Part 8 out of 22
"Tell me the truth!" cried the emperor, sharply.
"Sire," said Kaunitz, proudly, "there may be times when it is the part
of wisdom to be silent; but it is never permitted to a man of honor to
be untruthful. I know nothing of this girl's disappearance. The most
that I anticipated was a forced marriage. This, I knew, would occasion
new differences between the empress and your majesty, and I had supposed
that you were coming to me to call for my mediation."
"I must believe you," sighed the emperor. "But prove your integrity by
helping me to find her. Oh, Kaunitz, I beseech of you, help me, and earn
thereby my gratitude and undying regard!"
"Have I waited so long for your majesty's regard, to earn it on account
of a silly peasant?" said Kaunitz, with a bitter smile. "I hope that I
shall have a niche in the temple of the world's esteem, even if I do
fail in finding the daughter of Conrad the boor. If your majesty has
never esteemed me before, you will not begin to do so today; and, as
regards your promised gratitude; the whole world knows, and your majesty
also knows, that I am not to be bribed; but I am ready, from the depths
of my own attachment to you, to do all that I can to help you."
"Kaunitz," said the emperor, offering him his hand, "you intend to force
me to love you."
"If I ever did force your majesty to love me," replied Kaunitz, with
animation, "I should count it the happiest day of my life. If I ever
succeed in winning your confidence, then I may hope to complete the work
I have begun--that of uniting your majesty's dominions into one great
whole, before which all Europe shall bow in reverence."
"Let us speak of other things," interrupted the emperor. "Help me to
"Allow me one question, then--am I the only person to whom your majesty
has spoken on this subject?"
"No, I have spoken to one other man. I have consulted the shrewdest
detective in all Vienna, and have promised him a large reward if he will
serve me. He came to me this morning. He had discovered nothing, but
gave me to understand that it was you who had betrayed me to the
"What is his name, your majesty?"
"Eberhard. He has sworn to unravel the mystery for me."
"Then it certainly will be unravelled, for he it is who has been
tracking your majesty, and who has been the means of betraying you to
the empress. I, too, have been giving him gold, with this difference,
that your majesty trusted him, and I did not. He is at the bottom of the
The emperor sprang from his seat, and hastened to the door. Kaunitz
followed, and ventured to detain him.
"I must go," cried Joseph, impatiently. "I must force Eberhard to tell
me what has been done with Marianne."
"You will not find him. He, too, has disappeared."
"Then I must go to the empress to beg her to be merciful to that poor
child who is suffering on my account. I will exact it of her."
"That will only make the matter worse."
Joseph stamped his foot, and uttered a cry of fury. "What must I do,
then?" exclaimed he.
"Be silent and affect indifference. As soon as the empress believes that
you have grown careless on the girl's account, she will begin to think
that she has taken the matter too seriously to heart. Conrad must sell
his farm, and remove far away from Vienna. Once settled, let him come
and claim his daughter, and the empress will be very glad to be rid of
her. Do this, and all will be right."
Joseph frowned, and seemed reluctant to follow this advice.
Kaunitz saw his unwillingness, and continued "This is the only means of
restoring the girl to peace of mind, and your majesty owes her this
reparation. The poor thing has been rudely precipitated from the clouds;
and as the comedy is over, the best thing we can do for her is to
convince her that it as a comedy, and that the curtain has fallen. Your
majesty, however, must not again lay your imperial hand upon the simple
web of her destiny: leave it to your inferiors to gather up its broken
threads. Go away from Vienna; travel, and seek recreation. Leave
Marianne to me, and I swear to you that I will rescue and befriend her.
When you have gone, I shall go to the empress and relate the whole
story. I shall tell all the truth; Maria Theresa has a noble, generous
heart; and she will not do any injury to the one who was instrumental in
saving the life of her darling son. She will do any thing for her
happiness, provided it do not compromise the honor of her imperial
house. And she is right. But you must go, and once gone, Marianne shall
"Free not only from others, but from me also," said the emperor, deeply
affected. "I feel I have erred toward this innocent young girl. I have
deeply sinned; for, regardless of her peace of mind, I have allowed
myself to dream of a love that could bring naught and misery to both.
For I will not conceal from you, my friend, how much it costs me to
renounce this sweet creature, and to promise that I will see her no
more. My intercourse with her was the last dying sigh of a love which
has gone from my heart forevermore. But--it must be sacrificed. Rescue
her, and try to make her happy, Kaunitz; try to efface from her heart
the memory of my blasting love."
"I promise to free her, but I cannot promise to rescue her from the
memory of your majesty's love. Who knows that from the ring which she
has sworn to wear forever, she may not have inhaled a poison that will
shorten her young life? To rescue her from such a fate lies not in the
power of man. Time--the great comforter--may heal her wounds, but your
majesty must promise never to ask whither she has gone. For you she must
"I promise, on my imperial honor, never to see her again," said Joseph,
in a faltering voice. "I will leave to-morrow. Thank God, the world is
wide; and, far away from Vienna, I, too, can seek for oblivion, and,
perchance, for another ray of earthly happiness." And so ended the
pastoral of the emperor and the village maid.
"Away with care and sorrow! Away with royalty and state!" cried the
emperor, as the long train of wagons, which had accompanied him from
Vienna, were disappearing in the distance.
The empress had caused preparation for her son's journey to be made with
imperial pomp. A brilliant cortege of nobles and gentleman had followed
the emperor's caleche, and behind them came twelve wagons with beds,
cooking utensils, and provisions--the whole gotten up with true princely
The emperor had said nothing, and had left Vienna amid the chiming of
bells and the loud greetings of the people. For two days he submitted to
the tedious pageants of public receptions, stupid addresses, girls in
white, and flower-decked arches; but on the morning of the third day,
two couriers announced not only to the discomfited gentlemen composing
his suite, but to the conductors of the provision-train, that the
emperor would excuse them from further attendance.
Everybody was astonished, and everybody was disappointed. The emperor,
meanwhile, stood by laughing, until the last wagon was out of sight.
"Away with sorrow and care!" cried he, approaching his two carriage
companions, Counts Rosenberg and Coronini. "Note, any friends,"
exclaimed he, putting a hand upon the shoulder of each one, "now the
world is ours! Let us enjoy our rich inheritance! But--bless me, how
forlorn you both look! What is the matter? have I been mistaken in
supposing you would relish my plan of travel?"
"No, your majesty," replied Rosenberg, with a forced smile, "but I am
afraid you will scarcely relish it yourself. You have parted with every
convenience that snakes travelling endurable."
"Your majesty will have to put up with many a sorry dinner and many an
uncomfortable bed," sighed Comnini.
"I am tired of comforts and conveniences," rejoined the emperor,
laughing, "and I long for the variety of privation. But, in my
thoughtlessness, I had taken it for granted that you, too, were weary of
grandeur, and would like to get a taste of ordinary life. If I am
mistaken, you are free to return with my discharged cortege; I force no
one to share my hardships. Speak quickly, for there is yet time for me
to select other fellow-travellers."
"No, no, your majesty," said Rosenberg gayly, "I will go whither you go,
and share your privations!"
"Here I stay, to live and die at your majesty's side!" cried Coronini,
with comic fervor.
The emperor nodded. "Thank you both, my friends; I had counted upon you,
and would have regretted your refusal to go with me. Thank Heaven, we
are no longer under the necessity of parading our rank about the world!
I cannot express to you the joy I feel at the prospect of going about
unnoticed, like any other man."
"That joy will be denied your majesty," said Rosenberg, with a slight
inclination. "The Emperor Joseph can never go unnoticed, like ordinary
"Do not hope it, your majesty!" cried Coronini. "Your majesty's rank is
stamped upon your brow, and you cannot hide it."
The emperor looked down on the sandy hillock on which they stood, then
upward at the bright-blue sky above their heads.
"Are we then under the gilded dome of my mother's palace," sail he,
after a pause, "that I should still hear the language of courtly
falsehood? Awake, my friends, for this is not Austria's imperial
capital! It is the world which God created, and here upon our mother
earth we stand as man to mail. A little shining beetle is creeping on my
boot as familiarly as it would on the sabot of a base-born laborer. If
my divine right were written upon my brow, would not the insects
acknowledge my sovereignty, as in Eden they its golden wings and leave
me without a sign--Happy beetle! Would that I too had wings, that I
might flee away and be at rest!"
The emperor heaved a sigh, and his thoughts evidently wandered faraway
from the scene before him. But presently recalling himself, he spoke
again. Pointing to the sky, he said:
"And now, friends, look above you where the heavens enthrone a Jehovah,
in whose sight all men are equal: and so long as we dwell together under
the open sky, remember him who has said, 'Thou shalt have no other gods
"But, your majesty--"
"Majesty! Where is any majesty here? If I were a lion, to shake the
forest with my roar I might pretend to majesty among the brutes; but you
see that I am, in all things, like yourself--neither nobler nor greater
than you. In Vienna I am your sovereign: so be it; but while we travel,
I am simply Count Falkenstein. I beg you to respect this name and title,
for the Falkensteins are an older race of nobles than the Hapsburgs, and
the turreted castle of my ancestors, the counts, is one of the oldest in
Germany. Away, then, with royalty! I ask for admittance into your own
rank. Will you accept me, and promise that we shall be on terms of
He offered a hand to each of his friends, and would not permit them to
do otherwise than press it, in token of assent.
"Now let me tell you my plans. We travel like three happy fellows, bent
upon recreation alone. We go and stay as it best suits us; when we are
hungry, we will dine; when we are tired, we will sleep. A little straw
will make our beds, and our cloaks shall keep us warm. [Footnote: The
emperor, during his tour as Count Falkenstein, repeatedly slept on
straw, over which a leathern cover was spread. Hubner, i., p. 43.] In
Florence I shall be forced to play the emperor, as the reigning duke is
my brother; but he, too, will join us, and then we shall all go on
travelling incognito. First we visit Rome, then Naples. We must find out
whether our sister Caroline has taught her lazzaroni-king to read and
write; and when we shall have learned something of her domestic life, we
will turn our faces homeward. In Milan I roust again play the emperor,
for Lombardy needs my protection, and I must give it. From Lombardy I
return to Vienna. Does the route please you?"
