FREDERICK THE GREAT AND HIS FAMILY
Part 14 out of 16
Hasty steps drew near, and a voice whispered her name. Madame du
Trouffle drew back, and a glowing blush suffused her cheek, and as
she advanced from the grotto she was again the gay, imperious
coquette--the beautiful woman, with the cloudless brow and the
sparkling eyes, which seemed never to have been over-shadowed by
tears. The conscience-stricken, self-accusing mother was again the
Her name was called the second time, and her heart trembled, she
knew not if with joy or horror.
"For God's sake, why have you dared to seek me here? Do you not know
that my husband may return at any moment?"
"Your husband is entertaining Prince Henry while the princess dances
the first waltz with Count Kalkreuth. All the world is dancing,
playing, and chatting, and, while looking at the prince and
princess, have for one moment forgotten the beautiful Louise du
Trouffle. I alone could not do this, and as I learned from Lady
Elliot that you were here, I dared to follow you, and seek in one
glance a compensation for what I have endured this day. Ah, tell me,
worshipped lady, must I be forever banished from your presence."
The words of the young man would have seemed insincere and
artificial to every unprejudiced ear, but they filled the heart of
the vain Louise du Trouffle with joy; they convinced her that she
was yet beautiful enough to excite admiration.
"All will be well, Emil," said she; "I have convinced my husband
that I am wise as Cato and virtuous as Lucretia. He believes in me,
and will cast all slander from his door. Remain here, and let me
return alone to the saloon. Au revoir, man ami."
She threw him a kiss from the tips of her rosy fingers, and hastened
THE KING IN SANS-SOUCI.
The ceremonies and festivities of the reception were ended. The king
could at length indulge himself in that quiet and repose which he
had so long vainly desired. At length, he who had lived so many
years to perform the duties of a king, who had in reality lived for
his country, might after so many cares and sorrows seek repose. The
warrior and hero might once more become the philosopher; might once
more enjoy with his friends the pleasure of science and art.
The king entered the carriage which was to bear him to Sans-Souci
with a beaming countenance--his deeply-loved Sans-Souci, which had
seemed a golden dream to him during the dreary years of the war--a
bright goal before him, of which it consoled and strengthened him
even to think. Now he would again behold it; now he would again
enter those beautiful rooms, and the past would once more become a
He seemed enraptured with the road which led him to Sans-Souci.
Every tree, every stone appeared to welcome him, and when the palace
became visible, he was entirely overcome by his emotions, and sank
back in his carriage with closed eyes.
The Marquis d'Argens, however, the only one who had been allowed to
accompany the king in this drive, sprang from his seat, and waving
his hat in greeting, exclaimed:
"I greet you, Sans-Souci, you temple of wisdom and happiness! Open
wide your portals, for your lord is returning to you. Let your walls
resound as did Memnon's pillar, when the sun's rays first greeted
it, after a long night. Your night is passed, Sans-Souci; you will
be again warmed by the sunbeams from your master's eyes!"
The king smilingly drew his enthusiastic friend back to his seat.
"You are, and always will be a child--an overgrown child."
"Sire," said D'Argens, "that is because I am pious. It is written,
'If you do not become as little children you cannot enter the
kingdom of heaven!' Now, Sans-Souci is my kingdom! I have become as
the children, that I might be received at the side of my king, and
begin once more the days of happiness."
The king gently shook his head. "Oh, I fear, my friend, that the
days of happiness will not recommence; the sun which once illumined
Sans-Souci has set. Our lips have forgotten how to smile, and joy is
dead in our hearts. How many illusions, how many hopes and wishes I
still indulged, when I last descended the steps of Sans-Souci; how
poor, and weak, and depressed I shall feel in ascending them!"
"What? your majesty poor! You who return so rich in fame, crowned
with imperishable laurels?"
"Ah, marquis, these laurels are bathed in blood, and paid for
bitterly and painfully with the lives of many thousands of my
subjects. The wounds are still gaping which my land received during
the war, and they will require long years to heal. Do not speak to
me of my laurels; fame is but cold and sorrowful food! In order to
prize fame, one should lay great weight on the judgment of men; I
have lost all faith in them. Too many bitter experiences have at
length destroyed my faith and confidence. I can no longer love
mankind, for I have ever found them small, miserable, and crafty.
Those for whom I have done most have betrayed and deceived me the
most deeply. Think of Chafgotch, he whom I called friend, and who
betrayed me in the hour of danger! Remember Warkotch, whom I
preferred to so many others, whom I overloaded with proofs of my
love, and who wished to betray and murder me! Think of the many
attempts against my life, which were always undertaken by those whom
I had trusted and benefited! Think of these things, marquis, and
then tell me if I should still love and trust mankind!"
"It is true, sire," said the marquis, sadly; "your majesty has had a
wretched experience, and mankind must appear small to you, who are
yourself so great. The eagle which soars proudly toward the sun,
must think the world smaller and smaller, the higher he soars; the
objects which delight us poor earth-worms, who are grovelling in the
dust, and mistake an atom floating in the sunshine for the sun
itself, must indeed appear insignificant to you."
"Do not flatter me, marquis! Let us, when together, hear a little of
that truth which is so seldom heard among men, and of which the name
is scarcely known to kings. You flattered me, because you had not
the courage to answer my question concerning the unworthiness of
mankind, when I said I could no longer love or trust them! You feel,
however, that I am right, and you will know how to pardon me, when I
appear to the world as a cold, hard-hearted egotist. It is true my
heart has become hardened in the fire of many and deep sufferings! I
loved mankind very dearly, marquis; perhaps that is the reason I now
despise them so intensely; because I know they are not worthy of my
"But, sire, you love them still; for your heart is possessed of that
Godlike quality--mercy--which overlooks and pardons the faults and
failings of mankind. Intolerance is not in the nature of my king,
and forgiveness and mercy are ever on his lips."
"I will endeavor to verify your words, dear friend," said the king,
offering D'Argens his hand. "And should I not succeed, you must
forgive me, and remember how deeply I have suffered, and that my
heart is hardened by the scars of old wounds. But I will indulge
such sad thoughts no longer. Only look how Sans-Souci gleams before
us! Every window which glitters in the sunlight seems to greet me
with shining eyes, and the whispering leaves appear to bid me
welcome. There are the windows of my library, and behind them await
the great spirits of my immortal friends, who look at me and shake
their gray heads at the weak child who has returned to them old and
bowed down. Csesar looks smilingly at the laurels I have brought,
and Virgil shakes his curly locks, and lightly hums one of his
divine songs, which are greater than all my victories. Come,
marquis, come! we will go, in all modesty and humility to these
gifted spirits, and entreat them not to despise us, because we are
so unlike them."
As the carriage reached the lowest terrace, Frederick sprang out
with the elasticity of youth, and began to ascend the steps so
lightly and rapidly, that the marquis could scarcely follow him.
From time to time the king stood still, and gazed around him, and
then a bright smile illumined his countenance, and his eyes beamed
with pleasure. Then hastening onward, he turned his head toward the
house that looked so still and peaceful, and seemed, with its open
doors, ready to welcome him.
At length, having reached the summit, he turned once more with
beaming eyes to look at the lovely landscape which was spread before
him in smiling luxuriousness. He then hastily entered the house and
the beautiful room in which he had spent so many gay and happy hours
with his friends. Now his footsteps echoed in the lonely room, and
none of his friends were there to welcome the returning king--none
but D'Argens, the dearest, the most faithful of all.
The king now turned to him, and a shadow overspread his countenance,
which had been so bright.
"D'Argens," he said, "we are very poor; the most of our friends have
left us forever. The prior of Sans-Souci has returned, but his monks
have all left him but you, marquis!"
"Does your majesty forget my Lord Marshal, the most amiable and
intellectual of your monks? It needs but a sign from his beloved
prior to recall him from Neufchatel!"
"It is true," said the king, smiling; "I am not so deserted as I
thought. Lord Marshal must return to us, and he must live here in
Sans-Souci, as you will. I must surround myself with those who
deserve my confidence; perhaps, then, I can forget how bitterly I
have been deceived by others. Come, marquis, give me your arm, and
we will make a tour of these rooms."
He placed his hand upon the arm of the marquis, and they passed
through the silent, deserted rooms, which seemed to greet the king
with a thousand remembrances. Perhaps it was that he might the more
distinctly hear the whispers of memory that he had commanded that no
one should receive him in Sans-Souci, that no servant should appear
until called for. Without noise or ceremony, he desired to take
possession of this house, in which he had not been the king, but the
philosopher and poet. He wished to return here, at least, as if he
had only yesterday left the house. But the seven years of care and
sorrow went with him; they crept behind him into these silent,
deserted halls. He recognized them in the faded furniture, in the
dusty walls, and in the darkened pictures. They were not merely
around, but within him, and he again felt how utterly he had changed
in these years.
As they entered the room which Voltaire had occupied, Frederick's
countenance was again brightened by a smile, while that of the
marquis assumed a dark and indignant expression.
"Ah, marquis, I see from your countenance that you are acquainted
with all the monkey-tricks of my immortal friend," said the king,
gayly; "and you are indignant that so great a genius as Voltaire
should have possessed so small a soul! You think it very perfidious
in Voltaire to have joined my enemies when I was in trouble, and
then to send me his congratulations if I happened to win a victory!"
"Does your majesty know that also?" asked the astonished marquis.
"Dear marquis, have we not always good friends and servants, who
take a pleasure in telling bad news, and informing us of those
things which they know it will give us pain to hear? Even kings have
such friends, and mine eagerly acquainted me with the fact that
Voltaire wished all manner of evil might befall his friend 'Luc,' as
it pleased him to call me. Did he not write to D'Argental that he
desired nothing more fervently than my utter humiliation and the
punishment of my sins, on the same day on which he sent me an
enthusiastic poem, written in honor of my victory at Leuthen? Did he
not write on another occasion to Richelieu, that the happiest day of
his life would be that on which the French entered Berlin as
conquerors, and destroyed the capital of the treacherous king who
dared to write to him twice every month the tenderest and most
flattering things, without dreaming of reinstating him as
chamberlain with the pension of six thousand thalers? He wished that
I might suffer 'la damnation eternelle,' and proudly added. 'Vous
voyez, que dans la tragedie je veux toujours que le crime soit
"Yes," replied D'Argens, "and at the same time he wrote here to
Formay: 'Votre roi est toujours un homme unique, etonnant,
inimitable; il fait des vers charmants dans de temps ou un autre ne
pourrait faire un ligne de prose, il merite d'etre heureux.'"
