Frederick the Great and His Court
Part 7 out of 8
and I have still to dress." And Madame von Brandt hastily took leave
of her ally, and ran gayly to the castle.
But she had no need to dress for the rehearsal. The king was not
able to act; the strong will was to-day conquered by an enemy who
stands in awe of no one, not even of a king--an enemy who can
vanquish the most victorious commander. Frederick was ill of a
fever, which had tormented him the whole summer, which had kept him
from visiting Amsterdam, and which confined him to his bed in the
castle of Moyland, while Orttaire was paying his long expected
visit, had again taken a powerful hold upon him and made of the king
a pale, trembling man, who lay shivering and groaning upon his bed,
scoffing at Ellart, his physician, because he could not cure him.
"There is a remedy," said Ellart, "but I dare not give it to your
"And why not?" said the king.
"Because its strength must first be tested, to see if it can be used
without danger; it must first be tried by a patient upon whose life
the happiness of millions does not depend."
"A human life is always sacred, and if not certain of your remedy,
it is as vicious to give it to a beggar as to a king."
"I believe," said Ellart, "as entirely in this remedy as Louis the
Fourteenth, who bought it secretly from Talbot, the Englishman, and
paid him a hundred Napoleons for a pound. The wife of the King of
Spain was cured by it."
"Give me this remedy," said the king, with chattering teeth.
"Pardon me, your majesty, but I dare not, though I have a small
quantity with me which was sent by a friend from Paris, and which I
brought to show you as a great curiosity. This tiny brown powder is
a medicine which was not distilled by the apothecary, but by
"Then I have confidence in it," said the king; "Nature is the best
physician, the best apothecary, and what she brews is full of divine
healing power. How is this remedy called?"
"It is the Peruvian bark, or quinine, the bark above all barks
which, by a divine Providence, grows in Peru, the land of fevers."
But the king had not the strength to listen to him. He now lay
burning with fever; a dark purple covered his cheek, and his eyes,
which, but a few moments before, were dull and lustreless, now
sparkled with fire. The king, overpowered by the disease, closed his
eyes, and occasionally unconnected, senseless words escaped his dry,
Fredersdorf now entered, and through the open door the anxious,
inquiring faces of Pollnitz, Bielfeld, Jordan, and Kaiserling could
On tip-toe Ellart approached the private chamberlain.
"How is the king?" said he, hastily. "Is he in a condition to hear
some important news?"
"Not now. Wait an hour; he will then be free from fever."
"We will wait," said Fredersdorf to the four courtiers who had
entered the room, and were now standing around the royal bed.
"Is it bad news? If so, I advise you to wait until tomorrow."
"Well, I do not believe the king will think it bad," said
"And I am convinced the king will be well pleased with our news,"
said Bielfeld. "I think so, because the king is a sleeping hero
waiting to be roused."
"If you speak so loud," whispered Pollnitz, "it will be you who will
wake this hero, and the thunder of his anger will fall upon you."
"Pollnitz is right," said Jordan; "be quiet, and let us await his
majesty's waking." And the group stood in silence around the couch,
with eyes fixed upon the king. He at last awoke, and a smile played
upon his lip as he perceived the six cavaliers.
"You stand there like mourners," said he; "and to look at you one
would think you were undertakers!"
"Ah, sire, fever does not kill like apoplexy," said Jordan,
approaching his friend and pressing his hand tenderly.
"Your majesty called us undertakers," said Pollnitz, laughing. "As
usual, the divine prophetic mind of our king is in the right. There
is certainly a funeral odor about us."
"But God forbid that we should mourn," said Bielfeld, "we are much
better prepared to sound the battlesong."
All this passed while the physician was feeling the king's pulse,
and Fredersdorf was tenderly arranging his pillows. The king looked
at him inquiringly. "Listen, Fredersdorf," said he, "what meaning
have all these mysterious words and looks; why are you all so grave?
Is one of my dogs dead? or are you only peevish because this
abominable fever has cheated you of the rehearsal?"
"No, your majesty. The dogs are in excellent health."
"The king's pulse is perfectly quiet," said Ellart, "you can
communicate your news to him." Baron Pollnitz approached the king's
"Sire, one hour ago a courier arrived who was the bearer of
"Whence came he?" said the king, calmly.
"From your majesty's ambassador in Vienna, Count Borche."
"Ah!" said the king, "is the empress, our noble aunt, suffering?"
"The empress is perfectly well, but her husband, the emperor--"
"Well, why do you not continue?" said the king, impatiently.