"Exceedingly, count," replied Rosenberg.
"It does, indeed, your highness," added Coronini.
"And why, my highness?" asked Joseph, laughing.
"Because the Counts of Falkenstein were princes, and the title being
appropriate, I hope your majesty will allow me to use it." "I regret
very much, most worthy master-of-ceremonies-itinerant, that I cannot do
so. Pack up your court-manners, Coronini, and carry them in your trunk
until we get back to Vienna. "
"So be it, then," sighed Coronini, "since your m--, I mean my lord count,
will have it so, we must be content to have you hidden under a cloud,
like Jupiter, when he made acquaintance with Io."
"By Jupiter, Coronini, you are ambitious in your similes," replied the
emperor, laughing. "You look very much like Io, do you not?"
"I hope we may be as lucky as the gods," interrupted Rosenberg, "for
every time they visited the earth they were sure to fall in with all the
"True; but mythology teaches that the women who aspired to love gods,
forfeited both happiness and life," replied the emperor, with a touch of
sadness in his voice. "But pshaw!" continued he, suddenly, "what do I
say? Away with retrospection! Let us come out of the clouds, and
approach, both of you, while I intrust you with a great secret--I am
The two counts started in breathless haste for the carriage, near which
the emperor's valet and the postilion were in earnest conversation; but
they returned with very long faces.
"Count," said Rosenberg, sadly, "we have nothing to eat."
"The valet says that Count Falkentstein ordered every thing to be sent
back to Vienna except our trunks," sighed Coronini. "All the wine,
bread, game, and delicacies remained in the wagons."
"Very well," cried the emperor, laughing heartily at the contretemps,
"let us go and ask for dinner in yonder village behind the wood."
"The postilion says that there is not a public house anywhere about,"
continued Coronini, in great distress. "He says that we will find
nothing to eat in the village."
Instead of making a reply, the emperor walked to the hillock, and
questioned the postilion himself.
"What is the name of the village beyond the forest?" asked he.
"Wichern, your majesty."
"Do we change horses there?"
"No, your majesty, we harness up at Unterbergen."
"Can we get any breakfast at Wichern, think you?"
"No, no, your majesty, not a morsel of any thing--none but peasants live
in the village."
"Well, my friend, do the peasants live without eating?"
"Oh, your majesty, they eat anything! They live on bread, bacon, eggs,
and milk, with sometimes a mess of cabbage or beans."
"And you call that having nothing to eat?" exclaimed Joseph, hastening
joyfully back to his friends. "Come, come; we shall find dinner at
Wichern, and if nobody will cook for us, we will cook for ourselves."
Coronini opened his eyes like full moons.
"Why do you stare so, Coronini? Are not all soldiers cooks? I, at least,
am resolved to learn, and I feel beforehand that I shall do honor to
myself. Cook and butler, I shall fill both offices. Come, we are going
to enjoy ourselves. Thomas, tell the postilion to drive as far as the
entrance of the village. We will forage on foot."
The emperor bounded into the carriage, the two noblemen followed, the
postilion cracked his whip, and they were soon at Wichern.
WHAT THEY FOUND AT WICHERN.
The carriage stopped, and before the valet had had time to open the
door, the emperor leaped to the ground.
"Come," said he, merrily, "come and seek your fortunes. Thomas, you
remain with the carriage. Drive under the shade of that tree and wait
for our return. Before all things, I forbid you to tell anybody who we
are. From this day forward, my name is Count Falkenstein. Mark me! I
expect you to preserve my incognito."
"I will obey you, my lord count," said the valet, with a bow.
The emperor with his two companions walked toward the village. Nothing
very hopeful was to be seen as they looked up the dirty little streets.
The wretched mud cottages stood each one apart, their yards separated by
scraggy willow-hedges, upon which ragged old garments were hanging in
the sun to dry. Between the hedges were muddy pools, over which the
ducks were wrangling for the bits of weed that floated on the surface of
the foul waters. On their borders, in the very midst of the rubbish and
kitchen offal that lay about in heaps, dirty, half-naked children, with
straw-colored hair, tumbled over one another, or paddled in the water.
In the farm-yards around the dung-heaps, the youngest children of the
cottagers kept company with the sow and her grunting pigs. Before the
slovenly entrances of the huts here and there sat dirty, unseemly old
men and women, who stared at the three strangers as they surveyed the
uninviting picture before them.
"I congratulate the emperor that he is not obliged to look upon this
shocking scene," said Joseph. "I am glad that his people cannot cry out
to him for help, since help for such squalor as this there is none on
"They are not as wretched as you suppose," said Rosenberg. "These people
are scarcely above the brute creation; and they know of nothing better
than the existence which is so shocking to you. They were born and bred
in squalor, and provided their pastures yield forage, their hens lay
eggs and their cows give milk, they live and die contented."
"If so, they are an enviable set of mortals," replied Joseph, laughing,
"and we, who require so much for our comfort, are poorer than they. But
as there is no help for our poverty, let us think of dinner. Here are
three streets; the village seems to have been divided for our especial
accommodation. Each one shall take a street, and in one hour from now we
meet at the carriage, each man with a dish of contribution. En avant! I
take the street before me; you do the same. Look at your watches, and be
So saying, he waved his hand and hastened forward. The same solitude and
misery met his view as he walked on; the same ducks, hens, sows, and
tumbling children; with now and then the shrill treble of a scolding
woman, or the melancholy lowing of a sick cow.
"I am curious now," thought the emperor, "to know how and where I am to
find my dinner. But stay--here is a cottage less slovenly than its
neighbors; I shall tempt my fortunes there."
He opened the wicker gate and entered the yard. The lazy sow that lay on
the dunghill grunted, but took no further notice of the imperial
intruder. He stopped before the low cottage door and knocked, but no one
came. The place seemed silent and deserted; not the faintest hum of life
was to be heard from within.
"I shall take the liberty of going in without awaiting an invitation,"
said the emperor, pushing open the door and entering the cottage. But he
started at the unexpected sight that met his view as he looked around
the room. It was a miserable place, cold and bare; not a chair or any
other article of household furniture was to be seen; but in the centre
of the room stood a small deal coffin, and in the coffin was the corpse
of a child. Stiff and cold, beautiful and tranquil, lay the babe, a
smile still lingering around its mouth, while its half-open eyes seemed
fixed upon the white roses that were clasped in its little dimpled
hands. The coffin lay in the midst of flowers, and within slept the dead
child, transfigured and glorified.
The emperor advanced softly and bent over it. He looked with tender
sympathy at the little marble image which yesterday was a poor, ragged
peasant, to-day was a bright and winged angel. His thoughts flew back to
the imperial palace, where his little motherless daughter was fading
away from earth, and the father prayed for his only child. He took from
the passive hands a rose, and softly as he came, he left the solitary
cottage, wherein an angel was keeping watch.
He passed over to the neighboring yard. Here too, everything seemed to
be at rest: but a savory odor saluted the nostrils of the noble
adventurer which at least betokened the presence of beings who hungered
and thirsted, and had some regard for the creature comforts of life.
"Ah!" said the emperor, drawing in the fragrant smell, "that savors of
meat and greens," and he hurried through the house to the kitchen. Sure
enough, there blazed a roaring fire, and from the chimney-crane hung the
steaming pot whence issued the delightful aroma of budding dinner. On
the hearth stood a young woman of cleanly appearance, who was stirring
the contents of the pot with a great wooden spoon.
"Good-morning, madame," said the emperor, in a loud, cheerful voice. The
woman started, gave a scream, and turned her glowing face to the door.
"What do you mean by coming into strange people's houses and frightening
them so?" cried she, angrily. "Nobody asked you in, I am sure."
"Pardon me, madame," said the emperor. "I was urgently invited."
"I should like to know who invited you, for nobody is here but myself,
and I don't want you."
"Yes, madame; but your steaming kettle, I do assure you, has given me a
pressing invitation to dine here."
"Oh! you are witty, are you? Well, carry your wits elsewhere; they won't
serve you here. My kettle calls nobody but those who are to eat of my
"That is the very thing I want, madame. I want to eat of your dinner."
As he spoke, the emperor kept advancing until he came close upon the
kettle and its tempting contents; but the peasant-woman pushed him
rudely back, and thrusting her broad person between himself and the
coveted pot, she looked defiance at him, and broke out into a torrent of
The emperor laughed aloud. "I don't wish to rob you," said he. "I will
pay you handsomely if you will only let me have your dinner. What have
you in that pot?"
"That is none of your business. With my bacon and beans you have no
"Bacon and beans! Oh, my craving stomach! Here, take this piece of gold
and give the some directly."
"Do you take me for a fool, to sell my dinner just as the men will be
coming from the field!"
"By no means for a fool," said the emperor, soothingly; "but if you show
the men that golden ducat they will wait patiently until you cook them
another dinner. Your husband can buy himself a fine holiday suit with
"He has one, and don't want two. Go your way; you shall not have a
morsel of my dinner."
"Not if I give you two gold pieces? Come, do be accommodating, and give
me the bacon and beans."
"I tell you yon shall not have them," screamed the termagant. "I have no
use for your gold, but I want my dinner. So be off with you. You will
get nothing from me if you beg all day long."
"Very well, madame; I bid you good-morning," said Joseph, laughing, but
inwardly chagrined at his fiasco. "I must go on, however," thought he;
and he entered the yard of the next house. Before the door sat a pale
young woman, with a new-born infant in her arms. She looked up with a
"I am hungry," said Joseph, after greeting her with uncovered head.
"Have you any thing good in your kitchen?"
She shook her head sadly. "I am a poor, weak creature, sir, and cannot
get a meal for my husband," replied she; "he will have to cook his own
dinner when he comes home."
