Louisa of Prussia and Her Times

Contents:
Author: Luise Mühlbach

Chapter LI. Judith.

Marianne was awakened after a short and calm slumber by the low sound of stealthy steps approaching her couch. She opened her eyes hastily, and beheld her mistress of ceremonies, who stood at her bedside, holding in her hand a golden salver with a letter on it.

"What, Camilla," she asked, in terror, "you have not yet dispatched the letter which I gave you last night? Did I not instruct you to have it delivered by the footman early in the morning?"

"Yes, your highness, and I have faithfully carried out your orders."

"Well, and this letter?"

"Is the major’s reply. Your highness ordered me to awaken you as soon as the footman would bring the answer."

Marianne hastily seized the letter and broke the seal.

"He will come," she said, loudly and joyfully, after reading the few lines the letter contained. "What o’clock is it, Camilla?"

"Your highness, it is just ten o’clock."

"And I am looking for visitors already at eleven o’clock. Quick, Madame Camilla, tell my maid to arrange every thing in the dressingroom. Please see to it yourself that I may find there an elegant, rich, and not too matronly, morning costume."

"Will your highness put on the dress which Lord Paget received the other day for you from Loudon?" asked Madame Camilla. "Your highness has never yet worn it, and his lordship would doubtless rejoice at seeing your highness in this charming costume."

"I do not expect Lord Paget," said Marianne, with a stern glance; "besides, you ought to confine your advice to matters relating to my toilet. Do not forget it any more. Now bring me my chocolate, I will take it in bed. In the mean time cause an invigorating, perfumed bath to be prepared, and tell the cook that I wish him to serve up a sumptuous breakfast for two persons in the small dining-room in the course of an hour. Go."

Madame Camilla withdrew to carry out the various orders her mistress had given her, but she did not do so joyfully and readily as usual, but with a grave face and careworn air.

"There is something going on," she whispered, slowly gliding down the corridor. "Yes, there is something going on, and at length I shall have an opportunity for spying and reporting what I have discovered. Well, I get my pay from two men, from the French governor of Vienna and from Lord Paget. Would to God I could serve both of them to-day! As for Lord Paget, I have already some news for him, for Mr. von Gentz was with her last night, and remained for two hours; my mistress then wrote a letter to Major von Brandt, which I had to dispatch early in the morning. And this is exactly the point, concerning which I do not know whether it ought to be reported to my French customer or to the English lord. Well, I will consider the matter. I will watch every step of hers, for it is certain that something extraordinary is going on here, and I want to know what it is."

And, after taking this resolution, Madame Camilla accelerated her steps to deliver the orders of the princess to the cook. An hour later, the lady’s maid had finished the toilet of the princess, who approached the large looking-glass in order to cast a last critical look on her appearance.

A charming smile of satisfaction overspread her fair face when she beheld her enchanting image in the glass, and she said, with a triumphant air, "Yes, it is true, this woman is beautiful enough even to court the favor of an emperor. Do you not think so, too, Madame Camilla?"

Madame Camilla had watched, with a very attentive and grave face, every word her mistress tittered, but now she hastened to smile.

"Your highness," she said, "if we lived still in the days of the ancient gods, I would not trust any butterfly nor any bird, nay, not even a gold-piece, for, behind every thing, I should suspect Jove disguised, for the purpose of surprising my beautiful mistress."

Marianne laughed. "Ah, how learned you are," she said. "You refer even to the disguised bull of poor Europa and to the golden rain of Danae. But fear not; no disguised god will penetrate into my rooms, for unhappily the time of gods and demi-gods is past."

"Nevertheless, those arrogant French would like to make the world believe that M. Bonaparte had restored that time," said Madame Camilla, with a contemptuous air; "they would like to persuade us that the son of that Corsican lawyer was a last and belated son of Jove."