"Would your majesty not wish some restorative first?" said
Fredersdorf; but the king pushed him angrily away.
"I wish your phrase, Pollnitz. What of the Emperor of Austria?"
"Sire, Emperor Charles the Sixth is no more, he died the twentieth
"Truly," said Frederick, leaning back, "it was worth the trouble to
make so much to do about such insignificant news. If the emperor is
dead, Maria Theresa will be Empress of Germany, that is all. It does
not concern us." He stopped and closed his eyes.
The physician again felt his pulse. "It is perfectly quiet," said
he; "this prodigious news has not occasioned the slightest commotion
"You are right," said the king, looking up. "Neither is the death of
the Emperor Charles to make the slightest change in our plans, but
to execute them I must be perfectly well. It must not be said that a
miserable fever changed my intentions and condemned me to idleness;
I must have no fever on the day the news of the emperor's death
arrives, or the good people of Vienna will believe that I was made
ill with fright. Give me that powder, Ellart, I will take it."
"But I told your majesty that I cannot, dare not give it to you, for
I have not tried its effect yet."
"Then try it on me," said the king, positively. "Give me the
It was in vain that Ellart called upon the cavaliers to support his
opinion; in vain that they begged and implored the king not to take
the powder, not to put his life in danger.
"My life is in God's hands," said the king, earnestly; "and God, who
created me, created also this bark. I trust more in God's medicine
than in that of man. Quick, give me the powder!" And as Ellart still
hesitated, he continued in a stern voice: "I command you, as your
king and master, to give it to me. On my head rests the
"If your majesty commands I must obey, but I take these gentlemen to
witness that I but do it on compulsion."
And amid the breathless silence of the room, the king took the
"Now your majesty must rest," said Ellart; "you must, by no means,
return to Berlin; by my holy right of physician, I forbid it."
"And why should I return to Berlin?" said the king, laughingly. "Why
should our harmless pleasure and amusements be given up? Are we not
to act Voltaire's 'Death of Caesar?' No, I will not return to
Berlin. A trifle such as the emperor's death should not create such
great disturbances. We will remain here and renew our former happy
days, and forget that we have any duty but our enjoyment. Now,
gentlemen, leave me, I am well. You see, Ellart, I did well to take
that medicine; I will dress. Fredersdorf, remain here. Jordan, send
me Secretary Eichel. I must dictate a few necessary letters, and
then, gentlemen, we will meet in the music room, where I am to play
a duet with Quantz. I invite you as audience."
The king dismissed his friends with a gracious smile, jested gayly
with Fredersdorf, and then dictated three letters to his secretary.
One was to Marshal von Schwerin, the other to the Prince of Anhalt
Dessau, and the third to Ambassador Podrilse. The three held the
same words, the same command, telling them to come immediately to
Rheinsberg. He then entered the music room, and never was Frederick
so gay, so witty, and unconstrained; never did he play on his flute
more beautifully than on the day he heard of the death of the
Emperor of Germany. The following morning the three gentlemen
arrived from Berlin and were at once admitted into the king's
library. Frederick met them with a proud, happy smile; his eye
beamed with an unusual light; his forehead was smooth and free from
care; he seemed inspired.
"The Emperor of Germany is dead," said he, after the gentlemen were
seated. "The emperor is dead, and I have sent for you to see what
benefit we can derive from his death!"
"Oh, your majesty would not think of benefiting by a death which
throws a royal house, nearly connected with you, into deep sorrow,
and robs the reigning queen of Prussia of an uncle!" cried the old
Prince of Dessau, solemnly.
"Oh, it is well known that you are an imperialist," said the king,
"No, your majesty, but a difficulty with Austria would be a great
misfortune for us."
Frederick shrugged his shoulders, and turned to the other two.
"I also wish for your opinion, gentlemen," said he; "you are all men
of experience, soldiers, and statesmen, and you must not refuse to
advise one of my youth and inexperience."
With a quiet smile he listened to their wise, peaceful propositions.
"You then doubt my right to Silesia?" said he, after a pause. "You
do not think I am justified in demanding this Silesia, which was
dishonestly torn from my ancestors by the Hapsburger?"
"But your ancestors still kept the peace," said the Prince of
Dessau; "they left Silesia in the undisturbed possession of the
"Yes," said the king, in a firm voice,--"and when my ancestors,
outwitted by the cunning intrigues of the Austrian court,
accommodated themselves to this necessity,--when for rendered
services they were rewarded with base ingratitude, with idle,
unmeaning promises, then they called upon their descendants to
revenge such injustice, such insults to their honor and rights.
