JOSEPH II. AND HIS COURT
An Historical Novel
by L. MUHLBACH
FREDERICK THE GREAT AND HIS COURT, THE MERCHANT OF BERLIN, BERLIN AND SANS-SOUCI,
FREDERICK THE GREAT AMD HIS FAMILY, STORY OF A MILLIONAIRE, TWO LIFE PATHS, ETC.
TRANSLATED FROM THE GERMAN
BY ADELAIDE DEV. CHAUDRON
I. The Conference. II. The Letter. III. The Toilet of the Empress. IV. Husband and Wife. V. The Archduke Joseph. VI. Kaunitz. VII. The Toilet. VIII. The Red Stockings. IX. New Austria.
X. The Young Soldier. XI. The Empress and her Son. XII. An Italian Night. XIII. Isabella of Parma. XIV. The Ambassador Extraordinary. XV. The Dream of Love. XVI. Gluck. XVII. The New Opera. XVIII. Ranier Von Calzabigi. XIX. The Birthday. XX. Orpheus and Eurydice. XXI. "In Three Years, We Meet Again." XXII. Che Faro Senza Eurydice.
KING OF ROME
XXIII. Father Porhammer and Count Kaunitz. XXIV. Matrimonial Plans. XXV. Josepha of Bavaria. XXVI. The Marriage Night. XXVII. An Unhappy Marriage. XXVIII. A Statesman'S Hours of Dalliance. XXIX. Prince Kaunitz and Ritter Gluck. XXX. An Unfortunate Meeting. XXXI. Mourning. XXXII. The Imperial Abbess. XXXIII. The Co-Regent. XXXIV. Haroun Al Raschid. XXXV. The Disguise Removed. XXXVI. Rosary and Sceptre. XXXVII. The Difference Between an Abbess and an Empress. XXXVIII. The Reigning Empress. XXXIX. The Co-Regent Deposed. XL Mother and Son. XLI. Death the Liberator. XLII. The Mirror. XLIII. The Interview with Kaunitz. XLIV. The Archduchess Josepha. XLV. The Departure. XLVI. Inoculation. XLVII. An Adventure. XLVIII. The Judgment of Solomon. XLIX. Two Affianced Queens.
EMPEROR OF AUSTRIA
L. The Dinner at the French Ambassador's. LI. Marianne's Disappearance. LII. Count Falkenstein. LIII. What they found at Wichern. LIV. The Somnambulist. LV. The Prophecy. LVI. The Gift. LVII. The Conference. LVIII. Kaunitz. LIX. Souvenir d'Eperies. LX. Frederick The Great. LXI. The Prima Donna. LXII. Frederick the Great and Prince Kaunitz. LXIII. Russia a Foe to all Europe. LXIV. The Map of Poland. LXV. The Countess Wielopolska. LXYI. The Emperor and The Countess. LXVII. Maria Theresa. LXVIII. Marie Antoinette and Court Etiquette. LXIX. The Triumph of Diplomacy. LXX. Gossip. LXXI. An Explanation. LXXII Famine in Bohemia. LXXIII. The Black Broth. LXXIV. The Extortioners of Quality. LXXV. Diplomatic Esoterics. LXXVI. Russia Speaks. LXXVII. The Last Petition. LXXVIII. Finis Polonie. LXXIX. The Mad Countess. LXXX. The Betrothal. LXXXI. Franz Antony Mesmer. LXXXII. Therese Von Paradies. LXXXIII. The First Day of Light. LXXXIV. Diplomatic Strategy. LXXXV. Dominus ac Redemptor Noster. LXXXVI. Heart-Struggles. LXXXVII. The Forced Bridal. LXXXVIII. Prince Louis de Rohan. LXXXIX. The Poles at Vienna. XC. The Last Farewell. XCI. The Concert. XCII. The Catastrophe.
XCIII. Le Roi ist Mort, Vive Le Roi! XCIV. The Memoranda. XCV. France and Austria. XCVI. The King's List. XCVII. The First Pasquinade. XCVIII. The New Fashions. XCIX The Temple of Etiquette. C. The New Fashions and their Unhappy Results. CI. Sunrise. CII. The Following Day. CIII. The Last Appeal. CIV. The Flight. CV. Joseph in France. CVI. The Godfather. CVII. The Godfather. CVIII. The Arrival at Versailles. CIX. Count Falkenstein In Paris. CX. The Queen and The "Dames de la Halle." CXI. The Adopted Son of the Queen. CXII. "Chantons, Celebrons Notre Reine." CXIII. The Hotel Turenne. CXIV. The Denouement. CXV. The Parting. CXVI. Joseph and Louis. CXVII. The Promenade and the Epigram. CXVIII. The Dinner en Famille. CXIX. A Visit to Jean Jacques Rousseau. CXX. The Parting. CXXI. Death of the Elector of Bavaria. CXXII. A Page From History. CXXIII. The Emperor as Commander-In-Chief. CXXIV. Secret Negotiations for Peace. CXXV. Fraternal Discord. CXXVI. The Defeat. CXXVII. The Revenge. CXXVIII. A Letter to the Empress of Russia. CXXIX. The Gratitude of Princes. CXXX. Frederick The Great. CXXXI, "The Darkest Hour is Before Day." CXXXII. The Emperor and his Mother. CXXXIII. Prince Potemkin. CXXXIV. The Prussian Ambassador. CXXXV. The Austrian Ambassador. CXXXVI. The Empress Catharine. CXXXVII. The Czarina and her Master. CXXXVIII A Diplomatic Defeat. CXXXIX. The Czarina and the Kaiser.
THE REIGN OF JOSEPH
CXL. The Oath. CXLI. Prince Kaunitz. CXLII. The Banker and his Daughter. CXLIII. The Countess Baillou, CXLIV. The Expulsion of the Clarisserines. CXLV. Count Podstadsky'S Escort. CXLVI. The Lampoon. CXLVII. The Petitioners. CXLVIII. The Petitioners. CXLIX. The Lady Patroness. CL. Mother and Son. CLI. The Two Oaths. CLII. New-Fashioned Obsequies. CLIII. The Pope in Vienna. CLIV. The Flight. CLV. The Marriage before God. CLVI. The Park. CLVII. The Parting. CLVIII. Colonel Szekuly. CLIX. The Pope's Departure. CLX. The Repulse. CLXI. The Count in the Pillory. CLXII. The Nemesis. CLXIII. Horja and the Rebellion In Hungary. CLXIV. The Jew's Revenge. CLXV. The Favor of Princes. CLXVI. The Deputation from Hungary. CLXVII. The Recompense. CLXVIII. The Rebellion in the Netherlands. CLXIX. The Imperial Suitor. CLXX. The Last Dream of Love. CLXXI. The Turkish War. CLXXII. Marriage and Separation. CLXXIII. The Last Dream of Glory. CLXXIV. The Hungarians Again. CLXXV. The Revocation. CLXXVI. The Death of The Martyr.
JOSEPH II. AND HIS COURT
In the council-chamber of the Empress Maria Theresa, the six lords, who composed her cabinet council, awaited the entrance of their imperial mistress to open the sitting.
At this sitting, a great political question was to be discussed and its gravity seemed to be reflected in the faces of the lords, as, in low tones, they whispered together in the dim, spacious apartment, whose antiquated furniture of dark velvet tapestry corresponded well with the anxious looks of its occupants.
In the centre of the room stood the Baron von Bartenstein and the Count von Uhlefeld, the two powerful statesmen who for thirteen years had been honored by the confidence of the empress. Together they stood, their consequence acknowledged by all, while with proud and lofty mien, they whispered of state secrets.
Upon the fair, smooth face of Bartenstein appeared an expression of haughty triumph, which he was at no pains to conceal; and over the delicate mouth of Von Uhlefeld fluttered a smile of ineffable complacency.
"I feel perfectly secure," whispered Von Bartenstein. "The empress will certainly renew the treaties, and continue the policy which we have hitherto pursued with such brilliant results to Austria."
"The empress is wise," returned Uhlefeld. "She can reckon upon our stanch support, and so long as she pursues this policy, we will sustain her."
While he spoke, there shot from his eyes such a glance of conscious power, that the two lords who, from the recess of a neighboring window, were watching the imperial favorites, were completely dazzled.
"See, count" murmured one to the other, "see how Count Uhlefeld smiles to-day. Doubtless he knows already what the decision of the empress is to be; and that it is in accordance with his wishes, no one can doubt who looks upon him now."
"It will be well for us," replied Count Colloredo, "if we subscribe unconditionally to the opinions of the lord chancellor. I, for my part, will do so all the more readily, that I confess to you my utter ignorance of the question which is to come before us to-day. I was really so preoccupied at our last sitting that I—I failed exactly to comprehend its nature. I think, therefore, that it will be well for us to vote with Count von Uhlefeld—that is, if the president of the Aulic Council, Count Harrach, does not entertain other opinions."
Count Harrach bowed. "As for me," sighed he, "I must, as usual, vote with Count Bartenstein. His will be, as it ever is, the decisive voice of the day; and its echo will be heard from the lips of the empress. Let us echo them both, and so be the means of helping to crush the presumption of yonder crafty and arrogant courtier."