"Oh!" exclaimed Marianne, triumphantly; "the world shall discover soon enough that he is nothing but a miserable son of earth, and that his immortality, too, will find sufficient room between six blackboards. I know, Camilla, you hate the usurper as ardently, as bitterly and vindictively as I do, and this hatred is the sympathetic link uniting me with you. Well, let me tell you that your hatred will speedily be gratified, and that your vindictiveness will be satiated. Pray to God, Camilla, that He may bless the hand about to be raised against the tyrant; pray to God that He may sharpen the dagger which may soon be aimed at his heart! The world has suffered enough; it is time that it should find an avenger of its wrongs!"

"Major von Brandt," announced a footman, entering the room.

"Conduct the major to the drawing-room," said Marianne, hastily; "I will join him directly."

She cast a last triumphant look on the mirror, and then left the room.

Madame Camilla watched her, with a scowl, until the door had closed behind her. "Now I know whom I have to inform of her doings," she muttered. "They concern the French governor; I have to take pains, however, to find out more about her schemes, so that my report may embrace as much important information as possible. The better the news, the better the pay."

Marianne had meanwhile gone to the drawing-room. A tall, elderly officer, in Austrian uniform, with the epaulets of a major, came to meet her, and bent down to kiss reverentially the hand which she offered to him.

Marianne saluted him with a fascinating smile. "You have entirely forgotten me, then, major?" she asked. "It was necessary for me to invite you in order to induce you to pay me a visit?"

"I did not know whether I might dare to appear before you, most gracious princess," said the major, respectfully. "The last time I had the honor of waiting on you, I met your highness in the circle of your distinguished friends who used to be mine, too. But nobody had a word of welcome, a pleasant smile for me, and your highness, it seemed to me, did not notice me during the whole evening. Whenever I intended to approach you, you averted your face and entered into so animated a conversation with one of the bystanders, that I could not venture to interrupt it. Hence I withdrew, my heart filled with grief and despair, for I certainly believed that your highness wished to banish me from your reception-room forever."

"And you consoled yourself for this banishment in the reception-room of the French governor whom the great Emperor Napoleon had given to the good city of Vienna, I suppose?" asked the princess, with an arch smile. "And you would have never come back to me unless I had taken the bold resolution to invite you to my house?"

"By this invitation you have rendered me the happiest of mortals, most gracious princess," exclaimed the major, emphatically. "You have reopened to me the gates of Paradise, while, in my despair, I believed them to be closed against me forever."

"Confess, major," said Marianne, laughing, "that you did not make the slightest attempt to see whether these gates were merely ajar or really closed. Under the present circumstances we may speak honestly and frankly to each other. You believed me to be an ardent patriot, one of those furious adversaries of the French and their rule, who do not look upon Napoleon as a hero and genius, but only as a tyrant and usurper. Because I was the intimate friend of Lord Paget and M. von Gentz, of the Princesses von Carolath and Clary, of the Countess von Colloredo, and Count Cobenzl, you believed that my political sentiments coincided with theirs?"

"Yes, your highness, indeed that is what I believed," said Major von Brandt, "and as you want me to tell the truth, I will confess that it was the reason why I did not venture to appear again in your drawing-room. I have never denied that I am an enthusiastic admirer of that great man who is conquering and subjugating the whole world, because God has destined him to be its master. Hence, I never was able to comprehend the audacity of those who instigated our gracious and noble Emperor Francis to wage war against the victorious hero, and as a true and sincere patriot I now bless the dispensations of fate which compels us to make peace with Napoleon the Great, for Austria can regain her former prosperity only by maintaining peace and harmony with France. The war against France has brought the barbarian hordes of Russia to Germany; after the conclusion of peace, France will assist us in expelling these unclean and unwelcome guests from the soil of our fatherland."

Marianne had listened to him smilingly and with an air of unqualified assent. Only once a slight blush, as if produced by an ebullition of suppressed anger, had mantled her cheeks—only for a brief moment she had frowned, but she quickly overcame her indignation and appeared as smiling and serene as before.

"I am precisely of your opinion, my dear major," she said, with a fascinating nod.

