Frederick the Great and His Court
Part 5 out of 8
with a favorable response."
And the queen, who was proud and happy to have an opportunity of
showing the count how great was her influence with her royal son,
graciously permitted him to kiss her hand, and listened well pleased
to his exclamations of gratitude and devotion.
She then dismissed him with a gracious inclination of her head,
requesting him to inform Madame von Brandt, whose laughing voice
could be heard at a short distance, that she desired to see her.
While the count hurried off to execute the commission of his royal
mistress, the queen walked on slowly and thoughtfully. Now that she
was permitted to be a queen, her woman's nature again made itself
felt; she found it quite amusing to have a hand in the love affairs
which were going on around her, and to act the part of the
beneficent fairy in making smooth the path of true love. Two of the
first noblemen of her court had to-day solicited her kind offices in
their love affairs, and both demanded of her the reestablishment of
the prosperity and splendor of their houses.
The queen, as before said, felt flattered by these demands, and was
in her most gracious humor when Madame von Brandt made her
appearance. Their conversation was at first on indifferent subjects,
but Madame von Brandt knew very well why the queen honored her with
this interview, and kept the match in readiness to fire the train
with which she had undermined the happiness and love of poor Laura
"Do you know," asked the queen suddenly, "that we have a pair of
lovers at my court?"
"A pair of lovers!" repeated Madame von Brandt, and so apparent was
the alarm and astonishment depicted in her countenance that the
queen was startled.
"Is this, then, so astonishing?" asked the queen, smiling. "You
express so much alarm that one might suppose we were living in a
convent, where it is a crime to speak of love and marriage. Or were
you only a little annoyed at not having heard of this love affair?"
"Your majesty," said Madame von Brandt, "I knew all about this
affair, but had no idea that you had any knowledge of it."
"Certainly you must have known it, as Mademoiselle von Pannewitz is
your friend, and has very naturally made you her confidant."
"Yes, I have been her confidant in this unhappy and unfortunate
love," said Madame von Brandt, with a sigh; "but I can assure your
majesty that I have left no arguments, no prayers, and even no
threats untried to induce this poor young girl to renounce her sad
and unfortunate love."
"Well, you might have saved yourself this trouble," said the queen,
smiling; "for this love is not, as you say, a sad and unfortunate
one, but a happy one! Count Voss came to me this morning as a suitor
for the hand of Mademoiselle von Pannewitz."
"Poor, unhappy Laura!" sighed Madame von Brandt.
"How!" exclaimed the queen, "you still pity her, when I assure you
that hers is not an unhappy, but a happy love, reciprocated by Count
Voss, who is a suitor for her hand?"
"But what has Count Voss to do with Laura's love?" asked Madame von
Brandt, with such well-acted astonishment that the unsuspecting
queen might very well be deceived.
"Truly this is a strange question," exclaimed the queen. "You have
just told me that Mademoiselle von Pannewitz entertains an
unfortunate attachment for Count Voss; and when I inform you that so
far from hers being an unfortunate attachment, it is returned by
Count Voss, who is at this moment a suitor for her hand, you ask,
with an air of astonishment, 'What has Count Voss to do with Laura's
"Pardon me, your majesty, I did not say that my poor friend loved
"How!" exclaimed the queen, impatiently; "it is then not Count Voss?
Pray, who has inspired her with this unfortunate love? Who is he? Do
you know his name?"
"Your majesty, I know him; but I have vowed on the Bible never to
mention his name."
"It was very inconsiderate in you to make such a vow," exclaimed the
"Your majesty, she who demanded it of me was my friend, and in view
of her sorrow and tears I could not refuse a request by the
fulfilment of which she would at least have the sad consolation of
pouring out her sorrow and anguish into the bosom of a true and
discreet friend. But the very friendship I entertain for her makes
it my bounden duty to implore your majesty to sustain the offer of
Count Voss with all the means at your command, and, if necessary,
even to compel my poor Laura to marry him."
"How! You say she loves another, and still desire that I should
compel her to marry Count Voss?"
"Your majesty, there is no other means of averting evil from the
head of my dear Laura; no other means of preserving two noble hearts
from the misery their unfortunate passions might produce. Laura is a
noble and virtuous girl, but she loves, and would not long be able
to withstand the passionate entreaties of her lover; she would hear
no voice but that of him she loves."
"This love is then returned?" asked the queen.
"Oh, your majesty, Laura's maidenly pride would preserve her from an
"And still you call this love an unfortunate one?"
"I call it so because there are insurmountable obstacles in its way;
an abyss lies between these lovers, across which they can never
clasp hands. In order to be united they would have to precipitate
themselves into its depths! Every word of love which these
unfortunates utter is a crime--is high treason."
"High treason!" exclaimed the queen, whose eyes sparkled with anger.
"Ah, I understand you now. This proud, arrogant girl raises her eyes
to a height to which a princess of the blood alone can aspire. In
her presumption this girl thinks to play the role of a La Valliere
or a Maintenon. Yes, I now comprehend every thing--her pallor, her
sighs, her melancholy, and her blushes, when I told her I expected
the king and his court here to-day. Yes, it must be so. Mademoiselle
von Pannewitz loves the--"
"Your majesty," exclaimed Madame von Brandt, imploringly, "have the
goodness not to mention the name. I should have to deny it, and that
would be an offence to your majesty; but if I should acknowledge it,
I would be false to my vow and my friendship. In your penetration,
your majesty has divined what I hardly dared indicate, and my noble
queen now comprehends why an early marriage with Count Voss would be
the best means of preserving the happiness of two noble hearts."
"Mademoiselle von Pannewitz will have to make up her mind to become
the bride of Count Voss within the hour!" exclaimed the queen,
imperiously. "Woe to her if in her arrogance she should refuse to
give up a love against which the whole force of my royal authority
shall be brought to bear."
"May your majesty follow the suggestions of your wisdom in all
things! I only request that your majesty will graciously conceal
from poor Laura that you discovered her unhappy secret through me."
"I promise you that," said the queen, who, forgetful of her royal
dignity, in her angry impatience turned around and advanced hastily
toward her suite, who, on her approach, remained standing in a
At this moment a lacquey, dressed in the royal livery, was seen
advancing from the palace; he approached the maid of honor then on
duty, Mademoiselle von Pannewitz, and whispered a few words in her
Hurrying forward, this young lady informed the queen that her
majesty the reigning queen had just arrived, and desired to know if
her majesty would receive her. The queen did not reply immediately.
She looked scornfully at the young girl who stood before her, humbly
and submissively, with downcast eyes, and although she did not look
up at the queen, she seemed to feel her withering and scornful
glances, for she blushed deeply, and an anxious expression was
depicted on her countenance.
The queen observed that the blushing Laura was wonderfully
beautiful, and in her passionate anger could have trodden her under
foot for this presumptuous and treasonable beauty. She felt that it
was impossible longer to remain silent, longer to defer the
decision. The queen's anger fairly flamed within her, and threatened
to break forth; she was now a passionate, reckless woman, nothing
more; and she was guided by her passion and the power of her angry
"I am going to receive her majesty," said Sophia Dorothea, with
trembling lips. "Her majesty has presented herself unceremoniously,
and I shall therefore receive her without ceremony. All of you will
remain here except Mademoiselle von Pannewitz, who will accompany
PROPOSAL OF MARRIAGE.
The greeting of the two queens was over; the inquiries of politeness
and etiquette had been exchanged; Sophia had offered Queen Elizabeth
her hand and conducted her into the small saloon, where she was in
the habit of receiving her family.
The door leading to the conservatory was open, and the two maids of
honor could be seen within, standing with Laura, and asking
questions in a low tone, to which she replied almost inaudibly. She
felt that the decisive hour of her destiny was at hand, and she
prayed that God would strengthen her for the coming trial. She
trembled not for herself, but for her lover; for his dear sake she
was determined to bear the worst, and bravely meet the shock; she
would not yield, she would not die, for he would perish with her; in
her heart of hearts, she renewed the oath of eternal love and
eternal faith she had taken, and nerved herself for persecution and
endurance. Suddenly she heard the harsh voice of the queen calling
her name; she looked up, and saw her standing in the door.
"I beg the maids of honor to join the ladies in the garden; you,
mademoiselle, will remain here; I have a few words to say to you."
The ladies bowed and left the conservatory. Laura remained alone;
she stood with folded hands in the middle of the room; her cheek was
deadly pale, her lips trembled, but her eyes were bright, and filled
with a heroic and dreamy excitement. As Sophia called her name,
Laura laid her hand upon her heart, as if to suppress its stormy
beating, and with her head bowed meekly upon her breast she advanced
submissively at the call of her mistress. At the door of the second
saloon she remained standing, and awaited the further commands of
the queen. As Sophia did not speak, Laura raised her eyes and looked
timidly at the two queens, who were seated on a sofa opposite the
door; they were both gazing at her, the queen-mother severely, with
a proud and derisive smile, but Queen Elizabeth regarded with
unutterable pity this poor girl, who reminded her of a broken lily.
"Mademoiselle von Pannewitz," said Sophia, after a long silence, "I
have a matter of great importance to communicate to you, and as it
admits of no delay, her majesty has allowed me to speak to you in
her presence. Listen attentively, and weigh well my words. I have
treated you with affectionate kindness; you have always found in me
a friend and mother. I therefore require of you unconditional and
silent obedience--an obedience that as your queen and mistress I
have a right to demand. You are of a noble but poor family, and your
parents cannot support you in the style suitable to your birth. I
have adopted you, and will now establish for you a future which will
be both splendid and happy. A rich and gallant cavalier has proposed
for your hand, and as it is a most fitting and advantageous offer, I
have accepted it for you, and promised your consent."
The queen ceased and looked piercingly at the young girl, who was
still leaning against the door, silent and dejected. This dumb
submission, this weak resignation revolted the queen; instead of
softening her anger, she took this silence for defiance, this
humility for stubbornness.
"You are not at all anxious, it appears, to learn the name of your
future husband," she said, sharply; "perhaps the rapture of joy
binds your tongue, and prevents you from thanking me for my motherly
"Pardon, your majesty," said Laura, raising her soft eyes to the
harsh and severe countenance of the queen; "it was not joy that
closed my lips, but reverence for your majesty; I feel no joy."
