Joseph II. and His Court
Part 22 out of 22
embrasure of a window, and with his arms crossed stood partly hidden by
the heavy crimson velvet curtains, his eyes fixed upon leis idolized
Joseph went restlessly to and fro, and dictated his manifesto to the
Porte. Referring to his alliance with Russia, and the failure of his
attempts at intervention, he went on to say that as the sincere friend
and ally of the empress, he was compelled to fulfil his obligations, and
reluctantly to take part in the war which Catharine had declared against
Turkey. [Footnote: Hubner. ii., p. 468.]
"Now," said the emperor, "take another sheet and write 'To his majesty,
the King of Prussia.'"
"My Royal Brother--
"It is with feelings of profound regret that I find myself forced to
decline your majesty's most friendly offers of mediation with Turkey. I
am obliged to unsheathe my sword, and I shall not return it to the
scabbard until it shall have won full reparation for all the wrongs
sustained by my forefathers at the hands of the Porte. Your majesty is a
monarch, and as such, you are acquainted with the rights of kings. And
is this undertaking of mine against Turkey any thing more than an
attempt to resume the rights of which my throne has been dispossessed?
"The Turks (and perhaps not they alone) have a maxim, that whatever they
lose in adverse times, they must win back when opportunity is favorable.
By such means the house of Hohenzollern has attained its present state
of prosperity. Albert of Brandenburg wrested the duchy of Prussia from
its order, and his successors, at the peace of Oliva, maintained their
right to the sovereignty of that country.
"Your majesty's deceased uncle, in like manner, wrested Silesia from my
mother at a time when, surrounded by enemies, her only defences were her
own true greatness and the loyalty of her subjects.
"What equivalent for her lost possessions has Austria received at the
hands of those European courts who have blown so many blasts on the
balance of power?
"My forefathers were forced at different times to yield up Spain,
Naples, Sicily, Belgrade, the principality of Silesia, Parma, Piacenza,
Guastalla, Tortona, and a portion of Lombardy. What has Austria taken in
return for these heavy loses?
"A portion of the kingdom of Poland! And one of less value than that
assigned to Russia.
"I hope that you will not dispute the justice of my resolve to make war
upon the Porte, and that you will not hold me less a friend because I
may do some injury to the Ottoman. Your majesty may rest assured that
under similar circumstances, I should apply the same principles to
myself, were I possessed of any of YOUR territory.
"I must also announce to you that, for some years to come, diplomacy
must give place to war.
"Hoping for a continuation of your majesty's friendship, I am, with
highest esteem, your friend and brother, JOSEPH." [Footnote: "Letters of
Joseph II.," page 121, and the following.]
The letter concluded, the emperor dismissed his secretary and threw
himself into an arm-chair.
"Well Lacy," said he, "are you pleased with my letter? Have I convinced
the king that it is my duty to declare war against the Moslem?"
"Sire," said Lacy, approaching, "I thank you from my heart for the
privilege of hearing that letter. I know not which to admire most, your
majesty's admirable knowledge of the history of your house, or the quiet
sharpness with which you have made your statements. But this I know,
that had you forbidden me to accompany you, I should have been, for the
first time in my life, rebellious; for if I had not been allowed to
fight as an officer, I should have done so as a private."
"There spoke my Lacy, my own gallant Austrian!" exclaimed Joseph. "To
work, then, to work! Promulgate your orders and set your men in motion.
In two days we must have two hundred thousand men on our frontiers. We
must draw a gigantic cordon from the Dniester to the Adriatic. The main
body, however, must go forward to Semlin and Futak. We two follow the
main army, and day after to-morrow we must set out, and--no," said the
emperor, interrupting himself, while all the light died out from his
countenance. "No--I cannot set out for a week yet. I must first bid
adieu to the last tie that binds my heart (as a man) to this life! That
tie riven, I live as all emperor and a warrior. Once in camp, I shall,
Heaven be praised! forget all things else, and be myself again!"
MARRIAGE AND SEPARATION.
The eight long, weary days had gone by, the preparations for war were
complete, and the emperor was ready to join his army. He had worked day
and night, refusing to rest, and answering all remonstrances with a sad
"I was not born a sovereign to devote my life to my own comfort," said
he, "but to consecrate it to my empire. When I become too feeble to do
my duty, I shall ask for a pension and retire to a convent, like Charles
the Fifth. I have no taste, however, for the vocation, sincerely hoping
to die as I have lived--an emperor."
"But, sire," said the imperial physician, Von Quarin, "your first duty
is to preserve your life for Austria's sake. You have a hot fever, and
your eyes and cheeks are hollow."
"Give me a cool drink, doctor, perchance it may refresh my burning
heart," said Joseph, with sad irony.
"Cool drinks will do no good unless your majesty consents to take some
rest. Sleep is the sovereign remedy of which you are in need, sire. "
"I do not wish to sleep," replied Joseph, gloomily. "Sleep brings happy
dreams, and I hate them because of their falsehood! Who would dream of
bliss, to wake and find it all a lie!"
"Your valet told me that you did not lie down last night."
"My valet is a chatterbox, and knows not what he says."
"But, your majesty, I know that you have not been to bed."
"Then I slept in an arm-chair! But no, I will not deny it. I sat up all
night, Quarin, for I had an important duty to perform before leaving
Vienna. I was making my will."
"Your will!" repeated Von Quarin. "Surely your majesty does not fear--"
"No, I fear nothing--certainly not death," returned the emperor. "It
must be sweet to die, and part from the disappointments of life; for man
either goes to eternal sleep, or wakes forever to eternal happiness! I
am not afraid of death, but I must put my house in order, for bullets
respect no man, and they have never yet been taught that an emperor is
not to be approached without ceremony. One might strike me on the head
and send me to my eternal rest. Why, what a doleful face you wear,
Quarin! `L'Empereur est mort!--Vive l'Empereur!' I shall bequeath to you
a noble young emperor and a beautiful arid charming empress. Is not that
better than a surly old fellow like myself? Francis is my pride, and his
sweet Elizabeth is like a daughter to me. I must then make my will and
provide for my children. Now, doctor, have you forgiven me for sitting
up all night?"
"I have nothing to forgive, sire; but I implore you grant me one
"You wish to dose me with medicine! It is in your face; you carry an
apothecary's shop in your eyes just now."
"No, sire, I wish to ask permission to follow you as your surgeon, that
if any thing should happen, I may be there."
"No, Quarin, you must not follow me. I cannot he guilty of the egotism
which would monopolize your valuable services. A soldier in the field
has no right to be sick, lest he be suspected of cowardice and as for
casualties--why, if a ball should strike me, there are plenty of army
surgeons who will dress my wounds as they dress those of my men. Remain
at home, then, my friend, and do better service by far than you could
render me on the battle-field. Farewell now. In two hours I leave, but
before that time I have some important business on hand. First, I must
go with my will to Prince Kaunitz."
"Did your majesty hear that he had almost struck the Countess Clary, and
had banished her from his presence for a week, because she had
pronounced the word `testament' in his hearing?"
"Yes, I was told of it, and I shall take good care not to bring down the
vials of his wrath upon my head," said Joseph, laughing.
