FREDERICK THE GREAT AND HIS FAMILY
Part 4 out of 16
of wife and husband. I accepted this proposal joyfully, to remain an
object of absolute indifference to you, and to regard you in the
same light. I cannot, therefore, comprehend why you now reproach
"Yes! yes! I said and did all that," said Prince Henry, pale and
trembling with emotion. "I was a madman! More than that, I was a
blasphemer! Love is as God--holy, invisible, and eternal; and he who
does not believe in her immortality, her omnipresence, is like the
heathen, who has faith only in his gods of wood and stone, and whose
dull eyes cannot behold the invisible glory of the Godhead. My heart
had at that time received its first wound, and because it bled and
pained me fearfully, I believed it to be dead, and I covered it up
with bitter and cruel remembrances, as in an iron coffin, from which
all escape was impossible. An angel drew near, and laid her soft,
fine hand upon my coffin, my wounds were healed, my youth revived,
and I dared hope in happiness and a future. At first, I would not
confess this to myself. At first, I thought to smother this new
birth of my heart in the mourning veil of my past experience; but my
heart was like a giant in his first manhood, and cast off all
restraint; like Hercules in his cradle, he strangled the serpents
which were hissing around him. It was indeed a painful happiness to
know that I had again a heart, that I was capable of feeling the
rapture and the pain, the longing, the hopes and fears, the
enthusiasm and exaltation, the doubt and the despair which make the
passion of love, and I have to thank you, Wilhelmina--you alone,
you, my wife, for this new birth. You turn away your head,
Wilhelmina! You smile derisively! It is true I have not the right to
call you my wife. You are free to spurn me from you, to banish me
forever into that cold, desert region to which I fled in the madness
and blindness of my despair. But think well, princess; if you do
this, you cast a shadow over my life. It is my whole future which I
lay at your feet, a future for which fate perhaps intends great
duties and greater deeds. I cannot fulfil these duties, I can
perform no heroic deed, unless you, princess, grant me the blessing
of happiness. I shall be a silent, unknown, and useless prince, the
sad and pitiful hanger-on of a throne, despised and unloved, a
burden only to my people, unless you give freedom and strength to my
sick soul, which lies a prisoner at your feet. Wilhelmina, put an
end to the tortures of the last few months, release me from the
curse which binds my whole life in chains; speak but one word, and I
shall have strength to govern the world, and prove to you that I am
worthy of you. I will force the stars from heaven, and place them as
a diadem upon your brow. Say only that you will try to love me, and
I will thank you for happiness and fame."
Prince Henry was so filled with his passion and enthusiasm, that he
did not remark the deadly pallor of Wilhelmina's face--that he did
not see the look of anguish and horror with which her eyes rested
for one moment upon him, then shrank blushingly and ashamed upon the
floor. He seized her cold, nerveless hands, and pressed them to his
heart; she submitted quietly. She seemed turned to stone.
"Be merciful, Wilhelmina; say that you forgive me--that you will try
to love me."
The princess shuddered, and glanced up at him. "I must say that,"
murmured she, "and you have not once said that you love me."
The prince shouted with rapture, and, falling upon his knees, he
exclaimed, "I love you! I adore you! I want nothing, will accept
nothing, but you alone; you are my love, my hope, my future.
Wilhelmina, if you do not intend me to die at your feet, say that
you do not spurn me--open your arms and clasp me to your heart."
The princess stood immovable for a moment, trembling and swaying
from side to side; her lips opened as if to utter a wild, mad cry--
pain was written on every feature. The prince saw nothing of this--
his lips were pressed upon her hand, and he did not look up--he did
not see his wife press her pale lips tightly together to force back
her cries of despair--he did not see that her eyes were raised in
unspeakable agony to heaven.
The battle was over; the princess bowed over her husband, and her
hands softly raised him from his knees. "Stand up, prince--I dare
not see you lying at my feet. You have a right to my love--you are
Prince Henry clasped her closely, passionately in his arms.
THE FETE IN THE WOODS.
No fete was ever brighter and gayer than that of Rheinsberg. It is
true, the courtly circle waited a long time before the beginning of
their merry sports. Hours passed before the princely pair joined
their guests in the music-saloon.
The sun of royalty came at last, shedding light and gladness. Never
had the princess looked more beautiful--more rosy. She seemed,
indeed, to blush at the consciousness of her own attractions. Never
had Prince Henry appeared so happy, so triumphant, as to-day. His
flashing eyes seemed to challenge the whole world to compete with
his happiness; joy and hope danced in his eyes; never had he given
so gracious, so kindly a greeting to every guest, as to-day.
The whole assembly was bright and animated and gave themselves up
heartily to the beautiful idyl for which they had met together under
the shadow of the noble trees in the fragrant woods of Rheinsberg.
No gayer, lovelier shepherds and shepherdesses were ever seen in
Arcadia, than those of Rheinsberg to-day. They laughed, and jested,
and performed little comedies, and rejoiced in the innocent sports
of the happy moment. Here wandered a shepherd and his shepherdess,
chatting merrily; there, under the shadow of a mighty oak, lay a
forlorn shepherd singing, accompanied by his zitter, a love-lorn
ditty to his cruel shepherdess, who was leading two white lambs
decked with ribbons, in a meadow near by, and replied to his tender
pleading with mocking irony. Upon the little lake, in the
neighborhood of which they had assembled, the snow-white swans swam
majestically to and fro. The lovely shepherdesses stood upon the
borders and enticed the swans around them, and laughed derisively at
the shepherds who had embarked in the little boats, and were now
driven sportively back in every direction, and could find no place
Prince Henry loved this sort of fete, and often gave such at
Rheinsberg, but never had he seemed to enjoy himself so thoroughly
as to-day. His guests generally sympathized in his happiness, but
there was one who looked upon his joyous face with bitterness. This
was Louise du Trouffle, once Louise von Kleist, once the beloved of
She was married, and her handsome, amiable, and intelligent husband
was ever by her side; but the old wounds still burned, and her pride
bled at the contempt of the prince. She knew he was ignorant of the
great sacrifice she had been forced to make--that he despised, in
place of admiring and pitying her.
The prince, in order to show his utter indifference, had invited her
husband and herself to court. In the pride of his sick and wounded
heart, he resolved to convince the world that the beautiful Louise
von Kleist had not scorned and rejected his love. In her presence he
resolved to show his young wife the most lover-like attentions, and
prove to his false mistress that he neither sought nor fled from
her--that he had utterly forgotten her.
But Louise was not deceived by this acting. She understood him
thoroughly, and knew better than the prince himself, that his
indifference was assumed, and his contempt and scorn was a veil
thrown over his betrayed and quivering heart to conceal his
sufferings from her. Louise had the courage to accept Prince Henry's
invitations, and to take part in all the festivities with which he
ostentatiously celebrated his happiness. She had the courage to
receive his cutting coldness, his cruel sarcasm, his contempt, with
calm composure and sweet submission. With the smile of a stoic, she
offered her defenceless breast to his poisoned arrows, and even the
tortures she endured were precious in her sight. She was convinced
that the prince had not relinquished or forgotten her--that his
indifference and contempt was assumed to hide his living, breathing
love. For some time past the change in the manners and bearing of
the prince had not escaped the sharp, searching glance of the
experienced coquette. For a long time he appeared not to see her--
now she felt that he did not see her. He had been wont to say the
most indifferent things to her in a fierce, excited tone--now he was
self-possessed, and spoke to her softly and kindly.
"The wound has healed," said Louise du Trouffle to herself. "He no
longer scorns because he no longer loves me." But she did not know
that he had not only ceased to love her, but loved another
passionately. This suspicion was excited, however, for the first
time to-day. In the flashing eye, the glad smile, the proud glance
which he fixed upon his fair young wife, Louise discovered that
Henry had buried the old love and a new one had risen from its
ashes. This knowledge tortured her heart in a wild storm of
jealousy. She forgot all considerations of prudence, all fear, even
of the king. She had been compelled to relinquish the hand of the
prince, but she would not lose him wholly. Perhaps he would return
to her when he knew what a fearful offering she had made to him. He
would recognize her innocence, and mourn over the tortures he had
inflicted during the last year. She would try this! She would play
her last trump, and dare all with the hope of winning.
There stood the prince under the shadow of a large tree, gazing
dreamily at his wife, who, with other shepherdesses, and her
shepherd, Count Kalkreuth, was feeding the swans on the border of
the lake. The prince was alone, and Louise rashly resolved to
approach him. He greeted her with a slight nod, and turning his eyes
again upon his wife, he said, carelessly, "Are you also here, Madame
"Your royal highness did me the honor to invite me--I am accustomed
to obey your wishes, and I am here."
"That is kind," said the prince, abstractedly, still glancing at the
Louise sighed deeply, and stepping nearer, she said, "Are you still
angry with me, my prince? Have you never forgiven me?"
"What?" said the prince, quietly; "I do not remember that I have any
thing to forgive."
"Ah, I see! you despise me still," said Louise, excitedly; "but I
will bear this no longer! I will no longer creep about like a
culprit, burdened with your curse and your scorn. You shall at least
know what it cost me to earn your contempt--what a tearful sacrifice
I was compelled to make to secure your supposed personal happiness.
I gave up for you the happiness of my life, but I can and will no
longer fill a place of shame in your memory. If, from time to time,
your highness thinks of me, you shall do me justice!"
"I think no longer of you in anger," said the prince, smiling. "That
sorrow has long since passed away."
"From your heart, prince, but not from mine! My heart bleeds, and
will bleed eternally! You must not only forgive--you must do me
justice. Listen, then: and so truly as there is a God above us, I
will speak the truth. I did not betray you--I was not faithless. My
heart and my soul I laid gladly at your feet, and thanked God for
the fulness of my happiness. My thoughts, my existence, my future,
was chained to you. I had no other will, no other wish, no other
hope. I was your slave--I wanted nothing but your love."
"Ah, and then came this Monsieur du Trouffle, and broke your
fetters--gave your heart liberty and wings for a new flight," said
"No, then came the king and commanded me to give you up," murmured
Louise; "then came the king, and forced me to offer up myself and my
great love to your future welfare. Oh, my prince! recall that
terrible hour in which we separated. I said to you that I had
betrothed myself to Captain du Trouffle--that of my own free choice,
and influenced by love alone, I gave myself to him."