"You feel no joy!" cried the queen, with the cruel rage of the lion
who seizes his prey and tears it in pieces when there is none to
deliver. "Well, then, you will marry without joy, that is decided;
and as you are too far above all womanly weakness to appear curious,
I shall be obliged to name the happy man whose loving bride you are
soon to be, that you make no mistakes, and perhaps, in the
tenderness of your heart, render another than your appointed husband
happy in your embraces." Laura uttered a low cry of anguish, and her
cheeks, colorless until now, were dyed red with shame.
"Have pity, your majesty," murmured Elizabeth Christine, laying her
hand softly on the shoulder of the queen; "see how the poor girl
Sophia shrugged her shoulders contemptuously. "Nonsense! do we not
all suffer? have not I suffered? Is there a woman on God's earth
whose heart is not half melted away with hot and unavailing tears?"
"It is true," said Elizabeth; "we have but one exclusive privilege--
to weep and to endure."
The queen-mother turned again to Laura, who had checked her tears,
but was still standing bowed down, and trembling before her.
"Well," said Sophia, "it still does not suit you to inquire the name
of your lover, then I shall name him; mark well my words: it is
Count Voss who has chosen you for his wife, and to him alone you
have now to direct your heart and your tenderness."
Laura now raised her eyes and fixed them steadily upon this cruel
mistress; her glance was no longer soft and pleading, but
determined. The imperious manner of the queen, instead of
intimidating the pale and gentle girl, awakened her to the
consciousness of her own dignity. "Majesty," she said, with cool
decision, "love is not given by command, it cannot be bestowed
"By that you mean to affirm that you do not, and cannot love Count
Voss," said the queen, suppressing her fury with difficulty.
"Yes, your majesty. I do not, I cannot love Count Voss."
"Well, then," cried Sophia, "you will marry him without love, and
Laura raised her head passionately; her eye met the queen's, but
this time not humbly, not timidly, but decisively. From this moment,
Sophia Dorothea was to her no longer a queen, but a cruel, unfeeling
woman, who was trampling upon her soul and binding it in chains.
"Pardon, your majesty, as I have said that I do not love Count Voss,
it follows of course that I will never marry him."
The queen sprang from her seat as if bitten by a poisonous reptile.
"Not marry him!" she shrieked; "but I say you shall marry him! yes,
if you have to be dragged with violence to the altar!"
"Then at the altar I will say no!" cried Laura von Pannewitz,
raising her young face, beaming with courage and enthusiasm, toward
The queen uttered a wild cry and sprang forward; the lion was about
to seize upon its prey and tear it to pieces, but Elizabeth
Christine laid her hand upon the raised arm of the queen and held
her back. "Majesty," she said, "what would you do? you would not
force this poor girl to marry against her will; she does not love
Count Voss, and she is right to refuse him."
"Ha! you defend her?" cried Sophia, brought to extremities by the
resistance of the queen; "you have then no presentiment why she
refuses the hand of Count Voss; you do not comprehend that when a
poor dependent maid of honor refuses to marry a rich and noble
cavalier, it is because she believes she has secured her future in
another direction--because in the haughtiness of her vain,
infatuated heart, she hopes through her beauty and well-acted
coquetry to secure for herself a more brilliant lot. But, mark me!
however charming and alluring that prospect may appear outwardly,
even in its success there would be found nothing but infamy! She can
never have the madness to believe that any priest in this land would
dare to bind with the blessings of the Holy Church a love so boldly
impudent, so traitorous; she can never hope to set her foot where
only the lawful wife of a king can stand--where the sister of the
king of England has stood! yes, where she still stands, and from
whence she is resolved to repulse this miserable coquette, who hopes
to conquer a throne through her shameless allurements."
Laura uttered a piercing scream, and with hands raised to heaven,
she exclaimed, "My God! my God! can I bear this and live?"
The queen broke into a wild, mocking laugh. Elizabeth Christine
looked, questioningly, at this scene, which she did not comprehend,
but which touched her heart by its tragic power.
"It is a hard and cruel accusation which your majesty is bringing
against this young girl; let us hope that Laura will know how to
"Defend herself! look at her! look how my words have crushed her!
how her proud, aspiring soul is checked! Believe me, Elizabeth, she,
whom you so generously pity, understands my words better than your
majesty; and she knows well of what I accuse her; but you, my
daughter, shall know also; you have a right to know."
"Mercy! your majesty, mercy!" cried Laura, falling upon her knees
and raising her arms pleadingly toward the queen; "speak no more!
humble me no further! Do not betray my secret, which in your mouth
becomes a denunciation! Let me remain even on the brink of the
precipice, where you have dragged me! that is appalling, but cast me
not down! So low and dust-trodden a creature is no longer worthy of
the honor of approaching your majesty, I see that, and beg humbly
for my dismissal, not as your majesty supposes, to lead an
independent and happy, if still a shameful life, but to flee to some
corner of the world, where alone and unseen I may weep over the
beautiful and innocent dreams of my life, from which your majesty
has awakened me so cruelly."
She was wonderfully beautiful in this position; those raised arms,
that noble, transparently pale, tear-stained countenance. Sophia
Dorothea saw it, and it made her feel more bitter, more cruel.
"Ah, she dares to reproach me," she cried, contemptuously; "she
still has a slight consciousness of her shame; she trembles to hear
what she did not tremble to do! Listen, my daughter, you that have
for her so warm, so pitiful a heart; you who, when I have spoken,
will detest and curse her as I do, and as you are entitled to do.
Believe me, Elizabeth, I know all your suffering, all your sorrow; I
know the secret history of your noble, proud, and silent heart. Ask
that girl there of your grief and misery; ask her the reason of your
lonely, tearful nights; demand of her your broken happiness, your
crushed hopes; demand of her your husband's love, your soul's peace.
Mademoiselle von Pannewitz can return them all to you, as she has
taken them from you, for she is the mistress of the king."
"Mistress of the king!" said Elizabeth, with a painful cry, while
Laura let her hands glide from her face, and looked at the queen
with an astonished expression.
"Yes," repeated Sophia Dorothea, whose hot blood rushed so violently
through her veins that her voice faltered, and she was scarcely able
to retain an appearance of self-control; "yes, she is the mistress
of the king, and therefore refuses to marry Count Voss! But
patience, patience, she shall not triumph! and if she dares to love
my son, the son of the queen, King Frederick of Prussia, I will
remind her of Dorris Ritter, who loved him, and was beloved by him!
This Dorris was flogged through the streets of Berlin, and cast out
from amongst men."
Laura uttered so loud and fearful a cry that even the queen-mother
was startled, and for a moment touched with pity for the poor,
broken-hearted girl who lay at her feet, like a poor, wounded
gazelle in the convulsive agonies of death.
But she would not give way to this pity; would not betray a
weakness, of which she was ashamed. Taking the hand of the young
queen and casting a look of disdain at Laura, she said, "Come, my
daughter, we will no longer bear the presence of this person, whose
tears, I hope, spring from repentance and acknowledgment of her
offence; may she obtain our pardon by resolving to-day, of her own
free will, and without forcing us to harsher measures, to accept the
hand of Count Voss; come, my daughter."
The two queens stepped to the door. Sophia threw it open violently,
and passed immediately into the boudoir, but Elizabeth did not
follow her. She looked back at the poor sobbing girl lying upon the
floor. The pale and noble face touched her womanly heart.
"Pardon, your majesty, if I do not follow immediately; I should like
to say a few words to Mademoiselle von Pannewitz; I think I have a
right to do so."
The queen-mother experienced a cruel pleasure at these words.
"Oh, my daughter, even your forbearance is exhausted, and you feel
that forgiveness is impossible; yes, speak to her, and let her feel
the whole weight of your righteous indignation. Words of reproach
and accusation from your gentle lips will have a crushing power. But
no delay--you know the king will soon be here."
The queen closed the door. She wished to hear nothing that passed
between Elizabeth and Laura; she needed rest, in order to receive
the king with composure.
The young queen, the reigning queen, as she was called, was now
alone with Laura von Pannewitz. She was for a moment speechless;
strange, tempestuous feelings burned in the bosom of this gentle
woman; she felt all the torments of rage and jealousy, and the
humiliation of unrequited love.
Leaning against the wall, she looked frowningly at Laura, who was
kneeling before her, wringing her hands and weeping piteously. How
could a woman weep who could call that happiness her own--to possess
which Elizabeth would cheerfully give years of her life? She had at
last found the rival for whom she was despised; the destroyer of her
happiness; the envied woman loved by Frederick!
As she saw this woman bathed in tears at her feet, an exulting joy
for one moment filled her heart. But this violent emotion soon
disappeared. Elizabeth was too true and noble a woman to give
herself up long to such resentment. She felt, indeed, a melancholy
pleasure in knowing that it was not coldness of heart, but love for
another, which estranged the king from her; in the midst of her wild
grief she was still just; and she acknowledged that this woman, whom
the king loved, was more charming and more beautiful than herself.
The love Elizabeth bore her husband was so unselfish, so resigned,
so magnanimous, that she felt grateful to the woman who could impart
a happiness to the king it had never been in her power to bestow.
With a truly noble expression she approached the maid of honor, who,
unconscious of the queen's presence, was still lying on the floor
and weeping bitterly.
"Arise, Laura," said Elizabeth, gently. "How can a woman loved by
the king be sad, or shed tears?"
Laura's hands fell slowly from her face; she checked her tears and
looked piteously at the queen. "God, then, has heard my prayers,"
she said; "He does not wish your majesty to despise and condemn me;
He permits me to clear myself before you!"
"Clear yourself," said Elizabeth. "Oh, believe me, in my eyes you
need no justification. You are young, gay, beautiful, and witty; you
have the rare art of conversation; you are cheerful and spirited.
