Part 10 out of 13
leisure to devote to the war department, and to devise some means
for gratifying the national love of glory, without driving my French
nobles to foreign courts for distinction.--Come, madame," added the
king, to the marquise, who, all this time, had been standing with
eyes cast down; the very personification of humility.--"Let us
proceed to Versailles; for this ungainly window has taken away my
breath. I must have change of scene for the remainder of the day."
As they took their seat in the coach, the marquise whispered: "Oh,
sire! how overwhelming, yet how noble, is your anger! I should die
under it, were it directed toward me; and, in spite of all Louvois'
ill-will toward me, I pitied him so sincerely that I could scarcely
restrain my impulse to intercede for him."
"You are an angel," was the stereotyped reply.
Meanwhile, the court were preparing to follow the royal equipage.
Louvois stood by, but not one of the nobles seemed aware of his
presence; he was out of favor, and thereby invisible to courtly
On the afternoon of the same day the minister of war, with brow
serene and countenance unruffled, entered the council-chamber of the
king. He had found a remedy for his annoyances at Trianon, and he
pretended not to see the marquise, who, as usual, sat embroidering
in the deep embrasure of a window, almost concealed from view by its
"Sire," said Louvois, "I come before your majesty with proposals of
great moment, and I await with much anxiety your decision."
"Let us hear your proposals," said the king, languidly. "Have more
couriers arrived with news of Austrian successes?"
"No, sire, we have had enough of Austrian victories, and I am of
opinion that the emperor must receive his check from the powerful
hand of France. It is time that your majesty interposed to change
The king was startled out of his indifference. He raised his head to
listen, while the marquise dropped her work, and applied her ear to
the opening in the curtains.
"Your majesty has acted toward this arrogant Austrian with a
forbearance that is more than human. Well I know that your humane
aversion to bloodshed has been in part the cause of your
unparalleled magnanimity; but you have been thwarted in your choice
of an Elector of Cologne; your claims to Alsatia and Lorraine have
been set aside; the dower of her royal highness the Duchess of
Orleans has been refused you; and patience under so many affronts
has ceased to be a virtue. The honor of France must be sustained,
and we must evoke, as a last resort, the demon of war."
"Gracious Heaven!" said the marquise, behind her curtain, "if he
rouses the king's ambition, I shall occupy but a secondary position
at the court of France, and he will be more influential than ever!
Louis has already forgotten me, else he would call me to his side
before he decides so weighty a matter."
The marquise was shrewd, and did not err in her speculations: Louis
had indeed forgotten her presence. His heart was full of
covetousness and resentment at the opposition of that presuming
Leopold, who penetrated his designs upon the Rhenish provinces of
the empire, and he thirsted for vengeance.
"Yes," replied he, "I have given an example of forbearance which
must have astonished all Europe. I would have been glad to settle
our differences in a Christian-like manner; but Leopold is deaf to
all reason and justice--"
At this moment the king's voice was rendered inaudible by a loud
cough which proceeded from the window wherein the marquise had
retired from observation.
"My dear Francoise," exclaimed Louis, "come and take your part in
this important council of war."
The hangings were parted, and out she stepped; slightly
acknowledging the salute of the minister, she passed him by, and
took an arm-chair at the side of the king.
"You have heard us discussing, have you not?" asked Louis.
"Yes, sire," sighed she, "I have heard every thing."
"Then you understand that it concerns my honor to make war upon
The marquise turned her flashing eyes upon the one that held this
royal honor in his keeping. "Sire," said she, "I am slow of
comprehension; for it has just occurred to me that your majesty's
criticism upon a window at Trianon is to be productive of results
most disastrous to the French nation."
"This criticism concerns nobody but Mansard," observed Louvois,
carelessly. "I am no longer superintendent of the royal edifices."
"I do not understand you, madame," interposed the king. "What has a
window at Trianon to do with the affairs of the nation? Pray let us
be serious, and come to a determination."
"Sire," asked the marquise, "is not this matter already determined?"
The king kissed her hand. "It is--and your inquiry is a new proof of
your penetration. How truly you sympathize with my emotions! How
clearly you read the pages of my heart! Yes, dear marquise, war is
"Then our days of happiness are at an end," returned she, sadly;
"and your majesty's heart will descend from the contemplation of
heavenly things, to thoughts of strife and cruel bloodshed."
"The war is a holy one," interrupted Louvois, "and God Himself holds
a monarch responsible for the honor of his people."
"Well spoken, Louvois," replied the king, approvingly. "The cause is
just, and the Lord of hosts will battle for us. You, marquise, will
be our intercessor with Heaven."
"But your majesty will not be nigh to pray with me," said the
marquise, in regretful tones.
The king made no reply to this affectionate challenge; he continued
to speak with Louvois, enjoining upon him to hasten his
"Sire, my plans are laid," replied Louvois.
"Already!" cried Louis, joyfully.
"Already!" echoed De Maintenon, affrighted.
"Sire," continued Louvois, "as soon as your majesty has approved my
plan, the couriers, who are waiting without, will transfer your
royal commands to the army. It is my design to march at once upon
the Rhenish provinces, and to take possession of the Palatinate."
"Good! but will our army be strong enough to fight the emperor and
the Germanic confederation at once?"
"Sire, the emperor shall have occupation elsewhere, and the princes
of the empire must be terrified into submission."
"But how, now?"
"Both ends may be reached by one stroke. The Rhenish provinces,
Alsatia, and the Palatinate, must be transformed into a waste. We
must wage against Germany a war of destruction, whose fearful
consequences will be felt there for a century to come."
"Oh, sire," exclaimed De Maintenon, "such a war is contrary to the
laws of God and man! Shall France, the most refined country on the
globe, set to civilized Europe an example of barbarity only to be
equalled by the atrocities of the Huns and Vandals?"
"My dear marquise," cried Louis, fretfully, "do be silent.--Go on,
Louvois, and let me hear your plans."
"Sire, they are very simple. We have only to march on the German
towns, sack and burn them, and put to the sword all those that
presume to defy the power of France. We must spread consternation
throughout all Germany, that your majesty's name may cause every
cheek to pale, and every heart to sink with fear. The enemy shall
provision our army, and forage our horses. We will take possession
of their magazines, stores, and shambles; and to every house that
refuses us gold, we will apply the devouring torch. Thus we will
make it impossible for the emperor to advance to Lorraine; and the
wide desert that intervenes between us will become French
"I approve your mode of warfare, Louvois; it is good. If the emperor
had ratified my choice of an Elector of Cologne, and had sustained
my claims to Lorraine and Alsatia, I would have conceded him as many
triumphs as he chose in Transylvania. As he opposes me, let him take
the consequence--war with all its horrors!"
"Your majesty empowers me, then, to dispatch my couriers?" said
"I do, my dear marquis," was the gracious reply, while the royal
hand was held out to be kissed.
Louvois pressed it to his lips, as a lover does the rosy fingers of
his mistress, and, hastening away with the agility of a young man,
sprang into his carriage, and drove off. "'My dear marquis,'"
murmured he, with a smile of complacency. "He called me his dear
marquis, and the storm of his displeasure has passed away. I came
very near being struck by its lightning, nevertheless. That De
Maintenon is a shrewd woman, and found me out at once. Yes!--yes,
your majesty! Had you admired my window at Trianon, I should not
have been obliged to involve you in a war with Germany."
THE IMPERIAL DIET AT REGENSBURG.
In 1687 the imperial Diet assembled at Regensburg, to examine the
claims of the King of France to Alsatia, Lorraine, the Palatinate,
and other possessions, which his majesty longed to appropriate out
of the domains of his neighbors.
On the 2d of October, 1689, a travelling-carriage might have been
seen standing in front of the large, antiquated building occupied by
Count Spaur, the envoy of the Emperor Leopold.
The postilion sounded his horn, and cracked his whip with such
vehemence, that here and there an inquiring and angry face might be
seen at the neighboring windows, peering out upon the untimely
intruders, who were making dawn hideous by their clattering arrival.
The footman sprang from his board, and thundered with all his might
at the door, while, between each interval of knocking, the postilion
accompanied him by a fanfare that stirred up the sleeping echoes of
that dull old town in a manner that was astonishing to hear.
Finally, their zeal was rewarded by the appearance of a man's head
at the window on the ground floor, and the sound of his voice
inquiring who it was that was making all this uproar.
"Who we are?" echoed the footman. "We are individuals entitled to
make an uproar, and shall continue to make it until we obtain
admission to the presence of Count Spaur for his excellency Count
von Crenneville, who comes on important business from his imperial
majesty the emperor."
This pompous announcement had the desired effect; it awed the porter
into civility, and he hastened to inform the footman of his
excellency, that Count Spaur being in bed, he would inform the
valet, and have the Austrian ambassador apprised of the visit of
Count von Crenneville.
"Open your door before you go, and admit his excellency into the
house," cried the footman, imperiously.
"I dare not," replied the porter, shaking his head. "I am not at
liberty to admit anybody, until I have orders to do so from the
valet of Count Spaur."
"Not admit the emperor's envoy?" exclaimed the indignant lackey.
"That is an affront to his excellency."
"I do not know the person of his excellency," persisted the porter,
"and how do I know but some petty ducal envoy may not be playing a
trick on me, and so obtain fraudulent entrance to the house of the
"You presume to apply such language to Count von Crenneville!" cried
the footman, "I shall--"
"Peace, Caspar!" said a voice from the carriage; "the honest fellow
is quite right, and deserves no blame for his prudence.
