Part 11 out of 13
"There is no trace of my coarse features in that aristocratic face;
and yet, like the owl that hatched the eagle's egg, I am proud of
calling him my son. And now, monseigneur, let me implore of you not
to cross the escutcheon of our eaglet with the bar-sinister that
disgraces the arms of Mademoiselle de Blois."
"Madame," exclaimed the duke, much irritated, "speak more
respectfully of the daughter of Louis XIV.! She has been recognized
by his majesty, and there is no stain upon her arms."
"Pardon me--it is not in the power of any sovereign to erase the
foul blot of her birth; and I shudder when I think of an alliance
between the son of the Duke of Orleans and grandson of the Elector
Palatine, and the daughter of a king's leman. If his majesty
mentions the subject to me, I shall tell him as much."
"Impossible!" cried the duke, aghast. "I have already promised that
you would solicit the honor of an alliance with Mademoiselle de
"You promised what I will not perform. Do you suppose that I, by
birth and marriage a royal princess, would debase myself so far as
to ask for my son's wife the daughter of a harlot who drove the
hapless queen to her grave? and to take her by the hand, and present
her to the court as my daughter? I would rather absent myself
forever from court, and I will certainly not attend the king's ball
to-night." "You cannot do that, for you accepted the invitation
"Yesterday I knew not the humiliation implied in my acceptance. To-
day I know it, and I will excuse myself, and be sick."
"Madame, I command you to appear at the ball," cried out the enraged
duke, "and we shall see whether you presume to rebel against my
"I shall not rebel," replied the duchess. "Since you command my
presence, you shall have it; but I warn you that I shall mortally
offend the king, for--"
The duke was about to protest anew against his wife's blasphemy,
when the old German lady of honor, who presided over the toilet of
her highness, rushed into the room in a slate of great agitation.
"What is the matter, Katharina?" asked the duchess.
"Your royal highness," replied Katharina, panting, "a courier has
just arrived from the Countess Louise. He has ridden day and night
to deliver his message, and, although he is covered with mud and
dust, he insisted that I should announce him to your royal
"A courier from Louise!" murmured the duchess. "Something must have
happened! Go, Kathi, bid him come into my little parlor.--Will
monseigneur excuse me? I am deeply concerned lest some misfortune
should have befallen my sister."
"Sister! Is the Countess Louise the daughter of a princess
"No, monseigneur; you know that she is the daughter of the Countess
Dagenfeld, my father's wedded wife--although never acknowledged as
such--because she was not of royal birth. There is no bar-sinister
on Louise's shield; she is truly and honorably my half-sister."
The duchess bowed and hastened to her parlor, where the courier was
awaiting her arrival.
"Has anything happened to the countess? Is she ill? Have I lost my
"No, your royal highness. Your princely relatives are well, and
He made an attempt to place a letter in her hand, but reeled and
fell, exhausted, at her feet.
"Pardon me, madame," said he, "I have been for three days and nights
in the saddle. My strength has given way--I cannot rise. But read
your letter, I implore you."
The duchess stooped, and took it from his nerveless hand; then,
commending him to the care of Katharina, she broke the seal and
began to read.
Its contents affected her so terribly, that her teeth chattered, her
knees trembled, and, throwing herself upon the sofa, she covered her
face with her hands and wept.
But she wept for a moment only.
"Katharina," cried she, to her old confidante, who was chafing the
temples of the courier, "leave that poor youth for a moment, and
fetch me a mantilla and hood. I must go to the king at once!"
"Your royal highness is in a neglige," remonstrated Katharina; "I
will have to dress you."
"I cannot wait to be dressed," cried Elizabeth-Charlotte; "speed
away, and bring me my wrappings. God be praised, the king will be at
home! Thousands of lives depend upon my intercession!"
Katharina returned with the mantilla, which, without the least
regard to grace, her royal highness flung over her stout figure,
while she jerked the hood over her head with an impetuosity that
made the old lady wring her hands.
"Oh, her hair is down, and the hood all twisted to one side,"
murmured the mistress of the toilet, as the duchess, indifferent to
all forms of civilization, dashed down the staircase and leaped into
THE DELIVERANCE OF TRIER.
The equipage thundered along the streets of Paris, and drew up
before the hooded door, at the side entrance of the Louvre, which
was especially reserved for the use of the royal family.
The duchess sprang from her carriage, hurried up the staircase,
almost stumbling over the sentry as he made an attempt to present
arms, and flew into the antechamber that led to the cabinet of the
She came in like a frigate under full sail, but was encountered by a
gentleman of the privy chamber, who barred the entrance.
"Make way for me--do!" said she, clasping her hands. "I must see his
majesty this very moment."
"His majesty is in secret conference with the Marquis de Louvois and
Madame de Maintenon," was the reply. "Not even your royal highness
can obtain admittance."
"So much the better if Louvois is there. Let me pass--I command you,
let me pass!"
"Indeed, madame, you know not what you ask. I have received
stringent orders to admit nobody."
"The royal family are never included in these prohibitions," cried
"But to-day, your royal highness, I was placed here to prevent their
coming! You well know that none but the princes and princesses of
the blood would presume to make use of this entrance."
"It concerns the lives of thousands!" urged the duchess.
"Did it concern that of my own son, I would know better than to seek
to save it by disobeying his majesty's orders."
"You will not--positively will not let me pass?"
"I dare not, madame."
"Then you must excuse me, but I shall force my way," returned
Elizabeth-Charlotte, grasping the slender form of the king's
gentleman, and, with her powerful hands, flinging him into the
corner of the room, while she strode rapidly to the opposite door,
and opened and had closed it again before her opponent had recovered
his breath. Before touching the bolt of the door which opened
directly into the king's cabinet, she paused to recover her breath,
and to gather courage for the coming interview. She trembled from
head to foot, and leaned against the wall for support. But
Elizabeth-Charlotte was not a woman to be deterred, by fear of
kings, from what she deemed her duty. "With the resolution that
characterized her, she uttered one short ejaculation for help from
above, and opened the door."
Louvois was in the act of speaking. "Sire, our arms are as
successful in Italy as they have been in Germany, where town after
town has been taken without the drawing of a sword--where the people
have offered the keys of all the fortresses to your generals, and
have welcomed the advent of our troops with joy."
"Your majesty," cried the duchess, coming forward, "do not believe
him! He tells a falsehood--O God! what a falsehood!"
The astonishment of that cabinet-council is not to be described. The
king rose from his seat and confronted her with eyes that named with
"Madame," exclaimed the grand monarque, in a rage, "were you not
told that I would see nobody this morning?"
"Yes, your majesty; so emphatically told, that, before I could make
my way to your presence, I was obliged to hurl your gentleman to the
other side of the room. It is not his fault that I am here!"
Madame de Maintenon rolled up her eyes, Louvois sneered and Louis,
looking as if he wished that he could consume his sister-in-law with
a glance, turned around to his minister.
"Monsieur Louvois, be so good as to forget the imprudent words that
madame has just spoken. It is impossible that a princess of the
blood should so far forget her own dignity as to lay hands on an
attendant of the king. Take care that the indiscretion of her royal
highness go no farther than these walls; and, if you hear it spoken
of, contradict it flatly."
"Your majesty," exclaimed the duchess, "that is the very way to make
everybody believe it, for surely nobody will believe Monsieur
"Sire," said Louvois, shrewdly, "I was about to communicate tidings
of the greatest importance to your majesty. I would be glad of your
permission to resume our conference. It is late, and--"
"Madame," cried Louis, "once for all, leave this room, and interrupt
us no longer."
"Does your majesty suppose that, after forcing my way to your
presence, I intend to retreat without accomplishing the object for
which I came? I entreat of you, hear me, and judge for yourself
whether my pertinacity is not justified by the occasion of my
"Very well, madame," replied Louis. "I will remember that you are my
brother's wife, and forget an excess of presumption which, were you
not my sister-in-law, would merit the Bastile. Speak, and let us
hear your petition. It needs to be one of moment to earn your
With these words, Louis threw himself into his arm-chair, and,
pointing to a tabouret at hand, requested her royal highness to be
seated. The duchess looked around the room, and, seeing a vacant
arm-chair a little farther off, she rolled it forward, and seated
herself with great grandeur. This chair belonged to Madame de
Maintenon, who, a moment previous, had risen and walked to the
She became very red in the face, and, coming directly in front of
the duchess, said: "Madame, this is my own arm-chair; be so good as
to excuse me if I ask you to rise."
"Impossible, my dear marquise, impossible!" was the rejoinder. "His
majesty requests me to be seated, and this is the only seat in the
room that accords with my rank. If his majesty allows you to seat
yourself in his presence, and that of a princess of the blood, there
is a tabouret which doubtless was placed for your accommodation on
Madame de Maintenon looked imploringly at the king, hoping that he
would interfere; but he did not. His eyes were cast down, and it was
plain that no help was to be expected from him. His unacknowledged
spouse was therefore obliged to yield the point, and put up with the
"Now, madame," said Louis, as though rousing himself from profound
meditation, "I await your pleasure."
"Sire," cried the duchess, "I have come hither to accuse yonder
traitor, who, in your majesty's name, is perpetrating deeds of
horror that are enough to brand any sovereign with infamy. Did I not
hear him say, as I entered this room, that the French army was
received with open arms by the Germans?"