"Your highness assents to the views I have just uttered?" exclaimed the major, in joyful surprise.

"Do you doubt it still?" she asked. "Have I followed, then, the example of all my friends, even that of Lord Paget and Gentz? Have I fled from the capital because the Emperor Napoleon, with his army, has turned his victorious steps toward Vienna? No, I have remained, to the dismay of all of them; I have remained, although my prolonged sojourn in Vienna has deprived me of two of my dearest friends, and brought about an everlasting rupture between myself and Lord Paget, as well as Herr von Gentz. I have remained because I was unable to withstand any longer the ardent yearning of my heart—because I wished to get at length a sight of the hero to whom the whole world is bowing. But look, my footman comes to tell me that my breakfast has been served. You must consent to be my guest to-day and breakfast with me."

She took the major’s arm and went with him to the dining-room. In the middle of it a table had been set, on which splendid pates, luscious tropical fruits, and well-spiced salamis agreeably surprised the major by their appetizing odor, while golden Rhenish wine and dark Tokay in the white decanters seemed to beckon him.

They took seats at the table in elastic, soft arm-chairs, and for a while the conversation was interrupted, for the pastry and the other dainty dishes absorbed their whole attention. The major, who was noted for his epicurism, enjoyed the delicacies served up to him with the profound seriousness and immovable tranquillity of a philosopher. Besides, the princess shared his enjoyment after a while by her conversation, sparkling with wit and humor; she was inexhaustible in telling piquant anecdotes and merry bon-mots; she portrayed her friends and acquaintances in so skilful a manner that the major did not know whether to admire their striking resemblance or the talent with which she rendered their weak traits most conspicuous.

When they had reached the dessert, the princess made a sign to the footman to leave the room, and she remained alone with the major. With her own fair hand she poured fragrant Syracusan wine into his glass, and begged him to drink the health of Napoleon the Great.

"And your highness will not do me the honor to take wine with me?" asked the major, pointing at the empty glass of the princess.

She smiled and shook her head. "I never drink wine," she said; "wine is a magician who suddenly tears the mask from my face and compels my lips to speak the truth which they would otherwise, perhaps, never have uttered. But I will make an exception this time; this time I will fill my glass, for I must drink the health of the great emperor. Pour some wine into it, and let us cry: ’Long live Napoleon the Great!’"

She drank some of the fiery southern wine, and her prediction was fulfilled. The wine took the mask from her face, and loosened the fetters of her tongue.

Her eyes beamed now with the fire of enthusiasm, and the rapturous praise of Napoleon flowed from her lips like a torrent of the most glowing poetry.

She was wondrously beautiful in her enthusiastic ardor, with the flaming blush on her cheeks, with her flashing eyes and quivering lips, the sweet smile of which showed two rows of pearly teeth.

"Oh," exclaimed the major, fascinated by her loveliness, "why is the great emperor not here—why does he not hear your enchanting words— why is he not permitted to admire you in your radiant beauty!"

"Why am I not allowed to hasten to him in order to sink down at his feet and worship him?" exclaimed Marianne, fervently. "Why am I not allowed to lie for a blissful hour before him on my knees in order to beg with scalding tears his pardon for the hatred which formerly filled my soul against him, and to confess to him that my hatred has been transformed into boundless love and ecstatic adoration? Where shall I find the friend who will pity my longing, and open for me the path leading to him? Such a friend I should reward with a goldpiece for every minute of my bliss, for every minute I should be allowed to remain near the great emperor."

"Do you speak in earnest, your highness?" asked Major von Brandt, gravely and almost solemnly.

"In solemn earnest!" asseverated Marianne. "A gold-piece for every minute of an interview with the Emperor Napoleon."

"Well, then," said the major, joyfully, "I shall procure this interview for you, your highness, and your beauty and fascinating loveliness will cause the emperor not to count the minutes, nor the hours either, so that it will be only necessary for me to reduce the hours to minutes."

