Frederick the Great and His Court
Part 6 out of 8
work for the king, the princes and the cavaliers of the court. But
he is not only a tailor but also makes ladies' clothing; and his
wife and daughter are the most celebrated dressmakers of Paris; they
also are accompanied by three female assistants, and expect to work
for the queen, the princesses, and the entire court."
"But that is impossible," exclaimed his friends. "The laws of our
guild protect us. No woman can carry on the business of a tailor."
"Nevertheless they will do so," said Pricker; "the king has accorded
them this privilege. Yes, every thing will now be different,
handsomer and better. The king summons these French dressmakers to
Berlin, and the monsters ask my advice. They wish to know of me how
they are to demean themselves toward the members of the guild. The
new French dressmaker asks advice of me, of the court dressmaker
Pricker! Ha, ha, ha! is not that laughable?" And Mr. Pricker broke
out into a loud, wild laugh, which made his friends shudder, and
then sunk slowly into the arms of the glover. His son William, who
had been a witness of this scene, hurried to his father's
assistance, and carried him into the house.
From his carriage Mr. Pelissier looked proudly down upon the poor
tailor. "The good master has fainted," said he with an Olympic
smile. "And he has good reason, for ruin is before him. He is a lost
man; for how could he, an unknown German tailor, dare to compete
with Pelissier, the son of the celebrated tailor of Louis the
Fourteenth? That would evince an assurance and folly with which I
could not credit even a German brain."
THE DOUBLE RENDEZVOUS.
The little maid of honor, Louise von Schwerin, was walking with
quick steps up and down her room; she had locked her door to secure
herself from interruption. She wished to read once more the
mysterious note found yesterday in the bunch of flowers, and once
more to meditate undisturbed upon its contents. Louise knew the note
was from the handsome gardener Fritz Wendel; from him came the
beautiful flowers she found daily upon the sill of her window, and
he only could have concealed the note amongst them. There were but a
few lines, entreating her to meet him that night at eight o'clock,
in the grotto of the conservatory, where she should learn an
important and dangerous secret.
"What can the secret be?" asked Louise of herself, after reading the
note again and again. "Perhaps," she said, with a roguish smile,
"perhaps he thinks that his love for me is a secret. Dangerous it
certainly is for him and for me, but a secret it is not. I am
certain that he loves me, but it must be very sweet to be told so;
to hear his lips confess at last what until now I have only read in
those eloquent eyes. Alas! is it not fearful, intolerable, to wait
so long for a declaration of love? Two months so near each other,
but not one moment of sweet, unrestrained intercourse; always hemmed
in by this cold, ceremonious, stupid court life; surrounded by spies
and eavesdroppers; never alone, never free. Is it not terrible to
have a sweetheart, and never to have refused him a kiss, because he
has never had the opportunity to demand one? They say there is
rapture in the first kiss of your lover--in his first embrace. I
must know this for myself, that they may no longer laugh and say I
am a silly child without experience. I will have my experience! I
will have my love affairs as well as the other ladies of the court,
only mine shall be more extraordinary, more romantic. To be loved by
a baron or a count is indeed commonplace; but to be adored by a
gardener, who is beautiful as the god Apollo, and whose obscure
birth is his only fault--this is original, this is piquant. Ah,
Madame von Brandt laughed at me yesterday, at my stupidity and
innocence; she was merry at my expense, because I had never been
kissed, never received a stolen embrace, which she declared to be
the most charming event in a woman's life. All the ladies laughed at
me as she said this, and called me an unbaked roll left out in the
cold--which never felt the fire. They shall laugh at me no longer,"
cried Louise, with spiteful tears in her eyes and stamping her
little foot. "No one shall mock at me again; and if they do, I will
tell them I too have a lover; that I have had a declaration of love,
and have received my lover's first kiss. I must be able to say this,
and therefore I will meet Fritz this evening in the grotto of the
conservatory." Even while saying this she was seized with a cold
trembling; one moment her heart stood still, and then almost
suffocated her with its rapid beating. A soft voice seemed to warn
her against this imprudence; she seemed to see the pale face of her
mother, and to hear her living counsels: "Do not go, Louise, Frit
Wendel is no lover for Louise von Schwerin." Her guardian angel
spread once more his white wings around her, longing to protect and
save. But, alas! she heard another voice, breathing flattering words
and sweet promises. She saw a beautiful youth with his soft, large,
hazel eyes fixed imploringly upon her. Louise felt the irresistible
charm of the forbidden, the disallowed, the dangerous. Louise closed
her ear to the warning voice; her good genius had no power over her.
"I will go," she said, and a rosy blush suffused her childish
cheeks; "nothing shall prevent me!" Louise was now quite resolved;
but she was not at peace with herself, and from time to time she
hoped some unexpected occurrence, some unconquerable obstacle, would
prevent her from taking this imprudent step. No difficulty arose;
chance seemed to favor her meeting with her obscure lover.
Sophia Dorothea was to visit her daughter-in-law at Schonhausen, not
as a queen, but without pomp and splendor. The two eldest maids of
honor only would accompany her. Neither Louise von Schwerin nor
Laura von Pannewitz were to be of the party. Sophia was glad that at
least for a few hours she would not see the lovely, sad face, and
soft, melancholy eyes of Laura, nor hear the low and plaintive tones
of her accusing voice. The king had gone to Potsdam, it was
therefore unnecessary to watch Laura. Indeed, of late the queen
scarcely believed in this love, of which she had been so confident;
she had tried in vain to discover any trace of an understanding
between Laura and the king. Frederick scarcely noticed Laura, and
had spoken to her but once since that stormy day; then he had
laughingly asked her why she was so pale and languishing, and if it
was an unhappy love which made her look so mournful. Since that day
the queen no longer believed in the passion of the king for Laura,
and she reproached Madame von Brandt with having misled her.
Madame von Brandt smiled mysteriously. "I did not say, your majesty,
that the king loved Laura; your suspicions fell upon him, and I did
not undeceive you."
"And why not?" said the queen angrily; "why did you not make known
to me the name of Laura's lover?"
"Because I had solemnly sworn not to disclose it," said Madame von
"Is it not the king? then all the better for my poor Laura."
"Still, I venture to implore your majesty to induce my dear young
friend to accept the hand of Count Voss; she will thus perhaps be
cured of her unhappy and hopeless passion."
Sophia was resolved to follow this advice; she therefore drove to
Schonhausen to see the young queen, and consult with her as to the
most efficacious means of accomplishing this result. Louise von
Schwerin thought the queen might still change her mind and command
her to accompany her; she hoped and feared this at the same time.
She would have wept bitterly at this result, but she knew it would
be best for her. Between anxiety and hope, doubts and fears, the
time passed slowly.
"There rolls a carriage from the court," said Louise; she heard the
loud cries of the guard and the beating of the drums.
It was the queen leaving for Schonhausen. Louise was now free, now
unobserved; nothing could prevent her from going to the grotto. With
trembling steps and a quickly beating heart she slipped through the
dark alleys of the garden and entered the conservatory. All was
still and wrapped in a sweet twilight. The delightful odor of orange
blossoms filled the place; which, like the subtle vapor of opium,
intoxicated her senses. Breathless with fear and expectation she
entered the grotto; her eyes were blinded by the sudden darkness,
and she sank to the ground.
"Thank God," she murmured softly, "I am alone, he is not here! I
shall have time to recover, and then I can return; I am so
frightened--I ought not to have come. Perhaps the ladies of the
court have arranged this practical joke at my expense. Yes, that is
it. It was folly to believe he would dare to ask me to meet him; he
is too timid--too humble. Yes, it is a trap laid for me, and I have
fallen into it."
She rose hastily to fly back to the palace; but it was too late; a
strong arm was gently thrown around her neck, and she was drawn back
to her seat. She tried to free herself, but could not; she heard the
loud beating of his heart, which found an echo in her own; she felt
his lips pressed to hers, but her childish modesty was aroused; she
found she had the wish and courage to free herself.
"Let me go!" she cried breathlessly; "let me go! do not hold me a
moment! I will go! I will go this instant! How dare you treat me in
this manner? How and why did you come?" and Louise, who was now
free, remained standing to hear his reply.
"How did I come here?" said the handsome gardener, in a submissive
but pleading tone. "Every night for four weeks I have worked upon
this subterranean alley; this dark path, which should lead me here
unseen. While others slept and dreamed I worked; and also dreamed
with working eyes. Mine were happy dreams. My work was done, and I
could reach this consecrated spot unseen. I saw in my vision an
angel, whom I adore, and to whom I have consecrated every hour,
every moment of my life. Look, Mademoiselle, at the opening behind
that large orange tree, that is the way to my paradise; through that
opening I can reach a staircase, leading to a small cellar; another
pair of steps takes me to a trap-door leading directly to my room.
You can well imagine it required time, and strength, and courage to
prepare this way."
Louise approached the opening curiously. This strange path made for
her sake affected her more than all Fritz Wendel's words. Only a
mighty love could have moved a man in the darkness and alone to such
a task. Louise wished to conquer her confusion and to hide her
embarrassment with light mockery and jesting.
"Truly," she said, laughing, "this is a dark and mysterious passage,
but any one with a light would discover it. You know her majesty has
the saloon illuminated occasionally in the evening, and takes her
"No one will find this opening," said the gardener. He pushed the
wooden tub, in which the orange-tree grew, with his foot; it gave
way to a slight touch, and turned round over the opening. "Look,
Mademoiselle, the tree covers my secret."
"Open it! open it! I pray you, I must see it!"
"I will do so if you promise me not to leave me immediately."
"I promise! I promise!"
Fritz Wendel pushed back the orange-tree, then lifting Louise gently
in his arms, he carried her to the grassplot, and seating her, he
threw himself on his knees before her, and bowed, as if in
"You are my queen, the sovereign of my soul! I lay myself at your
feet, as your slave. You alone can decide my fate. You can raise me
to the heaven of heavens, or cast me in the dust. Say only the
little words 'I love you!' this will give me strength and power to
brave the whole world. I will acquire fame and honor, and at no
distant day before God and the whole world I will demand your hand!
