An HISTORICAL NOVEL
by Lousia Muhlbach
CHAPTER I 1809 II The Emperor Francis III The Courier and the Ambassador IV The Emperor and his Brothers V The Performance of "The Creation" VI Andreas Hofer VII Andreas Hofer at the Theatre VIII Consecration of the Flags, and Farewell IX Tis Time! X Anthony Wallner of Windisch-Matrey XI The Declaration of Love XII Farewell! XIII The Bridegroom XIV The Bridge of St. Lawrence XV The Bridge of Laditch XVI On the Sterzinger Moos XVII The Hay-Wagons XVIII Capture of Innspruck XIX The Capitulation of Wiltau XX Eliza Wallner's Return XXI The Catastrophe XXII Eliza and Ulrich XXIII The Triumph of Death XXIV The Archduke John at Comorn XXV The Emperor Francis at Wolkersdorf XXVI The Reply of the King of Prussia XXVII The Battle of Wagram XXVIII The Armistice of Znaym XXIX Hofer and Speckbacher XXX The Capuchin's Oath XXXI The First Battle XXXII The Fifteenth of August at Innspruck XXXIII Andreas Hofer, the Emperor's Lieutenant XXXIV The Fifteenth of August at Comorn XXXV A Day of the Emperor's Lieutenant XXXVI The Lovers XXXVII Elza's Return XXXVIII The Wedding XXXIX The Treaty of Peace XL Dreadful Tidings XLI Betrayal and Seizure of Hofer XLII The Warning XLIII The Flight XLIV Andreas Hofer's Death
The year 1809 had come; but the war against France, so intensely longed for by all Austria, had not yet broken out, and the people and the army were vainly waiting for the war-cry of their sovereign, the Emperor Francis. It is true, not a few great things bad been accomplished in the course of the past year: Austria had armed, organized the militia, strengthened her fortresses, and filled her magazines; but the emperor still hesitated to take the last and most decisive step by crowning his military preparations with a formal declaration of war.
No one looked for this declaration of war more intensely than the emperor's second brother, the Archduke John, a young man of scarcely twenty-seven. He had been the soul of all the preparations which, since the summer of 1808, had been made throughout Austria; he had conceived the plan of organizing the militia and the reserves; and had drawn up the proclamation of the 12th of May, 1808, by which all able-bodied Austrians were called upon to take up arms. But this exhausted his powers; he could organize the army, but could not say to it, "Take the field against the enemy!" The emperor alone could utter this word, and he was silent.
"And he will be silent until the favorable moment has passed," sighed the Archduke John, when, on returning from a very long interview with the emperor, he was alone with his friend, General Nugent, in his cabinet.
He had communicated to this confidant the full details of his interview with the emperor, and concluded his report by saying, with a deep sigh, "The emperor will be silent until the favorable moment has passed!"
Count Nugent gazed with a look of heart-felt sympathy into the archduke's mournful face; he saw the tears filling John's large blue eyes; he saw that he firmly compressed his lips as if to stifle a cry of pain or rage, and that he clinched his hands in the agony of his despair. Animated by tender compassion, the general approached the archduke, who had sunk into a chair, and laid his hand gently on his shoulder. "Courage, courage!" he whispered; "nothing is lost as yet, and your imperial highness—"
"Ah, why do you address me with 'imperial highness'?" cried the archduke, almost indignantly. "Do you not see, then, that this is a miserable title by which Fate seems to mock me, and which it thunders constantly, and, as it were, sneeringly into my ears, in order to remind me again and again of my deplorable powerlessness? There is nothing 'imperial' about me but the yoke under which I am groaning; and my 'highness' is to be compared only with the crumbs of Lazarus which fell from the rich man's table. And yet there are persons, Nugent, who envy me these crumbs—men who think it a brilliant and glorious lot to be an 'imperial highness,' the brother of a sovereign emperor! Ah, they do not know that this title means only that I am doomed to everlasting dependence and silence, and that the emperor's valet de chambre and his private secretary are more influential men than the Archduke John, who cannot do anything but submit, be silent, and look on in idleness."
"Now your imperial highness slanders yourself," exclaimed Count Nugent. "You have not been silent, you have not looked on in idleness, but have worked incessantly and courageously for the salvation of your people and your country. Who drew up the original plan for the organization of the militia and the reserves? Who elaborated its most minute details with admirable sagacity? It was the Archduke John—the archduke in whom all Austria hopes, and who is the last refuge and comfort of all patriots!"
"Ah, how much all of you are to be pitied, my friend, if you hope in me!" sighed John. "What am I, then? A poor atom which is allowed to move in the glare of the imperial sun, but which would be annihilated so soon as it should presume to be an independent luminary. Pray, Nugent, do not speak of such hopes; for, if the emperor should hear of it, not only would my liberty be endangered, but also yours and that of all who are of your opinion. The emperor does not like to see the eyes of his subjects fixed upon me; every kind word uttered about me sours him and increases the ill-will with which he regards me."
"That is impossible, your highness," exclaimed the count. "How can our excellent emperor help loving his brother, who is so gifted, so high-minded and learned, and withal so modest and kind-hearted? How can he help being happy to see that others love and appreciate him too?"
"Does the emperor love my brother Charles, who is much more gifted and high-minded than I am?" asked John, shrugging his shoulders. "Did he not arrest his victorious career, and recall him from the army, although, or rather BECAUSE, he knew that the army idolized him, and that all Austria loved him and hoped in him? Ah, believe me, the emperor is distrustful of all his brothers, and all our protestations of love and devotedness do not touch him, but rebound powerlessly from the armor of jealousy with which he has steeled his heart against us. You see, I tell you all this with perfect composure, but I confess it cost me once many tears and inward struggles, and it was long before my heart became calm and resigned. My heart long yearned for love, confidence, and friendship. I have got over these yearnings now, and resigned myself to be lonely, and remain so all my life long. That is to say," added the archduke, with a gentle smile, holding out his hand to the count, "lonely, without a sister, without a brother—lonely in my family. However, I have found a most delightful compensation for this loneliness, for I call you and Hormayr friends; I have my books, which always comfort, divert, and amuse me; and last, I have my great and glorious hopes regarding the future of the fatherland. Ah, how could I say that I was poor and lonely when I am so rich in hopes, and have two noble and faithful friends? I am sure, Nugent, you will never desert me, but stand by me to the end—to the great day of victory, or to the end of our humiliation and disgrace?"
"Your imperial highness knows full well that my heart will never turn from you; that I love and revere you; that you are to me the embodiment of all that is noble, great, and beautiful; that I would be joyfully ready at any hour to suffer death for you; and that neither prosperity nor adversity could induce me to forsake you. You are the hope of my heart, you are the hope of my country—nay, the hope of all Germany. We all need your assistance, your heart, your arm; for we expect that you will place yourself at the head of Germany, and lead us to glorious victories!"
"God grant that the hour when we shall take the field may soon come! Then, my friend, I shall prove that I am ready, like all of you, to shed my heart's blood for the fatherland, and conquer or die for the liberty of Austria, the liberty of Germany. For in the present state of affairs the fate of Germany, too, depends on the success of our arms. If we succumb and have to submit to the same humiliations as Prussia, the whole of Germany will be but a French province, and the freedom and independence of our fatherland will be destroyed for long years to come. I am too weak to survive such a disgrace. If Austria falls, I shall fall too; if German liberty dies, I shall die too." [Footnote: The Archduke John's own words.—See "Forty-eight Letters from Archduke John of Austria to Johannes von Muller," p. 90.]
"German liberty will not die!" exclaimed Count Nugent, enthusiastically; "it will take the field one day against all the powerful and petty tyrants of the fatherland. Then it will choose the Archduke John its general-in-chief, and he will lead it to victory!"
"No, no, my friend," said John, mournfully; "Fate refuses to let me play a decisive part in the history of the world. My role will always be but a secondary one; my will will always be impeded, my arm will be paralyzed forever. You know it. You know that I am constantly surrounded by secret spies and eavesdroppers, who watch me with lynx-eyed mistrust and misrepresent every step I take. It was always so, and will remain so until I die or become a decrepit old man, whose arm is no longer able to wield the sword or even the pen. That I am young, that I have a heart for the sufferings of my country, a heart not only for the honor of Austria, but for that of Germany—that is what gives umbrage to them, what renders me suspicious in their eyes, and causes them to regard me as a revolutionist. I had to suffer a good deal for my convictions; a great many obstacles were raised against all my plans; and yet I desired only to contribute to the welfare of the whole; I demanded nothing for myself, but every thing for the fatherland. To the fatherland I wished to devote my blood and my life; for the fatherland I wished to conquer in the disastrous campaign of 1805. However, such were not the plans of my adversaries; they did not wish to carry on the war with sufficient energy and perseverance; they would not give my brother Charles and me an opportunity to distinguish ourselves and gain a popular name. Whenever I planned a vigorous attack, I was not permitted to carry it into effect. Whenever, with my corps, I might have exerted a decisive influence upon the fortunes of the war, I was ordered to retreat with my troops to some distant position of no importance whatever; and when I remonstrated, they charged me with rebelling against the emperor's authority. Ah, I suffered a great deal in those days, and the wounds which my heart received at that juncture are bleeding yet. I had to succumb, when the men who had commenced the war at a highly unfavorable time, conducted it at an equally unfavorable moment, and made peace. And by that peace Austria lost her most loyal province, the beautiful Tyrol, one of the oldest states of the Hapsburgs; and her most fertile province, the territory of Venetia and Dalmatia, for which I did not grieve so much, because it always was a source of political dissensions and quarrels for the hereditary provinces of Austria. What afflicted me most sorely was the loss of the Tyrol, and even now I cannot think of it without the most profound emotion. It seemed as though Fate were bent on blotting out from our memory all that might remind us of our ancestors, their virtues, their patriotism, and their perseverance in the days of universal adversity; and as though, in consequence of this, the spirit, of the Hapsburgs had almost become extinct, and we were to lose all that they bad gained in the days of their greatness. [Footnote: John's own words.—See "Forty-eight Letters from Archduke John to Johannes von Muller," p. 103.] But now Fate is willing to give us another opportunity to repair our faults and show that we are worthy of our ancestors. If we allow this to pass too, all is lost, not only the throne of the Hapsburgs, but also their honor!"