Nevertheless, as we are no impostors, hasten, my good friend, to the
valet, and let me have entrance, for I am very tired."
At this moment the porter was put aside, and a man in rich livery
"Count Spaur has risen, and will be happy to receive his excellency
Count von Crenneville," said he. At these magical words the heavy
doors were opened, and the envoy sprang lightly from his carriage,
and entered the house. At the head of the staircase he was met by
Count Spaur, who apologized for being compelled to receive his guest
in a dressing-gown.
"It would not be the first time that I have seen you in a
deshabille, my dear comrade," replied Von Crenneville, "for you
cannot have forgotten the old days when we were quartered together
in Hungary. As I presume you have not breakfasted, I will take the
liberty of inviting myself to breakfast, for I am hungry and
exhausted by travelling all night."
Count Spaur offered his arm, and conducted his guest to the dining-
room, where breakfast was about to be served.
Count von Crenneville threw aside his military cloak, unfastened a
few buttons of his uniform, and took his seat at the table.
"I am delighted to see you," said Count Spaur, handing a cup of
chocolate. "Your arrival is a delicious interruption to the stupid
life I had in Regensburg."
When they had breakfasted, Count Spaur led the way to his cabinet,
and the conference began by Count von Crenneville handing a packet
to his friend from the emperor.
The latter received it with a profound inclination, and carefully
cutting it, so as to avoid breaking the seal, he opened it, and
prepared to make himself master of its contents.
He shook his head dolefully. "His majesty asks impossibilities of
me," sighed he. "Do you know what this letter contains?"
"Be so kind as to read it to me."
So Count Spaur began: "My dear Count,--It is time this imperial Diet
end their petty quarrels, and go seriously to work; for these are no
days wherein important interests may be neglected for the sake of
etiquette. Announce to the Diet that I require of them to be
serious, and to come to the assistance of their fatherland. Count
von Crenneville, who will deliver this to you, is empowered to
declare the same to the assembled representatives of the Germanic
(Signed) "LEOPOLD, Emperor."
"It seems to me that the demand is a reasonable one," remarked Count
"But impossible of compliance. Do you know how long the Diet has
been sitting at Regensburg?"
"Two years, I believe."
"Well: do you know what they have been doing for these two years?"
"No, count; it is precisely to learn this that his majesty has sent
me here," said Von Crenneville.
"I will tell you then. They have been profoundly engaged in settling
questions of diplomatic etiquette. You may laugh, if you like; but
for one that has been obliged to hear it all, it is wearisome beyond
expression. The first trouble arose from the etiquette of visiting.
As imperial envoy, I received the first visit from them all, I
returned my calls, and so far all was well. But when the other
envoys were to visit among themselves, the dissensions began. Each
man wrote to his sovereign, and each sovereign upheld his man;
couriers came and went, and for a time Regensburg was alive with
arrivals and departures."
"And meanwhile the King of France was allowed to build his bridges
across the Rhine," observed Count von Crenneville.
"My dear friend, the King of France might have dethroned the
emperor, meanwhile, without a protest. Nothing under heaven could be
attended to, while this visiting question was on the tapis."
"Is it decided?"
"After three months of daily conferences, during which I exhausted
more statesmanship than would overturn an empire, it was decided
that the envoys of the princes would call on the envoys of the
electors, provided the latter would come half way down the staircase
to meet the former."
"God be thanked! They could then proceed to business!"
Count Spaur replied by a melancholy shake of the head.
"You are not aware that, before the Diet assemble, a banquet is
given, at which all are expected to be present. You are furthermore
not cognizant of the fact that every concomitant of this banquet has
been made a subject of strife, from the day on which the visiting
question was arranged, until the present time."
"My dear count, I pity you."
"You may well do so. The electoral envoys claimed the right of using
gold knives and forks, while they exacted that the ducal
representatives should be content with silver. These latter resented
the indignity, and of course the banquet had to be postponed."
"This is pitiful indeed; but go on."
"Then came the question of the color of the arm-chairs around the
table. The electoral envoys claimed the right of having their seats
covered in red; and contended that the others were obliged by
etiquette to cover theirs with green. The others would not accept
the green, and so arose the third point of discussion. The fourth
disagreement was about the carpets. The electorals would have the
four legs of their chairs on the carpet (which is narrow), and the
others should have but the FORE-legs of theirs. The fifth regarded
the May-boughs. On May-day, the electorate exacted that the
superintendent of public festivities should put six boughs over
their front doors, while the others must content themselves with
five. Now, my dear count, you are made acquainted with the subjects
of discussion which for two years have detained the imperial Diet in
Regensburg; which have imbittered my days, and made sleepless my
nights; which have nigh lost the cause of German nationality, and
have made us the laughing-stock of all Europe."
"My friend, I sympathize with you.--But are these five questions not
"No, they are not. The ducal envoys indignantly refused to yield to
the pretensions of their colleagues, and no banquet could be given.
After much exertion on my part to bring about an understanding, the
banquet was set aside, and a compromise was effected. ALL the arm-
chairs were covered with green--this was a concession to the ducal
envoys; while they, on their part, consented that the hind-legs of
their chairs should rest on the bare floor!" [Footnote: Putter,
"Historical Notes on the Constitution of the German Empire."]
"What a victory! I congratulate you from my heart; for I would much
rather have charged a regiment of Janizaries."
"And at least have earned some glory thereby," returned Spaur,
grimly. "But the only reward I shall ever reap will be the
unpleasant notoriety I shall have acquired as a member of this
"My dear friend, be under no uneasiness as to that. The King of
France has crossed our frontiers, and you are about to throw aside
diplomacy and take up the sword. This is the message with which the
emperor has charged me, both to yourself and to the imperial Diet."
"I am happy to tell you that to-day the Diet opens its sitting.
Hark! the bells are ringing! This announces to Regensburg that the
envoys are about to proceed to the hall of conference. Excuse me
while I retire to change my dress."
"I will betake myself to the nearest hotel to follow your example,"
replied Von Crenneville.
"By no means. Your room is prepared, and I will conduct you thither
at once, if you wish."
Fifteen or twenty minutes elapsed, when the two imperial envoys met
again, and drove, in the state-carriage of Count Spaur, to the hall
of conference. The other envoys were all assembled, and, scattered
in groups, seemed to be earnestly engaged in discussing some weighty
Count Spaur remarked this, and whispered to his colleague: "I am
afraid there is trouble brewing; the electoral envoys are all on one
side of the hall--the ducal on the other."
"The electorals are those with the red cloaks--are they not?"
"Yes, they are; and I fear that these red cloaks signify war."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean war with--but, pardon me, I see that they are waiting for me
to open the council."
With an inclination of the head, Count Spaur passed down the hall,
and took his seat under the red canopy appropriated to the imperial
ambassador. A deep silence reigned throughout the assembly, broken
by the sweet chime of the bells that still continued to convey far
and wide the intelligence of the opening of the conference.
Count Spaur took off his Spanish hat, and, bowing right and left,
addressed the envoys:
"My lords ambassadors of the electors, princes, and imperial cities
of the German empire, in the name of his majesty Leopold I greet
you, and announce that the imperial Diet is opened. Long live the
"Long live the emperor!" echoed the ambassadors.
"The Diet is opened," resumed he, "and I have the honor to introduce
an envoy of his imperial majesty, who has this day arrived from
At this, Count von Crenneville advanced, and the master of
ceremonies placed an arm-chair for him under the canopy, at the side
of Count Spaur.
At a signal from the latter, the other envoys took their seats, and
Count von Crenneville addressed the assembly:
"My lords ambassadors of the electors, princes, and imperial cities
of the German empire, his majesty greets you all. But he is deeply
wounded at the indifference manifested by the Diet to the dearest
interests of Germany, and he implores you, as you value your
nationality and liberty, to lay aside your petty dissensions, and to
unite with him in defence of your fatherland. The King of France has
marched his armies into Germany--and disunion to Germans is defeat
This prelude appeared to cause considerable emotion. There was
visible agitation throughout the assembly.
Count von Crenneville felt encouraged, and was about to continue his
appeal, when one of the electorals started from his seat and spoke:
"I beg pardon of the imperial envoy; but I must ask permission of
the imperial representative-resident to make a personal remark."
"The permission is granted," replied Count Spaur, solemnly.
The envoy then continued, in loud and agitated tones: "I must, then,
call the attention of this august assembly to a flagrant violation
of the compact agreed between the first and second class of these
ambassadors, by the latter. They have advanced their arm-chairs
until the four legs of the same are now resting upon the carpet."
"We merely advanced our seats, to hear what his excellency had to
say," remarked the envoy from Bremen.
"Nevertheless," replied Count Spaur, "I must request these gentlemen
to recede. The understanding was, that their chairs were to rest
partly on the carpet, partly on the floor."
Back went all the chairs, but their occupants looked daggers at the
envoy from Mentz.
Count von Crenneville then resumed the broken thread of his
discourse: "I earnestly request the assembly to come to a decision
this very day. The country is in imminent danger, and can only be
saved by unanimity and promptitude of action."
Here he was interrupted by the envoy from Bremen, who rose and
begged to be allowed to make his personal remark.
Count Spaur gave the required permission, and Bremen began to
protest against Mentz & Co.
