FREDERICK THE GREAT AND HIS FAMILY
Part 15 out of 16
Prague, and then he is free to go where he will, only not in
Prussia. Trenck is free."
"Trenck is free!" repeated Amelia, with a shout of joy; she sprang
from her knees, clasped the king in a close embrace, and wept upon
his bosom such tears as she had not shed for many long years--tears
of holy happiness, of rapture inexpressible; then suddenly releasing
him, she ran rapidly about the room, in the midst of bitter weeping
breaking out into loud ringing laughter, a laugh which rung so
fresh, so joyous, it seemed an echo from her far-off happy
childhood. "Trenck is free! free!" repeated she again; "and, oh,
unspeakable happiness! I obtained him his liberty! ah, no, not I,
but a poor Savoyard who wished a dower for his daughter. Oh, ye
great ones of the earth, speak no more of your glory and power, a
poor Savoyard was mightier than you all! But no, no; what have I
said? you, my brother, you have released him. To you Trenck owes his
life and liberty. I thank you that these fearful chains, which held
my soul in bondage, have fallen apart. Once more I breathe freely,
without the appalling consciousness that every breath I draw finds
this echo in a cavern of the earth. You have released me from
bondage, oh, my brother, and henceforth I will love you with all the
strength of my being. Yes, I will love you," cried she, eagerly; "I
will cling to you with unchanging constancy; you will ever find in
me a faithful ally. I can be useful. I cannot act, but I can listen
and watch. I will be your spy. I will tell you all I see. I will
read all hearts and make known to you their thoughts. Even now I
have something to disclose; do not trust your brothers. Above all
others put no faith in Prince Henry; he hates you with a perfect
hatred for the sake of Augustus William, who, he says, died of your
contempt and cruelty. Trust him in nothing; he is ambitious, he
envies you your throne; he hates me also, and calls me always 'La
fee malfaisant.' He shall be justified in this! I will be for him La
fee malfaisant. I will revenge myself for this hatred. Without my
help, however, he will soon be sufficiently punished. His beautiful
Wilhelmina will revenge me."
She broke out in wild and convulsive laughter, and repeated again
and again in joyous tones, "Yes, yes, his beautiful Wilhelmina will
punish him for calling me an old witch."
The king shuddered at her mad laughter, and was oppressed by her
presence; her mirth was sadder than her tears. He bade her a silent
adieu, and hastened away as if flying from a pestilence. The
princess did not detain him; she had fallen upon a chair, and
staring immovably before her, she cried out: "Trenck is free! Trenck
is free! Life is his once more! I must, I will live till I have seen
him once more. Then, when my poor eyes have looked upon him yet once
again, then I will die--die!" [Footnote: This wish of the princess
was fulfilled after the death of Frederick the Great. Trenck
received permission from his successor, Frederick William II., to
return to Berlin. He was graciously received at court; his first
visit, even before he was announced to the king, was paid to the
Princess Amelia. She received him in the same room in which, forty-
seven years before, they had passed so many happy hours. Upon the
same spot, where, beautiful in youth and grace, they had once sworn
eternal love and faith, they now looked upon each other and sought
in vain, in these fallen and withered features, for any trace of
those charms, which had once enraptured them. Trenck remained many
hours with her; they had much to relate. He confessed freely all the
events of his fantastic and adventurous life. She listened with a
gentle smile, and forgave him for all his wanderings and all his
sins. On taking leave he promised the princess to bring his oldest
daughter and present her, and Amelia promised to be a mother to her.
Death, however, prevented the fulfilment of these promises. It
appeared as if this interview had exhausted her remaining strength.
In 1786, a few days after the meeting with Trenck, Amelia died.
Trenck lived but a few years; he went to France and died under the
guillotine in 1793. As he sat with his companions upon the car on
their way to execution, he said to the gaping crowd: "Eh bien, eh
bien, de quoi vous eurerveillez-vous? C'eci n'est qu'une comedie a
la Robespierre." These were Trenck's last words; a few moments
afterward his head fell under the guillotine.]
Suddenly she sprang from her seat. "I must know Trenck's future; I
must draw his horoscope. I must question the cards as to his
destiny, and know whether happiness or misery lies before him. Yes,
I will summon my fortune-teller. There is a destiny which shapes our
THE STOLEN CHILD.
It was a dark, stormy December night. The long-deserted streets of
Berlin were covered with deep snow. By the glare of a small oil-lamp
affixed to a post, the tall form of a man, wrapped in a large
travelling-cloak, could be seen leaning against a wall; he was
gazing fixedly at the houses opposite him. The snow beat upon his
face, his limbs were stiff from the cold winter wind, his tooth
chattered, but he did not seem to feel it His whole soul. his whole
being was filled with one thought, one desire. What mattered it to
him if he suffered, if he died? As a dark shadow appeared; in the
opposite door, life and energy once more came back to the stoic. He
crossed the street hastily.
"Well, doctor," said he, eagerly, "what have you discovered?"
"It is as your servant informed you, my lord. Your wife, Lady
Elliot, is not at home. She is at a ball at Count Verther's, and
will not return till after midnight."
"But my child? my daughter?" said Lord Elliot, in a trembling voice.
"She, of course, is at home, my lord. She is in the chamber
adjoining your former sleeping apartment. No one but the nurse is
"It is well--I thank you, doctor. All I now require of you is to
send my valet, whom I sent to your house after me, with my baggage.
He was rushing away, but the doctor detained him.
"My lord," said he, in a low and imploring voice, "consider the
matter once more before you act. Remember that you will thus inform
all Berlin of your unfortunate wedded life, and become subject to
the jeers and laughter of the so-called nobility; lowering the
tragedy of your house to a proverb."
"Be it so," said Lord Elliot, proudly, "I have nothing to fear. The
whole world knows that my honor is stained; before the whole world
will I cleanse it."
"But in doing so, my lord, you disgrace your wife."
"Do you not think she justly deserves it?" said Lord Elliot,
"But you should have it on her wish"
"Doctor, when one has suffered as I have, every feeling is
extinguished from the heart but hatred. As I have not died of grief,
I shall live to revenge my sufferings^ My determination is
unalterable. I must and will tear my child from the bad influence of
her mother, then I will punish the guilty."
"Consider once more, my lord--wait this one night. You have just
arrived from a hasty, disagreeable journey; you are excited, your
blood is in a fever heat, and now without allowing yourself a
moment's rest, you wish to commence your sad work."
"I must have my child. You know that as it is a girl the mother can
dispute this right with me, for by the laws of this land in case of
divorce, the daughters are left to their mother."
"You should endeavor to obtain her by kindness."
"And suppose that Camilla, not out of love to the child, but to
wound and torture me, should refuse me my daughter, what then? Ah!
you are silent, doctor; you see I cannot act otherwise."
"I fear, my lord, you will have some trouble in getting the child.
Lady Elliot has lately changed all the servants engaged by you, not
one of them was allowed to remain. It is most likely that none of
the present servants know you, and therefore you will not be
"My plans are all arranged, they shall not prevent me from
"But if they refuse to let you enter?"
"Ah, but I shall not ask them, for I have the keys necessary to
enter my own house. When I left home, Camilla threw them laughing
and jesting into my trunk--I now have them with me. All your
objections are confuted. Again, farewell. If you wish to give me
another token of your friendship, meet me at the depot in an hour. I
will be there with my child."
He pressed the doctor's hand tightly, and then hurried into the
house. Noiselessly he mounted the steps. He now stood in front of
the large glass door leading to his dwelling; he leaned for a moment
against the door gasping for breath--for a moment a shuddering doubt
overcame him; he seemed to see the lovely countenance of Camilla,
bedewed with tears, imploring his mercy, his pity. "No, no! no pity,
no mercy," he murmured; "onward, onward!"
He drew forth a key, opened the door and closed it noiselessly
behind him. A bright lamp burned in the hall; sounds of laughing and
merry-making could be heard from the servants' hall; the cries of a
child, and the soft lullaby of a nurse from above. No one saw or
heard the dark form of their returned master pass slowly through the
hall. No one saw him enter his former sleeping apartments. He was so
conversant with the room that he found his way in the dark without
difficulty to his secretary. Taking from it a candle and some
matches, he soon had a bright light. He then glanced sternly around
the room. All was as usual, not a chair had been moved since he
left. Beneath the secretary were the scraps of letters and papers he
had torn up the day of his journey. Even the book he had been
reading that morning lay upon the table in front of the sofa; beside
it stood the same silver candlesticks, with the same half-burnt
candles. It had all been untouched; only he, the master of the
apartment, had been touched by the burning hand of misfortune--he
alone was changed, transformed. He smiled bitterly as his eye
glanced at every object that formerly contributed to his happiness.
Then taking up the light, he approached the table upon which stood
the two silver candlesticks; lighting one after the other, the
large, deserted-looking chamber became illuminated, bringing the
pictures on the walls, the heavy satin curtains, the handsome
furniture, the tables covered with costly knick-knacks, the large
Japan vases, and a huge clock upon the mantel-piece, into view. All
bore a gay and festive appearance, much at variance with the
unfortunate man's feelings.
His glance had wandered everywhere. Not once, however, had his eye
strayed to two large pictures hanging on the left side of the room.
The one was of himself--gay, smiling features, a bright glance such
as was never now seen upon his countenance. The other was Camilla--
Camilla in her bridal robes, as beautiful and lovely as a dream,
with her glorious, child-like smile in which he had so long
believed--for which, seeing in it the reflection of her pure,
innocent soul, she was so unspeakably dear to him. To these two
pictures he had completely turned his back, and was walking sadly up
and down the room. He now raised his head proudly, and his
countenance, which but a moment before had been sad and dejected,
was now daring and energetic.
"It is time," murmured he.
With a firm hand he grasped a bell lying upon the table. Its loud,
resounding ring disturbed the deep stillness that reigned throughout
the apartments, causing Lord Elliot's heart to tremble with woe. But
there was no noise--all remained quiet. Lord Elliot waited awhile,
then opening the door passed into the hall. Returning, he again rang
the bell long and loudly. "They cannot fail to hear me now," said
Several doors were now opened by some of the servants, but their
terror was such that they retreated in haste, slamming the doors
Lord Elliot rang again. A servant now hastened forward; another soon
followed; a third door was opened from which sprang a lively, trim-
looking lady's maid. She was followed by the house girl. Even the
cook rushed up the steps. All hurried forward to a room which was
generally kept locked, but which now stood wide open. All gazed at
the man standing there scanning them with an earnest, commanding
glance. They stood thus lost in wonder for a moment, then Lord
Elliot approached the door.