As he spoke he glanced toward the massive table of carved oak, around which were arranged the leathern arm-chairs of the members of the Aulic Council. Count Colloredo followed the glance of his friend, which, with a supercilious expression, rested upon the person to whom he alluded. This person was seated in one of the chairs, deeply absorbed in the perusal of the papers that lay before him upon the table. He was a man of slight and elegant proportions, whose youthful face contrasted singularly with the dark, manly, and weather-beaten countenances of the other members of the council. Not a fault marred the beauty of this fair face; not the shadow of a wrinkle ruffled the polish of the brow; even the lovely mouth itself was free from those lines by which thought and care are wont to mark the passage of man through life. One thing, however, was wanting to this beautiful mask. It was devoid of expression. Those delicate features were immobile and stony, No trace of emotion stirred the compressed lips; no shadow of thought flickered over the high, marble brow; and the glance of those clear, light-blue eyes was as calm, cold, and unfeeling as that of a statue. This young man, with Medusa-like beauty, was Anthony Wenzel von Kaunitz, whom Maria Theresa had lately recalled from Paris to take his seat in her cabinet council.
The looks of Harrach and Colloredo were directed toward him, but he appeared not to observe them, and went on quietly with his examination of the state papers.
"You think, then, count," whispered Colloredo, thoughtfully, "that young Kaunitz cherishes the absurd hope of an alliance with France?"
"I am sure of it. I know that a few days ago the French ambassador delivered to him a most affectionate missive from his friend the Marquise de Pompadour; and I know too that yesterday he replied to it in a similar strain: It is his fixed idea, and that of La Pompadour also, to drive Austria into a new line of policy, by making her the ally of France."
Count Colloredo laughed. "The best cure that I know of for fixed ideas is the madhouse," replied he, "and thither we will send little Kaunitz if—"
He ceased suddenly, for Kaunitz had slowly raised his eyes from the table, and they now rested with such an icy gaze upon the smiling face of Colloredo, that the frightened statesman shivered.
"If he should have heard me!" murmured he. "If he—" but the poor count had no further time for reflection; for at that moment the folding-doors leading to the private apartments of the empress were thrown open, and the lord high steward announced the approach of her majesty.
The councillors advanced to the table, and in respectful silence awaited the imperial entrance.
The rustling of silk was heard; and then the quick step of the Countess Fuchs, whose duty it was to accompany the empress to the threshold of her council-chamber, and to close the door behind her.
And now appeared the majestic figure of the empress. The lords laid their hands upon their swords, and inclined their heads in reverence before the imperial lady, who with light, elastic step advanced to the table, while the Countess Fuchs noiselessly closed the door and returned.
The empress smilingly acknowledged the salutation, though her smile was lost to her respectful subjects, who, in obedience to the strict Spanish etiquette which prevailed at the Austrian court, remained with their heads bent until the sovereign had taken her seat upon the throne.
One of these subjects had bent his head with the rest, but he had ventured to raise it again, and he at least met the glance of royalty. This bold subject was Kaunitz, the youngest of the councillors.
He gazed at the advancing empress, and for the first time a smile flitted over his stony features. And well might the sight of his sovereign lady stir the marble heart of Kaunitz; for Maria Theresa was one of the loveliest women of her day. Though thirty-six years of age, and the mother of thirteen children, she was still beautiful, and the Austrians were proud to excess of her beauty. Her high, thoughtful forehead was shaded by a profusion of blond hair, which lightly powdered and gathered up behind in one rich mass, was there confined by a golden net. Her large, starry eyes were of that peculiar gray which changes with every emotion of the soul; at one time seeming to be heavenly-blue, at another the darkest and most flashing brown. Her bold profile betokened great pride; but every look of haughtiness was softened away by the enchanting expression of a mouth in whose exquisite beauty no trace of the so-called "Austrian lip" could be seen. Her figure, loftier than is usual with women, was of faultless symmetry, while her graceful bust would have seemed to the eyes of Praxiteles the waking to life of his own dreams of Juno.
Those who looked upon this beautiful empress could well realize the emotions which thirteen years before had stirred the hearts of the Hungarian nobles as she stood before them; and had wrought them up to that height of enthusiasm which culminated in the well-known shout of
"MORIAMUR PRO REGE NOSTRO!"
"Our king!" cried the Hungarians, and they were right. For Maria Theresa, who with her husband, was the tender wife; toward her children, the loving mother; was in all that related to her empire, her people, and her sovereignty, a man both in the scope of her comprehension and the strength of her will. She was capable of sketching bold lines of policy, and of following them out without reference to personal predilections or prejudices, both of which she was fully competent to stifle, wherever they threatened interference with the good of her realm, or her sense of duty as a sovereign.
The energy and determination of her character were written upon the lofty brow of Maria Theresa; and now, as she approached her councillors, these characteristics beamed forth from her countenance with such power and such beauty, that Kaunitz himself was overawed, and for one moment a smile lit up his cold features.
No one saw this smile except the imperial lady, who had woke the Memnon into life; and as she took her seat upon the throne, she slightly bent her head in return.
Now, with her clear and sonorous voice, she invited her councillors also to be seated, and at once reached out her hand for the memoranda which Count Bartenstein had prepared for her examination.
She glanced quickly over the papers, and laid them aside. "My lords of the Aulic Council," said she, in tones of deep earnestness, "we have to-day a question of gravest import to discuss. I crave thereunto your attention and advice. We are at this sitting to deliberate upon the future policy of Austria, and deeply significant will be the result of this day's deliberations to Austria's welfare. Some of our old treaties are about to expire. Time, which has somewhat moderated the bitterness of our enemies, seems also to have weakened the amity of our friends. Both are dying away; and the question now before us is, whether we shall extinguish enmity, or rekindle friendship? For seventy years past England, Holland, and Sardinia have been our allies. For three hundred years France has been our hereditary enemy. Shall we renew our alliance with the former powers, or seek new relations with the latter? Let me have your views, my lords."
With these concluding words, Maria Theresa waved her hand, and pointed to Count Uhlefeld. The lord chancellor arose, and with a dignified inclination of the head, responded to the appeal.
"Since your majesty permits me to speak, I vote without hesitation for the renewal of our treaty with the maritime powers. For seventy years our relations with these powers have been amicable and honorable. In our days of greatest extremity—when Louis XIV. took Alsatia and the city of Strasburg, and his ally, the Turkish Sultan, besieged Vienna—when two powerful enemies threatened Austria with destruction, it was this alliance with the maritime powers and with Sardinia, which, next to the succor of the generous King of Poland, saved our capital, and Savoy held Lombardy in check, while England and Holland guarded the Netherlands, which, since the days of Philip II., have ever been the nest of rebellion and revolt. To this alliance, therefore, we owe it that your majesty still reigns over those seditious provinces. To Savoy we are indebted for Lombardy; while France, perfidious France, has not only robbed us of our territory, but to this day asserts her right to its possession! No, your majesty—so long as France retains that which belongs to Austria, Austria will neither forgive her enmity nor forget it. See, on the contrary, how the maritime powers have befriended us! It was THEIR gold which enabled us first to withstand France, and afterward Prussia—THEIR gold that filled your majesty's coffers—THEIR gold that sustained and confirmed the prosperity of your majesty's dominions. This is the alliance that I advocate, and with all my heart I vote for its renewal. It is but just that the princes and rulers of the earth should give example to the world of good faith in their dealings; for the integrity of the sovereign is a pledge to all nations of the integrity of his people."
Count Uhlefeld resumed his seat, and after him rose the powerful favorite of the empress, Count Bartenstein, who, in a long and animated address, came vehemently to the support of Uhlefeld.
Then came Counts Colloredo and Harrach, and the lord high steward, Count Khevenhuller—all unanimous for a renewal of the old treaty. Not one of these rich, proud nobles would have dared to breathe a sentiment in opposition to the two powerful statesmen that had spoken before them. Bartenstein and Uhlefeld had passed the word. The alliance must continue with those maritime powers, from whose subsidies such unexampled wealth had flowed into the coffers of Austria, and—those of the lords of the exchequer! For, up to the times of which we write, it was a fundamental doctrine of court faith, that the task of inquiry into the accounts of the imperial treasury was one far beneath the dignity of the sovereign. The lords of the exchequer, therefore, were responsible to nobody for their administration of the funds arising from the Dutch and English subsidies.
It was natural, then, that the majority of the Aulic Council should vote for the old alliance. While they argued and voted, Kaunitz, the least important personage of them all, sat perfectly unconcerned, paying not the slightest attention to the wise deductions of his colleagues. He seemed much occupied in straightening loose papers, mending his pen, and removing with his finger-tips the tiny, specks that flecked the lustre of his velvet coat. Once, while Bartenstein was delivering his long address, Kaunitz carried his indifference so far as to draw out his repeater (on which was painted a portrait of La Pompadour, set in diamonds) and strike the hour! The musical ring of the little bell sounded a fairy accompaniment to the deep and earnest tones of Bartenstein's voice; while Kaunitz, seeming to hear nothing else, held the watch up to his ear and counted its strokes. [Footnote: Vide Kormayr, "Austrian Plutarch," vol. xii., p.352.] The empress, who was accustomed to visit the least manifestation of such inattention on the part of her councillors with open censure—the empress, so observant of form, and so exacting of its observance in others—seemed singularly indulgent to-day; for while Kaunitz was listening to the music of his watch, his imperial mistress looked on with half a smile. At last, when the fifth orator had spoken, and it became the turn of Kaunitz to vote, Maria Theresa turned her flashing eyes upon him with a glance of anxious and appealing expectation.