If you say, 'Remain where you are, at my feet is your proper place;
I despise the poor gardener, who dares to love the high-born lady!'
then I will die; if I live I shall go mad. My brain reels at the
thought of such wretchedness. I can die now, and bless you in dying;
if I live in my madness I shall curse you for your cruelty."
He ceased, and raised his handsome face pleadingly to hers. Louise
was speechless; she was intoxicated with the music of his voice and
"You do not answer me! Oh! before you cast me off consider my agony.
The heart you despise contains a treasure of love and tenderness. No
other man can love you as I do. You are my light and life. You are
beautiful and fascinating; many will love you and seek your hand.
Who but the poor gardener will die for you if you say no? To me you
are more than the most lovely of women, you are a goddess! Oh, you
know not what you have already made of me! what you will still make
of me! When I saw you for the first time I was a poor, ignorant
gardener, loving nothing but my flowers; knowing no language. The
great book of nature was my only study. Since that glorious day in
which I looked upon you as a radiant, heavenly vision, I have
realized my poverty; I have blushed at my ignorance. My life has
been one great effort to make myself worthy of you. Now, Louise,
command me. What shall I do? What shall I become? If you do not
despise and laugh at my love, if you love me a little in return, if
you have hope, courage, and patience to wait, I will be worthy of
"Alas!" said Louise, "this is the dream of a madman. The king and my
noble and proud family would never consent that I should become your
"As to the king," said Fritz, carelessly, "I would find means to
obtain his consent, and honor and distinction, at his hands."
"I understand," said Louise, "the secret you intended to tell me--
tell it now," she exclaimed, with a child's eager curiosity.
"Listen," said he, rising from his knees--"listen, but do not let us
betray ourselves by loud words or exclamations."
"I hear steps," said Louise. "Oh, if we should be discovered!"
"Fear nothing; look there, Louise!" Her eye followed the direction
of his hand.
Under the laurel-tree sat Laura von Pannewitz, and before her knelt
Prince Augustus William, radiant with happiness, and covering her
hands with kisses.
"Laura, my bride, my darling, when will the day come in which I can
call you mine to all eternity?"
"That day will come when I am dead," said Laura, with a sad smile.
"Yes, my prince, only when I am dead shall I be free to love you,
and to pray for you. My freed spirit shall hover around you as your
guardian angel, and protect you from all dangers. Oh, if I could die
now, and fulfil this noble mission!" Louise was so absorbed in this
scene that she did not notice Fritz Wendel as he drew near and again
threw his arm around her.
"Look at them," he murmured; "he is a royal prince, and she only a
poor maid of honor; he loves her, and she accepts his love, and
fears no shame."
Louise laid her hand impatiently upon his lips and whispered,
"Hush!" he covered her hand with kisses; they listened with subdued
breathing to the pure and ardent vows of the two lovers.
For one moment Laura, carried away by her own feelings and the
earnest words of her lover, allowed him to press his lips to her
cheek, and returned his vows of love and constancy. But at this
moment Louise heard the soft voice of Laura entreating her lover to
leave her, and not to make her blush for herself.
"Promise me," she cried, "never again to embrace me; our love must
remain pure, and only when we fear not God's holy eye, dare we pray
to Him for assistance. Let us retain the right to shed innocent
tears over our unhappy love, and lay it as a sacrifice at the foot
of God's throne in that day when the world shall separate and
"No one shall dare to do that, Laura; you are my future wife; I
shall be ever near to defend you with my life's blood! But I promise
what you ask; I will restrain my heart; only in dreams will I
embrace you; I swear this, my beloved. But the day will come when
you will cancel this vow--the day when I will claim you before God
and man as my wife!"
Laura took his hand with a sweet, confiding smile: "I thank you,
darling, I thank you, but now we must part."
"Part! alas, we shall not meet again for weeks. I am commanded to
accompany the king on a pleasure trip; for me there is but one
earthly pleasure, to see you--to be at your side."
"Go," she said, smiling; "go without fear; we can never forget each
other; however widely separated, you are always before me; I am
always with you, although you see me not."
"Yes, Laura, there is not one moment of my life in which I do not
see and hear you!"
"Well, then, go cheerfully with the king. Our hearts understand each
other; our souls are inseparable."
The prince took her hand and pressed it to his heart, then silently
they left the saloon.
Louise had long since freed herself from her lover, and she now
arose, resolved to return to the palace. Fritz Wendel tried to
detain her, but the weak and foolish child had gathered courage from
the modest words and dignified example of Laura.
"If you touch me again, you have seen me for the last time! I will
never again return to this grotto!" Fritz Wendel was encouraged by
her words; he had not asked her to return, and she had half promised
to do so.
"I will not dare to touch you again," he said, humbly; "but will you
not promise me to come again?"
"Well, I suppose I shall have to come again to hear the end of poor
"This romance can be of great use to us," he said, seizing her hand
and pressing it to his lips; "if mademoiselle accepts my love and
allows me to hope I may one day become her husband, I will sell this
secret to the king, and thus obtain his consent."
"You would not be so cruel as to betray them to the king?"
"Yes, there is nothing I would not do to obtain your hand."
THE INTRIGUING COURTIERS.
"You are right," said Baron Pollnitz, "yes, you are right, dear
Fredersdorf; this is not the way to vanquish our Hercules or to
influence him. He has no heart, and is not capable of love, and I
verily believe he despises women."
"He does not despise them," said Fredersdorf, "he is wearied with
them, which is far worse. Women are always too ready to meet him;
too many hearts have been given him unasked; no woman will ever have
power over him."
"How, what then, my dear friend?" cried Pollnitz. "There are means
to tame every living creature; the elephant and the royal lion can
be tamed, they become under skilful hands gentle, patient, and
obedient: is there no way to tame this king of beasts and hold him
in bondage? Unless we can ensnare him, we will be less than nothing,
subject to his arbitrary temper, and condemned to obey his will.
Acknowledge that this is not an enviable position; it does not
correspond with the proud and ambitious hopes we have both been for
some time encouraging."
"Is it possible that when the king's chamberlain and a cunning old
courtier like myself unite our forces the royal game can escape our
artful and well-arranged nets?"
"Dear Fredersdorf, this must not, this shall not be. It would be an
everlasting shame upon us both."
"What an unheard-of enormity, a king without a powerful and
"Frederick shall have two, and as these places are vacant, it is but
natural that we should strive to occupy them."
"Yes," said Fredersdorf, "we will seize upon them and maintain our
position. You called the king a young Hercules--well, this Hercules
must be tamed."
"Through love of Omphale."
"No, not exactly, but Omphale must lead him into a life of luxury,
and put him to sleep by voluptuous feasts. Call to mind how the
Roman Emperor Heliogabalus killed the proud and ambitious senators
who wished to curtail his absolute power."
"I am not so learned as you are, my dear friend, and I confess
without blushing that I know nothing of Heliogabalus."
"Listen, then: Heliogabalus was weary of being but the obedient
functionary of the senate; he wished to rule, and to have that power
which the senate claimed as its own. He kept his ambitious desires
to himself, however, and showed the senators a contented and
submissive face. One day he invited them to a splendid feast at his
villa; he placed before them the most costly meats and the choicest
wines. They were sitting around this luxurious table, somewhat
excited by drink, when the emperor arose and said with a peculiar
smile: 'I must go now to prepare for you an agreeable surprise and
practical joke, which you will confess has the merit of
originality.' He left the room, and the tipsy senators did not
observe that the doors were locked and bolted from without. They
continued to drink and sing merrily; suddenly a glass door in the
ceiling was opened, and the voice of Heliogabalus was heard, saying:
'You were never satisfied with your power and glory, you were always
aspiring after new laurels; this noble thirst shall now be
satisfied.' A torrent of laurel wreaths and branches now fell upon
the senators. At first they laughed, and snatched jestingly at the
flying laurels. The most exquisite flowers were now added, and there
seemed to be no end to the pelting storm. They cried out, 'Enough,
enough,' in vain; the wreaths and bouquets still poured upon them in
unceasing streams; the floor was literally a bed of roses. At last,
terror took possession of them; they wished to escape, and rushed to
the doors, but they were immovable. Through the sea of flowers,
which already reached their knees, they waded to the window, but
they were in the second story, and below they saw the Roman legions
with their sharp weapons pointed in the air. Flight was impossible;
they pleaded wildly for mercy, but the inexorable stream of flowers
continued to flow. Higher and higher rose the walls around them;
they could no longer even plead for pity; they were literally buried
in laurels. At last nothing was to be seen but a vast bed of roses,
of which not even a fragrant leaf was stirred by a passing breeze.
Heliogabalus had not murdered his senators; he had suffocated them
with sweets, that was all. Well, what do you think of my story?"
"It is full of interest, and Heliogabalus must have been poetical;
but I do not see the connection between the emperor and ourselves."
"You do not?" said his friend impatiently; "well, let us follow his
example. We will intoxicate this mighty king with enervating
pleasures, we will tempt him with wine and women, we will stifle him
"But he has no taste for them," said Pollnitz, sighing.
"He does not care for the beauty of women, but he has other
dangerous tastes; he has no heart, but he has a palate; he does not
care for the love of women, but he enjoys good living--that will
make one link in his fetters. Then he loves pomp and splendor; he
has so long been forced to live meanly that wealth will intoxicate
him; he will wish to lavish honors and rain gold upon his people.
Frederick William has stowed away millions; we will help the son to
"This will be a new and thrillingly agreeable pastime, in the
ordering of which he could not have a better adviser than yourself,
"While Frederick and yourself are building new palaces and planning
new amusements, I will rule, and help him to bear the burden of
"You will help him to scatter millions, and I will collect from the
good Prussians new millions for him to scatter. It is to be hoped
that some heavy drops from this golden shower will fall into my
purse," said Pollnitz. "My finances are in an unhealthy state, and
my landlord threatens to sell my furniture and my jewels, because
for more than a year I have not paid my rent. You see now,
Fredersdorf, that I must have that house in Jager Street. I count
upon it so surely that I have already borrowed a few thousand
dollars from some confiding noble souls, whom I have convinced that
the house is mine."
"You shall have it," said Fredersdorf; "the king will give it to you
as a reward for the plans you have drawn for the new palaces."
