MoboReader > Literature > Andreas Hofer: An Historical Novel

   Chapter 3 THE COURIER AND THE AMBASSADOR.

Andreas Hofer: An Historical Novel By L. Mühlbach Characters: 27972

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


The emperor, in returning to his cabinet, like the empress, carefully locked the door behind him. He then turned hastily to the courier, who was standing near the opposite door, and was just bowing most ceremoniously to his majesty.

"Hudelist, it is really you, then?" asked the emperor. "You left your post by the side of Metternich without obtaining my permission to come to Vienna? Could you not find any other man to bring your dispatches? I had commissioned you to remain always by the side of Metternich, watch him carefully, and inform me of what he was doing and thinking."

"Your majesty, I have brought my report with me," said Hudelist;" and as for your majesty's order that I should always remain by the side of Count Metternich, I have hardly violated it by corning to Vienna, for I believe the Count will follow me in the course of a few days. Unless your majesty recalls him to Vienna, the Emperor Napoleon, I think, will expel him from Paris."

"You do not say so!" exclaimed Francis, shrugging his shoulders.

"You think he will issue a manifesto against Metternich, as he did

against the Prussian minister Von Stein? Well, let me hear the news.

What have you to tell me?"

"So many important things, your majesty, that the count and myself deemed it expedient to report to your majesty verbally, rather than send a dispatch which might give you only an unsatisfactory idea of what has occurred. Hence I came post-haste to Vienna, and arrived here only a quarter of an hour since; I pray your majesty therefore to pardon me for appearing before you in my travelling-dress."

"Sit down, you must be tired," said the emperor, good-naturedly, seating himself in an arm-chair, and pointing to the opposite chair. "Now tell me all!"

"Your majesty," said Hudelist, mysteriously, while a strange expression of mischievous joy overspread his ugly, pale face, "the Emperor Napoleon has returned from Spain to France."

The Emperor Francis gave a start and frowned. "Why?" he asked.

"Because he intends to declare war against Austria," said Hudelist, whose face brightened more and more. "Because Napoleon is distrustful of us, and convinced that Austria is intent on attacking him. Besides, he felt no longer at ease in pain, and all sorts of conspiracies had been entered into in Paris, whereby his return might have been rendered impossible if he had hesitated any longer."

"Who were the conspirators?"

"Talleyrand and Fouche, the dear friends and obedient servants of the Emperor Napoleon. He knows full well what their friendship and devotedness amount to. Hence be had the two gentlemen well watched, and it seems his spies sent him correct reports, for, after returning from Spain, he rebuked them unmercifully; be told them, with the rage of a true Corsican, and regardless of etiquette, what miserable fellows they were, and how high he stood above them."

"And yet he would like so much to be an emperor in strict. accordance with court etiquette," said the emperor, laughing. "He is anxious to have such a court about him as Louis XIV. had. But the lawyer's son always reappears in the emperor, and, if it please God, He will one day deprive him of all his power and splendor."

"And, if it please God, your majesty will be His instrument in putting an end to Napoleon's power and splendor," cried Hudelist, with a smile which distorted his face strangely, and caused two rows of large yellow teeth to appear between the pale lips of his enormous mouth. "It is true he stands firm as yet, and rebukes his ministers as Nero did his freedmen. Talleyrand was still thunderstruck at what the emperor had told him, when he had an interview with Count Metternich and myself in Fouche's green-house. To be sure, the phrases which he repeated to us were well calculated to make even the blood of a patient minister boil. Napoleon sent for the two ministers immediately after his arrival: when they came to him, he let them stand at the door of his cabinet like humble suppliants, and, running up and down before them, and casting fiery glances of anger upon them, he upbraided them with their conduct, and told them he was aware of all their intrigues, and knew that they were conspiring with Austria, Spain, and, through Spain, with England. Then he suddenly stood still in front of them, his hands folded on his back, and his glances would have crushed the two ministers if they had not had such a thick skin 'You are impudent enough to conspire against me!' he shouted, in a thundering voice. 'To whom are you indebted for every thing-for your honors, rank, and wealth? To me alone! How can you preserve them? By me alone! Look backward, examine your past. If the Bourbons had reascended the throne, both of you would have been hanged as regicides and traitors. And you plot against me? You must be as stupid as you are ungrateful, if you believe that anybody else could promote your interest as well as I have done. Had another revolution broken out, on whatever side you might have placed yourselves, you would certainly have been the first to be crushed by it!'" [Footnote: Napoleon's own words-See Schlosser, "History of the Eighteenth Century," vol. viii., p. 488.]

