment, her prayer-book was lying on the table, while she, pale and
agitated, was pacing the room with hasty steps. She received her family
with a slight motion of her head, and looked anxiously toward the door,
until it had closed after the entrance of little Marie Antoinette. Then
the empress sighed, and turned away her head lest her children should
see the tears that were gushing from her eyes.
But when mass was over, and little, Marie Antoinette approached her
mother, she took the child up in her arms, and tenderly kissing her
cheek, said: "How is Christina, my darling?"
"Sister Christina is very sick, imperial mamma," replied the child, "and
she cries all day long. But she loves you very dearly, and longs to see
The empress put down her little daughter without a word, and as if she
thought to mortify her worldliness, she signed to all present to
withdraw, and falling upon her knees, prayed long and fervently. An hour
or two after she sent for her confessor. As he left her room and passed
through the anteroom, the attendants saw that his countenance looked
joyous in the extreme. They flocked to hear if there was any hope of
convincing the empress of the necessity of her return to the world.
"I think there is much," replied the father. "God be thanked, her
maternal love has overcome the dangerous lethargy into which sorrow had
plunged our beloved sovereign. For a time she was overcome by her grief
as a widow; but she begins to feel that her children have a right to her
counsels and care. Later she will recognize the claims of her people and
Austria will be saved from the mad schemes of that unbelieving dreamer,
"Do you really believe that her majesty will return to the throne'?"
asked the countess.
"I do. She besought me in trembling tones to tell her something of her
beloved child--and I did nothing to tranquillize her, --for she has no
right to seclude herself from her people. Maria Theresa is a greater
sovereign than her son will ever be, and Austria cannot afford to lose
her now. She will visit her daughter to-day. Tell the archduchess not to
fear her brother's opposition; for her mother, once resolved to return
to her people, will see that her own daughters are not made wretched by
a tyrannical brother. The princess will marry her lover."
"I hasten. How soon may we expect the empress?"
"She will surely be there before many hours. Solitude is not congenial
to Maria Theresa's heart; her active mind craves occupation, and her
grief requires it. Let us appeal to her affections through the illness
of her child, and complete reaction will ensue. If once we can persuade
her to quit her seclusion, the cloister-dream is over. Let us all work
in concert to restore her to the world. It is not the sovereign of a
great nation who has a right like Mary to sit at the feet of Jesus. Go
at once, Count Bathiany, and may God bless the efforts we are making to
restore our empress to her sense of duty. Church and state are alike
endangered by the fatal step she has taken."
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN AN ABBESS AND AN EMPRESS.
IT was the hour of dinner. Complete silence reigned throughout the
imperial palace, except in the halls and stairways that led from the
imperial dining-hall to the kitchens below. Both lay far from the
apartments of the empress-abbess. She, therefore, felt that she could
visit her child without fear of observation. She had just concluded her
own solitary dinner, and was trying to collect her thoughts for prayer.
In vain. They WOULD wander to the sick-bed of her daughter, whom fancy
pictured dying without the precious cares that a mother's hand alone is
gifted to bestow. Maria Theresa felt that her heart was all too
storm-tossed for prayer. She closed her book with a pang of
self-reproach, and rose from her arm-chair.
"It is useless," said she, at last. "I must obey the call of my
rebellious heart, and tread once more the paths of earthly love and
earthly cares. I cannot remain here and think that my Christina longs
for her mother's presence, and that I may not wipe her tears away with
my kisses. It is my duty to tend my sick child. I am not in the right
path, or a merciful God would strengthen me to tread it courageously. I
must replace their father to my children. Poor orphans! They need twice
the love I gave before, and, God forgive me, I was about to abandon them
entirely. It is no injury to the memory of my Francis, for, through his
children, I shall but love him the more. How I long once more to press
them to my heart! Yes, I must go, and this is the hour. I will pass by
the private corridors, and surprise my Christina in her solitude."
With more activity than she bad been able to summon to her help since
the emperor's burial, Maria Theresa to her dressing-room, and snatching
up her long, black cloak, threw it around her person. As she was drawing
the hood over her face, she caught a glimpse of herself in a mirror
close by. She was shocked at her own image; her face so corpse-like, her
cloak so like a hideous pall.
"I look like a ghost," thought the empress. "And indeed I am dead to all
happiness, for I have buried my all! But Christina will be shocked at my
looks. I must not frighten the poor child."
And actuated partly by maternal love, partly by womanly vanity, Maria
Theresa slipped back the ugly hood that hid her white forehead and
opened the black crape collar which encircled her neck, so that some
portion of her throat was visible.
"I will always be my Franz's poor widow," said the empress, while she
arranged her toilet, "but I will not affright my children by my
dress--now I look more like their mother. Let me hasten to my child."
And having again flung back the hood so that some portions of her
beautiful hair could be seen, she left the room. She opened the door
softly and looked into the next apartment. She had well calculated her
time, for no one was there; her ladies of honor had all gone to dinner.