"And what will he cook to-day, for instance?"
"I suppose he will make an omelet; for the hens have been cackling a
great deal this morning, and an omelet is made in a few minutes."
"Is it? So much the better, then; you can show me how to make one, and I
will pay you well."
"Go in the hen-coop, sir, and see if you find any eggs. My husband will
want three of them; the rest are at your service."
"Where is the hen-coop?" asked Joseph, much pleased.
"Go through the kitchen out into the yard, and you will see a little
room with a wooden bolt; that is the hen-coop."
"I go," cried Joseph merrily. Presently great commotion was heard among
the hens, and the emperor returned with a glowing face, his hair and
coat well sprinkled with straw. He came forward with both hands full of
"Here are eight," said he. "Three for your husband, and five for me. Now
tell me how I must cook them."
"You will have to go to the kitchen, sir. There you will find a flitch
of bacon. Cut off some slices, put them in a pan you will see there, and
set it on the fire. My neighbor has just now made some for poor John.
Then look on the dresser and take some milk and a little flour. Make a
batter of them with the eggs, pour it upon your bacon, and when the eggs
are done, the omelet is made. It is the easiest thing in the world."
"My dear good woman, it will be a desperately hard task for me," said
the emperor with a sigh. "I'm afraid I shall make a very poor omelet.
Won't you come into the kitchen and make it for me? Do, I will pay you
"Dear gentleman," said the young woman, blushing "do you think I am so
idle as to sit here, if I could get up and help you? I was brought to
bed yesterday of this baby; and I am such a poor, sickly thing that I
shall not be able to get up before two days. As the day was bright, dear
John brought me and the baby out here, because it was more cheerful on
the door-sill than within. I am a weak, useless creature, sir."
"Weak! useless!" cried the emperor, astounded; "and you expect to be up
in three days after your confinement? Poor little thing! Have you no
physician and no medicine?"
"The Lord is my physician, sir," said the simple creature, "and my
medicine is the fresh air. But let me think of your omelet. If you
cannot make it yourself, just step to the cottage on the left, and call
my neighbor. She is very good to me, and she will make your omelet for
you with pleasure."
"A thousand thanks," said the emperor, hastening to follow the
directions. He, returned in a few moments with a good-humored, healthy
young woman, who went cheerfully to work, and the omelet was soon made.
One hour after he had parted from his friends, the emperor was seen
coming along the street with a platter in his hand and a little bucket
on his arm. He walked carefully, his eyes fixed upon his precious dish,
all anxiety lest it should fall from his hands.
Thomas was thunderstruck. An emperor carrying an earthen platter in his
hand! He darted forward to receive it, but Joseph motioned him away.
"Don't touch me, Thomas," said he, "or I shall let it fall. I intend to
place it with my own hands. Go, now, and set the table. Pile up some of
those flat stones, and bring the carriage cushions. We will dine under
that wide-spreading oak. Make haste, I am very hungry."
Off went Thomas, obedient, though bewildered; and he had soon improvised
a, table, over which he laid a shining damask cloth. Luckily, the
emperor's camp-chest had not been put in the baggage-wagon, or his
majesty would have had to eat with his fingers. But the golden service
was soon forthcoming, with goblets of sparkling crystal, and three
bottles of fine old Hungarian wine.
"Now," said Joseph triumphantly, "let me place my dishes." With these
words he put on his platter and basket, with great ceremony and
A curious medley of wealth and poverty were these golden plates and
forks, with the coarse red platter, that contained the hard-earned
omelet. But the omelet was smoking and savory, and the strawberries were
While the emperor was enjoying the result of his foraging expedition,
Rosenberg and Coronini were seen approaching, each with his earthen
platter in his hand.
"The hour is up and we are here," said Coronini. "I have the honor of
laying my dish at your m--feet, count."
"Potatoes! beautiful roasted potatoes!" cried Joseph. "Why, count, you
have brought us a treat."
"I rejoice to hear it, my lord count; for I was threatened with a
broomstick when I tore it from the hands of the woman, who vowed I
should not have a single potato. I dashed two ducats at her feet and
made off with all speed; for the hour was almost up, and I had exhausted
all my manners in the ten houses, which I had visited in vain, before my
successful raid upon hers."
"And will not my lord count cast an eye upon my dish?" asked Rosenberg.
"He has obtained that for which I sued in vain!" cried Joseph. "He has
actually brought bacon and beans."
"But I did not sue; I stormed and threatened. Neither did I waste my
gold to obtain my end. I threw the woman a silver thaler and plenty of
abuse in the bargain."
"Let us be seated!" said the emperor, "and pray admire my omelet and my
strawberries. Now, Coronini, the strawberries are tempting, but before
you taste them, I must tell you that they are tainted with treason:
treason toward my own sacred person. Reflect well before you decide to
eat them. What I am going to relate is as terrible as it is true. While
my omelet was cooking, I strolled out into the road to see if there was
any thing else in Wichern besides poultry, pigs, and dirty children.
Coming toward me I perceived a pretty little barefoot boy, with a basket
full of red, luscious strawberries. I asked where he was going. He said
to the neighboring village to sell his strawberries to the farmer's
wife, who had ordered them. I offered to buy them, but my gold could not
tempt the child--he refused peremptorily to sell them to me at any
price. I argued, pleaded, threatened; all to no purpose. At length,
seeing there was no other alternative, I snatched his strawberries away,
threw him a ducat, and walked off with the prize. He picked up the gold,
but as he did so, he saluted my imperial ears with an epithet--such an
epithet! Oh, you will shudder when you hear what language the little
rascal used to his sovereign! You never will be able to bear it,
Coronini: you, whose loyalty is offended every time you address me as
Count Falkenstein. I only wonder that the sun did not hide its head, and
the earth tremble at the sacrilege! What do you suppose he called
me?--An ass! He did, I assure you. That little bare-legged boy called
his emperor an ass! Now, Coronini, do you think you can taste of the
strawberries that were gathered by those treacherous little hands?"
"If my lord count allows it, I will venture to eat," replied Coronini,
"for I really think there was no treason committed."
"Why! not when he called me an--"
"Pray do not say it again," entreated Coronini, raising his hands
deprecatingly; "it cuts me to the heart. But Count Falkenstein had
already proclaimed that no majesty was by, and when no majesty, was
there, no majesty could be insulted."
"Oh, you sophist! Did you not say that I wore my title upon my brow? Did
you not tell me that I could not hide my majesty from the sons of men?
But I forgive you, and the boy also. Let us drink his health while we
enjoy his strawberries. Fill your glasses to the brim, and having done
honor to those who furnished our repast, allow me to propose--ourselves:
To the health of those who are about to eat a dinner which they have
earned by the sweat of their brow."
So saying, the emperor touched the glasses of his friends.
"Now, postilion," cried he, before they drank, "blow us a blast on your
horn--a right merry blast!"
The postilion put the horn to his lips, and while he blew the glasses
clinked gayly; and the friends laughed, jested, and ate their dinner
with a relish they had seldom known before. [Footnote: Hubner, "Life of
Joseph II.," vol. i., page 40.]
The policy instituted by Kaunitz, when he became sole minister of the
empress, had now culminated in the alliance of Austria with France,
through the solemn betrothal of the childish Marie Antoinette with the
dauphin. The union was complete--it was to be cemented by the strong tie
of intermarriage; and now, that success had crowned the schemes to which
she had yielded such hearty consent, Maria Theresa was anxious,
restless, and unhappy. Vainly she strove to thrust from her memory the
prophecy which had been foretold in relation to the destinies of France.
With anguish she remembered the cry of Marie Antoinette; with horror she
recurred to the vision which had overcome Catherine de Medicis.
"It is sinful in me," thought the empress, as one morning she left her
pillow from inability to sleep. "God alone is Lord of futurity, and no
human hand dare lift its black curtain! But stay," cried she, suddenly
springing up, and in her eager haste beginning to dress without
assistance. "There is in Vienna a holy nun, who is said to be a
prophetess, and Father Gassner, to whom I have extended protection, he,
too, is said at times to enjoy the privilege of God's prophets of old.
Perhaps they have been sent in mercy to warn us, lest, in our ignorance
of consequences, we stumble and sin."
For some time the empress walked up and down her room, undecided whether
to turn the sibylline leaves or not. It might be sinful to question, it
might be fatal to remain ignorant. Was it, or was it not the will of
God, that she should pry into the great mystery of futurity? Surely it
could not be sinful, else why should He have given to His servants the
gift of prophecy?
"I will go to the Ursuline nun," concluded she, "and Father Gassner
shall come to me."
She rang, and ordered a carriage, with no attendant but her first lady
of honor. "No footman, no outriders, but a simple court equipage; and
inform Father Gassner that in one hour I shall await him in the palace."
In less than half an hour the carriage of the empress was at the gate of
the Ursuline Convent. Completely disguised in a long black cloak, with
her face hidden under a thick veil, Maria Theresa leaped eagerly to the
Her attendant was about to follow, but the empress motioned her to
remain. "Await me here," said she, "I do not wish to be known in the
convent. I am about to imitate my son, and visit my subjects incognito."
The porteress, who had recognized the imperial liveries, made no
opposition to the entrance of the tall, veiled figure. She supposed her
to be some lady of the empress's household, and allowed her to pass at
once into the hall, following her steps with undisguised curiosity.
She had already ascended the staircase, when she turned to the
"In which cell is the invalid nun?" asked she.
"Your highness means Sister Margaret, the somnambulist?" asked the
porteress. "She has been taken to the parlor of the abbess, for the
convenience of the many who visit her now."
"Does she pretend to reveal the future?"
"It would make your highness's hair stand on end to hear her! She has
been asleep this morning, and do you know what she said in her sleep.
She prophesied that the convent would be honored by a visit from the
empress on this very day."
"Did she, indeed?" faltered Maria Theresa. "When? How long ago?"