"Do you know me--you, there?" said he.
"No, we do not know you," said the waiter, with some hesitation. "We
do not know you, and would like to know by what right--"
"There is no question here of your likes or dislikes, but of the
orders you will receive from me. Do you know the picture next to the
one of your mistress?"
"We have been told that it is our master, Lord Elliot."
Lord Elliot advanced nearer the picture, and stood beneath it. "Do
you know me now?" said he.
The servants examined him critically for a time, then whispered and
"Now do you know me?" repeated Lord Elliot.
"We think we have the honor of seeing his excellency, Lord Elliot,"
said the waiter.
"Yes, Lord Elliot," repeated the lady's-maid, the house-girl, and
the cook, bowing respectfully.
He ordered them to enter the room. Tremblingly they obeyed him.
"Are these all the servants, or are there any more of you?" said he.
"No one but the nurse, who is with the little lady, and the coach-
man who is in the stable."
"That is right. Come nearer, all of you."
As they obeyed, he closed and locked the door, dropping the key in
his pocket. The servants looked at him in wonder and terror, hardly
daring to breathe. Though they had never seen their master, they
knew by his stern, expressive countenance that something remarkable
was about to transpire. Like all other servants, they were well
acquainted with the secrets, the behavior of their employer. They
were, therefore, convinced that their mistress was the cause of
their master's strange conduct.
"Do not dare to move from this spot--do not make a sound," said Lord
Elliot, taking a light and advancing to a second door. "Remain here.
If I need you I will call." Throwing a last look at the servants,
Lord Elliot entered the adjoining room, drawing the bolt quickly
"All is right now." said he, softly. "None of them can fly to warn
Camilla to return." Candle in hand, he passed through the chamber,
looking neither to right nor left. He wished to ignore that he was
now in Camilla's room, which was associated with so many painfully
sweet remembrances to him. He entered another room--he hurried
through it. As he passed by the large bedstead surrounded by heavy
silk curtains, the candle in his hand shook, and a deep groan
escaped his breast. He now stood at the door of the next chamber. He
stopped for a moment to gain breath and courage. With a hasty
movement he threw open the door and entered. His heart failed him
when he beheld the peaceful scene before him. A dark shady carpet
covered the floor, simple green blinds hung at the windows. There
were no handsome paintings on the wall, no glittering chandelier, no
bright furniture, and still the apartment contained a wondrous
tenement, a great treasure. For in the middle of the room stood a
cradle, in the cradle lay his child, his first-born--the child of
his love, of his lost happiness. He knew by the great joy that
overcame him, by the loud beating of his heart, by the tears that
welled to his eyes, that this was his child. He prayed God to bless
it--he swore to love it faithfully to all eternity. He at last found
the strength to approach the little sleeping being whose presence
rilled him with such wild joy.
The nurse sat by the cradle fast asleep. She did not see Lord Elliot
kneel beside the cradle and look tenderly at the sleeping face of
her nursling--she did not see him kiss the child, then lay its
little hands upon his own bowed head as if he needed his little
daughter's blessing to strengthen him. But all at once she was
shaken by a strong hand, and a loud, commanding voice ordered her to
wake up, to open her eyes. She sprang from her chair in terror--she
had had a bad dream. But there still stood the strange man, saying
in a stern voice, "Get up and prepare to leave here at once with
She wished to cry for help, but as she opened her mouth, he threw
his strong arm around her. "If you make a sound, I take the child
and leave you here alone. I have the right to command here--I am the
father of this child."
"Lord Elliot!" cried the nurse, in amazement.
Lord Elliot smiled. This involuntary recognition of his right did
him good and softened him.
"Fear nothing," said he, kindly, "no harm shall happen to you. I
take you and the child. If you love and are kind to it, you shall
receive from me a pension for life; from to-day your wages are
doubled. For this I demand nothing, but that you should collect at
once the necessary articles of clothing of this child, and put them
together. If you are ready in fifteen minutes, I will give you this
He looked at his watch, and took from his purse a gold piece, which
lent wings to the stout feet of the nurse.
"Is all you need in here?" said he.
Receiving an answer in the affirmative, he took his light and left
the chamber. Before leaving, however, he locked another door leading
into the hall, so as to prevent the possible escape of the nurse.
As he entered Camilla's boudoir his countenance became dark and
stern; every gentle and tender feeling that his child had aroused
now fled from his heart. He was now the insulted husband, the man
whose honor was wounded in its most sensitive point--who came to
punish, to revenge, to seek the proofs of the guilt he suspected. He
placed the light upon the table, aud opened his wife's portfolio to
seek for the key of her drawer, which was generally kept there. It
was in its usual place. Lord Elliot shuddered as he touched it; it
felt like burning fire in his hand.
"It is the key to my grave," murmred he.
With a firm hand he put the key in the lock, opened the drawer, and
drew out the letters and papers it contained. There were his own
letters, the letters of love and tenderness he had sent her from
Copenhagen; among them he found others full of passionate proofs of
the criminal and unholy love he had come to punish. Camilla had not
had the delicacy to separate her husband's from her lover's letters;
she had carelessly thrown them in the same drawer. As Lord Elliot
saw this he laughed aloud, a feeling of inexpressible contempt
overpowered his soul and deadened his pain. He could not continue to
love one who had not only been faithless to him, but wanting in
delicacy to the partner of her sin.
Lord Elliot read but one of the beau cousin's letters, then threw it
carelessly aside. He did not care to read more of the silly
speeches, the guilty protestations of constancy of her insipid
lover. He searched but for one letter; he wished to find the
original of the last one Camilla had written to him, for he knew her
too well to give her credit for the composition of that cold,
sneering, determined letter. He wished, therefore, to find the
author, whose every word had pierced his soul like a dagger, driving
him at first almost to madness.
A wild, triumphant cry now escaped from him, resounding fearfully in
the solitary chambers. He had found it! The letter was clutched
tightly in his trembling hands as he read the first lines. It was in
the same hand as the others, it was the writing of his rival, Von
Kindar, her beau cousin.
Lord Elliot folded the paper carefully and hid it in his bosom; then
throwing the others into the drawer, he locked it, placing the key
in the portfolio.
"It is well," said he, "I have now all I need. This letter is his
He took the light and left the room. Fifteen minutes had just
elapsed when he entered his daughter's chamber. The nurse advanced
to meet him, the child and a bundle of clothes in her arms, and
received the promised gold piece.
"Now, we must hasten," said he, stepping into the hall.
They passed silently through the house, down the steps, and into the
court-yard. Lord Elliot walked hastily on, followed by the wondering
nurse. He stopped at the stable door, calling loudly upon the
coachman to get up and prepare the horses. At twelve o'clock the
coachman was to go for his mistress; he was therefore dressed, and
had only laid down for a short nap.
"Put the horses to the carriage," repeated Lord Elliot.
The coachman, raising his lamp, threw a full glare of light upon the
"I do not know you," said he, roughly; "I receive orders from no one
but my mistress."
For answer, Lord Elliot drew from his breast a pocket pistol.
"If you are not ready in five minutes, I will shoot you through the
head," said Lord Elliot, quietly, tapping the trigger.
"For God's sake, obey him, John," cried the nurse; "it is his
excellency Lord Elliot!"
In five minutes the carriage was ready, owing much more to the
loaded pistol still in Lord Elliot's hand than to the conviction
that this strange, angry-looking man was his master.
"To the depot!" cried Lord Elliot, placing the child and nurse in
the carriage, then jumping in after them--" to the depot in all
They reached the building in a few minutes. There stood the horses
in readiness, and beside them Lord Elliot's servant, with his
baggage. He sprang from the carriage, and, giving the coachman a
douceur, ordered him to loosen the horses and return home with them.
"But, your honor," stammered the mystified coachman, "how am I to
call for my lady if you take the carriage?"
"My lady can wait," said Lord Elliot, jeeringly. "If she reproaches
you, tell her that Lord Elliot wishes to be remembered to her; that
he will return in eight days with her carriage."
"But she will dismiss me from her service, my lord."
"Wait patiently for eight days, and then you shall enter mine. And
now, away with you!"
The coachman dared not answer, and soon disappeared with his horses.
The fresh horses were put to the carriage, the servant swung himself
up to his seat; Lord Elliot stood in front of the carriage with his
friend Dr. Blitz.
"All has happened as I desired," said he. "I take my child away with
me, and, with God's will, she shall never know but that death
deprived her of her mother. Poor child! she has no mother, but I
will love her with all the strength of a father, all the tenderness
of a mother, and I have a noble sister who will guard and watch over
her. She awaits me at Kiel. I accompany my child so far, but as soon
as she is in the faithful hands of my sister, as soon as I have
placed them upon the ship sailing for Copenhagen, I return here."
"Why should you return, my lord?" said the doctor, in terror. "Is it
not sufficient that you have deprived the mother of her child? that
you have branded the woman with shame before the whole world? What
more would you do, my lord?"
With a strange smile, Lord Elliot laid his hand upon the doctor's
"Flows there milk instead of blood in your veins, man? or have you
forgotten that I have been hit by a poisoned arrow? I must be
revenged, if I would not die of this wound."
"Let your wounds bleed, my lord--the longer they bleed, the sooner
they will heal. But why destroy the arrow that wounded you? Will you
recover the sooner or suffer the less?"
"Again I ask you, is there milk instead of blood in your veins? My
honor is stained--I must cleanse it with the blood of my enemy."
"A duel, then, my lord? You will suffer chance to decide your most
holy and sacred interests--your honor and life? And if chance is
against you? If you fall, instead of your adversary?"
"Then, my friend, God will have decided it, and I shall thank Him
for relieving me from a life which will from henceforth be a heavy
burden to me. Farewell, doctor. I will be with you in eight days,
and will again need your assistance."
"It is then irrevocable, my lord?"
