Part 6 out of 14
more pressing," he said, smilingly. "Let us read it!"
And he read with an air of great satisfaction:
"The ambassador of the French Republic informs Baron Thugut that the
riotous proceedings have lasted five hours already; that no agent of
the police has come to his assistance; that the furious rioters have
taken possession of a portion of the house and are destroying every
thing they can lay their hands on."
"Aha, my friend Wenzel is looking for the papers in the rooms of the
French embassy!" exclaimed Thugut, triumphantly. He then read on.
"The ambassador, the secretaries of legation, the French citizens
and officers who are with him, were compelled to retire to a room
where they are waiting further developments with the undaunted
courage characteristic of the republicans. The ambassador repeats
his demand that the necessary passports be sent for him and for all
the French who desire to accompany him. The transmission of these
passports is the more urgent, as the rioters, who were about to rush
into the room where the French were awaiting them, only shrank back
when some servants of the French embassy discharged the fire-arms
with which they had been provided."
"Ah, a regular battle, then, has taken place!" shouted Thugut, in
great glee. "A siege in grand style! Wonder why Hubschle has not
come back yet? But stop! I hear him already. He raps! I am coming,
sir! I am opening the door already!"
And Thugut hastened to touch the frame of the painting and to open
It was true, Hubschle, the private secretary, was there, but he did
not come alone. Wenzel, soiled with blood, his clothes torn and in
the wildest disorder, entered with him, supporting himself on
"Ah, you bring me there a wounded boar!" said Thugut, morosely.
"A boar who splendidly goaded on the hounds and performed the most
astonishing exploits," said Hubschle, enthusiastically. "He received
a gunshot wound in the right arm and fainted. I carried him with the
assistance of a few friends to a well, and we poured water on him
until he recovered his senses and was able again to participate in
the general jubilee." "Then it was a jubilee? Mr. Wenzel, tell me
all about it."
"It was a very fine affair," said Wenzel, gasping. "We had
penetrated into the house and were working to the best of our power
in the magnificent rooms. The furniture, the looking-glasses, the
chandeliers, the carriages in the courtyard, every thing was
destroyed, while we were singing and shouting, 'Long live the
emperor! God save the Emperor Francis!'"
"What a splendid Marseillaise that dear, kind-hearted Haydn has
composed for us in that hymn," said Thugut, in a low voice,
gleefully rubbing his hands. "And the banner? What has become of the
"The banner we had previously torn to pieces, and with the shreds we
had gone to the Schottenplatz and publicly burned them there amidst
the jubilant shouts of the people."
"Very good. And what else was done in the embassy building?"
"We rushed from room to room. Nothing withstood our fury, and
finally we arrived at the room in which the ambassador and his suite
had barricaded themselves as in a fortress. It was the ambassador's
study," said Wenzel, slowly and significantly--"the cabinet in which
he kept his papers."
Thugut nodded gently, and said nothing but "Proceed!"
"I rushed toward the door and encouraged the others to follow me. We
succeeded in bursting the door open. At the same moment the besieged
fired at us. Three of us dropped wounded; the others ran away."
"Yes, the miserable rascals always run away as soon as they smell
gunpowder," said Thugut, indignantly. "And you, Mr. Wenzel?"
"I was wounded and had fainted. My comrades carried me out of the
"And the papers?" asked Thugut. "You did not take them?"
"Your excellency, General Bernadotte and the whole retinue of the
embassy were in the room in which the ambassador keeps his papers. I
would have penetrated into it with my friends if the bullet had not
shattered my arm and stretched me down senseless."
"Yes, indeed, you became entirely senseless," said Thugut, harshly,
"for you even forgot that I only promised to release you provided
you should bring the papers of the French ambassador."
"Your excellency," shouted Wenzel, in dismay, "I--"
"Silence!" commanded Thugut, in a stern tone; "who has allowed you
to speak without being asked?"
At this moment another hasty rap at the door was heard, and Heinle's
arm appeared again in the door.
"Another dispatch from the French ambassador?" asked Thugut.
"No, your excellency, a dispatch from his majesty the emperor."
Thugut hastily seized the small sealed note and opened it. It
contained nothing but the following words:
"The ambassador has received a salutary lesson, and his banner has
been destroyed. Let us stop the riot now, and avoid extreme
measures. Several regiments must be called out to restore order."
The minister slowly folded the paper and put it into his pocket. He
then rang the bell so violently and loudly, that Heinle and the
other servants rushed immediately into the room.
"Open every door--call every footman!" commanded Thugut. "Admit
every one who wants to see me. Two mounted messengers shall hold
themselves in readiness to forward dispatches. Every one may learn
that, in spite of my sickness, I have risen from my couch in order
to reestablish tranquillity in the capital."
He stepped to his desk and rapidly wrote a few words, whereupon he
handed the paper to Germain, his valet de chambre.
"Here, Germain, hasten with this note to Count Fersen, the director
of police, and take this fellow along. Two footmen may accompany
you. You will deliver him to the director of the police and tell him
that he is one of the rioters whom my agents have arrested. Request
the director to have him placed in a safe prison and to admit none
to him but the officers of the criminal court. He is a very
dangerous criminal; this is the second time that he has been
arrested as a rioter. Well, what is the matter with the fellow? He
reels like a drunken man! He has probably drunk too much brandy for
the purpose of stimulating his courage."
"Pardon me, your excellency," said Hubschle, "the man has fainted."
"Then carry him away, and take him in a carriage to the director of
the police," said Thugut, indifferently, and he looked on coldly and
unfeelingly, while the footman hastily seized the pale, unconscious
man and dragged him away.
He returned to his desk and rapidly wrote a few words on a sheet of
large, gilt-edged paper, which he then enclosed in an envelope,
sealed, and directed.
"A dispatch to the emperor!" he said, handing it to Heinle. "Let a
mounted messenger take it immediately to his majesty."
This dispatch contained the reply to the emperor's laconic note, and
it was almost more laconic than the latter, for it contained only
the following words:
"Sire, within an hour order will be reestablished."
"Now, Hubschle, sit down," said Thugut, all the others having left
the room by his orders. "Collect your five senses, and write what I
am going to dictate to you."
Hubschle sat already at the desk, and waited, pen in hand. Baron
Thugut, folding his hands behind his back, slowly paced the room and
"The minister of foreign affairs has heard with regret of the
riotous proceedings referred to in the notes which the ambassador of
the French Republic has addressed to him this evening. The minister
will report the whole affair to his imperial majesty, and entertains
no doubt that the emperor will be very indignant at the occurrence.
The ambassador may rest assured that nothing will be left undone in
order to ferret out the perpetrators of this outrage, and to punish
them with the whole severity of the laws, and with the sincere
desire which the Austrian government has always entertained to
maintain the friendship so happily established between the two
countries." [Footnote: The French ambassador really left Vienna in
consequence of this riot. The emperor vainly tried to pacify him.
Bernadotte persisted in his demands. He wanted the Austrian
Government to restore the banner and to have it displayed on his
balcony by a staff officer. In reply to these repeated demands,
Thugut sent him his passports, and the legation left Vienna.--Vide
Hauser, "German History," vol II., p. 180. "Memoires d'un Homme
d'Etat," vol. v.]
"Well, why do you dare to laugh, Hubschle?" asked Thugut when he
took the pen in order to sign the note.
"Your excellency, I am laughing at the many fine words in which this
dispatch says: 'Mr. Ambassador, ask for your passports; you may
Thugut smiled. "When you are drunk, Hubschle, you are exceedingly
shrewd, and for that reason, I pardon your impertinence. Your
rubicund nose has scented the matter correctly. The ambassador has
demanded his passports already. But go now. Take this dispatch to
the second courier and tell him to carry it immediately to the
French embassy. As for yourself, you must hasten to the commander of
Vienna, and take this paper to him. You may say to him, 'The gates
are to be closed in order to prevent the populace of the suburbs
from reaching the city. The Preiss regiment shall occupy the house
of the ambassador and the adjoining streets, and fire at whosoever
offers resistance or wants to raise a disturbance.' Vienna must be
perfectly quiet in the course of an hour. Begone!"
Hubschle rushed out, and Thugut remained alone. He slowly and
deliberately sat down in an arm-chair, and pondered serenely over
the events of the night.
"It is true I have not wholly accomplished my purpose," he muttered,
"but M. Bernadotte will try no longer to injure me. He shall have
his passports to-morrow morning."
LAST DAYS OF THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY.
VICTORIA DE POUTET.
Nearly a year had elapsed since the departure of the French
ambassador from Vienna, but the rupture of the peace with France, so
ardently desired by Minister Thugut, had not yet taken place. A
strong party in the emperor's cabinet had declared against Thugut,
and this time obtained a victory over the minister who had been
believed to be all-powerful. This party was headed by the empress
and Archduke Charles. Thugut, therefore, was compelled to suppress
his wrath, and defer his revenge to some later time.
But although the dark clouds of the political thunderstorm had been
removed for the time being, they were constantly threatening, like a
gloomy spectre on the horizon, casting sinister shadows on every day
and on every hour.
The merry people of Vienna, owing to the incessant duration of these
gloomy shadows, had become very grave, and loudly and softly
denounced Minister Thugut as the author and instigator of all the
evils that were menacing Austria. In fact, Baron Thugut was still
the all-powerful minister; and as the emperor loved and feared him,
the whole court, the whole capital, and the whole empire bowed to
him. But while bowing, every one hated him; while obeying, every one
Thugut knew it and laughed at it. What did he care for the love and
hatred of men? Let them curse him, if they only obeyed him.
And they obeyed him. The machine of state willingly followed the
pressure of his hand, and he conducted the helm with a vigorous arm.
He directed from his cabinet the destinies of Austria; he skilfully
and ingeniously wove there the nets with which, according to his
purposes, he wanted to surround friend or foe.
To-day, too, he had worked in his cabinet until evening, and he had
only just now dismissed his two private secretaries, Heinle and
Hubschle. This was the hour at which Thugut was in the habit of
repairing either to the emperor or to his gardens in the Wahringer
Street. His valet de chambre, therefore, awaited him in the
dressing-room, and his carriage was in readiness below in the court-
yard. To-day, however, the minister apparently wished to deviate
from his custom, and instead of going to the dressing-room, he
violently rang the bell.
"Germain," he said, to the entering valet de chambre, "no uniform
to-day, no gala-dress, but my Turkish garments. Light up the Turkish
cabinet, kindle amber in the lamps, and place flowers in the vases.