"That is pleasant," said she. "I am glad not to meet their wondering
faces; glad not to be greeted as an empress, for I am an empress no
longer. I am a poor, humble widow, fulfilling the only earthly duties
now left me to perform."
She bent her head and went softly through the second anteroom to the
hall. Again, all was empty and silent; neither page, nor sentry, nor
lackey to be seen. She knew not why, but a feeling of desolation came
over her. She had bidden adieu to the etiquette due to her rank, but
this, she thought, was carrying the point too far.
"If I had had the misfortune to fall suddenly ill," said she, "I must
have called in vain for succor. No one is by to hear my voice. But at
least there must be sentries in the other hall." No! That hall too was
empty. No lackeys were there, no guards! For the first time in her life,
Maria Theresa was out of hearing of any human being, and she felt a pang
of disappointment and humiliation. She started at the sound of her own
footsteps, and walked faster, that she might come within sight of some
one-any one. Suddenly, to her joy, she heard the sound of voices, and
paused to listen.
The door of the room whence the voices were heard was slightly ajar, and
the empress overheard the following conversation. The speakers were
Father Porhammer and the Countess Fuchs. "Do not despair," said the
father; "the empress is forgiving and magnanimous; and when she shall
have admitted you again to her presence, it will be your duty to aid all
those who love Austria, by using your influence to recall her majesty to
the throne. Woe to Austria if she persists in elevating her grief above
her duty as a sovereign! Woe to the nation if her son, that rebellious
child of the church, reign over this land! His insane love of novelty--"
"For Heaven's sake, father," replied the countess, "say nothing against
the emperor! His mother's will has placed him on the throne, and we must
The empress heard no more. With noiseless tread she hurried on, until
she turned the corner of a side-hall and then she relaxed her pace. She
pondered over what she had just heard, and it did not contribute to
tranquillize her mind.
"What can he be doing?" thought she." What are those mad schemes of
which my friends have tried to apprise me? He was ever self-willed and
stubborn; ever inclined to skepticism. Alas! alas! I foresee sad days
for my poor Austria!"
At that moment the empress had gained a small landing which led to a
staircase which she had to descend. She was about to proceed on her way
when she perceived a man, whose back was turned toward her, seated on
the topmost step. He was so quiet that she thought he was asleep. But as
her foot touched him he turned carelessly round, and perceiving the
empress, rose slowly, and bent his head as though to any lady whom he
Maria Theresa was astonished. She knew not what to think of the
irreverent bearing of this man, who was no other than Stockel, one of
the servants whose duty it had been, for thirty years, to light the
fires in her dressing-room.
He had been accustomed every morning to appear before his imperial lady,
in winter, to see that her fires were burning; in summer, to distribute
her alms. Steckel was from Tyrol, he had been a favorite servant of the
empress; and being an upright and intelligent man, his word was known to
have some weight with her. [Footnote: Thiebault, "Memoires de Vlugt
Ans."] Stockel had been the most respectful and loyal of servants; the
appearance alone of the empress had always made his old wrinkled face
light up with joy. How did it happen that now, when he had been parted
from her for four weeks, he seemed indifferent?
"He is offended because I have never sent for him," thought the
kind-hearted empress;' "I must try to appease him."
"I am glad to see you, Stockel," said she, with one of her own
bewitching smiles; "it is long since you have visited me in my room. I
am such a poor, sorrowing widow, that I have not had heart enough to
think of the poverty of others."
Steckel said nothing. He turned and slightly shrugged his shoulders.
"How?" said Maria Theresa good-humoredly, "are you offended? Have you
the heart to be angry with your empress?"
"Empress?" returned Stockel; "I took your highness for a pious nun. The
whole world knows that Maria Theresa is no longer an empress; she no
longer reigns in Austria."
Maria Theresa felt a pang as she heard these words, and her cheeks
flushed--almost with anger. But overcoming the feeling she smiled sadly
and said: "I see that you are really angry, poor Stockel. You do not
like to see my palace made a cloister. You think, perhaps, that I have
"I do not pretend to judge of the acts of the rulers of earth," replied
he gloomily. "Perhaps the deeds which in ordinary people would be called
cowardly, may with them be great and noble. I know nothing about it; but
I know what my beloved empress once said to me. She was then young and
energetic, and she had not forgotten the oath she had taken when the
archbishop crowned her at St. Stephen's--the oath which bound her to be
a faithful ruler over her people until God released her."
"What said your empress then?"
"I will tell your highness. I had lost my young wife, the one I loved
best on earth, and I came to beg my discharge; for my longing was to go
back to my native mountains and live a hermit's life in Tyrol. My
empress would not release me. `How!' said she, 'are you so weak that you
must skulk away from the world because Almigthy God has seen fit to
bereave you of your wife? He tries your faith, man, and you must be