Frederick the Great and His Court
Part 4 out of 8
splendid eyes on me. Allow me to kiss your hand, most honored lady,
and forgive me if I have disturbed you." Ho flew with an elegant
pirouette to Anna, and took her hand, which she did not extend to
him, and, indeed, struggled to withhold; he then turned again to
Madame Pricker, and bowing to her, said, with a solemn pathos: "I am
not here to-day simply as the friend of the house, but as the
ambassador of the king; and I beseech the honored Madame Pricker to
announce to her husband that I wish to speak to him, and to deliver
a message from the queen."
Madame Pricker uttered a cry of joy, and forgetting all other
considerations, hastened to the counting-room of her husband, to
make known to him the important information.
Baron Pollnitz watched her till the door closed, then turned to
Anna, who still leaned immovable in the window. "Anna, dearest
Anna," whispered he tenderly, "at last we are alone! How I have
pined for you, how happy I am to see you once again!"
He sought to press her fondly to his heart, but the maiden waved him
proudly and coldly back. "Have you forgotten our agreement?" said
"No, I have held your cruelty in good remembrance; only, when I have
fulfilled all your commands, will you deign to listen to my glowing
wishes; when I have induced your father to employ for you another
singing-master, and arranged for your glorious and heavenly voice to
be heard by the king and the assembled court?"
"Yes," cried Anna, with glowing eyes and burning cheeks, "that is my
aim, my ambition. Yes, I will be a singer; all Europe shall resound
with my fame; all men shall lie at my feet; and princes and queens
shall seek to draw me into their circles."
"And I will be the happiest of the happy, when the lovely
nightingale has reached the goal. From my hand shall she first wing
her flight to fame. But, when I have fulfilled my word, when you
have sung in the royal palace before the queen and the court, then
will YOU fulfil your promise? Then Pollnitz will be the happiest of
"I will fulfil my word," she said, as proudly and imperiously as if
she were already the celebrated and grace-dispensing prima donna.
"On the day in which I sing for the first time before the king--the
day in which the tailor's daughter has purified herself from the
dishonor of her humble birth, and becomes a free, self-sustaining,
distinguished artist--on that day we will have no reason to be
ashamed of our love, and we can both, without humiliation, present
our hearts to each other. Baron Pollnitz can take for his wife,
without blushing, the woman ennobled by art, and Prima Donna Anna
Pricker need not be humbled by the thought that Baron Pollnitz has
forgotten his rank in his choice of a wife."
Baron Pollnitz, courtier as he was, had not his features so
completely under control as to conceal wholly the shock conveyed by
the words of his beautiful sweetheart. He stared for a moment,
speechless, into that lovely face, glowing with enthusiasm,
ambition, and love. A mocking, demoniac smile appeared one moment on
his lips, then faded quickly, and Pollnitz was again the tender,
passionate lover of Anna Pricker. "Yes, my dearly-beloved Anna,"
whispered he, clasping her in his arms, "on that blessed and happy
day you will be my wife, and the laurels entwined in your hair will
be changed into a myrtle-wreath." He embraced her passionately, and
she resisted no longer, but listened ever to his words, which, like
sweet opium, poisoned both the ear and heart of the young girl. But
Pollnitz released her suddenly, and stepped back, colder and more
self-possessed than Anna. He had heard a light, approaching step.
"Some one comes; be composed, dear one; your face betrays too much
of your inward emotion." He danced to the open piano and played a
merry strain, while Anna hid her blushes in the branches of a
geranium placed in the window, and tried to cool her glowing cheeks
on the fresh green leaves.
Madame Pricker opened the door, and bade the master of ceremonies
enter the adjoining room, where M. Pricker awaited him.
THE ILLUSTRIOUS ANCESTORS OF A TAILOR.
Pollnitz offered his arm to the lovely Anna, and followed Madame
Pricker, laughing and jesting, into the next room. This was a long
hall, which had an appearance of gloom and solemnity in its
arrangements and decorations. The high walls, hung with dark
tapestry, were poorly lighted by two windows. Several divans,
covered with a heavy silken material, the same color as the
tapestry, were placed against the sides of the room, and over them
hung a few oil paintings in black frames, each representing the
figure of a man with a most solemn expression and bearing. The
remarkable resemblance which these pictures bore to each other
convinced you that they must be the portraits of one family. In each
appeared the same countenance, the same short, clumsy figure, and
only the costumes served to point out by their various styles the
different periods at which they had been painted. A figure, closely
resembling the pictures, stood in the centre of the hall; it had the
same countenance, the same short, clumsy figure, and even the same
dress as that represented in one of the pictures. You might have
supposed that some galvanic experiment had given life and motion to
the painted form, and that as soon as this power was exhausted it
would become lifeless, and return to its place among the other
pictures. But this figure was certainly living, for it greeted the
grand chamberlain, without, however, leaving the round table which
stood in the centre of the room.
"I welcome you to the house of my fathers," it said, with great
dignity. Pollnitz threw a laughing, jesting glance toward Anna, who
had left his side on entering the room, and had withdrawn to one of
"Why are you so earnest and solemn to-day, my dear Pricker?" said
he, turning to the old gentleman.
"Are you not here as the ambassador of the royal court?" he replied.
"I wished to receive you with all honor, and therefore desired you
to come into this hall, that I might hear the royal message in the
midst of my ancestors. Tell me now how can I serve the house of my
"You can serve it, my dear Pricker," said Pollnitz, smiling, as he
displayed a large sealed paper, "by altering the sign upon your
door. In the place of 'court tailor of the queen and princess
royal,' it should read--'court tailor of the dowager and of the
reigning queen.' Here is the patent, my dear sir."
The old man quietly took the paper; not a feature of his cold,
solemn face moved.
Madame Pricker, however, could not conceal her joy. With a cry of
delight she hurried to her husband, to embrace and congratulate him
on his appointment.
Pricker waved her proudly back.
"Why do you congratulate me?" he said. "The house of Hohenzollern
has only done justice to my house, that is all. The title of court
tailor to the reigning queen has become an inheritance in my family,
and it would be a great ingratitude in the house of Hohenzollern to
withhold it from me. For more than a century the Hohenzollerns have
been dressed by my family; we have prepared their apparel for every
ball and wedding, every baptism or burial; and if they were arrayed
with elegance, it was entirely owing to our taste and dexterity. The
proverb says, 'The tailor makes the man,' and it is true. We made
the coronation dresses of both the queens; it follows that they
could not have been crowned without our assistance, for which we, of
course, deserve their gratitude."
"I assure you, however, my dear friend," said Pollnitz, "that it was
with much difficulty I obtained this appointment for you, and you
owe me some acknowledgments. All of my eloquence was necessary to
induce the queen to grant my prayer."
Pricker grew pale, and his countenance lost its calm dignity.
"Take back your patent," he said, proudly, handing the baron the
sealed paper; "I will not accept this title if it is not given
"No, no, keep it," cried Pollnitz; "you merit it; it is your right;
I only mentioned the difficulty with which I obtained it, that I
might win your heart, and incline you to grant a request which I
wish to make."
"I suppose you allude to the five hundred dollars which I lent you
last month," said Pricker, smiling, "Speak of that no more--the debt
"Thank you," said Pollnitz, "but I was not thinking of that small
affair; it was quite another request I wished to make."
"Let me hear it," said the tailor, with a most gracious inclination
of the head.
"It concerns a young artist, who I would like to recommend to your
protection," returned the crafty Pollnitz, with a side glance at
Anna. "He is a young and talented musician, who desires to gain a
livelihood by giving instruction, but unfortunately he is a stranger
here, and has found but few patrons. I thought, therefore, that if
you, who are so well known, would interest yourself in him, and give
him your patronage, it would greatly benefit him, for doubtless many
others would hasten to follow your example. If you will allow him to
give singing-lessons to your daughter Anna, his fortune is assured."
"I grant your request," said Pricker, solemnly, not for an instant
doubting the motive of the baron. "I will bestow my protection upon
this young artist; he can give my daughter a daily lesson, that is,
if Anna is willing to show this kindness to the poor young man."
Anna could scarcely restrain her laughter, as she replied:
"You have commanded it, and I will obey, as a daughter should do."
"Very well," said her father, majestically; "that matter is
arranged. And now, baron, I beg you will inform me at what time the
coronation will take place, that I may make my preparations, and not
be the cause of any delay on that solemn occasion."
"The day of the coronation has not been decided, but it will
certainly not be fixed before the first of August. You will have
time to make all your preparations. Later we will hold a
consultation with her majesty the queen, and decide the style,
color, and material of the costumes. I will only give you a single
word of counsel, my dear friend. Accommodate yourself to the new
era. Remember that we have a new king, who is the counterpart of his
father. The father hated and despised elegance and fashion--the son
adores them; the father was the sworn enemy of French manners--the
son has a perfect passion for them; and if you would please the son,
you must lay aside your old German habits and customs, as we have
all done, and walk in the new path. I tell you a new era is
approaching, a period of glory and splendor. Every thing will be
altered, but, above all, we will have new fashions. In the first
place, you must rid yourself of your German apprentices, and replace
them as quickly as possible with French workmen from Paris. That is
the only means of retaining the court favor."
Pricker listened to all this with horror and astonishment. His
cheeks were white, and his voice trembled with anger, as he cried:
"Never shall that happen! Never will I adopt the innovations which
are now the fashion. Shall I lay aside my respectable dress, to
replace it with a monkey-jacket, and become a laughing-stock to all
honest men? Shall I so far forget my God, my forefathers, and my
native land, as to call French workmen into my German work-room?
Shame on me if I ever conduct myself in such a godless and
unchristian manner! Never shall a French foot cross the threshold of
my dwelling! never shall a French word be spoken there! I was born a
German, and I will die a German. True to my fathers, and to the
commands of my sainted sovereign, who hated and despised these
frivolous French fashions, it shall be my pride to retain the good
old German customs, and never shall a dress cut in the French style
be made in my work-room."
"If you act in this manner, the time of your good fortune is past,"
Pricker paid no attention to him, but looking at the pictures which
hung on the wall, he bowed respectfully before one of them.
"Look!" he said, pointing to one of the portraits, "that is my
great-great-grandfather. He was a German, and the best and ablest of
men. With him began the connection between the houses of
Hohenzollern and Pricker. For him the Prince George William created
the title of court tailor, and he would wear no garment that was not
made by his favorite. He remembered him in his will, and from that
time began the importance of the Prickers.
"Then look at the next picture. It is the portrait of his son, who
was the court tailor of Frederick William, the great elector. He
made the suit worn by the elector at the battle of Fehrbellin; it
was, however, the unhappy duty of his son to make the burial-dress
of this great man.