In the course of an hour supper for two persons in the Turkish
cabinet. Arrange every thing in a becoming manner."
Germain bowed silently and withdrew, in order soon to return with
the ordered Turkish costume. Thugut silently suffered himself to be
clad in the costly Turkish dressing-gown, and in the golden
slippers, the wonderful Cashmere shawl to be wrapped around his
waist, and the Turkish fez to be placed on his head. Germain then
brought a Turkish pipe with a splendidly carved amber tip, and
handed it to the minister.
"Now open the door," said Thugut, laconically. Germain touched the
frame of the large painting on the wall, and Thugut stepped through
the small door into the hall. With rapid steps he hastened down the
hall, and soon stood at its end in front of the narrow wall on which
a painting of the Virgin, illuminated by a perpetually burning lamp,
was hanging. Thugut again touched an artificial rose on the frame,
the painting turned around, and a door became visible behind it.
The minister opened this door, and, crossing the threshold,
carefully closed it again.
He now was in his Turkish cabinet; all these beautiful gold brocades
on the low sofas, these costly hangings covering the walls, these
precious carpets on the floor and on the tables, these silver lamps
of strange forms, hanging down from the ceiling, and filled with
amber, all these richly gilt vessels arranged along the walls, were
delightful reminiscences to Thugut--reminiscences of the happiest
period of his life, for he had brought all these things from
Constantinople, where he had lived for ten years as Austrian
ambassador. Thugut, therefore, never entered this cabinet without a
pleasant smile lighting up his hard features, and he only went
thither when he wished to permit himself an hour of happiness amidst
the perplexing occupations and cares of his official position.
On this occasion, too, as soon as he had crossed the threshold, his
face had assumed a mild and gentle expression, and the harsh,
repulsive stamp had disappeared from his features. He walked across
the room with a smile, and quickly touched a golden knob, fixed in
the opposite wall. After a few minutes he repeated this four times.
He then raised his eyes to a small silver bell hanging above him in
the most remote corner of the wall, and looked at it steadfastly.
While he was doing so, a small side door had opened, and Germain, in
the rich costume of a servant of the harem, had entered. Thugut had
not once looked round toward him; he had not once glanced at the
silver vases with the most splendid flowers, which Germain had
placed on the marble tables; his nose was apparently indifferent to
the sweet perfumes of the amber which Germain had kindled in the
silver lamps, and which was filling the room with fragrant bluish
clouds. He only looked at the small bell, and seemed to expect a
signal from it in breathless suspense. But Germain had long since
finished the decoration of the room and withdrawn again, and yet the
bell was silent. A cloud passed over Thugut's brow, and the smile
disappeared from his lips.
"She was not there, perhaps, and consequently did not hear my
signal," he murmured. "I will ring the bell once more."
He stretched out his hand toward the golden knob in the wall, when
suddenly a clear, pure sound was heard. It was the small bell that
had been rung.
Thugut's countenance lighted up in the sunshine of happiness, and he
looked up to the bell again in silent suspense. For a few minutes it
hung motionless again, but then it resounded quickly three times in
succession. "In thirty minutes she will be here," whispered Thugut,
with a happy smile. "Let us await her, then."
He approached the small table on which he had laid his pipe, and
near which Germain had placed a small silver vessel with burning
amber. With the bearing and calmness of a genuine Turk he lighted
his pipe and then sat down on the low square sofa. Crossing his
legs, supporting his right elbow on the cushions of gold brocade, in
a half-reclining attitude, Thugut now abandoned himself to his
dreams and to the sweet enjoyment of smoking. He was soon surrounded
by a blue cloud from which his black eyes were glistening and
glancing up to the large clock on the mantelpiece.
On seeing now that the thirty minutes had elapsed, Thugut rose with
youthful vivacity, and laid his pipe aside. He then approached the
large and strangely formed arm-chair, standing immediately under the
silver bell. When he had vigorously pushed back the arm-chair, a
small door became visible behind it. Thugut opened it and placed
himself by it in a listening position.
Suddenly it seemed to him as though he heard a slight noise in the
distance. It came nearer, and now there appeared in the aperture of
the door a lady of wonderful loveliness and surpassing beauty. The
eye could behold nothing more charming than this head with its
light-brown ringlets, surrounding the face as if by a ring of glory,
and contrasting so strangely with the large black eyes, which were
sparkling in the fire of youth and passion. Her enchanting lips were
of the deepest red, and a delicate blush, like the beautiful tint of
the large purple shell, mantled the cheeks. Her nose, of the purest
Roman style, was slightly curved, and her expansive forehead
imparted a noble and serious air to the charming youthful face. The
beholder saw in these eyes, ardor and passion; on this forehead,
thought and energetic resolutions; and on this swelling mouth,
archness, overflowing spirits, and wit. And the figure of this
lovely woman was in full harmony with her ravishing head. She was
petite, delicate, and ethereal, like a sylph, and yet her form was
well developed and beautiful; if she had been somewhat taller, she
might have been compared with Juno.
She remained standing in the door, and with her flaming eyes glanced
over the room; then she fixed them on Thugut, and burst into a loud
and merry laugh.
"Ah, ah, that is the song of my bulbul, the ringing voice of my
oriental nightingale," exclaimed Thugut, drawing the laughing lady
with gentle force into the room and pushing the arm-chair again
before the closed door. "Now tell me, my bulbul, why do you laugh?"
"Must I not laugh?" she exclaimed, in a clear and sonorous voice.
"Is not this a surprise as if it were a scene from the Arabian
Nights? You told me six months ago you were going to have a passage
made, by which one might go unseen from my rooms in the Burg to your
apartments in the chancery of state. I had no doubt of the truth of
what you told me, for fortunately the chancery of state is close to
the Burg, and there are enough secret staircases and doors here as
well as there. I was, therefore, by no means surprised when one day,
in the silence of the night, I heard soft hammering at the wall of
my bedroom, and suddenly beheld a hole in the wall, which, in the
course of a few hours, had been transformed into a door with an arm-
chair before it, just like that one there; in the next night, a
locksmith made his appearance and hung up a small silver bell in my
room, concealing it behind a lamp; and yesterday you whispered to
me: 'Await the signal to-morrow! I have to talk to you about
important affairs.' I therefore waited with all the impatience of
curiosity; at last the bell resounded six times; I answered the
signal and hastened through the narrow halls and ascended the never
suspected small staircase, perfectly satisfied that I was going to a
diplomatic conference. And what do I find? A little Turkish
paradise, and in it a pacha--"
"Who was yearning only for his charming houri in order to be
entirely in paradise," said Thugut, interrupting her. "Every thing
has its time, my Victoria, state affairs as well as happiness."
"The question only is, my cold-hearted friend, whether you prefer
state affairs or happiness," she replied, smilingly threatening him
with her finger.
"Happiness, if you bring it to me, Victoria!" he exclaimed, pressing
the beautiful woman impetuously against his bosom.
She leaned her head on his shoulder and looked up to him with an air
of arch enthusiasm. "Are you happy now?" she asked, in a low voice.
He only replied by means of glowing kisses and whispered words of
intense passion into her ear. She did not resist him; she listened
with smiling satisfaction to his whispers, and a deeper blush
mantled her cheeks.
"Ah, I like to hear you talk thus," she said, when Thugut paused;
"it delights me to sip the honey of oriental poetry from the lips of
my wild bear. Even the Belvederian Apollo is not as beautiful as you
in your genial and wondrous ugliness when you are talking about
Thugut laughed. "Then you think I am very ugly, Victoria?" he asked.
"Yes, so ugly that your ugliness in my eyes is transformed into the
most inconceivable beauty," she said, passing her rosy fingers
across his dark and bronzed face. "Sometimes, my friend, when I see
you in the imperial halls, with your strange smile and your grave
bearing, I believe it is the god of darkness himself whom I behold
there, and who has descended upon earth in order to catch in person
a few human souls that he is very anxious to have in his power. Ah,
I would not have you an iota more handsome, nor a single year
younger. I like your demoniacal ugliness; and the infernal ardor,
hidden under the snow of your hair, truly delights me. To be beloved
by young men with the fickle straw-fire of passion is a very common
thing; but when an old man loves as intensely as a youth, when he
always illuminates the beloved with the glory of a fire that he has
snatched from hell, ah! that is something enchanting and divine!
Love me, therefore, in your own way, my beautiful, ugly prince of
"I love you in my own way, my charming angel, whom nobody believes
to be a demon," said Thugut, laughing. "I feel precisely like you,
my beautiful Victoria; I love you twice as ardently, because I
penetrated your true nature; because, when you are smiling upon
others, I alone perceive the serpent, while others only behold the
roses, and because I alone know this angelic figure to conceal the
soul of a demon. Thus we love each other because we belong to each
other, Victoria; you call me the prince of darkness, and you are
assuredly the crown-princess of hell. After my death you will occupy
"Then it is in hell just as in Austria?" asked Victoria. "The women
are not excluded from the throne."
"Well, sometimes it really seems to me as though it were in Austria
as it ought to be in hell, and as though the small devils of
stupidity, folly, and ignorance, had chosen Austria for their
"Let us expel them, then, my friend," exclaimed Victoria; "I should
think that we were powerful enough to accomplish that."
"Will you assist me in expelling them?" asked Thugut, quickly.
"How can you ask me?" she said, reproachfully. "So you have
forgotten every thing? Our whole past is buried under the dust of
your ministerial documents?"
"No, I have forgotten nothing!" exclaimed Thugut, almost
enthusiastically. "I remember everything. Oh, how often, Victoria,
do I see you in my dreams, just as I saw you for the first time! Do
you yet remember when it was?"
"It was in the camp in front of Giurgewo."
"Yes, in the camp in front of Giurgewo, at the time that the Turks
surprised our trenches. [Footnote: In 1790.] All of our officers
completely lost their senses; the general-in-chief, Prince Coburg,
rode off in the most cowardly manner; and Count Thun had been
killed, while General Anfsess was dangerously wounded. Oh, it was a
terrible day; terror and dismay spread through the whole camp. A
wild panic seized the soldiers, they fled in all directions; every
one was shouting, howling, and trembling for his own miserable
existence. I had just gone to headquarters, and I may say that I was
the only one who did not tremble, for nature has not imparted fear
to me. I witnessed the growing confusion with dismay, when I
suddenly beheld a woman, an angel, who appeared with dishevelled
hair, and eyes flashing with anger, addressing the soldiers and
admonishing them in glowing words to do their duty. No, what she
said were no words, it was a torrent of enthusiasm, bursting from
her lips like heavenly flames. And the soldiers listened in
amazement; the stragglers rallied round their colors, the cowards
were ashamed, and the trembling and downcast took heart again when
they heard the ringing, bold words of the beautiful woman. Reason
obtained its sway; they were able once more to hear and consider
what we said to them, and thanks to you and to myself, the
ignominious rout was transformed into an orderly and quiet retreat.