"I beg to remark, that the electoral envoys have spread out their
red cloaks over the backs of the chairs, in such a way as to conceal
the green covering entirely from view."
"It is exceedingly warm in the hall," replied electoral Cologne; "we
were compelled to throw off our cloaks."
"Why, then, did the electoral envoys wear their cloaks?" was the
inquiry of the other side.
"Because we had a right to wear them hither, and violate no compact
by throwing them over our chairs."
"But the electoral envoys had no right to use them as upholstery,"
objected Bremen, in tragic tones. "They have now the appearance of
being seated on red arm-chairs."
"So much the better," replied Cologne. "If accident has re-
established our rights of precedence, nobody has any business to
complain." [Footnote: Historical. See Putter.]
This declaration was received with a burst of indignation, and the
princely envoys rose simultaneously from their seats. A noisy and
angry debate ensued, at the conclusion of which the offended party
declared that they would rest every leg of their chairs upon the
carpet; and, as if at the word of command, every man dragged his
arm-chair most unequivocally forward, and surveyed the enemy with
There was now a commotion on the side of the electorals, in the
midst of which Count Spaur, in perfect despair, cried out at the top
of his voice:
"In the name of the emperor, I demand, on both sides, the literal
fulfilment of your conditions. The electoral ambassadors must
withdraw their red cloaks from the backs of their chairs, and throw
them over the arms, and the other envoys must draw back their chairs
until the hind-legs thereof are on the floor."
"My lords," added Count von Crenneville, "I demand also, in the name
of the emperor, that all personalities be cast aside, and that we
give our hearts to our country's cause. France is upon us. She knows
how disunited are the princes of Germany, and their discord is her
sheet-anchor. She knows that you are unprepared to meet her, and the
emperor, being at present too far to come to your rescue, she will
attack you before you have time to defend yourselves. Is it possible
that you have sunk all patriotism in contemptible jealousies of one
another? I cannot believe it! Away with petty rivalry and family
dissensions: clasp hands and make ready to defend our fatherland!"
At this moment there was a knock at the main entrance of the hall,
and two masters of ceremonies appeared.
"I announce to the imperial commissaries, and the envoys of the
German empire here assembled, that a messenger, with important
tidings, requests admission to this illustrious company."
"Whence comes he?" asked Count Spaur.
"He announces himself as Count de Crecy. ambassador extraordinary of
the King of France to the imperial Diet."
This communication was received in profound silence. Dismay was
pictured on many a face, and every eye was turned upon the presiding
envoy, the representative of the emperor.
"I lay it before the imperial Diet," said he, at last, "whether the
French ambassador shall be allowed entrance into the hall during the
sitting of its members."
"Ay, ay, let him enter," was the reply--the first instance of
unanimity among the envoys since the day they had arrived at
Regensburg two years before!
The masters of ceremonies retired, and Count Spaur, putting on his
hat, said: "I declare this sitting suspended. My lords, cover your
The French ambassador, followed by a numerous retinue, now entered
the hall. He advanced to the canopy where the imperial envoys were
seated, and inclined his head. Not a word was spoken in return for
his salutation; and, after a short pause, he raised his voice, and
delivered his message:
"In the name of his most Christian majesty, Louis XIV., King of
France, I announce to the Diet of the German empire that he has
taken possession of Bonn, Kaiserswerth, and other strongholds of the
archbishopric of Cologne; that Mentz has opened her doors to his
victorious armies, and that war is declared between France and
Germany. The sword is drawn, nor shall it return to its scabbard
until the inheritance of the Duchess of Orleans is given up to
France, and the King of France is recognized as lord and sovereign
of Lorraine, Alsatia, and the Netherlands! War is declared!"
THE JUDITH OF ESSLINGEN.
It was a clear, bright morning in March. The snow had long since
melted from the mountain-tops, flowers had begun to peep out of the
earth's bosom, and the trees that, grew upon the heights around
Esslingen were decked with buds of tender green.
But the inhabitants of Esslingen had no pleasure in contemplating
those verdant hills; for the castle that crowned their summit was in
possession of the French. Within its walls the enemy were feasting
and drinking, while the owners of the soil, plundered of all they
possessed, had naught left to them on earth save the cold, bare
boards of their homes, wherein, a few weeks before, peace and plenty
On the 2d of March, 1689, the French reduced the castle of
Heidelberg to a heap of ashes, and for more than a century its bleak
ruins kept alive the hatred of Germany toward their relentless
God had permitted them to spread desolation over the land. He had
withdrawn His help from the innocent, and had suffered the wicked to
triumph. After plundering their houses of every necessary of life,
General Melac now required of them tribute in the shape of twenty
thousand florins. To raise one-fourth of the sum was an
impossibility in Esslingen; and the burghers of the town had gone in
a body to the castle to beg for mercy.
Two hours had elapsed since they had departed on their dangerous
mission, and the people, with throbbing hearts, awaited their
return. Up to this day, they had mourned and wept in the solitude of
their plundered homes; but in this hour of mortal suspense, they had
instinctively sought companionship; and now the market-place, in
whose centre was the ancient town-hall, was thronged with men,
women, and children, of every degree. Misfortune had levelled all
distinctions of rank, and the common danger had cemented thousands
of human beings into one stricken and terrified family.
They stood, their anxious looks fixed upon the winding path which
led to the castle, while all around at the open windows pale-faced
women hoped and feared by turns, as they saw light or shadow upon
the faces of the multitude below.
Just opposite the council-hall was a house of dark-gray stone, with
a bow-window and a richly-fretted gable. At the window stood two
persons; one a woman whose head was enveloped in a black veil which
set off the extreme paleness of her face, and fell in long folds
around her person. Near her stood a young girl similarly attired;
but, instead of the hair just tinged with gray, which lay in smooth
bands across the forehead of her companion, her golden curls,
stirred by the breeze, encircled her young head like a halo, and the
veil that fluttered lightly around her graceful person lay like a
misty cloud about a face as beautiful in color as it was in feature.
Spite of suffering and privation, the brow was smooth and fair, the
cheeks were tinged with rose, and the lips were scarlet as autumn
berries. She, like the rest, had endured hunger and cold; but youth
is warmed and nourished by Hope, and the tears that dim a maiden's
eyes are but dew-drops glittering upon a beautiful rose.
Her face was serious and anxious, but her large black eyes flashed
with expectation, and the parted lips showed that hope was stronger
than fear in her young heart. Marie was the only child of the chief
burgomaster of Esslingen, and the lady at her side was his honored
"Do you see nothing, my child?" said the mother. "Great God! this
suspense is worse than death! Your father expected to be back within
an hour, and more than two hours have gone by!"
The young girl strained her eyes, and looked up the castle-road,
which was just opposite the house. "Mother," said she, "I see
something dark issuing from the gates."
"Oh, look again! Is it they?"
"Yes; I think so, dear mother. I see them advancing: it must be
father and the deputies. Now I begin to distinguish one from the
other. There are one--two--three. Great God, mother! were there not
seven? I see but six!"
"Yes--seven. Your father, two burgomasters, and four senators. Are
you sure? Look--count once more."
"I see them distinctly now: there are six. They will be hidden
presently by the winding of the road; but I see them each one as he
"And there are but six! One of them is missing! Oh, merciful Father,
which of them can it be?"
"I see them no longer. Alas! they are too far for recognition, and
we must wait. Oh, mother, how my heart pains me!"
"Let us pray, my darling," returned the mother, clasping her
daughter's trembling hands.
"Dear mother, I cannot! I am too miserable to pray. If Caspar were
but here, I should feel less wretched."
"And yet, as a soldier of the imperial army, he is in less danger
than he would be, as a civilian of Esslingen. I thank Heaven, dear
Marie, that your betrothed is not here. At least he fights face to
face, with arms in hand; while we--oh, what weapon can avail against
midnight murder and incendiarism?"
"And yet," sighed Marie. "I would he were here to protect me!"
"He would not be allowed to protect you, for, had he seen the
familiarity of that despot yesterday, he would in all probability
have lost his life in your defence."
"I had not thought of that, I had only yearned for his protecting
arm. Yes, mother, he would have done some desperate deed had he seen
the blood-stained hand of that accursed Frenchman when it touched my
cheek, and heard his insolent tones as he asked whether its roses
were colored by nature or art. Oh, mother, what a misfortune for us
that we were on the street when he arrived!"
Mother and daughter now relapsed into silence, for the deputies,
their heads despondingly held down, were to be seen making their way
through the crowd. Frau Wengelin could not articulate the words she
longed to speak; hut Marie, clasping her hands in agony, cried out:
"He is not there! My father is missing!"
With one faint shriek, her mother fell senseless to the floor, while
Marie, darting out of the house, made her way through the throng to
the market-place, and overtook the deputies as they were ascending
the steps that led to the hall of council. Grasping the arm of the
first she encountered, she looked wildly into his eyes, while her
quivering lips vainly tried to murmur, "Where is my father?"
The old man understood those pleading looks, and answered them with
"Where is my father?" cried Marie, with the strength of her growing
agony; and, as the deputy was still silent, the multitude around
took up the young girl's words and shouted: "Where is her father?
Tell us where is the Burgomaster Wengelin?"
"Is he dead?" murmured Marie, her teeth chattering with fear.