"This opportunity will not pass!" exclaimed the count. "The throne of the Hapsburgs will be preserved, for it is protected by the Archdukes John and Charles, a brave army that is eager for a war with France, and a faithful, intrepid people, which is sincerely devoted to its imperial dynasty, which never will acknowledge another ruler, and which never will desert its Hapsburgs."
"Yes, the people will not desert us," said John, "but worse things may happen; we may desert ourselves. Just look around, Nugent, and see how lame we have suddenly become again; how we have all at once stopped half way, unable to decide whether it might not be better for us to lay down our arms again and surrender at discretion to the Emperor of the French."
"Fortunately, it is too late now to take such a resolution; for Austria has already gone so far that a hesitating policy at this juncture will no longer succeed in pacifying the Emperor of the French. And it is owing to the efforts of your imperial highness that it is so; we are indebted for it to your zeal, your energy, and your enthusiasm for the good cause, which is now no longer the cause of Austria, but that of Germany. And this cause will not succumb; God will not allow a great and noble people to be trampled under foot by a foreign tyrant, who bids defiance to the most sacred treaties and the law of nations, and who would like to overthrow all thrones to convert the foreign kingdoms and empires into provinces of his empire, blot out the history of the nations and dynasties, and have all engulfed by his universal monarchy."
"God may not decree this, but He may perhaps allow it if the will of the nations and the princes should not be strong enough to set bounds to such mischief. When the feeling of liberty and independence does not incite the nations to rise enthusiastically and defend their rights, God sends them a tyrant as a scourge to chastise them. And such, I am afraid, is our case. Germany has lost faith in herself, in her honor; she lies exhausted at the feet of the tyrant, and is ready to be trampled in the dust by him. Just look around in our German fatherland. What do you see there? All the sovereign princes have renounced their independence, and become Napoleon's vassals; they obey his will, they submit to his orders, and send their armies not against the enemy of Germany, but against the enemies of France, no matter whether those enemies are their German brethren or not. The German princes have formed the Confederation of the Rhine, and the object of this confederation is not to preserve the frontier of the Rhine to Germany, but to secure the Rhine to France. The German princes are begging for honors and territories at the court of Napoleon; they do not shrink from manifesting their fealty to their master, the Emperor of the French, by betraying the interests of Germany; they are playing here at Vienna the part of the meanest spies; they are watching all our steps, and are shameless enough to have the Emperor Napoleon reward their infamy by conferring royal titles on them, and to accept at his hands German territories which he took from German princes. Bavaria did not disdain to aggrandize her territories at our expense; Wurtemberg accepts without blushing the territories of other German princes at the bands of Napoleon, who thus rewards her for the incessant warnings by which the King of Wurtemberg urges the Emperor of the French to be on his guard against Austria, and always distrust the intentions of the Emperor Francis. [Footnote: Schlosser, "History of the Eighteenth Century," vol. vii., p. 488.] In the middle of the German empire we see a new French kingdom; Westphalia, established by Napoleon's orders; it is formed of the spoils taken from Prussia and Hanover; and the German princes suffer it, and the German people bow their heads, silently to the disgraceful foreign yoke! Ah, Nugent, my heart is full of grief and anger, full of the bitterness of despair; for I have lost faith in Germany, and see shudderingly that she will decay and die, as Poland died, of her own weakness. Ah, it would be dreadful, dreadful, if we too, had to fall, as the unfortunate Kosciusko did, with the despairing cry of 'Finis Germaniae!'"
"No, that will never happen!" cried Nugent. "No, Germany will never endure the disgrace and debasement of Poland; she will never sink to ruin and perish like Poland. It is true, a majority of the German princes bow to Napoleon's power, and we may charge them with infidelity and treason against Germany; but we can not prefer the same charge against the German people and the subjects of the traitorous German princes. They have remained faithful, and have not yet lost faith in their fatherland. They are indignantly champing the bit with which their despots have shut their mouth; and, in silence, harmony, and confidence in God, they are preparing for the great hour when they will rise, for the sacred day when they will break their shackles with the divine strength of a united and high- minded people. Everywhere the embers are smouldering under the ashes; everywhere secret societies and leagues have been formed; everywhere there are conspirators, depots of arms, and passwords; everywhere the people of Germany are waiting only for the moment when they are to strike the first blow, and for the signal to rise. And they are in hopes now that Austria will give the signal. Our preparations for war have been hailed with exultation throughout Germany: everywhere the people are ready to take up arms so soon as Austria draws the sword. The example of Spain and Portugal has taught the Germans how the arrogant conqueror must be met; the example of Austria will fill them with boundless enthusiasm, and lead them to the most glorious victories!"
"And we are still temporizing and hesitating," exclaimed John, mournfully; "we are not courageous enough to strike the first blow! All is ready; the emperor has only to utter the decisive word, but he refuses to do so!"
"The enthusiasm of his people will soon compel him and his advisers to utter that word," said Nugent. "Austria can no longer retrace her steps; she must advance. Austria must lead Germany in the sacred struggle for liberty; she can no longer retrace her steps."
"God grant that your words may be verified!" cried John, lifting his tearful eyes to heaven; "God grant that—"
A low rapping at the door leading to the small secret corridor caused the archduke to pause and turn his eyes with a searching expression to this door.
The rapping was repeated, more rapidly than before.
"It is Hormayr," exclaimed the archduke, joyfully; and he hastened to the secret door and opened it quickly.
A tall young man, in the uniform of an Austrian superior officer, appeared in the open door. The archduke grasped both his hands and drew him hastily into the cabinet.
"Hormayr, my friend," he said, breathlessly, "you have returned from the Tyrol? You have succeeded in fulfilling the mission with which I intrusted you? You have carried my greetings to the Tyrolese? Oh, speak, speak, my friend! What do my poor, deserted Tyrolese say?"
Baron von Hormayr fixed his flashing dark eyes with an expression of joyful tenderness on the excited face of the archduke.
"The Tyrolese send greeting to the Archduke John," he said; "the Tyrolese hope that the Archduke John will deliver them from the hateful yoke of the Bavarians; the Tyrolese believe that the hour has arrived, when they may recover their liberty; and to prove this- -"
"To prove this?" asked the archduke, breathlessly, when Hormayr paused a moment.
"To prove this," said Hormayr, in a lower voice, stepping up closer to the prince, "some of the most influential and respectable citizens of the Tyrol have accompanied me to Vienna; they desire to assure your imperial highness of their loyal devotedness, and receive instructions from you."
"Is Andreas Hofer, the landwirth, among them?" asked the archduke, eagerly.
"He is, and so are Wallner and Speckbacher. I bring to your imperial highness the leading men of the Tyrolese peasants, and would like to know when I may introduce them to you, and at what hour you will grant a private audience to my Tyrolese friends?"
"Oh, I will see them at once!" exclaimed John, impatiently. "My heart longs to gaze into the faithful, beautiful eyes of the Tyrolese, and read in their honest faces if they really are still devoted and attached to me. Bring them to me, Hormayr; make haste— but no, I forgot that it is broad daylight, and that the spies watching me have eyes to see, ears to hear, and tongues to report to the emperor as dreadful crimes all that they have seen and heard here. We must wait, therefore, until the spies have closed their eyes, until dark and reticent night has descended on earth, and—. Well, Conrad, what is it?" the archduke interrupted himself, looking at his valet de chambre, who had just entered hastily by the door of the anteroom.
"Pardon me, your imperial highness," said Conrad; "a messenger of her majesty the empress is in the anteroom. Her majesty has ordered him to deliver his message only to the archduke himself."
"Let him come in," said the archduke.
Conrad opened the door, and the imperial messenger appeared on the threshold.
"Her majesty the Empress Ludovica sends her respects to the archduke," said the messenger, approaching the archduke respectfully. "Her majesty thanks your imperial highness for the book which you lent her; and she returns it with sincere thanks."
An expression of astonishment overspread John's face, but it soon disappeared, and the archduke received with a calm smile the small sealed package which the messenger handed to him.
"All right," he said; "tell her majesty to accept my thanks."
The messenger returned to the anteroom, and Conrad closed the door behind him.
"Place yourself before the door, Nugent, that nobody may be able to look through the key-hole," whispered John, "for you know that I do not trust Conrad. And you, Hormayr, watch the secret door."
The two gentlemen hastened noiselessly to obey. The archduke cast a searching glance around the walls, as if afraid that even the silken hangings might contain somewhere an opening for the eyes of a spy, or serve as a cover to an ear of Dionysius.
"Something of importance must have occurred," whispered John; "otherwise the empress would not have ventured to send me a direct message. I did not lend her a book, and you know we agreed with the ladies of our party to communicate direct news to each other only in cases of pressing necessity. Let us see now what it is."
He hastily tore open the sealed package and drew from it a small prayer-book bound in black velvet. While he was turning over the leaves with a smile, a small piece of paper fluttered from between the gilt-edged leaves and dropped to the floor.
"That is it," said John, smiling, picking up the paper, and fixing his eyes on it. "There is nothing on it," he then exclaimed, contemplating both sides of the paper. "There is not a word on it. It is only a book-mark, that is all. But, perhaps, something is written in the book, or there may be another paper."
"No, your imperial highness," whispered Nugent, stepping back a few paces from the door. "The Princess Lichtenstein whispered to me yesterday, at the court concert, that she had obtained an excellent way of sending a written message to her friends and allies, and that, if we received a piece of white paper from the ladies of our party, we had better preserve it and read it afterward near the fireplace."
"Ah, sympathetic ink," exclaimed John; "well, we will see."