Both of us saved every thing that was yet to be saved. Ah, it is a
funny thing that all the soldiers in the large camp had lost their
wits, and that only a civilian and a woman kept theirs. [Footnote:
Vide "Kaiser Franz und Metternich: Ein Fragment," p. 83.] On that
day, in my enthusiasm, I vowed eternal friendship to you."
"We vowed it to each other!" exclaimed Victoria.
"And we have kept our vows. I sent you to Vienna with a
recommendation to my friend, Count Colloredo, and he honored my
recommendation. He introduced you to the court; he related your
heroic deed to the emperor, and the whole court did homage to the
intrepid heroine of Giurgewo. Your bold husband, the handsome
captain of hussars, Charles de Poutet, having been killed in Belgium
at the assault upon Aldenhoven, I came to you and renewed my vow of
eternal fidelity and friendship. Did I keep my word?"
"You did. Thanks to you and to Colloredo, I have become the friend
of the empress, and the AJA of her first-born daughter, the
Archduchess Maria Louisa. But, on obtaining this position, I renewed
to you, too, my vow of eternal friendship and eternal fidelity. Did
I not also keep my word?"
"You did. Thanks to you and to Colloredo, I have become prime
minister and ruler of Austria!"
"And now, my friend, a question. Did you invent this Turkish
cabinet, the secret staircases and halls, and the mysterious
language of the bells, for the sole purpose of relating to me here
the history of our past feelings toward each other?"
"No, Victoria, in order to build here the edifice of our future.
Here, in this secret cabinet, we will lay the foundation of it, and
draw up the plans. Victoria, I stand in need of your assistance--
will you refuse it to me?"
"Stretch out your hand with the sceptre, my god of darkness,
command, and I shall obey!" said Victoria, gliding down on the sofa,
crossing her arms on her breast, and looking up to Thugut with
He sat down by her side, and laid his hand over her eyes.
"Do not look at me so charmingly as to make my blood rush like fire
through my veins," he said. "Let us first speak of business affairs,
and then we will forget every thing in draughts of fiery sherbet. So
listen to me, Victoria, be a little less of the enchanting angel
now, and a little more of the malicious demon."
"Is there a minister to overthrow, a powerful man to be trampled
under foot?" asked Victoria, her black eyes flashing like dagger-
points. "Have we got an enemy whom we want to lead across the PONTE
DEI SOSPIRI to an eternal prison? Speak quickly, my friend; I am
waiting for the music of your words."
"There are two enemies for you to fathom," said Thugut, slowly.
"To fathom! Is that all? A little spying, nothing further?"
"But some bloodshed might attend that spying."
"I like blood, it has such a beautiful purple color," said Victoria,
laughing. "Who are the two enemies I am to fathom?"
"France and Prussia!"
"Oh, you are joking."
"No, I am in sober earnest. France and Prussia are the two enemies
whose innermost thoughts you are to fathom."
"But France and Prussia are not here in Vienna."
"No, not here in Vienna, but they are at the fortress of Rastadt."
"I do not understand you, my friend."
"Listen to me, and you will understand me. You know that I hate
France, and that I abhor the peace we were compelled to conclude
with her. France is a hydra, whose head we must cut off, or by whom
we must allow ourselves to be devoured. I am in favor of cutting off
"So am I!" exclaimed Victoria, laughing. "Have you got a sword sharp
enough to cut off the hydra's head? Then give it to me--I will
"The hydra believes she has a sword with which she might kill me.
Listen to me. I was once in my life foolish enough to sign a paper
which might prove dangerous to me in case it should be submitted to
the emperor. This paper is in the hands of France."
"France has got a large hand. Which of her fingers holds the paper?"
"A year ago, the paper was in Bernadotte's hands, and he had already
applied for an interview with the empress, in order to deliver to
her the paper, which she had promised to hand to the emperor. I
learned it in time, and sent out a few friends to bring the papers
out of his own rooms."
"Ah. I understand. It was on the day of the festival of the
volunteers, and of the inauguration of the French banner."
"Yes, it was on that day. The coup was not entirely successful; we
gave Bernadotte a good lesson--we compelled him to leave Vienna, but
he took these papers along."
"And where is Bernadotte?"
"At Rastadt, where he attends the sessions of the congress as the
military plenipotentiary of France."
"I shall go there, too, as your plenipotentiary, my friend!"
exclaimed Victoria, smiling. "But, in order to obtain the papers, we
shall not make an assault upon his house; we shall only assail his
heart, and that I shall open a breach there large enough to let the
dangerous papers pass through it, I hope my skill will warrant--"
"Your skill and your beauty," said Thugut, interrupting her. "But I
believe my beautiful Victoria will not have to assail Bernadotte,
but another man. Bernadotte took warning from that scene in his
house; he understands very well that the possession of those papers
is dangerous, and he has, therefore, transferred the danger to other
shoulders. He has intrusted another man with the papers."
"Whom? If it be a man of flesh and blood name him, and I shall make
the assault upon him," said Victoria.
"It is doubtless one of the three ambassadors of the French
Republic, and I have reason to believe that it is the haughty and
impudent Bonnier. It was he at least who spoke to Count Cobenzl
about certain papers that might become dangerous to me, and who
inquired stealthily if Cobenzl would feel inclined to deliver them
to the emperor."
"Let me depart, my friend; I must have the papers," said Victoria,
"Ah, how beautiful you are in your impetuosity!" exclaimed Thugut,
smiling; "but we are not through yet with our conference, dear
Victoria. For the sole purpose of obtaining those miserable papers,
I should not beg my angel to unfold his demon's wings and to assist
me. If my interests alone were at stake, I should allow fate to take
its course, and leave every thing to its decision. But the interests
of Austria are equally at stake; and I do not say this in the sense
in which my great predecessor, Prince Kaunitz, used to say: 'He who
attacks me, attacks Austria, for Austria cannot exist without me.
She would fall down if my strong hand did not hold her.' No, I know
very well that no man is indispensable; that we are only machines in
the hands of fate, and that, as soon as one of these machines is
worn out and unnecessary, fate casts it aside and substitutes a new
one. But the state is something more exalted and important than a
mere individual; in order to defend it, we must collect our whole
energy, our whole ability, and it is a matter of indifference if, by
doing so, we endanger some human lives and shed some blood. There is
an abundance of human lives in the world, and the blood that has
been shed is restored in the course of a few hours. Victoria, you
shall not merely assist me; you shall aid the state too, and make an
effort for its welfare."
"Only he who dares wins!" exclaimed Victoria, with a fascinating
smile. "Tell me what I am to do, my friend."
"To be fascinating, to avail yourself of the power of your charms,
that is all. To tame a bear, in order to draw his secrets from him."
"In what forest shall I find this bear?"
"At Rastadt, and his name is Roberjot, or Bonnier, or Debry, for
aught I know. Try all three of them. One of them at least will have
a heart capable of falling in love, and eyes to admire your beauty.
Chain that man to your triumphal car, fathom him, try to become his
confidante, and sift his secrets."
"For a special purpose, or only in general?"
"For a special purpose. I have reason to believe that France is
deceiving us, and that, while seeking an alliance with us, and
assuring us every day of her friendship, she is secretly plotting
"Plotting with whom?"
"With Prussia, Austria's mortal enemy. France has promised us not to
grant any further aggrandizement to Prussia. I am satisfied that she
has secretly made similar promises to Prussia in relation to us, and
that she is trying as eagerly, and by means of as many assurances,
to obtain the alliance of Prussia, as that of Austria."
"It is, however, of the highest importance for us to know what
France may have promised to Prussia, and how far the negotiations
between the two powers have gone. To fathom this, either by amicable
or violent means, by shrewdness or by compulsion, by bribery or by
threats, will be your task, my heavenly demon."
"It is a beautiful task, because it is a difficult one," said
Victoria, proudly. "It is a matter of life and death, this duel I am
to fight with one of those French bears."
"But my beautiful Victoria shall not lack seconds to furnish her
weapons, and to do every thing she wants them to do."
"Who are my seconds?"
"Count Lehrbach and Colonel Barbaczy."
"Ah, Barbaczy, whose acquaintance we made at Giurgewo?"
"The same. A bold, intrepid man, who is not afraid of anybody--
neither of God nor of the devil."
"Lehrbach and Barbaczy, your two bloodhounds," said Victoria,
musingly. "If they are to be my seconds, I am afraid the duel will
not merely remain a spiritual one, and not merely hearts will be
wounded. I am afraid real blood will be shed, and there will be
"I must have the papers!" exclaimed Thugut, "either by means of
cunning or by measures of open violence, do you understand? And as
to the wounds and blood, I wish with all my heart to give these
impudent republican fellows who are putting on such airs at Rastadt,
as though they were masters of Germany, a sound and bloody lesson,
and thus give France an unmistakable proof of our opinion."
"Good, my dear Satan, I shall assist you in performing this little
infernal comedy. Two weighty questions, however, remain to be asked.
On what pretext shall I ask my imperial mistress to grant me leave
"Have you not got a sister, who is married to a rich country
gentleman, in the grand-duchy of Baden, and who informed you
yesterday that she had been suddenly taken dangerously ill?"
"I have a sister!" exclaimed Victoria, laughing. "I who never knew a
paternal roof, or family--I who dropped upon earth like a ripe
peach-blossom, and would have been crushed there, if my handsome and
generous Charles de Poutet had not accidentally passed by while the
wind was driving me along, and if he chivalrously had not picked me
up and placed me in his button-hole. I never knew my family--I was
an orphan since my earliest childhood. No, my friend, I have no
"Oh, try to recollect, Victoria; it is your sister who has called
you to her death-bed, and for whose sake the empress will give you
leave of absence."
"Ah, vraiment, I recollect now! Of course, I must go and see my
sister. The good, dear sister--how she will long to see me again in
order to recover from her sickness! Oh, I must repair to my sister--
nothing must detain me here. The kind-hearted empress will not
refuse me leave of absence, for I have to fulfil a sacred duty.
