( Originally Published 1921 )
AT the head of the corps of diplomatic representatives, stood the magnificent figure of Monsignor Galimberti, soon afterward Cardinal, and the intimate friend of His Holiness. Galimberti was considered one of the handsomest, cleverest, most cultivated, and affable men in Europe, and wielded immense power with His Apostolic Majesty, the Austrian Emperor, first son of the Church of Rome. Galimberti enjoyed society immensely, and always played a great rôle, with his rank and brains and beauty of robes and feature. A man somewhat over fifty, high-bred, and with quick, clear eyes, he led the conversation and captivated those who surrounded him, whether in his capacity of prelate, man of the world, statesman, or merely a human being. He was seemingly very unpretentious, with a kindly word for the foot-man who took his cloak or the child who was presented to him. Italian by birth and traditions, he was cosmopolitan by education, and quite unbiassed, and he made himself sincerely admired. He found time often to stop in at my mother's for a chat, and the success of the Protestant American couple in winning and holding his interest caused much talk, we heard, among their Catholic rivals for the prelate's attentions.
Next came the Italian Ambassador, who in looks, charm, intellect, and dignity was a social rival of the papal nuncio. The two men, of course, politically be-longed to different factions, though Count Nigra was a Catholic. But he represented the King, who in United Italy was the usurper of the Vatican's temporal power, according to the Pontiff. The Holy Father did not receive King Humbert or the beautiful Queen Margherita, and could not himself move beyond the gardens of the Vatican. Austria's Emperor, I think, was in a difficult position, for his title of Apostolic Majesty had been given by the Roman popes centuries ago, and the Hapsburgs had always been the most enthusiastic supporters and the "eldest children" of the Vatican, while, since the Triple Alliance had been inaugurated, the King of Italy, like the German Emperor, was Francis Joseph's friend and ally. Within the century and his own reign, Germany had captured Austrian provinces in the north, while Italy had seized Tuscan and Venetian lands, and the old Grand Duke of Tuscany lived in exile in Vienna under the protection of his Hapsburg cousin.
Count Nigra was just the man to ease a strained situation. Of international reputation for his suave and supple qualities of brain and manner, a man of wealth and culture, he made the Italian Embassy the scene of constant and most agreeable small parties. Bores were not admitted except at a few big official parties, and then they were so overbalanced by wits and beauties that they seemed unable to tarnish their surroundings, as elsewhere they might. Nigra, himself a delightful conversationalist, led off in the gaiety of his feasts, and his cordon bleu was one of the best chefs in a capital famous for its admirable food. A series of official dinners occurred each year at the Italian Embassy, where the court and diplomatic corps were agreeably mixed, and at these pre-sided in turn, once each, the wives of the host's col-leagues. The wife of an ambassador or minister was glad always to mention she was to play hostess at the banquet of such a date. Therefore there was consider-able conversation, some of it a little acid, when it was discovered by close observers that there had been three or four dinners in one season at which my mother had done the honors, and that by degrees Count Nigra more and more frequently invited the pretty American lady to sit at the head of his great board.
Both my mother and father enjoyed the Italian's par-ties extremely, for they were soon favored by the friend-ship of those men and women Nigra frequented. Consequently my parents felt at home at these gatherings, which were as informal as possible, in spite of their elegance, the beautiful appointments of flowers and silver, and the damasks and art collections with which the talented old bachelor surrounded himself.
It was amusing to notice how pleased people were by an invitation from him, and how the women prepared and reserved their best gowns for the frame of the Italian Embassy, while men would speak of the good dinner to come, and the probably interesting talk. To Count Nigra's credit it must be said that in four seasons I never heard of any one who was disillusioned by what he offered them in the way of entertainment. Aside from his superficial gifts, he was admired and beloved. I saw him often after I made my début, and was really touched when months after I returned to America the mail one morning brought me a New Year's greeting with the best of wishes for my success in America, signed "Nigra."
After his signal services at the Hapsburg court, where he had established the best of relations between old and hereditary enemies, this distinguished diplomat received the recompense he merited at his King's hands, and was recalled to Rome to take over the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Some years later he died, mourned by a host of friends the world over. Constantly in my later life I found a bond with some stranger through our mutual admiration and fondness for Count Nigra.