"No, Marie," replied the senator, "he is not dead, hut if no help is
vouchsafed from above, he will die to-day, and we must all die with
The people broke into a long wail, and Marie fell upon her knees to
pray. She could frame no words wherewith to cry for mercy, but her
soul was with God; and for a few moments she was rapt in an ecstasy
that bore her far, far away from the weeping multitude around. She
was recalled from her pious transport by the voice of her uncle, one
of the deputies, who was addressing the people.
General Melac had mocked at their petition. They had humbled
themselves on their knees for the sake of their suffering fellow-
citizens, but the heartless Frenchman had laughed, and, laughing,
reiterated his command.
If before sunset the five hundred thousand francs were not
forthcoming, the French soldiery would be there with fire and sword.
The inhabitants should be exterminated, and Esslingen laid in ashes.
This horrible disclosure was received with another burst of woe,
except from the unfortunate Marie, who stood like a pale and rigid
Niobe--her grief too deep for tears or sighs.
When the tumult had somewhat subsided, the senator resumed his sad
recital. At sound of the Frenchman's cruel mandate, the Burgomaster
Wengelin had risen from his knees, and raising his head proudly, had
cried out: "Give us back that of which you have robbed us, and we
can pay you ten times the sum you ask. We were a peaceful and
prosperous community until your plundering hordes reduced us to
beggary. Be content with the booty you have already; and be not
twice a barbarian, first stealing our property, and then, like a
fiend, requiring us to reproduce and lay it at your feet."
The noble indignation of the burgomaster excited nothing but mirth
on the part of the Frenchman. He laughed.
"Well, it makes no great difference, after all. Your lives will do
quite as well as the ransom you cannot afford to pay for them. My
soldiery like fire and blood and pretty women almost as well as they
do gold, and I shall enjoy the spectacle from the castle-walls. As
for you, burgomaster, you have something that I covet for my own
use--your beautiful daughter."
"My daughter!" shrieked Wengelin, defiantly, "before she should be
delivered to you, monster! I would take her life as Virginius took
that of his well-beloved child!"
The general said not a word. For a time the two men eyed each other
like two enraged tigers; but General Melac wasted no time in vain
indignation. He signed to his guards, and ordered them to take away
the prisoner, and retain him as a hostage until sunset.
"When our well-beloved citizens of Esslingen shall hear the report
of the musketry that ends HIS life,--they will know that the signal
for pillage has been given. The execution will take place at
Then, addressing himself to the six remaining deputies: "Go," said
he, "and relate what you have seen and heard to your fellow-
citizens; and tell them that my Frenchmen are skilful both with
sabre and torch; they have been practising for several weeks past in
Heidelberg, Mannheim, and other German cities. Do not forget to
communicate all this to the fair daughter of the burgomaster."
This time there was no outburst of grief from the people; they felt
that all hope was vain, and they were nerving themselves for
martyrdom. Presently there was a sound of voices, and the fugitives
from Wurtemberg and the Palatinate were heard relating their
frightful experience of the warfare of a monarch who styled himself
"Most Christian King."
One of them mounted the steps of the council-hall, and described the
entrance of the French into his native town. The people were driven
with bayonets from their beds into the snow, children were tossed
into the flames; old men were butchered like cattle; maidens were
torn from the arms of their parents, and given over to the soldiery;
and the narrator, who had escaped, had been for days without food--
for weeks without covering or shelter!
As the man concluded this frightful picture of carnage, a voice from
among the crowd was heard in clear, loud, ringing tones:
"There is rescue at hand--we must make use of it!"
At the same moment, Marie felt a grasp upon her arm, and turning
beheld herself in the custody of a tall, pale man, who continued to
"She can rescue us! I saw the French general stroke her cheeks
yesterday, and look at her with eyes of love. Did he not demand her
of her father? And were his last words not a message to her? I hint
that she might ransom us if she would!"
"Ay, ay," responded one of the crowd. "Ay!" echoed another and
another; and now the chorus gathered strength, and swelled into a
shout that penetrated the walls of Esslingen Castle, and reached the
ears of Marie's unconscious father.
Marie covered her face with her hands, and sank upon her knees. "Oh,
Caspar!" was the unspoken thought of her affectionate soul.
"Friends!" exclaimed her uncle, "you are drunk with cowardly fright.
Know ye that ye ask of this maiden her own ruin for your lives--?"
"But if Melac's soldiery are set upon us," replied a young woman in
the throng; "we shall all he ruined--mothers, wives, and maidens.
And is it not better," continued she, raising her voice, and
addressing the mob, "is it not better that one woman should suffer
dishonor than a thousand?"
"Marie Wengelin will have her father's life to answer for, as well
as the lives of her fellow-citizens," cried another voice. "It is
her duty to sacrifice herself."
At this moment the loud, shrill tones of an affrighted voice were
heard calling out, "Marie! Marie! my child!" and the figure of Frau
Wengelin, with outstretched arms, was now seen at the window, whence
the mother and daughter had watched the return of the deputies.
Marie would have responded to that pathetic appeal, but as she rose
from her knees, and attempted to move, she was forced and held back
by the crowd. They were lost to all sense of humanity for the one
segregated being by whose immolation the safety of the aggregate
might be effected.
"Have pity! have pity!" cried the poor girl. "Do you not hear my
mother calling me? Think of your own children, and hinder me not, I
"We think of our children, and therefore you shall not go! You shall
sacrifice yourself for the suffering many!"
And they lifted her back to the peristyle, where she stood alone,
confronting the pitiless crowd that demanded her honor wherewith to
buy their lives. What was the fate of the daughter of Jephthah,
compared to that which threatened poor Marie of Esslingen?
Suddenly a cloud seemed to pass over the sky, and the faces of her
enemies were no longer distinct. Marie raise her arms wildly over
her head, and screamed, for too well she understood the shadow that
rested upon the market-place. The sun had sunk behind the heights of
Esslingen, and one half hour remained ere her father lost his life.
The crowd renewed their cries, entreaties, and threats. Some
appealed to her patriotism, some to her filial love, some called her
a murderess,--the meanest among the multitude attempted to terrify
her--as if any doom could equal the horror of the one they were
forcing upon an innocent, pure-hearted, and loving girl!
She raised her hand to obtain a hearing.
"You shall not perish if my prayers can save you! I will go to our
oppressor, and try to move his heart to pity."
She heard neither their shouts of joy nor their thanks. She was
hardly conscious of the blessings that were being poured on her
head, the kisses that were imprinted on her rigid, clammy hands. She
stood for a while, her teeth clinched, her eyes distended, her
figure dilated to its utmost; then suddenly she shivered, thrust
away the women that were clustering about her, and began her via
At the gate of the city she encountered the pastor that had baptized
and received her into the church. He had placed himself there that
he might pour what consolation he could into that bruised and
bleeding heart. The old man laid his hand upon her golden curls, and
she fell at his feet. The multitude that had followed their victim
simultaneously bent the knee and bowed their heads; for, although
they were too far to overhear his words, they knew that the pastor
was blessing her.
"As Abraham blessed Isaac, and as the Israelites blessed Judith, so
do I bless thee, thou deliverer of thy people! May God inspire thy
tongue, and so soften the heart of the tyrant, that he may hearken
to thy prayers, and, looking upon thy pure and virgin brow, he may
respect that honor which is dearer to woman than life. God bless
thee, Marie! God bless thee!" He bowed his head close to her ear.
"Marie you are a Christian. Swear to me that you will not stain your
hands with blood."
Marie's eyes flashed fire. "Did not the Israelite kill Holofernes?"
"Yes, my child; but Israel's heroine was called Judith, and ours
bears the blessed name of Mary! 'Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord;
I will repay.'"
Marie's eye was still unsubdued, and she looked more like Judith
than like Mary. The old pastor was agitated and alarmed.
"Marie, Marie, you are in the hands of God. Come weal, come wo, can
you not trust yourself to Him? See, the sun goes lower and lower;
but before I release your hand you must swear that it shall shed no
Alas! Yes--the sun was rapidly sinking, and she must hasten, or her
father's life would be lost. "I promise," said she, "and now,
father, pray--pray for--"
She could say no more; hut rising she went alone up the steps that
led to Esslingen Castle. The people, still on their knees, followed
her lithe figure till it was hidden for a time by the fir-trees that
grew along the heights; then, as she emerged again and appeared at
the hill-top, the multitude gave vent to their feelings in prayer.
Higher and higher she mounted, until they saw that she had reached
the gates, and disappeared.
Hours went by and darkness set in. It was a cold night in March; the
wind howled in fitful gusts along the streets, but the people could
not disperse. They sat shivering together in the market-place; for
how was it possible for sleep to visit their eyes, when every moment
might hurl destruction upon their heads. The old priest went from
one to another, encouraging the desponding, and comforting the
afflicted; praying with the mothers, and covering their shivering
children, who, stretched at the feet of their parents, or resting
within their arms, were the only ones there to whom sleep brought
oblivion of sorrow.
At last that fearful night of suspense went by. A rosy flush tinged
the eastern sky, it deepened to gold, and the sun rose. The people
raised a hymn of thanksgiving, and, as they were rising from their
devotions, the roll of a drum was heard, and a file of soldiers were
seen issuing from the castle-gates. They came nearer and nearer,
until they reached the city; but by the time they had neared the
market-place, not a human being was there to confront them: the
people had all fled to their houses.