"About two hours ago, your highness. And as she is never mistaken, the
abbess has prepared all things for her majesty's reception. Doubtless
your ladyship has been sent to announce her?"
"You really feel sure that she will come?"
"Certainly. Sister Margaret's visions are prophetic--we cannot doubt
The empress shuddered, and drew her cloak close around her. "Gracious
Heaven!" thought she, "what if she should prophesy evil for my
child?--It is well," added she, aloud; "where shall I find her?"
"Your highness has only to turn to the left; the last door leads into
the parlor of the abbess."
A deep silence reigned throughout the convent. The empress went on
through the dim, long corridor, now with hurried step and wildly-beating
heart, now suddenly pausing faint and irresolute, to lean against a
pillar, and gather courage for the interview. As she turned the corner
of the corridor, a flood of light, streaming through an oriel window,
revived and cheered her. She stepped forward and looked. The window
opened upon the chapel, where the lights were burning upon the altar,
and high mass was about to begin; for Sister Margaret had said that the
empress was very near.
"It is true. They are waiting for me. Oh, she must be a prophetess, for,
two hours ago, I had not dreamed of coming hither! I feel my courage
fail me. I will go back. I dare not hear, for it is too late."
The empress turned and retraced her steps; then once more calling up all
her fortitude, she returned. "For," thought she, "if God permits me to
see, why should I remain blind? He it is who has sent me to this holy
prophetess. I must listen for my Antoinette's sake."
A second time she went forward, reached the parlor, and opened the door.
She had scarcely appeared on the threshold, cloaked and screened by her
thick black veil, when a clear voice, whose tones were preterhuman in
their melody, addressed her. "Hail, Empress of Austria! All hail to her
who cometh hither!"
"She is indeed a prophetess!" murmured the empress. "She knows me
through my disguise."
She approached the bed and bent over it. The nun lay with closed eyes;
but a heavenly smile was upon her lips, and a holy light seemed to play
around her pale but beautiful face. Not the least tinge of color was on
her cheeks; and but for the tint of carmine upon her lips--so unearthly,
so seraphic was her beauty--that she might have been mistaken for a
sculptor's dream of Azrael, the pale angel of death.
While the empress gazed awe-stricken, the abbess and the nuns, who had
been kneeling around the bed, arose to greet their sovereign.
"Is it indeed our gracious empress?" asked the abbess.
Maria Theresa withdrew her hat and veil, and revealed her pale, agitated
"I am the empress," said she,, "But I implore you let there be no
ceremony because of my visit. In this sacred habitation, God alone is
great, and His creatures are all equal before Him. We are in the
presence of the servant to whom He has condescended to speak, while to
the sovereigns of earth He is silent. To Him alone belongs homage."
"Gracious empress, Sister Margaret had announced your majesty's visit,
and we were to have greeted you as becomes Christian subjects. The
chapel is prepared, the altar is decked."
"I will repair later to the church, mother. At present, my visit is to
"If so, your majesty must not delay. She sleeps but three hours at a
time, and she will soon awake. She has the gift of prophecy in her sleep
"Then go, holy mother, and leave me alone with her. Go and await me in
The abbess glanced at the clock on the wall. "She will awake in ten
minutes," said she, and with noiseless steps the nuns all left the room.
The empress waited until the door was closed and the sound of their
light footfall had died away; then again approaching the bed, she
called, "Sister Margaret."
The nun trembled, and her brow grew troubled. "Oh," said she, "the
angels have flown! Why have you come with your sad notes of sorrow to
silence the harmony of my heavenly dreams?"
"You know then that I am sad?" asked the empress.
"Yes, your heart is open to me. I see your anguish. The mother comes to
me, not the empress."
Maria Theresa feeling herself in the presence of a supernatural being,
glided down upon her knees. "You are right," said she, "it is indeed a
sorrowing mother who kneels before you, imploring you, in the humility
of my heart, to say what God hath revealed of her daughter s fate!"
"Oh!" cried the nun, in a voice of anguish.
But the empress went on. "My soul trembles for Marie Antoinette.
Something seems to warn me not to trust my child to the foul atmosphere
of that court of France, where Du Barry sits by the side of the king,
and the nobles pay her homage as though she were a virtuous queen. Oh!
tell me, holy sister, what will become of my Antoinette in France?"
"Oh! oh!" wailed the nun, and she writhed upon her bed.
"She is so sweet, so pure, so innocent!" continued the empress. "My
spotless dove! Will she soil her wings? Oh, sister, speak to me!"
"Oh!" cried the nun, for the third time, and the empress trembled, while
her face grew white as that of the prophetess.
"I am on my knees," murmured she, "and I await your answer. Sister
Margaret! Sister Margaret! in the name of God, who has endowed you with
superhuman wisdom, tell me what is to be the fate of Marie Antoinette?"
"Thou hast called on the name of God," said the nun, in a strange, clear
voice, "and I am forced to answer thee. Thou wouldst know the fate of
Marie Antoinette? Hear it: She will live through much evil, but will
return to virtue." [Footnote: Swinburne vol. i., p. 351.]
"She will then cease to be virtuous," cried the empress, bursting into
"She will learn much evil," repeated the nun, turning uneasily on her
bed. "She will endure--poor Marie Antoinette! Unhappy Queen of France!
"Woe unto me!" cried the wretched mother. "Woe unto her who leadeth her
children into temptation!"
"She will return to virtue!" murmured the nun, indistinctly. "Poor
With a loud cry she threw out her arms, and sat upright in the bed. Her
eyes opened, and she looked around the room.
"Where is the reverend mother?" cried she. "Were are the sisters?"
Suddenly her eyes rested upon the black and veiled figure of the
"Who are you?" exclaimed she. "Away with you, black shadow! I am not yet
dead! Not yet! Oh, this pain! this pain!" and the nun fell back upon her
Maria Theresa rose from her knees, and, wild with terror, fled from the
room. Away she sped through the long, dark corridor to the window that
overlooked the chapel, where the nuns were awaiting her return--away
down the wide stone staircase, through the hall, out into the open air.
She hurried into the carriage, and, once seated, fell back upon the
cushions and wept aloud.
The empress spoke not a word during the drive to the palace. She was so
absorbed in her sorrow as to be unconscious of the presence of another
person, and she wept without restraint until the carriage stopped. Then,
stifling her sobs and hastily drying her tears, she dropped her veil and
walked with her usual majestic gait through the palace halls. In her
anteroom she met a gentleman in waiting coming toward her.
"Father Gassner, your majesty."
"Where is he?"
"Here, so please your majesty."
"Let him follow me into my cabinet," said the empress, going forward,
while the courtier and the priest came behind. When she reached the door
of her cabinet she turned. "Wait here," said she. "When I ring, I beg of
you to enter, father. The count will await your return in this room."
She entered her cabinet and closed the door. Once more alone, she gave
vent to her sorrow. She wept aloud, and in her ears she seemed to hear
the clear, metallic voice of the sick nun pealing out those dreadful
words: "She will live through much evil, but will return to virtue."
But Maria Theresa was no coward. She was determined to master her
"I am a simpleton," thought she. "I must forget the dreams of a
delirious nun. How could I be so weak as to imagine that God would
permit an hysterical invalid to prophesy to a sound and strong woman
like myself? I will speak with Father Gassner. Perhaps he may see the
future differently. If he does, I shall know that they are both false
prophets, and their prophecies I shall throw to the winds."
Strengthened by these reflections, the empress touched her bell. The
door opened, and Father Gassner entered the room. He bowed, and then
drawing his tall, majestic figure to its full height, he remained
standing by the door, with his large, dark-blue eyes fixed upon the face
of the empress. She returned the glance. There seemed to be a strife
between the eyes of the sovereign, who was accustomed to see others bend
before her, and those of the inspired man, whose intercourse was with
the Lord of lords and the King of kings. Each met the other with dignity
Suddenly the empress strode haughtily up to the priest and said in a
tone that sounded almost defiant:
"Father Gassner, have you the courage to look me in the face and assert
yourself to be a prophet?"
"It requires no courage to avow a gift, which God, in the superabundance
of His goodness, has bestowed upon one who does not deserve it," replied
the father, gently. "If my eyes are opened to see, or my hand to heal,
glory be to God who has blessed them! The light, the grace are not mine,
why should I deny my Lord?" [Footnote: Father Gassner was one of the
most remarkable thaumaturgists of the eighteenth century. He healed all
sorts of diseases by the touch of his hand and multitudes flocked to him
for cure. His extraordinary powers displeased the bishop of his diocese,
and, to avoid censure, Father Gassner sought protection from the
empress, who held him in great reverence. His prediction concerning the
fate of Marie Antoinette was generally known long before its
accomplishment. It was related to Madame Campan, by a son of Kaunitz,
years before the Revolution.]
"Then, if I question you as to the future, you will answer?"
"If it is given to me to do so, I will answer."
"Tell me, then, whether Antoinette will be happy in her marriage?" The
priest turned pale, but he said nothing.
"Speak, speak; or I will denounce you as a false prophet!"
"Is this the only thing your majesty has to ask of me?"
"The only one."
"Then denounce me--for I cannot answer your majesty."
Gassner turned, and his hand was upon the lock of the door.
"Stay!" cried the empress, haughtily. "I command you, as your sovereign,
to speak the truth."
"The truth?" cried Gassner, in a voice of anguish, and his large eyes
opened with an expression of horror.
What did he see with those eyes that seemed to look far out into the dim
aisles of the terrible future?
"The truth!" echoed the unhappy mother. "Tell me, will my Antoinette be
Deep sighs convulsed the breast of the priest, and, with a look of
inexpressible agony, he answered, solemnly:
"Empress of Austria, WE HAVE ALL OUR CROSS TO BEAR!"
[Footnote: "Memoires de Madame Campan," vol. ii., p. 14.]
The empress started back, with a cry.
"Again, again!" murmured she, burying her face in her hands. But
suddenly coming forward, her eyes flaming like those of an angry
lioness, she said:
"What mean these riddles? Speak out at once, and tell me, without
equivocation--what is to be the fate of Antoinette?"
