Part 9 out of 22
struggle which Austrians had owed to this warlike Frederick. But when
they saw how Joseph greeted him, they forgot every thing, and he now
seemed to their excited imaginations to come like a resplendent sun of
peace, whose rays streamed far into the distance of a happy and
It was peace! peace!--the hopes of peace that filled every eye with
tears, and bowed every unconscious knee in prayer to Almighty God.
From the midst of the kneeling multitude, a voice was heard to cry out,
"Long live peace!" A thousand other voices echoed the words, "Long live
"Long live the emperor and the king!" cried the same voice; and now the
air was rent with shouts, while from street and square, and from every
house, the cry went up to heaven, "Long live the emperor! Long live the
Frederick withdrew from Joseph's embrace, and bowed to the multitude
with that bright and fascinating smile which no one was ever known to
He then turned to the emperor, and presenting the young Prince of
Prussia and the two Princes of Brunswick, he pointed to the white
uniforms which they wore, and said: "Sire, I bring you some new
recruits. [Footnote: The king wore the Austrian uniform, embroided with
silver. The princes and the king's suite also wore it.] We are all
desirous of serving under your banner. And we feel that it would be an
honor," continued he, looking around the square, "to be the
companions-in-arms of your majesty's soldiers, for each man looks like a
true son of Mars."
"If so," replied the emperor, "they have reason to rejoice, since to-day
they are permitted, for the first time, to do homage to their father."
Frederick smiled, and taking Joseph's arm, they walked together to the
palace. The king was conducted at once to the apartments prepared for
his occupation, whence he shortly emerged to join the noble company
assembled in the hall that led into the dining-room.
The brilliant suite of the emperor were awaiting the princely pair, and
when they entered the hall together, followed by the cortege of Prussia,
every head bowed with deferential awe, and every eye sought the ground.
One head only bent slightly, and one pair of eyes looked boldly into the
face of Frederick the Great.
The eagle eye of the king remarked him at once, and with an affable
smile he approached the haughty minister.
"I rejoice, at last, to meet Prince Kaunitz face to face," said he, in
his soft and musical voice. "We need no introduction to one another. I
am not such a barbarian as to require that he should be pointed out to
me whom all Europe knows, admires, and respects."
Something happened to which Kaunitz was totally unaccustomed--he
blushed. In spite of himself, he smiled and bowed very, very low; but he
found no words wherewith to reply to Frederick's flattering address.
"Sire," said the emperor, coming to the rescue, "you are making the most
self-possessed men in Austria grow speechless with ecstasy. Even Kaunitz
is at a loss to answer you; and as for poor De Ligne, he is completely
dazzled. But by an by, he will get accustomed to the sun's splendor, and
then he will recover his accustomed address." [Footnote: The emperor's
words. "Conversations with Frederick the Great," by Prince de Ligne, p.
"I know him well," said Frederick, with another bewitching smile. "I
have read your letter to Jean Jacques Rousseau, prince; and I know it to
be genuine, for it is too beautiful to be a forgery."
"Ah, sire!" replied De Ligne, "I am not of such renown that obscure
writers should seek to forge my name." [Footnote: Not long before this,
a letter had been written to Jean Jacques, and signed with the king's
name. The writer of this letter was Horace Walpole.]
The king bowed, and turned to Field-Marshal von Lacy.
"Your majesty need not present this man either," said he, laying his hand
upon Lacy's shoulder, "he has given me entirely too much trouble for me
not to be familiar with his features. I have good reason to remember Von
Lacy, and to rejoice that he is not quartermaster-general to-day; for in
that capacity, I and my soldiers have suffered enough from him."
"But where is Loudon?" asked the emperor. "He is very late to-day."
"That is not his habit," replied Frederick, quickly, "I have seldom been
able to come upon the field as soon as he. But, sire, we have done him
injustice, for he is here, punctual as though he waited his enemies, not
Crossing over to Loudon, and disregarding his stiff demeanor, Frederick
took his hand, and greeted him with the most cordial expressions of
"If it be agreeable to your majesty," said the emperor, as the doors
were flung open, "we will proceed to dinner." And he offered his arm.
Frederick took it, but he still kept his eyes upon Loudon.
"Sire," said he to Joseph, "if I am to have the honor of sitting beside
your majesty at the table, pray, let me have Loudon on the other side. I
would much rather have him there than opposite--I feel safer."
So saying, the king walked on, and the company passed into the
"If he turns the heads of all the court with his flattery," muttered
Kaunitz, following just after the princely pair, "he shall not succeed
with me. What fine things, to be sure! But flattery indiscriminately
bestowed leaves a bitter taste in the mouth. He wishes Loudon for his
neighbor, forsooth, as if a man could have any rational intercourse with
such an ignorant, ill-bred, awkward dolt as he is."
And Kaunitz, who was secretly chagrined at the choice of the king, took
the seat which bad been assigned to him by the emperor. It was at
Joseph's own table, directly opposite the two sovereigns
"Ah!" exclaimed Frederick, laughing and nodding to Kaunitz, "now I am
satisfied. If I would rather have Loudon beside me, I would rather have
the greatest statesman in Europe before me, for it is only when I can
see him that I feel quite safe from his diplomatic grasp. I take shelter
under your highness's eye. Be indulgent to an old soldier, whose sword
has so often been struck from his hands by your magic pen."
"Your majesty's pen is as sharp as your sword," replied Kaunitz, "and
the world has learned to fear and admire the one as much as the other.
We offer resistance to neither; but pay willing homage to the prince who
is at once a statesman, an author, and a warrior."
The emperor whispered to Frederick: "Sire, a compliment from Kaunitz is
like the flower upon the aloe-it blooms once in a century."
THE PRIMA DONNA.
The festivities of the first day were concluded with a ballet. Great
preparations had been made for the reception of the King of Prussia.
Noverre with his dancers, and Florian Gassman with his opera corps had
been summoned to Neustadt. They came in twenty wagons laden with
scenery, coulisses, machinery, and costumes, all of which was intended
to prove to Frederick that, although the court of Berlin was the
acknowledged seat of literature and the fine arts, Vienna was not
altogether forsaken by the Muses.
"Your majesty must be indulgent to our theatrical efforts," said the
emperor, as they took their seats in the box which had been prepared for
their occupation. "We all know that in Berlin the Muses and Graces have
their home; they seldom visit Vienna, for they are loyal and love to sit
at the feet of their master."
"Ah, sire, you speak of the past. Time was when the Muses were not
unpropitious; but now that I am an old man, they have proved inconstant,
and have fled from Sans-Souci forever. The Muses themselves are young,
and it is but natural that they should seek your majesty's protection. I
am thankful through your intervention, to be admitted once more to
Just as the king was about to seat himself he remarked Kaunitz, who,
with his usual grave indifference, was advancing to a chair not far off.
Frederick turned smilingly to Joseph. "Your majesty and I," said he,
"might stand to-night as representatives of youthful and aged
sovereignty. We both need wisdom in our councils. Let us invite Prince
Kaunitz to sit between us."
The emperor bowed, and beckoned to the prince, who, having heard
distinctly what had been intended for his ears, could not suppress a
momentary expression of exultation. Never in his life bad lie made a bow
so profound as that with which he took the seat which a king had
resigned to him. He was so exultant that in the course of the evening he
was actually heard to laugh. The ballet began. Gods and goddesses
fluttered about the stage, Muses and Graces grouped themselves together
in attitudes of surpassing beauty; and finally, with one grand tableau,
composed of all the dancers, the curtain fell.
After the ballet came a concert. It was to open with an air from Gluck's
opera of "Alceste," sung in costume by the celebrated Bernasconi.
The orchestra played the introduction, and the curtain rose but the
prima donna did not appear. The leader looked toward the coulisses, but
in vain; and the audience began to express their impatience in audible
The curtain fell slowly, and the marshal of the emperor's household,
coming forward, spoke a few words to Joseph, in a low voice.
He turned to the king. "Sire, I have to apologize to you for this
unlucky contretemps. Signora Bernasconi has been taken suddenly sick."
"Oh!" replied Frederick, laughing, "I am quite au fait to the sudden
illness of prima donnas. But since I have ordered a half month's salary
to be withdrawn from every singer who falls sick on a night of
representation, my cantatrices at Berlin enjoy unprecedented health."
"Bernasconi must have been made sick by her anxiety to appear well in
your majesty's critical eyes."
"Do not believe it. These princesses of the stage are more capricious
than veritable princesses. Above all, the Italians."
"But Bernasconi," said Kaunitz, "is not an Italian. She belongs to a
noble Polish family."
"So much the worse," laughed Frederick. "That Polish blood is forever
boiling over. I am surprised that your highness should permit your
director to give to a Polish woman a role of importance. Wherever the
Poles go, they bring trouble and strife."
"Perhaps so, sire," replied Kaunitz; "but they are excellent actors, and
no people understand better how to represent heroes."
As he said this, Kaunitz drew out his jewelled snuff-box, enriched with
a medallion portrait of his imperial mistress, Maria Theresa.
"To represent heroes, I grant you; but just as we are beginning to feel
an interest in the spectacle of their heroism, To the stage-armor falls
off, the tin sword rattles, and we find that we were wasting our
sympathies upon a band of play-actors."
"Perhaps," said Kaunitz, as he dipped his long, white fingers into the
snuff-box, "perhaps we may live to see the stage break under them, and
then they may cease to be actors, and become lunatics."
Frederick's eagle eyes were fixed upon Kaunitz while he spoke, but the
minister still continued to play with his snuff-box.
"Prince," said he, laughing, "we have been antagonists for so many years
that we must celebrate our first meeting by a pledge of future
good-will. The Indians are accustomed at such times to smoke the calumet
of peace. Here we have tobacco under another form. Will you allow me a
pinch from your snuff-box?"
This was a token of such great condescension that even the haughty
Kaunitz was seen to blush with gratified vanity. With unusual eagerness,
he presented his snuff-box to the king.
The king took the snuff and as he did so, remarked, "This is the first
time I have ever taken snuff from another man's box."
"Pardon me, your majesty," replied Kaunitz, quickly. "Silesia was a
pinch from our snuff-box."
"True," said Frederick, laughing, "but the tobacco was so strong that it
has cost me many an uncomfortable sneeze; and nobody as ever been civil
enough to say, `Heaven bless you.'"