This has attracted Frederick; for this he loves you; in saying this,
all is said. It is impossible for a woman to resist his love. I
forgive you freely, fully. I have but one prayer to make you:
resolve all your duties into one; fill your soul with one thought,
make the king happy! This is all. I have nothing more to say;
She was going, but Laura held her back. "Oh, your majesty," she
cried imploringly, "listen to me! do not leave me under this cruel
misconception--these insulting suppositions. Do not think I am so
degenerate, so base, so entirely without womanly feeling, as not to
feel myself amenable to the laws of the land and of the Church. Oh,
believe me, the husband of my queen is sacred in my eyes! and even
if I were so unhappy as to love the king, otherwise than as a true,
devoted subject, I would rather die than cast one shadow on the
happiness of your majesty. Unhappy and guilty as I am, I am no
criminal. His majesty never distinguished me by word or look. I
honored him, I revered him, and nothing more."
"Alas!" said the queen, "you are faint-hearted enough to deny him.
You have not the courage to be proud of his love; you must, indeed,
"My God! my God!" cried Laura, passionately, "she does not believe
"No, I do not believe you, Laura. I saw how you trembled and paled
when the queen charged you with your love to her son, hut I did not
hear you justify yourself."
"Alas, alas!" murmured Laura, in so low a voice as not to be heard
by the queen, "I did not know her majesty was speaking of her son
"Deny it no longer," said Elizabeth; "acknowledge his love, for
which all women will envy you, and for which I forgive you."
"Do not believe what the queen-mother told you!" cried Laura,
passionately; "I have done you no wrong, I have no pardon to ask!"
"And I," said Elizabeth--"I make no reproaches; I do not wail and
weep; I do not pass my nights, as the queen said, sleeplessly and in
tears; I do not mourn over my lost happiness. I am content; I accept
my fate--that is, if the king is happy. But if, perchance, this is
not so, if you do not make his happiness your supreme object, then,
Laura, I take back the forgiveness so freely given, and I envy you
in my heart. Farewell."
"No, no, you must not, you shall not go! believe my words! have some
pity, some mercy on me! O Heavenly Father, I have suffered enough
without this! It needed not these frightful accusations to punish me
for a love which, though unwise, yes, mad, is not criminal. As truly
as God reigns, it is not the king I love. You turn away, you do not
believe me still! Oh, your majesty." She stopped, her whole frame
trembled--she had heard her lover's voice; God had sent him to
deliver her, to clear her from these disgraceful suspicions.
The door opened, and Prince Augustus William entered; his
countenance was gay and careless, he had come to see the queen-
mother, and had been directed to this saloon. Already sportive and
jesting words were on his lips, when he perceived this strange
scene; Laura on her knees, pale and trembling, before the proud
queen, who left her disdainfully in her humble position. It was a
sight that the proud lover could not endure. The hot blood of the
Hohenzollerns was raging. Forgetful of all consequences, he sprung
to her side, raised her from the floor and clasped her to his heart.
Then, trembling with anger, he turned to the queen. "What does this
mean? Why were you in that position? Why were you weeping, Laura?
You on your knees, my Laura! You, who are so innocent, so pure, that
the whole world should kneel before and worship you! And you,
Madame," turning to Elizabeth, "how can you allow this angel to
throw herself in the dust before you? How dare you wound her? What
did you say to bring anguish to her heart and flood her face with
tears? Madame, I demand an answer! I demand it in the name of honor,
justice, and love. Laura is my bride, it is my right to defend her."
"Now, now," said Laura, clinging wildly to her lover, "she will no
longer believe that I love her husband."
"Your bride!" said the queen, with a sad sweet smile; "how young and
trusting you are, my brother, to believe in the possibility of such
"She will be my wife!" cried he passionately; "I swear it, and as
truly as there is a God in Heaven I will keep my oath! I have
courage to dare all dangers, to trample under foot all obstacles. I
do not shun the world's verdict or the king's power. My love is pure
and honest, it has no need to hide and veil itself; it shall stand
out boldly before God, the king, and the whole world! Go, then--go,
Madame, and repeat my words to the king; betray a love which chance,
undoubtedly, revealed to you. It was, I suppose, the knowledge of
this love which led you to wound and outrage this noble woman."
"It is true," said the queen, gently; "I did her injustice--I
doubted her words, her protestations; but Laura knows that this
offence was involuntary, it all arose from a mistake of the dowager-
"How! my mother knows of our love!" said the prince, in amazement.
"No, she is convinced that Laura von Pannewitz loves and is beloved
by the king; for this reason she heaped reproaches upon her, and
commanded her to marry Count Voss, who has just proposed for her
The prince clasped Laura more firmly. "Ah, they would tear you from
me; but my arms will hold you and my breast will shield you, my
darling. Do not tremble, do not weep, my Laura; arm in arm we will
go to the king. I will lead you before my mother and the court, and
tell them that you are my betrothed--that I have sworn to be true to
you, and will never break my oath."
"Stop--be silent, for God's sake!" said Elizabeth; "do not let your
mother hear you--do not let the king know your sad, perilous secret.
If he knows it you are lost."
"Your majesty does not then intend to make known what you have
heard," said the prince. "Have you the courage to conceal a secret
from your husband?"
"Ah!" said the queen, with a sigh, "my life, thoughts, and feelings
are a secret to him; I will but add this new mystery to the rest.
Guard this secret, which will in the end bring you pain and sorrow.
Be cautious, be prudent. Let the dowager queen still think that it
is the king whom Laura loves, she will be less watchful of you. But
now listen to my request; never speak to me of this love that chance
revealed, and which I will seek to forget from this moment; never
remind me of an engagement which in the eyes of the king and your
mother would be unpardonable and punishable, and of which it would
be my duty to inform them. As long as you are happy--that will be as
long as your love is under the protection of secrecy--I will see
nothing, know nothing. But when disaster and ruin break over you,
then come to me; then you, my brother, shall find in me a fond,
sympathizing sister, and you, poor, wretched girl, will find a
friend who will open her arms to you, and will weep with you over
your lost happiness."
"Oh, my queen!" cried Laura, pressing her hand to her lips; "how
noble, how generous you are!"
Elizabeth drew the poor trembling girl to her heart and kissed her
pale brow. "For those who weep and suffer there is no difference of
rank, a strong bond of human sympathy unites them. I am for you, not
the queen, but the sister who understands and shares your griefs.
When you weary of hidden agony and solitary weeping come to me at
Schonhausen; you will find there no gayeties, no worldly
distractions, but a silent shady garden, in which I sometimes seem
to hear God's voice comforting and consoling me. Here you can weep
unnoticed, and find a friend who will not weary you with questions."
"I thank you, and I will come. Ah! I know I shall soon need this
comfort, my happiness will die an early death!"
"And may I also come, my noble sister?" said the prince.
"Yes," said Elizabeth, smiling, "you may also come, but only when
Laura is not with me. I now entreat you, for your own safety, to
close this conversation. Dry your eyes, Laura, and try to smile,
then go to the garden and call my maids of honor; and you, brother,
come with me to the queen-mother, who is in her boudoir."
"No!" said the prince, fiercely; "I cannot see her now, I could not
control myself. I could not seem quiet and indifferent while I am
suffering such tortures."
"My brother," said the queen, "we princes have not the right to show
how we suffer; it is the duty of all in our station to veil our
feelings with a smile. Come, the queen, who is indignant and angry,
will yet receive us with a smile; and we, who are so sorrowful, will
also smile. Come."
"One word more to Laura," said the prince; and leading the young
girl, who was endeavoring to suppress her emotion, to another part
of the room, he threw his arm around her slender form, and pressed a
kiss upon her fair cheek. "Laura, my darling, do you remember your
oath? Will you be true and firm? Will my mother's threats and
commands find you strong and brave? You will not falter? You will
not accept the hand of Count Voss? You will let no earthly power
tear you from me? They can kill me, Laura, but I cannot be untrue to
myself or to you!" Augustus laid his hand upon her beautiful head;
the whole history of her pure and holy love was written in the look
and smile with which she answered him. "Do you remember that you
promised to meet me in the garden?"
"I remember," said she, blushing.
"Laura, in a few days we will be separated. The king wishes to make
an excursion incognito--he has ordered me to accompany him; I must
"Oh, my God! they will take you from me! I shall never see you
"We will meet again," said he encouragingly. "But you must grant me
the comfort of seeing you once more before my departure, otherwise I
shall not have the courage to leave you. The day for our journey is
not yet determined; when it is fixed I will come to inform my mother
of it in your presence. The evening before I will be in the
conservatory and await you; will I wait in vain?"
"No," whispered Laura, "I will be there;" and as if fleeing from her
own words, she hurried to the garden.
Prince Augustus William looked for his sister-in-law to accompany
her to the queen; but she had withdrawn, she did not wish to witness
their parting. Seeing this, the prince was on the point of following
Laura to the garden, when the beating of drums was heard from
SOIREE OF THE QUEEN DOWAGER.
"The king is coming," whispered Augustus William, and he stepped
towards the cabinet of the queen-mother. But the door was already
opened, and the two queens hastened out; they wished to reach the
garden saloon and there to welcome the king.
The expression of both ladies was restless and anxious. Sophia
Dorothea feared the meeting with her son, who would, perhaps, in the
inflamed, eyes of his beloved, read the history of the last hours;
his kingly anger would be kindled against those who brought tears to
her eyes. The queen confessed that she had gone too far--had allowed
herself to be mastered by her scorn; she was embarrassed and
Elizabeth Christine was not restless, but deeply moved; her heart
beat quickly at the thought of this meeting with her husband; she
had not seen him since the day of the coronation, had not exchanged
one single word with him since the ominous interview in her chamber
at Rheinsberg. Not once on the day of the coronation had the king
addressed her; and only once had he taken her hand. After the
coronation he led her in the midst of the assembled court, and said
with a clear and earnest voice: "Behold, this is your queen."
These ladies were so excited, so filled with their own thoughts that
they hastened through the saloons, scarcely remarking the prince,
who had stepped aside to allow them to pass. The queen-mother nodded
absently and gave him a passing greeting, then turned again to
Elizabeth, who had scarcely patience to conform her movements to the
slow and measured steps of the queen-mother; she longed to look upon
her husband's face once more.
"If Laura von Pannewitz complains to the king, we will have a
terrific scene," said Sophia.
"She will not complain," replied Elizabeth.
