Berlin and Sans-Souci
Part 3 out of 11
forget all. I may no longer hear this voice, which is forever
sounding in my enraptured ears, no longer see those fearful but
With feverish haste and trembling hands he made up his little
parcel. A few hours later the post-wagon rolled by Eckhof's
dwelling. A young man with pale, haggard face and tearful eyes gazed
up at his windows.
"Farewell, Eckhof," murmured he; "I flee from you, but may God bless
you! I go to Halle; there I shall never see you, my heart shall
never thrill at the sound of your eloquent voice."
Lupinus leaned sadly back in the carriage, comforting himself with
the conviction that he was safe; but fate was too strong for him,
and the danger from which he so bravely fled, followed him speedily.
SUPERSTITION AND PIETY.
The goal was at last reached. The black ram for the propitiatory
offering was found, and was now awaiting in Berlin the hour of
With what eager impatience, with what throbbing pulses, did
Fredersdorf wait for the evening! At last this sublime mystery would
be explained, and rivers of gold would flow at his command. Happily,
the king was not in Berlin--he had gone to Charlottenburg.
Fredersdorf was free-lord of himself.
"And after to-morrow, it will be ever the same," said he to himself
joyfully. "To-morrow the world will belong to me! I will not envy
the king his crown, the scholar his learning, or youth and beauty
their bloom. I shall be more powerful, more honored, more beloved
than them all. I shall possess an inexhaustible fountain of gold.
Gold is the lord and king of the world. The king and the
philosopher, youth, beauty, and grace, bow down before its shrine.
Oh, what a life of gladness and rapture will be mine! I shall be at
liberty. I shall wed the woman I adore. The sun is sinking; the moon
will soon ride triumphantly in the heavens, and then--"
A light rustling on the tapestry door interrupted him; and he turned
anxiously toward this door, which led directly to the chamber of the
king, and through which he alone could enter. It was indeed
Frederick. He entered the room of his private secretary with a
bright, gay smile.
"I have come unexpectedly," said the king. His clear, piercing
glance instantly remarked the cloud which lowered upon the brow of
Fredersdorf. "But what will you have? The King and Fate, as Deus ex
machina, appear without warning and confuse the calculations of
"I have made no calculations, sire," said Fredersdorf, confused;
"and the presence of my king can never disturb my peace."
"So much the better," said Frederick, smiling. "Well, I have made my
calculations, and you, Fredersdorf, have an important part to play.
We have a great work on hand, and if you have set your heart upon
being at liberty this evening, I regret it; the hope is a vain one.
This evening you are the prisoner of your king."
The king said this with so grave, so peculiar, and at the same time
so kindly an expression, that Fredersdorf was involuntarily touched
and softened, and he pressed his lips warmly upon the hand which
Frederick held out to him.
"We must work diligently," said the king. "The time of idleness is
past, and also the time consecrated to the Muses. Soon I will lay my
flute in its case, and draw my sword from its scabbard. It appears
that my godmother, Maria Theresa, thinks it unseemly for a King of
Prussia to pass his days elsewhere than in a tented field, or to
hear other music than the sound of trumpet or the thunder of cannon
calling loudly to battle. Well, if Austria will have war, she shall
have it promptly. Never will Prussia yield to her imperious
conditions, and never will the house of Hohenzollern subject herself
to the house of Hapsburg. My godmother, the empress, can never
forget that the Prince-Elector of Brandenburg once, at the table,
held a wash-basin for the emperor. For this reason she always
regards us as cavaliere servente to the house of Hapsburg. Now, by
the help of England, Saxony, and Russia, she hopes to bring us under
the old yoke. But she shall not succeed. She has made an alliance
with England, Russia, and Saxony. I have united with France and
Bavaria, for the protection of Charles the Seventh. This, you see,
Fredersdorf, is war. Our life of fantasy and dreaming is over. I
have given you a little dish of politics," said the king, after a
pause. "I wish to show you that I have need of you, and that we have
much to do. We must arrange my private accounts, we have many
letters to write; and then we must select and prepare the rich
presents to be given to the Princess Ulrica on her marriage.
Fredersdorf, we cannot afford to be idle."
"I shall be ready at all times to obey the commands of my king. I
will work the entire night; but I pray your majesty to grant me a
few hours this evening--I have most important business, which cannot
"Ah! without doubt, you wish to finish the epistle of Horace, of
which we spoke a few days since. If I remember correctly, this
epistle relates to the useless offering of a lamb or black ram.
Well, I give up this translation for the present; we have no time
for it; and I cannot possibly give you leave of absence this
"And yet I dare to repeat my request," said Fredersdorf, with
passionate excitement. "Sire, my business cannot be postponed, and I
beseech you to grant me a few hours."
"If you will not yield to the earnest wish of your friend, you will
be forced to submit to the command of your king," said Frederick,
sternly. "I forbid you to leave your room this evening."
"Have pity, sire, I entreat you! I wish but for two hours of
liberty. I tell you my business is most important; the happiness of
my life depends upon it."
The king shrugged his shoulders contemptuously. "The happiness of
your life! How can this poor, short-sighted, vain race of mortals
decide any question relating to 'the happiness of life'? You seek it
to-day, perhaps, in riches; to-morrow in the arms of your beloved;
and the next day you turn away from and despise both the one and the
other. I cannot fulfil your wish; I have important work for you, and
will not grant you one moment's absence."
"Sire, I must--"
"Not another word! you remain here; I command you not to leave this
"I will not obey this command," said Fredersdorf, completely beside
himself with rage and despair. "Will your majesty dismiss me from
your service, withdraw your favor, and banish me forever from your
presence? I must and will have some hours of liberty this evening."
The king's eyes flashed lightning, and his features assumed so
threatening an expression, that Fredersdorf, though completely
blinded by passion, trembled. Without a word in reply, the king
stepped hastily to the door which led into the corridor. Two
soldiers stood before the door.
"You will see that no one leaves this room," said Frederick--"you
will fire upon any one who opens the door." He turned and fixed his
eyes steadily upon the pale face of the secretary. "I said to you
that you were the prisoner of your king to-day. You would not
understand my jest. I will force you to see that I am in earnest.
The guards stand before this, door; the other door leads to my
apartment, and I will close it. You shall not work with me to-day;
you are not worthy of it. You are a bold rebel, deserving
punishment, and 'having eyes see not.'"
Fredersdorf had not the courage to reply. The king stepped hastily
through the room and opened the tapestry door; as he stood upon the
threshold, he turned once again. "Fredersdorf, the time will come
when you will thank me for having been a stern king." He closed the
door, placed the key in his pocket, and returned to his room, where
Jordan awaited him.
"And now, friend, the police may act promptly and rigorously;
Fredersdorf will not be there, and I shall not find it necessary to
punish him further. Alas! how difficult it is to turn a fool from
his folly! Fredersdorf would learn to make gold through the
sacrifice of a black ram; in order to do this, he joins himself to
my adversaries, to the hypocrites and pietists; he goes to the so-
called prayer-meetings of the godless, who call themselves,
forsooth, the children of God! Ah! Jordan, how selfish, how pitiful
is this small race of man! how little do they merit! I took
Fredersdorf from obscurity and poverty. I not only took him into my
service, I made him my confidant and my friend--I loved him
sincerely. And what is my reward? He is ungrateful, and he hates me
with a perfect hatred; he is now sitting in his room and cursing his
king, who has done nothing more than protect him from the withering
ridicule which his childish and mad pursuit was about to bring upon
him. Jordan, Jordan! kings are always repaid with ingratitude."
"Yes, sire; and God, our heavenly Father, meets with the same
reward," said Jordan, with a painful smile. "God and the king are
the two powers most misunderstood. In their bright radiance they
stand too high above the sons of men: they demand of the king that
he shall be all-wise, almighty, even as God is; they require of God
that He shall judge and act as weak, short-sighted men do, not
'knowing the end from the beginning.'"
The king did not reply; with his arms folded, he walked thoughtfully
through the room.
"Poor Fredersdorf," said he, softly, "I have slain his hobby-horse,
and that is always an unpardonable offence to any man. I might,
perhaps, have closed my eyes to the mad follies of these so-called
pietists, if they had not drawn my poor secretary into the toils.
For his sake I will give them a lesson. I will force him to see that
they are hypocrites and charlatans. Happen what will, I have saved
Fredersdorf from ridicule; if he curses me for this, I can bear it
The king was right; Fredersdorf was insane with passion. He cursed
the king, not only in his heart, but with his trembling lips; he
called him a tyrant, a heartless egotist. He hated him, even as an
ignorant, unreasoning child hates the kind hand which corrects and
"They will discover this mystery; they will learn how to make gold,
and I shall not be there," murmured Fredersdorf, gnashing his teeth;
"who knows? perhaps they will not divulge to me this costly receipt!
They will lie to me and deceive me. Ah! the moon is rising; she
casts her pure, silver rays into this hated room, now become my
prison. Now, even now, they are assembling; now the holy incantation
begins, and I--I am not there! "He tore his hair, and beat his
breast, and cried aloud.
Fredersdorf was right. As the moon rose, the conspirators, who had
been notified by Von Kleist, the husband of the beautiful Louise von
Schwerin, began to assemble. The great saloon in which the gay and
laughter-loving Louise had given her superb balls and soirees--in
which her dancing feet had trampled upon her fortune and her
happiness--was now changed into a solemn temple of worship, where
the pious believers assembled to pray to God and to adjure the
devil. The king had forbidden that the churches should be opened
except on Sunday and the regular fete days. Some over-pious and
fanatical preachers had dared to disobey this order. The assemblies
had been broken up by force of arms, the people driven to their
homes, and the churches closed. Both priests and people were
threatened with severe punishment if they should dare to open the
churches again during the week. [Footnote: Preuss's "Geschichte
Friedriotia des Grossen."]
The pietists, forgetting the Bible rule, to "give unto Caesar that
which is Caesar's," refused obedience to the spirit of the command,
and assembled together in the different houses of the faithful.
Their worship consisted principally in stern resolves to remain
obedient to the only true doctrine. To the proud fanatic this is, of
course, the faith which he professes, and there is salvation in no
other. With zealous speech they railed at the king as a heretic or
unbeliever, and strengthened themselves in their disobedience to his
commands by declaring it was well-pleasing in the sight of God.