"You did, madame. As a proof of the truth of this assertion, here
are the very keys of all the towns and fortresses we have besieged."
The king pointed to a basket wreathed with flowers, wherein lay a
heap of gigantic keys.
"Oh, sire," exclaimed the duchess, "these keys were purchased with
blood and pillage. Your soldiers have not marched into Germany like
the invading armies of a civilized nation; they have come as
incendiaries and assassins. Witness my father's castle, which they
reduced to a heap of ashes."
"My dear madame," said Louis, deprecatingly, "war is not a pastime.
I regret that it was necessary to burn your father's castle; but you
perceive that it was not burned in vain, for your countrymen, since
then, have shown themselves amenable to reason."
"Sire, you are shamefully deceived; and I have come to lay at the
foot of your throne the plaint of an unhappy people. Ah, you little
know what crimes are being committed in your name! General Montclas
himself shed tears when Mannheim was sacked and destroyed; and, when
the people of Durlach were driven by your soldiery into the very
midst of the flames that were consuming their homes, the Duke de la
Roche remonstrated with the Marquis de Crequi on the atrocity of the
crime. What do you suppose was the answer of the marquis? 'Le roi le
"Is this so?" asked the king, turning to Louvois, who was hiding his
troubled countenance in the embrasure of a window.
"Sire, I have never heard of it before," replied the minister.
"Well may he say that he never heard of it, if he means that your
majesty never gave such an order to him!" cried Elizabeth-Charlotte.
"But if he means that he did not order these massacres, he tells an
untruth. He is avenging on the people of Germany the laurels which
Prince Eugene has earned in the service of the emperor, and which,
but for him, would have redounded to the glory of France. Oh, sire!
this war is one of personal vengeance on the part of your wicked
subject; it is not waged for your honor or advantage. I ask in his
presence, did the King of France order the destruction of Worms and
Speier? Was it by the order of our gracious sovereign that the very
house of God was committed to the flames?"
"Can such a crime have been perpetrated in my name?" cried Louis,
"Sire," replied Louvois, "your majesty has said it--'War is no
"He does not deny it," cried the duchess, wiping away her tears, and
struggling for composure to go on. "But what is done, is done--Worms
and Speier are in ashes, and their murdered inhabitants at rest.
But, oh, my liege, my gracious lord, the city of Trier is threatened
with the same fate! For three days the people have been crying in
vain for mercy.--At your feet, sire, I implore you, have pity, and
save them from butchery!"
And the duchess, with hands upraised, and eyes that were streaming
with tears, sank on her knees before the king.
Louis rose hastily from his seat.
"Rise, madame," said he, "and let us retire to yonder embrasure. I
wish to speak with you in private."
So saying, he gave her his hand, and conducted her to a deep recess
at the farther end of the room, which was, in fact, a small
apartment furnished with seats--A cabinet within a cabinet. He
loosened the gold cord that confined the curtain to the side, and it
fell to the floor--a thick, heavy portiere that shut all sound from
the apartment without. Not satisfied with this, the king opened the
casement, that the hum from the street below might effectually drown
"Now, madame," said he, "we will converse openly and without
reserve, as it befits near relatives to do. Has your husband
confided to you my wishes?"
"What wishes?" asked the duchess, who, in her anxiety for the fate
of Trier, had forgotten the occurrences of the day.
Louis was piqued. "I allude to my matrimonial plans for your son and
my daughter; and I beg you to observe that where I have a right to
command, I am gracious enough to request their fulfilment. It is
understood that the Duke de Chartres is to be betrothed to
Mademoiselle de Blois this evening?"
"Sire," murmured Elizabeth-Charlotte, who began to understand how
much she was risking by her mediation in favor of Trier, "sire, I
implore you to save the lives of thousands of human beings, and you
answer me by questions as to the marriage of my son!"
"My dear sister," returned the king, with a smile, "surely you take
more interest in the fate of your child, than in that of a remote
town in Germany. My brother has already consented that our children
should be united; and, as you are here, I wish to hear from your own
lips that the union gives you as much satisfaction as it will afford
"Sire, the Duke de Chartres is but a lad--wild and untamed. He is
not fit to be the husband of any woman."
The king frowned. "What do you mean?"
"Sire, he is but sixteen years of age--a boy; and it is not
customary for princes of the blood to marry before the age of
"I know that as well as yourself. It is no question of marriage,
only one of betrothal. Mademoiselle de Blois is but twelve, and no
fitter to be married than your son. But it is well for young people
to know that they are bound by honor to restrain their passions and
curb their irregularities. If the Duke de Chartres is untamed, you
have the means of keeping him within bounds, and of forcing him to
lead a chaste and virtuous life."
"Oh, sire, you know full well that the promises of their parents do
not bind youthful hearts. My Philip is inclined to dissipation, and
it would be an unfortunate match for Mademoiselle de Blois."
"Give me a direct answer to my inquiry. Do you consent to the
betrothal of your son with my daughter?"
Elizabeth-Charlotte burst into tears. "Sire, I--I--cannot," murmured
The king flushed with anger. "I thought so," said he, "You are
nothing but a mass of prejudices, which you would rather die than
relinquish. Very well, madame; I bow to your prejudices, and will
make no vain efforts to overcome them. Excuse me if, as regards your
petition, I echo your words, 'I cannot.'"
"Oh, sire," cried the duchess, "the cases are not parallel. I plead
for the lives of so many unfortunates!"
"And I for my own gratification; and assuredly a wish of the King of
France is of a little more importance than the fate of a miserable
"Your majesty, it would cost you but a word to earn the blessings of
so many grateful hearts."
"And it would cost you but a word to give rank and an unequivocal
position to my favorite daughter. For if a woman like yourself,
recognized as a model of propriety, acknowledge her as your son's
bride, you insure an honorable future to all my children not born to
the throne. It is in your power to raise Mademoiselle de Blois to
the rank of a legitimate princess of the blood, and thereby to
confer a favor upon her father."
"Oh, sire, indeed I cannot! Ask any thing of me but that! It would
give the lie to all the teachings of my life! It would be an
acknowledgment of the worthlessness of chastity--of honor! Oh,
forgive me! My brain reels; I know not what I say!"
"BUT I DO; and I have heard enough. I shall countermand the soiree,
and seek another bridegroom for Mademoiselle de Blois. But Trier
shall fall, and on your head be the fate of its inhabitants!"
He rose and would have put aside the portiere, but his hand was
convulsively clutched, and the duchess, in a voice that was hoarse
with agony, gasped:
"Have I understood? You would barter the fate of Trier for my
consent to this unnatural marriage!"
"Yes, by God, I do!" was the profane and passionate reply of the
"Stay--stay," murmured she, trembling in every limb. "Would you
rescue the city if I consented?"
"I will do so, with pleasure."
The duchess shivered, clasped her hands together, and, closing her
eyes as though to hide her humiliation from Heaven, she retracted
her refusal, and then fell almost insensible into an arm-chair.
The king approached her and kissing her, said, "Madame, from my
heart, I thank you."
The poor duchess scarcely heeded these gracious words. She had
received a blow that well-nigh blunted her heart to the sufferings
of her countrymen. But she had made the sacrifice of her principles,
and she must reap the reward of that terrible sacrifice.
"Sire," said she, as soon as she had recovered strength enough to
articulate, "sire, fulfil your promise immediately, or it will be
"Give me your hand, dear sister," replied Louis. "Once more I thank
you for the happiness you have conferred upon me, and the first gift
of Mademoiselle de Blois to her mother-in-law shall be the safety of
Trier. I implore you, try to love the poor child, for my sake."
Raising the curtain, Louis XIV. offered his hand, and the royal
brother and sister-in-law re-entered the cabinet, where their return
was eagerly awaited by Madame de Maintenon, and uneasily expected by
the minister of war.
"Monsieur de Louvois," said the king, "I am in possession of all the
details that relate to the shameful abuse that has been made of my
name in Germany. The cruel practices which you have authorized
toward an innocent population must cease at once, and our troops be
commanded to prosecute the war as becomes the army of a Christian
The king, while he spoke these words, was gradually advancing to his
writing-desk, which stood close to the mantel. Seating himself in
his arm-chair, he turned his countenance away from the penetrating
glances of De Maintenon, and began to play with the bronze shovel
and tongs that lay crossed upon the fender.
After a pause, during which he waited in vain for a reply from
Louvois, he resumed: "Why do you not answer me, Louvois?"
"Sire, your wishes shall be fulfilled. The next courier that leaves
for Germany, shall bear your royal commands to the army, and they
shall be ordered to remain altogether on the defensive."
"WHAT DO YOU MEAN, SIR?" cried the king.
"If your majesty intends to treat your enemies with clemency, you
must expect no more victories, but remain content with the territory
you have already acquired. What are we to do, if we are crippled by
injudicious and false humanity? Must we relinquish our claims? Shall
we content ourselves with having made threats which we are too
pusillanimous to execute?"
"Monsieur," said Louis, haughtily, "you are becoming impertinent.
Cease your questions, and obey my commands. Send off your couriers
at once. Trier shall not be destroyed; nor shall its inhabitants be
driven from their dwellings. Private property shall be respected,
and the temples of the Most High held sacred."
"Sire," said Louvois, "I will obey; but, unhappily, as regards
Trier, your clemency comes too late. I cannot save it."