As her look met his, how had all coldness and unconcern vanished from his face! How glowed his eyes with the lustre of great and world-swaying thoughts, as, rising from his chair, he returned the gaze of his sovereign with one that seemed to crave forbearance!
But Kaunitz had almost preternatural control over his emotions, and he recovered himself at once.
"I cannot vote for a renewal of our worn-out alliance with the maritime powers," said he, in a clear and determined voice. As he uttered these words, looks of astonishment and disapprobation were, visible upon the faces of his colleagues. The lord chancellor contented himself with a contemptuous shrug and a supercilious smile. Kaunitz perceived it, and met both shrug and smile with undisturbed composure, while calmly and slowly he repeated his offending words. For a moment he paused, as if to give time to his hearers to test the flavor of his new and startling language. Then, firm and collected, he went on:
"Our alliance with England and Holland has long been a yoke and a humiliation to Austria. If, in its earlier days, this alliance ever afforded us protection, dearly have we paid for that protection, and we have been forced to buy it with fearful sacrifices to our national pride. Never for one moment have these two powers allowed us to forget that we have been dependent upon their bounty for money and defence. Jealous of the growing power and influence of Austria, before whose youthful and vigorous career lies the glory of future greatness—jealous of our increasing wealth—jealous of the splendor of Maria Theresa's reign—these powers, whose faded laurels are buried in the grave of the past, have compassed sea and land to stop the flow of our prosperity, and sting the pride of our nationality. With their tyrannical commercial edicts, they have dealt injury to friends as well as foes. The closing of the Scheldt and Rhine, the Barrier treaty, and all the other restrictions upon trade devised by those crafty English to damage the traffic of other nations, all these compacts have been made as binding upon Austria as upon every other European power. Unmindful of their alliance with us, the maritime powers have closed their ports against our ships; and while affecting to watch the Netherlands in our behalf, they have been nothing better than spies, seeking to discover whether our flag transcended in the least the limits of our own blockaded frontiers; and whether to any but to themselves accrued the profits of trade with the Baltic and North Seas. Vraiment, such friendship lies heavily upon us, and its weight feels almost like that of enmity. At Aix-la-Chapelle I had to remind the English ambassador that his unknightly and arrogant bearing toward Austria was unseemly both to the sex and majesty of Austria's empress. And our august sovereign herself, not long since, saw fit to reprove the insolence of this same British envoy, who in her very presence spoke of the Netherlands as though they had been a boon to Austria from England's clemency. Incensed at the tone of this representative of our friends, the empress exclaimed: 'Am I not ruler in the Netherlands as well as in Vienna? Do I hold my right of empire from England and Holland?'" [Footnote: Coxe, "History of the House of Austria," vol. v., p. 51.]
"Yes," interrupted Maria Theresa, impetuously, "yes, it is true. The arrogance of these royal traders has provoked me beyond all bearing. I will no longer permit them to insinuate of my own imperial rights that I hold them as favors from the hand of any earthly power. It chafes the pride of an empress-queen to be CALLED a friend and TREATED as a vassal; and I intend that these proud allies shall feel that I resent their affronts!"
It was wonderful to see the effect of these impassioned words upon the auditors of the empress. They quaked as they thought how they had voted, and their awe-stricken faces were pallid with fright. Uhlefeld and Bartenstein exchanged glances of amazement and dismay; while the other nobles, like adroit courtiers, fixed their looks, with awakening admiration, upon Kaunitz, in whom their experienced eyes were just discovering the rising luminary of a new political firmament.
He, meanwhile, had inclined his head and smiled when the empress had interrupted him. She ceased, and after a short pause, Kaunitz resumed, with unaltered equanimity: "Your majesty has been graciously pleased to testify, in your own sovereign person, to the tyranny of our two northern allies. It remains, therefore, to speak of Sardinia alone—Sardinia, who HELD LOMBARDY IN CHECK. No sooner had Victor Amadeus put his royal signature to the treaty made by him with Austria, than he turned to his confidants and said (loud enough for us to hear him in Vienna): 'Lombardy is mine. I will take it, but I shall eat it up, leaf by leaf, like an artichoke.' And methinks his majesty of Sardinia has proved himself to be a good trencherman. He has already swallowed several leaves of his artichoke, in that he is master of several of the fairest provinces of Lombardy. It is true that this royal gourmand has laid aside his crown; and that in his place reigns Victor Emanuel, of whom Lord Chesterfield, in a burst of enthusiasm, has said, that 'he never did and never will commit an act of injustice.' Concede that Victor Emanuel is the soul of honor; still," added Kaunitz with a shake of the head, and an incredulous smile "still—the Italian princes are abominable geographers—and they are inordinately fond of artichokes. [Footnote: Kaunitz's own words. Kotmayr, "Austrian Plutarch," vol. xi.] Now their fondness for this vegetable is as dangerous to Austria as the too loving grasp of her northern allies, who with their friendly hands not only close their ports against us, but lay the weight of their favors so heavily upon our heads as to force us down upon our knees before them. What have we from England and Holland but their subsidies? And Austria can now afford to relinquish them— Austria is rich, powerful, prosperous enough to be allowed to proffer her friendship where it will be honorably returned. Austria, then, must be freed from her oppressive alliance with the maritime powers. She has youth and vitality enough to shake off this bondage, and strike for the new path which shall lead her to greatness and glory. There is a moral and intangible greatness, of whose existence these trading Englishmen have no conception, but which the refined and elevated people of France are fully competent to appreciate. France extends to us her hand, and offers us alliance on terms of equality. Cooperating with France, we shall defy the enmity of all Europe. With our two-edged sword we shall turn the scales of future European strife, and make peace or war for other nations. France, too, is our natural ally, for she is our neighbor. And she is more than this, for she is our ally by the sacred unity of one faith. The Holy Father at Rome, who blesses the arms of Austria, will no longer look sorrowfully upon Austria's league with heresy. When apostolic France and we are one, the blessings of the Church will descend upon our alliance. Religion, therefore, as well as honest statesmanship, call for the treaty with France."
"And I," cried Maria Theresa, rising quickly from her seat, her eyes glowing with enthusiastic fire, "I vote joyfully with Count Kaunitz. I, too, vote for alliance with France. The count has spoken as it stirs my heart to hear an Austrian speak. He loves his fatherland, and in his devotion he casts far from him all thought of worldly profit or advancement. I tender him my warmest thanks, and I will take his words to heart."
Overcome with the excitement of the moment, the empress reached her hand to Kaunitz, who eagerly seized and pressed it to his lips.
Count Uhlefeld watched this extraordinary scene with astonishment and consternation. Bartenstein, so long the favorite minister of Maria Theresa, was deadly pale, and his lips were compressed as though he were trying to suppress a burst of rage. Harrach, Colloredo, and Khevenhuller hung their heads, while they turned over in their little minds how best to curry favor with the new minister.
The empress saw nothing of the dismayed faces around her. Her soul was filled with high emotions, and her countenance beamed gloriously with the fervor of her boundless patriotism.
"Everything for Austria! My heart, my soul, my life, all are for my fatherland," said Maria Theresa, with her beautiful eyes raised to heaven. "And now, my lords," added she, after a pause, "I must retire, to beg light and counsel from the Almighty. I have learned your different views on the great question of this day; and when Heaven shall have taught me what to do, I will decide."
She waved her hand in parting salutation, and with her loftiest imperial bearing left the room.
Until the doors were closed, the lords of the council remained standing with inclined heads. Then they looked from one to another with faces of wonder and inquiry. Kaunitz alone seemed unembarrassed; and gathering up his papers with as much unconcern as if nothing had happened, he slightly bent his head and left the room.
Never before had any member of the Aulic Council dared to leave that room until the lord chancellor had given the signal of departure. It was a case of unparalleled violation of court etiquette. Count Uhlefeld was aghast, and Bartenstein seemed crushed. Without exchanging a word, the two friends rose, and with eyes cast down, and faces pale with the anguish of that hour, together they left the council-chamber toward which they had repaired with hearts and bearing so triumphant.
Colloredo and Harrach followed silently to the anteroom, and bowed deferentially as their late masters passed through. But no sooner had the door closed, than the two courtiers exchanged malicious smiles.
"Fallen favorites," laughed Harrach. "Quenched lights which yesterday shone like suns, and to-day are burnt to ashes! There is to be a soiree to-night at Bartenstein's. For the first time in eleven years I shall stay away from Bartenstein's soirees."
"And I," replied Colloredo, laughing, "had invited Ulhlefeld for to-morrow. But, as the entertainment was all in his honor, I shall be taken with a sudden indisposition, and countermand my supper."
"That will be a most summary proceeding," said Harrach. "I see that you believe the sun of Uhlefeld and Bartenstein has set forever."
"I am convinced of it. They have their death-blow."
"And the rising sun? You think it will be called Kaunitz?"
"Will be? It is called Kaunitz: so take my advice. Kaunitz I know, is not a man to be bribed; but he has two weaknesses—women and horses. You are, for the present, the favorite of La Fortina; and yesterday you won from Count Esterhazy an Arabian, which Kaunitz says is the finest horse in Vienna. If I were you, I would present to him both my mistress and my horse. Who knows but what these courtesies may induce him to adopt you as a PROTEGE?"