"So much the worse, she will play the magnanimous, and I could less
readily forgive that, than a complaint."
At this moment the door opened. The king, followed by his attendants
and those of the two queens, entered the saloon. The two ladies
greeted the king with smooth brows and thoughtless laughter. Nothing
betrayed the restless anxiety reigning in their hearts. Frederick
hastened to meet his mother, and bowing low he greeted her with
loving and respectful words, and tenderly kissed her hand; then
turning to his wife he bowed stiffly and ceremoniously; he did not
extend his hand, did not utter a word. Elizabeth bowed formally in
return, and forced back the hot tears which rushed into her eyes.
The face of the queen-mother was again gay and triumphant. The king
knew nothing as yet; she must prevent him from speaking with Laura
alone. She glanced around at the maid of honor, and saw that the
young maiden, calm and unembarrassed, was conversing with the Prince
Augustus William; her majesty was more than happy to see her son
William entertaining the beautiful Laura. "Ah! now I know how to
prevent the king from speaking to her alone," thought she.
Sophia was never so animated, so brilliant; her sparkling wit seemed
even to animate the king. There was a laughing contest, a war of
words, between them; piquant jests and intellectual bon mots, which
seemed to the admiring courtiers like fallen stars, were scattered
to right and left. The queen would not yield to her son, and indeed
sometimes she had the advantage.
Queen Elizabeth stood sad and silent near them, and if by chance the
eye of the king fell upon her, she felt that his glance was
contemptuous; her pale cheeks grew paler, and it was with great
effort she forced her trembling lips to smile.
The queen-mother proposed to her son and Elizabeth to walk in the
garden, and then to have a simple dance in the brilliant saloons.
The court mourning would not allow a regular ball at this time.
"But why should we seek for flowers in the garden," said the king;
"can there be lovelier blossoms than those now blooming on every
side?" His eye wandered around the circle of lovely maids of honor,
who cast their eyes blushingly to the ground.
Six eyes followed this glance of Frederick with painful interest.
"He scarcely looked at Laura von Pannewitz," said the queen, with a
"He did not once glance toward me," thought Elizabeth, sighing
"His eye did not rest for more than a moment upon any woman here,"
thought Pollnitz; "so it is clear he has no favorite in this circle.
I will, therefore, succeed with my beautiful Dorris."
Frederick wished to spare his mother the fatigue of a walk in the
garden--she was lame and growing fleshy; he therefore led her to a
seat, and bowing silently, he gave his left hand to his wife and
placed her by his mother.
Sophia, who watched every movement and every expression of her royal
son, observed the cruel silence which he maintained toward his wife,
and she felt pity for the poor, pale, neglected queen. Sophia leaned
toward the king, who stood hat in hand behind her divan, and
"I believe, my son, you have not spoken one word to your wife!"
The king's face clouded. "Madame," said he, in a low but firm tone,
"Elizabeth Christine is my queen, but not my wife!" and, as if he
feared a further explanation, he nodded to the Marquis Algarotti and
Duke Chazot to come forward and take part in the conversation.
Suddenly a lady, who had not before been seen in the court circle,
approached the two queens. This lady was of a wondrous pallor; she
was dressed in black, without flowers or ornament; her deep sunken
eyes were filled with feverish fire, and a painful smile played upon
her lips, which were tightly pressed together, as if to force back a
cry of despair.
No one recognised in this pale, majestic, gentle lady, the
"Tourbillon," the joyous, merry, laughing Madame von Morien; no one
could have supposed that her fresh and rosy beauty could, in a few
months, assume so earnest and sad a character. This was the first
time Madame von Morien had appeared at the court of the queen-
mother; she was scarcely recovered from a long and dangerous
illness. No one knew the nature of her disease, but the witty and
ill-natured courtiers exchanged many words of mockery and double
meaning on the subject.
It was said Madame von Morien was ill from the neglect of the king.
She suffered from a chill, which, strange to say, had attacked the
king, and not the beautiful coquette. Her disease was a new and
peculiar cold, which did not attack the lungs, but seized upon the
heart; the same disease, indeed, which prostrated Dido, upon the
departure of the cruel AEneas.
The queen-mother received this pale, but still lovely woman, most
graciously; gave her the royal hand to kiss, and smiled kindly.
"It is an age since we have seen you, fair baroness; it appears as
if you will make yourself invisible, and forget entirely that we
rejoice to see you."
"Your royal highness is most gracious to remind me of that," said
Madame von Morien, in a low tone; "death had almost made me forget
it, and assuredly I had not dared to approach you with this pale,
thin face, had not your majesty's flattering command given me
courage to do so."
There was something in the low, suffering voice of Madame von Morien
which awakened sympathy, and even disarmed the anger of the queen
Elizabeth. What bitter tears had she shed, what jealous agony
endured, because of this enchanting woman! She saw her now for the
first time since the fete at Rheinsberg. Looking into this worn and
sorrowful face, she forgave her fully. With the instinct of a loving
woman, the queen understood the malady of her rival; she felt that
Madame von Morien was suffering from unrequited affection, and that
despair was gnawing at her heart.
The king had now no glance, no greeting for his "enchanting
Leontine;" he continued the conversation with Algarotti and Chazot
quietly, and did not consider her profound and reverential
salutation as worthy of the slightest notice.
Elizabeth Christine was pitiful; she gave her hand to be kissed, and
spoke a few friendly, kindly words, which touched the heart of the
beautiful Morien, and brought the tears to her eyes. The king,
although standing near, did not appear even to see her.
"I have some news to announce to your majesty," he said, turning to
the queen-mother. "We are about to make Berlin a temple of science
and art, the seat of learning and knowledge. The Muses, should they
desire to leave Olympus, shall receive a most hospitable reception.
Now listen to the great news. In autumn Voltaire will visit us; and
Maupertius, the great scholar, who first discovered the form of the
earth, will come, as President of our Academy; and Buncauson, who
understands some of the mysteries of God, will also come to Berlin.
The celebrated Eulert will soon belong to us."
"This is indeed glorious news," said Sophia; "but I fear that your
majesty, when surrounded with so many scholars, philosophers, and
historians, will entirely forget the poor ignorant women, and banish
them from your learned court."
"That would be to banish happiness, beauty, mirth, and the graces;
and no one would expect such barbarism from the son of my noble and
exalted mother," said Frederick. "Even the Catholic Church is wise
enough to understand that in order to draw men into their nets, the
Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost is not sufficient, they have
also called a lovely woman to their assistance, whose beauty and
pure mysterious maidenhood is the finest, most piquant and
intoxicating perfume of their gaudy religion. And what would the
great painters have been without women--without their lovely, their
bewitching sweethearts, whom they changed into holy maidens? From
luxurious women were designed the modest, shrinking Magdalens,
before whose mysterious charms the wise children of men bow the knee
in adoration. Ah, how many Madonnas has Raphael painted from his
Fornarina! and Correggio had the art to change his bewitching wife
into a holy saint. I must confess, however, we owe Correggio but
small thanks; I should have been more grateful had he painted us a
glowing woman, radiant with beauty, grace, and love. I, for my part,
have a true disgust for weeping, sighing Magdalens, who, when
wearied with earthly loves and passions, turn half way to heaven,
and swear to God the same oaths they have a thousand times sworn to
men and a thousand times broken. Now, if I were in God's place, I
would not accept these wavering saints. For my part I hate these
pale, tearful, sighing, self-destroying beauties, and the farcical
exhibition of their sufferings would never soften my heart."
While the king was speaking his eye turned for the first time toward
Madame von Morion, and his glance rested long, with a cold and
piercing expression, upon her. She had heard every word he had
spoken, and every word was like a cold poisoned dagger in her heart;
she felt, although her eyes were cast down, that his stern look
rested upon her; she was conscious of this crushing glance, although
she saw it not; she had the power not to cry out, not to burst into
passionate tears, but to reply quietly to the queen, who in fact
questioned her, only with the good-humored intention of drowning the
hard and cruel words of the king.
The queen wished to lead the conversation from the dangerous topic
of religion and give it another direction. "My son," she said, "you
have forgotten to mention another great surprise you have prepared
for us. You say nothing of the German and French journals which you
have presented to our good city of Berlin; but I assure you I await
with true impatience the day on which these journals appear, and I
am profoundly interested in these new and charming lectures which
make of politics an amusing theme, and give us all the small events
of the day."
"Let us hope," said Frederick, "that these journals will also tell
us in the future of great events." Then assuming a gay tone he said:
"But your majesty forgets that you promised the ladies a dance, and
see how impatiently the little princesses look toward us; my sister
Amelia is trying to pierce me with her scornful glances, because I
have forced her to sit in her arm-chair like a maid of honor, for
such a weary time, when she longs to float about like a frolicsome
zephyr. To put a stop to her reproaches I will ask her to give me
the first dance."
The king took his sister's hand and led her into the dancing saloon.
The queens and court followed. "Now without doubt he will seek an
opportunity to speak to Laura von Pannewitz," thought the queen-
mother; "I must take measures to prevent it." She called Prince
Augustus William to her side. "My son," said she, "I have a favor to
ask of you."
"Oh, your majesty has only to command."
"I know that you are a good son, willing to serve your mother.
Listen; I have important reasons for wishing that the king should
not converse to-night, at least not alone, with Laura von Pannewitz;
I will explain my reasons to you another time. I beg you, therefore,
to pay court to Laura, and not to leave her side should the king
draw near. You will appear not to see his angry glances, but without
embarrassment join in the conversation, and not turn away from Laura
until the king has taken leave. Will you do this for me, my son?"
"I will fulfil your royal commands most willingly," said the prince,
"only it will be said that I am making love to Laura von Pannewitz."
"Well, let them say so, Laura is young and lovely, and does credit
to your taste. Let the court say what it will, we will not make
ourselves unhappy. But hasten, my son, hasten; it appears to me the
king is even now approaching Laura."
The prince bowed to his mother, and with joy in his heart he placed
himself by the side of his beloved.
The queen-mother, entirely at ease, took her seat at the card-table
with her daughter-in-law and their cavaliers, while the king amused
himself in the ball-room, and danced a tour with almost every lady.