"I remember that hour."
"Well, then, in that hour we were not alone. The king was concealed
behind the portiere, and listened to my words. He dictated them!--he
threatened me with destruction if I betrayed his presence by look or
word; if I gave you reason to suspect that I did not, of my own
choice and lovingly, give myself to this unloved, yes, this hated
man! I yielded only after the most fearful contest with the king, to
whom, upon my knees and bathed in tears, I pleaded for pity."
"What means could the king use, what threats could he utter, which
forced you to such a step?" said the prince, incredulously. "Did he
threaten you with death if you did not obey? When one truly loves,
death has no terrors! Did he say he would murder me if you did not
release me? You knew I had a strong arm and a stronger will; you
should have trusted both. You placed your fate in my hands; you
should have obeyed no other commands than mine. And now shall I
speak the whole truth? I do not believe in this sacrifice on your
part; it would have required more than mortal strength, and it would
have been cruel in the extreme. You saw what I suffered. My heart
was torn with anguish! No, madame, no; you did not make this
sacrifice, or, if you did, you loved me not. If you had loved me,
you could not have seen me suffer so cruelly, you would have told
the truth, even in the presence of the king. No earthly power can
control true love; she is self-sustained and makes her own laws. No!
no! I do not believe in this offering; and you make this excuse
either to heal my sick heart, or because your pride is mortified at
my want of consideration; you wish to recover my good opinion."
"Alas! alas! he does not believe me," cried Louise.
"No, I do not believe you," said the prince, kindly; "and yet you
must not think that I am still angry. I not only forgive, but I
thank you. It is to you, indeed, Louise, that I owe my present
happiness, all those noble and pure joys which a true love bestows.
I thank you for this--you and the king. It was wise in the king to
deny me that which I then thought essential to my happiness, but
which would, at last, have brought us both to shame and to despair.
The love, which must shun the light of day and hide itself in
obscurity, pales, and withers, and dies. Happy love must have the
sunlight of heaven and God's blessing upon it! All this failed in
our case, and it was a blessing for us both that you saw it clearly,
and resigned a doubtful happiness at my side for surer peace with
Monsieur du Trouffle. From my soul I thank you, Louise. See what a
costly treasure has bloomed for me from the grave of my betrayed
love. Look at that lovely young woman who, although disguised as a
shepherdess, stands out in the midst of all other women, an imperial
queen! a queen of beauty, grace, and fascination! This charming,
innocent, and modest young woman belongs to me; she is my wife; and
I have your inconstancy to thank you for this rare gem. Oh, madame,
I have indeed reason to forgive you for the past, to be grateful to
you as long as I live. But for you I should never have married the
Princess Wilhelmina. What no menaces, no entreaties, no commands of
the king could accomplish, your faithlessness effected. I married!
God, in his goodness, chose you to be a mediator between me and my
fate; it was His will that, from your hand, I should receive my
life's blessing. You cured me of a wandering and unworthy passion,
that I might feel the truth and enjoy the blessing of a pure love,
and a love which now fills my heart and soul, my thoughts, my
existence for my darling wife."
"Ah, you are very cruel," said Louise, scarcely able to suppress her
tears of rage.
"I am only true, madame," said the prince, smiling. "You wished to
know of me if I were still angry with you, and I reply that I have
not only forgiven, but I bless your inconstancy. And now, I pray you
let us end this conversation, which I will never renew. Let the past
die and be buried! We have both of us commenced a new life under the
sunshine of a new love; we will not allow any cloud of remembrances
to cast a shadow upon it. Look, the beautiful shepherdesses are
seeking flowers in the meadows, and my wife stands alone upon the
borders of the lake. Allow me to join her, if only to see if the
clear waters of the lake reflect back her image as lovely and
enchanting as the reality."
The prince bowed, and with hasty steps took the path that led to the
Louise looked at him scornfully. "He despises me and he loves her
fondly; but she--does the princess love him?--not so! her glance is
cold, icy, when she looks upon him; and to-day I saw her turn pale
as the prince approached her. No, she loves him not; but who then--
who? she is young, ardent, and, it appears to me, impressible; she
cannot live without love. I will find out; a day will come when I
will take vengeance for this hour. I await that day!"
While Louise forced herself to appear gay, in order to meet her
husband without embarrassment, and the prince walked hastily onward,
the princess stood separated from her ladies, on the borders of the
lake, with the Count Kalkreuth at her side. The count had been
appointed her cavalier for the day, by the prince her husband; she
seemed to give her undivided attention to the swans, who were
floating before her, and stretching out their graceful necks to
receive food from her hands. As she bowed down to feed the swans,
she whispered lightly, "Listen, count, to what I have to say to you.
If possible, laugh merrily, that my ladies may hear; let your
countenance be gay, for I see the prince approaching. In ten minutes
he will be with us; do you understand my low tones?"
"I understand you, princess; alas! I fear I understand without
words; I have read my sentence in the eyes of your husband. The
prince suspects me."
"No," said she, sadly bowing down and plucking a few violets, which
she threw to the swans; "he has no suspicion, but he loves me."
The count sprang back as if wounded. "He loves you!" he cried, in a
loud, almost threatening tone. "For pity's sake speak low," said the
princess. "Look, the ladies turn toward us, and are listening
curiously, and you have frightened the swans from the shore. Laugh,
I pray you; speak a few loud and jesting words, count, I implore
"I cannot," said the count. "Command me to throw myself into the
lake and I will obey you joyfully, and in dying I will call your
name and bless it; but do not ask me to smile when you tell me that
the prince loves you."
"Yes, he loves me; he confessed it to-day," said the princess,
shuddering. "Oh, it was a moment of inexpressible horror; a moment
in which that became a sin which, until then, had been pure and
innocent. So long as my husband did not love me, or ask my love, I
was free to bestow it where I would and when I would; so soon as he
loves me, and demands my love, I am a culprit if I refuse it."
"And I false to my friend," murmured Kalkreuth.
"We must instantly separate," whispered she. "We must bury our love
out of our sight, which until now has lived purely and modestly in
our hearts, and this must be its funeral procession. You see I have
already begun to deck the grave with flowers, and that tears are
consecrating them." She pointed with her jewelled hand to the
bouquet of white camelias which adorned her bosom.
"It was cruel not to wear my flowers," said the count. "Was it not
enough to crush me?--must you also trample my poor flowers,
consecrated with my kisses and my whispers, under your feet?"
"The red roses which you gave me," said she, lightly, "I will keep
as a remembrance of the beautiful and glorious dream which the rude
reality of life has dissipated. These camelias are superb, but
without fragrance, and colorless as my sad features. I must wear
them, for my husband gave them to me, and in so doing I decorate the
grave of my love. Farewell!--hereafter I will live for my duties; as
I cannot accept your love, I will merit your highest respect.
Farewell, and if from this time onward we are cold and strange,
never forget that our souls belong to each other, and when I dare no
longer think of the past, I will pray for you."
"You never loved me," whispered the count, with pallid, trembling
lips, "or you could not give me up so rashly; you would not have the
cruel courage to spurn me from you. You are weary of me, and since
the prince loves you, you despise the poor humble heart which laid
itself at your feet. Yes, yes, I cannot compete with this man, who
is a prince and the brother of a king; who--"
"Who is my husband," cried she, proudly, "and who, while he loves
me, dares ask that I shall accept his love."
"Ah, now you are angry with me," stammered the count; "you--"
"Hush!" whispered she, "do you not see the prince? Do laugh! Bow
down and give the swans these flowers!"
The count took the flowers, and as he gave them to the swans, he
"Give me at least a sign that you are not angry, and that you do not
love the prince. Throw this hated bouquet, which has taken the place
of mine, into the water; it is like a poisoned arrow in my heart."
"Hush!" whispered the princess. She turned and gave the prince a
Prince Henry was so happy in her presence, and so dazzled by her
beauty, that he did not remark the melancholy of the count, and
spoke with him gayly and jestingly, while the count mastered
himself, and replied in the same spirit.
The princess bowed down to the swans, whom she enticed once more
with caresses to the borders of the lake. Suddenly she uttered a
loud cry, and called to the two gentlemen for help. The great white
swan had torn the camelias from the bosom of the princess, and
sailed off proudly upon the clear waters of the lake.
While Prince Henry celebrated Arcadian fetes at Rheinsberg, and gave
himself up to love and joy, King Frederick lived in philosophic
retirement at Sans-Souci. He came to Berlin only to visit the queen-
mother, now dangerously ill, or to attend the meetings of his
cabinet ministers. Never had the king lived so quietly, never had he
received so few guests at Sans-Souci, and, above all, never had the
world so little cause to speak of the King of Prussia. He appeared
content with the laurels which the two Silesian wars had placed upon
his heroic brow, and he only indulged the wish that Europe,
exhausted by her long and varied wars, would allow him that rest and
peace which the world at large seemed to enjoy. Those who were
honored with invitations to Sans-Souci, and had opportunities to see
the king, could only speak of that earthly paradise; of the peaceful
stillness which reigned there, and which was reflected in every
countenance; of Frederick's calm cheerfulness and innocent
"The king thinks no more of politics," said the frolicsome
Berliners; "he is absorbed in the arts and sciences, and, above all
other things, he lives to promote the peaceful prosperity of his
people." The balance of power and foreign relations troubled him no
longer; he wished for no conquests, and thought not of war. In the
morning he was occupied with scientific works, wrote in his
"Histoire de mon Temps," or to his friends, and took part in the
daily-recurring duties of the government. The remainder of the day
was passed in the garden of Sans-Souci, in pleasant walks and
animated conversation, closing always with music. Concerts took
place every evening in the apartments of the king, in which he took
part, and he practised difficult pieces of his own or Quantz's
composition, under Quantz's direction. From time to time he was much
occupied with his picture-gallery, and sent Gotzkowsky to Italy to
purchase the paintings of the celebrated masters.
King Frederick appeared to have reached his goal; at least, that
which, during the storm of war, he had often called his ideal; he
could devote his life to philosophy and art in the enchanting
retirement of his beloved Sans-Souci. The tumult and discord of the
world did not trouble him; in fact, the whole world seemed to be at
peace, and all Europe was glad and happy.