The pietists, who had in vain endeavored to retain the power and
influence which they had enjoyed under Frederick William, whom they
now declared to have been the holiest and wisest of kings, had
become the bitterest enemies of Frederick the Great. The king called
their piety hypocrisy, laughed at their rage, replied to their
curses by witty words and biting sarcasm; and on one occasion, after
listening to an impertinent request, he replied laconically: "The
cursed priest don't know himself what he wants. Let him go to the
devil!" [Footnote: Busching's "Character of Frederick the Great."]
This so-called prayer-meeting was to take place to-day in the ball-
room of the beautiful Louise, after the regular hour of worship.
Only the elect and consecrated would remain behind to take part in
the deeper mysteries, and be witness to the incantation by which the
astrologist Pfannenschmidt would constrain his majesty the devil to
appear. No woman was allowed to be present at this holy ordinance,
and each one of the consecrated had sworn a solemn oath not to
betray an act of the assembly.
Von Kleist had taken the oath, and kept it faithfully. But there is
a wise Persian proverb which says: "If you would change an obedient
and submissive wife into a proud rebel, you have only to forbid
something! If you wish to keep a secret from the wife of your bosom,
slay yourself, or tear out your tongue; if you live, she will
discover your secret, even though hidden in the bottom of your
heart." Louise von Kleist had proved the truth of this proverb. She
had discovered the secret which her husband wished to conceal from
her. She had soon recovered from the fleeting love entertained at
first for the husband chosen for her by the king. She had returned
to the levity of her earlier days, and only waited for an
opportunity to revenge herself upon her husband. Louise hated him
because he had never been rich enough to gratify her extravagant
taste and caprices. He had even restrained her in the use of her own
means: they were always in want of money, and constantly railing
bitterly at each other.
For all this misery Louise wished to revenge herself upon her
husband, as beautiful and coquettish women always wish to revenge
themselves. She was more than ready to believe the words of that
poet who says that "a woman's heart is always girlish and youthful
enough for a new love." She wished to take special vengeance upon
her husband for daring to keep a secret from her. So soon as she
discovered the object of these secret meetings, she informed the
king, and implored him to come to her assistance and rescue her
husband from those crooked paths which had cost her her wedded
happiness and her fortune. Frederick agreed at once to her
proposition, not so much for her sake as because he rejoiced in the
opportunity to free Fredersdorf from the mystic suppositions which
had clouded his intellect, and convince him of the cunning and
hypocrisy of the alchemist Pfannenschmidt.
Every necessary preparation had been made by order of the king. The
pious assembly had scarcely met, when Louise called the four
policemen who were waiting in a neighboring house, and placed them
in a small closet adjoining the ball-room, where every thing which
took place could be both seen and heard.
The conspirators had no suspicion. The meeting was larger than ever
before. There were people of all classes, from the day laborer to
the comfortable burgher, from the honorable officer under government
to the highest noble. They prayed earnestly and fervently, and sang
hymns to the honor and glory of God. Then one of the popular priests
stepped into the pulpit and thundered forth one of those arrogant,
narrow-minded, and violent discourses which the believers of those
days indulged in. He declared all those lost, condemned to eternal
torture, who did not believe as he believed; and all those elected
and sanctified who adhered to his holy faith, and who, despising the
command of the heretical king, met together for these forbidden
All this, however, was but the preparation for the great solemnity
prepared for the initiated, who were now waiting with loudly-beating
hearts and breathless expectation for the grand result.
And now another orator, the astrologer, the enlightened prophet of
God, ascended the pulpit. With what pious words he warned his
hearers to repentance! how eloquently he exhorted them to contemn
the hollow and vain world, which God had only made lovely and
attractive in order to tempt men to sin and try their powers of
resistance! "Resist! resist!" he howled through his nose, "and
persuade men to turn to you, and be saved even as we are saved--to
become angels of God, even as we are God's holy angels." In order,
however, to reach their exalted goal, they must make greater
efforts, use larger means. Power and wealth were necessary to make
the world happy and convert it to the true faith. The world must
become wholly theirs; they must buy from the devil the gold which he
has hid in the bowels of the earth, and with it allure men, and save
their souls from perdition. "We, by the grace of God, have been
empowered to subdue the devil, and to force him to give up his
secret. To those who, like ourselves, are enlightened by the holy
spirit of knowledge, the mysteries of the lower world must be made
clear. It is also a noble and great work which we have before us; we
must make gold, and with it we must purchase and convert the whole
race to holiness!"
When this pious rhapsody was concluded, he called the assembly to
earnest prayer. They fell upon their knees, and dared to pray to God
that He would give them strength to adjure the devil.
It was not, however, exactly the plan of the astrologer to crown the
efforts of the elect with success, and bring the devil virtually
before them. As long as his majesty did not appear, the pious must
believe and hope in their priest; must give him their love, their
confidence, and their gold; must look upon him as their benefactor,
who was to crown their future with glory and riches, and bring the
world to their feet. In short, he knew it was impossible for him to
introduce a devil who could disclose the great secret. The prayers
and offerings of the past had failed, and their future sacrifices
must also be in vain.
And now, in the midst of solemn hymns, the ram was led to the altar-
-this rare offering which had cost so much weary wandering and so
much precious gold. With pompous ceremony, and covered with a white
veil, the black ram was led to the sacrifice. The holy priest
Pfannenschmidt, clothed in gold-embroidered robes, stood with a
silver knife in his hand, and a silver bowl to receive the blood of
the victim. As he raised the knife, the faithful threw themselves
upon their knees and prayed aloud, prayed to God to be with them and
bless their efforts.
The astrologer, glowing with piety and enthusiasm, was about to sink
the knife into the throat of the poor trembling beast, when suddenly
something unheard of, incredible, took place. A figure fearful to
look upon sprang fiercely from behind the altar, and seized the arm
of the priest.
"Spare the offering, let the sacrifice go free!" he said, with a
thundering voice. "You have called me, and I am here! I am the
"The devil! it is truly the devil!" and, with timid glances, they
looked up at the giant figure, clothed in crimson, his face
completely shaded by a wide-brimmed hat, from which three crimson
feathers waved majestically: these, with his terrible club-foot, all
gave unmistakable evidence of the presence of Satan. They believed
truly in him, these pious children of God; they remained upon their
knees and stammered their prayers, scarcely knowing themselves if
they were addressed to God or to the devil.
There in the little cabinet stood Louise von Kleist, trembling with
mirth, and with great effort suppressing an outburst of laughter.
She looked with wicked and mocking eyes upon her husband, who lay
shivering and deadly pale at the feet of the devil and the black
ram. He fixed his pleading glances upon the fiery monster who was to
him indeed the devil. Louise, however, fully understood this scene;
she it was who had induced young Fredersdorf to assume this part,
and had assisted him in his disguise.
"This moment repays me, avenges me for all I have suffered by the
side of this silly and extravagant fool," said Louise to herself.
"Oh, I will mock him, I will martyr him with this devil's work. The
whole world shall know of it, and, from this time forth, I shall be
justified and pitied. No one will be surprised that I am not
constant to my husband, that I cannot love him."
Whilst the pious-elect still rested upon their knees in trembling
adoration, the priest Pfannenschmidt had recovered from his surprise
and alarm. He, who did not believe in the devil, although he daily
addressed him, knew that the monster before him was an unseemly jest
or a malicious interruption. He must, therefore, tear off his mask
and expose him to the faithful.
With passionate energy he stretched out both his arms toward him.
"Away with you, you son of Baal! Fly, fly, before I unmask you! You
are not what you appear. You are no true devil!"
"How! you deny me, your lord and master?" cried the intruder,
raising his hand covered with a crimson glove, against the priest.
"You have long called for me. You have robbed these, my children, of
their gold in order to propitiate me, and now that I am come, you
will not confess me before men! Perhaps you fear that these pious
believers will no longer lavish their attentions and their gold upon
you, and suffer you to lead them by the nose. Go, go! you are not my
high priest. I listened to your entreaties, and I came, but only to
prove to my children that you are a deceiver, and to free them from
your yoke. Away, you blasphemer of God and of the devil! Neither God
nor the devil accepts your service; away with you!" Saying this, he
seized the astrologer with a powerful arm, and dragged him toward
But Pfannenschmidt was not the man to submit to such indignities.
With a wild cry of rage, he rushed upon his adversary; and now began
a scene which neither words nor colors could portray. The pious
worshippers raised themselves from their knees and stared for a
moment at this curious spectacle; and then, according as they
believed in the devil or the priest, sprang forward to take part in
In the midst of this wild tumult the policemen appeared, to arrest
those who were present, in the name of the king; to break up the
assembly, and put an end to the noise and tumult.
Louise, meanwhile, laughing boisterously, observed this whole scene
from the cabinet; she saw the police seize the raging astrologer,
who uttered curses, loud and deep, against the unbelieving king, who
dared to treat the pious and prayerful as culprits, and to arrest
the servant and priest of the Lord. Louise saw these counts and
barons, these officers and secretaries, who had been the brave
adherents of the astrologer, slipping away with shame and confusion
of face. She saw her own husband mocked and ridiculed by the police,
who handed him an order from the king, written by the royal hand,
commanding him to consider himself as under arrest in his own house.
As Louise heard this order read, her laughter was hushed and her
brow was clouded.
"Truly," said she, "that is a degree of consideration which looks
like malice in the king. To make my husband a prisoner in his own
house is to punish me fearfully, by condemning me steadily to his
hateful society. My God, how cruel, how wicked is the king! My
husband is a prisoner here! that is to banish my beautiful, my
beloved Salimberri from my presence. Oh, when shall we meet again,
my love, my adorer?"
THE TWO SISTERS.
"I have triumphed! I have reached the goal!" said Princess Ulrica,
with a proud smile, as she laid her hymn-book aside, and removed
from her head her long white veil. "This important step is taken;
yet one more grand ceremony, and I will be the Princess Royal of
Sweden--after that, a queen! They have not succeeded in setting me
aside. Amelia will not be married before me, thus bringing upon me
the contempt and ridicule of the mocking world. All my plans have
succeeded. In place of shrouding my head in the funereal veil of an
abbess, to which my brother had condemned me, I shall soon wear the
festive myrtle-wreath, and ere long a crown will adorn my brow."
Ulrica threw herself upon the divan, in order to indulge quietly in
these proud and happy dreams of the future, when the door was
hastily thrown open, and the Princess Amelia, with a pale and angry
face, entered the room. She cast one of those glances of flame, with
which she, in common with the king, was wont to crush her
adversaries, upon the splendid toilet of her sister, and a wild and
scornful laugh burst from her lips.
"I have not, then, been deceived." she cried; "it is not a fairy
tale to which I have listened. You come from the chapel?"