Frederick William, the great Elector, cried prophetically when the
Austrian house deserted him and denied her sworn promises--'A
revenger will rise from my ashes;' and my father, when he had
witnessed to the full the ingratitude of the Austrian court, felt
that there could be no peace between the houses of Austria and
Brandenburg, and he intrusted to me the holy mission of punishing
and humiliating this proud, conceited court; he pointed me out to
his ministers, and said: 'There stands one who will revenge me!' You
see that my ancestors call me, my grandfather and father chose me
for their champion and revenger; they call upon me to perform that
which they, prevented by circumstances, could not accomplish; the
hour which my ancestors designated has arrived--the hour of
retribution! The time has come when the old political system must
undergo an entire change. The stone has broken loose which is to
roll upon Nebuchadnezzar's image and crush it. It is time to open
the eyes of the Austrians, and to show them that the little Marquis
of Brandenburg, whose duty they said it was to hand the emperor
after meals the napkin and finger-bowl, has become a king, who will
not be humbled by the Austrians, and who acknowledges none but God
as his master. Will you help me; will you stand by me in this work
with your experience and your advice?"
"We will!" cried the three, with animation, borne away by the king's
noble ardor. "Our life, our blood, belong to our king, our country."
Frederick laughingly shook hands with them. "I counted upon you,"
said he, "nor will Zithen and Vinterfeldt fail us; we will not go to
battle hastily and unprepared. All was foreseen, all prepared, and
we have now but to put in execution the plans that have for some
time been agitating my brain. Here is the map for our campaign; here
are the routes and the plan of attack. We shall at last stand before
these Austrians in battle array; and as they dared say of my father,
that his gun was ever cocked but the trigger never pulled, we will
show them that we are ready to discharge, and thrust down the double
eagle from its proud pinnacle. The combat is determined and
unalterable; let us be silent and prudent, no one must discover our
plans; we will surprise the Austrians. And now, gentlemen, examine
these plans, and tell me if there are any changes to be made in
THE KING AND HIS FRIEND.
For several hours the king remained in earnest council with his
advisers. As they left him he called Jordan, and advanced to meet
him with both hands extended.
"Well, Jordan, rejoice with me; my days of illness are over, and
there will be life and movement in this rusty and creaking machine
of state. You have often called me a bold eagle, now we shall see if
my wings have strength to bear me to great deeds, and if my claws
are sharp enough to pluck out the feathers of the double eagle."
"So my suspicions are correct, and it is against Austria that my
king will make his first warlike movement?"
"Yes, against Austria; against this proud adversary, who, with
envious and jealous eyes, watches my every step; who is pleased to
look upon Prussia as her vassal; whose emperor considered it beneath
his dignity to extend his hand to my father, or offer him a seat;
and now I will refuse the hand to Austria, and force her from her
"For you, also, my king, will the days of quiet be over; your holy
and happy hours with poetry, philosophy, and the arts, must be given
up. The favorite of Apollo will become the son of Mars; we who are
left behind can only look after you, we can do nothing for you, not
even offer our breasts as a shield against danger and death."
"Away with such thoughts," said Frederick, smiling; "death awaits us
all, and if he finds me on the field of battle, my friends, my
subjects, and history will not forget me. That is a comfort and a
hope; and you, Jordan, you know that I believe in a great, exalted,
and almighty Being, who governs the world. I believe in God, and I
leave my fate confidently in His hands. The ball which strikes me
comes from Him; and if I escape the battle-field, a murderous hand
can reach me, even in my bed-chamber; and surely that would be a
less honorable, less famous death. I must do something great,
decisive, and worthy of renown, that my people may love me, and look
up to me with confidence and trust. It is not enough to be a king by
inheritance and birth, I must prove by my deeds that I merit it.
Silesia offers me a splendid opportunity, and truly I think the
circumstances afford me a solid and sure basis for fame."
"Alas! I see," sighed Jordan, that the love of your subjects, and
the enthusiastic tenderness of your friends, is not sufficient for
you; you would seek renown."
"Yes, you are right; this glittering phantom, Fame, is ever before
my eyes. I know this is folly, but when once you have listened to
her intoxicating whispers, you cannot cast her off. Speak not, then,
of exposure, or care, or danger; these are as dust of the balance; I
am amazed that this wild passion does not turn every man's head."