The king laughed aloud. "Well, and what does that prove, that
Voltaire is the greatest and most unprejudiced of poets?"
"That proves, sire, that he is a false, perfidious man, a faithless
ungrateful friend. All his great poetical gifts weigh as nothing in
the scale against the weakness and wickedness of his character. I
can no longer admire him as a poet, because I despise him so utterly
as a man."
"You are too hard, marquis," said Frederick, laughing. "Voltaire has
a great mind, but a small heart, and that is, after all, less his
fault than his Creator's. Why should we wish to punish him, when he
is innocent? Why should we demand of a great poet that he shall be a
good man? We will allow him to have a bad heart, he can account to
Madame Denis for that; and if we cannot love him, we can at least
admire him as a poet. We can forgive much wickedness in men, if it
is redeemed by great virtues."
"Ah, sire, that is very sad," sad D'Argens, "and could only be
uttered by one who had the most profound love or the greatest
contempt for mankind."
"Perhaps the two are combined in me," said the king. "As Christ said
of the Magdalen, 'She has loved much, much will be forgiven her,' so
let us say of Voltaire. He has written much, much will be forgiven
him. He has lately rendered an immortal service, for which I could
almost love him, were it possible to love him at all. He undertook
with bold courage the defence of the unhappy Jean Calas, who was
murdered by fanatical French priests. The priests, perhaps, will
condemn him; we, however, honor him."
"Did not your majesty do the same thing?" asked D'Argens. "Did you
not also take pity on the unhappy family of Jean Calas? Did you not
send them a considerable amount of money and offer them an asylum in
"That I did, certainly; but what is that in comparison with what
Voltaire has done? He gave them the strength of his mind and his
work, his best possession, while I could only give them gold.
Voltaire's gift was better, more beautiful, and I will now take a
vow for his sake, that the persecuted and oppressed shall always
find aid and protection in my land, and that I will consider liberty
of spirit a sacred thing as long as I live. Freedom of thought shall
be a right of my subjects. I will call all free and liberal minded
persons to come to me, for liberty of thought brings liberty of
will, and I prefer to rule a thinking people, to a mass of
thoughtless slaves, who follow me through stupid obedience. Prussia
shall be the land of liberty and enlightenment. The believers and
the unbelievers, the pietists and the atheists may speak alike
freely; the spirit of persecution shall be forever banished from
"Amen," cried D'Argens solemnly, as he glanced at the excited,
beaming countenance of the king. "The spirit of love and of freedom
hears your words, my king, and they will be written with a diamond-
point in the history of Prussia."
"And now, marquis," said the king, "we will visit my library, and
then we will repose ourselves that we may enjoy our meal. In the
evening I invite you to the concert. My musicians are coming from
Berlin, and we will see if my lips, which have been accustomed so
long to rough words of discipline, are capable of producing a few
sweet notes from my flute."
Thus speaking, the king took the arm of the marquis, and they passed
slowly through the room, whose desolate silence made them both sad.
"The world is nothing more than a great, gaping grave, on the brink
of which we walk with wild courage," said the king, softly. "There
is no moment that some one does not stumble at our side and fall
into the abyss, and we have the courage to continue in the path
until our strength fails and we sink, making room for another.
Almost all of those who formerly occupied these rooms have vanished.
How long will it be ere I shall follow them?"
"May that wretched moment be very distant!" exclaimed D'Argens, with
a trembling voice. "Your majesty is still so young and full of life-
-you have nothing to do with death."
"No," said the king; "I am very old, for I have become indifferent
to the world. Things which would have deeply distressed me formerly,
now pass unheeded over my soul. I assure you, marquis, I have made
great progress in practical philosophy. I am old; I stand at the
limits of life, and my soul is freeing itself from this world,
which, it is to be hoped, I will soon leave."
"Ah, sire," said D'Argens, smiling, "you are ten years younger than
I am, and each time that you speak of your rapidly advancing age, I
ask myself how it is possible that a man so much younger than I
should complain of old age. Only wait, sire; here, in the quiet of
Sans-Souci, in a few months you will feel ten and I fifteen years
younger. In the happiness and comforts of our existence, you will
live to the age of Abraham and I to that of Jacob."
"But I am much older than you, marquis. During the last seven years,
I have had nothing but destroyed hopes, undeserved misfortunes, in
short, all that the caprice of Fortune could discover to distress
me. After such experiences it is allowable, when one is fifty years
old, to say that he is old, that he will no longer be the play-thing
of Fortune, that he renounces ambition and all those follies which
are merely the illusions of inexperienced youth. But no more of
these sad thoughts, for here we are at last at the door of my
tusculum. Fold your hands, you unbelieving son of the Church; the
gods and heroes await us in this temple, and you will at least
believe in these."
They entered the library, and as the door closed behind them and
they were separated from the whole world, as they stood in the
centre of the room whose only ornament consisted of rows of books,
upon which glittered in golden letters the names of the great minds
of all ages, whose only splendor consisted in the marble busts of
Caesar and Virgil, of Cicero and Alexander, the king said, with
"I am at last in the republic of minds, and I, as a humble citizen,
approach the great presidents, who look down so graciously upon me."
And, as the king seated himself in his arm-chair before his writing
table, he recovered his sparkling humor, his gay wit, and recounted
with a bright smile to the marquis that he intended to work most
industriously, that he would certainly write a history of this war
which he had just closed, and that he intended always to live at
Sans-Souci, as its quiet and repose seemed more agreeable to him
than the noise and turmoil of the great city. He then dismissed the
marquis for a short time, that he might rest before going to the
But the king did not rest. Too many and too powerful thoughts were
surging in his breast. Leaning back in his arm-chair, he thought of
the future. He recalled his own life and arranged his future course.
After sitting thus for a long time, he suddenly arose, his
countenance bright with a firm and energetic expression.
"Yes, thus it shall be," he said aloud. "I will be the father of my
people. I will live for them, forgetting the wickedness of men, or
only avenging myself on them by the prickings of a needle. I have no
family, therefore my people shall be my family. I have no children,
therefore every one who needs my aid shall become my child, and for
them I will do the duties of a father. My country bleeds from a
thousand wounds--to heal these wounds shall be the task of my life."
True to this resolution, the king called together his ministers the
next day, and commanded them to obtain exact accounts of the
condition of his provinces; to inform him of the wants and
necessities of the people; and to assist him in relieving them. True
to this resolution, the king was untiring in his work for the good
of his people. He wished to see all, to prove all. He desired to be
the source from which his subjects received all their strength and
Therefore he must know all their griefs--he must lend an open ear to
all their demands.
His first command was, that any one who asked for an interview
should be admitted. And when one of his ministers dared to express
his astonishment at this order. "It is the duty of a king," said
Frederick, "to listen to the request of the most insignificant of
his subjects. I am a regent for the purpose of making my people
happy. I do not dare close my ears to their complaints." And he
listened sympathizingly to the sorrows of his people, and his whole
mind and thoughts were given to obtain their alleviation. He was
always willing to aid with his counsel and his strength. Untiring in
the work, he read every letter, every petition, and examined every
answer which was written by his cabinet council. He and he alone,
was the soul of his government.
A new life began to reign in this land, of which he was the soul. He
worked more than all of his ministers or servants, and music and
science were his only pleasure and recreation. He was a hero in
peace as well as in war. He did not require, as others do, the
distraction of gay pleasures. Study was his chief recreation--
conversation with his friends was his greatest pleasure. Even the
hunt, the so-called "knightly pleasure," had no charms for him.
"Hunting," said the king, "is one of the senseless pleasures which
excites the body but leaves the mind unemployed. We are more cruel
than the wild beasts themselves. He who can murder an innocent
animal in cold blood, would find it impossible to show mercy to his
fellow-man. Is hunting a proper employment for a thinking creature?
A gentleman who hunts can only be forgiven if he does so rarely, and
then to distract his thoughts from sad and earnest business matters.
It would be wrong to deny sovereigns all relaxation, but is there a
greater pleasure for a monarch than to rule well, to enrich his
state, and to advance all useful sciences and arts? He who requires
other enjoyments is to be pitied."
THE ENGRAVED CUP.
Princess Amelia was alone in her boudoir--she was ever alone. She
lay upon the sofa, gazed at the ceiling, and in utter despair
reflected upon her miserable fate. For years she had looked
anxiously forward to the conclusion of this unhappy war in which
Austria and Prussia were so fiercely opposed. So long as they were
active enemies, Trenck must remain a prisoner. But she had said to
herself, "When peace is declared, the prisoners of war will be
released, and Maria Theresa will demand that her captain, Frederick
von Trenck, be set at liberty."
Peace had been declared four months, and Trenck still lay in his
subterranean cell at Magdeburg. All Europe was freed from the
fetters of war. Trenck alone was unpardoned and forgotten. This
thought made Amelia sad unto death, banished sleep from her couch,
and made her a restless, despairing wanderer during the day. Amelia
had no longer an object--the last ray of hope was extinguished.
Peace had been concluded and Trenck was forgotten! God had denied
her the happiness of obtaining Trenck's freedom; He would not even
grant her the consolation of seeing him released through others. For
nine years Trenck had languished in prison--for nine years Amelia's
only thought, only desire, was to enable him to escape. Her life was
consecrated to this one object. She thought not of the gold she had
sacrificed--she had offered up not only her entire private fortune,
but had made debts which her income was utterly inadequate to meet.
Money had no value except as it was consecrated to her one great
aim. She felt now that her heart had been crushed and broken in her
useless efforts-that her hopes were trampled in the dust, and her
existence worthless. Peace had visited all hearts but hers with new
assurance of hope. It brought to her nothing but despair and
desolation. While all others seemed to recommence life with fresh
courage and confidence, Amelia withdrew to her apartments, brooding
in dark discontent--hating all those who laughed and were glad-
spurning from her with angry jealousy the contented and happy. The
world was to her a vast tomb, and she despised all those who had the
mad and blasphemous courage to dance on its brink.
Amelia avenged herself on those who avoided her, by pursuing them
with spiteful jests and bitter sarcasm, hoping in this way to be
relieved wholly from their presence. She wished to be alone and
always alone. Her soul within her was desolate, and the outward
world should take the same dark hue. She lived like a prisoner
secluded in her own apartments; and when some great court festival
compelled her to appear in public, she revenged herself by wounding
all who approached her. The sufferings of others were a balsam to
her heart, and she convinced herself that the pain she inflicted
assuaged her own torments.