"I shall be ready. God grant that if this sad drama is to end in
blood, it may not be yours!"
They pressed each other's hands tenderly. Lord Elliot sprang into
the carriage, the coachman whipped his horses, and the carriage in
which were the unfortunate man and the stolen child rolled merrily
along the deserted streets.
Prince Henry stood at the window and looked down into the garden. He
saw his wife walking in the park with her ladies, and enjoying the
clear, cool winter day; he heard their gay and merry laughter, but
he felt no wish to join them and share their mirth.
Since that day in the wood, a change had come upon the prince--a
dark, despairing, melancholy had taken possession of him, but he
would not let it be seen; he forced himself to a noisy gayety, and
in the presence of his wife he was the same tender, devoted,
complaisant lover he had been before; but the mask under which he
concealed his dislike and scorn was a cruel torture and terrible
agony; when he heard her laugh he felt as if a sharp dagger had
wounded him; when he touched her hand, he could with difficulty
suppress a cry of pain; but he conquered himself, and kept his grief
and jealousy down, down in his heart. It was possible he was
mistaken. It was possible his wife was innocent; that his friend was
true. His own heart wished this so earnestly; his noble and great
soul rebelled at the thought of despising those whom he had once
loved and trusted so fully. He wished to believe that he had had a
hurtful dream; that a momentary madness had darkened his brain; he
would rather distrust all his reflections than to believe that this
woman, whom he had loved with all the strength of his nature, this
man whom he had confided in so entirely, had deceived and betrayed
him. It was too horrible to doubt the noblest and most beautiful,
the holiest and gentlest--to be so confounded, so uncertain in his
best and purest feelings. He could not banish doubt from his heart;
like a death-worm, it was gnawing day and night, destroying his
vitality--poisoning every hour of the day, and even in his dreams
uttering horrible words of mockery. Since the fete in the wood he
had been observant, he had watched every glance, listened to every
word; but he had discovered nothing. Both appeared unembarrassed and
innocent; perhaps they dissembled; perhaps they had seen him as he
lay before the hut, and knew that he had been since that day
following and observing them, and by their candor and simplicity
they would disarm his suspicions and lull his distrust to sleep.
This thought kept him ever on his guard; he would, he must know if
he had been betrayed; he must have absolute certainty. He stood
concealed behind the curtains of his window, and looked down into
the garden. His eyes were flxed with a glowing, consuming expression
upon the princess, who, with one of her ladies, now passed before
his window and looked up, but she could not see him, he was
completely hidden behind the heavy silk curtains.
The princess passed on, convinced that if her husband had been in
his room, he would have come forward to greet her.
The prince wished her to come to this conclusion. "Now," thought he,
"she feels secure; she does not suspect I am observing her, at last
I may find an opportunity to become convinced."
Count Kalkreuth was there; he had gone down into the garden. He
advanced to meet the princess, they greeted each other, but in their
simple, accustomed manner, he, the count, respectfully and
ceremoniously--the princess dignified, careless, and condescending.
And now they walked near each other, chatting, laughing, charmingly
vivacious, and excited by their conversation.
The prince stood behind his curtain with a loudly-beating heart,
breathless from anxiety; they came nearer; she led the way to the
little lake whose smooth and frozen surface shone like a mirror. The
count pointed to the lake, and seemed to ask a question; the
princess nodded affirmatively, and turning to her ladies, she spoke
a few words; they bowed and withdrew.
"They are going to skate," murmured the prince. "She has sent her
ladies to bring her skates; she wishes to be alone with the count."
Breathless, almost in death-agony, he watched them; they stood on
the borders of the lake, and talked quietly. The expressions of
their countenances were unchanged, calm, and friendly; they were
certainly speaking of indifferent things. But what means that? The
princess dropped her handkerchief, seemingly by accident. The count
raised it and handed it to her; she took it and thanked him
smilingly, then in a few moments she put her hand, with a sudden
movement, under her velvet mantle. The prince cried out; he had seen
something white in her hand which she concealed in her bosom.
"A letter! a letter!" cried he, in a heart-breaking tone, and like a
madman pursued by furies, he rushed out.
The Princess Wilhelmina was in the act of having her skates fastened
on by her maid, when Prince Henry advanced with hasty steps from the
alley which led to the lake.
Count Kalkreuth advanced to meet him, and greeted him with gay,
jesting words; but the prince had no word of reply for him; he
passed him silently, with a contemptuous glance, and stepped
directly in front of the princess, who looked up with a kindly
smile. He said:
"Madame, it is too cold and rough to skate to-day; I will have the
honor to conduct you to your rooms."
Princess Wilhelmina laughed heartily. "It is a fresh, invigorating
winter day, my husband. If you are cold, it is not the fault of the
weather, but of your light clothing. I pray you to send for your
furs, and then we will run a race over the ice and become warm."
Prince Henry did not answer. He seized the arm of the princess and
placed it in his own. "Come, madame, I will conduct you to your
Wilhelmina gazed at him with astonishment, but she read in his
excited and angry countenance that she must not dare oppose him.
"Permit me, at least, to have my skates removed," said she, shortly,
giving a sign to her maid. The prince stood near, while her maid
knelt before her and removed the skates. Count Kalkreuth was at some
Not one word interrupted the portentous silence. Once the prince
uttered a hasty and scornful exclamation. He had intercepted a
glance which the princess exchanged with Count Kalkreuth, and a
glance full of significance and meaning.
"What is the matter with you, prince?" said Wilhelmina.
"I am cold," said he roughly, but the perspiration was standing in
large drops on his forehead.
When the skates were taken off, the prince drew his wife on quickly,
without a word or greeting to his friend. Kalkreuth stood pale and
immovable, and gazed thoughtfully upon the glittering ice. "I fear
he knows all," murmured he. "Oh my God, my God! Why will not the
earth open and swallow me up? I am a miserable, guilty wretch, and
in his presence I must cast my eyes with shame to the ground. I have
deceived, betrayed him, and yet I love him. Woe is me!" He clasped
his hands wildly over his face, as if he would hide from daylight
and the glad sun the blush of shame which burned upon his cheeks;
then slowly, with head bowed down, he left the garden.
The prince, during this time, had walked rapidly on with his wife;
no word was exchanged between them. Only once, when he felt her arm
trembling, he turned and said harshly:
"Why do you tremble?"
"It is cold!" said she, monotonously.
"And yet," said he, laughing derisively, "it is such lovely,
They went onward silently; they entered the castle and ascended the
steps to the apartment of the princess. Now they were in her
cabinet--in this quiet, confidential family room, where Prince Henry
had passed so many happy hours with his beloved Wilhelmina. Now he
stood before her, with a cold, contemptuous glance, panting for
breath, too agitated to speak.
The princess was pale as death; unspeakable anguish was written in
her face. She dared not interrupt this fearful silence, and appeared
to be only occupied in arranging her toilet; she took off her hat
and velvet mantle.
"Madame," said the prince at last, gasping at every word, "I am here
to make a request of you!"
Wilhelmina bowed coldly and ceremoniously. "You have only to
command, my husband!"
"Well, then, "said he, no longer able to maintain his artificial
composure. "I command you to show me the letter you have hidden in
"What letter, prince?" stammered she, stepping back alarmed.
"The letter which Count Kalkreuth gave you in the garden. Do not
utter a falsehood; do not dare to deny it. I am not in a mood to be
restrained by any earthly consideration."
As he stood thus, opposed to her, with flashing eyes, with trembling
lips, and his arm raised threateningly, Wilhelmina felt that it
would be dangerous, indeed impossible to make any opposition. She
knew that the decisive moment had arrived, the veil must be lifted,
and that deception was no longer possible.
"The letter! give me the letter!" cried the prince, with a menacing
Wilhelmina gazed at him steadily, with eyes full of scorn and
"Here it is," taking the letter calmly from her bosom, and handing
it to the prince.
He snatched it like a tiger about to tear his prey to pieces; but
when he had opened it and held it before him, the paper trembled so
in his hands, he was scarcely able to read it. Once he murmured:
"Ah! he dares to say thou to you; he calls you his 'adored
Wilhelmina!'" He read on, groaning, sometimes crying out aloud, then
muttering wild imprecations.
The princess stood in front of him, pale as death, trembling in
every limb; her teeth were chattering, and she was forced to lean
against her chair to keep from falling.
When the prince had finished reading the letter, he crushed it and
thrust it in his bosom, then fixed his eyes upon his wife with an
expression of such intense, unspeakable misery, that the princess
felt her heart moved to its profoundest depths.
"Oh, my husband," she said, "curse me!--murder me!--but do not look
upon me thus." She then sank as if pressed down by an invisible
power, to her knees, and raised her hands to him imploringly.
The prince laughed coarsely, and stepped back. "Rise, madame," said
he, "we are not acting a comedy--it is only your husband who is
speaking with you. Rise, madame, and give me the key to your
secretary. You will understand that after having read this letter I
desire to see the others. As your husband, I have at least the right
to know how much confidence you have placed in your lover, and how
far you return his passion."
"You despise me," cried Wilhelmina, bursting into tears.
"I think I am justified in doing so," said he, coldly. "Stand up,
and give me the key."
She rose and staggered to the table. "Here is the key."
The prince opened the secretary. "Where are the letters, madame?"
"In the upper drawer to the left."
"Ah," said lie with a rude laugh, "not even in a secret compartment
have you guarded these precious letters. You were so sure of my
blind confidence in you that you did not even conceal your jewels."
Princess Wilhelmina did not answer, but as the prince read one after
the other of the letters, she sank again upon her knees. "My God, my
God!" murmured she, "have pity upon me! Send Thy lightning and crush
me. Oh, my God! why will not the earth cover me and hide me from his
Rivers of tears burst from her eyes, and raising her arms to heaven,
she uttered prayers of anguish and repentance.
The prince read on, on, in these unholy letters. Once he exclaimed
aloud, and rushed with the letter to the princess.
"Is this true?" said he--"is this which you have written, true?"
"What? Is what true?" said Wilhelmina, rising slowly from her knees.
"He thanks you in this letter for having written to him that you
have never loved any man but himself--him--Kalkreuth alone! Did you
write the truth?"