"But with this portrait begins a new era for Prussia; this was the
tailor of Frederick the Third, and he made the robe and mantle which
Frederick wore on the day of his coronation. His son succeeded him,
and now began a new era for the Prickers.
"The son did not follow the example of his father; he was of a
softer, a more poetical nature. He loved flowers and poetry, and
adored beauty; he therefore became a lady's tailor. The princess
royal, Sophia Dorothea, appointed him her tailor. He made the
coronation robe of the queen, and the wedding-dress of the
Margravine of Baireuth.
"When he died he was succeeded by his son, the now living Pricker. I
made the wedding-dress of the Duchess of Brunswick, and the mourning
of the present dowager-queen. And now, in the very presence of my
ancestors, you tempt me to become a traitor to them and to their
customs. No, I am a German, and I remain a German, even should it
cause my ruin!"
He bowed to the amused and astonished baron, and walked proudly
through the hall to his work-room. His wife followed him with folded
hands and heavy sighs.
Pollnitz and the lovely Anna were again alone.
"What an absurd man!" said Pollnitz, laughing. "If Moliere had known
him he would have worked his character into a charming farce."
"You forget that this absurd man may soon be your father-in-law,"
said Anna, sternly, as she left his side.
"That is true," said Pollnitz, smiling; "we will spare him. Come,
one last kiss, my beautiful Anna--one kiss as a reward for my
successful acting. To-morrow you will have a singing-master, who is
no poor wretch, but a celebrated and influential musician, who has
undertaken to instruct you out of pure kindness for me, for he is
not a teacher but a composer. Graun himself will be your instructor,
and it rests with you to crown our love with the happiest results."
SOFFRI E TACI.
The most ardent desire of the young queen was about to be
accomplished; she was to have a private and unconstrained interview
with her husband. The days of resignation, of hope deferred, and of
hidden sorrow, were now over. The dearly-beloved and longed-for
husband had at last returned to her! She need no longer hide her
head in shame from her own servants, who, she imagines, are secretly
laughing at and mocking her, because the young king is so cold and
indifferent. She need no longer envy the poor woman she saw in the
street yesterday, carrying dinner to her laboring husband. She will
also have a husband, and will feel the guiding and supporting arm of
a strong man at her side. No longer will she be a poor, neglected
queen, but a proud and happy wife, envied of all the world.
He had written that he desired to pay her a visit, and had requested
her not to lock her door, as important business would prevent his
coming until quite late. He would, however, certainly come, as he
desired to have a private interview with her on this very evening.
How wearily the hours of this day have passed, how slowly the sun
sank to rest! It is at last evening; night is coming on. Elizabeth
can now dismiss her attendants, and retire to her private apartments
to await her husband. He shall see how joyfully she will receive
him, how happy he has made her. She will adorn herself, that he may
be pleased; she will be beautiful, that he may smile upon her.
The queen, with the assistance of her astonished maids, attires
herself for the first time in one of the charming negligees recently
sent by the Empress of Austria; for the first time she dons her
prettily-worked and coquettish little cap, and encloses her tiny
feet in gold-embroidered white satin slippers. This neglige? is
really charming, and the queen's waiting-maids assure her that she
never looked better, and was never more becomingly attired. But the
queen desires to assure herself of this fact, and stepping forward
to the mirror, she examines her dress with the careful eye of a
connoisseur; then bending down, she regards her face attentively,
and an expression of satisfaction flits over her features. Elizabeth
sees that she is young and pretty, and for the first time rejoices
in her beauty. The maids regarded with astonishment these unusual
preparations. Why was Elizabeth now so much rejoiced at the beauty
of which she had never before seemed conscious?
The toilet is at an end; the queen seats herself on the light blue
sofa, and dismisses her maids with a mute gesture. But when the
first maid approaches the door, and as usual drew the key from the
lock in order to secure it from the outside, Elizabeth awakes from
her dreamy state and arises from her reclining position; a glowing
color suffuses her cheek, and a happy smile plays around her lips.
"Do not lock the door to-day," said she, with emotion; "I await the
As if astonished at her new happiness, she sinks back on the
cushions, and covers her glowing face with her handkerchief, as if
to shut out the dazzling light. The waiting-maids courtesy
respectfully, and leave the room. In the ante-chamber this
respectful expression vanishes from their features, and they turn to
each other with mocking and derisive laughter.
"Poor queen! she wishes to make us believe that the king, while he
altogether neglects her in public, sometimes pays her a secret
visit. She wishes to make us believe that she is really the wife of
the handsome young king; and we all know--yes, we all know--"
And all three shrugged their shoulders derisively, and hurried off
to their associates, to gossip with them about the poor, despised,
But what was that? Did they not hear a carriage driving into the
inner court, and the guard presenting arms amid the rolling of
drums? Could it be as the queen had said? was the king really coming
to his wife? The waiting-maids stood and listened; they heard steps
on the grand staircase. Yes, it was the king, who, preceded by his
pages, carrying silver candelabras with wax candles, walked hastily
down the corridor to his chambers, and from thence to those of the
What the queen had said was therefore true. He did not despise her;
perhaps he loved her! The astonished waiting-maids hurried off to
inform their friends that the king loved his wife passionately, and
the royal pair was the happiest couple on earth. Elizabeth Christine
also heard the equipages drive in to the court. With a cry of
delight she sprang from her seat and listened. A fervent glow of
happiness shot through her veins. She pressed her hands to her heart
to still its rapid beating; her countenance was illumined with joy.
But these feelings were so novel they almost terrified her, and
filled her heart with tremulous anxiety.
"My God," murmured she, "give me strength to bear this happiness, as
I have borne misery!"
But her prayer died on her lips, for she heard the door of the
corridor open. She was no longer the queen, no longer the resigned
and timid wife; she was now the happy and joyful woman hurrying to
meet the husband of her love. And with uplifted head and proud
satisfaction she might now confess without shame that she loved him;
for he loved her also. He had requested a rendezvous, and was coming
as a lover-her first love meeting. She will not be shy and silent
to-day, now that she knows he loves her; her tongue will no longer
be chained; she will have courage to confess all, to tell him how
ardently she loves him, and how long and vainly she has struggled
with her heart; how the flames had ever broken out anew; how his
glances had ever renewed the ardor of her love.
There--he knocked at the door--she could scarcely breathe; she could
scarcely bid him enter; she could not move, and stood transfixed in
the middle of the room; she could only stretch out her arms
longingly, and welcome him with her smiles and tearful glances.
The door opened; now he entered. The light of the wax candles fell
on his face. It was handsome as ever, but his eye was cold, and his
lips uttered no loving greeting. He walked forward a few steps,
stood still, and bowed in a stiff and formal manner. A chill of
horror crept over Elizabeth; her arms sank down, and the smile
vanished from her pallid face.
"Madame," said the king, and his voice sounded harsher and colder
than she had ever before heard it--"madame, I must first beg your
pardon for having disturbed you at so unseemly a time, and for
having robbed you of an hour's sleep. But you see that I am a
repentant sinner, and you will forgive me when I assure you that, as
this is my first, it shall also be my last violation of your
The queen uttered a low cry, and pressed her hand to her heart. She
felt as if a sword had pierced her breast, as if she were dying.
The king raised his large blue eyes with a surprised look to the
pale, trembling face of his wife.
"You are pale, you are ill," said he, "and my presence is
undoubtedly annoying; I will retire and send your waiting-maids to
While he was speaking the queen prayed to God for courage and
strength; she called her womanly pride to her assistance, and
struggled against her tears and her despair. The king, who in vain
had waited for an answer, now hastily approached the door, murmuring
a few impatient words.
But Elizabeth's courage had now returned, she had conquered her
"Remain, sire," she said; "I beg you to remain; I feel well again.
It was only a passing spasm from which I often suffer, and for which
I crave your indulgence."
"If I may then remain," said the king, smiling, "permit me to
conduct you to a seat."
She accepted the king's proffered arm and followed him to the sofa
on which she had awaited him with such blissful anticipations, and
on which he was now about to put her heart to the torture.
The king did not seat himself by her side, but rolling an arm-chair
forward, seated himself at some distance in front of her.
"Madame," said he, "is it credible that we two have been married for
seven long years, and still have never been as man and wife to each
other? Our lips were forced to pronounce vows of which our hearts
knew nothing. Having been forced into this marriage, you must have
hated me. You can never have forgiven me for having led you to the
altar. At the foot of the altar we did not vow eternal love to each
other, but eternal coldness and indifference; and to this hour,
madame, you, at least, have faithfully kept this vow."
The queen sank back, murmuring a few incomprehensible words, and her
head fell wearily upon her breast.
The king continued: "I come to-day to solicit your forgiveness for
the involuntary injustice which I committed. I have made you
unhappy, for you were forced to give your hand to an unloved man, of
whom you knew that he loved you not. Madame, it is unfortunately
true, an abyss lies between us, and this abyss is filled with the
blood of the dearest friend of my youth. Oh, madame, forgive me this
wrong, for the sake of what I have suffered! I then had a soft and
tender heart, but it was trodden under foot, and has become
hardened. I placed full confidence in the world, and it has deceived
me terribly. I have suffered more than the poorest beggar; I was
forced to regard my own father as a cruel enemy, who watched me
unceasingly, awaiting a favorable moment to give me a death-blow. It
was necessary that I should be continually on my guard, for the
smallest fault, the slightest thoughtlessness, a trifle, a mere
nothing, was sufficient to condemn me. Oh, if you knew with what
vermin I have been publicly calumniated and accused! After doing
their utmost to make me odious to the world, and fearing they might
perhaps still fail, they resorted to another expedient to compass my
ruin, and endeavored to kill me with their ridicule. Soffri e taci,
this Italian proverb was then the motto of my life. And believe me,
it is hard to obey this seemingly so dry maxim; it has a grand
significance." [Footnote: The king's own words. See Oeuvres, etc.,
tom. xvi., p. 161.]
The king, oppressed as it were by these reminiscences, leaned back
in his chair and breathed heavily. With downcast eyes and in silence
the queen still sat before him, charmed by the music of his words,
which found an echo in her heart like the dying wail of her youth.
"I do not tell you this," continued the king, after a pause, "in
order to play the role of a martyr in your sight, but because I wish
you to understand by what means my spirit was at last broken, and my
will made subservient to that of my father. I purchased my freedom,
madam, by chaining you to myself. But in doing this, I vowed you
should no longer be bound when it should be in my power to release
you. This moment has come, and true to my vow, I am here. I know
that you do not, cannot love me, madame. The question arises, is
your aversion to me so great that you insist on a separation?"
The queen raised her head and looked wonderingly into the mild and
sorrowful countenance of her husband. She could no longer restrain
the cry which trembled on her lips, no longer stem the tide of tears
which gushed in torrents from her eyes.