Amelia was alone; her maid of honor had just read aloud one of
Moliere's biting, satirical comedies, and received leave of absence
for a few hours. The princess had also dismissed her chamberlain
till dinner, and he had left the castle; only two pages waited in
the anteroom, which was separated by two chambers from the boudoir.
Amelia had the happy consciousness of being alone in her grief, and,
fearing no disturbance, she could sigh and lament aloud. She dared
give words to her rage and her despair; there were no other
listeners than these dead, voiceless walls--they had been long her
only confidants. The stillness was suddenly broken by a gentle knock
at the door, and one of the pages entered.
With a frightened look, and begging earnestly to be pardoned for
having dared to disturb the princess, he informed her that a
stranger was without, who pleaded eagerly to be admitted.
"What does he wish?" said Amelia, roughly. "I have neither office
nor dignity to bestow, and, at present, I have no money! Tell him
this, and he will go away cheerfully."
"The stranger says he is a jeweller, your highness," said the page.
"It is of great importance to him that you should look at his
collection of gems; and if you will have the goodness to purchase a
few trifles, you will make them the fashion in Berlin, and thus make
"Tell him he is a fool!" said Amelia, with a coarse laugh; "I have
no desire to see his jewels! Dismiss him, and do not dare disturb me
again. Well, why do you hesitate? Why are you still here?"
"Ah, princess, the poor man begs so earnestly for admittance; he
says your highness knew him at Magdeburg, and that the governor, the
Landgrave of Hesse, expressly charged him to show the jewels to your
These magical words aroused Amelia from her apathy. With a quick
movement she arose from the sofa; she was endowed with new energy
and vitality; she advanced toward the door, then paused, and looked
silent and thoughtful.
"Admit the stranger!" said she, "I will see his treasures."
The page left the room, and Amelia gazed after him breathlessly, and
with a loudly-beating heart. It seemed to her an eternity before the
A tall, slender man, in simple but elegant costume, approached. He
stood at the door, and bowed profoundly to the princess. Amelia
looked at him steadily, and sighed deeply; she did not know this
man. Again her hopes had deceived her.
"You said the Landgrave of Hesse sent you to me?" said she, roughly.
"Yes, princess," said the man; "he commanded me to seek your
highness as soon as I arrived in Berlin, and show you my collection,
in order that you might have the privilege of selecting before all
Amelia looked once more questioningly and fiercely upon the
stranger, but he remained cold and indifferent.
"Well, sir, show me your gems!"
He placed a large casket upon a table in the middle of the room; he
then unlocked it, and threw back the lid. In the different
compartments, splendid jewels of wondrous beauty were to be seen--
rings, pins, bracelets, and necklaces of rare workmanship and
"Diamonds," cried Amelia, contemptuously; "nothing but diamonds!"
"But diamonds of a strange fire and wondrous design," said the
strange jeweller. "Will not your highness graciously draw nearer,
and observe them?"
"I have no use for them: I wear no diamonds!" said Amelia: "if you
have nothing else to show me, close the casket; I shall make no
"I have, indeed, other and rarer treasures; some beautiful carved
work, by Cellini, some ivory carving of the middle ages, and a few
rare and costly cameos. Perhaps these may please the taste of your
The jeweller raised the first compartment, and taking out a number
of beautiful and costly articles, he laid them upon the table,
explained the workmanship and design of each piece, and called the
attention of the princess to their wondrous beauty.
Amelia listened carelessly to his words. These things had no
interest for her; she looked only at one object--a round packet,
rolled in paper, which the stranger had taken with the other
articles from the casket; this must be something particularly
costly. It was carefully wrapped in silk paper, while every thing
else lay confusedly together, and yet this seemed the only treasure
which the jeweller did not seem disposed to exhibit. Amelia,
however, remarked that he raised this mysterious packet several
times, as if it was in his way; changed its place, but every time
brought it nearer to her. It now lay immediately in front of her.
"What does that paper contain?" said she.
"Oh, that has no interest for your royal highness; that is a
worthless object! Will you have the goodness to examine this seal?
It represents the holy Saint Michael, treading the dragon under his
feet, and it is one of the most successful and beautiful works of
Amelia did not look at the seal; she stretched out her hand toward
the mysterious packet, and giving a searching look at the jeweller,
she raised and opened it.
"A cup! a tin cup!" she exclaimed, in astonishment.
"As I remarked to your highness, a worthless object; unless the rare
beauty of the workmanship should give it some value. The carving is
indeed beautiful and most wonderful, when you know that it was done
with a common nail, and not even in daylight, but in the gloom and
darkness of a subterranean cell."
Amelia trembled so violently, that the cup almost fell from her
hand. The stranger did not remark her emotion, but went on quietly.
"Observe, your highness, how finely and correctly the outlines are
drawn; it is as artistically executed as the copperplate of a
splendid engraving. It is greatly to be regretted that we cannot
take impressions from this tin cup; they would make charming
pictures. The sketches are not only well executed, but they are
thoughtfully and pathetically conceived and illustrated with
beautiful verses, which are worthy of a place in any album. If your
highness takes any interest in such trifles, I beg you will take
this to the light and examine it closely."
The princess did not answer: she stepped to the window, and turning
her back to the jeweller, looked eagerly at the cup.
It was, indeed, a masterpiece of art and industry. The surface was
divided by small and graceful arabesques into ten departments, each
one of which contained an enchanting and finely-executed picture. No
chisel could have drawn the lines more correctly or artistically, or
produced a finer effect of light and shade. Under each picture there
was a little verse engraved in such fine characters, that they could
only be deciphered with difficulty.
Amelia's eyes seemed to have recovered the strength and power of
earlier days. A youthful, vigorous soul lay in the glance which was
fixed upon this cup; she understood every thing.
There was a cage with an imprisoned bird; beneath this a verse:
"Ce n'est pas un moineau,
Garde dans cette cage,
C'est un de ces oiseaux,
Qui chantent dans L'orage.
Ouvrez, amis des sages,
Brisez fers et verroux;
Les chants dans vos bocages,
Rejailliront pour vous."
"This is not a sparrow
Kept in this cage.
It is one of those birds
Who sing in storms.
Open, friend of the wise,
Break iron and bolts,
The songs in your woods
Shall fly back to you."]
In the next compartment was again a cage, containing a bird, and on
the branch of a tree under which the cage was placed, perched
another bird, with fluttering wings and open beak; underneath was
"Le rossignol cbante, voici la raison,
Pourquoi il est pris pour chanter en prison;
Voyez le moineau qui fait tant de dommage,
Jouir de la vie sans craindre la cage.
Voila un portrait,
Qui montre l'effet
Du bonheur des fripons du desastre des sages."
"The nightingale sings, and this is the reason
That he is taken to sing in a prison.
See now the sparrow, who does so much evil,
Plays with life without fear of cages.
See in this portrait,
Which shows the effect
Of the good luck of rogues, and the misfortune of sages."]
Amelia could not control herself; she could look no longer. She
rarely wept, but now her eyes were filled with tears. They fell upon
the cup, as if to kiss the letters which had recalled so many
touching and sad remembrances. But she had no time for tears, she
must read on! With an involuntary movement, she dashed the tears
from her eyes, and fixed them steadily upon the cup.
Here was another picture. In a cell lay a skeleton form, the hands
and the feet bound with heavy chains. The figure had raised itself
slightly from the straw bed and gazed with an agonized expression at
the grating in the wall, behind which the grim-bearded face of a
soldier was seen, who, with wide-open mouth seemed to be calling
angrily to the prisoner. Beneath this stood some verses in German.
[Footnote: See memoirs of Trenck, Thiebault, in which Trenck
describes one of these cups and the fate which befell it. One of
them was engraved for the Landgrave of Hesse, and in this way fell
into the hands of the Emperor Joseph the Second, who kept it in his
art cabinet. Another, which had been once in possession of the wife
of Frederick the Great, Trenck afterward recovered in Paris. Some of
these cups are still to be seen in art collections in Germany, and
some are in the museum in Berlin.] "Oh fearful! most fearful!"
sobbed Amelia; and, completely overcome, her head sank upon her
breast. She cared not that the strange jeweller saw her tears and
heard the despairing cry of her heart; she had nothing to fear; she
had no more to lose. The assembled world might hear and see her
great grief. But no, no; this must not be. His agony, his tortures,
might perhaps be increased to punish her through him! She must not
weep; she must not complain. Trenck lived; although in prison and in
chains, he still lived; so long as he lived, she must conquer the
despair of her heart.
As she thought thus, she dried her tears, and raised her head with
proud resolve. She would be calm and self-possessed; perhaps this
man, sent to her by the landgrave, had something still to say to
her. She half turned her head toward him; he appeared not to be
thinking of her, but was quietly engaged placing his treasures again
in his casket.
"Can you tell me who engraved this cup?"
"Certainly, your royal highness. A poor prisoner, who has been
confined for nine years in a subterranean cell in the fortress of
Magdeburg, engraved it. He is called Frederick von Trenck. Your
highness has perhaps never heard the name, but in Magdeburg every
child knows it, and speaks it with wonder and admiration! No one has
seen him, but every one knows of his daring, his heroism, his
unfaltering courage, and endurance, his herculean strength, and his
many and marvellous attempts to escape. Trenck is the hero of the
nursery as well as the saloon. No lady in Magdeburg is acquainted
with him, but all are enthusiastic in his praise, and all the
officers who know him love and pity him. Many are ready to risk
their lives for him!"
The princess sighed deeply, and a ray of joy and hope lighted up her
countenance. She listened with suppressed breath to the jeweller's
words--they sounded like far-off music, pleasant but mournful to the
The stranger continued: "Some time since, in order to dispel the
tediousness of his prison-life, he began to engrave poems and
figures upon his tin cup with a nail which he had found in the earth
while making his last attempt to undermine the floor of his cell.