"I shall not pronounce the word 'testament,' I shall speak of my treaty
of peace with life, and use every precaution to save his highness's
feelings. Strange mystery of life!" continued the emperor, musing,
"forever changing shape and hue, like the nimble figures of a
kaleidoscope! Well, I must use stratagem in this matter of the
'testament,' for Kaunitz must assume the regency of the empire, and
then--then--I must attend a wedding. After that, the battlefield! Adieu,
Quarin--if we meet no more on earth, I hope that we shall meet above."
One hour later the emperor returned from the hotel of his prime
minister, and entered the imperial chapel. He was in full dress, decked
with all his orders. It was only on state occasions that Joseph appeared
in his magnificent uniform; he had not worn it since the marriage of his
nephew to the Princess Elizabeth of Wurtemberg. But his face was very
pale, and when he perceived the bride, he leaned for one moment against
a friendly pillar that saved him from reeling. This weakness, however,
lasted but a moan, he walked firmly up to the altar, where the bridal
party stood awaiting the imperial entrance.
The emperor approached Count Dietrichstein, and greeted him cordially;
then turning to Count Kinsky he extended his hand. The bridegroom did
not appear to see this, for he cast down his eyes, and made a deep
inclinatiou, while Joseph, with a sad smile, withdrew his hand.
He had not dared to look upon the trembling bride, who, seated on a
chair, and surrounded by her attendants, had just recovered from a
swoon. Her aunt, the Countess Dietrichstein, explained that from
Therese's childhood, she never had been able to overcome her terror of
lightning; and certainly, if this were so, she had every reason for
terror now. The whole sky was darkened by one dense pall of heavy
clouds; the stained windows of the chapel were fiery with angry
lightning, while fierce above their heads the rolling thunder boomed
along the heavens, and then died away in low mutterings that made the
There was no time to await the passing away of the storm, for the guests
at that hurried bridal were impatient to depart. The carriages of the
emperor and of Count Dietrichstein here without, and neither could tarry
long in Vienna. At the altar stood Therese's uncle, Count Leopold von
Thun, Bishop of Passau, and around him was grouped a stately array of
prelates and priests. Count Dietrichstein whispered in his daughter's
ear. She rose from her seat, but her light figure swayed to and fro like
a slender tree before the advancing storm, and her lovely face was pale
as that of a statue, just leaving the hand of the sculptor. Therese's
fear of lightning was no fiction, and she almost sank to the floor as a
livid flash glanced across the form of the emperor, and enveloped him in
a sheet of living flame. Unheeding it, he moved on toward the unhappy
girl, and without a word or a look extended his hand. Therese,
trembling, gave him hers, and started when she felt the burning clasp
that closed upon her icy fingers. The emperor led her to the altar;
behind came the aunt and father of the bride, and between them Count
Kinsky, whose jealous eyes watched every movement of those hands which
joined together for the space of a moment, were about to be sundered
Nothing, however, was to be seen. The emperor's eyes were fixed upon the
altar, those of Therese were cast down. Neither saw the other. Only the
burning pressure of one hand and the clammy coldness of the other
revealed to both the extent of the sacrifice they were making to the
Moloch of the world's opinion.
Now they stood before the altar. The emperor gave the bride into the
hands of the bridegroom, and stepped aside to take his place.
The ceremony over, the bishop pronounced the blessing, and all present
knelt to receive it. Joseph and Therese were side by side. With a sigh
they raised their eyes to heaven, each praying for the other. The
emperor's eyes were dim with tears, but he dashed them away, and, rising
from his knees, prepared to congratulate the bride.
A peal of thunder drowned the few words which he murmured. But her heart
caught the meaning, and she whispered in return
"Yes, in heaven."
Then he dropped her hand, and addressed himself to the bridegroom.
"Count Kinsky," said he, authoritatively, "I wish to speak with you in
The count, with a scowl, followed his sovereign to the nave of the
chapel, where, at a distance from the bridal party, they were in no
danger of being overheard.
"Count," said the emperor, gravely, "you love the Countess Therese?"
Count Kinsky was silent for a while. Then, suddenly, he replied in
sharp, cutting accents
"I have loved her."
The emperor repeated his words.
"You have loved her? Do you, then, love her no longer?"
"No. I love her no longer."
"When did you cease to love her?"
"On this day week, your majesty," said the count, defiantly. Joseph
would not seem to observe the look which accompanied these words. His
voice was unchanged, as he replied
"Count, although you feel resentful toward me, you believe me to be a
man of honor, do you not?"
"I do, sire."
"Then I swear to you by all that is sacred to me as man and sovereign,
that Therese is as pure in the sight of Heaven as its brightest angel. I
swear to you that she is as worthy as ever she was to be loved and
esteemed by her husband as his wife and the future mother of his
"Your majesty must have formed an intimate acquaintance with the
countess, to be able to answer for her purity of heart," returned
Joseph looked up, pained.
"Ah!" said he, "you are implacable. But you believe me, do you not?"
The count inclined his head.
"I dare not doubt my sovereign's word."
"Then you will love Therese as she deserves to be loved?"
"Love is not to be controlled--not even by an emperor. My love and hate
are not to be drawn off and on like a glove!"
"Hate!" cried the emperor, shocked. "Great God! it cannot be possible
that you hate the woman whom you have voluntarily chosen, and whom even
now, before yonder altar, you have sworn to love. Why, then, did you
"Sire, you commanded me to do so just one week ago, and, as a loyal
subject, I was compelled to obey. You gave me no alternative, and I
"She will make you happy," replied Joseph, in a faltering voice. "I
beseech of you, be gentle with her. Her heart is not at ease, and she
needs all your tenderness to restore her to happiness."
Count Kinsky bowed frigidly.
"Will your majesty allow me to ask a favor of you?" said he.
"It will gratify me to do any thing for you," replied Joseph, his eyes
lighting up with pleasure.
"Then I ask of your majesty, on your Honor, to answer the question I am
about to ask."
"On my honor, count, I will answer it," said Joseph, smiling.
"What did your majesty say to the countess just now, and what was her
The emperor was thunderstruck--he could not articulate a word.
"Your majesty was so obliging as to promise an answer."
"Yes, count, yes," faltered the emperor. "You shall be satisfied. I
said, 'Farewell, Therese, I shall claim thee in heaven.'"
"Your majesty was so condescending as to address my wife in this
familiar strain? And her reply was--"
"Only these words, `Yes, in heaven.'"
"I thank your majesty."
They both returned to the company. Joseph cast one last look at Therese,
who, pale and rigid, was receiving the congratulations of her
unsuspecting friends, and then he addressed her father.
"Well, count, I believe that our furlough has expired, and we must
return to our commands. Farewell! and may we both return victorious to
A half an hour later, an imperial caleche conveyed him to the array, and
to Field-Marshal Lacy, who had preceded him there by several days.
At the same moment, the travelling-carriage of Count Kinsky drove up to
his hotel. Count Dietrichstein, before setting out, had accompanied his
daughter to her husband's residence, and had bidden her adieu. Therese
was now alone. She shuddered as she heard Count Kinsky's step, and
wished from her soul that death would release her from the hateful tie
which bound them together.
The door opened, and he appeared. She uttered a faint cry, and pressed
her hands to her throbbing heart. Count Kinsky answered the cry with a
laugh of scorn.