"WE HAVE ALL OUR CROSS TO BEAR," repeated the priest, "and the Queen of
France will surely have hers."
With these words he turned and left the room.
Pale and rigid, the empress stood in the middle of the room, murmuring
to herself the two fearful prophecies: "She will live through much evil,
but will return to virtue."--"We have all our cross to bear, and the
Queen of France will surely have hers."
For a while Maria Theresa was overwhelmed by the double blow she had
received. But it was not in her nature to succumb to circumstances. She
must overrule them.
She rang her bell, and a page entered the room.
"Let a messenger be dispatched to Prince Kaunitz, I wish to see his
highness. He can come to me unannounced."
Not long after the prince made his appearance. A short sharp glance at
the agitated mien of the empress showed to the experienced diplomatist
that to-day, as so often before, he must oppose the shield of
indifference to the storm of passion with which he was about to contend.
"Your majesty," said he, "has sent for me, just as I was about to
request an audience. I am in receipt of letters from the emperor. He has
spent a day with the King of Prussia."
He attempted to give the letters into the hands of the empress, but she
put them back with a gesture of impatience.
"Prince Kaunitz," said she, "it is you who have done this-you must undo
it. It cannot, shall not be."
"What does your majesty mean?" asked Kaunitz, astonished. "I speak of
that which lies nearest my heart," said the empress, warmly.
"Of the meeting of the emperor with the King of Prussia," returned
Kaunitz, quietly. "Yesterday they met at Neisse. It was a glorious
interview. The two monarchs embraced, and the emperor remarked-"
"Enough, enough!" cried Maria Theresa, impatiently. "You affect to
misunderstand me. I speak of Antoinette's engagement to the dauphin. It
must be broken. My daughter shall not go to France."
Kaunitz was so completely astounded, so sincerely astounded, that he was
speechless. The paint upon his face could not conceal the angry flush
that colored it, nor his pet locks cover the wrinkles that rose up to
disfigure his forehead.
"Do not stare at me as if you thought I was parting with my senses,"
cried the empress. "I know very well what I say. I will not turn my
innocent Antoinette into that den of corruption. She shall not bear a
cross from which it is in my power to save her."
"Who speaks of crosses?" asked Kaunitz, bewildered. "The only thing of
which I have heard is a royal crown wherewith her brow is to be decked."
"She shall not wear that crown?" exclaimed Maria Theresa. "God himself
has warned me through the lips of His prophets, and not unheeded shall
the warning fall."
Kaunitz breathed more freely, and his features resumed their wonted
"If that is all," thought he, gayly, "I shall be victorious. An ebullition
of superstition is easily quieted by a little good news." "Your majesty
has been following the new fashion," said he, aloud; "you have been
consulting the fortune-tellers. I presume you have visited the nun who
is subject to pious hysterics; and Father Gassner, I see, has been
visiting your majesty, for I met him as I was coming to the palace. I
could not help laughing as I saw his absurd length of visage."
Maria Theresa, in reply to this irony, related the answers which had
been made to her questions.
Kaunitz listened with sublime indifference, and evinced not a spark of
sympathy. When the empress had concluded her story, he merely said
"What else, your majesty?"
"What else?" echoed the empress, surprised "Yes, your majesty. Surely
there must be something more than a pair of vague sentences, a pair of
'ohs' and 'ahs;' and a sick nun and a silly priest. These insignificant
nothings are certainly not enough to overturn the structure which for
ten years we have employed all our skill to build up."
"I well know that you are an infidel and an unbeliever, Kaunitz," cried
the empress, vexed at the quiet sneers of her minister. "I know you
believe that only which you can understand and explain."
"No, your majesty, I believe all that is reasonable. What I cannot
comprehend is unreasonable."
The empress glanced angrily at his stony countenance. "God sometimes
speaks to us through the mouths of His chosen ones," cried she; "and, as
I believe in the inspiration of Sister Margaret and Father Gassner, my
daughter shall not go to France."
"Is that your majesty's unalterable resolution?"
"Then," returned Kaunitz, bowing, "allow me to make a request for
"Allow me at once to retire from your majesty's service."
"Kaunitz!" exclaimed Maria Theresa, "is it possible that you would
"No, your majesty; it is you who forsake me. You are willing, for the
sake of two crazy seers, to destroy the fabric which it has been the
work of my life to construct. Your majesty desires that I should remain
your minister, and with my own hand should undo the web that I have
woven with such trouble to myself? All Europe knows that the French
alliance is my work. To this end I have labored by day and lain awake by
night; to this end I have flattered and bribed; to this end I have seen
my friend De Choiseul disgraced, while I bowed low before his miserable
successor, that I might win him and that wretched Du Barry to my
"You are irretrievably bent upon this alliance?" asked the empress,
thoughtfully. "It was then not to gratify me that you sought to place a
crown upon my dear child's head?"
"Your majesty's wishes have always been sacred to me, but I should never
have sought to gratify them, had they not been in accordance with my
sense of duty to Austria. I have not sought to make a queen of the
Archduchess Maria Antoinette. I have sought to unite Austria with
France, and to strengthen the southwestern powers of Europe against the
infidelity and barbarism of Prussia and Russia. In spite of all that is
taking place at Neisse, Austria and Prussia are, and ever will be,
enemies. The king and the emperor may flatter and smile, but neither
believes what the other says. Frederick will never lose an opportunity
of robbing. He ogles Russia, and would gladly see her our 'neighbor,' if
by so doing he were to gain an insignificant province for Prussia. It is
to ward off these dangerous accomplices that we seek alliance with
France, and through France, with Spain, Portugal, and Italy. And now,
when the goal is won, and the prize is ours, your majesty retracts her
imperial word! You are the sovereign, and your will must be, done. But I
cannot lend my hand to that which my reason condemns as unwise, and my
conscience as dishonorable. I beg of your majesty, to-day and forever,
to dismiss me from your service!"
The empress did not make any reply. She had risen, and was walking
hastily up and down, murmuring low, inarticulate words and heaving deep,
convulsive sighs. Kaunitz followed her with the eye of a cool physician,
who watches the crisis of a brain-fever. He looked down, however, as the
empress, stopping, raised her dark, glowing eyes to his. When he met her
glance his expression had changed; it had become as usual.
"You have heard the pleadings of the mother," said she, breathing hard,
"and you have silenced them with your cold arguments. The empress has
heard, and she it is who must decide against herself. She has no right
to sacrifice her empire to her maternity. May God forgive me," continued
she, solemnly clasping her hands, "if I err in quelling the voice of my
love which cries so loudly against this union. Let it be accomplished!
Marie Antoinette shall be the bride of Louis XVI."
"Spoken like the noble Empress of Austria!" cried Kaunitz, triumphantly.
"Do not praise me," returned Maria Theresa sadly; "but hear what I have
to say. You have spoken words so bold, that it would seem you fancy
yourself to be Emperor of Austria. It was not you who sought alliance
with France, but myself. You did nothing but follow out my intentions
and obey my commands. The sin of my refusal, therefore, was nothing to
you or your conscience--it rested on my head alone."
"May God preserve your majesty to your country and your subjects! May
you long be Austria's head, and I--your right hand!" exclaimed Kaunitz.
"You do not then wish to retire?" asked she, with a languid smile.
"I beg of your majesty to forgive and retain me."
"So be it, then," returned the empress, with a light inclination of the
head. "But I cannot hear any more to-day. You have no sympathy with my
trials as a mother. I have sacrificed my child to Austria, but my heart
is pierced with sorrow and apprehension. Leave me to my tears. I cannot
feel for any one except my child--my poor, innocent child!"
She turned hastily away, that he might not see the tears that were
already streaming down her face. Kaunitz bowed, and left the cabinet
with his usual cold, proud step.
The minister once gone, Maria Theresa gave herself up to the wildest
grief. No one saw her anguish but God; no one ever knew how the powerful
empress writhed and wrung her hands in her powerless agony; no one but
God and the dead emperor, whose mild eyes beamed compassion from the
gilt frame in which his picture hung, upon the wall. To this picture
Maria Theresa at last raised her eyes, and it seemed, to her excited
imagination, that her husband smiled and whispered words of consolation.
"Yes, dear Franz, I hear you," said she. "You would remind me that this
is our wedding-day. Alas, I know it! Once a day of joy, and from this
moment the anniversary of a great sorrow! Franz, it is OUR child that is
the victim! The sweet Antoinette, whose eyes are so like her father's!
Oh, dear husband, my heart is heavy with grief; Why may I not go to rest
too? But thou wilt not love me if my courage fail. I will be brave,
Franz; I will work, and try to do my duty."
She approached her writing-table, and began to overlook the heaps of
papers that awaited her inspection and signature. Gradually her brow
cleared and her face resumed its usual expression of deep thought and
high resolve. The mother forgot her grief, and the empress was absorbed
in the cares of state.
She felt so strongly the comfort and sustenance derived from labor, that
on that day she dined alone, and returned immediately to her
writing-desk. Twilight came on, and still the empress was at work.
Finally the rolling of carriages toward the imperial theatre was heard,
and presently the shouts of the applauding audience. The empress heard
nothing. She had never attended the theatre since her husband's death,
and it was nothing to her that to-night Lessing's beautiful drama,
"Emilia Galotti," was being represented for the first time in Vienna.
Twilight deepened into night, and the empress rang for lights. Then
retiring to her dressing-room, she threw off her heavy court costume,
and exchanged it for a simple peignoir, in which she returned to her
cabinet and still wrote on.
Suddenly the stillness was broken by a knock, and a page entered with a
golden salver, on which lay a letter.
"A courier from Florence, your majesty," said he.
Maria Theresa took the letter, and dismissed the page. "From my
Leopold," said she, while she opened it. "It is an extra courier. It
must announce the accouchement of his wife. Oh, my heart, how it beats!"
