Part 6 out of 22
firm, whether you face the storm or bask in the sunshine. Did you not
promise to serve me faithfully, and will you now cast away your useful
life in vain sorrow? What would you think of me were I so lightly to
break my oath to my people--I who must lift my head above every tempest
of private sorrow, to fulfill my vow until death,' Thus spoke my
empress; but that was many years ago, and she was then sovereign of all
Maria Theresa looked down, and the tear-drops that had been gathering in
her eyes fell upon her black dress, where they glistened like diamonds.
"It is true," whispered she, "I was sovereign of all Austria."
"And what prevents you from being sovereign to-day?" asked Stockel
eagerly. "Have your people released you?"
The empress waved her hand impatiently. "Enough," said she, "let me go
"But I have a petition to make, and as it is the last favor I shall ever
ask, I hope your majesty will not deny me."
"Speak your wish," replied Maria Theresa hastily.
"I beg of your majesty to allow me to quit your service," replied the
man moodily. "I cannot forget the words of Maria Theresa. I will not
skulk away from the world while I have strength to work. I am tired of
the idle life I lead. It is summer, and there is no fire to kindle. As
for the poor unfortunates whom I used to visit, I can do them no good;
their benefactress is no more. I must do something, or life will be a
burden; and if your majesty will condescend to give me leave, I shall
seek another place."
"Another place, Stockel!" said the empress. "What other place?"
"A place in the household of the REIGNING empress," answered Stockel
with a low inclination.
Maria Theresa raised her head, and her astonishment was visible in her
large, open eyes.
"The reigning empress?" said she musing. "Who can that be?"
"The wife of the reigning emperor, your majesty," said Stockel grimly.
The empress threw back her proud head, and drew her mantle convulsively
"It is well," said she, "Come to me to-morrow, and you shall hear my
THE REIGNING EMPRESS.
The empress went slowly down the staircase. This staircase led to the
left wing of the palace, where the apartments of the imperial children
were situated. From earliest childhood the daughters of Maria Theresa
had had each one her separate suite. Each one had her governess, her
ladies of honor, and her train of servants, and lived as if in a
On great festivals, national or domestic, the younger members of the
imperial family were invited to the table of the empress; otherwise they
ate in private with their retinue, and each child had a separate table.
It was now the dinner-hour, and Maria Theresa had selected it, because
she felt sure that all the attendants of her children were at table, and
no one would know of her visit to Christina. But she was mistaken. As
she passed by the anteroom leading to the apartments of her children,
she heard the voices of the lords and ladies in waiting, and through the
half-opened door, saw them chatting together in groups. They did not
seem to observe their ex-sovereign; they went on conversing as if
nothing had happened. But as the empress was passing the apartments of
little Marie Antoinette, her governess appeared, and, with a cry of joy,
threw herself at Maria Theresa's feet, and covered her hand with kisses.
The empress smiled. A thrill of pleasure ran through her frame, as she
received the homage to which from her birth she had been accustomed.
"Rise, countess," said she, kindly, "and do not let Marie Antoinette
know that I am near. But, tell me, how comes it that at this hour I find
the retinue of my children at leisure, while they are at table?"
"We are at leisure, your majesty," replied the countess, "because we are
waiting for their highnesses to rise from the table."
"Is it then a festival, that my children should be dining at the
"Please your majesty, the reigning emperor has abolished the private
tables of their highnesses your children. He finds it cheaper and more
convenient for all the members of the imperial family to be served at
once and at one table."
"Where, then, do my children dine?" asked the empress, with asperity.
"En famille, with her imperial majesty, the reigning empress."
"The reigning empress!" echoed Maria Theresa, with a frown. "But how
comes it that my children leave their rooms without a retinue? Have you,
then, already forgotten that I never permit a breach of court-ceremonial
on any account?"
"Please your majesty, the emperor dislikes etiquette, and he has
strictly forbidden all Spanish customs as laughable and ridiculous. He
has forbidden all attendance upon the imperial family, except on new
year's day. He has also forbidden us to kneel before his majesty,
because it is an outlandish Spanish custom, and a homage due to God
alone. All the French and Italian servants of the palace are dismissed,
and their places are supplied by natives. The emperor wishes to have
every thing at his court essentially German. For that reason he has
ordered the mass to be translated and celebrated in the German
The empress heaved a sigh, and drew her mantilla over her face, as if to
shut out the future which was unrolling itself to her view. She felt
sick at heart; for she began to comprehend that her successor was not
only creating a new order of things, but was speaking with contempt of
his mother's reign. But she would not comtemplate the sad vision; she
strove to turn back her thoughts to the present.
"But if you no longer have your private table," continued she, "why not
accompany the princesses?"
"Because the emperor deems it fitting that the imperial family should
dine alone. We, ladies in waiting, dine in a small room set apart for
us, and then return to our apartments to await their highnesses."
"But the lords in waiting, do they not dine with you?"
"No, your majesty, they have received orders at one o'clock to go to
their own houses, or to their former lodgings to dine. The court table
is abolished, and the emperor finds that by so doing he has economized a
very considerable sum."
A deep flush of anger passed over the face of Maria Theresa, and her lip
curled contemptuously. Economy was one of the few virtues which the
profuse and munificent empress had never learned to practise. She
considered it beneath the dignity of a sovereign to count the cost of
"Enough," said she, in a constrained voice, "I will go to Christina. Let
no one know of my visit. I desire to see my sick daughter alone."
She bent her lofty head, and walked rapidly away. With a beating heart
she opened the door that led to the sleeping-room of the princess. There
on a couch lay a pale, weeping figure, the empress's darling, her
She stopped for a moment on the threshold, and looked lovingly at the
dear child, whom, for four days, she had not seen; then a thrill of
unutterable joy pervaded her whole being. At this moment Christina
raised her languid eyes; her glance met that of her mother; and with a
piercing cry, she sprang from the couch. But, overcome by weakness and
emotion, she faltered, grew paler, and sank to the floor.
The empress darted forward and caught her fainting daughter in her arms.
She carried her to the divan, laid her softly down, and, with quivering
lip, surveyed the pale face and closed eyes of the princess.
She recovered slowly, and at length, heaving a deep sigh unclosed her
eyes. Mother and child contemplated each other with loving glances, and
as the archduchess raised her arms and clasped them around her mother's
neck, she whispered feebly: "Oh, now, all is well! I am no longer
desolate; my dear, dear mother has returned to me. She has not forsaken
us; she will shield us from oppression and misfortune."
Like a frightened dove Christina clung to the empress, and burying her
face in her mother's breast, she wept tears of relief and joy.
The empress drew her close to her heart. "Yes, darling," said she, with
fervor, "I am here to shield you, and I will never forsake you again. No
one on earth shall oppress you now. Tell me, dear child, what goes wrong
"Oh, mother, "whispered Christina, "there is one in Austria, more
powerful than yourself, who will force me to his will. You cannot shield
me from the emperor, for you have given him the power to rule over us;
and, oh, how cruelly he uses his right!"
"What I have given, I can recall, "cried the empress. "Mine are the
power and the crown, and I have not yet relinquished them. Now speak,
Christina; what grieves you, and why are your eyes so red with weeping?"
"Because I am the most unhappy of mortals," cried Christina,
passionately. "Because I am denied the right which every peasant-girl
exercises; the right of refusing a man whom I do not love. Oh, mother,
if you can, save me from the detested Duke of Chablais,--whom my cruel
brother forces upon me as a husband."
"Is that your sorrow, my child?" exclaimed the empress. "Joseph is like
his father; he loves wealth. The emperor had proposed this half-brother
of the King of Sardinia for you, Christina, but I refused my consent;
and, now without my knowledge, Joseph would force him upon you, because
of his great riches. But patience, patience, my daughter. I will show
you that I am not so powerless as you think; I will show you that no one
in Austria shall give away my Christina without her mother's
While the empress spoke, her cheeks flushed, and her eyes glowed with a
proud consciousness of might not yet renounced forever. The sorrowing
widow was being once more transformed into the stately sovereign, and
the eyes, which had been so dimmed by tears, were lit up by the fire of
"Oh, mother, my own imperial mother," said Christina, "do not only free
me from the man whom I detest, but bless me with the hand of the man I
love. You well know how long I have loved Albert of Saxony, you know how
dear I am to him. I have sworn never to be the wife of another, and I
will keep my oath, or die! Oh, mother, do not make me the sport of
policy and ambition! Let me be happy with him whom I love. What are
crowns and sceptres and splendor, when the heart is without love and
hope? I am willing to lead a simple life with Albert--let me be happy in
my own way. Oh, mother! I love him so far above all earthly creatures,
that I would rather be buried with him in the grave than be an empress
And she fell upon her knees and wept anew. The empress had listened
musingly to her daughter's appeal. While Christina was speaking, the
glamour of her own past love was upon her heart.
She was a girl again; and once more her life seemed bound up in the love
she bore to young Francis of Lorraine. Thus had she spoken, so had she
entreated her father, the proud emperor, until he had relented, and she
had become the wife of Christina's own father! Not only maternal love,
but womanly sympathy pleaded for her unhappy child.
She bent over her, and with her white hand fondly stroked the rich
masses of Christina's golden-brown hair.
"Do not weep, my daughter," said she tenderly. "True, you have spoken
words most unseemly for one of your birth; for it is the duty of a
princess to buy her splendor and her rank with many a stifled longing
and many a disappointment of the affections. Kind fate bestowed upon me
not only grandeur, but the husband of my love, and daily do I thank the
good God who gave me to my best beloved Franz. I do not know why you,
too, may not be made a happy exception to the lot of princesses. I have
still four beautiful daughters for whom state policy may seek alliances.
I will permit one of my children to be happy as I have been. God grant
that the rest may find happiness go hand in hand with duty."
The princess, enraptured, would have thrown her arms around her mother's
neck; but suddenly, her face, which had grown rosy with joy, became pale
again, and her countenance wore an expression of deep disappointment.
"Oh, mother," cried she, "we build castles, while we forget that you are
no longer the sovereign of Austria. And while you weep and pray in your
dark cell, the emperor, with undutiful hand, overturns the edifice of
Austria's greatness--that edifice which you, dearest mother, had reared
with your own hands. He is like Erostratus; his only fame will be to
have destroyed a temple which he had not the cunning to build."
"We will wrest the fagots from his sacrilegious hands," cried the
The archduchess seemed not to have heard her mother's words She threw
her arms around the empress, and, clinging convulsively to her,
exclaimed, "Oh, do, not forsake me, my mother and my empress. That
horrible woman, who was dragged from her obscurity to curse my brother's
life; that tiresome, hideous Josepha--do not suffer her to wear your
title and your crown. O God! O God! Must I live to see Maria Theresa
humbled, while Josepha of Bavaria is the reigning empress of Austria?"