He hastily approached the fireplace, where a bright fire was burning, and held the piece of paper close to the flames. Immediately a number of black dots and lines appeared on the paper; these dots and lines assumed gradually the shape of finely-written words.
The archduke followed with rapt attention every line, every letter that appeared on the white paper, and now he read as follows:
"The French ambassador has requested the emperor to grant him an audience at eleven o'clock this morning. A courier from Metternich in Paris has arrived, and, I believe, brought important news. The decisive hour is at hand. Hasten to the emperor; leave nothing undone to prevail on him to take a bold stand. Send somebody to the Archduke Charles; request him to repair likewise to the emperor and influence him in the same direction. I have paved the way for you. I hope the French ambassador will, in spite of himself, be our ally, and by his defiant and arrogant bearing, attain for us the object which we have hitherto been unable to accomplish by our persuasion and our arguments. Make haste! Burn this paper."
The archduke signed to his two confidants to come to him, and pointed to the paper. When they had hastily read the lines, he threw the paper into the flames, and turned to the two gentlemen who stood behind him.
"Well, what do you think of it?" he inquired. "Shall I do what these mysterious lines ask of me? Shall I go to the emperor without being summoned to him?"
"The empress requests you to do so, and she is as prudent as she is energetic," said Count Nugent.
"I say, like the empress, the decisive hour is at hand," exclaimed Baron von Hormayr. "Hasten to the emperor; try once more to force the sword into his hand, and to wrest at length the much-wished-for words, 'War against France!' from his lips. The Tyrolese are only waiting for these words, to rise for their emperor and become again his loving and devoted subjects. All Austria, nay, all Germany, is longing for these words, which will be the signal of the deliverance of the fatherland from the French yoke. Oh, my lord and prince, hasten to the emperor; speak to him with the impassioned eloquence of the cherubim, break the fatal charm that holds Austria and the Tyrol enthralled!"
At this moment the large clock standing on the mantelpiece commenced striking.
"Eleven o'clock," said the archduke—"the hour when the emperor is to give an audience to the French ambassador. It is high time, therefore. Nugent, hasten to my brother; implore him to repair forthwith to the emperor, and to act this time at least in unison with me. Tell him that everything is at stake, and that we must risk all to win all. But you, Hormayr, go to my dear Tyrolese; tell them that I will receive them here at twelve o'clock to-night, and conduct them to me at that hour, my friend. We will hold a council of war at midnight."
"And your imperial highness does not forget that you promised to go to the concert to-night?" asked Nugent. "Your highness is aware that our friends not only intend to-night to give an ovation to the veteran master of German art, Joseph Haydn, but wish also to profit by the German music to make a political demonstration; and they long for the presence of the imperial court, that the emperor and his brothers may witness the patriotic enthusiasm of Vienna."
"I shall certainly be present," said the archduke, earnestly, "and I hope the empress will succeed in prevailing on the emperor to go to the concert.—Well, then, my friends, let us go to work, and nay God grant success to our efforts!"
THE EMPEROR FRANCIS.
The Emperor Francis had to-day entered his study at an earlier hour than usual, and was industriously engaged there in finishing a miniature cup which he had commenced cutting from a peach-stone yesterday. On the table before him lay the drawing of the model after which he was shaping the cup; and Francis lifted his eves only from time to time to fix them on the drawing, and compare it with his own work. These comparisons, however, apparently did not lead to a cheering result, for the emperor frowned and put the cup rather impetuously close to the drawing on the table.
"I believe, forsooth, the cup is not straight," murmured the emperor to himself, contemplating from all sides the diminutive object which had cost him so much labor. "Sure enough, it is not straight, it has a hump on one side. Yes, yes, nothing is straight, nowadays; and even God in heaven creates His things no longer straight, and does not shrink from letting the peach-stones grow crooked. But no matter—what God does is well done," added the emperor, crossing himself devoutly; "even an emperor must not censure it, and must not grumble when his cup is not straight because God gave the peach- stone a hump. Well, perhaps, I may change it yet, and make the cup straight."
He again took up the little cup, and commenced industriously working at it with his sharp files, pointed knives, and gimlets. It was hard work; large drops of sweat stood on the emperor's forehead; his arms ached, and his fingers became sore under the pressure of the knives and files; but the emperor did not mind it, only from time to time wiping the sweat from his brow, and then continuing his labor with renewed zeal.
Close to the small table containing the tools stood the emperor's large writing-table. Large piles of documents and papers lay on this table, and among them were scattered also many letters and dispatches with broad official seals. But the emperor had not yet thought of opening these dispatches or unsealing these letters. The peach-stone had engrossed his attention this morning, and he had unsealed only one of the papers; the emperor had read only the report of the secret police on the events of the previous day. These reports of the secret police and the Chiffre-Cabinet were the favorite reading matter of the Emperor Francis, and he would have flown into a towering passion if he had not found them on his writing-table early every morning.
Thanks to these reports, the emperor knew every morning all that had occurred in Vienna during the previous day; what the foreign ambassadors had done, and, above all things, what his brothers, the Archdukes Charles, Ferdinand, Joseph, and John, had said, done, and perhaps only thought. To-day's report had not communicated many important things to the emperor; it had only informed him that, at daybreak, a courier from Paris had arrived at the house of the French ambassador, Count Andreossi, and that there were good reasons to believe that be had brought highly important news.
It was exactly for the purpose of dispelling the anxiety with which this unpleasant intelligence had filled him, that. Francis bad laid aside the report and recommenced his work on the cup; and by this occupation he bad succeeded in forgetting the burdensome duties of his imperial office.
He was just trying very hard to plane one side of his cup, when a low rap at the small door leading to the narrow corridor, and thence to the apartments of the empress, interrupted him. The emperor gave a start and looked toward the door, listening and hoping, perhaps, that his ear might have deceived him. But no, the rapping was heard once more: there could no longer be a doubt of it—somebody sought admittance, and intended to disturb the peaceful solitude of the emperor.
"What does the empress want?" murmured Francis. "What does she come here for? I am afraid something unpleasant has happened again."
He rose with a shrug from his chair, put his miniature cup hastily into the drawer of his table, and hurried to open the door.
Francis had not been mistaken. It really was the Empress Ludovica, the third consort of the emperor, who had married her only a few months ago. She wore a handsome dishabille of embroidered white muslin, closely surrounding her delicate and slender form, and trimmed with beautiful laces. The white dress reached up to the neck, where a rose-colored tie fastened it. Her beautiful black hair, which fell down in heavy ringlets on both sides of her face, was adorned with a costly lace cap, from which wide ribbons of rose- colored satin flowed down on her shoulders. But the countenance of the empress did not correspond to this coquettish and youthful dress. She was young and beautiful, but an expression of profound melancholy overspread her features. Her cheeks were transparently white, and a sad, touching smile quivered round her finely- chiselled, narrow lips; her high, expansive forehead was shaded, as it were, by a cloud of sadness; and her large black eyes shot, from time to time, gloomy flashes which seemed to issue from a gulf of fiery torture. But whatever passions might animate her delicate, ethereal form, the empress had learned to cover her heart with a veil, and her lips never gave utterance to the sufferings of her soul. Only her confidantes were allowed to divine them; they alone knew that, twofold tortures were racking Ludovica's fiery soul, those of hatred and wounded pride. Napoleon! it was he whom the empress hated with indescribable bitterness; and the neglect with which her consort, the Emperor Francis, treated her cut her proud heart to the quick. Thanks to the intrigues and immense riches of her mother, Beatrix of Este, Duchess of Modena, she had become the wife of an emperor, and herself an empress; but she had thereby obtained only an august position, not a husband and partner. She was an empress in name only, but not in reality. Francis had given her his hand, but not his heart and his love. He disdained his beautiful, lovely wife; he avoided any familiar intercourse with her with anxious timidity; only in the presence of the court and the public did he treat the empress as his consort, and tolerate her near his person. At first Ludovica had submitted to this strange conduct on the part of her husband with proud indifference, and not the slightest murmur, not the mildest reproach, had escaped her lips. For it was not from love that she had chosen this husband, but from ambition and pride. She had told herself that it would be better for her to be Empress of Austria than Princess of Modena and Este; and even the prospect of being the third wife of Francis of Austria, and the stepmother of the ten children whom his second wife had borne to him, had not deterred her. She meant to marry the emperor, and not the man; she wished to play a prominent part, and exert a powerful influence on the destinies of the world. But these hopes were soon to prove utterly futile. The emperor granted her publicly all the privileges of her exalted position by his side; but in the privacy of her apartments he never made her his confidante; he refused to let her have any influence over his decisions; he never consulted her as to the measures of his administration: nay, he avoided alluding to such topics in her presence.
Such was the grief that was gnawing at the heart of the young empress—the wound from which her proud and lofty soul was bleeding. But for a few weeks past she had overcome her silent grief, and the presence of her mother, the shrewd and intriguing Duchess of Modena, seemed to have imparted fresh strength to the empress, and confirmed her in her determination to conquer the heart and confidence of her husband. Whereas she had hitherto met his indifference by proud reticence, and feigned not to notice it, she was kind and even affectionate toward him; and it often happened that, availing herself of the privilege of her position, she traversed the private corridor separating her rooms from those of her husband, and, without being summoned to him, entered his cabinet to talk politics with him in spite of his undisguised aversion to doing so. The emperor hated these interviews from the bottom of his heart; a shudder pervaded his soul, and a cloud covered his brow, whenever he heard the low rap of the empress at his private door. To-day, too, the dark cloud covered his forehead even after the empress had entered his cabinet. Ludovica noticed it, and a mournful smile overspread her pale face for a moment.
"As your majesty did not come to me to bid me good-morning, I have come to you," she said, in a gentle, kind voice, holding out her beautiful white hand to the emperor.
Francis took it and pressed it to his lips. "It is true," he said, evidently embarrassed, "I did not come this morning to pay my respects to you, but time was wanting to me. I had to go at once to my cabinet and work; I am very busy."
"I see," said Ludovica; "your majesty's dress still bears the traces of your occupation."