"Are you afraid?" said he, striding toward her, and contemplating her
with a face indicative of smothered passion.
Therese raised her eyes, and looked fearlessly into his eyes
"No, Count Kinsky, I am not afraid, nor would I fear, if you had come to
The count laughed aloud. "Ah!" cried he, in a harsh, grating voice, "you
think that I might do like Prince Bragation and the Duke of Orleans, who
strangled their young wives because they suspected them of infidelity!
My dear madame, these romantic horrors belong to a bygone century. In
this sober and prosaic age, a nobleman avenges his wounded honor, not by
murder, but by contempt. I have only intruded myself to ask if you are
ready to start?"
"I am ready," replied Therese, wearily.
"Then allow me to accompany you to the carriage."
"My father having given you my hand, I have no right to refuse your
"Before we go, be so condescending as to say which one of my estates you
prefer for a residence."
"Select my residence yourself, count; you know that I have never visited
"Then I choose for you my castle in Hungary, near the Turkish frontier,
for there you will have the latest news from the army and its
Therese made no reply to this sarcasm. She bent her head, and said: "I
am ready to submit myself to your decision in all things."
"I hope that the Countess Therese will not long have to live in
subjection to her husband," continued he, "and that the journey which I
am about to undertake will result happily for us both. You go to
Hungary, I go to Rome. I go to implore of the pope a divorce."
"You are going to sue for a divorce?" asked Therese, "Perhaps you can
spare yourself the trouble of a journey to Rome, count, for I have
already anticipated your wishes. My petition to his holiness went
several days ago, and--"
"His majesty, the emperor, was so obliging as to send it by an imperial
courier. Is that what you were about to say?"
Therese continued as though she had not heard the interruption "My
application went through Monsignore Garampi, the papal nuncio, who
promised to use his influence in my behalf."
"What an edifying couple!" exclaimed Kinsky, with another scornful
laugh. "How congenial! The same wishes, and, unconsciously, the very
same deeds! What a pity we must part so soon, for, I leave you to-day;
nor shall I have the pleasure of seeing you again until I bring you a
decree of divorce."
"You will be most welcome," returned Therese, calmly. "Now be so good as
to escort me to my carriage."
"Pray give me your arm. I have but one more observation to make. I hope
that you will now be able to prove substantially to the emperor that it
was quite useless for him to shelter himself behind the words, 'I shall
claim thee in heaven!' But if I may presume so far, I request that you
will defer these demonstrations until I return from Rome with my letters
Therese had no strength to retort. She hung down her head, and large
scalding tears fell from her eyes. Count Kinsky placed her in the
carriage, closed the door, and then returned to his own
travelling-chariot, which was a few paces behind. The two equipages
thundered down the streets together, but at the gates they parted, the
one taking the road for Hungary, the other for Rome. [Footnote: This
whole story is Historical. The "heavenly Therese," as she is called by
Hormayer, was really married and thus abandoned by her husband, who
persisted in believing that the connection between herself and the
emperor was not guiltless. But the count met with no success in the
matter of the divorce. The pope refused.]
THE LAST DREAM OF GLORY.
Destiny was testing the fortitude of the emperor with unrelenting
harshness. It would seem that inflexible fate stood by, while one by one
this man's hopes of fame, honor, and love were wrested away, that the
world might see and know how much of bitterness and disappointment it is
in the power of one human heart to endure.
In the Netherlands and in Hungary he was threatened with rebellion. The
Magyars especially resented the violation of their constitutional
rights; in Tyrol, too, the people were disaffected; and Rome had not yet
pardoned him the many indignities she had endured at his hands. This
very war, which he had welcomed as a cure for his domestic sorrows, was
yielding him naught but annoyance and misery.
Yes, destiny had decreed that nothing which he undertook should prosper.
His army, which was encamped in the damp marshes that lie between the
Danube and Save, was attacked by a malarious fever more destructive by
far than the bloodiest struggle that ever reddened the field of battle.
The hospitals were crowded with the sick and dying, and the enfeebled
soldiers, who dragged themselves about their ramps, wore sullen and
discontented faces; a spirit of insubordination was beginning to
manifest itself among the troops, and the very men who would have rushed
to the cannon's mouth, grew cowardly at the approach of the invisible
foe that stole away their lives, by the gradual and insidious poison of
disease. The songs and jests of the bivouac were hushed, the white tents
were mournful as sepulchres, and the men lost all confidence in their
leaders. They now accused the emperor and Lacy of incapacity, and
declared that they must either be disbanded or led against the enemy.
This was precisely what Joseph had been longing to do, but he was
compelled to await the advance of the Russians, with whom it had been
arranged that the Austrians were to take a junction before they marched
into Turkey. The Russians, however, had never joined the emperor; for
some misunderstanding with Sweden had compelled the czarina to defend
her northern frontier, and so she had as yet been unable to assemble an
army of sufficient strength to march against Turkey. Joseph then was
condemned to the very same inaction which had so chafed his spirit in
Bavaria; for his own army of itself was not numerous enough to attack
the enemy. He could not snake a move without Russia. Russia tarried, and
the fever in the camp grew every day more fatal.
Instead of advancing, the heart-sick emperor was forced to retreat. His
artillery was withdrawn to Peterwardein, and the siege of Belgrade
entirely relinquished. Disease and death followed the Austrians to
their new encampment, and louder grew the mutterings of the men,
and more bitter their denunciations of the emperor.
They little knew that while they were assailed by physical infirmities,
their hapless chieftain was sick both in body and mind. He shared all
their hardships, and watched them with most unremitting solicitude. He
erected camp hospitals, and furnished the sick with wine and delicacies
which he ordered from Vienna for their use. All military etiquette was
suspended; even the approach of the emperor for the time being was to be
ignored. Those who were lying down were to remain lying, those who were
sitting were to keep their seats.
Meanwhile Joseph walked daily through the hospitals, bestowing care and
kindness upon all, and no man there remarked that the deadly malaria had
affected him in an equal degree with his troops. Heat, hardships, and
disappointment had done their work as effectually upon the
commander-in-chief as upon the common soldier; but no one suspected that
fever was consuming his life; for by day, Joseph was the Providence of
his army, and by night, while his men were sleeping, he was attending to
the affairs of his vast empire. He worked as assiduously in camp as he
had ever done at home in his palace. Every important measure of the
regency was submitted to him for approval; the heads of the several
departments of state were required to send him their reports; and many a
night, surrounded by heaps of dispatches, he sat at his little table, in
the swampy woods, whose noxious atmosphere was fitter for the snakes
that infested them than for human beings of whatever condition in life.
[In the archives of Vienna is preserved a dispatch of Joseph, written in
the open woods on the night before the taking of
Sabacz.--Gross-Hoffinger, iii., p. 464.]
One little ray of light relieved the darkness of this gloomy period.
This was the taking of the fortress of Sabacz where Joseph led the
assault in person. Three cannoneers were shot by his side, and their
blood bespattered his face and breast. But in the midst of danger he
remained perfectly composed, and for many a day his countenance had not
beamed with an expression of such animated delight. This success,
however, was no more than a lightning-flash relieving the darkness of a
tempestuous night. The fortress won, the Austrians went back to their
miserable encampment in the sickly morasses of Siebenburgen.