"My God! my God!" she exclaimed, with a plaintive wail, "he asks me
if I hate him!"
There was something in the tone of her voice, in this despairing cry
of her soul, which ought to have betrayed the long-hidden secret of
her love to the king. But perhaps he knew it already, and did not
wish to understand. Perhaps, in the nobility and native delicacy of
his soul, he wished to represent the indifference and coldness which
he experienced for his wife, as coming from herself. However, the
king did not seem to notice her tears.
"No, madame," said he, "I did not ask if you hated me, for I well
know that your noble and womanly heart is not capable of this
passion. I merely asked if your aversion to me was so great that it
demanded a separation. I pray you to give me a short and decisive
But Elizabeth Christine had lost the power of speech; tears rained
down her cheeks, and she could only give a mute assent.
"You are, then, willing to be my wife before the world?" asked the
king. "You are willing to remain Queen of Prussia, and nominally the
wife of the king? You do not demand that my reign shall be
inaugurated with the exposure of our domestic misfortunes, and that
your chaste and virtuous name shall be branded about with mine
before the calumniating world?"
"No," said the queen, with feverish haste, for she feared her
strength might fail her. "No, I do not demand it; I desire no
"I thank you for this word," said the king, gravely. "It is worthy
of a queen. You then feel with me that we princes have not even the
right to cast off the burden which weighs us down, but must bear it
patiently if it serve to secure the stability of our throne.
Enviable are those who dare complain of their sufferings, and show
their scars. But it becomes us to wrap ourselves in silence, and not
to show to the miserable, pitiful, and drivelling world, which
envies and abuses, even while applauding us, that a king can also
suffer. I thank you, madame, and from this hour you will find in me
a true friend, a well-meaning brother, ever ready to serve you. Give
me your hand to this contract, which shall be more lasting and
holier than that blessed by priests, to which our hearts did not say
In his proffered hand Elizabeth laid her own slowly and solemnly.
But when he clasped it in his own with a firm pressure, Elizabeth
started and a cry escaped her lips. She hastily withdrew her hand,
and sinking back on the sofa, burst into tears. Frederick allowed
her tears to flow, regarding her with a look of deep sympathy.
"You weep, madame," said he, after a long and painful pause. "I
honor your tears; you weep for your lost youth; you weep because you
are a queen, and because reason has conquered your heart and forbids
you to make yourself free as any other woman except a princess might
do. Weep on, madame, I cannot dry your tears, for like yourself I
have been cheated of my happiness; like yourself I am well aware of
the sacrifice which we are both making to our royal standing. Ah,
madame, if we were only private individuals, if we were not the
rulers of Prussia, but her subjects, we might now be happy. Feeling
our own unhappiness, and desiring to save our subjects from a like
misfortune, I have made a divorce more easily attainable."
Elizabeth arose from her reclining position and regarded the king
with a mournful smile.
"I thank your majesty," said she. "It is noble in you to alleviate
that misfortune for others, which you have determined to endure."
"Ah, madame," exclaimed the king, smiling, "you forget that I have
in you a noble friend and sister at my side, who will help me to
bear this evil. And then we are not altogether unhappy; if we do not
love, neither do we hate each other. We are brother and sister, not
by blood, but united by the word of the priest. But never fear,
madame, I will regard you only as a sister, and I promise you never
to violate the respect due to your virtue!"
"I believe you," murmured the queen, blushing, and inwardly ashamed
of the charming and coquettish negligee in which she had received
"Before the world we are still married, but I promise that this
chain shall gall you as little as possible. In your private life you
will only be reminded that you are still my wife, when it is
absolutely unavoidable. At the coronation I must request your
presence at my side. When this is over you will be as free and
independent as circumstances will admit. You will have a court of
your own, a summer and a winter residence, in which I shall never
"I shall then never see you again!" said the queen, in the sad voice
of resignation, which is often produced by an excess of pain.
"Oh, I pray you, madame, to permit me to meet you at times when
etiquette demands it; but I shall take care that these meetings take
place on official and neutral ground, and not in our private houses.
I will never enter your house without your permission, and then only
on particular fete days--your birthday for instance; and I trust
that you will not refuse to receive me on such occasions."
"No, I will not refuse," replied the queen, regarding her husband
with a sad and reproachful look. But Frederick did not see this
look, or would not see it.
"I beg," said the king, smiling, "that you will permit me to present
you with the castle of Schonhausen, as a reminiscence of the hour in
which you found a faithful brother, and I a noble sister. Accept
this little gift as an earnest of our new bond of friendship. It has
been fitted up and prepared as a summer residence for your use, and
you can retire to it immediately after the coronation, if you are so
"I thank you," said the queen in so low a voice that her words could
scarcely be distinguished. "I thank you, and I will go there on the
day after the coronation;" a sigh, almost a sob, escaped her breast.
The king regarded with a clear and penetrating glance the meek woman
who sat before him, who accepted her joyless and gloomy future with
such heroic resignation. Her mute anguish excited his compassion. He
wished to throw a sunbeam into her dark future, to warm her heart
with a ray of happiness.
"Well," said he, "I am on the point of making a little journey
incognito, in the meanwhile you can go to Schonhausen; but when I
return I desire to spend a few weeks in Rheinsberg in my family
circle, and, as a matter of course, madame, you are a member of my
family. I beg, therefore, that you will accompany me to Rheinsberg."
Elizabeth's countenance was illumined with so beautiful and radiant
a smile that even the king saw it and admired her beauty. She held
out both her hands and greeted him with a loving glance, but her
trembling lips refused to utter the words which her heart prompted.
The king arose. "I must no longer deprive you of your repose, and I
also need rest. We must both keep ourselves well and strong for the
sake of our country and our subjects, for we both have a grand task
to accomplish. You will administer consolation to the miserable and
suffering; you will diffuse happiness and reap blessings; you will
shine as a model of nobility and feminine virtue before all other
women, and through your example will give noble wives and mothers to
Prussia's sons! And I," continued the king, a ray of enthusiasm
lighting up his handsome face, "I will make my people great; my
country shall have a place in the counsels of mighty nations. I will
enlarge Prussia and make her strong and powerful. My name shall be
engraven in golden letters in the book of history. As fate has
destined me to be a king, and will not permit me to spend my days in
retirement and philosophic tranquillity like other and happier
mortals, I will at least endeavor to accomplish my mission with
honor to myself and advantage to my people. You will be a
ministering angel to the needy and suffering of our subjects, and I
will extend the boundaries of Prussia and diffuse prosperity
throughout the land! Farewell, Elizabeth! our paths will seldom
meet, but if I were so fortunate as to believe in a hereafter, and
your noble and gentle nature would almost persuade me to do so, I
would say: 'In heaven we will perhaps meet oftener, and understand
each other better.' Pray to God in my behalf. I believe in God and
in the efficacy of the prayers of the good and pious. Farewell!"
He bowed deeply. He did not see the deathly pallor and convulsive
trembling of the queen. He did not see how she, after he had turned
from her and was advancing toward the door, hardly knowing what she
did, stretched out her arms after him, and whispered his name in a
plaintive and imploring tone. He hurried on, and without once
turning left the room. On the outside he stood still for a moment,
and drew a long breath of relief.
"Poor woman! unfortunate queen!" he murmured, returning slowly to
his chambers. "But why pity her? Is not her lot mine, and that of
all princes? A glittering misery--nothing else!"
A few minutes later and the royal equipage again drove through the
The king was returning to his summer residence at Charlottenburg.
The queen, who was on her knees, crying and sobbing, heard the
carriage as it drove off. "Gone! he is gone!" she exclaimed, with a
cry of anguish; "he has deserted me, and I am a poor discarded
woman! He despises me, and I--I love him!" And wringing her hands,
she sobbed aloud. For a while she was tranquil and prayed, and then
again burst into tears. Her soul, which had suffered so long in
silence, once mora rebelled. The voice of her youth made itself
heard, and demanded in heart-rending accents a little sunshine, a
little of the joy and happiness promised to mankind.
She was at last quieted; she accepted her destiny, and bowed her
head in humility and patience. Morning was already dawning when
Elizabeth Christine arose from her knees, pale and trembling, but
resigned. "Soffri e taci!" said she, sadly. "This was the motto of
his youth, and this shall be the motto of my whole life! Soffri e
taci! how sad, and yet how grave are these words! Oh! Frederick,
Frederick! why do you condemn me to such torture; why has your heart
no pity with me, no pity with my love? But no!" she exclaimed,
firmly, "I will weep no more. He shall not despise me. I have
accepted my destiny, and will bear it as beseems a queen. Be still,
my heart, be still. Soffri e taci!"
Berlin was resplendent; the streets were filled with happy faces and
gayly-dressed people, and the houses garlanded with flowers. To-day
was the young king's coronation festival.
The citizens of Berlin were assembled to take the oath of
allegiance, and the nobles and officials to do homage to Frederick
as their king. Crowds were moving toward the castle; all were
anxious to see the king in his coronation uniform, to see him step
upon the balcony to greet the people with the queen at his side, the
young and lovely lady with the sweet smile and cloudless brow; all
wished to see the rich equipages of the nobility, and, if possible,
to collect some of the coins which, according to an old and time-
honored custom, were to be showered amongst the people. Thousands
were standing before the castle, gazing intently upon the balcony
where the king would soon appear. The windows of the surrounding
houses were filled with lovely women richly dressed, holding wreaths
and bouquets of fragrant flowers with which to greet their young and
worshipped king. All were gay and joyous, all were eager to greet
the new king with shouts of gladness. The people were ready to
worship him who, during a few weeks of his reign, had done so much
for them; had showered upon them so many blessings; had opened the
granaries, diminished the taxes, and abolished the torture; who had
recalled the religious sect so lately driven with derision from
Berlin, and declared that every man in Prussia should worship God
and seek his salvation in his own way. Yes, all wished to greet this
high-minded, high-souled king, who, being himself a philosopher and
a writer, knew how to reward and appreciate the scholars and poets
of his own land. Frederick had recalled the celebrated philosopher
Wolf, punished some time before by Frederick William. He had
organized the Academy of Science, and filled it with learned and
scientific men of the day. All this had been done in a few weeks.
How much could still be hoped for?
The king loved pomp and splendor; this would promote the industry of
the people. How much money would be conveyed through him and his gay
court to the working classes! What a costly festal life would now
become the fashion in Berlin and what a rich harvest would the
manufacturers and tradesmen reap! Not only the people dreamed of a
golden era, but the noblemen and high officials, who now crowded the
palace, were hopeful and expectant, and saw a rare future of costly
feasts and intoxicating pleasures. The stupid and frugal
entertainments of Frederick William would give place to royal fetes
worthy of the Arabian Nights.