The emperor hastened to brush away with his hands the small particles of the peach-stone that had remained on his shirt-bosom and his sleeve; but while he was doing this his brow darkened still more, and he cast a gloomy and defiant glance on the empress.
"Look, empress," he said; "perhaps you belong to the secret police, and have been employed to watch me in order to find out what I am doing when I am alone in my cabinet. Why, if I found out that that was so, I should be obliged to be on my guard and have this door walled up, so that my esteemed consort might no longer be able to surprise and watch me."
"Your majesty will assuredly not do that," said Ludovica, whose voice was tremulous, and whose cheeks had turned even paler than before. "No, your majesty will not make me undergo the humiliation of making known to the world the deplorable secret with which we alone have hitherto been acquainted. Your majesty will not deprive me of the only privilege which I enjoy in common with your former consorts, and thereby proclaim to the world that I am in this palace a stranger who has not even access to the rooms of her husband."
"I do not say that I intend to do it," said Francis, shrugging his shoulders; "I say only that it is highly repugnant to me to have my steps dogged and watched in any manner. It is true, my former consort had also the keys of this private corridor, but—pardon me for this remark, your majesty—the empress never used these keys, but always waited for me to open the door."
"And she did not wait in vain," said the empress, quickly; "your majesty never failed to come, for you loved your consort, and I have been told you never suffered even a few hours to pass by without leaving your cabinet and crossing the secret corridor to repair to the rooms of the empress."
"But the good Empress Theresa," exclaimed the emperor, "when I was with her, never endeavored to talk to me about politics and state affairs."
"I understand that," said Ludovica; "you had both so many mutual interests to converse about. You had your mutual love, your children, to talk about. I, who am so unhappy as not to be able to talk with you about such matters, how intensely so-ever my heart longs for it, must content myself with conversing with my husband on different subjects; and I desire to share at least his cares when I cannot share his love. My husband, I beseech you, do not disdain my friendship; accept a friend's hand, which I offer to you honestly and devotedly."
"My God, that is precisely what I long for!" exclaimed the emperor fervently, again pressing to his lips the hand which the empress held out to him. "My fondest wish is fulfilled when your majesty will give me your friendship, and confide in me as your best, most devoted, and faithful friend!"
"But this confidence must be reciprocated, my dearest friend," said Ludovica, putting her hand on the emperor's shoulder. and gazing long and ardently into his eyes. "Your majesty must confide in me too, and count implicitly on my fidelity."
"That is what I do," said Francis, hastily; "never should I dare to doubt the fidelity of the purest, chastest, and most virtuous empress and lady—the fidelity of my wife."
"I did not refer to the wife's fidelity," said Ludovica, sighing, "but to the fidelity of my friendship, which is joyously ready to share all your cares and afflictions."
"Well then," said the emperor, nodding to her smilingly, "I will give you a proof of my faith in your friendship. Yes, you shall share my cares and afflictions."
"Oh, my husband, how happy you make me by these words!" exclaimed Ludovica, and a faint blush beautified her noble face.
"I will let you participate in my work to-day, and you shall give me your advice," said the emperor, nodding to the empress, and stepping to the writing-table, from whose drawer he took the little cup. "Look, my dear friend," added the emperor, handing the cup to his consort, "I wished to make a little cup from this peach-stone and give it to Maria Louisa, who delights in such things; but when I had nearly finished it, I discovered suddenly that the peach-stone was crooked and not equally round on both sides. Now give me your advice, my fair friend; tell me what I am to do in order to straighten the cup. Look at it, and tell me how to fix it. It would be an everlasting disgrace for an emperor to be unable to straighten a thing which he himself made crooked."
The empress had turned pale again; her dark eyes shot fire for a moment, and she compressed her lips as if to stifle a cry of indignation. But she overcame her agitation quickly, and hastily took the little cup which the emperor still held out to her.
"Your majesty is right," she said; the "cup is really crooked, and will not stand erect when you put it on the table. As your majesty has asked me what ought to be done about it, I advise you to get rid of the thing, declare war against the little cup, and remove it forever by touching it in this manner with your little finger."
She upset the miniature cup with her slender little finger, so that it rolled to the other end of the table.
"That is very energetic advice, indeed," said Francis, smiling, "but I do not like it. To upset a thing that is not well done is no way of improving it."
"Yes, your majesty, to destroy what is not well done is paving the way for something better," exclaimed Ludovica.
"You yourself said just now it would be an everlasting disgrace for an emperor to be unable to straighten anything which lie himself made crooked. It seems to me, now, an emperor should extricate himself from any position imposing on him the necessity of doing anything crooked and unworthy of his imperial dignity. If such is his duty in regard to a thing so insignificant as a peach-stone, how much more urgent is this duty, when there is at stake something so great and sacred as the independence and honor of your empire and policy!"
"See, see!" said the emperor, scratching his head with an expression of ludicrous surprise; "then we have really got back from the peach- stone to political affairs and the war-question. Now, this war- question is a hard peach-stone to crack, and the mere thought of it sets my teeth on edge."
"Ah," said Ludovica, "your teeth are firm and strong, for they are composed of three hundred thousand swords, and thousands of cannon and muskets. If the lion is determined to use his teeth, lie will easily succeed in destroying the were-wolf; for this rapacious and bloodthirsty were-wolf is brave and invincible only when he has to deal with lambs; only the feeble and disarmed have reason to fear him."
"In speaking of a were-wolf, I suppose you refer to the Emperor Napoleon?" asked the emperor, smiling. "I must tell you, however, that, in your warlike enthusiasm, you do him injustice. It seems to me he is brave not alone where he has to deal with lambs, arid not alone the feeble and disarmed have reason to fear him. I think I did not march lambs against him at Austerlitz, but brave men, who were not feeble and disarmed, but strong and well-armed. Nevertheless, Bonaparte overpowered them; he gained the battle of Austerlitz over us, and we had to submit to him, and accept the terms of peace which he imposed on us."
"Yes, your majesty had to submit to him." cried the empress, ardently; "you were obliged to repair to the proud usurper's camp and beseech him to grant you peace!"
"I was not obliged to go to him, but I did so in order to restore peace to my people, and prevent all Austria from sinking into ruin. It is true, it was a dreadful walk for me, and when I saw the Emperor of the French at his camp-fire, he became utterly distasteful to me. [Footnote: The emperor's own words.—See "Lebensbilder aus dem Befreiungekriege," vol. i.] Nevertheless, the truth cannot be gainsaid, and the truth is that the Emperor Napoleon is more than a were-wolf killing only lambs; he is a lion whose furious roar causes all thrones to tremble, and who, when he shakes his mane, shakes all Europe to its foundations."
"The more is it incumbent on us then to put an end to this unnatural state of affairs," exclaimed the empress, vehemently; "to strengthen the thrones, and restore at length tranquillity to Europe. And there is only one way of doing this, my lord and emperor, and that is war! We must destroy the lion in order to restore tranquillity to the peaceable nations."
"But what if, instead of destroying the lion, we should be destroyed by him?" asked the emperor, with a shrug. "What if the lion should a second time place his foot on our neck, trample us in the dust, and dictate to us again a disgraceful and humiliating peace? Do you think that the present position of the King of Prussia is a pleasant and honorable one, and that I am anxious to incur a similar fate? No, madame! I am by no means eager to wear a martyr's crown instead of my imperial crown, and I will rather strive to keep my crown on my head, regardless of the clamor of the German war-party. These German shriekers are nice fellows. They refuse to do any thing, but think it is enough for them to cry, 'War! war!' and that that will be sufficient to conquer Bonaparte. But, empress, a great deal more is required for that purpose than the fanatical war-clamor of the aristocratic saloons, and the scribblings of the journalists and patriotic poets; in order to attain so grand an object, it is indispensable that all Germany should rise, take up arms, and attack the enemy with united forces."
"It is as your majesty says," exclaimed Ludovica, enthusiastically; "all Germany is ready for the struggle against the enemy. The nation is only waiting for Austria to give the signal, draw the sword, and advance upon France, when all Germany will follow her."
"I know these fine phrases," said Francis, shrugging his shoulders; "I hear them every day from my brothers, who are eager for war, and who manage to gain a great deal of popularity in so comfortable a manner. But after all, they are phrases with very little sense in them. For just tell me, empress, where is the Germany which, you say, is only waiting for Austria to give the signal? Where are the German armies which, you say, are only waiting for Austria to advance, when they will follow her? I have good sound eyes, but I cannot see such armies anywhere. I am quite familiar with the geography of Germany, I know all the states that belong to it, but among them I vainly look for those which are waiting for us to give such a signal. Prussia is utterly powerless, and cannot do any thing. The princes of the Rhenish Confederacy, it is true, are waiting for the signal, but Bonaparte will give it to them, and when they march, they will march against Austria and strive to fight us bravely in order to obtain from the French Emperor praise, honors, titles, and grants of additional territories. No, no, I cannot be blinded by brave words and bombastic phrases; I know that Austria, in case a war should break out, would stand all alone, and that she must either conquer or be ruined. In 1805, when, in consequence of the disastrous battle of Austerlitz, I lost half my states, I was not alone, Russia was my ally. But Russia has recently declared that, in case a war should break out, she would not assist us against Napoleon, but observe a strict neutrality as long as possible; if she should, however, be obliged to take a decided stand, she would be on the side of France and against us. Consequently, I am entirely isolated, and Napoleon has numerous allies."
"But your majesty has a powerful ally in the universal enthusiasm of the Austrians and Germans, in the universal indignation of the nations against Napoleon. You have public opinion on your side, and that is the most powerful ally."