During one of his visits of observation, the commandant discovered
this cup; he was delighted with the engravings, took the cup and
sent Trenck another, hoping he would continue the exercise of his
art. Trenck seized the occasion joyfully, and since then he has been
constantly occupied as an engraver. Every officer desires to have a
cup engraved by him, as a souvenir. Every lady in Magdeburg longs
for one, and prefers it to the most costly jewel. These cups are now
the mode--indeed, they have become an important article in trade. If
one of the officers can be induced to sell his cup, it will cost
twenty louis d'or. Trenck gets no money for his work, but he has
gained far greater advantages. These cups give him the opportunity
of making known to the world the cruel tortures to which he is
subject; they have given him speech, and replaced the writing
materials of which they have deprived him. They have answered even a
better and holier purpose than this," said the jeweller, in a low
voice, "they have procured him light and air. In order to give him
sufficient light for his work, the officers open the doors into the
first corridor, in which there is a large window; one of the upper
panes of this window is open every morning. As the days are short in
the casemates, the commandant looks through his fingers, when the
officers bring lights to the poor prisoner. Trenck feels as if his
wretched prison-cell was now changed into the atelier of an artist."
Amelia was silent and pressed the cup tenderly to her lips; the
stranger did not regard her, but continued his recital quietly.
"An officer of the garrison told me all this, your highness, when he
sold me this cup. They make no secret of their admiration and
affection for Trenck; they know they would be severely punished if
the higher authorities discovered that they allowed Trenck any
privileges or alleviations, but they boast of it and consider it a
"May God reward them for it!" sighed Amelia. "I will buy this cup,
sir. I do not wish to be behind the ladies of Magdeburg, and as it
is the mode to possess a cup engraved by Trenck, I will take this.
Name your price."
The jeweller was silent for a moment, then said:
"Pardon me, your highness, I dare not sell you this cup, or rather I
implore your highness not to desire it. If possible, I will make it
an instrument for Trenck's release."
"How can this be done?" said Amelia, breathlessly.
"I will take this cup to General Riedt, the Austrian ambassador in
Berlin. As all the world is interesting itself for Trenck, I do not
see why I should not do the same, and endeavor to obtain his
release. I shall therefore go to General Riedt with this cup. I am
told he is a noble gentleman and a distant relation of Trenck; he
cannot fail to sympathize with his unfortunate cousin. When he hears
of his cruel sufferings he will certainly strive to deliver him.
General Riedt is exactly the man to effect this great object; he is
thoroughly acquainted with all the by-ways and intrigues of the
court of Vienna. Maria Theresa classes him among her most trusted
confidants and friends. Whoever desires to free Trenck must consult
with General Riedt and win him."
Amelia raised her head and looked up quickly at the stranger; his
eyes were fixed upon her with a searching and significant
expression; their glances met and were steadily fixed for one
moment, then a scarcely perceptible smile flitted over the face of
the jeweller, and the princess nodded her head. Each felt that they
"Have you nothing more to say?" said Amelia.
"No, your highness, I have only to beg you will pardon me for not
selling you this cup. I must take it to General Riedt."
"Leave it with me," said Amelia, after a few moments' reflection. "I
myself will show it to him and seek to interest him in the fate of
his unhappy relative. If I succeed, the cup is mine, and you will
not wish to sell it to General Riedt Do you agree to this? Go, then,
and return to me at th is hour to-morrow, when I will either pay you
the price of the cup, or return it to you, if I am so unhappy as to
The jeweller bowed profoundly. "I will punctually obey your
highness's commands. To-morrow at this hour I will be here."
The stranger took his casket and left the room. The princess gazed
after him till the door closed.
"That man is silent and discreet, I believe he can be trusted," she
murmured. "I will write at once, and desire an interview with
THE PRINCESS AND THE DIPLOMATIST.
An hour later the page of the princess announced General von Riedt,
Austrian ambassador at the court of Berlin. Amelia advanced to meet
him, and gazed with a sharp, piercing glance at the general, who
bowed respectfully before her.
"I have sent for you, general," said the princess, "to repair an
injury. You have been announced twice, and both times I declined
"That was no injury, your royal highness," said the general,
smiling. "I ventured to call on you because etiquette demands that a
new ambassador should introduce himself to every member of the royal
house. Your royal highness declined to receive me, it was not
agreeable, and you were perfectly justifiable in closing your doors
"And now you must wonder why I have sent for you?"
"I never allow myself to wonder. Your order for me to come has made
me happy--that is sufficient."
"You have no suspicion why I sent for you?"
"Your royal highness has just informed me you kindly wished to
indemnify me for my two former visits."
"You are a good diplomatist; you turn quickly about, are as smooth
as an eel, cannot be taken hold of, but slip through one's fingers.
I am accustomed to go at once to the point--I cannot diplomatize.
See here, why I wished to see you--I wished to show you this cup."
She took the cup hastily from the table, and gave it to the
ambassador. He gazed at it long and earnestly; he turned it around,
looking at every picture, reading every verse. Amelia watched him
keenly, but his countenance betrayed nothing. He was as smiling, as
unembarrassed as before. When he had looked at it attentively, he
placed it on the table.
"Well, what do you think of the workmanship?" said Amelia.
"It is wonderful, worthy of an artist, your royal highness."
"And do you know by what artist it was made?"
"I suspect it, your royal highness."
"Give me his name?"
"I think he is called Frederick von Trenck."
"It is so, and if I do not err, he is your relative?"
"My distant relative--yes, your royal highness."
"And can you bear to have your relative in chains? Does not your
heart bleed for his sufferings?"
"He suffers justly, I presume, or he would not have been condemned."
"Were he the greatest criminal that lived, it would still be a crime
to make him suffer perpetually. A man's sleep is sacred, be he a
criminal or a murderer. Let them kill the criminal, but they should
not murder sleep. Look at this picture, general; look at this
prisoner lying upon the hard floor; he has been torn from his dreams
of freedom and happiness by the rough voice of the soldier standing
at his door. Read the verse beneath it--is not every word of it
bathed in tears? Breathes there not a cry of terror throughout so
fearful, so unheard-of, that it must resound in every breast? And
you, his relative, you will not hear him? You will do nothing to
free this unfortunate man from his prison? You, the Austrian
ambassador, suffer an officer of your empress to remain a prisoner
in a strange land, without a trial, without a hearing."
"When my empress sent me here, she gave me her instructions, and she
informed me of the extent and character of my duties. She did not
request me to exert myself for the release of this unfortunate
prisoner, that is entirely beyond my sphere of action, and I must be
"You must be careful and discreet when the life of a man, a
relative, is concerned? You have, then, no pity for him?"
"I pity him deeply, your royal highness, but can do nothing more."
"Perhaps not you! Perhaps another! Perhaps I?"
"I do not know if your royal highness interests herself sufficiently
in the prisoner to work for him."
"You know not whether I interest myself sufficiently in Trenck to
serve him," cried Amelia, with a harsh laugh. "You well know it; the
whole world knows it; no one dares speak of it aloud, for fear of
the king's anger, but it is whispered throughout the whole land why
Trenck languishes in prison. You, you alone, should be ignorant of
it! Know, then, that Trenck is imprisoned because I love him! Yes,
general, I love him! Why do you not laugh, sir? Is it not laughable
to hear an old, wrinkled, broken-down creature speak of love--to see
a wan, trembling form, tottering to her grave on a prop of love?
Look at this horribly disfigured countenance. Listen to the rough,
discordant voice that dares to speak of love, and then laugh,
general, for I tell you I love Trenck. I love him with all the
strength and passion of a young girl. Grief and age have laid a
fearful mask upon my countenance, but my heart is still young, there
burns within it an undying, a sacred flame. My thoughts, my desires
are passionate and youthful, and my every thought, my every desire
is for Trenck. I could tell you of all the agony, all the despair I
have endured for his sake, but it would be useless. There is no
question of my sufferings, but of his who through me has lost his
youth and his freedom--his all! Nine years he has lain in prison;
for nine years my one aim has been to release him. My existence, my
soul, my heart, are bound up in his prison walls. I only live to
release him. Though I have ceased to look for human assistance, my
heart still prays earnestly to God for some way of escape. If you
know any such, general, show it to me, and were it strewed with
thorns and burning irons, I would wander upon it in my bare feet."
She raised her hands and fixed an imploring glance upon the general,
who had listened to her in silence. When she had ceased speaking, he
raised his head and looked at her. Amelia could have cried aloud for
joy, for two bright, precious tears gleamed in his eye.
"You weep," cried she; "you have some pity."
The general took her hand, and kneeling reverentially before her he
said: "Yes, I weep, but not over you. I weep over your great, self-
sacrificing soul. I do not pity you--your grief is too great, too
sacred--it is above pity. But I bow profoundly before you, for your
suffering is worthy of all reverence. To me you appear much more
beautiful than all the women of this court who dance giddily through
life. It is not the diplomatist but the man who kneels before you
and offers you his homage."
Gently Amelia bade him rise. "With a sweet, happy smile upon her lip
she thanked him for his sympathy, and hoped they would be good
friends and counsel with each other."
The general was silent for a few moments. "The feelings of the
empress must be worked upon--she must intercede with King Frederick
for Trenck. He cannot refuse her first request."
"Will you undertake to effect this?" said Amelia, hastily. "Will you
intercede for your unfortunate relative?"
"I had done so long ago had it been possible. Alas, I dared not.
Trenck is my relative--my request would, therefore, have been
considered as that of a prejudiced person. My exalted empress
possesses so strong a sense of right that it has become a rule of
hers never to fulfil a request made by any of her own intimate and
confidential friends for their families or relatives. She would have
paid no attention to my request for Trenck's release. Moreover, I
would have made enemies of a powerful and influential party at
court--with a party whose wish it is that Trenck may never be
released, because he would then come and demand an account of the
gold, jewels, and property left him by his cousin, the colonel of
the pandours, thus causing a great disturbance amongst several noble
families at court. These families are continually filling the ear of
the empress with accusations against the unfortunate prisoner, well
knowing that he cannot defend himself. You must appear to have
forgotten that poor Trenck is languishing in prison while his
property is being guarded by stewards who pay themselves for their
heavy labor with the old colonel's money. It is dangerous,
therefore, to meddle with this wasp's nest. To serve Trenck, the
interceder must be so harmless and insignificant that no one will
consider it worth while to watch him, so that Trenck's enemies, not
suspecting him, can place no obstacles in his path."
"Lives there such a one?" said the princess.
"Yes, your royal highness."
"Where is he? What is his name? What is he?"
"The fireman in the apartments of the empress. He is a poor
Savoyard, without name, without rank, without position, hut with
credit and influence."
"A fireman?" cried the princess, with amazement.