Family ties are more sacred than any other."
"Ah, you are really a most affectionate sister; the empress will
readily grant you leave of absence, and you will set out to-morrow
evening. I shall provide fresh horses for you at every station, and
I shall send you to-morrow morning a comfortable travelling-coach.
Your first question, then, is answered. Now for the second."
"Yes, my friend, I will briefly state my second question. After
accomplishing my task, after chivalrously fighting my duel, and
conquering the papers, what will be my reward?"
"Your reward will be the only one I dare offer to a beautiful young
widow," said Thugut, with a diabolical smile. "A husband who will
bestow upon you a distinguished name, who will strengthen your
position at court, and who will one day bequeath to you a princely
"What!" exclaimed Victoria, joyfully, "you will marry me, my
"I?" asked Thugut, almost in terror. "Who spoke of me? Am I able to
offer you wealth and a distinguished name? My fortune would be too
insignificant for your pin-money, and although the ship-builder's
son has acquired quite a distinguished name, he lacks the dust of
ten dead ancestors. I am my own ancestor, and my pedigree contains
but my own name. No, Victoria, I have something better in store for
you. I shall make you the wife of the minister, Count Colloredo. He
is a member of the old aristocracy, and his wife will outrank at
court all the ladies of the ministers and of the lower nobility. He
is, moreover, very wealthy, and a favorite of the emperor. I shall
give him to understand that he loves you ardently, and that he would
pine away if you should reject him. The dear count does not like to
hear people talk about pining away and dying, and he will consider
himself saved if you accept him and allow him to grow young again in
your arms. To induce him to marry you, and to direct him correctly,
let me alone for that. On the day on which you bring me the papers,
even if they should be somewhat blood-stained, on that day I shall
have the honor to lead you to the altar, and greet you by the name
of Countess Colloredo."
"The scheme is good and feasible," said Victoria, musingly, "and yet
I do not like it altogether. To be frank with you, my friend, if you
really believe that I ought to marry again, why will not YOU marry
me? What shall I do with the childish, conceited, and proud Count
Colloredo, who is already seventy years of age? Why cannot I have my
god of darkness? Thugut, I ask you, why do not you want to marry
Thugut replied to the flaming glance of the charming lady by a loud
"I marry you? Ah, my heavenly demon! that would be very imprudent,
for in that case I should have to require you to lead a devout and
chaste life, and to keep my name unsullied."
"Ah, you insult me," exclaimed Victoria, feelingly. "You want to
insinuate that I am unworthy of being your wife."
"You are worthy of being much more, dearest, for you are a demon of
love; but my wife ought only to be a matron of chastity."
"Oh, how tiresome!" sighed Victoria.
"Yes, how tiresome!" repeated Thugut. "And our own heavenly liaison,
the last romantic dream of my life, would it not also be broken off
if you were to become my wife? Why would we then stand in need of
secrecy--of hidden staircases and doors, and of this Turkish
cabinet?--inasmuch as I should have the right to enter your rooms
before the eyes of the whole world. Besides, we would be unable to
be useful to each other. My wife, of course, would have to side with
me and defend me everywhere, while, in case you are married to
another man, you are at liberty to act for me and to favor me. I
could not promote the interests of my wife at court; I could not
speak of her in terms of praise to the empress, and recommend that
fresh honors and distinctions be conferred upon her. My wife,
therefore, would remain the aja of the little Archduchess Maria
Louisa, while my influence will be able to secure to the Countess
Victoria Colloredo the position of a first lady of honor of the
"First lady of honor!" exclaimed Victoria, joyfully, and with
glowing cheeks. "You are right, my friend, it is better for me to
marry Count Colloredo. Colloredo has great power over the emperor; I
have great power over the empress, and shall have the same power
over Colloredo. But I am again under your control, and thus you will
rule us all, and rule Austria, for I shall always remain your
faithful servant and friend."
"Women's oaths are as fitful as the wind, they are as fleeting as
the clouds," said Thugut, shrugging his shoulders. "But I believe
you, Victoria, for you are no woman like other women. If I were ever
to discover that you had deceived me, I should take a terrible
"What sort of revenge, my friend?" asked Victoria, embracing him
smilingly and tenderly.
"I know but one punishment for a faithless woman," said Thugut, "and
if I envy any thing, my friend, Sultan Mustapha, is able to do it,
it is his power of publicly inflicting this punishment. A faithless
woman is drowned in a sack, that is all. She is placed in a sack--
gagged, of course, so as to be unable to scream--and in the dead of
night she is rowed out into the sea, which silently opens its waves
in order to receive the silent victim. I have witnessed this
romantic spectacle three times in Constantinople, and it always
filled me with delight. It is so noiseless, so simple, and yet so
significant! It is true we have no sea here, but we have the Danube,
and there is room in it for many faithless women. Beware, therefore,
Victoria! But now a truce to business and politics. Now, my demon,
unfold your angel wings, and let me pass an hour with you in
paradise. Will you do me the honor, Countess Colloredo in spe, to
take supper with me here?"
"Here?" said Victoria, looking around wonderingly. "Where is the
"You will see it directly."
Thugut stooped and vigorously pressed a golden knob, fixed in the
floor, close to the sofa. Immediately a creaking and rattling noise
was heard; the floor opened, and a large aperture became visible.
After a few minutes a table, covered with the most luxurious dishes
and sparkling wines, and glittering with silver and crystal, slowly
and majestically arose.
"Splendid!" shouted Victoria, dancing like a fairy around the magic
table--" splendid! The prince of darkness commands, hell opens, and
by the fire, over which the souls of the wicked are roasting, the
most savory dishes have been prepared for Satan! But first swear to
me, my friend, that this pheasant is filled with truffles, and not
with human souls."
"My dear Victoria," replied Thugut, laughing, "human souls have only
too often the same fate as truffles--hogs discover them! Come, I
drink this glass of sherbet to the health of the Countess Colloredo
The congress of Rastadt had been in session for nearly two years.
For nearly two years the German ambassadors had been quarrelling
with France about the ancient boundaries of the empire, and had been
quarrelling among each other about a few strips of land, a few
privileges which one state demanded, while another would not grant.
It was a sorrowful and humiliating spectacle this congress of
Rastadt presented to the world, and all Germany was looking on with
feelings of pain and shame, while France pointed at it with scornful
laughter, and exclaimed:
"It is not France that destroys and dissolves Germany, but Germany
is annihilating herself. She is dissolving away, owing to her own
weakness, and the dissensions of her rulers will kill her!"
Yes, indeed, Germany bore the germ of death and dissolution in her
sick, lacerated breast, and the first symptoms of putrefaction
already made their appearance. These first symptoms were the envy,
jealousy, and hatred the rulers of Germany felt toward each other,
and the malicious joy with which one saw another die, without
pitying his torments, and only mindful of the fact that he would be
the dying state's heir.
The first section of Germany which succumbed under these
circumstances, embraced the bishoprics and ecclesiastical states.
They exhibited most of all the corruption and putrefaction of German
affairs. Hence, such German states as expected to be benefited by
their dissolution, voted for secularization, while such as were
threatened with losses voted against it. A new apple of discord had
been thrown into the German empire; the last spark of German unity
was gone, and two hostile parties, bitterly menacing each other,
were formed. Austria loudly raised her voice against the
secularization of the ecclesiastical possessions, because she could
derive no benefit from it; while Prussia declared in favor of
secularization, because she believed she would be able to aggrandize
her territory in consequence; and the secondary princes demanded the
dissolution of the bishoprics even more urgently than Prussia,
because they knew that a portion of those dominions would fall to
their own share.
Covetousness caused the German princes to overlook all other
interests, and to act contrary to all correct principles;
covetousness caused them first to shake the decaying ancient German
empire; covetousness caused them to destroy the old political
organization of the country, and German hands were the first to tear
down the edifice of the imperial constitution.
The German ambassadors at Rastadt forgot, therefore, the original
object of their mission; they had come thither to secure the
continued existence of the German empire, and to protect Germany
from the encroachments of France, and now they were threatening the
German empire themselves. They had come thither to establish the
boundaries of Germany, and now they were attacking the boundaries of
the single sections and states of the empire themselves.
No wonder that France sought to profit by these dissensions of the
Germans among each other; no wonder that she thought she might seize
a piece of Germany, too, seeing, as she did, that the German states
were quarrelling among themselves about the division of the spoils.
France, therefore, advanced her troops farther on the right bank of
the Rhine, and claimed the fortresses of Kehl, Ehrenbreitstein, and
This fresh and unparalleled exaction silenced the domestic quarrels
among the Germans for a moment, and all voices united to protest
loudly and solemnly against the new demand of the French Republic.
But the French replied to the solemn protests of the German
ambassadors at Rastadt by cold sneers and violent threats.
Ehrenbreitstein not being surrendered to them after the first
summons, they blockaded the fortress, levied contributions on the
right bank of the Rhine, and declared the possessions of the
nobility to be forfeited to the French Republic. [Footnote: Vide
Hausser's "History of Germany." vol. ii., p. 201.] The German
ambassadors at Rastadt complaining of these oppressive proceedings,
the French declared, "the magnanimity of the French had exceeded all
expectations. They were able to take every thing, and they had
contented themselves with very little."
The congress had met at Rastadt in order to conclude peace, but so
far the negotiations had produced nothing but exasperation and a
strong probability of ultimate war. The arrogance and scornful
bearing of France became every day more intolerable, and the desire
of Austria became proportionately more evident to punish France for
her insolence, and to take revenge for the numerous and galling
insults she had heaped upon Germany. Prussia hesitated to join
Austria, and to declare in favor of open hostilities against France;
she deemed such a war injurious to her particular interests, and
desired to maintain peace; the secondary German states, however,
allowed themselves to be intimidated by the threats of France to
devour all of them, and they were quite willing to expose Germany to
further humiliations, provided that their own petty existence should
not be endangered.
The work of pacification, therefore, made no progress whatever, but
only became a disgrace to Germany, and the congress of Rastadt was
nothing but a symptom of the disease of which Germany was soon to
perish. Germany seemed destined to die, like an aged and decrepit
man, of her own weakness and exhaustion.
This weakness was every day on the increase. In January, 1799,
Ehrenbreitstein succumbed, and the French occupied the fortress.
