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   Chapter 4 THE EMPEROR AND HIS BROTHERS.

Andreas Hofer: An Historical Novel By L. Mühlbach Characters: 25002

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


A few minutes afterward the two archdukes entered the room of the emperor, who slowly went some steps to meet them, and greeted them with a grave, cold glance.

"Why, this is a rare spectacle," said Francis, sneeringly, "to see my brothers side by side in such beautiful harmony. In truth, it was only wanting to me that even you two should be of the same opinion, and come to me for the purpose of inviting me, as Schiller says, to be the third in your league."

"Your majesty would always be the first in this league," said the Archduke John, in his clear, ringing voice; "my brother would be the second, and I only the third."

"See, see, my brother is very modest and humble to-day," said Francis, smiling. "This means doubtless that you have come to ask a favor of me, and that, by your kindness and devotedness, you wish to induce me to comply with your request, as a dog is decoyed with cakes and sweets by the thief who intends to steal something from the dog's master."

"Oh, your majesty, we do not intend to steal any thing from our master!" exclaimed John, laughing. "But there is really an attack to be made on our master's property; only he who intends to make it does not decoy us with cakes and sweets, but assails us with the sword and coarse invectives."

"It was very shrewd in you to mention at once the subject on which you wished to speak with me," said the emperor, with a slight sneer. "But permit me first to say a word to my brother Charles there, and bid welcome to his imperial highness, the illustrious captain, the generalissimo of our army, the hope and consolation of Austria."

"Your majesty wishes to mock me," said the Archduke Charles, in a mournful voice.

"I repeat only what I read every day in the newspapers,, and what the dear Viennese are singing and shouting in every street!" exclaimed the emperor. "Yes, yes, my dear brother, you must consent to be the hope and consolation of Austria, and to be praised as the august and invincible hero of our immediate future."

So saying, the emperor gazed with a long and searching look at his brother's form, and a scornful expression overspread his features.

Indeed, the epithets which the emperor had applied to his brother corresponded but little to the appearance of the Archduke Charles. His small, bent form, with its weak, shrivelled limbs, was not the form of a hero; his pale, wan face, with the hollow cheeks; the dim eyes deeply imbedded in their sockets, and the clouded brow, on which thin tufts of hair hung down, was not the face of a bold captain, confident of achieving brilliant triumphs by his heroic deeds, and deserving of the name of the hope and consolation of Austria. But the Austrians did call him by that name, and the glory of his military achievements, which filled not only Austria but the whole of Germany, caused them really to build their hopes on the Archduke Charles, despite his very feeble health. The Emperor Francis was aware of this; he knew that the Archdukes Charles and John were by far more popular than he was; hence he was jealous of and angry with them-nay, he almost hated them.

"You look very pale and sick to-day, my dear Archduke Charles," said the emperor, after a pause, during which he had contemplated the archduke with a searching expression.

"I am very feeble and unwell, your majesty," sighed Charles; "and but for the special request of my brother, the Archduke John, I should not have dared to come here this morning. However, I am afraid that I can do but little to comply with his wishes, and that my brother John will soon think it would have been better for him not to ask me to accompany him to your majesty."

"Ah, then, you are after all not so harmonious as I thought when I saw you entering here together!" exclaimed the emperor, laughing. "There are still differences of opinion, then, between the two pillars of my throne, and were I to lean on one, the other would totter and give way. Well, what do you want? What brought you here?"