Maria Theresa was completely bound by the last peace contract at
Dresden; besides, the two Silesian wars had weakened and
impoverished Austria, and time was necessary to heal her wounds
before she dared make a new attempt to reconquer the noble jewel of
Silesia, which Frederick had torn from her crown. Notwithstanding
her pious and Christian pretensions, she hated Frederick with her
England had allied herself with Russia. France was at the moment too
much occupied with the pageants which the lovely Marquise de
Pompadour celebrated at Versailles, not to be in peace and harmony
with all the world; yes, even with her natural enemy, Austria. Count
Kaunitz, her ambassador at Paris, had, by his wise and adroit
conduct, banished the cloud of mistrust which had so long lowered
between these two powers.
This was the state of things at the close of the year 1775. Then was
the general quiet interrupted by the distant echo of a cannon.
Europe was startled, and rose up from her comfortable siesta to
listen and inquire after the cause of this significant thunderbolt.
This roar of cannon, whose echo only had been heard, had its birth
far, far away in America. The cannon, however, had been fired by a
European power--by England, always distinguished for her calculating
selfishness, which she wished the world to consider praiseworthy and
honorable policy. England considered her mercantile interests in
America endangered by France, and she thirsted with desire to have
not only an East India but a West India company. The French colonies
in America had long excited the envy and covetousness of England,
and as a sufficient cause for war had utterly failed, she was bold
enough to take the initiative without excuse!
In the midst of a general peace, and without any declaration of war,
she seized upon a country lying on the borders of the Ohio River,
and belonging to French Canada, made an attack upon some hundred
merchant-ships, which were navigating the Ohio, under the protection
of the ships-of-war, and took them as prizes. [Footnote:
"Characteristics of the Important Events of the Seven Years' War,"
That was the cannon-shot which roused all Europe from her
comfortable slumber and dreamy rest.
The Empress of Austria began to make warlike preparations in
Bohemia, and to assemble her troops on the borders of Saxony and
Bohemia. The Empress of Russia discontinued instantaneously her
luxurious feasts and wild orgies, armed her soldiers, and placed
them on the borders of Courland. She formed an immediate alliance
with England, by which she bound herself to protect the territory of
George II. in Germany, if attacked by France, in retaliation for the
French merchant-ships taken by England on the Ohio River. Hanover,
however, was excepted, as Frederick of Prussia might possibly give
her his aid. For this promised aid, Russia received from England the
sum of 150,000 pounds sterling, which was truly welcome to the
powerful Bestuchef, from, the extravagant and pomp-loving minister
of the queen.
Saxony also prepared for war, and placed her army on the borders of
Prussia, for which she received a subsidy from Austria. This was as
gladly welcomed by Count Bruhl, the luxurious minister of King
Augustus the Third of Poland and Saxony, as the English subsidy was
The King of France appeared to stand alone; even as completely alone
as Frederick of Prussia. Every eye therefore was naturally fixed
upon these two powers, who seemed thus forced by fate to extend the
hand of fellowship to each other, and form such an alliance as
England had done with Russia, and Austria with Saxony.
This contract between Prussia and France would have been the signal
for a general war, for which all the powers of Europe were now
arming themselves. But France did not extend her hand soon enough to
obtain the friendship of Prussia. France distrusted Prussia, even as
Austria, England, Russia, and Saxony distrusted and feared the
adroit young adventurer, who in the last fifty years had placed
himself firmly amongst the great powers of Europe, and was bold,
brave, and wise enough to hold a powerful and self-sustained
position in their circle.
France--that is to say, Louis the Fifteenth--France--that is to say,
the Marquise de Pompadour, hated the King of Prussia manfully. By
his bold wit he had often brought the French court and its
immoralities into ridicule and contempt.
Austria and her minister Kaunitz and Maria Theresa hated Frederick
of Prussia, because of his conquest of Silesia.
Russia--that is to say, Elizabeth and Bestuchef--hated the King of
Prussia for the same reason with France. Frederick's cutting wit had
scourged the manners of the Russian court, as it had humiliated and
exposed the court of France.
Saxony--that is to say, Augustus the Third, and his minister, Count
Bruhl--hated Frederick from instinct, from envy, from resentment.
This insignificant and small neighbor had spread her wings and made
so bold a flight, that Saxony was completely over-shadowed.
England hated no one, but she feared Prussia and France, and this
fear led her to master the old-rooted national hatred to Russia, and
form an alliance with her for mutual protection. But the English
people did not share the fears of their king; they murmured over
this Russian ally, and this discontent, which found expression in
Parliament, rang so loudly, that Frederick might well have heard it,
and formed his own conclusions as to the result. But did he hear it?
Was the sound of his flute so loud? Was his study hermetically
sealed, so that no echo from the outside world could reach his ears?
There was no interruption to his quiet, peaceful life; he hated
nobody, made no warlike preparations; his soldiers exercised no more
than formerly. Truly they exercised; and at the first call to
battle, 150,000 men would be under arms.
But Frederick seemed not inclined to give this call; not inclined to
exchange the calm pleasures of Sans-Souci for the rude noises of
tents and battle-fields. He seemed to be in peaceful harmony with
all nations. He was particularly friendly and conciliating toward
the Austrian embassy; and not only was the ambassador, Count Peubla
invited often to the royal table, but his secretary, Baron
Weingarten. came also to Potsdam and Sans-Souci. The king appeared
attached to him, and encouraged him to come often, to walk in the
Frederick was gracious and kind toward the officials of all the
German powers. On one occasion, when the wife of Councillor
Reichart, attached to the Saxon embassy, was confined, at
Frederick's earnest wish, his private secretary, Eichel, stood as
god-father to the child. [Footnote: "Characteristics of the
Important Events of the Seven Years' War."]
In order to promote good feeling in Saxony, the king sent Count
Mattzahn, one of the most eloquent cavaliers of the day, to the
Dresden court; and so well supplied was he, that he dared compete in
pomp and splendor with Count Bruhl.
Frederick appeared to attach special importance to the friendship of
Saxony, and with none of his foreign ambassadors was he engaged in
so active a correspondence as with Mattzahn. It was said that these
letters were of a harmless and innocent nature, relating wholly to
paintings, which the count was to purchase from the Saxon galleries,
or to music, which Frederick wished to obtain from amongst the
collection of the dead Hesse, or to an Italian singer Frederick
wished to entice to Berlin.
The world no longer favored Frederick's retirement. The less
disposed he was to mingle in politics, the more Maria Theresa,
Elizabeth of Russia, Augustus of Saxony, and the Marquise de
Pompadour agitated the subject.
France had not forgotten that the contract between herself and
Prussia was about to expire. She knew also that the subsidy money
between England and Russia had not yet been voted by Parliament. It
was therefore possible to reap some advantages from this point. With
this view, France sent the Duke de Nivernois as special ambassador
to Berlin, to treat with the king as to the renewal of the old
The Duke de Nivernois came with a glittering suite to Berlin, and
was received at the Prussian court with all the consideration which
his rank and official character demanded. The grand master of
ceremonies, Baron von Pollnitz, was sent forward to meet him, and to
invite him, in the name of the king, to occupy one of the royal
palaces in Berlin.
Every room of the palace was splendidly decorated for the reception
of the duke, and as soon as he arrived, two guards were placed
before the house--a mark of consideration which the king had only
heretofore given to reigning princes.
The duke accepted these distinguished attentions with lively
gratitude, and pleaded for an immediate audience, in order to
present his credentials.
Pollnitz was commissioned to make all necessary arrangements, and
agree with the duke as to the day and hour of the ceremony.
The king, who wished to give the French duke a proof of his
consideration, intended that the presentation should be as imposing
as possible, and all Berlin was to be witness of the friendship
existing between the French and Prussian courts.
Upon the appointed day, a dazzling assemblage of equipages stood
before the palace of the Duke de Nivernois. These were the royal
festal carriages, intended for the members of the French embassy.
Then followed a long line of carriages, occupied by the
distinguished members of the Prussian court. Slowly and solemnly
this pompous procession moved through the streets, and was received
at the portal of the king's palace by the royal guard. Richly-
dressed pages, in advance of whom stood the grand master of
ceremonies with his golden staff, conducted the French ambassador to
the White saloon, where the king, in all his royal pomp, and
surrounded by the princes of his house, received him.
The solemn ceremony began; the duke drew near the throne, and,
bowing his knee, handed his credentials to the king, who received
them with a gracious smile.
The duke commenced his address; it was filled with flowery phrases,
suited to the great occasion. Frederick listened with the most
earnest attention, and his reply was kind, but dignified and
The public ceremony was over, and now came the important part of the
audience, the confidential conversation. To this point the duke had
looked with lively impatience; for this, indeed, had he been sent to
The king descended from the throne, and laying aside all the
solemnity of court etiquette, he approached the duke in the most
gracious and genial manner, welcomed him heartily, and expressed his
sincere delight at his arrival.
"Ah, sire," said the duke, with animation, "how happy will my king
be to learn that his ambassador has been so graciously received by
The king smiled. "I thought the ceremony was all over," said he,
"and that I no longer spoke with the ambassador, but with the Duke
de Nivernois, whom I know and love, and whose intellectual
conversation will afford me a rare pleasure. Let us, therefore, chat
together innocently, and forget the stiff ceremonies with which, I
think, we have both been sufficiently burdened today. Tell me
something of Paris, monsieur, of that lovely, enchanting, but
overbold coquette, Paris, whom the world adores while it ridicules,
and imitates while it blames."
"Ah, sire, if I must speak of Paris, I must first tell you of my
king--of my king, who wishes nothing more ardently than the renewal
of the bond of friendship between your majesty and himself, and the
assurance of its long continuance, who--"
"That is most kind of his majesty," said Frederick, interrupting
him, "and I certainly share the friendly wishes of my exalted
brother of France. But tell me now something of your learned men.
How goes it with the Academy? Do they still refuse Voltaire a seat,
while so many unknown men have become academicians?"
"Yes, sire these academicians are obstinate in their conclusions,
and, as the Academy is a sort of republic, the king has no power to
control them If that were not so, my exalted master, King Louis, in
order to be agreeable to your majesty, would exert all his
"Ah, sir," interrupted the king, "it is just and beautiful that the
Academy is a free republic, which will not yield to the power and
influence of the king. Art and science need for their blossom and
growth freedom of thought and speech. Fate ordained that I should be
born a king, but when alone in my study, alone with my books, I am
fully content to be republican in the kingdom of letters. I confess
the truth to you when, as a wise republican, I read thoughtfully in
the pages of history, I sometimes come to the conclusion that kings
and princes are unnecessary articles of luxury, and I shrug my
shoulders at them rather contemptuously."