"Has he seen them?"
"Yes, and approves them. The papers are in his desk, and need but
his royal signature."
"Ah!" said Pollnitz, "if they were but signed! What a glorious life
would commence here! we would realize the Arabian Nights; and Europe
would gaze with dazzled eyes at the splendor and magnificence of our
court. How vexed the treasurer, Boden, will be when the king
commands him to disburse for our revels and vanities the millions
which he helped the late king to hoard together for far different
purposes! This Boden," said Pollnitz thoughtfully, "will be our most
dangerous opponent: you may believe this; I am somewhat versed in
physiognomy. I have studied his countenance; he is a bold,
determined man, who, when irritated, would even brave the king. All
the other ministers agree with our plans, and will not stand in our
way. They are not dangerous; I have made a compromise with them;
they have resolved to think all we do right. But Boden was
inflexible; he would not understand my secret signs or hints;
flattery has no power over him, and he is alike indifferent to
promises and threats. All my dexterously aimed arrows rebounded from
the rough coat-of-mail with which his honesty has clothed him."
"Do not concern yourself about Boden," cried Fredersdorf, "he is a
lost man; he falls without any aid from us. The king hates him, and
is only waiting for an opportunity to dismiss him. Have you not
noticed how contemptuously he treats him--never speaks to him or
notices him, while he loves to chat with his other ministers?
Frederick did not dismiss him from office at once, because the old
king loved him. Boden was his treasurer and confidential friend,
from whom he had no secrets; the king has therefore been patient;
but his sun is set, of that you may be convinced. The king, though
he seems not to notice him, watches him closely; one incautious
movement and he will be instantly dismissed. This may happen this
"How?" said Pollnitz.
"The king has adopted the plan, which he had ordered Knobelsdorf to
sketch for him, for the new palace of the dowager-queen. It is to be
a colossal wonder--the capitol of the north! the building of which
will cost from four to five millions! These millions must come from
Boden's treasury; he must respect the royal order. If he does, he is
an unscrupulous officer, and the king can no longer put faith in
him. If he dares oppose the royal command, he is a traitor, and the
king, who demands silent and unconditional obedience from his
officers, will dismiss him. The king feels this himself, and when he
gave me these documents, he said, with a peculiar smile, 'This is a
bitter pill for Boden--we will see if he is able to swallow it.' You
see, now, that our good Boden stands between two pitfalls, from both
of which he cannot hope to escape alive."
"Ah, if this is true," said Pollnitz, gayly, "our success is
assured. The house in Jager Street will be mine, and you will be an
influential minister. We will govern the ruler of Prussia, and be
mighty in the land. Only think how all the courtiers will bow before
us! The king will do nothing without our advice. I will make more
debts. I will be as generous as Fouquet, and as lavish and luxurious
as Lucullus; and if at last all my resources fail, I will do as
Heliogabalus did; if my creditors become troublesome, the old Roman
shall teach me how to silence them by some refinement in
"And I, the lowly born," said Fredersdorf, "who have so long been a
slave, will now have power and influence. The king loves me; I will
be a true and faithful servant to him. I will be inflexible to those
who have scorned me; those proud counts and barons, who have passed
me by unnoticed, shall now sue to me in vain. The king's heart is
mine, and I will be sustained by him. This tamed lion shall be drawn
by prancing steeds in gilded chariots; we will anoint him with honey
and feed him with nightingales' tongues; he shall bathe in Lachrymae
Christi, and all that the most fantastic dream and the wildest
flights of fancy can imagine shall be set before him. Those good
epicurean Romans, who threw young maidens into their ponds for their
eels to feed upon, in order that their meat might be tender and
juicy, were sickly sentimentalists in comparison with what I shall
be--"he stopped, for the door opened, and Boden, their hated enemy,
stood before them. They looked upon him indifferently, as a doomed
adversary. Boden approached quietly, and said to Fredersdorf:
"Have the kindness to announce me to his majesty."
"Has his majesty sent for you?" said Fredersdorf, carelessly.
"He has not sent for me, but please say to his majesty that I am
come to speak with him on important business."
Fredersdorf stepped into the adjoining room, and returned quickly,
saying with a triumphant and malicious smile: "The king says he will
send for you when he wishes to speak with you. These were his exact
words; accommodate yourself to them in future."
The minister's countenance was perfectly calm; his lip slightly
trembled; but he spoke in his usual grave, composed manner: "The
king may not desire to see me; but I, as an officer and minister of
state, have the most urgent reasons for desiring an audience. Go and
tell him this."
"These are proud, disrespectful words," said Pollnitz, smiling
"Which I will faithfully report to his majesty," said Fredersdorf.
"I fear your excellency will pay dearly for this speech," whispered
"Fear nothing for me," said Boden, with a quiet smile.
"His majesty awaits you," said Fredersdorf, still standing at the
door. Boden walked proudly by Fredersdorf, casting upon him a look
of contempt, who returned it with a mocking grin.
"The fox is caught," he whispered, as the door closed upon him.
"Do you think so?" said Pollnitz. "I am surprised and somewhat
anxious at the king's receiving him."
"Fear nothing, he is but received to be DISMISSED. The king's eye
flamed, and his brow, usually so clear, was heavily clouded; this
betokens storms; may they break upon Boden's devoted head! Come, let
us watch the tempest; there is nothing more instructive than a royal
"Let us profit by the occasion, then."
The two courtiers slipped noiselessly to the door and pushed the
curtains carefully to one side, so as to see and hear clearly.
THE KING AND SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY.
The king received the secretary with a solemn and earnest bow. He
stood leaning upon his writing-table, his arms folded, and his
glance fixed upon Boden. Many a bold man had trembled at the eagle
glance of Frederick, but Boden looked up clear, and betrayed neither
confusion nor hesitation.
"You insisted positively upon seeing me," said Frederick, sternly;
"let me hear now what you have to say."
"I have much to say, and I must bespeak patience and indulgence; I
fear that my words will seem dry and tedious to your majesty."
"Speak; I will myself determine how far I can grant you patience and
"Your majesty is a fiery but noble and learned gentleman; besides
this, you are young, and youth has a daring will--can renew the old
and lumbering wheel and push the world forward in her progress. Your
majesty will, can, and must do this; God has given you not only the
power, but the intellect and strength. Your majesty will change many
things and inaugurate new measures. The old times must give way
before the new era. I saw that the first time I looked into my young
king's eye--in that bold eye in which is written a great and
glorious future for Prussia; I understood that we, who had served
the sainted king, might not appear worthy or young enough to carry
out the purposes of the royal successor of Frederick William. I
waited, also, for my dismissal; but it came not. Your majesty did
not remove me from my office, and I confess this gave me pleasure. I
said to myself, The king will not destroy, he will improve; and if
he believes that his father's old servants can help him in that, so
will we serve him and carry out his purposes with a holy zeal. I
know the secret machinery of state. The king concealed nothing from
me. I will explain all this to the young king; I will make him
acquainted with this complicated and widely spread power; I will
have the honor to make known to him my knowledge of the revenue and
its uses. I rejoiced in the hope that I may yet serve my
"These are very friendly and perhaps well-meant propositions which
you are making me," said the king, with a light laugh. "Happily,
however, I do not need them. I know already what is necessary, and
as I have found amongst the papers of my father all the accounts of
the states-general, you can understand that I know exactly what I
receive as revenue and what I am to disburse. Besides all this, I
will not fatigue myself in minute details on this subject; I do not
deem it of sufficient importance. My time is much occupied, and I
have more important and better things to do than to weary myself
over dull questions of finance."
"No, majesty," cried Boden, "you have nothing more important or
better to do. The finances are the blood-vessels of the State, and
the whole body would sicken and die if these vessels should be
choked or irregular in their action."
"Then must we call the lancet to our aid," said the king. "I am the
physician of this revenue, you are the surgeon only when I need the
lancet; then will you strike the vein, and allow so much golden
blood to flow as I think good and necessary."
"No, this will I not do!" said Boden, resolutely; "your majesty can
dismiss me, but you cannot force me to act against my conscience."
"Boden!" cried the king in so loud and angry a tone that even the
two listening courtiers trembled and turned pale.
"This man is already a corpse," whispered Pollnitz. "I already
smell, even here, the refreshing fragrance of his body. We will bury
him, and be his smiling heirs."
"Look, look at the fearful glance of the king!" whispered
Fredersdorf; "his eyes crush the over-bold, even as the glance of
Jove crushed the Titans. Yes, you are right, Boden is a dead man.
The king is so filled with scorn, he has lost the power of speech."
"No, he opens his lips, let us listen."
"Boden," said the king, "you forget that you speak with the son, and
not with the father. You were the favorite of Frederick William, but
you are not mine; and I will not suffer this inconsiderate and self-
confident manner. Remember that, and go on."
"So long as I am in your service," said the minister, with a slight
bow, "it is my first and my holiest duty to express my opinions
freely to your majesty, to give you counsel according to the best of
my strength and my ability. It remains with your majesty to reject
my advice and to act differently, but still according to the
constitution of the State."
"The first duty of a servant is to give his counsel only when it is
demanded; as I did not desire yours, you might have spared yourself
"Your majesty did not ask my counsel, that is true," said the
minister; "you only remembered me when you had commands to give as
to the emptying of the royal treasury. Your majesty thought you had
no use for your finance minister, as you had all the papers relating
to the states general. Every one of your majesty's ministers is
acquainted with these matters, and yet they would not feel able to
decide the question of the disbursing of the kingly revenue, to say
under what circumstances, and conformably to the powers of the
States, this revenue should be disposed of. This, my king, requires
a special knowledge, and I, as minister of finance, dare boast that
I understand this matter."
The king's brow became more and more clouded. "That may be," said
he, impatiently, "but I am not willing to be restrained in my
operations by narrow-minded laws; I will not live meanly like my
father, and think only of gathering millions together."