"I come from the chapel? yes," said Ulrica, meeting the angry glance
of her sister with a firm and steady look. Resolved to breast the
coming storm with proud composure, she folded her arms across her
bosom, as if she would protect herself from Amelia's flashing eyes.
"I come from the chapel--what further?"
"What further?" cried Amelia, stamping fiercely on the floor. "Ah,
you will play the harmless and the innocent! What took you to the
Ulrica looked up steadily and smilingly; then said, in a quiet and
indifferent tone: "I have taken the sacrament of the Lord's Supper,
according to the Lutheran form of worship."
Amelia shuddered as if she felt the sting of a poisonous serpent.
"That signifies that you are an apostate; that signifies that you
have shamefully outwitted and betrayed me; that means--"
"That signifies," said Ulrica, interrupting her, "that I am a less
pious Christian than you are; that you, my noble young sister, are a
more innocent and unselfish maiden than the Princess Ulrica."
"Words, words! base, hypocritical words!" cried Amelia. "You first
inspired me with the thought which led to my childish and
contradictory behavior, and which for some days made me the jest of
the court. You are a false friend, a faithless sister! I stood in
your path, and you put me aside. I understand now your perfidious
counsels, your smooth, deceitful encouragement to my opposition
against the proposition of the Swedish ambassador. I, forsooth, must
be childish, coarse, and rude, in order that your gentle and girlish
grace, your amiable courtesy, might shine with added lustre. I was
your foil, which made the jewel of your beauty resplendent. Oh! it
is shameful to be so misused, so outwitted by my sister!"
With streaming eyes, Amelia sank upon a chair, and hid her face with
her trembling little hands.
"Foolish child!" said Ulrica, "you accuse me fiercely, but you know
that you came to me and implored me to find a means whereby you
would be relieved from this hateful marriage with the Prince Royal
"You should have reasoned with me, you should have encouraged me to
give up my foolish opposition. You should have reminded me that I
was a princess, and therefore condemned to have no heart."
"You said nothing to me of your heart; you spoke only of your
religion. Had you told me that your heart rebelled against this
marriage with the Crown Prince of Sweden, then, upon my knees, with
all the strength of a sister's love, I would have implored you to
accept his hand, to shroud your heart in your robe of purple, and
take refuge on your throne from the danger which threatens a young
princess if she allows her heart to speak."
Amelia let her hands fall from her face, and looked up at her
sister, whose great earnest eyes were fixed upon her with an
expression of triumph and derision.
"I did not say that my heart had spoken," she cried, sobbing and
trembling; "I only said that we poor princesses were not allowed to
"No heart for one; but a great large heart, great enough for all!"
cried Ulrica. "You accuse me, Amelia, but you forget that I did not
intrude upon your confidence. You came to me voluntarily, and
disclosed your abhorrence of this marriage; then only did I counsel
you, as I would wish to be advised under the same circumstances. In
a word, I counselled you to obey your conscience, your own
convictions of duty."
"Your advice was wonderfully in unison with your own plans; your
deceitful words were dictated by selfishness," cried Amelia,
"I would not have adopted the course which I advised you to pursue,
because my character and my feeling are wholly different from yours.
My conscience is less tender, less trembling than yours. To become a
Lutheran does not appear to me a crime, not even a fault, more
particularly as this change is not the result of fickleness or
inconstancy, but for an important political object."
"And your object was to become Queen of Sweden?"
"Why should I deny it? I accept this crown which you cast from you
with contempt. I am ambitious. You were too proud to offer up the
smallest part of your religious faith in order to mount the throne
of Sweden. I do not fear to be banished from heaven, because, in
order to become a queen, I changed the outward form of my religion;
my inward faith is unchanged: if you repent your conduct--if you
have modified your views--"
"No, no!" said Amelia, hastily, "I do not repent. My grief and my
despair are not because of this pitiful crown, but because of my
faithless and deceitful sister who gave me evil counsel to promote
her own interests, and while she seemed to love, betrayed me. Go,
go! place a crown upon your proud head; you take up that which I
despise and trample upon. I do not repent. I have no regrets. But,
hark! in becoming a queen, you cease to be my sister. Never will I
forget that through falsehood and treachery you won this crown. Go!
be Queen of Sweden. Let the whole world bow the knee before you. I
despise you. You have shrouded your pitiful heart in your royal
She sprang to the door with flashing eyes and throbbing breast, but
Ulrica followed and laid her hand upon her shoulder.
"Let us not part in anger, my sister," said she, softly--"let us--"
Amelia would not listen; with an angry movement she dashed the hand
from her shoulder and fled from the room. Alone in her boudoir, she
paced the room in stormy rage, wild passion throbbed in every pulse.
With the insane fury of the Hohenzollerns, she almost cursed her
sister, who had so bitterly deceived, so shamefully betrayed her.
In outward appearance, as well as in character, the Princess Amelia
greatly resembled her royal brother: like him, she was by nature
trusting and confiding; but, once deceived, despair and doubt took
possession of her. A deadly mildew destroyed the love which she had
cherished, not only for her betrayer, but her confidence and trust
in all around her. Great and magnanimous herself, she now felt that
the rich fountain of her love and her innocent, girlish credulity
were choked within her heart. With trembling lips, she said aloud
and firmly: "I will never more have a friend. I do not believe in
friendship. Women are all false, all cunning, all selfish. My heart
is closed to them, and their deceitful smiles and plausible words
can never more betray me. Oh, my God, my God! must I then be always
solitary, always alone? must I--"
Suddenly she paused, and a rich crimson blush overspread her face.
What was it which interrupted her sorrowful words? Why did she fix
her eyes upon the door so eagerly? Why did she listen so earnestly
to that voice calling her name from the corridor.
"Pollnitz, it is Pollnitz!" she whispered to herself, and she
"I must speak with the Princess Amelia," cried the master of
"But that is impossible," replied another voice; "her royal highness
has closed the door, and will receive no one."
"Her royal highness will open the door and allow me to enter as soon
as you announce me. I come upon a most important mission. The life-
happiness of more than one woman depends upon my errand."
"My God!" said Amelia, turning deadly pale, "Pollnitz may betray me
if I refuse to open the door." So saying, she sprang forward and
drew back the bolt.
"Look, now, Mademoiselle von Marwitz," cried Pollnitz, as he bowed
profoundly, "was I not right? Our dear princess was graciously
pleased to open the door so soon as she heard my voice. Remark that,
mademoiselle, and look upon me in future as a most important person,
who is not only accorded les grandes but les petites entrees."
The Princess Amelia was but little inclined to enter into the jests
of the master of ceremonies.
"I heard," said she, in a harsh tone, "that you demanded
importunately to see me, and you went so far as to declare that the
happiness of many men depended upon this interview."
"Pardon me, your highness, I only said that the happiness of more
than one woman depended upon it; and you will graciously admit that
I have spoken the truth when you learn the occasion which brings me
"Well, let us hear," said Amelia, "and woe to you if it is not a
grave and important affair!"
"Grave indeed: it concerns the toilets for a ball, and you must
confess that the happiness of more than one woman hangs upon this
"In truth, you are right, and if you came as milliner or dressmaker,
Mademoiselle von Marwitz did wrong not to announce you immediately."
"Now, ladies, there is nothing less important on hand than a masked
ball. The king has commanded that, besides the masked ball which is
to take place in the opera-house, and to which the public are
invited, another shall be arranged here in the castle on the day
before the betrothal of the Princess Ulrica."
"And when is that ceremony to take place?" said Amelia.
"Has not your royal highness been informed? Ah, I forgot--the king
has kept this a secret, and to no one but the queen-mother has it
been officially announced. Yes, yes, the Princess Ulrica is to marry
this little Prince of Holstein, who will, however, be King of
Sweden. This solemn ceremony takes place in four days; so we have
but three days before the masquerade, and we must work night and day
to prepare the necessary costumes--his majesty wishes it to be a
superb fete. Quadrilles are arranged, the king has selected the
partners, and I am here at his command, to say to your royal
highness that you will take part in these quadrilles. You will dance
a quadrille, in the costume of Francis the First, with the
Margravine of Baireuth and the Duchess of Brunswick."
"And who is to be my partner?" said Amelia, anxiously.
"The Margrave von Schwedt."
"Ah! my irresistible cousin. I see there the hand of my malicious
brother; he knows how dull and wearisome I consider the poor
The princess turned away displeased, and walked up and down the
"Did you not say that I, also, would take part in the quadrille?"
said Mademoiselle von Marwitz.
"Certainly, mademoiselle; you will dance in Russian costume."
"And who will be my partner?"
Pollnitz laughed heartily. "One would think that the most important
question was not as to the ball toilet, but as to the partner; that
he, in short, was as much a life-question as the color and cut of
your robe, or the fashion of your coiffure. So you demand the name
of your partner? Ah, mademoiselle, you will be more than content.
The partner whom the king has selected for you is one of our
youngest, handsomest, most amiable and talented cavaliers; a youth
whom Alcibiades would not have been indignant at being compared
with, and whom Diana would have preferred, perhaps, to the dreaming
and beautiful Endymion, had she found him sleeping. And mark you,
you will not only dance with this pearl of creation, but in the next
few days you must see and speak with him frequently. It is necessary
that you should consult together over the choice and color of your
costumes, and about the dances. If your royal highness will allow
it, he must come daily to arrange these important points. Alas! why
am I not a young maiden? Why can I not enjoy the felicity of loving
this Adonis? Why can I not exchange this poor, burnt-out heart for
one that glows and palpitates?"
"You are a fool, and know nothing about a maiden's heart! In your
ecstasy for this Ganymede, who is probably an old crippled monster,
you make rare confusion. You force the young girl to play the part
of the ardent lover, and give to your monster the character of a
cool, vain fop."
"Monster? My God! she said monster!" cried Pollnitz, pathetically.
"Fall upon your knees, mademoiselle, and pray fervently to your good
fortune to forgive you; you have sinned greatly against it, I assure
you. You will confess this when I have told you the name of your
"Name him, then, at last."
"Not before Princess Amelia is gracious enough to promise me that
she will watch over and shield you; that she will never allow you a
single tete-a-tete with your dangerous partner."
"Ah, you will make me the duenna of my maid of honor," said Amelia,
laughing. "I shall be the chaperon of my good Marwitz, and shield
her from the weakness of her own heart."
"If your royal highness declines to give this promise, Mademoiselle
Marwitz shall have another partner. I cannot answer to my conscience
if she is left alone, unobserved and unprotected, with the most
beautiful of the beautiful."