"Cannot!" shouted Louis, who to please his sister-in-law had worked
himself into a veritable fury. "Who dares say he cannot, when I
"Your majesty, what is done cannot be undone."
At these words the king sprang from his chair, still holding the
tongs in his hand.
"Do you mean to say that you have ordered new atrocities to be
commited in Germany?" exclaimed he.
"Sire," replied Louvois defiantly, "if it pleases you to term the
necessities of war atrocities, so be it. The people of Trier having
imitated the stubbornness of those of Speier, I ordered them to be
subjected to the same treatment."
"Sir," cried Louis, raising the tongs, as if he intended to assail
his minister with them, "you shall countermand this order at once,
or I will smite you as the lightning blasts the oak!" All this time
he was advancing, until the tongs were in dangerous proximity with
Louvois' head. [Footnote: Historical.--See "Memoirs of the Court of
France," by the Marquis de Dangeau.]
The minister was thoroughly frightened. "Sire," exclaimed he,
receding in terror, "would you murder me?"
"It would be too honorable an end for you to die by my hands,"
replied the king, letting fall his tongs. "But this I say to you: if
Trier is destroyed I will make an example of you that shall deter
any other traitor from using my name to gratify his wicked revenge.
Send off your couriers; nor return to this palace until you come to
inform me that Trier is safe." So saying, the King turned his back,
and began to converse with Madame de Maintenon on the subject of an
afternoon ride; after which he offered his arm to his sister-in-law
and conducted her himself to the head of the private staircase.
He had no sooner left the room than Louvois darted to the side of
Madame de Maintenon, who was just about to raise a portiere leading
to her own apartments.
Catching her dress in his agitation, Louvois implored her to remain.
"Wherefore, monsieur?" asked she, coldly.
"Oh, madame, I fear that I shall never be able to rescue this
accursed city, and, I implore you, be my mediatrix with his
"On what grounds, monsieur?"
"Oh, madame, you have enemies as well as I: let us make a compact
together, and crush them all. Uphold me for this once, and you will
not find me ungrateful."
"I fear no man's enmity," was the reply of the marquise. "My trust
is in God, who ruleth all things."
"You refuse me then?" said Louvois.
"I am not in a position to defy the king, and uphold his rebellious
subjects. Were I Queen of France, my influence would, perhaps,
avail; as it is, I would advise you to make all speed to dispatch
your couriers, and thereby rescue Trier and yourself."
With these consolatory words, the marquise disappeared; and Louvois,
taking her advice, unpalatable though it was, rushed in undignified
haste through the corridors, and plunging into his carriage, was
driven at full gallop to his hotel.
Twenty minutes later his couriers were on their way. To him who
arrived at Trier first, Louvois promised a purse of one thousand
louis d'ors, and, if he reached the city in time to save it, the sum
was to be doubled.
Thanks to this reward, as well as to the dilatory movements of the
courier that had borne the order for destruction. Trier was saved on
the very morning of the day which should have been its last.
Louvois was ordered to bring the news to the duchess in person.
She was in her cabinet with the Duke de Chartres, who had been
complaining of the ugliness and stupidity of his affianced bride.
Louvois was announced, and the duchess, in her impetuous way,
hurried to the door and met him--not by way of welcoming him,
"I never expected to see you here under my roof," said she, "nor
would I receive you had you not come from his majesty."
"Madame, I will withdraw as soon as my message is delivered,"
replied Louvois, haughtily. "His majesty has sent me to announce to
your royal highness that Trier is safe."
"Now, God be thanked!" exclaimed Elizabeth-Charlotte solemnly.
"With your leave, madame, I withdraw," observed Louvois.
"Not yet. You have brought me tidings of one deliverance--I will
impart to you another. Have you any news from my poor Laura?"
A cloud overspread the minister's brow. "I have not heard from her
for more than a year, at which time she fled from her husband's
castle, how or whither he has never been able to discover."
"And you--have you no idea of her whereabouts?"
"She must either have died, or have retired to a convent."
"She has done neither," replied the duchess.
"She lives!" cried Louvois, with more terror in his voice than joy.
"Yes: dear, ill-used Laura! She lives, and lives happily with him
whose arm will protect her against future persecution."
"Your royal highness does not mean to say that my daughter has
sought the protection of Prince Eugene?" cried Louvois.
"I do, indeed: they are united at last, whom you sought to put
"Great God!" was the minister's exclamation. "She has given herself
up to shame! She lives publicly as the mistress of a man who was not
worthy to become her husband! Your royal highness must have been
"I have it from herself, nevertheless."
"And your royal highness, that bears the name of the most virtuous
woman in Paris, is not shocked at her unchastity?"
"Unchastity! You talk of unchastity, who, while she was plighting
her troth to this same Eugene, were not ashamed to prostitute her to
Strozzi! Cease your disgusting cant, and learn that I acknowledge
and respect the tie that binds your daughter to her real spouse: and
woe to you, if you dare trouble the current of her peaceful life!
Farewell. Say to his majesty that I shall be forever grateful for
the deliverance of Trier."
"Philip," added she, when Louvois had left the room, "forgive me,
beloved son, if I sacrificed you to the well-being of my oppressed
countrymen! You say that your affianced is stupid; but every weary
hour you spend in her society shall be repaid to you by the
blessings of those whom you have saved from assassination. Moreover,
Mademoiselle de Blois is not yet your bride, and many a thing may
intervene to prevent you from being forced to espouse her. If your
mother can do any thing to frustrate it, be sure that she will come
to your assistance. Her consent was wrung from her, 'tis true--but
not her willingness."
"Laura the mistress of Eugene of Savoy!" muttered Louvois, as he
descended the marble staircase of the ducal palace. "And to
propitiate that royal virago, I dare not revenge myself! But no!"
said he suddenly, "no--I need not lift a finger. I will leave it to
Barbesieur; HE will attend to it. He will put an end to her infamous
The embassy of Prince Eugene to Turin had been attended with the
happiest results. His arguments in favor of the emperor had proved
irresistible, for he had worked upon the pride as well as the
ambition of his kinsman. He had addressed him as a "royal highness;"
had promised him accession of territory; and finally had imparted to
him a diplomatic secret which decided him at once to join the
imperialists. In the event of any manifestation on the part of
Victor Amadeus that was friendly toward the emperor, Louvois had
ordered Marshal Catinat to take him prisoner, confine him in the
fortress of Pignerolles, and appoint the duchess-dowager Regent of
The astounding insolence of the French minister gained a zealous
partisan for Leopold. "I am yours and the emperor's forever," cried
the indignant duke. "And from my heart I hope that we may both have
speedy opportunity to avenge the wrongs we have sustained at the
hands of Louis XIV. and that atrocious villain--Louvois."
"As for my wrongs," replied Eugene, with a beaming smile, "they are
all forgotten in my excess of happiness."
"So, then, you are happy at last?" asked Victor Amadeus, kindly.
"Supremely blest," was Eugene's emphatic reply.
"Supremely blest?" repeated the duke, shaking his head, "Pardon me
if I think otherwise. Do you not think that you could be made
happier by obtaining the sanction of the church to your liaison with
the Marchioness de Strozzi?"
"I would be the proudest and happiest of created beings if I could
call her my wife," sighed Eugene. "And since the subject has been
broached between us, I will confide in you. I have written to the
pope an account of Laura's fraudulent marriage with Strozzi, and I
hope that his holiness will recognize the unlawfulness of that
wicked transaction. It seems to me impossible that Religion should
look upon it otherwise than as an act of falsehood."
"You have no answer as yet from Rome?"
"I expect an answer to-day; and now, that the crisis of my Laura's
destiny is at hand, I begin to be timorous as to the success of my
petition. The pope is not my friend; I have upheld the Waldenses
against the church, and have sought their alliance for Austria.
These, I know, are serious offences; and not less displeasing to his
holiness will be the news of your defection from France to Austria
through my intervention."
"True--true," said Victor Amadeus, thoughtfully. "Your embassy to
Turin will prove prejudicial to your own interests at Rome. I am
afraid they will suffer. And if his holiness will not grant a
divorce, what is to become of the marchioness? You will not continue
to live with her out of wedlock?"
"Pardon me," replied Eugene. "She is mine in the sight of God, and
man shall not part us. Our union is holy in our own eyes, and we
shall maintain its sanctity against the whole world. It will very
soon forget us, and consign us to the oblivion we covet."
"You are not so easily consigned to oblivion, my dear cousin; you
occupy a prominent position before the world, and the brighter your
fame as a hero, the darker will be the shadow that falls upon your
mistress. My wife and I have talked this matter over, and we have
determined to make a joint effort either to have you formally united
at the altar, or to use our honest endeavors to induce you to
separate. The duchess has sent three invitations to the marchioness,
every one of which has been refused."
"The marchioness desires no intercourse with the world. She is
independent of its sanction or its blame."
"Because, for the present, her world is concentrated in you. But it
will not always be so; and the duchess has gone this very morning to
pay her a visit, hoping to prove to her that a woman should not only
avoid wrong, but the appearance of wrong. At the same time, we both
render ample justice to the purity of intention of the marchioness."
"Not only of intention, but of conduct," replied Eugene. "But let us
discuss other matters. The elector, Max Emmanuel, has arrived at
Montcaliers, the imperialists have joined him, and the Spanish
troops are on their way."
"My army also shall march to Montcaliers to-morrow. It is time that
the atrocities of Louis XIV. should cease. His soldiers have been
worse than an irruption of the Goths both in Germany and in Italy."