"That is very plain talk, indeed," said Francis, laughing. "But Talleyrand and Fouche have sound stomachs; they will digest it, and not get congestions in consequence of it provided the emperor does not punish them in a different manner."

"For the time being, he only punished Talleyrand, whom he deprived of the position and salary of lord chamberlain. Fouche remained police minister, but both are closely watched by Napoleon's secret police. Nevertheless, they succeeded in holding a few unobserved interviews with us. Count Metternich learned also from another very well-informed quarter many accurate details regarding the plans and intentions of the Emperor Napoleon."

"What do you mean? What well-informed quarter do you refer to?" asked the emperor.

"Your majesty," said Hudelist, with a significant grin, "Count Metternich is a very fine-looking man; now, Queen Caroline of Naples, Murat's wife, and Napoleon's favorite sister, is by no means insensible to manly beauty, and she accepted with evident satisfaction the homage which the count offered to her. For the rest, Napoleon winked at and encouraged this flirtation; for, previous to his departure for Spain, he said to his sister loud enough to be overheard by some of our friends, 'Amusez-nous ce niais, Monsieur de Metternich. Nous en avons besoin a present!' [Footnote: Hormayr, "The Emperor Francis and Metternich, a Fragment," p. 55.] Madame Caroline Murat told Count Metternich, for instance, that it is the Kings of Bavaria and Wurtemburg that keep their spies for Napoleon here in Vienna, and that they urged Napoleon vehemently to return from Spain in order to declare war against Austria. And Napoleon is determined to comply with their wishes. He travelled with extraordinary expedition from Madrid to Paris, stopping only at Valladolid, where he shut himself up for two days with Maret, his minister of foreign affairs, and dispatched eighty-four messages in different directions, with orders to concentrate his forces in Germany, and call out the full contingents of the Rhenish Confederacy. His own troops and these German Contingents are to form an array-to which he intends to give the name of 'the German Army of the Emperor Napoleon.' Although Count Metternich was aware of all this, he hastened to attend the great reception which took place at the Tuileries after Napoleon's return, in order to assure him again of the friendly dispositions of the imperial court of Austria. But Napoleon gave hire no time for that. He came to meet him with a furious gesture, and shouted to him in a thundering voice: 'Well, M. de Metternich! here is fine news from Vienna. What does all this mean? Have they been stung by scorpions? Who threatens you? What would you be at? Do you intend again to disturb the peace of the world and plunge Europe into numberless calamities? As long as I had my army in Germany, you conceived no disquietude for your existence; but the moment it is transferred to Spain, you consider yourselves endangered! What can be the end of these things? What, but that I must arm as you arm, for at length I am seriously menaces; I am rightly for my former caution.'" [Footnote: Napoleon's own words.-See Schlosser, vol. vii., p. 480.]

"What an impudent fellow!" murmured the Emperor Francis to himself.

"And Metternich? What did he reply?"

"Nothing at all, your majesty. He withdrew, returned immediately to the legation, and I set out that very night to convey this intelligence to your majesty. Your majesty, we can no longer doubt that Napoleon has made up his mind to wage war against Austria. His exasperation has risen to the highest pitch, and the events in Spain have still more inflamed his rage and vindictiveness." "Then he is unsuccessful in Spain?" asked the emperor, whose eyes brightened.