"Be merciful, princess, and say yes. For you see well that this
terrible Pollnitz will make me a martyr to curiosity. Consent,
gracious princess, and then I may perhaps hear the name of my
"Well, then," said Amelia, smiling, "I consent to play Mentor to my
maid of honor."
"Your royal highness promises then, solemnly, to be present at every
conference between Mademoiselle von Marwitz and her irresistible
"I promise; be quick! Marwitz will die of curiosity, if you do not
tell the name of this wonder."
"Well, now, that I have, so far as it is in my power, guarded the
heart of this young girl from disaster, and placed it under the
protecting eye of our noble princess, I venture to name my paragon.
He is the young lieutenant-Baron von Trenck, the favorite of the
king and the court."
Very different was the impression made by this name upon the two
ladies. The eager countenance of Mademoiselle von Marwitz expressed
cool displeasure; while the princess, blushing and confused, turned
aside to conceal the happy smile which played upon her full, rosy
Pollnitz, who had seen all this, wished to give the princess time to
collect herself. He turned to Mademoiselle Marwitz and said: "I see,
to my amazement, that our lovely maid of honor is not so enraptured
as I had hoped. Mademoiselle, mademoiselle! you are a wonderful
actress, but you cannot deceive me. You wish to seem disappointed
and indifferent, in order to induce our gracious princess to
withdraw her promise to me, and to think it unnecessary to be
present at your interviews with Trenck. This acting is in vain. The
princess has given her word, and she will most surely keep it."
"Certainly," said Amelia, smiling, "I have no alternative. Queens
and princesses, kings and princes, are bound by their promises, even
as common men, and their honor demands that they fulfil their
contracts. I will keep my word. But enough of jesting for the
present. Let us speak now of the solemn realities of life, namely,
of our toilets. Baron, give me your model engraving, and make known
your views. Call my chambermaid, mademoiselle, and my dressmakers;
we will hold a solemn conference."
As Mademoiselle von Marwitz left the room, Pollnitz took a sealed
note from his pocket and handed it hastily to the princess. She
concealed it in the pocket of her dress, and continued to gaze
indifferently upon a painting of Watteau, which hung upon the wall.
"Not one word! Still! Not one word!" whispered Pollnitz. "You are
resolved to drive my young friend to despair. You will not grant him
one gracious word?"
The princess turned away her blushing face, drew a note from her
bosom, and, without a glance or word in reply, she handed it to the
master of ceremonies, ashamed and confused, as a young girl always
is, when she enters upon her first love romance, or commits her
Pollnitz kissed her hand with a lover's rapture. "He will be the
most blessed of mortals," said he, "and yet this is so small a
favor! It lies in the power of your royal highness to grant him
heavenly felicity. You can fulfil one wish which his trembling lips
have never dared to speak; which only God and the eyes of one
faithful friend have seen written in his heart."
"What is this wish?" said the princess, in so low and trembling a
whisper, that Pollnitz rather guessed than heard her words.
"I believe that he would pay with his life for the happiness of
sitting one hour at your feet and gazing upon you."
"Well, you have prepared for him this opportunity; you have so
adroitly arranged your plans, that I cannot avoid meeting him."
"Ah, princess, how despondent would he be, if he could hear these
cold and cruel words! I must comfort him by this appearance of favor
if I cannot obtain for him a real happiness. Your royal highness is
very cold, very stern toward my poor friend. My God! he asks only of
your grace, that which the humblest of your brother's subjects dare
demand of him--an audience--that is all."
Amelia fixed her burning eyes upon Pollnitz. "Apage, Satanas!" she
whispered, with a weary smile.
"You do me too much honor," said Pollnitz. "Unhappily I am not the
devil, who is, without doubt, next to God, the most powerful ruler
of this earth. I am convinced that three-fourths of our race belong
to him. I am, alas! but a poor, weak mortal, and my words have not
the power to move the heart of your highness to pity."
"My God! Pollnitz, why all this eloquence and intercession?" cried
Amelia. "Do I not allow him to write to me all that he thinks and
feels? Am I not traitress enough to read all his letters, and pardon
him for his love? What more can he dare hope for? Is it not enough
that he loves a princess, and tells her so? Not enough--"
She ceased suddenly; her eyes, which shrank from meeting the bold,
reproachful, and ironical glance of the baron, had wandered
restlessly about the room and fell now upon the picture of Watteau;
upon the loving, happy pair, who were tenderly embracing under the
oaks in the centre of that enchanting landscape. This group, upon
which the eye of the princess accidentally rested, was an eloquent
and decisive answer to her question--an answer made to the eyes, if
not the ears of Amelia--and her heart trembled.
Pollnitz had followed her glances, and understood her blushes and
her confusion. He stepped to the picture and pointed to the tender
"Gracious princess, demand of these blessed ones, if a man who loves
passionately has nothing more to implore of his mistress than the
permission to write her letters?"
Amelia trembled. She fixed her eyes with an expression of absolute
terror upon Pollnitz, who with his fox smile and immovable composure
gazed steadily in her face. He had no pity for her girlish
confusion, for her modest and maidenly alarm. With gay, mocking, and
frivolous jests, he resolved to overcome her fears. He painted in
glowing colors the anguish and despair of her young lover; he
assured her that she could grant him a meeting in her rooms without
danger from curious eyes or ears. Did not the room of the princess
open upon this little dark corridor, in which no guard was ever
placed, and from which a small, neglected stairway led to the lower
stage of the castle? This stairway opened into an unoccupied room,
the low windows of which looked out upon the garden of Monbijou.
Nothing, then, was necessary but to withdraw the bar from these
windows during the day; they could then be noiselessly opened by
night, and the room of the princess safely reached.
The princess was silent. By no look or smile, no contraction of the
brow or expression of displeasure, did she show her emotion, but she
listened to these vile and dangerous words; she let the poison of
the tempter enter her heart; she had neither the strength nor will
to reject his counsel, or banish him from her presence; she had only
the power to be silent, and to conceal from Pollnitz that her better
self was overcome.
"I shall soon reach the goal," said Pollnitz, clapping his hands
merrily after leaving the princess. "Yes, yes! the heart of the
little Princess Amelia is subdued, and her love is like a ripe
fruit-ready to be plucked by the first eager hand. And this, my
proud and cruel King Frederick, will be my revenge. I will return
shame for shame. If the good people in the streets rejoice to hear
the humiliation and shame put upon the Baron von Pollnitz, cried
aloud at the corners, I think they will enjoy no less the scandal
about the little Princess Amelia. This will not, to be sure, be
trumpeted through the streets; but the voice of Slander is powerful,
and her lightest whispers are eagerly received."
Pollnitz gave himself up for a while to these wicked and cruel
thoughts, and he looked like a demon rejoicing in the anguish of his
victims. He soon smoothed his brow, however, and assumed his
accustomed gay and unembarrassed manner.
"But before I revenge myself, I must be paid," said he, with an
internal chuckle. "I shall be the chosen confidant in this
adventure, and my name is not Pollnitz if I do not realize a large
profit. Oh, King Frederick, King Frederick! I think the little
Amelia will pay but small attention to your command and your menace.
She will lend the poor Pollnitz gold; yes, gold, much gold! and I--I
will pay her by my silence."
Giving himself up to these happy thoughts, the master of ceremonies
sought the young lieutenant, in order to hand him the letter of the
"The fortress is ready to surrender," cried he; "advance and storm
it, and you will enter the open door of the heart as conqueror. I
have prepared the way for you to see the princess every day: make
use of your opportunities like a brave, handsome, young, and loving
cavalier. I predict you will soon be a general, or a prince, or
something great and envied."
"A general, a prince, or a high traitor, who must lay his head upon
the block and expiate his guilt with his life," said Trench
thoughtfully. "Let it be so. In order to become this high traitor, I
must first be the happiest, the most enviable of men. I shall not
think that too dearly paid for by my heart's blood. Oh, Amelia,
Amelia! I love thee boundlessly; thou art my happiness, my
salvation, my hope; thou--"
"Enough, enough!" said Pollnitz, laughing and placing his hands upon
his ears. "These are well-known, well-used, and much-abused phrases,
which have been repeated in all languages since the time of Adam,
and which after all are only lovely and fantastic lies. Act, my
young friend, but say nothing; you know that walls have ears. The
table upon which you write your letters, and the portfolio in which
you place the letters of the princess, to be guarded to all
eternity, both have prying eyes. Prudence, prudence! burn the
letters of the princess, and write your own with sympathetic ink or
in cipher, so that no man can read them, and none but God and the
devil may know your dangerous secret."
Trenck did not hear one word of this; he was too happy, too
impassioned, too young, to listen to the words of warning and
caution of the old roue. He read again and again, and with ever-
increasing rapture, the letter of the princess; he pressed it to his
throbbing heart and glowing lips, and fixed his loving eyes upon
those characters which her hand had written and her heart had
Pollnitz looked at him with a subdued smile, and enjoyed his
raptures, even as the fox enjoys the graceful flappings of the
wings, the gentle movements of the dove, when he knows that she
cannot escape him, and grants her a few moments of happiness before
he springs upon and strangles her. "I wager that you know that
letter by heart," said he, as he slowly lighted a match in order to
kindle his cigar; "am I not right? do you not know it by heart?"
"Every word is written in letters of flame upon my heart."
With a sudden movement, the baron snatched the paper from the young
man and held it in the flames,
"Stop! stop!" cried Frederick von Trenck, and he tried to tear the
letter from him.
Pollnitz kept him off with one arm and waved the burning paper over
"My God! what have you done?" cried the young man.
"I have made a sacrifice to the god of silence," said he solemnly;
"I have burnt this paper lest it might be used to light the scaffold
upon which you may one day burn as a high traitor. Thank me, young
man. I have perhaps saved you from discovery and from death."
THE WEDDING FESTIVAL OF THE PRINCESS ULRICA.
Truly this perfidious friend had, for one day, guarded the secret of
the young lovers from discovery; but, the poison, which Pollnitz in
his worldly cunning prepared for them, had entered into their
hearts. For some days they met under strong restraint; only by
stolen glances and sighs, by a momentary pressure of the hand, or a
few slightly murmured words, could they give expression to their
rapture and their passion. The presence of another held their hearts
and lips in bondage.