While the king and Kaunitz jested together, Signor Tobaldi had been
singing his aria; and now that he ceased, Frederick, for the first time,
became aware that any music had been going on.
"Your majesty," said the emperor, "has done injustice, for once, to a
prima donna. Bernasconi is really sick, but she has sent a substitute."
"These substitutes," said Frederick, "are always on the look-out for
such opportunities of sliding into notice; but unhappily they are not
often equal to the tasks they are so eager to perform."
"This substitute," said Joseph, "is no rival opera-singer. She is a dear
friend of Bernasconi's, who speaks of her singing with enthusiasm."
"Is that possible? Does one singer go into raptures over another? By all
means let us hear the phoenix."
The king looked toward the stage, and his countenance assumed at once an
expression of genuine interest.
Once more the orchestra began the introduction to Gluck's beautiful
aria. Meanwhile a tall and elegant person was seen to advance toward the
foot-lights. Her pure Grecian robe, half covered with a mantle of purple
velvet, richly embroidered in gold, fell in graceful folds froth her
snowy shoulders. Her dark hair, worn in the Grecian style, was confined
by a diadem of brilliants; and the short, white tunic which she wore
under her mantle, was fastened by a girdle blazing with jewels.
She was so transcendently beautiful that Frederick could not resist the
temptation of joining in the applause which greeted her entrance. She
seemed unconscious of the effect she produced, so earnestly and
anxiously were her large, lustrous eyes fixed upon the spot where
Frederick and Joseph were sitting together. She raised her graceful arms
as she began the prayer of Alceste; but her looks were riveted upon the
sovereigns, who represent divinity on earth. When she sang, the tones of
her glorious voice sank deep into the hearts of all who listened. Now it
was clear, pure, and vibrating, wooing the air like a clarionet--now it
caressed the ear like a speaking violin--and upon it poured forth
volumes of harmony that filled all space, as the the booming organ fills
the aisles of a vast and lofty cathedral. Gluck, the hypercritical
Gluck, would have been ravished to hear his music as she sang it; and
Frederick, who, up to this hour, had refused to acknowledge the genius
of the great German, now sat breathless with rapture, as he listened to
such music and such interpretation of music as never had been heard
The Emperor Joseph was unmindful of it all. He had a vague idea of
celestial sounds that seemed to drown him in an ocean of melody; but he
heard not a note of Alceste's prayer. Every sense was stunned save
one--and that one was sight.
"It is she," murmured he, as the siren ceased to sing: "it is she, the
beautiful Pole. How resplendent she is to-night!" Then turning to
Kaunitz, whose observing eyes bad been watching his face and whose sharp
ears had caught his words, he whispered:
"Do you remember the bouquet that was thrown to me this morning?"
"I forget nothing your majesty deigns to communicate to me," replied
"This is she. Who can she be?"
"Ah!" exclaimed Kaunitz, slightly elevating his eyebrows. "The 'Souvenir
d'Eperies.' Now I comprehend Bernasconi's illness. She felt ill through
patriotism, that this adroit countrywoman of hers might have the
opportunity of being remarked by your majesty. I would not be at all
surprised if she went out of the way of prima donnas to attract your
majesty's attention. These Polish women are fanatics in their love of
The emperor said nothing in reply. He scarcely listened. His eyes were
still upon the descending curtain that hid the mysterious beauty from
his sight. If her object had been to attract him, she had certainly
The audience were waiting for some signal from either Joseph or
Frederick that they might give vent to their admiration. The king
understood the general feeling, and began to applaud with his hands. In
a moment the applause became vociferous, and it did not cease until the
curtain drew up a second time, and the prima donna came forward to
receive her ovation.
For one moment they surveyed the enchanting singer, and then broke out
into another wild storm, in which the emperor joined so heartily that
his voice was heard above the din, crying out, "Brava! bravissima!"
The singer sought his glance, and meeting it, blushed deeply. Then,
coming forward a few steps, she began once more to sing.
Her song was a passionate appeal to the two princes, whom she addressed
openly, in behalf of Poland.
It was over, and not a sound was heard in the theatre. The audience
hung, in breathless anxiety, upon the verdict that must come from those
who had been addressed. They were so intent upon Frederick and Joseph
that they did not see the singer leave the stage. They were not
destined, however, to be enlightened or relieved, for no demonstration
was made in the imperial box.
But Joseph, rising from his seat, signed to the marshal of the household
"Go, count," said he, "go quickly, and ask her name. Tell her it is the
emperor who desires to know her."
"Her name is Poland," said Kaunitz, in an absent tone. Then, addressing
Joseph, he continued: "Did I not tell your majesty that your adventure
was not to end with the throwing of a bouquet? I know these Polish
women; they coquette with every thing--above all, with the throes of
their dying fatherland."
The emperor smiled, but said nothing. He was watching the return of the
marshal of the household.
"Well, count, what is her name?" cried he earnestly.
"Sire, I am unable to find it out. The lady has left the theatre, and no
one here, not even the director, knows her name."
"Strange," said the emperor. "Let a messenger, then, be sent to
Bernasconi: she, of course, must know."
"Pardon me, your majesty, I have been to Bernasconi. She is here,
preparing to sing her second air. She has suddenly recovered and will
have the honor of appearing before your majesties in a few moments."
"But what said Bernasconi of the Polish singer?"
"She does not know her name, your majesty. She showed me a letter from
Colonel Dumourriez, the French plenipotentiary to the Polish Republic.
He designates her only as a Polish lady of noble birth, whose remarkable
vocal powers were worthy of your majesty's admiration."
"Do you hear that?" said Frederick to Kaunitz. "Do you hear that? The
French plenipotentiary sends this prima donna to sing before the
emperor. Vraiment, it seems that France is disgusted with war, and
intends to try her hand at sentiment. Petticoat-government is so
securely established there, that I suppose the French are about to throw
a petticoat over the heads of their allies. France and Poland are two
"Yes, sire," replied Kaunitz, "but one of them is old and ugly. Lindaine
La Pologne is an old coquette, who puts on youthful airs, and thinks she
hides her wrinkles with paint."
"Does your highness, then, believe that her youth is forever past? Can
she never be rejuvenated?" asked Frederick, with a searching look at
Kaunitz's marble features.
"Sire, people who waste their youth in dissipation and rioting, have no
strength when the day of real warfare dawns."
"And it would seem that the Empress of Russia has some intention of
making a serious attack upon the poor old lady," said Frederick, while
for the second time he took a pinch from the snuff-box of the crafty
Meanwhile the concert was going on. Bernasconi, completely restored,
sang the beautiful air from "Orpheus and Eurydice," and Frederick
applauded as before. But the emperor sat silent and abstracted. His
thoughts were with that Polish woman, whose love of country had brought
her to Neustadt to remind him of the promises he had made to the
Confederates at Eperies.
"How enthusiastically she loves Poland!" said he to himself. "She will
of course find means to cross my path again, for she seeks to interest
me in the fate of her fatherland. The next time she comes, I will do
like the prince in the fairy-tale, I will strew pitch upon the
threshold, that she may not be able to escape from me again."
Kaunitz, too, was preoccupied with thoughts of the bewitching
Confederate, but the fact that she would be sure to come again was not
quite so consoling to him as to Joseph.
As soon as he returned home, he called for his private secretary, who
was one of the most dexterous detectives in Vienna.
"You will make inquiries at once as to the whereabout of the prima donna
who sang before me and their majesties to-night. Tomorrow at nine
o'clock I must know who she is, where she lodges, and what is her
FREDERICK THE GREAT AND PRINCE KAUNITZ.
The great review, which had been gotten up in honor of the King of
Prussia, was over. In this review Frederick had become acquainted with
the strength of the Austrian army, the superiority of its cavalry, and
the military capacity of the emperor who was its commander-in-chief.
The king had been loud in his praises of all three, and had embraced the
emperor in presence of the whole army.
Immediately after the review, Frederick sent a page to announce to
Prince Kaunitz that he woud be glad to see him in his own private
Kaunitz at once declared his readiness to wait upon the king, and to the
unspeakable astonishment of his valet, had actually shortened his toilet
and had betrayed some indifference to the arrangement of his peruke. As
he left the room, his gait was elastic and active, and his countenance
bore visible marks of the excitement with which he was looking forward
to the coming interview.
But Kaunitz himself became suddenly aware of all this, and he set to
work to force back his emotion. The nearer he came to the king's suite
of rooms, the slower became his step and the calmer his mien. At last it
was tranquillized, and the minister looked almost as cold and
indifferent as ever.
Arrived at the door of the antechamber, he looked around, and having
convinced himself that no one was in sight, he drew from his
breast-pocket a small mirror which he always wore about his person.
Sharply he viewed himself therein, until gradually, as he looked, his
face resumed the stony aspect which like a thickening haze concealed his
emotions from other men's eyes.
"It is really not worth my while," thought he, "to get up an excitement
because I am about to have a conference with that small bit of royalty,
Frederick. If he should discover it, he might suppose that I, like the
rest of the world, am abashed in the presence of a king because he has
some military fame. No--no--what excites me is the fact that I am about
to write a bit of history; for this interview between Prussia and
Austria will be historical. It is the fate of Europe--that fate which I
hold in my hands, that stirs me with such unwonted emotion. This King of
Prussia has nothing to do with it. No doubt he hopes to hoodwink me with
flattery, but I shall work him to my ends, and force him to that line of
policy which I have long ago laid down for Austria's welfare."
Here the mirror was returned to his pocket, and he opened the door of
the anteroom. The sweet sounds of a flute broke in upon his ear as he
entered. The king's aide-de-camp came up and whispered that his
sovereign was accustomed to play on the flute daily, and that he never
failed even when in camp to solace his solitude with music.
Prince Kaunitz answered with a shrug, and pointing to the door, said,
"Announce me to his majesty."
The aide-de-camp opened the door and announced his highness Prince
The flute ceased, and the rich, musical voice of Frederick was heard to
say, "He can enter."
Kaunitz was not much pleased to receive a permission where he fancied
himself entitled to an invitation; but he had no alternative, so he
walked languidly forward while the officer held the door open.
