[MAGA. July 1832.]

What is the day’s news? Tell me something, my dear Colonel, for I am dying of ennui,” said the showy Prince Charles of Buntzlau, one of the handsomest men about the court, and incomparably the greatest coxcomb.

“Not much more than yesterday,” was the answer of Colonel the Baron von Herbert. “The world goes on pretty much the same as ever. We have an Emperor, five Electors, and fifty sovereign princes, in Presburg; men eat, drink, and sleep notwithstanding; and, until there is some change in these points, one day will not differ much from another to the end of the world.”

“My dear Colonel,” said the Prince, smoothing down the blackest and longest pair of mustaches in the imperial cuirassiers, “you seem to think little of us, the blood, the couronnés, the salt of the earth, who preserve Germany from being as vulgar as Holland. But I forget; you have a partiality for the gens du peuple.”

“Pardon me, Prince,” said Herbert, with a smile, “I pity them infinitely, and wish that they might exchange with the Landgraves and Margraves, with all my heart. I have no doubt that the change would often be advantageous to both, for I have seen many a prince of the empire who would make a capital ploughman, while he made but a very clumsy prince; and I have, at this moment, three prodigiously high personages commanding three troops in my regiment, whom nature palpably intended to clean their own horses’ heels, and who, I charitably believe, might, by dint of drilling and half-a-dozen years’ practice, make three decent dragoons.”

“Just as you please, Colonel,” said the Prince, “but beware of letting your private opinion go forth. Leopold is one of the new light, I allow, and loves a philosopher; but he is an Emperor still, and expects all his philosophers to be of his own opinion.—But here comes Collini.”

Collini was his Italian valet, who came to inform his Highness, that it was time for him to pay his respects to the Princess of Marosin. This Italian’s principal office was, to serve his master in place of a memory—to recognise his acquaintance for him as he drove through the streets—and to tell him when to see and when to be blind. The Prince looked at his diamond watch, started from the sofa, gave himself a congratulatory glance in a mirror, and, turning to Collini, asked, “When am I to be married to the Princess?”

“Poh, Prince,” interrupted the Colonel, with something of disdain, “this is too absurd. Send this grimacing fellow about his business, and make love on your own account, if you will; or if not, choose some woman whose beauty and virtue, or whose want of them both, will not be dishonoured by such trifling.”

“You then actually think her worth the attentions of a Prince of the Empire?” said the handsome coxcomb, as, with one finger curling his mustaches, he again, and more deliberately, surveyed himself in the mirror.

“I think the Princess of Marosin worthy of the attentions of any King on earth,” said the Baron, emphatically; “she is worthy of a throne, if beauty, intelligence, and dignity of mind, can make her worthy of one.”

The Prince stared. “My dear Colonel!” he exclaimed, “may I half presume you have been speculating on the lady yourself? But I can assure you it is in vain. The Princess is a woman; and allowing, as I do,”—and this he said with a Parisian bow, that bow which is the very language of superiority,—“the infinite pre-eminence of the Baron von Herbert in everything, the circumstance of her being a woman, and my being a Prince, is prodigiously in my favour.”

The Baron had involuntarily laid his hand upon his sword at the commencement of this speech, but the conclusion disarmed him. He had no right to quarrel with any man for his own good opinion, and he amused himself by contemplating the Prince, who continued arranging his mustaches. The sound of a trumpet put an end to the conference.

“Well, Prince, the trumpet sounds for parade,” said the Baron, “and I have not time to discuss so extensive a subject as your perfections. But take my parting information with you. I am not in love with the lady, nor the lady with me; her one-and-twenty, and my one-and-fifty, are sufficient reasons on both sides. You are not in love with the lady either, and—I beg of you to hear the news like a hero—the lady is not in love with you; for the plain reason, that so showy a figure cannot possibly be in love with anything but itself; and the Princess is, I will venture to say, too proud to share a heart with a bottle of lavender water, a looking-glass, and a poodle.”

The Prince raised his eyebrows, but Von Herbert proceeded. “Buntzlau will be without a female sovereign, and its very accomplished Prince will remain, to the last, the best dressed bachelor in Vienna. Au revoir, I see my Pandours on parade.”

Von Herbert and the Prince parted with mutual smiles. But the Prince’s were of the sardonic order; and after another contemplation of his features, which seemed, unaccountably, to be determined to disappoint him for the day, he rang for Collini, examined a new packet of uniforms, bijouterie, and otto of roses, from Paris, and was closeted with him for two profound hours.

A forest untouched since the flood overhung the road, and a half-ruined huge dwelling.

“Have the patrol passed?”

“Within the last five minutes.”

“I wish them at the bottom of the river; they cost me a Turkish carabine, a brace of diamond watches, as I’ll be sworn, from the showy fellow that I levelled at, with the valise behind his courier, scented enough to perfume a forest of brown bears.”

“Hang those Hulans,” was the answer. “Ever since the Emperor’s arrival, they have done nothing but gallop about, putting honester men than themselves in fear of their lives, and cutting up our employment so woefully, that it is impossible to make money enough on the road to give a decent education to one’s children. But here comes the captain. We shall now have some news. Speranski never makes his appearance unless something is in the wind.”

This dialogue passed between two Transylvanian pedlars, if a judgment were to be formed from their blue caps, brown cloaks, and the packs strapped to their shoulders. A narrower inspection might have discovered within those cloaks the little heads of a pair of short scimitars; their trousers would have displayed to the curious the profile of two horse-pistols, and their boots developed a pair of those large-bladed knives which the Hungarian robber uses, alike to slice away the trunks of the britchska, to cut the harness of the horse, the throat of the rider, and carve his own sheep’s-milk cheese.

The captain came in, a tall, bold figure, in the dress of an innkeeper. He flung a purse upon the table, and ordered supper. The pedlars disburdened themselves of their boxes, kindled a fire on a hearth which seemed guiltless of having administered to the wants of mankind for many a wild year; produced from an unsuspected store-house under the floor some dried venison, and the paws of a bear, preserved in the most luxurious style of Hungarian cookery; decorated their table even with some pieces of plate, which, though evidently of different fashions, gave proof of their having been under noble roofs, by their armorial bearings and workmanship, though the rest of their history did not lie altogether so much in high life; and in a few minutes the captain, throwing off his innkeeper hat and drab-coloured coat, half sat, half lay down, to a supper worthy of an Emperor, or of a man who generally sups much better—an imperial commissary.

The whole party were forest robbers; the thing must be confessed. But the spirit of the country prevailed even under the rotting roof of “the Ghost’s house,”—the ominous name which this old and ruinous, though still stately mansion, had earned among the peasantry. The name did not exactly express the fact; for, when tenanted at all, it was tenanted by anything rather than ghosts; by some dozens of rough, raw-boned, bold, and hard-living fellows—as solid specimens of flesh and blood as had ever sent a shot right in front of the four horses of a courier’s cabriolet, or had brought to a full stop, scimitar in hand, the heyducs and chasseurs, the shivering valets and frightened postilions of a court chamberlain, whirling along the Vienna road with six to his britchska.

Etiquette was preserved at this supper. The inferior plunderers waited on the superior. Captain Speranski ate his meal alone, and in solemn silence. The pedlars watched his nod; filled out the successive goblets at a glance, and having performed their office, watched, at a respectful distance, the will of the man of authority. A silver chime announced the hour of ten. One of the pedlars drew aside a fragment of a ragged shawl, which covered one of the most superb pendules of the Palais Royal.

If the Apollo who sat harping in gold upon its stytolate, could have given words to his melodies, he might have told a curious narrative; for he had already seen a good deal of the various world of adventure. Since his first transit from the magnificent Horlogerie of M. Sismonde, of all earthly watchmakers the most renowned, this Apollo had first sung to the world and his sister muses in the chamber of the unlucky Prince de Soubise. The fates of France had next transferred him, with the Prince’s camp-plate, despatches, secret orders, and military chest, into the hands of a regiment of Prussian hussars, at the memorable battle of Rosbach, that modern “battle of the Spurs.” But the Prussian colonel was either too much or too little a lover of the arts, to keep Apollo and the Nine all to himself; and the pendule next rang its silver notes over the roulette-table of the most brilliant of Parisian opera-dancers, transferred from the salle of the Academie to the Grand Comedie at Berlin. But roulette, wheel of Plutus as it is, is sometimes the wheel of fortune; and the fair La Pirouette, in spite of the patronage of the court and the nation, found that she must, like generals and monarchs, submit to fate, and part with her brilliant superfluities. The pendule fled from her Parisian mantel-piece, and its chimes were thenceforth to awake the eyelids of the handsomest woman in Hungary, the Countess Lublin née Joblonsky, memorable for her beauty, her skill at loto, and the greatest profusion of rouge since the days of Philip Augustus. Its history now drew to a close. It had scarcely excited the envy of all the countesses of her circle, and, of course, became invaluable to the fair Joblonsky, when it disappeared. A reward of ten times its value was instantly offered. The Princess of Marosin, the arbiter of all elegance, who had once expressed her admiration of its taste, was heard to regret its loss as a specimen of foreign art. The undone proprietor was only still more undone; for of all beauties living or dead, she most hated the Princess, blooming, youthful, and worshipped as she was, to the infinite detriment of all the fading Joblonskys of the creation. But no reward could bring it back. This one source of triumph was irrecoverably gone; and from Presburg to Vienna, all was conjecture, conversation, and consternation. So ended the court history of the pendule.

