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Andreas Hofer: An Historical Novel By L. Mühlbach Characters: 24009

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03

The die was cast, then. The war with France was to break out again. There was to be no more procrastination and hesitation. The time for action was at hand.

Already the French ambassador, Andreossi, had left Vienna, and all the members of the legation had followed him. Already Clement Count Metternich had arrived at Vienna but he had not left Paris as Count Andreossi had left Vienna, quietly and unmolested, but Napoleon had caused him to be escorted to the French frontier by a detachment of gens d'armes.

And to-day, on the 9th of March, Austria was to proclaim to all Germany, by means of a public festival, that she was resolved to renew the struggle with France and risk once more the blood of her people and the existence of her imperial dynasty in order to deliver Germany from the usurper who was intent on crushing in his iron hands the liberty and independance of the German nation.

A solemn ceremony was to take place to-day on the Glacis of Vienna. The flags of the militia were to be consecrated by the Archbishop of Vienna, and the whole imperial family was to be present at the solemnity. Hence, all Vienna presented a festive appearance; all stores were closed, and no one was seen following his every-day avocations. The Viennese had made a holiday; no one would toil for his daily bread; all wished to refresh themselves only with mental food, and greet with their glances and acclamations the noble men who were to take the field for the salvation of the fatherland.

The people were surging in dense masses toward the glacis, rushing with irresistible impetuosity into the empty ditches, and climbing the trees on their edges, or gaining some other standpoint whence they could survey the solemnity which was to take place on the broad promenade of the glacis. On the large rondel of the glacis had been erected a tribune whose golden-broidered velvet canopy was surmounted by a very large imperial crown; four golden double-headed eagles adorned the four corners of the canopy, and held in their beaks the colors of Austria and Hungary. Under the canopy stood gilt arm-chairs, with cushions of purple velvet. This was the tribune destined for the emperor and his family; all eyes were riveted upon it, and all hearts longed to greet the sovereign, and thank him for the proud happiness of this hour.

Further on rose other and no less splendidly decorated tribunes, the seats of which had been sold at enormous rates to the aristocracy and wealthy citizens of Vienna for the benefit of the militia; and thousands had found seats on the trees surrounding the broad promenade and the rondel, and paid for their airy perches only with some pains and bruises.

Since early dawn this pilgrimage to the glacis had been going on; by ten o'clock all seats, roads, tribunes, trees, ditches, and bridges, were occupied by a dense crowd; and, in order to prevent accidents, the authorities had already ordered all approaches to the glacis to be closed.

On the broad promenade, too, matters assumed a very lively aspect. The militia marched up with banners unfurled and drums beating. They drew up in line on both sides of the road, and their officers and standard-bearers repaired to the large rondel where another had been constructed in face of the imperial tribune. They ranged themselves around the altar, on whose steps priests in full vestments were kneeling, and which was surmounted by a gigantic crucifix, visible to all spectators far and near, and waving to all its blessings and love-greetings.

And now all the church-steeples commenced ringing their peals; the iron tongues of their bells proclaimed to the inhabitants of Vienna, and to the many thousands of strangers who had come to witness the solemnity, that the emperor with his con-art and his children had left the Hofburg, and was approaching the glacis, followed by his suite. The militia assumed a stiff military attitude, the drums rolled, the cannon boomed, the bugles sounded merry notes, and the emperor, leading his consort by the hand, entered the tribune. He looked pale; his form was bent, and trembling as if shaken by an inward fever; and even more singular appeared his down-hanging under-lip and the gloomy, morose expression of his lustreless blue eyes. But the people did not see this; they saw only that their emperor had arrived-their emperor, who had resolved to deliver Austria from the ignominious foreign yoke; who would die with his subjects rather than longer bear the arrogance of France; and who boldly and courageously staked all in order to win all, to restore at length a lasting peace to Austria and Germany, and vindicate their honor and independence. For this reason all hearts greeted the Emperor Francis with love and exultation, and he was received with deafening and constantly-renewed cheers.