"Shut the door, and admit no one during the visit of Prince Kaunitz,"
said the king. Then turning to the prince, he pointed to his flute. "I
suspect you are amused to see such an old fellow as I coquetting with
the fine arts; but I assure you that my flute is one of my trustiest
friends. She has never deceived me, and keeps my secrets faithfully. My
alliance with her is for life. Ask her, and she will tell you that we
live on terms of truest friendship."
"Unhappily, I do not understand the language of your lady-love. Your
majesty will perhaps allow me to turn my attention to another one of
your feminine allies, toward whom I shall venture to question your
majesty's good faith."
"Of what lady do you speak?" cried Frederick, eagerly.
"Of the Empress Catharine," replied Kaunitz, slightly inclining his
"Oh!" said the king, laughing, "you dart like an arrow to the point, and
transfix me at once upon the barb of politics. Let us sit down, then.
The arm-chair which you are taking now, may boast hereater that it is
the courser which has carried the greatest statesman in Europe to a
field where he is sure to win new victories."
Kaunitz was careful to seat himself at the same time as the king, and
they both sat before a table covered with charts, papers, and books.
A short pause ensued. Both were collecting their energies for the
strife. The king, with his eagle eye, gazed upon the face of the astute
diplomatist while he, pretending not to see it, looked perfectly
oblivious of kings or emperors.
"So you will ask of Catharine whether I am a loyal ally or not'!" asked
the king at last.
"Yes, sire, for unluckily the Empress of Russia is the one who can give
"Because I grieve to see that a German prince is willing to form
alliances with her, who, if she could, would bring all Europe under her
yoke, and make every European sovereign her vassal. Russia grows hourly
more dangerous and more grasping. She foments discord and incites wars,
for she finds her fortune in the dissensions of other nations, and at
every misunderstanding between other powers, she makes a step toward the
goal whither she travels."
"And what is that goal?"
"The subjugation of all Europe," cried Kaunitz, with unusual warmth."
Russia's policy is that of unprincipled ambition; and if so far she has
not progressed in her lust of dominion, it is Austria, or rather the
policy which I dictate to Austria, that has checked her advance. It is I
who have restored the balance of power, by conquering Austria's
antipathy to France, by isolating haughty England, and hunting all
Europe against rapacious Russia. But Russia never loses sight of the
policy initiated by Peter the Great; and as I have stemmed the tide of
her aggression toward the west, it is overflowing toward the south and
the east. All, justice disregarding. Russian armies occupy Poland; and
before long the ships of Russia will swarm in the Black Sea and threaten
Constantinople. Russia is perforce a robber, for she is internally
exhausted, and unless she seeks new ports for her commerce, and new
sources of revenue, she is ruined."
"You err, I assure you," cried Frederick, eagerly. "Russia is in a
condition to sustain any burden; her revenues this year show an increase
over the last of five hundred thousand rubles."
"Then this increase comes probably from the million of subsidy which
your majesty has agreed to pay to Russia," said Kaunitz, bowing.
[Footnote: Ferrand, "History of the Dismemberment of Poland," vol. i.,
p. 84.] "Such rich tribute may well give her strength to attempt any
thing; but every thaler which your majesty pays into her treasury is a
firebrand which will one day consume all Europe. If indeed, as you say,
Russia is strong and formidable, it is for your majesty to hold her in
check; if she is exhausted, her alliance is not worth having."
[Footnote: Kaunitz's own words. Ferrand, vol. i., p. 108.]
"Your highness seems eager to have me break off my connection with
Russia," said the king, while a cloud passed over his face. "You wish to
prove that Russia is a power whose friendship is worthless and whose
enmity is to be despised. And yet it is well known to me how zealously
the Austrian ambassador was intriguing not long ago to induce Russia to
cast me aside and enter into an alliance with you. Your highness must
excuse me if I throw aside the double-edged blade of courtly
dissimulation. I am an old soldier and my tongue refuses to utter any
thing but unvarnished truth."
"If your majesty permits," replied Kaunitz with some warmth, "I, too,
will speak the unvarnished truth. You are pleased to charge me with
seeking to alienate Russia from Prussia while striving to promote an
alliance of the former with Austria. Will your majesty allow me to reply
to this accusation in full without interruption?"
"I will," replied Frederick, nodding his head. "Speak on, I shall not
put in a word."
RUSSIA A FOE TO ALL EUROPE.
Prince Kaunitz remained silent for a time, as though he were turning
over in his mind what he should say to the king. Then slowly raising his
head, he met the scrutinizing glance of Frederick with perfect
composure, and spoke as follows:
"At the conclusion of the unhappy war which desolated both Austria and
Prussia, I had to consider what course for the future was likely to
recuperate the prostrate energies of Austria. I resolved in my mind
various schemes, and laid them before her imperial majesty. The one
which I advocated and which was adopted by the empress, had mainly for
its object the pacification of all European broils, and the restoration
of the various Austrian dependencies to order and prosperity. For some
time I waited to see whether your majesty would not seek to conciliate
France, and renew your old league of friendship with her king. But the
policy pursued by your majesty at the court of Russia convinced me that
you were thinking exclusively of securing your provinces in the east.
This once understood, it became the interest of Austria to rivet the
links which bound her to France; for an alliance with her offered the
same advantages to us as that of Russia did to Prussia. Moreover, it was
Austria's opinion that Prussia was now too closely bound to Russia for
her ever to seek an alliance with France. It therefore appeared that our
good understanding with the latter would conduce to preserve the balance
of power among European nations, and that it would meet with the favor
of all those potentates who were anxious for peace. It follows thence
that the court of Vienna is perfectly content with her relations toward
France; and I expressly and distinctly declare to your majesty that we
never will seek to alienate Russia from Prussia, that we never will
encourage any advances from Russia, and that your majesty may rest
assured that we never will deviate from our present line of policy. This
was what I desired to explain, and I thank your majesty for the courtesy
with which You have listened to me." [Footnote: This discourse of Kannitz is
historical. It is found in Ferrand's "Histoire des Trois Demembrements
de la Pologue," vol. i., p. 112.]
The face of the king, which at first had looked distrustful, was now
entirely free from suspicion. He rose from his chair, and giving his
hand to Kaunitz, said with a cordial smile
"This is what I call noble and candid statesmanship. You have not spoken
as a diplomatist, but as a great minister, who, feeling his strength,
has no reason to conceal his actions. I will answer in the same spirit.
Sit down again and hear me. You fear Russia, and think that if she gains
too great an ascendency among nations, she will use it to the detriment
of all Europe. I agree with you, and I myself would view the
aggrandizement of Russia under Catharine with disapprobation and
distrust. You are right, and I feel the embarrassment of my present
political condition. At the commencement of this Turkish war, I would
have used my honest endeavors to check the usurping advances of Russia,
not only in Turkey but also in Poland. But I myself was in a critical
position. You, who had been represented to me as the most rapacious of
diplomatists, you had prejudiced all Europe against me, so that for
seven long years my only allies were my rights and my good sword. The
only hand reached out to me was that of Russia; policy constrained me to
grasp and retain it. It is both to my honor and my interest that I keep
faith with Russia,, and eschew all shifts and tergiversations in my
dealings with her. Her alliance is advantageous to Prussia, and
therefore I pay her large subsidies, give her advice, allow my officers
to enlist in her armies, and finally I have promised the empress that
should Austria interfere in behalf of the Turks, I will use all my
influence to mediate between you." [Footnote: Dolan. "Memoirs of My
Times," vol. i., p. 458.]
"Does that mean that if Russia and Austria should go to war, your
majesty will stand by the former?"
"It means that I will make every effort to prevent a war between Russia
and Austria. If, in spite of all that I could do, there should be war
between you, it would not be possible for Prussia to remain neutral.
Were she to do so, she would deserve the contempt both of friend and
foe. I would fulfil my obligations to Russia, that I might secure the
duration of our alliance. But I sincerely hope that it may be my good
fortune to mediate with such results as will spare me the espousal of
either party's quarrel."
"If so, Russia must abandon her ambitious projects in Turkey, and she
must speedily consent to secure peace to Poland," replied Kaunitz
The king smiled, and taking from the table a sealed packet, he presented
it to Kaunitz.
"A letter for me!" exclaimed the minister, surprised.
"Yes, your highness. A few moments before you came hither, a courier
arrived from Constantinople with dispatches for you and for me."
"Does your majesty allow me to open them?"
"I request you to read them while I read mine, Which are, as yet,
unopened. I have only read the report of my ambassador at
Constantinople. Let us see what news we have."
The king, with a smiling inclination of the head, settled himself in his
arm-chair, and began to read.
A long pause ensued. Both tried to seem absorbed in the dispatches from
Turkey, yet each one gave now and then a hasty, furtive glance at the
other. If their eyes met, they were quickly cast, down again, and so
they continued to watch and read; until there was no more excuse for
"Bad news from Turkey," said Frederick, speaking first, and putting down
"The Porte has been unfortunate," said Kaunitz, shrugging his shoulders
and looking perfectly indifferent. "Russia has not only gained a great
victory on land, but has defeated him at sea, and has burnt his fleet."
"The consequence of all this is, that Turkey now turns to Austria and
Prussia for help, "replied the king." Upon our intervention now, hangs
the peace of all Europe. We have a most important mission to perform."
"Your majesty intends to undertake it?" asked Kaunitz carelessly.
"I am resolved to do all that I can to prevent war. It is such a
terrible scourge, that no nation has a right to fold her hands and see
its horrors, if by any step of hers it can be averted or stopped. Turkey
asks for intervention, that she may be restored to the blessings of
peace. Shall we refuse her?"
"Austria cannot mediate in this affair unless Russia first proposes it,"
said Kaunitz, in a listless tone. "The court of Vienna cannot make
propositions to Russia. It therefore rests with your majesty to induce
the Empress Catharine to make the same request of Austria, as Turkey has
made of us both."
"I will propose it to the empress," said the king eagerly; "and I feel
sure that she will agree to do so."
Kaunitz bowed loftily. "Then," replied he, "Austria will mediate; but
let it be understood that the peace is to be an honorable one for
Turkey, and that Russia ceases any further aggression in that quarter."
"The Porte will be under the necessity of making some concessions," said
the king, "since he it is whose arms have sustained reverses. But Turkey
may still remain a second-rate power, for I think that Russia will be
satisfied with the Crimea and the Black Sea for herself and a guaranty
of independent sovereigns for Wallachia and Moldavia."
"Independent princes appointed by Russia!" cried Kaunitz.