"An old, ugly, deformed fellow, called by the other servants Gnome
because of his stubborn silence, his want of sociability, his rough
manner and voice, his caring for nothing but his service, which he
performs with great method. Every morning at six he enters her
majesty's apartment, makes the fire, throws back the curtain to
admit the light, arranges the chairs, and then withdraws without the
least noise. All this he does without committing the slightest
indiscretion; always the same; never lingering beyond his time--
never leaving before. He is like a clock that maintains always the
same movement and sound. The empress, accustomed for thirty years to
see him enter daily her apartments, has become used to his
homeliness, and often in the kindness of her heart enters into
conversation with him. His answers are always laconic, in a tone of
perfect indifference--at times brusque, even harsh--but they have a
sensible and often a deep meaning. When the empress speaks with him,
he does not cease his work for a moment, and when he has finished he
does not remain a minute longer, but goes without asking if she
desires to continue the conversation. For thirty years he has had
the same duties and has fulfilled them in the same manner. He has
never been accused of a mistake--he has never been guilty of
inquisitiveness or intrigue. Thus the empress has great and firm
confidence in him. She is so convinced of his truth,
disinterestedness, and probity, that he has gained a sort of
influence over her, and as she knows that he is to be won neither by
gold, flattery, promises of position and rank, she constantly asks
his opinion on matters of importance, and not seldom is biassed by
its strong, sensible tone."
"But if this man is so honest and disinterested, how are we to
"We must seek to win his heart and his head. He must become
interested in the fate of the unfortunate prisoner--he must become
anxious for his release. When we have done this much, we can
question his self-interest and offer him gold."
"Gold? This wonder of probity and truth is susceptible to bribes?"
"He never has, perhaps never may be. He himself has no desires, no
necessities; but he has one weakness--his daughter. She is a young
and lovely girl, whom he, in his dark distrust of all at court in
the form of men, has had educated in a convent far from Vienna. She
is now living with some respectable family in Vienna, but she never
visits him, never enters the castle to inquire for him for fear she
should be seen by some of the court gentlemen. This girl has now
formed an attachment to a young doctor. They would like to marry,
but he has no practice, she no money. Her father has saved nothing,
but spent all his wages on her education, and has no dowry for his
"And he intends to plead with the empress for this dower?"
"If such a thought came to him he would put it away with contempt,
for his only ambition consists in making no requests, receiving no
gifts from the empress. Nor would he now act for this gold alone
contrary to his idea of right, were his daughter to die of sorrow.
As I said before, his heart and head must first be won, then only
must we speak of reward."
"If this man has a heart, we cannot fail to win it when we tell him
all that Trenck has suffered and still endures," cried the princess.
"The agony and despair that have been heaped upon the head of one
poor mortal will surely touch both head and heart. When we have
succeeded, we will give his daughter a handsome dower. God has so
willed it that I am right rich now, and can fulfil my promises. My
pension as abbess and my salary as princess were both paid in
yesterday. There is a little fortune in my desk, and I shall add
more to it. Do you think four thousand louis d'or will be sufficient
to win the Savoyard's heart?"
"For any other it would be more than sufficient; but to win this
honest heart, your offer is not too great."
"But is it enough?"
"Now, all that we need is some sure, cunning messenger to send to
him; a man whose heart and head, soul and body are bound up in the
cause he advocates. General, where shall we find such a man?"
General Riedt laughed. "I thought your royal highness had already
The princess looked at him in amazement.
"Ah," cried she, "the jeweller; the man who brought me the cup; who
referred me to you in so wise and discreet a manner."
"I think you desired him to return early to-morrow morning?"
"How do you know that? Are you acquainted with him?"
General Riedt bowed smilingly. "I ventured to send him to your royal
"Ah! I now understand it all, and must acknowledge that the jeweller
is as great a negotiator as you are a diplomatist. The cup I showed
you, you sent to me?"
"I received it from the Governor of Magdeburg, the Landgrave of
Hesse; as I could do nothing with it, I ventured to send it to your
"And I thank you, general, for sending it in so discreet, so wise a
manner. We may, perhaps, succeed in keeping all this secret from my
brother, so that he cannot act against us. Hasten away, general, and
give the jeweller, or whatever else he may be, his instructions.
Send him to me early in the morning for his reward." [Footnote: The
princess succeeded in winning the influence of the fireman. How he
succeeded with the empress, can be seen in "Thiebault's Souvenirs de
Vingt Ans," vol. iv.]
THE ROYAL HOUSE-SPY.
The next morning, a carriage drew up before the garden of Sans-
Souci, and a gentleman, in a glittering, embroidered court uniform,
crept out slowly and with much difficulty. Coughing and murmuring
peevish words to himself, he slipped into the allee leading to the
terraces. His back was bent, and from under the three-cornered hat,
ornamented with rich gold lace, came sparsely, here and there, a few
silver hairs. Who could have recognized, in this doubled-up,
decrepit form, now with tottering knees creeping up the terrace, the
once gay, careless, unconcerned grand-master of ceremonies, Baron
von Pollnitz? Who could have supposed that this old weatherbeaten
visage, deformed with a thousand wrinkles, once belonged to the
dashing cavalier? And yet, it was even so. Pollnitz had grown old,
and his back was bowed down under the yoke which the monster Time
lays at last upon humanity; but his spirit remained unchanged. He
had preserved his vivacity, his malice, his egotism. He had the same
passion for gold--much gold; not, however, to hoard, but to lavish.
His life was ever divided between base covetousness and thoughtless
prodigality. When he had revelled and gormandized through the first
days of every month, he was forced, during the last weeks, to suffer
privation and hunger, or to borrow from those who were good-natured
and credulous enough to lend him. There was also one other source of
revenue which the adroit courtier knew how to use to his advantage.
He was a splendid ecarte player; and, as it was his duty, as grand-
master of ceremonies, to provide amusements for the court, to choose
places and partners for the card-tables, he always arranged it so as
to bring himself in contact with wealthy and eager card-players,
from some of whom he could win, and from others borrow a few louis
d'or. Besides this, since the return of the king, Pollnitz had
voluntarily taken up his old trade of spy, and informed Frederick of
all he saw and heard at court; for this, from time to time, he
demanded a small reward.
"Curious idea," he said, as, puffing and blowing, he clambered up
the terrace. "Curious idea to live in this wearisome desert, when he
has respectable and comfortable castles in the midst of the city,
and on a level plain. One might truly think that the king, even in
life, wishes to draw nearer to heaven, and withdraws from the
children of man, to pray and prepare himself for paradise."
The baron laughed aloud; it seemed to him a droll idea to look at
the king as a prayerful hermit. This conception amused him, and gave
him strength to go onward more rapidly, and he soon reached the
upper platform of the terrace, upon which the castle stood. Without
difficulty, he advanced to the antechamber, but there stood Deesen,
and forbade him entrance to the king.
"His majesty holds a cabinet council," said he, "and it is expressly
commanded to allow no one to enter."
"Then I will force an entrance," said Pollnitz, stepping boldly to
the door. "I must speak to his majesty; I have something most
important to communicate."
"I think it cannot be more important than that which now occupies
the king's attention," said the intrepid Deesen. "I am commanded to
allow no one to enter; I shall obey the order of the king."
"I am resolved to enter," said Pollnitz, in a loud voice; but Deesen
spread his broad figure threateningly before the door. An angry
dispute arose, and Pollnitz made his screeching voice resound so
powerfully, he might well hope the king would hear him, and in this
he was not deceived; the king heard and appeared at once upon the
"Pollnitz," said he, "you are and will always be an incorrigible
fool; you are crowing as loud as a Gallic cock, who is declaring war
against my people. I have made peace with the Gauls, mark that, and
do not dare again to crow so loud. What do you want? Do your
creditors wish to cast you in prison, or do you wish to inform me
that you have become a Jew, and wish to accept some lucrative place
"No, sire, I remain a reformed Christian, and my creditors will
never take the trouble to arrest me; they know that would avail
nothing. I come on most grave and important matters of business, and
I pray your majesty to grant me a private audience."
Frederick looked sternly at him. "Listen, Pollnitz, you are still a
long-winded and doubtful companion, notwithstanding your seventy-six
years. Deliberate a moment; if that which you tell me is not
important, and requiring speedy attention, I will punish you
severely for having dared to interrupt me in my cabinet council; I
will withhold your salary for the next month."
"Your majesty, the business is weighty, and requires immediate
attention; I stake my salary upon it."
"Come, then, into my cabinet, but be brief," said Frederick,
stepping into the adjoining room. "Now speak," said he, as he closed
"Sire, first, I must ask your pardon for daring to allude to a
subject which is so old that its teeth are shaky and its countenance
"You wish, then, to speak of yourself?" said Frederick.
"No, sire; I will speak of a subject which bloomed before the war,
and since then has withered and faded in a subterranean prison; but
it now threatens to put forth new buds, to unfold new leaves, and I
fear your majesty will find that undesirable."
"Speak, then, clearly, and without circumlocution. I am convinced it
is only some gossiping or slander you wish to retail. You come as a
salaried family spy who has snapped up some greasy morsels of
scandal. Your eyes are glowing with malicious pleasure, as they
always do when you are about to commit some base trick. Now, then,
out with it! Of whom will you speak?"
"Of the Princess Amelia and Trenck," whispered Pollnitz.
The king gazed at him fiercely for a moment, then turned and walked
silently backward and forward.
"Well, what is your narrative?" said Frederick, at last, turning his
back upon Pollnitz, and stepping to the window as if to look out.
"Sire, if your majesty does not interfere, the Princess Amelia will
send a negotiator to Vienna, who undertakes to induce the Empress
Maria Theresa to apply to you for the release of Trenck. This
negotiator is richly provided with gold and instructions; and the
Austrian ambassador has pointed out to the princess a sure way to
reach the ear of the empress, and to obtain an intercessor with her.
She will appeal to the fireman of the empress, and this influential
man will undertake to entreat Maria Theresa to ask for Trenck's
release. This will take place immediately; an hour since the
messenger received his instructions from General Riedt, and a
quarter of an hour since he received four thousand louis d'or from
the princess to bribe the fireman. If the intrigue succeeds, the
princess has promised him a thousand louis d'or for himself."
"Go on," said the king, as Pollnitz ceased speaking.
"Go on!" said Pollnitz, with a stupefied air. "I have nothing more
to say; it seems to me the history is sufficiently important."