He did not dance with Leontine; not once did his eye meet hers,
though her glances followed him everywhere with a tender,
beseeching, melancholy expression.
"So sad!" whispered Madame von Brandt, who, glowing with beauty and
merriment, having just danced with the king, now took a seat by her
Madame von Morien with a sigh held out her small hand. "Dear
friend," said she, in a low voice, "you were right. I should not
have come here; I thought myself stronger than I am; I thought my
mourning would touch him, and awaken at least his pity."
"Pity!" laughed Madame von Brandt; "men never have pity for women:
they worship or despise them; they place us on an altar or cast us
in the dust to be trodden under foot. We must take care, dear
Leontine, to build the altar on which they place us so high, that
their arms cannot reach us to cast us down."
"You are right; I should have been more prudent, wiser, colder. But
what would you? I loved him, and believed in his heart."
"You believed in the heart of a man! Alas! what woman can boast that
she ever closed that abyss and always retained the keys?"
"Yes, the heart of man is an abyss," said Madame von Morien; "in the
beginning it is covered with flowers, and we believe we are resting
in Paradise; but the blossoms wither, and will no longer support us;
we fall headlong into the abyss with wounded hearts, to suffer and
Madame von Brandt laid her hand, glittering with jewels, upon the
shoulder of her friend, and looked derisively into the poor pale
face. "Dear Morien," said she, "we cannot justly cast all the blame
upon the men, when the day comes in which they make themselves free
from the bonds of love. The fault is often the woman's. We misuse
our power, or do not properly use it. It is not enough to love and
to be loved. With love we must also possess the policy of love. This
policy is necessary. The women who do not know how to govern the
hearts which love them will soon lose their power. So was it with
you, my dear friend; in your love you were too much the woman, too
little the politician and diplomatist; and instead of wisely making
yourself adored, by your coldness and reserve you yielded too much
to your feelings, and have fallen into that abyss in which, poor
Leontine, you have for the moment lost your health and strength. But
that must not remain the case; you shall rise from this abyss,
proud, triumphant, and happy. I offer you my hand; I will sustain
you: while you sigh I will think for you; while you weep I will see
Madame von Morien shook her head sadly. "You will only see that he
never looks at me--that I am utterly forgotten."
"But when I see that, I will shut my eyes that I may not see it; and
when you see it, you must laugh gayly and look the more triumphant.
Dear friend, what has love made of you? Where is your judgment and
your coquetry? My God! you are a young maiden again, and sigh like a
child for your first love. However tender we may be, we must not
sacrifice all individuality; besides, being a woman you must still
be a coquette, and in a corner of your most tender and yielding
heart you must ever conceal the tigress, who watches and has her
claws ready to tear in pieces those whom you love, if they ever seek
to escape from you. Cease, then, to be the neglected, tear-stained
Magdalen, and be again the revengeful, cruel tigress. You have,
besides, outside of your love, a glittering aim--a member of the
Female Order of Virtue. To wear the cross of modesty upon your
chaste breast, what an exalted goal! And you will reach it. I bring
you the surest evidence of it; I bring you, as you wished, a letter
from the empress, written with her own hand. You see all your
conditions are fulfilled. The empress writes to you and assures you
of her favor; she assures you that the Order of Virtue will soon be
established. The king has not separated from his wife, and for this
reason you receive a letter from the empress. Now help to bring
about the marriage of the Prince Augustus William with the Princess
of Brunswick, and you will be an honored member of the Austrian
Order of Virtue. Here, take at once this letter of the empress."
Madame von Brandt put her hand in her pocket to get the letter, but
turned pale, and said, breathlessly: "My God! this letter is not in
my pocket, and yet I know positively that I placed it there. A short
time before I joined you I put my hand in my pocket, and distinctly
felt the imperial seal. The letter was there, I know it. What has
become of it? Who has taken it away from me? But no, it is not
possible, it cannot be lost! I must have it; it must still be in my
Trembling with anxiety, with breathless haste Madame von Brandt
emptied her pocket, hoping that the luckless letter might be
sticking to her gold-embroidered handkerchief, or fastened in the
folds of her fan. She did not remember that her anxiety might be
observed; and truly no one noticed her, all were occupied with their
own pleasures. All around her was movement, life, and merry-making;
who would observe her? She searched again in vain, shook her
handkerchief, unfolded the large fan; the letter could not be found.
An indescribable anxiety overpowered her; had she lost the letter?
had it been stolen from her? Suddenly she remembered that while
engaged a short time before with Pollnitz she had drawn out her fan;
perhaps at the same time the letter had fallen upon the floor, and
Pollnitz might have found it, and might now be looking for Madame
von Morien in order to restore it. She searched in every direction
Madame von Morien had not remarked the anguish of her friend, or had
forgotten it. She was again lost in dreams; her eyes fastened on the
face of the young king, she envied every lady whose hand he touched
in the dance, to whom he addressed a friendly word, or gave a
gracious smile. "I see him no more," said she sadly.
"Who?" said Madame von Brandt, once more searching her pocket.
"The king," Morien answered, surprised at the question; "he must
have left the saloon; I saw him a few moments since in conversation
"With Pollnitz," said she eagerly, and she searched again in every
direction for him.
Suddenly Madame von Morien uttered a low cry, and a rosy blush
overspread her fair pale face; she had seen the king, their eyes had
met; the sharp, observant glance of the king was steadily and
sternly fixed upon her.
The king stood in a window corner, half hidden by the long, heavy
silk curtains, and gazed ever steadily at the two ladies.
"I see the king," murmured Madame von Morien.
"And I see Pollnitz standing near him," said Madame von Brandt,
whose eyes had followed the direction of her friend's. She thrust
her handkerchief into her pocket and opened her fan in order to hide
her reddened face behind it; the king's piercing look filled her
with alarm. "Let us walk through the saloons, dear Morien," said
she, rising up, "the heat chokes me, and I would gladly search a
little for the letter; perhaps it may yet be found."
"What letter?" asked Madame von Morien, indifferently. Her friend
stared at her and said:
"My God! you have not heard one word I have said to you!"
"Oh, yes, that you had a letter to give me from the Empress of
"Well, and this letter I have lost here in these saloons."
"Some one will find it; and as it is addressed to me, will
immediately restore it."
"Dear Morien, I pray you in God's name do not seem so quiet and
indifferent. This is a most important affair. If I did not leave
this letter in my room, and have really lost it, we are in danger of
being suspected; in fact, in the eyes of the king we will be
considered as spies of Austria."
At the name of the king Madame von Morien was attentive and
"But no one can read this letter. Was it sealed?"
"Yes, it was sealed; but, look you, it was sealed with the private
seal of the empress, and her name stands around the Austrian arms.
Without opening the letter it will be known that it is from the
Empress of Austria, and will awaken suspicion. Hear me further; this
letter was enveloped in a paper which had no address, but contained
some words which will compromise us both if it is known that this
letter was addressed to me."
"What was written in this paper?" said Madame von Morien, still
looking toward the king, who still stood in the window niche, and
kept his eyes fixed upon the two ladies.
"The paper contained only the following words: 'Have the goodness to
deliver this letter; you see the empress keeps her word; we must do
the same and forget not our promises. A happy marriage is well
pleasing in the sight of God and man; the married woman is adorned,
the man crowned with virtue.'"
"And this letter was signed?"
"No, it was not signed; but if it falls into the hands of the king,
he will know from whom it comes; he is acquainted with the
handwriting of Manteuffel."
"Come! come! let us look to it!" said Madame von Morien, now full of
anxiety; "we must find this unfortunate paper; come!"
She took the arm of her friend and walked slowly through the
saloons, searching everywhere upon the inlaid floor for something
"You are right," said the king, coming from the window and following
the ladies with his eyes; "you are right. They are both searching
anxiously, and it was surely Madame von Brandt to whom the outer
covering of this letter was directed. Let them seek; they will find
as little as the eleven thousand virgins found. But now listen,
baron, to what I say to you. This whole affair remains a secret
known to no one. Listen well, baron; known to no one! You must
forget that you found this letter and gave it to me, or you will
believe it to be a dream and nothing more."
"Yes, your majesty," said Pollnitz, smiling; "a dream, such as
Eckert dreamed, when he supposed the house in Jager Street to be
his, and awaked and found it to belong to your highness!"
"You are a fool!" said the king, smiling; he nodded to Pollnitz and
joined the two queens, who had now finished their game of cards and
returned to the saloon.
The queen-mother advanced to meet her son, and extended her hand to
him; she wished now to carry out her purpose and fulfil the promise
given to Duke Rhedern. She did not doubt that the king, who received
her with so much reverence and affection, would grant her request,
and the court would be again witness to the great influence, and
indeed the unbounded power which she had over her son. She stood
with the king directly under the chandelier, in the middle of the
saloon; near them stood the reigning queen and the princes and
princesses of the royal house. It was an interesting picture. It was
curious to observe this group, illuminated by the sharp light, the
faces so alike and yet so different in expression; blossoms from one
stem, and yet so unlike in greatness, form, and feature. The
courtiers drew near, and in respectful silence regarded the royal
family, who, bathed in a sea of light, were in the midst of them but
not of them.
"My son," said the queen, in a clear, silvery voice, "I have a
request to make of you." The king kissed his mother's hand.
"Madame, you well know you have no need of entreaty; you have only
to command." Sophia smiled proudly.
"I thank your majesty for this assurance! Listen, then, my
chamberlain, Duke Rhedern, wishes to marry. I have promised him to
obtain your consent."
"If my royal mother is pleased with the choice of her chamberlain, I
am, of course, also content; always provided that, the chosen bride
of the duke belongs to a noble family. What is the rank of this
The queen looked embarrassed, and smiling, said: "She has no rank,
The king's brow darkened, "She was not born, then, to be a duchess.
Your chamberlain would do better to be silent over this folly than
to force a refusal from me. I hate misalliances, and will not suffer
them at my court."