When the repast was fully over, Speranski, pouring out a glass of Tokay from a bottle which bore the impress of the Black Eagle of the House of Hapsburg, and which had evidently been arrested on its road to the Emperor’s table, ordered one of the pedlars to give him the papers, “which,” said he, with a smile, “that Turkish courier mislaid where he slept last night.” A small packet was handed to him;—he perused it over and over with a vigilant eye, but it was obvious, without any of the results which he expected; for, after a few minutes’ pause, during which he examined every part of the case in which they were enclosed, he threw the letters aside. “What,” said he, in a disappointed tone, “was to be expected from those opium-eaters? Yet they are shrewd in their generation, and the scandals of the harem, the propitious day for shaving the Sultan’s head, the lucky star for combing his illustrious beard, or the price of a dagger-hilt, are as good topics as any that pass in our own diplomacy. Here, Sturnwold, put back this circumcised nonsense into its case, and send it, do you hear, by one of our own couriers, to the Turkish secretary at Vienna; let it be thrown on his pillow, or tied to his turban, just as you please; but, at all events, we must not do the business like a clumsy cabinet messenger. Now, begone; and you, Heinrich, hand me the Turk’s meerschaum.”

The bandit brought him a very handsome pipe, which he said would probably be more suited to the Turk’s tobacco, of which he had deposited a box upon the table. Speranski took the pipe, but, at his first experiment, he found the neck obstructed. His quick conception ascertained the point at once. Cutting the wood across, he found a long roll of paper within. He glanced over its contents, instantly sprang up, ordered the attendance of half a dozen of “his friends” on horseback, looked to the priming of his pistols, and galloped off through the forest.

On the evening of one of the most sultry days of July, and in one of the most delicious yet most lonely spots of the Carpathian hills, a trampling of hoofs, and a jingling of horse-furniture, and a confusion of loud and dissonant voices, announced that strangers were at hand. The sounds told true, for, gradually emerging from the glade covered with terebinth trees, wild vines that hung their rich and impenetrable folds over elms, hazels, and cypress, like draperies of green and brown silk over the pillars of some Oriental palace, came a long train of sumpter mules, led horses, and Albanian grooms; next came a more formidable group of horsemen, the body-guards of the Hospodar of Moldavia, sent to escort Mohammed Ali Hunkiar, the Moslem ambassador, through the Bannat; and then came, seated on the Persian charger given to him from the stables of the Padishah, the brother of the Sun and father of the Moon, Sultan Selim, the most mighty—a little bitter-visaged old Turk, with the crafty countenance of the hereditary hunchbacks of the great city of the faithful. Nothing could be more luxurious than the hour, the golden sunset; nothing lovelier than its light streaming in a thousand rays, shifts and shapes of inimitable lustre through the blooms and foliage of the huge ravine; and nothing less lovely or more luxurious than the little old ambassador, who had earned his elevation from a cobble stall to the Divan, by his skill in cutting off heads, and had now earned his appointment to the imperial embassy, by his dexterity in applying a purse of ten thousand sequins to the conscience of the slipper-bearer to the slipper-bearer of his highness the Vizier.

Nothing could seem less inclined to look at the dark side of things at this moment, or to throw away the enjoyments of this world for the good of Moslem diplomacy, than Mohammed Ali Hunkiar, as he sat and smoked, and stroked his long beard, and inhaled the mingled fumes of his Smyrna pipe, and the air aromatic with a host of flowers. But the Turkish proverb, “The smoker is often blinded by his own smoke,” was to find its verification even in the diplomatic hunchback. As he had just reached the highest stone of the pass, and was looking with the triumph of avarice—or ambition, if it be the nobler name—down the valley checkered with the troop that meandered through paths as devious and as many-coloured as an Indian snake, a shot struck his charger in the forehead; the animal sprang high in the air, fell, and flung the ambassador at once from his seat, his luxury, and a certain dream of clearing ten times the ten thousand sequins which he had disbursed for his place, by a genuine Turkish business of the dagger, before he left the portcullis of Presburg.

All was instant confusion. The shots began to fall thick, though the enemy might have been the beasts of the earth or the fowls of the air, for any evidence that sight could give to the contrary. The whole troop were of one opinion, that they must have fallen into the power of the fiend himself; for the shots poured on them from every quarter at once. Wherever they turned, they were met by a volley. The cavalry of the Hospodar, though brave as panthers on parade, yet were not used to waste their valour or their time on struggles of this irregular nature. They had bought their own places, and paid the due purchase of a well-fed sinecure; they had bought their own clothes, and felt answerable to themselves for keeping them in preservation worthy of a court; they had bought their own horses, and, like true Greeks, considered that the best return their horses could make was to carry them as safe out of the field as into it. The consequence was, that in the next five minutes the whole escort was seen riding at will in whatever direction the destiny that watches over the guards of sovereign princes might point the safest way. The ravine, the hill, the forest, the river, were all speckled with turbans, like flowers, in full gallop; the muleteers, being of slower movement, took the simpler precaution of turning their mules, baggage and all, up the retired corners of the forest, from which they emerged only to turn them with their lading to their several homes. All was the most picturesque mêlée for the first half-dozen rounds, all was the most picturesque flight for the next. All was silence thenceforth; broken only by the shot that came dropping through the thickets wherever a lurking turban suddenly seemed to recover its energies, and fly off at full speed. At length even the shots ceased, and all was still and lone. The forest looked as if it had been unshaken since the deluge; the ravine—calm, rich, and tufted with thicket, shrub, and tree—looked as if it had never heard the hoof of cavalry. The wood-dove came out again, rubbed down its plumage, and cooed in peace to the setting sun; the setting-sun threw a long radiance, that looked like a pyramid of amber, up the pass. Turban, Turk, skirmish, and clamour, all were gone. One remnant of the time alone remained.

Under a huge cypress, that covered the ground with its draperies, like a funeral pall, lay a charger, and under it a green and scarlet bale. The bale had once been a man, and that man the Turkish ambassador. But his embassy was over. He had made his last salaam, he had gained his last sequin, he had played his last trick, he had told his last lie. “Dust to dust” was now the history of Mohammed Ali Hunkiar.

The Hall of the Diet at Presburg is one of the wonders of the capital. The heroes and magnates of Upper Hungary frown in immeasurable magnitude of mustache and majestic longitude of beard on its walls. The conquerors of the Bannat, the ravagers of Transylvania, the potentissimi of Sclavonia, there gleam in solidity of armour, that at once gives a prodigious idea of both their strength and their terrors. The famous rivers, figured by all the variety of barbarian genius, pour their pictured torrents over the ceiling. The Draave embraces the Saave, the Grau rushes in fluid glory through the Keisse; and floods that disdain a bridge, and flow a hundred leagues asunder, there interlace each other in streams as smiling and affectionate as if they slept in the same fountain. Entering that hall, every true Hungarian lifts up his hands, and rejoices that he is born in the country of the arts, and, leaving it, compassionates the fallen honours of Florence and Rome.

Yet in that hall the Emperor Leopold, monarch of fifty provinces, and even sovereign of Hungary, was pacing backwards and forwards without casting a glance on the wonders of the Hungarian hand. Colonel the Baron von Herbert was at the end of the saloon, waiting the Imperial pleasure. The dialogue, which was renewed and broken off as the Emperor approached or left him, was, of course, one of fragments. The Emperor was in obvious agitation. “It is the most unaccountable thing that I ever heard of,” said Leopold. “He had, I understand, a strong escort; his own train were numerous; the roads regularly patroled; every precaution taken; and yet the thing is done in full sunshine. A man is murdered almost under my own eyes, travelling with my passport; an ambassador, and above all ambassadors, a Turk.”

“But your Majesty,” said Von Herbert, “is not now in Vienna. Your Hungarian subjects have peculiar ideas on the subject of human justice; and they would as soon shoot an ambassador, if the idea struck them, as a squirrel.”

“But a Turk,” said the Emperor, “against whom there could not have existed a shadow of personal pique; who could have roused no jealousy at court; who could have been known, in fact, by nobody here; to be killed almost within sight of the city gates, and every paper that he had upon him, every present, every jewel, everything carried off, without the slightest clue to discovery! Baron, I shall begin to doubt the activity of your Pandours.”

The Baron’s grave countenance flushed at the remark, and he answered with more than even his usual gravity. “Your Majesty must decide. But, whoever has been in fault, allow me to vindicate my regiment. The Pandour patrol were on the spot on the first alarm; but the whole affair was so quickly over, that all their activity was utterly useless. It actually seemed supernatural.”

“Has the ground been examined?” asked Leopold.