"With the help of God, we will emulate their deeds in France."
While the two Princes of Savoy were in their cabinet together, the
duchess was on her way to visit the marchioness. She was determined
not to give Laura the opportunity of denying herself. To this end
she followed the lackey that announced her, and as he opened the
door, and was about to pronounce her name, she passed him by, and,
going directly up to Laura, introduced herself.
She was calmly and courteously received, and, after some desultory
conversation, entered upon her delicate mission.
"I have but one rule of action," said Laura, in return, "and I
cannot wound my own convictions by shaping my conduct according to
the standard of others."
"But surely you do not apply this rule to your unlawful liaison with
Prince Eugene!" exclaimed the duchess.
"It is no unlawful liaison," replied Laura, simply. "I am Eugene's
wife in his eyes and in mine: we have plighted our troth, and will
be faithful to our vows until death!"
"And to this fidelity you sacrifice your honor and your peace of
mind. Prince Eugene is but a mortal man. He is, for the time,
desperately in love, and scorns all possibility of change. But by-
and-by he will begin to be annoyed by the world's censure: he will
be ashamed to be seen with you--"
"Madame," interrupted Laura, proudly, "by what right do you thus
prejudge the conduct of Prince Eugene?"
"By the right of experience, my poor child, and of a knowledge of
the human heart, whose inconsistencies are all unknown to you. Let
me relate to you a history that concerns me nearly, and has caused
me many a burning tear. My husband was once beloved by a beautiful
woman, who, for his wake, left her husband, the court, and the grand
monde, to be the solitary inhabitant of a castle, which, to be sure,
was fit to be the abode of a goddess. She became the mistress of the
Duke of Savoy, who loved her to distraction. I, his unhappy wife,
had no right to remonstrate, for our union was like that of princes
generally, an affair of state; and Victor Amadeus never knew that my
poor heart was racked by jealousy, and that many a time I prayed for
death as the only remedy for my anguish. For a time the duke was
contented to see the Countess de la Verrue in her castle, but by-
and-by he exacted of this poor devoted creature another sacrifice--
that of returning with a brow of shame to the world. He fitted up a
residence for her in Turin; passed all his time at her side; drove
out with her, and finally held his levees at her palace. Now, there
were certain festivals de rigueur that were obliged to be given at
the ducal palace; and from these festivals the countess would be
excluded unless she was invited by myself. I had nothing to lose,
and hoping to win an approving smile from Victor, I invited his
mistress, and, when she entered the hall of reception, placed her
above all possibility of slight by advancing to meet her."
"That was magnanimous indeed!" exclaimed Laura.
The duchess smiled. "Do not overestimate the act, my dear child.
There was quite as much policy in it as magnanimity. I know men
well: they are greater slaves to opinion than women; they have not
half our moral courage, and not one of them can long confront the
disapprobation of the world. From this day, a change came over the
spirit of my husband. Seeing that the world held me in high esteem
for my sacrifice, and held his mistress very cheaply, he began to
feel uncomfortable when he brought her before its scrutiny. From
discomfort he proceeded to shame, and finally the day came--the
inevitable day that dawns for every woman who lays her honor at the
feet of her lover. The poor countess was reproached for the
sacrifices she had made, and blamed for her weakness in yielding to
the importunities of her seducer! She fled, broken-hearted from his
presence, and, like poor La Valliere, took refuge in a convent. Oh,
my dear young lady!" continued the duchess, taking Laura's hand in
her own, "be warned, and do not court the fate of these unfortunate
victims of man's inconstancy!"
"Madame," returned Laura, "their fate in no way can affect ME, for I
am not the mistress of Prince Eugene. He can never reproach me with
weakness, for he, like myself, believes in the holiness of our
union. We have been sinned against, but are not sinning. No woman
can say of Eugene that he has broken his vows to her; no man can say
of me that I have been unfaithful to him!"
"You forget the Marquis de Strozzi."
"Forget him! Great God! Forget the villain who, under cover of
night, stole the vows I pledged to Eugene, and kept me his prisoner
for five long years! No, madame, I have not forgotten the Marquis de
Strozzi; but he is no husband of mine. My spouse before Heaven is
Prince Eugene--and, so help me God, I will be true to him in life as
"You are a noble woman; and your love, I admit, is as pure as that
of Eve for Adam. But, for your exalted ideas of duty, you will
receive naught from the world save scorn and contumely."
"So be it. In my Eugene's love will be my exceeding great reward.
The arrows of the world's contempt will fall harmless at my feet,
for his dear arm will shield me from their sharpness. My world is
Eugene; he alone is my husband, and my judge."
The duchess looked compassionately at the beautiful enthusiast, and
heaved a sigh. "I cannot save you, my child: your resolution is
mightier than my arguments, and I can only pity and love you.
Farewell! May your heroism meet with the reward it deserves."
Laura accompanied the duchess to the door, and returned, calm and
serene, to her embroidery-frame. She was working a standard for her
beloved Eugene, and appeared quite to have forgotten the visit of
the duchess, when, suddenly her cheeks flushed, and she raised her
head to listen. She sprang from her seat, crossed the room and
opened the door. Eugene came in, clasped her in his arms, and
imprinted a kiss on her fair brow.
"My own love, my white swan," whispered he.
She lifted her magnificent eyes to his, there and he read the
history of her deep, deep love. They sat down together, his arm
still around her waist.
"Has the Duchess of Savoy been here?" asked he.
"Yes. She was here to persuade me, for the world's sake, to leave
"The duke has been doing the same by me," said Eugene.
And then they smiled. Neither one made protestations to the other;
neither one had any thing to relate. The heaven of their mutual
trust was without a cloud.
Their silent, solemn happiness was interrupted by a knock. Conrad
came in with two dispatches--one from Germany, and one from Rome.
Eugene took them from the golden salver on which they lay, and said:
"With the permission of the marchioness, I will read them."
She bowed and smiled; then, passing her arm through his, led him to
a divan, and would have had him take a seat by her side.
"No, darling," said he, gently putting her down upon its satin
cushions. "Lie there, while I sit at your feet and read the fiat of
He unfolded the letter, and read, Laura watching him the while;
smoothing his hair with her loving hands, and gazing in his face
with tenderness unspeakable. As she gazed she saw a cloud pass over
his features; he looked up at her, and his eyes wore an expression
of strange compassion and sorrow.
Laura bent forward and kissed him. "What ails my love?" said she.
"This letter has destroyed a blessed dream, beloved. I had hoped
that we had propitiated Fate, and that misfortune had ceased to
"Why, what have your political papers to do with our fortunes?"
"This is not a political dispatch," replied Eugene. "It is the
answer to a letter I addressed to Pope Innocent. Will you read it,
She took the paper from his hands, and then began to laugh.
"I do not read Latin," said she. "Translate it for me."
Eugene then rose, put his arm around her and read:
"The sacrament of marriage is holy and inviolable, and it cannot be
set aside. Woe be unto those who deny its sanctity and its
irrevocable pledges! The marchioness Strozzi was married by a
priest, and her witnesses were a father and a brother. We are under
the necessity of refusing the petition of the Prince of Savoy; for,
no representation of intentions misdirected, can stand against the
deliberate consent of the parties to wedlock, witnessed by honorable
relatives. We, therefore, call upon the Prince of Savoy to humble
himself as beseems a man that has sinned against God and the Church,
lest he incur her malediction, at the hands of the vicar of Christ
The paper fell from his hands and fluttered to her feet.
"You appealed to the pope to annul my marriage with Strozzi?" asked
"Yes, my beloved. I would have aspired to the bliss of seeing the
beautiful Laura Bonaletta my own wife--my wife before the world."
"How good, how noble of you!" murmured she. "You would have elevated
poor Laura Bonaletta to the height of your own greatness, and would
have had her bear your glorious name! It would have been too much
bliss for me to bear that honored name, Eugene: and yet! oh, how I
wish I might have called myself Princess of Savoy! This happiness is
denied me, and I must submit; but I will not sin against my
conscience, by allowing any judgment of mortal man to drive me from
your side. Once more I lay my hand in yours, and what God has joined
together, no power of man shall ever put asunder."
Eugene clasped her trembling hand in his, and, raising his eyes to
heaven, recorded their vows.
After a pause, Laura resumed: "You have another letter to read, dear
Eugene. Perhaps it may console you for our own disappointment. It is
from Germany, and will, doubtless, bring pleasant tidings."
Eugene unfolded the dispatch, with a smile; but scarcely had he
glanced at its first words, when his face grew pale, and his hands
trembled so that he could scarcely hold the paper.
"Ah!" cried Laura, "another disappointment!"
"Oh, Laura," sighed he, "Charles of Lorraine is no more."
"Your dearest friend?"
"Ay--my dearest friend! Charles of Lorraine dead!--And dead of a
broken heart. Not on the battle-field, as became the greatest hero
of his age, but on a bed of sickness. No officer by to do him honor-
-no soldiers there to weep for their adored commander! Oh, I would
he a happy man, could I but win the love of my men as he did, and
earn but one of the many laurels that were wreathed around his
honored head!" [Footnote: Prince Eugene's own words.--See
"Your laurels will surpass his, my Eugene," exclaimed Laura, with
prophetic love. "You are destined to achieve immortality."