Germany, the third member of the "Triplice," was represented at Vienna by the best they could send, Prince. Henry of Reuss, a cultivated and agreeable aristocrat, elderly and dignified. His Embassy palace was in the new part of town and seemed showy, large, imposing, uninteresting, and somewhat arrogant in its nouveau-riche gilding and its modern portraits of equally modern emperors. Prince Reuss and his wife were not them-selves so new as their surroundings, however. She, of Saxe-Weimar blood, though heavy, red-faced, and typically German in looks and dress, had brains far beyond the recipe of the young Emperor William for the women of his empire, when he said they should be exclusively interested in their "Kirche, Kinder, and Küche " (church, children, and kitchens). Princess Reuss's ancestors had been among the small German sovereigns who cultivated the arts, and Goethe at Weimar had lived all the latter part of his life as their protégé. Her father was own brother to Augusta, old Emperor William's wife. Emperor Frederick was therefore Princess Reuss's first cousin, and William II was her second cousin. She had apparently no particular scruple in showing that she did not agree with various parts of her young sovereign's policy. She frankly said his attitude toward his parents and toward Bismarck was all that was arrogant and lacking in the respect due them.
Finally, when Bismarck was summarily dismissed by William II, the ex-Chancellor passed through Vienna on his way for a cure, and Princess Reuss chose the moment to make a conspicuous demonstration by going to call on him. She announced to all her friends she did so be-cause she had been brought up to see in Bismarck the genius who built Germany, for which good Germans should not be ungrateful. She added further spicy remarks, suggesting that in her opinion the German Emperor was ignorant and young, and should be shown how to behave. I fancy William II was already far beyond learning from any one, least of all from his cousin. Reuss himself made no sign, and one could only wonder how far his silence was official, and whether he approved or disagreed with his wife. He let her talk without pro-testing, however, and she went to call on Bismarck while her husband stayed shut up in the Embassy.
Vienna discussed and enjoyed the situation very much indeed, for I think honestly the gentle Austrians cared little for their northern allies. Doubtless Berlin echoed. this, and the upshot was that after a few months Prince Reuss, who was older than his wife by nearly twenty years, retired from the diplomatic service. They re-turned to Germany to educate their children shortly before my father took us home to the United States.
Princess Reuss had the qualities of her race, for she was a fine musician, a serious reader and thinker, with an admirable practical mind and sincere convictions. My father enjoyed conversing with her, as did other brainy men, who were always interested in her conclusions on the political questions of the day. She was a student of art and history, and could be very amiable and altogether simple, but she was immensely direct, thought it not worth while to make an effort when there was no feeling of sympathy behind it, and, consequently, ignored a good many smaller people, when her .srniling on them might have contributed to her general popularity or made the fêtes at the German Embassy more brilliant than they ever appeared to be in Vienna's season. She seemed a very devoted but somewhat severe mother, with three nice children, two sons and a daughter.
Twenty or more years after all this, in Russia, I met the latter again, a typical, gentle, round-faced girl getting on in life, still unmarried, and with a subdued look. I no longer felt I knew her well enough to ask what her life had been, but I fancied it was not a gay one.
Outside the "Triplice" ambassadors, there were their rivals, though so excellent were social relations that no friction ever occurred. As an individual, first among these stood Prince Lobanoff, the Russian Ambassador, a bachelor, a student of people, history, and politics, a man of immense distinction and charm of mind and manner. Rich, with collections of books, furniture, and works of art, he represented the best Russia could produce. A Slav, artistic, supple, strong, amiable, simple, a delightful companion and a warm friend, he was a most able representative of his Emperor. Both the latter's noble, splendid nature and his strength were felt; for Alexander III, the home-loving autocrat, was reigning then in St. Petersburg and made his power for good realized, in wholesome fashion, all over Europe. The Ambassador was well surrounded by able men and attractive women, and the latter received with him to perfection. We grew unaccountably intimate with them, as one does with Russians, who are always natural and charming. For many years afterward we kept up the warm relations formed.
My father and Lobanoff corresponded after we left Vienna until the latter died. He had, like Nigra, been recalled to his own and to a high post under Nicholas II. At the time of his death he still filled this post. Among his papers was found an analysis of his sovereign's character, judging the latter most exactly both in his good qualities and his weaknesses, a portrait which afterward our Emperor unconsciously lived up to in every detail, proving what an admirable psychologist Prince Lobanoff was.