"And yet, sire, the arts need the protection of princes; that the
republic of letters blooms and flourishes in a monarchy is shown in
Prussia, where a royal republican and a republican king governs his
people, and at the same time gives freedom of thought and speech to
science. France should be proud and happy that your majesty has
adopted so many of her sons into your republic of letters; we dare,
therefore, come to the conclusion that your majesty will not confine
your interest wholly to them, but that this alliance between France
and Prussia, which my king so earnestly desires and--"
"Unhappily," said the king, interrupting him eagerly, "the
distinguished Frenchmen who have become my allies, are exactly those
whom their strong-minded, fanatical mother, La France, has cast out
from her bosom as dishonored sons. Voltaire lives in Ferney. Jean
Jacques Rousseau, whom I admire but do not love, lives in Geneva,
where he has been obliged to take refuge. I have also been told that
the pension which, in a favorable moment, was granted to D'Alembert,
has been withdrawn. Have I been falsely informed? has my friend
D'Alembert not fallen into disgrace? is not my friend the
encyclopaedian, regarded as a transgressor, and a high traitor
because he uses the undoubted right of free thought, does not
blindly believe, but looks abroad with open eyes and a clear
The duke replied by a few confused and disconnected words, and a
shadow fell upon his clear countenance; three times had Frederick
interrupted him when he sought to speak of the King of France and
his friendship for his brother of Prussia. The duke did not dare
choose this theme for the fourth time, which was so evidently
distasteful to the king; he must, therefore, submit and follow the
lead of his majesty, and in lieu of alliances and state questions
discuss philosophy and the arts. So soon as the duke came to this
conclusion, he smoothed his brow, and, with all his amiability,
animation, and intelligence, he replied to the questions of the
king, and the conversation was carried on in an unbroken stream of
wit and gayety.
"At the next audience I will surely find an opportunity to speak of
politics," said the duke to himself. "The king cannot always be an
immovable as to-day."
But the second and the third audience came, and the king was as
inexplicable as the first time; he conversed with the duke kindly
and freely showed him the most marked attention and personal
confidence; but so often as the duke sought to introduce the subject
of politics and the public interests which had brought him to
Berlin, the king interrupted him and led the conversation to
indifferent subjects. This lasted two weeks, and the French court
looked with painful anxiety for intelligence from the Duke de
Nivernois that the old alliance was renewed and fully ratified, and
she had, therefore, nothing to fear from Prussia. This uncertainty
was no longer to be borne, and the duke determined to end it by a
He wrote, therefore, to the king, and asked for a private audience.
To his great joy his request was granted; the king invited him to
come the next day to Sans-Souci.
"At last! at last!" said the duke, drawing a long breath; and with
proud, French assurance, he added, "To-morrow, then, we will renew
this contract which binds the hands of Prussia, and gives France
liberty of action."
THE PRIVATE AUDIENCE.
The king received the French ambassador without ceremony. There were
no guards, no pages, no swarms of curious listening courtiers, only
a few of his trusty friends, who welcomed the duke and conversed
with him, while Pollnitz entered the adjoining room and informed the
king of his arrival.
"His majesty entreats the duke to enter." said Pollnitz, opening the
door of the library. The king advanced. He was dressed simply; even
the golden star, which was seldom absent from his coat, was now
"Come, duke," said the king, pleasantly, "come into my tusculum." He
then entered the library, quickly followed by the duke.
"Well, sir," said the king, "we are now in that room in which I
lately told you I was but a republican. You have crossed the
threshold of the republic of letters!"
"But I see a king before me," said the duke, bowing reverentially;
"a king who has vanquished his republic, and surpassed all the great
spirits that have gone before him."
The king's glance rested upon the shelves filled with books, on
whose back glittered in golden letters the most distinguished names
of all ages.
"Homer, Tacitus, Livy, Petrarch!--ye great spirits of my republic!
hear how this traitor slanders you."
"How I honor you, sire, for truly it is a great honor to be subdued
and vanquished by such a king as Frederick the Second."
The king looked at him fixedly. "You wish to bewilder me with
flattery, duke," said he, "well knowing that it is a sweet opiate,
acceptable to princes, generally causing their ruin. But in this
chamber, duke, I am safe from this danger, and here in my republic
we will both enjoy the Spartan soup of truth. Believe me, sir, it is
at times a wholesome dish, though to the pampered stomach it is
bitter and distasteful. I can digest it, and as you have come to
visit me, you will have to partake of it."
"And I crave it, sire--crave it as a man who has fasted for two
"For two weeks?" said the king, laughing. "Ah, it is true you have
been here just that time."
"For two long weeks has your majesty kept me fasting and longing for
this precious soup," said the duke, reproachfully.
"My broth was not ready," said the king, gayly; "it was still
bubbling in the pot. It is now done, and we will consume it
together. Let us be seated, duke."
If Frederick had turned at this moment, he would have seen the grand
chamberlain Pollnitz advancing on tiptoe to the open door, in order
to listen to the conversation. But the king was looking earnestly at
the ambassador. After a few moments of silence, he turned to the
"Is my soup still too hot for you?" said he, laughingly.
"No, sire," said the duke, bowing. "But I waited for your majesty to
take the first spoonful. Would it not be better to close that door?"
"No," said the king, hastily; "I left it open, intentionally, so
that your eyes, when wearied with the gloom of my republic, could
refresh themselves on the glittering costumes of my courtiers."
"He left it open," thought the duke, "for these courtiers to hear
all that is said. He wishes the whole world to know how he rejected
the friendship of France."
"Well," said the king, "I will take my spoonful. We will commence
without further delay. Duke de Nivernois, you are here because the
contract made between France and Prussia is at an end, and because
France wishes me to fancy that she is anxious for a renewal of this
treaty, and for the friendship of Prussia."
"France wishes to convince you of this, sire," said the duke.
"Convince me?" said the king, ironically. "And how?"
"King Louis of France not only proposes to renew this contract, she,
who he wishes to draw the bonds of friendship much closer between
France and Prussia."
"And to what end?" said the king. "For you well know, duke, that in
politics personal inclinations must not be considered. Were it not
so, I would, without further delay, grasp the friendly hand that my
brother of France extends toward me, for the whole world knows that
I love France, and am proud of the friendship of her great spirits.
But as, unfortunately, there is no talk here of personal
inclinations but of politics, I repeat my question. To what end does
France desire the friendship of Prussia? What am I to pay for it?
You see, duke, I am a bad diplomatist--I make no digression, but go
to the point at once."
"And that, perhaps, is the nicest diplomacy," said the duke,
"But, duke, do tell me, why is France so anxious for the friendship
"To have an ally in you and be your ally. By the first, France will
have a trusty and powerful friend in Germany when her lands are
attacked by the King of England; by the last, your majesty will have
a trusty and powerful friend when Prussia is attacked by Russia or
"We will now speak of the first," said the king, quietly. "France,
then, thinks to transplant this war with England to German ground?"
"Everywhere, sire, that the English colors predominate. England
alone will be accountable for this war."
"It is true England has been hard upon you, but still it seems to me
you have revenged yourselves sufficiently. When England made herself
supreme ruler of the Ohio, France, by the conquest of the Isle of
Minorca, obtained dominion over the Mediterranean Sea, thereby
wounding England so deeply, that in her despair she turned her
weapons against herself. Admiral Byng, having been overcome by your
admiral Marquis de la Gallissionaire, paid for it with his life. I
think France should be satisfied with this expiation."
"France will wash off her insults in English blood, and Minorca is
no compensation for Canada and Ohio. England owes us satisfaction,
and we will obtain it in Hanover."
"In Hanover?" repeated the king, angrily.
"Hanover will be ours, sire, though we had no such ally as Germany;
but it will be ours the sooner if we have that help which you can
give us. Standing between two fires, England will have to succumb,
there will be no escape for her. That is another advantage, sire,
that France expects from the treaty with Prussia. But I will now
speak of the advantages which your majesty may expect from this
alliance. You are aware that Prussia is surrounded by threatening
enemies; that Austria and Russia are approaching her borders with
evil intentions, and that a day may soon come when Maria Theresa may
wish to reconquer this Silesia which, in her heart, she still calls
her own. When this time comes, your majesty will not be alone; your
ally, France, will be at your side; she will repay with faithful,
active assistance the services which your majesty rendered her in
Hanover. She will not only render her all the assistance in her
power, but she will also allow her to partake of the advantages of
this victory. Hanover is a rich land, not rich only in products, but
in many other treasures. The Electors of Hanover have in their
residences not only their chests filled with gold and precious
jewels, but also the most magnificent paintings. It is but natural
that we should pay ourselves in Hanover for the expenses of this war
of which England is the cause. You, then, will share with us these
treasures. And still this is not all. France is grateful; she offers
you, therefore, one of her colonies, the Isle of Tobago, as a pledge
of friendship and love."
"Where is this isle?" said the king, quietly.
"In the West Indies, sire."
"And where is Hanover?"
The duke looked at the king in amazement, and remained silent.
The king repeated his question.
"Well," said the duke, hesitatingly, "Hanover is in Germany."
"And for this German land which, with my aid, France is to conquer,
I am to receive as a reward the little Isle of Tobago in the West
Indies! Have you finished, dyke, or have you other propositions to
"Sire, I have finished, and await your answer."
"And this answer, duke, shall be clearer and franker than your
questions. I will begin by answering the latter part of your speech.
Small and insignificant as the King of Prussia may appear in your
eyes, I would have you know he is no robber, no highwayman; he
leaves these brilliant amusements without envy to France. And now,
my dear duke, I must inform you, that since this morning it has been
placed out of my power to accept this alliance; for this morning a
treaty was signed, by which I became the ally of England!"
"It is impossible, sire," cried the duke; "this cannot be!"
"Not possible, sir!" said the king, "and still it is true. I have
formed a treaty with England--this matter is settled! I have been an
ally of Louis XV.; I have nothing to complain of in him. I love him;
well, am I now his enemy? I hope that there may be a time when I may
again approach the King of France. Pray tell him how anxiously I
look forward to this time. Tell him I am much attached to him."