With trembling hands she held the missive and read it. But at once her
face was lighted up with joy, and throwing herself upon her knees before
the portrait of the emperor, she said, "Franz, Leopold has given us a
grandson. Do you hear?"
No answer came in response to the joyful cry of the empress, and she
could not bear the burden of her joy alone. Some one must rejoice with
her. She craved sympathy, and she must go out to seek it.
She left her cabinet. Unmindful of her dress, she sped through the long
corridors, farther and still farther, down the staircase and away to the
extremest end of the palace, until she reached the imperial theatre.
That night it was crowded. The interest of the spectators had deepened
as the play went on. They were absorbed in the scene between Emilia and
her father, when a door was heard to open and to shut.
Suddenly, in the imperial box, which had so long been empty, a tall and
noble figure bent forward, far over the railing, and a clear, musical
voice cried out:
"Leopold has a son!"
The audience, as if electrified, rose with one accord from their seats.
All turned toward the imperial box. Each one had recognized the voice of
the adored Maria Theresa, and every heart over-flowed with the joy of
The empress repeated her words:
"Leopold has a son, and it is born on my wedding-day. Wish me joy, dear
friends, of my grandson!"
Then arose such a storm of congratulations as never before had been
heard within those theatre walls. The women wept, and the men waved
their hats and cheered; while all, with one voice, cried out. "Long live
Maria Theresa! Long live the imperial grandmother!"
All prophecies defying, Maria Theresa had given her daughter to France.
In the month of May, 1770, the Archduchess Marie Antoinette was married
by proxy in Vienna; and amid the ringing of bells, the booming of
cannon, and the shouts of the populace, the beautiful young dauphiness
left Austria to meet her inevitable fate.
Meanwhile, in the imperial palace, too, one room was darkening under the
shadow of approaching death. It was that in which Isabella's daughter
was passing from earth to heaven.
The emperor knew that his child was dying; and many an hour he spent at
her solitary bedside, where, tranquil and smiling, she murmured words
which her father knew were whispered to the angels.
The emperor sorrowed deeply for the severance of the last tie that bound
him to the bright and beautiful dream of his early married life. But he
was so accustomed to sorrow, that on the occasion of his sister's
marriage, he had gone through the forms required by etiquette, without
any visible emotion.
But the festivities were at an end. The future Queen of France had
bidden farewell to her native Vienna, and the marriage guests had
departed; while darker and darker grew the chamber of the dying child,
and sadder the face of the widowed father. The emperor kissed his
daughter's burning forehead, and held her little transparent hand in
his. "Farewell, my angel," whispered he; "since thy mother calls thee,
go, my little Theresa. Tell her that she was my only love--my first and
last. Go, beloved, and pray for thy unhappy father."
Once more he kissed her, and when he raised his head, her face was
moistened with his tears. He turned hastily away and left the room.
"And now," thought he, "to my duty, I must forget my own sorrows that I
may wipe away the tears of my sorrowing people. There is so much grief
and want in Austria! Oh, my child, my little one! Amid the blessings of
the suffering poor shalt thou stretch forth thy wings and take the
flight to heaven!"
He was on his way to seek an audience of his mother. Maria Theresa was
in her cabinet, and was somewhat surprised to see her son at this
unusual hour of the day.
"I come to your majesty to beg a boon," said Joseph, with a sad smile.
"Yesterday you were distributing Antoinette's wedding-gifts to your
children; I alone received nothing. Is there nothing for me?"
"Nothing for you, my son!" exclaimed Maria Theresa, astonished. "Why,
every thing is yours, and therefore I have nothing to give. Where your
right is indisputable, my presents are superfluous."
"Yes, mother; but it does not become one so generous as you, to let her
eldest son wait for an inheritance, when she might make him a handsome
present of her own free will. Be generous, then, and give me something,
too. I wish to be on an equality with the other children."
"Well, then, you grown-up child, what will you have?" asked the empress,
laughing. "Of course you have already chosen your gift, and it is mere
gallantry on your part to beg for what you might take without leave. But
let us hear. What is it? You have only to ask and have."
"Indeed! May I choose my wedding-gift?"
"Yes, you imperial beggar, you may."
"Well, then, give me the government claims upon the four lower classes."
The empress looked aghast. "Is it money you desire?" said she. "Say how
much, and you shall have it from my private purse. But do not rob the
poor! The claim that you covet is the tax levied upon all the working
classes, and you know how numerous they are."
"For that very reason, I want it. It is a princely gift. Shall I have
The empress reflected for a few moments. "I know," said she, looking up
with one of her sweetest smiles, "I know that you will not misuse your
power; for I remember the fate of your father's legacy, the three
millions of coupons. You shall have the claim, my son. It is yours."
"Will your majesty draw out the deed of gift?"
"I will, my son. It is YOUR wedding-gift from our darling Antoinette.
But you will acquaint me, from time to time, with the use you are making
of your power over the poor classes?"
"I will render my account to your majesty. But first draw out the deed."
The empress stepped to her escritoire and wrote a few lines, to which
she affixed the imperial signature and seal.
"There it is," said she. "I bestow upon my son, the emperor, all the
government claims to the impost levied upon the four lower classes. Will
"It will, and from my heart I thank my dear mother for the gracious
He took the hand of the empress to kiss it, but she held his fast in her
grasp, and looked at him with an expression of tenderness; and anxiety.
"You are pale, my son," said she, affectionately. "I see that your heart
"And yet," replied Joseph, with quivering lip, "I should rejoice, for I
am about to have an angel in heaven."
"Poor little Theresa!" murmured the empress, while the tears rose to her
eyes. "She has never been a healthy child. Isabella calls her hence."
"Yes," replied Joseph, bitterly; "she calls my child away, that, she may
break the last link that bound her to me."
"We must believe, my child, that it is for the best. The will of God,
however painful its manifestations, is holy, wise and merciful. Isabella
declared to us that she would call the child when it had reached its
seventh year; she goes to her mother. And now that this bitter dream of
your early love is past, perhaps your heart may awaken once more to
love. There are many beautiful princesses in Europe, and not one of them
would refuse the hand of the Emperor of Austria. It is for you to
choose, and no one shall dictate your choice."
"Would your majesty convert me into a bluebeard?" cried Joseph,
coloring. "Do you not see that I murder my wives? Enough, that two of
them are buried in the chapel of the Capuchins, and that to-morrow,
perhaps, my child will join them. Leopold has given an heir to my
throne, and I am satisfied."
"Why do you talk of a successor, my son?" said the empress, "you who are
"Your majesty, I am old," replied Joseph, mournfully--"so old that I have
no hope of happiness on earth. You see that to-day, when you have been
so gracious, I am too wretched to do aught but thank you for your
splendid gift. Let me retire, then, to my unhappy solitude; I am not fit
to look upon your sweet and honored countenance. I must exile myself
until my trial is past."
He left the room, and hastening to his cabinet, "Now," exclaimed he,
"now for my mother's gift."
He sat dozen and wrote as follows:
"MY DEAR PRINCE KALUITZ: By the enclosed, you will see that the empress,
my mother, has presented me with all the government claims upon the
working-classes. Will you make immediate arrangements to acquaint the
collectors with the following:
"'No tax shall be collected from the working-classes during the
remainder of my life.' "Joseph." [Footnote: Historical. Hubner, vol.
ii., p, 86.]
"Now," thought he, as he laid aside his pen, "this document will gladden
many a heart, and it will, perchance, win forgiveness for my own
weakness. But, why should monarchs have hearts of flesh like other men,
since they have no right to feel, to love, or to grieve? Be still,
throbbing heart, that the emperor may forget himself, to remember his
subjects! Yes, my subjects--my children --I will make you happy! I
There was a light tap at the door, and the governess of the little
Archduchess Maria Theresa entered the room.
"I have come," said she, in a faltering voice, "to announce to your
majesty that the princess has breathed her last."
The emperor made no reply. He motioned the lady to retire, and bowing
his head, gave way to one long burst of grief.
For hours he sat there, solitary and broken-hearted. At length the
paroxysm was over. He raised his head, and his eyes were tearless and
"It is over!" exclaimed he, in clear and unfaltering tones. "The past is
buried; and I am born anew to a life whereof the aim shall be Austria's
greatness and her people's welfare. I am no more a husband, no more a
father. Austria shall be my bride, and every Austrian my child."
Great excitement prevailed at Neustadt. All work was suspended, all the
shops were shut, and although it was not Sunday, the people, in their
holiday attire, seemed to have cast away all thought of the wants,
cares, and occupations of everyday life. For, although it was not
Sunday, it was a holiday--a holiday for Neustadt, since this was the
birthday of Neustadt's fame. For hundreds of years the little village
had existed in profound obscurity, its simple inhabitants dreaming away
their lives far from the clamor of the world and its vicissitudes. Their
slumbers had been disturbed by the Seven Years' War, and many a father,
son, husband, and lover had fought and fallen on its bloodthirsty
battlefield. But with the return of peace came insignificance, and
villagers of Neustadt went on dreaming as before.
Today, however, on the 3d of September, in the year 1770, they were
awakened by an event which gave to Neustadt a place in history. The two
greatest potentates in Germany were to meet there to bury their past
enmity, and pledge to each other the right hand of fellowship.
These two potentates were the Emperor of Austria and the King of
Prussia. It was, therefore, not surprising that all Neustadt should be
out of doors to witness the baptism of Neustadt's celebrity.
The streets were thronged with well-dressed people, the houses were hung
with garlands and wreaths, the church-bells were ringing, and all the
dignitaries of the town had turned out to witness the pageant.
And now the moment had arrived. The thunder of cannon, the shouts of the
people who thronged the avenue that led to the palace, and the clang of
martial music, announced the approach of the emperor, whom his people
were frantic to welcome.
He came, a young man, on a jet-black Arabian, who rode ahead of those
glittering nobles--this was the Emperor Joseph, the hope of Austria.