Pollnitz, the Grand Chamberlain, was in his element; he was
commissioned with the arrangements for all the court balls, was
empowered to order every thing according to his own judgment and
taste, and he resolved to lavish money with a liberal hand. Pollnitz
wished to realize his great ideal; and he wished to see embodied in
Frederick the picture he had drawn, for the benefit of the old king,
of a true cavalier. The king had given him the power and he was
resolved to use it. He thought and dreamed of nothing, now that the
court mourning was drawing to a close, but the costly feasts which
he would give. Pollnitz was ever searching, with an experienced and
critical eye, amongst the ladies and maids of honor for the
fascinating beauty who should charm the heart of the young king, and
draw him into the golden net of pleasure--the net Pollnitz was so
anxious to secure for him.
That the king did not love his wife was no longer a secret at court.
Who, then, would win the love of this impassioned young monarch?
This was the great question with Pollnitz. There was the lovely
Madame Wreeckie, who had shown so much kindness to the prince during
his imprisonment. Madame Wreeckie was still young, still bewitching;
perhaps it was only necessary to bring them together in order to
rekindle the old flame. There was Madame Morien, "Le Tourbillon,"
who had so often charmed the prince during his minority, and for
whom he had manifested a passionate preference. To be sure, since
his coronation he had not noticed her, she had not received a single
invitation to court. Then Dorris Ritter, the poor innocent young
girl who had been flogged through the streets of Berlin, her only
fault being that she was the first love of the crown prince. Would
the king, now that he was free to act, remember poor Dorris and what
she had suffered for him; her sorrow, her shame, and her despair?
Would not Dorris Ritter now rise to power and influence, be prayed
to as a lovely saint, her shame being covered with a martyr's crown?
Pollnitz determined to keep an eye on Dorris Ritter, and if the king
showed no special interest in any other woman, to draw her from her
exile and abasement. But, alas! the coronation threw no light upon
this torturing subject. Pollnitz had hoped in vain that a round of
intoxicating pleasures would begin with this day; in vain did he
suggest to the king that a court ball should crown the solemnities
of the day.
"No," said Frederick, "this shall be no day of thoughtless joy; it
brings me sad retrospective thoughts and the consciousness of
weighty duties. On this day my father seems to me to die anew.
Dismiss, therefore, your extravagant fancies to a more fitting time.
I cannot trust you, Pollnitz, with the decorations of the throne,
your taste is too oriental for this occasion; I will therefore place
this affair in the hands of M. Costellan, who will order the simple
decorations which I deem most fitting."
The grand chamberlain could only shrug his shoulders contemptuously,
and rejoice that he was not compromised by these contemptible
arrangements; he grumbled to himself, and said scornfully: "This
pitiful saloon, with no gilded furniture, no paintings, no works of
art, with faded, shabby silk curtains: and that black, uncouth
structure, is that really a throne--the throne of a young king? A
long platform covered with cloth; an old arm-chair, black, worn, and
rusty; a canopy covered with black cloth; faugh! it looks like a
crow with his wings spread. Can this be the throne of a king who
receives for the first time the homage of his subjects?" A
contemptuous mocking smile was on the lips of Pollnitz as he saw the
king and his three brothers enter the room.
Pollnitz could hardly suppress a cry of horror, as he looked at the
king. What, no embroidered coat, no ermine mantle, no crown, nothing
but the simple uniform of the guard, no decorations--not even the
star upon his breast, to distinguish him from the generals and
officials who surrounded him! Nevertheless, as Frederick stood upon
that miserable platform with the princes and generals at his side,
there was no one that could be compared with him; he seemed, indeed,
to stand alone, his bearing was right royal; his countenance beamed
with a higher majesty than was ever that lent by a kingly crown; the
fire of genius was seen in the flashes of his piercing eye; proud
and fearless thoughts were engraved upon his brow, and an
indescribable grace played around his finely-formed mouth. There
stood, indeed, "Frederick the Great;" he did not need the purple
mantle, or the star upon his breast. God had marked him with
elevated kingly thoughts, and the star which was wanting on his
breast was replaced by the lustre of his eye.
The solemn address of the minister of state, and the reply of
President Gorner, were scarcely listened to. Frederick, though
silent, had said more than these two ministers, with all their
rounded periods; his glance had reached the heart of every one who
looked upon him, and said, "I am thy king and thy superior;" they
bowed reverently before him, not because chance had made him their
sovereign, they were subdued by the power of intellect and will. The
oath of allegiance was taken with alacrity. The king stood
motionless upon his throne, betraying no emotion, calm, impassive,
unapproachable, receiving the homage of his subjects, not haughtily
but with the composed serenity of a great spirit accepting the
tribute due to him, and not dazzled by the offering.
The coronation was at an end. Frederick stepped from the throne, and
nodded to his brothers to follow him; the servants hastily opened
the doors which led to the balcony, and carried out the bags filled
with the gold and silver coins. The air resounded with the shouts of
the populace. The king drew near to the iron railing, and greeted
his subjects with a cordial smile. "You are my children," he said,
"you have a right to demand of your father love, sympathy, and
protection, and you shall have them." Then taking a handful of coin
he scattered it amongst the crowd. Shouts of merriment and a fearful
scuffling and scrambling was seen and heard below; each one wished
to secure a coin thrown by the king himself, and they scarcely
noticed the silver and gold which the young princes were scattering
with liberal hands; all these were worthless, as long as it was
possible to secure one piece which had been touched by Frederick.
The king saw this, and, much flattered by this disinterested mark of
love, he again scattered the coin far and wide.
While the men were struggling roughly and angrily for this last
treasure, a weak, pallid woman sprang boldly into the thickest of
the surging crowd. Until now she had been cold and indifferent; the
coins thrown by the young princes, and which had fallen at her feet,
she had cast from her with disdain; now, however, as the king once
more cast the coins in the midst of the gaping crowd, with a power
which passion only gives she forced her way amongst the wild
multitude, and with outstretched arms she shrieked out, "Oh! give me
one of these small coins, only a silver one, give it to me as a
keepsake! Oh! for God's sake, give me one!" Suddenly strange murmurs
and whispers were heard from amongst those who now recognized this
poor outcast; they looked askance at her, they shrank from her as
from a leper; and she who a moment before had sued to them so
humbly, now stood in their midst like an enraged lioness.
"It is she!--it is she!" they whispered; "she has come to see the
king, for whom she suffered so much; for his sake she had been
covered with shame; she has been driven from amongst the poor and
innocent, and now she dares to come amongst us!" cried a harsh and
"We know how cruelly she was insulted and abused," said another,
"but we all know that she was innocent; my heart is full of pity for
her, and she has a right to a coin touched by the king." The last
speaker approached the poor woman, and offered both a gold and
silver coin. "Take these coins, I beg you, and may they be to you an
earnest of a better and happier future."
She gazed with a hard and tearless eye upon the good-natured, kindly
face. "No, there is no happy future for me--nothing but want, and
misery, and despair; but I thank you for your pity, and I accept
these coins as a memento of this hour." She took them and laid them
in her tattered dress, walked erect through the circle which
gathered around, and was soon lost in the crowd.
She was soon forgotten. The king with his brilliant suite was still
upon the balcony, they had not noticed the scene passing amongst the
people below; none of them remarked this poor creature, who, having
made her way through the crowd, now leaned against one of the
pillars of the spire, and gazed earnestly upon the king. The money
was exhausted, the king had shown himself to the people
sufficiently, and now, according to etiquette, he must leave the
balcony and make the grand tour of the saloons, greeting with kind
and gracious words the assembled nobles. He motioned, however, to
his followers to leave him, he wished to remain a few moments alone,
and look thoughtfully upon this sea of upturned faces. Frederick
gazed eagerly below. That was no inanimate and pulseless creation
moved to and fro by the wind, which he now looked upon, but a
living, thinking, immortal people; with hearts to hate or love, with
lips to bless or curse, their verdict would one day decide the great
question as to his fame and glory as a monarch, or his neglect of
holy duty, and the eternal shame which follows. They seemed to
Frederick to be pleading with him; they demanded but little--a
little shade to rest in when weary with their daily labor; prompt
justice and kindly protection, the right to live in peace, bearing
the burden and sorrow of their lives patiently; pity for their
necessities, forbearance for their weakness and folly. What did he,
their king, demand of them? That alone, which a million of people,
his people, could bestow, immortal fame!--they must give him the
laurel of the hero, and crown him with the civic wreath; he would
make his subjects strong, healthy, and happy--they must make his
greatness known to all the world, and future ages.
Such were the thoughts of the king as he stood alone upon the
balcony. His eye often wandered across to the spire, and as often as
it did the wretched woman who was leaning against the pillar
trembled fearfully, and her lips and cheeks became deadly pale. The
king did not see her; he saw nothing of the outer world, his eye was
turned within, reading the secrets of his own heart.
In the grand saloons the nobles stood waiting in grim and angry
silence the return of Frederick; a cloud rested upon every brow;
even Pollnitz could no longer retain his gracious and stereotyped
smile; he felt it to be a bitter grievance that the king should keep
the nobility waiting while he stood gazing at a dirty mass of
insignificant creatures called human beings! Looking around the
circle, Pollnitz saw displeasure marked upon every face but three.
"Ah," said he to himself, "there are the three Wreeckies; no doubt
they have come to be rewarded for services rendered the crown
prince; they were doubtless dangerous rivals for us all; they
suffered much for the prince, and were banished seven years from
court on his account. The king must indemnify them for all this, and
who knows, perhaps he may give them the house in Jager Street, the
house I am in the habit of calling mine! Well, I must draw near them
and hear all the king promises." So saying, Pollnitz drew quietly
near the Messieurs Wreeckie. At this moment there was a movement in
the vast assembly, and all bowed low; as the king stepped into the
saloon he commenced the grand tour of the room; he had a kind and
friendly word for all; at last he reached the Messieurs Wreeckie,
and remained standing before them. All glances were now directed to
this group; all held their breath, not wishing to lose a word which
Frederick should say to these formidable rivals.
The king stood before them, his eye was severe, and his brow
clouded. "Gentlemen," he said, "it has been a long time since I have
seen you at the court of the King of Prussia. I suppose you seek the
prince royal; I do not think you will find him here. At this court
you will only find a king who demands, above all things, that his
majesty should be respected; that you subjugate yourselves to him in
silent obedience; even when his orders appear harsh and cruel they
must not be questioned for a moment; he who opposes the will of the
king deserves punishment; I will not bear opposition at my court.
There is but one will, but one law; that is the will and law of the
king!" And, without further greetings, he passed on.
The Wreeckies stood pale and trembling, and the face of Pollnitz was
radiant with contentment. "Well, those poor fellows will not receive
my house in Jager Street," he said to himself, "they have fallen
into disgrace; it appears the king wants to punish all those who
rendered good service to the prince royal. Louis the Fourteenth
said: 'It is most unworthy of a French king to punish any wrong done
to the crown prince;' here the rule is reversed--the King of Prussia
deems it unworthy to reward the services rendered the prince royal.