Very shortly before his death Lobanoff sent my father a fine photogravure of a painting of him which had just been completed. Then we heard of his death and thought the thread was broken, but years later my Russian brother-in-law married the distinguished old man's grand-niece, and I found myself surrounded in the latter's salon with Lobanoff souvenirs, some of which were gathered in Austria in those old days, when I had known him.
Prince Lobanoff's Embassy counsellor was Prince Gregory Cantacuzène, a relative of my own future husband, and I knew his daughter well and was very fond of her in our youth, little dreaming we should be connected some day, or that our boys would be classmates in the Russian Imperial Lyceum. There were several other members of the Russian Embassy in Vienna whom I met again in my adopted home and with whom the relations established long before were later taken up with pleasure.
The British Ambassador was a sunny, agreeable, good-natured sportsman—Sir Augustus Paget—handsome, friends with every one, very keen about shooting and the races, which were so good in Austria. He was well over sixty years old, but was learning to skate with enthusiasm and vigor, genially admitting he had had small pads put into the elbows of his skating-jacket and into various other vulnerable spots as well, where experience had taught him it was wise to protect himself. Lady Paget had been, and was still, at fifty or more, a great beauty, with enchanting clothes and distinguished manners and conversation, and she made the Embassy an attractive, homelike meeting-place to all Anglo-Saxons. She and my mother liked one another extremely.
The French Embassy was in a class by itself. Occupying the ancient and historic palace of the Lobkowitz family, its official parties were always well done and gay, with good music and fine silver from the French Government's garde-meuble. Also there was a daughter in the house who dressed smartly, and, known as the possessor of a comfortable dot, she was sufficiently surrounded by the youthful diplomats, especially her father's various young secretaries. But there were very few informal parties at the French Embassy. Albert Decrais, Ambassador, a short, thick-set wine-merchant of Bordeaux, might be a good man over his desk, but his lack of social talents prevented him from taking a place of importance among his colleagues, once the official bow and smile were accomplished. His wife was like himself, and remained mainly occupied by her homesickness for Bordeaux !
There was an old Turk, too, who after some years of ambassadorship committed suicide one day. Every one expressed official regrets and really felt rather sorry for his two sons, nice boys, who had been brought up in Europe and were pleasant members of our small dancing-class.
Among the ministers heading legations, old Count Bray, from Bavaria, eighty-four and an admirable shot as well-as a cultivated, charming man of the world, had an agreeable position, since he represented the Austrian Empress's native country. Also Mr. de Lövenorn, the Danish Minister, had a brilliant wit with a sharp tongue, and was much invited. He had a particularly warm welcome in the agreeable small circle of which the Duke and Duchess of Cumberland were the centre, the latter being the youngest daughter of the King of Denmark and sister to the then Empress of Russia and the Princess Alexandra of Wales. Lövenorn was therefore received at first on this account by the Russians and British, too, and afterward by his own accomplishments and conversational talents he held his place. He and my father became excellent comrades, and when later I found him representing his country at the court of St. Petersburg he brought up pleasant memories of the days when so often they had talked and smoked or played whist together in Vienna. The various Belgians were agreeable and, representing the father of the widowed Crown Princess Stéphanie, they were welcome everywhere. Other-wise the diplomatic corps was composed of more or less average personalities, who made a neutral background for these particular stars in our firmament.
We seemed to have many attractive people constantly at our house, and by the time I was old enough to be presented at court, I had a number of well-disposed friends among my father's and mother's colleagues and among the jeunesse dorée which composed the groups of secretaries. I also had a lot of intimates among the young Austrian girls, usually so shy with foreigners that I apparently was the only non-Austrian in their midst ; but their typical ways were half their charm to me, and their simple natures and manners led me to feel at ease.
Those early years in Vienna were spent very quietly, though the legation almost always contained a number of interesting people to whom I was allowed to listen, when I was at liberty. But for three winters I had mainly to study and was rarely in company.
We were a great deal with our parents, for through the spring and autumn their evenings were free, except when their informal dinners to travelling compatriots filled the legation salons. During the height of the winter season we usually went for an hour or two with them in the late afternoon to skate. My parents had both been very good at this sport in their youth, and they took it up again with much enjoyment as a change from office work or housekeeping cares. My brother and I were both learning, though I never managed to compare with my elders. However, I liked extremely both the gay crowd on the ice and the exercise in the cold air.