"Alas! your majesty, the thirst for fame has cost thousands of men
their reasons and their lives. The field of battle is truly the
golden book of heroes, but their names must be written therein in
"It is true," said the king, thoughtfully, "a field of battle is a
sad picture for a poet and a philosopher; but every man in this
world must pursue his calling, and I will not do my work half way. I
love war for the sake of fame. Pity me not, Jordan, because these
days of illness and peace and gayety are over; because I must go
into the rough field, while you amuse yourself with Horace, study
Pausanias, and laugh and make merry with Anacreon. I envy you not.
Fame beckons me with her alluring glance. My youth, the fire of
passion, the thirst for renown, and a mysterious and unconquerable
power, tears me from this life of indolence. The glowing desire to
see my name connected with great deeds in the journals and histories
of the times drives me out into the battle-field. [Footnote: The
king's own words.] There will I earn the laurel-wreaths which kings
do not find in their cradles, or upon their throne, but which as
men, and as heroes, they must conquer for themselves."
"The laurel will deck the brow of my hero, my Frederick, in all
time," said Jordan, with tears in his eyes. "Oh! I see before you a
glorious future; it may be I shall have passed away--but where will
my spirit be? When I stand near you and look upon you, I know that
the spirit is immortal. The soul, noble and god-like, will be ever
near you; so whether living or dead I am thine, to love you as my
friend, to honor you as my sovereign, to admire you as a gifted
genius, glowing with godly fire."
"Oh, speak not of death," said the king, "speak not of death; I have
need of you, and it seems to me that true friendship must be strong
enough even to conquer death! Yes, Jordan, we have need of each
other, we belong to each other; and it would be cruel, indeed, to
rob me of a treasure which we, poor kings, so rarely possess, a
faithful and sincere friend. No, Jordan, you will be my Cicero to
defend the justice of my cause, and I will be your Caesar to carry
out the cause happily and triumphantly."
Jordan was speechless; he shook his head sadly. The king observed
him anxiously, and saw the deep, feverish purple spots, those roses
of the grave, upon the hollow cheeks of his friend; he saw that he
grew daily weaker; he heard the hot, quick breathing which came
panting from his breast. A sad presentiment took possession of his
heart, the smile vanished from his lips, he could not conceal his
emotion, and walking to the window he leaned his hot brow upon the
glass and shed tears which none but God should see. "My God! my God!
how poor is a prince! I have so few friends, and these will soon
pass away. Suhm lies ill in Marschau; perhaps I shall never see him
again. Jordan is near me, but I see death in his face and he will
soon be torn from my side."
Jordan stood immovable and looked toward the king, who still leaned
his head upon the window; he did not dare to disturb him, and yet he
had important and sad news to announce. At last Jordan laid his hand
upon his shoulder.
"Pardon, my king," said he, in trembling tones, "pardon that I dare
to interrupt you; but a hero dare not give himself up to sad
thoughts before the battle, and when he thinks of death he must
greet him with laughter, for death is his ally and his adjutant; and
even if his ally grasps his nearest and best beloved friend, the
hero and the conqueror must yield him up as an offering to victory."
The king turned quickly toward the speaker. "You have death news to
give me," said he curtly, leaning against the back of his chair.
"You have death news for me, Jordan."
"Yes, news of death, my prince," said he, deeply moved; "fate will
accustom your majesty to such trials, that your heart may not falter
when your friends fall around you in the day of battle."
"It is, then, a friend who is dead," said Frederick, turning pale.
"Yes, sire, your best beloved."
The king said nothing; sinking in the chair, and grasping the arms
convulsively, he leaned his head back, and in a low voice asked, "Is
"Yes, it is Suhm; he died in Marschau. Here is his last letter to
your highness; his brother sent it to me, that I might hand it to
The king uttered a cry of anguish, and clasped his hands before his
pallid face. Great tears ran down his cheeks; with a hasty movement
he shook them from his eyes, opened and read the letter. As he read
it he sighed and sobbed aloud: "Suhm is dead! Suhm is dead! the
friend who loved me so sincerely, even as I loved him. That noble
man, who combined intellect, sincerity, and sensibility. My heart is
in mourning for him; so long as a drop of blood flows in my veins I
will remember him, and his family shall be mine. Ah, my heart
bleeds, and the wound is deep."