"Spain is still bidding him defiance, and fighting with the enthusiasm of an heroic people who will suffer death rather than be subjugated by a tyrant. She will never accept King Joseph, whom Napoleon forced upon her; and as they see themselves deserted and given up by their royal family, the Spanish patriots turn their eyes toward Austria, and are ready to proclaim one of your majesty's brothers king of Spain, if your majesty would send him to them with an auxiliary army."

"That would be a nice thing!" cried the emperor, angrily. "Not another word about it! If my brothers should hear it, their heads would be immediately on fire, for they are very ambitious; hence, it is much better that they should not learn anything of these chateaux en Espagne. Tell me rather how it looks in France. Are the French still satisfied with their emperor by the grace of the people!"

"They are not, your majesty. Let me tell you that not only Napoleon's own officers, his marshals and ministers, are dissatisfied with him; but the whole people, those who possess money as well as those who own no other property than their lives, are murmuring against the emperor. He robs the moneyed men of their property by heavy taxes and duties, and those who have nothing but their lives he threatens with death by forcing muskets into their hands, and compelling them to do military service. Another conscription has been ordered, and as the population of France is decreasing, youths from sixteen to eighteen years old have to be enrolled. France is tired of these everlasting wars, and she curses Napoleon's insatiable bloodthirstiness no longer in secret only, but loud enough to be heard by the emperor from time to time."

"And the army?"

"The army is a part of France, and feels like the rest of the French people. The marshals are quarrelling among themselves and some of them hate Napoleon, who never gives them time to repose on their laurels and enjoy the riches which they have obtained during their campaigns. The army is a perfect hotbed of conspiracies and secret societies, some of which are in favor of the restoration of the republic, while others advocate the restoration of the Bourbons. Napoleon, who is served well enough at least by his spies, is aware of all these things. He is afraid of the discontent and disobedience of his marshals and generals, conspiracies in the army, the treachery of his ministers, and the murmurs of his people; and he fears, besides, that the fanaticism of the Spaniards may dim his military glory; hence, he feels the necessity of arousing the enthusiasm of his people by fresh battles, of silencing the malcontents by new victories, and of reviving the heroic spirit of his army. He hopes to gain these victories in a war between his German array and the Austrian forces. He is, therefore, firmly resolved to wage war, and the only question now is, whether your majesty will anticipate him, or await a declaration of war on his part. This is about all I have to communicate to your majesty; the vouchers and other papers I shall have the honor to deposit at the imperial chancery."

The emperor made no reply, but gazed into vacancy, deeply absorbed in his reflections. Hudelist fixed his small sparkling eyes on the bent form of the emperor; and as he contemplated his care-worn, gloomy face, his flabby features, his protruding under-lip, his narrow forehead, and his whole emaciated and fragile form, an expression of scorn overspread the face of the counsellor; and his large mouth and flashing eyes seemed to say, "You are the emperor, but I do not envy you, for I am more than you are; I am a man who knows what he wants."

At this moment the clock commenced striking slowly, and its shrill notes aroused the emperor from his contemplation.

"Eleven o'clock," he said, rising from his chair, "the hour when I am to give an audience to the French ambassador. Hudelist, go to the chancery and wait there until I call you. You will not return to Paris anyhow, but resume your former position in the chancery of state. I am glad that you have returned, for I consider you a faithful, able, and reliable man, whom I have good reason to be content, and who, I hope, will not betray my confidence. I know, Hudelist, you are ambitious, and would like to obtain a distinguished position. Well, serve me-do you hear?-serve none but me honestly and faithfully; watch everything and watch closely; never think of obtaining the friendship and good graces of others, nor seeking for any other protectors, save me; and I shall always be favorably disposed toward you, and see to it that the cravings of your ambition are satisfied. Go then, as I said before, to the chancery of state; and on hearing me re-enter the room, step in again. There are many other things which I wish to tell you."