"And it seems to me a silly fairy tale," said Frederick, turning
angrily upon the grand-master. "If you think to squeeze gold out of
me by such ridiculous and senseless narratives, you are greatly
mistaken. Not one farthing will I pay for these lies. Do you think
that Austria lies on the borders of Tartary? There, a barber is
minister; and you, forsooth, will make a fireman the confidential
friend of the empress! Why, Scheherezade would not have dared to
relate such an absurd fairy tale to her sleepy sultan, as you, sir,
now seek to impose upon me!"
"But, sire, it is no fairy tale, but the unvarnished truth. The page
of the princess listened, and immediately repeated all that he heard
"Have you paid the page for this intelligence, which he asserts he
"Then go quickly to Berlin and reward him by two sound boxes on the
ear, then go to bed and drink chamomile tea. It appears to me your
head is weak."
"But, sire, I have told you nothing but the pure truth; no matter
how fabulous it may appear."
Frederick gazed at him scornfully. "It is a silly tale," he cried,
in a loud commanding voice. "Do not say another word, and do not
dare to repeat to any one what you have now related. Go, I say! and
forget this nonsense."
Pollnitz crept sighing and with bowed head to the door, but, before
he opened it, he turned once more to the king.
"Sire, this is the last day of the month, this wretched October has
thirty-one days. Even if in your majesty's wisdom you decide this
story to be untrue, you should at least remember my zeal."
"I should reward you for your zeal in doing evil?" said Frederick,
shaking his head. "But truly this is the way of the world; evil is
rewarded and good actions trodden under foot. You are not worth a
kick! Go and get your reward; tell my servant to give you ten
Fredericks d'or--but on one condition."
"What condition?" said Pollnitz, joyfully.
"As soon as you arrive in Berlin, go to the castle, call the page of
the princess, and box him soundly for his villany. Go!"
The king stood sunk in deep thought in the window-niche, long after
Pollnitz had left the room; he appeared to forget that his ministers
were waiting for him; he thought of his sister Amelia's long, sad
life, of her constancy and resignation, and a profound and painful
pity filled his heart.
"Surely I dare at length grant her the poor consolation of having
brought about his release," said he to himself. "She has been so
long and so terribly punished for this unhappy passion, that I will
give her the consolation of plucking a few scentless blossoms from
the grave of her heart. Let her turn to the fireman of the empress,
and may my pious aunt be warmed up by his representations and
prayers! I will not interfere; and if Maria Theresa intercedes for
Trenck, I will not remember that he is a rebellious subject and a
traitor, worthy of death. I will remember that Amelia has suffered
inexpressibly for his sake, that her life is lonely and desolate--a
horrible night, in which one feeble ray of sunshine may surely be
allowed to fall. Poor Amelia! she loves him still!"
As Frederick stepped from the window and passed into the other room,
he murmured to himself:
"There is something beautiful in a great, rich human heart. Better
to die of grief and disappointment than to be made insensible by
scorn and disdain--to be turned to stone!"
THE CLOUDS GATHER.
While the king lived alone and quiet in Sans-Souci, and occupied
himself with his studies and his government, the gayeties and
festivities continued uninterrupted in Rheinsberg. It seemed that
Prince Henry had no other thought, no other desire than to prepare
new pleasures, new amusements for his wife. His life had been given
up for so many years to earnest cares, that he now sought to
indemnify himself by an eager pursuit after pleasure. Fete succeeded
fete, and all of the most elegant and accomplished persons in
Berlin, all those who had any claim to youth, beauty, and
amiability, were invariably welcome at the palace of the prince.
It was late in the autumn, and Prince Henry had determined to
conclude the long succession of wood and garden parties by a
singular and fantastic entertainment. Before they returned to the
saloons, the winter-quarters of pleasure, they wished to bid
farewell to Nature. The nymphs of the wood and the spring, the
hamadryads of the forests, the fauns and satyrs should reign once
more in the woods before they placed the sceptre in the hands of
winter. The guests of Rheinsberg should once more enjoy the careless
gayety of a happy day, before they returned to the winter saloons,
on whose threshold Etiquette awaited them, with her forced smile,
her robes of ceremony and her orders and titles.
The ladies and gentlemen had been transformed, therefore, into gods
and goddesses, nymphs, and hamadryads, fauns, satyrs, and wood-
spirits. The horn of Diana resounded once more in the wood, through
which the enchanting huntress passed, accompanied by Endymion, who
was pursued by Actaeon. There was Apollo and the charming Daphne;
Echo and the vain Narcissus; and, on the bank of the lake, which
gleamed in the midst of the forest, the water-nymphs danced in a
fairy-circle with the tritons.
The prince had himself made all the arrangements for this fantastic
fete; he had selected the character, and appointed the place of
every one, and, that nothing should fail, he had ordered all to seek
their pleasures and adventures as they would--only, when the horn of
the goddess Diana should sound, all must appear on the shore of the
lake to partake of a most luxurious meal. The remainder of the day
was to be given to the voluntary pleasures which each one would seek
or make for himself, and in this the ladies and gentlemen showed
themselves more ingenious than usual. In every direction goddesses
were to be seen gliding through the bushes to escape the snares of
some god, or seeking some agreeable rendezvous. At the edge of the
lake lay charming gondolas ready for those who wished to rest and
refresh themselves by a sail upon the dancing waves. For the hunters
and huntresses targets were placed upon the trees; all kinds of
fire-arms and cross-bows and arrows lay near them. Scattered
throughout the forest, were a number of small huts, entirely covered
with the bark of trees, and looking like a mass of fallen wood, but
comfortably and even elegantly arranged in the interior. Every one
of these huts was numbered, and at the beginning of the fete every
lady had drawn a number from an urn, which was to designate the hut
which belonged to her. Chance alone had decided, and each one had
given her word not to betray the number of her cabin. From this
arose a seeking and spying, a following and listening, which gave a
peculiar charm to the fete. Every nymph or goddess could find a
refuge in her cabin; having entered it, it was only necessary to
display the ivy wreath, which she found within, to protect herself
from any further pursuit, for this wreath announced to all that the
mistress of the hut had retired within and did not wish her solitude
disturbed. That nothing might mar the harmony of this fete, the
prince and his wife had placed themselves on an equal footing with
their guests; the princess had declined any conspicuous role, and
was to appear in the simple but charming costume of a wood-nymph,
while the prince had selected an ideal and fanciful hunter's
costume. Even in the selection of huts the Princess Wilhelmina had
refused to make any choice, and had drawn her number as the others
did, even refusing a glimpse of it to her husband.
This day seemed given up to joy and pleasure. Every countenance was
bright and smiling, and the wood resounded with merry laughter, with
the tones of the hunter's horn, the baying of the hounds, which were
in Diana's train, and the singing of sweet songs. And still on how
many faces the smile was assumed, how many sighs arose, with how
many cares and sorrows were many of these apparently happy creatures
weighed down? Even the noble brow of the goddess Diana was not so
unruffled as Homer describes it, her countenance expressed care and
unrest, and in her great black eyes there glowed such fire as had
never shone in the orbs of the coy goddess.
See, there is the goddess Diana crossing the wood breathlessly, and
hurriedly, looking anxiously around her, as if she feared the
approach of some pursuers; then seeing that no one is near, she
hastens forward toward the hut, which stands amidst those bushes.
The ivy wreath is hanging before this cabin, but Diana does not
notice this, she knows what it means and, besides, no one has a
right to enter this hut but herself, for it bears the number which
As she entered, Endymion, the beautiful hunter, advanced to greet
her. "At length you have come, Camilla," he whispered, gently; "at
length you grant me the happiness of a private interview. Oh, it is
an eternity since I beheld you. You are very cruel to me to refuse
me all intercourse with you, and to leave me languishing in the
distance for one glance from you."
"As if it depended on me to allow you to approach me. As if I was
not guarded with argus eyes as a prisoner that is expected to break
loose and vanish at any moment. How much trouble, how much cunning
and deftness have I been compelled to exercise to come here now. It
was a detestable idea of the princess to give me the /role/ of
Diana, for I have behind me a band of spies, and I assure you that
my coy huntresses are so fearfully modest, that the sight of a man
fills them with dread, and they flee before him into the wildest
thicket of the woods."
"Perhaps because they have a lover concealed in the thicket," said
Camilla laughed aloud. "Perhaps you are right. But when my
huntresses fly, there still remains that horrible argus who guards
me with his thousand eyes and never leaves my side. It was from pure
malice that the prince gave that /role/ to my detestable stepfather,
and thus fastened him upon me."
"How did you succeed in escaping the watchfulness of your argus to
"I escaped at the moment the princess was speaking to him, and my
huntresses were pursuing Actaeon, which character the Baron von
Kaphengst was representing with much humor. I wanted to speak with
you, for I have so much to relate to you. I must open to you my
broken, my unhappy heart. You are my dear, faithful cousin Kindar,
and I hope you will not leave your poor cousin, but give her counsel
Baron von Kindar took Camilla's offered hand and pressed it to his
lips. "Count upon me as upon your faithful slave, who would gladly
die for you, as he cannot live for your sake."
"Listen then, beau cousin," whispered Camilla, smiling. "You know
that my stern, upright husband has left Berlin in order to receive
the post of an ambassador at Copenhagen. I would not accompany him
because I was daily expecting the birth of my child, and the little
creature was so sensible as not to enter the world until after the
departure of its honored father, who, before leaving, had delivered
me a lecture on the subject of his fidelity and tenderness, and of
my duties as a lonely wife and young mother. I was compelled to
swear to him among other things that I would not receive my beau
cousin at my house."
"And you took that oath?" interrupted Kindar, reproachfully.
"I was forced to do so, or he would not have gone, or he would have
taken me with him. Besides this, he left behind his old confidant
the tutor, and told him that you should never be allowed to visit
me. And to place the crown upon his jealousy, he betrayed the secret
of his suspicions to my stepfather, and demanded of him the friendly
service of accompanying me to all fetes and balls, and to prevent
you from approaching me."
"Am I then so dangerous?" said Kindar, with a faint smile.
"These gentlemen at least appear to think so; and if I did not care
so much for you, I should really hate you, I have suffered so much
on your account."
Baron von Kindar covered her hand with burning kisses for an answer
"Be reasonable, beau cousin, and listen to me," said Camilla, as she
laughingly withdrew her hand. "My husband has been, as I said, in
Copenhagen for eight weeks, and has already entreated me to join him
with the child, as I have entirely recovered."