Pollnitz knew full well that there was no surer means to induce a
young girl to grant her lover an interview than to force them to
meet before strange witnesses, to bring every word and look into
captivity, to condemn them to silence and seeming indifference. The
glowing heart bounds against these iron bands; it longs to cast off
the yoke of silence, and to breathe unfettered as the wanton air.
Princess Amelia had borne two days of this martyrdom, and her
courage failed. She was resolved to grant him a private interview as
soon as he dared ask for it. She wished to see this handsome face,
now clouded by melancholy, illuminated by the sunshine of happiness;
those sad eyes "should look up clear, and the sorrowful lips should
smile; she would make her lover happy!" She thought only of this; it
was her only wish.
There were many sad hours of pain and anguish, sad hours in which
she saw her danger, and wished to escape. In her despair and agony
she was almost ready to cast herself at the feet of her mother, to
confess all, and seek this sure protection against her own girlish
weakness; but the voice of love in her heart held her back from this
step; she closed her eyes to the abyss which was before her and
pressed panting onward to the brink. If Amelia had had a friend, a
sister whom she could love and trust, she might have been saved; but
her rank made a true friend impossible; being a princess, she was
isolated. Her only friend and sister had alienated her heart,
through the intrigues by which she had won the crown of Sweden.
Perhaps these costly and magnificent wedding festivities which would
have been prepared for her, had she not refused a husband worthy of
her birth, aroused her anger, and in her rage and her despair she
entered upon dangerous paths, and fell into the cruel snares of
Pollnitz. She said to herself: "Yes, all this honor and glory was my
own, but my weak heart and my perfidious sister wrenched them from
my grasp. Fate offered me a way of escape, but my sister cast me
into the abyss in which I now stand; upon her rests the
responsibility. Upon her head be my tears, my despair, my misery,
and my shame. Ulrica prevented me from being a queen; well, then, I
will be simply a young girl, who loves and who offers up all to her
beloved, her pride, her rank, and the unstained greatness of her
ancestors. For Ulrica be honor, pomp, and power; for me the mystery
of love, and a girl's silent happiness. Who can say which of us is
most to be envied?"
These were indeed happy, sunny days, which were prepared for the
bride of Adolph Frederick of Holstein, the Crown Prince of Sweden.
Fete succeeded to fete. The whole land took part in the happiness of
the royal family. All the provinces and cities sent deputations to
congratulate the king, and bring rich gifts to the princess; she who
had been always cast into the shade by the more noble and
bewildering beauty of her younger sister, had now become the centre
of attraction in all these superb festivities which followed each
other in quick succession. It was in honor of the Princess Ulrica
that the king gave a masked ball in the opera-house, to which the
whole city was invited; for her, on the evening of her betrothal,
every street in Berlin was brilliantly illuminated with wax-lights,
not by command of the king, but as a free-will offering of the
people; for her the queen, at Schonhausen, gave a superb ball; for
her the Swedish ambassador arranged a fete, whose fabulous pomp and
extravagant luxury were supposed to indicate the splendor which
awaited her in her new home. Lastly, this ball at the royal palace,
to which not only the nobles, but many of the wealthy burghers were
invited, was intended as a special compliment to Ulrica.
More than three thousand persons moved gayly through these royal
saloons, odorous with the perfume of flowers, glittering with wax-
lights, the glimmer of diamonds, and rich gold and silver
embroideries--nothing was to be seen but ravishing toilets and happy
faces. All the beauty, youth, rank, fame, and worth of Berlin were
assembled at the palace; and behind these lovely ladies and
glittering cavaliers, the wondering, gaping crowd, of common men,
moved slowly onward, dumb with amazement and delight. The king had
commanded that no well-dressed person should be denied entrance to
Those who had cards of invitation were the guests of the king, and
wandered freely through the saloons. Those who came without cards
had to content themselves behind the silken ropes stretched across
one side of the rooms; by means of this rope an almost invisible and
yet an insurmountable barrier was interposed between the people and
the court circle.
It was difficult to preserve the rules and customs of courtly
etiquette in such a vast assembly, and more difficult still to see
that every man was received and served as the guest of a king, and
suitable to his own personal merit. Crowds of lackeys flew through
the rooms bearing silver plateaux filled with the richest viands,
the most costly fruits, and the rarest wines. Tables were loaded
with the luxuries of every clime and season, and the clang of
glasses and the sweet sound of happy laughter were heard in every
direction. The king expressed a proud confidence in his good people
of Berlin, and declined the services of the police. He commissioned
some officers of his life-guard to act as his substitute and play
the host, attending to the wants and pleasures of all. Supper was
prepared in the picture-gallery for the court circle.
But what means this wild laughter which echoes suddenly through the
vast crowd and reaches the ear of the king, who looks up surprised
and questioning to his master of ceremonies, and orders him to
investigate the tumult? In a few moments Pollnitz returned,
accompanied by a young officer, whose tall and graceful figure, and
whose handsome face, glowing with youth, pride, and energy,
attracted the attention of the noblest ladies, and won a smile of
admiration from the queen-mother.
"Sire," said Pollnitz, "a mask in the guise of a thief, and in the
zealous pursuit of his calling, has robbed one of the officers who
were commanded by your majesty to guard the public peace and
property. Look, your majesty, at our young lieutenant, Von Trenck:
in the midst of the crowd, his rich, gold-embroidered scarf has been
adroitly removed; in his zeal for your service, he forgot himself,
and the merry gnome,--whom Trenck should have kept in order, has
made our officer the target for his sleight of hand. This jest,
sire, caused the loud laughter which you heard."
The eyes of the king rested with an expression of kindliness and
admiration upon the young man, and the Princess Amelia felt her
heart tremble with joy and hope. A rich crimson suffused her cheeks;
it made her almost happy to see that her lover was appreciated by
her exalted brother and king.
"I have watched and wondered at him during the whole evening," said
the king, merrily; "his glance, like the eye of Providence, pierces
the most distant and most obscure corner, and sees all that occurs.
That he who sees all else has forgotten himself, proves that he is
not vain, and that he forgets his own interests in the discharge of
his public duties. I will remember this and reward him, not in the
gay saloon, but on the battle-field, where, I am sure, his scarf
will not be taken from him."
Frederick gave his hand to the young officer, who pressed it warmly
to his lips; then turning to the queen-mother, he said: "Madame, I
know that this young man has been commended to you, allow me also to
bespeak your favor in his behalf; will your majesty have the grace
to instruct him in all the qualities which should adorn a noble
cavalier? I will make him a warrior, and then we shall possess a
nobleman beyond praise, if not beyond comparison."
The king, rising from the table, left his seat and laid his hand
kindly upon Trenck's shoulder. "He is tall enough," said Frederick
laughing; "for that he may thank Providence; let him not be
satisfied with that, but strive to be great, and for that he may
thank himself." He nodded graciously to Trenck, gave his arm to the
queen-mother, and led her into the ball-room.
BEHIND THE CURTAIN.
The crowd and heat of the dancing-saloon were intolerable. All
wished to see the quadrille in which the two princesses, the
loveliest women of the court, and the most gallant cavaliers were to
appear. The music also was a special object of interest, as it was
composed by the king. The first quadrille closed in the midst of
tumultuous applause, restrained by no courtly etiquette. The
partners for the second quadrille advanced to the gay and inspiring
sound of pipes and drums.
The Princess Amelia had withdrawn from the crowd into a window
recess. She was breathless and exhausted from the dance and the
excitement of the last few days. She required a few moments of rest,
of refreshment, and meditation. She drew the heavy silk curtains
carefully together, and seated herself upon the little tabouret
which stood in the recess. This quiet retreat, this isolation from
the thoughtless crowd, brought peace to her soul. It was happiness
to close her weary eyes, and indulge in sweet dreams to the sound of
this glorious music; to feel herself shut off from the laughing,
She leaned her lovely head upon the cushion, not to sleep but to
dream. She thought of her sister, who would soon place a crown upon
her head; who had sold herself for this crown to a man whom she had
never seen, and of whom she knew nothing, but that he was heir to a
throne. Amelia shuddered at the thought that Ulrica had sacrificed
her religion to this man, whom she knew not, and had promised at
God's altar to love and be faithful to him. In the purity and
innocence of her girlish heart she considered this a crime, a
sacrilege against love, truth, and faith. "I will never follow
Ulrica's example," she whispered to herself. "I will never sell
myself. I will obey the dictates of my heart and give myself to the
man I love." As she said this, a crimson glow overspread her cheeks,
and she opened her eyes wide, as if she hoped to see the man she
loved before her, and wished him to read in her steady glance the
sweet confirmation of the words she had so lightly whispered.
"No, no! I will never marry without love. I love, and as there can
be but one true love in a true life, I shall never marry--then--"
She ceased and bowed her head upon her bosom, her trembling lips
refused to speak the hope and dream of her heart, to give words to
the wild, passionate thoughts which burned like lava in her breast,
and, like the wild rush of many waters, drowned her reason. She
thought that in the eloquence of her great love she might touch the
heart of the king, and in the magnanimity of his soul he might allow
her to be happy, to place a simple myrtle-wreath upon her brow. She
repeated the friendly and admiring words which the king had spoken
to her lover. She saw again those wondrous eyes resting with
interest and admiration upon the splendid form of the young baron. A
happy, playful smile was on her lip. "The king himself finds him
handsome and attractive; he cannot then wonder that his sister
shares his opinion. He will think it natural that I love him--that--
A wild storm of applause in the saloon interrupted the current of
her thoughts. She drew the curtains slightly apart, and gazed into
the room. The second quadrille was ended, and the dancers were now
sinking upon the tabourets, almost breathless from fatigue.
The princess could not only see, but she could hear. Two ladies
stood just in front of the curtains behind which she was concealed,
engaged in earnest conversation; they spoke of Frederick von Trenck;
they were enraptured with his athletic form and glowing eyes.
"He has the face of a Ganymede and the figure of a Hercules," said
one. "I think him as beautiful as the Apollo Belvedere," said the
other; "and then his expression is so pure and innocent. I envy the
woman who will be his first love."
"You think, then, that he has never loved?"
"I am sure of it. The passion and fire of his heart are yet
concealed under the veil of youth. He is unmoved by a woman's tender
smiles and her speaking and promising glances. He does not
understand their meaning."
"Have you tried these powerful weapons?"
"I have, and I confess wholly in vain; but I have not given up the
contest, and I shall renew the attack until--"
The ladies now moved slowly away, and the princess heard no more,
but she knew their voices; they were Madame von Brandt and Louise
von Kleist, whom the king often called the "loveliest of the
lovely." Louise von Kleist, the irresistible coquette, who was
always surrounded by worshippers and adorers, confessed to her
friend that all her tender glances had been unavailing; that she had
in vain attempted to melt the ice-rind of his heart.