"Nor did King Frederick William live for that," said the minister
boldly; "he lived economically, but where there was want, he knew
how to give with a truly royal hand; this is proved by the
provinces, by the cities and villages which he built out of dust and
ashes; this is proved by the half million of happy men who now
inhabit them in peace and comfort. More than three millions of
dollars did the king give to Lithuania, which was a howling
wilderness, filled with famine and pestilence, until relieved by the
generosity of their monarch; and while doing this he watched with
close attention the accounts of his cook and spent but little money
on the royal table. No! The king did not only gather millions
together; he knew how to disburse them worthily."
"This man must be crazy," whispered Pollnitz; "he dares to praise
the dead king at the expense and in the teeth of the living; that is
indeed bold folly, and must lead to his destruction. The king has
turned away from him; see, he goes to the window and looks without;
he will give himself time to master his scorn and conquer the desire
which he feels to crush this daring worm to the earth. I tell you,"
said Pollnitz, "I would give Boden a hundred glasses of champagne
from my cellar in the Jager Street if I could see the king punish
him with his own hands."
The king turned again to the minister, who looked at him like a man
who dared all and was resigned to all; he thought, with Pollnitz and
Fredersdorf, that the king would crush him in his wrath. But
Frederick's face was calm, and a strangely mild glance beamed in his
"Well, if you praise my father for disbursing millions, so will you
also be content with me, for it is my purpose zealously to imitate
him. I will begin by putting my court upon a truly royal footing; I
will live as it becomes the King of Prussia. The necessary
preparations are already commenced, and a detailed plan lies now
upon the table; I will sign it to-day."
"May I read it, your majesty?" said Boden.
The king nodded, Boden took the paper and glanced hastily over it,
while the king folded his arms behind him and walked backwards and
"I find the king wondrously wearisome and patient," murmured
Fredersdorf; "it is not his manner generally to withhold so long his
"And with what derisive laughter that man there reads my plan!" said
Pollnitz, gnashing his teeth; "truly one might think he was making
sport of it."
"Have you read it?" said the king, standing still before Boden, and
looking at him sharply.
"Yes, your majesty, I have read it."
"Well, and what think you of it?"
"That only Pollnitz, who it is well known has no gold, and is only
acquainted with debt, could have drawn out such a plan, for the
realization of which, not only Prussian gold, but a fountain of gold
from the Arabian Nights would be necessary."
"I swear I will break this fellow's neck!" said Pollnitz.
A faint smile might be seen on the lips of Frederick. "You do not
approve of this plan?" said he.
"Your majesty, we have no strong box from which this sum can be
abstracted, and if you are resolved to take from the State treasury
the sum necessary for this purpose, so will this also be exhausted
during the first year."
"Well, let us leave this plan for the present, and tell me how you
stand as to the means necessary to build the palace of the queen-
mother. Have you received my instructions?"
"I have received them."
"And you have disbursed the sum necessary?"
"No, sire, I cannot."
"How! cannot, when I your king and lord command it?"
Boden bowed respectfully. "Your majesty, there is a greater lord--
that is, my conscience; my conscience forbids me to take this sum
from the strong box designated. You require four millions of
dollars, and you desire that this sum shall be taken from the money
set apart for the maintenance of the army and the assistance of
famished and suffering villages and towns. I acknowledge that the
court of his sainted majesty was somewhat niggardly, and that you,
sire, may justly find some changes necessary. If, however, it is
determined to use for this purpose the funds set apart for other
important objects, then must your majesty impose new and heavy taxes
upon your subjects, or you must diminish the army."
"Diminish my army!" said the king; "never, never shall that be
"Then, sire, if the building of a palace is absolutely necessary,
take the sum for this purpose from your royal treasury; it contains
now seven millions of dollars, and as there is no war in prospect,
you may well use four millions of the seven in building a castle."
"No, this will not do!" said Frederick. "This money is set apart for
other objects; you shall take these four millions from the
"I have had already the honor to show your majesty the consequence
of such a course. You declare you will not diminish the army: it
only remains then to impose a new tax."
"Do that, then," said the king, indifferently; "write a command for
a new tax; that is your affair."
The minister looked at the king in painful surprise, and a profound
sorrow was painted in his face.
"If this must be so, your majesty," said he, with a deeply moved
voice, "then is the hour of my dismissal at hand, and I know what I
have to do; I am no longer young enough to bear the burden of a
portfolio; I belong to the old and cautious time, and my ideas do
not suit the young era. I ask your majesty, in all humility and
submission, to give me my dismissal. Here is the paper which
contains the plan of the palace; you will readily find another who
will obey your commands. I am not sufficiently GROWN for this post
of finance minister. I beg also for my dismissal."
"AT LAST," said the king, with glistening eyes.
"At last!" repeated Pollnitz; "truly it was a long time before this
cowardly man could be brought to the point."
"Did I not tell you that the king was resolved to get rid of Boden?"
said Fredersdorf; "but let us listen! no, why should we listen?
Boden has handed in his resignation, and the king has accepted it. I
confess my back aches from this crouching position; I will go and
drink a glass of champagne to the health of the new minister of
"You must not go. The king asked for you as Boden was announced, and
commanded that we should wait here in the ante-room until called, as
he had something of importance to communicate. Without doubt he will
present me to-day with the deed of the house in Jager Street. Look!
in the last window niche I see a pair of very inviting chairs; let
us make ourselves comfortable."
The king had said "At last!" as Boden offered his resignation; after
a short silence he added: "It seems to me that you hesitated a long
time before resigning."
"It is true," said Boden sadly; "I certainly had occasion to take
this step earlier, but I still hoped I might be useful to my king."
"And this hope has not deceived you," said Frederick, drawing near
to Boden, and laying his hand on his shoulder; "I cannot accept your
Boden looked up amazed. The king's face was beautiful to behold--a
touching and gentle expression spoke in every noble feature; his
light-blue eye beamed with gladness and goodness.
"How! Your majesty will not accept my resignation?"
"No, it would be great folly in me," said Frederick, in a tone which
brought tears to the eyes of the minister; "it would be great folly
to deprive myself of so noble and faithful a servant. No, Boden, I
am not so great a spendthrift as to cast away such a treasure. Now
in order that you may understand your king, I will make you a
confession: you had been slandered to me, and my distrust awakened.
It was said of you that you filled the State treasury while the
people hungered; it was said of you that you were resolved to hold
on to your office, and therefore carried out the commands of the
king, even though unjust to the people. I wished to prove you,
Boden, to see if you had been SLANDERED or justly charged; I handled
you, therefore, contemptuously; I gave you commissions which were
oppressive; I drew upon the treasury so as to exhaust it fully; I
wished to know if you were only a submissive servant or an honest
man; I had long to wait, and your patience and forbearance were
great. To-day I put you to the extremest proof, and by God! if you
had carried out my unjust and unwise instructions, I would not only
have deprived you of your office, but I would have held you to a
strict account. You would have been a dishonest servant, who, in
order to flatter the king, was willing to sin against the people.
The welfare of my people is holy to me, and they shall not be
oppressed by new taxes. Praised be God! I can say I understand my
duties; may every ruler do the same. May they keep their eyes
steadily fixed upon their great calling; may they feel that this
exaltation, this rank of which they are so proud, so jealous, is the
gift of the people, whose happiness is intrusted to them; that
millions of men have not been created to be the slaves of one man,
to make him more terrible and more powerful. The people do not place
themselves under the yoke of a fellow-man to be the martyrs of his
humor and the playthings of his pleasure. No, they choose from
amongst them the one they consider the most just, in order that he
may govern them; THE BEST, to be their father; the most humane, that
he may sympathize and assist them; the bravest, to defend them from
their enemies; the wisest, that they may not be dragged without
cause into destructive wars--the man, in short, who seems to them
the best suited to govern himself and them; to use the sovereign
power, to sustain justice and the laws, and not to play the tyrant.
These are my views of what a king should be, and I will fulfil my
calling, so help me God! You, Boden, must stand by and give me
In the eyes of the minister might be seen joyful tears and a noble
ambition; he bowed low and kissed the extended hand of the king.
"How gracious has God been to my fatherland in giving it such a
"You will not, then, insist upon your resignation?" said the king.
"You are content to serve me, provided I do not diminish my army,
and do not impose new taxes upon the people?"
"I will be proud and happy to serve my king," said Boden, deeply
"I must tell you, Boden, this will be no light service, and my
ministers will be hereafter less important personages than they have
supposed themselves to be; I shall closely observe them all, and
shall require much work of them, but I myself will be diligent. It
seems to me an idle prince is a poor creature, that the world has
little use for. I am resolved to serve my country with all my
powers; but I will stand alone, independent, self-sustaining. My
ministers will only be my instruments to carry out my purposes; they
will have much to do, and have no influence. I will have no
favorite, and never consult any other will than my own; but I shall
require of them to express their opinions frankly and without fear
in answer to my questions, and that they shall not fail to call my
attention to any errors I may commit, either through haste or want
"All this I will do," said Boden, deeply moved. "So truly as God
will give me strength, I will serve my king and my fatherland
faithfully to the end."
"We are agreed, then," said Frederick; "you will remain my minister.
If you had not demanded your dismissal, I should have given it to
you. I should have seen that you were justly accused, and were
determined to remain minister at any price. Thank God, you have
proved to me that you are an honest man! But," said the king, "you
are not only an honest man, but a bold, unterrified, truthful man; a
true friend, grateful for benefits received, you do not cease to
love your king and benefactor, even after his death. You have had
the courage to defend the dead king, and to reproach his successor.
The king cannot thank you for this; but as a son, I thank you--I
say, 'Come to my heart, true and faithful servant.' We kings are too
poor to reward our servants in any other way than by confiding
love." The king opened his arms and pressed Boden to his heart, who
wept aloud. "And now," cried the king, "we understand each other,
and know what we have to expect, and that is always a great gain in
this world, full of disappointment, hypocrisy, and cunning. I will
now give you a proof that I do not close my ear to the reasonable
counsels of my minister, and that I am ready to offer up my personal
wishes; I will not build this palace for my mother; you have
convinced me that I have not the income to do so. I cannot take four
millions from the State treasury. This money will soon be needed for
a more important object. But some changes are absolutely necessary
in the royal palace; it must be made more worthy of a king. Take,
therefore, these plans and designs; strike from them what you
consider superfluous. Let me know what additions you think it best
to adopt, and from what source we can draw the necessary funds."