One year I studied dancing with some little girls at the palace of the Hungarian representative to the Austrian court. Hungary underscored its independence of the sister empire by sending this representative to live in state in Vienna. The palace was vast, dark, ancient, and splendid. The representative of the King of Hungary to the Austrian Emperor as a personage was equally magnificent. Mr. Sogueny, whose family had been too proud to accept a title from any modern sovereign's hands, made just claim, I was told, to one of the oldest and greatest names in Hungary. Sogueny was agree-able and distinguished in brain, manner, and looks, apparently also possessing the fire typical of his race. He impressed me very much with his swift and elegant movements, his swarthy skin, and intense blue-gray eyes, and though his black hair stood up straight in cultivated disorder on top of his head, giving him a ferocious look, he seemed the quintessence of perfection in his dress, and was a most affectionate and gentle father to his three daughters, Camilla, Maria, and Lili, who were my friends.
A year later, as I was going on sixteen, my mother arranged a larger class of boys and girls of the diplomatic corps, to dance at the legation on Saturday evenings. Young Dutch, Turks, Russians, English, French, and Spaniards came with their mothers and fathers to these early parties, *and by degrees a number of secretaries and attachés won their way into being included, till the group grew far beyond the original intention of the organizer. However, we had delightful gatherings, and they helped me to know the young colleagues who would number among my partners when I was old enough to make my bow at court.
By this time my parents, and I also, were feeling very much at home in the beautiful Austrian capital. I had learned to speak German almost as did the natives, also I liked the whole atmosphere of our life, and I never had a feeling that any of the old customs were disagreeably strange. They had too much of historic interest and artistic value.
Especially two great ceremonies which occurred yearly made a strong impression on me. I grew to appreciate their religious meanings as well as their grandeur. One was a pageant through the streets of the old capital, and was called the " Corpus, Christi Procession." It occurred a few days before or after Trinity Sunday, and in the soft June heat the ancient city looked its best. At a certain point on the route in one of the squares, where the architecture of the façades and a perfect gem of a fountain made exactly the background required, a stand was erected for such diplomats and foreigners as cared to view the scene.
Early in the morning we took our seats there and waited. Opposite our stand was placed a small temporary chapel, very handsome with its canopy of crimson velvet, embroidered and fringed in gold and fitted with an altar, with the flowers and vessels, missals and crucifix necessary to a service, which would break the progress of the solemn march. Soon—for all functions in Vienna were very prompt—a hush fell over the company assembled in the square, and one looked about at this picture of the Middle Ages, which really it was in all respects save our own incongruous clothes : the perfect blue against which roof lines of red or green or brown tiles silhouetted themselves made a delightful effect, as did the balconies and windows in which women and girls in bright gowns were seated, the gentle murmur of the fountain, the gay velvet of the chapel, and our own red stand, together with a strip of carpet in the same rich color rolled out over sand which was spread to sften the cobblestones along the route. On the sand and over the carpet were scattered twigs and green leaves, symbolic of the holiday and adding their note of color.
A procession approached solemnly through the sun-shine, and it was quite impossible even to name all the participants in this magnificent throng, more mediæval even than its frame. There were choir-boys and incense-bearers in scarlet with white lace, prelates in robes of black and gold and purple, bishops and archbishops in full regalia, the first among them marching in state under a red-and-gold canopy, and carrying high the Host on a covered tray, so all might see and cross themselves devoutly as the Holy of Holies passed them by. There was no music but the slow, lovely chant of the young choristers. With dignity the lines came to a standstill in front of the wee chapel, where a short service was held; then the march was resumed and went on through the winding streets, till it ended in one of the churches.
As the procession halted, and the personages in it took their places, it was to be seen that behind the prelates, following the canopy, his bared head bowed in the hot sun, walked His Majesty the Emperor. None was a more attentive son of the church than he, and his simple sincerity and faith were evident in the example he set the archdukes and the members of his court. He was in full uniform and carried a great candle in one hand, together with his headgear. With his other hand he devoutly made the sign of the cross at proper intervals.