The empress started. This was the third time she had heard these words,
and each time it seemed as if a dagger had pierced her proud heart.
"Josepha of Bavaria the reigning empress of Austria!" said she
scornfully. "We shall see how long she is to bear my title and wear my
crown! But I am weary, my daughter. I must go to my solitude, but fear
nothing. Whether I be empress or abbess, no man on earth shall oppress
my children. The doors of the cloister have not yet closed upon me; I am
still, if I choose to be, the reigning empress of Austria."
She pressed a kiss upon Christina's forehead, and left the room.
On her return she encountered no one, and she was just about to open the
door of her own anteroom, when she caught the sound of voices from
"But I tell you, gentlemen," cried an angry voice, "that her majesty,
the ex-empress, receives no one, and has no longer any revenues. She has
nothing more to do with the administration of affairs in Austria."
"But I must see the empress," replied a second and a deprecating voice.
"It is my right, for she is our sovereign, and she cannot so forsake us.
Let me see the empress. My life depends upon her goodness."
"And I," cried a third voice, "I too must see her. Not for myself do I
seek this audience, but for her subjects. Oh, for the love of Austria,
let me speak with my gracious sovereign!"
"But I tell you that I dare not," cried the ruffled page. "It would ruin
me not only with her majesty, but with the reigning emperor. The widowed
empress has no more voice in state affairs, and the emperor never will
suffer her to have any, for he has all the power to himself, and he
never means to yield an inch of it."
"Woe then to Austria!" cried the third speaker.
"Why do you cry, 'Woe to Austria?'" asked a voice outside; and the tall,
majestic form of the empress appeared at the door.
"Our empress!" cried the two petitioners, while both fell at her feet
and looked into her voice with unmistakeable joy.
The empress greeted them kindly, but she added: "Rise, gentlemen. I hear
that my son, the emperor, has forbidden his subjects to kneel to him;
they shall not, therefore, kneel to me, for he is right. To God alone
belongs such homage. Rise, therefore, Father Aloysius; the brothers of
the holy order of Jesus must never kneel, to fellow-mortal. And you,
Counsellor Bundener, rise also, and stand erect. Your limbs have grown
stiff in my service; in your old age you have the right to spare them.
You," added she, turning to the page, "return to your post, and attend
more faithfully to your duty than you have done to-day. When I left this
room, no one guarded the entrance to it."
"Your majesty," stammered the confused page, "it was the dinner-hour,
and I had never dreamed of your leaving your apartments. His majesty the
emperor has reduced the pages and sentries to half their number, and
there are no longer enough of us to relieve one another as we were
accustomed to do under the reign of your majesty."
"It is well," said the empress haughtily. "I will restore order to my
household before another day has passed. And now, gentlemen, what brings
you hither? Speak, Father Aloysius."
"My conscience, your majesty," replied Father Aloysius, fervently. "I
cannot stand by and see the hailstorm of corruption that devastates our
unhappy country. I cannot see Austria flooded with the works of French
philosophers and German infidels. What is to become of religion and
decency if Voltaire and Rousseau are to be the teachers of Austrian
"It rests with yourself, my friend," replied the empress, "to protect
the youth of Austria from such contaminating influences. Why do those
whom I appointed censors of the press permit the introduction of these
godless works in my realms?"
"Your majesty's realms!" replied the father sadly. "Alas, they are no
longer yours. Your son is emperor and master of Austria, and he has
commanded the printing and distribution of every infidel work of modern
times. The censors of the press have been silenced, and ordered to
discontinue their revision of books."
"Has my son presumed so far?" cried the empress, angrily. "Has he dared
to overthrow the barriers which for the good of my subjects I had raised
to protect them from the corrupt influences of French infidelity? Has be
ordered the dissemination of obscene and ungodly books? O my God! How
culpable have I been to the trust which thou hast placed in my hands! I
feel my guilt; I have sinned in the excess of my grief. But I will
conquer my weak heart. Go in peace, father. I will ponder your words,
and to-morrow you shall hear from me."
The father bowed and retired, while the empress turned toward Counsellor
Bundener and inquired the cause of his distress.
"Oh, your majesty," cried the old man in accents of despair, "unless you
help me I am ruined. If you come not again to my assistance my children
will starve, for I am old and--"
"What!" interrupted the empress, "your children starve with the pension
I gave you from my own private purse?"
"You did, indeed, give me a generous pension," replied Bundener, "and
may God bless your majesty, for a more bountiful sovereign never bore
the weight of a crown. But desolation and despair sit in the places
where once your majesty's name was mingled each day with the prayers of
those whom you had succored. The emperor has withdrawn every pension
bestowed by you. He has received a statement of every annuity paid by
your majesty's orders, and has declared his intention of cleaning out
the Augean stables of this wasteful beneficence." [Footnote: Hubner,
"Life of Joseph II.," vol. i., p. 28.]
The empress could not suppress a cry of indignation. Her face grew
scarlet, and her lips parted. But she conquered the angry impulse that
would have led her to disparage her son in the presence of his subject,
and her mouth closed firmly. With agitated mien she paced her apartment,
her eyes flashing, her breast heaving, her whole frame convulsed with a
sense of insulted maternity. Then she came toward the counsellor, and
lifting her proud head as though Olympus had owned her sway, she spoke:
"Go home, my friend," said she imperiously, "and believe my royal word
when I assure you that neither you nor any other of my pensioners shall
be robbed of your annuities. Princely faith shall be sacred above all
consideration of thrift, and we shall see who dares impeach mine!"
So saying, Maria Theresa passed into her dressing-room, where her ladies
of honor were assembled. They all bent the knee as she entered, and
awaited her commands in reverential silence. At that moment the flourish
of trumpets and the call of the guards to arms were heard. The empress
looked astounded, and directed an inquiring glance toward the window.
She knew full well the meaning of that trumpet signal and that call to
arms; they were heard on the departure or the return of one person only
in Austria, and that person was herself, the empress.
For the third time the trumpet sounded. "What means this?" asked she,
"Please your majesty," answered a lady of the bedchamber, "it signifies
that her imperial majesty, the reigning empress, has returned from her
walk in the palace gardens."
Maria Theresa answered not a word. She walked quickly past her
attendants and laid her hand upon the lock of the door which led into
her private study. Her head was thrown back, her eyes were full of
flashing resolve, and the tone of her voice was clear, full, and
majestic. It betokened that Maria Theresa was "herself again."
"Let Prince Kaunitz be summoned," said she. "Send hither the Countess
Fuchs and Father Porhammer. Tell the two latter to come to my study when
the prince leaves it."
THE CO-REGENT DEPOSED.
Scarcely a quarter of an hour had elapsed since the empress's orders had
been issued, when a page announced Prince Kaunitz.
Maria Theresa went forward to receive him. Her whole being seemed filled
with a feverish excitement which contrasted singularly with the
unaltered demeanor of her prime minister, who, cold and tranquil as
ever, advanced to meet his sovereign, and bowed with his usual phlegm.
"Well," said Maria Theresa, after a pause, "every thing has not changed
in the four weeks of my retirement from court. You at least are the same
in appearance. Let me hope that you are the same in spirit and in mind."
"Please your majesty," replied Kaunitz, "four weeks have not yet gone by
since I had the honor of an interview with you."
"What do you mean by that?" asked the empress, impatiently. "Do you wish
to remind me that I had resolved to wait four weeks before I decided
upon a permanent course of action?"
"Yes, your majesty," said Kaunitz. "I am somewhat vain, as everybody
knows, and I have already seen my triumph in your majesty's face. I read
there that my noble empress has proved me a true prophet. She has not
yet been away from her subjects four weeks, and already her head has
silenced the weakness of her heart. Three weeks have sufficed to bring
Maria Theresa once more to her sense of duty."
"Ah!" said the empress, "are you then so sure that my novitiate will not
end in a cloister?"
"I am convinced of it. For never shall I forget the day on which your
majesty swore to be a faithful ruler over Austria as long as you lived.
I am convinced of it, too, because I know that, although my empress has
the heart of a woman, she has the head of a man, and in all well-ordered
unions the head rules the household."
The empress smiled faintly, but said nothing. Her arms were crossed over
her breast, her head was bent in thought, and she went slowly back and
forth from one end of her study to the other. Kaunitz followed her with
his large, tranquil eyes, which seemed to penetrate to the remotest
regions of her throbbing heart.
Suddenly she stood before him, and for a moment gazed earnestly in his
"Kaunitz," said she, "I have not only considered you for many years as a
wise and great statesman, but, what is better yet, I have esteemed you
as a man of honor. I exact of you that you act honorably and openly
toward me in this hour. Do you promise?"
"An honorable man, your majesty, need not promise to do that which honor
requires of him."
"True, true. But you might pay unconscious deference to my rank or to my
sex. Courtesy might mislead you. This is precisely what I warn you to
avoid. I wish you to speak candidly without thought or consideration for
empress or woman. Remember how you pledged your life to Austria's
good--and, forgetting all else, answer me truthfully and without fear.
Will you, Kaunitz?"
"I will, your majesty. Ask, and you shall be truthfully answered--so
help me God."
"Then, tell me, which of us is better calculated to reign in
Austria--Joseph or myself? Which of us will best promote the welfare of
the Austrian people? Do not answer me at once. Take time to reflect upon
the subject, for a, weighty question lies in the balance of this hour. I
cannot trust myself in this decision, for I have wept so many tears that
I have not the strength to see wherein my duty lies. I cannot even trust
my own misgivings, for pride or vanity may have blinded my eyes to
truth. I am not sure that I view things in their proper light. It is
useless, therefore, for me to speak. I desire to hear no one but
yourself. I swear to you by the memory of Charles V., that, whatever you
say shall be sacred; for I have exacted of you candor--and say what you
will, your candor shall not offend. Who, then, is best fitted to reign,
Joseph or I?"
"Your majesty, I have had full time to reflect upon this weighty
question; for since first you announced your intention to resign the
throne, I have thought of nothing else. In politics we know neither
predilection nor prejudice. Necessity and interest decide all things.
Your majesty has so often called me a good politician, that I have ended
by believing myself to be one. It follows thence that, in deliberating
upon this great question, I have laid aside all personal inclination and
sympathy, and have had in view the welfare of Austria alone. But for
this, the matter would have required no thought, for the Emperor Joseph
and I have nothing in common. He fears me, and I do not love him.