Still the peace commissioners remained in session at Rastadt, and
continued their negotiations with the French, who just now had again
perfidiously violated the treaties, and appropriated German
If the German ambassadors, perhaps, were lost to all sense of honor
and of their disgraceful position, the representatives of France
were fully conscious of their dignity. They treated the ambassadors
of Germany in the most scornful manner; they dared haughtily and
arrogantly to meddle with the domestic affairs of Germany; they
constantly trumped up new claims in the most overbearing attitude,
and in their habitual imperious tone, and the representatives of the
German empire scarcely dared to refuse their exactions even in the
most timid manner.
Only one of the three French ambassadors, for the last few weeks,
had been less supercilious than his colleagues; he had participated
less than formerly in the affairs of the German congress, and while
Roberjot and Jean Debry were raising their arrogant and haughty
voices in every session of congress, Bonnier kept aloof. He even
held no further intercourse with his own countrymen; and his tall
and imposing figure, with the proud and gloomy countenance, was seen
no longer every night as heretofore in the drawing-rooms of the
wives of Roberjot and Debry. He kept aloof from society as he kept
aloof from the congress, and the French ladies smilingly whispered
to each other that something strange, something unheard of, had
happened to the austere republican. To the man who heretofore had
proudly resisted the blandishments of beautiful women, they said he
had fallen in love with that wondrously lovely and strange lady who
had been at Rastadt for the last few weeks, but who was living in
such seclusion that the public had only occasionally got a sight of
her. No one knew who this strange lady was. and what she wanted at
Rastadt; she had paid visits to no one, and left her card nowhere.
She had arrived only attended by a footman and a lady's maid; but in
advance, a brilliant suite of rooms and a box at the theatre had
been retained for her. In this box every night the beautiful strange
lady was seen closely veiled, and the gloomy pale face of Bonnier
had been repeatedly beheld by her side.
Victoria de Poutet, therefore, had accomplished her purpose; she had
tamed one of the French bears, and surrounded him with the magic
nets of her beauty. She was the mysterious strange lady whose
appearance had created so great a sensation in the drawing-rooms of
Rastadt for the last few weeks; she was the lady whom Bonnier was
following as though he were her shadow.
She had come to him as a refugee, as a persecuted woman, with tears
in her eyes. She had told him a tragic story of Thugut's tyranny and
wanton lust. Because she had refused to submit to the voluptuous
desires of the Austrian minister, he had sworn to ruin her, and his
love had turned into furious hatred. She further stated the minister
had threatened her with the confiscation of her property, with
imprisonment, death, and disgrace, and she had only succeeded by her
courage and cunning in saving herself and in escaping from Austria.
Now she came to Bonnier to invoke the protection and assistance of
generous France, and to flee from the rude violence of a German
minister to the chivalrous aegis of the French Republic.
How beautiful she was in her tears, with the mournful smile on her
swelling lips! But how much more beautiful when a deep blush mantled
her cheeks, and when her large dark eyes were sparkling in the glow
of revenge and anger!
For Victoria de Poutet did not only want protection--she also sought
revenge--revenge on that tyrant Thugut, who had dared to threaten
her innocence and virtue, and to assail her honor and happiness. She
was not only persecuted--she was also insulted, and she wished to
chastise the Austrian minister for these insults. Bonnier was to
lend her his assistance for this purpose. He was to procure means
for her to overthrow Thugut.
How eloquently and enthusiastically did she speak to Bonnier about
her misfortunes, her anger, and her thirst of revenge! How much
truthfulness there was depicted in her face--what a demoniacal ardor
in her eyes; how much energy in her whole bearing, so indicative of
bold determination and of an indomitable spirit!
Bonnier gazed at her in wondering delight, in timid awe. He who had
hated women because they were so weak, so peevish, and
insignificant, now saw before him a woman with the energy of a
hatred such as he had scarcely known himself, with the enthusiasm of
a revengefulness that shrank back from no dangers and no obstacles.
Under this delicate, ethereal female form there was concealed the
spirit and firm will of a man; bold thoughts were written on her
forehead, and an enchanting smile was playing on her full lips.
While Bonnier was listening to the dithyrambics of her hatred and
revenge, love glided into his own heart; she had fascinated him by
her revengeful hymns as others fascinate by their love-songs.
Victoria was conscious of her triumph; her eagle eye had watched
every motion, every step of this innocent lamb she was going to
strangle; she had seen him fall into the glittering nets she had
spread out for him; she knew that he was a captive in her meshes
without being aware of it himself.
Her bearing now underwent a change; she was no longer merely a woman
thirsting for revenge, but also a tender, loving woman; she was no
longer merely filled with hatred, but she also seemed susceptible of
gentler emotions; she lowered her eyes before Bonnier's ardent
glances and blushed. To his timid and faltering protestations of
love she replied by subdued sighs, and by a dreamy smile; and when
Bonnier at length dared to approach her with a bold confession of
his passion--when he was on his knees before her, all aglow with
love and enthusiasm, Victoria bent over him with a sweet smile, and
whispered: "Give me the papers that are to ruin Thugut; surrender
that vile man to my revenge, and my love, my life are yours!"
Bonnier looked up to her with a triumphant smile. "You are mine,
then, Victoria," he said, "for you shall have those papers! I
surrender that infamous and treacherous man to your revenge!"
She stretched out her hands toward him with a cry of boundless joy.
"Give me the papers," she exclaimed; "give them to me, and I will
thank you as only love is able to thank!"
Bonnier looked a long while at her, and his face, usually so gloomy,
was now radiant with happiness and delight.
"To-morrow, my charming fairy," he said, "to-morrow you shall have
the papers which are to open hell to your enemy, and heaven to your
enraptured friend. But you must give me also a proof of your
confidence and love; you must come to me and call in person for the
papers. I give you the highest proof of my love by delivering to you
documents that do not belong to me, but to the republic. Then give
me likewise the highest proof of your love. Come to me!"
She cast a long and glowing glance on him. "I shall come!" she
And Victoria kept her word. Early on the following morning a
closely-veiled lady was seen to glide into the castle of Rastadt,
where the three French ambassadors were living at that time. Bonnier
received her in person at the foot of the wide staircase, and gave
her his arm in order to conduct her to the rooms occupied by
himself. They exchanged not a word with each other, but walked
silently through the sumptuous apartments and finally entered
"We are at the goal--here I bid you welcome, my fairy queen!"
exclaimed Bonnier. "Remove now these odious veils. Let me now at
length see your beautiful features!"
He violently tore off her black veils, and Victoria suffered it
smilingly, and looked at him with a wondrous air of joy and
"Are you content now?" she asked, in her superb, sonorous voice.
"Has the proud lord of creation now prepared a new and satisfactory
triumph for himself? The poor slave whom he loves must come to him
and beg him for love and happiness!"
She had crossed her hands on her breast, and half kneeling down
before Bonnier, she looked up to him with a fascinating mixture of
archness and passion.
Bonnier lifted her up and wanted to imprint a kiss upon her lips,
but she violently pushed him back.
"No," she said, "let us be sensible as long as we can. First we must
attend to our business."
"Business!" exclaimed Bonnier. "What have we to do with business?
Leave business to the diplomatists and their clerks. Why should lips
so charming and beautiful pronounce this cold and dismal word?"
"If I spoke of business, I meant revenge," said Victoria, fervently.
"Give me the papers, Bonnier--the papers that are to ruin Thugut!"
Bonnier took her head between his hands and looked at her with
"Then you hate him still? You still desire to take revenge on him?"
"Yes, I hate him!" she exclaimed, "and the happiest day of my life
will be the one on which I see him hurled down from his proud
eminence, and sneaking alone, miserable, and despised into
"One might, indeed, really believe that she is in earnest, and that
truth alone could utter such words," muttered Bonnier, who
constantly held her head in his hands, and thus gazed at her. "Swear
to me, Victoria, swear to me by what is most sacred to you, that you
hate Thugut, and that you desire to ruin him!"
"I swear it by what is most sacred to me," she said, solemnly; "I
swear it by your love!" "That is the best and most unequivocal oath,
and I will believe you," said Bonnier, laughing.
"Then you will now give me those papers?" she asked.
"Yes," he said, bluntly, "I will give them to you. Come, my angel,
you are right? let us first speak of business matters. There, sit
down here at my desk. Oh, henceforth this spot will be sacred to me,
for your heavenly person has consecrated it. Let me sit down here by
your side, and thus we will lay our dispatches before each other,
like two good and conscientious diplomatists. Look here! this
portfolio contains your revenge and your satisfaction. This
portfolio contains the papers proving that Thugut has received large
sums of money from Russia and England for the purpose of instigating
the Emperor of Austria against France, and that his pretended
patriotic indignation is after all nothing but the paid role of a
comedian. I have abstracted this portfolio from the archives of our
embassy. Do you understand me, Victoria? I have stolen it for you!"
"Let me see the papers!" exclaimed Victoria, trembling with
Bonnier opened the portfolio and drew a paper from it. But on
looking at it, a dark cloud passed over his face, and he shook his
"What a miserable fool I was to make such a mistake!" he ejaculated
angrily. "I have taken the wrong portfolio. This one does not
contain the papers you are looking for."
"That is," said Victoria, with cutting coldness--"that is, you have
intentionally deceived me. You decoyed me hither under false
pretences. You told me a story about important papers that were in
your possession, and with which you were to intrust me for the
purpose of gratifying my revenge. And now when I come to you, nobly
trusting your chivalrous word, now it turns out that you have
deceived me, and that those important papers do not exist at all."
"Ah, believe me there are papers here perhaps even more important
than the documents you are looking for," said Bonnier, shrugging his
shoulders. "Believe me, Baron Thugut would give many thousands if he
could get hold of the papers contained in this portfolio. They are,
perhaps, even more important than those other documents."
A flash burst forth from Victoria's eyes, and the angry air
disappeared at once from her features. She turned to Bonnier with a
"What sort of papers are those?" she asked.
"Papers that do not interest you, my charming fairy," he said,
smilingly; "for what have love and revenge to do with the
negotiations of diplomacy? This portfolio contains only diplomatic
documents, only the secret correspondence between ourselves and the
Prussian government, and the negotiations concerning an alliance
between France and Prussia--that is all. They do not interest you,
my beautiful Victoria, but Thugut would gladly purchase these papers
for those which you are so anxious to obtain."