In a body the archdukes were a fine-looking group. Old Charles Louis, the Emperor's brother, looked older and less vigorous than the sovereign, whose junior he really was by several years; he moved slowly and without Francis Joseph's quick compactness. His three sons came next in line. Francis Ferdinand, the new heir since Rudolf's death, was tightly buttoned in an unbecoming uniform, seemed large and heavy, with sandy hair and mustache, and dull eyes. No wonder the people felt less enthusiasm for him than for his brilliant cousin, who had been an heir after their own hearts, in spite of all his failings. The handsome reprobate, Otto, came next. His conduct was the town's talk, and he was to die from dissipation. In this group was a third brother, an over-grown youth with amiable expression, called Ferdinand.
Then there was old Archduke Albert, a hero of several wars, his body slightly bent by age, but with a spirit which still carried him through long ceremonies. He was pointed out to me by my father as the most distinguished in reputation of the imperial family, and later at court I met him, when he seemed very amiable and toll me how he had known my grandfather during the latter's visit to Austria. He had white hair, closely clipped, a closely clipped white beard and mustache as well; he was frailer and more shrivelled than the Emperor, and his eyes behind his spectacles looked old and strained though not dull.
Albert was rich and had a palace, one of the handsomest in Vienna, which stood up well above the surrounding buildings on an eminence, and there he and the charming old Archduchess Elisabeth, mother of the then Queen Regent of Spain, had their apartments. Surrounded by many souvenirs of their past, this old fraternal pair led a contented life. They enjoyed doing good to their people, and fulfilled their round of duties, both religious and civic. The Emperor was fond of both and they had a unique position at court, whenever they chose to appear, which was very rarely. Generally they saw a variety of people within the walls of their own palace, where their dinners brought together many choice spirits, the light repast of perfect food and rare vintages, followed by fine music, providing an excuse for meetings well worth while.
There were several more male members of the Hapsburg family in the procession of the Corpus Christi feast-day, but only one other person attracted notice—that was the Archduke Eugene. He was admittedly the most picturesque person at the Austrian court, towering by nearly a head in height above the tall men of the aristocracy, and bearing his well-proportioned figure finely. His beauty was, however, even more a matter of expression and high breeding than of feature. The color of his eyes or the shape of his nose was of no consequence, but one kept the remembrance of his ability to represent a thou-sand years or more of imperial traditions, and in spite of comparative youth his dignity was as great as his simplicity. To meet him was the ambition of almost all the women, but when the introduction was over and a few polite sentences had been exchanged, the incident was closed once and for all. Eugene's occupations were of a serious nature, and he gave himself up to them completely. He had joined the Order of St. John, and I never saw him appear at any but religious or state ceremonies—and then in the full robes of his order. The sweeping plumed hat of Rubens's time, made in black, became his small head, with its short cropped curls, while his long white cloth cape with its black Maltese cross over the heart, together with the boots, gauntlets, and other garments of the same period, seemed most effective. This costume stood out in the mass of bright colors at court, yet all theatrical effect was counteracted by the earnestness of eyes and unconsciousness of carriage. Those belonged to some knight of the Round Table, and held even strangers in respect.
I do not remember seeing the Archduke Eugene at a court ball. He never danced, and at these functions my interest was centred completely in the young officers or diplomats who best understood Strauss's rhythm; but in the " Corpus Christi Procession " the religious uniform of St. John's and its wearer caught and held one's attention. It was so at the " Foot-Washing Ceremony, too, where somehow he seemed to be the central figure in a group of picked men.
This quaint ceremony, with its lovely tradition of the humility of power and riches toward poverty, occurred for many centuries in the beautiful frame of the old Hofburg palace quite regularly Thursday morning in Holy Week. A small gallery was erected for the diplomatic corps, whose members came at an early hour, the men in uniform, the women all in black. The great room, softly lighted, was very impressive. Finely pro-. portioned, decorated as in old days only it could be done, when real artists made a life-work of such ornamentation, its carvings and gilt, touched lovingly by time, made the background seem worthy of the ceremony which soon was to take place there. In front of our gallery stood a raised dais, knee-high, and on this twelve seats with a long table just found room. Only a few chamberlains were about. They made us welcome and showed us to our places, then resumed their whispering among them-selves.