From her cabinet council the empress passed at once to her private apartments. When business was over for the, day, she loved to cast the cares of sovereignty behind, and become a woman—chatting with her ladies of honor over the "on dits" of the court and city. During the hours devoted to her toilet, Maria Theresa gave herself up unreservedly to enjoyment. But she was so impetuous, that her ladies of honor were never quite secure that some little annoyance would not ruffle the serenity of her temper. The young girl whose duty it was to read aloud to the empress and dress her hair, used to declare that she would sooner wade through three hours' worth of Latin dispatches from Hungary, than spend one half hour as imperial hair-dresser.
But today, as she entered her dressing-room, the eyes of the empress beamed with pleasure, and her mouth was wreathed with sunny smiles. The little hair-dresser was delighted, and with a responsive smile took her place, and prepared for her important duties. Maria Theresa glided into the chair, and with her own hands began to unfasten the golden net that confined her hair. She then leaned forward, and, with a pleased expression, contemplated the beautiful face that looked out from the silver-framed Venetian glass before which she sat.
"Make me very charming today, Charlotte," said she. [Footnote: Charlotte von Hieronymus was the mother of Caroline Pichler.]
"Your majesty needs no help from me to look charming," said the gentle voice of the little tire-woman. "No hair-dresser had lent you her aid on that day when your Magyar nobles swore to die for you, and yet the world says that never were eyes of loyal subjects dazzled by such beauty and such grace."
"Ah, yes, child, but that was thirteen years ago. Thirteen years! How many cares have lain upon my heart since that day! If my face is wrinkled and my hair grown gray, I may thank that hateful King of Prussia, for he is the cause of it all."
"If he has no greater sins to repent of than those two," replied Charlotte, with an admiring smile, "he may sleep soundly. Your majesty's forehead is unruffled by a wrinkle, and your hair is as glossy and as brown as ever it was."
Brighter still was the smile of the empress, as she turned quickly round and exclaimed: "Then you think I have still beauty enough to please the emperor? If you do, make good use of it today, for I have something of importance to ask of him, and I long to find favor in his eyes. To work, then, Charlotte, and be quick, for—"
At that moment, the silken hangings before the door of the dressing-room were drawn hastily aside, and the Countess Fuchs stepped forward.
"Ah, countess," continued the empress, "you are just in time for a cabinet toilet council."
But the lady of honor showed no disposition to respond to the gay greeting of her sovereign. With stiffest Spanish ceremony, she courtesied deeply. "Pardon me, your majesty, if I interrupt you," said she, solemnly, "but I have something to communicate to yourself alone."
"Oh, countess!" exclaimed Maria Theresa, anxiously, "you look as if you bare me sad tidings. But speak out-Charlotte knows as many state secrets as you do; you need not be reserved before her."
"Pardon me," again replied the ceremonious lady, with another deep courtesy, "I bring no news of state—I must speak with your majesty alone."'
The eyes of the empress dilated with fear. "No state secret," murmured she; "oh, what can it be, then? Go, Charlotte, go, child, and remain until I recall you."
The door closed behind the tired woman, and the empress cried out: "Now we are alone, be quick, and speak out what you have to say. You have come to give me pain, I feel it."
"Your majesty ordered me, some time since," began the countess in her low, unsympathizing tones, "to watch the imperial household, so that nothing might transpire within it that came not to the knowledge of your majesty. I have lately watched the movements of the emperor's valet."
"Ah!" cried the empress, clasping her hands convulsively together, "you watched him, and"
"Yes, your majesty, I watched him, and I was informed this morning that he had left the emperor's apartments with a sealed note in his hands, and had gone into the city."
"No more just yet," said the empress, with trembling lip.
"Give me air! I cannot breathe." With wild emotion she tore open her velvet bodice, and heaving a deep sigh, signed to the countess to go on.
"My spy awaited Gaspardi's return, and stopped him. He was forbidden, in the name of your majesty, to go farther. "
"He was brought to me, your majesty, and now awaits your orders."
"So that if there is an answer to the note, he has it," said Maria Theresa, sharply. The countess bowed.
"Where is he?"
"In the antechamber, your majesty."
The empress bounded from her seat, and walked across the room. Her face was flushed with anger, and she trembled in every limb. She seemed undecided what to do; but at last she stopped suddenly, and blushing deeply, without looking at the countess, she said in a low voice, "Bring him hither."
The countess disappeared and returned, followed by Gaspardi. Maria Theresa strode impetuously forward, and bent her threatening eyes upon the valet. But the shrewd Italian knew better than to meet the lightning glance of an angry empress. With downcast looks and reverential obeisance he awaited her commands. "Look at me, Gaspardi," said she, in tones that sounded in the valet's ears like distant thunder. "Answer my questions, sir"
Gaspardi raised his eyes.
"To whom was the note addressed that was given you by the emperor this morning?"
"Your majesty, I did not presume to look at it," replied Gaspardi, quietly. "His imperial majesty was pleased to tell me where to take it, and that sufficed me."
"And whither did you take it?"
"Imperial majesty, I have forgotten the house."
"What street, then?"
"Pardon me, imperial majesty; these dreadful German names are too hard for my Italian tongue. As soon as I had obeyed his majesty's commands, I forgot the name of the street."
"So that you are resolved not to tell me where you went with the emperor's note?"
"Indeed, imperial majesty, I have totally forgotten."
The empress looked as if she longed to annihilate a menial who defied her so successfully.
"I see," exclaimed she, "that you are crafty and deceitful, but you shall not escape me. I command you, as your sovereign, to give up the note you bear about you for the emperor. I myself will deliver it to his majesty."
Gaspardi gave a start, and unconsciously his hand sought the place where the note was concealed. He turned very pale and stammered, "Imperial majesty, I have no letter for the emperor."
"You have it there!" thundered the infuriated empress, as with threatening hand she pointed to the valet's breast. "Deliver it at once, or I will call my lackeys to search you."
"Your majesty forces me then to betray my lord and emperor?" asked Gaspardi, trembling.
"You serve him more faithfully by relinquishing the letter than by retaining it," returned Maria Theresa, hastily. "Once more I command you to give it up."
Gaspardi heaved a sigh of anguish, and looked imploringly at the empress. But in the trembling lips, the flashing eyes, the flushed cheeks that met his entreating glance, he saw no symptoms of relenting, and he dared the strife no longer. His hand shook as he drew forth the letter.
The empress uttered a cry, and with the fury of a lioness snatched the paper and crushed it in her hand.
"Your majesty," whispered the countess, "dismiss the valet before he learns too much. He might—"
"Woe to him if he breathes a word to one human being!" cried the empress, with menacing gesture. "Woe to him if he dare breathe one word to his master!"
"Heaven forbid that I should betray the secrets of my sovereign!" cried the affrighted Gaspardi. "But, imperial majesty, what am I to say to my lord the emperor?"
"You will tell your lord that you brought no answer, and it will not be the first lie with which you have befooled his imperial ears," replied Maria Theresa coutemptuously, while she waved her hand as a signal of dismissal. The unhappy Mercury retired, and as he disappeared, the pent-up anguish of the empress burst forth.
"Ah, Margaretta," cried she, in accents of wildest grief, "what an unfortunate woman I am! In all my life I have loved but one man! My heart, my soul, my every thought are his, and he robs me, the mother of his children, of his love, and bestows it upon another!"
"Perhaps the inconstancy is but momentary," replied the countess, who burned to know the contents of the letter. "Perhaps there is no inconstancy at all. This may be nothing but an effort on the part of some frivolous coquette to draw our handsome emperor within the net of her guilty attractions. The note would show—" The empress scarcely heeded the words of her confidante. She had opened her hand, and was gazing upon the crumpled paper that held her husband's secret.
"Oh!" murmured she, plaintively. "Oh, it seems to me that a thousand daggers have sprung from this little paper, to make my heart's blood flow. Who is the foolhardy woman that would entice my husband from his loyalty to me? Woe, woe to her when I shall have learned her name! And I will learn it!" cried the unhappy wife. "I myself will take this letter to the emperor, and he shall open it in my presence. I will have justice! Adultery is a fearful crime, and fearful shall be its punishment in my realms. The name! the name! Oh, that I knew the name of the execrable woman who has dared to lift her treasonable eyes toward my husband!"
"Nothing is easier than to learn it, your majesty," whispered the countess, "squat like a toad, close to the ear of Eve"—"the letter will reveal it."
The empress frowned. Oh, for Ithuriel then!
"Dost mean that I shall open a letter which was never intended to be read by me?"
The countess pointed to the paper. "Your majesty has already broken the seal. You crushed it unintentionally. There remains but to unfold the paper, and every thing is explained. I will wage that it comes from the beautiful dancer Riccardo, whom the emperor admired so much last night in the ballet, and whom he declared to be the most bewitching creature he had ever seen."
The eyes of the empress dropped burning tears, and, covering her face with her hands, she sobbed aloud. Then she seemed ashamed of her emotion, and raised her beautiful head again.
"It is contemptible so to mourn for one who is faithless," said she. "It is for me to judge and to punish, and that will I! It is my duty as ruler of Austria to bring crime to light. I will soon learn who it is that dares to exchange letters with the husband of the reigning empress. And after all, the speediest, the simplest way to do this, lies before me. I must open the letter, for justice sake; but I swear that I will not read one word contained within its stages. I will see the name of the writer alone; and then I can be sure that curiosity and personal interest have not prompted me."