"But she will renew her efforts," cried Amelia, and her heart
trembled with its first throb of jealousy. "Oh, I know Louise von
Kleist! She will pursue him with her tenderness, her glances of
love, and bold encouragement, until he admires, falls at her feet a
willing victim. But no, no, I cannot suffer that. She shall not rob
me of my only happiness--the golden dream of my young life. He
belongs to me, he is mine by the mighty power of passion, he is
bound to me by a thousand holy oaths. I am his first love. I am that
happy woman whom he adores, and who is envied by the beauteous
Louise von Schwerin. He is mine and he shall be mine, in spite of
the whole world. I love him, and I give myself to him."
And now she once more looked through the curtains and shrank back in
sweet surprise. Right before her stood Trenck--the Apollo of Louise
von Kleist, the Hercules and the Ganymede of Madame von Brandt, the
beloved of the Princess Amelia--Trenck stood with folded arms
immovable, and gazed piercingly in the crowd of maskers. Perhaps he
sought for Amelia; perhaps he was sorrowful because she had
Suddenly he heard a soft, low voice whispering: "Do not move, do not
turn--remain standing as you are; but if you hear and understand me,
bow your head."
Frederick von Trenck bowed his head. But the princess could not see
the rapturous expression which illuminated his face; she could not
know that his breath almost failed him; she could not hear the
stormy, tumultuous beating of his heart.
"Do you know who speaks? if you recognize me, incline your head."
The music sounded loud and clear, and the dancing feet, the gay
jest, and merry laughter of five hundred persona gave confidence and
security to the lovers, Frederick was not content with this silent
sign. He turned toward the recess and said in low tones: "I know the
voice of my angel, and I would fall upon my knees and worship her,
but it would bring danger and separation."
"Still! say no more," whispered the voice; and Trenck knew by its
trembling tones, that the maiden was inspired by the same ardent
passion which glowed in every fibre of his being. That still small
voice sounded in his ears like the notes of an organ: "Say no more,
but listen. To-morrow the Princess Ulrica departs for Sweden, and
the king goes to Potsdam; you will accompany him. Have you a swift
horse that knows the way from Potsdam to Berlin, and can find it by
"I have a swift horse, and for me and my horse there is no night."
"Four nights from this you will find the window which you know open,
and the door which leads to the small stair, only closed. Come at
the hour of eleven, and you will receive a compensation for the
scarf you have lost this evening. Hush--no word; look not around,
move onward indifferently; turn not your head. Farewell! in four
"I had to prepare a coat of mail for him, in order that he might be
invulnerable," whispered Amelia tremblingly; exhausted and
remorseful, she sank back upon the tabouret. "The beautiful Kleist
shall not ravish my beloved from me. He loves me--me alone; and he
shall no longer complain of my cruelty. I dare not be cruel! I dare
not make him unhappy, for she might comfort him. He shall love
nothing but me, only me! If Louise von Kleist pursues him with her
arts, I will murder her--that is all!"
A SHAME-FACED KING.
The king laid his flute aside, and walked restlessly and sullenly
about his room. His brow was clouded, and he had in vain sought
distraction in his faithful friend, the flute. Its soft, melodious
voice brought no relief; the cloud was in his heart, and made him
the slave of melancholy. Perhaps it was the pain of separation from
his sister which oppressed his spirit.
The evening before, the princess had taken leave of the Berliners at
the opera-house, that is, she had shown herself to them for the last
time. While the prima donna was singing her most enchanting
melodies, the travelling carriage of Ulrica drove to the door. The
king wished to spare himself the agony of a formal parting, and had
ordered that she should enter her carriage at the close of the
opera, and depart, without saying farewell.
The people knew this. They were utterly indifferent to the beautiful
opera of "Rodelinda," and fixed their eyes steadily upon the king's
loge. They thus took a silent and affectionate leave of their young
princess, who appeared before them for the last time, in all the
splendor of her youth and beauty, and the dignity of her proud and
royal bearing. An unwonted silence reigned throughout the house; all
eyes were turned to the box where the princess sat between the two
queens. Suddenly the door was thrown open, and the young Prince
Ferdinand rushed, with open arms, to his sister.
"My dear, dear Ulrica!" he cried, weeping and sobbing painfully,
"must it then be so? Do I indeed see you for the last time?" With
childish eagerness he embraced his sister, and leaned his head upon
her bosom. The princess could no longer control herself; she mingled
her tears with those of her brother, and drawing him softly out of
view, she whispered weeping and trembling words of tenderness; she
implored him not to forget her, and promised to love him always.
The queen-mother stood near. She had forgotten that she was a queen,
and remembered only that she was a mother about to lose her child
forever; the thought of royal dignity and courtly etiquette was for
some moments banished from her proud heart; she saw her children
heart-broken and weeping before her, and she wept with them.
[Footnote: Schneider's "History of the Opera and the Royal Opera-
The people saw this. Never had the most gracious smile, the most
condescending word of her majesty, won their hearts so completely as
these tears of the mother. Every mother felt for this woman, who,
though a queen, suffered a mother's anguish; and every maiden wept
with this young girl, who, although entering upon a splendid future,
shed hot tears over the happy past and the beloved home. When the
men saw their wives and children weeping, and the prince not ashamed
of his tears, they also wept, from sympathy and love to the royal
house. In place of the gay jest and merry laughter wont to prevail
between the acts, scarcely suppressed sobs were the only sounds to
be heard. The glorious singer Salimberri was unapplauded. The
Barbarina danced, but the accustomed bravos were hushed.
Was it the remembrance of this touching scene which moved the king
so profoundly? Did this eternal separation from his beloved sister
weigh upon his heart? The king himself knew not, or he would not
acknowledge to himself what emotion produced this wild unrest. After
laying his flute aside, he took up Livy, which lay always upon his
writing-table, and tried to read a chapter; but the letters danced
before his eyes, and his thoughts wandered far away from the old
Roman. He threw the book peevishly aside, and, folding his arms,
walked rapidly backward and forward.
"Ah me! ah me! I wish this were the day of battle!" he murmured.
"To-day I should be surely victorious! I am in a fierce and
desperate mood. The wild roar of conflict would be welcome as a
sweet home song in a strange land, and the shedding of blood would
be medicinal, and relieve my oppressed brain. What is it which has
drawn this veil over my spirit? What mighty and mysterious power has
stretched her hand over me? With what bounds am I held a helpless
captive? I feel, but I cannot see them, and cannot tear them apart.
No, no! I will be lord of myself. I will be no silent dreamer. I
will live a true life. I will work, and be a faithful ruler, if I
cannot be a free and happy man."
He rang the bell, and ordered the ministers to assemble for a
"I will work, and forget every thing else," he said, with a sad
smile, and he entered his cabinet with this proud resolve.
This time the king deceived himself. The most earnest occupation did
not drive the cloud from his brow: in fact, it became more lowering.
"I cannot endure this," he said, after walking backward and forward
thoughtfully. "I will put a stop to it. As I am not a Ulysses, I do
not see why I should bind my eyes, and stop my ears with wax, in
order not to see this bewildering siren, and hear her intoxicating
song. In this sorrowful and pitiful world, is it not a happiness to
meet with an enchantress, to bow down to the magic of her charms,
and for a small half hour to dream of bliss? All other men are mad:
why should I alone be reasonable? Come, then, spirit of love and
bliss, heavenly insanity, take possession of my struggling soul. Let
old age be wise and cool, I am young and warm. For a little while I
will play the fool, and forget my miserable dignity."
Frederick called his servant, and sent for General Rothenberg, then
took his flute and began to play softly. When the general entered,
the king nodded to him, but quietly finished his adagio; then laid
the flute aside, and gave his hand to his friend.
"You must be Pylades, my friend, and banish the despondency which
oppresses the heart and head of thy poor Orestes."
"I will be all that your majesty allows or commands me to be," said
the general, laughing; "but I think the queen-mother would be little
pleased to hear your majesty compare yourself to Orestes."
"Ah, you allude to Clytemnestra's faithless love-story, with which,
truly, my exalted and virtuous mother cannot be associated. Well, my
comparison is a little lame, but my despondency is real--deeply
seated as my friendship for you."
"How! your majesty is melancholy? I understand this mood of my
king," said Rothenberg. "It only takes possession of you the day
before some great deed, and only then because the night before the
day of triumph seems too long. Your majesty confesses that you are
sad. I conclude, therefore, that we will soon have war, and soon
rejoice in the victories of our king."
"Perhaps you are right," said the king, smiling. "I do not love war,
but it is sometimes a necessary evil; and if I cannot relieve my
godmother, Maria Theresa, of this mortal malady of pride and
superciliousness without a general blood-letting, I must even play
the physician and open a vein. The alliance with France is
concluded; Charles the Seventh goes to Frankfort for coronation; the
French ambassador accompanies him, and my army stands ready for
battle, ready to protect the emperor against Austria. We will soon
have war, friend, and I hope we will soon have a victory to
celebrate. In a few weeks we will advance. Oh, Rothenberg! when I
speak of battle, I feel that I am young, that my heart is not of
stone--it bounds and beats as if it would break down its prison
walls, and found a new home of glory and fame."
"The heart of my king will be ever young; it is full of trust and
Frederick shook his head thoughtfully. "Do not believe that,
Rothenberg; the hands that labor become hard and callous, and so is
it with the heart. Mine has labored and suffered; it will turn at
last to stone. Then I shall be condemned. The world will forget that
it is responsible; they will speak only of my hard heart, and say
nothing of the anguish and the deceptions which have turned me to
stone. But what of that? Let these foolish two-legged creatures, who
proudly proclaim that they are made in the image of God, say what
they please of me; they cannot deprive me of my fame and my
immortality. He who possesses that has received his reward, and dare
utter no complaint. Truly Erostratus and Schinderhannes are
celebrated, and Eulenspiegle is better known and beloved by the
people than Socrates."
"This proves that Wisdom herself must take the trouble to make
herself popular," said Rothenberg. "True fame is only obtained by
popularity. Alexander the Great and Caesar were popular, and their
names were therefore in the mouths of the people. This was their
inheritance, handed down from generation to generation, from father
to son. So will it be with King Frederick the Second. He is not only
the king and the hero, but he is the man of the people. His fame
will not be written alone on the tablets of history by the Muses;
the people will write it on the pure, white, vacant leaves of their
Bibles; the children and grandchildren will read it; and, centuries
hence, the curious searchers into history will consider this as
fame, and exalt the name of Frederick the Great."