Victoria's eyes were fixed on the portfolio with a glowing
expression, and her hand was involuntarily approaching it. Bonnier
saw it, and a peculiar smile overspread his gloomy face for a
"Happy for me," he said, "that I discovered my mistake before giving
you the portfolio. The loss of these papers would have compromised
me irretrievably. But you are silent, Victoria--you do not utter a
word. Then you do not yet believe in the truthfulness of my words? I
swear to you, my fascinating sorceress, it was a mere mistake--I
only seized the wrong portfolio."
"Do not swear, but convince me," said Victoria. "Go and fetch the
"And I should leave you here all alone so long?" he asked, tenderly.
"I should be such a prodigal as to squander these precious minutes
during which I am permitted to be by your side!"
Victoria rose and looked at him with flaming, imperious eyes.
"Fetch the papers," she shouted, "or I leave you this very moment,
and you shall never see me again!"
"That is a word by which you would drive me even into the jaws of
hell!" said Bonnier, ardently. "Wait for me here, Victoria--I am
going for the papers."
He greeted her with a rapid nod, and placing the portfolio under his
arm, he hastily walked to the door. Here he turned around toward her
and his eyes met hers steadfastly fixed upon him. He kissed his hand
to her, and while doing so, the portfolio softly glided from under
his arm and fell upon the floor. Bonnier took no notice of it; his
whole attention was riveted on the beautiful lady. But she saw it,
and her eyes sparkled with delight.
"Return as soon as possible," she said, with an enchanting smile,
and Bonnier left the room. She anxiously looked after him until the
door had closed, and then she listened to the sound of his
footsteps. Now the latter were no longer audible, and every thing
about her was silent.
Victoria did not stir; she only swept with her large eyes
searchingly over the whole room; she fixed them upon every curtain,
upon every piece of furniture. But nothing was there to arouse her
suspicions; a profound stillness reigned around her.
Now she rose slowly from her seat and made a few steps forward. The
rustling of her heavy silk dress alone interrupted the silence.
She paused again and listened, and her eyes fixed themselves
longingly upon the portfolio lying at the door. Why were not her
eyes endowed with the power of a loadstone? Why were they not able
to attract the portfolio to her?
The portfolio lay there quietly and immovably; Victoria vainly
stretched out her hands toward it--she was unable to reach it.
Once more she impetuously glanced round the room; then she bounded
forward like a lioness rushing toward her prey.
She grasped the portfolio and raised it with a triumphant smile. Her
small hands quickly plunged into it and drew forth the papers. There
were but a few letters, and besides several closely written pages.
Victoria did not take time to look at them; she rapidly pushed the
papers into the pocket of her dress, and arranged the folds of the
latter so as to conceal the contents of her pocket. She then closed
the portfolio and replaced it on the floor, precisely on the spot
where Bonnier had dropped it.
Her purpose was accomplished! How her face was glowing with delight!
How deep a blush was burning on her cheeks! How her eyes were
sparkling with diabolic exultation!
With light, inaudible steps she now crossed the room again, and
resumed her seat at the desk. And it was fortunate that she had done
so, for steps were approaching in the adjoining room; the door
opened, and Bonnier entered.
Bonnier paused for a moment on the threshold, fixing his eyes on
Victoria, who greeted him with a sweet, fascinating smile. But the
smile disappeared from her lips when she beheld the threatening
angry glance with which he was staring at her, and the air of gloomy
indignation depicted on his countenance. She might be mistaken,
however, and perhaps it was merely the anguish of her conscience
which made her tremble.
"And you bring me the papers, my beloved friend?" asked Victoria,
with an air of fascinating kindness.
"Yes," said Bonnier, still remaining on the threshold, "I bring you
the papers. But just look what a fool love has made of me! For your
sake, I forgot the portfolio with those other papers, and dropped it
on the floor there. Do you now perceive your power over me? For I
believe I told you that the loss of those papers would ruin me
"Yes, you told me so," said Victoria, smiling.
"And yet I forgot them here!" exclaimed Bonnier, stooping to pick
them up. But Victoria immediately rose and hastened to him.
"To punish you for your carelessness, you shall now leave the
portfolio on the floor," she said, smiling; "nor shall you think of
it again as long as I am with you. Tell me, will that be too hard
She bent her beautiful face over him, and with flaming glances
looked deeply into his eyes.
Bonnier dropped the portfolio again and smiled.
"It may lie there," he said; "it has performed its part anyhow. And
now, I suppose, we will talk again about our business?"
"Yes, we will," replied Victoria. "Give me the papers."
"No, madame; no one gives up such important papers without
witnesses," said Bonnier. "Permit me therefore to call my
He hastily turned to the door and pushed it open.
"Come in, gentlemen!" he shouted, and his two colleagues, Roberjot
and Debry, immediately appeared on the threshold. Without greeting
Victoria, merely eyeing her with cold, contemptuous glances, the two
gentlemen entered and walked directly to the desk. Bonnier locked
the door and put the key into his pocket.
Victoria saw it, and a slight pallor overspread her rosy face for a
"Will you tell me, sir, what all this means?" she asked, in a
"You will learn it directly," said Bonnier. "Please sit down again
in your arm-chair, for we are going to resume our diplomatic
negotiations. You, gentlemen, take seats on both sides of the lady;
I shall sit down opposite her, and at the slightest motion she
makes, either to jump out of the window there, or to interrupt us by
an exclamation, I shall shoot her as sure as my name is Bonnier!"
He drew a pistol from his bosom and cocked it. "I command you to be
silent and not to interrupt us," he said, turning to Victoria. "The
pistol is loaded, and, unless you respect my orders, I will most
certainly inflict upon you the punishment you have deserved; I shall
take your life like that of any other spy who has been caught in a
He dropped his right hand with the pistol on the table, and then
turned to the two gentlemen, who had listened to him in gloomy
"Yes, my friends," he said, throwing back his head in order to shake
away his long black hair, surrounding his face like a mane--"now, my
friends, I beg you to listen to my justification. You have latterly
believed me to be a fool, a prodigal son of the republic, who, for
the sake of a miserable love-affair with a flirt, neglected the most
sacred interests of his country. You shall see and acknowledge now
that, while I seemed to be lost, I was only working for the welfare
and glory of our great republic, and that this woman with her
beautiful mask did not make me forget for a single moment my duties
to my country. These papers contain my justification--these papers,
madame, with which you hoped to revenge yourself. Pardon me, my
fairy queen, I have made another mistake, and again brought a wrong
portfolio; these are not the documents either which you would like
to obtain. Perhaps they are after all in the portfolio lying on the
He looked at Victoria with a scornful smile; she fixed her large
eyes steadfastly upon him; not a muscle of her face was twitching--
not the slightest anxiety or fear was depicted on her features.
Bonnier opened the portfolio and drew the papers from it.
"I shall only briefly state to you the contents of those papers," he
said, "you may afterward peruse them at leisure. This first paper is
a letter I received by a courier from Vienna, without knowing who
sent it to me. The letter only contains the following words:"
"'Be on your guard. A very dangerous spy will be sent to you--a lady
who is the most intimate friend of a distinguished statesman.
Receive her well, and let no one see these lines. It will promote
the welfare of France.'"
"As a matter of course, I said nothing about it, not even to you, my
friends; I was silent, and waited for further developments. Two days
later I received this second paper. It was a note from a lady, who
wrote to me that she had just arrived at Rastadt, and was very
anxious to see me, but under the seal of the most profound secrecy.
I followed the invitation, and repaired to the designated house. I
found there this lady, who introduced herself to me as Madame
Victoria de Poutet; and if you now look at her you will comprehend
why that refined half-Turk Thugut, as well as the mad rake Count
Lehrbach, are both in love with her, for she is more beautiful than
the loveliest odalisque and the most fascinating Phryne!"
The three men fixed their eyes upon Victoria, and ogled her with an
impudent leer. Victoria sat erect and immovable, and even her eye-
lashes did not move; she apparently did not see the glances fixed
upon her; nor even heard what Bonnier had said about her, for her
countenance remained calm and almost smiling.
Bonnier continued: "The lady told me a very pretty little story, the
particulars of which I shall not relate to you. In short, Thugut had
attacked her innocence and her honor--her innocence and her honor,
do not forget that!--and she wanted to revenge herself upon him. She
asked me to lend her my assistance for this purpose. I feigned to
believe every thing she told me, and promised to protect her."
"This third paper here I found on my desk on returning home from my
visit to the lady. A stranger had delivered it. It was written by
the same man who had addressed the first letter to me. It read as
follows: 'A romance is to be played with you; let them proceed
without interfering with their doings. The fascination of beauty is
very powerful, and the lady is going to fascinate you, for the
purpose of obtaining important papers from you. Pretend to be
fascinated, and you will penetrate the intrigue.'"
"The advice was good, and I followed it. I feigned to be fascinated;
I played the enthusiastic lover of this lady; and although I
doubtless acted my part in a very clumsy manner, she was kind enough
to believe me; for she is well aware that no one is able to
withstand the power of her beauty. But in order to perform my ROLE
in a really truthful manner, not only Madame de Poutet, but also all
Rastadt, had to be convinced of my ardent love for her, for Victoria
is very shrewd; Thugut has educated a worthy pupil in her. Hence I
had to wear the mask of my love everywhere, even before you, my
friends. I had to make up my mind to pass for a fool until I was
able to prove to you that I was a man of sense; I had to wear MY
mask until I was able to tear this woman's mask from her face. Oh, I
assure you, it is not an easy task to be this lady's lover! She
demands a great deal of courting, a great deal of ardor, a great
deal of passion; she has got very warm blood herself, and, if I am
not mistaken, she is a great-granddaughter of that beautiful Roman
Now, for the first time, a slight tremor pervaded Victoria's frame,
and a deep blush suffused her cheeks. But this lasted only a moment,
and then she sat again quite erect and immovable.
"In spite of the difficulty of your task, you have played your part
in a masterly manner," said Jean Debry, in a rude and stern voice.
"All of us believed you were in love, and this modern Messalina
certainly did not doubt it, either."
"No, she did not doubt it," said Bonnier, with a disdainful smile.
"She surrounded herself with spies, who had to watch me, but
fortunately I knew them, and did not betray myself."
"How did you know them?" asked Roberjot.