"I wrote it, and it is the truth," said the princess, who had now
fully recovered her energy and her composure. "Yes, sir, I have
loved no one but Kalkreuth alone. I could not force my heart to love
you--you who in the beginning disdained me, then one day in an idle
mood were pleased to love me, to offer me your favor. I was no slave
to be set aside when you were in the humor, and to count myself
blessed amongst women when you should find me worthy of your high
regard. I was a--free born woman, and as I could not give my hand to
him I loved, I gave my heart--that heart which you rejected. You
have the right to kill me, but not to despise me--to dishonor me."
"Do I dishonor you when I speak the truth?" cried the prince.
"You do not speak the truth. I have sinned heavily against you. I
suffered your love--I could not return it. I had not the courage
when I saw you, who had so long disdained me, lying at my feet,
declaring your passion and imploring my love in return, to confess
to you that I could never love you--that my heart was no longer
free. This is my crime--this alone. I could not force my heart to
love you, but I could be faithful to my duty, and I have been so. It
is not necessary for me to blush and cast my eyes down before my
husband. My love is pure--my virtue untarnished. I have broken no
faith with you."
"Miserable play on words!" said the prince. "You have been a
hypocrite--your crime is twofold: you have sinned against me--you
have sinned against your love. You have been a base coward who had
not the courage to do justice to the feelings of your own heart.
What mean you by saying you have broken no faith with me? You have
acted a daily lie. Oh, madame, how have I loved you! Both body and
soul were lost in that wild love. When you stood with your lover and
listened well pleased to those glowing confessions of his sinful
love, you excused yourself and thought, forsooth, you were breaking
no faith. You have defrauded me of the woman I loved and the friend
whom I trusted. May God curse you, even as I do! May Heaven chastise
you, even as I shall!"
He raised both his hands over her as if he would call down Heaven's
curse upon her guilty head, then turned and left the room.
THE MORNING AT SANS-SOUCI.
It was five o'clock in the morning. Deep silence reigned, the
darkness of night still encompassed the world, the weary might still
sleep and rest, life had recommenced nowhere, nowhere except at
Sans-Souci, nowhere except in the apartment of the king; while his
people slept, the king watched, he watched to work and think for his
people. Without the wind howled and blew the snow against his
window, and made even the fire in his room flicker; but the king
heeded it not. He had completed his toilet and drunk his chocolate;
now he was working. It did not disturb him that his room was cold,
that the candle on his table gave but a poor light, and even seemed
to increase the appearance of discomfort in his apartment; it gave
sufficient light to enable him to read the letters which lay upon
his table, and which had arrived the previous day. His ministers
might sleep--the king waked and worked. He read every letter and
petition, and wrote a few words of answer on the margin of each.
After reading all business communications, the king took his own
letters, those that were addressed to him personally, and came from
his absent friends. His countenance, which before was grave and
determined, assumed a soft and gentle expression, and a smile played
upon his lips. The receipts for to-day were small. There were but
few letters, and the large proportion of them came from relations of
the king, or from distant acquaintances.
"No letter from D'Argens," said the king, smiling. "My ecclesiastic
letter has accomplished the desired end, and the good marquis will
arrive here to-day to rail at, and then forgive me. Ah, here is a
letter from D'Alembert. Well, this is doubtless an agreeable letter,
for it will inform me that D'Alembert accepts my proposal, and has
decided to become the president of my Academy of Science."
He hastily broke the seal, and while he read a dark cloud
overshadowed his brow. "He declines my offer," he said,
discontentedly. "His pride consists in a disregard for princes; he
wishes posterity to admire him for his unselfishness. Oh, he does
not yet know posterity. She will either be utterly silent on this
subject or, should it be spoken of, it will be considered an act of
folly which D'Alembert committed. He is a proud and haughty man, as
they all are." He again took the letter and read it once more, but
more slowly and more carefully than before; gradually the clouds
disappeared from his brow, and his eyes beamed with pleasure.
"No," he said; "I have misjudged D'Alembert. My displeasure at a
disappointed hope blinded me; D'Alembert is not a small, vain man,
but a free and great spirit. He now refuses my presidency, with a
salary of six thousand thalers, as he last year refused the position
of tutor to the heir of the throne of Russia, with a salary of a
hundred thousand francs. He prefers to be poor and needy, and to
live up five flights of stairs, and be his own master, than to live
in a palace as the servant of a prince. I cannot be angry with him,
for he has thought and acted as a wise man; and were I not
Frederick, I would gladly be D'Alembert. I will not love him less
because he has refused my offer. Ah, it is a real pleasure to know
that there are still men who are independent enough to exercise
their will and judgment in opposition to the king. Princes would be
more noble, if those with whom they associated were not so miserable
and shallow-hearted. D'Alembert shall be a lesson and a consolation
to me; there are still men who are not deceivers and flatterers,
fools and betrayers, but really men."
He carefully refolded the letter, and, before placing it in his
portfolio, nodded to it as pleasantly as if it had been D'Alembert
himself. He then took another letter.
"I do not recognize this writing," he said, as he examined the
address. "It is from Switzerland, and is directed to me personally.
From whom is it?"
He opened the letter, and glanced first at the signature.
"Ah," he said, "from Jean Jacques Rousseau! I promised him an
asylum. The free Switzers persecuted the unhappy philosopher, and my
good Lord Marshal prayed my assistance for him. Lord Marshal is now
in Scotland, and it will not benefit him to have his friend here.
Well, perhaps it may lead to his return, if he hopes to find
Rousseau here. I must see what the philosopher says."
The letter contained only a few lines, which the king read with
utter astonishment. "Vraiment!" he exclaimed; "philosophers all
belong to the devil. This Jean Jacques does not content himself with
declining my offer, but he does it in an unheard-of manner. This is
a work of art; I must read it again."
The king read aloud in a most pathetic voice: "Votre majeste m'offre
un asyle, et m'y prome la liberte; mais vous avez une epee, et vous
etes roi. Vous m'offrez une pension, a moi, qui n'a rien fait pour
vous. Mais en avez-vous donne a tous les braves gens qui ont perdu
bras et jambes en vos services?"
"Well," said the king, laughing, "if being a ruffian makes one a
philosopher, Jean Jacques Rousseau deserves to be called the
greatest philosopher in the world. Truly, Fortune is playing curious
pranks with me to-day, and seems determined to lower my royal pride.
Two refusals at one time; two philosophers who decline my
invitation. No, not two philosophers--D'Alembert is a philosopher,
but Rousseau is in truth a fool."
He tore this letter, and threw the pieces in the fire. He then
seized another letter, but laid it down again before opening it. He
had heard the great clock in the hall strike eight. That was the
sign that the business of the day, which he shared with his
attendants, should begin, and that the king had no more time to
devote to his private correspondence. The last stroke of the clock
had scarcely sounded, as a light knock was heard at the door, which
was instantly opened by the command of the king.
Baron von Kircheisen, the prefect of Berlin, entered the room. He
came to make his weekly report to the king. His respectful greeting
was returned merely by a dark side-glance, and the king listened to
his report with evident displeasure.
"And that is your entire report?" asked his majesty, when the
prefect had finished. "You are the head of police for the city of
Berlin, and you have nothing more to tell me than any policemen
might know. You inform me of the number of arrivals and departures,
of the births and deaths, and of the thefts which have been
committed, and that is the extent of your report."
"But I cannot inform your majesty of things that have not occurred,"
returned Baron von Kircheisen.
"So nothing else has occurred in Berlin. Berlin is then a most
quiet, innocent city, where at the worst a few greatly-to-be-pitied
individuals occasionally disturb the repose of the righteous by
mistaking the property of others for their own. You know nothing.
You do not know that Berlin is the most vicious and immoral of
cities. You can tell me nothing of the crimes which are certainly
not of a kind to be punished by the law, but which are creeping from
house to house, poisoning the happiness of entire families, and
spreading shame and misery on every hand. You know nothing of the
many broken marriage-vows, of the dissension in families, of the
frivolity of the young people who have given themselves up to
gambling and dissipation of all kinds. Much misery might be avoided
if you knew more of these matters, and were ready with a warning at
the right moment."
"Sire, will you permit me to say that is not the task of the
ordinary police; for such matters a secret police is required."
"Well, why do you not have a secret police? Why do you not follow
the example of the new minister of police at Paris, De Sartines?
That man knows every thing that happens in Paris. He knows the
history of every house, every family, and every individual. He
occasionally warns the men when their wives are on the point of
flying from them. He whispers to the wives the names of those who
turn their husbands from them. He shows the parents the faro-bank at
which their sons are losing their property, and sometimes extends a
hand to save them from destruction. That is a good police, and it
must be acknowledged that yours does not resemble it."
"If your majesty desires it, I can establish such a police in Berlin
as De Sartines has in Paris. But your majesty must do two things:
First, you must give me a million of thalers annually."
"Ah! a million! Your secret police is rather expensive. Continue.
What do you desire besides the million?"
"Secondly, the permission to destroy the peace of families, the
happiness of your subjects--to make the son a spy upon his father--
the mother an informer against her daughter--the students and
servants the betrayers of their teachers and employers. If your
majesty will permit me to undermine the confidence of man to his
fellow-man--of the brother to his sister--of the parents to their
children--of the husbands to their wives by buying their secrets
from them--if I may reward such treachery, then, your majesty, we
can have such a police as De Sartines has in Paris. But I do not
think that it will promote propriety or prevent crime."
The king had listened to him with increasing interest, his brow
growing clearer and clearer as the bold speaker continued. When he
finished, the king ceased his walk, and stood motionless before him,
looking fully into his excited countenance.
"It is, then, your positive conviction that a secret police brings
with it those evils you have depicted?"
"Yes, your majesty, it is my positive conviction."
"He may be right," said the king, thoughtfully. "Nothing demoralizes
men so much as spies and denunciations, and a good government should
punish and not reward the miserable spies who betray their fellow-
creatures for gold with the wicked intention of bringing them into
misfortune. A good government should not follow the Jesuits' rule--
'That the end consecrates the means.'"
"Will your majesty, then, graciously allow me to dispense with a
"Well, yes. We will remain as we are, and De Sartines may keep his
secret police. It would not suit us, and Berlin shall not be still
further demoralized by spies and betrayers. Therefore, no more of
the secret police. When crime shows itself by day we will punish it.