[Footnote: Kaunitz's own words. Wrazall, vol. ii., p. 490.] We never
could be made to understand one another; for the language of the heart
is not to be forced by edicts, as is the language of the court. The
emperor has forbidden all tongues in Germany, save one. If he persist in
this, he will alienate his subjects, and Austria will soon lose her
greatness. When a titan intends to force his people to forget their
mother-tongue, he must do it by degrees; and if he succeeds, he will be
a skilful teacher. The best reforms are to be introduced through the
byways of life. If we trust them on the highway, they shock and terrify
the people. The young emperor, regardless of these considerations, has
violently suppressed whatever seemed injudicious to him in your
majesty's administration. Perhaps you had done too much; your son,
certainly, does too little. I hear everywhere of interdicts, but nowhere
of concessions. Old things destroyed, but nothing created to replace
them. What will be the result of this? Austria must soon be reduced to a
mass of ruins, and your son will go down to posterity with a fame like
that of Attila. Save Austria! save him from the curse that threatens
both. We have not yet completed the noble edifice of which eleven years
ago we laid the foundations. We must finish the structure, and so solid
must be its walls that our thoughtless young reformer shall not have
strength to batter them down. Your majesty must remain the reigning
Empress of Austria. You cannot resign your empire to your son. Duty and
the welfare of your subjects forbid it."
The empress inclined her head approvingly. "I believe that you are
right, Kaunitz," replied she. "It is not in the pride, but in the deep
humility of my heart, that I reassume the crown which God himself placed
upon my head. I have no right to say that the load is too heavy since He
wills me to bear it. Indeed I feel that He will give me strength to
accomplish His will in me, and I am now ready to say, 'Behold the
handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to His word.' I will
never again lift my treasonable hand against that crown which I pray
Heaven I may wear for the good of my people. But you, prince, you must
be at my side; together we have planned for Austria, together we must
complete the noble structure of her greatness."
"I remain, your majesty, and will never cease to labor until the banner
of the Hapsburg floats proudly from its battlements. But we must
decorate as well as strengthen. We have beautiful young princesses whose
alliances will bring wealth and splendor to our imperial edifice.
Within, we shall have solid walls that will insure the durability of our
structure; without, we shall have brilliant alliances that will perfect
"You have a marriage to propose?" said the empress, smiling.
"I have, your majesty, a marriage with the young King of Naples."
"For which of my daughters?" asked Maria Theresa uneasily.
"For the one your majesty shall select."
"Then it shall be Johanna. She is very beautiful, and has a proud and
ambitious heart which craves less for love than for rank and splendor.
But if I give one of my daughters to diplomacy, you must leave me
another for domestic happiness. Christina has undertaken to think that
she must marry for love, and I think we ought to make her happy in her
own modest way. We owe amends to Albert of Saxony for having declined an
alliance with his sister; we also owe him something for his fidelity and
good faith as an ally. Let the young lovers be united, then; we have
gold and daughters enough to tolerate one marriage of inclination in our
"But your majesty will give up the youngest, Marie Antoinette, to
diplomacy, will you not?"
"You destine her to the throne of France, prince--is it not so?"
"Yes, your majesty. The son of the dauphin is a noble youth, and
although his father was unfriendly to Austria, Choiseuil and La
Pompadour are for us. Marie Antoinette, therefore, is to be Queen of
France. This, however, must be a profound secret between ourselves.
While her little highness is being fashioned for her future dignity, we
must marry her elder sisters, if not so brilliantly, at least as
advantageously as we can. First, then, upon the list is the Archduchess
Christina. We must find some suitable rank for herself and her husband,
and your majesty will of course bestow a dowry worthy of your daughter's
birth and station."
"I will present them the duchy of Teschen as a wedding-gift, and it must
be your care, prince, to find an appointment for the Elector of Saxony
that will be worthy of my son-in-law."
"Let us name him Captain-General and Stadtholder of Hungary. That will
be an effectual means of converting the Hungarians into Austrians, and
the appointment is in every way suitable to the elector's rank." The
empress nodded, smiling acquiescence. "Your head," said she, "is always
in the right place; and sometimes I cannot help thinking that your heart
is better than the world believes it to be, else how could you so
readily divine the hearts of others? How quickly have you devised the
best of schemes to promote my daughter's happiness, without compromising
her imperial station! Christina shall be Stadthalterin of Hungary; and
in her name and my own I thank you for the suggestion. One thing,
however, lies heavy on my heart. It is the thought of the blow I am
about to inflict upon my poor Joseph. How will he bear to be deprived of
"I think your majesty named him co-regent only," said Kaunitz.
"I did," replied the empress, "and in very truth I withdraw nothing but
a temporary privilege. As empress I know my right to resume the reins of
power; but it grieves my maternal heart to exercise it. I think I see
him now, poor boy, with his great blue eyes fixed in despair upon me. I
never shall have the courage to announce my return to him."
"There will be no need to restrict him in his co-regency. He can be
removed to the war department, where he may reign unfettered."
"He shall have unlimited power there," exclaimed the empress, joyfully.
"It is the proper province of a man, and Joseph will fill the station
far better than I have ever done. I promise not to interfere with him in
the field. For other state affairs, I shall attend to them myself, and I
do not think that I will ever delegate my power a second time. You had
best inform Joseph of my resumption of the throne, and let the Frau
Josepha also be advised that she is no longer reigning empress of
Austria. For me, I must always remain at heart a sorrowing widow. My
sorrows I can never overcome; my widow's weeds I shall never lay aside.
[Footnote: She kept her word. Every month, on the day of her husband's
death, she spent the day in solitary prayer and on every yearly
anniversary of her widowhood, she knelt for hours by the side of the
emperor's tomb, praying for the repose of his soul. Her private
apartments were ever after hung with gray, and her coaches and liveries
were of the same sad hue.--Caroline Pichler, "Memoirs."] But above the
weeds I will wear the mantle of royalty; and since you have so
determined for me, Austria shall once more own the sway of Maria
MOTHER AND SON.
The dream was over--the blessed dream of philanthropy and reform! The
reins of power had been snatched from his hands, and Joseph was once
more consigned to a life of insignificant inactivity. Like a wounded
bird, whose broken wing no longer bears him aloft his heart fluttered
and fell--its high hopes dashed to earth. The old influences which he
hated, were at work again, and he had no recourse but absolute silence.
His deep humiliation, he was constrained to hide under a mask of
serenity; but he knew that his spirit was crushed, and night fell over
his stricken soul. Still, he struggled against the chill of his despair,
and with all the strength of his being he strove against misfortune.
"I will not succumb," thought he, "I will not be vanquished by this
secret grief. I will not be a cause of sorrow to my friends and of
triumph to my enemies--I will live and overpower misfortune. Since all
in Vienna is so dark, let me seek sunshine elsewhere--I will
travel!--Away from this stifling court, to breathe the free air of
heaven! Here I am an emperor without an empire; there at least I shall
be a man, to whom the world belongs, wherever his steed has strength and
speed to bear him. Yes, let me travel, that I may gird up my loins for
the day when the sun of royalty shall rise for me. It will come! it will
come! And when it dawns, it must find me strong, refreshed, and ready
The emperor made his preparations to depart, and then, in compliance
with the requisitions of court etiquette, he sought his mother, to
obtain her consent to his journey. Maria Theresa received her son with
that half-mournful tenderness which lent such an indescribable
fascination to her appearance and manners. She looked at him with a
smile so winning and affectionate, that Joseph, in spite of himself,
felt touched and gladdened; and the hand which his mother held out was
most fervently pressed to his lips. It was the first time they had met
in private since the empress had reascended her throne, and both felt
the embarrassment and significance of the hour.
"I have longed for this moment with anxious and beating heart, my son,"
said the mother, while she drew him toward her. "I know, my child, that
your heart is embittered toward me. You think that I would have been
wiser as well as kinder had I never left my widow's cloister. But
reflect, my dear son, as I have done, that my sceptre was given me by
the hand of God, and that it would be sinful and cowardly in me to give
it into the hands of another until He, in His wisdom, releases me from
Joseph looked with genuine emotion at the agitated countenance of his
mother. He saw the tears gather and fall from her eyes; he saw the
quivering lip, the trembling frame; he felt that her integrity was
beyond suspicion, her love for him beyond all question. The icy barriers
that had closed upon his heart, gave way; he felt the warm and sunny
glow of a mother's unspeakable love, and, yielding to the impulse of the
moment, he flung his arms around the empress's neck, while he covered
her face with kisses. "Mother, my dear mother!" sobbed he; and as if
these words had opened the floodgates of all the love which filled his
heart, he leaned his head upon her bosom, and was silent.
She smiled fondly upon him as he lay there; she returned his kisses, and
stroked his fair, high forehead with her loving hand.
"Have you come back once more to your mother's heart, my darling?"
whispered she. "Have you found your way back to the nest whence you have
wandered away so long, you stray birdling? Do you feel, my son, that the
mother's bosom is the resting-place for her children? Oh! promise me, my
heart's treasure, to trust and love me from this hour? We are human, and
therefore we are sinful and erring. I well know, dear boy, that I have
many failings. From my heart I regret them; and if in your short life,
as boy or man, I have grieved you, pardon me, dearest, for I have not
meant it in unkindness."
"No, mother,"' said Joseph, "it is I who should sue for pardon. My heart
is wild and stubborn; but I believe that it beats with a love as true
and warm for my empress as that of any other man in Austria. Have
patience with me, then, my mother, for I am indeed a wandering bird;
and, in my wild flight, the shafts of this life have wounded and maimed
me. But let us not speak of life--mine is a blasted one."
"Yes, my son, let us speak of your life, and of its misfortunes; for I
know that Josepha of Bavaria is its chiefest sorrow. I have heard
something of your unhappiness as a husband, and I pity you both."
"You pity her!" cried Joseph, hastily. "How does she deserve my mother's
The empress laid her hand gently upon her son's shoulder. "She loves
you, Joseph," said she, "and I cannot refuse my sympathy to a woman who
loves without hope of return."
"She loves me!" exclaimed Joseph with a laugh of derision. "Yes--and her
love is my abhorrence and my shame. Her ogling glances make me shudder
with disgust. When she turns upon me her blotched and pimpled face, and
calls me by the name of husband, the courtiers sneer, and I--I feel as
if I would love to forget my manhood and fell her to the earth."
"She is certainly ugly," said the empress, shaking her head, "but uglier
women than she have inspired love. And remember, Joseph, that you chose
her yourself. Besides, she has an excellent heart, if you would but take
the trouble to explore its unknown regions. Moreover, you will one day
be sole Emperor of Austria, and you should seek to give an heir to your
throne. If Josepha were the mother of your children, you would no longer
think her ugly."
"SHE the mother of my children!" cried Joseph, with such keenness of
hate, that the empress shuddered. "Do you think me capable of such a
degradation? You have not seen Van Swieten lately, or he would have told
you that this woman, in addition to her other attractions, is troubled
with a new malady."
"Van Swieten did not mention it to me."
"Well, then, your majesty, I will mention it. This so-called empress has
"Oh, my son, my poor boy!" cried the empress, putting her arm around
Joseph's neck as though she would have shielded him from infection.