A thousand voices rent the air with shouts, while Joseph smiled, and
bowed, and raised his eyes to the balconies, whence showers of bouquets
were falling around him.
He was inclining his head, when a wrest, of red roses and
orange-flowers, aimed by some skilful hand, fell directly upon his
saddle-bow. He smiled, and taking up the wreath, looked around to see
whence it came. Suddenly his eye brightened, and his countenance
expressed increased interest, while he reined in his horse that he might
look again at a lady who was leaning over a balcony just above him. Her
tall and elegant figure was clothed in a dress of black velvet, closed
from her white throat to her round waist by buttons of large and
magnificent diamonds, whose brilliancy was almost dazzling. Her youthful
and beautiful face was colorless, with that exquisite and delicate
pallor which has no affinity to ill-health, but resembles the spiritual
beauty of a marble statue. Her glossy black hair defined the exquisite
oval of that fair face, as a rich frame sets off a fine painting. On her
head she wore a diadem of brilliants, which confined a rich black-lace
veil, that fluttered like a dark cloud around her graceful figure. Her
countenance wore an expression of profound sadness, and her large,
lustrous eyes were riveted with an earnest gaze upon the emperor.
He bowed to his saddle-bow, but she did not seem to recognize the
compliment, for her glance and her sadness were unchanged.
"The wreath is not from her," thought Joseph, with a feeling of
disappointment; but as he turned for one more look at her lovely face,
he remarked a bouquet which she wore in her bosom. It was similar to the
wreath which he held. The same white orange-blossoms and red roses,
fastened together by the same white and red ribbon, whose long streamers
were now fluttering in the wind.
A triumphant smile overspread the features of the emperor, as blushing,
he bowed again and passed on. But his face no longer wore its expression
of careless gratification. He grew absent and thoughtful; he forgot to
return the greetings of the people; and vainly the ladies, who crowded
window and balcony, threw flowers in his way, or waved their
handkerchiefs in greeting. He saw nothing but the beautiful vision in
the black veil, and wondered whence she came and what could be the
hidden meaning of the red and white flowers which she wore and gave to
He was glad when the pageant of his entry into Neustadt was over, and,
dismounting quickly, he entered the palace, followed by Field-Marshal
Lacy and Count Rosenberg.
The people looked after them and shouted anew. But their attention was
directed from the emperor to a carriage, drawn by four horses, which,
advancing in the very centre of the brilliant cortege, seemed to contain
some imperial personage, for the staff were around it, as though forming
its escort. The curtains of the carriage were all drawn, so that nothing
could be seen of its occupant.
Who could it be? A woman, of course; since no man would dare to be
driven, while the Emperor of Austria rode. It could be no other than the
Empress Maria Theresa, who had taken the journey to Neustadt, that she
might look, face to face, upon her celebrated opponent, and offer him
her own hand in pledge of future good understanding.
While the populace hoped and speculated, the mysterious equipage arrived
before the palace gates. The rich-liveried footmen sprang from the
rumble, and stationed themselves at the door of the coach. The two
others, who were seated on the box, did likewise; bringing with them, as
they alighted on the ground, a roll of rich Turkey carpeting, which they
laid, with great precision, from the carriage to the palace steps.
Then the people were convinced that it was the empress. Who but the
sovereign lady of Austria and Hungary would walk the streets upon a
carpet of such magnificence? And they thronged nearer, eager to catch
the first glance of their beloved and honored empress.
The carpet was laid without a wrinkle. One of the footmen opened the
carriage door, while another approached the fore-wheel.
"She comes! she comes!" cried the populace, and they crowded around in
One foot was put forward--not a foot encased in a satin slipper, but a
foot in a buckled shoe, which, glistening though it was with diamonds,
was not that of an empress. The occupant of the carriage was a man!
"A man!" exclaimed the bystanders, astounded. Yes. Here he came, wrapped
up in a bearskin, which, on this warm summer day, was enough to dissolve
an ordinary human being into vapor. Not content with his wrapping, his
hands were encased in a huge muff, which he held close to his face, that
he might not inhale one single breath of the air that was refreshing
everybody else. His head was covered by a hood which concealed his face,
of which nothing was visible save a pair of light-blue eyes.
When he had disappeared within the palace doors, the footmen rolled up
the carpet and replaced it on the coach-box.
The populace, who had been looking on in speechless wonder, now began to
laugh and whisper. Some said it was the King of the North Pole; others
declared it was an Arctic bear; others again thought the gentleman had
started for Siberia and had lost his way. Finally the desire to know who
he was grew uncontrollable, and, thronging around his lackeys, the
people shouted out:
"Who is he? Tell us, who is be?"
The lackeys, with the gravity of heralds-at-arms, shouted out in return:
"This is his highness Prince Kaunitz, prime minister of their majesties
the Empress Maria Theresa and the Emperor Joseph of Austria!"
"What an abominable idea!" exclaimed Prince Kaunitz, as, perfectly
exhausted from his journey, he fell into an armchair in his own room.
"What an abominable idea to undertake this journey! These German roads
are as rough and uncouth as the Germans themselves, and I only wonder
that we have arrived without breaking our ribs!"
"It would certainly have been more convenient," said Baron Binder, "if
the King of Prussia had visited us in Vienna."
Kaunitz turned his large eyes full upon his friend.
"I suppose," said he, "that you jest, Binder; for you MUST know that it
is never safe to have your enemy under your own roof."
"Your highness, then, has no confidence in the protestations of love
that are going on between the emperor and the king?"
The prince made no reply. He was looking at himself in a mirror,
criticising his toilet, which had just been completed by the expert
Hippolyte. Apparently it was satisfactory, for he looked up and spoke:
"You are a grown-up child, Binder; you stare, and believe every thing.
Have you not yet learned that statesmanship recognizes nothing but
interests? To-day it is to the interest of Frederick to squeeze our
hands and protest that he loves us; to-morrow (if he can), he will put
another Silesia in his royal pocket. We, too, have found it convenient
to write him a love-letter or two; but to-day, if we would, we would
pluck off his crown, and make him a little margrave again! Our intimacy
reminds me of a sight I once saw while we were in Paris. It was a cage,
in which animals, naturally antagonistic, were living in a state of
perfect concord. A dog and cat were dining sociably together from one
plate, and, not far off, a turkey-hen was comfortably perched upon the
back of a fox, who, so far from betraying any symptom of appetite for
the turkey, looked quite oblivious of her proximity. I gave the keeper a
louis d'or, and he told me his secret. The dog's teeth were drawn, and
the cat's claws were pared off; this, of course, forced both to keep the
peace. As for the turkey-hen, she was fastened to the back of the fox
with fine wire, and this was the secret of her security."
"Ah!" cried Binder, laughing, "this is the history of many a human
alliance. How many foxes I have known who carried their hens upon their
backs and made believe to love them, because they dared not do
"Peace, Binder, my story is not yet ended. One morning the dog and the
cat were found dead in THEIR corner; and in the other, the fox lay
bleeding and moaning; while of the hen, nothing remained save her
feathers. Time--the despot that rules us all, had outwitted the keeper
and asserted the laws of Nature. The cat's claws had grown out, and so
had the dog's teeth. The fox, after much pondering over his misfortunes,
had discovered the reason why he could not reach the hen; and this done,
he worked at the wires until they broke. Of course he revenged himself
on the spot by gobbling her up; but in his wrath at the wires, he had
thrust them so deeply into his own flesh that the wounds they made upon
his body caused his death. And so ended the compulsory alliance of four
"Does your highness apply that anecdote to us?" asked Binder. "Are we to
end like the cat and the dog?"
"For the present," said Kaunitz, thoughtfully, "our teeth and claws are
harmless. We must wait until they have grown out again!"
"Your highness, then, assigns us the role of the dog?"
"Certainly. I leave it to Prussia to play the cat--she has scratched us
more than once, and even to-day, when she covers her paws with velvet, I
feel the claws underneath. I came hither to watch her. I am curious to
know what it is in Frederick that has so bewitched the young Emperor of
"It would appear that his majesty of Prussia has extraordinary powers of
fascination. No one can resist him."
"I shall resist him," said Kaunitz, "for against his fascinations I am
defended by the talisman of our mutual hate."
"Do not say so, your highness. The King of Prussia may fear, but he
cannot hate you. And did he not make it a special request that you
should accompany the emperor?"
"He did; and however disinclined I might be to accept his invitation, I
have come lest he should suppose that I am afraid to encounter his eagle
eyes. [Footnote: Ferrand, "History of the Dismemberment of Poland," vol.
i., p. 103.] I fear HIM! HE intimidate me! It is expedient for the
present that Austria and Prussia should be quasi allies, for in this way
peace has been secured to Europe. But my system of diplomacy, which the
empress has made her own, forbids me to make any permanent alliance with
a prince who lives politically from hand to mouth, and has no fixed line
of policy. [Footnote: Kaunitz's own words. See Ferrand. vol. i., v. 69.]
No--I do not fear him; for I see through his hypocritical professions,
and in spite of his usurped crown I feel myself to be more than his
equal. If he has won thirteen victories on the battle-field, I have
fought twice as many in the cabinet, where the fight is hand to hand,
and the victor conquers without an army. On this field he will scarcely
dare to encounter me. If he does, he will find his master for once!
"Yes," repeated Kaunitz emphatically, "he will find his master in me. I
have never failed to make other men subservient to my schemes, and the
King of Prussia shall grace my triumph with the rest. He is the vassal
of Austria, and I will be the one to force him back to his allegiance.
It is scandalous that this petty king should have been suffered to play
an important part in European affairs. I will drive him from his
accidental grandeur, and he shall return to his duty. I will humble him
if I can; for this King of Prussia is the only man in Europe who has
denied me the honors and consideration due me as a politician and a
prince." [Footnote: Kaunitz's own words. Ferrand, vol. i., p. 104]
While Kaunitz spoke, his marble face grew animated, and his eyes glowed
with the fire of hate.