These loudly spoken and harsh words produced different impressions
upon the family circle of the king; some were cast down, others
joyful; some cheeks grew pale, and others red. Sophia blushed from
pleasure; she was now convinced that the king would not seek a
divorce from his wife, in order to form a morganatic marriage with
Laura von Pannewitz; and the queen-mother was of too noble and
virtuous a nature herself to believe in the possibility of a
mistress at the court of Prussia. The love of the king for the
lovely Laura appeared now nothing more than a poetical idyl, which
would soon pass away--nothing more! The words of the king made a
painful impression upon Augustus William; his brow clouded, his
features assumed a painful but threatening expression; he was in the
act of speaking, and opposing in the name of humanity and love those
cruel words of the king, as Elizabeth Christine, who stood near him
and observed him with tender sympathy, whispered lightly:
"Be silent, my brother; be considerate."
The prince breathed heavily, and his glance turned for comfort
toward the maids of honor. Laura greeted him with her eyes, and then
blushed deeply over her own presumption. Strengthened by this tender
glance from his beautiful bride, Augustus was able to assume a calm
and indifferent mien.
In the meantime the queen-mother was not silenced by the words of
the king. Her pride rebelled against this prompt denial in the face
of her family and the court. Besides, she had given her royal word
to the count, and it must be redeemed. She urged, therefore, her
request with friendly earnestness, but the king was immovable.
Sophia, angry at the opposition to her will, was even the more
resolved to carry out her purpose. She had a few reserved troops,
and she decided to bring them now into the field.
"Your majesty should, without doubt, protect your nobles from
unworthy alliances; but there are exceptional cases, where the
interest of the nobility would be promoted by allowing such a
union." Sophia Dorothea drew nearer to her son, and whispered
lightly: "Count Rhedern is ruined, and must go to the ground if you
forbid this marriage."
The king was now attentive and sympathetic. "Is the lady very rich?"
"Immensely rich, sire. She will bring the duke a million dollars;
she is the daughter of the rich silk merchant Orguelin."
"Ah, Orguelin is a brave man, and has brought much gold into Prussia
by his fabrics," said the king, who was evidently becoming more
"It would be a great pity if this gold should be lost to Prussia,"
said the queen.
"What do you mean, madame?"
"This Mademoiselle Orguelin, thanks to her riches, has many lovers,
and at this time a young merchant from Holland seeks her hand; he
has the consent of her father, and will also obtain hers, unless the
count knows how to undermine him," said the queen, thus springing
her last mine.
"This must not be," said the king; "this Orguelin shall not marry
the rich Hollander! Those millions of crowns shall not leave
"But your majesty cannot prevent this girl from marrying the man of
her choice, and you cannot forbid her father to give her a portion
of his fortune."
The king was silent a moment, and appeared to consider. He then said
to his mother: "Madame, you are an eloquent advocate for your
client, and no man can withstand you. I give way, therefore; Count
Rhedern has my consent to marry the Orguelin."
"But even THAT is not sufficient," said the queen; "there is yet
another condition, without the filling of which this proud
millionnaire refuses to give her hand to the duke."
"Ah, look you, the little bourgeoise makes conditions before she
will wed a count."
"Yes, sire, she will become the wife of the count only with the
count's assurance that she will be presented at court, and be
received according to her new rank."
"Truly," said the king, with ironical laughter, "this little
millionnaire thinks it an important point to appear at my court."
"It appears so, sire; it seems that this is a greater glory than to
possess a count for a husband."
The king looked thoughtfully before him, then raised his eyes to his
mother with a mocking smile. "Mother, you know I can refuse you
nothing; and as you wish it, Mademoiselle Orguelin, when she is
married, shall be received at my court as a newly baked countess.
But petition for petition, favor for favor. I promise you to receive
this new baked countess if you will promise me to receive the Count
Neal at your court?"
"Count Neal," said the queen, "your majesty knows--"
"I know," said the king, bowing, "I know that Count Neal is of as
good family as the new Countess of Rhedern; that he possesses many
millions which I have secured to Prussia by granting him his title.
So we understand each other. The new baked countess will be as well
received at my court as Count Neal will at yours."
He gave the queen his hand, she laid hers unwillingly within it, and
whispered: "Ah, my son, you have cruelly overreached me."
"Madame, we secure in this way three millions for Prussia, and they
weigh more than a few countly ancestors. The Prussia of the future
will triumph in battle through her nobles; but she will become
greater, more powerful, through the industry of her people than by
victory on the battle-field."
UNDER THE LINDENS.
Linden Street, of Berlin, which is now the most brilliant and most
beautiful thoroughfare of that great city, was, in the year 1740, a
wild and desolate region.
Frederick the First loved pomp and splendor. His wife, when told
upon her death-bed how much the king would mourn for her, said,
smiling: "He will occupy himself in arranging a superb funeral
procession; and if this ceremony is very brilliant, he will be
Frederick the First planted the trees from which this street takes
its name, to render the drive to the palace of Charlottenburg more
agreeable to the queen, and to conceal as much as possible the
desolate appearance of the surroundings; for all this suburb lying
between the arsenal and the zoological garden was at that time a
desolate and barren waste. The entire region, extending from the new
gate to the far-distant Behren Street, was an immense mass of sand,
whose drear appearance had often offended Frederick while he was
still the prince royal. Nothing was to be seen, where now appear
majestic palaces and monuments, the opera house and the catholic
church, but sand and heaps of rubbish. Frederick William the First
had done much to beautify this poor deserted quarter, and to render
it more fitting its near neighborhood to the palaces, which were on
the other side of the fortifications; but the people of Berlin had
aided the king very little in this effort. None were willing to
banish themselves to this desolate and remote portion of the city,
and the few stately and palatial buildings which were erected there
were built by the special order of the king, and at his expense.
Some wealthy men of rank had also put up a few large buildings, to
please the king, but they did not reside in them, and the houses
themselves seemed almost out of place. One of these large and
stately houses had not been built by a Count Dohna, or a Baron von
Pleffen, or any other nobleman, but by the most honorable and
renowned court tailor Pricker; and for the last few days this house
had rejoiced in a new and glittering sign, on which appeared in
large gilt letters, "Court Tailor to her majesty the dowager queen,
and to her majesty the reigning queen." But this house, with its
imposing inscription, was also surrounded by dirty, miserable
cabins. In its immediate neighborhood was the small house which has
already been described as the dwelling of poor Anna Schommer.
A deep and unbroken silence reigned in this part of Berlin, and the
equipages of the royal family and nobility were rarely seen there,
except when the king gave an entertainment at Charlottenburg.
But to-day a royal carriage was driven rapidly from the palace
through this desolate region, and toward the Linden Avenue. Here it
stopped, and four gentlemen alighted. They were the king; the royal
architect, Major Knobelsdorf; the grand chamberlain, Von Pollnitz;
and Jordan, the head of police and guardian of the poor.
The king stood at the beginning of the Linden Avenue, and looked
earnestly and thoughtfully at the large desolate surface spread out
before him; his clear bright glance flew like lightning here and
"You must transform this place for me, Knobelsdorf; you must show
yourself a very Hercules. You have the ability, and I will furnish
the money. Here we will erect a monument to ourselves, and make a
glorious something of the nothing of this desert. We will build
palaces and temples of art and of religion. Berlin is at present
without every thing which would make it a tempting resort for the
Muses. It is your affair, Knobelsdorf, to prepare a suitable
reception for them."
"But the Muses are willing to come without that," said Pollnitz,
with his most, graceful bow, "for they would discover here the young
god Apollo, who, without doubt, found it too tiresome in heaven, and
has condescended to become an earthly king."
The king shrugged his shoulders. "Pollnitz," he said, "you are just
fitted to write a book of instructions for chamberlains and court
circles; a book which would teach them the most honied phrases and
the most graceful flatteries. Why do you not compose such a work?"
"It is absolutely necessary, your majesty, in order to write a book
to have a quiet study in your own house, Where you can arrange every
thing according to your own ideas of comfort and convenience. As I
do not at present possess a house, I cannot write this book."
The king laughed and said: "Well, perhaps Knobelsdorf can spare a
small spot here, on which to erect your Tusculum. But we must first
build the palace of the queen-mother, and a few other temples and
halls. Do you not think, Jordan, that this is a most suitable place
on which to realize all those beautiful ideals of which we used to
dream at Rheinsberg? Could we not erect our Acropolis here, and our
temples to Jupiter and Minerva?"
"In order to convince the world that it is correct in its
supposition," said Jordan, smiling, "that your majesty is not a
Christian, but a heathen, who places more faith in the religion of
the old Greeks than in that of the new Church fathers."
"Do they say that? Well, they are not entirely wrong if they believe
that I have no great admiration for popery and the Church. This
Church was not built by Christ, but by a crafty priesthood.
Knobelsdorf, on this spot must stand the temple of which I have so
often dreamed. There is space to accomplish all that fancy could
suggest or talent execute."
"Then the palace of the dowager queen must not be placed here?"
"No, not here; this place has another destination, of which I will
speak further to you this evening, and learn if my plan has your
approval. I dare say my most quarrelsome Jordan will make some
objections. Eh bien, nous verrons. We will proceed and seek a
situation for the palace of the queen."
"If your majesty will permit me," said Pollnitz, while the king with
his three companions passed slowly down the Linden Avenue, "I will
take the liberty of pointing out to you a spot, which appears most
suitable to me for this palace. It is at the end of the avenue, and
at the entrance to the park; it is a most beautiful site, and there
would be sufficient room to extend the buildings at will."
"Show us the place," said the king, walking forward.
"This is it," said Pollnitz, as they reached the end of the avenue.
"It is true," said the king, "here is space enough to erect a
palace. What do you think, Knobelsdorf, will this place answer?"
"We must begin by removing all those small houses, your majesty;
that would, of course, necessitate their purchase, for which we must
obtain the consent of the possessors, who would, many of them, be
left shelterless by this sudden sale."
"Shelterless!" said the king; "since Jordan has become the father of
the poor, none are shelterless," as he glanced toward his much-
beloved friend. "This spot seems most suitable to me. The palace
might stand on this side; on that a handsome public building,
perhaps the library, and uniting the two a lofty arch in the Grecian
style. We will convert that wood into a beautiful park, with shady
avenues, tasteful parterres, marble statues, glittering lakes, and
"Only a Frederick could dream it possible to convert this desolate
spot into such a fairy land," said Jordan, smiling. "For my part, I
see nothing here but sand, and there a wood of miserable stunted
The king smiled. "Blessed are they who believe without having seen,"
he said. "Well, Knobelsdorf, is there room here to carry out our
"Certainly; and if your majesty will furnish me with the requisite
funds, the work can be begun without delay."