The king, mastered by his grief, laid his head in his hand and wept
aloud. Then, after a long pause, he raised himself; he was calm and
stern. "Jordan," said he, firmly, "death hath no more power over me,
never again can he wring my heart; he has laid an iron shield upon
me, and when I go to battle I must be triumphant; my friend has been
offered up as a victim. Jordan, Jordan, my wound bleeds, but I will
bind it up, and no man shall see even the blood-stained cloth with
which I cover it. I have overcome death, and now will I offer battle
and conquer as become a hero, and a king. What cares the world that
I suffer? The world shall know nothing of it; a mask before my face,
and silence as to my agony. We will laugh and jest while we sorrow
for our friend, and while we prepare to meet the enemy. We will PLAY
Caesar and Antonius now; hereafter we may really imitate them. Come,
Jordan, come, we will try 'The Death of Caesar.'"
THE FAREWELL AUDIENCE OF MARQUIS VON HOTTER, THE AUSTRIAN
This was to be a fete day in the royal palace of Berlin. The king
intended giving a splendid dinner, after which the court would take
coffee in the newly furnished rooms of the dowager queen, and a mask
ball was prepared for the evening, to which the court, the nobility,
and higher officials were invited.
The court mourning for the emperor was at an end, and every one was
determined to enjoy the pleasures of the carnival. Never had the
court led so gay, so luxurious a life. Even the good old citizens of
Berlin seemed to appreciate this new administration, which brought
so much money to the poorer classes, such heavy profits to
tradesmen. They believed that this extravagant court brought them
greater gains than an economical one, and were therefore contented
with this new order of things.
The king had refurnished the palace with an unheard of splendor. In
the apartment of the queen-mother there was a room in which all the
ornaments and decorations were of massive gold. Even the French and
English ambassadors were astonished at this "Golden Cabinet," and
declared that such splendor and magnificence could not be found in
the palaces of Paris or London. The people of Berlin, as we have
said, were becoming proud of their court and their king, and they
thought it quite natural that this young ruler, who was only twenty-
eight years old, should interest himself very little in the affairs
of State, and should give his time to pleasure and amusement.
The king had accomplished his desire. No one suspected the deep
seriousness that he concealed under this idle play. No one dreamed
that this gay, smiling prince, on whose lips there was always a
witty jest or bon mot; who proposed a concert every evening, in
which he himself took part; who surrounded himself with artists,
poets, and gay cavaliers, with whom he passed many nights of wild
mirth and gayety--no one dreamed that this harmless, ingenuous young
prince, was on the point of overthrowing the existing politics of
the European states, and of giving an entirely new form to the whole
The king had not raised his mask for a moment; he had matured his
plans under the veil of inviolate secrecy. The moment of their
accomplishment had now arrived; this evening, during the mask ball
which had been prepared with such pomp and splendor, the king with
his regiments would leave Berlin and proceed to Silesia. But even
the troops did not know their destination. The journals had
announced that the army would leave Berlin to go into new winter
quarters, and this account was generally believed. Only a few
confidants, and the generals who were to accompany the king, were
acquainted with this secret. The king, after a final conference, in
which he gave the last instructions and orders, said:
"Now, gentlemen, that we have arranged our business, we will think
of our pleasure. I will see you this evening at the ball; we will
dance once more with the ladies before we begin our war-dance."
As the generals left him, his servant entered to assist at his
toilet. Pelissier, the French tailor, had prepared a new and
magnificent costume for this evening, made in the latest Parisian
style. The king desired to appear once more in great splendor before
exchanging the saloon for the camp. Never had he bestowed such care
upon his toilet; never had he remained so patiently under the hands
of the barber; he even went to the large mirror when his toilet was
completed, and carefully examined his appearance and costly dress.
"Well," he said, smiling, "if the Marquis von Botter is not deceived
by this dandy that I see before me, it is not my fault. The good
Austrian ambassador must be very cunning indeed if he discovers a
warrior in this perfumed fop. I think he will be able to tell my
cousin, Maria Theresa, nothing more than that the King of Prussia
knows how to dress himself, and is the model of fashion."
The king passed into the rooms of the queen-mother, where the court
was assembled, and where he had granted a farewell audience to the
Marquis von Botter, the ambassador of the youthful Empress of
Austria. Frederick was right: the marquis had been deceived by the
mask of harmless gayety and thoughtless happiness assumed by the
king and court. He had been sent by the empress with private
instructions to sound the intentions of the Prussian king, while his
apparent business was to return her acknowledgments for the
congratulations of the King of Prussia on her ascension to the
The Marquis von Botter, as we have said, had been deceived by the
gay and thoughtless manner of the king, and Manteuffel's warnings
and advice had been thrown away.