Suddenly the stagnant quiet was broken by the announcement that the
Turks had crossed the Danube. This aroused the army from their sullen
stupor, and Joseph, as if freed from an incubus, joyfully prepared
himself for action.
The trumpet's shrill call was heard in the camp, and the army commenced
their march. They had advanced but a few miles when they were met by
several panic-stricken regiments, who announced that the Austrian lines
had been broken in two places, that General Papilla had been forced to
retreat, and that the victorious Turks were pouring their vast hordes
Like wildfire the tidings spread through the army, and they, too, began
their retreat, farther and yet farther back; for, ever as they moved,
they were lighted on their way by the burning villages and towns that
were the tokens of a barbarous enemy's approach. The homeless fugitives,
too, rent the air with their cries, and clamored for protection against
the cruel infidel.
No protection could they find, for the Austrians were too few in number
to confront the devastating hosts of the invading army. They were still
compelled to retreat as far as the town of Lugos, where at last they
might rest from the dreadful fatigues of this humiliating flight. With
inexpressible relief, the soldiers sought repose. They were ordered,
however, to sleep on their arms, so that the artilleryman was by his
cannon, the mounted soldier near his horse, and the infantry, clasping
their muskets, lay in long rows together, all forgetting every thing
save the inestimable blessing of stretching their limbs and wooing
The mild summer moon looked down upon their rest, and the emperor, as he
made a last tour of inspection to satisfy himself that all lights were
extinguished, rejoiced to think that the Turks were far away, and his
tired Austrians could sleep secure.
Joseph returned to his tent, that is, his caleche. He, too, was
exhausted, and closed his eves with a sense of delicious languor. The
night air, blowing about his temples, refreshed his fevered brow, and he
gave himself up to dreams such as are inspired by the silvered
atmosphere, when the moon, in her pearly splendor, looks down upon the
troubled earth, and hushes it to repose.
The emperor, however, did not sleep. For a while, he lay with closed
eyes, and then, raising himself, looked up toward the heavens. Gradually
the sky darkened; cloud met cloud and obscured the moon's disk, until at
last the firmament was clothed in impenetrable blackness. The emperor,
with a sad smile, thought how like the scene had been to the panorama of
his life, wherein every star had set, and whence every ray of light had
He dreamed on, while his tired men slept. Not all, however, for, far
toward the left wing of the army, a band of hussars were encamped around
a wagon laden with brandy, and, having much more confidence in the
restorative powers of liquor than of sleep, they had been invigorating
themselves with deep potations. Another company of soldiers in their
neighborhood, awakened by the noisy mirth of the hussars, came forward
to claim their share of the brandy. It was refused, and a brawl ensued,
in which the assailants were repulsed.
The hussars, having driven them from the field, proceeded to celebrate
their victory by renewed libations, until finally, in a state of
complete inebriation, they fell to the ground, and there slept the sleep
of the intoxicated.
The men who had been prevented from participating in these drunken
revels resolved to revenge themselves by a trick. They crept stealthily
up to the spot where the hussars were lying, and, firing off their
muskets, cried out, "The Turks! the Turks!"
Stupefied by liquor, the sleepers sprang up, repeating the cry. It was
caught and echoed from man to man, while the hussars, with unsheathed
sabres, ran wildly about, until hundreds and hundreds were awakened,
each one echoing the fearful words--
"The Turks! the Turks!"
"Halt! halt!" cried a voice to the terrified soldiers. "Halt, men,
The bewildered ears mistook the command for the battle-cry of the Turks,
"Allah! Allah!" and the panic increased tenfold. "We are surrounded!"
shrieked the terror-stricken Austrians, and every sabre was drawn, and
every musket cocked. The struggle began; and the screams of the
combatants, the groans of the wounded, the sighs of the dying filled the
air, while comrade against comrade, brother against brother, stood in
mortal strife and slew each other for the unbelieving Turk.
The calamity was irretrievable. The darkness of the night deceived every
man in that army, not one of whom doubted that the enemy was there. Some
of the terrified soldiers fled back to their camps, and, even there,
mistaken for Turks, they were assaulted with sabre and musket, and
frightful was the carnage that ensued!
In vain the officers attempted to restore discipline. There was no more
reason in those maddened human beings than in the raging waves of the
ocean--The emperor, at the first alarm, had driven in his caleche to the
place whence the sound seemed to come.
But what to a panic-stricken multitude was the voice of their emperor?
Ball after ball whistled past his ears, while he vainly strove to make
them understand that they were each one slaying his brother! And the
night was so hideous, so relentless in its darkness! Not one star
glimmered upon the face of the frightful pall above--the stars would not
look upon that fratricidal stuggle!
The fugitives and their infuriated pursuers pressed toward a little
bridge which spanned a stream near the encampment. The emperor drove
rapidly around, and reached the banks of the river before them, hoping
thence to be heard by his men, and to convince them that no Turks were
But they heeded the sound of his voice no more than the sea heeded that
of the royal Canute. Trey precipitated themselves toward the bridge,
driving the carriage of the emperor before them to the very edge of the
steep river-bank. It wavered; they pushed against it with the butt-ends
of their muskets. They saw nothing--they knew nothing save that the
carriage impeded their flight!
It fell, rumbling down the precipice into the deep waters which bubbled
and hissed and then closed over it forever. No man heeded its fall. Not
one of all that crowd, which oft had grown hoarse with shouts at his
coming, paused to save the emperor from destruction. But he, calm and
courageous, although at that moment he could have parted with life
without a sigh, had made a desperate spring backward, and had alighted
on the ground.
When he recovered from the violence of the fall, he found himself
unhurt, but alone. Not one of his suite was to be seen; in the mad rush
of the men for the crossing, they had been parted from him. The little
rustic bridge bad fallen in, and those who remained behind had rushed
with frantic yells in search of some other crossing. The emperor could
hear their cries in the distance, and they filled his heart with anguish
With desponding eyes he gazed upward, and murmured, "Oh, that I could
die before the sun rises upon the horrors of this night My soul is
weary--my every hope dead. Why did I turn back when death was smiling
from the crystal depths of that placid stream? Even now, I may still
find rest. Who will ever know how the emperor met his fate?" He paused,
and looked around to see if any thing was nigh. Nothing! He made one
step forward, then shuddering, recoiled with an exclamation of horror at
his miserable cowardice.
"No!" cried he, resolutely, "no, I will not die--I must not, dare not
die. I cannot go to the grave misjudged and calumniated by my own
subjects! I must live, that, sooner or later, they may learn how
faithfully I have striven to make them happy! I must live to convince
them that the promotion of their welfare has been the end and aim of my
whole life!" [Footnote: The emperor's own words.--Hubner, ii., p. 488.]
At that moment there was a rent in the blackened firmament, and the moon
emerged, gradually lighting up the dark waters and the lonely woods,
until its beams shone full upon the pale, agitated features of that
"The emperor!" cried a loud voice, not far away. "The emperor!" and a
rider, galloping forward, threw himself from his horse.
"Here, your majesty, here is my horse. Mount him. He is a sure and fleet
"You know me, then?" asked Joseph.