"Your majesty, only the intense desire to dedicate our services to Austria and our emperor!" exclaimed John, enthusiastically. "We wished to implore your majesty to utter at length the word that will deliver Austria and all Germany. Your majesty, this hesitation and silence rests like a nightmare on every heart and every bosom; all eyes are fixed hopefully on your majesty: Oh, my lord and emperor; one word from your lips, and this nightmare will disappear; all hearts will rejoice in blissful ecstasy, and every bosom will expand and breathe more freely when your majesty shall utter this word: 'War! war!' We hold the sword in our hands; let the will of my august emperor give us the right now to draw the sword against him who, for years past, has swept like a destructive hurricane through all Germany, all Europe, and who tramples alike on princes and peoples, on liberty and law. Your majesty, in the name of your people, in the name of all German patriots, I bend my knees here before my lord and emperor, and thus, kneeling and full of reverence. I implore your majesty to let the hour of deliverance strike at length; let us, with joyful courage, expel the enemy who has already so long been threatening our frontiers with defiant arrogance: let us take the field against the impudent usurper, and wrest from him the laurels which he gained at Austerlitz, and of which he is so proud. Your majesty, your people are filled with warlike ardor; your faithful Tyrolese are waiting only for a signal to break their chains and rise for their beloved emperor. Your Italian provinces are longing for the day when war shall break out, in order to avenge themselves on the tyrant who promised them liberty and brought them only slavery. The hour of retribution has come for Napoleon; may your majesty consult our best interests by saying that we are to profit by this hour, and that war, a mortal struggle, is to begin now against the Emperor of the French!"

And, still bending his knees before the emperor, John looked up to him with longing, beseeching eyes.

Francis looked down on him with a gloomy air, and the noble and enthusiastic face of his brother, who was ten years younger, and much stronger and better-looking, made a disagreeable impression on him.

"Rise, brother," he said, coldly; "your knees must ache, and I, for my part, do not like such theatrical scenes at all, and such fine phrases make but little impression on my cold and prosy heart. I am accustomed to follow always my convictions, and when I advance a step, I must be sure not to fall to an abyss which some poetical hero may perhaps have merely covered for me with his flowery phrases. That I am aware of the dangers threatening us on the part of France I have proved by putting the army on the war footing, by intrusting you, Archduke John, with organizing the militia and the reserves in accordance with the plan you drew up for that purpose; and by placing you, Archduke Charles, at the head of my army and appointing you generalissimo."

"An honor, your majesty, which I accepted with reverent gratitude, although it almost crushes me at the present time," said the Archduke Charles, with a sigh. "Permit me now, your majesty, to open my heart to you, and lay my innermost thoughts at your feet. To do so, I accompanied my brother John to you. He said he would implore your majesty once more to postpone the declaration of war no longer, but utter at length the decisive word. I implored him not to do so, and not to force us to engage prematurely in a war that could not but bring the greatest calamities on Austria. But my dear brother would not listen to my remonstrances and prayers; he called me a secret friend and admirer of Napoleon; he demanded that I should at least speak out, freely and openly in your majesty's presence, and refute him if I could, or yield to him if my arguments should prove untenable. Your majesty, I have therefore complied with the wishes of my brother, the Archduke John; I have come to you, but only to say to my lord and emperor: Your majesty, I implore you, in the name of your people and your throne, do not yet unsheath the sword! Wait until our army is ready for the contest, and until our armaments are completed. Do not plunge rashly into war, lest victory escape us. A great deal remains to be done yet before we can say that our armaments are completed; and only after being fully prepared can we dare to take the field against the Emperor Napoleon and his hitherto victorious legions."

"Ah, do you hear our Fabius Cunctator, brother John, the Lion- hearted!" exclaimed the emperor, sarcastically. "Which of you is right, and whose wise advice shall I follow now-I, the poor emperor, who is not strong and sagacious enough to be his own adviser and advance a step without his brothers? John, the learned soldier, beseeches me to declare war, and Charles, the intrepid hero, implores me not to do so. What am I, the poor emperor, who cannot advise himself, and who receives too much advice from others, to do under such circumstances? Whose will must I submit to?"

"Your majesty," cried John, in dismay, "it is we that must submit; it is your will on which depends the decision. I implore your majesty to declare war, because I deem it necessary; but, if your majesty should take a different resolution, I shall submit silently and obediently."

"And I," said Charles, "requested you to postpone the declaration of war, because I do not believe that we are sufficiently prepared for the contest; but, like my brother, I shall submit silently if your majesty should take a different resolution."

"Indeed, will you do so, archdukes?" asked the emperor, in a scornful tone. "Will you be mindful of your duties as subjects, and, instead of giving me unnecessary advice, obey me silently?"

The two archdukes bowed to indicate their submissiveness. The emperor advanced a few steps, and proudly raising his head, he looked at his two brothers with a stern and imperious expression.