[Footnote: "History of Berlin," Thiebault.]
THE UNDECEIVED COURTIER.
At the time that the king was placing the extravagant plans, which
Baron von Pollnitz had drawn up, into the hands of his minister of
finance, the baron was waiting in the ante-room, in a state of
smiling security, entertaining his friend Fredersdorf with an
account of his own future splendor and magnificence, speaking
especially of the entertainments which he intended giving in his new
house in Jager Street. When at length the door of the royal cabinet
was opened, and the minister of finance entered the ante-room,
Pollnitz and Fredersdorf stood up, not however to greet the
minister, but to pass him with a cold, contemptuous smile on their
way to the door of the cabinet. The smile died suddenly on
Pollnitz's lips, and he stood as if transfixed before the minister.
"What are those papers which you hold?" he asked, extending his hand
as if he would tear the papers from Baron von Boden.
The minister pushed him back, as he carelessly shrugged his
shoulders. "These are papers which his majesty handed me, that I
might examine their contents, and see if they contained any thing
"Sir," said Pollnitz, beside himself with rage, "these papers--" but
he became suddenly silent, for the door of the cabinet was opened
again, and the king entered the room.
He glanced scornfully at Pollnitz, who was scarcely able to conceal
his anger, and approached Baron von Boden. "One thing more,
minister," said the king, "I had forgotten that I had prepared a
little surprise for you; I am aware that you are not rich, although
you are the minister of finance, and I understand that you live in a
limited way, scarcely worthy of your rank. We must alter this, and
happily I know a house which even Baron von Pollnitz declares is
worthy a nobleman. I present this house to you, with its entire
contents. From this moment it is yours, and Baron von Pollnitz must
go with you, and show it to you; he can point out to you all the
advantages and conveniences which he has so often praised to me."
Pollnitz stood pale, trembling, and confused. "I do not know of what
house your majesty speaks," he stammered, "of what house I can have
said that it was worthy of the minister of finance."
"Not of the minister of finance, but of a nobleman, and Boden is a
nobleman, not only in name but in reality; and is entirely worthy to
possess the house which I have presented to him. You are well
acquainted with it, Pollnitz; it is the house which my father had
built for Eckert, the beautiful house in Jager Street."
"The house in Jager Street!" cried Pollnitz, forgetting the
restraint which the presence of the king usually imposed. "No, no,
your majesty is pleased to jest. You do not mean the house in Jager
Street, that house which--"
"That house," interrupted the king, in a stern voice, "that house
which pleased you so well, that you, as foolish children sometimes
do, confused reality with your dreams, and imagined that this house
already belonged to you, merely because you desired that it should
do so. I would have smiled at this childish folly, if it had
remained an amusement for your unemployed fancy; but you have
deceived others as well as yourself, and that is an unpardonable
fault, and one which you must repair immediately, if you do not wish
to be dismissed from my service."
"I do not understand your majesty; I do not know how I have
forfeited the favor of my king."
The king glanced angrily at the pale, trembling courtier. "You
understand perfectly, Baron von Pollnitz, of which fault, amongst
the many that you daily and hourly commit, I speak. You know that it
has pleased you to declare the house, which I have just presented to
Boden, to be yours, and that you have found credulous people who
have lent you money on that representation."
"Will your majesty grant me a favor?" said Minister von Boden,
glancing kindly at Pollnitz, who stood near him crushed and
The king consented by bowing silently, and the minister proceeded:
"Your majesty has just made me most rich and happy, and I consider
it my duty, as it is my pleasure, to share both riches and happiness
with my fellow-creatures. Baron von Pollnitz, by the commands of the
late king, executed the plans for the house which your majesty has
so kindly presented to me; he also selected the decorations and
furniture, and this may have led him to believe that the house,
which had been built and furnished according to his taste, might
become his own. I am much indebted to Pollnitz, for a man so plain
and simple as I am would never have been able to make this house so
tasteful and elegant. Permit me, therefore, your majesty, to
liquidate this debt by considering the small mortgage which Baron
von Pollnitz has put upon this house, as my affair."
"What reply do you make to this proposition?" said the king, turning
"That if your majesty allows me I will accept it with pleasure, and
I merely wish to ask the minister whether he will only take up those
mortgages which I have already put upon the house, or the others
which I intended putting?"
"Ah!" cried the king, laughing, "you are incorrigible. If poor Boden
is to satisfy not only your old creditors but your new ones, the
present I have made him would probably reduce him to beggary in a
few months. No, no, this one mortgage is sufficient, and as it
amounts to only a few thousand dollars, it shall be paid from my
purse; and that my gift to you, Boden, may have no drawback,
Pollnitz may consider himself thus repaid for his trouble about the
plans and arrangements of your house. But woe to you, Pollnitz, if I
should again hear of such folly and deceit; and if you do not give
up such disgraceful conduct, and act in a manner becoming your rank
and office, this is the last time that I will show any mercy for
your folly. If there is a repetition of it, I will be inexorable,
only a stern judge and king."
"Your majesty plunges me into an abyss of despair," said Pollnitz,
swinging his hands. "You demand that I shall create no new debts;
and how is it possible to avoid that, when I have not even the money
to pay the old ones? If your majesty desires that I should lead a
new life, you should have the kindness to pay my old debts."
The king paced the room silently for a short time, and then stood
before Pollnitz, and said:
"You are so shameless and absurd that I must either drive you away
or content myself with laughing at you. I will, however, remember
that my father and grandfather laughed at you, and for the present I
will also laugh, as I laugh at the silly pranks of merry Mr. Raths,
my monkey. But even Mr. Raths was punished yesterday because he was
too daring with his monkey tricks. Mark this, Baron von Pollnitz, I
will pay your debts this time; but if it should occur to you to make
new ones, I will forget that you were the jester of my father and
grandfather, and only remember that so reckless an individual cannot
remain in my service. Now accompany the minister to the Jager
Street, and show him his house. Your audience is at an end,
After these gentlemen had left the room, the king stood for a long
time as if lost in thought. He did not appear to be aware that he
was not alone, that Fredersdorf was standing in the window, to which
he had withdrawn on the appearance of the king, and had been a
trembling, despairing witness to this scene, which had disturbed his
plans and hopes. Suddenly the king walked rapidly through the room,
and stood before Fredersdorf--his eyes, usually so clear and bright,
veiled as with a cloud, and an expression of deep melancholy upon
his noble face.
"Fredersdorf," he said, with a voice so mild and gentle that his
hearer trembled, and a deadly pallor overspread his countenance--
"Fredersdorf, is it really true that you all think of me only as
your king, never as your fellow-man? that you have no love for your
sovereign, only envy and hatred, only malice and cunning? And you,
also, Fredersdorf, you whom I have loved, not as a master loves his
servant, but as a dear friend, with whom I have often forgotten that
I was a prince, and only remembered that I was with a friend, who
had a feeling heart for my cares and sorrows, and entertained a
little love not for the prince but for the man. Are you all
determined to make me cold-hearted and distrustful? are you laboring
to turn my heart to stone--to cut off my soul from faith and love? A
day will come when you will call me cold and relentless, and no one
will say that it was those I loved and trusted who made me thus."
"Mercy! mercy! my king," prayed Fredersdorf, sinking to the feet of
the king. "Kill me! destroy me with your anger! only do not show me
such kindness and love. Oh! your majesty does not know how I love
you, how my heart is bound up in yours; but I have a wild and
ambitious heart, and in the thirst of my ambition I was not
satisfied to remain the servant of my king. I wished to become
powerful and influential. I longed to mount high above those who now
look down upon and despise me because I am a servant. This, my king,
is my whole crime, the remorseful confession of my guilt."
"You did not wish to betray your king, you only desired to be the
lord of your lord. You wished to reign through me. Poor Fredersdorf,
do you think it such happiness to be a king? Do you not know that
this royal crown, which seems so bright to you, is only a crown of
thorns, which is concealed with a little tinsel and a few spangles?
Poor Fredersdorf, you are ambitious; I will gratify you in this as
far as possible, but you must conquer the desire to control my will,
and influence my resolutions. A king is only answerable to God,"
proceeded the king, "and only from God can he receive control or
commands. I am the servant of God, but the master of men. I will
gratify your ambition, Fredersdorf, I will give you a title. You
shall no longer be a mere servant, but a private secretary; and that
you may be a master as well as a servant, I present you the estate
Czernihon, near Rheinsberg. There you will be lord of your peasants
and workmen, and learn if it is not a thankless office to rule. Are
you satisfied, my poor Fredersdorf?"
Fredersdorf could not answer; he pressed his lips to the hand of the
king, and wept aloud.
THE BRIDAL PAIR.
Joy and exultation reigned in the house of the rich manufacturer
Orguelin. The proud daughter had consented to become the wife of
Count Rhedern; she had at last accepted him, and the happy father,
delighted at the prospect of soon becoming father-in-law to a count,
busied himself with the preparations for the approaching wedding
festivities, which were destined to excite the admiration and
astonishment of the entire city by their magnificence and prodigal
splendor. At this festival the future Countess Rhedern was to appear
for the last time in the circle of her old friends, and then to take
leave of them forever; for as a matter of course the Countess
Rhedern would have to form new friendships and seek other society
than that to which she had been accustomed as Mademoiselle Orguelin.
But M. Orguelin desired to exhibit to his associates, the
manufacturers and merchants, this splendid nobleman who had now
become his son; he wished to excite the envy and admiration of his
friends by the princely magnificence of his house.
But all this was far from being agreeable to Count Rhedern, who had
other plans. His creditors and his poverty compelled him to marry
this rich merchant's daughter, but he had no desire or intention of
entering into any association or connection with the friends and
relations of his wife; and even if it should be necessary to
recognize his rich father-in-law, it did not follow that he would
appear at his fetes to add lustre to the entertainment and be shown
off as a highly ornamented acquisition. He trembled when he thought
of the ridicule of the court cavaliers, to whom it would be an
inexhaustible subject of jest, that he, the marshal of the queen,
and a cavalier of old nobility, had played this role at a fete of
the bourgeoisie, and had conversed, eaten, and danced with
manufacturers and tradespeople. That could not and should not be. To
preserve the prestige of his house, a nobleman might marry the
daughter of a merchant, if she possessed a million, but he could not
stoop so low as to consider himself a member of her family, and to
recognize this or that relative. Count Rhedern thought of some plan
by which he could frustrate this scheme of his father-in-law in
regard to the wedding festivities, which would bring him into such
undesirable and disagreeable association with persons beneath his
rank, as he desired to avoid as far as possible all eclat in this
misalliance. With a smiling countenance he entered one morning into
the magnificent parlor of his affianced, who with her father's
assistance was engaged in making out a list of the wedding guests.