They stopped before the residence of the burgomaster, and from an
opening made in the ranks there issued two persons; the one a man,
the other a woman. The latter was veiled, and her head rested
languidly upon the shoulders of her companion.
A group of French officers escorted them to the door, where they
took off their hats, and, bowing low, retired. The father and
daughter were lost to view, the drum beat anew, and the men, without
exchanging a word with the inhabitants, returned to their quarters
at Esslingen Castle.
The people were no sooner reassured as to the intentions of the
soldiers, than they poured in streams from their homes, and took
their way to the burgomaster's house. Congratulations were exchanged
between friends, parents embraced their children, husbands pressed
their wives to their bosoms; every heart overflowed with gratitude
to Marie, every voice was lifted in her praise.
But she! Scarcely enduring her mother's caresses, she had torn
herself from that mother's embrace, and, hastening away to the
solitude of her own room, had bolted herself within.
Two hours went by, and the house of the burgomaster could scarcely
contain the friends that flocked thither to welcome his daughter.
Without, a band of music was playing martial airs, while within,
halls, parlors, and staircases, were crowded with magistrates in
their robes of office, churchmen in their clerical gowns, and women
and maidens in gay and festive apparel.
A deputation of citizens now requested to be permitted to pay homage
to the heroine that had rescued her townsmen from death; and Frau
Wengelin ventured to knock at the door of her daughter's chamber.
She was so earnest in her pleadings, that at last the bolt was
withdrawn, and Marie, with bloodshot eyes, and mouth convulsed,
appeared upon the threshold.
"Come, my child," said the poor mother, "the citizens will not leave
the house until they have seen you." And compelling her forward,
Frau Wengelin, with some difficulty, brought her as far as the foot
of the staircase.
She was greeted with loud and repeated cheerings, which scarcely
appeared to reach her ear, while her eyes, fixed upon the throng
before her, seemed to ask what meant this turmoil.
Suddenly she heard her name whispered, and, with a fearful shriek,
she recoiled from the outstretched hand of a young man, who had just
rushed forward to clasp her in his arms.
"What ails my Marie on this festive day, where all is joy around?"
said he. "I have just this moment arrived, to say that help is nigh,
my countrymen," added he, addressing the crowd. "Our army is at
hand, and the French shall suffer for their deeds of violence in
Germany. But what means this large and gay assemblage? And who are
these?" asked he, as a group of young maidens came forward with a
crown of laurel, and some of the principal burgomasters, leading the
bewildered Marie to a throne decked with flowers, seated her on a
chair under its green and fragrant canopy.
No answer was made to his inquiry, for one of the deputies began an
address, in which Marie was hailed as the heroine that had rescued
her fellow-citizens from death, and her native place from
destruction. Her portrait was to grace the council-hall of
Esslingen, and such honors as it lay in the power of its magistrates
to confer, were to be hers forever.
At this moment Marie rose suddenly from her seat, gasped for breath,
and fell as suddenly back, for the first time lifting her face,
which, as she lay against the wall of flowers that concealed her
chair, was marble-white, and strangely convulsed.
Her mother started forward, and Caspar, catching her in his arms,
covered her face with kisses.
"What ails thee, my beloved? Oh, do not look so wildly at thy
Caspar! Marie, my own one, what is it?"
"It is over," murmured she, almost inaudibly.
"What is over?" cried the frightened mother, bending over her
child's writhing form.
"Life!" sighed the girl, and her eyes closed wearily.
The frightful stillness was unbroken by a sound. Frau Wengelin
suppressed her sobs, that she might gaze upon her dying child; while
her father stood by, the picture of dumb despair. Caspar held her to
his heart, dimly apprehending the fearful tragedy of the hour, and
the guests pressed noiselessly around, vainly striving to catch a
glimpse of their victim's face.
The crowd opened to allow passage to the priest, who, approaching
the throne, came and knelt beside Caspar.
"Marie," said he, in a loud, distinct voice, that reached the
portals of her soul, and aroused her departing senses.
Marie slowly opened her eyes, and gazed upon the speaker. "I have
kept my oath," said she, hoarsely. "No blood was shed, but I have
returned to die."
"Wherefore to die?" cried several voices at once.
"Ask my Caspar," murmured she, looking fondly into the face of her
betrothed, and, with her eyes fixed upon his, Marie's soul took its
flight to heaven.
THE ISLAND OF BLISS.
They were together in the little pavilion of the garden at
Schonbrunn. With clasped hands, and eyes that sparkled with
happiness, they sat in that sweet silence which to lovers is more
eloquent than words. The door that led to the park was open, and the
balmy breath of May wafted toward them the perfume of the flowers
and trees without.
The park, too, was undisturbed by a sound. The laborers had gone to
their mid-day meal, and the birds had hidden themselves away from
the sunbeams. The great heart of Nature was pulsating with a joy
like that of the lovers, too great for utterance. There was
something in the appearance of this youthful pair which would have
convinced a looker-on that there was a mystery of some sort
surrounding the romance of their love. For the one was in the garb
of a nun, her head concealed by a coif, and her person enveloped in
a long white veil; while the other was attired in a splendid Spanish
dress. Over it hung a heavy gold chain, to which was attached the
order of the Golden Fleece. His soft black hair lay on a forehead
white as snow, and made a pleasant contrast with a face which was
pale, not with sickness or suffering, but with that suppressed
sensibility which leaves the cheek colorless because its fires are
concentrated within the heart. No! It was not for sorrow that Eugene
of Savoy was pale; it was from excess of joy; for SHE was at his
side, and the world had nothing more to bestow!
So thought he, as, with caressing hand, he lifted her long veil from
her shoulders and threw it behind, in imitation of the drapery that
hangs around Raphael's Madonnas.
"Oh, how I love you, Sister Angelica!" murmured he; "and, in my
feverish visions, how often I have mistaken that white veil for the
snowy sail of a ship of which I used to dream in my delirium--a ship
that was bearing me onward to an island of bliss, where my Laura
stood with outstretched arms, and welcomed me home! But what were
imagination's brightest picturings to the reality of the deep joy
that flooded my being, when the veil was flung back, and my love
stood revealed! Oh, Laura--my life will be all too short to reward
you for your fidelity."
"You love me, Eugene, and therein is my unspeakable reward."
"And will you never leave me, dearest?"
She laid her small hand upon his head, smoothed his hair fondly, and
gazed passionately into his eyes. "You ask, as if you required an
answer," said she, in tones that were tremulous with love.
"I do require an answer, for I am continually fearing that this is a
blissful dream; and that some morn I shall awake to find thee flown,
and Angelica the nun all that is left of thee! When thou art absent
from my sight, I shiver with dread lest I should see thee never
She laughed, and oh, how musical was her laugh! "Is this the hero of
Belgrade, that talks of shivering with dread?"
"Yes; and when he thinks that he might lose you, he is no hero, but
a poor coward. And in truth, my Laura, I am tired of a soldier's
life--it is too exciting for my health; and I am tired of the world
and its frivolities, too. If you love me as I do you, you will be
happy in our mutual love, without other companionship than mine."
"Over castle-roof, and through the dangerous descent of that castle-
chimney, came I to meet you, Eugene; how then should I pine for
"When I think how mysterious was your escape, I dread lest you
should disappear from me as mysteriously. The very thought presses
on my brain like the first horrid symptoms of madness; then my body
begins to suffer, my wounds seem to open, and bleed anew. Laura,
prove to me your love by going with me into solitude. I am tired of
being a courtier, and have asked the emperor for my discharge."
"Did he grant it, Eugene?" asked she, fixing her large, penetrating
eyes upon his, with an earnestness that forbade him to avoid her
"He will grant it to-morrow. To-morrow for the last time, I go to
the imperial palace as a field-marshal; I shall return thence nobody
but Eugene of Savoy, your lover, who lives but to serve you, and
repay if he can all that he owes to your courageous and heroic
"The emperor has refused," replied Laura. "He gave you time for
reflection," added she, looking intently again into her lover's
"Perhaps he may have wished me to reflect," replied he, smiling, and
trying to endure her scrutiny, "But my resolve is not to be shaken.
I shall retire to the estate presented me by the emperor in Hungary,
there to live with my darling on an island of bliss, upheaved so far
above the tempestuous ocean of the world's vicissitudes, that no
lashing of its waves will ever reach our home. Will you go with me
into this island, where you shall not fear the world's censorious
comments on our reunion--where you may throw aside that false vestal
garb, and be my own untrammelled bride?"
Laura said nothing; a deep glow suffused her cheeks, and her eyes
filled with tears. Gliding from her seat to her knees, she took her
lover's hand and covered it with kisses.
"Laura!" exclaimed he, "what can this signify?"
Laura wept on for a time in silence; then, when she had recovered
herself sufficiently to speak, she replied:
"It signifies that I bow down before the magnanimity of him who, to
shield me from the world's contumely, would relinquish that which he
holds most dear on earth, his hopes of glory."
"Laura, give me an answer to my prayer. Will you go with me to my
estates in Hungary?"
Laura smiled, but said nothing.
"Answer me, Laura, answer me, my own love."
"The emperor gave you a day to reflect upon your sudden desire for
retirement. Give me but one hour for my decision."
"Only ONE hour, Eugene; but during that hour I must be alone with my
Maker. Await me here."