In the distance we heard vague chants from the imperial chapel, where mass was being celebrated. The service finished, voices approached us from a distance through the halls. Then, as usual, handsome Count Hunyady, grand marshal of the court, appeared and stood in an imposing position before the double door at the extreme end of the room exactly opposite to us. From a side entrance a strange group appeared : twelve old men—the "oldest and poorest beggars" in Vienna—were brought in. They were white-haired and childish of face, and looked just right in the costumes they wore, cut. on long, straight lines in some dark, soft material. Quaint capes covered their shoulders, and broad-brimmed soft hats were on their heads. Linen collars, startlingly white, were turned down about their necks.
I am sure Rubens or Vandyke must have designed those clothes for the beggars of a Holy Roman Emperor ! As they were helped up the two or three steps of their platform and seated themselves painfully, it was easy to see the old fellows were pleased with their finery. They smoothed it or the table-cloth with satisfied looks, and nodded and signed to one another. They probably were all over eighty and some looked much more. Finally they gazed in silent admiration at the room, which doubtless to them was the realization of a fairy-tale ft told, and they leaned back in their seats, then finally concentrated their attention on the door dominated by Count Hunyady's person.
Indeed, the old count was well worth looking at. He was a very gay gentleman in his off hours, 'twas whispered, well known for his successes and his escapades. Though he still kept his beautiful figure-shown now to full advantage in his tight Hungarian uniform of scarlet and gold and white, with the sable-trimmed dolman hanging from his shoulders—the early good looks of his face were somewhat dimmed by years. White curling hair gathered thick enough to show the care given it, and admirable features were a marked advantage in spite of wrinkles in the olive skin. His expression was one of acute boredom, which occasionally lighted up to a smile at some witticism or became quite winning if an attractive woman turned her glance on him. Habitually at court functions he floated through his round of duties with a perfect knowledge which translated itself into negligent elegance. Hunyady was much admired by certain ladies at court, who watched his every motion, while others had a way of speaking of him with a show of disapproval. I think the Emperor thought him excel-lent in his rôle, and knew he was entirely reliable in handling the most complicated ceremonies. His Majesty occasionally glanced at the brilliant functionary with amused amiability, as he might at a pretty woman's play of vanity. The two men were old comrades, and, to do the count justice, I heard he was as good with horse and gun as he was perfect at the court.
As sounds of the chant approached, Hunyady's face kept its mask of indifference, but he glanced about the room with a quick eye guaranteed to take in any detail which might be wrong. Then he shrugged his shoulders, shaking his becoming dolman, and straightening up to his full height he struck the floor sharply three times with a long cane which was the badge of his office. Every one instantly turned toward the door and gave the grand marshal complete attention. Affecting still his expression of calm, Hunyady again struck the floor three times, and as he did so the two doors swung open slowly behind him, disclosing the room beyond. Half-way across what seemed an immense stretch of polished inlaid floor advanced the Emperor at the head of his court. Hunyady moved then with continued comprehension of his rôle, clearing the way for the sovereign to the centre of our hall. Right opposite the semicircle of old men he stopped, turned and bowed low and gracefully to His Majesty, who was crossing the threshold of the doorway where a moment ago the grand marshal had stood.
As the Emperor entered every one rose, bowing or curtseying to His Majesty. The latter returned the salutations, looking to left and right with his usual gentle expression, and then he advanced to the point indicated by the grand marshal. Hunyady, straightening again, moved aside to give various further directions, if necessary, but all the actors were so used to their parts that no coaching was required. Passing his plumed headgear and gloves to the person indicated for that service, Francis Joseph, in all simplicity, stepped up to the beg-gars' table, and immediately twelve of the royal Hungarian body-guard appeared, each carrying a tray heavily laden with a meal prepared and served, ready to be heated. These trays the guardsmen held at a distance of about two feet from the table's edge, while the Emperor, passing down this open passage, transferred all the dishes, from the first to the latter, so that the dinner of each guest was placed before him by his imperial host. Naturally the old men needed time and help to eat, so the food was not eaten there. I was afraid they were losing their dinners, but I was told not, and that the trays, dishes, and food would be snugly packed in twelve baskets and put into the twelve court carriages which, after the ceremony, would convey the quaint members of the feast to their several homes. Also I heard that enough food was given to each to feed a family party of six people for supper that evening.