"My imperial sovereign will never consent to have a Russian province
contiguous to Austria; and should Moldavia and Wallachia be governed by
hospodars and petty despots, their pretended independence would soon
melt away into a Russian dependency. Austria, too, would esteem it a
great misfortune if Russia should come into possession of the Crimea and
the Black Sea. Her dominion over the Black Sea would be more dangerous
to Europe than an extension of her territory. Nothing, in short, would
be so fatal to that independence which is dear to all nations, as the
cession of this important outlet to Russia." [Footnote: The prince's
own words. Ferrand, i., p. 112.
"Your highness may be right," said the king; "and Austria has more to
fear from this dominion than Prussia; for the Danube is a finger of the
Black Sea, which might be used to seize some of your fairest provinces.
We will keep this in view when we enter upon our negotiations with
"Before we begin them at all, we must exact of Russia to restore peace
"Ali, you wish to draw Poland info the circle of intervention?" said
"The court of Vienna cannot suffer Russia to oppress this unfortunate
people as she has hitherto done. Not only has she forced Stan islaus
Augustus upon them, but she has also compelled them to alter their
constitution, and, in the face of all justice, her armies occupy Poland,
devastating the country, and oppressing both royalists and
"You are resolved to speak of Poland," said Frederick, again taking so
large a pinch of snuff that it bedaubed not only his face, but his white
Austrian uniform. He brushed it off with his fingers, and shaking his
head, said: "I am not neat enough to wear this elegant dress. I am not
worthy of wearing the Austrian livery." He then resumed: "You interest
yourself in Poland. I thought that Polish independence had been thrown
to the winds. I thought, also, that your highness was of the same
opinion on this question as the Empress Catharine, who says that she
neither knows where Polish territory begins nor where it ends. Now I am
equally at a loss to know what is and what is not Poland, for in Warsaw
a Russian army seems to be perfectly at home, and in the south of Poland
an Austrian regiment affirms that they occupy Polish ground by command
of the Austrian government."
"Your majesty is pleased to speak of the county of Zips. Zips has always
belonged to Hungary. It was mortgaged by the Emperor Sigismund to his
brother-in-law ZVladislaw Jagello for a sum of money. Hungary has never
parted with her right to this country; and, as we have been compelled to
send troops to our frontier to watch Russia, the opportunity presents
itself for us to demonstrate to Poland that Austria can never consent to
regard a mortgaged province as one either given or sold. Zips belongs to
Austria, and we will pay back to the King of Poland the sum for which it
was mortgaged. That is all."
"Yes, but it will be difficult not only for Poland, but for all Europe,
which is accustomed to consider Zips as Polish territory, to remember
your highness's new boundaries. I, for my part, do not understand it,
and I will be much obliged to you if, according to your new order of
things, you will show the where Hungary ends and Poland begins."
[Footnote: The kng's own words. Ferrand, P. 112.]
"Where the county of Zips ends, and where the boundaries of Hungary
began in olden times, there the line that separates Austria from Poland
should be drawn."
"Ah!" sighed the king, "you speak of the olden time. But we must settle
all these things now with regard to the present. I happen, by chance, to
have a rnah of Poland on my table. Oblige me now by showing me Poland as
your highness understands its boundaries."
The king stood up, and unfolding a map, laid it on the table. Kaunitz
also rose, and stood on the opposite side. "Now," said Frederick, "let
me see the county of Zips."
THE MAP OF POLAND.
"HERE, your majesty, is Zips," said Kaunitz, as he passed his delicate
white finger over the lower part of the map.
The king leaned over, and looked thoughtfully at the moving finger. For
some time he kept silence. Then he raised his head, and suet the gaze of
"A very pretty piece of land which Austria takes from her neighbor," said
he, with a piercing glance at Kaunitz. "Austria takes nothing from her
neighbor, sire, except that which belongs to her," replied Kaunitz,
"How very fortunate it is that this particular piece of land should
belong to Austria!" said the king; with a slight sneer. "You see that
Poland, who for so many centuries had supposed herself to be the
rightful owner of the Zips, has, in virtue of such ownership, projected
beyond the Carpathian Mountains quite to the interior of Hungary. Now a
wedge of that sort is inconvenient, perhaps dangerous, and it is lucky
for Austria that she has found out her right of possession in that
quarter. It not only contracts her neighbor's domains, but essentially
increases her own. It now concerns Austria to prove to Europe her right
to this annexation, for Europe is somewhat astonished to hear of it. "
"In the court-chancery, at Vienna, are the documents to prove that the
Zips was mortgaged by the Emperor Sigismund to his brother-in-law
Wladislaw, in the year 1412, for the sum of thirty-seven thousand
"Since 1412!" cried Frederick. "Three hundred and fifty-five years'
possession on the part of Poland has not invalidated the title of
Austria to the Zips! My lawful claim to Silesia was of more modern date
than this, and yet Austria would have made it appear that it was
"Your majesty has proved, conclusively, that it was not so," replied
Kaunitz, with a slight inclination of the head.
"Will Austria take the course which I pursued to vindicate my right?"
asked the king, quickly.
"Stanislaus will not allow us to proceed to extremities," replied the
Prince. "True, he complained at first, and wrote to the empress-queen to
demand what he called justice."
"And will your highness inform me what the empress-queen replied in
answer to these demands?"
"She wrote to the King of Poland that the time had arrived when it
became incumbent upon her to derive the boundaries of her empire. That,
in her annexation of the Zips to Austria, she was actuated, not by any
lust of territorial aggrandizement, but by a conviction of her just and
inalienable rights. She was prepared, not only to assert, but to defend
them; and she took this opportunity to define the lines of her frontier,
for the reason that Poland was in a state of internal warfare, the end
of which no man could foresee." [Footnote: Ferrand, i., p. 94.]
"If I were King of Poland, such plain language as this would put me on
"Sire, if you were King of Poland, no foreign power would employ such
language toward you," said Kaunitz, with a half smile.
"That is true," replied the king, shaking his head. "The King of Poland
is a weak, good-natured fellow. He cannot forget that he has been the
lover of Catharine of Russia, and I verily believe, that if she were to
make a sign, he would lay, not only himself, but all Poland, at her
"Austria would never suffer her to accept it," cried Kauuitz.
The king shrugged his shoulders. "And yet, it would appear that when
Zips lay at her feet, the Empress of Austria was ready to embrace it.
But everybody grows eccentric when Poland is in question. My brother
Henry, who is in St. Petersburg, was one day discussing this matter of
the annexation of Zips with the empress. As Catharine, like myself, has
never had the privilege of examining the records in the court of
chancery at Vienna, she expressed some doubt as to the justice of
Austria's appropriation in that quarter. 'It seems,' said she, 'as if
one had noting to do but stoop down to pick up something in
Poland.'[Footnote: Ruthfore's "History of Poland," vol. iv., p. 210.]
Now, when proud Austria and her lofty Kaunitz condescend to stoop and
pick up, why shall not other people follow their example? I, too, shall
be obliged to march my troops into Poland, for every misfortune seems
about to visit this unhappy land. Who knows that in the archives at
Berlin there may not be some document to prove that I, also, have a
right to extend the lines of my frontier?"
While Frederick spoke, he kept his eyes fixed upon the face of Prince
Kaunitz, as though he would have read to the very bottom of his soul.
The latter pretended not to be aware of it; he looked perfectly blank,
while he affected to be still interested in examining the map.
"It would be fortunate if your majesty could discover such documents in
YOUR archives," replied he, coolly. "I have been told that you have,
heretofore, sought for them in Warsaw; unhappily, without being able to
The king could not repress a slight start as he heard this revelation of
his own machinations. Kaunitz again affected to see nothing, although he
was looking directly in the king's eyes.
"I say," continued Kaunitz, "that it would be most fortunate if, JUST AT
THIS TIME, your majesty could recover your titles to that portion of
Poland which lies contiguous to Russia. Austria, I assure you, will
place no difficulties in the way."
"Really," replied the king, "I must say that these lines form a better
natural frontier than my present boundaries." Here he passed his hand
somewhere through the north-western provinces of Poland, while he
continued: "Would my word suffice if I were to say to Austria that the
documents, proving my right to this territory, are to be found in the
archives at Berlin?"
"Your majesty's word, as regards this question, is worth more than the
documents," said Kaunitz, deliberately.
"But what would Catharine say?--she who looks upon Poland as her own?"
"If she says any thing, it is high time she were undeceived in that
respect," said Kaunitz, hastily. "She must be satisfied to share equally
with others. Your majesty was pleased to relate to me a portion of the
conversation between the empress and Prince Henry. The empress said, 'It
seems as if one had nothing to do but stoop down to pick up something in
Poland.' But you forgot the sequel. She added these words: 'If the court
of Vienna begins the dismemberment of Poland I think that her neighbors
have a right to continue it.'" [Footnote: La Roche Aymon "Vie du Prince
Henry" p. 171.]
"Vraiment, your highness has trusty reporters, and your agents serve you
admirably!" exclaimed the king.
Kaunitz bowed haughtily.
"We are your majesty's imitators," replied he. "First during the
Silesian war, then at the court of Dresden, we learned from you the
value of secret information. [Footnote: Through his ambassador at
Dresden, Frederick had bribed the keeper of the Saxon archives to send
him copies of the secret treaties between Austria and Saxony. He did
even worse, for the attache of the Austrian embassy at Berlin was in his
pay, and he sent the king copies of all the Austrian dispatches.--L.
Muhlbach, "Life of Frederick the Great."] Having been apprised of the
remarkable words of the empress, I began to fear that she might encroach
upon Poland without regard to the claims of Austria. Your majesty is
aware that the Russian army occupy Warsaw, and that a cordon of Russian
troops extend as far as the frontiers of Turkey."
"And if I draw my cordon beyond the district of Netz," cried the king,
drawing his finger across the map as if it had been a sword, "and
Austria extends her frontier beyond Galicia and the Zips, the republic
of Poland will occupy but a small space on the map of Europe."
"The smaller the better; the fewer Poles there are in the world the less
strife there will be. The cradle of the Poles is that apple of discord
which Eris once threw upon the table of the gods; they were born of its
seeds, and dissension is their native element. As long as there lives a
Pole on the earth, that Pole will breed trouble among his neighbors."