“Every thicket,” answered Von Herbert. “I would stake my troopers, for sagacity and perseverance, against so many blood-hounds; and yet, I must acknowledge to your Majesty that, except for the marks of the horse’s hoofs on the ground, the bullets sticking in the trees, and the body of the Turk himself, which had been stripped of every valuable, we might have thought that we had mistaken the place altogether.”

“The whole business,” said Leopold, “is a mystery; and it must be unravelled.” He then broke off, resumed his walk to the end of the hall; then returning, said abruptly—“Look to the affair, Colonel. The Turks have no good opinion of us as it is, and they will now have a fresh pretext, in charging us with the assassination of their ambassador. Go, send out your Pandours, offer a hundred ducats for the first man who brings any information of the murder; offer a thousand, if you please, for the murderer himself. Even the crown would not be safe if these things were to be done with impunity. Look to your Pandours more carefully in future.”

The Baron, with a vexation which he could not suppress, hastily replied—“Your Majesty does not attribute this outrage to any of my corps?”

“Certainly not to the Baron von Herbert,” said the Emperor, with a reconciling smile. “But, my dear Baron, your heroes of the Bannat have no love for a Turk, while they have a very considerable love for his plunder. For an embroidered saddle or a diamond-hilted dagger, they would go as far as most men. In short, you must give those bold barbarians of yours employment, and let their first be to find out the assassin.”

It was afternoon, and the Wiener Straat was crowded with equipages of the great and fair. The place of this brilliant reunion was the drawing-room of the Princess of Marosin, and the occasion was the celebration of her birthday. Princesses have so many advantages over humbler beauties that they must submit to one calamity, which, in the estimation of many a beauty, is more than a balance for all the gifts of fortune. They must acknowledge their age. The art of printing, combined with the scrutiny of etiquette, prohibits all power of making the years of a princess a secret confided to the bosoms of the privy council. As the hour of her first unclosing the brilliancy of her eyes, in a world which all the court poets profess must be left in darkness without them, so the regular periods by which the bud advances to the bloom, and the bloom matures into ripened loveliness, are registered with an annual activity of verse, prose, and prostration, that precludes all chronological error. Even at the period when the autumnal touch begins to tinge the cheek, and the fair possessor of so much homage would willingly forget the exact number of the years during which she has borne the sceptre, the calculation is continued with fatal accuracy. Not an hour can be silently subducted from the long arrear of Time; and while, with all the female world beneath her, he suddenly seems to stand still, or even to retrograde, with the unhappy object of regal reckoning he moves mercilessly onward, with full expanded wing carries her from climacteric to climacteric, unrestrained and irrestrainable by all the skill of female oblivion, defies the antagonist dexterity of the toilet, makes coiffeur and cosmetics null and void, and fixes the reluctant and lovely victim of the calendar in the awful elevation of “the world gone by.” She is a calendar saint, and, like most of that high sisterhood, has purchased her dignity by martyrdom.

But the Princess of Marosin had no reason to dread the keenest reckoning of rivalry. She was on that day eighteen. Eighteen years before that morning the guns from the grey and war-worn towers of Marosin had announced, through a circuit of one of the loveliest principalities of Upper Hungary, that one of the loveliest beings that even Hungary had ever seen was come from its original skies, or from whatever part of creation handsome princesses visit this sublunar world. As the only descendant of her illustrious house, she was the ward of the Emperor, but having the still nearer claims of blood, her marriage now occupied the Imperial care. A crowd of Marshals and Margraves felt that they would make excellent guardians of the Principality, and offered their generous protection. The lady seemed indifferent to the choice; but Prince Charles of Buntzlau, by all acknowledgment the best dressed Prince in the Empire, at the head of the hussar guard of the Emperor, incalculably rich, and incomparably self-satisfied, had already made up his own mind on the subject, and decided that the Principality, and the lady annexed, were to be his. The Emperor, too, had given his sanction. Prince Charles was not the man whom Leopold would have chosen for the President of the Aulic Council, though his claims as a master of the ceremonies were beyond all discussion. But the Imperial policy was not reconcilable with the idea of suffering this important inheritance to fall into the hands of a Hungarian noble. Hungary, always turbulent, requires coercives, not stimulants; and two hundred thousand ducats a-year, in the hands of one of her dashing captains, would have been sufficient to make another Tekeli. The handsome Prince was evidently not shaped for raising the banner of revolt, or heading the cavaliers of the Ukraine. He was an Austrian in all points, and a new pelisse would have won him from the car of Alexander on the day of his entry into Babylon.

Among the faithful of the empire the Sovereign’s nod is politics, religion, and law. The Marshals and Margraves instinctively bowed before the supremacy of the superhuman thing that wore the crown of Charlemagne, and Prince Charles’s claim was worshipped by the whole embroidered circle as one of the decisions which it would be court impiety to question, as it was court destiny to fulfil.

Hungary was once the land of kings, and it was still the land of nobles. Half oriental, half western, the Hungarian is next in magnificence to the Moslem. He gives his last ducat for a shawl, a jewel-hilted sabre, or a gilded cap, which nothing but his fear of being mistaken for a Turk prevents him from turning into a turban. The Princess Juliana of Marosin sat in the centre of a chamber that might have made the cabinet of the favourite Sultana of the Lord of the Infidels. She sat on a low sofa covered with tapestry from Smyrna; her caftan, girdled with the largest emeralds, was made by the fair fingers of the Greek maidens of Saloniki; her hair, long, black, and drooping round her person, in rich sable wreaths, like the branches of a cypress, was surmounted by a crescent which had won many an eye in the jewel mart of Constantinople; and in her hand she waved a fan of peacocks’ plumes, made by the principal artist to the serail of Teheran. Thus Oriental in her drapery, colours, and costume, she sat in the centre of a chamber, which, for its gloomy carvings, yet singular stateliness of decoration, might have reminded the spectator of some Indian shrine, or subterranean dungeon of the dark spirits enclosing a spirit of light; or, to abandon poetry, and tell the truth in plain speech, the chamber reminded the spectator of the formal, yet lavish splendour of the old kingly times of the land, while its possessor compelled him to feel the fact, that all magnificence is forgotten in the presence of a beautiful woman.

The Princess received the homage of the glittering circle with the complacency of conscious rank, and repaid every bow with one of those sweet smiles, which to a courtier are irresistible evidences of his personal merit; to a lover, are spells that raise him from the lowest depths to the most rapturous altitudes; and to a woman, cost nothing whatever. But, to an eye which none of these smiles had deprived of all its powers of reading the human countenance, there was in even this creature of birth, beauty, and admiration, some secret anxiety, which, in despite of all conjecture, proved that she was no more than mortal. There was a wavering of her colour, that bespoke inward perturbation; a paleness followed by a flush that threw the crimson of her gorgeous shawl into the shade; a restless movement of the fingers loaded with gems; a quick turn of the head towards the door, though the most potential flattery was at the moment pouring into the ear at the opposite side. There were times, when a slight expression of scorn upon her fine features escaped her politeness, and gave sign that she agreed with mankind of all ages, in the infinite monotony, dulness, and commonplace of the élite of the earth, the starred and ribboned society of the high places of mankind. But all was peace to the emotion of her features, when the door slowly opened; and after a note of preparation worthy of the arrival of the Great Mogul, the chamberlain announced, “Prince Charles of Buntzlau.” Pride and resentment flashed across her physiognomy, like lightning across the serenity of a summer sky. Her cheek grew crimson, as the gallant lover, the affianced husband, came bowing up to her; her brow contracted, and the man would have been wise who had augured from that brow the hazard of taking her hand without first securing her heart. But all was soon over; the lovely lady soon restrained her emotion, with a power which showed her presence of mind. But her cheek would not obey even her determination, it continued alternately glowing and pale; wild thoughts were colouring and blanching that cheek; and the fever of the soul was burning in her restless and dazzling eye. On the birthdays of the great in Hungary, it is the custom that none shall come empty-handed. A brilliant variety of presents already filled the tables and sofas of the apartment. But the Prince’s present eclipsed them all; it was a watch from the Horlogerie of the most famous artist of Paris, and a chef-d’œuvre in point of setting. The Princess looked at it with a disdain which it cost her an effort to conceal. “Prince,” said she, “I regret the want of patriotism which sends our nobles to purchase the works of strangers, instead of encouraging the talents of our own country.”—“Yes, but your Highness may condescend to reflect,” said the lover, “on the utter impossibility of finding anything of this kind tolerable except in Paris.” The Princess turned to one of the Bohemians who formed her band of minstrels, and said, “Vladimir, desire the jewel-keeper to bring my Hungarian watch.” The Bohemian went on his mission—the jewel-keeper appeared with the watch, and it was instantly declared, by the unanimous admiration of the circle, to be altogether unrivalled in the art. The Prince, chagrined at this discomfiture, asked, with more than the authority of a lover, if the Princess “would do him the honour to mention the artist so deserving of her patronage.” She handed the watch over to him. He opened it, and a paper dropped out. On it was written the name of Mohammed Ali Hunkiar.