But what is the meaning of that crowd over there?" he exclaimed,
interrupting himself, "why is the lord marshal approaching his
majesty with such an eager, joyful air? I must know what is going
on." Again Pollnitz made his way through the courtiers and arrived
safely, right behind the king, just as my lord marshal was saying in
an excited voice: "Your majesty, there is a young man in the next
room who begs your highness to allow him to throw himself at your
feet and take the oath of allegiance; he has come from America to
greet you as king. So soon as he heard of the illness of your
father, he left his asylum and has travelled night and day; he has
finished his journey at a most fortunate moment."
The eye of the king rested coldly, unmoved on the speaker; and even
after he ceased speaking, regarded him sternly. "What is the name of
this young man, for whom you show so lively an interest?" said the
king, after a pause.
The lord marshal looked perplexed and frightened; he thought the
king's heart should have told him who stood without; who it was that
had left his asylum in America and longed to greet the new king.
"Sire," he said, hesitatingly, "your majesty demands to know the
name of this young man?"
"I demand it."
The lord marshal breathed quickly. "Well, your majesty, it is my
nephew; it is Lieutenant Keith, who has come from America to throw
himself at your majesty's feet."
Not a muscle of the king's countenance moved. "I know no Lieutenant
Keith," he said, sternly; "he who was once known to me by that name
was stricken from the officers' roll with the stigma of disgrace and
shame, and was hung by the hangman in effigy, upon the gallows. If
Mr. Keith is still living, I advise him to remain in America, where
no one knows of his crime, or of his ignominious punishment."
"Your majesty will not receive him, then?" said the lord marshal,
with a trembling voice.
"You may thank God, sir, that I do not receive him--above all, that
I ignore his being here; if I should know that he still lived, I
should be forced to execute the sentence to which he was condemned
by the court-martial." Slightly nodding to the lord marshal, the
king passed on and spoke a few indifferent words to some gentlemen
"Well, Mr. Keith will not get my house in the Jager Street," said
Pollnitz, laughing slightly. "What is the matter with this king, he
seems to have lost his memory? God grant he may not forget who it
was that induced Frederick William to pay the debts of the prince
royal, and to present him with the Trakener stud."
When the king had left the balcony, a poor young woman, who had been
sitting on the steps of the cathedral, arose and looked fearfully
around her. The sight of the king had carried her far away, she had
been dreaming of the blissful days of the past. His disappearance
brought her back to the present--the sad, comfortless present. The
king had left the balcony. What had she to do in this mob, that
might again mock, insult, or commiserate her! she could stand
neither their sneers nor their pity, she must flee from both.
With a hasty movement she drew her shawl tighter around her poor
slender figure, and hurried through the crowd. She came at last to a
miserable small house. The low narrow door seemed unfriendly,
inhospitable, as if it would permit no one to pass its threshold and
enter its dreary, deserted rooms, from which no sound of life
proceeded. But this small, quiet dwelling ought to have been a house
of labor and occupation, and would not have been so poor and pitiful
looking if the large iron bell hanging over the door had been
oftener in motion, and filled the silent space with its cheerful
Behind this door there was a shop, but the bell was generally
silent, and purchasers rarely came to buy in this miserable little
store the articles which could be purchased more reasonably in one
of the large shops belonging to wealthy merchants. The house seemed
to have seen better days. It had some claims to comfort and
respectability. In the windows were placed bright shells and
cocoanuts; there were the large blue china pots, in which the costly
ginger is brought; there were quantities of almonds, raisons,
citron, and lemons in glass shells; neat paper bags for coffee, and
small Chinese chests that had held real Chinese tea. But these bags
and chests were empty; the lemons and fruits were dried and hard;
the ginger-pots held no more of their strengthening contents; even
the dusty, faded sign over the door, which presented a wonderfully-
ornamented negro engaged in unrolling dried tobacco leaves, was but
a reminiscence of the past, for the tobacco had long since
disappeared from the chests, and the little that was left had fallen
to dust. The store contained but a few unimportant things: chicory
for the poor, who could not pay for coffee; matches, and small home-
made penny lights, with which poverty illuminated her misery and
want; on the table, in glass cans, a few hardened, broken bits of
candy; a large cask of old herring, and a smaller one of syrup. This
was the inventory of the shop, these the possessions of this family,
who alone occupied this house with their misery, their want, and
their despair; whose head and only stay was the poor young woman now
leaning wearily against the steps, dreading to enter her house of
woe and wretchedness. She arose at length and hastily entered. The
bells' hoarse creaking ring was heard, and a poor, pale boy hastened
forward to inquire the comer's wants. He stopped and looked angrily
at the poor woman who had entered.
"Ah, it is you, mother," said he, peevishly. "I hoped it was some
one wishing to buy, then I could have bought some bread."
"Bread!" said the mother anxiously; "did I not, before I went out,
give you the money to buy bread for you and your little sister?"
"Yes, but when father came home he threatened to beat me if I did
not give up the money at once; I was frightened, and gave it; then
he left, and Anna and I have been crying for bread, while our father
is amusing himself at the alehouse and our mother has taken a
holiday, and has been looking at the festivities which I also would
have been glad to see, but could not, because I must stay at home
and watch the shop into which no one has entered, and take care of
my little sister, who cries for bread, which I cannot give her." As
he finished he threw an angry look at his mother, who, deeply
grieved, had fallen back on a wooden bench. She looked lovingly at
her son, and holding out her arms to him, said:
"Come, give me a kiss, and reward me for all my pain and suffering."
"Give us bread, then perhaps I will kiss you," said he, harshly.
She looked terrified into his hard, cold face. She pressed her hand
to her high, pale forehead, as if she would force back the madness
that threatened her; she held the other hand to her heart, whose
wild, feverish throbbings were almost choking her.
"My God! my God!" murmured she, "am I then already mad? Am I
dreaming? Is this my son, my Karl, who loved me so dearly--my boy,
who was the only comfort in my misery, the confidant of my tears and
wretchedness? Can I, whom he looks at with such dark glances, be his
mother--his mother, who joyfully bears for him the scorn of the
world, who has suffered and hungered for him, worked for him during
the long, cold winter nights--his mother, whose love for him was so
great that she was willing not to die, but for his sake to live on
in her woe? Karl, my son, come to your mother, for you well know how
tenderly she loves you, and that she will die if you do not love
"No, mother," said he, not moving, "you do not love me, nor my
little sister Anna; for if you loved us, you would not have left us
to-day, and joined the gay people who were making merry while your
poor children were at home groaning and crying."
"Oh, my child! my child! I did not go, out of idle curiosity," said
she, sadly. "I went to consult the oracle of your future, and to see
if there was not to be some hope, some comfort for my children; if
this would not be the beginning of brighter days. I wished to read
all this in a man's face; I wished to see if he still had a heart,
or if, like all princes, he had become hard and pitiless."
She had forgotten that she was speaking to her son; she was
addressing herself, and had entirely forgotten that he was present.
"Ah," said he, sneeringly, "you thought he would now give you money
for your shame; but father told me that all the gold in the world
would not wipe out this shame, and that brandy was the only way
besides death that could make us forget that we are despised and
accursed. Father told me--"
The boy stopped and retreated a few steps; his mother had risen from
her seat and stood before him, deadly pale, with widely-opened,
flashing eyes, with trembling lips; every muscle of her face in
play; her whole form trembling in a paroxysm of rage and frightful
torture. It was not the head of a woman, but a Medusa; not the look
of a tender, loving mother, but of a wild, angry, threatening mad
"What did your father tell you?" cried she, wildly, to the trembling
boy before her. "What did he say? I will, I must know! You are
silent; speak, or I dash my brains out against the wall, and you
will be guilty of your mother's death."
"You will beat me if I tell you," said he insolently.
"No, no, I will not beat you," said she, breathlessly; and folding
her hands as if to pray, she continued: "My child, my child, have
mercy on your mother. Tell me what he said; with what words he
poisoned your heart, and made the love for your poor mother die so
quickly. Tell me all, my son; I will not beat but bless you, though
your words should cut my heart like a knife."
She wished to press him to her heart, but he resisted passionately.
"No," said he, "you shall not kiss me; father said you made all you
touched unhappy and despised, and that we would be well, happy, and
rich if you were not our mother."
She shuddered; her arm fell powerless to her side, a hollow groan
escaped her, her eyes were fixed and tearless.
"What more did he tell you?" murmured she; "with what other tales
did he amuse my child?" She looked at him with such a sad, painful
smile, that he trembled and glanced timidly down; he now saw what
torture he was preparing for her.
"Father was drunk," said he; "when he heard that you had gone out,
he was furious; he cursed you so dreadfully that Anna and I both
cried, and I begged him not insult you so, for it hurt me, for then
I still loved you."
"Then he still loved me!" said his mother, wringing her hands.
"But he laughed at me, and said you did not deserve our love; that
you were the cause of all our misery and want; he had become poor
and wretched because he had married you, and taken to drink so as
not to hear or see men pointing and laughing at you when you passed.
But, mother, you look so pale, you tremble so! I will say no more; I
will forget all father said; I will love you, mother; but do not
look at me so dreadfully, and do not tremble in that way."
The boy wept from grief and terror. His old love had awakened; he
approached his mother to kiss her, but now she pushed him back.
"I do not tremble," said she, though her teeth were chattering. "I
do not tremble, and you must not forget what your father said; you
must tell me all again. Speak on, speak! I must hear all, know all.
What more did he say?"
The boy looked at her sadly. His voice, which before had been
insolent and rude, was now quiet and gentle, and his eyes were full
"He said he married you out of pity, and because you brought him a
few thousand dollars. But this gold brought no blessing with it, but
a curse; and that since then it had gone worse with him than with
the executioner, whom all despise, and who dares not enter an honest
man's house. But that you were more despised and disgraced than the
miserable man who had stripped you in the open market and whipped
you through the streets; that the boys had pelted you with mud, and
that the streets became red with the blood that flowed down your
The poor woman gave a piercing shriek, and fell as if struck by
lightning to the floor. The boy threw himself weeping by her side;
and the little girl, who had been sleeping in another corner of the
room, awakened by the scream, came running toward them crying for
But the mother moved not; she lay there pale, with closed eyes; she
was cold and lifeless; she did not hear her poor little girl cry;
she did not feel the hot kisses and tears of her son, who was
imploring her in anxious, tender, loving words, to open her eyes, to
tell him that she was not angry, that she had forgiven him. But he
suddenly stopped and listened eagerly; he thought he heard the well-
known sound of the bell.