"Ah!" said the king, taking a pinch of snuff, "and yet your highness was
indignant at Catharine because she would force the Poles to keep the
peace. She appears to ME to be entirely of one mind with yourself. She,
too, looks upon Poland as the apple of Eris, and she has found it so
over-ripe that it is in danger of falling from the tree. She has
stationed her gardener, Stanislaus, to guard it. Let him watch over it.
It belongs to him, and if it come to the ground, he has nobody to blame
but himself. Meanwhile, should it burst, we will find means to prevent
it from soiling US. Now let us speak of Turkey. That unlucky Porte must
have something done for him, and while we mediate in his behalf, I hope
to bring about a good understanding between Austria and Russia. Let us
do our best to promote a general peace. Europe is bleeding at every
pore; let us bind up her wounds, and restore her to health."
"Austria is willing to promote the general welfare," replied Kaunitz,
following the king's example and rising from his chair, "but first
Russia must conclude an honorable peace with Turkey, and she must
abandon her rapacious designs upon the rest of Europe. But should the
Empress of Russia compel us to war with her on this question we will not
have recourse to arms until we have found means to alienate from her the
most formidable of her allies."
The king laughed. "I approve your policy," said he, "but I am curious to
know how you would manage to prevent me from keeping my word. I am
certainly pledged to Russia, but I hope that the negotiations into which
we are about to enter will end in peace. I shall send a resume of our
conference to the empress, and use every effort to establish friendly
relations between you."
"Will your majesty communicate her reply to me?" asked Kaunitz.
"I certainly will; for I am a soldier, not a diplomatist, and I am so
much in love with truth that I shall be her devotee until the last
moment of my life."
"Ah, sire, a man must be a hero like yourself to have the courage to
love so dangerous a mistress. Truth is a rose with a thousand thorns. He
who plucks it will be wounded, and woe to the head of him who wears it
in his crown!"
"You and I have fought and bled too often on the field of diplomacy to
be tender about our heads. Let us, then, wear the crown of truth, and
bear with its thorns."
So saying, the king reached out his hand, and Kaunitz took his leave.
After the prince had left the room, Frederick remained for a few minutes
listening, until he heard the door of the farther anteroom closed.
"Now, Hertzberg," cried he, "come out--the coast is clear."
A gigantic screen, which divided the room in two, began to move, and
forth came Count Herizberg, the king's prime minister.
"Did you hear it all?" asked Frederick, laughing.
"I did, so please your majesty."
"Did you write it down, so that I can send its resume to the Empress
"Yes, your majesty, as far as it was possible to do so, I have written
down every word of your conference," said Hertzberg, with a dissatisfied
expression of countenance.
The king raised his large eyes with an inquiring look at the face of his
trusty minister. "Are you not satisfied, Hertzberg? Why do you shake
your head? You have three wrinkles in your forehead, and the corners of
your mouth turn down as they always do when something has displeased
you. Speak out, man. Of what do you complain?"
"First, I complain that your majesty has allowed the old fox to perceive
that you, as well as himself, entertain designs upon Poland, and that in
a manner you are willing to guarantee to Austria her theft of the Zips.
I also complain that you have consented to induce Russia, through the
intervention of Austria, to make peace with Turkey."
"Is that all?" asked the king.
"Yes, your majesty; that is all."
"Well, then, hear my defence. As regards your first complaint, I allowed
the old fox (as you call him) to scent my desire for Polish game,
because I wished to find out exactly how far I could venture to go in
"Yes, sire, and the consequences will be, that Austria, who has already
appropriated the Zips, will stoop down to pick up something else. She
has already had her share of the booty, why should she divide with your
"Let Austria have her second share," cried the king, laughing. "It will
earn for her a double amount of the world's censure. [Footnote: The
king's own words. Coxe, "History of Austria," vol. v., p. 20.] As regards
your second complaint, let me tell you, that at this moment peace is
indispensable to us all, and for this reason I desire to bring Russia
and Austria into friendly relations with one another. I think it not
only wiser but more honorable to pacify Europe than to light the torch
of war a second time. It is not an easy matter to secure a general
peace, and we must all make some concessions to achieve a result so
desirable. Do you suppose that it is as easy to conciliate unfriendly
powers as it is to write bad verses? I assure you, Hertzberg, that I
would rather sit down to render the whole Jewish history into madrigals,
than undertake to fuse into unanimity the conflicting interests of three
sovereigns, when two out of the three are women! But I will do my best.
When your neighbor's house is on fire, help to put it out, or it may
communicate and burn down your own." [Footnote: The king's own
words. "Ceuvres Posthumes," vol. ii., p. 187]
THE COUNTESS WIELOPOLSKA.
"You really think that he will come, Matuschka?" asked the Countess
Wielopolska of her waiting-woman, who, standing behind the chair, was
fastening a string of pearls in her lady's dusky hair.
"I know he will come, your ladyship," replied Matuschka.
"And you have seen the emperor and spoken to him!" exclaimed the
countess, pressing her delicate white hands upon her heart, as though
she strove to imprison its wild emotions.
"Indeed I have, my lady."
"Oh, tell me of it again, Matuschka; tell me, that I may not fancy it a
dream!" cried the countess, eagerly.
"Well, then, my lady, I took your note to the palace, where the emperor
has given positive orders that every one who wishes it shall be admitted
to his presence. The guard before the door let me pass into the
antechamber. One of the lords in waiting told me that the emperor would
be there before a quarter of an hour. I had not waited so long when the
door opened and a handsome young man in a plain white uniform walked in.
I should never have taken him for the emperor, except that the lord
stood up so straight when he saw him. Then I knelt down and gave the
letter. The emperor took it and said: 'Tell your lady that I am not
prepared to receive ladies in my palace; but since she wishes to see me,
I will go to her. If she will be at home this evening, I will find time
to call upon her myself.'"
"Ah!" cried the countess, "he will soon be here. I shall see him--speak
to him--pour out the longings of my bursting heart! Oh, Matuschka, as
the moment approaches, I feel as if I could fly away and plunge into the
wild waters of the Vistula that bear my husband's corpse, or sink
lifeless upon the battle-field that is reddened with the blood of my
"Do not think of these dreadful things, dear lady," said Matuschka,
trying to keep back her tears; "it is twilight, and the emperor will
soon be here. Look cheerful--for you are as beautiful as an angel when
you smile, and the emperor will be much more apt to be moved by your
smiles than by your tears."
"You are right, Matuschka," cried the countess, rising hastily from her
seat. "I will not weep, for I must try to find favor in the emperor's
She crossed the room and stood before a Psyche, where for some time she
scrutinized her own features; not with the self-complacency of a vain
woman, but with the critical acuteness of an artist who contemplates a
fine picture. Gradually her eyes grew soft and her mouth rippled with a
smile. Like a mourning Juno she stood in the long black velvet dress
that sharply defined the outlines of her faultless bust and fell in
graceful folds around her stately figure. Her bodice was clasped by an
agrafe of richest pearls; and the white throat and the jewel lay
together, pearl beside pearl, each rivalling the snowy lustre of the
other. Had it not been for those starry eyes that looked out so full of
mournful splendor, her face might have seemed too statuesque in its
beauty; but from their dark depths all the enthusiasm of a nature that
had concentrated its every emotion into one master-passion, lit up her
face with flashes that came and went like summer lightning.
"Yes, I am beautiful," whispered she, while a sad smile played around
her exquisite month. "My beauty is the last weapon left me wherewith to
battle for Poland. I must take advantage of it. Life and honor, wealth
and blood, every thing for my country!"
She turned to her waiting-woman as a queen would have done who was
dismissing her subjects.
"Go, Matuschka," said she, "and take some rest. You have been laboring
for me all day, and I cannot bear to think that the only friend left me
in this world should be overtasked for me. Sometimes you look at me as
my mother once did; and then I dream that I feel her hand laid lovingly
upon my head, and hear her dear voice exhorting me to pray that God
would bless me with strength to do my duty to my bleeding country."
Matuschka fell upon her knees and kissed the hem of her mistress's robe.
"Do not give way," sobbed she, "do not grieve now."
The countess did not hear. She had thrown back her head and was gazing
absently above. "Oh, yes, I am mindful of my duty," murmured she. "I
have not forgotten the vow I made to my mother and sealed upon her dying
lips with my last kiss! I have been a faithful daughter of my
fatherland. I have given every thing--there remains nothing but myself,
and oh, how gladly would I give my life for Poland! But God has forsaken
us; His eyes are turned away!"
"Accuse not the Lord, dear lady," prayed Matuschka. "Put your trust in
Him, and take courage."
"It is true. I have no right to accuse my Maker," sighed the
countess. "When the last drop of Polish blood is spent and the last
Polish heart is crushed beneath the tramp of the enemy's hosts, then it
will be time to cry to Heaven! Rise, Matuschka, and weep no more. All is
not yet lost. Let us hope, and labor that hope may become reality, and
Poland may be free!"
She reached her hand to Matuschka and passed into an adjoining room. It
was the state apartment of the inn, and was always reserved for
distinguished guests. It had been richly furnished, but the teeth of
time had nibbled many a rent in the old-fashioned furniture, the faded
curtains, and the well-worn carpet. Matuschka, however, had given an air
of some elegance to the place. On the carved oak table in the centre
stood a vase of flowers; and, that her dear mistress might have
something to remind her of home, Matuschka had procured a piano, to
which the countess, when weary of her thoughts, might confide the hopes
and fears that were surging in her storm-tossed heart.
The piano was open, and a sheet of music lay on the desk. As the
countess perceived it, she walked rapidly toward the instrument and sat
down before it.
"I will sing," said she. "The emperor loves music, above all things the
music of Gluck."
She turned over the leaves, and then said, softly:
"`Orpheus and Eurydice!' La, Bernasconi told me that this was his
favorite opera. Oh, that I knew which aria he loved the best?"
She struck a few chords, and in a low voice began to sing. Gradually her
beautiful features lost their sadness, she seemed to forget herself and
her sorrows, and to yield up her soul to the influence of Gluck's
heavenly music. And now, with all the power, the melody, the pathos of
her matchless voice, she sang, "Che faro senza Eurydice!"
The more she sang, the brighter grew her lovely face. Forgetful of all
things around, she gave herself wholly up to the inspiration of the
hour, and from its fountains of harmony she drew sweetest draughts of
consolation and of hope.