The count seated himself near his future bride, and listened with
inward horror to the terrible and barbarous names which were placed
on the list, the possessors of which could never appear at a
knightly tournament or court festival, and were consequently
excluded from all the joys and honors of the world.
"Well," said the father exultingly, "what do you think of our fete?
It will be perfectly magnificent, will it not? The richest merchants
of Berlin will be present; and if one were to estimate us by our
wealth, it would be found that more millions would be assembled
there than Germany has inhabitants. You will readily understand, my
dear son, that in order to do honor to such guests, great
preparations are necessary, for it is not easy to excite the
astonishment and admiration of these proud merchants. It is quite
easy to surprise one of your barons or counts; you are delighted
when entertained with champagne or fine Holstein oysters, but a rich
merchant turns scornfully from turtle-soup and Indian birds'-nests.
Nevertheless, my proud guests shall be surprised; they shall have a
fine dinner, the like of which they have never seen. For this
purpose I have ordered two of the best cooks from Paris, who will
arrive in a few days. They have written that they will need at least
two weeks to make the necessary preparations for the wedding-dinner.
For their services I will pay them a salary which is perhaps equal
to the half-yearly pay of a marshal or chamberlain. Moreover, we
will have fireworks, illuminations, splendid music; yes, I have even
thought of having a stage erected, and of engaging a French company
to amuse our guests with a few comedies."
"I am only afraid that but few of our guests will understand a word
of these French plays," exclaimed his daughter, laughing.
"That is quite possible; nevertheless French is now the rage, and it
will attract attention if we have a French play. And you, my dear
son, what do you say to all this? You look almost vexed."
"I sigh because you wish to defer the wedding for so long a time."
"Ah, that is a compliment for you, my daughter. Lovers are always
"But I did not sigh only because I would so long be deprived of the
happiness of leading my dear Caroline to the altar, but because I
should thereby lose the pleasure of presenting her to the court as
my wife on the occasion of the large and most magnificent court ball
with which the season will be opened."
"A court ball is to take place?" asked Caroline Orguelin, with
vivacity. "The king has, I believe, not yet returned from his
"But will do so in a few days, and as the court mourning is now at
an end, the king will give a brilliant masquerade ball, which will
probably be the only one given this winter."
"A masquerade ball!" exclaimed his bride; "and I have never seen
"And this is to be a most magnificent one. Moreover, the queen-
mother has already promised me an invitation for my wife, and
requested me to present her to the entire court on this occasion."
"And is it impossible to have the wedding any sooner?" asked
"Quite impossible," said M. Orguelin.
"And why impossible?" said the count. "Could we not have the wedding
at an early day, and the festival later? Could we not, as is now
customary in high circles, be married quietly, and have the festival
at a later day? These noisy weddings are a little out of fashion at
the present day, and it would be said at court that the wealthy and
highly cultivated M. Orguelin showed his disregard for the customs
of our young and modern court by adhering to those of the old
"God forbid that I should do that!" exclaimed M. Orguelin, in a
"Father, I detest noisy merry-makings, and insist on a quiet
marriage. It shall not be said at court that Mademoiselle Orguelin,
with all her acquaintances, had rejoiced over the inestimable
happiness of becoming the wife of a count. I will be married
quietly; afterwards the count may give a fete in honor of our
marriage, which you, my father, can return."
As usual, M. Orguelin submitted to his daughter's will, and it was
determined that a quiet wedding should take place in a few days, to
be followed on a later day by a magnificent fete in the house of the
"At which I shall certainly not be present," thought Count Rhedern,
while he expressed his entire satisfaction with this arrangement.
Mademoiselle Orguelin's proudest wishes were about to be
accomplished. She was to be introduced at court, and the queen-
mother had graciously declared her intention of presenting her to
the king at the approaching masquerade. There was now wanting but
one thing, and that was a suitable costume for this important
occasion, and Count Rhedern assured her, with a sigh, that it would
be very difficult to prepare it, as it would be almost impossible to
find a tailor who would undertake to make, in so short a time, the
gold-brocaded train which was necessary.
"Pelissier, the new French tailor, has even refused to make a little
cloak for me," said Count Rhedern, "and his female assistants,--who
are the most fashionable dress-makers, have been deaf to all
entreaties for the last week. They take no more orders for the
masquerade, and it was only yesterday that I met Countess Hake, who
had been with the pretty Blanche while I was with her father,
descending the steps, wringing her hands and bathed in tears,
because the proud dressmakers had replied to her prayers and
entreaties with a cruel 'Impossible!'"
"I know, however, that M. Pricker, the court dressmaker of the two
queens, would not make me this reply," said Caroline Orguelin,
proudly, "but that he would make whatever is necessary even if he
should be forced to take several additional assistants."
"Then let us drive to M. Pricker's," said her affianced, smiling;
"but we must go at once, for we have no time to lose, and you can
well imagine that I would be inconsolable if, after our marriage, I
could not present you to the court as my wife on the first suitable
"Yes, we have no time to lose," repeated Caroline, ringing a bell
and ordering her carriage. When, after a few minutes, Caroline
Orguelin and the count were alone in the carriage, she turned to him
with a mocking smile, and remarked: "The wedding is, then, to take
place the day after to-morrow."
"Yes, my dearest Caroline, and on that day I will be the happiest of
"Your creditors," said she, shrugging her shoulders, "were then
becoming so pressing that you suddenly experienced an ardent longing
for my dowry."
"My creditors?" asked the count; "I do not understand you, dearest
"You understand me very well," said she, with cutting coldness; "it
is, moreover, time that we understand each other, once for all.
Know, therefore, my dear sir, that I have not allowed myself to be
deceived either by your tender protestations or by the role of an
impatient lover, which you have acted so well. I am neither young
nor pretty enough to awaken a passion in the breast of so noble and
excellent a cavalier as Count Rhedern. You are poor, but rich in
debts, and you needed therefore a rich wife; and as I happened to
have more money than any of the beautiful and noble ladies of the
court, you determined to marry me, deeming my rich dowry a
sufficient compensation for the disgrace inflicted on your noble
house. In a word, you chose me because you were tired of being
dunned by your creditors, and of living in a state of secret misery;
and I--I bought Count Rhedern with my millions, in order that I
might appear at court."
"Well, truly, these confessions are very curious, highly original,"
said Count Rhedern, with a forced smile.
"They are, however, necessary. We need no longer trouble ourselves
with this useless acting and hypocrisy. It is also but just that I
should inform you why I so ardently desire to become a lady of
quality, that is, why I wish to be able to appear at court, for I
hope you do not consider me silly enough to buy a count for the mere
sake of being called countess?"
"I should consider this wish by no means a silly one," murmured the
"No," continued his bride. "I desired to become a countess that I
might obtain access to court and enjoy a happiness of which
thousands would be envious, although like the moth I could only
flutter round the brilliant and dazzling light until it burned me to
death. I told you I was no longer young. I, however, still have a
young heart, a fresher heart perhaps than all your proud and
beautiful ladies of the court, for mine was as hard and clear as
"Well, conclude," said the count, as she hesitated; "continue these
little confessions, which are certainly rarely made before, but
generally after marriage. You spoke of your heart having been as
hard and clear as crystal, until--"
"Until I had seen the king," continued his bride, blushing, "until I
had gazed in those wondrous eyes, until I had seen the smile, so
proud, and yet so mild and gentle, with which he greeted his people
from the balcony."
"It was then at the coronation that you formed the genial resolution
of loving the king."
"Yes, it was on the coronation day that I for the first time
comprehended how grand, how noble and sublime a true man could be.
And my soul bowed in humility and obedience before the commanding
glance of this Titan, and my heart bowed in adoration at the feet of
this man, whose smile was so wondrous, and whose eyes spoke such
great things. Oh! had I been near him as you were, I would have
fallen at his feet and have said to him: 'I accept you as my master
and my divinity; you are my ideal, and I will adore you as such with
a pure and noble worship.' But I was far off, and could only pray to
him in thought. I determined that I would be near him at some day;
and I, who had wished to remain single, determined at this moment to
marry--but to marry only a cavalier of the court. I inquired of my
companion the names of the cavaliers who stood behind the king, and
the most of them were married, but you were not, and I was told that
you possessed a great many debts and very small means of paying
them. On this day I told my father: 'I wish to marry Count Rhedern,
I desire that you should purchase him for me, as you recently
purchased the handsome set of Nuremburg jewelry.'"
"Really, a very flattering and ingenious view of the matter," said
the count, with a forced laugh.
Caroline continued: "My father intrusted this affair to a broker who
had frequently done business for him before, and who proved to be an
apt trader on this occasion, for you see he purchased the goods we
desired, and the business transaction has been concluded. Count, you
will now understand why I made the condition that I should be
admitted at court, and recognized as your countess, before I
determined to become your wife."
"I understand perfectly well," said the count, peevishly; "you made
use of me as a bridge over which you might pass from your father's
shop to the royal palace, as I will make use of you to pay my debts,
and to enable me to live a life worthy of a count. Ah, now that we
understand one another so well, we will be perfectly at ease, and
live a free and unconstrained life without annoying each other."
"Still, my dear count, you will sometimes experience a slight
annoyance at my hands," said the millionnairess, gently placing her
hand on the count's shoulder. "It was not only on account of your
creditors that you desired so early a marriage, but mainly because
the count considered it beneath his dignity to take part in the
festivities of manufacturers and merchants. But I must inform you,
dear sir, that I shall never forget that my father is a merchant,
and that all my friends are the daughters of manufacturers and
merchants. I will be a grateful daughter and a true friend, and I
will compel you to show the same respect to my father and friends
that I will show to yours."