"My unknown correspondent pointed them out to me. He had given up
his incognito, and came to me, satisfying me of his identity by
writing a few lines, which proved him to be the author of the two
previous letters. He offered for a brilliant compensation to assist
me in unravelling the intrigue, and I promised him five thousand
francs. He was one of our most astute and skilful spies, and he
wanted this affair to be his masterpiece, in order to obtain from me
a recommendation to General Bonaparte, who has just returned from
Egypt. I shall give him to-day the promised sum and the
recommendation, for he has honestly earned both, and faithfully
assisted me in unmasking this woman. [Footnote: This spy was the
famous Schulmeister, afterward Bonaparte's most adroit and intrepid
spy. He boasted of the role he had played at Kastadt, and which had
brought him double pay; first from Count Lehrbach, whom he had
informed that there were important papers in the hands of the
French, and then from the French ambassadors, whom he had cautioned
against Count Lehrbach, and given the advice to burn their papers
and to be on their guard.] I received every morning a written report
from him about every thing Madame Poutet had done during the
previous day. All these reports are in this portfolio, and you will
examine them, my friends. You will see from them that Madame
Victoria, who had come to me in order to revenge herself upon
Thugut, nevertheless kept up a good understanding with his most
intimate friend, Count Lehrbach, for every night, as soon as I had
left Victoria, the noble count repaired to her house and spent
several hours with her, although Victoria had assured me Count
Lehrbach did not even suspect her presence at Rastadt. However,
there was a possibility that my spy was deceiving me just as well as
he had deceived Madame de Poutet. In order to ascertain that, I
informed Victoria one evening that a courier would set out for Paris
in the morning, and forward to the Directory papers of the highest
importance, concerning an alliance with Russia. We sent a courier to
Paris in the morning, but not far from Rastadt he was arrested by
Austrian hussars, robbed of his papers, and taken to the
headquarters of the Austrian Colonel Barbaczy, at Gernsbach,
although our courier was provided with a French passport and an
official badge, enabling him fully to prove that he was in our
service." [Footnote: Historical.]
"This was an unheard-of violation of international law, for which we
have vainly sought redress," said Jean Debry, gloomily.
"These German cowards are not even courageous enough to acknowledge
their own acts. They deny having robbed our courier, but they cannot
deny having imprisoned him, contrary to international law."
"Just as little as Victoria can deny that she was the person who had
informed Lehrbach and Barbaczy of the courier's departure," said
Bonnier; "for, fifteen minutes before setting out, the courier
himself did not know any thing about his mission; and the
dispatches, of course, were of the most harmless description. But my
pretty lady-bird there had gone into the trap I had set for her, and
I kept her in it without her knowing any thing about it. She was
quite unsuspecting, and, thanks to my talents as a comedian, and to
my love, I finally found out the real purpose of her visit to
Rastadt. Yesterday I promised her to deliver to her to-day the
papers that endanger Thugut's position at the head of the Austrian
government, and prove him to be a hireling of England. In the
evening Count Lehrbach sent a courier to Vienna; then we retaliated,
caused the courier to be arrested and took his papers from him. He
had, however, only a small note, addressed to Minister Thugut. Here
it is. It contains only the following words:"
'I shall get the papers to-morrow.'
"But these words were written by the beautiful hand of the same lady
who latterly had penned so many tender love-letters to myself. I had
promised her those papers if she would call for them to-day, and you
see, my friends, that she has come. But I desired to know if this
really was the only object for which Baron Thugut had sent his most
beautiful and sagacious agent to Rastadt, or if there were not some
secondary objects at the bottom of this mission. I therefore
resolved to ascertain this to-day. My astute spy had told me that
Madame de Poutet was also anxious to get hold of some other
important papers. I therefore feigned to-day to have abstracted the
wrong papers and to have brought here a portfolio containing our
correspondence with the Prussian minister and documents in relation
to an alliance between France and Prussia. I told my fair friend
that the loss of these papers would ruin me irretrievably, and yet I
was such a love-sick fool as to drop the portfolio with the papers
while engaged in tenderly kissing my hand to my dulcinea. Look,
gentlemen, the portfolio is yet lying on the floor, but the papers
are no longer in it. They are carefully concealed in Madame
Victoria's pocket. Oh, it was a very pretty scene, when she stole
them. I watched her through a small hole which I had bored through
the door this morning, and through which I could plainly see every
motion of my beautiful Victoria. Yes, my beautiful Victoria stole
the papers, although she knew that this loss would seriously
embarrass me. However, my friends, it will be unnecessary for the
republic to punish me for this theft Madame de Poutet has committed,
for the papers she has got in her pocket are nothing but the
faithful diary of my daily intercourse with Victoria de Poutet. I
have carefully noted in it every conversation I had with her, and
every favor she granted to me, and I have no objection whatever to
this diary being transmitted to Minister Thugut. If he is not
jealous, he will not complain of it. And now I am through with my
justification, and I ask you, did I not act as a good and faithful
son of the republic should? Have I done my duty? Will the country be
content with me?"
"Yes," said Roberjot, solemnly, "you have acted as a good and
faithful son of the republic. You have intrepidly followed the enemy
who had approached you on secret paths, into his hiding-places, and
you have skilfully exposed the perfidious intrigues he had carried
on against France. You have done your duty."
"Yes, the republic will thank you for your zeal," exclaimed Jean
Debry; "you have run great risks for her sake. For a beautiful,
voluptuous, and intriguing woman is even more dangerous than a
venomous serpent. Like St. Anthony, you have withstood the temptress
by praying to our holy mother, the great French Republic! Yes, the
country will be content with you."
"I thank you, my friends," said Bonnier, with a happy smile; "I now
stand again before you with a clear conscience, and without a blush
of shame on my cheeks. You have accepted my atonement. As for this
woman, we will inflict no further punishment on her. She was only a
tool in Thugut's hands; that was all. This hour has punished her
sufficiently, and our profound contempt shall be the only penalty
she will take away with her."
"Yes, our profound contempt shall be the penalty she will take with
her," exclaimed Roberjot and Jean Debry at the same time.
"There is nothing more disgraceful under the sun than a woman who
sells her charms," said Roberjot.
"There is nothing more dreadful and dishonorable than an ambitious
and heartless wanton!" added Jean Debry, in a voice of profound
"Victoria de Poutet," said Bonnier, throwing the pistol aside,
"every thing between us was a comedy, even this pistol, the
pretended bullet of which frightened and silenced you. It was not
loaded. The comedy is now at an end, and there remains nothing for
yon but to go to your stage-manager and to tell him that you utterly
failed in performing your part. You may go now; nothing further
detains you here."
"I beg your pardon," said Victoria, in a perfectly calm and sonorous
voice; "you forget that you put the key of the door into your
pocket; go, therefore, and unlock it."
She pointed at the door with an imperious gesture, and Bonnier went
to unlock it. Victoria, remaining still erect and calm in her arm-
chair, looked at him while he was doing so, and only when Bonnier
had opened the door and returned to the table, she rose slowly from
Now she stood there, drawing herself up to her full height, her face
glowing with indignation, a deep blush mantling her cheeks, a
disdainful smile playing on the slightly parted lips, the expansive
white forehead deeply wrinkled, as cold as marble, and yet
concealing under this marble surface a torrent of molten lava,
which, as soon as it should burst forth, could not but produce death
and destruction. Hers was now a diabolic beauty, and when she turned
her eyes toward the three republicans, they glistened like dagger-
"I have to make but a brief reply to M. Bonnier's long speech," she
said, proudly and calmly. "This is my answer: I shall obtain those
papers in spite of you, and I shall revenge myself for this hour! To
your last high-sounding sentences, I answer by another sentence:
there is nothing more dangerous than an irritated and insulted
woman, for she will revenge herself and imbrue her hands in the
blood of those who have insulted her. Roberjot, Bonnier, and Debry,
you have insulted me, and I tell you I shall revenge myself. Before
three times three days have passed, you will have atoned with your
blood for this hour, and may God have mercy on your poor souls!"
She greeted all of them with a haughty nod, and slowly turning
around, she proudly crossed the room. The three men looked at her
with pale and gloomy faces, and a slight shudder pervaded for a
moment the hearts of the republicans, usually so bold and undaunted.
"She looked like an evil demon predicting our future!" murmured
"She will fulfil her word; she will try to assassinate us," said
Bonnier. "Did you not see it? Her eyes were moist; no tears were
glistening in them, however, only the venom she will discharge at
us. Let us be on our guard!"
"Yes, let us beware of the serpent's venom!" exclaimed Jean Debry,
with gloomy energy--"let us beware, and most of all, let us be men
who cannot be intimidated by the furious threats of a woman."
But Jean Debry knew neither the energy nor the power of this woman
whose threats he despised. He did not know that, her anger once
aroused, she would not rest until she had taken her revenge. Late in
the evening of that day, when all Rastadt was sleeping, Victoria
received in her house her two powerful assistants, Count Lehrbach
and Colonel Barbaczy, the latter having been invited by a mounted
messenger to come to her from Gernsbach.
A long and portentous conference these three persons held in the
course of that night, during which they consulted about the best way
to punish the French ambassadors, and to take from them the papers
which Thugut wished to obtain. "We must have those papers at any
price" exclaimed Victoria, with flashing eyes.
"Oh, it will only cost a little blood!" shouted Count Lehrbach, in a
hollow voice, and laughing hoarsely. "These overbearing French have
trampled us under foot for two long years, and tormented us by
pricking us with pins. Now we will also trample them under foot and
prick them, and if our pins are longer than theirs, who will
"Thugut wants those papers, and he has forgiven us in advance if
they should be a little blood-stained," said Victoria, looking up
smilingly to old Colonel Barbaczy, who, with his hands folded on his
back, his large shaggy eyebrows gloomily contracted, was slowly
pacing the room.
"Barbaczy! Barbaczy!" he muttered, in a low voice, "what will the
world say of your old head?" [Footnote: Barbaczy's own words.--Vide
"Uteransoher Lodiacus." Edited by Theod. Mundt, 1835. Third number,
"The world will not grudge these hot-blooded French a little blood-
letting, and it will praise your surgical skill, my dear Barbaczy,"
exclaimed Lehrbach, laughing. "The responsibility, besides, does not
fall on your shoulders. Who will blame you if your hot-blooded
hussars commit some excesses-some highway robberies? You do not
order them to assassinate anybody; you only order them to take the
papers from the ambassadors, and only to use force if it cannot be
"I shall send fifty hussars to the city to-morrow," said Barbaczy,
thoughtfully. "They shall encamp in front of the Ettlinger Gate, so
that no one, whosoever it may be, will be able to cross the bridges
connecting the city with the suburbs without passing through their
Victoria approached him, and laying her hands on his shoulders, she
looked up to him with a fascinating smile.