The door had opened, and she had not beard it. On the threshold stood
the emperor, followed by Matuschka, while the countess, all unmindful,
filled the air with strains so divine, that they might have been the
marriage-hymns of Love wedded to Song.
The emperor had stopped for a moment to listen. His face, which at first
had worn an expression of smiling flippancy, now changed its aspect. He
recognized the music, and felt his heart heat wildly. With a commanding
gesture, he motioned Matuschka to withdraw, and noiselessly closed the
THE EMPEROR AND THE COUNTESS.
The countess continued to sing, although Joseph had advanced as far as
the centre of the room. The thickness of the carpet made his footfall
inaudible. He stood with his right hand resting upon the oak table,
while he leaned forward to listen, and one by one the dead memories of
his youthful love came thronging around his heart, and filling it with
an ecstasy that was half joy and half sorrow.
More and more impassioned grew the music, while the air was tremulous
with melody. It softened and softened, until it melted away in sobs. The
hands of the enchantress fell from the keys; she bowed her head, and
leaning against the music, burst into tears. The emperor, too, felt the
tear-drops gather in his eyes; he dashed them away, and went rapidly up
to the piano.
"Countess," said he, in his soft, mellow tones, "I felt it no
indiscretion to listen unseen to your heavenly music, but no one save
God has a right to witness your grief."
She started, and rising quickly, the emperor saw the face of the lady
who had thrown him the wreath.
"It is she!" cried he, "the beautiful Confederate! I thank you from my
heart for the favor you have done me, for I have sought you for some
days in vain."
"Your majesty sought me?" said she, smiling. "Then I am sure that you
are ready to sympathize with misfortune."
"Do you need sympathy?" asked he, eagerly.
"Sire, I am a daughter of Poland," replied she.
"And the Wielopolskas are among the noblest and richest of Poland's
"Noble! Rich! Our castles have been burned by the Russians, our fields
have been laid waste, our vassals have been massacred, and of our
kinsmen, some have died under the knout, while others drag out a life of
martyrdom in Siberia."
"One of the Counts Wielopolska was a favorite of the king, was he not?"
asked Joseph, much moved.
"He was my husband," replied she, bitterly. "Heedless of his
countrymen's warnings, he believed in the patriotism of Stanislaus. When
he saw his error, he felt that he merited death, and expiated his fault
by self-destruction. His grave is in the Vistula."
"Unhappy wife!" exclaimed the emperor. "And had you no other kinsman?"
"I had a father and three brothers."
"You had them?"
"Yes, sire, but I have them no longer. My brothers died on the field of
battle; my father, oh, my father!--God grant that he be no more among
the living, FOR HE IS IN SIBERIA!"
The emperor raised his hands in horror; then extending them to the
countess, he took hers, and said in a voice of deepest sympathy "I thank
you for coming to me. Tell me your plans for the future, that I may
learn how best I may serve you."
"Sire, I have none," sighed she. "Life is so mournful, that I long to
close my eyes forever upon its tragedies, but--"
"I should then be robbed of the sight of him who has promised succor to
my fatherland," cried she, passionately, while she sank upon her knees
and clasped her hands convulsively together.
Joseph bent over, and would have raised her from the floor. "It ill
becomes such beauty to kneel before me," said he, softly.
"Let me kneel, let me kneel!" exclaimed she, while her beautiful eyes
suffused with tears. "Here, at your feet, let me implore your protection
for Poland! Have mercy, sire, upon the Confederates, whose only crime is
their resistance to foreign oppression. Reach out your imperial band to
THEM, and bid them be free, for they must either be slaves, or die by
their own hands. Emperor of Austria, save the children of Sobieski from
"Do not fear," replied Joseph, kindly. "I promised the Confederates that
Austria would recognize their envoy, and I will redeem my word. Rise,
countess, I implore you, rise, and may the day not be distant when I
shall extend my hand to Poland as I now do to you. You have a pledge of
my sincerity, in the fact that we have both a common enemy, and it will
not be my fault if I do not oppose her, sword in hand. Still, although
men call me emperor, I am the puppet of another will. The crown of
Austria is on my mother's head; its shadow, alone, is upon mine. I speak
frankly to you; but our acquaintance is peculiar, and, by its nature,
has broken down the ordinary barriers of conventional life. Your songs
and your tears have spoken directly to my heart recalling the oniy happy
days that I have ever known on earth. But I am growing sentimental. You
will pardon me, I know, for you are a woman, and have known what it is
She slowly shook her head. "No, sire," replied she, "I have never known
what it was to love."
The emperor looked directly in her eyes. SHE! Beautiful and majestic as
Hera,--SHE, not know what it was to love! "And your husband--" asked he.
"I was married to him as Poland was given to Stanislaus. I never saw him
until he became my husband."
"And your heart refused allegiance?"
"Sire, I have never yet seen the man who was destined to reign over my
"Ah, you are proud! I envy him who is destined to conquer that
She looked for one moment at the emperor, and then said, blushing:
"Sire, my heart will succumb to him who rescues Poland. With rapture it
will acknowledge him as lord and sovereign of my being."
The emperor made no reply. He gazed with a significant smile at the
lovely enthusiast, until she blushed again, and her eyes sought the
"Ah, countess," said Joseph, after a pause, "if all the women of Poland
were of your mind, a multitudinous army would soon flock to her
"Every Polish woman is of one mind with me. We are all the daughters of
one mother, and our love for her is stronger than death."
The emperor shook his lead. "Were this true," replied he, "Poland would
never have fallen as she has done. But far be it from me to heap
reproaches upon the unfortunate. I will do what it lies in my power to
do for the Poles, provided they are willing to second my efforts for
themselves. If they would have peace, however, with other nations, they
must show strength and unity of purpose among themselves. Until they can
stand before the world in the serried ranks of a national unanimity,
they must expect to be assailed by their rapacious neighbors. But let us
forget politics for a moment. I long to speak to you of yourself. What
are your plans? How can I serve you?"
"Sire, I have no plans. I ask nothing of the world but a place of
refuge, where I can sorrow unseen."
"You are too young, and, pardon me, if I add, too beautiful, to fly from
the world. Come to Vienna, and learn from me how easy it is to live
"Your majesty will allow me to go to Vienna?" cried the countess,
joyfully. "Ever since I have felt that I could do nothing for Poland, I
have longed to live in Vienna, that I might breathe the same atmosphere
with your majesty and the Empress Maria Theresa. You are the only
sovereigns in Europe who have shown any compassion for the misfortunes
of my country, and before your generous sympathy my heart bows down in
gratitude and admiration."
"Say you so, proud heart, that has never bowed before?" exclaimed the
emperor, smiling, and taking the countess's white hand in his. "Come,
then, to Vienna, not to do homage, but to receive it, for nothing
becomes your beauty more than pride. Come to Vienna., and I will see
that new friends and new ties awaken your heart to love and happiness."
"I have one relative in Vienna, sire, the Countess von Salmour."
"Ah! one of the empress's ladies of honor. Then you will not need my
protection there, for the countess is in high favor with the empress;
and I may say, that she has more influence at court than I have."
"Sire," said the countess, raising her large eyes with an appealing
look, "I shall go to Vienna, if I go under your majesty's protection and
with your sanction."
"You shall have both," replied Joseph, warmly. "I will write to my
mother to-day, and you shall present my letter. When will you leave? I
dare not ask you to tarry here, for this is no place for lovely and
unprotected women. Moreover, the King of Prussia has no sympathy with
Poland, and he will like you the less for the touching appeal you made
in her behalf when you sang at the concert. Greet the empress for me,
and let me hope that you will stir her heart as you have stirred mine.
And now farewell. My time has expired: the King of Prussia expects me to
supper. I must part from you, but I leave comforted, since I am enabled
to say in parting, 'Au revoir.'"
He bowed, and turned to quit the room. But at the door he spoke again.
"If I ever win the right to claim any thing of you, will you sing for me
the aria that I found you singing to-night?"
"Oh! your majesty," said the countess, coming eagerly forward. "you have
already earned the right to claim whatsoever you desire of me. I can
never speak my gratitude for your condescension; perhaps music will
speak for me. How gladly, then, will I sing when you command me!"
"I shall claim the promise in Vienna," said he, as he left the room.
The countess remained standing just where he had met her, breathlessly
listening to his voice, which for a while she heard in the anteroom, and
then to the last echoes of his retreating steps.
Suddenly the door was opened, and Matuschka, with joyful mien, came
forward with a purse in her hand.
"Oh, my lady," exclaimed she, "the emperor has given me this purse to
defray our expenses to Vienna!"
The countess started, and her pale face suffused with crimson shame.
"Alms!" said she, bitterly. "He treats me like a beggar!"
"No, lady," said Matuschka abashed; "the emperor told me that he had
begged you to go to Vienna for business of state, and that he had a
right to provide the expenses of our journey there. He said--"
The countess waved her hand impatiently. "Go back to the emperor," said
she haughtily. "Tell him that you dare not offer this purse to your
lady, for you know that she would rather die than receive alms, even
from an emperor."
Matuschka cast down her eyes, and turned away. But she hesitated, and
looked timidly at her mistress, whose great, glowing eyes were fixed
upon her in unmistakable displeasure.
"My lady," said she, with embarrassment, "I will do your bidding, but
you who have been so rich and great, know nothing of the troubles of
poverty. Your money is exhausted. I would rather melt my own heart's
blood into gold than tell you so; but indeed, dear lady, if you refuse
the emperor's gift you wilt be without a kreutzer in your purse."
The countess raised her hands to her hair and unfastened the pearl
wreath with which Matuschka had decorated it in anticipation of the
"There--take this and sell it. You will readily find a jeweller who
understands its value, and if he pays us but the half, it will be twice
the sum which you hold in the emperor's purse."
"My lady, would you sell your family jewels? Have you forgotten that
your family are pledged not to sell their heirlooms?"
"God will forgive me if I break my vow. It is more honorable to part
with my ancestral jewels than to receive alms. I have no heirs, and no
one will be wronged by the act. I have but my mother--Poland. For her I
am ready to sacrifice the little I possess, and when nothing else
remains, I shall yield my life. Go, Matuschka, go!"