“The murdered ambassador!” instinctively exclaimed fifty voices.—The Princess rose from her seat, overwhelmed with surprise and alarm. “The Turkish ambassador!” said she; “then this must have been a part of his plunder.” The jewel-keeper was summoned to give account of the circumstances connected with the purchase. His answer was, that “it was no purchase whatever.” But he produced a note which he had received along with it. The note was “a request that her Highness would accept so trivial a present on her birthday, from one of her faithful subjects;” and that, unable to discover the name of the donor, he had accepted it accordingly. Her circle soon after broke up. In a court all things are known; in a province all things known or unknown are an invaluable topic as long as they are new. The story of the Hungarian watch was turned into shapes innumerable. But the result of the investigation which immediately took place, by order of the Princess, was, that it had actually been made by an artist of Buda for the Sultan, by whom it was sent among the presents designed for the Emperor. On the fall of the Turk it had disappeared, like all the rest of his plunder, and had been unheard of until it started into light in the household of the Princess of Marosin.

The little perturbation excited by this incident lasted but till the high and mighty of the circle had withdrawn, to communicate the fact to a dozen other circles, and talk of it until the world was weary alike of the tale and the tellers. But there was a perturbation in the mind of this young and lovely being, which came from a deeper source, and lasted longer than even the delight of her dear five hundred friends, in surmising all the possible modes in which the stately relative of Emperors had contrived to charm into her fair hands the most superb montre under the roofs of the city of Presburg.

Sunset began to shed its quiet gold on the hill-tops round the city—the sounds of day were fading fast—the glittering crowd had left her halls to silence—and as she walked through the suite of magnificent chambers in her gala dress, tissued with emeralds and rubies, and her regal loveliness contrasting with her eye fixed upon the ground, and her slow and meditative step, she might have been taken for the guardian genius of those halls of ancestry, or a new avatar of the tragic muse. Arrived at the balcony, she almost fell into the flowery seat, below which spread a vast and various view of the most fertile plain of Hungary. But the vision on her eye was not of the harvest heavily swelling before her at every wave of the breeze. Her thoughts were of valleys, where the sun never reached their green depths; of forests, where the roebuck fed and sported in scorn of the hunter; of mountains, whose marble spines were covered only with clouds, and whose only echoes were those of the thunder or the eagle. All before her eye was beauty cultured, and calm pleasure. The peasantry were driving their wains homeward loaded with the luxuriance of the Hungarian fields, proverbially rich where they are cultivated at all. Large droves of quiet cattle were speckling the distant pasture, and enjoying the heat and light of evening. The citizens were issuing from the city gates to taste the freshness of the hour, and troops of the nobles attendant on the imperial ceremony, relieved from the labours of etiquette and antechambers, were driving their glittering equipages through the avenues, or caracolling their Ukraine chargers through the meadows. Yet for the living landscape the young gazer had no eyes. The scene on which her spirit dwelt was one of savage majesty and lonely power. A vast pile of rocks, through which a way seemed to have been cloven by the thunderbolt, opened on a glen as desolate as if it had never been trodden by the foot of man. Yet, under the shelter of one of its overhanging cliffs, peeping out from a drapery of heath, lichens, and wild flowers, as rich as a Persian carpet, was seen the outline of a rude building, half cottage, half tower, and resting on the slope beside it, a hunter with his boar-spear fixed upright in the turf—a greyhound beside him, and his whole soul employed in listening to the roar of the Mediterranean, whose waters chafed and swelled at the entrance of the ravine, and spread to the horizon like a gigantic sheet of sanguined steel.

The murmur of the church bells for the evening service at length scattered the vision. The mountain forests vanished, the glen of eternal marble was a garden embroidered with all the cultivation of art, and nothing was left of the whole proud picture but the star that now came, like a bride from her chamber, and stood showering radiance upon her head. That star, too, had gleamed upon the sky of the Croatian ravine, and in her enthusiasm she could almost have addressed it like a friend, or put up a prayer to its shrine as that of a beneficent divinity. In the strong sensibility of the moment she uttered a few broken aspirations to its brightness, and a wish that she might escape the infinite weariness of life, and, like that star, be a gazer on existence, from a height above the cares and clouds of this world. A sudden movement among the shrubs below caught her ear; she glanced down, and saw, with his countenance turned full on her, as if she were something more than human, the hunter whom her fancy had pictured in the glen!

It was midnight, when twenty individuals, evidently of high rank, had assembled in an obscure house in one of the suburbs. But it was evident, from the plainness of their dress, that they had some object in concealing their rank; and from the weapons under their cloaks it was equally evident that they had come upon some business, in which either danger was to be guarded against, or violence intended.

For some time there was silence, the only words exchanged were in whispers. At intervals, a low knock at the door, a watchword, and a sign exchanged between the keeper of the entrance and the applicant without, announced a new comer. Still nothing was done; and as the cathedral bells tolled midnight, the anxiety for the arrival of some distinguished stranger, who had unaccountably delayed his coming, grew excessive. It gradually escaped, too, that the Cardinal di Lecco, the Papal Internuncio, was the expected individual.

The signal was given at last; the door opened, and a pale, decrepit Roman ecclesiastic entered. “Are all our friends here?” was his first question. But the answer was by no means a hospitable one. “By what means, Monsignore,” said a tall dark-featured personage, advancing to him, “have we the honour of seeing you here? We are upon private business.”—“I come by your own invitation,” said the ecclesiastic mildly, producing at the same time a letter, which was handed round the circle. “But this letter is to the nuncio of his Holiness; and it was only from him that we desired an answer in person.” Then, in a higher tone, and half drawing his sword, an action which was imitated by all, “We must know, reverend signor, who you are, and by what authority you have intruded yourself into this room, or you must prepare to receive the reward due to all spies and traitors.” The venerable priest’s countenance betrayed the most obvious alarm; surrounded by this conflux of indignant visages, and with twenty swords already flashing round his head, it required more than usual firmness to contemplate his situation without awe. The single glance which he cast to the door seemed to say how gladly he would have escaped from this specimen of Hungarian deliberation. His perturbation evidently deprived him of defence; he tried to explain the cause of his coming; he searched his dress for some paper, which, by his signs rather than his words, he intimated, would answer for his character. He searched his bosom, all was in vain; his hands became entangled; he made a sudden step to the door, but suspicion was now thoroughly roused. Every sword was flashing there against his bosom. He tottered back, uttered some indistinct sounds of terror, and fell fainting into a chair.

The question was now how to dispose of him, for that he was not the Cardinal was a matter of personal knowledge to Count Colvellino, the personage who had first addressed him.