"There it was again; if it is father, he will beat me to death,"
murmured he, as he went toward the shop door. "He forbade me to
repeat a word of all that to mother."
He opened the door, and there stood not his father but a richly-
dressed gentleman, who, with a friendly gesture, pushed the boy
aside and entered the shop.
"I want some tobacco, my little fellow," said he; "therefore call
Mr. Schommer to give me some from his best canister."
"My father is not at home," said the boy, staring at the handsome,
"Well, I did not come precisely on his account," said the gentleman,
with a strange laugh. "Call your mother, Madame Schommer, and tell
her I wish to make a purchase."
"Mother is lying in the back room on the floor, and I believe she is
dead!" said Karl, sobbing.
The gentleman looked at him with amazement. "Did you say dead? That
would be very inconvenient, for I have greatly counted on her life.
What did she die of? Is a physician with her?"
"No one is with her but my little sister; you can hear her crying!"
"Yes, I can hear her; and it is in truth no edifying music. No one
else, did you say? Where, then, are your friends? where is your
"Father is at the ale-house, and friends we have none; we live all
alone, for no one will live with us."
"Well, if you are alone, I may go to your mother," said he, with a
careless laugh. "It is likely your mother has fainted; and as I am
learned in these feminine swoons, it is very possible I may call her
back to life. Show the way, little Cupid, and lead me to your
mother, the fainting Venus." And laughing, he followed the
astonished boy into the back room.
She still lay without movement on the floor, and little Anna,
kneeling by her side, was praying for bread.
"That is your mother, Madame Schommer?" asked the strange gentleman,
looking curiously at the pale woman.
"Yes, that is my mother," said the boy. "Mother, mother, wake up!"
said he, covering her face with kisses. "Wake up, I do not believe
what father said. I will love you! He was drunk! Ah, my dear, dear
mother, only wake up!"
"She will awake," said the stranger, who was bending over her,
laying his hand on her heart and temples, "she is, as I thought, not
dead but in a swoon."
The boy laughed aloud with glee. "My mother is not dead," said he,
crying and laughing at once. "She will wake up and love me; we will
all be so happy!"
"Mother, mother, give me some bread!" whimpered poor little Anna.
"Are you then so hungry?" said the stranger, who was getting tired
of this scene.
"Yes," said the boy, "she is hungry; we are both hungry. We have had
nothing to eat all day. Mother gave us money before she went out to
buy bread and milk, but father came and took it to buy brandy for
"A worthy father," said the stranger, handing him something. "Here,
my son, is some money. Take your sister, go to the baker's, and get
something to eat, then seat yourselves and eat; and do not come back
here until I call you. But if you see your father coming, then come
and tell me."
The children joyfully hurried to the door; they were not now
thinking of their poor, fainting mother, but of the bread they would
buy to satisfy their hunger.
"But who," said the boy, turning around, "will watch the shop?"
"Well, I will," said the stranger; "I will watch your mother and
your shop; go!"
The children hurried away, and the stranger was alone with the
OLD AND NEW SUFFERING.
The cavalier stood quietly some minutes, showing no sympathy for the
poor insensible woman, and making no effort to arouse her to
consciousness; he examined her face searchingly and curiously, not
from sympathy for her sad condition, but with cold egotism, thinking
only of his own special object.
"Hum," murmured he, "in spite of pallor and attenuation, there are
yet traces of great beauty. I am sure if well nourished and well
clothed she may yet allure the heart which must be ever touched with
pity for her mournful fate; besides, she is poor--hopelessly,
despairingly poor. The husband is a drunkard, the children cry for
bread; she is so poorly clad, so pale, so thin; hunger has been her
only lover. Under these circumstances she will readily adopt my
plans, and be my willing tool; she will acknowledge me as her
master, and by God I will teach her how to bind this headstrong fool
in chains. He has so far escaped all the pitfalls which Fredersdorf
and myself have so adroitly laid for him. Dorris shall be the
Delilah who will tame this new Samson. Truly," he continued, as he
cast a look of contempt upon the senseless form lying before him,
"truly it is a desperate attempt to transform this dirty, pale, thin
woman into a Delilah. But the past is powerfully in her favor, and
my Samson has a heart full of melting pity and sensibility; moreover
all previous efforts have failed, and it is pardonable to seek for
extraordinary means in our despair. So to work! to work!"
He took from his pocket a small phial of English salts, held it to
her nose, and rubbed her temples with a small sponge. "Ah, she
moves," he said, resting for a moment from his work, and looking
coldly and curiously upon the poor woman, who, with a shudder of
newly-awakened life, now turned her head, and whose convulsed lips
uttered short sighs and piteous complaints. Pollnitz rubbed her
temples again with the strong salts, and then, as he saw that
consciousness was more and more restored, he raised her from the
floor, and placed her softly in a chair. "Auso armes, auso armes,"
muttered he. "La battaille commencera."
The woman opened her eyes, and they wandered with an anxious and
questioning look here and there, then fell upon the stranger, who,
with a smiling and observant glance, followed every movement. Her
eyes were fixed and staring, her features expressed terror and
scorn, her whole form was convulsed, she was still half dreaming,
half unconscious. But her eye was immovably placed upon him, and she
murmured in low tones, "I know this face--yes, I know this cold,
smiling face, I have FELT it twice! When was it? was it only in
fearful dreams, or was it a frightful reality? When, where did I see
this cold, devilish smile, this face so cold and heartless, so full
of iron egotism?"
"Truly, she does not flatter," murmured Pollnitz, but without
changing for one moment his watchful but friendly mien. "I am
curious to see if she will at last recognize me."
"Pollnitz!" cried she at last, with flaming eyes. "Yes, it is you! I
know you! you are Baron Pollnitz! Who gave you the right to enter
this house? what brings you here?"
"I repeat your question," he replied, smiling, "what brought you
here, here in this gloomy, miserable room; here where hunger and
wailing have their dwelling; here where misery grins upon you with
hollow-eyed terror? What do you here, Dorris Ritter?"
She trembled convulsively at this name, her cheeks were dyed purple,
and in another moment became ghastly pale. "Why do you call me
Dorris Ritter?" she cried, with gasping breath, "why remind me of
the past, which stands like a dark spectre ever behind me, and grins
upon me with bloody and shameful horrors?" Lost wholly in these
fearful remembrances, she stared before her, thinking no more of
Pollnitz, forgetting that his watchful and heartless eyes were ever
fixed upon her. "Dorris Ritter!" she cried, slowly, "Dorris Ritter!
where are you? why do they call you by thy name? Can they not
remember that you are a sleep walker wandering on the edge of a
precipice, into which you must fall headlong if awakened by the
sound of your name, Dorris Ritter?" she said, more loudly, fixing
her eye upon Pollnitz; "how dare you call my name, and tear me
shrieking from my grave!"
"Now, that is exactly what I wish," said Pollnitz; "I will raise you
from this lowly and forgotten grave; you shall forget what you have
suffered; you shall be rich, happy, distinguished, and envied."
"I!" cried she, with mocking laughter, "and you will make that of
me! You, Baron Pollnitz, you, who were partly the cause of my
misery, and who looked smilingly upon my shame! What, then, what
have I done to deserve so much shame and sorrow? My God!" cried she,
in heartrending tones, "my heart was pure and innocent; I dared
raise my head without fear, and look God and my parents in the face;
even before HIM, my prince, I needed not to cast down MY eyes; I was
innocent, and he loved me because he could also respect me. Alas! it
was so silent, so resigned a love; it asked for nothing, it had no
speech. Was it our fault that others saw and pointed out this love
without words, and which eyes of innocence only expressed? We stood
far removed from each other, and a gulf lay between us, but heavenly
music formed a golden starry bridge over this abyss, and the holy
and melodious tones whispered to our young hearts, the complaints
and longings of a speechless, self-renouncing love. Only thus, only
thus, a sweet dream, and nothing more! Then you came to awaken us,
to accuse the prince of high treason, to make of me a miserable
prostitute. You cast my love, which I had only confessed to my
Father in heaven, like a dirty libel and foul fruit in my face; you
wished to spot and stain my whole being, and you succeeded; you
crushed my existence under your feet, and left me not one blossom of
hope! Oh, I will never forget how you tore me from the arms of my
poor father! how you cast me into prison and chained my hands,
because in the anguish of my shame and my despair I tried to take
that life which you had dishonored! They came at last, and dragged
me before the king. Two men were with him, one with a common red and
swollen visage, with thick, lascivious lips, with red and watery
eyes--that was Grumbkow; the other, with the fine friendly face,
with the everlasting deceitful smile, the cold, contemptuous,
heartless glance, that was you, Baron Pollnitz. Ah, with what
horrible glances did these three men look upon me! what mockery and
contempt did their cruel voices express! I threw myself at the feet
of the king; I prayed to him for mercy and grace; he kicked me from
him, and shamed me with words and accusations which made my soul
blush. I swore that I was innocent; that no sin lay upon me; that I
had never been the beloved of the prince; that I had never spoken to
him but in the presence of my father. Then laughed they, and mocked
me, and loudest of all laughed Baron Pollnitz, and his words of
scoffing and insult pierced my heart like a poisoned arrow, and
checked my flowing tears."
"It is true," murmured Pollnitz; "she has forgotten nothing."
"Forgotten!" cried she, with a wild laugh, "can I forget that I was
driven through the streets like a wild beast; that I was stripped by
the rough hands of the hangman's boy; that I heard behind me the
scoffings and insults of the wild mob hired for the occasion; that I
felt upon my naked back the cruel blows of the executioner's whip?
Oh, I have borne, and I have suffered; I did not become a maniac, I
did not curse God, but I prayed to my Father in heaven as I ran like
a baited wild beast through the streets. I saw that all the houses
were closed, that no one stood at the windows; no one had the
courage to look upon my path of martyrdom, and it comforted me even
in the midst of my torture, and I blessed those men who were pitiful
to me, and who appeared to bear testimony to my innocence by
refusing to witness my cruel punishment, and I ran further, and the
hot blood flowed down my back. Suddenly I came upon a house which
was not closed, the door was open, before it stood the servants and
pointed the finger of scorn at me, and mocked and jeered at me. On
the balcony stood Baron Pollnitz, with his stony, heartless face!
Then I uttered a cry of rage and revenge, then my prayers were
hushed or changed into wild curses, and I yelled and howled in my
heart: he is guilty of my shame, he with his cruel jests, his
pitiless sneers, has poisoned the ear of the king, has destroyed the
last doubt of my guilt in the heart of his majesty. Disgrace and
shame upon Baron Pollnitz! may he be despised, lonely, and neglected
in the hour of death; may remorse, the worm of conscience, feed upon
his soul, and drive him hither and thither, restless and homeless
all his life long!"
