|Back||1 2 3||Next|
But Bonaparte declined the dejeuner, in spite of the repeated and most pressing requests of Count Cobenzl.
"At least take a cup of chocolate to warm yourself," urged the count. "Drink it out of this cup, general, and if it were only in order to increase its value in my eyes. The Empress Catharine gave it to me, and drank from it; and if you now use this cup likewise, I might boast of possessing a cup from which the greatest man and the greatest woman of this century have drunk!"
"I shall not drink, count!" replied Bonaparte, bluntly. "I will have nothing in common with this imperial Messalina, who, by her dissolute life, equally disgraced the dignity of the crown and of womanhood. You see I am a strong-headed republican, who only understands to talk of business. Let us, therefore, attend to that at once."
Without waiting for an invitation, he sat down on the divan close to the breakfast-table, and, with a rapid gesture, motioned the two gentlemen to take seats at his side.
"I informed you of my ultimatum the day before yesterday," said Bonaparte, coldly; "have you taken it into consideration, and are you going to accept it?"
This blunt and hasty question, so directly at the point, disconcerted the two diplomatists.
"We will weigh and consider with you what can be done," said Count Cobenzl, timidly. "France asks too much and offers too little. Austria is ready to cede Belgium to France, and give up Lombardy, but in return she demands the whole territory of Venice, Mantua included."
"Mantua must remain with the new Cisalpine Republic!" exclaimed Bonaparte, vehemently. "That is one of the stipulations of my ultimatum, and you seem to have forgotten it, count. And you say nothing about the frontier of the Rhine, and of the fortress of Mentz, both of which I have claimed for France."
"But, general, the Rhine does not belong to Austria, and Mentz is garrisoned by German troops. We cannot give away what does not belong to us."
"Do not I give Venice to you?" exclaimed Bonaparte--"Venice, which, even at the present hour, is a sovereign state, and whose delegates are at my headquarters, waiting for my reply! The Emperor of Germany has certainly the right to give away a German fortress if he choose."
"Well, Austria is not indisposed to cede the frontier of the Rhine to France," remarked the Marquis de Gallo. "Austria is quite willing and ready to form a close alliance with France, in order to resist the ambitious schemes of Prussia."
"If Austria should acquire new territory in consequence of an understanding with France, she must be sure that no such right of aggrandizement should be granted to Prussia," said Count Cobenzl, hastily.
"France and Austria might pledge themselves in a secret treaty not to permit any further aggrandizement of Prussia, but to give back to her simply her former possessions on the Rhine," said De Gallo.
"No digressions, if you please!" exclaimed Bonaparte, impatiently. "Let us speak of my ultimatum. In the name of France, I have offered you peace, provided the territories on the left bank of the Rhine with their stipulated boundaries, including Mentz, be ceded to France, and provided, further, that the Adige form the boundary-line between Austria and the Cisalpine Republic, Mantua to belong to the latter. You cede Belgium to France, but, in return, we give you the continental possessions of Venice; only Corfu and the Ionian Islands are to fall to the share of France, and the Adige is to form the frontier of Venetian Austria."
"I told you already, general," said Count Cobenzl, with his most winning smile, "we cannot accept the last condition. We must have Mantua, likewise; in return, we give you Mentz; and not the Adige, but the Adda, must be our frontier."
"Ah! I see--new difficulties, new subterfuges!" exclaimed Bonaparte, and his eyes darted a flash of anger at the diplomatist.
This angry glance, however, was parried by the polite smile of the count. "I took the liberty of informing you likewise of OUR ultimatum, general," he said, gently, "and I am sorry to be compelled to declare that I shall have to leave this place unless our terms be acceded to. But in that case, I shall hold YOU responsible for the blood of the thousands which may be shed in consequence."
Bonaparte jumped up, with flaming eyes, and lips quivering with rage.
"You dare to threaten me!" he shouted, angrily. "You resort to subterfuge after subterfuge. Then you are determined to have war? Very well, you shall have it."
He extended his arm hastily and seized the precious cup which the Empress Catharine had given to Count Cobenzl, and, with an impetuous motion, hurled it to the ground, where it broke to pieces with a loud crash.
"See there!" he shouted in a thundering voice. "Your Austrian monarchy shall be shattered like this cup within less than three months. I promise you that."
Without deigning to cast another glance upon the two gentlemen, he hurried with rapid steps to the door, and left the room.
Pale with anger and dismay, Count Cobenzl stared at the debris of the precious cup, which so long had been the pride and joy of his heart.
"He is leaving," muttered the Marquis de Gallo. "Shall we let him go, count?"
"How is that bear to be kept here?" asked the count, sighing, and shrugging his shoulders.
At this moment Bonaparte's powerful voice was heard in the anteroom, calling out:
"He calls out of the window," whispered the marquis. "Let us hear what he has got to say."
The two plenipotentiaries slipped on tiptoe to the window, cautiously peeping from behind the curtains. They saw a French lancer galloping up below, and stopping and saluting under the window of the adjoining room.
Again they heard Bonaparte's thundering voice. "Ride over to the headquarters of Archduke Charles," shouted Bonaparte. "Tell him on my behalf that the armistice is at an end, and that hostilities will recommence from the present hour. That is all. Depart!"
|Back||1 2 3||Next|
Louisa of Prussia and Her Times -by- Louisa MuhlbachBottom Content goes here. Wikipedia content requires these links..... Wikipedia content is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.