The Count, a man of habitual ferocity, proposed that he should be stabbed on the spot—an opinion which met with universal assent; but the difficulty was, how to dispose of the body. To bury it where they were was impossible for men with no other instruments than their swords; to fling it into the river would inevitably betray the murder by daylight; and even to convey it through the streets, to the river side, might be perilous, from the number of guards and loiterers brought together by the Imperial residence. During the deliberation the old ecclesiastic returned to his senses. By some accident his hand had fallen upon the secret packet which contained his credentials; the discovery acted on him as a cure for all his feebleness; and in his delivery of his mission he even wore an air of dignity. “The length and haste of my journey from Rome,” said the venerable man, “may apologise, most noble lords, for my weakness; but this paper will, I presume, be satisfactory. It is, as you see, the rescript of his Holiness to the Cardinal di Lecco, whose servant and secretary stands before you. The Cardinal, suddenly occupied by the high concerns of the Secreta Concilia, of which he has just been appointed president, has sent me with his signet, his sign-manual, and his instructions, as contained in this cipher, to attend the high deliberations of my most honoured Lords, the Barons of Upper Hungary.” The credentials were delivered. All were authentic. Colvellino sullenly acknowledged that he had been premature in condemning the Papal envoy, who now announced himself as the Father Jiacomo di Estrella, of the Friars Minors of the Capital; and the point at issue was directly entered upon. It was of a nature which justified all their caution. The Emperor Leopold was supposed to have brought with him to the throne some ideas, hostile alike to the ancient feudalism of Hungary, and the supremacy of the Roman See. Revolution was threatening in Europe; and the Barons felt violent suspicions of a revolutionary inroad on their privileges, headed by the possessor of the Imperial Crown. The simple plan of the conspirators on this occasion, was the extinction of the hazard by the extinction of the instrument. Leopold was to be put to death in the moment of his coronation, and the heir of the former royal race of Hungary, a monk in the convent of St Isidore, was to be placed on the vacant throne. The debate lasted long, and assumed various shapes, in which the Papal Envoy exhibited the complete recovery of his faculties, and showed singular vividness and subtlety in obviating the impediments started to the project of getting rid of Leopold. Still, to overthrow an imperial dynasty, in the very day when its head was in the fulness of power, surrounded by troops, and still more protected by the etiquette that kept all strangers at a distance from the royal person, had difficulties which profoundly perplexed the Barons. But the deed must be done; Colvellino, already obnoxious to suspicion, from his habitual love of blood and violence of life, led the general opinion. After long deliberation, it was decided that, as poison was slow, and might fail—as the pistol was too public, might miss the mark, and but wound after all—the secure way was the dagger. But how was this to find the Emperor, through a host of attendants, who surrounded him like a Persian monarch, and through ten thousand men-at-arms, covered with iron up to the teeth, and as watchful as wolves? Fra Jiacomo then made his proposal. “To attack the Emperor in his chamber,” said he, “would be impossible; and, besides, would be an unmanliness disgraceful to the warlike spirit of the nobles of Hungary.” All voices joined in the sentiment. “To attack him in his passage through the streets, on the day of the coronation, would be equally impossible, from the number of his guards, and equally dishonourable to the high character of the Hungarian nobles for fidelity to all who trust them.” A second plaudit, almost an acclamation, followed the sentiment. Fra Jiacomo now paused, as evidently waiting to collect his thoughts, and asked in the humblest voice, whether it was absolutely necessary that Leopold should die? “He or we,” cried Colvellino, indignant at the delay of the timid old priest. “He or we,” echoed all the voices. “I obey,” said the Friar, with a sigh, and clasping his trembling hands upon his bosom. “It is not for an old monk, a feeble and simple man like me, my noble lords, to resist the will of so many destined to lead the land of their fathers. But let us, if we must be just, also be merciful. Let the victim die at the high altar of the cathedral.” A murmur rose at the seeming profanation. The Friar’s sallow cheek coloured at this mark of disapproval. He was silent; but Colvellino’s impatience spoke. “Let us,” said he, “have no womanish qualms now; what matters it where or when a tyrant falls? Church or chamber, street or council, all are alike. The only question is, who shall first or surest send the dagger to his heart? Who among us shall be the liberator of his country?” The question remained without an answer. The service was obviously a difficult one at best, and the Brutus was sure of being sacrificed by the swords of the guards. “Cowards!” exclaimed Colvellino, “is this your spirit? ’Tis but a moment since you were all ready to shed your blood for the death of this German puppet, and now you shrink like children.” “If it were not in the cathedral,” muttered some of the conspirators. “Fools,” retorted the haughty Count, “to such scruples all places are cathedrals. But the cause shall not be disgraced by hands like yours. Colvellino himself shall do it; aye, and this good friar shall give me his benediction too on the enterprise.” The ruffian burst out into a loud laugh. “Peace, my son,” said the priest, with hand meekly waving, and his eyes fixed on the ground. “Let us not disturb our souls, bent as they are on the pious services of the Church and his Holiness the father of the faithful, by unseemly mirth. But let us, in all humility and sincere soberness, do our duty. The Count Colvellino has nobly offered, with a heroism worthy of his high name, to consummate the freedom of the Hungarian church and state. But this must not be, his life is too precious. If Prince Octar, the last hope of the ancient line of Ladislaus, should die, Count Colvellino is the rightful heir. The hopes of Hungary must not be sacrificed.”

The Count’s dark eye flashed, and his cheek burned up with the flame of an ambition which he had long cherished, and which had stimulated him to this sudden and suspicious zeal for his country. “The Emperor must not put the crown of Hungary on his head and live,” said he, in a tone of expressed scorn and hope. “To-morrow,” said the Friar, rising as if he could throw off the infirmities of age in the strength of his resolution—“To-morrow, at the moment of the mass, Leopold dies, and dies by my hand.” All stared. “Noble lords,” said the Friar, almost abashed into his former humility by the sight of so many bold and proud countenances gazing on him, in every expression of surprise, doubt, wonder, and applause—“Noble lords,” he pursued, “what is my life that I should value it, except as the means of serving his Holiness and this illustrious country, which has for so many centuries been the most faithful daughter of the Church? To me life and death are the same. But I shall not die. My sacred function to-morrow will bring me close to the Emperor unsuspected. I shall be among the prelates who lead him up to the altar. At the moment when he takes the crown into his hand, and before he has profaned it by its resting on his brow, Hungary shall be free.”

A loud outcry of admiration burst from the whole assembly. Colvellino alone seemed to resent the loss of the honour. His countenance lowered, and grasping the self-devoted Friar’s sleeve, he said, in a tone of wrath but ill stifled, “Friar, remember your promise. No parleying now. No scruples. Beware of treachery to the cause. But to make all secure, I tell you that you shall be watched. As Grand Chamberlain, I myself shall be on the steps of the altar, and the slightest attempt at evasion shall be punished by a dagger at least as sharp as ever was carried by a priest in either church or chamber.” Fra Jiacomo bowed his head to his girdle, and only asked, in a tone of the deepest meekness, “Count, have I deserved this? Noble lords of Hungary, have I deserved this? Is treason laid rightly to my charge? If you doubt me, let me go.” He turned to the door as he spoke, but even Colvellino’s disdain felt the folly of losing so willing an accomplice, and one who, besides, was now so much master of the conspiracy. “Well, then, so be it,” murmured the Count; “the cause will be disgraced by the instrument. But this Emperor at least will molest Hungary no more.” Fra Jiacomo bowed but the deeper. All was now concerted for the deed. The conspirators were appointed to wait in the church of Saint Veronica, behind the cathedral, for the signal of Leopold’s death, and thence to proceed to the convent where the heir of Ladislaus was kept, and proclaim him King. Colvellino listened to the latter part of the arrangement with a smile of scorn. They were separated by the sound of the cannon announcing the dawn of the great ceremonial.

The morning of the coronation found all Presburg awake. The streets were thronged before day with citizens; nobles hastening to the palace; troops moving to their various posts in the ceremony; peasants pouring in from all the provinces, in all the wild festivity and uncouth dialects of the land of the Huns. Then came the magnates, riding on their richly-caparisoned horses, and followed by their long train of armed attendants, a most brilliant and picturesque display. The equipages contained all that the kingdom could boast of female beauty and high birth, and the whole formed a singular and vivid contrast of the strange, the lovely, the bold, and the graceful, the rude and the magnificent, the Oriental and the Western—all that a feudal, half-barbarian people could exhibit of wild exultation—and all that an empire as old as Charlemagne could combine of antique dignity and civilised splendour.

The sun, which so seldom condescends to shine on regal processions, threw his most auspicious beams on the city of Presburg on this memorable day. But it was in the cathedral that all the opulence of the imperial and national pomp was displayed. The aisles were hung with tapestry and banners of the great feudal families, and crowded with the body-guards of the Emperor, and the richly-costumed heyducs and chasseurs of the Hungarian lords. The centre aisle was one canopy of scarlet tissue, covering, like an immense tent, the royal train, the great officers of the court, and the Emperor as he waited for the consecration. Farther on, surrounding the high altar, stood a circle of the Hungarian prelacy in their embroidered robes, surrounding the Archbishop of Presburg, and in their unmoving splendour looking like a vast circle of images of silver and gold. Above them all, glittering in jewels, looked down from clouds of every brilliant dye, and luminous with the full radiance of the morning, the Virgin Mother, in celestial beauty, the patroness of Presburg, a wonder-working Madonna, “whom Jews might kiss, and infidels adore.”

At length, to the sound of unnumbered voices, and amid the flourish of trumpets, and the roar of cannon from all the bastions, Leopold entered the golden rails of the altar, ascended the steps, followed by the great officers of the kingdom, and laid his hand upon the crown. At that moment the Grand Chamberlain, Count Colvellino, had knelt before him to present the book of the oath by which he bound himself to maintain the rights and privileges of Hungary. In the act of pronouncing the oath the Emperor was seen to start back suddenly, and the book fell from his hand. At the same moment a wild scream of agony rang through the cathedral; there was a manifest confusion among the prelacy; the circle was broken, some rushed down the steps; some retreated to the pillars of the high altar; and some seemed stooping, as if round one who had fallen. Vases, flowers, censers, images—all the pompous ornaments which attend the Romish ritual on its great days—were trampled under foot in the tumult; and prelate, priest, and acolyte were flung together in the terror of the time. The first impression of all was, that the Emperor had been assassinated, and the startled flying nobles, and the populace at the gates, spread the report through the city, with the hundred additions of popular alarm. But the imperial body-guard instantly drawing their swords, and pressing their way through the nobles and multitude up to the altar, soon proved that the chief terror was unfounded, by bringing forward the Emperor in their midst, and showing him to the whole assemblage unhurt. He was received with an acclamation that shook the dome.

But blood had been spilled—the Grand Chamberlain was found pierced to the heart. He had died at the instant from the blow. But by whom he was thus foully murdered, or for what cause, baffled all conjecture. The general idea, from the position in which he fell, was, that he had offered his life for the Emperor’s; had thrown himself forward between his royal master and the assassin, and had been slain by accident or revenge. Leopold recollected, too, that, in the act of taking the book of the Oath, he had felt some hand pluck his robe; but, on looking round, had seen only the Grand Chamberlain kneeling before him. Inquiry was urged in all quarters, but in vain. Colvellino was a corpse; he remained bathed in his loyal blood, the heroic defender of his liege lord, the declared victim of his loyalty; and a reward of a thousand ducats was declared on the spot by his indignant sovereign, for the discovery of the murderer. The gates of the cathedral were instantly closed; strict search was made, but totally in vain. Order was slowly restored. But the ceremony was too important to be delayed. The crown was placed upon the Imperial brow, and a shout like thunder hailed Leopold “King of Hungary.” In courts all things are forgotten.