And so Maria Theresa silenced her scruples, and persuaded herself that she was compelled to do as the tempter had suggested. She tore open the note; but true to her self-imposed vow, she paused on the threshold of dishonor, and read nothing but the writer's name.
"Riccardo!" cried she, wildly. "You were right, Margaretta: an intrigue with the Riccardo. The emperor has written to her—the emperor, my husband!"
She folded the fatal letter, and oh, how her white hands trembled as she laid it upon the table I and how deadly pale were the cheeks that had flushed with anger when Gaspardi had been by!
The countess was not deceived by this phase of the empress's grief. She knew that the storm would burst, and she thought it better to divide its wrath. She stepped lightly out to call the confessor of her victim.
Maria Theresa was unconscious of being alone. She stood before the table staring at the letter. Gradually her paleness vanished, and the hue of anger once more deepened on her cheeks. Her eyes, which had just been drooping with tears, flamed again with indignation; and her expanded nostrils, her twitching mouth, and her heaving chest, betrayed the fury of the storm that was raging within.
"Oh, I will trample her under foot!" muttered she between her teeth, while she raised her hand as if she would fain have dealt a leach-stroke. "I will prove to the court—to the empire—to the world, how Maria Theresa hates vice, and how she punishes crime, without respect of persons. Both criminals shall feel the lash of justice. If my woman's heart break, the empress shall do her duty. It shall not be said that lust holds its revels in Vienna, as at the obscene courts of Versailles and St. Petersburg. No! Nor shall the libertines of Vienna point to the Austrian emperor as their model, nor shall their weeping wives be taunted with reports of the indulgence of the Austrian empress. Morality and decorum shall prevail in Vienna. The fire of my royal vengeance shall consume that bold harlot, and then—then for the emperor!"
"Your majesty will never consent to bring disgrace upon the father of your imperial children," said a gentle voice close by, and, turning at the sound, the empress beheld her confessor.
She advanced hastily toward Father Porhammer. "How!" exclaimed she angrily, "how!—you venture to plead for the emperor? You come hither to stay the hand of justice?"
"I do indeed," replied the father, "for to-day at least, her hand, if uplifted against the emperor, must recoil upon the empress. The honor of my august sovereigns cannot be divided. Your majesty must throw the shield of your love over the fault of your imperial husband."
"Oh, I cannot! I cannot suffer this mortal blow in silence," sobbed the empress.
"Nay," said the father, smiling, "the wife may be severe, though the empress be clement."
"But she, father—must she also be pardoned? she who has enticed my husband from his conjugal faith?"
"As for the Riccardo," replied Father Porhammer, "I have heard that she is a sinful woman, whose beauty has led many men astray. If your majesty deem her dangerous, she can be made to leave Vienna; but let retribution go no further."
"Well, be it so," sighed the empress, whose heart was already softening. "You are right, reverend father, but La Riccardo shall leave Vienna forever."
So saying, she hastened to her escritoire, and wrote and signed the order for the banishment of the danseuse.
"There." cried she, handing the order to the priest. "I pray you, dear father, remit this to Count Bartenstein, and let him see that she goes hence this very day. And when I shall have laid this evil spirit, perchance I may find peace once more. But, no, no!" continued she, her eyes filling with tears; "when she has gone, some other enchantress will come in her place to charm my husband's love away. Oh, father, if chastity is not in the heart, sin will always find entrance there."
"Yes, your majesty; and therefore should the portals of the heart be ever guarded against the enemy. As watchmen are appointed to guard the property, so are the servants of God sent on earth to extend the protection of Heaven to the hearts of your people."
"And why may I not aid them in their holy labors?" exclaimed the empress, glowing suddenly with a new interest. "Why may I not appoint a committee of good and wise men to watch over the morals of my subjects, and to warn them from temptation, ere it has time to become sin? Come, father, you must aid me in this good work. Help me to be the earthly, as the Blessed Virgin is the heavenly mother of the Austrian people. Sketch me some plan whereby I may organize my scheme. I feel sure that your suggestions will be dictated by that Heaven to which you have devoted your whole life."
"May the spirit of counsel and the spirit of wisdom enlighten my understanding," said the father, with solemn fervor, "that I may worthily accomplish the mission with which my empress has intrusted me!"
"But, your majesty," whispered the Countess Fuchs, "in your magnanimous projects for your people, you are losing sight of yourself. The Riccardo has not yet been banished; and the emperor, seeing that no answer is coming to his note, may seek an interview: Who can guess the consequences of a meeting?"
The empress shivered, as the countess probed the wounds herself had made in that poor, jealous heart.
"True, true," returned she, in an unsteady voice. "Go, father, and begin my work of reform, by casting out that wicked woman from among the unhappy wives of Vienna. I myself will announce her departure to the emperor. And now, dear friends, leave me. You, father, to Count Bartenstein. Countess, recall Charlotte, and send me my tire-women. Let the princes and princesses be regally attired to-day. I will meet the emperor in their midst."
The confessor bowed and retired, and the countess opening the door of the inner dressing-room, beckoned to Charlotte, who, in the recess of a deep bay-window, sat wearily awaiting the summons to return.
THE TOILET OF THE EMPRESS.
SO dark and gloomy was the face of the empress, that poor Charlotte's heart misgave her, as with a suppressed sigh she resumed her place, and once more took down the rich masses of her sovereign lady's hair. Maria Theresa looked sternly at the reflection of her little maid of honor's face in the glass. She saw how Charlotte's hands trembled and this increased her ill-humor. Again she raised her eyes to her own image, and saw plainly that anger was unbecoming to her. The flush on her face was not rosy, but purple; and the scowl upon her brow was fast deepening into a wrinkle. Her bosom heaved with a heavy, heavy sigh.
"Ah," thought she, "if I am ever again to find favor in his eyes, I must always smile; for smiles are the last glowing tints of beauty's sunset. And yet, how can I smile, when my heart is breaking? He said that the Riccardo was the loveliest woman he had ever seen. Alas! I remember the day when he knelt at my feet, and spoke thus of me. Oh, my Franz! Am I indeed old, and no longer lovable?"
In her anxiety to scrutinize her own features, the empress bent suddenly forward, and the heavy mass of puffs and braids that formed the coiffure she had selected for the day, gave way. She felt the sharp points of the hair-pins in her head, and, miserable and nervous as she was, they seemed to wound her cruelly. Starting from her chair, she poured forth a torrent of reproaches upon Charlotte's head, who, pale and trembling more than ever, repaired the damage, and placed among the braids a bouquet of white roses. These white roses deepened the unbecoming redness of the empress's face. She perceived this at once, and losing all self-control, tore the flowers from her hair, and dashed them on the floor.
"You are all leagued against me." cried she, indignantly. "You are trying your best to disfigure me, and to make me look old before my time. Who ever saw such a ridiculous structure as this headdress, that makes me look like a perambulating castle on a chessboard? Come, another coiffure, and let it not be such a ridiculous one as this."
Charlotte, of course, did not remind her mistress that the coiffure and roses had been her own selection. She had nothing to do but to obey in silence, and begin her work again.
At last the painful task was at an end. The empress looked keenly at herself in the glass, and convinced that she really looked well, she called imperatively for her tire-women. In came the procession, bearing pooped-skirt rich-embroidered train, golden-flowered petticoat, and bodice flashing with diamonds. But the empress, usually so affable at her toilet, surveyed both maids and apparel with gloomy indifference. In moody silence she reached out her feet, while her slippers were exchanged for high-heeled shoes. Not a look had she to bestow upon the magnificent dress which enhanced a thousandfold her mature beauty. Without a word she dismissed the maids of honor, all except Charlotte, whose crowning labor it was to give the last touch to the imperial head when the rest of the toilet had been declared to be complete.
Again Maria Theresa stood before that high Venetian glass, and certainly it did give back the image of a regal beauty. For a while she examined her costume from head to foot; and at last—-at last, her beautiful blue eyes beamed bright with satisfaction, and a smile rippled the corners of her mouth.
"No," said she, aloud. "No, it is not so. I am neither old nor ugly. The light of youth has not yet fled from my brow. My beauty's sun has not yet set forever. My Franz will love me still; and however charming younger women may be, he will remember the beloved of his boyhood, and we will yet be happy in reciprocal affection, come what may to us as emperor and empress. I do not believe that he said he had never seen so lovely a woman as Riccardo. Poor, dear Franz! He has a tedious life as husband of the reigning sovereign. From sheer ennui he sometimes wanders from his wife's heart, but oh! he must, he must return to me; for if I were to lose him, earthly splendor would be valueless to me forever!"
Charlotte, who stood behind her mistress with the comb in her hand, was dismayed at all that she heard; and the plaintive tones of this magnificent empress, at whose feet lay a world of might, touched her heart's core. But she sickened as she thought that her presence had been unheeded, and that the empress had fancied herself alone, while the secrets of her heart were thus struggling into words. The ample train completely screened little Charlotte from view, and a deadly paleness overspread her countenance as she awaited discovery.
Suddenly the empress turned, and putting her hand tenderly on Charlotte's head, she said, in a voice of indescribable melancholy "Be warned, Charlotte, and if you marry, never marry a man who has nothing to do. Men will grow inconstant from sheer ennui." [Footnote: Maria Theresa's words. See Caroline Pichler. "Memoirs of My Life."]
"I never expect to marry, beloved mistress," said the young girl, deeply touched by this confidence. "I wish to live and die in your majesty's service."