Drawing the veil over her face, Laura bounded lightly down the
pavilion stops, and walked hurriedly toward the palace. Eugene
looked after her with eyes that beamed with love ineffable, sighing
as he did so: "She is worthy of the sacrifice; I owe it to her."
The hour seemed interminable. At first, he fixed his eyes upon the
walk by which she must return; then he turned away, that he might
wait until he heard her dear voice.
At last a light step approached the pavilion; he heard it coming up
the steps, and a beloved voice spoke:
"The Marchioness de Bonaletta."
Eugene turned, and there, instead of Sister Angelica, stood his
beautiful Laura in rich attire-so beautiful that he thought he had
never sufficiently admired her before.
He started forward, and, dropping on one knee, took her little hand,
and covered it with kisses. Then, rising, he flung his arm around
her waist, and drew her to a seat.
"Now read me the riddle," said he.
"My beloved, do you think me so blind as not to have comprehended
the immeasurable sacrifice you would have made to my womanly pride?
Oh, how I thank you, my own, peerless Eugene! But I will not accept
it. I may not bear your name, but God knows that I am your wife, as
Eve was the spouse of Adam; and it is for me to show that our bond
is holy, by enduring courageously the stigma of being considered as
your mistress. Enough for me to feel that to you I shall be an
honored and beloved wife, incapable of sharing your fame, but oh,
how proud of my hero! Gird on your sword, my Eugene, and fulfil your
glorious destiny. Go once more into the world, and let me share your
"Let her share my fate! She asks me to let her share my fate." cried
Eugene, pressing her to his heart. And God and Stature blessed the
union that man refused to acknowledge.
THE FRENCH IN SPEIER.
General Melac and his murderous hordes were in the old city of
Speier, squandering the goods and money of which they had robbed the
unfortunate inhabitants. Scarcely two months had elapsed since the
departure of the French from Esslingen, and in that short interval
they had laid more than one hundred towns in ashes.
But Melac was insatiable; his eyes feasted on the scarlet hue of
German blood, his ears were ravished with the sounds of German
groans and sighs; and oftentimes, when the poor hunted fugitives
were flying from his presence, he made a pastime of their misery for
himself, by aiming at them with his own musket, to see how many he
could bring down before they passed out of sight.
He was holding a council of war with his generals; but, while he
made merry over his cruelties of the day before, and projected
others for the morrow, his officers frowned and averted their eyes.
His thick, sensual lips expanded with a hideous smile. "It would
seem that my orders are not agreeable," said he. "Pray, gentlemen,
am I so unlucky as to have earned your disapproval?"
There was no answer to this inquiry, but neither was there any
change in the aspect of the officers.
"General Feuquiere," cried Melac, "you are not usually reticent;
pray, let us hear your opinion of my mode of warfare."
"I cannot approve of cruelty," replied Feuquiere, bluntly. "Our men
act much less like the brave soldiers of a Christian king, than like
demons that have been let loose from hell."
"You do not flatter us," replied Melac. "And I am curious to know
whether anybody else here present shares your opinion."
"We are all of one mind," was the unanimous reply.
"We are assassins and incendiaries, but we have never yet fought a
battle like men," resumed De Feuquiere.
"No," added Montclas. "We have longed in vain for honorable warfare;
for a fair combat before the light of heaven, face to face with men
armed like ourselves; and we are sick at heart of midnight torches
and midnight murders."
"No doubt; you are a sentimental personage, I hear: one who shed
tears when the order was given to sack Mannheim."
"I am not ashamed of those tears," returned Montclas. "For three
months these much enduring people have exerted themselves to do our
bidding, treating us like guests who had come to them as foes. And
when, in return for their kindness, our soldiery were ordered to
sack their beautiful city, I wept while I was forced to obey the
inhuman command of my superior officer. May Almighty God not hold me
responsible as a creature for what I have been forced to do as a
"You can justify yourself by referring the Almighty to me, as I
shall certainly justify myself by referring Him to Monsieur Louvois.
It is true that I do not weep when I carry out his orders; but you
may judge for yourselves whether I transcend them,--General
Montclas, be so good as to read aloud this dispatch."
General Montclas took the paper, and read in an audible voice:
"'It is now two weeks since I have seen a courier from the army.
What are you about that I receive no more accounts of the
destruction of German cities wherewith to entertain the idle hours
of his majesty? You have been ordered to devastate the entire German
frontier. You began bravely, but you are not keeping the promise of
your opening. The Germans are full of sentiment, and you must wound
them through their affections and associations. Burn their houses,
sack their fine churches, deface and destroy their monuments and
public buildings. When next you write, let me hear that Speier with
its magnificent cathedral is a thing of the past; and be
expeditious, that Worms and Trier may share the same fate.'"
"You see, then," observed Melac, "that I do but obey orders."
"That may be," sighed De Feuquiere, "but all Europe will rise in one
indignant protest against our inhumanity."
"Let them protest; we will have raised such a barrier of desolation
between themselves and France, that we can afford to laugh at their
indignation. I for my part approve of the method of warfare traced
out for us by the minister of war, and I shall carry it out from
Basle to Coblentz. The time we allowed to the people of Speier for
reflection, expires to-day. To horse, then! The burgomasters are
waiting for us in the market-place by the cathedral."
Yes! The burghers, the clergy, the women, and the children, were on
their knees in the market-place, crying for mercy. Melac, laughing
at their wretchedness, spurred his horse onward, and plunged into
their midst, scattering them right and left like a flock of
frightened sheep; and the clang of his horse's hoofs on the stone
pavement sounded to his unhappy victims like the riveting of nails
in the great coffin wherein their beautiful city was shortly to be
But they were not noisy in their grief. Here and there might be
heard a slight sob, and, with this exception, there was silence in
that thronged market-place.
Suddenly the great bell of the cathedral began to toll, and after it
all the bells in Speier. General Melac slackened his pace, and rode
deliberately along the market-place, as if to give that weeping
multitude the opportunity of looking upon his cruel face, and
reading there that from him no mercy was to be expected.
The bells ceased, and their tones were yet trembling on the air,
when the women and children lifted up their voices and began to
chant: "In my trouble I called on the Lord!"
The strain was taken up by the musicians who stood at the open
windows of the council-hall, and now the burghers, the magistrates,
and the clergy, joined in the holy song. The French uncovered their
heads and listened reverentially, while many an eye was dimmed with
tears, and many a heart bled for the fate of those whom they could
Every man there felt the influence of the blessed words except one.
General Melac was neither awed nor touched; his pale eye was as
cold, his sardonic mouth as cruel as ever.
"He is perfectly hardened," murmured a monk, who was leaning against
one of the columns of the cathedral. This monk was a young man, of
tall, muscular build. His wide shoulders and fine, erect figure,
seemed much more suitable to a soldier than to a brother of the
order of mercy. Even his sun-burnt face had a proud, martial look;
and as his dark, glowing eyes rested on Melac, they kindled with a
glance that was not very expressive of brotherly love.
"He is without pity," thought he, "and perhaps 'tis well; for I
might have been touched to grant him a death more merciful."
He moved away that he might distinguish the words that were now
being poured forth from the quivering lips of the white-haired
prebendary of the cathedral; but the poor old priest's voice was
tremulous with tears, and the monk could not hear. He then made a
passage for himself through the crowd and approached General Melac.
The prebendary had ceased to speak, and there was a solemn stillness
in the market-place, for every sigh was hushed to catch the words
that were to follow.
Melac looked around that he might sec how many thousand human beings
were acknowledging his power, then he drew in his rein and smiled--
that deadly smile!
"My orders must be carried out," said he, in a loud and distinct
voice. "Speier must be razed to the ground, and I am sorry that its
inhabitants were unwilling to profit by the permission I gave them
to emigrate to France. They would have been kindly received there."
"We hope for mercy," was the reply of the prebendary. "Oh, general,
let us not hope in vain!"
"No mercy shall be given you," said Melac, who, turning to General
Montelas, remarked, "What an advantage I have over you! I know their
language, and can understand all their expressions of grief! It is a
"Demon, I will repay thee!" muttered the monk. And, coming close to
the general's horse, he laid his hand upon the rein.
"What do you mean, sirrah?" cried Melac. "Withdraw your hand."
"Your excellency," replied the man in pure French, "allow me to
station myself at your horse's head, for you may need my help to-
"Your help? Wherefore?"
"The work in which you are engaged is apt to provoke personal
hostility. I dreamed last night that I saw you weltering in your
blood, enveloped in flames. I am superstitiouns--very; particularly
as regards dreams, and I left the hospital where I was engaged in
nursing the sick, on purpose to protect your excellency from secret
"Protect me! Who do you suppose would he so bold as to attack me?
Not this whining multitude around us."
"Nobody knows to what acts despair may drive the meekest of men,"
was the monk's reply.
"Very well; I believe you are right," said Melac, a little
disturbed. "Station yourself at my rein, then."
At that moment there was a general wail, and many a voice was lifted
up in one last effort to soften the heart of their persecutor.
"Speier must be destroyed," was his answer, "but to show you the
extent of my clemency, I will now announce to you that without the
gates are four hundred forage-wagons, which I have provided for the
removal of your valuables (if you have any) to any point you may
select within the boundaries of France. Those who prefer to remain,
are allowed to deposit their effects in the cathedral, and to guard
them in person. The temple of Almighty God is sacred, and the hand
of man shall not profane its sanctity by deeds of violence. Take
your choice of the cathedral or the army-wagons: I give you four
hours' grace. If, after that time, I find a German on the streets,
man, woman, or child, the offender shall be scourged or put to the
In a few moments the market-place was empty, and the people,
exhausted and cowed though they were, by two months of oppression,
had flown to take advantage of this last act of grace.