The splendid Hungarians gathered up and bore off all their trays of food, then instantly another row of huge men in court livery stepped forward, to carry away the whole of the semicircular table in one movement. With-out a hitch they picked it up in sections, one from in front of each old man. The Emperor came forward again, and three members of the court fell in line near him, one carrying a basin, another a tall jug (both of which may have been ordered by Maximilian from some Renaissance artist, to judge by their lovely workman-ship), while the third official carried a beautiful towel. Two pages or chamberlains preceded the Emperor and rapidly removed one shoe and sock from each old man. Then the sovereign passed slowly down the line, and each naked foot in turn was held over the basin while the ewer-carrier poured on water and Francis Joseph splashed and rubbed a little, afterward taking the towel to wipe the foot dry.
He did this whole job with his usual earnest good-will, much more carefully than those who were helping would have done it, for they looked decidedly bored as they moved from one to another of the mendicants, while His Majesty never lost interest for a moment, and seemed to finish the drying thoroughly. Following Francis Joseph came two more officials, who put on all the foot-gear and fastened it, the old men still keeping their seats.
All this had taken some time, but as a finale to the feast the Emperor passed down the whole row once more. One of the Hungarian guardsmen carried on a tray twelve small but heavy bags, which we were told contained gold pieces. Each hung like a locket on a long ribbon or string, and to one after another of the guests of honor Francis Joseph spoke in a kindly tone, as he put in each case a ribbon over the head. The impression of his sunny smile was the last to light the memories of this day of days for the pensioners.
No Christian could have been more sincere in the performance of a religious duty, and as one watched him in the midst of his power humbling himself to wash the feet of his poorest and oldest subjects, one realized fully why it was that outside the palace his people loved Francis Joseph.
While the long and complicated function lasted, arch-dukes and members of the court stood about in uniforms of red and blue and green with gold or silver trimming glistening as it caught the light—a perfect riot of color, in which Eugene's white-and-black figure stood near a column, immobile as a statue.
I was told these functions had lost much of their effect by the absence of the empress and her following of women. This might be, for certainly the balls where the women took a part were very fine; but the Corpus Christi Procession and the Foot-Washing Ceremony as pictures seemed to me complete; and the life and color of these scenes burned themselves into my memory, as well as the religious spirit of the Emperor and the example he set his subjects.
A uniform almost barbaric in its splendor was that worn by the Hungarian guards—scarlet it was, with gold embroideries and trappings. The boots, knee-high, of pale-yellow leather, were skilfully embroidered around their tops, and to finish off this magnificence a leopard's skin was fastened over one arm and under the other, with a huge buckle on the chest which seemed to suggest the workmanship of Oriental hands. The men, both in this regiment and that of the Austrian imperial guards (who were scarcely less handsome, though more modern as to uniform), were all picked for size and looks, I think. They were young and measured over six feet. At that time I had seen nothing more grand than they were when they appeared on duty, whether to line up round the walls of the old ballrooms or to fetch and carry for their sovereign when he was serving twelve beggars.
In the year before I went to court I had another very interesting experience, which was a visit I made with my parents to the castle of Prince and Princess Alfred Liechtenstein. A long time back the Liechtensteins had asked us, and I was included in the invitation in spite of my youth, because the host and hostess had a daughter who was also to make her début during the following season. I had already met her and her older sister and liked both of them extremely.
Prince Alfred Liechtenstein was head of the younger branch of his house, but his first cousin, the reigning Prince of Liechtenstein, had neither son nor brother, so Alfred and his eldest born were heirs to the principality. Incidentally, he had four other sons and two daughters —Fanny, who was a most cultivated person, and Thérèse, who promised to be a beauty, as her mother was. Even years and flesh had not spoiled the classic face and the fair skin of Princess Liechtenstein, while the serenity of her expression bore witness to the sheltered, happy life she led. She and her husband, who openly adored her and who was her first cousin—for she was a sister of the reigning prince—had divided their lives between the family principality where she was reared, the gay Austrian capital, where they used the second-best palace of her brother, and old Hollenegg Castle, which was built by their ancestors, some time in the tenth century. In a gentle way they took immense pride in Hollenegg's beauty and historic value, as in the traditions of great deeds done and positions well filled by many Liechtensteins since the beginning of the Austrian Empire. Hollenegg, with its courtyard of stone and beautiful wrought-iron well, with the colonnaded galleries one floor above another, with its ancient chapel built within the court, was full of poetic sentiment to the owners of the place. Outside it had been originally the most forbidding of fortresses, with several towers, that still stood grimly above the main walls, their narrow windows scarce allowing light to enter such rooms as were at all habitable. A fine moat, deep and wide, had once surrounded the vast pile, and this was in part left in its old proportions for its decorative quality, while in other spots it was filled in to allow the lawns to run up to the bastions.