We will leave it to Providence to bring it to light. Continue to
report to me, therefore, who has died and who has been born; who
have arrived and who have departed; who has stolen and who has done
a good business. I am well pleased with you--you have spoken freely
and bravely, and said openly what you thought. That pleases me; I am
pleased when my agents have the courage to speak the truth, and dare
occasionally to oppose me. I hope you will retain this virtue."
He bowed pleasantly to the prefect, and offered him his hand. He
then dismissed him, and ordered the ministers to enter with their
reports and proposals. After these came the council, and only after
the king had worked with them uninterruptedly for three hours, did
he think of taking some repose from all this work, which had
occupied him from six o'clock in the morning until nearly twelve. He
was on the point of entering his library as loud voices in the
anteroom arrested his attention.
"But I tell you that the king gives no audiences to-day," he heard
one of the servants say.
"The king has said that every man who wishes to speak to him shall
be admitted!" exclaimed another voice. "I must speak to the king,
and he must hear me."
"If you must speak to him, you must arrange it by writing. The king
grants an audience to all who demand it, but he fixes the hour
"Misery and despair cannot await a fixed hour!" cried the other. "If
the king will not listen to unhappiness when it calls to him for
redress, but waits until it pleases him to hear, he is not a good
"The man is right," said the king, "I will listen to him
He hastily advanced to the door and opened it. Without stood an old
man, poorly dressed, with a pale, thin face, from whose features
despair and sorrow spoke plainly enough to be understood by all.
When his great, sunken eyes fell upon the king, he cried, joyfully,
"God be thanked, there is the king!" The king motioned to him to
approach, and the old man sprang forward with a cry of delight.
"Come into the room," said the king; "and now tell me what you wish
"Justice, your majesty, nothing but justice. I have been through the
war, and I am without bread. I have nothing to live upon, and I have
twice petitioned your majesty for a situation which is now vacant."
"And I refused it to you, because I had promised it to another."
"They told me that your majesty would refuse me this situation."
cried the man, despairingly. "But I cannot believe it, for your
majesty owes it to me, and you are usually a just king. Hasten, your
majesty, to perform your duty, and justify yourself from a suspicion
which is unworthy of your kingly fame."
The king measured him with a flashing glance, which the pale,
despairing suppliant bore with bold composure.
"By what authority," asked the king, in a thundering voice, as he
approached the man, with his arm raised threateningly--"by what
authority do you dare speak to me in such a tone? and on what do you
ground your shameless demands?"
"On this, your majesty, that I must starve if you refuse my request.
That is the most sacred of all claims, and to whom on earth dare I
turn with it if not to my king?"
There lay in these words a sorrow so heart-breaking, a plaint so
despairing in the voice, that the king was involuntarily much moved.
He let fall his uplifted arm, and the expression of his countenance
became gentle and tender.
"I see that you are very unhappy and despairing," he said, kindly;
"you were right to come to me. You shall have the place for which
you asked. I will arrange it. Come here to-morrow to the Councillor
Muller. I will give you some money, that you may not starve until
He silenced the delighted man's expressions of gratitude, and
ringing his bell he summoned Deesen, who kept his purse, in order to
give the man a gold piece. But Deesen did not appear, and the second
chamberlain announced in an embarrassed manner that lie was not in
the palace. The king commanded him to give the man the promised gold
piece and then to return to him.
"Where is Deesen?" asked the king, as the chamberlain returned.
"Sire, I do not know," he stammered, his eyes sinking beneath the
piercing glance of the king.
"You do know!" said the king, gravely. "Deesen has positive orders
from me to remain in the anteroom, because I might need him. If he
dares to disobey my orders, he must have a powerful reason, and you
know it. Out with it! I will know it."
"If your majesty commands, I must speak," said the chamberlain,
sighing. "Your majesty will not permit us to be married, but we were
made with hearts, and we sometimes fall in love."
"Deesen is in love, then?" said the king.
"Yes, your majesty, he loves a beautiful girl in Potsdam, whose name
is Maria Siegert. And although he cannot marry her, she has
consented to be his beloved. And as to-day was the great report day,
Deesen thought that your majesty would not need him, and that he had
time to go to Potsdam to visit his sweetheart. He seems to have been
delayed. That is the reason, your majesty, that Deesen is not in the
"Very well," said the king; "as soon as Deesen returns he must come
to my library. I forbid you, however, to repeat one word of this
"Ah, your majesty, I am well pleased that I need not do it, for
Deesen is very passionate, and if he learns that I have betrayed his
secret he is capable of giving me a box on the ear."
"Which would, perhaps, be very wholesome for you," said the king, as
he turned toward his library.
A quarter of an hour later, Deesen entered the library with a
heated, anxious face.
The king, who was reading his beloved Lucretius while he paced the
floor, turned his great, piercing eyes with a questioning expression
on the anxious face of his attendant. "I called for you, and you did
not come," said the king.
"I beg your majesty to pardon me," stammered Deesen.
"Where were you?"
"I was in my room writing a letter, sire."
"Ah, a letter. You were no doubt writing to that beautiful barmaid
at the hotel of the Black Raven at Amsterdam, who declined the
attentions of the servant of the brothers Zoller."
This reference to the journey to Amsterdam showed Deesen that the
king was not very angry. He dared, therefore, to raise his eyes to
those of the king, and to look pleadingly at him.
"Sit down." said the king, pointing to the writing-table. "I called
you because I wished to dictate a letter for you to write. Sit down
and take a pen."
Deesen seated himself at the table, and the king began walking up
and down as before, his hands and book behind him.
"Are you ready?" asked the king.
"I am ready, sire," returned Deesen, dipping his pen into the ink.
"Write then," commanded the king, as he placed himself immediately
in front of Deesen--"write, then, first the heading: 'My beloved--'"
Deesen started, and glanced inquiringly at the king. Frederick
looked earnestly at him, and repeated, "'My beloved--'"
Deesen uttered a sigh, and wrote.
"Have you written that?" asked the king.
"Yes, sire, I have it--'My beloved.'"
"Well, then, proceed. 'My beloved, that old bear, the king--'
Write," said the king, interrupting himself as he saw that Deesen
grew pale and trembled, and could scarcely hold the pen--"write
without hesitation, or expect a severe punishment."
"Will your majesty have the kindness to dictate? I am ready to write
every thing," said Deesen, as he wiped his brow.
"Now then, quickly," ordered the king, and he dictatedó"'That old
bear, the king, counts every hour against me that I spend so
charmingly with you. That my absence may be shorter in the future,
and less observed by the old scold, I wish you to rent a room near
here in the suburbs of Brandenburg, where we can meet more
conveniently than in the city. I remain yours until death."
"Have you finished?" asked the king.
"Yes, sire, I have finished," groaned Deesen.
"Then fold the letter and seal it, and write the address 'To the
unmarried Maria Siegert, Yunker Street, Potsdam.'"
"Mercy, sire, mercy!" cried Deseen, springing up and throwing
himself at the feet of the king. "I see that your majesty knows all-
-that I have been betrayed."
"You have betrayed yourself, for to-day is the tenth time that I
have called for you when you were absent. Now send your letter off,
and see that your Siegert gets a room here. If, however, you are
again absent when I call, I will send your beautiful Maria to
Spandau, and dismiss you. Go, now, and dispatch your letter."
Deesen hurried off, and the king looked smilingly after him for a
moment, and was on the point of returning to his reading, when his
attention was attracted by the approach of a carriage.
"Ah," he murmured anxiously, "I fear that I shall be disturbed again
by some cousin, who has come to rob me of my time by hypocritical
professions of love."
He looked anxiously toward the door. It was soon opened, and a
servant announced Prince Henry.
The king's countenance cleared, and he advanced to meet his brother
with a bright smile. But his greeting was not returned, and the
prince did not appear to see the extended hand of the king. A heavy
cloud lay upon his brow--his cheeks were colorless and his lips
compressed, as if he wished to suppress the angry and indignant
words which his flashing eyes expressed.
"Ah, my brother," said the king, sadly, "it seems that you have come
to announce a misfortune."
"No," said the prince, "I only came, your majesty, to recall a
conversation which I held with you ten years ago in this same room,
on this very spot."
"Ten years ago?" said the king. "That was at the time of your
"Yes, the conversation I refer to concerned my marriage, sire. You
had pursued me so long with that subject, that I had at length
concluded to submit to the yoke which was to free me from those
unworthy and humiliating persecutions."
"I think that you could select more fitting expressions, my
brother," said the king, with flashing eyes. "You forget that you
are speaking to your king."
"But I remember that I am speaking to my brother, whose duty is to
hear the complaints which I have to utter against the king."
"Speak," said the king, after a slight pause. "Your brother will
"I come to remind you of that hour," said the prince, solemnly, "in
which I gave my consent to be married. As I did so, sire, I said to
you that I should hold you responsible for this marriage which was
made for political purposes and not from love--that I would call you
to account before the throne of God, and there ask you by what right
you robbed me of my liberty, by what right you laid a chain upon my
hand and heart which love could not help me to bear. I said further,
sire--if the weight of this chain should become too heavy, and this
unnatural connection of a marriage without love should drive me to
despair, that upon your head would rest the curse of my misery, and
that you would be answerable for my destroyed existence, for my
"And I," said the king, "I took this responsibility upon me. As your
king and your elder brother, I reminded you of your duty to give the
state a family--sons who would be an example of courage and honor to
the men, and daughters who would be a pattern of virtue and
propriety to the women. In view of these duties, I demanded of you
to be married."
"I come now to call you to account for this marriage," exclaimed the
prince, solemnly. "I have come to tell you that my heart is torn
with pain and misery; that I am the most wretched of men, and that
you have made me so--you, who forced me into this marriage, although
you knew the shame and despair of a marriage without love. You had
already taken a heavy responsibility upon yourself by your own
marriage; and if you were compelled to endure it so long as my
father lived, you should have relieved yourself from it so soon as
you were free; that is, so soon as you were king. But you preferred
to continue in this unnatural connection, or rather you put the
chains from your hands, and let them drag at your feet. Not to
outrage the world by your divorce, you gave it the bad example of a
wretched marriage. You made yourself free, and you made a slave of
your poor wife, who has been a martyr to your humors and cruelty.