The marquis had withdrawn with Manteuffel to one of the windows, to
await the entrance of the king; the ladies and gentlemen of the
court were scattered through the rooms of the queen-mother, who was
playing cards with Queen Christine in the golden cabinet.
"I leave Berlin," said the marquis, "with the firm conviction that
the king has the most peaceful intentions."
"As early as to-morrow your convictions will be somewhat shaken,"
replied Manteuffel, "for this night the king and his army depart for
At this moment the king appeared at the door of the golden cabinet.
There was a sudden silence, and all bent low, bowing before the
brilliant young monarch.
Frederick bowed graciously, but remained in the doorway, glancing
over the saloon; it appeared to afford him a certain pleasure to
exhibit himself to the admiring gaze of those present. He stood a
living picture of youth, beauty, and manliness.
"Only look at this richly-dressed, elegant young man," whispered
Marquis von Botter; "look at his youthful countenance, beaming with
pleasure and delight; at his hands, adorned with costly rings, so
white and soft, that they would do honor to the most high-bred lady;
at that slender foot, in its glittering shoe. Do you wish to
convince me that this small foot will march to battle; that this
delicate hand, which is only fitted to hold a smelling-bottle or a
pen, will wield a sword? Oh! my dear count, you make me merry with
your gloomy prophecies."
"Still I entreat you to believe me. As soon as your audience is
over, hasten to your hotel, and return to Vienna with all possible
speed; allow yourself no hour of sleep, no moment for refreshment,
until you have induced your empress to send her army to Silesia. If
you do not, if you despise my advice, the King of Prussia will reach
Silesia before you are in Vienna, and the empress will receive this
intelligence which you do not credit from the fleeing inhabitants of
her province, which will have been conquered without a blow."
The deep earnestness of the count had in it something so impressive,
so convincing, that the marquis felt his confidence somewhat shaken,
and looked doubtfully at the young monarch, who was now smiling and
conversing with some of the ladies.
But even in speaking the king had not lost sight of these two
gentlemen who were leaning against the window, and whose thoughts he
read in their countenances. He now met the eye of the marquis, and
motioned to him to come forward. The marquis immediately approached
the king, who stood in the centre of the saloon, surrounded by his
Every eye was turned toward the glittering group, in which the young
king was prominent: for those to whom the intentions of the king
were known, this was an interesting piece of acting; while for the
uninitiated, who had only an uncertain suspicion of what was about
to happen, this was a favorable moment for observation.
The Austrian ambassador now stood before the king, making a deep and
ceremonious bow. The king returned this salutation, and said:
"You have really come to take leave, marquis?"
"Sire, her majesty, my honored empress, recalls me, and I must obey
her commands, happy as I should be, if I were privileged, to sun
myself still longer in your noble presence."
"It is true, a little sunshine would be most beneficial to you,
marquis. You will have a cold journey."
"Ah! your majesty, the cold is an evil that could easily be
"There are, then, other evils which will harass you on your
"Yes, sire, there is the fearful road through Silesia, that
lamentable Austrian province. Ah! your majesty, this is a road of
which in your blessed land you have no idea, and which is happily
unknown in the other Austrian provinces. This poor Silesia has given
only care and sorrow to the empress; but, perhaps, for that reason,
she loves it so well, and would so gladly assist it. But even Nature
seems to prevent the accomplishment of her noble intentions. Heavy
rains have destroyed the roads which had, with great expense, been
rendered passable, and I learn, to my horror, that it is scarcely
possible for a traveller to pass them without running the greatest
"Well," said the king, quietly, "I imagine that nothing could happen
to the traveller that could not be remedied by a bath and a change
"Excuse me, sire," cried the marquis, eagerly, "he would risk his
health, yes, even his life, in crossing the deep marshes, covered
with standing water, which are common in that country. Oh! those are
to be envied who need not expose themselves to this danger."
The king was wearied with this crafty diplomatic play; he was tired
of the piercing glances with which the ambassador examined his
countenance. In the firm conviction of his success, and the noble
pride of his open and truth-loving nature, it pleased him to allow
the mask to fall, which had concealed his heroic and warlike
intentions from the marquis. The moment of action had arrived; it
was, therefore no longer necessary to wear the veil of secrecy.
"Well, sir," said the king, in a loud, firm voice, "if you feel so
great a dread of this journey, I advise you to remain in Berlin. I
will go in your place into Silesia, and inform my honored cousin,
Maria Theresa, with the voice of my cannon, that the Silesian roads
are too dangerous for an Austrian, but are most convenient for the
King of Prussia to traverse on his way to Breslau." "Your majesty
intends marching to Breslau?" asked the horrified marquis.