"Do you? And can you bear for a lifetime with my impatience, dear child?" asked the empress, kissing the little devotee on the forehead. "You know now, my little Charlotte, why I have been so unkind to-day; you know that my heart was bleeding with such anguish, that had I not broken out in anger, I must have stifled with agony. You have seen into the depths of my heart, and why should I not confide in you, who know every secret of my state-council? No one suspects what misery lies under the regal mantle. And I care not to exhibit myself to the world's pity. When Maria Theresa weeps, let her God and those who love her be the witnesses of her sorrow. Go, now, good little Charlotte, and forget every thing except your sovereign's love for you. Tell the governess of the Archduke Ferdinand to bring him hither. Let the other imperial children await me in my reception-room; and tell the page in the anteroom to announce to his majesty that I request the honor of a visit from him."
Charlotte, once more happy, left the room, her heart filled with joy for herself, and gentle sorrow for her sovereign.
Meanwhile the empress thought over the coming interview. "I will try to recall him to me by love," murmured she, softly. "I will not reproach him, and although as his empress I have a double claim upon his loyalty, I will not appeal to any thing but his own dear heart; and when he hears how he has made his poor Theresa suffer, I know—"
Here her voice failed her, and tears filled her eyes. But she dashed them quickly away, for steps approached, and the governess entered, with the infant prince in her arms.
HUSBAND AND WIFE.
A half an hour later, the princes and princesses of Austria were all assembled in their mother's private parlor. They were a beautiful group. The empress, in their midst, held little Ferdinand in her arms. Close-peeping through the folds of their mother's rich dress, were three other little ones; and a few steps farther were the Archduchesses Christine and Amelia. Near the open harpsichord stood the graceful form of the empress's eldest child, the Princess Elizabeth, who now and then ran her fingers lightly over the instrument, while she awaited the arrival of her father.
In the pride of her maternity and beauty stood the empress-queen; but her heart throbbed painfully, though she smiled upon her children.
The page announced the coming of the emperor, and then left the room. The empress made a sign to her eldest daughter, who seated herself before the harpsichord. The door opened, and on the threshold appeared the tall, elegant form of the Emperor Francis. Elizabeth began a brilliant "Welcome," and all the young voices joined in one loud chorus, "Long live our emperor, our sovereign, and our father!" sang the children; but clear above them all were heard the sonorous tones of the mother, exclaiming in the fulness of her love, "Long live my emperor, and my husband!" As if every tender chord of Maria Theresa's heart had been struck, she broke forth into one of Metastasio's most passionate songs; while Elizabeth, catching the inspiration, accompanied her mother with sweetest melody. The empress, her little babe in her arms, was wrapped up in the ecstasy of the moment. Never had she looked more enchanting than she did as she ceased, and gave one look of love to her admiring husband.
The emperor contemplated for a moment the lovely group before him, and then, full of emotion, came forward, and bending over his wife, he kissed the round white arm that held the baby, and whispered to the mother a few words of rapture at her surpassing beauty.
"But tell me, gracious empress," said he, aloud, "to what am I indebted for this charming surprise?"
The eyes of the empress shot fire, but instead of a reply, she bent down to the little Archduchess Josepha, who was just old enough to lisp her father's name, and said:
"Josepha, tell the emperor what festival we celebrate to-day" the little one, turning to her father, said, "To-day is imperial mamma's wedding-day."
"Our wedding-day!" murmured the emperor, "and I could forget it!"
"Oh, no! my dear husband," said the empress, "I am sure that you cannot have forgotten this joyous anniversary. Its remembrance is burned in your heart, and the presence of your children here, my trust, has awakened that remembrance, and carried you back with me to the happy, happy days of our early love."
The voice of the wife was almost tearful, as she spoke those tender words; and the emperor, touched and humbled at the thought of his own oversight, sought to change the subject. "But why," asked he, looking around, "why, if all our other children are here to greet their father, is Joseph absent from this happy family gathering?"
"He has been disobedient and obstinate again," said the empress, with a shrug of her shoulders, "and his preceptor, to punish him, kept him away"
The emperor walked to the door. "Surely," exclaimed he, "on such a day as this, when all my dear children are around me, my son and the future emperor should be the first to bid me welcome."
"Stay, my husband," cried the empress, who had no intention of allowing the emperor to escape so easily from his embarrassment.
"You must be content to remain with us, without the future emperor of Germany, whose reign, I hope I may be allowed to pray, is yet for some years postponed. Or is this a happy device of the future emperor's father to remind me, on my wedding-day, that I am growing old enough to begin to think of the day of my decease?"
The emperor was perfectly amazed. Although he was accustomed to such outbursts on the part of his wife, he searched vainly in his heart for the cause of her intense bitterness to-day. He looked his astonishment; and the empress, mindful of her resolve not to reproach him, tried her best to smile. The emperor shook his head thoughtfully as he watched her face, and said half aloud: "All is not right with thee, Theresa; thou smilest like a lioness, not like a woman."
"Very well, then," said she sharply, "the lioness has called you to look upon her whelps. One day they will be lions and lionesses too, and in that day they will avenge the injuries of their mother."
The empress, as she spoke, felt that her smothered jealousy was bursting forth. She hastily dismissed her children, and going herself to the door, she called for the governess of the baby, and almost threw him in her arms.
"I foresee the coming of a storm," thought the emperor, as the door being closed, Maria Theresa came quickly back, and stood before him.
"And is it indeed true," said she bitterly, "that you had forgotten your wedding-day? Not a throb of your heart to remind you of the past!"
"My memory does not cling to dates, Theresa," replied the emperor. "What, if to-day be accidentally the anniversary of our marriage? With every beating of my heart, I celebrate the hour itself, when I won the proud and beautiful heiress of Austria; and when I remember that she deigned to love ME, the poor Archduke of Lorraine, my happiness overwhelms me. Come, then, my beautiful, my beloved Theresa; come to my heart, that I may thank you for all the blessings that I owe to your love. See, dearest, we are alone; let us forget royalty for to-day, and be happy together in all the fulness of mutual confidence and affection."
So saying, he would have pressed her to his heart, but the empress drew coldly back, and turned deadly pale. This unembarrassed and confident tenderness irritated her beyond expression. That her faithless spouse should, without the slightest remorse, act the part of the devoted lover, outraged her very sense of decency.
"Really, my husband, it becomes you well to prate of confidence and affection, who have ceased to think of your own wife, and have eyes alone for the wife of another!"
"Again jealous?" sighed the emperor wearily. "Will you never cease to cloud our domestic sky by these absurd and groundless suspicions?"
"Groundless!" cried the empress, tearing the letter violently from her bosom. "With this proof of your guilt confronting you, you will not dare to say that I am jealous without cause!"
"Allow me to inquire of your majesty, what this letter is to prove?"
"It proves that to-day you have written a letter to a woman, of whom yesterday you said that she was the most beautiful woman in the world."
"I have no recollection of saying such a thing of any woman; and I am surprised that your majesty should encourage your attendants to repeat such contemptible tales," replied the emperor, with some bitterness. "Were I like you, the reigning sovereign of a great empire, I should really find no time to indulge in gossip and scandal."
"Your majesty will oblige me by refraining from any comment upon affairs which do not concern you. I alone am reigning empress here, and it is for my people to judge whether I do my duty to them; certainly not for you, who, while I am with my ministers of state, employ your leisure hours in writing love-letters to my subjects."
"I? I write a love-letter?" said the emperor.
"How dare you deny it? "cried the outraged empress. "Have you also forgotten that this morning you sent Gaspardi out of the palace on an errand?"
"No, I have not forgotten it," replied the emperor, with growing astonishment. But Maria Theresa remarked that he looked confused, and avoided her eye.
"You confess, then, that you sent the letter, and requested an answer?"
"Yes, but I received no answer," said the emperor, with embarrassment.
"There is your answer," thundered the enraged wife. "I took it from Gaspardi myself."
"And is it possible, Theresa, that you have read a letter addressed to me?" asked the emperor, in a severe voice.
The empress blushed, and her eyes sought the ground.
"No," said she, "I have not read it, Franz."
"But it is open," persisted he, taking it from his wife's hand. "Who, then, has dared to break the seal of a letter addressed to me?"
And the emperor, usually so mild toward his wife, stood erect, with stormy brow and eyes flashing with anger.
Maria Theresa in her turn was surprised. She looked earnestly at him, and confessed inwardly that never had she seen him look so handsome; and she felt an inexplicable and secret pleasure that her Franz, for once in his life, was really angry with her.
"I broke the seal of the letter, but I swear to you that I did not read one word of it," replied she. "I wished to see the signature only, and that signature was enough to convince me that I had a faithless husband, who outrages an empress by giving her a dancer as her rival!"
"The signature convinced you of this?" asked the emperor.
"And you read nothing else?"
"Nothing, I tell you."
"Then, madam," returned he, seriously, handing the letter back to her, "do me the favor to read the whole of it. After breaking the seal, you need not hesitate. I exact it of you."
The empress looked overwhelmed. "You exact of me to read a love-letter addressed to you?"
"Certainly I do. You took it from my valet, you broke it open, and now I beg you will be so good as to read it aloud, for I have not yet read it myself."
"I will read it, then," cried the empress, scornfully. "And I promise you that I shall not suppress a word of its contents."
"Read on," said the emperor, quietly.