"I see through him," said Hudelist, looking with a smile after the emperor, who closed the door of the ca

binet behind him, to repair to the small reception-room; "yes, I see through the emperor. He is glad of my return, for I am a good spy for him in regard to the doings of his brothers, of whom he is jealous, and whom he hates with all his heart. If I succeed one day in communicating to him things capable of rendering the archdukes suspicious to him, or even convicting them of a wrong committed against him, the emperor will reward and promote me, and, as he says, satisfy the cravings of my ambition. Well, well, we shall see. If you watch a man very closely and are really intent on spying out something suspicious in his conduct, you will in the end surely find some little hook or other by which you may hold him, and which you may gradually hammer out and extend until it becomes large enough to hang the whole man on it. In the first place, I shall pay particular attention to the Archduke John, for his brother is particularly jealous of and angry with him. Ah, if I could discovery such a little hook by which to hold him, the emperor would reward my zeal with money, honors, and orders, and he would henceforward repose the most implicit confidence in my fidelity. Well, I shall think of it; the idea is a good one, and worthy of being matured. I shall form a scheme to make the good and munificent Archduke John the ladder by which I shall rise. I must conquer, and if I can do it only by pulling down others, it is the duty of self-preservation for me not to shrink from the task. I will now go to the chancery and wait there for the emperor's return. Ah, how his old limbs trembled when he heard of Napoleon's return. How hard and unpleasant it was for him to swallow the bad news which I communicated to him! There is no more interesting spectacle than that presented by a human face passing through all the various stages of excitement, and involuntarily performing in its features the five acts of a tragedy. And all the better when this human face is that of an emperor. During my whole journey from Paris to Vienna I was enjoying, by anticipation, the moment when I should deliver this Pandora's box to the emperor. He is opposed to war, and must nevertheless wage it; that is the best part of the joke. Aha! it is a fine sight to behold the gods of this earth a prey to such human embarrassments! I felt like bursting into loud laughter at the woe-begone appearance of the emperor. But hush, hush! I will go to the chancery until he returns."

In the meantime the emperor had repaired to the small reception- room, where Count Andreossi, the French ambassador, was already waiting for him.

Francis responded to the respectful greeting of the ambassador by a scarcely perceptible nod, and strode, with head erect, into the middle of the room. There he stood still, and casting a stern and almost defiant glance on the ambassador, he said in a cold, dignified tone: "You requested an audience of me in a very unusual manner. I granted it to prove to you my desire to remain at peace with France. Now speak; What has the ambassador of the Emperor of the French to say to the Emperor of Austria?"

"Your majesty, I have to present to you, in the first place, the respects of my master, who has returned from Spain to Paris."

Francis nodded his head slowly. "What next?" he asked.

"Next, my sovereign has charged me with a very difficult commission, for the execution of which I must first, and above all things, beg your majesty's pardon."

"You are your master's servant, and it is your duty to obey him," said the emperor, dryly. "Say, therefore, what he ordered you to tell me."

"Well, then, as your majesty has granted me permission, I will say that my master, the Emperor of the French, has taken deep umbrage at the hostile course which Austria has of late pursued toward him."

"And what is it that your emperor complains of?" asked the emperor, with perfect composure.

"In the first place, the Emperor Napoleon has taken deep umbrage at

Austria's still hesitating to recognize King Joseph as King of

Spain, and to send a minister plenipotentiary to his court."

"I did not know where to send my ambassador, and where he would find M. Joseph Bonaparte, King of Spain, for the time being-whether at Madrid or at Saragossa; in the camp, on the field of battle, or in flight. Hence I did not send an ambassador to his court. So soon as the Spanish nation is able to inform me where I may look for the king it has elected and recognized, I shall immediately dispatch a minister plenipotentiary to this court. State that to your monarch."