Matuschka took the wreath and wept. "I go, lady," sobbed she. "This will
last you for half a year, and then the armlets, then the diadem of
brilliants, the bracelets, and the necklace, must all go. God grant you
may live so long on these family treasures, that old Matuschka may be
spared the humiliation of selling the rest! I have lived too long, since
I must chaffer with a base-born tradesman for the jewels that were the
royal gift of John Sobieski to my lady's noble ancestors."
She raised the countess's robe to her lips, and left the room. Her
mistress looked after her, but her thoughts were wandering elsewhere.
Slowly sinking on her knees, she began to pray, and the burden of her
prayer was this:
"Oh, my God, grant that I may win his love!"
The pearls were sold, the countess had arrived in Vienna; and she was in
the presence of the empress, whom, although they had never met before,
she had so long regarded with affectionate admiration.
"I rejoice to see you," said Maria Theresa, graciously extending her
hand. "It gives me pleasure to receive a relative of the Countess von
Salmour. But you have another claim upon my sympathy, for you are a
Polish woman, and I can never forget that, but for John Sobieski, Vienna
would have been a prey to the infidel."
"Upon your majesty's generous remembrance of Sobieski's alliance rests
the last hope of Poland!" exclaimed the countess, kneeling and kissing
the hand of the empress. "God has inclined to her redemption the heart
of the noblest woman in Europe, and through her magnanimity will the
wicked Empress of Russia receive her check. Oh, your majesty, that
woman, in the height of her arrogance, believes to-day that you are only
too willing to further her rapacity and participate in her crimes!"
"Never shall it be said that she and I have one thought or one object in
common!" cried Maria Theresa, her face glowing with indignation. "Let
her cease her oppression of Poland, or the Austrian eagle will seize the
The face of the countess grew radiant with joy. Raising her beautiful
arms to heaven, she cried out exultingly: "King of kings, Thou hast
heard! Maria Theresa comes to our help! Oh, your majesty, how many
thousand hearts, from this day, will bow down in homage before your
throne! Hereafter, not God, but Maria Theresa, will be our refuge!"
"Do not blaspheme," cried the empress, crossing herself. "I am but the
servant of the Lord, and I do His divine will on earth. God is our
refuge and our strength, and He will nerve my arm to overcome evil and
work out good. I will countenance and uphold the Confederates, because
it is my honest conviction that their cause is just, and that they are
the only party in Poland who act in honor and good faith." [Foonote: The
empress's own words. See Ferrand, i., p. 72.]
"Hitherto, they would have died to vindicate that honor and that faith;
now they will live to defend it from their oppressors. Oh, your majesty,
pardon me, if, in my rapture at your goodness, I forget what is due to
your exalted station. My heart will burst if I may not give utterance to
my joy. I am a lonely creature, with no tie but that which binds me to
my unhappy mother, Polonia!"
"So young, and without home or kindred!" said the empress, kindly. "I
have already heard of your misfortunes, poor child, from my son the
At the name of the emperor, the countess's pale face was tinged with a
faint rosy color. The empress did not remark it, for she was already
thinking what a pity it was that such a surpassingly beautiful woman
should be a widow; that such an enchanting creature should be unloved
"You are too handsome," said she, "to remain single. Woman was made for
love and marriage. Happy is she who can devote her whole heart to the
sweet responsibilities of domestic life, and who is not called upon to
assume the duties that weigh down the head of royalty."
While the empress spoke, her eyes were fixed upon the portrait of the
Emperor Francis, which still hung between the windows in the place of
the mirror, which had been removed from its frame. The Countess
Wielopolska had been admitted to the gay sitting-room.
"Earthly grandeur," continued she, "is beset with pains and cares; but
the happy wife, whose subjects are her own dear children, is one degree
removed from the bliss of angels. You must marry, my dear, and I will
find for you a brilliant parti."
"I am poor, your majesty, and am too proud to enter a rich man's palace
without a dowry. "
"You shall have your dowry. I shall instruct my ambassador at St.
Petersburg to demand the return of your estates. It will be one good
deed by which that woman [Footnote: The words by which Maria Theresa
always designated Catharine.] may expiate some of her many crimes. Your
estates once restored, you will be an equal match for any nobleman in
"If I should receive my estates through your majesty's intercession,"
replied the countess, "my home would be an asylum for all the
unfortunate Poles. I should think it treason to dream of personal
happiness, while Poland lies shackled and bleeding."
"But Poland shall be free!" cried the empress, with enthusiasm. "With
the cooperation of France, the voice of Austria will be so loud that
Russia will hear, and withdraw her unjust claims. We will strike off the
fetters of Poland, while we forge a gentle chain for the Countess
Wielopolska: a chain that falls so lightly upon woman, that its burden
is sweeter than freedom."
"Your majesty must forgive me," reiterated the countess; "I have sworn
on my mother's grave, that as long as I can be useful, I will live for
Poland. Should she regain her freedom, I will retire to a convent, where
every breath I draw shall be a thanksgiving to God. Should she be doomed
to slavery, she will need her sons and daughters no more, and then I
will die. Your majesty sees that I am already betrothed. I shall soon be
the bride of Heaven, or the bride of Death."
"The bride of Heaven!" repeated the empress, her eyes swimming with
tears. "Then be it so; it is not I who would entice Mary from her
Master's feet. The world is full of Marthas, troubled about many things.
Go, choose the better part, sweet enthusiast, and I will see that you
have cause for thanksgiving. "
She reached her hand to the countess, who kissed it and withdrew. As she
opened the door, she felt the bolt turn from the outside.
"His highness Prince Kaunitz," cried a page; and as the countess was
making one last inclination of the head, the tall, slender form of
Kaunitz filled the space behind her.
"Have I permission to enter, your majesty?" said the minister.
"You are always welcome, prince," replied the empress.
Kaunitz bowed slightly, and as he raised his cold eye to the face of the
countess, a faint smile flitted over his features, but it was followed
by a sneer. Without acknowledging her presence by the smallest courtesy,
he advanced to the empress, and the door closed upon Poland forever.
MARIE ANTOINETTE AND COURT ETIQUETTE.
"Letters from France, your majesty," said Kaunitz, and the face of the
empress grew bright as she recognized the handwriting of her daughter.
"The dauphiness is well?" said she. "Next to her dear self, I love to
see her writing. Ah, I have grown very lonely since my little Antoinette
has left me! One by one my children go; one dear face alone remains,"
continued she, pointing to the portrait of the emperor. Then looking at
the letters in the hands of the prince, she said:
"Have you good news?"
"Yes, your majesty. The dauphiness is adored by the French people. They
repeat her bon mots, write odes and madrigals to her beauty, and hang up
her portrait in their houses. When she drives out in her caleche they
impede its progress with their welcomes; and when she appears at the
theatre, the prima donnas are forgotten. Half a year ago, when she made
her entry into Paris and more than a hundred thousand people went out to
meet her, the Duke de Brissac said, 'Madame, you have one hundred
thousand lovers, and yet the dauphin will never be jealous of them.'
[Footnote: "Memoirs of Madame de Campan," vol. i., p. 60.] The dear old
Duke! He little knew what literal truth he spoke of the dauphin on that
"What do you mean?" asked the empress, hastily. "I know by the
expression of your face that you have something unpleasant to tell."
"I mean to say the dauphin is not jealous, because he is the only man in
France who is not in love with the dauphiness."
The empress turned scarlet. "This is a serious charge which you presume
to make against the dauphin," said she, frowning.
"It is unhappily true," replied Kaunitz, coolly,
"The dauphiness makes no mention of such a state of things in her letter.
It does not breathe a word of complaint."
"Perhaps the dauphiness, in the innocence of her heart, has no idea of
the grounds which she has for complaint."
The empress looked displeased. "Do you know that your language is
offensive?" said she. "You assert that the dauphin is insensible to the
charms of his beautiful young wife."
"Your majesty well knows that I never assert a falsehood. The dauphin is
not in love with his wife, and I do not believe that she has an advocate
at the court of Louis XV. Since the shameless partisans of Du Barry have
triumphed over the noble Duke of Choiseul, the dauphiness is without a
friend. The Duke d'Arguillon is anti-Austrian, and your majesty knows
what an enemy to Austria was the father of the dauphin."
"Why do you seek to torture me, Kaunitz?" said the empress, impatiently.
"You are not telling me all this for nothing. Say at once what you have
"Your majesty has not yet read the letter which I had the honor of
handing to you just now, I believe," said Kaunitz.
Maria Theresa took up the letter from the gueridon on which she had
laid it, and began to look it over.
"It is true," sighed she. "The dauphiness complains of solitude. 'Since
the Duke de Choiseul has left,' writes she, 'I am alone, and without a
friend.' You are right. The dauphiness is in danger. She writes that her
enemies are intriguing to part her from the dauphin. They attempted in
Fontainebleau to assign her a suite of apartments remote from those of
"Yes, the anti-Austrian party, seeing that he is indifferent to her, are
doing their best to convert this indifference into dislike. But the
dauphiness saw through the affair, and complained to the king."
"That was right and bold!" cried the empress, joyfully.
"Yes, it was bold, for it gained another enemy for the dauphiness. She
should have spoken to the king through the Duke d'Arguillon, instead of
which she applied to his majesty herself. The duke will never forgive
her; and when the Duchess de Noailles reproved the dauphiness, she
replied that she would never take counsel of etiquette where her family
affairs were concerned. The consequence is that the duchess also has
gone over to the enemy."
"To the enemy?" exclaimed the empress, anxiously. "Has she, then, other
"Madame de Marsan, the governess of the sisters of the dauphin, will
never forgive her for having interfered in the education of the young
"But surely the daughters of the king will be kind to my poor Marie
Antoinette!" exclaimed the empress, ready to burst into tears. "They
promised to love her; and it is but natural and womanly that they should
shun the party which upholds the profligate woman who rules the King of
Prince Kaunitz slightly elevated his shoulders. "Madame Adelaide, the
eldest, until the marriage of the dauphin, held the first place at
court. Now, the daupbiness has precedence of her, and the court
card-parties are held in her apartments. Madaine Adelaide, therefore,
has refused to be present, and retires to her own rooms, where she holds
rival card-parties which are attended by the anti-Austrians, who are
opposed to Du Barry. This is the second party who intrigue against the
dauphiness.--Madame Sophie perchance remembers her in her prayers; but
she is too pious to be of use to anybody. Madame Victoire, who really
loves the dauphiness, is so sickly, that she scarcely ever leaves her
room. For a while she held little reunions there, which, being very
pleasant, were for a while attended by the dauphiness; but Madame de
Noailles objected, and court etiquette required that they should be
The empress had risen and was acing the floor in great agitation. "So
young, so lovely, and slighted by her husband!" murmured she, bitterly,
while large tear-drops stood in her eyes. "The daughter of the Caesars
in strife with a king's base-born mistress and a vile faction who hate
her without cause! And I--her mother --an empress, am powerless to help
"No, your majesty," said Kaunitz, "not altogether powerless. You cannot
help her with armies, but you can do so with good advice, and no one can
advise her as effectually as her mother."