"Nay, prince!" exclaimed Binder, anxious to subdue the fiend that was
rising in his friend's heart, "everybody knows that you are the coachman
of Europe, and that it is in the power of no man to wrest the reins from
"May this Prussian ride behind as my footman!" cried Kaunitz, gnashing
his teeth. "Oh, I know him! I know why he pays a million of subsidy
annually to his accomplice, the virtuous Catherine, that she may
continue her assaults upon Poland and Turkey! I know whither his
longings travel; but when he stretches his hand out for the booty, we
too will be there to claim our share, and he shall yield it."
"Your highness speaks in riddles," said Binder, shrugging his shoulders.
"I am accustomed, as you know, to look through your political
spectacles; and I beg you to explain, for I am perfectly at a loss to
The countenance of Kaunitz had resumed its impassible look. He threw
back his head, and fixed his cold, heartless blue eyes upon the baron.
"Do you know," said he, "what William the Silent once said of himself?
'If I knew that my night-cap had found out my thoughts I would throw it
in the fire.' Now, Binder, do not aim to be my night-cap, or I shall
burn you to a cinder.--But enough of this. It would seem that the
Emperor Joseph expects me to wait upon him. Well--if it please him that
I should make the first visit, I will humor him. When a man feels that
he is lord and master of another, he can afford to be condescending! I
will indulge the emperor's whim."
He rang, and one of his valets entered the room.
"Is his majesty in the castle?"
"Yes, your highness. His majesty has been reviewing the troops."
"Where is his majesty now?"
"He is with his suite in the parlor that overlooks the square."
"Is it far from this room?"
"No, your highness. It is close by."
"Then reach me a cloak and muff, and woe to you if I encounter a draught
on my way!"
The emperor stood in the centre of the room in lively conversation with
the gentlemen of his suite. As Kaunitz entered, he stopped at once, and
coming forward, received the prince with a cordial welcome.
Kaunitz replied by a low bow, and nodded slightly to Prince de Ligne and
"Your highness is just in time," said the emperor. "These gentlemen need
encouragement. They have been blushing and trembling like two young
"Before whom, your majesty?"
"Oh!--before the great Frederick, of course. And De Ligne, who is
considered the most elegant man in Vienna, actually trembled more than
"Actors trembling before their manager!" said Kaunitz, with a slight
shrug. "Compose yourselves, gentlemen; the King of Prussia is too much
absorbed in his own role to take any notice of you."
"That is right," cried the emperor. "Encourage the debutantes, prince!"
"I scarcely think that the prince will succeed where your majesty has
failed," said General von Lacy proudly.
"And his highness will hardly have any time to devote to us, for
doubtless he too is practising the role which he must play before the
King of Prussia," added De Ligne.
"I beg to impress upon the Prince de Ligne," interrupted Kaunitz, "that
the verb 'must' is one which I am well accustomed to conjugate for
others but never allow others to conjugate for me."
"I for one have had it conjugated for me by your highness," said the
emperor, laughing. "Nobody in Austria knows it in all its moods and
tenses better than I. But I have always recognized you as my teacher,
and hope always to remain your faithful pupil."
The clouds which were gathering on Kaunitz's brow now shifted to the
faces of Lacy and De Ligne.
"I have nothing to teach your majesty," replied Kaunitz, almost smiling;
"but allow me as a faithful servant to offer you a suggestion. Present
to the King of Prussia that beautiful wreath which you hold in your
hand, as an emblem of the friendship which to-day we pledge to Prussia."
"Not I," cried Joseph, while he held up his wreath and admired its white
and red roses. "I shall keep my bouquet, were it only for the sake of
the beautiful donor. You, prince, who penetrate all things, have pity on
me, and find out her name."
"Your majesty saw her, then?"
"Saw her? Yes, by Aphrodite, I did; and never in my life did I see a
lovelier woman. She stood there in her velvet dress and veil, looking
for all the world like the queen of night, of starry night. You see how
she has impressed me, since I, who am so prosaic, launch out into
extravagance of speech to describe her."
"She was in mourning?" asked Kaunitz thoughtfully.
"Clothed in black, except the diamonds that sparkled on her bodice, and
the bouquet (a match to mine) which she wore in her bosom. Ah, your
highness, how you look at my poor flowers, as if treason were lurking
among their leaves!"
"It is a beautiful bouquet," said Kaunitz, eying it critically, "and
very peculiar. Will your majesty allow me to examine it?"
The emperor handed over the wreath. "Take it," said he, "but be merciful
to my pretty delinquents."
Kaunitz took the flowers and looked at them as he would have done at any
other thing that might be the links in a chain of evidence, and passed
his slender, white fingers through the long ribbons that fastened them
"The lady who threw these flowers is a Pole," said he, after a pause.
"How do you know that?" cried the emperor.
"It is certainly not accidental that the wreath should be composed of
white and red roses, and tied with a knot of white and red ribbons.
White and red, you remember, are the colors of the so-called Republic
"You are right!" exclaimed Joseph, "and she wears mourning because a
noble woman must necessarily grieve for the sufferings of her bleeding
"Look," said Kaunitz, who, meanwhile, was opening the leaves and
searching among them, "here is a paper. Does your majesty permit me to
draw it out?"
"Certainly. I gave you the wreath to examine, and you shall have the
benefit of all that you discover."
Kaunitz bowed his thanks, and began to untwist the stems of the flowers.
The emperor and the two courtiers looked on with interest. The prince
drew forth a little folded paper, and reached it over to the emperor.
"Have the goodness, your majesty, to read it yourself. A declaration of
love from a lady is not intended for my profane eyes."
The emperor sighed. "No," said he, "it is no declaration for me. I am
not so happy. Read, your highness, read it aloud."
Kaunitz unfolded the paper, and read. "Souvenir d'Eperies"
"Nothing more?" asked Joseph.
Kaunitz replied by handing him the note.
"How strange! Only these words, and no explanation. I cannot understand
"These words prove my supposition, your majesty. The donor is a Polish
lady and one of the Confederates."
"You think so?"
"I am convinced of it. When your majesty was travelling in Hungary, did
you not spend a day at Eperies, and honor the Confederates by receiving
them both publicly and privately?"
"I did," replied Joseph, warmly. "And it gladdened my heart to assure
these brave, struggling patriots of my sympathy."
"Did not your majesty go so far as to promise them mediation with
Prussia and Russia?" [Footnote: Ferrand. vol. i., p. 79.]
"I did," replied the emperor, with a faint blush.
"Well, then, this female confederate meant to remind you of your promise
on the day when you are to hold a conference with Frederick," said
Kaunitz, allowing the wreath to slip through his fingers to the floor.
"There, your majesty," continued he, "your beautiful Pole is at your
feet. Will you rescue her, or unite in crushing her to the earth?"
"Oh, I will rescue her," replied Joseph, "that she may not fall into the
hands of ambitious Catharine. It would give her great pleasure to deck
her Muscovite head with these sweet Polish roses; but she shall not have
With these words, and before his courtiers could anticipate his action,
the emperor stooped and picked up the wreath.
"Have a care, your majesty," said the wary Kaunitz, "how you espouse
Polish quarrels. The Poles are unlucky. They can die like men, but they
do not live like men. Beware of Polish roses, for their perfume is not
Just then a shout was heard in the distance, and the emperor hastened to
"It is the King of Prussia!" cried he, joyfully, and he walked toward
Prince Kaunitz took the liberty of going immediately up and interposing
his tall person between Joseph and the doorway.
"Your majesty," said he, reproachfully, "what are you about to do?"
"I am about to go forward to meet the King of Prussia. He is just
descending from his carriage. Do not detain me," replied Joseph,
"But has your majesty forgotten that at Neisse, when the King of Prussia
was the host, he came no farther than the stairway to meet you? It is
not seemly that Austria should condescend to Prussia."
"My dear prince," said the emperor, with a peculiar laugh, "it is your
business to respect these conventions. It is mine to regulate them. As
the LITTLE sovereign of Austria I hasten to do homage to the GREAT King
And gently putting the minister aside: the emperor walked rapidly out,
followed by his suite.
Kaunitz looked after him with stormy brow.
"Incorrigible fanatic!" said he to himself. "Will you never cease to
butt your empty head against the wall? You will butt in vain as long as
_I_ have power and life. Go. It befits such a little emperor as you to
humble yourself before your great king; but Austria is represented in MY
person, and I remain here!"
He looked around the room, and his eyes fell upon the wreath, which the
emperor had laid by the side of his hat, on the table. A sneer
overspread his countenance as he went toward it, and shook off some of
the leaves which were already fading.
"How soon they fall!" said he. "I think that the glorious republic will
be quite as short-lived as they. Meanwhile I shall see that the
'Souvenir d'Eperies' lives no longer than roses have a right to live."
He left the room, resolved to find out who it was that had bestowed the
wreath. "For," thought he, "she may prove a useful instrument with which
to operate on either side."
FREDERICK THE GREAT.
With youthful ardor, unconscious that his head was uncovered, the
emperor hurried down the staircase into the street. Looking neither to
the right nor to the left, his eyes fixed upon the spot whence the king
was advancing, the emperor rushed onward, for the first time in his life
slighting the people who thronged around, full of joy at sight of his
elegant and handsome person.
Frederick was coming with equal rapidity, and now, in the very centre of
the square, the monarchs met.
At this moment all was quiet. The military, ranged in lines around, were
glistening with gold lace and brightened arms. Behind them came the
people, who far and near were seen flowing in one great stream toward
the square, while on the balconies and through the open windows of the
houses around richly-dressed matrons and beautiful maidens enclosed the
scene, like one long wreath of variegated flowers.
They met; and in the joy of his youthful enthusiasm, the emperor threw
himself into the arms of the King of Prussia, and embraced him with a
tenderness that was almost filial. The king returned the caress, and
pressed the young monarch to his heart.
While the King of Prussia had been advancing, the people in silence were
revolving in their minds the blood, the treasure, the long years of