"Ah, sire," said the duke, sighing, "it is a great misfortune. I
dare not go to my monarch with this sad, unexpected news; my monarch
who loves you so tenderly, whose most earnest wish it is for France
to be allied to Prussia."
"Ah, duke, "said Frederick, laughing, "France wishes for ships as
allies. I have none to offer--England has. With her help I shall
keep the Russians from Prussia, and with the aid she will keep the
French from Hanover."
"We are to be enemies, then?" said the duke, sadly.
"It is a necessary evil, for which there is no remedy. But Louis XV.
can form other alliances," said Frederick, ironically. "It may be
for his interest to unite with the house of Austria!"
The duke was much embarrassed.
"Your majesty is not in earnest," said he, anxiously.
"Why not, duke?" said Frederick; "an alliance between France and
Austria--it sounds very natural. If I were in your place, I would
propose this to my court."
He now rose, which was a sign to the duke that the audience was at
"I must now send a courier at once to my court," said the duke, "and
I will not fail to state that your majesty advises us to unite with
"You will do well; that is," said the king, with a meaning smile--
"that is, if you think your court is in need of such advice, and has
not already acted without it. When do you leave, duke?"
"To-morrow morning, sire."
"Farewell, duke, and do not forget that in my heart I am the friend
of France, though we meet as enemies on the battle-field."
The duke bowed reverentially, and, sighing deeply, left the royal
library, "the republic of letters," to hasten to Berlin.
The king looked after him thoughtfully.
"The die is cast," said he, softly. "There will be war. Our days of
peace and quietude are over, and the days of danger are
The sun had just risen, and was shedding its golden rays over the
garden of Sans-Souci, decking the awaking flowers with glittering
dew-drops. All was quiet--Nature alone was up and doing; no one was
to be seen, no sound was to be heard, but the rustling of trees and
the chirping of birds. All was still and peaceful; it seemed as if
the sound of human misery and passion could not reach this spot.
There was something so holy in this garden, that you could but
believe it to be a part of paradise in which the serpent had not yet
exercised his arts of seduction. But no, this is but a beautiful
dream. Man is here, but he is sleeping; he is still resting from the
toils and sorrows of the past day. Man is here--he is coming to
destroy the peacefulness of Nature with his sorrows and complaints.
The little gate at the farthest end of that shady walk is opened,
and a man enters. The dream is at an end, and Sans-Souci is now but
a beautiful garden, not a paradise, for it has been desecrated by
the foot of man. He hastens up the path leading to the palace; he
hurries forward, panting and gasping. His face is colorless, his
long hair is fluttering in the morning wind, his eyes are fixed and
glaring; his clothes are covered with dust, and his head is bare.
There is something terrifying in the sudden appearance of this man.
Nature seems to smile no more since he came; the trees have stopped
their whispering, the birds cannot continue their melodious songs
since they have seen his wild, anxious look. The peacefulness of
Nature is broken. For man--that is to say, misery, misfortune; for
man--that is to say, sin, guilt, and meanness--is there, pouring
destroying drops of poison in the golden chalice of creation.
Breathlessly he hurries on, looking neither to right nor left. He
has now reached the terrace, and now he stops for a moment to
recover breath. He sees not the glorious panorama lying at his feet;
he is blind to all but himself. He is alone in the world--alone with
his misery, his pain. Now he hastens on to the back of the palace.
The sentinels walking before the back and the front of the castle
know him, know where he is going, and they barely glance at him as
he knocks long and loudly at that little side window.
It is opened, and a young girl appears, who, when perceiving this
pale, anxious countenance, which is striving in vain to smile at
her, cries out loudly, and folds her hands as if in prayer.
"Hush!" said he, roughly; "hush! let me in."
"Some misfortune has happened!" said she, terrified.
"Yes, Rosa, a great misfortune, but let me in, if you do not wish to
The young girl disappears, and the man hastens to the side door of
the castle. It is opened, and he slips in.
Perfect peace reigns once more in the garden of Sans-Souci. Nature
is now smiling, for she is alone with her innocence. Man is not
there! But now, in the castle, in the dwelling of the castle warder,
and in the room of his lovely daughter Rosa, all is alive. There is
whispering, and weeping, and sighing, and praying; there is Rosa,
fearful and trembling, her face covered with tears, and opposite
her, her pale, woe-begone lover.
"I have been walking all night," said he, with a faint and hollow
voice. "I did not know that Berlin was so far from Potsdam, and had
I known it, I would not have dared to take a wagon or a horse; I had
to slip away very quietly. While by Count Puebla's order my room was
guarded, and I thought to be in it, I descended into the garden by
the grape-vine, which reached up to my window. The gardener had no
suspicion of how I came there, when I required him to unlock the
door, but laughed cunningly, thinking I was bound to some
rendezvous. And so I wandered on in fear and pain, in despair and
anger, and it seemed to me as if the road would never come to an
end. At times I stopped, thinking I heard behind me wild cries and
curses, the stamping of horses, and the rolling of wheels; but it
was imagination. Ah! it was a frightful road; but it is past. But
now I will be strong, for this concerns my name, my life, my honor.
Why do you laugh, Rosa?" said he, angrily; "do you dare to laugh,
because I speak of my name--my honor?"
"I did not laugh," said Rosa, looking with terror at the disturbed
countenance of her lover.
"Yes, you laughed, and you were right to laugh, when I spoke of my
honor; I who have no honor; I who have shamed my name; I upon whose
brow is the sign of murder: for I am guilty of the ruin of a man,
and the chains on his hands are cursing my name."
"My God! He is mad," murmured Rosa.
"No, I am not mad," said he, with a heart-breaking smile. "I know
all, all! Were I mad, I would not be so unhappy. Were I unconscious,
I would suffer less. But, no, I remember all. I know how this evil
commenced, how it grew and poisoned my heart. The evil was my
poverty, my covetousness, and perhaps also my ambition. I was not
content to bear forever the chains of bondage; I wished to be free
from want. I determined it should no more be said that the sisters
of Count Weingarten had to earn their bread by their needlework,
while he feasted sumptuously at the royal table. This it was that
caused my ruin. These frightful words buzzed in my ears so long,
that in my despair I determined to stop them at any price, and so I
committed my first crime, and received a golden reward for my
treason. My sisters did not work now; I bought a small house for
them, and gave them all that I received. I shuddered at the sight of
this money; I would keep none of it. I was again the poor secretary
Weingarten, but my family was not helpless; they had nothing to
To whom was he telling all this? Certainly not to that young girl
standing before him, pale and trembling. He had forgotten himself;
he had forgotten her whom in other days he had called his heart's
As she sank at his feet and covered his hands with her tears, he
rose hastily from his seat; he now remembered that he was not alone.
"What have I said?" cried he, wildly. "Why do you weep?"
"I weep because you have forgotten me," said she, softly; "I weep
because, in accusing yourself, you make no excuse for your crime;
not even your love for your poor Rosa."
"It is true," said he, sadly, "I had forgotten our love. And still
it is the only excuse that I have for my second crime. I had
determined to be a good man, and to expiate my one crime throughout
my whole life. But when I saw you, your beauty fascinated me, and
you drew me on. I went with open eyes into the net which you
prepared for me, Rosa. I allowed myself to be allured by your
beauty, knowing well that it would draw me into a frightful abyss."
"Ah," said Rosa, groaning, "how cruelly you speak of our love!"
"Of our love!" repeated he, shrugging his shoulders. "Child, in this
hour we will be true to each other. Ours was no true love. You were
in love with my noble name and position--I with your youth, your
beauty, your coquettish ways. Our souls were not in unison. You gave
yourself to me, not because you loved me, but because you wished to
deceive me. I allowed myself to be deceived because of your
loveliness and because I saw the golden reward which your deceitful
love would bring me."
"You are cruel and unjust," said Rosa, sadly. "It may be true that
you never loved me, but I loved you truly. I gave you my whole
"Yes, and in giving it," said he, harshly--"in giving it you had the
presence of mind to keep the aim of your tenderness always in view.
While your arms were around me, your little hand which seemed to
rest upon my heart, sought for the key which I always kept in my
vest-pocket, and which I had lately told you belonged to the desk in
which the important papers of the embassy were placed. You found
this key, Rosa, and I knew it, but I only laughed, and pressed you
closer to my heart."
"Terrible! terrible!" said Rosa, trembling. "He knew all, and still
he let me do it!"
"Yes I allowed you to do it--I did not wish to be better than the
girl I loved: and, as she desired to deceive me, I let myself be
deceived. I allowed it, because the demon of gold had taken
possession of me. I took the important papers out of my desk, to
which you had stolen the key, and hid them. Then the tempters came
and whispered of golden rewards, of eternal gratitude, of fortune,
honor; and these fiendish whispers misled my soul. I sold my honor
and became a traitor, and all this for the sake of gold! So I became
what I now am. I do not reproach you Rosa, for most likely it would
have happened without you."
"But what danger threatens you now?" asked Rosa.
"The just punishment for a traitor," said he, hoarsely. "Give me
some wine, Rosa, so that I can gain strength to go to the king at
"To the king at this early hour?"
"And why not? Have I not been with him often at this hour, when I
had important news or dispatches to give him? So give me the wine,
Rosa left the room, but returned almost instantly. He took the
bottle from her and filled a glass hastily.
"Now," said he, breathing deeply, "I feel that I live again. My
blood flows freely through my veins, and my heart is beating loudly.
Now to the king!"
He stood before a glass for a moment to arrange his hair; then
pressed a cold kiss upon Rosa's pale, trembling lips, and left the
room. With a firm, sure tread, he hurried through the halls and
chambers. No one stopped him, for no one was there to see him. In
the king's antechamber sat Deesen taking his breakfast.
"Is the king up?" asked Weingarten.
"The sun has been up for hours, and so of course the king is up,"
said Deesen, proudly.
"Announce me to his majesty; I have some important news for him."
He entered the king's chamber, and returned in a few moments for
The king was sitting in an arm-chair by a window, which he had
opened to breathe the fresh summer air. His white greyhound,
Amalthea, lay at his feet, looking up at him with his soft black
eyes. In his right hand the king held his flute.
"You are early, sir," said he, turning to Weingarten. "You must have
very important news."
"Yes, sire, very important," said Weingarten, approaching nearer.
The king reached out his hand. "Give them to me," said he.
"Sire, I have no dispatches."
"A verbal message, then. Speak."