"That is a disgusting malady, but Van Swieten's skill will soon conquer
"Yes; but neither he nor you will ever conquer my hate for her. Not all
the world could make me forgive the deception that was practised upon me
when she was allowed to become my wife. THIS woman the mother of my
children! No! No one shall ever force me to be the father of any thing
born of Josepha of Bavaria!"
The empress turned away and sighed. It was in vain. This was hatred
strong as death. "May God comfort you both!" said she, mournfully.
"Then He must put us asunder!" cried out Joseph, almost beside himself.
"Believe me, mother," continued he, "death alone can bring us
consolation; and may God forgive me when I pray that this atoning angel
may come to my relief! She or I! No longer can I bear this ridicule of
hearing this leper called an empress!"
"Travel, then, my dear son," said his mother. "Travel and try to enjoy
life away from Vienna. Perchance when you will have seen how little true
happinesss there is on earth, experience may come to your help, and
teach you to be less unhappy."
The emperor shook his head. "Nothing," replied he, moodily, "can ever
console me. Wherever I go, I shall hear the rattle of my prisoner's
chain. Let us speak of it no more. I thank your majesty for the
permission to leave Vienna, and I thank you for this bright and sacred
hour, whose memory will bless me as long as I live. You have been to me
this day a tender and sympathizing mother. May I henceforward be to you
a grateful and obedient son."
"You have not yet told me whither you desire to travel," said the
empress, after a pause.
"With your majesty's permission, I would wish to travel in Bohemia and
Moravia, and then I wish to visit the courts of Dresden and Munich. Both
sovereigns, through their ambassadors, have sent me urgent invitations."
"It would be uncourteous to refuse," said the empress, earnestly. "It is
politic for us, as far as possible, to bind all the German princes to us
by interchange of kindness."
"Since this is your majesty's opinion, I hope that you will also consent
to my acceptance of a third invitation. The King of Prussia has
requested to have an interview with me at Torgau."
The brow of the empress darkened.
"The King of Prussia?" said she, almost breathless.
"Yes, your majesty, and to be frank with you it is of all my invitations
the one which I most desire to accept. I long to see face to face the
king whom all Europe, friend or foe, unites in calling 'Frederick the
Great'--great not only as a hero, but also as a lawgiver."
"Yes," cried the empress, with indignation, "the king whom infidels
delight to honor. I never supposed that he would presume to approach my
son and heir as an equal. The Margrave of Brandenburg has a right to
hold the wash-basin of the Emperor of Germany, but methinks he forgets
his rank when he invites him to an interview. "
"Ah, your majesty," replied Joseph, smiling, "the Margrave of
Brandenburg, to our sorrow and our loss, has proved himself a king; in
more than one battle has he held the wash-basin for Austria's sovereign,
but it was to fill it with Austrian blood."
Maria Theresa grew more and more angry as she heard these bold words.
"It ill becomes my son," said she, "to be the panegyrist of the victor
whose laurels were snatched from his mother's brow."
"Justice impels me to acknowledge merit, whether I see it in friend or
foe," answered the emperor. "Frederick of Prussia is a great man, and I
only hope that I may ever resemble him."
The empress uttered an exclamation, and her large eyes darted lightning
"And thus speaks my son of the man who has injured and robbed his
mother!" exclaimed she indignantly. "My son would press his hand who has
spilled such seas of Austrian blood--would worship as a hero the enemy
of his race! But so long as I reign in Austria, no Hapsburger shall
condescend to give the hand to a Hohenzollern. There is an old feud
between our houses; it cannot be healed."
"But if there is feud, your majesty perceives that it is not the fault
of the King of Prussia, since he holds out the right hand of friendship.
I think it much more Christian-like to bury feuds than to perpetuate
them. Your majesty sees, then, how Frederick has been calumniated, since
he follows the Christian precept which commands us to forgive our
"I wish to have nothing to do with him," said the empress.
"But, as I had the honor of saying before, the king has sent me a
pressing invitation, and you said just now that it would be uncourteous
"Not the invitation of Frederick. I will not consent to that."
"Not even if I beg it as a favor to myself?" asked Joseph fervently.
"Not even if I tell you that I have no wish so near at heart as that of
knowing the King of Prussia? Think of this day, so brightened to me by
the sunshine of your tenderness! Let the mother plead for me with the
sovereign; for it is not to my empress, it is to my mother that I
confide my hopes and wishes. Oh, do not drown the harmony of this hour
in discord! Do not interpose a cloud between us now."
The empress threw back her head. "You threaten me, sir, with your
displeasure? If there are clouds between us, see that they disperse from
your own brow, and show me the face of a loyal subject and a respectful
son. I will not consent to this visit to the King of Prussia; the very
thought of it is galling to my pride."
"Is that your majesty's last word?"
"It is my last."
"Then I have nothing further to say, except that, as in duty bound, I
will obey the orders of my sovereign," replied Joseph, turning deathly
pale. "I shall refuse the invitation of the King of Prussia, and beg
leave to retire."
Without awaiting the answer of his mother, he bowed, and hastily left
"Dismissed like a school-boy," muttered he, while tears of rage flowed
down his cheeks. "Two chains on my feet--the chains of this accursed
marriage, and the chains of my filial duty, impede my every step. When I
would advance, they hold me back and eat into my flesh. But it is of no
use to complain, I must learn to bear my fate like a man. I cannot rebel
openly, therefore must I be silent. But my time will come!"
He raised his head proudly, and with a firm step took the way to his
private apartments. He went at once into his study, where, on his
writing-desk, lay the letter of the King of Prussia.
The emperor seated himself at the desk, and, with a heavy sigh, took up
his pen. "Tell the king, your master," wrote he, "that I am not yet my
own master; I am the slave of another will. But I will find means some
day to atone for the rudeness which I have been forced to offer him in
return for his kindness." [Footnote: Hubner, "Life of Joseph II.," vol.
i., p. 87.--Gross-Hofflinger, vol. 1., p. 116.]
DEATH THE LIBERATOR.
The cruel enemy which had laid low so many branches of the noble house
of Hapsburg, had once more found entrance into the imperial palace at
Vienna. This terrific invisible foe, which, from generation to
generation, had hunted the imperial family with such keen ferocity, was
the small-pox. Emperors and Empresses of Austria had been its victims,
and almost every one of Maria Theresa's children bore, sooner or later,
its brand upon their faces. This fiend had robbed them of the fair
Isabella; and now its envenomed hand was laid upon the affianced bride
of the King of Naples. The beautiful young Johanna was borne to the
vaults of the Capuchins, while in the palace its inmates were
panic-stricken to hear that Josepha of Bavaria, too, had taken the
With such lightning swiftness had the venom darted through the veins of
the unhappy empress, that her attendants had fled in disgust from the
pestiferous atmosphere of her chamber.
And there, with one hired nurse, whom the humane Van Swieten had
procured from a hospital, lay the wife of the Emperor of Austria.
No loving hand smoothed the pillow beneath her burning head or held the
cooling cup to her blood-stained lips; no friendly voice whispered words
of sympathy; no familiar face bent over her with looks of pity.
Alone and forsaken, as she had lived, so must she die! At his first
wife's bedside Joseph had watched day and night; but Josepha's he did
not approach. In vain had she sent each day, through Van Swieten, a
petition to see him, if only once; Joseph returned, for all answer, that
his duty to his mother and sisters forbade the risk.
And there lay the woman whose princely station mocked her misery; there
she lay unpitied and unloved. The inmates of the palace hurried past the
infected room, stopping their breathing as they ran: the daughters of
Maria Theresa never so much as inquired whether their abhorred
sister-in-law were living or dead.
But the poor dying empress was not even alone with her misery. Memory
was there to haunt her with mournful histories of her past life: pale,
tearful, despairing were these ghosts of an existence uncheckered by one
ray of happiness. Ah, with what a heart full of trembling hope had she
entered the walls of this palace, which to her had proved a prisoner's
cell! With what rapture had she heard the approaching step of that
high-born emperor, her husband, on their wedding-night; and oh, how
fearful and how swift had fallen the bolt of his vengeance upon her sin!
Memory whispered her of this.
She thought of the Emperor Francis, of his tender sympathy with her
sorrow; she remembered how he had conspired with her on that fatal night
at Innspruck. Then she remembered her husband's scorn, his withering
insults, and her loss of consciousness. She thought how she had been
found on the floor, and awakened by the terrifying intelligence of the
emperor's sudden death. Her tears, her despair, she remembered all; and
her wail of sorrow at the loss of her kindest friend. [Wraxall, vol.
ii., page 411.] Memory whispered her of this.
She thought of her dreary life from that day forward: forever the
shrinking victim of Christina's sneers, because she, and not the sister
of Albert of Saxony, had become the emperor's wife. Even the
kind-hearted Maria Theresa had been cold to her; even she, so loving, so
affectionate, had never loved Josepha. And the wretched woman thought
how one day when the imperial family had dined together, and her
entrance had been announced as that of "Her majesty, the reigning
empress," the archduchesses had sneered, and their mother had smiled in
derision. Memory whispered her of this. [Footnote: Hubner, "Life of
Joseph II.," p. 27.]
She thought how her poor, martyred heart had never been able to give up
all hope of love and happiness; how day by day she had striven, through
humility and obedience, to appease her husband's anger. But he had
always repulsed her. One day she had resolved that he SHOULD see her.
She knew that the emperor was in the daily habit of sitting on the
balcony which divided her apartments from his. She watched his coming,
and went forward to meet him. But when he saw her, in spite of her tears
and supplications, with a gesture of disgust, he left the balcony and
closed the window that led to it. The next day, when she ventured a
second time on the balcony, she found it separated by a high partition,
shutting out all hope of seeing her husband more. And she remembered
how, one day afterward, when she stepped out upon it, and her husband
became aware of her presence, he had, in sight of all the passers-by,
started back into his room, and flung down his window with violence.
[Footnote: Caroline Pichler, "Memoirs," vol. i., p. 182.] Memory
whispered her of this.
But now that she had expiated her first fault by two years of bitter
repentance, now that death was about to free him from her hated presence
forever, surely he would have mercy, and forgive her the crime of having
darkened his life by their unhappy union.
Oh, that once more she could look into the heaven of those deep-blue
eyes! That once more before she died she could hear the music of that
voice, which to her was like the harmony of angels' tongues!
In vain! Ever came Van Swieten with the same cold message--"The emperor
cannot compromise the safety of his relatives."
At last, in the energy of despair, Josepha sat erect in her bed, and
with her livid, bloody hands, wrote a letter which Van Swieten, at her
earnest entreaty, delivered to the emperor.
When, after a short absence, he returned with another denial, she gave
such a shriek of anguish that it was heard throughout the palace.