"Compel!" exclaimed the count, "you will compel me?"
"I said compel, and you will soon perceive that it is in my power to
do so. Listen: my father promised you that my dowry should be a
million, out of which, however, your debts, and the expense of my
trousseau, are to be defrayed. Your debts, including the mortgage on
your estates, amount to two hundred thousand, and my trousseau,
diamonds, and the furnishing of my house will cost about the same
sum. There will remain, therefore, but six hundred thousand, of
which you will enjoy the benefit, according to our marriage
contract. But you will readily understand that the interest of this
small capital will not support the daughter of a rich merchant
respectably, and that if I should desire to entertain the king in my
house, I would perhaps expend in one evening the half of my income."
The count regarded his bride with admiration, almost with reverence.
"You then think that we could not live on the interest of six
hundred thousand dollars?" asked he.
"I do not only think so, but I am sure of it, for I needed as much
when a girl. Ah, my dear count, a great deal of money is necessary
to gratify one's humors and caprices. My father is well aware of
this fact, and has, therefore, given me as pin money a second
million; this will, however, remain in his business, and I shall
only receive the interest in monthly payments. I must, however,
remark that this interest is not a part of my dowry, but is my
personal property, with which I can do as I see fit. I can, if I
wish, give fetes with this money, pay your debts, purchase horses
and equipages for you, or I can give it to my father, who can make
very good use of it in his business. And now pay attention: whenever
you choose to neglect the proper and dutiful attention due to your
wife, her father, or her friends, I will relinquish my pin money to
my father, and you must look to some other source for the necessary
"But I shall always be an attentive and grateful husband, and a
dutiful son to your father," exclaimed the count, charmed with the
prospect of a second million.
"Then you will do well," said his bride, gravely, "for your monthly
income will thereby be increased by four thousand dollars. You see I
am a true merchant's daughter, and understand accounts. I have
bought you, and know your worth, but I also desire to be properly
esteemed and respected by you. You must never think you have honored
me by making me a countess, but must always remember that my father
is a millionnaire, whose only daughter and heiress pays you for your
amiability, your title, and her admission to court. And now enough
of these tedious affairs. The carriage has stopped, and we have
arrived at our destination; let us put on our masks again, and be
the fond lovers who marry for pure love and tenderness."
"And in truth you deserve to be loved," exclaimed the count,
pressing her hand to his lips. "You are the most discreet and
charming of women, and I have no doubt that I will love you ardently
"Poor count," said she, laughing, "on that day you will deserve
commiseration, for I shall certainly never fall in love with you. A
heart like mine loves but once, and dies of that love."
"I hope that this death will at least be a very slow one," said the
count, jumping out of the carriage, and assisting his bride elect to
THE FRENCH AND GERMAN TAILORS, OR THE MONTAGUES AND CAPULETS OF
M. Pricker stood at his window; his face was sad, and he looked with
a troubled gaze at the house on the other side of the street. This
was the house of the new French tailor, Pelissier. Many splendid
equipages were drawn up before the door, and crowds of gayly dressed
men and women were passing in and out. Alas for earthly grandeur!
alas for popular applause! Pricker stood at his window, no one rang
his bell, not a carriage was to be seen at his door, since the
arrival of the French tailor. Pricker was a lost man, wounded in his
ambition, his most sacred feelings trampled upon, and his just claim
to the gratitude of his generation disallowed. What advantage was it
to him to be the acknowledged tailor of two queens? Since, in the
ardor of his patriotism, he had refused to employ French hands, not
one of all those ladies who had formerly confided to him the secrets
of their toilets remembered his discretion, or his ability to hide
their defects, or supply their wants. The fickle and ungrateful
world had forsaken him. Even the Hohenzollerns had forgotten the
great deeds and still greater services of the Prickers, and no
longer knew how to reward true merit. Since Pelissier took the
opposite house, Pricker's heart was broken; night and day he was
consumed with anguish; but he made no complaint, he suffered in
Spartan silence, and like a hero covered his bleeding wounds. One
soft eye, one kindred heart discovered his silent sorrow; she, too,
sorrowed as those without hope; she had not even the courage to
offer consolation. In this hour of extremity poor Pricker sometimes
thought of selling his house, but the next moment he would blush at
his weakness and cowardice in thus abandoning the field to his foe.
In spiteful arrogance the French tailor had settled himself in the
opposite house. It was a struggle for life or death offered by
Pelissier, and it should not be said that a Pricker ignominiously
declined the contest. Pricker must remain, he must defy his
adversary, and yield only in death to this dandy Frenchman; he would
therefore remain in those ancestral halls, which had so long
sheltered the tailor of the two queens. He remained, but the death-
worm was gnawing at his heart. Pricker still gazed across the
street, and with an added pang he saw another carriage rolling in
that direction; but no, this time the carriage turned to his side of
the street. In the first joy of his heart he sprang forward to open
the door and aid the ladies in descending; he checked himself in
time, however, remembering that this would compromise the dignity of
In a few moments Madame Pricker announced the rich Mademoiselle
Orguelin and her future husband. Pricker advanced to meet them with
calm composure, but there was tumultuous joy in his heart.
"You will be surprised, my dear Pricker, that we did not send for
you, but we should have lost time by that, and our affairs demand
the greatest haste."
Pricker bowed proudly. "My house is accustomed to receive noble
persons; my grandfather had once the happiness to welcome a prince.
In what can I serve you?"
"I need two complete court toilets," said Mademoiselle Orguelin--
"the robes for a first presentation, and then for a great court
"Then you wish a robe with a brocade train; I would choose blue
velvet, it is most becoming to blondes, and throws a heavenly light
upon their complexions."
"Then we will take sky blue," said the millionnaire, "with a train
of silver. For the ball dress, my father has given me a dress woven
in velvet and gold."
"Your toilets will be superb, and the appearance of the Countess
Rhedern will do honor to the house of Pricker."
"You must promise to be ready in eight days."
"In four, if necessary," said Pricker, taking the long measure from
his wife and approaching the lady.
"I leave the trimmings entirely to your taste, but of course my
dress must be of the newest French cut."
Pricker had laid the measure around the slender waist of
Mademoiselle Orguelin; he now removed it violently. "You desire your
dresses made after the latest French style?" he said, harshly.
"Of course; that is surely understood; no decent tailor would work
in any other style. I should indeed be ridiculous to appear at court
in a stiff old German costume. You must make me the tight-fitting
French waist, the long points in front, the narrow sleeves reaching
to the elbow and trimmed with rich lace."
Pricker folded his measure with heroic determination and laid it
upon the table.
"Your dress cannot be made in the house of Pricker, mademoiselle."
"What, you refuse to work for me?"
"I will not adopt the French fashions! that would be an insult to my
ancestors. I will remain true to the good old German customs."
"Reflect," said Count Rhedern, "how much this obstinacy will cost
you. You will lose all the patronage of the court; all the world
adopts the new French fashions."
"That is true," said the sorrowful Pricker; he approached and
pointed through the window to the house opposite. "Once all those
carriages stood before my door; once I dressed all those noble
people; a wink would be sufficient to recall them. Would I be untrue
to the customs of my fathers, would I employ French workmen, all
those carriages would be arrayed before my door. I hold the destiny
of that contemptible Frenchman in my hands; a word from me, and he
would be ruined; but I will not speak that word. Let him live to the
disgrace and shame of the Germans who abandoned the time-honored
customs of their fatherland."
The count offered his arm to his bride, and said, mockingly:
"I thank you for your address. I see that a German tailor may be a
consummate fool! Come, my dear Caroline, we will go to M.
Pricker remained alone; grand and proud he stood in the middle of
the saloon, and looked up, like a conquering hero, at the grim
portraits of his ancestors.
"Be satisfied with me," he murmured; "I have made a new sacrifice to
your names. My house is German, and German it shall remain."
At this moment there arose on the air the clear, full voice of his
daughter, who was practising with Quantz a favorite Italian air of
the king. "Nel tue giorni felice ricordati da me," sang the
beautiful Anna, while Father Pricker ran, like a madman, up and down
the room, and stopped his ears, that he might not hear the hateful
sound. He cursed himself for allowing the monster Quantz to come to
"Alas! alas! I have closed my heart to the new era and its horrors,
hut I shall lose my children; they will not wish to wander in my
At this moment Anna entered the room, with sparkling eyes and rosy
"Father," she said, hastily, "the supreme desire of my heart will
now be fulfilled. Quantz has at last promised that I shall sing at
the next court concert. In eight days the king returns, and a
concert will be arranged, at which I, your happy daughter, will sing
an Italian song."
"She will sing Italian," murmured Quantz, who was listening at the
door. "She will give all the world an opportunity to laugh and
ridicule her; and I shall be held responsible; I would rather die!"
Anna was greatly excited, and did not notice her teacher; and, as
her mother entered the room, she embraced her warmly.
"Mother, mother, Quantz has pronounced me worthy to sing at the
court. I shall cover myself with glory, and the daughter of the
tailor will fill all Germany with her fame!"
"Unhappy child, do you not know that your father is present?"
"Oh, my father shall be proud of me!" cried Anna.
Mother Pricker was frightened at the looks of her husband. Anna
scarcely noticed her parents; she said:
"Father, it is high time to think of my dress; it must be new and
"You shall have it," said her father, solemnly; "it is an honor to
sing before the king. I will make you a magnificent dress out of
your mother's bridal robe."
Anna laughed contemptuously. "No, no, father; the time is past when
we dared to wear the clothes of our great-grandmothers. The day is
gone by for family relics. How the ladies of the court would laugh
at my mother's old flowered robe! Besides, the dress is too narrow
for a modern hoop robe, the only style now tolerated."
"A hoop robe!" cried the father, in tones of horror; "she wishes to
wear a hoop robe!"
"Yes, and why not?" said Anna. "Does not the beautiful Blanche wear
one? and have not all the court ladies adopted them? No fashionable
lady would dare now appear without a hoop robe."
"Who is Blanche?" cried M. Pricker, rising from his chair and
looking threateningly at Anna, "who is Blanche?"