"Ah, let me alone with that abominable ally," cried the emperor, vehemently; "I do not want to hear of it nor to have anything to do with it. Public opinion is the hobby which my brother, the popular Archduke John, is riding all the time; but it will throw him one day into the mire, and then he will find out what it really amounts to. Pray, never speak to me again of public opinion, for I detest it. It smells of revolution and insurrection, and, like a patient donkey, suffers itself to be led by whosoever offers it a thistle as a bait. I renounce once for all the alliance of public opinion, and I do not care whether it blesses or crucifies me, whether it calls me emperor or blockhead. You see now, empress, that I am entirely isolated, for the ally which you offer to me will do me no good; I do not want it, and I have no other allies. I thought it necessary to arm, in view of the formidable armaments of France, and show our adversary that I am not afraid of him, but am prepared for every thing. I therefore put my army on the war footing, and showed Bonaparte that Austria is able to cope with him, and that money and well-disciplined armies are not wanting to her. But just now I shall not proceed any further, and, unless something important should occur, all this war- clamor and all importunities will make no impression on me. The important event to which I alluded would be Napoleon's defeat in Spain, whereby he would be compelled to keep his armies there. In that event, I should no longer be isolated, but Spain would be my ally, and I should probably declare war. But if matters should turn out otherwise, if fortune should favor Napoleon there as everywhere else, necessity alone will determine my course. I shall not attack, and thereby challenge fate of my own accord; but I shall wait, sword in hand, for Napoleon to attack me. If he does, God and my good right will be on my side, and whatever may be the result of the struggle, people will be unable to say that I rashly plunged into war and broke the peace. If we succumb, it is the will of God and the Holy Virgin, and not, our fault. And now, empress," said the emperor, drawing a deep breath, "I have complied with your wishes and talked politics with you. I think it will be enough once for all, and you and you political friends will perceive that you cannot do any thing with me, and that it will be best for you to let me entirely alone; for I am so stubborn as not to allow others to lead me, but pursue my own course. You have promised me, empress, to be a faithful friend tome. I ask you now to give me a proof of your friendship. Let us speak of something else than polities; that is all that I ask of your friendship."
"Well, then, let us drop the subject," said the empress, with a deep sigh. "Your majesty will be kind enough to permit me now to ask a favor of you?"
"Ah, you speak as if there were anything that I could refuse you," exclaimed the emperor, smiling.
Ludovica bowed slightly. "I pray you, therefore," she said, "to be kind enough to accompany me to the concert which is to be given at the university hall. Haydn's 'Creation' will be performed there, and I believe the old maestro himself will be present to receive the homage of his admirers."
"H'm, h'm! I am afraid there is something else behind it," said the emperor, thoughtfully, "and the audience will not content itself with merely offering homage to old Haydn. But no matter, your majesty wishes to go to the concert, and it will afford me pleasure to accompany my empress."
At this moment they heard a low rap at the door leading from the emperor's cabinet into the conference-room, where the officers of the private imperial chancery were working.
"Well, what is it?" exclaimed the emperor. "Come in."
The emperor's private chamberlain slipped softly through the half- opened door, and, on beholding the empress, be stood still without uttering a word.
"Never mind, the empress will excuse you," said Francis.
"Just tell me what you have come in for."
"Your majesty," said the chamberlain, "the French ambassador, Count Andreossi, has just arrived, and requests your majesty to grant him an audience. He says he wishes to communicate information of great importance to you."
"Why did he not apply to my minister of foreign affairs?" asked the emperor, indignantly.
"Your majesty, the ambassador begs your pardon, but he says the Emperor Napoleon gave him express orders to endeavor if possible to speak with your majesty."
"And he is already in the anteroom, and waits for an immediate audience?"
"Yes, your majesty."
"Well, then, I will receive him," said the emperor, rising. "Conduct the ambassador to the small audience-room.—Well?" asked the emperor, wonderingly, when the chamberlain did not withdraw. "You do not go? Do you wish to tell me any thing else?"
"I do, your majesty. A courier has just arrived from Paris with pressing dispatches from Count Metternich to your majesty."
"Ah, that changes the matter!" exclaimed the emperor. "Tell the ambassador that I can not receive him now, but that he is to come back in an hour, at eleven precisely, when I shall be ready to receive him. Tell the courier to come to me at once."
The chamberlain slipped noiselessly out of the door, and the emperor turned again to the empress:
"Empress," he said, "do me the honor of permitting me to offer you my arm, and conduct you back to your rooms. You see I am a poor, tormented man, who is so overwhelmed with business that he cannot even chat an hour with his wife without being disturbed. Pity me a little, and prove it to me by permitting me henceforth to rest in your presence from the cares of business, and not talk politics."
"The wish of my lord and emperor shall be fulfilled," said the empress, mournfully, taking the arm which the emperor offered to her to conduct her back to her rooms.
Just as she crossed the threshold of the imperial cabinet, and stepped into the corridor, she heard the voice of the chamberlain, who announced: "The courier from Paris, Counsellor von Hudelist."
"All right, I shall be back directly!" exclaimed the emperor, and he conducted the empress with a somewhat accelerated step through the corridor. In front of the door at its end he stood still and bowed to the empress with a pleasant smile.
"I have conducted you now to the frontier of your realm," said Francis; "permit me, therefore, to return to mine. Farewell! We shall go to the concert to-night. Farewell!"
Without waiting for the reply of the empress, he turned and hastily re-entered his cabinet.
Ludovica entered her room and locked the door behind her. "Closed forever!" she said, with a sigh. "At least I shall not try again to avail myself of this door, and shall not expose myself again to the sneers of the emperor. I must, then, bear this disgrace; I must submit to being disdained and repudiated by my husband; I—But hush!" the empress interrupted herself, "this is no time for bewailing my personal fate, for the fate of all Austria is at stake at this juncture. Highly important events must have occurred at Paris, else Metternich would not have sent his confidant and assistant Hudelist, nor would Andreossi demand an audience in so impetuous a manner. Perhaps this intelligence may at length lead to a decision to-day, or we may at least contribute to such a result. I will write to the Archduke John, and ask him to see the emperor. Perhaps he will succeed better than I did in persuading my husband to take a determined stand."
She hastened to her writing-desk, and penned that mysterious little note which she sent to the Archduke John in the book which she pretended he had lent to her.
THE COURIER AND THE AMBASSADOR.
The emperor, in returning to his cabinet, like the empress, carefully locked the door behind him. He then turned hastily to the courier, who was standing near the opposite door, and was just bowing most ceremoniously to his majesty.
"Hudelist, it is really you, then?" asked the emperor. "You left your post by the side of Metternich without obtaining my permission to come to Vienna? Could you not find any other man to bring your dispatches? I had commissioned you to remain always by the side of Metternich, watch him carefully, and inform me of what he was doing and thinking."
"Your majesty, I have brought my report with me," said Hudelist;" and as for your majesty's order that I should always remain by the side of Count Metternich, I have hardly violated it by corning to Vienna, for I believe the Count will follow me in the course of a few days. Unless your majesty recalls him to Vienna, the Emperor Napoleon, I think, will expel him from Paris."
"You do not say so!" exclaimed Francis, shrugging his shoulders. "You think he will issue a manifesto against Metternich, as he did against the Prussian minister Von Stein? Well, let me hear the news. What have you to tell me?"
"So many important things, your majesty, that the count and myself deemed it expedient to report to your majesty verbally, rather than send a dispatch which might give you only an unsatisfactory idea of what has occurred. Hence I came post-haste to Vienna, and arrived here only a quarter of an hour since; I pray your majesty therefore to pardon me for appearing before you in my travelling-dress."
"Sit down, you must be tired," said the emperor, good-naturedly, seating himself in an arm-chair, and pointing to the opposite chair. "Now tell me all!"
"Your majesty," said Hudelist, mysteriously, while a strange expression of mischievous joy overspread his ugly, pale face, "the Emperor Napoleon has returned from Spain to France."
The Emperor Francis gave a start and frowned. "Why?" he asked.
"Because he intends to declare war against Austria," said Hudelist, whose face brightened more and more. "Because Napoleon is distrustful of us, and convinced that Austria is intent on attacking him. Besides, he felt no longer at ease in pain, and all sorts of conspiracies had been entered into in Paris, whereby his return might have been rendered impossible if he had hesitated any longer."
"Who were the conspirators?"
"Talleyrand and Fouche, the dear friends and obedient servants of the Emperor Napoleon. He knows full well what their friendship and devotedness amount to. Hence be had the two gentlemen well watched, and it seems his spies sent him correct reports, for, after returning from Spain, he rebuked them unmercifully; be told them, with the rage of a true Corsican, and regardless of etiquette, what miserable fellows they were, and how high he stood above them."
"And yet he would like so much to be an emperor in strict. accordance with court etiquette," said the emperor, laughing. "He is anxious to have such a court about him as Louis XIV. had. But the lawyer's son always reappears in the emperor, and, if it please God, He will one day deprive him of all his power and splendor."
"And, if it please God, your majesty will be His instrument in putting an end to Napoleon's power and splendor," cried Hudelist, with a smile which distorted his face strangely, and caused two rows of large yellow teeth to appear between the pale lips of his enormous mouth. "It is true he stands firm as yet, and rebukes his ministers as Nero did his freedmen. Talleyrand was still thunderstruck at what the emperor had told him, when he had an interview with Count Metternich and myself in Fouche's green-house. To be sure, the phrases which he repeated to us were well calculated to make even the blood of a patient minister boil. Napoleon sent for the two ministers immediately after his arrival: when they came to him, he let them stand at the door of his cabinet like humble suppliants, and, running up and down before them, and casting fiery glances of anger upon them, he upbraided them with their conduct, and told them he was aware of all their intrigues, and knew that they were conspiring with Austria, Spain, and, through Spain, with England. Then he suddenly stood still in front of them, his hands folded on his back, and his glances would have crushed the two ministers if they had not had such a thick skin 'You are impudent enough to conspire against me!' he shouted, in a thundering voice. 'To whom are you indebted for every thing—for your honors, rank, and wealth? To me alone! How can you preserve them? By me alone! Look backward, examine your past. If the Bourbons had reascended the throne, both of you would have been hanged as regicides and traitors. And you plot against me? You must be as stupid as you are ungrateful, if you believe that anybody else could promote your interest as well as I have done. Had another revolution broken out, on whatever side you might have placed yourselves, you would certainly have been the first to be crushed by it!'" [Footnote: Napoleon's own words—See Schlosser, "History of the Eighteenth Century," vol. viii., p. 488.]