"A gold-piece for every minute!" repeated Marianne, whose face was radiant with joy and happiness. "Oh, you look at me doubtingly, you believe that I am only joking, and shall not keep afterward what I am now promising."

"Most gracious princess, I believe that enthusiasm has carried you away to a promise the acceptance of which would be an abuse of your generosity. Suppose the emperor, fascinated by your wit, your beauty, your charming conversation, should remain four hours with you, that would be a very handsome number of gold pieces for me!"

Instead of replying to him, Marianne took the silver bell and rang it.

"Bring me pen, ink, and paper, a burning candle and sealing-wax," she said to the footman who entered.

In a few minutes every thing had been brought to her, and Marianne hastily wrote a few lines. She then drew the seal-ring from her finger and affixed her seal to the paper, which she handed to the major.

"Read it aloud," she said.

The major read:

"I promise to Major von Brandt, in case he should procure me an interview with the Emperor Napoleon, to pay him for every minute of this interview a louis-d’or as a token of my gratitude."

"MARIANNE, PRINCESS VON EIBENBERG."

"Are you content and convinced?" asked the princess.

"I am, your highness."

"And you will and can procure me this interview?"

"I will and can do so."

"When will you conduct me to Schonbrunn?"

The major reflected some time, and seemed to make a calculation. "I hope to be able to procure for your highness to-morrow evening an interview with the emperor," he said. "I am quite well acquainted with M. de Bausset, intendant of the palace, and I besides know Constant, his majesty’s valet de chambre. These are the two channels through which the wish of your highness will easily reach the emperor, and as his majesty is a great admirer of female beauty, he will assuredly be ready to grant the audience applied for."

"Will you bring me word to-day?" asked Marianne.

"Yes, princess, to-day. I will immediately repair to Schonbrunn. The emperor arrived there yesterday."

"Hasten, then," said Marianne, rising from her seat—"hasten to Schonbrunn, and remember that I am waiting for your return with trembling impatience and suspense."

She gave her hand to the major.

"Good Heaven, your highness!" he exclaimed, in terror, "your hand is as cold as marble."

"All my blood is here," she said, pointing to her heart. "Hasten to Schonbrunn."

He imprinted a kiss on her hand and left the room.

Marianne smiled until the door had closed behind him. Then her features underwent a sudden change, and assumed an air of horror and contempt.

"Oh, these miserable men, these venal souls!" she muttered. "They measure every thing by their own standard, and cannot comprehend the longings and schemes of a great soul. Accursed be all those who turn traitors to their country and adhere to its enemies! May the wrath of God and the contempt of their fellow-creatures punish them! But I will use the traitors as tools for the purpose of accomplishing the sacred task which the misfortunes of Germany have obliged me to undertake. I will put my house in order, that I may be ready when the hour has come."

Madame Camilla was right, indeed; something was going on, and she was able to collect important news for the French governor.

The Princess von Eibenberg, since her interview with the major, had been a prey to a feverish agitation and impatience which caused her to wander restlessly through the various rooms of her mansion. At length, toward evening, the major returned, and the news he had brought must have been highly welcome, for the countenance of the princess had been ever since radiant with joy, and a wondrous smile was constantly playing on her lips.

During the following night she was incessantly engaged in writing, and Madame Camilla as well as the maid were waiting in vain for their mistress to call them; the princess did not leave her cabinet, and did not go to bed at all. Early next morning she took a ride in her carriage, and Madame Camilla, who had heretofore invariably accompanied the princess on her rides, was ordered to stay at home. When Marianne returned after several hours, she was pale and exhausted, and her eyes showed that she had wept. Then officers of the city courts made their appearance, and asked to see the princess, stating that she had sent for them. The princess locked her room while conferring with them, and the officers withdrew only after several hours. At the dinner-table, to which, by her express orders, no guests had been admitted to-day, she scarcely touched any food, and seemed absorbed in deep reflections.