She uttered a wild cry, and sank back powerless and broken in her
Baron Pollnitz was self-possessed and smiling throughout; he laid
his hand upon the nerveless arm of the sobbing woman, and said with
a soft, flattering tone:
"It is true I have done you injustice, but I have come to make
amends for the past. You shall yet raise your head proudly, and no
one shall doubt of your innocence."
She shook her head sadly. "How can that help me? My father died of
shame; my husband, who married me from pity and because I had a poor
two thousand crowns, could not bear that men should flee from me as
from a branded culprit; this grief drove him to drink, and when he
comes home drunk at night, he beats me and shames me; the next
morning he prays, with strong crying and tears, for forgiveness, but
goes again and begins anew the same sad existence. My children!"
She could say no more; her words were choked with tears, as she
thought of the hard and frightful language her little boy had used
to her that morning.
Pollnitz was weary of the complaints and sobs of this wretched
"Weep no more," said he; "weeping makes the eyes red, and you must
henceforth be lovely and attractive; if you will follow my advice
you and your children will once more be joyful and happy. I will
send you beautiful clothing, and I know an adroit person who will
make you charmingly attractive, and at the same time arrange your
toilet with such enchanting grace that you will pass for the 'Mater
dolorosa' and the beautiful Magdalen in the same person. Then will I
lead you to the king; then will he read in your lovely and noble
face the touching and innocent story of his first love; it will then
rest with you, who have so long been covered with dust and ashes, to
kindle again the spark of your dead love, and find in his tenderness
the reward and compensation for all the bitter past."
She looked at him with flaming eyes, and her glance was so piercing
that even Pollnitz felt a little embarrassed, and involuntarily cast
his eyes to the ground.
"Has the king sent you here with this message?"
"No, not the king; but I know that he thinks of you with love and
pity, and that he would be happy to find you."
"If that is so, let him come to seek me. I will not go to him--I am
the injured and dishonored one; it is his duty to repair my wrongs.
But he will not come--I know it. I read it to-day in his face. The
world has killed his heart; it has turned to stone in his breast--a
gravestone for his dear-loved Katt and for Dorris Ritter."
"He will come; I say to you he will! Hear me, Dorris; you will not
go to him? Well, then, expect him here, and prepare yourself in such
a way to receive him as to make an impression upon his heart; study
carefully your part; revolve every word which you will say to him;
consider every glance with which you will look upon him; put on the
clothes which I will send you, and banish your husband and your
"My children!" cried she, trembling; "no, no, only as a mother--only
under the protection of their innocent presence will I ever see him;
only for my children will I receive his sympathy and grace."
Pollnitz stamped involuntarily with his feet upon the floor, and
muttered curses from between his tightly-pressed lips.
"Do you not understand that our whole scheme will fail unless you do
exactly as I tell you; that you will attain nothing unless you begin
wisely and prudently? You say the king has no heart; well, then, he
has intellect, and this you must flatter; through this you may,
perhaps, warm his stony heart; you must not trust wholly to the
majesty of your misfortunes, but advance to meet him in the grace
and glory of your beauty; by your soft eyes you must work upon his
heart; not with your tears, but by enchanting smiles, he may be
She looked at him with proud and contemptuous glances.
"Go!" said she; "go! we have nothing to do with each other. I would
curse you and seek to revenge myself upon you for the new dishonor
which you have put upon me by your shameless words, but I know I
have not the right to resent. I am a degraded, dishonored woman, and
all men believe they have the right to insult me and to mock at my
"You command me, then, to leave you; you will not heed the voice of
a well-meaning friend; you--"
"Baron Pollnitz," said she, with a voice tremulous with scorn, "I
say go! drive me not to extremity. Shall I call upon the neighbors
to relieve me from the presence of one I abhor, who disregards the
sanctity of my poor house, and abuses and sneers at a woman who
hates him? Go, and let me never see your face or hear your voice
"Well, then, I will go; farewell, dear Madame Schommer; but I will
come again, and perhaps I may be so happy as to find in your place
the enchanting Dorris Ritter, that sentimental young maiden of the
past, who loved the crown prince so passionately, and was so well
pleased to receive his love and his presents."
He laughed aloud, and left the dreary room with a courtly pirouette;
with quick steps he hastened through the shop, and opening the door
which led into the street, he kicked the two children who were
sitting on the threshold to one side, and rushed into the street.
"She is truly proud yet," murmured he, shrugging his shoulders. "The
hangman's whip did not humble her--that pleases me; and I am more
than ever convinced we will succeed with her; she must and shall be
beloved of the king; and as she will not go to him, well, then, I
will bring him to her. To-morrow the king will visit the site chosen
for the palace of the queen-mother: that will be a glorious
opportunity to induce him to enter her hut."
Dorris Bitter had risen, and with uplifted arm and a proud glance
she had followed Pollnitz. Her whole being was in feverish
excitement. In this hour she was no more a poor, disheartened woman,
from whom all turned away with contempt, but a proud wife conscious
of her honor and her worth, who commanded her persecutor from her
presence; who asked no mercy or grace, and demanded a recognition of
As the steps of the baron faded away, and Dorris was again alone,
her feverish excitement subsided, and she was again a poor, pallid,
trembling, humble woman. With a cry of the most profound woe she
sank back in her chair, and stared long before her. Suddenly she
murmured from between her tightly-compressed lips: "Woe to him! woe
to him! when he forgets what I have suffered for him; woe to him, if
he does not remove the shame which crushes me! woe to him, if he
despises me as others do! Then will Dorris Eitter be his
irreconcilable enemy, and she will take vengeance so true as there
is a God over us!"
THE PROPOSAL OF MARRIAGE.
"Courage, my dear friend," said Madame von Brandt to Count Voss, who
stood before her with the most mournful expression, and seemed so
lost in grief as to be scarcely aware of the presence of his
charming and bewitching Armida.
"I do not understand how you can laugh and be gay, if you love me,"
he said, sadly.
"I love you truly, and therefore I am gay. We have almost gained our
end; soon the suspicions of the world will be lulled, for who would
dream that the husband of the young and beautiful Laura von
Pannewitz could possibly love the old and ugly Madame von Brandt?"
"You old! you ugly!" cried the young count, indignantly. "It is well
that it is you who utter such a blasphemy; if any other did, I
should destroy him."
"You would do very wrong, dear count, for that would betray our love
to the world. No, no, if any one should speak so to you, you must
shrug your shoulders, and say, 'I am not acquainted with Madame von
Brandt, I am indifferent whether she is handsome or ugly. She may be
as old as Methuselah, it does not concern me."
"Never will I say that, never will I be induced to utter so
miserable and dishonorable a falsehood. No, dearest, you cannot
demand that. You see your power over me, and treat me most cruelly.
You condemned me to be married, and I have obeyed your commands,
although my heart was breaking as I made my proposal to the queen.
Now I entreat that you will not torture me by demanding that I shall
revile and caluminate you. No, no, I pray on my knees that you will
be kind and merciful!"
He threw himself on his knees before her, leaning his head upon the
divan on which she was sitting.
She placed her hand upon his head and played with his fair hair. "I
am not cruel, I am only cautious," she whispered, almost tenderly.
"Trust me, Alexander, you must not doubt my boundless love."
"No, no, you do not love me," he sighed; "you are always hard and
cruel, you have never granted me the smallest favor, you have never
accepted one of my presents."
A slight but scornful smile played upon the lips of this beautiful
woman, while the enthusiastic and impassioned young man spake thus.
She turned aside her face, that he might not see its expression.
But he thought she was again angry with him. "Ah," he said,
despairingly, "you will not allow me even to behold your heavenly
countenance; do you wish to drive me to distraction? What have I
done to deserve this new torture? Are you so offended because I
entreated you to accept a gift from me? Oh, it is so sweet to compel
the one we love to think of us; to place a ring upon her finger, and
bid her dream of him who loves her when she looks upon it; to bind a
chain upon her neck, and whisper, 'You are fettered, my love
enchains you. you are mine!' A man can only believe in the affection
of his beloved when she condescends to accept something from him."
"And would that give you faith in my love?" she said, in a tender,
melting voice, as she turned smilingly toward him.
"Yes!" he exclaimed, "it would increase my faith."
"Well, then, give me some little thing that will remind me of you,
that I can wear, as the spaniel wears the collar which bears the
name of its master."
She offered him her hand, which he covered with fervent kisses, and
then drew from his bosom a large and heavy etui, which he placed in
"But this contains not merely a ring," she said, reproachfully; "you
have deceived me, misused my kindness; instead of presenting me with
a small souvenir, with the pride of a king you wish to overwhelm me
with your rich gifts. Take back your case, count, I will not look at
its contents; I will not behold how far your extravagance and pride
have led you; take your treasures, and give me the simple ring that
I promised to accept." She stood up, and handed him the etui with
the air of an insulted queen, without once glancing at its contents,
and only divining their value by the size and weight of the case.
Her poor lover regarded her with a truly despairing expression. "If
you desire to destroy me, do it quickly and at once, not slowly, day
by day, and hour by hour," he said, almost weeping. "I fulfil your
smallest desire, I marry at your command, and you refuse to show me
the slightest kindness." He was now really weeping, and turned aside
that she might not behold his tears. Then suddenly recovering
himself, he said with the boldness of despair: "I will learn from
you the use of the word no. If you refuse to accept this case, then
I will refuse to marry Mademoiselle von Pannewitz. If you compel me
to receive again those miserable stones, I will go at once to the
queen, and tell her that I was mistaken, that I cannot and will not
marry Mademoiselle von Pannewitz; that I have given up my plan, and
am determined to leave Berlin immediately."
"No! no! you must not go! you shall not leave me!" she cried, with
every appearance of terror; "give me the case, I will accept it. You
must not leave Berlin!"
The young count uttered a cry of delight, and hurried to her side.
"I will accept this etui," she said smiling, "but will not open it
while we are together, for fear we might again disagree."
Count Voss was beside himself with joy and gratitude, and vowed he
would marry Mademoiselle von Pannewitz that very day, to obtain the
kiss which Madame von Brandt had promised him at his wedding.
"Love might perhaps remove mountains," she said, "but it cannot give
wings to the tongue of a queen. You have placed your proposals in
the hands of her majesty, you selected this lofty lady to sue for
you, and now you must wait until it pleases her to make your
proposals known to the lady."
"The queen promised to do that to-day. It was necessary for me to
make my proposals to her, for the family of Mademoiselle von
Pannewitz demanded that I should obtain the consent of the queen to
my marriage before I could hope for theirs."
"And Laura, have you obtained her consent?"
"Oh," said the vain count, shrugging his shoulders, "I am certain of
that; she is poor and entirely dependent on the proud dowager-queen;
I will make her a countess, and insure her freedom; she will live
independently upon her estates, and be surrounded with wealth and
luxury; she will have every thing but a husband."