"God grant it may be so!" said the king solemnly. "You know that I
am ambitious. I believe that this passion is the most enduring, and
that its burning thirst is never quenched. As crown prince, I was
ever humiliated by the thought that the love, consideration, and
respect shown to me was no tribute to my worth, but was offered to a
prince, the son of a powerful king. With what admiration, with what
enthusiasm did I look at Voltaire! he needed no high birth, no
title, to be considered, honored, and envied by the whole world. I,
however, must have rank, title, princely revenues, and a royal
genealogical tree, in order to fix the eyes of men upon me. Ah, how
often did I remind myself of the history of that great prince, who,
surrounded by his enemies, and about to surrender, saw his servants
and friends despairing and weeping around him! He smiled upon them,
and uttered these few but expressive words: 'I feel by your tears
that I am still a king.' I swore then to be like that noble man, to
owe my fame, not to my royal mantle, but to myself. I have fulfilled
but a small portion of my oath. I hope that my godmother, Maria
Theresa, and the Russian empress, will soon afford me more enlarged
opportunities. Our enemies are indeed our best friends; they enrage
and inspire us."
"In so saying, sire, you condemn us all, we who are the most
faithful, submissive, and enthusiastic friends of your highness."
"You are also useful to me," said the king. "You, for example, your
cheerful, loving face does me good whenever I look upon it. You keep
my heart young and fresh, and teach me to laugh, which pleasant art
I am constantly forgetting in the midst of these wearisome and
hypocritical men. I never laugh so merrily as when I am with you at
your table, where I have the high privilege of laying aside my
royalty, and being a simple, happy man like yourself. I rejoice in
the prospect of this evening, and I am impatient as a young maiden
before her first ball. This evening, if I remember correctly, I am
invited by General von Rothenberg to a petit souper."
"Your majesty was kind enough to promise me that you would come."
"Do you know, Rothenberg, I really believe that the expectation of
this fete has made the hours of the day so long and wearisome. Now,
tell me, who are we to have? who takes part in our gayety?"
"Those who were selected by your majesty: Chazot and Algarotti,
Jordan and Bielfeld."
"Did I select the company?" said the king, thoughtfully; "then I
wonder that--" He stopped, and, looking down, turned away silently.
"What causes your majesty's wonder?" said the general.
"I am surprised that I did not ask you to give us Rhine wine this
evening," said the king, with a sly smile.
"Rhine wine! why, your majesty has often told me that it was a slow
poison, and produced death."
"Yes, that is true, but what will you have? There are many things in
this incomprehensible world which are poisonous, and which, for that
reason, are the more alluring. This is peculiarly so with women. He
does well who avoids them; they bewilder our reason and make our
hearts sick, but we do not flee from them. We pursue them, and the
poison which they infuse in our veins is sweet; we quaff it
rapturously, though death is in the cup."
"In this, however, your majesty is wiser than all other men: you
alone have the power to turn away from or withstand them."
"Who knows? perhaps that is sheer cowardice," said the king; he
turned away confused, and beat with his fingers upon the window-
glass. "I called the Rhine wine poison, because of its strength. I
think now that it alone deserves to be called wine--it is the only
wine which has bloom." Frederick was again silent, and beat a march
upon the window.
The general looked at him anxiously and thoughtfully; suddenly his
countenance cleared, and a half-suppressed smile played upon his
"I will allow myself to add a conclusive word to those of my king,
that is, a moral to his fable. Your majesty says Rhine wine is the
only wine which deserves the name, because it alone has bloom. So I
will call that society only society which is graced and adorned by
women. Women are the bloom of society. Do you not agree with me,
"If I agree to that proposition, it amounts to a request that you
will invite women to our fete this evening--will it not?" said the
king, still thrumming on the window.
"And with what rapture would I fulfil your wish, but I fear it would
be difficult to induce the ladies to come to the house of a young
bachelor as I am!"
"Ah, bah! I have determined during the next winter to give these
little suppers very often. I will have a private table, and women
shall be present."
"Yes, but your majesty is married."
"They would come if I were a bachelor. The Countess Carnas, Frau von
Brandt, the Kleist, and the Morien, are too witty and too
intellectual to be restrained by narrow-minded prejudice."
"Does your majesty wish that I should invite these ladies?" said the
general; "they will come, without doubt, if your majesty commands
it. Shall I invite them?"
The king hesitated a moment to reply. "Perhaps they would not come
willingly," said he; "you are unmarried, and they might be afraid of
their husbands' anger."
"I must, then, invite ladies who are not married," said Rothenberg,
whose face was now radiant with delight; "but I do not know one
unmarried lady of the higher circles who carries her freedom from
prejudice so far as to dare attend a bachelor's supper."
"Must we always confine our invitations to the higher circles?" said
the king, beating his parade march still more violently upon the
Rothenberg watched him with the eye of a sportsman, who sees the
wild deer brought to bay.
"If your majesty will condescend to set etiquette aside, I will make
"Etiquette is nonsense and folly, and shall not do the honors by our
petits soupers; pleasure only presides."
"Then I propose that we invite some of the ladies from the theatre--
is your majesty content?"
"Fully! but which of the ladies?" said the king.
"That is your majesty's affair," said Rothenberg, smiling. "You have
selected the gentlemen, will it please you to name the ladies?"
"Well, then," said the king, hesitating, "what say you to Cochois,
Astrea, and the little Petrea?"
"Sire, they will be all most welcome; but I pray you to allow me to
add one name to your list, the name of a woman who is more lovely,
more gracious, more intellectual, more alluring, than all the prima
donnas of the world; who has the power to intoxicate all men, not
excepting emperors and kings, and make them her willing slaves. Dare
I name her, sire?"
"The Signora Barbarina."
The king turned his head hastily, and his burning eyes rested
questioningly upon the face of Rothenberg, who met his glance with a
Frederick was silent; and the general, making a profound bow, said
solemnly: "I pray your majesty to allow me to invite Mesdames
Cochois, Astrea, and Petrea, also the Signora Barbarina, to our
"Four prima donnas at once!" said the king, laughing; "that would be
dangerous; we would, perhaps, have the interesting spectacle of
seeing them tear out each other's eyes. No, no! to enjoy the glories
of the sun, there must be no rival suns in the horizon; we will
invite but one enchantress, and as you are the host, you have the
undoubted right to select her. Let it be then the Signora
Barbarina." [Footnote: Rodenbeck: "Journal of Frederick the Great."]
"Your majesty graciously permits me to invite the Signora
Barbarina?" said Rothenberg, looking the king steadily in the face;
a rich blush suffused the cheeks of Frederick. Suddenly he laughed
aloud, and laying his arm around the neck of his friend, he looked
in his radiant face with an expression of confidence and love.
"You are a provoking scamp," said Frederick. "You understood me from
the beginning, and left me hanging, like Absalom, upon the tree.
That was cruel, Rothenberg."
"Cruel, but well deserved, sire. Why would you not make known your
wishes clearly? Why leave me to guess them?"
"Why? My God! it is sometimes so agreeable and convenient to have
your wishes guessed. The murder is out. You will invite the
beautiful Barbarina. You can also invite another gentleman, an
artist, in order that the lovely Italian may not feel so lonely
amongst us barbarians."
"What artist, sire?"
"The painter Pesne; go yourself to invite him. It might be well for
him to bring paper and pencil--he will assuredly have an
irresistible desire to make a sketch of this beautiful nymph."
"Command him to do so, sire, and then to make a life-size picture
from the sketch."
"Ah! so you wish a portrait of the Barbarina?"
"Yes, sire; but not for myself."
"For whom, then?"
"To have the pleasure of presenting it to my king."
"Because I am vain enough to believe that, as my present, the
picture would have some value in your eyes," said Rothenberg,
mockingly. "What cares my king for a portrait of the Barbarina?
Nothing, sans doute. But when this picture is not only painted by
the great Pesne, but is also the gift of a dear, faithful friend, I
wager it will be highly appreciated by your majesty, and you will
perhaps be gracious enough to hang it in your room."
"You! you!" said the king, pointing his finger threateningly at
Rothenberg, "I am afraid of you. I believe you listen to and
comprehend my most secret thoughts, and form your petition according
to my wishes. I will, like a good-natured, easy fool, grant this
request. Go and invite the Barbarina and the painter Pesne, and
commission him to paint a life-size picture of the fair one.
[Footnote: This splendid picture of Barbarina hung for a long time
in the king's cabinet, and is still to be seen in the Royal Palace
at Berlin.] Pesne must have several sketches, and I will choose from
"I thank your majesty," cried the general; "and now have the
goodness to dismiss me--I must make my preparations."
As Rothenberg stood upon the threshold, the king called him. "You
have guessed my thoughts, and now I will prove to you that I read
yours. You think I am in love."
"In love? What! I dare to think that?" said the general; and folding
his hands he raised his eyes as if in prayer. "Shall I dare to have
such an unholy thought in connection with my anointed king?"
The king laughed heartily. "As to my sanctity, I think the holy
Antonius will not proclaim me as his brother. But I am not exactly
in love." He stepped to the window, upon the sill of which a
Japanese rose stood in rich bloom; he plucked one of the lovely
flowers, and handing it to the general, he said: "Look, now! is it
not enchantingly beautiful? Think you, that because I am a king, I
have no heart, no thirst for beauty? Go! but remember that, though a
king, I have the eyes and the passions of other men. I, too, am
intoxicated by the perfume of flowers and the beauty of women."
THE FIRST RENDEZVOUS.
The night was dark and still; so dark in the garden of Monbijou,
that the keenest eye could not detect the forms of the two men who
slipped stealthily among the trees; so still, that the slightest
contact of their clothing with the motionless leaves, and the
slightest footstep in the sand could be heard. But, happily, there
was none to listen; unchallenged and unseen, the two muffled figures
entered the avenue, at the end of which stood the little palace, the
summer residence of the queen-mother. Here they rested for a moment,
and cast a searching glance at the building, which stood also dark
and silent before them.
"No light in the windows of the queen-mother," whispered one; "all
"Yes, all asleep, we have nothing to fear; let us go onward." The
last speaker made a few hasty steps forward, but his companion
seized him hastily by the arm, and held him hack.
"You forget, my young Hotspur, that we must wait for the signal.