The empress, with loud and angry tone, began:
"To his Gracious Majesty, the Emperor:
"Your majesty has honored me by asking my advice upon a subject of the highest importance. But your majesty is much nearer the goal than I. It is true that my gracious master, the count, led me to the vestibule of the temple of science, but further I have not penetrated. What I know I will joyfully impart to your majesty; and joyfully will I aid you in your search after that which the whole world is seeking. I will come at the appointed hour.
"Your majesty's loyal servant,
"I do not understand a word," said the mystified empress.
"But I do," returned the emperor, with a meaning smile. "Since your majesty has thrust yourself into the portals of my confidence, I must e'en take you with me into the penetralia, and confess at once that I have a passion, which has cost me many a sleepless night, and has preoccupied my thoughts, even when I was by your majesty's side."
"But I see nothing of love or passion in this letter," replied Maria Theresa, glancing once more at its singular contents.
"And yet it speaks of nothing else. I may just as well confess, too, that in pursuit of the object of my love, I have spent three hundred thousand guilders, and thrown away at least one hundred thousand guilders' worth of diamonds."
"Your mistress must be either very coy or very grasping," said Maria Theresa, almost convulsed with jealousy.
"She is very coy," said the emperor. "All my gold and diamonds have won me not a smile—she will not yield up her secret. But I believe that she has responded to the love of one happy mortal, Count Saint-Germain."
"Count Saint-Germain!" exclaimed the empress, amazed.
"Himself, your majesty. He is one of the fortunate few, to whom the coy beauty has succumbed; and to take his place I would give millions. Now, I heard yesterday that the confidant of the count was in Vienna; and, hoping to learn something from him, I invited him hither. Signor Riccardo—"
"SIGNOR Riccardo! Was this letter written by a man?"
"By the husband of the dancer."
"And your letter was addressed to him?"
"Even so, madame."
"Then this passion of which you speak is your old passion—alchemy."
"Yes, it is. I had promised you to give it up, but it proves stronger than I. Not to annoy you, I have ever since worked secretly in my laboratory. I have just conceived a new idea. I am about to try the experiment of consolidating small diamonds into one large one, by means of a burning-glass."
The empress answered this with a hearty, happy laugh, and went up to her husband with outstretched hands.
"Franz," said she, "I am a simpleton; and all that has been for tormenting in my heart is sheer nonsense. My crown does not prevent me from being a silly woman. But, my heart's love, forgive my folly for the sake of my affection."
Instead of responding to this appeal, the emperor stood perfectly still, and gazed earnestly and seriously at his wife.
"Your jealousy," said he, after a moment's silence, "I freely forgive, for it is a source of more misery to you than to me. But this jealousy has attacked my honor as a man, and that I cannot forgive. As reigning empress, I render you homage, and am content to occupy the second pace in Austria's realms. I will not deny that such a rule is irksome to me, for I, like you, have lofty dreams of ambition; and I could have wished that, in giving me the TITLE, you had allowed me sometimes the privileges of a co-regent. But I have seen that my co-regency irritated and annoyed you; I have, therefore, renounced all thought of governing empires. I have done this, not only because I love you, Theresa, but because you are worthy by your intellect to govern your people without my help. In the world, therefore, I am known as the husband of the reigning empress; but at home I am lord of my own household, and here I reign supreme. The emperor may be subordinate to his sovereign, but the man will acknowledge no superior; and the dignity of his manhood shall be respected, even by yourself."
"Heaven forbid that I should ever seek to wound it!" exclaimed Maria Theresa, while she gazed with rapture upon her husband's noble countenance, and thought that never had he looked so handsome as at this moment, when, for the first time, he asserted his authority against herself.
"You HAVE wounded it, your majesty," replied the emperor, with emphasis. "You have dogged my steps with spies; you have suffered my character to be discussed by your attendants. You have gone so far as to compromise me with my own servants; forcing them to disobey me by virtue of your rights as sovereign exercised in opposition to mine as your husband. I gave Gaspardi orders to deliver Riccardo's note to me alone. I forbade him to tell any one whither he went. YOU took my note from him by force, and committed the grave wrong of compelling a servant, hitherto faithful, to disobey and betray his master."
"I did indeed wrong you, dear Franz," said the empress, already penitent. "In Gaspardi's presence I will ask your pardon for my indelicate intrusion, and before him I will bear witness to his fidelity. I alone was to blame. I promise you, too, to sin no more against you, my beloved, for your love is the brightest jewel in my crown. Without it, no happiness would grandeur give to me. Forgive me, then, my own Franz—forgive your unhappy Theresa!"
As she spoke, she inclined her head toward her husband, and looked up to him with such eyes of love, that he could but gaze enraptured upon her bewitching beauty.
"Come, Franz, come!" said she tenderly; "surely, that wicked jest of yours has amply revenged you. Be satisfied with having given me a heartache for jealousy of the coy mistress upon whom you have wasted your diamonds, and be magnanimous."
"And you, Theresa?—will you be magnanimous also? Will you leave my servants and my letters alone, and set no more spies to dog my steps?"
"Indeed, Franz, I will never behave as I have done to-day, while we both live. Now, if you will sign my pardon, I will tell you a piece of news with which I intend shortly to surprise all Austria."
"Out with it, then, and if it is good news I sign the pardon," said the emperor, with a smile.
"It is excellent news," cried the empress, "for it will give new life to Austria. It will bring down revenge upon our enemies, and revenge upon that wicked infidel who took my beautiful Silesia from me, and who, boasting of his impiety, calls it enlightenment."
"Have you not yet forgiven Frederick for that little bit of Silesia that he stole from you?" asked the emperor, laughing.
"No, I have not yet forgiven him, nor do I ever expect to do so. I owe it to him, that, years ago, I came like a beggar before the Magyars to whimper for help and defence. I have never yet forgotten the humiliation of that day, Franz."
"And yet, Theresa, we must confess that Frederick is a great man, and it were well for Austria if we were allies; for such an alliance would secure the blessings of a stable peace to Europe."
"It cannot be," cried the empress. "There is no sympathy between Austria and Prussia, and peace will never come to Europe until one succumbs to the other. No dependence is to be placed upon alliances between incongruous nations. In spite of our allies, the English, the Dutch, and the Russians, the King of Prussia has robbed me of my province; and all the help I have ever got from them was empty condolence. For this reason I have sought for alliance with another power—a power which will cordially unite with me in crushing that hateful infidel, to whom nothing in life is sacred. This is the news that I promised you. Our treaty with England and Holland is about to expire, and the new ally I have found for Austria is France."
"An alliance with France is not a natural one for Austria, and can never be enduring," exclaimed the emperor. [Footnote: The emperor's own words. Coxe, "History of the House of Austria," vol. v., p. 67.]
"It WILL be enduring," cried Maria Theresa, proudly, "for it is equally desired by both nations. Not only Louis XV., but the Marquise de Pompadour is impatient to have the treaty signed."
"That means that Kaunitz has been flattering the marquise, and the marquise, Kaunitz. But words are not treaties, and the marquise's promises are of no consequence whatever."
"But, Franz, I tell you that we have gone further than words. Of this, however, no one knows, except the King of France, myself, Kaunitz, and the marquise."
"How in the world did you manage to buy the good-will of the marquise? How many millions did you pay for the precious boon?"
"Not a kreutzer, dear husband, only a letter."
"Letter! Letter from whom?"
"A letter from me to the marquise."
"What!" cried the emperor, laughing. "You write to La Pompadour—YOU, Theresa?"
"With my own hand, I have written to her, and more than once," returned Maria Theresa, joining in the laugh. "And what do you suppose I did, to save my honor in the matter? I pretended to think that she was the wife of the king, and addressed her as 'Madame, ma soeur et cousine.'"
Here the emperor laughed immoderately. "Well, well!" exclaimed he. "So the Empress-Queen of Austria and Hungary writes with her own hand to her beloved cousin La Pompadour!"
"And do you know what she calls me?" laughed the empress in return. "Yesterday I had a letter from her in which she calls me, sportively, 'Ma chere reine.'"
The emperor broke out into such a volley of laughter, that he threw himself back upon a chair, which broke under him, and the empress had to come to his assistance, for he was too convulsed to get up alone. [Footnote: Historical.]
"Oh dear! oh dear!" groaned the emperor, still continuing to laugh. "I shall die of this intelligence. Maria Theresa in correspondence with Madame d'Etoiles!"
"Well, what of it, Franz?" asked Maria Theresa. "Did I not write to the prima donna Farinelli when we were seeking alliance with Spain? and is the marquise not as good as a soprano singer?" [Footnote: The empress's own words. Coxe, vol. v., p. 69.]
The emperor looked at her with such a droll expression that she gave up all idea of defending herself from ridicule, and laughed as heartily as he did.
At this moment a page knocked, and announced the Archduke Joseph and his preceptor.
"Poor lad!" said the emperor; "I suppose he comes, as usual, accompanied by an accuser."
THE ARCHDUKE JOSEPH.