"Poor Laura!" said Madame von Brandt, softly. "But you have been
with me already too long; it might be remarked, and give rise to
suspicion; go, now, I will work for you, and you must work for
yourself. Let no difficulties frighten you."
The count left her slowly, while Madame von Brandt was scarcely able
to conceal her impatience to be alone. She looked after him with a
contemptuous smile, and murmured to herself: "Vain fool, he deserves
to be deceived. But now at last I will see what this precious etui
contains." She flew to the table and hastily lifted the cover of the
case. A cry of astonishment arose to her lips, and her eyes beamed
as clearly and brightly as the diamonds resting upon the satin
cushion within. "Ah! this is really a royal present," she whispered,
breathlessly, "more than royal, for I am confident King Frederick
would never present any woman with such diamonds; but I deserve them
for my wonderful acting. This poor count is convinced that I am the
noblest, most unselfish, and most loving of women. How well
conceived, how wise it was to decline his first gift! I knew that he
would replace it with something more costly and elegant, hoping to
move me to change my resolution. How my heart bounded with delight
when he drew forth this great case! I could scarcely withhold my
hands from grasping the costly treasure. I concealed my impatience,
and would not open the case in his presence, fearful that he might
read my delight in my eyes, and that might have undeceived the poor
fool as to my disinterestedness. Truly it was very wise and very
diplomatic in me; even Manteuffel could not have acted more
discreetly." She bent again over the flashing diamonds, and pressed
her burning lips to the cold stones. "Beautiful stones," she
whispered tenderly, "your cold kiss animates my whole frame; I love
you more than any human being, and when you are upon my neck I will
desire no warmer embrace. Welcome, then, beloved, to my house and my
bosom. You shall be well cared for, I shall exert myself to provide
you with worthy companions; many of your family are lying loosely
about in the world, and you doubtless desire the company of your
brothers and sisters. I myself share that desire, and will seek to
accomplish it by bringing together more and more of your relations;
I will invite your cousins, the pearls, and you shall be united. My
diamonds and pearls shall have a gayer and more splendid wedding
than Count Voss and beautiful Laura von Pannewitz." She laughed
aloud in the joy of her heart, then closed the case and locked it
carefully in her writing-desk. "And now to the queen-mother," she
said; "the train is laid, it is only necessary to apply the match
and await the explosion. I must point out to the queen that this
marriage of the lovely Laura with Count Voss is necessary to prevent
a difficulty in the royal family, I must--EH BIEN! NOUS VERRONS. I
hear the voice of the queen; she is taking her promenade, and I must
not fail to be present." She took her hat and shawl, and hurried to
THE QUEEN AS A MATRIMONIAL AGENT.
The queen-mother was taking a walk in the garden of Monbijou. She
was unusually gay today, and her countenance wore an expression of
happiness to which it had long been a stranger. And the queen had
good reason to be gay, for she seemed on the point of realizing the
proud anticipations she had indulged in for so many weary years. Her
son was carrying into execution the promises which he had made on
his first visit, and in which she had hardly dared to believe. She
had already received the first monthly payment of her income as
queen-dowager, which her son had largely increased. New appointments
had been made to her court, and it had been placed on a truly royal
footing; and yesterday the king had told her that he had already
chosen a site for her new palace. Moreover, the homage she received
from the entire court, and more especially from the king's
favorites, bore evidence to the fact that her influence was
considered great, and that much importance was attached to her grace
and favor. While Queen Elizabeth was passing her time joylessly at
the Castle of Schonhausen, to which she had retired, the entire
court was assembling at Monbijou, and hastening to do homage to the
queen-mother. Even the young king, who had not yet paid a single
visit to his wife at Schonhausen, waited on the queen his mother
daily, accompanied by a brilliant suite of cavaliers. [Footnote:
Thiebault, ii., page 84.]
The queen Sophia Dorothea had good reason to be gay, and to
entertain the happiest anticipations in regard to the future. To-day
for the first time she could take her morning walk attended by her
brilliant suite, for the last appointments had only been made on the
preceding day. When the queen now looked around, and she did so from
time to time, she no longer saw the two maids of honor of earlier
days walking languidly behind her. Six of the most beautiful ladies,
all of the first nobility, had been appointed to the queen's
service, and were now engaged in a merry conversation with the four
cavaliers in attendance on the queen, who had been selected for this
office by the king himself. While conversing with her marshal, Count
Rhedern, she could hear the merry laughter of the newly-appointed
maid of honor Louise von Schwerin, and the soft, melodious voice of
the beautiful Laura von Pannewitz, whose grace and loveliness had
even excited the admiration of her husband the king, and for a few
weeks thrown him into a state to which he was entirely unaccustomed.
[Footnote: Memoires de Frederique Wilhelmine de Baireuth, vol. ii.,
The queen, as we have said, was unusually gay, for she had just
received a new proof of her own importance, and of the influence she
was supposed to exert on the young king her son.
Count Rhedern had solicited the assistance of the queen-mother in a
very delicate and important matter, and had requested her to
advocate his cause with King Frederick. The count desired to marry,
but the permission of the king was still wanting, and would probably
be very difficult to obtain, for the count's chosen was
unfortunately not of a noble family, but had the misfortune to be
the daughter of a Berlin merchant.
"But," said the queen, after this confidential communication, "I do
not understand why it is that you wish to marry this girl. I should
think the nobility of our kingdom was not so poor in beautiful and
marriageable ladies that a Count Rhedern should find it necessary to
stoop so low in search of a wife. Look behind you, count, and you
will see the loveliest ladies, all of whom are of pure and
"True, your majesty. These ladies are beautiful, of good birth,
young and amiable, but one thing is wanting to make them perfect.
Mademoiselle Orguelin is neither beautiful nor of good birth,
neither young nor amiable, but she has the one thing which those
fairies lack, and for the sake of this one thing I am forced to
"Count, you speak in riddles, and as it seems to me in riddles of
doubtful propriety," said the queen, almost angrily. "What is this
one thing which Mademoiselle Orguelin has, and on account of which
you are compelled to marry her?"
"Your majesty, this one thing is money."
"Ah, money," said the queen, smiling; "really, it well becomes a
cavalier to marry beneath him for the sake of money!"
"Your majesty, it is because I am mindful of the duties which my
rank impose on me, and of the demands which a cavalier of my
standing should meet, that I have determined to make this
misalliance. Your majesty will be indulgent if I dare open before
you the skeleton closet, and unveil the concealed misery of my
house. The Counts Rhedern are an old and illustrious race. My
ancestors were always rich in virtues but poor in gold. Economy
seems to have been the one virtue they ever possessed; they were too
generous to reject any appeal made to them, and too proud to limit
their expenditures to their small income. Outwardly they maintained
the pomp suitable to their standing, while they gnawed secretly and
unseen at the hard crust of want. Thus from father to son the debts
were constantly increasing, and the revenues becoming smaller and
smaller. If I do not make an end of this, and sever the Gordian knot
like Alexander, instead of attempting the wearisome task of untying
it, I shall soon present to the court and nobility the sad spectacle
of a Count Rhedern who is compelled to give up his hotel, his
equipage, his furniture, and his servants, and live like a beggar."
"Ah, this is really a sad and pressing affair!" exclaimed the queen,
sympathizingly, "but are there no heiresses among the nobility,
whose fortunes might save you?"
"None, your majesty, who like Mademoiselle Orguelin would bring me a
fortune of three millions."
"Three millions! That is a great deal, and I can now perfectly well
understand why you are compelled to marry this Orguelin. You have my
consent, and I think I can safely promise you that of my son the
king. Make your arrangements and fear nothing. I guarantee that the
king will not refuse your request."
"After what your majesty has said, I feel assured on this point,"
exclaimed Count Rhedern, with a sigh.
"How, and you still sigh, count?"
"Your majesty, I need the permission of one other person--the
acceptance of the bride. And to this acceptance is appended a
condition, the fulfilment of which again depends upon your majesty's
"Well, truly, this is a strange state of affairs. You speak gravely
of your approaching marriage, and as yet are not even engaged. You
speak of your bride, but Mademoiselle Orguelin has not yet accepted
you, and whether she will or not, you say, depends on me."
"Yes, on your majesty, for this girl, who is as proud of her three
millions as if it were the oldest and most illustrious pedigree,
consents to be my wife only on the condition that she is
acknowledged at court, and has access, as Countess Rhedern, to all
"Truly this is a great pretension!" exclaimed the queen, angrily. "A
pedlar's daughter who carries arrogance so far as to wish to appear
at the court of the King of Prussia! This can never be, and never
could I advocate such an innovation: it is destructive, and only
calculated to diminish the prestige of the nobility, and to deprive
it of its greatest and best privilege--that privilege which entitles
it alone to approach royalty. It was this view which prevented me
from receiving the so-called Count Neal at my court, although my son
the king admits him to his presence, and desires that I also should
recognize this count of his creation. But, as a queen and a lady, I
can never do this. There must be a rampart between royalty and the
low and common world, and a pure and unblemished nobility alone can
form this rampart. You see, therefore, my poor count, that I cannot
accede to this request."
"Have compassion on me, your majesty. If your majesty will but
remember that I am ruined; but I am a beggar if this union does not
take place, if I do not marry the three millions of Mademoiselle
"Ah, certainly, I had forgotten that," said the queen, thoughtfully.
"Moreover," continued the count, somewhat encouraged, "this is a
different affair altogether, and I do not believe that a principle
is here at stake, as was the case with the so-called Count Neal. A
man represents himself and his house, and no power on earth can give
him better or nobler blood than already flows in his veins. But with
a woman it is different. She receives her husband's name and his
rank; she becomes blood of his blood, and can in no manner affect
his nobility. The sons of Countess Rhedern will still be the Counts
Rhedern, although the mother is not of noble birth."
"True," said the queen, "this case is different from that of the
adventurer Neal. The rank of her husband would be sufficient to
permit us to draw a veil over the obscure birth of this new-made
"And your majesty would then be the noble protectrice of our
family," said the count, in a sweet and insinuating tone; "your
majesty would not only restore my house to its ancient prestige, but
you would retain the three millions of Mademoiselle Orguelin in
Prussia; for if I should not be able to fulfil the condition which
this lady has made, Mademoiselle Orguelin will marry a rich young
Hollander, who is the commercial friend of her father, and has come
here for the especial purpose of suing for the hand of his
"Ah, if that is the case, it becomes almost a duty to give you this
girl, in order to prevent her millions from leaving the country,"
said the queen, smiling. "Be hopeful, count, your wish will be
granted, and this little millionnaire, who longs to appear at court,
shall have her desire. I will speak with my son on this subject to-
day; and you may take it for granted that your request will meet
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