The emperor received with a forced smile the flattering homage which was rendered to him, but more radiant was the smile of his consort; in her dark and glowing eyes glistened tears of joyful emotion, when she glanced at this jubilant mass of spectators and the enthusiastic regiments of the militia. She was also full of exultation; she did not, however, give vent to her feelings, but pent them up in her heart, owing to the moroseness of her imperial husband.

In the midst of a fresh outburst of popular enthusiasm, Francis bent over the empress. "I suppose you are well satisfied now, empress?" he asked. "You have attained your object; all of you have fanned the flame until war is ready to break out, and every thing will go again topsy-turvy. But I tell you, empress, we shall fail again; I do not believe that we shall conquer."

"Well, your majesty, then we shall succumb and die, but it will be an honorable defeat. It is better to perish in a just and honorable struggle than submit patiently to foreign usurpation."

"A very nice phrase, but the practical execution of such ideas is sometimes by far more unpleasant than the theory which they express. I am afraid you will have good reason to regret this day, and-but what fearful noise is this again? The people are cheering as though they were welcoming God Almighty Himself. What is it?"

"Your majesty," said Ludovica, gazing timidly into her husband's face, "I believe the people are cheering the Archdukes Charles and John, for they are just walking along the ranks of the militia."

"Ah, my brothers!" murmured the emperor, with an angry expression, which, however, disappeared again immediately; "the people are cheering my brothers as though they were two divinities from whom alone they expect salvation and prosperity."

"Your majesty, the people cheer the archdukes because they are the brothers of the emperor, and because the confidence of your majesty has placed them at the head of the Austrian armies to lead them to battle, and, if it please God, to victory. It is your majesty alone that appointed the Archduke Charles generalissimo of all your forces, and the Archduke John commander of the army of Lower Austria."

"Yes, I did so, for, blessed as I am with brothers so heroic and spirited, I must of course distinguish and employ them in accordance with their merits; otherwise they might believe I was jealous of their glory and splendor. This would be entirely false, for, so far from being jealous of them, I love them dearly, and give them now again another opportunity to gain laurels, as they did in 1805. It is true, my brother the generalissimo, was not victorious at Austerlitz, and my brother John has likewise sustained many a defeat; but that does not prevent them from being heroes and great men. Just listen to the roars with which the people greet them! Jesus Maria! I hope the generalissimo will not have his fits from excessive joy."

Ludovica cast a quick, mournful glance on the maliciously smiling face of her husband. "Your majesty need not be alarmed," she said; "your tender apprehensions will fortunately not be fulfilled. You see that the archduke is quite well; he is just addressing his troops."

"Yes, yes, I know his speech. M. von Gentz wrote it for him and I permitted him to deliver it. Ah, it abounds with fine phrases, and my dear Austrians will be astonished on hearing what liberal men we have become all of a sudden, and what grand ideas of liberty, equality, and popular sovereignty we have adopted. Just listen to him! the conclusion is very fine, and sounds just as though the Marseillaise had been translated into the language of the Austrians."

"Soldiers," shouted the archduke, at this moment, in a loud, ringing voice. "the liberty of Europe has taken refuge under the flag of Austria; the rights, freedom, and honor of all Germany expect their salvation only of our armies. Never shall they, instruments of oppression, carry on in foreign countries the endless wars of a destructive ambition, annihilate innocent nations, and with their own corpses pave for foreign conquerors the road leading to usurped thrones. Soldiers, we take up arms only for the liberty, honor, and rights of all Germany; it is these sacred boons that we have to defend!" [Footnote: Hormayr, "Allgemeine Geschichte," vol. iii., p. 219.]

A long-continued, deafening outburst of applause both of the soldiers and the people was the reply to the stirring address of the generalissimo; but suddenly every sound was hushed, for at the altar, yonder by the side of the tall crucifix, appeared now the archbishop, accompanied by the whole body of the high clergy.