"Next, his majesty the Emperor Napoleon complains bitterly that Austria, instead of being intent on maintaining friendly relations with France, has left nothing undone to reconcile the enemies of France who were at war with each other, and to restore peace between them; and that Austria, by her incessant efforts, has really succeeded now in bringing about a treaty of peace between Turkey and England. Now, my master the emperor must look upon this as a hostile act on the part of Austria, against France; for to reconcile England with Turkey is equivalent to setting France at variance with Turkey, or at least neutralizing entirely her influence over the Sublime Porte."

"Turkey is my immediate neighbor, and it is highly important to Austria that there should be no war-troubles and disturbances on all her frontiers. Every independent state should be at liberty to pursue its own policy; and while this policy does not assume a hostile attitude toward other independent states, no one can take umbrage at it. Are you through with your grievances?"

"No, your majesty," said Andreossi, almost mournfully. "The worst and most unpleasant part remains to be told; but, as your majesty was gracious enough to say, I must obey the orders of my master, and it is his will that I shall now communicate to your majesty the emperor's views in his own words. It has given great offence to the Emperor Napoleon that Austria should place herself in a posture of open hostility against France, when France has given her so many proofs of her forbearance, and has hitherto always spared Austria, notwithstanding the numerous acts of duplicity and evident hostility of the Austrian court. The Emperor Napoleon informs your majesty that he is well aware of the ambitious schemes of Austria, but that lie thinks your majesty is not strong enough to carry them into effect. He requests your majesty never to forget the magnanimity which the Emperor Napoleon manifested toward you after the battle of Austerlitz. The Emperor Napoleon has instructed me to remind you of the fact, well known to you, that you can confide in his generosity, and that he is firmly resolved to observe the treaties. Naples, Prussia, and Spain, would stand erect, yet, if their rulers had relied on their own sagacity, and not listened to the fatal advice of their ministers, or even of courtiers, women, and ambitious young princes. His majesty beseeches the Emperor of Austria not to listen to such insidious advice, nor to yield to the wishes of the war- party, which is intent only on gratifying its passionate ambition, and whose eyes refuse to see that it is driving Austria toward the brink of an abyss where she must perish, as did Prussia, Naples, and Spain." [Footnote: Hormayr, "Allgemeine Geschichte," vol. iii., p. 205.]

"It is very kind in his majesty the Emperor Napoleon to give me such friendly advice," sail the Emperor Francis, smiling. "But I beg his majesty to believe that, in accordance with his wishes, I rely only on my own individual sagacity; that I am influenced by no party, no person, but am accustomed to direct myself the affairs of my country and the administration of my empire, and not to listen to any insinuations, from whatever quarter they may come. I request you to repeat these words to his majesty the Emperor Napoleon with the same accuracy with which you communicated his message to me. And now, Count Andreossi, I believe you have communicated to me all that your master instructed you to say to me."

"Pardon me, your majesty, I am instructed last to demand in the emperor's name an explanation as to the meaning of the formidable armaments of Austria, the organization of the militia, and the arming of the fortresses on the frontiers, and to inquire against whom these measures are directed. The emperor implores your majesty to put a stop to these useless and hurtful demonstrations, and orders me expressly to state that, if Austria does not stop her armaments and adopt measures of an opposite character, war will be inevitable." [Footnote: Napoleon's own words.-See "Lebensbilder," vol. ii., and Hormayr, "Allgemeine Geschichte," vol. iii.]

