Joseph II and His Court

Author: Luise Mühlbach

Chapter LI. Marianne’s Disappearance.

Kaunitz remained true to his policy in the drama of "The Emperor and the Dairy-Maid." He allowed things to run their course. Twice a week, Eberhard came with additional information to which the minister listened with deep interest, but his interest never took the shape of action. What did he care?

"This imperial idyl is a disease," thought he. "It will have its crisis by and by, like a cutaneous eruption. Let it come. Why should I help the patient when I have not been called in?"

Not long after, however, he was called in. One morning he was lying in his dressing-gown on a divan, his head bound up in half a dozen silk handkerchiefs, and his whole person in the primeval disorder of a slovenly neglige, when his valet announced—the Emperor Joseph.

Kaunitz half rose, saying with a yawn, "Show his majesty to the state reception-room, and beg him to await me there."

"I have no time to wait, my dear prince," said a soft and melancholy voice behind him; and, as Kaunitz turned round, he saw the emperor who was already at his side.

The prince motioned to Hippolyte to leave the room. He went out on tiptoe, and, as he reached the threshold, the emperor himself closed the door and locked it. Kaunitz, who had risen, stood in the middle of the room, looking as indifferent to the visit of an emperor as to that of a tailor.

"Prince," said Joseph, returning and offering his hand, "we have not hitherto been good friends, but you see that I hold you in esteem, for I come to claim your assistance."

"I expected your majesty," replied Kaunitz.

The emperor cast his eyes over the velvet dressing-gown and the half dozen head handkerchiefs, and looked his astonishment. The prince understood the glance, and replied to it.

"I did not expect your majesty quite so soon. A few hours later I would have been ready to receive you. Will you permit me to retire for a few moments, that I may at least make my head, if not the rest of my person, presentable?"

The emperor took the hand of the prince and led him back to the divan. "My dear Kaunitz," said he, "when a man’s head is in such a maze as mine to-day, he concerns himself very little about the looks of other men. Sit down again, and I will take this armchair by you."

He drew Kaunitz, with gentle force, upon the divan, and then seated himself at his side.

"Do you know what brings me to you?" said Joseph, blushing.

"I believe that I do, your majesty. It is no state affair, for on state affairs, unhappily, we are ever at variance."

The emperor laughed a sardonic laugh. "What need have I of a state councillor, I who am but a puppet in the hands of my mother, I who must stand, with shackled arms, and look on while she reigns? But it is in vain to murmur. I watch and wait; and while I wait, I find myself inclining fast to your policy. I believe you to be an honorable statesman, and I believe also that the course you have pursued, you have chose because you are convinced that it is wise."

"Your majesty means the French alliance," said Kaunitz. "You, like your deceased father, have always opposed it, and but for the firmness of and wisdom of the empress, it would have failed. But we need not discuss this matter to-day; I owe the honor conferred upon me to another question."

"Then you know why I am here?"

"I believe that I know," replied Kaunitz, playing with the silk tassels of his dressing-gown. "I have lately heard a tale about an emperor who was lost in a forest and rescued by a peasant-girl. The sovereign was grateful, as a matter of course, and the damsel forthwith melted away with love at the sight of him, as Semele did for Jupiter. That, too, may be very natural; but let me tell your majesty, it is dangerous for the committee on morals do not approve of such pastorals, and the empress—"

"That accursed committee!" cried Joseph. "It is they who discovered it, and you who betrayed me."

Kaunitz slightly elevated his shoulders, and his eyes rested, unmoved, upon the emperor’s glowing face. "I have never yet," said he, "descended to the office of an informer. Had your majesty addressed me on this subject some weeks ago, I should have said to you, ’You are dreaming a very pretty dream of innocence, moonshine, and childishness. If you do not wish to be roughly awakened, go and dream at a distance from Vienna; for here there are certainly some people who will think it their duty to disturb you!’"

"Why did you not warn me, Kaunitz?"

"I did not wish to have the appearance of forcing myself into your majesty’s confidence. I had not been intrusted with your secret, and had no right to warn you."

"No, you warned the empress instead," said Joseph, bitterly.

"I warned nobody, your majesty. I said to myself, ’He is an enviable man to be able, in the midst of an artificial life, to enjoy the sweets of rural intercourse.’ I foresaw what must inevitably happen; and pitied the innocent Eve, who will, ere long, be exiled from paradise."

"She is exiled!" cried the emperor. "She has been removed, I know not where. She has disappeared, and no trace of her can I find."

"Disappeared!" exclaimed Kaunitz, astonished. "Then I have not heard the whole truth. I did not even know that she was to be removed; I only suspected it."

"Tell me the truth!" cried the emperor, sharply.

"Sire," said Kaunitz, proudly, "there may be times when it is the part of wisdom to be silent; but it is never permitted to a man of honor to be untruthful. I know nothing of this girl’s disappearance. The most that I anticipated was a forced marriage. This, I knew, would occasion new differences between the empress and your majesty, and I had supposed that you were coming to me to call for my mediation."

"I must believe you," sighed the emperor. "But prove your integrity by helping me to find her. Oh, Kaunitz, I beseech of you, help me, and earn thereby my gratitude and undying regard!"