"Let me tell you, then, archdukes, what I, your lord and emperor, have resolved," said Francis, sternly. "I have resolved to declare war!"

Two loud cries resounded with one accord; a cry of joy burst from John's lips, a cry of dismay from those of Charles. Pale, reeling like a drunken man, the generalissimo approached the emperor and held out his hands to him with a beseeching expression.

"Your majesty," he said, "you have resolved to declare war, but you do not mean to say that it is to commence immediately?"

"That is what I mean to say," replied the emperor, sarcastically.

The Archduke Charles turned still paler than before; a strange tremor passed through his frame, his head dropped on his bosom, and a deep groan issued from his breast.

The Archduke John, forgetful of his quarrel with his brother Charles, at the sight of the latter's profound grief, hastened to him, and tenderly grasped both his hands.

"Brother," he asked, anxiously, "what is the matter? Are you unwell?"

"I am," said Charles, wiping from his forehead the large drops of sweat standing on it. "I am unwell, but I must say a few additional words to the emperor. I must disclose to him a melancholy secret of which I heard only an hour ago.-Your majesty, I implore you once more, postpone the war as long as possible; for-hear my terrible secret-we have been infamously defrauded by Commissary-General von Fassbender."

"Your intimate friend?" interposed the emperor, with a scornful laugh.

"Yes, my intimate friend," exclaimed the archduke, in a loud, shrill voice; "he deceived me most shamefully. All the army contracts had been intrusted to him, and he assured me he had filled them in the most conscientious manner. I believed him, and it is only now that I find out that he has shamefully deceived me and his emperor. All his bills for the supplies which he pretended to have furnished are in my hands, but the troops did not get the supplies. The scoundrel sent only sour flour, bad linen, and moth-eaten uniform cloth to the regiments, and yet he drew enormous sums of money for the full amount of his contracts."

"We shall compel the thief to disgorge his ill-gotten gains," cried the emperor.

"No, your majesty," said Charles, with a groan; and leaning more firmly on his brother's arm, in order not to sink to the floor, he added: "no, your majesty, the criminal is beyond the reach of your power. He escaped from human ju

stice by committing suicide an hour ago. The criminal has fled from his judges, but his crimes remain, and our army suffers in consequence of them. Now your majesty knows all, you will take back your word, and say no longer that you will declare war. You will be gracious enough to give me time to repair the injury resulting from the crimes of the commissary-general, and to provide the army with all that is unfortunately wanting to it as yet."

"No," cried the emperor vehemently, "I will not! I will not take back my word, and I had already made up my mind before you, my brothers, entered here to assist me so generously by your wisdom. War will be declared immediately; my resolution is irrevocable. I have already informed the French ambassador of it, and ordered him to leave Vienna this very day. Your warnings come just as much too late as did John's entreaties. I did what I myself deemed best; and I deemed it best to declare war against Bonaparte, in reply to his intolerable arrogance. Every thing is fixed and settled; war will commence without delay: and you, Archduke Charles, are the generalissimo of my army."

The Archduke Charles made no reply; he uttered a painful groan and sank to the floor by John's side. All his limbs trembled and quivered; his pale face became distorted, he clinched his fists, and his eyes were glassy as though he were dying.

"He has one of his fits," said the emperor calmly, looking down on his brother. "Call his servants and his doctor, Archduke John, that they may remove the generalissimo to another room and administer medicine to him."

John rushed to the door, and soon the servants and the physician, who always accompanied the Archduke Charles, hastened into the room. They lifted with practised hands the archduke, who was still writhing in convulsions, and carried him tenderly out of the room.

John, who, with touching solicitude, had remained near the sufferer, would have accompanied him; but a word from the emperor called him back.

"Stay a moment, archduke," said Francis; "the Archduke Charles only has his fits, and his servants will take care of him. I have yet to speak a few words with you. This will be a formidable war, brother, and we must see to it that it breaks out at the same time in all quarters of our empire, and that the people rise with one accord and take up arms. We have made our preparations everywhere, and our emissaries have done their duty; they have everywhere enlisted friends of our cause, and established committees which have made all necessary dispositions for the defence of the country. You yourself sent your emissary, Baron von Hormayr, to your beloved Tyrol; if I am correctly informed, he has already returned to Vienna."