You profaned the institution of marriage. You gave a bad and
dangerous example to your subjects, and it has done its work. Look
around in your land, sire. Everywhere you will see unhappy women who
have been deserted by their husbands, and miserable men who have
been dishonored by their faithless wives. Look at your own family.
Our sister of Baireuth died of grief, and of the humiliation she
endured from the mistress of her husband. Our brother, Augustus
William, died solitary and alone. He withdrew in his grief to
Oranienburg, and his wife remained in Berlin. She was not with him
when he died; strangers received his last breath--strangers closed
his eyes. Our sister of Anspach quarrelled with her husband, until
finally she submitted, and made a friend of his mistress. And I,
sire, I also stand before you with the brand of shame upon my brow.
I also have been betrayed and deceived, and all this is your work.
If the king mocks at the sacred duties of marriage, how can he
expect that his family and subjects should respect them? It is the
fashion in your land for husbands and wives to deceive one another,
and it is you who have set this fashion."
"I have allowed you to finish, Henry," said the king, when the
prince was at length silent. "I have allowed you to finish, but I
have not heard your angry and unjust reproaches, I have only heard
that my brother is unhappy, and it is, I know, natural for the
unhappy to seek the source of their sorrows in others and not in
themselves. I forgive all that you have said against me; but if you
hold me responsible for the miserable consequences of the war, which
kept the men at a distance for years and loosened family ties, that
shows plainly that your judgment is unreliable, and that you cannot
discriminate with justice. I did not commence this war heedlessly; I
undertook it as a heavy burden. It has made an old man of me; it has
eaten up my life before my time. I see all the evil results, and I
consider it my sacred duty to bind up the wounds which it has
inflicted on my country. I work for this object day and night; I
give all of my energies to this effort; I have sacrificed to it all
my personal inclinations. But I must be contented to bind up the
wounds. I cannot make want disappear; I cannot immediately change
sorrow into gladness."
"Ah, sire, you seek to avoid the subject, and to speak of the
general unhappiness instead of my special grief. I call you to
account, because you forced me to take a wife that I did not know--a
wife who has made me the most miserable of men--a wife who has
outraged my honor, and betrayed my heart. You gave me a wife who has
robbed me of all I held dear on earth--of the wife I loved, and of
the friend I trusted."
"Poor brother," said the king, gently, "you are enduring the
torments from which I also suffered, before my heart became hardened
as it now is. Yes, it is a fearful pain to be forced to despise the
friend that you trusted--to be betrayed by those we have loved. I
have passed through that grief. The man suffered deeply in me before
his existence was merged in that of the king."
"Sire," said the prince, suddenly, "I have come to you to demand
justice and punishment. You have occasioned the misery of my house,
it is therefore your duty to alleviate it, as far as in you lies. I
accuse my wife, the Princess Wilhelmina, of infidelity and
treachery. I accuse Count Kalkreuth, who dares to love my wife, of
being a traitor to your royal family. I demand your consent to my
divorce from the princess, and to the punishment of the traitor.
That is the satisfaction which I demand of your majesty for the ruin
which you have wrought in my life."
"You wish to make me answerable for the capriciousness of woman and
the faithlessness of man," asked the king, with a sad smile. "You do
that because I, in performing my duty as a king, forced you to
marry. It is true you did not love your intended wife, because you
did not know her, but you learned to love her. That proves that I
did not make a bad choice; your present pain is a justification for
me. You are unhappy because you love the wife I gave you with your
whole heart. For the capriciousness of women you cannot hold me
responsible, and I did not select the friend who has so wickedly
betrayed you. You demand of me that I should punish both. Have you
considered, my brother, that in punishing them I should make your
disgrace and misery public to the world? Do not imagine, Henry, that
men pity us for our griefs; when they seem most deeply to sympathize
with us they feel an inward pleasure, especially if it is a prince
who suffers. It pleases men that fate, which has given us an
exceptional position, does not spare us the ordinary sorrows of
"I understand, then, that you refuse my request," said the prince.
"You will not consent to my divorce, you will not punish the
"No, I do not refuse your request, but I beg you will take three
days to consider what I have said to you. At the end of that time,
should you come to me, and make the same demand, I will give my
consent; that is, I will have you publicly separated from your wife,
I will have Count Kalkreuth punished, and will thus give the world
the right to laugh at the hero of Freiburg."
"Very well, sire," said the prince, thoughtfully, "I will remind you
of your promise. I beg you will now dismiss me, for you see I am a
very man and no philosopher, unworthy to be a guest at Sans-Souci."
He bowed to the king, who tenderly pressed his hand and silently
left the room.
Frederick looked after him with an expression of unutterable pity.
"Three days will be long enough to deaden his pain, and then he will
be more reasonable and form other resolutions."
A HUSBAND'S REVENGE.
Camilla lay upon a sofa in her boudoir, and listened with breathless
attention to the account her beau cousin gave of the adventures of
the last eight days. She listened with sparkling eyes to the witty
description he gave of his duel with Lord Elliot, and declared that
she found him extraordinarily brilliant. Camilla was indeed proud of
her handsome lover. Kindar explained minutely how he had compelled
Lord Elliot, who for a long time avoided and fled from him, to fight
a duel with him. How he forced him on his knees to acknowledge that
he had done his wife injustice, and to apologize for the insult he
had offered to Kindar, in charging him with being the lover of his
pure and virtuous wile.
"And he did this?" cried Camilla; "he knelt before you and begged
"Yes, he knelt before me, and begged my pardon."
"Then he is even more pitiful than I thought him," said Camilla,
"and I am justified before the whole world in despising him. Nothing
can be more contemptible than to beg pardon rather than fight a
duel, to kneel to a man to save one's miserable life. I am a woman,
but I would scorn such cowardice. I would despise the man I loved
most fondly if he were guilty of such an act of shame."
Camilla was much excited; she did not notice how Kindar started,
turned pale, and fixed his eyes on the floor. She was so charmed
with the courage of her beau cousin that she could think of nothing
else. Even her frivolous nature had this feminine instinct--she
prized personal daring and courage in a man more than all other
things; of strength of mind she knew nothing, and therefore she
could not appreciate it, but she demanded courage, dignity, and
strength of physique. She laid her hands upon her cousin with
cordial approbation, and gazed lovingly at him.
"You are as beautiful as a hero and a demigod, and it seems to me I
never loved you so fondly as at this moment, when you stand before
me as the victor over my cowardly husband. Ah, I wish I could have
witnessed that scene; you proud and grand, and he lying trembling
like this miserable windspiel at your feet, repeating the words of
retraction and repentance which you dictated."
"It was indeed worth seeing," said Kindar; "but let us speak now of
something more important, dear Camilla. You must leave Berlin to-
day, and for a few weeks at least withdraw to your estate, till the
violence of the storm has blown over. It is, of course, most
agreeable and flattering to me to have my name coupled with that of
so lovely and charming a woman--to be looked upon with jealousy and
alarm by the cowardly husbands of Berlin. It will not, however, be
agreeable to you to be torn to pieces by slanderous tongues. Every
old maid, every prude, and every hypocritical coquette (and of such
base elements the feminine world is composed), will find this a
happy occasion to exalt her own modesty and virtue, and denounce and
"Not so," said Camilla, proudly, "I will remain in Berlin. I have
courage to defy the whole world for your sake--I will remain to
prove that I am not ashamed of my love. The whole world shall know
that the brave and handsome Kindar, the beloved of all women, is my
lover. Ah, cousin, you merit this compensation at my hands; you
defended my honor against the aspersions of my husband, and
compelled him to a shameful retraction."
"Does Baron von Kindar make this boast?" cried a voice behind her.
Camilla turned and saw Lord Elliot standing in the door; he looked
at her with a cold, contemptuous glance, which wounded her far more
than a spoken insult would have done.
"Why are you here, sir?" she cried. "With what right do you dare
force yourself into my presence?"
Lord Elliot made no reply, but smiled coolly, and Camilla's eyes
filled with tears of rage.
"Cousin," said she, turning to Kindar, "will you not free me from
the presence of this contemptible creature, who dares to affront
Suddenly she stopped speaking and gazed in amazement at her handsome
cousin; his countenance was not serene; he was indeed livid, and
stood trembling and with downcast eyes before her husband.
"Well," said Lord Elliot, raising himself proudly, "do you not hear
your cousin's command? Will you not dismiss this poor creature who
dares disturb this tender interview?"
"I will withdraw." stammered Kindar, "I am de trop. I have no right
to interfere between Lord Elliot and his wife. I take my leave."
He tried to step through the door, but the powerful hand of Lord
Elliot held him back.
"Not so, my handsome gentleman," said Lord Elliot, with a hoarse
laugh, "you are by no means de trop; on the contrary, I desire your
presence; you will remain here and listen to the charming and merry
narrative I am about to relate to Lady Elliot. I have come, madame,
to give your ladyship the history of a hunt; not, however, of a
chase after wild beasts, of the hart and the hare, but of an all-
conquering cavalier, who, however, judging from the manner in which
he fled and sought to save himself, must possess the cowardice of
the hare, and the fleet foot of the hart. You know, I presume, that
I speak of your beau cousin, and myself."
While Lord Elliot spoke, Camilla stared in breathless agony at her
cousin. She seemed to hope to read in his pale face the explanation
of this incomprehensible riddle; she expected him to command her
husband to be silent, and to offer him some new insult. But Kindar
did not speak, and Camilla came to a desperate resolution. She was
determined to know why he stood so pale and trembling before her
husband. She would force him to an explanation.
"It is wholly unnecessary, my lord," she said, in a haughty tone,
"to relate your history to me; I am acquainted with all the
particulars of the chase of which you speak. I know your degradation
and humiliation--I know that you fell upon your knees and pleaded
for pardon when satisfaction was demanded of you."
"Ah! I see, le beau cousin has changed roles with me," said Lord
Elliot. "That was indeed most amiable. Your lover must, of course,
always play the most important part, and no doubt, he thought to do
me honor by this change. I cannot take advantage of this generous
intention, and must correct a few errors in his narrative."
"Speak! then; speak! my lord," said Camilla, whose eyes were still
fixed sternly upon her lover.