"Have I waited so long for your majesty’s regard, to earn it on account of a silly peasant?" said Kaunitz, with a bitter smile. "I hope that I shall have a niche in the temple of the world’s esteem, even if I do fail in finding the daughter of Conrad the boor. If your majesty has never esteemed me before, you will not begin to do so today; and, as regards your promised gratitude; the whole world knows, and your majesty also knows, that I am not to be bribed; but I am ready, from the depths of my own attachment to you, to do all that I can to help you."

"Kaunitz," said the emperor, offering him his hand, "you intend to force me to love you."

"If I ever did force your majesty to love me," replied Kaunitz, with animation, "I should count it the happiest day of my life. If I ever succeed in winning your confidence, then I may hope to complete the work I have begun—that of uniting your majesty’s dominions into one great whole, before which all Europe shall bow in reverence."

"Let us speak of other things," interrupted the emperor. "Help me to find Marianne."

"Allow me one question, then—am I the only person to whom your majesty has spoken on this subject?"

"No, I have spoken to one other man. I have consulted the shrewdest detective in all Vienna, and have promised him a large reward if he will serve me. He came to me this morning. He had discovered nothing, but gave me to understand that it was you who had betrayed me to the empress."

"What is his name, your majesty?"

"Eberhard. He has sworn to unravel the mystery for me."

"Then it certainly will be unravelled, for he it is who has been tracking your majesty, and who has been the means of betraying you to the empress. I, too, have been giving him gold, with this difference, that your majesty trusted him, and I did not. He is at the bottom of the whole plot."

The emperor sprang from his seat, and hastened to the door. Kaunitz followed, and ventured to detain him.

"I must go," cried Joseph, impatiently. "I must force Eberhard to tell me what has been done with Marianne."

"You will not find him. He, too, has disappeared."

"Then I must go to the empress to beg her to be merciful to that poor child who is suffering on my account. I will exact it of her."

"That will only make the matter worse."

Joseph stamped his foot, and uttered a cry of fury. "What must I do, then?" exclaimed he.

"Be silent and affect indifference. As soon as the empress believes that you have grown careless on the girl’s account, she will begin to think that she has taken the matter too seriously to heart. Conrad must sell his farm, and remove far away from Vienna. Once settled, let him come and claim his daughter, and the empress will be very glad to be rid of her. Do this, and all will be right."

Joseph frowned, and seemed reluctant to follow this advice.

Kaunitz saw his unwillingness, and continued "This is the only means of restoring the girl to peace of mind, and your majesty owes her this reparation. The poor thing has been rudely precipitated from the clouds; and as the comedy is over, the best thing we can do for her is to convince her that it as a comedy, and that the curtain has fallen. Your majesty, however, must not again lay your imperial hand upon the simple web of her destiny: leave it to your inferiors to gather up its broken threads. Go away from Vienna; travel, and seek recreation. Leave Marianne to me, and I swear to you that I will rescue and befriend her. When you have gone, I shall go to the empress and relate the whole story. I shall tell all the truth; Maria Theresa has a noble, generous heart; and she will not do any injury to the one who was instrumental in saving the life of her darling son. She will do any thing for her happiness, provided it do not compromise the honor of her imperial house. And she is right. But you must go, and once gone, Marianne shall be free."

"Free not only from others, but from me also," said the emperor, deeply affected. "I feel I have erred toward this innocent young girl. I have deeply sinned; for, regardless of her peace of mind, I have allowed myself to dream of a love that could bring naught and misery to both. For I will not conceal from you, my friend, how much it costs me to renounce this sweet creature, and to promise that I will see her no more. My intercourse with her was the last dying sigh of a love which has gone from my heart forevermore. But—it must be sacrificed. Rescue her, and try to make her happy, Kaunitz; try to efface from her heart the memory of my blasting love."

"I promise to free her, but I cannot promise to rescue her from the memory of your majesty’s love. Who knows that from the ring which she has sworn to wear forever, she may not have inhaled a poison that will shorten her young life? To rescue her from such a fate lies not in the power of man. Time—the great comforter—may heal her wounds, but your majesty must promise never to ask whither she has gone. For you she must be dead."

"I promise, on my imperial honor, never to see her again," said Joseph, in a faltering voice. "I will leave to-morrow. Thank God, the world is wide; and, far away from Vienna, I, too, can seek for oblivion, and, perchance, for another ray of earthly happiness." And so ended the pastoral of the emperor and the village maid.


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Chicago: Luise Mühlbach, "Chapter LI. Marianne’s Disappearance.," Joseph II and His Court, ed. CM01B10.Txt - 149 Kb, CM01B10.Zip - 56 Kb and trans. Coleman, Chapman, Mrs., 1813-1891 in Joseph II and His Court (New York: The Modern Library Publishers, 1918), Original Sources, accessed March 29, 2023,

MLA: Mühlbach, Luise. "Chapter LI. Marianne’s Disappearance." Joseph II and His Court, edited by CM01B10.Txt - 149 Kb, CM01B10.Zip - 56 Kb, and translated by Coleman, Chapman, Mrs., 1813-1891, in Joseph II and His Court, New York, The Modern Library Publishers, 1918, Original Sources. 29 Mar. 2023.

Harvard: Mühlbach, L, 'Chapter LI. Marianne’s Disappearance.' in Joseph II and His Court, ed. and trans. . cited in 1918, Joseph II and His Court, The Modern Library Publishers, New York. Original Sources, retrieved 29 March 2023, from