The emperor was right; Father Francis came in with complaints of his highness. While the father with great pathos set forth the reason of the archduke's absence from the family circle, the culprit stood by, apparently indifferent to all that was being said. But, to any one observing him closely, his tremulous mouth, and the short, convulsive sighs, which he vainly strove to repress, showed the real anxiety of his fast-beating heart. He thrust back his rising tears, for the little prince teas too proud to crave sympathy; and he had already learned how to hide emotion by a cold and haughty bearing. From his childhood he had borne a secret sorrow in his heart—the sorrow of seeing his young brother Carl preferred to himself. Not only was Carl the darling of his parents, but he was the pet and plaything of the whole palace. True, the poor little archduke was not gifted with the grace and charming naivete of his brother. He was awkward, serious, and his countenance wore an expression of discontent, which was thought to betray an evil disposition, but which, in reality, was but the reflection of the heavy sorrow which clouded his young heart. No one seemed to understand—no one seemed to love him. Alone in the midst of that gay and splendid court, he was never noticed except to be chided. [Footnote: Hubner, "Life of Joseph II.," page 15.] The buds of his poor young heart were blighted by the mildew of neglect, so that outwardly he was cold, sarcastic, and sullen, while inwardly he glowed with a thousand emotions, which he dared reveal to no one, for no one seemed to dream that he was capable of feeling them.
To-day, as usual, he was brought before his parents as a culprit; and without daring to utter a word in his own defence, he stood by, while Father Francis told how many times he had yawned over the "Lives of the Martyrs;" and how he had refused to read, longer than one hour, a most edifying commentary of the Fathers on the Holy Scriptures.
The empress heard with displeasure of her son's lack of piety; and she looked severely at him, while he gazed sullenly at a portrait that hung opposite.
"And can it be, my son," exclaimed she, "that you close your heart against the word of God, and refuse to read religious books?"
The boy gave her a glance of defiance. "I do not know," said he, carelessly, "whether the books are religious or not; but I know that they are tiresome, and teach me nothing."
"Gracious Heaven!" cried the empress, with horror, "hear the impious child!"
"Rather, your majesty," said Father Francis, "let us pray Heaven to soften his heart." The emperor alone said nothing; but he looked at the boy with a friendly and sympathizing glance. The child saw the look, and for one moment a flush of pleasure passed over his face. He raised his eyes with an appealing expression toward his father, who could no longer resist the temptation of coming to his relief.
"Perhaps," suggested he, "the books may be dull to a child of Joseph's years."
"No book," returned the empress, "should be dull that treats of God and of His holy Church."
"And the work, your majesty, which we were reading, was a most learned and celebrated treatise," said Father Francis; "one highly calculated to edify and instruct youth."
Joseph turned away from the father, and spoke to the emperor.
"We have already gone through five volumes of it, your majesty, and I am tired to death of it. Moreover, I don't believe half that I read in his stupid books."
The empress, as she heard this, uttered a cry of pain. She felt an icy coldness benumb her heart, as she remembered that this unbelieving boy was one day to succeed her on the throne of Austria. The emperor, too, was pained. By the deadly paleness of her face, he guessed the pane that was rending his wife's heart, and he dared say no more in defence of his son.
"Your majesty sees," continued Father Francis, "how far is the heart of his highness from God and the Church. His instructors are grieved at his precocious unbelief, and they are this day to confer together upon the painful subject. The hour of the conference is at hand, and I crave your majesty's leave to repair thither."
"No," said the empress, with a deprecating gesture; "no. Remain, good father. Let this conference he held in the presence of the emperor and myself. It is fitting that we both know the worst in regard to our child."
The emperor bowed acquiescence, and crossing the room, took a seat by the side of the empress.
He rang a little golden bell; and the page who came at the summons, was ordered to request the attendance of the preceptors of his highness the Crown Prince of Austria.
Maria Theresa leaned her head upon her hand, and with a sad and perplexed countenance watched the open door. The emperor, with his arm thrown over the gilded back of the divan, looked earnestly at the young culprit, who, pale, and with a beating heart, was trying his best to suppress his increasing emotion.
"I will not cry," thought he, scarcely able to restrain his tears; "for that would be a triumph for my detestable teachers. I am not going to give them the pleasure of knowing that I am miserable."
And, by dint of great exertion, he mastered his agitation. He was so successful, that he did not move a muscle nor turn his head when the solemn procession of his accusers entered the room.
First, at the head, came Father Porhammer, who gave him lessons in logic and physic; after him walked the engineer Briguen, professor of mathematics; then Herr von Leporini, who instructed him in general history; Herrvson Bartenstein, who expounded the political history of the house of Austria; Baron von Beck, who was his instructor in judicature; and finally, his governor, Count Bathiany, the only one toward whom the young prince felt a grain of good-will.
The empress greeted them with grave courtesy, and exhorted them to say without reserve before his parents what they thought of the progress and disposition of the archduke.
Count Bathiany, with an encouraging smile directed toward his pupil, assured their majesties that the archduke was anxious to do right—not because he was told so to do by others, but because he followed the dictates of his own conscience. True, his highness would not see through the eyes of any other person; but this, though it might be a defect in a child, would be the reverse in a man—above all, in a sovereign. "In proof of the archduke's sincere desire to do right," continued Count Bathiany, "allow me to repeat to your majesties something which he said to me yesterday. We were reading together Bellegarde on knowledge of self and of human nature. The beautiful thoughts of the author so touched the heart of his highness, that, stopping suddenly, he exclaimed to me, 'We must read this again; for when I come to the throne I shall need to know, not only myself, but other men also.'"
"Well said, my son!" exclaimed the emperor.
"I cannot agree with your majesty," said the empress, coldly. "I do not think it praiseworthy for a child of his age to look forward with complacency to the day when his mother's death will confer upon him a throne. To rile it would seem more natural if Joseph thought more of his present duties and less of his future honors."
A breathless silence followed these bitter words. The emperor, in confusion, withdrew behind the harpsichord. The archduke looked perfectly indifferent. While Count Bathiany had been repeating his words, his face had slightly flushed; but when he heard the sharp reproof of his mother, he raised his head, and gave her back another defiant look. With the same sullen haughtiness, he stared first at one accuser, and then at another, while each one in his turn gave judgment against him. First, and most vehement in his denunciations, was Count Bartenstein. He denounced the archduke as idle and inattentive. He never would have any political sagacity whatever. Why, even the great work, in fifteen folios, which he (Count Bartenstein) had compiled from the imperial archives for the especial instruction of the prince, even THAT failed to interest him! [Footnote: Hormayer says that this book was heavy and filled with tiresome details. (No wonder! In fifteen folios.—Trane.)]
Then followed the rest of their professorships. One complained of disrespect; another of carelessness; a third of disobedience; a fourth of irreligion. All concurred in declaring the archduke to be obstinate, unfeeling, and intractable.
His face, meanwhile, grew paler and harder, until it seemed almost to stiffen into marble. Although every censorious word went like a dagger to his sensitive heart, he still kept on murmuring to himself, "I will not cry, I will not cry."
His mother divined nothing of the agony which, like a wild tornado, was desolating the fair face of her child's whole being. She saw nothing beyond the portals of that cold and sullen aspect, and the sight filled her with sorrow and anger.
"Alas," cried she bitterly, "you are right! He is a refractory and unfeeling boy."
At this moment, like the voice of a conciliatory angel, were heard the soft tones of the melody with which the empress had greeted her husband that morning. It was the emperor, whose hands seemed unconsciously to wander over the keys of the harpsichord, while every head bent entranced to listen.
When the first tones of the heavenly melody fell upon his ear, the young prince began to tremble. His features softened; his lips, so scornfully compressed, now parted, as if to drink in every sound; his eyes filled with tears, and every angry feeling of his heart was hushed by the magic of music. With a voice of love it seemed to call him, and unable to resist its power and its pathos, he burst into a flood of tears, and with one bound reached his father's arms, sobbing—
"Father, dear father, pity me!"
The emperor drew the poor boy close to his heart. He kissed his blond curls, and whispering, said: "Dear child, I knew that you were not heartless. I was sure that you would come when your father called."
The empress had started from her seat, and she now stood in the centre of the room, earnestly gazing upon her husband and her child. Her mother's heart beat wildly, and tears of tenderness suffused her eyes. She longed to speak some word of pardon to her son; but before all things, Maria Theresa honored court ceremony. She would not, for the world, that her subjects had seen her otherwise than self-possessed and regal in her bearing.
With one great effort she mastered her emotions; and before the strength of her will, the mighty flood rolled back upon her heart. Not a tear that glistened in her eyelids fell; not a tone of her clear, silvery voice was heard to falter.
"Count Bathiany," said she, "I perceive that in the education of the archduke, the humanizing influences of music have been overlooked. Music to-day has been more powerful with him than filial love or moral obligation. Select for him, then, a skilful teacher, who will make use of his art to lead my son back to duty and religion." [Footnote: Maria Theresa's own words. Coxe, "House of Austria," vol. v.]
Three weeks had elapsed since the memorable sitting at which Maria Theresa had declared in favor of a new line of policy. Three long weeks had gone by, and still no message came for Kaunitz; and still Bartenstein and Uhlefeld held the reins of power.
With hasty steps, Kaunitz paced the floor of his study. Gone was all coldness and impassibility from his face. His eyes glowed with restless fire, and his features twitched nervously.
His secretary, who sat before the writing-table, had been gazing anxiously at the count for sometime. He shook his head gloomily, as he contemplated the strange sight of Kaunitz, agitated and disturbed.
Kaunitz caught the eye of his confidant, and coming hastily toward the table, he stood for a few moments without speaking a word. Suddenly he burst into a loud, harsh laugh—a laugh so bitter, so sardonic, that Baron Binder turned pale as he heard the sound.