"Sire, all is lost; Count Puebla suspects me."
The king was startled for a moment, but collected himself
immediately. "He suspects, but he is certain of nothing?"
"No, sire; but his suspicion amounts almost to certainty. Yesterday
I was copying a dispatch which was to go that evening, and which was
of the highest importance to your majesty, when I suddenly perceived
Count Puebla standing beside me at my desk. He had entered my room
very quietly, which showed that he had his suspicions, and was
watching me. He snatched my copy from the desk and read it. 'For
whom is this?' said he, in a threatening tone. I stammered forth
some excuses; said that I intended writing a history, and that I
took a copy of all dispatches for my work. He would not listen to
me. 'You are a traitor!' said he, in a thundering voice. 'I have
suspected you for some time; I am now convinced of your treachery.
You shall have an examination tomorrow; for to-night you will remain
a prisoner in your room.' He then locked my desk, put the key in his
pocket, and, taking with him the dispatch and my copy, left the
room. I heard him lock it and bolt my door. I was a prisoner."
"How did you get out?" said the king.
"By the window, sire. And I flew here to throw myself at your
majesty's feet, and to beg for mercy and protection."
"I promised you protection and help in case of your detection--I
will fulfil my promise. What are your wishes. Let us see if they can
"Will your majesty give me some sure place of refuge where Count
Puebla's threats cannot harm me?"
"You will remain here in the dwelling of the castle-warder until a
suitable residence can be found for you. What next? What plans have
you made for the future?"
"I would humbly beseech your majesty to give me some position in
your land worthy of my station, such as your highness promised me."
"You remember too many of my promises," said the king, shrugging his
"Your majesty will not grant me the promised position?" said Count
"I remember no such promise," said Frederick. "Men of your stamp are
paid, but not rewarded. I have made use of your treachery; but you
are, nevertheless, in my eyes a traitor, and I will have none such
in my service."
"Then I am lost!" said Weingarten. "My honor, my good name, my
future are annihilated."
"Your honor has been weighed with gold," said the king, sternly,
"and I think I have already paid more for it than it was worth. Your
good name, it is true, will be from now changed into a bad one; and
your mother will have to blush when she uses it. Therefore I advise
you to let it go; to take another name; to begin a new existence,
and to found a new future."
"A future without honor, without name, without position!" sighed
"So are men!" said the king, softly; "insolent and stubborn when
they think themselves secure; cowardly and uncertain when they are
in danger. So you were rash enough to think that your treacherous
deeds would always remain a secret? You did not think of a possible
detection, or prepare yourself for it. In treading the road which
you have trodden, every step should be considered. This, it seems to
me, you have not done. You wish to enjoy the fruits of your
treachery in perfect security; but you have not the courage to stand
before the world as a traitor. Do away with this name, which will
cause you many dangers and insults. Fly from this place, where you
and your deeds are known. Under a different name look for an asylum
in another part of my land. Money shall not fail you; and if what
you have earned from me is not sufficient, turn to me, and I will
lend you still more. I will not forget that to me your treachery has
been of great use, and therefore I will not desert you, though I
shall despise the traitor. And now, farewell! This is our last
meeting. Call this afternoon upon my treasurer; he will pay you two
hundred louis d'or. And now go." And with a scornful look at
Weingarten's pale countenance, he turned to the window.
Weingarten hurried past the halls and chambers, and entered Rosa's
room. She read in his pale, sad face that he had no good news to
"Has it all been in vain?" said she, breathlessly.
"In vain?" cried he, with a scornful smile. "No, not in vain. The
king rewarded me well; much better than Judas Iscariot was rewarded.
I have earned a large sum of money, and am still to receive a
thousand crowns. Quiet yourself, Rosa; we will be very happy, for we
will have money. Only I must ask if the proud daughter of the royal
castle-warder will give her hand to a man who can offer her no name,
no position. Rosa, I warn you, think well of what you do. You loved
me because I was a count, and had position to offer you. From to-
day, I have no position, no name, no honor, no family. Like
Ahasuerus, I will wander wearily through the world, happy and
thanking God if I can find a quiet spot where I am not known, and my
name was never heard. There I will rest, and trust to chance for a
name. Rosa, will you share with me this existence, without sunshine,
without honor, without a name?"
She was trembling so, that she could barely speak.
"I have no choice," stammered she, at last; "I must follow you, for
my honor demands that I should be your wife. I must go with you;
fate wills it."
With a loud shriek she fainted by his side. Weingarten did not raise
her; he glanced wildly at the pale, lifeless woman at his feet.
"We are both condemned," murmured he, "we have both lost our honor.
And with this Cain's mark upon our foreheads we will wander wearily
through the world." [Footnote: Count Weingarten escaped from all his
troubles happily. He married his sweetheart, the daughter of the
castle-warder, and went to Altmark, where, under the name of Veis,
he lived happily for many years.]
The king, in the mean while, after Weingarten had left him, walked
thoughtfully up and down his room. At times he raised his head and
gazed with a proud, questioning glance at the sky. Great thoughts
were at work within him. Now Frederick throws back his head proudly,
and his eyes sparkle.
"The time has come," said he, in a loud, full voice. "The hour for
delay is past; now the sword must decide between me and my enemies."
He rang a bell hastily, and ordered a valet to send a courier at
once to Berlin, to call General Winterfeldt, General Retzow, and
also Marshal Schwerin, to Sans-Souci.
DECLARATION OF WAR.
A few hours after the departure of the courier, the heavy movement
of wheels in the court below announced to the king, who was standing
impatiently at his window, the arrival of the expected generals. In
the same moment, his chamberlain, opening wide the library door,
ushered them into his presence.
"Ah!" said the king, welcoming them pleasantly, "I see I am not so
entirely without friends as my enemies think. I have but to call,
and Marshal Schwerin, that is, wisdom and victory, is at my side;
and Generals Winterfeldt and Retzow, that is, youth and courage,
boldness and bravery, are ready to give me all the assistance in
their power. Sirs, I thank you for coming to me at once. Let us be
seated; listen to what I have to say, and upon what earnest
important subjects I wish your advice."
And in a few words the king first showed them the situation of
Europe and of his own states, so as to prepare them for the more
important subjects he had to introduce before them.
"You will now understand," said he, "why I was so willing to make
this contract with England. I hoped thereby to gain Russia, who is
allied to England, to my side. But these hopes have been destroyed.
Russia, angry with Britain for having allied herself to Prussia, has
broken her contract. Bestuchef, it is true, wavered for a moment
between his love of English guineas and his hatred of me, but hate
carried the day."
"But, sire," said Retzow, hastily, "if your majesty can succeed in
making a reconciliation between France and England, you may become
the ally of these two powerful nations. Then let Austria, Russia,
and Saxony come upon us all at once, we can confront them."
"We can do that, I hope, even without the assistance of France,"
said the king, impetuously. "We must renounce all idea of help from
France; she is allied to Austria. What Kaunitz commenced with his
wisdom, Maria Theresa carried out with her flattery. All my enemies
have determined to attack me at once. But I am ready for them,
weapons in hand. I have been hard at work; all is arranged, every
preparation for the march of our army is finished. And now I have
called you together to counsel me as to where we can commence our
Frederick stopped speaking, and gazed earnestly at his generals,
endeavoring to divine their thoughts. Marshal Schwerin was looking
silently before him; a dark cloud rested upon General Retzow's brow;
but the young, handsome face of Winterfeldt was sparkling with
delight at the thought of war.
"Well, marshal," said the king, impatiently, "what is your advice?"
"My advice, sire," said the old marshal, sighing; "I see my king
surrounded by threatening and powerful foes; I see him alone in the
midst of all these allied enemies. For England may, perchance, send
us money, but she has no soldiers for us, and moreover, we must
assist her to defend Hanover. I cannot counsel this war, for mighty
enemies are around us, and Prussia stands alone."
"No," said Frederick, solemnly, "Prussia stands not alone!--a good
cause and a good sword are her allies, and with them she will
conquer. And now, General Retzow, let us have your opinion,"
"I agree entirely with Marshal Schwerin," said Retzow. "Like him, I
think Prussia should not venture into this strife, because she is
too weak to withstand such powerful adversaries."
"You speak prudently," said Frederick, scornfully. "And now,
Winterfeldt, are you also against this war?"
"No, sire," cried Winterfeldt, "I am for the attack, and never were
circumstances more favorable than at present. Austria has as yet
made no preparations for war; her armies are scattered, and her
finances are in disorder; and now it will be an easy task to attack
her and subdue her surprised army."
The king looked at him pleasantly, and turning to the other
generals, said quietly.
"We must not be carried away by the brave daring of this youth; he
is the youngest among us, and is, perhaps, misled by enthusiasm. But
we old ones must reflect; and I wished to convince you that I had
not failed to do this. But all has been in vain."
"Now is the time," said Winterfeldt, with sparkling eyes, "to
convince the crippled, unwieldy Austrian eagle that the young eagle
of Prussia has spread her wings, and that her claws are strong
enough to grasp all her enemies and hurl them into an abyss."
"And if the young eagle, in spite of his daring, should have to
succumb to the superiority of numbers," said Marshal Schwerin,
sadly. "If the balls of his enemies should break his wings, thereby
preventing his flight for the future? Were it not better to avoid
this possibility, and not to allow the whole world to say that
Prussia, out of love of conquest, began a fearful war, which she
could have avoided?"
"There is no reason in this war," said General Retzow; "for, though
Austria, Saxony, and Russia are not our friends, they have not shown
as yet by any open act that they are our enemies; and though
Austria's alliance with France surprised the world, so also did
Prussia's alliance with England. Our soldiers will hardly know why
they are going to battle, and they will be wanting in that
inspiration which is necessary to excite an army to heroic deeds."