"Yes, sir, to Breslau; and as you remarked, the roads are too
dangerous for a single traveller, and I intend taking my army with
me to protect my carriage."
"Oh!" exclaimed the marquis, "your majesty intends making a descent
on the lands of my exalted sovereign?"
The king glanced proudly and scornfully at this daring man. An
involuntary murmur arose among the courtiers; the hands of the
generals sought their swords, as if they would challenge this
presumptuous Austrian, who dared to reproach the King of Prussia.
The king quieted his generals with a slight motion of his hand, and
turning again to the marquis, he said, composedly, "You express
yourself falsely, marquis. I will make no descent upon the lands of
the Empress of Austria; I will only reclaim what is mine--mine by
acknowledged right, by inheritance, and by solemn contract. The
records of this claim are in the state department of Austria, and
the empress need only read these documents to convince herself of my
right to the province of Silesia."
"Your majesty, by this undertaking, may, perhaps, ruin the house of
Austria, but you will most certainly destroy your own."
"It depends upon the empress to accept or reject the propositions
which I have made to her through my ambassador in Vienna."
The marquis glanced ironically at the king, and said, "Sire, your
troops are fair to see; the Austrian army has not that glittering
exterior, but they are veterans who have already stood fire."
"You think my troops are showy," he said, impetuously; "eh bien, I
will convince you that they are equally brave."
Thus speaking, the king gave the Austrian ambassador a bow of
dismissal. The audience was at an end. The ambassador made a
ceremonious bow, and left the room, amid profound silence.
Scarcely had the door closed behind him before the noble countenance
of the king had recovered its usual calm and lofty expression.
He said gayly: "Mesdames ei messieurs, it is time to prepare for the
mask ball; I have thrown aside my mask for a moment, but you,
doubtless, think it time to assume yours. Farewell until then."
The saloons were brilliantly illuminated, and a train of gayly
intermingled, fantastically attired figures were moving to and fro
in the royal palace. It seemed as if the representatives of all
nations had come together to greet the heroic young king. Greeks and
Turks were there in gold-embroidered, bejewelled apparel. Odalisks,
Spanish, Russian, and German peasant women in every variety of
costume; glittering fairies, sorceresses, and fortune-telling
gypsies; grave monks, ancient knights in silver armor, castle dames,
and veiled nuns. It was a magnificent spectacle to behold, these
splendidly decorated saloons, filled with so great a variety of
elegant costumes; and had it not been for the lifeless, grinning,
and distorted faces, one might have imagined himself transported to
Elysium, where all nations and all races are united in unclouded
bliss. But the cold, glittering masks which concealed the bright
faces, sparkling with animation and pleasure, somewhat marred the
effect of this spectacle, and recalled the enraptured spectator to
the present, and to the stern reality.
Only in the last of these saloons was there an unmasked group. In
this room sat the two queens, glittering with gems, for it was no
longer necessary for Sophia Dorothea to conceal her jewels; without
fear she could now appear before her court in her magnificent
diamonds; and Elizabeth Christine, who knew well that her husband
loved to see his queen appear in a magnificence befitting her
dignity on festive occasions, had adorned herself with the exquisite
jewelry which excited the admiration of the entire court, and which
Baron Bielfeld declared to be a perfect miracle of beauty. Next to
the two queens and the princesses Ulrica and Amelia, stood the king
in his magnificent ball costume. Behind the royal family stood their
suite, holding their masks in their hands, for all were required to
uncover their faces on entering the room in which the royal family
The king and the queen were about to fulfil the promises they had
made each other; Sophia Dorothea was about to receive Count Neal,
while the king was to welcome the recently married Countess Rhedern
The loud and ironical voice of the master of ceremonies, Baron
Pollnitz, had just announced to the royal family the arrival of
Count and Countess Rhedern and Count Neal, and they were now
entering the saloon, the sanctuary which was only open to the
favored and privileged, only to those of high birth, or those whose
offices required them to be near the king's person. No one else
could enter this saloon without special invitation.
The newly-made Countess Rhedern made her entrance on the arm of her
husband. Her face was perfectly tranquil and grave; an expression of
determination rested on her features, which, although no longer
possessing the charm of youth and beauty, were still interesting.