"Yes, sire; I am one of your majesty's grooms. Will you do me the honor
to accept my horse?"
The emperor replied by swinging himself into the saddle. "But you, my
good fellow, what will you do?"
"I shall accompany your majesty," replied the groom, cheerfully. "There
is many a horse seeking its master to-night, and it will not be long
before i capture one. If it please your majesty, I will conduct you to
Karansches. The moon has come out beautifully, and I can easily find the
"I have found MY way," murmured the emperor to himself. "God has pointed
it out to me, by sending help in this dark, lonely hour. Well, life has
called me back, and I must bear its burdens until Heaven releases me."
Just then a horse cane by, at full speed. The groom, who was walking by
the emperor's side, darted forward, seized the reins, and swung himself
triumphantly into the saddle.
"Now, sire," said he, "we can travel lustily ahead. We are on the right
road, and in one hour will reach Karansebes."
"Karansebes!" mused the emperor. "'Cara mini sedes!' Thus sang Ovid, and
from his ode a city took her name--the city where the poet found his
grave. A stately monument to Ovid is Karansebes; and now a lonely,
heart-sick monarch is coming to make a pilgrimage thither, craving of
Ovid's tomb the boon of a resting-place for his weary head. Oh, Cara
mihi sedes, where art thou?"
In the gray of the morning they reached Karansebes. Here they found some
few of the regiments, the emperor's suite, and his beloved nephew Franz,
who, like his uncle, had been almost hurried to destruction by the
hapless army, but had been rescued by his bold and faithful followers.
They had shielded the archduke with their own bodies, forming a square
around his person, and escorting him, so guarded, until they had
penetrated the dangerous ranks of the demented fugitives. [Footnote:
Hubner, ii:, p. 477.]
All danger was past, but the events of that night were too much for the
exhausted frame of the emperor. The fever, with which he had wrestled so
long, now mastered his body with such violence that he was no longer
able to mount his horse. Added to this, came a blow to his heart. The
army refused to follow him any longer. They called loudly for Loudon,
the old hero, who, in spite of his years, was the only man in Austria
who would lead them to victory.
The emperor, stung to the soul by the mistrust of his men, gave up his
last hope of military glory. He sent for Loudon; and Loudon, despite his
infirmities, came at the summons.
The old hero was received with shouts of welcome. The huzzas reached the
poor, mean room where Joseph lay sick with a burning fever. He listened
with a sad smile, but his courage gave way, and scalding tears of
disappointed ambition moistened his pillow. "Loudon has come," thought
he, "and the emperor is forgotten! No one cares for him more!--Well--I
must return to Vienna, and pray that the victory and fame, which have
been denied to me, may be vouchsafed to Loudon!"
THE HUNGARIANS AGAIN.
Destiny had broken the emperor's heart. He returned from the army
seriously ill, and although he had apparently recuperated during the
winter, the close of the year found him beyond all hope of recovery.
Even the joyful intelligence of Loudon's victories was powerless to
restore him to health. Loudon had won several battles, and had
accomplished that for which Joseph had undertaken the war with Turkey.
He had once more raised the Austrian flag over the towers of Belgrade.
[Footnote: The conquest of Belgrade was accompanied by singular
coincidences. The Emperor Francis (the husband of Maria Theresa) had
been in command when, in 1739, the Turks took it from Austria. His
grandson, Francis, with his own hand fired the first gun, when it was
retaken by Loudon. In 1789 General Wallace surrendered the fortress to
Osman Pacha. In 1789 Osman Pacha, the son of the latter, surrendered it
to General (afterward Field-Marshal) Wallace, son of the
former.--Hubner, ii., p. 492.]
Vienna received these tidings with every demonstration of joy. The city
was illuminated for three days, and the emperor shared the enthusiasm of
the people. He took from his state-uniform the magnificent cross of
Maria Theresa--the cross which none but an emperor had ever worn--and
sent it to London with the title and patent of generalissimo. [Footnote:
This cross was worth 24,000 ducats.--Gross-Hotfinger, iii., p. 500.] He
attended the Te Deum, and to all appearances was as elated as his
subjects. But once alone with Lacy, the mask fell, and the smile faded
from his colorless lips.
"Lacy," said he, "I would have bought these last superfluous laurels of
Loudon with my life. But for me no laurels have ever grown; the cypress
is my emblem--the emblem of grief."
He was right. Discontent reigned in Hungary, in the Netherlands, and
latterly in Tyrol. On every side were murmurs and threats of rebellion
against him who would have devoted every hour of his life to the
enlightenment of his subjects. All Belgium had taken up arms. The
imperial troops had joined the insurgents, and now a formidable army
threatened the emperor. Van der Noot, the leader of the revolt,
published a manifesto, declaring Belgium independent of the Austrian
empire. The insurgents numbered ten thousand. They were headed by the
nobles and sustained by the clergy. Masses were said for the success of
the rebels, and requiems were sung for those who fell in battle or
otherwise. [Footnote: Gross-Hoffinger, iii., p. 289.] The cities of
Brussels, Antwerp, Louvain, Mechlin, and Namur, opened their doors to
the patriots. The Austrian General D'Alton fled with his troops to
Luxemburg, and three millions of florins, belonging to the military
coffers, fell into the hands of the insurgents. [Footnote: D'Alton was
cited before the emperor, but on his way to Vienna he took poison and
died four days before Joseph.]
Such was the condition of the Austrian empire toward the close of the
year 1789. The emperor resolved to make one more attempt to bring the
Belgians to reason, and to this end he sent Count Cobenzl to Brussels,
and, after him, Prince de Ligne.
The prince came to take leave of the emperor. "I send you as a mediator
between myself and your countrymen," said Joseph, with a languid smile.
"Prove to those so-called patriots that you, who endeavor to reconcile
them to their sovereign, are the only Belgian of them all who possesses
"Sire, I shall say to my misguided countrymen that I have seen your
majesty weep over their disloyalty. I shall tell them that it is not
anger which they have provoked in your majesty's heart, but sorrow."
"Yes," replied Joseph, "I sorrow for their infatuation, and they are
fast sending me to the grave. The taking of Ghent was my death-struggle,
the evacuation of Brussels my last expiring sigh. Oh!" continued he, in
tones of extreme anguish--"oh, what humiliation! I shall surely die of
it! I were of stone, to survive so many blows from the hand of fate! Go,
De Ligne, and do your best to induce your countrymen to return to their
allegiance. Should you fail; dear friend, remain there. Do not sacrifice
your future to me, for you have children." [Footnote: The emperor's own
words--"Envres du Prince de Ligne,"]
"Yes, sire," replied De Ligne, with emotion, "I have children, but they
are not dearer to me than my sovereign. And now, with your majesty's
permission, I will withdraw, for the hour of my departure is at hand. I
do not despair of success. Farewell, sire, for a while."
"Farewell forever!" murmured Joseph, as the door closed behind the
prince. "Death is not far off, and I have so much to do!"
He arose hastily from his arm-chair, and opening the door that led into
the chancery, called his three secretaries.
"Let us to work," said he, as they entered.
"Sire," replied one of them, in faltering tones, "Herr von Quarin
desired us, in his name, to implore of your majesty to rest for a few
"I cannot do it," said Joseph, impatiently. "If I postpone this writing
another day, it may never be accomplished at all. Give in your reports.