As the stately procession returned down the aisle all was smiles and salutation, answered by the noble ladies of the court and provinces, who sat ranged down the sides according to their precedency, under pavilions tissued with the arms of the great Hungarian families. In this review of the young, the lovely, and the high-born, all eyes gave the prize of beauty, that prize which is awarded by spontaneous admiration, and the long and lingering gaze of silent delight, to the Princess of Marosin. Her dress was, of course, suitable to her rank and relationship to the imperial line, all that magnificence could add to the natural grace, or dignity of the form; but there was in her countenance a remarkable contrast to the general animation of the youthful and noble faces round her—a melancholy that was not grief, and a depth of thought that was not reverie, which gave an irresistible superiority to features, which, under their most careless aspect, must have been pronounced formed in the finest mould of nature. Her eyes were cast down, and even the slight bending of her head had a degree of mental beauty. It was clearly the unconscious attitude of one whose thoughts were busied upon other things than the pomps of the hour. It might have been the transient regret of a lofty spirit for the transitory being of all those splendours which so few years must extinguish in the grave; it might have been the reluctance of a generous and free spirit at the approach of that hour which would see her hand given by Imperial policy where her heart disowned the gift; it might be patriot sorrow for the fallen glories of Hungary; it might be romance; it might be love. But whatever might be the cause, all remarked the melancholy, and all felt that it gave a deep and touching effect to her beauty, which fixed the eye on her as if spell-bound. Even when the Emperor passed, and honoured the distinguished loveliness of his fair cousin by an especial wave of his sceptred hand, she answered it by scarcely more than a lower bend of the head, and the slight customary pressure of the hand upon the heart. With her glittering robe, worth the purchase of a principality, drawn round her as closely as if it were the common drapery of a statue, she sat not unlike the statue in classic gracefulness, but cold and unmoving as the marble.

But all this was suddenly changed. As the procession continued to pass along, some object arrested her glance which penetrated to her heart. Her cheek absolutely burned with crimson; her eye flashed; her whole frame seemed to be instinct with a new principle of existence; with one hand she threw back the tresses, heavy with jewels, that hung over her forehead, as if they obstructed her power of following the vision; with the other she strongly attempted to still the beatings of her heart; and thus she remained for a few moments, as if unconscious of the place, of the time, and of the innumerable eyes of wonder and admiration that were fixed upon her. There she sat—her lips apart, her breath suspended, her whole frame fevered with emotion, the statue turned to life—all beauty, feeling, amaze, passion. But a new discharge of cannon, a new flourish of trumpet and cymbal, as the Emperor reached the gates of the cathedral, and appeared before the assembled and shouting thousands without, urged on the procession. The magic was gone. The countenance, this moment like a summer heaven, with every hue of loveliness flying across it in rich succession, was the next colourless. The eye was again veiled in its long lashes; the head was again dejected; the marble had again become classic and cold; the beauty remained, but the joy, the enchantment, was no more.

The Baron von Herbert was sitting at a desk in the armoury of the palace. Javelins rude enough to have been grasped by the hands of the primordial Huns; bone-headed arrows that had pierced the gilded corslets of the Greeks of Constantinople; stone axes that had dashed their rough way through the iron headpieces of many a son of Saxon chivalry; and the later devices of war—mail, gold-enamelled, silver-twisted, purple-grained—and Austrian, Italian, and Oriental escutcheons gleamed, frowned, gloomed, and rusted, in the huge effigies of a line of warriors, who, if weight of limb, and sullenness of visage, are the elements of glory, must have fairly trampled out all Greek and all Roman fame.

A key turned in the door, and the Emperor entered hastily, and in evident perturbation. He turned the key again as he entered. The Baron stopped his pen, and awaited the commands of his sovereign. But Leopold was scarcely prepared to give counsel or command. He threw a letter on the table.

“Read this, Von Herbert,” said he, “and tell me what you think of it. Is it an impudent falsehood, or a truth, concerning the public safety? Read it again to me.”

The Baron read:—

“Emperor, you think yourself surrounded by honest men. You are mistaken. You are surrounded by conspirators. You think that, in offering a reward for Colvellino’s murderer, you are repaying a debt of gratitude. You are mistaken. You are honouring the memory of a murderer. You think that, in giving the hand of the Princess of Marosin to Prince Charles of Buntzlau, you are uniting two persons of rank in an honourable marriage. You are mistaken. You are pampering a coxcomb’s vanity, and breaking a noble heart. You think that, in sending your Pandours to scour the country, you can protect your court, your palace, or yourself.

“You are mistaken. The whole three are in my power.


The Baron laid down the paper, and gravely paused for the Emperor’s commands. But the Emperor had none to give. He put the simple query—“Is this a burlesque or a reality? Is the writer a charlatan or a conspirator?”

“Evidently something of both, in my conception,” said the Colonel; “the paper is not courtly, but it may be true, nevertheless. The writer is apparently not one of your Majesty’s chamberlains, and yet he is clearly master of some points that mark him for either a very dangerous inmate of the court, or a very useful one.”

Leopold’s anxious gesture bade the Baron proceed. He looked again over the letter, and commented on it as he passed along.

“‘Surrounded by conspirators!’ Possible enough. The Hungarian nobles never knew how to obey. They must be free as the winds, or in fetters. The mild government of Austria is at once too much felt and too little. No government or all tyranny, is the only maxim for the magnates. If not slaves, they will be conspirators.”

“Then this rascal, this Speranski, tells the truth after all?” said the Emperor.

“For the fact of conspiracy I cannot answer yet,” said Von Herbert; “but for the inclination I can, at any hour of the twenty-four.” He proceeded with the letter—“You are honouring the memory of a murderer.”

“An atrocious and palpable calumny!” exclaimed the Emperor. “What! the man who died at my feet? If blood is not to answer for honour and loyalty, where can the proof be given? He had got, besides, everything that he could desire. I had just made him Grand Chamberlain.”

Von Herbert’s grave countenance showed that he was not so perfectly convinced.

“I knew Colvellino,” said he, “and if appearances were not so much in his favour by the manner of his death, I should have thought him one of the last men in your Majesty’s dominions to die for loyalty.”

“You are notoriously a philosopher, Von Herbert,” said Leopold, impatiently. “Your creed is mistrust.”

“I knew the Grand Chamberlain from our school-days,” said the Baron, calmly. “At school he was haughty and headstrong. We entered the royal Hungarian guard together; there he was selfish and profligate. We then separated for years. On my return as your Majesty’s aide-de-camp, I found him the successor to an estate which he had ruined, the husband of a wife whom he had banished from his palace, the Colonel of a regiment of Hulans which he had turned into a school of tyranny, and Grand Chamberlain to your Majesty, an office which I have strong reason to think he used but as a step to objects of a more daring ambition.”

“But his death—his courageous devotion of himself—the dagger in his heart!” exclaimed the Emperor.

“They perplex, without convincing me,” said the Baron.

He looked again at the letter, and came to the words, “Breaking a noble heart.”

“What can be the meaning of this?” asked Leopold, angrily. “Am I not to arrange the alliances of my family as I please? Am I to forfeit my word to my relative, the Prince of Buntzlau, when he makes the most suitable match in the empire for my relative the Princess of Marosin? This is mere insolence, read no more.”

The Baron laid down the letter, and stood in silence.

“Apropos of the Princess,” said Leopold, willing to turn the conversation from topics which vexed him, “has there been any further intelligence of her mysterious purchase—that far-famed plunder of the Turk, her Hungarian chef d’œuvre?”

“If your Majesty alludes to the Princess’s very splendid watch,” said the Baron, “I understand that all possible inquiry has been made, but without the effect of tracing any connection between its sale and the unfortunate assassination of the Turkish envoy.”

“So my cousin,” said the Emperor, with a half smile, “is to be set down by the scandalous Chronicle of Presburg as an accomplice in rifling the pockets of Mohammed? But the whole place seems full of gipsyism, gossiping, and juggling. I should not wonder if that superannuated belle, the Countess Joblonsky, lays the loss of her pendule to my charge, and that the Emperor shall quit Hungary with the character of a receiver of stolen goods.”

“Your Majesty may be the depredator to a much more serious extent, if you will condescend but to take the Countess’s heart along with you,” said the Colonel, with a grave smile. “It is, I have no doubt, too loyal not to be quite at your Majesty’s mercy.”

“Hah!” said Leopold; “I must be expeditious then, or she will be devoté, or in the other world—incapable of any love but for a lapdog, or turned into a canonised saint. But in the mean time look to these nobles. If conspiracy there be, let us be ready for it. I have confidence in your Pandours. They have no love for the Hungarians. Place a couple of your captains in my antechamber. Let the rest be on the alert. You will be in the palace, and within call, for the next forty-eight hours.”