"The barbarian!" murmured Kindar.
"I have declined up to this time under one pretext or another. But
yesterday I received a letter from my husband, in which he no longer
entreats me, but dares, as he himself expresses it, to command me to
leave Berlin two days after the receipt of his letter."
"But that is tyranny which passes all bounds," cried Kindar. "Does
this wise lord think that his wife must obey him as a slave? Ah,
Camilla, you owe it to yourself to show him that you are a free-born
woman, whom no one dare command, not even a husband."
"How shall I show him that?" asked Camilla.
"By remaining here," whispered Kindar. "You dare not think of
leaving Berlin, for you know that the hour of your departure would
be the hour of my death. You know it, for you have long known that I
love you entirely, and that you owe me some recompense for the cruel
pain I suffered when you married another."
"And in what shall this recompense consist?" asked Camilla with a
Baron von Kindar placing his arm around her, whispered: "By
remaining here, adored Camilla, for my sake--in declaring to your
hated husband that you will leave Berlin on no account--that your
honor demands that you should prove to him in the face of his brutal
commands, that these are no commands for you--and that you will
follow your own will and inclination. Therefore you will remain in
"Will you write this letter for me?"
"If I do so, will you consent to remain here, and to open your door
to me in spite of the orders of your husband, or the argus-eyes of
"Write the letter, the rest will arrange itself," said Camilla.
"I will write it to-night. May I bring it to you myself to-morrow
"If I say no, will you then be so kind as to give it to my maid?"
"I swear by my honor that I will only give the letter into your own
"Well, then, my tyrannical cousin, you force me to open my door to
you in spite of my husband and my stepfather, and in the face of
this Cerberus of a tutor who guards my stronghold."
"But what do I care for these open doors so long as your heart
remains closed against me, Camilla? Ah, you laugh--you mock at my
sufferings. Have you no pity, no mercy? You see what I suffer, and
"I laugh," she whispered, "because you are so silly, beau cousin.
But listen, there is the call of my huntresses--I must hasten to
them, or they will surround this cabin and they might enter.
Farewell. To-morrow I will expect you with the letter. Adieu."
Throwing him a kiss with the tips of her fingers, she hastily left
Baron von Kindar looked after her with a singular smile. "She is
mine," he whispered. "We will have a charming little romance, but it
will terminate in a divorce, and not in a marriage. I have no idea
of following up this divorce by a marriage. God protect me from
being forced to marry this beautiful, frivolous, coquettish woman."
While this scene was taking place in one part of the forest, the
fete continued gayly. They sang and laughed, and jested, and no one
dreamed that dark sin was casting its cold shadow over this bright
scene--that the cowardly crime of treachery had already poisoned the
pure air of this forest. None suspected it less than Prince Henry
himself. He was happy and content that this fete had succeeded so
well--that this bright autumn day had come opportunely to his aid.
The sun penetrated to his heart and made it warm and joyous. He had
just made a little tour through the forest with some of his
cavaliers, and had returned to the tent on the bank of the lake,
where he had last seen the princess amid a bevy of nymphs, but she
was no longer there, and none of the ladies knew where she had gone.
"She has retired to her hut," said the prince to himself, as he
turned smilingly toward the thick woods. "The only thing is to
discover her hut; without doubt she is there and expects me to seek
her. Now, then, may fortune assist me to discover my beloved. I must
find her if only to prove to her that my love can overcome all
difficulties and penetrate every mystery. There are twenty-four
huts--I know their situation. I will visit each, and it will be
strange indeed if I cannot discover my beautiful Wilhelmina."
He advanced with hasty steps in the direction of the huts. By a
singular coincidence they were all vacant, the ivy wreath was
displayed on none, and the prince could enter and convince himself
that no one was within. He had visited twenty-three of the huts
without finding the object of his search. "I will go to the last
one," said the prince, gayly; "perhaps the gods have led me astray
only that I might find happiness at the end of my path." He saw the
last hut in the distance. It nestled in the midst of low bushes,
looking quiet and undisturbed, and on the door hung the ivy wreath.
The heart of the prince beat with joy, and he murmured, "She is
there--I have found her," as he hastened toward the hut. "No," he
said, "I dare not surprise her. I must consider the law sacred which
I made. The ivy wreath is before the door--no one dare enter. But I
will lie down before the door, and when she comes out she roust
cross my body or fall into my arms." The prince approached the hut
quietly, careful to avoid making any noise. When he had reached it,
he sank slowly upon the grass, and turned his eyes upon the door,
which concealed his beloved one from his view.
Deep silence reigned. This was a charming spot, just suited for a
tender rendezvous, and full of that sweet silence which speaks so
eloquently to a loving heart. In the distance could be heard the
sound of the hunter's horn, whilst the great trees rustled their
leaves as though they wished to mingle their notes in the universal
anthem. The prince gavo himself up for a long time to the sweet
pleasures of this solitude, turning his smiling glance first to the
heavens where a few white clouds were floating, and then again to
earth, where some glittering insect attracted his gaze.
But what was it which pierced through him with a deadly horror--
which made him become so pale, and turn his flashing eyes with an
indescribable expression of dread toward the hut? Why did he
partially arise from his reclining position as the hunter does, who
sees the prey approach that he wishes to destroy? What was it that
made him press his lips so tightly, one against the other, as if he
would repress a cry of agony, or an execration? And why does he
listen now with bated breath, his gaze fixed upon the hut, and both
hands raised, as if to threaten an approaching enemy? Suddenly he
sprang up, and rushed trembling to the door, and, while in the act
of bursting it open, he fell back, pale as death, as if his foot had
trodden upon a poisonous serpent. Thus retreating, with wildly
staring eyes, with half-open lips, which seemed stiffened in the
very act of uttering a shriek, he slowly left the hut, and then
suddenly, as if he could no longer look at any thing so frightful,
he turned and fled from the spot as if pursued by furies. Farther,
always farther, until his strength and his breath were exhausted;
then he sank down.
"It was cowardly to fly," he murmured; "but I felt that I should
murder them, if they came out of the hut before my eyes. A voice
within whispered, 'Fly, or you will be a murderer!' I obeyed it
almost against my will. It was cowardly--an unpardonable error, but
I will return to the hut."
He sprang forward like a tiger, ready to fall upon his prey. His
hand involuntarily sought his side for his sword.
"Ah, I have no weapon," he said, gnashing his teeth, "I must murder
them with my hands."
He advanced with uplifted head, defiant as a conqueror, or as one
who has overcome death and has nothing to fear. The hut was again
before him, but it no longer smiled at him; it filled him with
horror and fury. Now he has reached it, and with one blow he bursts
open the door; but it is empty. The prince had not remarked that the
ivy-wreath was no longer displayed, and that the hut was therefore
"They are gone," he murmured. "This time they have escaped
punishment, but it surely awaits them."
BROTHER AND SISTER.
A month had passed since Amelia dispatched her emissary to the
queen's fireman, and she had as yet received no definite
intelligence. General Riedt had called but once; he told her he had
succeeded in interesting the Savoyard in Trenck's fate, and he had
promised to remind the empress of the unfortunate prisoner. But a
condition must be attached to this promise: no one must approach him
again on this subject; it must be kept an inviolable secret. Only
when Trenck was free would the fireman receive the other half of the
stipulated sum; if he failed in his attempt, he would return the
money he now held.
This was all that the princess had heard from Vienna; her heart was
sorrowful--almost hopeless. Trenck still sat in his wretched prison
at Magdeburg, and she scarcely dared hope for his release.
It was a dark, tempestuous November day. The princess stood at the
window, gazing at the whirling snow-flakes, and listening to the
howling of the pitiless storm. They sounded to her like the raging
shrieks of mocking, contending spirits, and filled her heart with
"Many ships will go down to destruction in the roaring sea; many men
will lose all that they possess," she murmured, with a coarse laugh.
"God sends His favorite daughter, the bride of the winds; she sings
a derisive song to men; she shows them how weak, how pitiful they
are. She sweeps away their possessions--touches them on that point
where alone they are sensitive. I rejoice in the howling, whistling
tempest! This is the voice of the great world-spirit, dashing by in
the thunder, and making the cowardly hearts of men tremble. They
deserve this punishment; they are utterly unworthy and contemptible.
I hate, I despise them all! Only when I see them suffer can I be
reconciled to them. Aha! the storm has seized a beautifully-dressed
lady. How it whirls and dashes her about! Look how it lifts her
robe, making rare sport of her deceitful, affected modesty.
Miserable, variegated butterfly that you are, you think yourself a
goddess of youth and beauty. This wild tempest teaches you that you
are but a poor, pitiful insect, tossed about in the world like any
other creeping thing--a powerless atom. The storm first takes
possession of your clothes, now of your costly hat. Wait, my lady,
wait! one day it will take your heart; it will be crushed and broken
to pieces--there will be none to pity. The world laughs and mocks at
the wretched. Misfortune is the only disgrace which is never
forgiven. You may be a thief, a murderer, and you will be pardoned
if you are adroit enough to slip your head from the noose. Criminals
are pitied and pardoned, unfortunates never. Ah, this is a mad, gay
world, and they are fools who take it earnestly; who do not laugh--
laugh even as I do."
The princess laughed aloud--if that could be called a laugh, from
which she shuddered back herself in terror.
"It is bitter cold here, "she said, shuddering; "I think I shall
never be warm again. I am always freezing, and this miserable frost
has turned my heart and soul to ice. I would like to know if they
will thaw in the grave?"
She stepped slowly from the window, and crept through the large,
empty room to the chimney, where a large wood-fire was burning--now
flickering up in clear flames, now breaking into glowing coals.
Amelia took the poker, and amused herself by dashing the coals
apart, and watching the flashing, dancing flames. The fire seemed to
embrace her whole figure, and threw a rosy shimmer over her wan and
fallen cheeks. She gazed deep down into the glowing coals, and
murmured broken, disconnected words. From time to time a mocking
smile trembled on her lips, then heavy sighs wrung her breast. Was
she perhaps telling the fire of the flames which raged within her
bosom? Was she perhaps a magician, who understood the language of
these mysterious tongues of flame, and answered their burning
questions? The hasty opening of the door aroused her from her
dreams, and a page entered and announced in a loud voice--"His
majesty the king!"
Amelia bowed her head, and advanced slowly and with a stern
countenance to meet the king, who now appeared at the threshold.