"And you will send some of your most intrepid hussars to Lehrbach
and to me, that we may tell the brave men what rewards are in store
for them if they perform their duly in a satisfactory manner? No, my
beautiful god of war, do not shake your silvery locks BO wildly--do
not threaten me with your frowning brow! Think of Gurgewo, my
friend! Do you remember what you swore to me at that time in the
trenches when I dressed with my own hands the wound for which you
were indebted to a Turkish sabre? Do you remember that you swore to
me at that time you would reciprocate my service as soon as it was
in your power?" "I know it, and I am ready to fulfil my oath," said
Barbaczy, heaving a sigh.
"Well, my friend, all I ask is this: send to-morrow six of your
bravest and wildest hussars to my house, and order them faithfully
to carry out what Count Lehrbach and I shall tell them."
"The hussars shall halt at your door to-morrow morning at nine
o'clock," said Barbaczy, resolutely.
"And I will admit them!" exclaimed Victoria, smiling. "You will be
here, Count Lehrbach, I suppose?"
"I shall be here in order to listen to the wise lessons which the
goddess Victoria will teach the sons of Mars," replied Lehrbach,
fixing his small, squinting eyes with an admiring air on Victoria's
beautiful face. "You will need no other means but your smiles and
your beauty in order to inspire those brave soldiers with the most
dauntless heroism. Who would not be willing to shed a little French
blood, if your lips should promise him a reward?"
"And what reward are you going to promise to the soldier?" asked
Barbaczy, turning to Madame de Poutet. "What are you going to ask
them to do?"
"Only to seize all the papers of the ambassadors," said Victoria.
"And to examine their bodies if any papers should be concealed
there," added Count Lehrbach, laughing.
"And their reward shall be that the hussars will be allowed to look
for some other spoils," said Victoria.
"Highway robbery and murder, then," sighed Barbaczy, "and
perpetrated by soldiers of my regiment! Highway robbery and murder!"
"Fie, what ugly words those are! and who thinks of murder?"
exclaimed Victoria. "Did we Germans die, then, of the numerous kicks
and blows which the French have given us for the last few years? We
will only return those kicks and blows, and the French will
assuredly not be so thin-skinned as to die of them on the spot."
"Do as you please," sighed Barbaczy. "Count Lehrbach has the right
to issue orders to myself and to my troops, and I owe you the
fulfilment of my oath. My hussars will occupy the city to-morrow,
and I shall order the French ambassadors to depart forthwith. What
is to be done after their departure you may settle with the hussars
I shall send to you. I shall take no notice of it."
"And that is a very wise resolution of yours, colonel," said
Lehrbach. "'To know too much gives us the headache,' says our
gracious emperor, whenever he returns the dispatches to Baron Thugut
without having read them. Send us, then, your hussars to-morrow, and
whatever may happen, colonel, we shall not betray each other."
"No, we shall not betray each other!" repeated Victoria and
Barbaczy, with uplifted hands.
"To-morrow, then!" said Victoria. "Now, good-night, gentlemen!"
Early on the next day a strange and exciting report pervaded the
city of Rastadt. Austrian regiments were encamped all round the
city, and Sczekler hussars held all the gates. This was the report
which filled with astonishment and terror all those who were not
initiated into the secrets of the political situation, and who were
not familiar with the condition of the negotiations between France
and Germany. For, by surrounding the city with troops, in spite of
the presence of the French ambassadors, Austria openly violated the
treaty stipulating that, until the congress had adjourned sine die,
neither German nor French troops should approach the city within a
circuit of three German miles.
It was reported, too--what the ambassadors as yet remaining in
Rastadt had carefully concealed up to this time--that the imperial
ambassador, Count Metternich, had quietly left the city several days
before, and that the peace commissioners of the empire had the day
previous suspended their official functions.
Congress had then dissolved; the peace commissioners of France and
Germany had been in session for two years without accomplishing
their task, and the situation looked as ominous and warlike as ever.
Every one resolved to depart; every trunk was being packed, every
carriage drawn forth from its shed. The French actors and ballet-
dancers had fled from Rastadt several weeks before at the first rude
blast of the approaching storm, like rats leaving a sinking ship.
The sounds of joy and mirth had died away, and everywhere only grave
and gloomy words were heard, only sorrowful and downcast faces met.
Every one, as we stated above, was preparing to set out, and the
French ambassadors, too, were going to leave Rastadt to-day, the
twenty-eighth of April. Their carriages were ready for them early in
the morning in the courtyard of the castle, when, all at once, some
footmen of the embassy, with pale, frightened faces, rushed into the
castle and reported that Austrian hussars were posted at the gates
and refused to allow any one to leave or enter the city. Even the
commander of Rastadt, an officer of the Duke of Baden, had not been
permitted by the hussars to ride out of the gate. He had been
compelled to return to his headquarters. [Footnote: Historical.--
Vide "Geheime Geschichte der Rastatter Friedensverhandlungen in
Verbinduog mit den Staatshandeln dieser Zeit." Von einem Schweizer,
"But we will not allow them to prevent us from leaving Rastadt,"
said Roberjot, resolutely. "They will not dare to interfere with the
departure of the representatives of the French Republic!"
"The republic would take bloody revenge for such an outrage, and
these Germans are afraid of the anger of the republic!" exclaimed
Jean Debry, haughtily.
Bonnier violently shook his black mane, and a gloomy cloud settled
on his brow.
"Barbaczy's hussars are encamped in front of the gates, and Victoria
de Poutet last night had another interview with Lehrbach and
Barbaczy," he said. "If, like both of you, I had a wife and children
with me, I should not dare to depart without further guaranties."
At this moment the door opened, and a footman handed Roberjot a
letter that had just arrived from the Prussian ambassador, Count
Roberjot opened the letter and glanced over it. "The guaranties you
referred to, Bonnier, will soon be here," he said, smiling. "It
seems the German ambassadors are sharing your apprehensions. They
have drawn up a joint letter to Colonel Barbaczy, requiring him to
give them a written pledge that there would be no interference with
the free departure of the French ambassadors, and that the safety of
the latter would not be endangered. Count Goertz, therefore,
requests us not to set out until a written reply has been made to
the letter of the ambassadors. Shall we delay our departure until
"We will," said Bonnier; "you will not derogate from your republican
dignity by consulting the safety of your wives and children. I may
say that, inasmuch as I have to take care of no one but myself, and
as I know that no care would be of any avail in my case."
"What do you mean, my friend?" asked Jean Debry.
"I mean that I shall die to-day," said Bonnier, solemnly.
Roberjot turned pale. "Hush," he whispered; "let us say nothing
about this matter to the women. My wife had a bad dream last night;
she saw me weltering in my gore and covered with wounds, and she
asserts that her dreams are always fulfilled."
"Roberjot, Bonnier, and Debry, may God have mercy on your poor
souls!" muttered Bonnier, in a low voice.
"I do not believe in dreams!" said Jean Debry, with a loud, forced
laugh, "and besides, my wife has had no bad dream whatever, and not
been warned by fate. Come, let us go to our ladies who are already
clad in their travelling-dresses. Let us tell them that we shall,
perhaps, be compelled to wait a few hours."
But several hours elapsed, and the messenger the German ambassadors
had sent to Colonel Barbaczy's headquarters did not return. Nearly
all of the German ambassadors made their appearance at the castle in
order to express to the representatives of the French republic their
astonishment and profound indignation at this disrespectful delay,
and to implore them not to set out until the message had arrived.
The French ambassadors themselves were undecided and gloomy; their
ladies were pacing the rooms with sad faces and tearful eyes. Every
one was in the most painful and anxious state of mind. The whole day
passed in this manner, and night set in when finally the messenger
whom the ambassadors had sent to Colonel Barbaczy, returned to
Rastadt. But he did not bring the expected written reply of the
colonel. In its place, an Austrian officer of hussars made his
appearance; he repaired to the Prussian Count Goertz, at whose house
the other ambassadors were assembled, and brought him a verbal reply
from Count Barbaczy. The colonel excused himself for not sending a
written answer, stating that a pressure of business prevented him
from so doing. He at the same time assured the count and the
ambassadors that the French ministers could safely depart, and that
he would give them twenty-four hours for this purpose. [Footnote:
Vide Dohm, nach seinem Wollen und Handeln, von Cronau, p. 600.]
The officer brought, however, an autograph letter from Barbaczy to
the French ministers, and he repaired to the castle in order to
deliver it to them.
This letter from Barbaczy contained the following lines:
"Ministers: You will understand that no French citizens can be
tolerated within the positions occupied by the Austrian forces. You
will not be surprised, therefore, that I am obliged to request you,
ministers, to leave Rastadt within twenty-four hours."
"Gernsbach, April 28, 1799." [Footnote: Dohm preserved a copy of
"Well, what are we to do?" asked Roberjot, when the officer had left
"We will set out," said Jean Debry, impetuously.
"Yes, we will set out," exclaimed his beautiful young wife,
encircling him with her arms. "The air here, it seems to me, smells
of blood and murder; and every minute's delay redoubles our danger."
"Poor wife, did they infect you, too, already with their evil
forebodings and dreams?" said Jean Debry, tenderly pressing his wife
to his heart. "God forbid that they should endanger a single hair of
your dear, beautiful head! I am not afraid for myself, but for the
sake of my wife and of my two little daughters. For you and for our
friends here I would like to choose the best and most prudent
"Let us set out," said Madame Roberjot; "the terrible dream last
night was intended to give us warning. Death threatens us if we
remain here any longer. Oh, my husband, I love nothing on earth but
you alone; you are my love and my happiness! I would die of a broken
heart if I should lose you! But no, no, not lose! We live and die
together. He who kills you must also take my life!"
"They shall not kill us, my beloved," said Roberjot, feelingly;
"life, I trust, has many joys yet in store for us, and we will
return to our country in order to seek them there. Bonnier, you
alone are silent. Do not you believe also that we ought to set out
Bonnier started up from his gloomy reverie. "Let us set out," he
said, "we must boldly confront the terrors from which we cannot
escape. Let us set out."
"Be it so!" shouted Roberjot and Jean Debry. "The republic will
protect her faithful sons!"
"And may God protect us in His infinite mercy," exclaimed Madame
Roberjot, falling on her knees.