The Emperor then left the room. Von Herbert wrote an order to the Major of the Pandours for a detachment to take the duty of the imperial apartments. The evening was spent at the opera, followed by a court ball; and the Emperor retired, more than satisfied with the dancing loyalty of the Hungarian beaux and belles.

The night was lovely, and the moon shone with full-orbed radiance upon the cloth of gold, embroidered velvet curtains, and high enchased silver sculptures of the imperial bed. The Emperor was deep in a midsummer night’s dream of waltzing with a dozen winged visions, a ballet in the Grand Opera given before their Majesties of Fairyland, on the occasion of his arrival in their realm. He found his feet buoyant with all the delightful levity of his new region; wings could not have made him spurn the ground with more rapturous elasticity. The partner round whom he whirled was Oberon’s youngest daughter, just come from a finishing school in the Evening Star, and brought out for the first time. But a sudden sound of evil smote his ear; every fairy drooped at the instant; he felt his winged heels heavy as if they were booted for a German parade; his blooming partner grew dizzy in the very moment of a whirl, and dropped fainting in his arms; Titania, with a scream, expanded her pinions, and darted into the tops of the tallest trees. Oberon, with a frown, descended from his throne, and stalked away in indignant majesty.

The sound was soon renewed; it was a French quadrille, played by a Golden Apollo on the harp—a sound, however pleasing to earthly ears, too coarse for the exquisite sensibilities of more ethereal tempers. The God of Song was sitting on a beautiful pendule, with the name of Sismonde conspicuous on its dial above, and the name of the Countess Joblonsky engraved on its marble pedestal below. The Emperor gazed first with utter astonishment, then with a burst of laughter; his words had been verified. He was in a new position. He was to be the “receiver of stolen goods” after all. But in the moonlight lay at his feet a paper; it contained these words:—

“Emperor—You have friends about you, on whom you set no value; you have enemies, too, about you, of whom you are not aware. Keep the pendule; it will serve to remind you of the hours that may pass between the throne and the dagger. It will serve, also, to remind you how few hours it may take to bring a noble heart to the altar and to the grave. The toy is yours. The Countess Joblonsky has already received more than its value.


The Countess Joblonsky had been the handsomest woman in Paris twenty years before. But in Paris, the reign of beauty never lasts supreme longer than a new Opera—possibly, among other reasons, for the one that both are exhibited without mercy for the eyes or ears of mankind. The Opera displays its charms incessantly, until all that remain to witness the triumph are the fiddlers and the scene-shifters. The Belle electrifies the world with such persevering attacks on their nervous system, that it becomes absolutely benumbed. A second season of triumph is as rare for the Belle as the Opera, and no man living ever has seen, or will see, a third season for either. The Countess retired at the end of her second season, like Diocletian, but not, like Diocletian, to the cultivation of cabbages. She drew off her forces to Vienna, which she entered with the air of a conqueror, and the rights of one; for the fashion that has fallen into the “sere and yellow leaf” in Paris, is entitled to consider itself in full bloom at Vienna. At the Austrian capital she carried all before her, for the time. She had all the first of the very first circle in her chains. All the Archdukes were at her bidding; were fed at her petits soupers of five hundred hungry noblesse, en comité; were pilfered at her loto-tables; were spell-bound by her smiles, laughed at in her boudoir, and successively wooed to make the fairest of Countesses the haughtiest of Princesses. Still the last point was incomplete,—she was still in widowed loveliness.

The coronation suddenly broke up the Vienna circle. She who had hitherto led or driven the world, now condescended to follow it; and the Countess instantly removed her whole establishment, her French Abbé, her Italian Chevaliers, ordinaires and extraordinaires, her Flemish lapdogs, her Ceylonese monkeys, and her six beautiful Polish horses, to Presburg, with the determination to die devoté, or make an impress on the imperial soul, which Leopold should carry back, and the impression along with it, to Vienna. But cares of state had till now interposed a shield between the Emperor’s bosom and the lady’s diamond eyes. She had at last begun actually to despair; and on this morning she had summoned her Abbé to teach her the most becoming way for a beauty to renounce the world. She was enthroned on a couch of rose-coloured silk, worthy of Cytherea herself, half-sitting, half-reposing, with her highly rouged cheek resting on her snowy hand, that hand supported on a richly bound volume of the Life of La Vallière, delicious model of the wasted dexterity, cheated ambition, and profitless passion of a court beauty, and her eyes gazing on the letter which this pretty charlatan wrote on her knees, in the incredible hope of making a Frenchman feel. The Countess decided upon trying the La Vallière experiment upon the spot, writing a letter to the Emperor, declaring the “secret flame which had so long consumed her,” “confessing” her resolution to fly into a convent, and compelling his obdurate spirit to meditate upon the means of rescuing so brilliant an ornament of his court from four bare walls, the fearful sight of monks and nuns, and the performance of matins and vespers as duly as the day.

At this critical moment, one of the imperial carriages entered the porte cochère. A gentleman of the court, stiff with embroidery, and stiffer with Austrian etiquette, descended from it, was introduced by the pages in attendance, and with his knee almost touching the ground, as to the future possessor of the diadem, presented to the Countess a morocco case. It contained a letter. The perusal of the missive brought into the fair reader’s face a colour that fairly outburned all the labours of her three hours’ toilette. It requested the Countess Joblonsky’s acceptance of the trifle accompanying the note, and was signed Leopold. The case was eagerly opened. A burst of brilliancy flashed into the gazers eyes. It was the superb watch, the long-talked of—the watch of the Princess Marosin, and now given as an acknowledgment of the personal superiority of her handsome competitor. She saw a crown glittering in strong imagination above her head. The Life of La Vallière was spurned from her. The Abbé was instantly countermanded. The Countess had given up the nunnery; she ordered her six Polish steeds, and drove off to make her acknowledgments to the Emperor in person.

But what is the world? The Countess had come at an inauspicious time. She found the streets crowded with people talking of some extraordinary event, though whether of the general conflagration, or the flight of one of the Archduchesses, it was impossible to discover from the popular ideas on the subject. Further on, she found her progress impeded by the troops. The palace was double-guarded. There had evidently been some formidable occurrence. A scaffold was standing in the court, with two dead bodies in the Pandour uniform lying upon it. Cannon, with lighted matches, were pointed down the principal streets. The regiment of Pandours passed her, with Von Herbert at their head, looking so deeply intent upon something or other, that she in vain tried to obtain a glance towards her equipage. The Pandours, a gallant-looking but wild set, rushed out of the gates, and galloped forward to scour the forest like wolf-dogs in full cry. The regiment of Imperial Guards, with Prince Charles of Buntzlau witching the world with the best-perfumed pair of mustaches, and the most gallantly embroidered mantle in any hussar corps in existence, rode past, with no more than a bow. All was confusion, consternation, and the clank of sabre-sheaths, trumpets, and kettle-drums. The Countess gave up the day and the diadem, returned to her palace, and began the study of La Vallière again.

The story at length transpired. The Emperor’s life had been attempted. His own detail to his Privy Council was—That before daylight he had found himself suddenly attacked in his bed by ruffians. His arms had been pinioned during his sleep. He called out for the Pandour officers who had been placed in his antechamber; but to his astonishment, the flash of a lamp, borne by one of the assailants, showed him those Pandours the most active in his seizure. Whether their purpose was to carry him off, or to kill him on the spot; to convey him to some cavern or forest, where they might force him to any conditions they pleased, or to extinguish the imperial authority in his person at once, was beyond his knowledge; but the vigour of his resistance had made them furious, and the dagger of one of the conspirators was already at his throat, when he saw the hand that held it lopped off by the sudden blow of a sabre from behind. Another hand now grasped his hair, and he felt the edge of a sabre, which slightly wounded him in the neck, but before the blow could be repeated, the assailant fell forward, with a curse and a groan, and died at his feet, exclaiming that they were betrayed. This produced palpable consternation among them; and on hearing a sound outside, like the trampling of the guards on their rounds, they had silently vanished, leaving him bleeding and bound. He had now made some effort to reach the casement and cry out for help, but a handkerchief had been tied across his face, his arms and feet were fastened by a scarf, and he lay utterly helpless. In a few moments after, he heard steps stealing along the chamber. It was perfectly dark; he could see no one; but he gave himself up for lost. The voice, however, told him that there was no enemy now in the chamber, and offered to loose the bandage from his face, on condition that he would answer certain questions. The voice was that of an old man, said he, but there was a tone of honesty about it that made me promise at once.

“I have saved your life,” said the stranger; “what will you give me for this service?”

“If this be true, ask what you will.”

“I demand a free pardon for the robbery of the Turkish courier, for shooting the Turkish envoy, and for stabbing the Grand Chamberlain in your presence.”

“Are you a fool or a madman who ask this?”