The emperor rose from his seat and bowed humbly and devoutly to the prelate who had been the teacher of his youth, and had afterward married him three times, the last time only a few months ago.

And now the archdukes marched the troops into the middle of the place, and the consecration of the flags commenced amid the peals of all the church-bells and the booming of artillery.

The emperor looked on, standing, bareheaded, and with hands clasped in prayer. Ludovica turned her eyes heavenward, and her lips moved in a low, fervent prayer. Behind them stood the young archdukes and archduchesses, muttering prayers, and yet glancing around curiously; and the cavaliers of the imperial couple, looking gloomy, and plainly showing in their sombre faces the rage that filled their hearts.

The ceremony being finished, the archbishop lifted up his hands and stretched them out toward the soldiers. "Adieu, until we meet again," he exclaimed with a radiant air, and in a voice of joyful enthusiasm; "adieu, until we meet again at the hour of danger!"

"Adieu, until we meet again at the hour of danger!" echoed the soldiers with enthusiasm. Seeing then that the archbishop bent his knees, they knelt likewise and bowed their heads in prayer. Hushed was every sound on the vast place. Only the church-bells were pealing and the artillery was booming in the distance, and the murmur of the devout prayers which rose to God from so many pious hearts broke the silence.

In the fervent enthusiasm of this hour no one felt the least timidity, no one looked anxiously into the future. Even the mothers did not shed tears for their sons who were about to take the field; the affianced brides allowed their lovers to depart without uttering complaints or weeping at the thought of their impending departure; wives took leave of their husbands with joyous courage, pressing their infants to their breasts and commending them trustingly to God's protection. The patriotic enthusiasm had seized all, and carried away even the coldest and most selfish hearts. The rich contributed their money with unwonted liberality; those who were in less favorable circumstances laid down their plate and valuables on the altar of the country; the mechanics offered to work gratuitously for the army; the women scraped lint and organized associations for the relief of the wounded; the young men offered their life-blood to the fatherland, and considered it as a favor that their services were no

t rejected.

The long-concealed hatred against France burst forth in bright flames throughout Austria and Germany; the war was hailed with rapturous enthusiasm, and every heart longed to take part in this struggle, which seemed to all a war of holy vengeance and retribution. For the first time in long years Austria felt again thoroughly identified with Germany, while the other Germans were looking upon Austria as a German state and holding out their hands to their Austrian brethren, telling them that they sympathized most vividly with the ends which then were trying to attain.

But while the utmost exultation was reigning among the people and the soldiers on this joyful day, a gloomy silence prevailed in the imperial palace. The joyous mask with which the generalissimo, the Archduke Charles, had covered his face while on the glacis, had disappeared from it so soon as he had returned to his rooms. Pale and faint, he rested in an easy-chair, and, fixing his sombre eyes an his quartermaster-general, Count Gruenne, he said: "My friend, listen to that which I am going to say to you now, and which you will remember one day. I have objected three times in the most emphatic manner to this declaration of war, for I know that our preparations are not sufficiently matured, and I know also that I have here in Austria powerful enemies who are intent on impeding all my efforts, and who will shrink from nothing in order to ruin me, and with me you too, my poor friend. The whole aristocracy is hostile to me, and will never allow the emperor's brothers to set bounds to its oligarchy by their merits and influence; it will always oppose us, even though it should endanger thereby the power and honor of the fatherland. I know all the perils and intrigues surrounding me, and because I know them I tried to avoid them, opposed the war, and strove to get rid at least of the command-in- chief. But the emperor would not allow me to do so; he ordered me to accept the arduous position of generalissimo of his forces, and, as his subject, I had to obey him. But I repeat it, this will be a disastrous war for Austria, and I look with gloomy forebodings into the future."

And as gloomy as the generalissimo's face was that of his brother, the Emperor Francis. He had retired into his cabinet, and strode growlingly up and down, holding the fly-flap in his hand, and striking savagely at the flies which his searching eyes discovered here and there on the wall.