Van Swieten, overwhelmed by pity for the poor martyr, felt that he must
make one more effort in her behalf. He could do nothing for her: bodily,
she was beyond his power to heal; but he was resolved to be the
physician of her broken heart, and, if it lay within the power of man,
to soothe and comfort her dying moments.
With the letter which Joseph had returned to him, he hastened to the
Empress Maria Theresa. To her he pictured the agony of her dying
daughter-in-law, and besought her to soften the emperor's heart.
The empress listened with deep emotion to the long-tried friend of her
house. Tears of sympathy gathered in her eyes, and fell over her pale
"Joseph will not grant her request, because he fears the infection for
us?" asked she.
"Yes, your majesty, that is his pretext."
"He need not fear for me, and he can remain at a distance from the other
members of the family," said Maria Theresa. "But I know what are his
real sentiments. He hates Josepha, and it is his hatred alone that
prevents him from granting her petition. He has a hard, unforgiving
heart, he never will pardon his wife--not even when she lies cold in her
"And she will not die until she has seen him," returned Van Swieten,
sadly. "It seems as if she had power to keep off death until the last
aim of her being has been reached. Oh, it is fearful to see a soul of
such fire and resolution in a body already decaying."
The empress shuddered. "Come, Van Swieten," said she, resolutely, "I
know how to force Joseph to the bedside of his poor, dying wife."
She rose, and would have gone to the door, but Van Swieten, all ceremony
forgetting, held her back.
"I will call the emperor myself," said he; "whither would your majesty
"Do not detain me," cried the empress, "I must go to the emperor."
"But what then?" asked Van Swieten, alarmed.
The empress, who had already crossed her anteroom, looked back with a
countenance beaming with noble energy.
"I will do my duty," replied she. "I will do what Christian feeling
prompts. I will go to Josepha."
"No, your majesty, no," cried Van Swieten, again laying hands upon his
sovereign. "You owe it to your people and your children not to expose
yourself to danger."
The empress smiled sadly. "Doctor, where did Isabella and Johanna take
the infection? God called them to Himself, and God has shielded me, If
it pleases Him that I also shall suffer this fearful scourge, it will
not be from contagion. It will be from His divine hand."
"No, no, your majesty, it will be my fault," cried Van Swieten. "On my
head will be the sin."
"I free you from all responsibility," replied she, "and say no more; for
it is my duty to visit this deserted woman's death-bed. I have been less
kind to her than I should have been, and less indulgent than on MY
death-bed I will wish to have been. I have not been a tender mother to
her, living--let me comfort her, at least, now that she is dying."
"But she has not asked for your majesty," persisted Van Swieten.
But suddenly he stopped, and a cry of horror was stifled between his
lips. He had seen upon the forehead and cheeks of the empress those
small, dark spots which revealed to his experienced eye that it was too
late to shield her from infection.
Maria Theresa was too excited to remark the paleness of Van Swieten. She
"Go to Joseph, and tell him that I await him at the death-bed of his
wife. He will not dare refuse her now. Go, doctor, we must both do our
Van Swieten stepped aside, for he had blocked the door.
"Go, your majesty," said he, almost inaudibly. "I will not detain you,
but will see the emperor." He turned away, sick at heart. "One empress
dying, and another!--O God! grant me help that I may save my beloved
Meanwhile the empress hurried through the deserted halls of the palace
to the room of the unhappy Josepha. As she approached the door, she
heard her voice in tones of bitterest anguish. The sound filled the
heart of Maria Theresa with deepest sympathy and sorrow.
For one moment she stood irresolute; then, gathering all her strength,
she opened the door, and went in. At the foot of the bed knelt two
Ursuline nuns, those angels of mercy who are ever present to comfort the
dying. The entrance of the empress did not interrupt their prayers. They
knew that no one could rescue the dying woman; they were praying Heaven
to comfort her departing soul.
But was she comforted? She ceased her lamentations, and now lay still.
She had heard the door open, and had struggled to rise; but she was too
weak, and sank back with a groan.
But she had seen the empress, who, with the courage of a noble spirit,
had conquered her disgust, and advancing to the bed, bent over Josepha
with a sweet, sad smile. Josepha saw it, and the empress looked more
beautiful to her dying eyes than she had ever looked before.
"God bless you, my poor daughter," whispered she, in broken accents. "I
come to give you a mother's blessing, and to beg of Almighty God to give
"Peace, peace!" echoed the sufferer, while the empress, with a shudder
surveyed her black and bloated face.
Suddenly she uttered a cry, and opened her arms. "He comes! he comes!"
cried she; and her dying eyes unclosed with a ray of joy.
Yes, he came--he, whom she had so longed to see.
When Van Swieten told him that the empress had gone to Josepha's room,
he started from his seat, and hurried through the corridor with such
wild speed that the physician had been unable to follow him.
Hastily approaching the bed, he put his arms gently around his mother,
and sought to lead her away.
"Mother," said he, imploringly, "leave this room. It is my duty to be
here, not yours. Bid adieu to the Empress Josepha, and go hence."
"Oh, oh!" groaned Josepha, falling back upon her pillow, "he does not
come for my sake, but for his mother's."
"Yes, Josepha," replied Joseph, "I am here for your sake also, and I
shall remain with you."
"I also will remain," said Maria Theresa. "This sacred hour shall unite
in love those who so long have been severed by error and
misapprehension. Life is a succession of strivings to do well, and
relapses into wrong. We feel that we have erred toward you, and we come
with overflowing hearts to crave forgiveness. Forgive us, Josepha, as
you hope to be forgiven!"
"Forgive me also, Josepha," said Joseph, with genuine emotion. "Let us
part in peace. Forgive me my obduracy, as from my soul I forgive you. We
have both been unhappy--"
"No," interrupted Josepha, "I have not been unhappy; for I--I have
loved. I die happy; for he whom I love no longer turns abhorrent from my
presence. I shall die by the light of your pardoning smile. Death, that
comes every moment nearer, death, to me, brings happiness. He comes with
his cold kiss, to take my parting breath--the only kiss my lips have
ever felt. He brings me love and consolation. He takes from my face the
hideous mask which it has worn through life; and my soul's beauty, in
another world, shall win me Joseph's love. Oh death, the comforter! I
feel thy kiss. Farewell, Joseph, farewell!"
"Farewell!" whispered Joseph and Maria Theresa.
A fearful pause ensued--a slight spasm--a gasp--and all was over.
"She is released!" said Van Swieten. "May her soul rest in peace!"
The Ursulines intoned the prayers for the dead, and Maria Theresa, in
tears, clasped her hands and faltered out the responses. Suddenly she
reeled, heaved a sigh, and fell back in the emperor's arms.
"My mother, my dear mother!" cried he, terrified.
Van Swieten touched him lightly. "Do not arouse her. Yonder sleeps the
one empress in death--her pains are past; but this one, our beloved
Maria Theresa, has yet to suffer. May God be merciful and spare her
"Her life!" cried Joseph, turning pale.
"Yes, her life," said Van Swieten, solemnly. "The empress has the
small-pox." [Footnote: The Empress Josepha died May 28, 1767, at the age
of twenty nine years. Her body was so decayed by small pox, that, before
her death the flesh fell from her in pieces. It was so completely
decomposed, that it was impossible to pay it the customary funeral
honors. It was hurriedly wrapped up in a linen cloth, and coffined. From
these circumstances a rumor prevailed in Bavaria that she had not died,
but had been forced into a cloister by her husband.]
Six fearful weeks had gone by--six weeks of anxiety, suspense, and care,
not only for the imperial family, but for all Austria.
Like the lightning flash, intelligence had gone through the land that
the empress was in danger, and her subjects had lost interest in every
thing except the bulletins issued from the palace where Van Swieten and
Von Storck watched day and night by the bedside of their beloved
sovereign. Deputations were sent to Vienna, sympathizing with the
emperor, and the avenues to the palace were thronged with thousands of
anxious faces, each waiting eagerly for the bulletins that came out four
times a day.
At last the danger passed away. Van Swieten slept at home, and the
empress was recovering.
She had recovered. Leaning on the arm of the emperor, and surrounded by
her happy children, Maria Theresa left her widow's cell to take up her
abode in the new and splendid apartments which, during her
convalescence, Joseph had prepared for her reception.
She thanked her son for his loving attention, so contrary to his usual
habits of economy, and therefore so much the more a proof of his earnest
desire to give pleasure to his mother. She, in her turn, sought to give
strong expression to her gratitude, by admiring with enthusiasm all that
had been done for her. She stopped to examine the costly Turkey carpets,
the gorgeous Gobelin tapestries on the walls, the tables carved of
precious woods, or inlaid with jewels and Florentine mosaic, the rich
furniture covered with velvet and gold, the magnificent lustres of
sparkling crystal, and the elegant trifles which here and there were
tastefully disposed upon etageres or consoles.
"Indeed, my son," cried the empress, surveying the beautiful suite, "you
have decorated these rooms with the taste and prodigality of a woman. It
adds much to my enjoyment of their beauty to think that all this is the
work of your loving hands. But one thing has my princely son forgotten;
and therein he betrays his sex, showing that he is no woman, but in very
truth a man."
"Have I forgotten something, your majesty?" asked Joseph.
"Yes; something, my son, which a woman could never have overlooked.
There are no mirrors in my splendid home."
"No mirrors!" exclaimed Joseph, looking confused. "No--yes --indeed,
your majesty is right, I had forgotten them. But I beg a thousand
pardons for my negligence, and I will see that it is repaired. I shall
order the costliest Venetian mirrors to be made for these apartments."
While Joseph spoke, his mother looked earnestly at his blushing face,
and perfectly divined both his embarrassment and its cause. She turned
her eyes upon her daughters, who, with theirs cast down, were sharing
their brother's perplexity.
"I must wait then until my mirrors are made," said the empress, after a
pause. "You must think that I have less than woman's vanity, my son, if
you expect me to remain for weeks without a greeting from my
looking-glass. Of course the small-pox has not dared to disfigure the
face of an empress; I feel secure against its sacrilegious touch. Is it
not so, my little Marie Antoinette? Has it not respected your mother's
The little archduchess looked frightened at the question, and timidly
raised her large eyes. "My imperial mamma is as handsome as ever she
was," said the child, in a trembling voice.
"And she will always be handsome to us, should she live until old age
shall have wrinkled her face and paled her cheeks," cried Joseph warmly.
"The picture of her youthful grace and beauty is engraved upon our
hearts, and nothing can ever remove it thence. To the eyes of her
children a noble and beloved mother is always beautiful. "
The empress said nothing in reply. She smiled affectionately upon her
son, and inclining her head kindly to the others, retired to her
sitting-room. She walked several times up and down, and finally
approached her mirror. In accordance with an old superstition, which
pronounces it ill-luck to allow a looking-glass in the room of a sick
person, this large mirror had been covered with a heavy silk curtain.