"Your majesty, he arrived here this morning," said John, looking at his brother with an air of surprise and even terror.

This did not escape the emperor, and a smile of satisfaction lit up his face.

"You see, my agents serve me very well, and I am aware of all that is going on," said Francis, gravely. "I know, too, that Baron von Hormayr has returned to Vienna not alone, but accompanied by some good friends. I believe you did not come here to give me your advice, but to beg permission to receive your Tyrolese friends at your palace to-night."

"What?" asked John, surprised; "your majesty is aware of this, too?"

"I have told you already that my agents serve me very well. Let this be a warning to you not to do or undertake any thing that you would like to conceal from me. I know that Andreas Hofer is here, to concert with you some sort of plan for the insurrection of the Tyrol. Under the present circumstances I permit you to do so, for it is really important that the German and Italian Tyrol should rise; and as we are going to have war, we will strive to recover our Tyrol. But we must proceed cautiously, and the world must not find out that we instigated the Tyrolese to rise in arms. That would be setting a bad example to the other nations of our empire. We may at times profit by popular insurrections, but must beware of letting the world know that we ourselves brought them about. Hence, I do not want to know any thing of your Tyrolese, and shall not grant them an audience. But I permit you to do so, and you may tell these brave Tyrolese, too, that I should be glad if they would become again my dear subjects."

"Your majesty," exclaimed John, joyously, "these words of their emperor will be the signal for them to rise as one man, take their rifles, and expel the Evil One, that is to say, the Bavarians."

"I shall be glad to see the Tyrolese do so, and, moreover, do it in time," said the emperor, nodding his head. "Repeat my words to Andreas Hofer, brother John, and pledge him my word that, if we recover the Tyrol this time, we shall never give it up again. But Andreas Hofer must behave with great prudence, and not show himself to the public here, but keep in the background, that the police may wink at his presence in Vienna, and act as though they did not see him and his friends. And now, brother, farewell, and inquire if the generalissimo has recovered from his fit. It would be bad, indeed, if these fits should befall him once in the midst of a battle. Well, let us hope for the best for us all, and especially for the Tyrol. You have now a great task before you, John, for you will receive a command; you shall assist the Tyrolese in shaking off the foreign yoke."

"Oh, my lord and emperor," exclaimed John, with a radiant face and fiery glance, "how kind and gracious you are to-day! It is the heart of a brother that speaks out of your mouth-of a brother who wishes to make me happy, and knows how to do so. Yes, send me with a corps to the assistance of the Tyrolese; let me bring freedom and salvation to my beloved mountaineers. That is a task which fills me with boundless ecstasy, and for which I shall always be grateful and devoted to you, brother."

"Be devoted to your emperor, archduke," said Francis, smiling; "the brothers will get along well enough; they have nothing to do with politics and public affairs. Farewell, John. But, remember, we shall meet again to-day, for I shall summon the ministers and generals to a consultation, and you will, of course, be present. Once more, then, farewell!"

He nodded repeatedly to the archduke and left the room with unusual quickness. The emperor walked hastily and with a gloomy face through the adjoining room, and entered his cabinet, the door of which he closed rather noisily. "I am to let him bring freedom and salvation to his beloved mountaineers," murmured Francis to himself-"to HIS mountaineers! I believe he would be glad if they really were his, and if he could become King of the Tyrol. Well, we shall see. I have lulled his suspicion by permitting him to hold intercourse with the Tyrolese, and concert plans with them. We shall see how far my brother will go, and what his gratitude and devotion will amount to. It is a troublesome burden for me to have such dangerously ambitious and renowned brothers, against whom I must be constantly on my guard. I would I could pick them off as quickly as I remove the flies from this wall."

So saying, he took from the table the fly flap which had always to lie on it in readiness, and entered upon his favorite amusement, the pursuit of the flies on the wall and furniture, which his servants took good care not to drive from the emperor's cabinet, because Francis would never have pardoned them for spoiling his sport.