Suddenly the door opened, and the footman announced the Archduke John. The emperor's face became even more morose. He cast the fly- flap aside, and murmured to himself, "My brothers never leave me any rest." He then said in a loud voice, "Let him come in."

A minute afterward the archduke entered the cabinet. His face was still joyously lit up by the soul-stirring solemnity in which he had participated in the morning; his eye was yet radiant with noble enthusiasm and exultation, and a serene smile played around his lips. Thus he appeared before his brother, whose face seemed doubly gloomy in the presence of his own.

"I come to take leave of your majesty and bid farewell to my brother Francis," he said, in a mild, tender voice. "I intend to set out to- night for Gratz, and organize my staff there."

"God bless you, commander of the Southern army!" said the emperor, dryly; "God bless you, brother. You were all eager for war; now you have it!"

"And your majesty has witnessed the enthusiasm with which the Austrian people hailed the declaration of war. And not only the people of Austria, but all Germany, looks now with joy, hope, and pride toward Austria, and participates most cordially in our warlike enthusiasm."

"I do not care for that," said the emperor, dryly. "Thank God, I cast off the crown of Germany three years ago, and am no longer Emperor of Germany."

"But one day, when your armies have conquered France and delivered the world from the insatiable usurper, Germany will gratefully lie down at your majesty's feet and beseech you to accept the imperial crown again at her hands."

"Much obliged, sir, but I would not take it," exclaimed the emperor, with a shrug. "But say, brother, are you really convinced that we can and shall conquer Bonaparte?"

"I am. We shall conquer, if-"

"Well, if-"asked the emperor, when the archduke hesitated.

"If we are really determined to do so," said John, looking the emperor full in the face; "if we act harmoniously, if we do not impede each other, if no petty jealousies favor the efforts of one and frustrate those of the other. Oh, brother, permit me at this farewell hour to utter a few frank and truthful words, and I beg your majesty to forgive me if my heart opens to you in unreserved confidence. Brother, I confess frankly all is not as it should be here. Where concord should reign; there is discord; where all should have their eyes fixed only on the great goal, and avail themselves of all means and forces, they are split up into factions bitterly hostile to each other. Oh, my gracious emperor, I beseech you, do not listen to these factions, do not confide in those who would like to arouse your suspicion against your brothers. Believe me, you have no more loyal, devoted, and obedient subject than I am; therefore, confide in me, who wish only to contribute to the greatness, honor, and glory of my country and my emperor, to the best of my power, however insignificant it may be. My brother, there has long been a gulf between us; God knows that I did not dig it. But let us fill it up forever at this farewell hour. I implore you, believe in my love, my devoted loyalty; take me by the hand and say, `John, I trust you! I believe in you!' See, I am waiting for these words as for the blessing which is to accompany me into battle, and rest on my heart like a talisman. Brother, speak these words of love and confidence! Give me your hand-open your arms to your brother!"

"Why should we enact here a sentimental scene?" asked the emperor, harshly. "I do not like such things, and want to see family dramas only performed on the stage. Thank God, I am not a theatrical emperor, but a real one, and will have nothing to do with scenes from plays. Nor do I know of any gulfs existing between you and me. I never perceived them, and was never disturbed thereby. But why do you protest your love and loyalty in so passionate a manner to me? Who tells you, then, that I suspect them? That would be equivalent to considering my brother a traitor, and it would be very unfortunate for him; for toward traitors I shall always be inexorable, whosoever they may be, and whether they be persons of high or low rank. Let us speak no longer of it. But, besides, you have again advised me, without being requested to do so, and demand that I should not listen to any factions. I never do, brother. I never listen to any factions, neither to yours, nor to that of the others. I listen only to myself, and require submissiveness and obedience of my servants. You are one of the latter; go, then, and obey me. I have resolved on war; go, then, to your corps and fight, as you are in duty bound, for your emperor and for Austria; Defeat Napoleon if you can. You are playing a game which may easily become dangerous to ourselves. You have stirred up an insurrection in the Tyrol; you will have to bear the responsibility if this insurrection shall be unsuccessful."