"As you graciously permit it, madame, I will give you an account of
the chase. But first, madame, I must clear myself from an
accusation. I am suspected of having challenged Von Kindar, because
he was the lover of my wife. I look upon that, however, as an
accident, and nothing more. Le beau cousin happened to be at hand
when my susceptible, ardent wife looked around for a lover, and she
accepted him; he was the first, but he will not be the last. I was
not driven to pursue him by jealousy. I am a true son of this
enlightened age, and shall not, like the knights of the olden time,
storm heaven and earth because my wife has a lover. I am a
philosopher. For a noble wife, who had made me happy in her love, I
might perhaps feel and act differently. I, however, married a
heartless fool, and it would have been mad folly to risk my life
with a brainless fop for her sake."
"Speak, cousin!" cried Camilla, springing forward, white with
passion. "Speak! Do you not hear these insults?" She laid her hands
upon his arm; he muttered a few incomprehensible words and tried to
shake them off.
"He has heard every word," said Lord Elliot, scornfully; "but he is
without doubt too polite to interrupt me. He will have the goodness
still to listen silently."
Camilla let her hands fall; gnashing her teeth she turned away and
seated herself upon the divan. Her lover and her husband stood
before her; the one, trembling like a broken reed, leaned against
the wall, the other erect and proudly conscious of his own worth and
"I said that I would not have dreamed of risking my life with a
brainless fop, for the sake of a heartless fool; but this fop was
guilty of another crime: he was not only the betrayer of my wife,
but he was the author of a shameful and most insulting letter, which
you, madame, had the effrontery to copy and send me."
"How do you know that he wrote this letter?" cried Camilla.
"In the first place, madame, you are not even capable of composing
such a letter. I took the liberty of removing the original of this
letter from your writing-desk. Armed with this proof, I sought le
beau cousin, and demanded satisfaction. Lieutenant Kaphengst, a
former friend of this handsome cavalier, accompanied me. When you
deal with such a man as the one who stands cowering before me,
witnesses are necessary. He is quite capable of denying every thing,
and changing the roles. The baron had left home, he had gone to
Mecklenberg. Certainly he did not know that I had come to Berlin to
seek him, or he would have had the courtesy to remain and receive my
visit. I was too impatient to await his return, and followed his
traces, even as ardently as he has followed you, madame. I found him
at last, in the hotel of a little village. Like all other
sentimental lovers, he longed for solitude; and, not wishing to be
disturbed in his sweet dreams, he rented the entire hotel. I was,
however, bold enough to seek him--with swords and pistols--and gave
him choice of weapons; he was peaceable, and refused both sword and
pistol. I therefore took my third weapon, my trusty walking-stick.
It was a beautiful bamboo-rod, and neither broke nor split, though I
beat away valiantly on the back of the knightly cavalier."
"This cannot be true. This is a lie!" cried Camilla.
Lord Elliot raised his arm and pointed slowly to Kindar. "Ask him,
madame, if this is a lie."
Camilla turned, and as her eye rested upon him, she felt that she
had no need to ask the question.
Kindar leaned with pale cheek and tottering knees against the wall.
He was a living picture of cowardly despair and trembling terror.
Camilla groaned aloud, and with a look of unspeakable aversion she
turned from him to her husband. For the first time, she did not find
him ugly. He was indeed imposing. His proud bearing, his noble
intellect, and manly worth impressed her. To her he had never been
but the fond, tender, yielding lover--now she saw before her the
firm and angry man, and he pleased her. Kindar, who had been so
handsome and so irresistible, was now hateful in her eyes.
"Go on," murmured Camilla.
"Well, I beat this man with my cane till he consented to fight with
me. We had, however, played this little comedy too energetically.
The people of the hotel heard the noise, and fearing some fatal
result, rushed to the rescue of this handsome cavalier. We deferred
the duel, therefore, till the next day, but lo! the next morning le
beau cousin had fled. Without doubt he had forgotten our little
arrangement, and his thirst to see you lured him back to Berlin. I
was barbarian enough to follow him, and I swore to shoot him down
like a mad dog if he did not consent to fight. This comparison was
doubtless somewhat insulting, and he resolved at last to fight."
"Ah, he accepted the challenge!" cried Camilla, casting a sudden
glance upon Kindar; but oh, how ugly, how pitiful, how repulsive did
he now appear to her! She closed her eyes, in order not to see him.
"We rode on with our seconds and our weapons to the little village
of Bernan, on the border of Saxony; but I saw, madame, that your
cavalier had no inclination to fight this duel. Besides, I thought
of you--of your great grief if he should fall, and thus deprive you
of your pretty plaything before you had time to replace it. You know
that my heart was ever soft and compassionate. I resolved,
therefore, to be merciful to le beau cousin. Arrived on the ground,
I proposed to Kindar, instead of fighting with me, to sign a paper
which I had prepared, in which he implores my pardon and my mercy,
acknowledges himself to be an unworthy scoundrel and liar, and
solemnly swears that every accusation he brought against me in the
letter you copied was a lie--declares me to be an irreproachable
cavalier, who has been deceived and betrayed by himself and Lady
Elliot. Baron Kindar found this somewhat strongly expressed, and
preferred to fight rather than sign it."
"God be thanked!" murmured Camilla.
"Well, we were resolved to fight, and I was obliging enough to give
Kindar the first shot. He accepted this advantage readily, and I
confess he aimed well. His hand trembled, and he shot too high, just
over my head. Now it was my turn. I raised the pistol, and I swear
to you, madame, my hand did not tremble. Perhaps Kindar noticed
this--perhaps he wished to live and find a compensation in your love
for the terrible torments of the last few days. It suffices to say,
he called out to me not to shoot, as he was ready to sign the paper
confessing he was a scoundrel and a liar. He signed it kneeling at
my feet, and begging pardon. I then gave him permission to return to
Berlin. For myself, I drove to Sans-Souci, asked an audience of the
king, and obtained his consent to a divorce. You know, madame, that
I have a soft and yielding nature. I never could refuse a wish of
your heart. I therefore implored his majesty to allow of your
immediate marriage with Baron Kindar."
"Never, never, will that marriage take place!" cried Camilla,
springing from the divan and gazing with abhorrence upon Kindar.
"It will take place!" said Lord Elliot, firmly and imperiously; "you
love him, you betrayed me for his sake--he is a base coward,
despised by every man, but still you will marry him. We are
divorced, and the king commands this marriage. From this hour we are
nothing to each other--you are the betrothed of Baron von Kindar.
Allow me to give you this paper, which he signed to save his pitiful
life, as a bridal present."
He laid the paper upon the table, and bowed to Camilla, who was pale
and terrified, and whose teeth chattered as if in an ague-fit.
"Madame," said Lord Elliot, "I have the honor to bid you adieu. I
wish you a long and happy wedded life!"
Lord Elliot left the room and passed on to the apartment which had
been his own. Every thing had been removed, all the pictures taken
from the wall but one; only Camilla's portrait, taken in her bridal
dress, remained. He stood long before this lovely picture, and gazed
steadily, as if to impress every lineament upon his soul. He felt
that in taking leave of this painting he was bidding adieu to youth,
to happiness, to all the sweet illusions of life.
"Farewell!" said he, aloud--"farewell, Camilla! my bride! the dream
He took a little knife from his pocket and cut the picture in two
pieces, from the top to the bottom, then slowly descended the steps
to his carriage, in which his friend, Doctor Blitz awaited him.
"I am ready, doctor, and I beg you to give me a bed in your house
for the present. During the last ten days I have had a burning
While Lord Elliot was driving off, Camilla and le beau cousin stood
confronting each other; neither dared to break the fearful silence,
or even to look at each other.
Suddenly the door opened, and General von Saldern, the adjutant of
the king, entered the room. Camilla had not the strength to advance
to meet him; she returned his salutation by a faint inclination of
the head. The general did not appear to see Kindar, and made no
response to his profound bow.
"Madame," said the general, solemnly, "I come at the command of the
king; by his authority as king and judge, and as head of the church,
he has annulled your marriage with Lord Elliot. This was done as a
proof of his regard to Lord Elliot. Out of regard to your own
family, he insists upon your immediate marriage with Baron Kindar,
who has been dismissed from the king's service."
"No, no," cried Camilla, "I will never marry him! Leave me, sir--I
will never become the wife of this man!"
"It is his majesty's express command that you should be married
without delay," said General Saldern; "he has also commanded me to
say to you that this scandalous intrigue, insulting to morals and
good manners, should no longer be brought before the public. You are
both, therefore, banished from his court, from Potsdam and Berlin,
and commanded to take refuge at your country seat, and lead there a
solitary and quiet life. This is the only punishment he inflicts
upon you, and I have nothing more to announce. If agreeable to you,
madame, we will go at once!"
"Where?" cried Camilla, drawing back in terror from the general, who
"In the next room, madame, a priest is waiting, who, at the express
command of his majesty, will now perform the marriage ceremony."
Camilla uttered a loud shriek and fell senseless into the arms of le
beau cousin, who advanced toward her at a nod from the general. When
consciousness returned, the priest was before her and Kindar at her
side. The ceremony was performed, and the unhappy couple left Berlin
at once, never to return. The remainder of their lives was passed in
sorrow, solitude, and self-contempt.
The three days the king had allowed his brother to make up his mind
in, were past. Prince Henry had made up his mind. On the morning of
the second day, he had sent off two couriers--one to the king at
Sans-Souci, the other to his wife at Rheinsberg. He had remained in
Berlin, and had taken possession of the splendid palace opposite the
opera-house, that the king had lately built and furnished for him.
He had ordered his major-domo to prepare a handsome dinner, as he
wished to open his house by entertaining all the nobility of Berlin.
The feast was to take place the third day after the king's interview
with the prince.
The courier who left the morning before, carried a letter to
Princess Wilhelmina, requesting her in a few cold, ceremonious
words, to come to Berlin and preside at the proposed dinner and
This invitation was to the princess a command she dared not resist.
She left Rheinsberg early in the morning and arrived at the palace
an hour before dinner.