“To you neither. I demand, further, your pardon for stripping Prince Charles of Buntzlau of his wife and his whiskers together—for marrying the Princess of Marosin—and for turning your Majesty into an acknowledged lover of the Countess Joblonsky.”

“Who and what are you? Villain, untie my hands.”

The cord was snapped asunder.

“Tell me your name, or I shall call the guards, and have you hanged on the spot.”

“My name!” the fellow exclaimed, with a laugh,—“Oh, it is well enough known everywhere,—at court, in the cottages, in the city, and on the high-road—by your Majesty’s guards, and by your Majesty’s subjects. I am the Pandour of Pandours—your correspondent, and now your cabinet counsellor. Farewell, Emperor, and remember—Speranski!”

“The cords were at the instant cut from my feet. I sprang after him; but I might as well have sprung after my own shadow. He was gone—but whether into the air or the earth, or whether the whole dialogue was not actually the work of my own imagination, favoured by the struggle with the conspirators, I cannot tell to this moment. One thing, however, was unquestionable, that I had been in the hands of murderers, for I stumbled over the two bodies of the assassins who were cut down in the mêlée. The first lamp that was brought in showed me also, that the two Pandour captains had been turned into the two Palatines of Sidlitz and Frankerin, but by what magic I cannot yet conjecture.”

A more puzzling affair never had bewildered the high and mighty functionaries of the imperial court. They pondered upon it for the day, and they might have added the year to their deliberations without being nearer the truth. The roll of the Pandours had been called over. None were missing except the two captains; and certainly the two conspirators, though in the Pandour uniform, were not of the number.

More perplexity still. The imperial horse-guards returned in the evening terribly offended by a day’s gallop through the vulgarity of the Hungarian thickets, but suffering no other loss than of a few plumes and tassels, if we except one, of pretty nearly the same kind, Prince Charles of Buntzlau. The Prince had been tempted to spur his charger through a thicket. He led the way in pursuit of the invisible enemy; he never came back. His whole regiment galloped after him in all directions. They might as well have hunted a mole; he must have gone under ground—but where, was beyond the brains of his brilliantly dressed troopers. He was un prince perdu.

Leopold was indignant at this frolic, for as such he must conceive it; and ordered one of his aides-de-camp to wait at the quarters of the corps, until the future bridegroom grew weary of his wild-goose chase, and acquaint him that the next morning was appointed for his marriage. But he returned not.

Next morning there was another fund of indignation prepared for the astonished Emperor. The bride was as undiscoverable as the bridegroom. The palace of the Princess de Marosin had been entered in the night; but her attendants could tell no more than that they found her chamber doors open, and their incomparable tenant flown, like a bird from its gilded cage. All search was made, and made in vain. The Prince returned after a week’s detention by robbers in a cave. He was ill received. Leopold, astonished and embarrassed, conscious that he was treading on a soil of rebellion, and vexed by his personal disappointments, broke up his court, and rapidly set out for the hereditary dominions.

He had subsequently serious affairs to think of. The French interest in Turkey roused the Ottoman to a war. Orders were given for a general levy through the provinces, and the Emperor himself commenced a tour of inspection of the frontier lying towards Roumelia. In the Croatian levy, he was struck peculiarly with the Count Corneglio Bancaleone, Colonel of a corps of Pandours, eminent for beauty of countenance and dignity of form; for activity in the manœuvres of his active regiment, and one of the most popular of the nobles of Croatia. The Emperor expressed himself so highly gratified with the Count’s conduct, that, as a mark of honour, he proposed to take up his quarters in the palace. The Count bowed; reluctance was out of the question. The Emperor came, and was received with becoming hospitality; but where was the lady of the mansion? She was unfortunately indisposed. The Emperor expressed his regret, and the apology was accepted; but in the evening, while, after a day of reviews and riding through the Croatian hills, he was enjoying the lovely view of the sun going down over the Adriatic, and sat at a window covered with fruits and flowers, impearled with the dew of a southern twilight, a Hungarian song struck his ear, that had been a peculiar favourite of his two years before, during his stay in Presburg. He inquired of the Count who was the singer. Bancaleone’s confusion was visible. In a few moments the door suddenly opened, and two beautiful infants, who had strayed away from their attendants, rambled into the room. The Count in vain attempted to lead them out. His imperial guest was delighted with them, and begged that they might be allowed to stay.

The eldest child, to pay his tribute to the successful advocate on the occasion, repeated the Hungarian song. “Who had taught him?” “His mother, who was a Hungarian.” Bancaleone rose in evident embarrassment, left the room, and shortly returned leading that mother. She fell at the Emperor’s feet. She was the Princess of Marosin, lovelier than ever; with the glow of the mountain air on her cheek, and her countenance lighted up with health, animation, and expressive beauty. Leopold threw his arms round his lovely relative, and exhibited the highest gratification in finding her again, and finding her so happy.

But sudden reflections covered the imperial brow with gloom. The mysterious deaths, the conspiracies, the sanguinary violences of Presburg, rose in his mind, and he felt the painful necessity of explanation.

Bancaleone had left the room; but an attendant opened the door, saying that a Pandour had brought a despatch for his Majesty. The Pandour entered, carrying a portefeuille in his hand. The Emperor immediately recognised him, as having often attracted his notice on parade, by his activity on horseback and his handsome figure. After a few tours d’addresse, which showed his skill in disguise, the Count threw off the Pandour, and explained the mystifications of Presburg.

“I had been long attached,” said he, “to the Princess of Marosin, before your Majesty had expressed your wishes in favour of the alliance of Prince Charles of Buntzlau. I immediately formed the presumptuous determination of thwarting the Prince’s objects. I entered, by the favour of my old friend, Colonel von Herbert, as a private in his Pandours, and was thus on the spot to attend to my rival’s movements. The Pandours are, as your Majesty knows, great wanderers through the woods, and one of them, by some means or other, had found, or perhaps robbed, a part of the Turkish courier’s despatches. These despatches he showed to a comrade, who showed them to me; they were of importance, for they developed a plot which the Turks were concerting with some profligate nobles of Presburg, to carry off your Majesty into the Turkish dominions, a plot which waited only for the arrival of the Turkish envoy. I got leave of absence, joined some of the rabble of gipsies who tell fortunes, and rob when they have no fortunes to tell. We met the Turk, a mêlée ensued, he was unfortunately killed; but I secured the despatches. The Turk deserved his fate as a conspirator. His papers contained the names of twenty Magnates, all purchased by Turkish gold. The Magnates were perplexed by his death. They now waited for the arrival of a Romish priest, who was to manage the ecclesiastical part of your Majesty’s murder. I went into the woods again, caught the Cardinal alive on his march, put him into the hands of the gypsies, who, feeling no homage for his vocation, put him on a sanative and antipolitical regimen of bread and water for a fortnight, and then dismissed him over the frontier. On the day of the coronation, your Majesty was to have died by the hands of Colvellino. I volunteered the office. Colvellino followed me, to keep me to my duty. I plucked your robe to put you on your guard; saw the Grand Chamberlain’s dagger drawn to repay me for my officiousness, and in self-defence was forced to use my own. He was a traitor, and he died only too honourable a death.”

“But the magic that changed the Pandour captains into Palatines? That Speranski too, who had the impudence to lecture me in my bonds?” asked the Emperor, with a smile.

“All was perfectly simple,” said the Count; “the two captains were invited to a supper in the palace, which soon disqualified them for taking your Majesty’s guard. Their uniforms were then given to two of the Palatines, who undertook to carry off your Majesty, or kill you in case of resistance. But no man can work without instruments. One of the gypsies, who was to have acted as postilion on the occasion, sold his employment for that night to another, who sold his secret to me. I remained in the next chamber to your Majesty’s during the night. I had posted a dozen of the Pandours within call, in case of your being in actual danger. But my first purpose was to baffle the conspiracy without noise; however, the ruffians were more savage than I had thought them, and I was nearly too late. But two strokes of the sabre were enough, and the two Palatines finished their career as expeditiously at least as if they had died upon the scaffold. In this portefeuille are the Turk’s despatches, the Cardinal’s prayers, Colvellino’s plot, and the Magnate’s oaths.”

Leopold rose and took him by the hand. “Count, you shall be my aide-de-camp, and a general. You deserve every praise that can be given to skill and courage. But the watch, the pendule, the trap for that prince of parroquets, Buntzlau?” said Leopold, bursting out into a laugh fatal to all etiquette.

“Your Majesty will excuse me,” said the Count; “these are a lady’s secrets, or the next to a lady’s, a man of fashion’s. Mystification all. Magic everywhere; and it is not over yet. The Vienna paper this morning met my astonished eye with a full account of the marriage of his Serene Highness of Buntzlau with the illustrious widow of the Count Lublin née Joblonsky. Capitally matched. He brings her his ringlets, she brings him her rouge. He enraptures her with the history of his loves; she can give him love for love at least. He will portion her with his debts, and she is as equal as any Countess in Christendom to return the politeness in kind. Vive le beau marriage! A coxcomb is the true cupidon for a coquette all over the world.”