Eugene shook his head, and, almost unconsciously, murmured these
lines of Homer:
"Like leaves on trees, the race of man is found,
Now green in youth, now withering on the ground;
Another race the following spring supplies,
They fall successive, and successive rise.
So generations, in their course, decay,
So flourish these, when those have passed away!"
"Any admission within these enchanted walls?" said a gay voice,
behind them; and, starting up in amazement, they beheld the tall
figure of the Elector of Bavaria, and behind him, Conrad, with a
perplexed and most distressed countenance.
"Before I say another word, let me exonerate Conrad from any
complicity in my indiscretion," said the elector; "for, I must say,
that he told a series of falsehoods on your account, that will keep
him out of heaven for many a month. But I surprised him glancing
uneasily toward this door, so I took your Peter by the shoulders,
put him aside, and walked into paradise without his permission."
"Very well, Conrad," said Eugene; "you are excused." And, taking the
hand of the elector, he led him to the marchioness, and presented
him as his dearest living friend.
The elector kissed her hand and bent the knee before her as he would
have done before an empress.
"Madonna," said he, "I bow before your beauty and your worth. I am a
poor, sinful mortal, but I have, at least, an appreciation of
heavenly goodness, and I come to do homage to the innocence, the
purity, and the courage of my friend's guardian angel."
"You are most welcome, prince; but, I pray you, rise. It becomes not
a hero like you to kneel before poor Laura Bonaletta."
"I would have died but for her care," said Eugene, when the elector
had accepted a seat at Laura's side. "She came to me through perils
that shame our every-day deeds on the field of battle."
"I have heard of her miraculous night from one who loves her dearly.
We rejoiced together over the news of her escape."
"You allude to Lucretia," said Laura--"how is she?"
"Like other mortals," laughed the elector; "loving to-day and hating
to-morrow, and, finally, discovering that lovers' hate is love.
Neither you nor Eugene can understand these vicissitudes of
sublunary attachments; for you have nothing in common with the
stormy and changeful sea of ordinary loves. Heaven created you one
for the other, and your lives are a development of that divine
charity which 'believeth all things, hopeth all things, and endureth
THE ADVANCE INTO FRANCE.
The war in Italy had lasted for three years without any decisive
result on either side. Here and there some unimportant advantages
had been gained by the imperialists, which had then been balanced by
some equally trifling defeats. The campaign had opened
unfortunately. Against the advice of his generals, Victor Amadeus
had given battle to General Catinat, near the abbey of Staffarda,
and in spite of all that his kinsman Eugene could do by personal
bravery to repair the blunder, the imperialists sustained a most
humiliating defeat. Eugene, however, had the melancholy satisfaction
of knowing that he had predicted the result, although his
remonstrances had been unavailing to avert it.
This disaster had the effect of cooling the zeal of Victor Amadeus
to such an extent, that he actually began to repent of having taken
sides against the French. He was too wary to betray his state of
mind; so he pretended great ardor, and called urgently for re-
enforcements. Backed by the importunities of Prince Eugene, he
succeeded in obtaining them, and at their head the Elector Max
Emmanuel, commander-in-chief of all the imperial forces.
In spite of all this, the war was not vigorously prosecuted. Max
Emmanuel, although brave and true, seemed to have lost the qualities
that had made him a wise and energetic commander: he lacked coolness
when plans were to be conceived, and decision when they were to be
carried out. He left all supervision to the care of his
subordinates, and spent his days in the pursuit of pleasure.
All this Prince Eugene perceived with unavailing regret. He was
powerless to prevent it, for, as the youngest of the field-marshals,
his duty was restricted to the mere execution of the orders of his
superiors. The war dwindled down to an insignificant though bloody
contest with the mountaineers of Savoy and the Italian peasantry,
and things continued in this state until the allies of the emperor
manifested their discontent, and called for the removal of Max
Emmanuel. Field-Marshal Carassa was recalled, and, at the beginning
of the campaign of 1692, the command of the allied forces was given
to Victor Amadeus, while Field-Marshal Caprara was appointed second
Circumstances now seemed favorable to an earnest prosecution of the
war. The imperialists were assembled at one point; they were
superior in numbers to the enemy, and at their head stood a man who
lost no opportunity to publish to the world his devotion to Austria,
and his detestation of France.
Eugene was not as hopeful as the rest. He had had enough of valiant
words, and was longing for valiant deeds.
"We must advance into France," said he, when the generals next
assembled in council. "We must retaliate upon the people the
persecutions of their army in Germany and Italy. We must enter by
the pass of Barcelonetta, which for the present is unguarded. Before
troops can arrive to succor the garrison, we shall have taken
several more posts of importance."
"But should we take, will we be able to hold them?" asked Victor
Amadeus, affecting wisdom.
Eugene's large eyes looked searchingly into the sealed book of his
cousin's shrewd countenance.
"Your highness," replied he, "above all things let us have
confidence in ourselves, and let us place some trust in the fortunes
"Catinat is very sagacious," observed General Laganny, the leader of
the Spanish forces. "As soon as we move in the direction of
Barcelonetta, he will re-enforce the garrison."
"Then so much the more necessity for speed on our part," cried
Eugene. "We must mislead the enemy, and make a feint on Pignerol. To
this end, let us send a corps of observation into Piedmont, while we
order a detachment of dragoons and infantry to possess themselves in
all haste of the pass."
The Duke of Savoy looked thoughtful, and there was profound silence
among the members of the war council. After a pause of some
duration, Victor Amadeus raised his head, and gave a long searching
look at the excited countenance of his cousin.
"The Prince of Savoy is right," said he, at length. "We must avenge
our wrongs, and carry the war into France. Our way lies through the
vale of Barcelonetta, and we must move without delay."
The face of Eugene was so lit up by joy that his cousin smiled, and
gave him a significant look.
"I have an account of my own to settle with France," added he, "and
personal affronts to resent. So has my cousin, who longs to avenge
the injuries he has received from Louvois."
"I assure your royal highness," answered Eugene, eagerly, "that
personal feeling has naught to do with my opinions as to the
prosecution of this war. I would despise myself if, in what I have
spoken regarding the interests of the emperor, I had been actuated
by any secret motive of aversion toward his enemies."
There was something in this protest that annoyed Victor Amadeus, for
his eyes flashed, and his brows were momentarily corrugated. But no
one knew better than he how to suppress any symptoms of vexation. It
was not convenient to evince displeasure, and he composed his
features back to serenity.
"Members of this council of war, and officers of the imperial army,"
said he, with an appearance of solemn earnestness, "we must act
promptly and energetically. Let us prove to our allies, and to all
Europe, that we know how to avenge the wrongs of our countrymen. We
pass the boundary-lines of France!"
And every preparation was made to carry out this determination. The
army was to advance in three divisions, and Prince Eugene was to
lead the vanguard.
His way lay through the mountainous districts of Savoy; but, with
experienced guides to lead them, the dragoons were able to defile
through secret passes unknown to any but the natives, and to arrive
unsuspected upon the frontiers of France.
The peasant that preceded Prince Eugene stopped for a while, and,
raising his arm, pointed onward.
"This is France," said he. "Yonder is Barcelonetta, and the towers
you see beyond are those of the fortress of Guillestre."
Eugene thanked him, and put spurs to his horse. On the frontier he
drew in his rein, surveyed the lovely green plain before him, and
addressed the Prince de Commercy.
"I have kept the promise I made in Hungary," said he.
"I remember it," replied De Commercy. "I had been telling you that,
after hearing of your heroic deeds in the emperor's service, Louvois
had said: 'Let Prince Eugene beware how he attempts to return to
France!' And your reply was this: 'I shall return, but it shall be
sword in hand.'" [Footnote: Historical.--See Armath, "Prince Eugene
of Savoy," vol. i.]
"And we are here--my good sword and I. Nine years ago, I left my
native country, a miserable and despairing youth."
"And you return a great general, and one of the happiest men alive,"
cried De Commercy.
"Ay," murmured Eugene, "one of the happiest men alive!--so happy,
that methinks the contrarieties of life are so many vaporous clouds,
that throw but a passing shadow over the face of heaven, and then
melt into the azure of resplendent day. From my heart I thank
indulgent Destiny for her blessings!"
"Destiny that was mightier than the puny enmity of a Louvois! Well--
we have had our fill of glory in Hungary and Italy. I hope we shall
find a few laurels here in France."
"I hope so," said Eugene, moodily, "though oftentimes I--"
"Why do you hesitate? What do you fear?" asked De Commercy.
"I fear," replied Eugene, lowering his voice, "that we will not be
allowed to pluck laurels that grow on French soil."
"Do you think the French will outnumber us?"
"No," sighed Eugene, "the enemy's numbers give me no uneasiness: I
am afraid of our own weakness. We lack the morale--the will to
"Why surely, Eugene, you lack neither," replied De Commercy.
"As if _I_ had any voice in these councils! Were it left with me to
manoeuvre this army, I would lead it to Paris in two weeks. But,
unhappily, you and I are but the instruments of the will of our
superiors. I will not conceal from you, my friend, the impatience
with which I submit to carry out orders against which my judgment
continually rebels; and how weary I am of serving, where I feel that
I ought to command. You know me too well to suspect me of the
meanness of a mere lust for distinction. Had we a true or competent
leader, I would be content to remain where I am, as youngest field-
marshal in the army--in the fifth rank; but--"
"But you consider Victor Amadeus as incapable as Max Emmanuel?"