The empress drew it back; but instead of her looking-glass, she was
confronted by a portrait of her late husband, the emperor. She uttered
an exclamation of surprise and joy, and contemplated the picture with a
happy smile. "God bless thee, my Franz, my noble emperor!" whispered
she. "Thou art ever the same; thy dear smile is unaltered, although I am
no longer thy handsome bride, but a hideous and disfigured being, from
whom my children deem it fit to conceal a looking-glass. Look at me with
thy dear eyes, Franz; thou wert ever my mirror, and in thy light have I
seen my brightest day of earthly joy. My departed beauty leaves me not
one pang of regret, since thou art gone for whom alone I prized it.
Maria Theresa has ceased to be a woman--she is nothing more than a
sovereign, and what to her are the scars of the small-pox? But I must
see what I look like," said she, dropping the curtain. "I will show them
that I am not as foolish as they imagine."
She took up her little golden bell and rang. The door of the next room
opened, and Charlotte von Hieronymus entered. The empress smiled and
said: "It is time to make my toilet. I will dine to-day en famille with
the emperor, and I must be dressed. Let us go into my dressing-room."
The maid of honor courtesied and opened the door. Every thing there was
ready for the empress. The tire-woman, the mistress of the wardrobe, the
maids of honor were all at their posts; and Charlotte hastened to take
her place behind the large arm-chair in which the empress was accustomed
to have her hair dressed.
But Maria Theresa saw that she had not been expected in her
dressing-room, for her cheval-glass was encumbered with shawls, dresses,
and cloaks. She took her seat, smilingly saying to herself, "I shall see
myself now, face to face."
Charlotte passed the comb through the short hair of the empress, and
sighed as she thought of the offering that had been laid in the
emperor's coffin; while the other maids of honor stood silent around.
Maria Theresa, usually so familiar and talkative at this hour, spoke not
a word. She looked sharply at the cheval-glass, and began carelessly,
and as if by chance, to remove with her foot, the dresses that
encumbered it; then, as if ashamed of her artifice, she suddenly rose
from the chair, and with an energetic gesture unbared the mirror.
No mirror was there! Nothing greeted the empress's eyes save the empty
frame. She turned a reproachful glance upon the little coiffeuse.
Charlotte fell upon her knees, and looked imploringly at the empress.
"It is my fault, your majesty," said she, blushing and trembling; "I
alone am the culprit. Pardon my maladroitness, I pray you?"
"What do you mean, child?" asked the empress.
"I--I broke the looking-glass, your majesty. I stumbled over it in the
dark, and shivered it to pieces. I am very, very awkward--I am very
"What! You overturned this heavy mirror!" said Maria Theresa. "If so,
there must have been a fearful crash. How comes it that I never heard
any thing--I who for six weeks have been ill in the adjoining room?"
"It happened just at the time when your majesty was delirious with
"And this mirror has been broken for three weeks!" said Maria Theresa,
raising her eyebrows and looking intently at Charlotte's blushing face.
"Three weeks ago! I think you might have had it replaced, Charlotte, by
this time; hey, child?"
Charlotte's eyes sought the floor. At length she stammered, in a voice
scarcely audible, "Please your majesty, I could not suppose that you
would miss the glass so soon. You have made so little use of mirrors
"Enough of this nonsense," interrupted the empress. "You have been well
drilled, and have played your part with some talent, but don't imagine
that I am the dupe of all this pretty acting. Get up, child; don't make
a fool of yourself, but put on my crape cap for me, and then go as
quickly as you can for a looking-glass."
"A looking-glass, your majesty?" cried Charlotte in a frightened voice.
"A looking-glass," repeated the empress emphatically.
"I have none, your majesty."
"Well, then," said Maria Theresa, her patience sorely tried by all this,
"let some one with better eyes than yours look for one. Go, Sophie, and
bid one of the pages bring me a mirror from my old apartments below. I
do not suppose that there has been a general crashing of all the mirrors
in the palace. In a quarter of an hour I shall be in my sitting-room. At
the end of that time the mirror must be there. Be quick, Sophie; and
you, Charlotte, finish the combing of my hair. There is but little to do
to it now, so dry your tears."
"Ah!" whispered Charlotte, "I would there were more to do. I cannot help
crying, your majesty when I see the ruins of that beautiful hair."
"And yet, poor child, you have spent so many weary hours over it,"
replied the princess. "You ought to be glad that your delicate little
hands are no longer obliged to bear its weight--Charlotte," said she
suddenly, "you have several times asked for your dismissal. Now, you
shall have it, and you shall marry your lover, Counsellor Greiner. I
myself will give you away, and bestow the dowry."
The grateful girl pressed the hand of the empress to her lips, while she
whispered words of love and thanks.
Maria Theresa smiled, and took her seat, while Charlotte completed her
toilet. Match-making was the empress's great weakness, and she was in
high spirits over the prospect of marrying Charlotte.
The simple mourning costume was soon donned, and the empress rose to
leave her dressing-room. As she passed the empty frame of the Psyche,
she turned laughing toward her maid of honor.
"I give you this mirror, Charlotte," said she. "If the glass is really
broken, it shall be replaced by the costliest one that Venice can
produce. It will be to you a souvenir of your successful debut as an
actress on this day. You have really done admirably. But let me tell you
one thing, my child," continued Maria Theresa, taking Charlotte's hand
in hers. "Never be an actress with your husband; but let your heart be
reflected in all your words and deeds, as yonder mirror will give back
the truthful picture of your face. Let all be clear and bright in your
married intercourse; and see that no breath of deception ever cloud its
surface. Take this wedding-gift, and cherish it as a faithful monitor.
Truth is a light that comes to us from Heaven; let us look steadily at
it, for evil as well as for good. This is the hour of my trial--no great
one--but still a trial. Let me now look at truth, and learn to bear the
revelation it is about to make."
She opened the door, and entered her sitting-room. Her commands had been
obeyed; the mirror was in its place. She advanced with resolute step,
but as she approached the glass her eyes were instinctively cast down,
until she stood directly before it. The decisive moment had arrived; she
was to see--what?
Slowly her eyes were raised, and she looked. She uttered a low cry, and
started back in horror. She had seen a strange, scarred, empurpled face,
whose colorless lips and hard features had filled her soul with
But with all the strength of her brave and noble heart, Maria Theresa
overcame the shock, and looked again. She forced her eyes to contemplate
the fearful image that confronted her once beautiful face, and long and
earnestly she gazed upon it.
"Well," said she at last, with a sigh, "I must make acquaintance with
this caricature of my former self. I must accustom myself to the
mortifying fact that this is Maria Theresa, or I might some of these
days call for a page to drive out that hideous old crone! I must learn,
too, to be resigned, for it is the hand of my heavenly Father that has
covered my face with this grotesque mask. Since He has thought fit to
deprive me of my beauty, let His divine will be done."
For some moments she remained silent, still gazing intently at the
mirror. Finally a smile overspread her entire countenance, and she
nodded at the image in the glass.
"Well! you ugly old woman," said she aloud, "we have begun our
acquaintance. Let us be good friends. I do not intend to make one effort
to lessen your ugliness by womanly art; I must seek to win its pardon
from the world by noble deeds and a well-spent life. Perhaps, in future
days, when my subjects lament my homeliness, they may add that
nevertheless I was a GOOD, and--well! in this hour of humiliation we may
praise one another, I think--perchance a GREAT sovereign."
Here the empress turned from the mirror and crossing over to the spot
where the emperor's portrait hung, she continued her soliloquy. "But
Franz, dear Franz, you at least are spared the sight of your Theresa's
transformation. I could not have borne this as I do, if you had been
here to witness it. Now! what matters it? My people will not remind me
of it, and my children have already promised to love me, and forgive my
deformity. Sleep, then, my beloved, until I rejoin you in heaven. There,
the mask will fall for me, as for poor Josepha, and there we shall be
glorified and happy."
The empress then returned to the dressing-room, where her attendants,
anxious and unhappy, awaited her reappearance. What was their
astonishment to see her tranquil and smiling, not a trace of discontent
upon her countenance!
"Let the steward of the household be apprised that I will have mirrors
in all my apartments. They can be hung at once, and may be replaced by
those which the emperor has ordered, whenever they arrive from Venice.
Let my page Gustavus repair to Cardinal Migazzi and inform him that
to-morrow I make my public thanksgiving in the cathedral of St. Stephen.
I shall go on foot and in the midst of my people, that they may see me
and know that I am not ashamed of the judgments of God. Let Prince
Kaunitz be advised that on to-morrow, after the holy sacrifice, I will
receive him here. Open my doors and windows, and let us breathe the free
air of heaven. I am no longer an invalid, my friends; I am strong, and
ready to begin life anew."
THE INTERVIEW WITH KAUNITZ.
From earliest morning the streets of Vienna had been thronged by a
joyous multitude, eagerly awaiting the sight of their restored
sovereign. All Vienna had mourned when the empress lay ill; all Vienna
now rejoiced that she had recovered. Maria Theresa's road to the church
was one long triumph--the outpouring of the sincere love which filled
the hearts of her subjects. The empress had done nothing to court this
homage; for the notice given to the cardinal had been as short as it
possibly could be; but the news of the thanksgiving had flown from one
end of Vienna to the other; and every corporation and society, the
students of every college, and every citizen that was at liberty to
leave home, flocked to congratulate the well-beloved sovereign. The
streets through which she had to pass were lined with people bearing
flags, banners, and emblems, while near them stood the children of the
educational and orphan asylums, which had been endowed by the
munificence of the empress. Lofty and lowly, rich and poor, stood in
friendly contact with each other; even the nobles, imitating Maria
Theresa's affability, mixed smiling and free among the people. All sense
of rank and station seemed lost in the universal joy of the hour.
The bells chimed, and the people rent the air with shouts; for this was
the signal of the empress's sortie from the palace, and her people knew
that she was coming to meet them. At last they saw her; leaning on the
arm of the emperor, and followed by her other children, she came, proud
and resolute as ever. It was a beautiful sight, this empress with her
ten lovely sons and daughters, all joyful and smiling, as like simple
subjects they walked through the streets toward the church, to thank God
for her recovery.
Inexpressible joy beamed from Maria Theresa's eyes--those superb eyes
whose light the small-pox could not quench. Her great and noble soul
looked out from their azure depths, and her head seemed encircled by a
glory. In this hour she was no "ugly old crone," she was the happy,
proud, triumphant empress, who in the eyes of her people was both
beautiful and beloved. For the moment her widow's sorrows were
forgotten; and when surrounded by so many loyal hearts, she sank on her
knees before the altar of St. Stephen, she thanked God for the joy of
this hour, and made a vow that her whole life should be devoted to the
welfare of the people who on this day had given her so touching a
Exhausted not only by emotion, but by the heat of the July sun which
shone on her head as she returned, the empress at last reached her own
rooms. Her tire-women hastened to relieve her of her coverings and to
dry her moistened hair and face. But she waved them back.