The rough stone's severity was now draped in the richest of flowering rose-vines, white and pink, which decked the old walls with wreaths worthy of their victorious traditions. Trees had had time to grow up to large proportions, and spread out on the lawn, where a tea-table near a bowling-green made a tempting, home-like note. In the courtyard peacocks trailed or spread their tails, and within this square, with its grass and gardens, the roses also climbed over all balustrades and balconies. The courtyard architecture was varied in epoch, as generation after generation had improved the place or built new features in the style of their own times. One long gallery was colonnaded in a way recalling northern Italy, and probably was the result of the proprietor's visit to Sforza villas. Elsewhere a suggestion of the architecture of Byzantium made one ask if a crusader or some traveller of the family had been there. There were various pointed arches or doorways, too, taken from Gothic models, with graceful light decorations. The mellow light and the uniform material of pale stone lent themselves to a general effect of rich harmony, and the gentle touch of seasons which had passed, covered faulty seams with vines.
The inside of the castle was equally interesting, for who could resist its legends or the state apartments' dignity and the dark mystery of the rooms of older date ? Walls of stone, of silk embroidery, of marble or of chintz made the castle a series of surprising contrasts as one walked through. There was a dungeon with a secret passage from its gloomy depths up into the guard-room in the tower. Still farther up in this same part Prince Alfred slept, in a room which by its furnishings recalled robber-baron days. The prince said he liked to sleep among the ghosts of struggling times, and to look at him, with his six feet two and more of fine manhood, kept fit with exercise, and at the eagle nose and the proud head, one could not but admit his nobility of type fitted well into this frame of his rugged ancestors.
Meals at Hollenegg Castle were rather informal as to the family's attitude toward them, but with a service which was perfection and table and liveries keeping up great state. Huge and very magnificent pieces of silver stood about on sideboards or were arranged to decorate the table. The knives and forks were heavy and of ancient models, as were the glass and china. There were flowers and fruits in great profusion, splendid in variety and beauty—a pride with the prince, for all were produced on the estate. The menu was long, complicated, and excellent, but we sat a minimum time at table, be-cause of the number of servants.
A head butler stood in one place and directed the proceedings by a glance or gesture, watching for the earliest moment when plates might be changed; and at one meal I took time to count sixteen men in livery under him. One had to live in feudal style to keep an army of retainers trained from generation to generation in that manner. Not to step on one another, they must have space.
This they certainly had, for the great banquet-hall at Hollenegg Castle, with its marbles and stuccoes, and soft lights, looked sixty by seventy feet or more. The table, with monumental silver, with eighteen people seated and sixteen more waiting on us, made a mere island on the floor's centre.
It would be difficult to enumerate the rooms through which one passed in going to meals from the well-lighted library, in which we gathered. Huge, dim halls, lighted by vague lamps or candles, only suggested their perfect proportions. In one I saw panels of beautiful Renaissance carving, while another had some quite lovely jade-green flowered silk covering its walls. At our exclamation of delight in this color scheme, the old prince looked pleased and said: "Yes, it is pretty. I am glad you like it. But it is very old—my ancestor received the silk as a gift when he went on a special mission to Louis XIV, and it has hung here since his return."
Scattered about on tables and in glass cabinets were family souvenirs brought back from foreign countries by many Liechtensteins from crusader days down. It would take a volume to describe them all. Things seem to me more attractive for living with them, and not merely walking past them in a museum—so I enjoyed these treasures vastly.
It was with real regret I left Hollenegg Castle, and I had no words to express to our host and hostess my de-light in the visit. At their recommendation we stopped in Gratz on our way back to Vienna. Besides being a quaint city with old façades and squares well worth a passing look, it offered to our interested explorations the large ruins of its old walls and castle dating back to feudal times and famous for their extent and historic value.
My Life Here And There:
My Grandfather's Illness And Death
My Debut At Court
Months Of Travel
The Russian Home
First Social Impressions
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