Soon after dinner she repaired to her dressing-room, and never before had she been so particular and careful in choosing the various articles of her costume; never before had she watched her toilet with so much attention and anxiety. At last the work was finished, and the princess looked radiantly beautiful in her crimson velvet dress, floating behind her in a long train, and fastened under her bosom, only half veiled by a clear lace collar, by means of a wide, golden sash. Her hair, framing her expansive brow in a few black ringlets a la Josephine, was tied up in a Greek knot, adorned with pearls and diamonds. Similar jewels surrounded her queenly neck and the splendidly-shaped snow-white arms. Her cheeks were transparently pale to-day, and a gloomy, sinister fire was burning in her large black eyes.

She looked beautiful, proud, and menacing, like Judith, who has adorned herself for the purpose of going to the tent of Holofernes. Madame Camilla could not help thinking of it when she now saw the princess walk across the room in her proud beauty, and with her stern, solemn air. Madame Camilla could not help thinking of it when she saw the princess draw an oblong, flashing object from a case which the mistress of ceremonies had never beheld before, and hastily concealed it in her bosom.

Was it, perhaps, a dagger, and was the princess a modern Judith, going to kill a modern Holofernes in her voluptuous arms?

The footman now announced that Major von Brandt was waiting for the princess in the reception-room, and that the carriage was at the door. A slight shudder shook the whole frame of the princess, and her cheeks turned even paler than before. She ordered the foot-man to withdraw, and then made a sign to Madame Camilla to give her her cloak and bonnet. Camilla obeyed silently. When the princess was ready to depart, she turned to Camilla, and, drawing a valuable diamond ring from her finger, she handed it to her.

"Take this ring as a souvenir from me," she said. "I know you are a good and enthusiastic Austrian; like myself, you hate the tyrant who wants to subjugate us, and you will bless the hand which will order him to stop, and put au end to his victorious career. Farewell"

She nodded once more to her and left her cabinet to go to the reception-room, where Major von Brandt was waiting for her.

"Come," she said, hastily, "it is high time. I hope you have got a watch with you, so as to be able to count the minutes."

"Yes, your highness," said Major von Brandt, smiling, "I have got my watch with me, and I shall have the honor of showing it to you before you enter the imperial cabinet."

Marianne made no reply, but rapidly crossed the room to go downstairs to the carriage waiting at the door. Major von Brandt hastened after her and offered his arm to her.

Madame Camilla, who had not lost a single word of her short conversation with Major von Brandt, followed the princess downstairs, and remained standing humbly at the foot of it till the princess and her companion had entered the carriage and the coach door had been closed.

But no sooner had the brilliant carriage of the princess rolled out of the court-yard in front of her mansion, than Madame Camilla hastened into the street, entered a hack, and ordered the coachman to drive her to the residence of the French governor as fast as his horses could run.

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Chicago: Luise Mühlbach, "Chapter LI. Judith.," Louisa of Prussia and Her Times, ed. CM01B10.Txt - 149 Kb, CM01B10.Zip - 56 Kb and trans. Coleman, Chapman, Mrs., 1813-1891 in Louisa of Prussia and Her Times (New York: The Modern Library Publishers, 1918), Original Sources, accessed August 9, 2022, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=4TEF5KWMNEZPZPJ.

MLA: Mühlbach, Luise. "Chapter LI. Judith." Louisa of Prussia and Her Times, edited by CM01B10.Txt - 149 Kb, CM01B10.Zip - 56 Kb, and translated by Coleman, Chapman, Mrs., 1813-1891, in Louisa of Prussia and Her Times, New York, The Modern Library Publishers, 1918, Original Sources. 9 Aug. 2022. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=4TEF5KWMNEZPZPJ.

Harvard: Mühlbach, L, 'Chapter LI. Judith.' in Louisa of Prussia and Her Times, ed. and trans. . cited in 1918, Louisa of Prussia and Her Times, The Modern Library Publishers, New York. Original Sources, retrieved 9 August 2022, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=4TEF5KWMNEZPZPJ.