"Advise her? What advice can I give?" cried the empress, angrily. "Shall
I counsel her to attend the petits soupers of the king, and truckle to
his mistress? Never! never! My daughter may be unhappy, but she shall
not be dishonored!"
"I should not presume to make any such proposition to the dauphiness,"
said Kaunitz, quietly. "One cannot condescend to Du Barry as we did to La
Pompadour. The latter was at least a woman of mind, the former is
nothing more than a vulgar beauty. But there is another lady whose
influence at court is without limit--one whom Du Barry contemns, but
whom the dauphiness would do well to conciliate."
"Of what lady do you speak, Kaunitz?"
"I speak of Madame Etiquette, your majesty. She is a stiff and tiresome
old dame, I grant you, but in France she presides over every thing.
Without her the royal family can neither sleep nor wake; they can
neither take a meal if they be in health, nor a purge if they be
indisposed, without her everlasting surveillance. She directs their
dress, amusements, associates, and behavior; she presides over their
pleasures, their weariness, their social hours, and their hours of
solitude. This may be uncomfortable, but royalty cannot escape it, and
it must he endured."
"It is the business of Madame de Noailles to attend to the requisitions
of court etiquette," said the empress, impatiently. "And of the
dauphiness to attend to her representations," added Kaunitz.
"She will certainly have enough discretion to conform herself to such
"Your majesty, a girl of fifteen who has a hundred thousand lovers is
not apt to be troubled with discretion. The dauphiness is bored to death
by Madame de Noailles's eternal sermons, and therein she may be right.
But she turns the mistress of ceremonies into ridicule, and therein she
is wrong. In an outburst of her vexation the dauphiness one day called
her 'old Madame Etiquette,' and, as the bon mots of a future queen are
apt to be repeated, Madame de Noailles goes by no other name at court.
Again--not long ago the dauphiness gave a party of pleasure at
Versailles. The company were mounted on donkeys."
"On donkeys!" cried the empress with horror.
"On donkeys," repeated Kaunitz, with composure. "The donkey on which the
dauphiness rode was unworthy of the honor conferred upon it. It threw
its royal rider."
"And Antoinette fell off?"
"She fell, your majesty--and fell without exercising any particular
discretion in the matter. The Count d'Artois came forward to her
assistance, but she waved him off, saying with comic earnestness, 'Do
not touch me for your life! Send a courier for Madame Etiquette and wait
until she has prescribed the important ceremonies with which a
dauphiness is to be remounted upon the back of her donkey.' Every one
laughed of course, and the next day when the thing was repeated,
everybody in Paris was heartily amused--except Madame de Noailles. She
did not laugh."
Neither could the empress vouchsafe a smile, although the affair was
ludicrous enough. She was still walking to and fro, her face scarlet
with mortification. She stopped directly in front of her unsympathizing
minister, and said: "You are right. I must warn Antoinette that she is
going too far. Oh, my heart bleeds when I think of my dear,
inexperienced child cast friendless upon the reef, of that dangerous and
corrupt court of France! My God! my God! why did I not heed the warning
I received? Why did I consent to let her go?"
"Because your majesty was too wise to be guided by lunatics and
impostors, and because you recognized, not only the imperative necessity
which placed Marie Antoinette upon the throne of France, but also the
value and the blessing of a close alliance with the French."
"God grant it may prove a blessing!" sighed the empress. "I will write
to-day, and implore her to call to aid all her discretion--for Heaven
knows it is needed at the court of France!"
"It is not an easy thing to call up discretion whenever discretion is
needed," said Kaunitz, thoughtfully. "Has not your majesty, with that
goodness which does so much honor to your heart, gone so far as to
promise help to the quarrelsome Poles?"
"Yes," said the empress, warmly, "and I intend to keep my promise."
"Promises, your majesty, are sometimes made which it is impossible to
"But I make no such promises, and therefore honor requires that I fulfil
my imperial pledge. Yes, we have promised help and comfort to the
patriotic Confederates, the defenders of liberty and of the true faith,
and God forbid that we should ever deceive those who trust to us for
Kaunitz bowed. "Then your majesty will have the goodness to apprise the
emperor that the army must be put upon a war footing; our magazines must
be replenished, and Austria must prepare herself to suffer all the
horrors of a long war."
"A war? With whom?" exclaimed the astounded empress.
"With Russia, Prussia, Sweden, perchance with all Europe. Does your
majesty suppose that the great powers will suffer the establishment of a
republic here, under the protection of Austria?--a republic upon the
body politic of a continent of monarchies, which, like a scirrhous sore,
will spread disease that must end in death to all?"
"Of what republic do you speak?"
THE TRIUMPH OF DIPLOMACY.
"I speak of Poland," said Kaunitz, with his accustomed indifference. "I
speak of those insolent Confederates, who, emboldened by the
condescension of your majesty and the emperor, are ready to dare every
thing for the propagation of their pernicious political doctrines. They
have been pleased to declare Stanislaus deposed, and the throne of
Poland vacant. This declaration has been committed to writing, and with
the signatures of the leading Confederates attached to it, has been
actually placed in the king's hands, in his own palace at Warsaw. Not
content with this, they have distributed thousands of these documents
throughout Poland, so that the question to-day, in that miserable
hornets' nest, is not whether the right of the Confederates are to be
guaranteed to them, but whether the kingdom of Poland shall remain a
monarchy or be converted into a republic."
"If this be true, then Poland is lost, and there is no hope for the
Confederates," replied the empress. "I promised them protection against
foreign aggression, but with their internal quarrels I will not
"It would be a dangerous precedent if Austria should justify those who
lay sacrilegious hands upon the crown of their lawful sovereign; and,
for my part, my principles forbid me to uphold a band of rebels, who are
engaged in an insolent conspiracy to dethrone their king."
"You are right, prince; it will never do for us to uphold them. As I
have openly declared my sympathy with the Confederates, so I must openly
express to them my entire disapprobation of their republican
"If your majesty does that, a war with France will be the consequence of
your frankness. France has promised succor to the Confederates, and has
already sent Dumouriez with troops, arms, and gold. France is longing to
have a voice in the differences between Russia and Turkey, and she only
awaits cooperation from Austria to declare openly against Russia. She
will declare against ourselves, if, after your majesty's promises, we
suddenly change front and take part against the seditious Poles."
"What can we do, then, to avert war?" cried the empress, anxiously. "Ah,
prince, you see that the days of my youth and my valor are past! I
shudder when I look back upon the blood that has been shed under my
reign, and nothing but the direst necessity will ever compel me to be
the cause of spilling another drop of Austrian blood. [Footnote: The
empress's own words. F. V. Raumor, "Contributions to Modern History."
vol. iv., p. 419.] How, then, shall we shape our course so as to avoid
"Our policy," said Kaunitz, "is to do nothing. We must look on and be
watchful, while we carefully keep our own counsel. We propitiate France
by allowing her to believe in the continuance of our sympathy with the
Poles, while we pacify Russia and Prussia by remaining actually
"But while we temporize and equivocate," cried the empress, with fervor,
"Russia will annihilate the Poles, who, if they have gone too far in
their thirst for freedom, have valiantly contended for their just
rights, and are now about to lose them through the evils of disunion. It
grieves me to think that we are about to abandon an unhappy nation to
the oppression of that woman, who stops at nothing to compass her wicked
designs. She who did not shrink from the murder of her own husband, do
you imagine that she will stop short of the annexation of Poland to
"We will not suffer her to annex Poland," said Kaunitz, slowly nodding
his head. "As long as we are at peace with Russia, she will do nothing to
provoke our enmity; for France is at our side, and even Prussia would
remonstrate, if Catharine should be so bold as to appropriate Poland to
"You are mistaken. The King of Prussia, who is so covetous of that which
belongs to others, will gladly share the booty with Russia,."
"Austria could never suffer the copartnership. If such an emergency
should arise, we would have to make up our minds to declare war against
them both, or--"
"Or?" asked the empress, holding her breath, as he paused.
"Or," said Kaunitz, fixing his cold blue eye directly upon her face, "or
we would have to share with them."
"The apple of discord. Anarchy is a three-headed monster; if it is to be
destroyed, every head must fall. It is now devouring Poland; and I think
that the three great powers are strong enough to slay the monster once
"This is all very plausible," said Maria Theresa, shaking her head, "but
it is not just. You will never convince me that good can be born of
evil. What you propose is neither more nor less than to smite the
suppliant that lies helpless at your feet. I will have nothing in common
with the Messalina who desecrates her sovereignty by the commission of
every unwomanly crime; and as for Frederick of Prussia, I mistrust him.
He has been my enemy for too many years for me ever to believe that he
can be sincerely my friend."
"France was our enemy for three hundred years, and yet we are allied by
more than ordinary ties."
"Our alliance will soon come to naught if we walk in the path to which
you would lead us, prince. France will not be dear to the misery of
Poland. She will hear the death-cry, and come to the rescue."
"No, your majesty, France will wait to see what we propose to do until
it is too late, and she will perceive that a resort to arms will in no
wise affect a fait accompli. I, therefore, repeat that the only way to
prevent the Polish conflagration from spreading to other nations is for
us to preserve a strict neutrality, taking part with neither disputant."
"War must be averted," exclaimed Maria Theresa, warmly. "My first duty is
to Austria, and Austria must have peace. To preserve this blessing to my
subjects, I will do any thing that is consistent with my honor and the
dictates of my conscience."
"Ah, your majesty, diplomacy has no conscience; it can have but one
rule--that of expediency."
"You concede, then, that the policy you advocate is not a conscientious
"Yes, your majesty; but it is one which it is imperative for us to