"What amount will be required?"
"If it is all executed as your majesty proposes, at least a
"Very well, a million is not too much to prepare a pleasure for the
"But," said Pollnitz, "will not your majesty make those poor people
acquainted with their fate, and console them by a gracious word for
being compelled to leave their homes? It has only been a short time
since I was driven by the rain to take shelter in one of those
houses, and it made me most melancholy, for I have never seen such
want and misery. There were starving children, a woman dying of
grief, and a drunken man. Truly as I saw this scene I longed to be a
king for a few moments, that I might send a ray of happiness to
brighten this gloomy house, and dry the tears of these wretched
"It must have been a most terrible sight if even Pollnitz was
distressed by it," cried the king, whose noble countenance was
overshadowed with sorrow. "Come, Jordan, we will visit this house,
and you shall assist in alleviating the misery of its inhabitants.
You, Knobelsdorf, can occupy yourself in making a drawing of this
place. Lead the way, Pollnitz."
"My desire at last attained," thought Pollnitz, as he led the king
across the common. "It has been most difficult to bring the king
here, but I am confident my plan will succeed. Dorris Ritter
doubtless expects us; she will have considered my words, and
yielding to her natural womanly coquetry, she will have followed my
counsel, and have made use of the clothing I sent her yesterday."
They now stood before the wretched house which Pollnitz had
"This house has truly a most gloomy appearance," said the king.
"Many sad tears have been shed here," said Pollnitz, with the
appearance of deep sympathy.
The door of the shop was merely closed; the king pushed it open, and
entered with his two companions. No one came forward to meet them;
silence reigned in the deserted room.
"Permit me, your majesty, to go into that room and call the woman;
she probably did not hear us enter."
"No, I will go myself," said the king; "it is well that I should
occasionally seek out poverty in its most wretched hiding-place,
that I may learn to understand its miseries and temptations."
"Ah! my king," said Jordan, deeply touched, "from to-day your people
will no longer call you their king, but their father."
The king stepped quickly to the door which Pollnitz had pointed out;
the two gentlemen followed, and remained standing behind him,
glancing curiously over his shoulder.
The king crossed the threshold, and then stood motionless, gazing
into the room. "Is it possible to live in such a den?" he murmured.
"Yes, it is possible," replied a low, scornful voice; "I live here,
with misery for my companion."
The king was startled by this voice, and turned toward that side of
the room from which it proceeded; only then seeing the woman who sat
in the farthest corner. She remained motionless, her hands folded on
her lap; her face was deadly pail, but of a singularly beautiful
oval; the hair encircling her head in heavy braids, was of a light,
shining blond, and had almost the appearance of a halo surrounding
her clear, pale face, which seemed illumined by her wonderful eyes.
"She has not made use of the things which I sent," thought Pollnitz;
"but I see she understands her own advantages. She is really
beautiful; she looks like a marble statue of the Virgin Mary in some
poor village church."
The king still stood gazing, with an earnest and thoughtful
expression, at this woman, who looked fixedly at him, as if she
sought to read his thoughts. But he remained quiet, and apparently
unmoved. Did the king recognize this woman? did he hear again the
dying melodies of his early youth? was he listening to their sweet,
but melancholy tones? Neither Pollnitz nor Dorris Ritter could
discover this in his cold, proud face.
Jordan broke this silence by saying gently, "Stand up, my good
woman, it is the king who is before you."
She rose slowly from her seat, but her countenance did not betray
the least astonishment or pleasure.
"The king!" she said; "what does the king desire in this den of
poverty and misery?"
"To alleviate both poverty and misery if they are undeserved," said
the king softly.
She approached him quickly, and made a movement as if she would
offer him her hand. "My wretchedness is undeserved," she said, "but
not even a king can alleviate it."
"Let me, at least, attempt to do so. In what can I assist you?"
She shook her head sadly. "If King Frederick, the son of Frederick
William the First, does not know, then I do not."
"You are poor, perhaps in want?"
"I do not know--it is possible," she said absently; "how can I among
so many pains and torments distinguish between despair and anguish,
and want and privation?"
"You have children?"
"Yes," she said, shuddering, "I have children, and they suffer from
hunger; that I know, for they often pray to me for bread, when I
have none to give them."
"Why does not their father take care of them; perhaps he is not
"He lives, but not for us. He is wiser than I, and forgets his grief
in drink, while I nourish the gnawing viper at my heart."
"You have, then, nothing to ask of me?" said the king, becoming
She gazed at him long and searchingly, with her great piercing eyes.
"No," she said harshly. "I have nothing to ask."
At this moment the door was thrown open, and the two children, Karl
and Anna, ran in, calling for their mother; but they became silent
on perceiving the strangers, and crept shyly to her side. Dorris
Ritter was strangely moved by the appearance of her children; her
countenance, which had borne so hard an expression, became mild and
gentle. She grasped the hands of the two children, and with them
approached the king.
"Yes, your majesty, I have a petition to make. I implore your pity
for my children. They are pure and innocent as God's angels; let not
the shame and misery of their parents fall upon their heads. King
Frederick, have pity on my children!"
And overcome by her emotions and her anguish, this unhappy woman
sank with her children at the feet of the king. The king regarded
her thoughtfully, then turned to Jordan.
"Jordan," said he, "to you I intrust the care of these children."
The wretched woman started to her feet, and pressed her children to
her arms with an expression as terrified and full of agony as that
of the noble and touching statue of the Greek Niobe.
"Ah! you would tear my children from me! No, no, I ask nothing; we
need no mercy, no assistance; we will suffer together; do not
separate us. They would cease to love me; they would learn to
despise me, their mother, who only lives in their presence; who, in
the midst of all her sorrow and grief, thanks God daily upon her
bended knees that he gave her these children, who alone have saved
her from despair and death."
"You have uttered very wild and godless words," said the king. "You
should pray to God to make your heart soft and humble. To be poor,
to suffer from hunger, to have a drunken husband, are great
misfortunes, but they can be borne if you have a pure conscience.
Your children shall not be parted from you. They shall be clothed
and taught, and I will also see what can be done for you. And now
And the king, bowing slightly, turned toward the door, and in doing
so placed a few pieces of gold on the table. Dorris had watched
every movement; she started wildly forward and seized the gold,
which she handed to the king.
"Your majesty," she said, with flashing eyes, "I only implored mercy
for my children; I did not beg for myself. My sufferings cannot be
wiped out with a few pieces of gold."
The countenance of the king assumed a most severe expression, and he
threw an annihilating glance on this bold woman, who dared to oppose
"I did not give the gold to you, but to your children," he said;
"you must not rob them." He then continued more gently: "If you
should ever need and desire assistance, then turn to me; I will
remember your poverty, not your pride. Tell me your name, therefore,
that I may not forget."
The poor, pale woman glanced searchingly at him. "My name," she said
thoughtfully, as if to herself, "King Frederick wishes to know my
name. I am called--I am called Anna Schommer."
And as she replied, she placed her hand upon the head of her little
daughter, as if she needed a support. Thus she stood trembling, but
still upright, with head erect, while the king and his suite turned
toward the door. Her son, who had kept his eyes upon the king, now
followed him and lightly touched his mantle.
His mother saw it, and raising her arm threateningly, while with the
other she still supported herself by leaning on her child, she
cried: "Do not touch him, my son. Kings are sacred."
Frederick, already standing on the threshold, turned once more; his
great, luminous eyes rested inquiringly on this pale, threatening
figure. An indescribably sad smile played upon his features, but he
spoke no word; and slowly turning, he passed through the door, and
hurried silently from the shop.
Dorris Ritter uttered a low cry when she no longer saw him; her
hands slid powerless from the head of her child, and hung heavily at
her side. The child, thus set at liberty, hurried out to gaze at the
king and his escort.
The poor woman was all alone--alone with her grief and painful
memories. She stood for a long time motionless and silent, as if
unconscious, then a dull, heavy groan escaped from her breast, and
she fell as if struck by lightning. "He did not even know me," she
cried. "For him I suffer pain and misery, and he passes by, and
throws me the crumbs of benevolence which fall from his bountiful
table." For many minutes she lay thus broken and trembling; then,
suddenly excited by pride and revenge, she arose, with a wild gleam
in her eyes. She raised her hand as if calling upon God to witness
her words, and said solemnly, "He did not recognize me to-day, but a
day will come on which he shall recognize me--the day on which I
avenge my wretched and tormented life! He is a royal king and I a
poor woman, but the sting of a venomous insect suffices to destroy
even a king. Revenge I will have; revenge for my poisoned
THE POLITICIAN AND THE FRENCH TAILOR.
Without, the scene had changed in the meanwhile. The attention of
the people had been attracted to the king's presence by the royal
equipage which was slowly driving down the street, and one and all
hurried from their houses to see and greet their handsome young
monarch. Men and women, young and old, were running about
confusedly, each one inquiring of his neighbor why the king had
come, and where he might now be, as his carriage was apparently
awaiting him. And why was that fat man, who was seated on the
sidewalk, sketching this sandy place with its poor little houses?
Even the proud and self-satisfied Mr. Pricker had not considered it
beneath his dignity to descend to the street door, where he took his
stand surrounded by his assistants and apprentices.
"It is said the king has gone into the house of Schommer, the
grocer," said one of his assistants, returning from a reconnoissance
he had made among the noisy and gossiping multitude.
Mr. Pricker shook his head gravely. "He must have been misinformed,
for he undoubtedly intended coming to this house and paying me a
visit, an intention which would be neither novel nor surprising in
my family. None of the rulers of the house of Hohenzollern have as
yet neglected to pay a visit to the house of Pricker. The present
king will not fail to observe this noble custom, for--"
The worthy Mr. Pricker was interrupted by the shouts of the people.