"Now, my excellent brother," said Melac to the monk, "you see that I
am quite safe, and can dispense with your protection."
"The day is not yet at an end," said the monk, solemnly.
"You are right." cried the butcher, "it has scarcely begun; but by
and-by we shall see a comedy that will raise your spirits for a
month to come. The actors thereof are to be the people of Speier,
and the entertainment will close with an exhibition of fireworks on
a magnificent scale. Send me two ordnance officers!" cried he to his
Two lancers approached and saluted their commander.
"Let two companies of infantry occupy the market-place," said Melac.
"Let four cannon be stationed at the entrances of the four streets
leading to the cathedral. For four hours the people shall be allowed
to enter with their chattels. At the end of this truce, two more
companies of infantry shall be ordered hither, one of which shall
surround the cathedral, the other march inside. A detachment of
miners must encompass the columns and cornice of the roof with
combustibles; but use no powder, for that might endanger ourselves.
There are straw, hemp, pitch, tar, and sulphur enough in the town to
make the grandest show since Rome was burned. The infantry that
enter the church, will massacre the people, and if they are
dexterous the booty is theirs; but they must do their work swiftly,
or there will be no time to save anything, for I intend that the
entire building shall be fired at once."
The monk started, grasped the mane of the horse with a movement that
caused him to shy, and his rider to cry out in great irritation:
"What are you doing, fool?"
"Pardon, your excellency, my foot was under your horse's hoof, and I
could not help catching at his mane."
"Keep farther away, then; I do not believe in dreams.--Away!" cried
he, to the lancers, who, horror-stricken hut powerless to refuse,
went on their diabolical mission,
"And now," continued Melac, "we will ride to the gates to see what
sort of entertainment our hospitable hosts of Speier are preparing
for us there."
He galloped off with such swiftness that his guardian-angel was left
behind. But he followed as fast as he could; when-ever he met a man
hastening with his goods to the cathedral, bidding him "Beware!" and
passing on. Some heeded the warning, others did not. They were so
paralyzed by despair that the monk's words conveyed no meaning to
their minds, and they went humbly on to their destruction.
He meanwhile hurried to the gates through which the weeping crowds
were bearing, each one, what he valued most on earth. There were
women, scarcely able to totter, whose dearest burdens were their own
helpless children; there were men carrying sickly wives or decrepit
mothers; there were others so loaded down with the few worldly goods
that the odious Frenchman had left them, that their backs were
almost bent in two, and they were scarcely able to drag themselves
along! The nearer the gates, the denser the throng, many of whom
were fainting with misery and exhaustion; but many also to whom
despair lent strength.
Melac was there, enjoying the scene; sometimes glancing toward the
gates, sometimes toward the wagons which, for miles around, covered
the extensive plain outside of the city. The poor fainting wretches
that reached them let their burdens drop, and would have made an
effort to follow them, but they were told that no one would be
allowed to enter the wagons until all had been filled with their
For three hours the monk strove in vain to reach the gate; but the
time of grace was fast approaching its close, and now, the press
becoming less, he sped along as if he had been flying for life,
until he came panting, almost breathless, to the spot where the
French general, surrounded by his staff, was sitting on his horse,
enjoying himself immensely.
"Ah!" said he, "our pious brother here! Well--you see that I am
"Yes, and I am glad to know it," replied the monk, resuming his
place at the bridle.
Melac turned to one of his adjutants: "Give orders to the drivers to
go on, and let the soldiers cut down every man that attempts to
mount the wagons or withdraw his effects. To get the honey, we must
kill the bees. When they are all dead, the men can divide the
spoils." [Footnote: Historical.--see Zimmermann, "History of
Wurtemberg," vol. ii.]
"As soon as the sport is over," continued he, to another adjutant,
"I will repair, with my staff, to the council-hall, there to see the
illumination. Ride on, and tell the superintendent that, when he
sees my handkerchief waving from the great window in the second
story, he must apply his matches."
So saying, Melac put spurs to his horse, and, followed by his staff,
approached the wagons, and gave a signal with his sword.
The whole train was set in motion, and the horses were urged to the
top of their speed.
The unhappy victims of this demoniac stratagem gave one simultaneous
shout of indignation. Those nearest the wagons strove to clutch at
them with their hands. Some held on even to the wheels, some mounted
the horses, some snatched the reins. But sharp swords were near;
and, at the word of command, every outstretched arm was hacked off,
and fell, severed, to the ground.
A struggle now began between the soldiery and the companions of
those who had been so cruelly mutilated. They were unarmed, but they
had the strength of brutes at bay; and by-and-by many a sword had
been snatched from their assassins, and many a Frenchman had bitten
the dust. General Melac was so interested in a fight between two
soldiers and two women whose children had been driven off in the
wagons, that, before he was aware of his danger, a sword was
uplifted over his head, and a frenzied face was almost thrust into
his own. At this moment his reins were seized, his horse was forced
back, and the stout arm of the monk had wrested the sabre from the
enraged German, who fell, pierced by a bullet from the holster of an
officer close by.
"Was it you, pious brother, that so opportunely backed my steed?"
The monk bowed, and the general saw that his forehead was bloody.
"Are you wounded?"
"Yes, general; I received the stroke that was intended for you, but
parried it, and the blow was slight."
"I am a thousand times indebted to you for the service you have
rendered me, and hope that you will not leave me a second time
without your sheltering presence.--Ho! a horse there for the
No sooner were Melac's commands uttered than they were obeyed, for
he that tarried when the tyrant spoke was sure to come to grief. The
monk swung himself into the saddle with the agility of a trooper,
and, although the horse reared and plunged, he never swerved from
"Verily you are a curious specimen of a monk," laughed Melac. "I
never saw a brother so much to my taste before. Come, follow me to
the market-place, and you shall see my skill in pyrotechnics. If I
had but Nero's field of operations, I could rival his burning of
Rome. Happy Nero, that could destroy a Rome!"
"Do you, also, envy Nero his sudden death?" asked the monk.
"Why, yes; though I would like to put off the evil day as far as may
be, I hope to die a sudden and painless death."
"Sudden and painless death," muttered the monk, between his teeth.
"You allude to death on the field of battle?"
"Ay, that do I; it is the only end befitting a soldier. See--we are
at the gates. The way is obstructed by corpses," continued he,
urging his horse over a heap of dead that lay in the streets.
"Luckily, they will not have to be buried; they shall have a funeral
pile, like that of the ancients."
"Is the entire city to be destroyed?" asked the monk.
"Yes, the whole city, from one end to the other; and these tottering
old buildings will make a brave blaze."
"A brave blaze," echoed the monk, raising his mournful eyes to the
long rows of houses that so lately were the abodes of many a happy
family, were as empty as open graves. They continued their way along
the silent streets--silent even around the cathedral, where, early
in the morning, so many thousand supplicants had knelt before God
and man for mercy, but knelt in vain.
Some few were within the cathedral walls, some were lying, their
ghastly faces upturned to heaven, and those who had survived were
wandering across their blasted fields, bereft of kindred and home,
houseless, hungry, and almost naked.
General Melac glanced at the cathedral porch. That, too, was empty
"I wonder whether our men have done their work over there?" said he.
"I must go and see."
Then dismounting, and flinging his bridle to his equerry, he called
upon the monk to follow him. The staff also dismounted, and an
officer advanced to receive orders.
"Gentlemen, betake yourselves to the hall of council, and await my
return at the great window there, opposite."
The staff obeyed, and the general, followed by his preserver,
ascended the steps that led to the cathedral.
"Your excellency," whispered the monk, corning very close, "before
we enter, will you allow me to say a word to you?"
"I should think you had had opportunity enough to-day to say what
"Not in private, general. Until now we have had listeners."
"Well, is it anything of moment you desire to communicate?"
"Something of great importance."
"Speak on, and be quick, for time presses."
"Your excellency is resolved to burn down the cathedral?"
"Have I not told you that I would?" replied Melac, with a frown.
"Nothing in heaven or on earth shall save it."
"Then," said the monk with a deep sigh, "for the sake of our
brotherhood, I must violate the sanctity of the confessional. But
you must swear to preserve my secret, otherwise you shall not hear
"A secret of the confessional! How can it concern me?"
"You shall hear. It relates to the concealment of two millions'
worth of gold and precious stones."
The covetous eyes of Melac glittered, and the blood mounted to his
brow. "Two millions!" gasped he.
"One for you and one for our brotherhood. Do you swear to keep the
"And also swear that no one but ourselves shall know the place of
"I swear, most willingly, for I do not intend to divide my share of
the booty with anybody living. How soon do you expect to come in
possession of it?"
"Now--at this very hour."
Melac drew back, and eyed the monk suspiciously. "How! These lying
wretches had two millions of treasure, and not one of them would
yield it up?"
"General, the people of Speier have nothing--nothing. Nobody knew of
it save the bishop, who died day before yesterday, and the
sacristan, who died to-day. You remember that I was absent from your
side during two hours to-day?"