"In that case, Mr. Ambassador of the Emperor Napoleon, war is inevitable," cried Francis, who now dropped the mask of cold indifference, and allowed his face to betray the agitation and rage filling his bosom, by his quivering features, flashing eyes, and clouded brow. "I have calmly listened to you," he added, raising his voice; "I have received with silent composure all the arrogant phrases which you have ventured to utter here in the name of your emperor. I look on them as one of the famous proud bulletins for which your emperor is noted, and to whose overbearing and grandiloquent language all Europe is accustomed. But it is well known too that these bulletins are not exactly models of veracity, but sometimes the very reverse of it. An instance of the latter is your emperor's assertion that he observes the treaties, and that he gave me proofs of his magnanimity after the battle of Austerlitz. No, the emperor did no such thing; he made me, on the contrary, feel the full weight of his momentary superiority. He was my enemy, and treated me as an enemy, without magnanimity, which, for the rest, I did not claim at the time. But he has proved to me, too, that he does not observe the most sacred treaties. He violated every section of the peace of Presburg; he did not respect the frontiers as stipulated in that treaty; he forced me, in direct violation of the treaties, to allow him the permanent use of certain military roads within the boundaries of my empire; he hurled from their thrones dynasties which were related to me, and whose existence I had guaranteed; he deprived, in violation of the law of nations, the beloved and universally respected head of Christendom of his throne, and subjected him to a most disgraceful imprisonment; he exerted on all seas the most arbitrary pressure on the Austrian flag. And now, after all this has happened, after Austria has endured all these wrongs so long and silently, the Emperor Napoleon undertakes even to meddle with the internal administration of my empire, and forbids me what he, ever since his accession, has incessantly done, to wit: to mobilize my army, levy conscripts for the troops of the line and the reserves, and arm the fortresses. He asks me to put a stop to my armaments; else, he says, war will be inevitable. Well, Mr. Ambassador, I do not care if the Emperor Napoleon looks at the matter in that light, and I shall not endeavor to prevent him from so doing, for I shall not stop, but continue my preparations. I called out the militia, just as the Emperor of the French constantly calls new levies of conscripts into immediate activity; and if war should be inevitable in consequence thereof, I shall bear what is inevitable with firmness and composure."

"Your majesty, is this your irrevocable resolution?" asked

Andreossi. "Is this the answer that I am to send to my master, the

Emperor Napoleon?"

"I think it will be better for you to convey this answer in person to your emperor," said Francis, calmly. "As no one has witnessed our interview, only you yourself can repeat my words with perfect accuracy; and it is therefore best for you to set out this very day for Paris."

"That is to say, your majesty gives me my passports, and war will immediately break out between France and Austria!" sighed Andreossi. "Your majesty should graciously consider-"

"I have considered every thing," interrupted Francis, vehemently, "and I request you not to speak to me again in the style of your French bulletins. I will hear the bulletins of the Emperor Napoleon on the field of battle rather than in my cabinet. Set out, therefore, for Paris, Mr. Ambassador, and repeat to the emperor what I have said to you."

"I will comply with your majesty's orders," said Andreossi, with a sigh; "I will set out, but I shall leave the members of my legation here as yet, for I do not yet give up the hope that it may be possible for the two courts to avoid a declaration of war; and to spare such a calamity to two countries that have such good reasons to love each other."

"Let us quietly await the course of events," replied the emperor. "Farewell, Count Andreossi. If you will accept my advice, you will set out this very day; for so soon as my dear Viennese learn that war is to break out in earnest, they will probably give vent to their enthusiasm in the most tumultuous and rapturous demonstrations, and I suppose it would be disagreeable to you to witness them. Farewell, sir!"

He waved his hand toward tile ambassador, bent his head slowly and haughtily, and left the reception-room without vouchsafing another glance to Count Andreossi.

"Now my brothers will be in ecstasies," said the emperor to himself, slowly walking up and down, his hands folded on his back, in the sitting-room adjoining the reception-room. "They will be angry, though, because I did not consult them, and decided the whole affair without listening to their wisdom."

"Your majesty," said a footman, who entered the room at this moment, "their imperial highnesses, the Archdukes Charles and John, request an audience of your majesty."

"They are welcome," said the emperor, whose features were lit up by a faint smile. "Show my brothers in."

(← Keyboard shortcut) Previous Contents (Keyboard shortcut →)
 Novels To Read Online Free

Scan the QR code to download MoboReader app.

Back to Top

shares