"May I enter, my sister, or do you command me to withdraw?" said
"The king has no permission to ask," said Amelia, earnestly; "he is
everywhere lord and master. The doors of all other prisons open
before him, and so also do mine."
Frederick nodded to the page to leave the room and close the door,
then advanced eagerly to meet his sister. Giving her his hands he
led her to the divan, and seated himself beside her.
"You regard me then as a kind of jailer?" he said, in a gentle,
"Can a king be any thing but a jailer?" she said, roughly. "Those
who displease him, he arrests and casts into prison, and not one of
his subjects can be sure that he will not one day displease him."
"You, at least, my sister, have not this to fear, and yet you have
just called this your prison."
"It is a prison, sire."
"And am I, then, your jailer?"
"No, sire, life is my jailer."
"You are right, there, Amelia. Life is the universal jailer, from
whom death alone can release us. The world is a great prison, and
only fools think themselves free. But we are involuntarily
commencing an earnest, philosophical conversation. I come to you to
rest, to refresh myself; to converse harmlessly and cheerfully, as
in our earlier and happier days. Tell me something, dear sister, of
your life, your occupations, and your friends?"
"That is easily done, and requires but few words," said Amelia,
hoarsely. "Of my life I have already told you all that can be said.
Life is my jailer, and I look longingly to death, who alone can
release me. As to my well-being, there is nothing to say; all is
evil, only evil continually. My occupations are monotonous, I am
ever asleep. Night and day I sleep and dream; and why should I
awake? I have nothing to hope, nothing to do. I am a superfluous
piece of furniture in this castle, and I know well you will all
rejoice when I am placed in the vault. I am an old maid, or, if you
prefer it, I am a wall-frog, who has nothing to do but creep into my
hole, and, when I have vitality enough, to spit my venom upon the
passers-by. As to my friends, I have nothing to relate; I have no
friends! I hate all mankind, and I am hated by all. I am especially
on my guard with those who pretend to love me; I know that they are
deceitful and traitorous, that they are only actuated by selfish
"Poor sister," said the king, sadly; "how unhappy must you be to
speak thus! Can I do nothing to alleviate your misfortune?"
Amelia laughed loudly and scornfully. "Forgive me, your majesty, but
your question reminds me of a merry fairy tale I have just read of a
cannibal who is in the act of devouring a young girl. The poor child
pleaded piteously for her life, naturally in vain. 'I cannot, of
course, give you your life,' said the cannibal, 'but I will gladly
grant you any other wish of your heart. Think, then, quickly, of
what you most desire, and be assured I will fulfil your request.'
The pretty maiden, trembling with horror and despair, could not
collect her thoughts. Then, after a short pause, the cannibal said,
'I cannot wait; I am hungry! but in order to grant you a little
longer time to determine upon the favor you will ask, I will not, as
I am accustomed to do, devour the head first, I will commence with
the feet.' So saying, he cut off the legs and ate them, and on
cutting off each limb he graciously asked the poor shuddering,
whimpering being, 'Well, why do you not think? Is there, then, no
favor I can show you?' Confess now, sire, that this was a most
Frederick laughed heartily, and appeared not to understand his
sister's double meaning.
"You are right," said he; "that is a merry fairy tale, and brings
the tears to my eyes--I scarcely know whether from laughter or
weeping. Where did you read it, my sister?"
"The fire-spirits who spring up and down in the chimney so lustily,
related it to me. Oh, sire, these are merry sprites; and often in my
solitude, when I am sitting in my arm-chair in the chimney-corner,
they nod to me, and chat freely of by-gone times, and the days which
are to come."
"I fear they have not much that is cheerful or encouraging,
certainly not much that is interesting to tell you," said Frederick.
"To those who, like us, have passed the meridian of life, and are
going rapidly down-hill, the surroundings become ever duller and
more drear; for us there are no more great and agreeable surprises;
the farther they advance, the more lonely and desolate it appears;
life has no more to offer, and they are glad at last to reach the
valley and lie down in quiet graves. But while we live and are still
wanderers, Amelia, we must not fold our hands in idleness; we must
work and achieve. You also, my sister, must be active and energetic;
an unusual opportunity is now offered you. The Abbess of Quedlinberg
is dead, and you can now enter upon her duties."
"And your majesty thinks it is really a worthy vocation for me to go
to Quedlinberg and become the shepherdess of that fearful flock of
old maids who took refuge in a nunnery because no man desired them?
No, your majesty, do not send me to Quedlinberg; it is not my
calling to build up the worthy nuns into saints of the Most High. I
am too unsanctifled myself to be an example to them, and, in fact, I
feel no inclination to purify them from their sins."
"Well, that might be found a difficult task," said the king,
laughing, "and it would not make you beloved. Men love nothing so
much as their vices, and they hate those who would free them from
their cherished yoke. You can, however, remain in Berlin and still
accept this office, once so worthily rilled by the lovely Aurora of
Konigsmark. King Augustus gave her, at least, with this refuge,
provided by his love, a rich widow's income; and you can now,
Amelia, enjoy the fruit of that love which at one time filled all
Europe with admiration. The salary of the abbess amounts to
seventeen thousand thalers, and I think this addition to your
fortune will be welcome. Your income will now be forty thousand
"Lodging and fuel included," said Amelia, with a sarcastic laugh.
"Look you, sire, I see that I have nothing to complain of. My
hospital is splendidly endowed, and if I should ever become miserly,
I may be able to lay aside a few thalers yearly."
"I will gladly put it in your power to lay aside a larger sum, if
you become covetous," said the king; "and I beg you, therefore, to
allow me the pleasure of raising your salary as princess, six
thousand thalers." [Footnote: History of Berlin and Court.]
Amelia looked at him distrustfully. "You are very gracious to me to-
day, my brother. You grant favors before I ask them. I confess to
you this alarms and agitates me. You have perhaps some bad news to
disclose, and fearing I will be crushed by it, you desire,
beforehand, to apply a balsam."
The king's glance was tender and sympathetic. "Poor Amelia! you
will, then, never believe in my affection," said he, mildly. "You
distrust even your brother! Oh, Amelia! life has hardened us both.
We entered upon the stage of life with great but fleeting illusions.
How gloriously grand and beautiful did the world appear to us; now
we look around us soberly, almost hopelessly! What remains of our
ideals? What has become of the dreams of our youth?"
"The storm-winds have shattered and scattered them," cried Amelia,
laughing. "The evil fiend has ploughed over the fair soil of your
youth and turned it to stone and ashes. I am content that this is so
I would rather wander amongst ruins and dust and ashes than to walk
gayly over a smooth surface with whose dark caves and pitfalls I was
unacquainted, and which might any day ingulf me. When both
foundation and superstructure lie in ruins at your feet, you have
nothing more to fear. But I say this for myself, sire, not for you,
the fame-crowned king, who has astonished the world by his
victories, and now fills it with admiration by the wisdom with which
he governs his subjects and advances the glory of his kingdom!"
"My child," said the king, mildly, "fame has no longer any
attraction for me. Nero was also renowned; he burned cities and
temples, and tortured Seneca to death. Erostratus succeeded in
making his name imperishable I am utterly indifferent as to the
world's admiration of my wisdom and power to govern. I try to do my
duty as a king. But I tell you, child, in one little corner of the
king's heart there remains ever something human, and the poor
creature man sometimes cries out for a little personal comfort and
happiness. One may be very rich as a king, but poor--oh, how poor--
as a man! Let us, however, dismiss these sad thoughts. I was
speaking to you of money, Amelia. We will return to this theme. I
cannot prevent your heart from suffering, but I can secure to you
every outward good. Your income, until now, has been small; tell me
what debts you have contracted, and I will pay them!"
"Your majesty falls into my room like a shower of gold," cried
Amelia; "you will find no Danae here, only an ugly old maid, who is,
however, ready to receive the glittering treasure; but you give me
credit for too good a memory when you think I know the amount of my
debts. I only know the sum now in my casket."
"And what is the amount, Amelia?"
"A cipher, sire; your majesty knows this is the end of the month."
"I know it, my sister; and I therefore beg you to accept from me to-
day a small sum in advance. I dreamt last night that you had
recently been called upon to pay out four thousand louis d'or. This
dream was significant; it seemed to me a suggestion to give you this
sum. I therefore sent, in your name, an order on my treasurer for
four thousand louis d'or."
Amelia looked at him and trembled with terror. "Do you know the use
to which I have applied this sum?" said she, breathlessly.
"My dream was silent on this point," said Frederick, rising; "it
only told me that you needed this amount, nothing more. If I had
been curious, I might have asked your page, who has an acute ear,
and for whom no key-hole is too small."
"Ah, he has betrayed me, then," murmured Amelia.
Frederick did not appear to hear her; he took his hat, and offered
his sister his hand. Amelia did not see it, she stood as if turned
to stone in the middle of the room, and as the king advanced toward
the door, she stepped slowly and mechanically after him.
Suddenly the king turned and looked at his sister.
"I had almost forgotten to tell you a piece of news," said he,
carelessly; "something which will perhaps interest you, Amelia. Even
at this moment a prisoner is being released from his cell and
restored to life and liberty. The Empress Maria Theresa, influenced
by her fireman, it is said, has appealed to me--"
Princess Amelia uttered a heart-rending shriek, and rushing forward
she seized the arm of the king with both her trembling hands.
"Brother! oh, brother, be merciful! do not make cruel sport of me. I
acknowledge I appealed to the fireman of the empress. I offered him
four thousand louis d'or if he would intercede for Trenck. I see
that you know all; I deny nothing. If I have committed a crime
worthy of death, condemn me; but do not inflict such fearful
tortures before my execution. Do not mock at my great grief, but be
pitiful. Look upon me brother; look at my withered limbs, my
deformed visage; is not my punishment sufficient? torture me no
longer. You return me the sum of money I sent to Vienna; does that
mean that you have discovered and destroyed my plot? Is this so,
brother? Have you the heart to play this cruel jest with me? Having
thus made my last attempt fruitless, do you tell me in mockery that
Trenck is free?" She held the arm of the king firmly, and half
sinking to her knees, she looked up at him breathlessly.
"No, Amelia," said Frederick, and his voice trembled with emotion.
"No, I have not that cruel courage. The hand of your clock points
now to twelve; at this moment Trenck leaves Magdeburg in a closed
carriage, accompanied by two soldiers. To-morrow he will reach
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