"Inspiration shall not be wanting, and my army as well as yourselves
shall know the many causes we have for this war. The reasons I have
given you as yet have not satisfied you? Well, then, I will give you
others; and, by Heaven, you will be content with them! You think
Austria's unkindly feelings to Prussia have not been shown by any
overt act. I will now prove to you that she is on the point of
acting." And Frederick, lifting up some papers from his desk,
continued: "These papers will prove to you, what you seem determined
not to believe, namely, that Saxony, Russia, and, France are
prepared to attack Prussia with their combined forces, and to turn
the kingdom of Prussia into a margraviate once more. These papers
are authentic proofs of the dangers which hover over us. I will now
inform you how I came by them, so that you may be convinced of their
genuineness. For some time I have suspected that there was, amongst
my enemies, an alliance against me, and that they had formed a
contract in which they had sworn to do all in their power to destroy
Prussia. I only needed to have my suspicions confirmed, and to have
the proofs of this contract in my hands. There proofs were in the
Saxon archives, and in the dispatches of the Austrian embassy. It
was therefore necessary to get the key of these archives, and to
have copies of these dispatches. I succeeded in doing both, Chance,
or if you prefer it, a kind Providence, came to my aid. The Saxon
chancellor, Reinitz, a former servant of General Winterfeldt, came
from Dresden to Potsdam to look for Winterfeldt and to confide to
him that a friend of his, Chancellor Minzel of Dresden, had informed
him that the state papers interchanged between the court of Vienna
and Dresden were kept in the Dresden archives, of which he had the
key. Winterfeldt brought me this important message. Reinitz
conducted the first negotiations with Menzel, which I then delivered
into the hands of my ambassador in Dresden, Count Mattzahn. Menzel
was poor and covetous. He was therefore easily to be bribed. For
three years Mattzahn has received copies of every dispatch that
passed between the three courts. I am quite as well informed of all
negotiations between Austria and France, for the secretary of the
Austrian legation of this place, a Count Weingarten, gave me, for
promises and gold, copies of all dispatches that came from Vienna
and were forwarded to France. You see the corruption of man has
borne me good fruit, and that gold is a magic wand which reveals all
secrets. And now let us cast a hasty glance over these papers which
I have obtained by the aid of treachery and bribery."
He took one of the papers and spread it before the astonished
generals. "You see here," he continued, "a sample of all other
negotiations. It is a copy of a share contract which the courts of
Vienna and Dresden formed in 1745. They then regarded the decline of
Prussia as so sure an occurrence that they had already divided
amongst themselves the different parts of my land. Russia soon
affixed her name also to this contract, and here in this document
you will see that these three powers have sworn to attack Prussia at
the same moment, and that for this conquest, each one of the named
courts was to furnish sixty thousand men."
While the generals were engaged in reading these papers, the king
leaned back in his arm-chair, gazing keenly at Retzow and Schwerin.
He smiled gayly as he saw Schwerin pressing his lips tightly
together, and trying in vain to suppress a cry of rage, and Retzow
clinching his fists vehemently.
When the papers had been read, and Schwerin was preparing to speak,
the king, with his head thrown proudly back, and gazing earnestly at
his listeners, interrupted him, saying:
"Now, sirs, perhaps you see the dangers by which we are surrounded.
Under the circumstances, I owe it to myself, to my honor, and to the
security of my land, to attack Austria and Saxony, and so to nip
their abominable designs in me bud, before their allies are ready to
give them any assistance. I am prepared, and the only question to be
answered before setting our army in motion, is where to commence the
attack to our advantage? For the deciding of this question, I have
called you together. I have finished and now, Marshal Schwerin, it
is your turn."
The old gray warrior arose. It may be that he was convinced by the
powerful proofs and words of the king, or that knowing that his will
was law it were vain to oppose him, but he was now as strongly for
war as the king or Winterfeldt.
"If there is to be war," said he, enthusiastically, "let us start
to-morrow, take Saxony, and, in that land of corn, build magazines
for the holding of our provisions, so as to secure a way for our
future operations in Bohemia."
"Ah! now I recognize my old Schwerin," said the king, gayly pressing
the marshal's hand. "No more delay! 'To anticipate' is my motto, and
shall, God willing, be Prussia's in future."
"And our army," said Winterfeldt, with sparkling eyes, "has been
accustomed, for hundreds of years, not only to defend themselves,
but also to attack. Ah, at last it is to be granted us to fight our
arch-enemies in open field, mischief-making Austria, intriguing
Saxony, barbarous Russia, and finally lying, luxurious France, and
to convince them that, though we do not fear their anger, we share
their hatred with our whole hearts."
"And you, Retzow," said the king, sternly, turning to the general,
who was sitting silently with downcast head; "do your views coincide
with Schwerin's? Or do you still think it were better to wait?"
"Yes, sire," said Retzow, sadly; "I think delay, under the present
threatening circumstances, would be the wisest course; I--"
He was interrupted by the entrance of a valet, who approached the
king, and whispered a few words to him.
Frederick turned smilingly to the generals. "The princes, my
brothers, have arrived," said he; "they were to be here at this hour
to hear the result of our consultation. And, it strikes me, they
arrive at the right moment. The princes may enter."
THE KING AND HIS BROTHERS.
The door was thrown open and the princes entered. First came the
Prince of Prussia, whose pale, dejected countenance was to-day paler
and sadder than usual. Then Prince Henry, whose quick bright eyes
were fixed inquiringly on General Retzow. The general shrugged his
shoulders, and shook his head. Prince Henry must have understood
these movements, for his brow became clouded, and a deep red
suffused his countenance. The king, who had seen this, laughed
mockingly, and let the princes approach very close to him, before
"Sirs," said he, "I have called you here, because I have some
important news to communicate. The days of peace are over and war is
"War! and with whom?" said the Prince of Prussia, earnestly. "War
with our enemies!" cried the king. "War with those who have sworn
Prussia's destruction. War with Austria, France, Saxony, and
"That is impossible, my brother," cried the prince, angrily. "You
cannot dream of warring against such powerful nations. You cannot
believe in the possibility of victory. Powerful and mighty as your
spirit is it will have to succumb before the tremendous force
opposed to it. Oh! my brother! my king! be merciful to yourself, to
us, to our country. Do not desire the impossible! Do not venture
into the stormy sea of war, to fight with your frail barks against
the powerful men of war that your enemies, will direct against you.
We cannot be victorious! Preserve to your country your own precious
life, and that of her brave sons."
The king's eyes burned with anger; they were fixed with an
expression of deep hatred upon the prince.
"Truly, my brother," said he, in a cold, cutting tone, "fear has
made you eloquent. You speak as if inspired."
A groan escaped the prince, and he laid his hand unwittingly upon
his sword. He was deadly pale, and his lips trembled so violently,
that he could scarcely speak.
"Fear!" said he, slowly. "That is an accusation which none but the
king would dare to bring against me, and of which I will clear
myself, if it comes to this unhappy war which your majesty proposes,
and which I now protest against, in the name of my rights. my
children, and my country."
"And I," said Prince Henry, earnestly--"I also protest against this
war! Have pity on us, my king. Much as I thirst for renown and
glory, often as I have prayed to God to grant me an occasion to
distinguish myself, I now swear to subdue forever this craving for
renown, if it can only be obtained at the price of this frightful,
useless war. You stand alone! Without allies, it is impossible to
conquer. Why, then, brave certain ruin and destruction?"
The king's countenance was frightful to look at; his eyes were
flashing with rage, and his voice was like thunder, it was so loud
" Enough of this!" said he; "you were called here, not to advise,
but to receive my commands. The brother has heard you patiently, but
now the King of Prussia stands before you, and demands of you
obedience and submission. We are going to battle; this is settled;
and your complaints and fears will not alter my determination But
all those who fear to follow me on the battle-field, have my
permission to remain at home, and pass their time in love idyls.
Who, amongst you all, prefers this? Let him speak, and he shall
follow his own inclinations."
"None of us could do that," said Prince Henry, passionately "If the
King of Prussia calls his soldiers, they will all come and follow
their chieftain joyfully, though they are marching to certain death.
I have already given you my personal opinion; it now rests with me
to obey you, as a soldier, as a subject. This I will do joyfully,
"I also," said Prince Augustus William, earnestly. "Like my brother,
I will know how to subdue my own opinions and fears, and to follow
in silent obedience my king and my chieftain."
The king threw a glance of hatred upon the pale, disturbed
countenance of the prince.
"You will go where I command you," said he, sharply; and not giving
the prince time to answer, he turned abruptly to Marshal Schwerin.
"Well, marshal, do you wish for a furlough, during this war? You
heard me say I would refuse it to no one."
"I demand nothing of your majesty, but to take part in the first
battle against your enemies. I do not ask who they are. The hour for
consultation is past: it is now time to act. Let us to work, and
that right quickly."
"Yes, to battle, sire," cried Retzow, earnestly. "As soon as your
majesty has said that this war is irrevocable, your soldiers must
have no further doubts, and they will follow you joyfully, to
conquer or to die."
"And you, Winterfeldt," said the king, taking his favorite's hand
tenderly; "have you nothing to say? Or have the Prince of Prussia's
fears infected you, and made of you a coward?"
"Ah, no! sire," said Winterfeldt, pressing the king's hand to his
breast; "how could my courage fail, when it is Prussia's hero king
that leads to battle? How can I be otherwise than joyous and
confident of victory, when Frederick calls us to fight against his
wicked and arrogant enemies? No! I have no fears; God and the true
cause is on our side."
Prince Henry approached nearer to the king, and looking at him
proudly, he said:
" Sire, you asked General Winterfeldt if he shared the Prince of
Prussia's fears. He says no; but I will beg your majesty to
remember, that I share entirely the sentiments of my dear and noble
As he finished, he threw an angry look at General Winterfeldt. The
latter commenced a fierce rejoinder, but was stopped by the king.
"Be still, Winterfeldt," he said; "war has as yet not been declared,
and till then, let there at least be peace in my own house." Then
approaching Prince Henry, and laying his hand on his shoulder, he
said kindly:" We will not exasperate each other, my brother. You
have a noble, generous soul, and no one would dare to doubt your
courage. It grieves me that you do not share my views as to the
necessity of this war, but I know that you will be a firm, helpful
friend, and share with me my dangers, my burdens, and if God wills
it, also my victory."
"Not I alone will do this," cried Prince Henry, "but also my
brother, Augustus William, the Prince of Prussia, whose heart is not
less brave, whose courage--"
"Hush, Henry! I pray you," said the Prince of Prussia, sadly; "speak
not of my courage. By defending it, it would seem that it had been
doubted, and that is a humiliation which I would stand from no one"
The king appeared not to have heard these words. He took some papers
from the table by which he was standing, and said:
"All that remains to be told you now, is that I agree with Marshal
Schwerin. We will commence the attack in Saxony. To Saxony, then,
gentlemen! But, until the day before the attack, let us keep even
the question of war a secret."