"No, no, my friends, let me refresh myself in my own way. The air is
more skilful than your hands, and is softer than your napkins. Open the
doors and the windows, and place my arm-chair in the middle of the
"But, your majesty," remonstrated one of the maids of honor, "you forget
your condition. The draught will do you injury."
"I do not know what such fastidious people mean by a draught," replied
the empress, laughing and taking her seat; "but I know that the good God
has sent this air from heaven for man's enjoyment; and when I feel its
cool kiss upon my cheek, I think that God is nigh. I have always loved
to feel the breath of my Creator, and therefore it is that I have always
been strong and healthy. See! see! how it blows away my mantle! You are
right, sweet summer wind, I will throw the burden away."
She let fall her mantle, and gave her bare shoulders to the wind,
enjoying the breeze, and frightening her maids of honor out of their
"Now, let me have some refreshment," cried she. Away sped two or three
of the ladies, each one anxious to escape from the gust that was driving
every thing before it in the empress's rooms. A page brought in a tray,
and there, in the centre of the room, the empress, although yet
overheated, ate a plate of strawberries, and drank a glass of lemonade,
cooled in ice. [Footnote: Caroline Pichler, "Memoirs," vol i., pp.
18,19. Maria Theresa supported without pain extreme degrees of heat and
cold. Summer and winter her windows stood open, and often the
snow-flakes have been seen to fall upon her escritoire while she wrote.
In winter, the Emperor Joseph always came into his mother's rooms
wrapped in furs.]
She was interrupted, in the midst of all this comfort, by another page,
who announced Prince Kaunitz. Maria Theresa rose hastily from her seat.
"Shut all the doors and windows," exclaimed she, "do not let him scent
the draught." [Footnote: Wraxall, vol. ii., p. 380.]
While her orders were being obeyed, she looked around to convince
herself that every avenue was closed through which the wind might
penetrate, and that done, she ordered the door to be thrown open, and
the prince admitted.
Prince Kaunitz approached with his usual serious and tranquil demeanor.
He bowed low, and said: "I congratulate your majesty and the Austrian
empire, upon your happy recovery. I, who have no fear of any other
enemy, have trembled before this deadly foe of your imperial house. For
all other dangers we have craft and valor; but against this one no
bravery or statesmanship can avail."
"But skill has availed; and to Van Swieten, under Providence, I am
indebted for my life," cried the empress, warmly. "I know, Kaunitz, that
you have but little faith in heavenly or earthly physicians; and I pray
God that you may never acquire it through the bitter experience of such
suffering as I have but lately endured! Often during my sleepless nights
I have longed for a sight of your grave face, and it grieved me to think
that perchance we might never meet again to talk of Austria, and plan
for Austria's welfare. "
"But I knew that your majesty would recover," said Kaunitz, with unusual
warmth; "I knew it, for Austria cannot spare you, and as long as there
is work for you here below, your strong mind will bid defiance to
Maria Theresa colored with pleasure. It was so seldom that Kaunitz gave
utterance to such sentiments, that his praise was really worth having.
"You think, then, that Austria needs me?" said she.
"I do, indeed, your majesty."
"But if God had called me to Himself, what would you have done?"
"I would still have labored, as in duty bound, for my country; but I
would have owed a lifelong grudge to Providence for its want of wisdom."
"You are a scoffer, Kaunitz," said the empress. "Your Creator is very
merciful to allow you time to utter the unchristian sentiments which are
forever falling from your lips. But God sees the heart of man, and He
knows that yours is better than your words. Since the loving,
all-suffering Lord forgives you, so will I. But tell me, how has my
empire fared during these six long weeks?"
"Well, your majesty. Throughout the day I worked for myself, throughout
the night for you, and nothing is behindhand. Each day adds to our
internal strength, that gives us consideration abroad, and soon we shall
hold our own as one of the four great European powers, mightier than in
the days when the sun never set upon Austrian realms. The empire of
Charles V. was grand, but it was not solid. It resembled a reversed
pyramid, in danger of being crushed by its own weight. The pyramid
to-day is less in size, but greater in base and therefore firmer in
foundation. [Footnote: "Letters of a French Traveller," volt i., p.
421.] Strength does not depend so much upon size as upon proportion: and
Austria, although her territory has been vaster, has never been so truly
powerful as she is in this, the reign of your majesty."
"If Silesia were but ours again! As for Naples and Alsatia, they were
never more than disjecta membra of our empire; and they were always less
profit than trouble. But Silesia is ours--ours by a common ancestry, a
common language, and the strong tie of affection. I shall never recover
front the blow that I received when I lost Silesia."
"We shall have restitution some of these days, your majesty," said
"Do you mean to say that I shall ever recover Silesia?" asked the
"From the King of Prussia? No--never! He holds fast to his possessions,
and his sharp sword would be unsheathed to-morrow, were we to lay the
weight of a finger upon his right to Silesia. But we shall be otherwise
revenged, in the day when we shall feel that we have attained the
noontide of our power and strength."
"You do not intend to propose to me a war of aggression!" said the
"No, your majesty, but if we should see two eagles tearing to pieces a
lamb which is beyond hope of rescue, our two-headed eagle must swoop
down upon the robbers, and demand his share of the booty. I foresee evil
doings among our neighbors. Catharine of Russia is bold and
unscrupulous; Frederick of Prussia knows it, and he already seeks the
friendship of Russia, that he may gain an accomplice as well as an
"God forbid that I should follow in the wake of the King of Prussia!"
cried Maria Theresa. "Never will I accept, much less seek an alliance
with this cruel woman; whose throne is blood-stained and whose heart is
dead to every sentiment of womanly virtue and honor!"
"Your majesty need have no intercourse with the woman; you have only to
confer with the sovereign of a powerful neighboring empire."
"Russia is not a neighboring empire," exclaimed the empress. "On one
occasion I wrote to the Empress Elizabeth, 'I will always be your
friend, but with my consent you shall never be my neighbor.' [Footnote:
Historical.] Poland lies between Russia and Austria."
"Yes," said Kaunitz, with one of his meaning smiles, "but how long will
Poland divide us from Russia?"
"Man!" exclaimed Maria Theresa with horror, "you do not surely insinuate
that we would dare to lay a hand upon Poland?"
"Not we, but the Empress of Russia will--"
"Impossible! impossible! She dare not do it--"
Kaunitz shrugged his shoulders. "DARE, your majesty? Some things we dare
not attempt because they are difficult; others are difficult because we
dare not attempt them. [Footnote: Kaunitz's own words. Hormayer,
"Plutarch," vol. xii., p. 271.] The Empress of Russia dares do any
thing; for she knows how to take things easily, and believes in her own
foresight. Despots are grasping, and Catharine is a great despot. We
must make haste to secure her good-will, that when the time comes we may
all understand one another."
"I!" exclaimed the empress, "I should stoop so low as to seek the
good-will of this wicked empress, who mounted her throne upon the dead
body of her husband, while her lovers stood by, their hands reeking with
the blood of the murdered emperor! Oh, Kaunitz! you would never ask me
to do this thing?"
"Your majesty is great enough to sacrifice your personal antipathies to
the good of your country. Your majesty once condescended to write to
Farinelli and THAT act won us the friendship of the King of Spain and of
his sons; THAT letter will be the means of placing an Archduchess of
Austria on the throne of Naples."
"Would have been," said Maria Theresa, heaving a sigh. "The bride of the
King of Naples is no more! My poor Johanna! My beautiful child!"
"But the Archduchess Josepha lives, and I had intended to propose to
your majesty to accept the hand of the King of Naples for her highness."
"Is the house of Naples then so desirous of our alliance that it has
already offered its heir to another one of my daughters? I am sorry that
we should be obliged to accept, for I have heard of late that the king
is an illiterate and trifling fellow, scarcely better than the lazzaroni
who are his chosen associates. Josepha will not be happy with such a
"Your majesty, her highness does not marry the young ignoramus who, to
be sure, knows neither how to read nor write--she marries the King of
Naples; and surely if any thing can gracefully conceal a man's faults,
it is the purple mantle of royalty."
"I will give my child to this representative of royalty," said Maria
Theresa sadly, "but I look upon her as a victim of expediency. If she is
true to her God and to her spouse, I must be content, even though, as a
woman, Josepha's life will be a blank."
"And this alliance," said Kaunitz, still pursuing the object for which
he was contending, "this marriage is the result of one letter to
Farinelli. Your majesty once condescended to write to La Pompadour. THAT
letter won the friendship of France, and its fruits will be the marriage
of the Archduchess Marie Antoinette, and her elevation to the throne of
France. Your majesty sees then what important results have sprung from
two friendly letters which my honored sovereign has not disdained to
write. Surely when wise statesmanship prompts your majesty to indite a
third letter to the Empress of Russia, you will not refuse its counsels
and suggestions. The two first letters were worth to us two thrones; the
third may chance to be worth a new province."
"A new province!" exclaimed the empress, coming closer to Kaunitz, and
in her eagerness laying her hand upon his shoulder. "Tell me--what wise
and wicked stratagem do you hatch within your brain to-day?"
"My plans, so please your majesty," said the prince, raising his eyes so
as to meet those of the empress, "my plans are not of to-day. They--"
But suddenly he grew dumb, and gazed horror-stricken at the face of
Maria Theresa. Kaunitz was short-sighted, and up to this moment be had
remained in ignorance of the fearful change that had forever transformed
the empress's beauty into ugliness. The discovery had left him
"Well?" cried the empress, not suspecting the cause of his sudden
silence. "You have not the courage to confide your plans to me? They
must be dishonorable. If not, in the name of Heaven, speak!"
The prince answered not a word. The shock had been too great; and as he
gazed upon that scarred and blotched face, once so smooth, fair, and
beautiful, his presence of mind forsook him, and his diplomacy came to
"Forgive me your majesty" said he, as pale and staggering he retreated
toward the door. "A sudden faintness has come over me, and every thing
swims before my vision. Let me entreat your permission to retire."
Without awaiting the empress's reply, he made a hasty bow, and fled from
The empress looked after him in utter astonishment. "What has come over
the man?" said she to herself. "He looks as if he had seen a ghost!
Well--I suppose it is nothing more than a fit of eccentricity."
And she flung back her head with a half-disdainful smile. But as she did
so, her eyes lit accidentally upon the mirror, and she saw her own image
reflected in its bright depths.