"Max was not incapable," said Eugene, as though speaking to himself.
"True, he exhibited none of those great qualities which
distinguished him in Hungary; or perhaps he was shrewd enough to
perceive that no amount of generalship could prevail against the
dulness of his German officers, the ill-will of the Spaniards, and
the irresolution of the Duke of Savoy. I believe he concluded to let
things take their course, and cause his own removal. But he, at
least, was honest. He was not casting his eyes about, to see on
which side lay his own interest. His countenance is a true reflex of
his soul--and what he says, he means."
"And by this you wish me to infer that such is not the case with our
present commander-in-chief?" asked De Commercy.
Eugene bent his head in token of assent, and gazed for a moment at
the country which lay before them. "We will capture Barcelonetta,"
said he, "Gillestre, and perhaps Embrun, provided we are too rapid
in our movements for the duke to circumvent us by countermanding
orders. We must strive to make retreat impossible, but we must not
lose sight of Victor Amadeus. We must watch him closely, and be on
our guard against--"
"Against what?" asked De Commercy.
"Against treason," whispered Eugene.
"How! You think it possible that--"
"That while the road to Paris is open before us, we never get
farther than Embrun. Unless we are wary, De Commercy, we shall be
betrayed and sold to the enemy.--But look! Here come our vanguard.
You can indulge your fancy for rural scenery, while I go to receive
them." And Eugene galloped back to his men, who received him with
shouts of enthusiasm.
"My braves," said he, unsheathing his sword, and pointing to the
smiling plains beyond, "my braves, this is France: the enemy's
country, which we are here to conquer!"
The troops responded with a yell that betokened their readiness for
the bloody work.
The men were allowed an hour's rest to feed their horses and prepare
their dinners. Fires were lighted, vivandieres went hither and
thither, wishing that they could multiply themselves to answer the
demands of the hungry soldiers. Here and there were picturesque
groups of men reclining under the trees, some chatting, some
smoking, others singing songs of home.
This bivouac was a pleasant scene to look upon; but its peace was
like the stillness that precedes a storm. A few hours might change
these light-hearted human beings into mangled corpses, and dye this
velvet sward with human blood.
Eugene had dismounted, and, accompanied by one of his staff-
officers, mingled with the merry crowd. Everywhere he was greeted
with demonstrations of affection and contemplated with unmistakable
admiration. Sometimes he paused awhile to chat with the soldiers, of
their families at home; often accepting the bread they offered, and
tasting of the soup that was being distributed by the vivandieres.
Now and then a gruff voice was heard calling out to the "little
Capuchin," as the soldiers were accustomed to designate Eugene,
through fondness. At such times, he smiled, nodded, and, when his
officers would have chided the men for their familiarity, besought
them not to reprove them for a jest so harmless.
"Why do you look so melancholy, lieutenant?" asked he of a young
officer, who, apart from his comrades, was leaning against a tree,
gazing intently in the distance.
The officer appeared to waken from a fit of abstraction, for he gave
a slight start, and removed his cap.
"Are you not pleased at our invasion of France?" asked Eugene.
"Ay, that am I," replied he, with a bitter smile. "I have long hoped
for this invasion, and I thank God that it is at hand."
"You are ambitious to wear the epaulets of a captain, I presume?"
"No, general, no. I care nothing for military finery."
"Why, then, have you longed to march to France?"
"Because I hunger and thirst for French blood. General, I implore
you, give me a body of men, and let me initiate our invasion of
France by giving the French a taste of guerrilla warfare."
"Are you so sanguinary, young man?" asked Eugene, in amazement. "Do
you not know that war itself should be conducted with humanity, and
that we should never forget our common brotherhood with our
"No, general, I know it not, nor do I wish to know it. I know that
the French have left me without kindred, without home, without ties;
and that they have transformed me--a man whose heart once beat with
sympathy and love for all living creatures--into a tiger, that
craves blood, and mocks at suffering."
"Unhappy man!" exclaimed Eugene, sadly. "Then you have suffered
wrong at the hands of the French?"
The young man heaved a convulsive sigh.
"I come from the Palatinate," said he. "My parents' house was fired,
my father murdered, and my mother driven out into the woods, where
she perished. But this is not all. I loved a maiden--a beautiful and
virtuous maiden, to whom I was betrothed. O God! that I should have
lived to see it! General, the name of my betrothed was Marie
"Marie Wengelin!" echoed Eugene, with a shudder. "I have heard of
her tragic end. It was she that delivered Esslingen, but was--"
"Marie! Marie!" cried Caspar, hiding his face with his hands.
Eugene kindly touched him on the shoulder. "Unfortunate young man,"
said he, "from my soul I pity you, and well I understand your hatred
of the Frenchman."
"Dear general, give me the command of a body of marauders that shall
clear the way for our army. There is many a man in our regiment as
eager for revenge as I; let us be consolidated into one corps, and
where bloody work is to be done, confide it to us."
Eugene thought for a moment, and then replied: "So be it; you shall
have your wish. Select one hundred men, of whom you shall be
captain, and come to me, individually for your orders, reporting
also to myself, and not to my officers. I will give you opportunity
to distinguish yourself, young man; but remember that it is one
thing to be a hero, and another to be a cutthroat. Retaliate upon
the men, but spare the women. If, in every Frenchman, you see a
Melac, look upon every woman as your Marie. Will you promise me
"I will, general. At last I shall have vengeance, I shall serve my
country, and when my work is done, may God release me from this
fearful earthly bondage!"
"Utter no such sinful wishes. Believe me, there is balm for every
wound; and I, who tell you this, have suffered unspeakably."
"General, my Marie is dead, and died by her own hand."
"She died the death of a heroine. But for you, it is heroism to
live, and so to live that the world may esteem you worthy of having
been loved by Marie Wengelin. Ah! you are no cutthroat. I see it in
the glance of your eye, in the tremor of your lip. You shall have
command of the guerrillas; for you will not be barbarous in your
warfare. What is your name?"
"Give me your hand, Caspar Werner, and promise me that you will go
through life with the fortitude that becomes a brave man."
Caspar grasped Eugene's extended hand. "Yes, general, I promise. I
will be worthy of my Marie--worthy of your kindness to-day; and from
this hour forth I am yours for life or death."
Eugene gazed admiringly into the handsome face of the trooper. "I
will do all that lies in my power to lessen your troubles, Caspar,
and you shall be under my own special protection. How soon will you
be able to organize your corps?"
"In ten minutes, general."
Eugene shook his head incredulously.
"You will see, general," said Caspar. "We are all prepared, and
awaited nothing but your consent. Now look! The men have just risen
from dinner. Will you allow me to present them now?"
"Certainly. I will wait for them here."
Caspar leaped on his horse, which was close at hand, grazing, and
galloped to the spot where the soldiers had bivouacked. Eugene, who
was now joined by several of his staff, followed his movements with
The trooper came so suddenly upon his comrades, that not one of them
had been aware of his approach. They went on chatting and smoking
until, all of a sudden, were heard these few words: "Ravens, to
In the twinkling of an eye, every man stood erect. For the second
time, Caspar called out, "Ravens, to horse!" when their hands were
on the bridle, and in less than five minutes they were all mounted.
Before ten minutes had expired, the Ravens had defiled before Prince
Eugene, who contemplated, with a sort of grim satisfaction, their
stalwart forms, their resolute, bronzed faces, and their fiery,
He signed to Caspar to approach.
"Gentlemen," said he to his officers, "let me present to you Captain
Werner of the --th. He is in command of an independent corps who
call themselves 'The Ravens,' but in their aspirings emulate the
"General," said Caspar, "give the word, and let your Ravens fly."
"You have it," replied Eugene, smiling. "Yonder are the towers of
Barcelonetta. On our march thither are two forts; they would
inconvenience our advance, and must be taken."
"They shall be taken," was the reply, and in a few moments the
Ravens had flown, and were no longer to be seen.
One hour later the vanguard of the imperial army resumed its march.
Nothing checked their advance, for the Ravens had carried every
thing before them. Barcelonetta, terrified at the fate of the two
other forts, held out the white flag; and, by the time Prince Eugene
had arrived, a procession was on its way to deliver into his hands
the keys of the fortress. The clergy, in full canonicals, were at
their head, and after them a troop of young girls dressed in white,
the first of whom presented the keys on a silk cushion, and
petitioned "the great hero" for mercy.
"Oh, my mother!" thought he, as he took the keys, "you the avenged.
The despised abbe has proved to the King of France that he is not a
weakling unworthy of wearing a sword!"
They tarried but a night at Barcelonetta. On the morrow they
captured Guillestre, and set out for Embrun, where they expected to
be joined by the main army.
Embrun resisted for twenty-four hours, but at the end of that time
it fell, and Victor Amadeus took up his headquarters there, while
Eugene marched on to Gab. He had been preceded by the Ravens, who,
in imitation of their enemies, had driven the people from their
houses, and had set fire to whole villages, cutting down all who
And, while they transformed the beautiful plains of Dauphine into a
waste, and marked their path forward by smoking ruins, they shouted
in the ears of the unhappy fugitives: "Revenge! Revenge for the woes
"Revenge for the woes of Germany!" cried the Ravens, as they leaped
from their horses to storm the walls of Gab.