Melac nodded, and the monk went on: "Those two hours I spent by the
dying-bed of this sacristan, the only depositary of the secret. He
was wounded among the rest, was conveyed to a neighboring house, and
there I received his last confessions. All the treasures of the
cathedral--its gold, silver, and jewels--were, at the approach of
the French army, conveyed to a place in the tower, which place the
sacristan designated so plainly, that I can find it without
"But what has induced you to share it with me?" asked Melac, with a
glance of mistrust.
"Imperative necessity, general. I cannot obtain it without your
protection. You have given orders that no man shall be suffered to
escape from the cathedral to-day, and, unless you go with me, the
treasure must be given up to the flames. Certainly, if I could have
gotten it without assistance, it would have been my duty to give it
over entire into the hands of the brotherhood. But if you help me, I
will divide it with you. It lies in the tower of the cathedral,
close by the belfry."
"Come, then, come; show me the way."
They entered the massive doors. The sentry saluted the general, and
they passed on.
"Let nothing more be done until I return," said Melac to the sentry.
"I wish to go over the old building before we consign it to the
Deep silence reigned within the walls of the holy temple, broken
occasionally by an expiring sigh, or the faint sound of the death-
rattle. For the French soldiery had done their work. The poor
wretches that had been ensnared into seeking refuge there, had all
been murdered, and their possessions removed to a place of safety.
One hour earlier, the vaults of the house of God had rung with
shrieks and groans, but the victims were now dying or dead.
General Melac went among the prostrate bodies, looking here and
there behind the pillars, to see whether any thing of value had been
overlooked by his subordinates. The monk mean while bent over the
prostrate forms that lay in hundreds upon the marble pavement, and
so absorbed was he in soothing their last moments, that he almost
started as the rough voice of General Melac reached him from the
opposite end of the nave.
"Come, come," cried he, in thundering tones. "Enough of useless
Without a word the monk rose, and, pointing to the grand altar, the
general entered the chancel, and followed his conductor to a small
door cut in the wall. This the monk opened, and, stepping back,
signed to Melac to advance.
"Does this winding-stair lead to the tower?" asked the latter.
"Yes, general, and as there is but one way to reach it, I resume my
proper place, and follow you, as in duty bound."
Melac began to ascend the stairs, the monk coming behind him, with
an aspect the very opposite of that he had endeavored to maintain
all day. His stooping shoulders were flung back, his head was erect,
and in his eyes there sat a threatening devil, which, if Melac could
have seen it, would have made his heart grow chill with
apprehension. But Melac, too, was no longer the same. Up to this
moment he had assumed an appearance of friendliness toward his
companion. But now his eye flashed, and his hand clutched his sword,
while deep in his heart flowed a current of treachery, which,
translated into words ran thus:
"I do not see why he should have any part in this treasure. As soon
as he has pointed out the spot, I will catch him in my arms and hurl
him down into the body of the church. By Heaven! the life of one
miserable monk never was worth a million of treasure!"
Did the monk suspect what was passing within the mind of the
general? Perhaps he did; for well he knew that he was capable of any
amount of atrocity.
On they went, sometimes stumbling in the dark, sometimes emerging
into the light, until at last they reached the topmost step where
Melac halted to breathe.
"Are we almost there?" asked he.
"Almost there." echoed the monk, while with a swift movement of his
hand he drew from under his cassock two long, stout thongs of hide.
"What are you doing there?" asked Melac.
"I am making ready my lasso." replied he, throwing one of the thongs
over the head of the general; and, before the latter had time to
recover from his surprise, it was passed around his body, and his
hands were pinioned fast behind.
Melac comprehended that he was betrayed, and making desperate
efforts to free himself, he lost his footing, and fell at full
length on the granite pavement of the tower. The monk now sprang
upon his body, and drawing from his bosom a long handkerchief, he
tied it fast over his victim's mouth.
"Your cries might be heard, and some fool might come to the rescue,"
said he. "You shall die without being allowed to give utterance to
Melac's eyeballs almost started from their sockets, but the monk
looked on without pity. He dragged him to that part of the tower
whence the gilded weathercock could be seen toying with the free air
of heaven. The sky shone blue and bright; never had it seemed so
fair to the wretch that was looking his last upon its azure dome. He
felt himself raised in the arms of the monk, firmly fastened with a
second thong, and then tossed outside the tower, where he hung, a
small, dark speck in the eyes of the officers that were awaiting his
return to the hall of council.
And now the monk cast himself down upon his knees. "O God, I thank
Thee that Thou hast granted my prayer, and delivered this monster to
my hands! 'Tis Thy will that I should be his executioner, and may
Thy holy will be done forever and forever!"
He rose and approached Melac, whose face was ghastly pale, and whose
eyes were overflowing with tears. "Now," said he, "know why I have
delivered you unto a cruel and agonizing death. For months I have
tracked your path, with power to have stricken you every hour of the
day. But sudden death was too merciful for such a brute as you! The
Hyena of Esslingen shall have the horror and apprehension of a slow,
torturing, and solitary death. Without sympathy and without
witnesses shall he die, and in his last moments, when his flesh
quivers with agony, and the devouring flames shall consume his
odious body, let him think on Marie Wengelin, and on me. her lover
and betrothed husband--Caspar!"
Without another word, he drew from Melac's finger his signet-ring,
and began to descend the winding-stair. The eye of his victim
followed his tall, manly figure until it disappeared forever from
his sight; and then he listened to his retreating footsteps until
they grew faint and more faint, and all hope was lost! An hour of
mortal agony went by; the sun sank slowly to rest, and a few stars
brightened the sapphire vault above him. Suddenly a red glow
brightened the heavens, and gilded the dark waters of the Rhine--
that Rhine which he had so incarnadined with blood! Avenging God! It
was the fire himself had kindled! It leaped up from every point of
Speier--and now--now the cathedral was in flames, and death--slow,
lingering, and agonizing--had overtaken the Hyena of Esslingen!
THE DUCHESS OF ORLEANS.
"I can never consent to such a disgraceful marriage for my son,"
cried Elizabeth-Charlotte to her husband.
"Madame, I look upon it as a great honor that my son should espouse
the daughter of the king."
"The daughter of shame and infamy--the daughter of a man who,
violating his marriage-vow--"
"Madame," interrupted the duke, "you forget that you are speaking of
his majesty the King of France!"
"King of France? There is no question of a king, but of my brother-
in-law, of whose faults--nay, sins, I may surely speak, within the
walls of my own cabinet, I suppose."
"Madame," replied the duke, trying to draw up his small person until
he fairly stood on tiptoe, "madame, I forbid you to express yourself
in such terms of your sovereign and mine."
"Forbid me to speak the truth, you mean. And to be sure, at a court
like this, where everybody feeds on flattery, truth is strangely out
"Like yourself, for instance," observed the duke.
"Yes, like myself," replied the duchess, with a sweet smile that
illumined her plain features, and lent them a passing beauty. "I
believe that I am most unwelcome among the fine and fashionable
folks of Paris; but it is not my fault that I am here, a poor,
homely sparrow in a flock of peacocks and parrots."
"Madame," replied the duke, pompously, "if you choose to consider
yourself as a sparrow, you have my full consent to do so, although I
must say that it is somewhat presuming for any one so to designate
the woman whom I honored with my hand. But I must always regret that
you have never displayed enough tact to lay aside your plebeian
German manners, and resume those of the courtly and elegant
entourage of the refined King of France."
The eyes of the duchess shot fire, and the hue on her cheeks
deepened to scarlet.
"Your manners may be refined, monseigneur; but God shield me from
your morals! The war you are waging against my native land is one of
assassination and rapine; and oh! how I wish that I were free to
leave France forever, that I might suffer and die with my dear,
slaughtered countrymen! But dearly as I love my native land, I love
my children still more. Maternal love is stronger in my heart than
patriotism, and my Elizabeth and my Philip are more to me than
"You say nothing of me," observed the duke, sentimentally. "Am I,
then, nothing to you?"
"Yes, monseigneur, you are the father of my children. I plighted my
faith to you, and I have kept my marriage-vows. But you know, as
well as I, that we were both nothing but royal merchandise, bartered
for reasons of state, and that we have never been congenial.
Nevertheless, I love you as the father of my Philip! for he has your
handsome face and your refined and courtly bearing."
"Madame," returned the duke, blushing with gratification, "I thought
you disdained to flatter."
"I do not flatter you, monseigneur," cried the duchess, cordially
grasping his hand, and leading him to the mantel, over which hung a
full-length portrait of the youthful Duke de Chartres. "See,"
exclaimed she with affectionate pride, "see what a beautiful picture
Mignet has made of him. It was done in secret in Mignet's studio,
and was brought to me yesterday as a birthday present from my boy."
"It was very thoughtless of Philip to visit Mignet," objected the
duke. "He too often forgets his rank and relationship to the king."
"Forgive him, monseigneur. He forgot his station, to remember his
filial affection," and for several moments the mother's eyes were
fondly fixed upon the portrait. "Look!" resumed she; "these are your
eyes, your well-developed forehead, your aquiline nose, your
pleasant and expressive mouth. In your youth, you were as handsome
as he--I have often heard it said that you were the handsomest
cavalier in Paris."
"Except the king, madame--except the king! I am too loyal a subject
to excel his majesty in anything. I am glad, however, that you think
my son resembles me; to me there is a blended likeness of both his
parents in his countenance."
"Never, never!" exclaimed Elizabeth-Charlotte, with animation.