"Do you not know, father? Oh, you are only pretending not to know!
Dearest Blanche, whom I love like a sister, and to whom I can only
pay stolen visits, for her father is furious that you have not
returned his visit, and has forbidden any of his family to enter our
"He did right; and I also forbid you to cross his threshold. I
thought, Anna, you had too much pride to enter the house of your
father's enemy, or speak to his daughter."
Anna shrugged her shoulders silently, and now quick steps were heard
"Oh, quel pleusir d'etre amoreuse," sang a fresh, manly voice.
"French!" cried Father Pricker, wild with rage. "William singing
The door was hastily opened, and William, heir to the house of
Pricker, stood upon the sill. He was arrayed in a most charming
costume. A tight-fitting coat, short-waisted and long-tailed, wide
sleeves, and large mother-of-pearl buttons; the cuffs and high-
standing collar were richly embroidered in silver; his vest was
"coleur de chair," and instead of a long plait, William had covered
his hair with a powdered wig. A small three-cornered hat, worn
jauntily to one side, was embroidered with silver, and ornamented
with a black feather; in his hand he held a slight, graceful cane.
William appeared before his father a complete model of a new-
fashioned French dandy; rage and horror choked the old man's
"Well, father, do I please you? is not this attire worthy of a
nobleman? only I cannot wear the white feather, which they say
belongs exclusively to the nobility."
"Where did you get these clothes, William?" said his father,
approaching him slowly; "who gave you the money to pay for them? It
is a fool's costume! Who made it for you?"
"Well, you gave me the money, dear father," said William, laughing;
"that is, you will give it to me. This handsome suit has not yet
been paid for. The name of Pricker has a silvery sound; Pelissier
knows that, and credited me willingly; though at first he refused to
work for me, and I thank Blanche that I have a costume from the
celebrated shop of Pelissier."
Old Pricker uttered a cry of rage, and seizing, with feverish
violence, the long tails of his son's coat, he dragged him to and
"So Pelissier made this! he has dared to array my son, the son and
heir of the house of Pricker, in this ridiculous manner! And you,
William, you were shameless enough to receive this suit from your
father's enemy. Alas! alas! are you not afraid that your ancestors
will rise from their graves to punish you?"
"Dear father," said William, "it is only a costume, and has nothing
to do with character or principle."
"Never will I allow my son to be lost to me in this manner," cried
Pricker; "and if in the blindness of his folly he has lost himself,
I will bring him back with violence, if necessary, to the right
path. Off, then, with this absurd coat! off with this fool's cap!
off with all this livery!"
Pricker now began to pull and tear madly at his son's clothes; he
knocked his hat off, and trampled it under his feet; he seized with
both hands the lace collar, and laughed when the shreds remained in
his hands. William was at first dumb with terror, but the loud laugh
of his sister, who found this scene amusing, restored his presence
of mind; with mad violence he pushed his father from him.
"Father," he cried, "I am no longer a boy! I will not bear this
treatment; I will dress as I like, and as the fashions demand."
"Well spoken, my brother," said Anna, laughingly, springing to his
side; "we are children of the new era, and will dress as it demands.
Why did our parents give us modern educations if they wished us to
conform to old-fashioned prejudice?"
"'Honour thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long in the
land which the Lord thy God giveth thee,'" said Pricker, solemnly.
"Another Bible verse," said Anna, mockingly. "The book is no longer
fashionable; and it is not half so amusing as Voltaire."
"Enough, enough," said Pricker; "now listen to my last
determination. I command you to live and dress as your father and
mother have dressed before you! Woe to you if you despise my
commands! woe to you if you defy my authority! I will disown you--
and my curse shall be your inheritance; remember this. If you ever
enter that house again, or speak to any of its inhabitants--if I
ever see you in this French livery again, or if you, Anna, ever
appear before me in a hoop robe and toupe, from that moment you
cease to be my children."
Father and mother left the room; the brother and sister remained
"Well," said Anna, "do you intend to obey these commands? Will you
wear the queue and the narrow, coarse frock coat?"
"Nonsense," said William, "that Blanche may ridicule me, and all the
world may laugh at me. You do not know, Anna, how much Blanche and
myself love each other; we have vowed eternal love and faith, and
she is to be my wife!"
"You will then become an honorable tailor, as your fathers were."
William laughed. "I follow a trade! I who have received the
education of a nobleman! no, no, Anna, you are not in earnest; you
cannot believe that."
"Take care, William, you will be disinherited; father is in
"Oh, he will have to submit, as old Pelissier must do; he will also
be furious when he first learns that I am the husband of Blanche; he
has threatened her with his curse if she marries me. But in spite of
all this we intend to marry; they must at last be reconciled. Oh,
Blanche is beautiful as an angel!"
"Nevertheless she is a tailor's daughter," said Anna.
"Yes, like my beautiful and amiable sister Anna."
"But I shall become a celebrated singer, and the wife of a
"Well, and who says that Blanche will not be the wife of a
celebrated man, and that you will not be proud of me?"
"Will you be a man or a woman dressmaker?"
"Neither one nor the other! I shall be an actor; but silence, this
is my secret and I must keep it!"
The quiet castle of Rheinsberg was again alive with noise. Its halls
resounded with music and laughter; gay and happy faces were
everywhere to be seen; bright jests to be heard on every side. The
charming days of the past, when Frederick was prince royal, seemed
to have returned; the same company now filled the castle; the same
sports and amusements were enjoyed. All was the same, yet still,
every thing was changed, transformed. Almost all of those who had
left Rheinsberg with such proud hopes, such great desires, were
again there, but with annihilated hopes. They had all expected to
reign; they had claimed for themselves honor and power, but the
young king had allowed to none the privilege of mounting the throne
by his side. They were all welcome companions, loved friends. But
none dared overstep the boundary of dependence and submission which
he had drawn around them, and in the centre of which he stood alone,
trusting to his own strength and will. They had gained nothing from
the crown which rested upon Frederick's noble head; but they had
lost nothing. They returned to Rheinsberg not exalted, though not
But one heart was broken, one heart was bleeding from unseen pain.
It was the heart of Elizabeth, the heart of that poor rejected woman
who was called the reigning queen, the wife of Frederick.
The king, on returning from his excursion to Strasburg, had reminded
her of her promise to follow him with her court to Rheinsberg. And
the poor sufferer, though she knew that the presence of the king
would be for her a continual torment, an hourly renunciation, could
not find strength to resist the desire of her own heart. She had
followed her husband, saying to herself with a painful smile: "I
will at least see him, and if he does not speak to me I will still
hear his voice. My sufferings will be greater, but I shall be near
him. The joy will help me to bear the pain. Soffri e taci!"
Elizabeth Christine was right; the king never spoke to her, never
fixed those brilliant blue eyes, which possessed for her the depth
and immensity of the skies, upon her pale countenance. With a silent
bow he welcomed her daily at their meals, but he did not now lead
her to the table and sit beside her. The presence of the Margrave
and Margravine of Baireuth seemed to impose upon him the duty of
honoring his favorite sister, who was his guest more than his wife
the queen. He sat, therefore, between his sister and her husband the
count, at whose side the queen was placed. He did not speak to her
but she saw him, and strengthened her heart by the sight of his
proud and noble countenance.
She suffered and was silent. She veiled her pain by a soft smile,
she concealed the paleness of her cheek with artificial bloom, she
covered the furrows that care already showed in her lovely and
youthful face, with black, beauty-spots which were then the fashion.
No one should think that she suffered. No one should pity her, not
even the king. Elizabeth Christine joined in all the pleasures and
amusements at Rheinsberg. She laughed at Bielfeld's jests, at
Pollnitz's bright anecdotes; she listened with beaming eyes to
Knobelsdorf's plans for beautifying the king's residence; she took
part in the preparations for a drama that was to be performed.
Voltaire's "Death of Caesar," and "The Frenchman in London," by
Boissy, had been chosen by the king to be played at Rheinsberg, and
in each piece she played a prominent role. The young queen, as it
seemed, had become an enthusiastic admirer of the theatre; she was
never missing at any of the rehearsals, and aided her beautiful
maids of honor in the arrangements of their costumes.
The king was now seldom to be seen in the circle of his friends and
companions, and the tones of his flute were rarely to be heard. He
passed the day in his library, no one dared disturb him, not even
Guentz. Madame von Brandt, who had accompanied the court to
Rheinsberg, said, in one of her secret meetings with Count
Manteuffel: "The king is unfaithful to his last sweetheart, he has
abandoned and rejected his flute."
"But with what does the king occupy himself the entire day?" asked
the count. "What is it that takes him from his friends and fills up
all his time?"
"Nothing but scientific studies," said Madame von Brandt, shrugging
her shoulders. "Fredersdorf told me that he busies himself with maps
and plans, is surrounded by his military books, and is occupied like
an engineer with astrolabes and land surveyors. You now see that
these are very innocent occupations, and that they can have no
influence upon our affairs. The king, I promise you, will never be
more divorced from his wife than he now is; and concerning the
marriage of Prince Augustus William, my plans are so skilfully laid
that there is no danger of failure, and poor Laura von Pannewitz
will surely be sacrificed. All is well, and we have nothing to fear
from the king's innocent studies."
"Ah, you call these innocent studies?" said the count; "I assure you
that these studies will greatly disturb the Austrian court, and I
must at once notify my friend Seckendorf of them."
"You are making a mountain of a mole hill," said Madame von Brandt,
laughing. "I assure you, you have nothing to fear. It is true the
king passes the day in his study, but he passes his evenings with
us, and he is then as gay, as unconstrained, as full of wit and
humor as ever. Perhaps he makes use of the solitude of his study to
learn his role, for to-morrow, you know, we act the 'Death of
Caesar,' and the king is 'Brutus.'"
"Yes, yes," said Count Manteuffel, thoughtfully, "it strikes me the
king is playing the part of Brutus; to the eye he seems harmless and
gay, but who knows what dark thoughts pregnant with mischief are hid
in his soul?"
"You are always seeing ghosts," said Madame von Brandt, impatiently.
"But hear! the court clock is striking six; it is high time for me
to return to the castle, for at seven the last rehearsal commences,
Back to Full Books