But no answer was made to their challenge, for not a soul was there
to give back a defiant word. The gates stood open, the walls were
unguarded, and, when the dragoons entered the town, they found not
one living being whereon to wreak their vengeance. So hasty had been
the flight of the inhabitants that they had left their worldly goods
behind, and their houses looked as though the owners had but just
absented themselves for an hour or so to attend church, or celebrate
some public festival.
The Ravens took possession, and, when Prince Eugene arrived, he
found the Austrian flag waving from the towers, and that of Savoy
streaming above the gates.
"You have done your work quickly," observed he to Caspar.
"There was nothing to do. general," was the reply. "There is not a
living soul of them within the walls. And now, your highness--a
"What is it?"
"General, recall to your mind Speier and Worms, and grant us leave
to find our retaliation for their destruction in Gab."
"You say there is not a living soul in Gab? Are there, then, no
women, no children, no superannuated or infirm?"
"General, every house is empty. I found but one living creature in
Gab--a young girl who lay sick in bed--too sick to move."
"Forsaken, general, save by one little dog that had just expired at
the side of her bed, for its body was warm and supple."
"And the poor girl?"
"She was dying."
Eugene's large, questioning eyes were upon Caspar's face, and their
expression was anxious and painful. "Caspar, did you remember your
"Yes, general, I did. The maiden asked for water, and I held the cup
to her lips. I seated myself at her bedside, and, while my comrades
sacked the town, I soothed her last moments. When all was over, I
covered her face, and left the house."
Eugene extended his hand. "You acted nobly, Caspar."
"Nay, general," replied Caspar, his eyes filling with tears, "her
name was--Marie!--But now, that I can assure you on my honor that
there is no creature to molest in the town, I once more present the
petition of my men. They ask for permission to destroy Gab."
Eugene pondered for a moment, and then gave his consent. "Let them
do what they choose with the town."
Then, turning to the Prince de Commercy, "I begin to think," said
he, "that I have done injustice to Victor Amadeus. It was he who,
contrary to the opinions of his officers, ordered the advance to
Gab. He will be delighted and surprised to hear that we have
possession of the fortress already, for he was anxious to be with us
at the siege."
"I can believe it: he may well desire the honor of capturing one
stronghold in France, when his cousin has already reduced two.--But
look, Eugene, at yonder courier coming toward us--he seems to be in
The courier came on, his horse flecked with foam, himself covered
with dust; and, no sooner had he approached within hearing, than he
called in a loud voice for "Field-Marshal, the Prince of Savoy."
An orderly conducted him at once to the prince, to whom he delivered
a package from his highness the Duke of Savoy.
Eugene broke the seals, and began to read. His brows met, and, as he
looked up from the perusal of his dispatches, his face was
expressive of extreme annoyance.
"It is well," said he to the courier. "Say to his highness that we
will obey. Monsieur de Commercy, let us ride together up the
heights, whence we may have a full view of Gab and our troops."
They set their horses in motion, and in a few moments had reached
the summit of the hill. Here Eugene reined in his horse, and
reopened his dispatch.
"Here we are alone, Commercy. Let me read you the letter of my well-
beloved cousin and commander-in-chief:"
"My dear kinsman and distinguished field-marshal: To my unspeakable
regret, I am deprived, by a serious illness, of taking part in the
attack upon Gab. My physicians have ordered me back to Embrun, there
to await the result. These presents will convey to the advance guard
my command to retreat to Embrun until further orders. It is my
intention (unless I succumb before your arrival) to hold a council
of war; and, to this intent, I require the presence of all the
general officers. Hasten, therefore, my dear Eugene, lest you should
find me no longer alive; and believe that, living or dying, I am, as
ever, your devoted kinsman and friend."
(Signed) "'VICTOR AMADEUS, Duke of Savoy.'"
"Do you believe all this?" asked De Commercy.
"Stay till you hear the postscript from his own hand:"
"'My dear cousin: You must pardon my egotistic ambition, if I do not
allow the siege of Gab to be prosecuted without me. I am very
desirous of glory, and perchance your laurels have contributed to my
indisposition. At any rate, before you take a third fortress, I must
have my opportunity of capturing two. So, instead of attacking Gab,
come to Embrun to the relief of"
"'Yours, besieged by illness, V. A.'"
"I repeat my question--do you believe in his illness?"
"And you--do you believe in his ambition?"
"Why not? He avows it openly."
"For which very reason, it has no existence. Victor Amadeus is too
crafty to make such an avowal in good faith. He never says what he
thinks, nor does he ever think what he says. No, no--my poor little
leaflets of laurel would have given him no uneasiness, had they not
been plucked on French soil!--But we must wait and see. The main
point is to retreat to Embrun."
"And Gab? Will you retract your gift of its empty houses to the
"No. My instructions were not to besiege Gab. It surrendered before
they reached me, and I shall leave it to the soldiery. As for you
and me, we must hasten to Embrun to try to break the seal of my
cousin's impassible countenance, and read a few of his thoughts. Did
I not tell you that we would march no farther than Embrun?"
SICK AND WELL.
The Duke of Savoy had taken up his residence at the castle of
Embrun, where, as soon as the officers had arrived, his highness
called a council of war. They were assembled in the council-chamber,
awaiting the appearance of the invalid.
The doors leading to a room beyond were opened to give passage to a
huge arm-chair on rollers, which was wheeled by four lackeys, to the
centre of the hall. The duke's head reclined on a cushion which had
been fastened for the occasion to the back of the chair: the
remainder of his person was buried under a purple velvet coverlet,
except his neck and arms, which were clothed in a black doublet, the
whole costume being eminently calculated to heighten the pallor of
the duke's cheeks, and increase the whiteness of his hands as they
lay limp and helpless on the velvet covering. His eyes were half-
closed, and as he made a feeble attempt to survey the assemblage
before him, they appeared to open with difficulty. With a faint
motion of the hand, he signed to the lackeys to retire, and then
made a painful effort to raise his head.
Deep silence reigned throughout the council-chamber, but the gaze of
every man there was fixed upon the pallid face of him in whose
trembling hands lay the destinies of four different armies. His dim
eyes wandered slowly about the room until they rested on the person
of Prince Eugene, who, hot and dusty, presented an appearance that
contrasted strongly with that of his brother-officers.
"Our dear kinsman Eugene has arrived, I see," said the duke, in a
faint voice. "We were afraid that we would be obliged to hold this
important council without your presence."
"I hastened with all speed to obey your highness's summons," replied
Eugene, "and I must avail myself of this opportunity to apologize
for my dress. I have just dismounted, and hurried to the council-
chamber that I might myself announce to your highness the good news
of which I am the bearer."
"Let us hear it," murmured the duke, closing his eyes, and letting
his head droop upon the pillow.
"Your highness, we were not obliged to storm Gab: it surrendered
without a shot."
The duke's eyelids moved, and a flush overspread his face. No one
remarked this save Eugene, for all other eyes in the hall were
riveted upon himself.
"This is very good news," said the duke, feebly.
"Your highness sees, then, what a panic is produced by the mere
mention of your name. It is a talisman that will lead us to Paris
without opposition or loss of life. Like Caesar, you come, see, and
conquer--and that--not by your presence, but by your reputation."
"Your highness is too modest," said Victor Amadeus, somewhat
recovering his voice. "I cannot accept the laurels you have so
honorably won. Alas!" continued he, "I fear that I shall never lead
an army into battle again!"
And, as if exhausted by the thought, he fell back and was silent. In
a few moments, he raised his head and spoke: this time with open
eyes, and with some distinctness.
"Gentlemen take your seats. The council is opened."
The great question of the next movement of the army was now to be
agitated. The council were divided in their sentiments. Some were
for rapid advance, others were of opinion that great discretion was
to be exercised, now that they stood on the enemy's territory, and
that not one step should be made without great deliberation as to
At the head of the latter party stood General Caprara. "We have no
right to trust to luck in war," said he. "We must take into
consideration all the mischances that may befall us in the enemy's
country, and act accordingly. Prince Eugene's advance-guard, for
example, had the good luck to find Gab abandoned by its inhabitants.
Had they remained to defend their city, we would have lost our men
to no purpose whatever."
"My advance-guard is composed of young and brave men, who, to avenge
the injuries of Germany, have devoted themselves to death; but they
are so fearless, and therefore so terrible, that I believe they will
live to perform many a gallant deed."
"If they are not hanged as marauders," retorted Caprara; "for my
edicts against plunderers and incendiaries remain in force here as
well as at home."
"Your excellency has, then, changed your mode of warfare since your
soldiery devastated the towns of Hungary," said Eugene.
"Field-Marshal!" cried Caprara, reddening.
"What, your excellency?" asked Eugene, with a provoking smile.
"Gentlemen," interposed the Duke of Savoy, "distract not our
councils with your personal differences. Field-Marshal Caprara, you
are, then, of opinion that it would be perilous for us to advance
farther into the enemy's territory?"
"Yes, your highness," growled Caprara, looking daggers at Eugene. "A
rapid march might give opportunity for the display of personal
prowess, which, while it redounded to the credit of the few, would
imperil the safety of the many."
"I heartily second the views of General Caprara," said General
Legnaney, the leader of the Spanish division. "If we march on, we
leave our base of operations far behind, and render unforeseen
"That is my opinion;" "And mine," cried several voices together, but
among the younger officers there was dissenting silence.