What dispatches have we from Hungary?"
"They are most unsatisfactory, sire. The landed proprietors have refused
to contribute their share of the imposts, and the people rebel against
the conscription-act, and threaten the officers of the crown with
"Revolt, revolt everywhere!" exclaimed the emperor, shuddering. "But I
will not yield; they shall all submit!"
The door of the cabinet opened, and the marshal of the household
entered, announcing a deputation of Magyars.
"A deputation! From whom?" asked Joseph, eagerly.
"I do not know, sire, but Count Palfy is one of the deputies."
"Count Palfy again!" cried the emperor, scornfully. "When the Hungarians
have a sinister message to send, they are sure to select Count Palfy as
their ambassador. Show them to the reception-room which opens into my
cabinet, count. I will see them there."
He dismissed the secretaries, and rang for his valet. He could scarcely
stand, while Gunther was assisting him to change his dressing-gown for
his uniform. [Footnote: This was the brother of him who was the lover of
Rachel.] His toilet over, he was obliged to lean upon the valet for
support, for his limbs were almost failing him.
"Oh!" cried he, bitterly, "how it will rejoice them to see me so weak
and sick! They will go home and tell their Hungarians that there is no
strength left in me to fight with traitors! But they shall not know it.
I will be the emperor, if my life pay the forfeit of the exertion. Lead
me to the door, Gunther. I will lean against one of the pillars, and
stand while I give audience to the Magyars."
Gunther supported him tenderly to the door, and then threw it wide open.
In the reception-room stood the twelve deputies, not in court-dress, but
in the resplendent costume of their own nation. They were the same men
who, several years before, had appeared before the emperor, and Count
Palfy, the Chancellor of Hungary, was the first one to advance.
The emperor bent his head, and eyed his visitors.
"If I am not mistaken," said he, "these are the same gentlemen who
appeared here as Hungarian deputies several years ago."
"Yes, sire, we are the same men," replied Count Palfy.
"Why are you here again?"
"To repeat our remonstrances, sire. The kingdom of Hungary has chosen
the same representatives, that your majesty may see how unalterable is
our determination to defend our rights with our lives. Hungary has not
changed her attitude, sire, and she will never change it."
"Nor shall I ever change mine," cried Joseph, passionately.
"My will to-day is the same as it was six years ago."
"Then, sire, you must expect an uprising of the whole Hungarian nation,"
returned Count Palfy, gravely. "For the last time we implore your
majesty to restore us our rights."
"What do you call your rights?" asked Joseph, sarcastically.
"All that for centuries past has been guaranteed to us by our
constitution; all that each king of Hungary, as he came to the throne,
has sworn to preserve inviolate. Sire, we will not become an Austrian
province; we are Hungarians, and are resolved to retain our nationality.
The integrity of Hungary is sorely threatened; and if your majesty
refuse to rescue it, we must ourselves hasten to the rescue. Not only
our liberties are menaced, but our moneyed interests too. Hungary is on
the road to ruin, if your majesty does not consent to revoke your
arbitrary laws, or--"
"Or?"--asked Joseph, as Palfy hesitated.
"On the road to revolution," replied the deputy firmly.
"You presume to threaten me!" cried Joseph, in a loud voice.
"I dare deliver the message intrusted to me, and, had I been too weak to
speak it, intrusted to those who accompany me. Is it not so, Magyars?"
"It is, it is," cried all, unanimously.
"Sire, I repeat to you that Hungary is advancing either toward ruin or
revolution. Like the Netherlanders, we will defend our constitution or
die with it. Oh, your majesty, all can yet be remedied! Call a
convention of the states--return the crown of St. Stephen, and come to
Hungary to take the coronation oath. Then you will see how gladly we
shall swear allegiance to our king, and how cheerfully we will die for
him, as our fathers did before us, in defence of the empress-queen, his
"Give us our constitution, and we will die for our king!" cried the
Magyars in chorus.
"Yes, humble myself before you!" exclaimed Joseph, furiously.
"You would have the sovereign bow before the will of his vassals!"
"No, sire," returned Count Palfy, with feeling. "We would have your
majesty adopt the only means by which Hungary can be retained to the
Austrian empire. If you refuse to hear us, we rise, as one man, to
defend our country. We swear it in the name of the Hungarian nation!"
"We swear it in the name of the Hungarian nation!" echoed the Magyars.
"And I," replied Joseph, pale and trembling with passion, "I swear it in
the name of my dignity as your sovereign, that I never will yield to men
who defy me, nor will I ever forgive those who, by treasonable
importunity, have sought to wring from me what I have not thought it
expedient to grant to respectful expostulation!"
"Sire, if you would give this proof of love to your subjects, if, for
their sakes, you would condescend to forget your imperial station, you
cannot conceive what enthusiasm of loyalty would be your return for this
concession. In mortal anxiety we await your final answer, and await it
until to-morrow at this hour."
"Ah!--you are so magnanimous as to grant me a short reprieve!" shouted
the infuriated emperor, losing all command of himself. "You--"
Suddenly he ceased, and became very pale. He was sensible that he had
burst a blood-vessel, and he felt the warm stream of his life welling
upward, until it moistened his pallid lips. With a hasty movement he
drew out his handkerchief, held it for a moment before his mouth, and
then replaced it quickly in his bosom. Large drops of cold sweat stood
out from his brow, and the light faded from his eyes. But these haughty
Magyars should not see him fall! They should not enjoy the sight of his
With one last desperate effort he collected his expiring energies, and
"Go," said he, in firm, distinct tones; "you have stated your
grievances, you shall have my answer to-morrow."
"We await your majesty until to-morrow at noon," returned Count Palfy.
"Then we go, never to return."
"Go!" cried the emperor, in a piercing voice; and the exasperated
Magyars mistook this last cry of agony for the culmination of his wrath.
They bowed in sullen silence, and left the room.
The emperor reeled back to his cabinet, and fell into a chair. He
reached the bell, and rang it feebly.
"Gunther," said he to his valet, and now his voice was hardly audible,
"send a carriage for Quarin. I must see him at once."
When Quarin entered the emperor's cabinet, he found him quietly seated
before his escritoire half buried in documents: The physician remained
standing at the door, waiting until he should be ordered to approach.
Suddenly Joseph was interrupted in his writing by a spell of coughing.
He dropped his pen, and leaned back exhausted. Quarin hastened to his
"Your majesty must not write," said he, gravely. "You must lay aside all
work for a time."
"I believe that I shall have to lay it aside forever," replied Joseph,
languidly. "I sent for you to say that I have a lawsuit with my lungs,
and you must tell me which of us is to gain it." [Footnote: Joseph's own
words.--"Characteristics of Joseph II." p. 14]
"What am I to tell your majesty?" asked the physician, disturbed.
The emperor looked up with eyes which glowed with the flaming light of
fever. "Quarin, you understand me perfectly. You must tell me, in regard
to this lawsuit with my lungs, which is to gain it, myself or death?
Here is my evidence."
With these words he drew out his handkerchief and held it open between
his wan, transparent hands. It was dyed in blood.
"Blood!" exclaimed Quarin, in a tone of alarm. "Your majesty has
received a wound?"