"I will bear it, and God will forgive what I have done!" said John, solemnly. "Your majesty, you would not listen to the brother who offered you his love frankly and honestly. I have nothing to add to what I have said, nor shall I ever snake another attempt to gain your confidence."

"Is that intended as a threat?" asked the emperor, angrily.

"No," said John, mournfully, "I do not threaten you. I shall always bear in mind that I loved you, and that you are not only my lord and emperor, but also the son of my mother."

"And I," cried the emperor, vehemently, "shall always bear in mind that you were the head of the faction which, by its insensate clamor for war, first aroused Napoleon's anger, brought about demonstrations and armaments on our part, and finally obliged me to resolve on war, although I know full well that this resolution will inevitably involve Austria in great disaster. Let me likewise speak a farewell word to you, brother. We shall succumb again, although my wise and learned brothers are at the head of the army. I consulted the most experienced and sagacious men. I myself paid a visit to Count Cobenzl, who is lying at the point of death, and asked his opinion. He hates Napoleon as ardently as any one, and yet he is in favor of peace. I consulted the Prince de Ligne and Minister Thugut; one is an ambitious captain, the other a vindictive diplomatist, who would like to overthrow Napoleon; and yet both were for peace with France, and I will tell you the reason why: because they know that among all my captains and generals there is not one determined and able enough to cope with Napoleon and his marshals: because they knew that even my brother Charles, the generalissimo, is vacillating and irresolute; and because they do not know what an eminent captain the Archduke John would be, if he only had a chance to show his military talents. If, despite all this, I resolved on war, it was because circumstances, and not my convictions, obliged me to do it- circumstances which were mostly brought about by you and your friends."

"Your majesty," said John, in a grave and dignified manner, "permit me to say a few words in reply to what you have just said. You allude to my military talents, which you say I have not had a chance to show. Well, give me such a chance; deliver me from the surveillance tying my hands; let me pursue my path as your general freely and without restrictions, and I pledge you my word that I will reconquer the Tyrol and your Italian provinces."

"See, see, what a nice plan!" exclaimed the emperor, laughing. "You wish to be another generalissimo, and independent of any other commander's will?"

"No, your majesty; I wish to obtain only equal rights and authority to deliberate and decide jointly with my brother Charles."

"It is very bold in you, sir, thus to oppose your generalissimo," said the emperor, sternly. "To-day you will no longer obey the generalissimo-to-morrow you will perhaps refuse to obey the emperor. Not another word about it! Go and do your duty. The Archduke Charles is generalissimo, and you will submit to his orders and instructions. Farewell, brother; may God and the Holy Virgin bless you and your army!"

"Farewell, your majesty," said the archduke, bowing ceremoniously to the emperor. He then turned hastily and left the room.

The emperor looked after him with an angry air. "I believe the two archdukes will thwart each other on all occasions," he said, in a low voice. "There will not only be war with France, but also war between the factions in Austria, and the consequence will be, that my brothers will gain but very few laurels."

The Archduke John returned slowly to his rooms. After entering his cabinet, he sank on the divan, as if crushed and heart-broken. He sat a long time in silence, his head bent on his breast, and uttering from time to time heart-rending groans. After a long pause, he slowly lifted his tearful eyes to heaven.

"Thou knowest, my God," he said, in a low voice, "that my intentions are good and pure, and that I desire nothing but to serve my country and deliver it from the disgrace which it has had to submit to for so many years past. Thou knowest that I wish nothing for myself, but all for the fatherland. Help me, my God, help our poor, unfortunate Austria! Let us not succumb and perish! Grant victory to our arms! O Austria, O Germany, why can I not purchase liberty and independence for you with my blood? But. I can at least I shall welcome this if my dying eyes can behold liberty dawning upon Germany!"

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