Victor Amadeus gave a long sigh, and, turning his head slowly,
"Field-Marshal, Prince of Savoy, it is your turn to speak."
"I, your highness, am of opinion that we push our conquest with
vigor. All the talent and strength of the French army has been sent
to the Netherlands, and France is, so to speak, at our mercy. We
have no obstacles before us in the shape of men in the field or
garrisoned strongholds. As we captured Barcelonetta, Guillestre, and
Gab, so will we capture every place that lies on our march. There is
absolutely nothing of the proportions of a mole-hill to prevent us
from going as far as Grenoble--nay, as far as Lyons."
"The Prince of Savoy has spoken like a sagacious general," said the
Prince de Commercy. "Nothing prevents us from marching to Lyons."
"I sustain his views," added the Duke of Schomberg. "We must
advance. Let us promise protection to the Waldenses, and so foment
civil discord among the enemy. To create disaffection in the enemy's
country is good policy--and it is a policy that will bear us on to
"We are of the same mind," said the other officers, who had kept
And now ensued another pause. The casting vote on this momentous
question was to be given by Victor Amadeus. He had recovered his
strength in a wonderful manner, for his face had lost its pallor,
his eyes their dimness, and his whole countenance beamed with
"Gentlemen," cried he, as, in his excitement, he rose from his
chair, "to youth belong fame and conquest; to youth belongs the
strength that casts away impediments, and overleaps all hindrances
to success. Forgive us, who, being young, thirst for glory, and long
to quench that thirst in the sparkling waters of military success.
Forgive me, you who are satiated with ambition gratified, if, rather
than be discreet with you, I would be rash with my young kinsman. I
am of Prince Eugene's opinion. Nothing hinders our march to
Grenoble. I am impatient--"
Suddenly he paused, and grasped the arms of the chair. A shudder
pervaded his whole body, and, with a convulsive gasp, he fell hack,
The assembly broke up in confusion. Physicians were summoned, and,
at their bidding, the duke was slowly borne back into his chamber.
His head was enveloped in damp cloths, his temples were rubbed with
stimulants, and, after various restoratives had been applied, he
slowly opened his eyes, and looked bewildered about him. Nobody was
near except Doctor Mirazzi. The other physicians had retired to the
embrasure of a bay-window, and the lackeys had gathered about the
door, where they were awaiting further orders from their superiors.
All this the duke had seen at a glance. He closed his eyes again,
but, as he did so, he made a sign to Doctor Mirazzi.
The latter bent his head to listen, but in such a manner as to
convey the idea that he was watching his patient's fluttering
"Dismiss them all," whispered the sick man.
The doctor gave no ostensible sign of having heard. He still kept
his ear to the patient's mouth; then, after a while, he placed it
close to his heart. The examination at an end, he went on tiptoes
toward the window where his colleagues were standing.
"He sleeps," whispered he. "When he awakes, his malady will probably
declare itself. I will remain here to watch him; it is unnecessary
for you to confine yourselves with me in this close sick-room. Will
you oblige me by returning this evening for a consultation?"
"Certainly," was the reply of the others, who were grateful to be
relieved from duty. "Shall we appoint seven o'clock?"
"Yes," answered Mirazzi; "and we will hold our consultation in the
duke's sitting-room. Our presence, here might be prejudicial."
And, with injunctions for silence, the doctor accompanied his
colleagues to the door, which was noiselessly opened by the lackeys;
but, before they had time to close it again, Mirazzi shut it with
his own hands, loosening simultaneously a thick velvet portiere,
through whose heavy folds no sound could penetrate without.
Victor Amadeus, meanwhile, lay motionless in his arm-chair.
"Your highness." said Mirazzi, "we are now safe and alone."
The duke arose, kicked off his coverlet, and stood erect. "My dear
doctor," said he, "you must prove to me that I may trust you."
"For thirty years I have served your royal highness's family, and I
am ready to do so, be it with my life," replied Mirazzi.
"I believe you, Mirazzi; and therefore I, who am insincere toward
everybody else, am honest in my intercourse with you. Now listen to
me. In the science of medicine there are many remedies for diseases.
Are there any potions, known to physicians, that have power to
"That is a dangerous inquiry, your highness; for it regards the most
tragic secrets of the craft. There are many, many things known to us
that will produce sickness, followed by death, immediate or remote;
but unfortunately there are not as many as you suppose, that will
restore the vital energies where they are impaired by disease."
"But, doctor, surely you have some way of simulating disease without
injuring the patient. Cutaneous maladies, for instance, must be very
"They can more easily be induced than simulated. I can raise a
scarlet eruption on a man's skin; but when it appears, it will bring
with it fever and thirst."
"So much the better, so much the better!" exclaimed Victor Amadeus,
eagerly. "How long will the symptoms last?"
"If proper remedies are administered, they will disappear in five or
six days, your highness."
"Good, good," murmured the duke to himself; and then he began to
pace forth and back the length of the apartment. After a while he
came and stood directly in front of the doctor, who with his sharp
eyes had been watching him as he walked, and perfectly apprehended
the nature of the service he was expected to render to his
"Doctor," said the sick man, "I feel the premonition of some serious
illness. My head swims, my limbs ache, and cold chills are darting
through my body. My fever will be high, and perchance I may grow
delirious. Let me then use the rational interval left me, to make
such dispositions as might be necessary in case of my demise."
"Then let me advise your highness to get to bed as speedily as
possible," replied the doctor, solemnly. "This done, I will call in
our consulting physicians--"
"By no means: I hate consultations. Nobody shall come into my room
but yourself, and, when you need the advice of your coadjutors, you
must assemble them in some other part of the castle."
"I thank your highness for so signal a proof of confidence," said
Mirazzi, "but I am not at liberty to assume the undivided
responsibility of your nursing; for you may become really sick, and
you must have all needful attention. Were we in Turin, her highness
your noble spouse would suffer no one to attend you except herself;
"Here she shall not come; and to make sure of this fact, I will
write her a letter in my own hand that will allay any anxiety she
might feel on my account. Write yourself to the duchess, and ask her
to send my old nurse--her that has always tended me in sickness. But
I feel very ill, doctor. Call my valet to undress me. When I am
comfortably arranged in bed, I will send for my secretary, and
afterward for my staff-officers. They must receive their orders from
me, before I lose my senses."
"To bed, to bed, your highness--that is the main thing!"
"Yes, that is the main thing," echoed the duke, falling into his
arm-chair, and drawing up his velvet coverlet. "Now, doctor," added
he, in a very faint voice, "call my valets, or I shall swoon before
they get me to bed."
THE DUKE'S DANGEROUS ILLNESS.
The news of the duke's terrible illness spread through the castle,
over the town, and reached the barracks of the soldiers, who, like
their officers, received the intelligence with blank looks of
The staff-officers hastened to the castle, and some of them made
attempts to penetrate the sick-chamber. But all in vain. Doctor
Mirazzi's orders were stringent, and the nerves of his patient were
not to be tried by the presence of any man, were that man his own
"We can determine nothing, nor can we administer any remedies," said
he, "until the malady declares itself. We must wait."
"We must wait," said the duke's physician, and the whole army was
doomed to inaction, while urgent and more urgent grew the necessity
for active operations.
Throughout the castle reigned profound stillness: not the least
sound was permitted to reach the duke's ears. The officers that
called were kept at a distance from his apartments, and to all their
inquiries there was but one and the same reply--the duke was
delirious, and incapable of giving orders.
Finally, after three days of mortal suspense, it was announced that
his highness of Savoy had malignant scarlet fever.
During the four days that followed this announcement, nobody was
allowed to enter the room except Doctor Mirazzi, and the old nurse
that sat up with the duke at night. But, on the fifth day, two
persons were admitted. Of these, one was the marshal of the duke's
household, the other was his cousin Eugene.
They were received with mysterious whisperings, and were warned not
to excite the patient. He had, in the incipiency of his illness,
insisted upon making his will, and these two confidential friends
had been summoned to witness it.
The old nurse now joined them to say that his highness was awake,
and would see Prince Eugene.
"My dear cousin," said the duke, languidly, "come and receive my
Eugene entered the alcove, and stood at the bedside. The bed was
curtained in purple velvet, and the hangings were so arranged as to
leave the duke's face in obscurity. Eugene perceived, nevertheless,
that there was no emaciation of features, nor any alteration in the
expression of the sharp, restless eye.
"My dear kinsman," continued the invalid, "it is all over with me. I
die without fame; I have fought my last battle and am vanquished by
"No, your highness, you have not the aspect of a dying man; and I
have strong hope that you will live to perform great deeds yet.
Young, wise, and brave as you are, your strong will may vanquish not
only death, but our common enemy--the King of France."
"May your words prove prophetic!" sighed the duke, "but something
tells me that I must prepare for the worst. I have made my will,
He paused, gasped for breath, and closed his eyes. Then motioning to
Eugene to come nearer, he whispered: "I have appointed you my
executor until the majority of my heir. Promise me to do all in your
power to make my subjects happy."
"Your royal highness amazes me, and I know not--"
He was interrupted by a loud groan which brought Doctor Mirazzi to
the bed in a trice. The duke was trembling; his teeth were clinched,
and his hands were pressed upon his temples.
Restoratives were used, and at the proper time the patient unclosed
his eyes. With a great effort he raised himself in bed, beckoned to
the marshal of the household to approach, and, supported by Mirazzi,
he put his name to the will.