"Yes, an interior wound. The Hungarians have dealt me my death-blow.
This blood is welling up from a wounded heart. Do not look so mournful,
doctor. Let us speak of death as man to man. Look at me now, and say
whether my malady is incurable."
"Why should it be incurable?" asked the physician, faltering. "You are
young, sire, and have a sound constitution."
"No commonplaces, Quarin, no equivocation," cried Joseph, impatiently.
"I must have the truth, do you hear me?--the truth. I cannot afford to
be surprised by death, for I must provide for a nation, and my house
must be set in order. I am not afraid of death, my friend; it comes to
me in the smiling guise of a liberator. Therefore be frank, and tell the
at once whether my malady is dangerous."
Again he raised his large, brilliant eyes to the face of the physician.
Quarin's features were convulsed with distress, and tears stood in his
eyes. His voice was very tremulous as he replied
"Yes, sire, it is dangerous."
The emperor's countentance remained perfectly calm. "Can you tell me
with any degree of precision how long I have to live?"
"No, sire; you may live yet for several weeks, or some excitement may
put an end to your existence in a few days. In this malady the patient
must be prepared at any moment for death."
"Then it is incurable?"
"Yes, sire," faltered Quarin, his tears bursting forth afresh.
The emperor looked thoughtfully before him, and for some time kept
silence. Then extending his hand with a smile, he said,
"From my soul I thank you for the manly frankness with which you have
treated me, Quarin, and I desire now to give you a testimony of my
gratitude. You have children, have you not?"
"Yes, sire--two daughters."
"And you are not rich, I believe?"
"The salary which I receive from your majesty, united to my practice,
affords us a comfortable independence."
The emperor nodded. "You must do a little commission for me," said he,
turning to the escritoire and writing a few lines, which he presented to
"Take this paper to the court chancery and present it to the bureau of
finances. You will there receive ten thousand florins wherewith to
portion your daughters."
"Oh, sire!" exclaimed Quarin, deeply moved, "I thank you with all the
strength of my paternal heart."
"No," replied Joseph, gently, "it is my duty to reward merit. [Footnote:
These are the emperor's words. This scene is historical.--Hubner. ii.,
p. 496.] In addition to this, I would wish to leave you a personal
souvenir of my friendship. I bestow upon you, as a last token of my
affection, the title of freiherr, and I will take out the patent for you
myself. Not a word, dear friend, not a word! Leave me now, for I must
work diligently. Since my hours are numbered, I must make the most of
them. Farewell! Who knows how soon I may have to recall you here?"
The physician kissed the emperor's hand with fervor, and turned hastily
away. Joseph sank back in the chair. His large eyes were raised to
heaven, and his wan face beamed with something brighter than
At that moment the door of the chancery was opened, and the first
privy-councillor came hastily forward.
"What is it?" said Joseph, with a slight start.
"Sire, two couriers have just arrived. The first is from the Count
Cobenzl. He announces that all Belgium, with the exception of Luxemburg,
is in the hands of the patriots; that Van der Noot has called a
convention of the United Provinces, which has declared Belgium a
republic; her independence is to be guaranteed by England, Prussia, and
Holland. Count Cobenzl is urgent in his request for instructions. He is
totally at a loss what to do."
The emperor had listened with mournful tranquillity. "And the second
courier?" said he.
"The second courier, sire, comes from the imperial stadtholder of
"What says he?"
"He brings evil tidings, sire. The people have rebelled, and cry out
against the conscription and the church reforms. Unless these laws are
repealed, there is danger of revolution."
The emperor uttered a piercing cry, and pressed his hands to his breast.
"It is nothing," said he, in reply to the anxious and alarmed looks of
the privy-councillor. "A momentary pang, which has already passed
away--nothing more. Continue your report."
"This is all, your majesty. The stadtholder entreats you to quiet this
"And to revoke my decrees, is it not so? The same croaking which for
eight years has been dinned into my ears. Well--I must have time to
reflect, and as soon as I shall have determined upon my course of
action, you shall learn my decision."
"Rebellion in Tyrol, in Hnngary, in the Netherlands!" murmured the
emperor, when he found himself alone. "From every side I hear my
death-knell! My people would bury me ere I have drawn my last sigh. My
great ancestor, Charles, stood beside his open grave, and voluntarily
contemplated his last resting-place; but I! unhappy monarch, am forced
into mine by the ingratitude of a people for whom alone I leave lived!
Is it indeed so? Must I die with the mournful conviction that I have
lived in vain? O my God, what excess of humiliation Thou hast forced
upon me! And what have I done to deserve such a fate? Wherein have I
sinned, that my imperial crown should have been lined with so many cruel
thorns? Is there no remedy? must I drink this last bitter chalice? Must
I revoke that which I have published to the world as my sovereign will?"
He ceased, and folding his arms, faced his difficult position. For one
hour he sat motionless, his face grooving gradually paler, his brow
darker, his lips more rigidly compressed together.
At length he heaved one long, convulsive sigh. "No--there is no other
remedy. I have toiled in vain--my beautiful structure has fallen, and my
grave is under its ruins! O my God, why may I not have a few months more
of life, wherewith to crush these aspiring rebels? But no!. I must die
now, and leave them to triumph over my defeat; for I dare not leave to
my successor the accursed inheritance of civil war. To the last hour of
my life I must humble my will before the decree of that cruel destiny
which has persecuted me from boyhood! Be it so!--I must clutch at the
remedy--the fearful remedy--I must revoke!"
He shuddered, and covered his face with his hands. There had been one
struggle with his will, there was now another with his despair. He
moaned aloud--scalding tears trickled through his poor, wasted fingers,
and his whole being bowed before the supremacy of this last great
sorrow. Once--only once, he uttered a sharp cry, and for a moment his
convulsed countenance was raised to heaven. Then his head fell upon the
table, and his wretchedness found vent in low, heart-rending sobs.
And thus he spent another long hour. Finally he looked up to heaven and
tried to murmur a few words of resignation. But the spectre of his
useless strivings still haunted his mind. "All my plans to be buried in
the grave--not one trace of my reign left to posterity!" sighed the
unhappy monarch. "But enough of repining. I have resolved to make the
sacrifice--it is time to act!"
He clutched his bell, and ordered a page to summon the privy-councillor
from the adjoining room.
"Now," said the emperor, "let us work. My hand is too tremulous to hold
a pen; you must write for me.--First, in regard to Hungary. Draw up a
manifesto, in which I restore their constitution in all its integrity."
He paused for a few moments, and wiped the large drops of cold sweat
which were gathering over his forehead. "Do you hear?" continued he; "I
revoke all my laws except one, and that is, the edict of religious
toleration. I promise to convoke the imperial diet, and to replace the
administration of justice upon its old footing. I repeal the laws
relating to taxes and conscription, I order the Hungarian crown to be
returned to Ofen, and, as soon as I shall have recovered from my
illness, I promise to take the coronation-oath. [Footnote: This is the
revocation edict, which, promulgated a few weeks before the death of
Joseph, caused such astonishment throughout Europe--Gross-Hoffinger,
iii., p. 290.] Write this out and bring it to me for signature. Then
deliver it into the hands A Count Palfy. He will publish it to the
"So much for Hungary!--Now for Tyrol. Draw up a second manifesto. I
repeal the conscription-act, as well as all my reforms with respect to
the church. When this is ready, bring it to me for signature; and
dispatch a courier with it to the imperial stadtholder. Having satisfied
the exactions of Hungary and Tyrol, it remains to restore order in the
Netherlands. But there, matters are more complicated, and I fear that no
concession on my part will avail at this late hour. I must trample my
personal pride in the dust, then, and humble myself before the pope!