"That is very plain talk, indeed," said Francis, laughing. "But Talleyrand and Fouche have sound stomachs; they will digest it, and not get congestions in consequence of it provided the emperor does not punish them in a different manner."
"For the time being, he only punished Talleyrand, whom he deprived of the position and salary of lord chamberlain. Fouche remained police minister, but both are closely watched by Napoleon's secret police. Nevertheless, they succeeded in holding a few unobserved interviews with us. Count Metternich learned also from another very well-informed quarter many accurate details regarding the plans and intentions of the Emperor Napoleon."
"What do you mean? What well-informed quarter do you refer to?" asked the emperor.
"Your majesty," said Hudelist, with a significant grin, "Count Metternich is a very fine-looking man; now, Queen Caroline of Naples, Murat's wife, and Napoleon's favorite sister, is by no means insensible to manly beauty, and she accepted with evident satisfaction the homage which the count offered to her. For the rest, Napoleon winked at and encouraged this flirtation; for, previous to his departure for Spain, he said to his sister loud enough to be overheard by some of our friends, 'Amusez-nous ce niais, Monsieur de Metternich. Nous en avons besoin a present!' [Footnote: Hormayr, "The Emperor Francis and Metternich, a Fragment," p. 55.] Madame Caroline Murat told Count Metternich, for instance, that it is the Kings of Bavaria and Wurtemburg that keep their spies for Napoleon here in Vienna, and that they urged Napoleon vehemently to return from Spain in order to declare war against Austria. And Napoleon is determined to comply with their wishes. He travelled with extraordinary expedition from Madrid to Paris, stopping only at Valladolid, where he shut himself up for two days with Maret, his minister of foreign affairs, and dispatched eighty-four messages in different directions, with orders to concentrate his forces in Germany, and call out the full contingents of the Rhenish Confederacy. His own troops and these German Contingents are to form an array—to which he intends to give the name of 'the German Army of the Emperor Napoleon.' Although Count Metternich was aware of all this, he hastened to attend the great reception which took place at the Tuileries after Napoleon's return, in order to assure him again of the friendly dispositions of the imperial court of Austria. But Napoleon gave hire no time for that. He came to meet him with a furious gesture, and shouted to him in a thundering voice: 'Well, M. de Metternich! here is fine news from Vienna. What does all this mean? Have they been stung by scorpions? Who threatens you? What would you be at? Do you intend again to disturb the peace of the world and plunge Europe into numberless calamities? As long as I had my army in Germany, you conceived no disquietude for your existence; but the moment it is transferred to Spain, you consider yourselves endangered! What can be the end of these things? What, but that I must arm as you arm, for at length I am seriously menaces; I am rightly for my former caution.'" [Footnote: Napoleon's own words.—See Schlosser, vol. vii., p. 480.]
"What an impudent fellow!" murmured the Emperor Francis to himself. "And Metternich? What did he reply?"
"Nothing at all, your majesty. He withdrew, returned immediately to the legation, and I set out that very night to convey this intelligence to your majesty. Your majesty, we can no longer doubt that Napoleon has made up his mind to wage war against Austria. His exasperation has risen to the highest pitch, and the events in Spain have still more inflamed his rage and vindictiveness." "Then he is unsuccessful in Spain?" asked the emperor, whose eyes brightened.
"Spain is still bidding him defiance, and fighting with the enthusiasm of an heroic people who will suffer death rather than be subjugated by a tyrant. She will never accept King Joseph, whom Napoleon forced upon her; and as they see themselves deserted and given up by their royal family, the Spanish patriots turn their eyes toward Austria, and are ready to proclaim one of your majesty's brothers king of Spain, if your majesty would send him to them with an auxiliary army."
"That would be a nice thing!" cried the emperor, angrily. "Not another word about it! If my brothers should hear it, their heads would be immediately on fire, for they are very ambitious; hence, it is much better that they should not learn anything of these chateaux en Espagne. Tell me rather how it looks in France. Are the French still satisfied with their emperor by the grace of the people!"
"They are not, your majesty. Let me tell you that not only Napoleon's own officers, his marshals and ministers, are dissatisfied with him; but the whole people, those who possess money as well as those who own no other property than their lives, are murmuring against the emperor. He robs the moneyed men of their property by heavy taxes and duties, and those who have nothing but their lives he threatens with death by forcing muskets into their hands, and compelling them to do military service. Another conscription has been ordered, and as the population of France is decreasing, youths from sixteen to eighteen years old have to be enrolled. France is tired of these everlasting wars, and she curses Napoleon's insatiable bloodthirstiness no longer in secret only, but loud enough to be heard by the emperor from time to time."
"And the army?"
"The army is a part of France, and feels like the rest of the French people. The marshals are quarrelling among themselves and some of them hate Napoleon, who never gives them time to repose on their laurels and enjoy the riches which they have obtained during their campaigns. The army is a perfect hotbed of conspiracies and secret societies, some of which are in favor of the restoration of the republic, while others advocate the restoration of the Bourbons. Napoleon, who is served well enough at least by his spies, is aware of all these things. He is afraid of the discontent and disobedience of his marshals and generals, conspiracies in the army, the treachery of his ministers, and the murmurs of his people; and he fears, besides, that the fanaticism of the Spaniards may dim his military glory; hence, he feels the necessity of arousing the enthusiasm of his people by fresh battles, of silencing the malcontents by new victories, and of reviving the heroic spirit of his army. He hopes to gain these victories in a war between his German array and the Austrian forces. He is, therefore, firmly resolved to wage war, and the only question now is, whether your majesty will anticipate him, or await a declaration of war on his part. This is about all I have to communicate to your majesty; the vouchers and other papers I shall have the honor to deposit at the imperial chancery."
The emperor made no reply, but gazed into vacancy, deeply absorbed in his reflections. Hudelist fixed his small sparkling eyes on the bent form of the emperor; and as he contemplated his care-worn, gloomy face, his flabby features, his protruding under-lip, his narrow forehead, and his whole emaciated and fragile form, an expression of scorn overspread the face of the counsellor; and his large mouth and flashing eyes seemed to say, "You are the emperor, but I do not envy you, for I am more than you are; I am a man who knows what he wants."
At this moment the clock commenced striking slowly, and its shrill notes aroused the emperor from his contemplation.
"Eleven o'clock," he said, rising from his chair, "the hour when I am to give an audience to the French ambassador. Hudelist, go to the chancery and wait there until I call you. You will not return to Paris anyhow, but resume your former position in the chancery of state. I am glad that you have returned, for I consider you a faithful, able, and reliable man, whom I have good reason to be content, and who, I hope, will not betray my confidence. I know, Hudelist, you are ambitious, and would like to obtain a distinguished position. Well, serve me—do you hear?—serve none but me honestly and faithfully; watch everything and watch closely; never think of obtaining the friendship and good graces of others, nor seeking for any other protectors, save me; and I shall always be favorably disposed toward you, and see to it that the cravings of your ambition are satisfied. Go then, as I said before, to the chancery of state; and on hearing me re-enter the room, step in again. There are many other things which I wish to tell you."
"I see through him," said Hudelist, looking with a smile after the emperor, who closed the door of the cabinet behind him, to repair to the small reception-room; "yes, I see through the emperor. He is glad of my return, for I am a good spy for him in regard to the doings of his brothers, of whom he is jealous, and whom he hates with all his heart. If I succeed one day in communicating to him things capable of rendering the archdukes suspicious to him, or even convicting them of a wrong committed against him, the emperor will reward and promote me, and, as he says, satisfy the cravings of my ambition. Well, well, we shall see. If you watch a man very closely and are really intent on spying out something suspicious in his conduct, you will in the end surely find some little hook or other by which you may hold him, and which you may gradually hammer out and extend until it becomes large enough to hang the whole man on it. In the first place, I shall pay particular attention to the Archduke John, for his brother is particularly jealous of and angry with him. Ah, if I could discovery such a little hook by which to hold him, the emperor would reward my zeal with money, honors, and orders, and he would henceforward repose the most implicit confidence in my fidelity. Well, I shall think of it; the idea is a good one, and worthy of being matured. I shall form a scheme to make the good and munificent Archduke John the ladder by which I shall rise. I must conquer, and if I can do it only by pulling down others, it is the duty of self-preservation for me not to shrink from the task. I will now go to the chancery and wait there for the emperor's return. Ah, how his old limbs trembled when he heard of Napoleon's return. How hard and unpleasant it was for him to swallow the bad news which I communicated to him! There is no more interesting spectacle than that presented by a human face passing through all the various stages of excitement, and involuntarily performing in its features the five acts of a tragedy. And all the better when this human face is that of an emperor. During my whole journey from Paris to Vienna I was enjoying, by anticipation, the moment when I should deliver this Pandora's box to the emperor. He is opposed to war, and must nevertheless wage it; that is the best part of the joke. Aha! it is a fine sight to behold the gods of this earth a prey to such human embarrassments! I felt like bursting into loud laughter at the woe-begone appearance of the emperor. But hush, hush! I will go to the chancery until he returns."
In the meantime the emperor had repaired to the small reception- room, where Count Andreossi, the French ambassador, was already waiting for him.
Francis responded to the respectful greeting of the ambassador by a scarcely perceptible nod, and strode, with head erect, into the middle of the room. There he stood still, and casting a stern and almost defiant glance on the ambassador, he said in a cold, dignified tone: "You requested an audience of me in a very unusual manner. I granted it to prove to you my desire to remain at peace with France. Now speak; What has the ambassador of the Emperor of the French to say to the Emperor of Austria?"
"Your majesty, I have to present to you, in the first place, the respects of my master, who has returned from Spain to Paris."
Francis nodded his head slowly. "What next?" he asked.