Walking along the walls with a rapid step, the emperor commenced killing the flies.

"Ha!" he exclaimed, striking a fly, "ha! brother Charles, this stroke is intended for you. Really, there lies the fly writhing, as the generalissimo did, on the floor. But he has a tougher life than the fly; for the fly will writhe until it is dead, but the generalissimo always revives; and when he has no fits, he is a very brave and illustrious man, before whom his emperor must humbly stand aside. I cannot take the fly-flap and strike his writhing limbs as I do this miserable fly, the little Archduke Charles, that is writhing on the floor there. So, now you are dead, confounded little brother Charles, and we will hunt for your brother John. See, see, there he sits on the wall, cleaning his wings and making himself tidy and pretty. There! There is an affectionate blow from your imperial brother, and you are done for. Now you will never fly to YOUR mountaineers and BRING them freedom and salvation. You will, on the contrary, stick to the wall of your emperor's room, and learn that your brother is your master. Why, this is most amusing sport to day! I shall not stop before killing a dozen Archdukes Charles and John!"

And Francis hunted eagerly on the walls and the furniture for other flies, which he pursued and killed with his fly-flap, always applying the name of Charles to one, and that of John to the next.

In the excitement of this strange sport he had not noticed that, soon after he entered the cabinet, the door had opened, and Counsellor von Hudelist had come in. Francis did not remember at that moment that he had given express orders to Hudelist to re-enter the cabinet as soon as he heard the emperor return to it; he had fixed his thoughts exclusively on the cruel pleasure of killing the flies Charles and John, and Hudelist took good care not to disturb him in this pleasant pastime. He stood leaning against the wall close to the door; his small, flashing eyes followed every motion of the emperor with rapt attention, and whenever Francis, on killing a fly, pronounced the name of either of his brothers in a triumphant tone, a malicious smile overspread the pale and ugly face of the counsellor.

Now, however, Francis, in hunting for flies, had arrived at the extreme end of the room. Until then, his back had been turned to Hudelist. If he should turn now and continue his sport on the other side of the room, he would discover him, and be disagreeably surprised at his presence. Therefore, before the emperor turned, Hudelist opened once more the door near which he was standing, and closed it rather noisily.

The emperor turned and asked gayly: "Well, what is it, Mr.

Counsellor?"

"Your Majesty ordered me to return to the cabinet as soon as you should be back."

"But I returned some time ago," said Francis, casting a distrustful, searching glance on Hudelist.

"Pardon me, your majesty, I believed I heard you only just now close the door, and had until then vainly waited for some sound in the cabinet," replied Hudelist, with a perfectly innocent expression of countenance. "The second door separating the conference-room from your majesty's cabinet is so heavily lined with cushions as to render it almost impervious to sound, and I beg your pardon again for not having heard despite the most eager attention."

The emperor's face had again entirely cleared up. "Never mind," he said; "I am glad that those in the adjoining room cannot hear what is going on here. I like to have ears for all, but do not like anybody to have ears for me. Now let me hear what you have brought for me from Paris."

"Above all things, your majesty, I succeeded in obtaining for a considerable sum of money, the receipt for making Spanish sealing- wax, from a Spanish refugee, who was formerly employed at the royal sealing-wax factory of Madrid, and was perfectly familiar with the formula for making it. Your majesty knows that this receipt is a secret, and that the officers and workmen employed at the factory must even swear an oath not to divulge it."

"And you obtained the receipt nevertheless, and brought it with you?" inquired the emperor.

"Here it is, your majesty."

Francis hastily seized the paper which Hudelist handed to him with a respectful bow.

"See, see, this is a very kind service which you have rendered me, and I shall be grateful for it!" he exclaimed. "You shall test the receipt with me alone; we will try it right away. But hold on; I must first tell you some grave news. We shall declare war. I have already told the French ambassador to leave Vienna to-day, and Metternich can come home too. I will hold a council of the ministers and generals to-day. Tell the functionaries at the chancery to inform the ministers, archdukes, and generals that I wish to see them in the conference-room at four. Make haste, and then come to my laboratory. We will try the Spanish receipt."

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