Yes--before the pope! I will write, requesting him to act as mediator,
and beg his holiness to admonish the clergy to make peace with me.
[Footnote: Gross-Hoffinger, iii., p.379] Why do you look so sad, my
friend? I am making my peace with the world; I am drawing a pen across
the events of my life and blotting out my reforms with ink. Make out
these documents at once, and send me a courier for Rome. Meanwhile I
will write to the pope. Appearing before him as a petitioner, it is
incumbent upon me to send an autographic letter. Return to me in an
When, one hour later, the privy-councillor re-entered the cabinet, the
letter to the pope lay folded and addressed on the table. But this last
humiliation had been too much for the proud spirit of the emperor to
He lay insensible in his chair, a stream of blood oozing slowly from his
THE DEATH OF THE MARTYR.
He had made his peace with the world and with God! He had taken leave of
his family, his friends, and his attendants. He had made his last
confession, and had received the sacraments of the church.
His struggles were at an end. All sorrow overcome, he lay happy and
tranquil on his death-bed, no more word of complaint passing the lips
which had been consecrated to the Lord. He comforted his weeping
relatives, and had a word of affectionate greeting for every one who
approached him. With his own feeble hand he wrote farewell letters to
his absent sisters, to Prince Kaunitz, and to several ladies for whom he
had an especial regard; and on the seventeenth of February signed his
name eighty times.
He felt that his end was very near; and when Lacy and Rosenberg, who
were to pass the night with him, entered his bedchamber, he signed them
"It will soon be over," whispered he. "The lamp will shortly be
extinguished. Hush! do not weep--you grieve me. Let us part from each
other with fortitude."
"Alas, how can we part with fortitude, when our parting is for life!"
The emperor raised his eyes, and looked thoughtfully un to heaven. "We
shall meet again," said he, after a pause. "I believe in another and a
better world, where I shall find compensation for all that I have
endured here below."
"And where punishment awaits those who have been the cause of your
sorrows," returned Rosenberg.
"I have forgiven them all," said the dying monarch. "There is no room in
my heart for resentment, dear friends. I have honestly striven to make
my subjects happy, and feel no animosity toward them for refusing the
boon I proffered. I should like to have inscribed upon my tomb, 'Here
lies a prince whose intentions were pure, but who was so unfortunate as
to fail in every honest undertaking of his life.' Oh, how mistaken was
the poet, who wrote,
`Et du trone au cerenell le passage est terrible!'
"I do not deplore the loss of my throne, but I feel some, lingering
regret that I should have made so few of my fellow-beings happy--so
many of them ungrateful. This, however, is the usual lot of princes!"
[Footnote: The emperor's own words.--"Characteristics of Joseph II.," p.
"It is the lot of all those who are too enlightened for their times! It
is the lot of all great men who would elevate and ennoble the masses!"
cried Lacy. "It is the fate of greatness to be the martyr of stupidity,
bigotry, and malice!"
"Yes, that is the word," said Joseph, smiling. "I am a martyr, but
nobody will honor my relics."
"Yes, beloved sovereign," cried Rosenberg, weeping, "your majesty's love
we shall bear about our hearts, as the devotee wears the relic of a
"Do not weep so," said Joseph. "We have spent so many happy days
together, that we must pass the few fleeting hours remaining to us in
rational intercourse. Show me a cheerful countenance, Rosenberg--you
from whose hands I received my last cup of earthly comfort. What blessed
tidings you brought me! My sweet Elizabeth is a mother, and I shall
carry the consciousness of her happiness to the grave. I shall die with
ONE joy at my heart--a beautiful hope shall blossom as I
fall!--Elizabeth is your future empress; love her for my sake; you know
how unspeakably dear she is to me. And, now that I think of it, I have
not heard from her since this morning. How is she?"
The two friends were silent, and cast down their eves.
"Lacy!" cried the emperor, and over his inspired features there passed a
shade of human sorrow. "Lacy, speak--you are silent--O God, what has
happened? Rosenberg, tell me, oh tell me, how is my Elizabeth, my
So great were his anxiety and distress, that he half rose in his bed.
They would not meet his glance, but Rosenberg in a low voice replied:
"The archduchess is very sick. The labor was long and painful."
"Ah, she is dead!" exclaimed Joseph, "she is dead, is she not?"
Neither of his weeping friends spoke a word, but the emperor
comprehended their silence.
Falling back upon his pillow, he raised his wasted arms to heaven.
--"O God, Thy will be done! but my sufferings are beyond expression!
I thought that I had outlived sorrow: but the stroke which has come to
imbitter my last moments exceeds all that I have endured throughout a
life of uncheckered misery!" [Footnote: The emperor's own words.]
For a long time he lay cold and rigid. Then raising himself upon his
arm, he signed to Rosenberg to approach. His eyes beamed as of erst, and
his whole demeanor was that of a sovereign who had learned, above all
things, to control himself.
"She must be buried with all the tenderness and honor of which she was
deserving," said he. "Rosenberg, will you attend to this for me? Let her
body be exposed in the court-chapel to-morrow. After that, lay her to
rest in the imperial vaults, and let the chapel be in readiness to
receive my own remains." [Footnote: Joseph's own words.--See Hubner,
ii., p. 491.]
This was the last command given by the emperor. From that hour he was
nothing more than a poor, dying mortal, whose last thoughts are devoted
to his Maker. He sent for his confessor, and asked him to read something
appropriate and consolatory. With folded hands, his large violet eyes
reverently raised to heaven, he listened to the holy scriptural words.
Suddenly his countenance brightened, and his lips moved.
"Now here remain faith, hope, and love," read the priest.
The emperor repeated the three last words, "faith--hope" and when he
pronounced the word "love," his face was illumined with a joy which had
its source far, far away from earth!
Then all was silent. The prayer was over, and the dying emperor lay
motionless, with his hands folded upon his breast.
Presently his feeble voice was heard in prayer. "Father, Thou knowest my
heart--Thou art my witness, that I meant--to do--well Thy will be done!"
[Footnote: Ramshorn, p. 410]
Then all was still. Weeping around the bed stood Lacy, Rosenberg, and
the Archduke Francis. The emperor looked at them with staring eyes, but
he recognized them no longer. Those beautiful eves were dimmed forever!
Suddenly the silence was broken by a long, long sigh.
It was the death-sigh of JOSEPH THE SECOND!
Joseph died on the 20th of February, 1790. But his spirit outlived him
and survives to the present day. His subjects, who had so misjudged him,
deplored his loss, and felt how dear he had been to them. Now that he
was dead--now that they had broken his heart, they grieved and wept for
him. Poets sang his praises in eulogies, and wrote epitaphs laudatory of
him who may be considered the great martyr of political and social
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