Still! still! do not stamp so impatiently with your feet; you need
not shake yourself like a young lion. He who goes upon such
adventures must, above all things, be self-possessed, cautious, and
cool. Believe me, I have had a long range of experience, and in this
species of love adventure I think I might possibly rival the famous
King Charles the Second, of England."
"But here there is no question of love adventure, Baron Pollnitz,"
said his companion impatiently, almost fiercely.
"Not of love adventure, Baron Trenck! well, may I dare to ask what
is the question?"
"A true--an eternal love!"
"Ah! a true, an eternal love," repeated Pollnitz, with a dry,
mocking laugh. "All honor to this true love, which, with all the
reasons for its justification, and all the pathos of its heavenly
source, glides stealthily to the royal palace, and hides itself
under the shadow of the silent night. My good young sentimentalist,
remember I am not a novice like yourself; I am an old fogy, and call
things by their right names. Every passion is a true and eternal
love, and every loved one is an angel of virtue, beauty, and purity,
until we weary of the adventure, and seek a new distraction."
"You are a hopeless infidel," said Trenck, angrily; "truly he who
has changed his faith as often as you have, has no religion--not
even the religion of love. But look! a light is shown, and the
window is opened; that is the signal."
"You are right, that is the signal. Let us go," whispered Pollnitz;
and he stepped hastily after the young officer.
And now they stood before the window on the ground floor, where the
light had been seen for a moment. The window was half open.
"We have arrived," said Trenck, breathing heavily; "now, dear
Pollnitz, farewell; it cannot certainly be your intention to go
farther. The princess commissioned you to accompany me to the
castle, but she did not intend you should enter with me. You must
understand this. You boast that you are rich in experience, and will
therefore readily comprehend that the presence of a third party is
abhorrent to lovers. I know that you are too amiable to make your
friends wretched. Farewell, Baron Pollnitz."
Trenck was in the act of springing into the window, but the strong
arm of the master of ceremonies held him back.
"Let me enter first," said he, "and give me a little assistance.
Your sophistical exposition of the words of our princess is entirely
thrown away. She said to me, 'At eleven o'clock I will expect you
and the Baron von Trenck in my room.' That is certainly explicit--as
it appears to me, and needs no explanation. Lend me your arm."
With a heavy sigh, Trenck gave the required assistance, and then
sprang lightly into the room.
"Give me your hand, and follow cautiously," said Pollnitz. "I know
every step of the way, and can guard you against all possible
accidents. I have tried this path often in former years,
particularly when Peter the Great and his wife, with twenty ladies
of her suite, occupied this wing of the castle."
"Hush!" said Trenck; "we have reached the top--onward, silently.
"Give me your hand, I will lead you."
Carefully, silently, and on tip-toe, they passed through the dark
corridor, and reached the door, through which a light shimmered.
They tapped lightly upon the door, which was immediately opened. The
confidential chambermaid of the princess came forward to meet them,
and nodded to them silently to follow her; they passed through
several rooms; at last she paused, and said, earnestly: "This is the
boudoir of the princess; enter--you are expected."
With a hasty movement, Trenck opened the door--this door which
separated him from his first love, his only hope of happiness. He
entered that dimly-lighted room, toward which his weary, longing
eyes had been often turned almost hopelessly. His heart beat
stormily, his breathing was irregular, he thought he might die of
rapture; he feared that in the wild agitation of the moment he might
utter a cry, indicative as much of suffering as of joy.
There, upon the divan, sat the Princess Amelia. The hanging lamp
lighted her face, which was fair and colorless. She tried to rise
and advance to meet him, but she had no power; she extended both her
hands, and murmured a few unintelligible words.
Frederick von Trenck's heart read her meaning; he rushed forward and
covered her hands with his kisses and his tears; he fell upon his
knees, and murmured words of rapture, of glowing thanks, of blessed
joy--words which filled the trembling heart of Amelia with delight.
All this fell upon the cold but listening ears of the master of
ceremonies, and seemed to him as sounding brass and the tinkling
cymbal. He hid discreetly and modestly withdrawn to the back part of
the room; but he looked on like a worldling, with a mocking smile at
the rapture of the two lovers. He soon found, however, that the role
which he was condemned to play had its ridiculous and humiliating
aspect, and he resolved to bear it no longer. He came forward, and
with his usual cool impertinence he approached the princess, who
greeted him with a crimson blush and a silent bow.
"Pardon me, your royal highness, if I dare to ask you to decide a
question which has arisen between my friend Trenck and myself. He
did not wish to allow me to accompany him farther than the castle
window. I declared that I was authorized by your royal highness to
enter with him this holiest of holies. Perhaps, however, I was in
error, and have carried my zeal in your service too far. I pray you,
therefore, to decide. Shall I go or stay?"
The princess had by this time entirely recovered her composure.
"Remain," said she, with a ravishing smile, and giving her hand to
the baron. "You were our confidant from the beginning, and I desire
you to be wholly so. I wish you to be fully convinced that our love,
though compelled for a while to seek darkness and obscurity, need
not shun the eye of a friend. And who knows if we may not one day
need your testimony? I do not deceive myself. I know that this night
my good and evil genius are struggling over my future--that
misfortune and shame have already perhaps stretched their wings over
my head; but I will not yield to them without a struggle. It may be
that one day I shall require your aid. Remain, therefore."
Pollnitz bowed silently. The princess fixed her glance upon her
lover, who, with a clouded brow and sad mien, stood near. She
understood him, and a smile played upon her full, red lip.
"Remain, Von Pollnitz, but allow us to step for a moment upon the
balcony. It is a wondrous night. What we two have to say to each
other, only heaven, with its shining stars, dare hear; I believe
they only can understand our speech."
"I thank you! oh, I thank you!" whispered Trenck, pressing the hand
of Amelia to his lips.
"Your royal highness, then, graciously allowed me to come here,"
said Pollnitz, with a complaining voice, "in order to give me up
entirely to my own thoughts, and force me to play the part of a
Trappist. I shall, if I understand rightly my privileges, like the
lion in the fairy tale, guard the door of that paradise in which my
young friend revels in his first sunny dream of bliss. Your royal
highness must confess that this is cruel work; but I am ready to
undertake it, and place myself, like the angel with the flaming
sword, before the door, ready to slay any serpent who dares
undertake to enter this elysium."
The princess pointed to a table upon which game, fruit, and Spanish
wine had been placed. "You will find there distraction and perhaps
consolation, and I hope you will avail yourself of it. Farewell,
baron; we place ourselves under your protection; guard us well." She
opened the door and stepped with her lover upon the balcony.
Pollnitz looked after them contemptuously. "Poor child! she is
afraid of herself; she requires a duenna, and that she should have
chosen exactly me for that purpose was a wonderful idea. Alas! my
case is indeed pitiful; I am selected to play the part of a duenna.
No one remembers that I have ears to hear and teeth to bite. I am
supposed to see, nothing more. But what shall I see, what can I see
in this dark night, which the god of love has so clouded over in
compassion to this innocent and tender pair of doves? This was a
rich, a truly romantic and girlish idea to grant her lover a
rendezvous, it is true, under God's free heaven, but upon a balcony
of three feet in length, with no seat to repose upon after the
powerful emotions of a burning declaration of love. Well, for my
part I find it more comfortable to rest upon this divan and enjoy my
evening meal, while these two dreamers commune with the night-birds
and the stars."
He threw himself upon the seat, seized his knife and fork, and
indulged himself in the grouse and truffles which had been prepared
ON THE BALCONY.
Without, upon the balcony, stood the two lovers. With their arms
clasped around each other, they gazed up at the dark heavens--too
deeply moved for utterance. They spoke to each other in the exalted
language of lovers (understood only by the angels), whose words are
blushes, sighs, glances, and tender pressures of the hand.
In the beginning this was their only language. Both shrank from
interrupting this sweet communion of souls by earthly material
speech. Suddenly their glances fell from heaven earthward. They
sought another heaven, and other and dearer stars. Their eyes,
accustomed to the darkness, met; their blushes and their happy
smiles, though not seen, were understood and felt, and at the same
moment they softly called each other's names.
This was their first language, soon succeeded by passionate and
glowing protestations on his part; by blushing, trembling
confessions on hers. They spoke and looked like all the millions of
lovers who have found themselves alone in this old world of ours.
The same old story, yet ever new.
The conduct, hopes, and fears of these young lovers could not be
judged by common rules. Theirs was a love which could not hope for
happiness or continuance; for which there was no perfumed oasis, no
blooming myrtle-wreath to crown its dark and stormy path. They might
be sure that the farther they advanced, the more trackless and arid
would be the desert opening before them. Tears and robes of mourning
would constitute their festal adorning.
"Why has Destiny placed you so high above me that I cannot hope to
reach you? can never climb the ladder which leads to heaven and to
happiness?" said Trenck, as he knelt before the princess.
She played thoughtfully with his long dark hair, and a burning tear
rolled slowly over her cheek and fell upon his brow. That was her
Trenck shuddered. He dashed the tear from his face with trembling
horror. "Oh, Amelia! you weep; you have no word of consolation, of
encouragement, of hope for me?"
"No word, my friend; I have no hope, no consolation. I know that a
dark and stormy future awaits us. I know that this cloudy night,
under whose shadow we for the first time join our hands will endure
forever; that for us the sun will never shine. I know that the
moment our glances first met, my protecting angel veiled her face
and, weeping, left me. I know that it would have been wiser and
better to give your heart, with its treasures, to a poor beggar-girl
on the street, than to consecrate it to the sister of a king--to the
poor Princess Amelia."
"Stop, stop!" cried Trenck, still on his knees, and bowing his head
almost to the earth. "Your words pierce my heart like poisoned
daggers, and yet I feel that they are truth itself. Yes, I was
indeed a bold traitor, in that I dared to raise my eyes to you; I
was a blasphemer, in that I, the unconsecrated, forced myself into
the holy temple of your heart; upon its altar the vestal flame of
your pure and innocent thoughts burned clearly, until my hot and
stormy sighs brought unrest and wild disorder. But I repent. There
is yet time. You are bound to me by no vow, no solemn oath. Oh,
Amelia! lay this scarcely-opened flower of our first young love by
the withered violet-wreaths of your childhood, with which even now
you sometimes play and smile upon in quiet and peaceful hours; to
which you whisper: 'You were once beautiful and fragrant; you made
me happy--but that is past.' Oh, Amelia! yet is there time; give me
up; spurn me from you. Call your servants and point me out to them
as a madman, who has dared to glide into your room; whose passion
has made him blind and wild. Give me over to justice and to the
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