She started; for she had already forgotten the "ugly old woman" whom she
had apostrophized on the day previous. Suddenly she burst into a peal of
laughter, and cried out. "No wonder poor Kaunitz looked as if he had
seen something horrible! HE SAW ME--and I am the Medusa that turned him
into stone. Poor, short-sighted man! He had been in blissful ignorance
of my altered looks until I laid my hand upon his shoulder. I must do
something to heal the wound I have inflicted. I owe him more than I can
well repay. I will give him a brilliant decoration, and that will be a
cure-all; for Kaunitz is very vain and very fond of show."
While the empress was writing the note which was to accompany her gift,
Kaunitz, with his handkerchief over his mouth, was dashing through the
palace corridors to his carriage. With an impatient gesture he motioned
to his coachman to drive home with all speed.
Not with his usual stateliness, but panting, almost running, did Kaunitz
traverse the gilded halls of his own palace, which were open to-day in
honor of the empress's recovery, and were already festive with the sound
of the guests assembling to a magnificent dinner which was to celebrate
the event. Without a word to the Countess Clary, who came forward
elegantly attired for the occasion, Kaunitz flew to his study, and
sinking into an arm-chair, he covered his face with his hands. He felt
as if he had been face to face with death. That was not his beautiful,
majestic, superb Maria Theresa; it was a frightful vision--a messenger
from the grave, that forced upon his unwilling mind the dreadful
futurity that awaits all who are born of woman.
"Could it be? Was this indeed the empress, whose beauty had intoxicated
her subjects, as drawing from its sheath the sword of St. Stephen, she
held it flashing in the sun, and called upon them to defend her rights?
Oh, could it be that this woman, once beautiful as Olympian Juno, had
been transformed into such a caricature?"
A thrill of pain darted through the whole frame of the prince, and he
did what since his mother's death he had never done--he wept.
But gradually he overcame his grief, the scanty fountain of his tears
dried up, and he resumed his cold and habitual demeanor. For a long time
he sat motionless in his chair, staring at the wall that was opposite.
Finally he moved toward his escritoire and took up a pen.
He began to write instructions for the use of his secretaries. They were
never to pronounce in his presence the two words DEATH and SMALL-POX. If
those words ever occurred in any correspondence or official paper that
was to come before his notice, they were to be erased. Those who
presented themselves before the prince were to be warned that these
fearful words must never pass their lips in his presence. A secretary
was to go at once to the Countess Clary, that she might prepare the
guests of the prince, and caution them against the use of the offensive
words. [Footnote: Hormayer, "Austrian Plutarch," vol. xii., p. 374.]
When Kaunitz had completed these singular instructions, he rang, and
gave the paper to a page. As he did so, a servant entered with a letter
and a package from her majesty the empress.
The package contained the grand cross of the order of St Stephen but
instead of the usual symbol the cross was composed of costly brilliants.
The letter was in the empress's own hand--a worthy answer to the
"instructions" which Kaunitz was in the act of sending to his
The empress wrote as follows: "I send you the grand cross of St.
Stephen; but as a mark of distinction you must wear it in brilliants.
You have done so much to dignify it, that I seize with eagerness the
opportunity which presents itself to offer you a tribute of that
gratitude which I feel for your services, and shall continue to feel
until the day of my death. MARIA THERESA." [Footnote: Wraxall, vol.
ii., p. 479.]
THE ARCHDUCHESS JOSEPHA.
The plan of the empress and her prime minister approached their
fulfilment; Austria was about to contract ties of kindred with her
Maria Theresa had again consented to receive the King of Naples as her
son-in-law, and he was the affianced husband of the archduchess Josepha.
The palace of Lichtenstein, the residence of the Neapolitan ambassador
was, in consequence of the betrothal, the scene of splendid festivities,
and in the imperial palace preparations were making for the approaching
nuptials. They were to be solemnized on the fifteenth of October, and
immediately after the ceremony the young bride was to leave Vienna for
Every thing was gayety and bustle; all were deep in consultation over
dress and jewels; and the great topic of court conversation was the
parure of brilliants sent by the King of Spain, whose surpassing
magnificence had called forth an expresson of astonishment from the lips
of the empress herself.
The trousseau of the archduchess was exposed in the apartments which had
once been occupied by the empress and her husband; and now Maria
Theresa, followed by a bevy of wondering young archduchesses, was
examining her daughter's princely wardrobe, that with her own eyes she
might be sure that nothing was wanting to render it worthy of a
queen-elect. The young girls burst into exclamations of rapture when
they approached the table where, in its snowy purity, lay the bridal
dress of white velvet, embroidered with pearls and diamonds.
"Oh!" cried little Marie Antoinette, while she stroked it with her
pretty, rosy hand, "oh, my beautiful Josepha, you will look like an
angel, when you wear this lovely white dress."
"Say rather, like a queen," returned Josepha, smiling. "When a woman is
a queen, she is sure to look like an angel in the eyes of the world."
"It does not follow, however, that because she is a queen, she shall be
as happy as an angel," remarked the Archduchess Maria Amelia, who was
betrothed to the Duke of Parma.
"Nevertheless, I would rather be the unhappy queen of an important
kingdom than the happy wife of a poor little prince," replied Josepha,
as, raising her superb diadem of brilliants, she advanced to a mirror
and placed it upon her brow. "Do you think," asked she proudly, "that I
can be very miserable while I wear these starry gems upon my forehead?
Oh no! If it were set with thorns that drew my blood, I would rather
wear this royal diadem than the light coronet of an insignificant
"And I," exclaimed Amelia, "would rather wear the ring of a beggar than
be the wife of a king who neither reads nor writes, and throughout all
Europe is known by the name of a lazzarone."
"Before whom millions of subjects must, nevertheless, bend the knee, and
who, despite of all, is a powerful and wealthy monarch," returned
"That is, if his master, the Marquis Tannucci allows it," cried the
Archduchess Caroline, laughing. "For you know very well, Josepha, that
Tannucci is the king of your lazzaroni-king, and when he behaves amiss,
puts him on his knees for punishment. Now when you are his wife, you can
go and comfort him in disgrace, and kneel down in the corner by his
side. How interesting it will be!"
Upon this the Archduchess Amelia began to laugh, while her sisters
joined in--all except Marie Antoinette, who with an expression of
sympathy, turned to Josepha.
"Do not mind them, my Josepha," said she; "if your king can not read,
you can teach him, and he will love you all the better; and in spite of
every thing, you will be a happy queen in the end."
"I do not mind them, Antoinette," returned Josepha, her eyes flashing
with anger, "for I well know that they are envious of my prosperity, and
would willingly supplant me. But my day of retaliation will come. It
will be that on which my sisters shall be forced to acknowledge the rank
of the Queen of Naples, and to yield her precedence!"
A burst of indignation would have been the reply to these haughty words,
had the Archduchess Caroline not felt a hand upon her shoulder, and
heard a voice which commanded silence.
The empress, who, at the beginning of this spicy dialogue, had been
absent on her survey in a neighboring apartment, had returned, and had
heard Josepha's last words. Shocked and grieved, she came forward, and
stood in the midst of her daughters.
"Peace!" exclaimed the imperial mother. "I have heard such words of
arrogance fall from your lips as must be expiated by humble petition to
your Creator. Sinful creatures are we all, whether we be princesses or
peasants; and if we dare to lift our poor heads in pride of birth or
station, God will surely punish us. With a breath He overturns the
sceptres of kings--with a breath He hurls our crowns to earth, until,
cowering at His feet, we acknowledge our unworthiness. It becomes a
queen to remember that she is a mortal, powerless without the grace of
God to do one good action, and wearing under the purple of royalty the
tattered raiment of humanity. But it is these absurd vanities that have
stirred up the demon of pride in your hearts," continued the empress,
giving a disdainful toss to the velvet wedding-dress; "let us leave
these wretched gew-gaws and betake ourselves to the purer air of our own
She waved her hand, and motioning to her daughters, they followed her,
silent and ashamed. All had their eyes cast down, and none saw the tears
that now fell like rain from Josepha's eyes. She was thoroughly
mortified and longed to escape to her room; but as she bent her head to
take leave of the empress, the latter motioned her to remain.
"I have as yet a few words to speak with you, my daughter," said Maria
Theresa, as she closed the door of her dressing-room. "Your haughty
conduct of this day has reminded me that you have a sacred duty to
perform. The vanities of the world will have less weight with you when
you return from the graves of your ancestors. Go to the imperial vault,
and learn from the ashes of the emperors and empresses who sleep there,
the nothingness of all worldly splendor. Kneel down beside your dear
father's tomb, and pray for humility. Tell him to pray for me, Josepha,
for my crown weighs heavily upon my brow, and I fain would be at rest."
Josepha made no answer. She stared at her mother with an expression of
horror and incredulity, as though she meant to ask if she had heard her
"Well, my daughter!" cried Maria Theresa, surprised at Josepha's
silence. "Why do you linger? Go--go, child, and recalling the sins of
your life, beg pardon of God, and the blessing of your deceased father."
"Give me that blessing yourself, dear mother," faltered the princess,
clasping her hands, and looking imploringly at the empress. "My father's
spirit is here, it is not in that fearful vault."
The empress started. "I cannot believe," said she, with severity, "that
my daughter has cause to tremble before the ashes of her father. The
guilty alone fear death; innocence is never afraid!"
"Oh mother, mother! I have no sin upon my soul, and yet I--"
"And yet," echoed the empress as Josepha paused.
"And yet I shiver at the very thought of going thither," said the
archduchess. "Yes your majesty, I shiver at the thought of encountering
the black coffins and mouldering skeletons of my forefathers. Oh,
mother, have pity on my youth and cowardice! Do not force me to that
"I have no right to exempt you from the performance of this sacred duty,
Josepha," replied the empress firmly. "It is a time-honored custom of
our family, that the princesses of Austria, who marry kings, should take
leave of the graves of their ancestors. I cannot release the Queen of
Naples from her duty. She is to wear the crown, she must bear the
"But I dread it! I dread it so!" murmured Josepha. "I shudder at the
thought of Josepha's corpse. I never loved her, and she died without
forgiving me. Oh, do not force me to go alone in the presence of the
"I command you to go into the vault where repose the holy ashes of your
fathers," repeated the empress sternly. "Bend your lofty head, my
daughter, and throw yourself with humility upon the graves of your
ancestors, there to learn the vanity of all human greatness and human
"Mercy, mercy!" cried the terrified girl. "I cannot, I cannot obey your
"Who dares say 'I cannot,' when duty is in question?" exclaimed the
empress. "You are my daughter and my subject still, and I will see
whether you intend to defy my authority."
So saying, she rose and rang her little golden bell. "The carriage of
the Archduchess Josepha," said she to the page who answered the summons.
"Let a courier be dispatched to the Capuchin fathers to inform them that