Then, with the paper under his arm, he passed through the saloon and
entered his library.
There was a long pause after he left. The Prince of Prussia,
exhausted by the storm which had swept over his soul, had withdrawn
to one of the windows, where he was hid from view by the heavy satin
Prince Henry, standing alone in the middle of the room, gazed after
his brother, and a deep sigh escaped him. Then turning to Retzow, he
"You would not, then, fulfil my brother's and my own wishes?"
"I did all that was in my power, prince," said the general, sighing.
"Your highness did not wish this war to take place; you desired me,
if the king asked for my advice, to tell him that we were too weak,
and should therefore keep the peace. Well, I said this, not only
because you desired it, but because it was also my own opinion. But
the king's will was unalterable. He has meditated this war for
years. Years ago, with Winterfeldt's aid, he drew all the plans and
made every other arrangement."
"Winterfeldt!" murmured the prince to himself, "yes, Winterfeldt is
the fiend whose whispers have misled the king. We suspected this
long ago, but we had to bear it in silence, for we could not prevent
And giving his passionate nature full play, he approached General
Winterfeldt, who was whispering to Marshal Schwerin.
"You can rejoice, general," said the prince, "for now you can take
your private revenge on the Empress of Russia."
Winterfeldt encountered the prince's angry glance with a quiet,
"Your highness does me too much honor in thinking that a poor
soldier, such as I am, could be at enmity with a royal empress. What
could this Russian empress have done to me, that could call for
revenge on my part?"
"What has she done to you?" said the prince, with a mocking smile.
"Two things, which man finds hardest to forgive! She outwitted you,
and took your riches from you. Ah! general, I fear this war will be
in vain, and that you will not be able to take your wife's jewels
from St. Petersburg, where the empress retains them."
Winterfeldt subdued his anger, and replied: "You have related us a
beautiful fairy tale, prince, a tale from the Arabian Nights, in
which there is a talk of jewels and glorious treasures, only that in
this tale, instead of the usual dragon, an empress guards them. I
acknowledge that I do not understand your highness."
"But I understand you perfectly, general. I know your ambitious and
proud plans. You wish to make your name renowned. General, I
consider you are much in fault as to this war. You were the king's
confidant--you had your spies everywhere, who, for heavy rewards,
imparted to you the news by which you stimulated the king."
"If in your eyes," said Winterfeldt, proudly, "it is wrong to spend
your gold to find out the intrigues of your own, your king's, and
your country's enemies, I acknowledge that I am in fault, and
deserve to be punished. Yes, everywhere I have had my spies, and
thanks to them, the king knows Saxony's, Austria's, and Russia's
intentions. I paid these spies with my own gold. Your highness may
thus perceive that I am not entirely dependent on those jewels of my
wife which are said to be in the Empress of Russia's possession."
At this moment the Prince of Prussia, who had been a silent witness
to this scene, approached General Winterfeldt.
"General," said he, in a loud, solemn voice, "you are the cause of
this unfortunate war which will soon devastate our poor land. The
responsibility falls upon your head, and woe to you if this war,
caused by your ambition, should be the ruin of our beloved country!
I would, if there were no punishment for you on earth, accuse you
before the throne of God, and the blood of the slaughtered sons of
my country, the blood of my future subjects, would cry to Heaven for
revenge! Woe to you it this war should be the ruin of Prussia!"
repeated Prince Henry. "I could never forgive that; I would hold
your ambition responsible for it, for you have access to the king's
heart, and instead of dissipating his distrust against these foreign
nations, you have endeavored to nourish it--instead of softening the
king's anger, you have given it fresh food."
"What I have done," cried Winterfeldt, solemnly raising his right
hand heavenward--"what I have done was done from a feeling of duty,
from love of my country, and from a firm, unshaken trust in my
king's star, which cannot fade, but must become ever more and more
resplendent! May God punish me if I have acted from other and less
"Yes, may God punish you--may He not revenge your crime upon our
poor country!" said Prince Augustus William. "I have said my last
upon this sad subject. From now on, my private opinions are subdued-
-I but obey the king's commands. What he requires of me shall be
done--where he sends me I will go, without questioning or
considering, but quietly and obediently, as it becomes a true
soldier. I hope that you, my brother, Marshal Schwerin, and General
Retzow, will follow my example. The king has commanded, we have but
to obey cheerfully."
Then, arm in arm, the princes left the audience-room and returned to
While this last scene was passing in the audience-room, the king had
retired to his study, and was walking up and down in deep thought.
His countenance was stern and sorrowful--a dark cloud was upon his
brow--his lips were tightly pressed together--powerful emotions were
disturbing his whole being. He stopped suddenly, and raising his
head proudly, seemed to be listening to the thoughts and suggestions
of his soul.
"Yes," said he, "these were his very words: 'I protest against this
war in the name of my rights, my children, and my country!' Ah, it
is a pleasant thought to him that he is to be heir to my throne. He
imagines that he has rights beyond those that I grant him, and that
he can protest against an action of mine! He is a rebel, a traitor.
He dares to think of the time when I will be gone--of the time when
he or his children will wear this crown! I feel that I hate him as
my father hated me because I was his heir, and because the sight of
me always reminded him of his death! Yes, I hate him! The effeminate
boy will disturb the great work which I am endeavoring to perform.
Under his weak hands, this Prussia, which I would make great and
powerful, will fail to pieces, and all my battles and conquests will
be in vain. He will not know how to make use of them. I will make of
my Prussia a mighty and much-feared nation. And if I succeed, by
giving up my every thought to this one object, then my brother will
come and destroy this work which has cost me such pain and trouble.
Prussia needs a strong, active king, not an effeminate boy who
passes his life in sighing for his lost love and in grumbling at
fate for making him the son of a king. Yes, I feel that I hate him,
for I foresee that he will be the destroyer of my great work. But
no, no--I do him wrong," said the king, "and my suspicious heart
sees, perhaps, things that are not. Ah, has it gone so far? Must I,
also, pay the tribute which princes give for their pitiful splendor?
I suspect the heir to my throne, and see in him a secret enemy!
Mistrust has already thrown her shadow upon my soul, and made it
dark and troubled. Ah, there will come a cold and dreary night for
me, when I shall stand alone in the midst of all my glory!"
His head fell upon his breast, and he remained silent and immovable.
"And am I not alone, now?" said he, and in his voice there was a
soft and sorrowful sound. "My brothers are against me, because they
do not understand me; my sisters fear me, and, because this war will
disturb their peace and comfort, will hate me. My mother's heart has
cooled toward me, because I will not be influenced by her; and
Elizabeth Christine, whom the world calls my wife, weeps in solitude
over the heavy chains which bind her. Not one of them loves me!--not
one believes in me, and in my future!"
The king, given up to these melancholy thoughts, did not hear a
knock at his door; it was now repeated, and so loudly, that he could
not but hear it. He hastened to the door and opened it. Winterfeldt
was there, with a sealed paper in his hand, which he gave to the
king, begging him at the same time to excuse this interruption.
"It is the best thing you could have done," said the king, entering
his room, and signing to the general to follow him. "I was in bad
company, with my own sorrowful thoughts, and it is good that you
came to dissipate them."
"This letter will know well how to do that," said Winterfeldt
handing him the packet; "a courier brought it to me from Berlin."
"Letters from my sister Wilhelmina, from Italy," said the king,
joyfully breaking the seal, and unfolding the papers.
There were several sheets of paper closely written, and between them
lay a small, white packet. The king kept the latter in his hand, and
commenced reading eagerly. As he read, the dark, stern expression
gradually left his countenance. His brow was smooth and calm, and a
soft, beautiful smile played about his lips. He finished the letter,
and throwing it hastily aside, tore open the package. In it was a
laurel-branch, covered with beautiful leaves, which looked as bright
and green as if they had just been cut. The king raised it, and
looked at it tenderly. "Ah, my friend," said he, with a beaming
smile, "see how kind Providence is to me! On this painful day she
sends me a glorious token, a laurel-branch. My sister gathered it
for me on my birthday. Do you know where, my friend? Bow your head,
be all attention; for know that it is a branch from the laurel-tree
that grows upon Virgil's grave! Ah, my friend, it seems to me as if
the great and glorious spirits of the olden ages were greeting me
with this laurel which came from the grave of one of their greatest
poets. My sister sends it to me, accompanied by some beautiful
verses of her own. An old fable says that these laurels grew
spontaneously upon Virgil's grave, and that they are indestructible.
May this be a blessed omen for me! I greet you, Virgil's holy
shadow! I bow down before you, and kiss in all humility your ashes,
which have been turned into laurels!"
Thus speaking, the king bowed his head, and pressed a fervent kiss
upon the laurel. He then handed it to Winterfeldt. "Do likewise, my
friend," said he; "your lips are worthy to touch this holy branch,
to inhale the odor of these leaves which grew upon Virgil's grave.
Kiss this branch--and now let us swear to become worthy of this
kiss; swear that in this war, which will soon begin, laurels shall
either rest upon our brows or upon our graves!"
Winterfeldt having sworn, repeated these words after him, "Amen!"
said the king; "God and Virgil have heard us."
THE BALL AT COUNT BRUHL'S.
Count Bruhl, first minister to the King of Saxony, gave to-day a
magnificent fete in his palace, in honor of his wife, whose birthday
it was. The feast was to be honored by the presence of the King of
Poland, the Prince Elector of Saxony, Augustus III., and Maria
Josephine, his wife. This was a favor which the proud queen granted
to her favorite for the first time. For she who had instituted there
the stern Spanish etiquette to which she had been accustomed at the
court of her father, Joseph I., had never taken a meal at the table
of one of her subjects; so holy did she consider her royal person,
that the ambassadors of foreign powers were not permitted to sit at
the same table with her. Therefore, at every feast at the court of
Dresden, there was a small table set apart for the royal family, and
only the prime minister, Count Bruhl, was deserving of the honor to
eat with the king and queen. This was a custom which pleased no one
so well as the count himself, for it insured him from the danger
that some one might approach the royal pair, and inform them of some
occurrence of which the count wished them to remain in ignorance.
There were many slanderers in this wretched kingdom--many who were
envious of the count's high position--many who dared to believe that
the minister employed the king's favor for his own good, and not for
that of his country. They said that he alone lived luxuriously in
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