"Next, my sovereign has charged me with a very difficult commission, for the execution of which I must first, and above all things, beg your majesty's pardon."
"You are your master's servant, and it is your duty to obey him," said the emperor, dryly. "Say, therefore, what he ordered you to tell me."
"Well, then, as your majesty has granted me permission, I will say that my master, the Emperor of the French, has taken deep umbrage at the hostile course which Austria has of late pursued toward him."
"And what is it that your emperor complains of?" asked the emperor, with perfect composure.
"In the first place, the Emperor Napoleon has taken deep umbrage at Austria's still hesitating to recognize King Joseph as King of Spain, and to send a minister plenipotentiary to his court."
"I did not know where to send my ambassador, and where he would find M. Joseph Bonaparte, King of Spain, for the time being—whether at Madrid or at Saragossa; in the camp, on the field of battle, or in flight. Hence I did not send an ambassador to his court. So soon as the Spanish nation is able to inform me where I may look for the king it has elected and recognized, I shall immediately dispatch a minister plenipotentiary to this court. State that to your monarch."
"Next, his majesty the Emperor Napoleon complains bitterly that Austria, instead of being intent on maintaining friendly relations with France, has left nothing undone to reconcile the enemies of France who were at war with each other, and to restore peace between them; and that Austria, by her incessant efforts, has really succeeded now in bringing about a treaty of peace between Turkey and England. Now, my master the emperor must look upon this as a hostile act on the part of Austria, against France; for to reconcile England with Turkey is equivalent to setting France at variance with Turkey, or at least neutralizing entirely her influence over the Sublime Porte."
"Turkey is my immediate neighbor, and it is highly important to Austria that there should be no war-troubles and disturbances on all her frontiers. Every independent state should be at liberty to pursue its own policy; and while this policy does not assume a hostile attitude toward other independent states, no one can take umbrage at it. Are you through with your grievances?"
"No, your majesty," said Andreossi, almost mournfully. "The worst and most unpleasant part remains to be told; but, as your majesty was gracious enough to say, I must obey the orders of my master, and it is his will that I shall now communicate to your majesty the emperor's views in his own words. It has given great offence to the Emperor Napoleon that Austria should place herself in a posture of open hostility against France, when France has given her so many proofs of her forbearance, and has hitherto always spared Austria, notwithstanding the numerous acts of duplicity and evident hostility of the Austrian court. The Emperor Napoleon informs your majesty that he is well aware of the ambitious schemes of Austria, but that lie thinks your majesty is not strong enough to carry them into effect. He requests your majesty never to forget the magnanimity which the Emperor Napoleon manifested toward you after the battle of Austerlitz. The Emperor Napoleon has instructed me to remind you of the fact, well known to you, that you can confide in his generosity, and that he is firmly resolved to observe the treaties. Naples, Prussia, and Spain, would stand erect, yet, if their rulers had relied on their own sagacity, and not listened to the fatal advice of their ministers, or even of courtiers, women, and ambitious young princes. His majesty beseeches the Emperor of Austria not to listen to such insidious advice, nor to yield to the wishes of the war- party, which is intent only on gratifying its passionate ambition, and whose eyes refuse to see that it is driving Austria toward the brink of an abyss where she must perish, as did Prussia, Naples, and Spain." [Footnote: Hormayr, "Allgemeine Geschichte," vol. iii., p. 205.]
"It is very kind in his majesty the Emperor Napoleon to give me such friendly advice," sail the Emperor Francis, smiling. "But I beg his majesty to believe that, in accordance with his wishes, I rely only on my own individual sagacity; that I am influenced by no party, no person, but am accustomed to direct myself the affairs of my country and the administration of my empire, and not to listen to any insinuations, from whatever quarter they may come. I request you to repeat these words to his majesty the Emperor Napoleon with the same accuracy with which you communicated his message to me. And now, Count Andreossi, I believe you have communicated to me all that your master instructed you to say to me."
"Pardon me, your majesty, I am instructed last to demand in the emperor's name an explanation as to the meaning of the formidable armaments of Austria, the organization of the militia, and the arming of the fortresses on the frontiers, and to inquire against whom these measures are directed. The emperor implores your majesty to put a stop to these useless and hurtful demonstrations, and orders me expressly to state that, if Austria does not stop her armaments and adopt measures of an opposite character, war will be inevitable." [Footnote: Napoleon's own words.—See "Lebensbilder," vol. ii., and Hormayr, "Allgemeine Geschichte," vol. iii.]
"In that case, Mr. Ambassador of the Emperor Napoleon, war is inevitable," cried Francis, who now dropped the mask of cold indifference, and allowed his face to betray the agitation and rage filling his bosom, by his quivering features, flashing eyes, and clouded brow. "I have calmly listened to you," he added, raising his voice; "I have received with silent composure all the arrogant phrases which you have ventured to utter here in the name of your emperor. I look on them as one of the famous proud bulletins for which your emperor is noted, and to whose overbearing and grandiloquent language all Europe is accustomed. But it is well known too that these bulletins are not exactly models of veracity, but sometimes the very reverse of it. An instance of the latter is your emperor's assertion that he observes the treaties, and that he gave me proofs of his magnanimity after the battle of Austerlitz. No, the emperor did no such thing; he made me, on the contrary, feel the full weight of his momentary superiority. He was my enemy, and treated me as an enemy, without magnanimity, which, for the rest, I did not claim at the time. But he has proved to me, too, that he does not observe the most sacred treaties. He violated every section of the peace of Presburg; he did not respect the frontiers as stipulated in that treaty; he forced me, in direct violation of the treaties, to allow him the permanent use of certain military roads within the boundaries of my empire; he hurled from their thrones dynasties which were related to me, and whose existence I had guaranteed; he deprived, in violation of the law of nations, the beloved and universally respected head of Christendom of his throne, and subjected him to a most disgraceful imprisonment; he exerted on all seas the most arbitrary pressure on the Austrian flag. And now, after all this has happened, after Austria has endured all these wrongs so long and silently, the Emperor Napoleon undertakes even to meddle with the internal administration of my empire, and forbids me what he, ever since his accession, has incessantly done, to wit: to mobilize my army, levy conscripts for the troops of the line and the reserves, and arm the fortresses. He asks me to put a stop to my armaments; else, he says, war will be inevitable. Well, Mr. Ambassador, I do not care if the Emperor Napoleon looks at the matter in that light, and I shall not endeavor to prevent him from so doing, for I shall not stop, but continue my preparations. I called out the militia, just as the Emperor of the French constantly calls new levies of conscripts into immediate activity; and if war should be inevitable in consequence thereof, I shall bear what is inevitable with firmness and composure."
"Your majesty, is this your irrevocable resolution?" asked Andreossi. "Is this the answer that I am to send to my master, the Emperor Napoleon?"
"I think it will be better for you to convey this answer in person to your emperor," said Francis, calmly. "As no one has witnessed our interview, only you yourself can repeat my words with perfect accuracy; and it is therefore best for you to set out this very day for Paris."
"That is to say, your majesty gives me my passports, and war will immediately break out between France and Austria!" sighed Andreossi. "Your majesty should graciously consider—"
"I have considered every thing," interrupted Francis, vehemently, "and I request you not to speak to me again in the style of your French bulletins. I will hear the bulletins of the Emperor Napoleon on the field of battle rather than in my cabinet. Set out, therefore, for Paris, Mr. Ambassador, and repeat to the emperor what I have said to you."
"I will comply with your majesty's orders," said Andreossi, with a sigh; "I will set out, but I shall leave the members of my legation here as yet, for I do not yet give up the hope that it may be possible for the two courts to avoid a declaration of war; and to spare such a calamity to two countries that have such good reasons to love each other."
"Let us quietly await the course of events," replied the emperor. "Farewell, Count Andreossi. If you will accept my advice, you will set out this very day; for so soon as my dear Viennese learn that war is to break out in earnest, they will probably give vent to their enthusiasm in the most tumultuous and rapturous demonstrations, and I suppose it would be disagreeable to you to witness them. Farewell, sir!"
He waved his hand toward tile ambassador, bent his head slowly and haughtily, and left the reception-room without vouchsafing another glance to Count Andreossi.
"Now my brothers will be in ecstasies," said the emperor to himself, slowly walking up and down, his hands folded on his back, in the sitting-room adjoining the reception-room. "They will be angry, though, because I did not consult them, and decided the whole affair without listening to their wisdom."
"Your majesty," said a footman, who entered the room at this moment, "their imperial highnesses, the Archdukes Charles and John, request an audience of your majesty."
"They are welcome," said the emperor, whose features were lit up by a faint smile. "Show my brothers in."
THE EMPEROR AND HIS BROTHERS.
A few minutes afterward the two archdukes entered the room of the emperor, who slowly went some steps to meet them, and greeted them with a grave, cold glance.
"Why, this is a rare spectacle," said Francis, sneeringly, "to see my brothers side by side in such beautiful harmony. In truth, it was only wanting to me that even you two should be of the same opinion, and come to me for the purpose of inviting me, as Schiller says, to be the third in your league."
"Your majesty would always be the first in this league," said the Archduke John, in his clear, ringing voice; "my brother would be the second, and I only the third."
"See, see, my brother is very modest and humble to-day," said Francis, smiling. "This means doubtless that you have come to ask a favor of me, and that, by your kindness and devotedness, you wish to induce me to comply with your request, as a dog is decoyed with cakes and sweets by the thief who intends to steal something from the dog's master."
"Oh, your majesty, we do not intend to steal any thing from our master!" exclaimed John, laughing. "But there is really an attack to be made on our master's property; only he who intends to make it does not decoy us with cakes and sweets, but assails us with the sword and coarse invectives."
"It was very shrewd in you to mention at once the subject on which you wished to speak with me," said the emperor, with a slight sneer. "But permit me first to say a word to my brother Charles there, and bid welcome to his imperial highness, the illustrious captain, the generalissimo of our army, the hope and consolation of Austria."