The king had appeared upon the streets, and was greeted with
vociferous cheers, amid the waving of hats and handkerchiefs.
Mr. Pricker, observing with intense satisfaction that the king had
turned and was advancing in the direction of his house, stepped
forward with a self-gratulatory smile, and placed himself
immediately at the side of the king's path. But the king passed by
without noticing him. On this occasion he did not return the
greeting of the people in quite so gracious a manner as usual; his
eye was dim, and his brow clouded. Without even favoring the smiling
and bowing Pricker with a glance, he passed on to the carriage which
awaited him in front of the court dressmaker's. The king entered
hastily, his cavaliers following him, and the carriage drove off.
The shouting of the populace continued, however, until it
disappeared in the distance.
"Why do these poor foolish people shout for joy?" grumbled Mr.
Pricker, shrugging his shoulders. Now that the king had taken no
notice of him, this man was enraged. "What do they mean by these
ridiculous cries, and this waving of hats? The king regarded them as
discontentedly as if they were vermin, and did not even favor them
with a smile. How low-spirited he is! his not recognizing me, the
court dressmaker of his wife, shows this conclusively. It must have
been his intention to visit me, for his carriage had halted
immediately in front of my door; in his depression he must have
entirely forgotten it."
The crowd had begun to disperse, and but a few isolated groups could
now be seen, who were still eagerly engaged in discussing the king's
At a short distance from Mr. Pricker were several grave and
dignified citizens, dressed in long coats ornamented with immense
ivory buttons, and wearing long cues, which looked out gravely from
the three-cornered hats covering their smooth and powdered hair.
Mr. Pricker observed these citizens, and with a friendly greeting
beckoned to them to approach. "My worthy friends, did you also come
to see the king?"
"No, we were only passing, but remained standing when we saw the
"A very handsome young man."
"A very wise and learned young king."
"Yes, and still--"
"Yes, that is my opinion also, worthy friends," sighed Mr. Pricker.
"The many innovations and ordinances; it terrifies one to read
"Every day something new."
"Yes, it is not as it was in the good old times, under the late
lamented king. Ah, we then led a worthy and respectable life. One
knew each day what the next would bring forth. He who hungered to-
day knew that he would also do so on the morrow; he who was rich to-
day knew that he would still be so on the morrow. Ours was an honest
and virtuous existence. Prudence and propriety reigned everywhere;
as a husband and father, the king set us an exalted example."
"It is true, one ran the risk of being struck occasionally; and if a
man had the misfortune to be tall, he was in danger of being
enrolled among the guards," said another. "But this was all. In
other respects, however, one lived quietly enough, smoked his pipe,
and drank his pot of beer, and in these two occupations we could
also consider the king as our model and ideal."
"Yes, now! Every thing changes with the rapidity of the wind. He who
but yesterday was poor, is rich to-day; the man who was rich
yesterday, is to-day impoverished and thrown aside; this was the
fate of the Privy Counsellor von Eckert. I worked for him, and he
was a good customer, for he used a great many gloves, almost a dozen
pair every month; and now I have lost this good customer by the new
"But, then, Eckert deserved it," said the fat beer brewer. "He
oppressed the people, and was altogether an arrogant puffed-up
fellow, who greeted nobody, not even myself. It serves him right
that the king has taken the new house in Jager Street away from him;
there was justice in that."
"But the late lamented king had given it to him, and his last will
should have been honored."
"Yes, that is true; the last will of the late lamented monarch
should have been honored," they all exclaimed with earnest gravity.
"Oh, we will have to undergo a great many trials," sighed Mr.
Pricker. "Could you believe, my friends, that they contemplate
depriving us of our respectable cue, and replacing it with a light,
fantastic, and truly immoral wig?"
"That is impossible! That can never be! We will never submit to
that!" exclaimed the assembled group, with truly Grecian pathos.
"They wish to give us French fashions," continued Pricker; "French
fashions and French manners. I can see the day coming when we will
have French glovemakers and shoemakers, French hair-dressers and
beer-brewers; yes, and even French dressmakers. I see the day coming
when a man may with impunity hang out a sign with French
inscriptions over his shop-door, and when he who intersperses his
honest German with French phrases, will no longer be well beaten.
Ah, the present king will not, like his lamented predecessor, have
two girls arrested because they have said 'charmant;' he will not,
with his own hands, belabor the young lads who have the assurance to
appear on the streets in French costumes, as the deceased king so
often did. Every thing will be different, but not better, only more
"Yes, could it be believed," exclaimed the fat beer-brewer, "that
they think of crying down beer, the favorite beverage of the late
lamented king, which, at all events, should be holy in the sight of
his son? At court no more beer will be drank, but only French wines;
and he who wishes to be modern and acceptable at court will turn up
his nose at the beer-pot, and drink mean and adulterated wines. Yes,
even coffee is coming into fashion, and the coffee-house keeper in
the pleasure-garden, who, up to the present time, was only permitted
to make coffee for the royal family and a few other rich people at
court, has not alone received permission to serve coffee to
everybody, but every innkeeper may do the same thing."
"And have you heard," asked the glovemaker gloomily, "that the two
hotel-keepers in Berlin, Nicolai and St. Vincent, have their rivals,
and will no longer keep the only houses where a good dinner can be
had for money? Two French cooks have already arrived, and one of
them has opened a house in Frederick Street, the other one in King
Street, which they call 'Restauration.'"
"Yes," said the shoemaker with a sigh, "I went to the French house
in Frederick Street yesterday, and ate a meal out of curiosity. Ah,
my friends, I could have cried for rage, for I am sorry to say that
it was a better meal than we could ever get at Nicolai's or St.
Vincent's; moreover I paid less for it."
"It is a shame. A Frenchman comes here and gives a better and
cheaper dinner than a native of Berlin," said Mr. Pricker. "I tell
you we will all have much to endure; and even my title is
insufficient to protect me from insult and humiliation, for it might
Mr. Pricker suddenly became silent and stared toward the centre of
the street, astonishment and curiosity depicted on his countenance
and on that of his friends, who followed the direction of his
And in truth a very unusual spectacle presented itself to these
worthy burghers. A carriage was slowly passing along the street
drawn by two weary and smoking horses. This carriage was of the
elegant and modern French make, now becoming fashionable at court,
and was called a chaise. As the top was thrown back, its occupants
could very well be seen.
On the front seat were three persons. The first was a man of grave
and earnest demeanor and commanding appearance. His tall and well-
made figure was clad in a black velvet coat with little silver
buttons, ornamented on the sleeves and breast with elegant lace
ruffles. His hair, which was turning gray, was twisted in a knot at
the back of his head, from which a ribbon of enormous length was
pendant. A small three-cornered hat, of extraordinary elegance,
rested on the toupet of curls which hung down on either side of his
head and shaded the forehead, which displayed the dignity and
sublimity of a Jupiter.
At his side sat two females, the middle one an elderly, grave-
looking lady; the other a beautiful young girl, with smiling lips,
glowing black eyes, and rosy cheeks. The elegant and graceful attire
of these ladies was very different from the grave and sober costume
of the women of Berlin. Their dresses were of lively colors, with
wide sleeves bordered with lace, and with long waists, the low cut
of which in front displayed in the one the beauty and freshness of
her neck; and in the other, the richness of a guipure scarf with
which her throat was covered. Their heads were covered with immense
toupets of powdered hair, surmounted by little velvet hats, from
which long and waving ribbons hung down behind.
On the back seat were three other young ladies dressed in the same
style, but less richly. This first carriage was followed by a
second, which contained six young men in French costumes, who were
looking around with lively curiosity, and laughed so loudly that the
worthy burgher who stood in front of Pricker's house could hear
every word they uttered, but unfortunately could understand nothing.
"Frenchmen!" murmured Mr. Pricker, with a slight shudder.
"Frenchmen!" echoed his friends, staring at this novel spectacle.
But how? Who was that standing by the first carriage which had
halted in front of Mr. Pricker's house? Who was that speaking with
the young girl, who smilingly leant forward from the carriage and
was laughing and jesting with him? How? Was this young man really
the son and heir of Mr. Pricker? Was he speaking to these strangers,
and that, too, in French? Yes, Mr. Pricker could not deceive
himself, it was his son; it was William, his heir.
"How? Does your son speak French?" asked the glovemaker, in a
"He so much desired to do so," said Mr. Pricker, with a sigh, "that
I was forced to consent to give him a French teacher."
William, who had observed his father, now hurried across the street.
The young man's eyes glowed; his handsome face was enlivened with
joy; his manner denoted eagerness and excitement.
"Father," said he, "come with me quickly! These strangers are so
anxious to speak with you. Just think how fortunate! I was passing
along the Charlottenburg road when I met the travellers. They
addressed me in French, and inquired for the best hotel in Berlin.
It was lucky that I understood them, and could recommend the 'City
of Paris.' Ah, father, what a beautiful and charming girl that is;
how easy and graceful! In the whole city of Berlin there is not so
beautiful a girl as Blanche. I have been walking along by the side
of the carriage for half an hour, and we have been laughing and
talking like old friends; for when I discovered who they were, and
why they were coming to Berlin, I told them who my father was
directly, and then the old gentleman became so friendly and
condescending. Come, father, Mr. Pelissier longs to make your
"But I do not speak French," said Mr. Pricker, who, notwithstanding
his antipathy to Frenchmen, still felt flattered by this impatience
to make his acquaintance.
"I will be your interpreter, father. Come along, for you will also
be astonished when you hear who this Mr. Pelissier is." And William
drew his father impatiently to the carriage.
Mr. Pricker's friends stood immovable with curiosity, awaiting his
return with breathless impatience. At last he returned, but a great
change had taken place in Mr. Pricker. His step was uncertain and
reeling; his lips trembled, and a dark cloud shaded his brow. He
advanced to his friends and regarded them with a wild and vacant
stare. A pause ensued. The hearts of all beat with anxiety, and an
expression of intense interest was depicted on every countenance. At
last Mr. Pricker opened his trembling lips, and spoke in deep and
"They are Frenchmen! yes, Frenchmen!" said he. "It is the new tailor
sent for by the king. He comes with six French assistants, and will
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