Prince Henry met his wife in the large vestibule leading to the
front building. He advanced toward her with a bright smile, passed
her arm through his, and led her, pale and trembling, up the steps,
making her observe the style of the building and the many
conveniences of their new dwelling. He spoke cheerfully, walking
slowly so as to give the followers of the princess, who were
occupied with her baggage, time to collect around her and witness
the perfect understanding between her and her husband. When they had
mounted the last step, the prince laughingly pointed to the two
halls leading from the stairway.
"Here, madame, commence our separate apartments. To you belong the
right, to me the left wing of the castle. I will pass through the
hall to the right and lead you to the apartments whose mistress you
will now become."
The princess threw a timid, inquiring glance at him. She had been so
convinced that her husband would demand a divorce, that she had
allowed her thoughts to linger upon this possible mode of escape.
Now her heart trembled within her. "Perhaps," murmured she as they
passed through the long hall--" perhaps he will murder me as the
Duke of Orleans did his wife because she loved the Count de Guiche."
She hesitated, therefore, as the prince opened a door and bade her
enter. She looked anxiously around for her followers.
"Cannot my maids accompany us?" said she, softly.
"No, madame," said the prince, roughly. "We go alone."
He drew her into the room, entered after her, then closed and locked
Princess Wilhelmina shrieked in terror, and drew away from him. "Why
do you lock the door?" said she, trembling. "Do you wish to murder
The prince laughed aloud. "Ah, you wish a tragic end to your
romance, madame," said he. "Not so, however. It will be quiet and
prosaic. You will act neither the part of a martyr nor a heroine. I
wish neither to reproach nor punish you. I leave that to God and
your conscience. I wish only to arrange with you the details of our
future life. I locked the door, as I do not wish to be disturbed."
"What are these details?" said the princess.
"We will speak of them hereafter, madame. Will you first do me the
honor to read this letter I have just received from the king in
answer to mine? Have the kindness to read it aloud."
The princess received the letter and read:
"MY DEAR BROTHER--Your letter has been a great source of consolation
to me, for it assures me that you are again a man, and have overcome
your grief. It is not your lot to be only a tender or an avenging
husband. You are, before all else, a prince and a man. Both
qualifications have duties forcing you to submit to life and to
become worthy of it. There is still much to be done in this world by
both of us, and a true man should not be turned from his path
because a foolish woman places a few thorns beneath his pillow.
Stifling his pain, he continues his road quietly. I am glad this is
also your opinion--that you have given up all thought of a public
scandal and denunciation. In relation to the princess. I give you
full power to make any and every arrangement you see fit. As to
Kalkreuth, he shall receive the place you mentioned. I have
appointed him lieutenant-general of the third army corps in Prussia.
He will leave here at once. I desire you to inform him of his
promotion. As soon as you dismiss him, send him to me at Sans-Souci.
You tell me you are about to give a feast. That pleases me right
well. It is better to stifle your pain with bright flowers and gay
music, than to tear out your hair and retire to a convent. May your
feast be a bright one, and may it last forever! FREDERICK." Princess
Wilhelmina, having finished the letter, handed it to her husband. "I
see," whispered she, softly, "that you have been noble and generous,
my husband. You shower benefits upon us instead of just anger."
"I do neither the one nor the other," said the prince, coldly; "I
simply wish to pass a peaceful life, and above all things I would
not have the world think me unhappy, for unhappy I am not nor ever
mean to be."
The princess gave a timid glance at his countenance, so at variance
with his words. The last three days had worked such a fearful
change. His cheeks were thin and pale, his brow dark and clouded--
about his mouth were deep lines of care never more to be effaced.
Princess Wilhelmina was deeply touched when she saw this change.
"My husband," said she softly, raising her hands imploringly to him,
"have pity on yourself--on me. Hear me before you decide. I feel
that I have sinned heavily against you, but I will endeavor to
expiate my sin. In looking at you and seeing how much you have
suffered, the pain that almost bursts my heart tells me how dear you
are to me. I repent--I repent, my husband. I will force my heart to
love you, and you alone. From now on, I will be a faithful wife; the
one aim of my life shall be to make you happy. Here I swear, as
before God's altar, that I will love and obey you as my husband and
master. Will you accept this heart, that comes to you full of
repentance? Henry, will you?"
She held out her hand, with a bright, beaming glance, but he did not
"No; it is too late," said he. "I raised you a temple in my heart.
You have destroyed it, and wish now to build another with the
shattered ruins. No, princess; that which the lightning has struck
must remain in ashes. I could never believe in the stability of your
building, but would be expecting it to fall daily. This temple can
never be rebuilt. I forgive, but can never more love you. We are
separated before God and our own hearts. But to the world we are
still wedded. We shall both inhabit this palace, but we shall seek
never to meet one another. On grand fete days, when etiquette
demands it, we shall dine together, but preside at separate tables.
And you must forgive me if I never address you. We are dead to one
another; and the dead do not speak. In the summer I shall live at
Rheinsberg; the king presented it to me on my marriage with you, and
I think I have paid dearly enough for it to be allowed to spend my
time there alone. You will not follow me there, but will remain in
Berlin, or travel, as it suits you. Do you accept my conditions,
"Yes, sir," said the princess, proudly. "I accept them. We will live
like two galley-slaves, bound together in chains, without one
thought or feeling in unison. You have devised a severe punishment
for me, my prince. My only fear is that I am not the only victim--
that you also suffer?"
"I told you before, that I wished to punish no one. All I seek is a
little rest--a little peace, and your presence in this palace cannot
endanger that, for you, madame, have not only annihilated my love
for you, but also the remembrance of it. And now, as you have
accepted my conditions for our future life, I have nothing more to
say than farewell, until death! Farewell, madame; may your life be a
"Farewell, prince!" murmured Wilhelmina, in a voice choked with
tears. "Farewell! and may God teach your heart to pity and forgive!"
"You will now have the kindness, madame, to arrange your toilet,
then to follow me with your court to the great reception-room. We
give to-day a splendid dinner. At this fete we will take an eternal
adieu of the past. It will be the last time we dine together.
Farewell, madame; I await you."
He bowed profoundly, then moved to the door. The princess gazed
after him breathlessly, and the tears that had long stood in her
eyes now rolled slowly down her cheeks.
When the prince had reached the threshold, she started forward,
crying in a piteous voice:
"Henry! oh, Henry!"
The prince did not turn, but opened the door and passed out of the
Fifteen minutes later, a gay crowd was assembled in the reception-
room. The prince received his guests in his usual gay, cordial
manner. But the princess was different. She was more quiet and
formal than usual. Her eyes did not sparkle; her cheeks were pale in
spite of her rouge: her voice was low and tremulous, and the smile
she called to her lip was hard and forced. A still more remarkable
change had taken place in Count Kalkreuth's appearance. He who
generally sparkled with gayety and wit, whose merry jests had been
the delight of the court--he who had been the very shadow of the
princess, her most devoted cavalier--stood now pale and speechless
at a window, gazing sadly at the prince, who was laughing and
talking with his guests, and who had passed him repeatedly without
turning his head. The courtiers, however, saw only the outward signs
of that agony that had almost distracted the count in the last four
For four days, since their last meeting in the garden of Rheinsberg,
the prince had not spoken to him. It was in vain he had written and
implored an audience. The prince returned his letters unopened. In
vain that at almost every hour during these four wretched days he
had had himself announced to the prince. Prince Henry would not
receive him. And still he felt the inevitable necessity of having an
explanation with the prince. His heart craved it as the dying man
craves the last consolations of religion. This friendship for the
prince, notwithstanding he had betrayed and wounded it, was, and had
always been to him a sort of religion; he had sinned against it in
the folly of his passion, but he had now come to his senses, and he
repented his guilt bitterly. Not a thought of the princess lingered
in his heart; it was the prince he yearned after; he must speak to
him; he must be forgiven by him. His love for him was greater than
ever. Now that he had turned from him, ho knew how much he had lost.
He had not yet given up the hope of an interview; for this, alone
had he come to the dinner. But whenever he endeavored to approach
the prince, he had turned from him and entered into earnest
conversation with some bystanders.
Now the prince stood alone at a window; now or never must the count
succeed in speaking to him. Passing through the room hastily, he
stood before Prince Henry.
"My prince," murmured the count, softly, "have pity on me. I entreat
you to listen to me for fifteen minutes!"
The prince fixed his piercing eyes upon the count's pale, agitated
countenance, but did not speak. Then passing proudly before him, he
advanced to meet Prince Frederick William, who had just arrived.
The doors of the dining-saloon were now thrown open, and the guests
approached the richly-covered table, at one end of which sat the
prince and his wife. Not far from them was Count Kalkreuth. For more
than two hours he had borne the agony of being near the prince
without being addressed by him. For two hours he had stood the
inquiring, malicious smiles and glances of the courtiers, who were
looking on with delight at his humiliation.
His martyrdom was almost over. Dinner was finished, and all awaited
a sign from the princely couple to rise from the table. Prince Henry
arose, glass in hand, and said, in a loud voice:
"And now, my guests, I have pleasant news for you; as you are all
friends of Count Kalkreuth, what is good news to him will be to you
also. His majesty has appointed him lieutenant-general of Prince
Frederick William's army corps in Prussia. The king, knowing my true
friendship for him, granted me the privilege of announcing his
promotion. I am sorry to say that through it we lose him, for his
majesty desires him, as soon as we leave the table. to hasten to
Sans-Souci to receive his commission. And now, gentlemen, fill your
glasses, we will drink to the lieutenant-general's welfare."
All arose to drink the toast except Count Kalkreuth. His head was
bent almost upon his breast, as if he were ashamed to show his pale,
agitated countenance. He would have given all he possessed to have
flown from the hall. Princess Wilhelmina sat opposite, she had not
yet looked at him, but she now threw him a glance full of
inexpressible pity, and raised her glass hastily to her lips. It was
not wine, but her own tears that she drank.
The prince now led the princess to the reception-room. He stood
beside her when Kalkreuth approached. The guests were grouped about
the room, every eye was fixed eagerly upon this trio.
Count Kalkreuth was still pale and unmanned; with tottering,
trembling steps he advanced toward the princely couple.
The prince turned laughingly to his guests, saying: "See the strange
effect of joy. It has transformed our gay and witty count. He is
stern and solemn as if, instead of an honor, he had received a
Back to Full Books