"Your majesty wishes to mock me," said the Archduke Charles, in a mournful voice.
"I repeat only what I read every day in the newspapers,, and what the dear Viennese are singing and shouting in every street!" exclaimed the emperor. "Yes, yes, my dear brother, you must consent to be the hope and consolation of Austria, and to be praised as the august and invincible hero of our immediate future."
So saying, the emperor gazed with a long and searching look at his brother's form, and a scornful expression overspread his features.
Indeed, the epithets which the emperor had applied to his brother corresponded but little to the appearance of the Archduke Charles. His small, bent form, with its weak, shrivelled limbs, was not the form of a hero; his pale, wan face, with the hollow cheeks; the dim eyes deeply imbedded in their sockets, and the clouded brow, on which thin tufts of hair hung down, was not the face of a bold captain, confident of achieving brilliant triumphs by his heroic deeds, and deserving of the name of the hope and consolation of Austria. But the Austrians did call him by that name, and the glory of his military achievements, which filled not only Austria but the whole of Germany, caused them really to build their hopes on the Archduke Charles, despite his very feeble health. The Emperor Francis was aware of this; he knew that the Archdukes Charles and John were by far more popular than he was; hence he was jealous of and angry with them—nay, he almost hated them.
"You look very pale and sick to-day, my dear Archduke Charles," said the emperor, after a pause, during which he had contemplated the archduke with a searching expression.
"I am very feeble and unwell, your majesty," sighed Charles; "and but for the special request of my brother, the Archduke John, I should not have dared to come here this morning. However, I am afraid that I can do but little to comply with his wishes, and that my brother John will soon think it would have been better for him not to ask me to accompany him to your majesty."
"Ah, then, you are after all not so harmonious as I thought when I saw you entering here together!" exclaimed the emperor, laughing. "There are still differences of opinion, then, between the two pillars of my throne, and were I to lean on one, the other would totter and give way. Well, what do you want? What brought you here?"
"Your majesty, only the intense desire to dedicate our services to Austria and our emperor!" exclaimed John, enthusiastically. "We wished to implore your majesty to utter at length the word that will deliver Austria and all Germany. Your majesty, this hesitation and silence rests like a nightmare on every heart and every bosom; all eyes are fixed hopefully on your majesty: Oh, my lord and emperor; one word from your lips, and this nightmare will disappear; all hearts will rejoice in blissful ecstasy, and every bosom will expand and breathe more freely when your majesty shall utter this word: 'War! war!' We hold the sword in our hands; let the will of my august emperor give us the right now to draw the sword against him who, for years past, has swept like a destructive hurricane through all Germany, all Europe, and who tramples alike on princes and peoples, on liberty and law. Your majesty, in the name of your people, in the name of all German patriots, I bend my knees here before my lord and emperor, and thus, kneeling and full of reverence. I implore your majesty to let the hour of deliverance strike at length; let us, with joyful courage, expel the enemy who has already so long been threatening our frontiers with defiant arrogance: let us take the field against the impudent usurper, and wrest from him the laurels which he gained at Austerlitz, and of which he is so proud. Your majesty, your people are filled with warlike ardor; your faithful Tyrolese are waiting only for a signal to break their chains and rise for their beloved emperor. Your Italian provinces are longing for the day when war shall break out, in order to avenge themselves on the tyrant who promised them liberty and brought them only slavery. The hour of retribution has come for Napoleon; may your majesty consult our best interests by saying that we are to profit by this hour, and that war, a mortal struggle, is to begin now against the Emperor of the French!"
And, still bending his knees before the emperor, John looked up to him with longing, beseeching eyes.
Francis looked down on him with a gloomy air, and the noble and enthusiastic face of his brother, who was ten years younger, and much stronger and better-looking, made a disagreeable impression on him.
"Rise, brother," he said, coldly; "your knees must ache, and I, for my part, do not like such theatrical scenes at all, and such fine phrases make but little impression on my cold and prosy heart. I am accustomed to follow always my convictions, and when I advance a step, I must be sure not to fall to an abyss which some poetical hero may perhaps have merely covered for me with his flowery phrases. That I am aware of the dangers threatening us on the part of France I have proved by putting the army on the war footing, by intrusting you, Archduke John, with organizing the militia and the reserves in accordance with the plan you drew up for that purpose; and by placing you, Archduke Charles, at the head of my army and appointing you generalissimo."
"An honor, your majesty, which I accepted with reverent gratitude, although it almost crushes me at the present time," said the Archduke Charles, with a sigh. "Permit me now, your majesty, to open my heart to you, and lay my innermost thoughts at your feet. To do so, I accompanied my brother John to you. He said he would implore your majesty once more to postpone the declaration of war no longer, but utter at length the decisive word. I implored him not to do so, and not to force us to engage prematurely in a war that could not but bring the greatest calamities on Austria. But my dear brother would not listen to my remonstrances and prayers; he called me a secret friend and admirer of Napoleon; he demanded that I should at least speak out, freely and openly in your majesty's presence, and refute him if I could, or yield to him if my arguments should prove untenable. Your majesty, I have therefore complied with the wishes of my brother, the Archduke John; I have come to you, but only to say to my lord and emperor: Your majesty, I implore you, in the name of your people and your throne, do not yet unsheath the sword! Wait until our army is ready for the contest, and until our armaments are completed. Do not plunge rashly into war, lest victory escape us. A great deal remains to be done yet before we can say that our armaments are completed; and only after being fully prepared can we dare to take the field against the Emperor Napoleon and his hitherto victorious legions."
"Ah, do you hear our Fabius Cunctator, brother John, the Lion- hearted!" exclaimed the emperor, sarcastically. "Which of you is right, and whose wise advice shall I follow now—I, the poor emperor, who is not strong and sagacious enough to be his own adviser and advance a step without his brothers? John, the learned soldier, beseeches me to declare war, and Charles, the intrepid hero, implores me not to do so. What am I, the poor emperor, who cannot advise himself, and who receives too much advice from others, to do under such circumstances? Whose will must I submit to?"
"Your majesty," cried John, in dismay, "it is we that must submit; it is your will on which depends the decision. I implore your majesty to declare war, because I deem it necessary; but, if your majesty should take a different resolution, I shall submit silently and obediently."
"And I," said Charles, "requested you to postpone the declaration of war, because I do not believe that we are sufficiently prepared for the contest; but, like my brother, I shall submit silently if your majesty should take a different resolution."
"Indeed, will you do so, archdukes?" asked the emperor, in a scornful tone. "Will you be mindful of your duties as subjects, and, instead of giving me unnecessary advice, obey me silently?"
The two archdukes bowed to indicate their submissiveness. The emperor advanced a few steps, and proudly raising his head, he looked at his two brothers with a stern and imperious expression.
"Let me tell you, then, archdukes, what I, your lord and emperor, have resolved," said Francis, sternly. "I have resolved to declare war!"
Two loud cries resounded with one accord; a cry of joy burst from John's lips, a cry of dismay from those of Charles. Pale, reeling like a drunken man, the generalissimo approached the emperor and held out his hands to him with a beseeching expression.
"Your majesty," he said, "you have resolved to declare war, but you do not mean to say that it is to commence immediately?"
"That is what I mean to say," replied the emperor, sarcastically.
The Archduke Charles turned still paler than before; a strange tremor passed through his frame, his head dropped on his bosom, and a deep groan issued from his breast.
The Archduke John, forgetful of his quarrel with his brother Charles, at the sight of the latter's profound grief, hastened to him, and tenderly grasped both his hands.
"Brother," he asked, anxiously, "what is the matter? Are you unwell?"
"I am," said Charles, wiping from his forehead the large drops of sweat standing on it. "I am unwell, but I must say a few additional words to the emperor. I must disclose to him a melancholy secret of which I heard only an hour ago.—Your majesty, I implore you once more, postpone the war as long as possible; for—hear my terrible secret—we have been infamously defrauded by Commissary-General von Fassbender."
"Your intimate friend?" interposed the emperor, with a scornful laugh.
"Yes, my intimate friend," exclaimed the archduke, in a loud, shrill voice; "he deceived me most shamefully. All the army contracts had been intrusted to him, and he assured me he had filled them in the most conscientious manner. I believed him, and it is only now that I find out that he has shamefully deceived me and his emperor. All his bills for the supplies which he pretended to have furnished are in my hands, but the troops did not get the supplies. The scoundrel sent only sour flour, bad linen, and moth-eaten uniform cloth to the regiments, and yet he drew enormous sums of money for the full amount of his contracts."
"We shall compel the thief to disgorge his ill-gotten gains," cried the emperor.
"No, your majesty," said Charles, with a groan; and leaning more firmly on his brother's arm, in order not to sink to the floor, he added: "no, your majesty, the criminal is beyond the reach of your power. He escaped from human justice by committing suicide an hour ago. The criminal has fled from his judges, but his crimes remain, and our army suffers in consequence of them. Now your majesty knows all, you will take back your word, and say no longer that you will declare war. You will be gracious enough to give me time to repair the injury resulting from the crimes of the commissary-general, and to provide the army with all that is unfortunately wanting to it as yet."
"No," cried the emperor vehemently, "I will not! I will not take back my word, and I had already made up my mind before you, my brothers, entered here to assist me so generously by your wisdom. War will be declared immediately; my resolution is irrevocable. I have already informed the French ambassador of it, and ordered him to leave Vienna this very day. Your warnings come just as much too late as did John's entreaties. I did what I myself deemed best; and I deemed it best to declare war against Bonaparte, in reply to his intolerable arrogance. Every thing is fixed and settled; war will commence without delay: and you, Archduke Charles, are the generalissimo of my army."
The Archduke Charles made no reply; he uttered a painful groan and sank to the floor by John's side. All his limbs trembled and quivered; his pale face became distorted, he clinched his fists, and his eyes were glassy as though he were dying.
"He has one of his fits," said the emperor calmly, looking down on his brother. "Call his servants and his doctor, Archduke John, that they may remove the generalissimo to another room and administer medicine to him."