Her countenance was indicative of energy and decision. An expression
of benevolence played around her large but well-formed mouth; and
her dark eyes, which were not cast down, but rested quietly on the
royal family, expressed so much spirit and intelligence that it was
evident she was no ordinary woman, but a firm and resolute one, who
had courage to challenge fate, and, if necessary, to shape her own
But the proud and imperious Queen Sophia Dorothea felt disagreeably
impressed by the earnest glances with which the countess regarded
her. If she had approached her tremblingly, and with downcast eyes,
crushed, as it were, by the weight of this unheard-of condescension
on the part of royalty, the queen would have been inclined to pardon
her want of birth, and to forget her nameless descent: but the quiet
and unconstrained bearing of the newly created countess enraged her.
Moreover, she felt offended by the elegant and costly toilet of the
countess. The long silver-embroidered train, fastened to her
shoulders with jewelled clasps, was of a rarer and more costly
material than even the robe of the queen; the diadem, necklace, and
jewelled bracelets could rival the parure of the queen, and the
latter experienced almost a sensation of envy at the sight of the
large fan which the countess held half open in her hand, and with
which the queen had nothing that could compare. The fan was of real
Chinese workmanship, and ornamented with incomparable carvings in
ivory, and beautiful paintings.
The queen acknowledged the thrice-repeated courtesy of Countess
Rhedern, with a slight inclination of the head only, while Queen
Elizabeth Christine greeted her with a gracious smile.
The king, who noticed the cloud gathering on his mother's brow, and
very well knew its cause, was amused to see the queen-mother, who
had so warmly advocated the reception of Countess Rhedern at court,
now receive her so coldly; and wishing to jest with his mother on
the subject of this short-lived fancy, he greeted the countess very
graciously, and turning to his mother, said:
"You have done well, madame, to invite this beautiful countess to
court; she will be a great acquisition, a great ornament."
"A great ornament," repeated Sophia Dorothea, who now considered the
quiet and unconstrained bearing of the countess as disrespectful to
herself; and fixing her proud and scornful glances upon her as she
contemptuously repeated the king's words, she said: "What a singular
train you wear!"
"It is of Indian manufacture," said the countess, quietly; "my
father is connected with several mercantile houses in Holland, and
from one of these I obtained the curious cloth which has attracted
your majesty's attention."
Sophia Dorothea reddened with shame and indignation. This woman had
the audacity not only not to be ashamed of her past life, over which
she should have drawn a veil, but she dared in this brilliant
company, in the presence of two queens, to speak of her father's
business relations--even while the queen magnanimously wished to
forget, and veil the obscurity of her birth.
"Ah!" said the queen-mother, "you wear an article from your father's
shop! Truly, a convenient and ingenious mode of advertising your
father's goods; and hereafter when we regard Countess Rhedern, we
will know what is her father's latest article of trade."
The smile which the queen perceived upon the lips of her suite was a
sufficient reward for her cruel jest. The eyes of all were
scornfully fixed upon the countess, whose husband stood at her side,
pale and trembling, and with downcast eyes. But the young countess
remained perfectly composed.
"Pardon me, your majesty," said she, in a full, clear voice, "for
daring to contradict you, but my father's business is too well known
to need any such advertisement."
"Well, then, in what does he deal?" said the queen, angrily.
"Your majesty," said the countess, bowing respectfully, "my father's
dealings are characterized by wisdom, honor, generosity, and
The queen's eyes flashed; a shopkeeper's daughter had dared to
justify herself before the queen, and to defy and scoff at her
She arose proudly. She wished to annihilate this newly-created
countess with her withering contempt. But the king, who perceived
the signs of a coming storm upon his mother's brow, determined to
prevent this outbreak. It wounded his noble and generous soul to see
a poor, defenceless woman tormented in this manner. He was too
noble-minded to take offence at the quiet and composed bearing of
the countess, which had excited his mother's anger. In her display
of spirit and intelligence, he forgot her lowly birth, and laying
his hand gently upon his mother's shoulder he said, with a smile:
"Does not your majesty think that Countess Rhedern does honor to her
birth? Her father deals in wisdom, honor, and generosity. Well, it
seems to me that Countess Rhedern has inherited these noble
qualities. My dear countess, I promise you my patronage, and will
ever be a devoted customer of your house if you prove worthy of your
"That I can promise your majesty," said the countess, an expression
of proud delight flitting over her countenance, and almost rendering
it beautiful; "and will your majesty have the kindness, at some
future time," said she, taking her husband's arm, "to convince
yourself that the house of Rhedern and Company, to which your
majesty has so graciously promised his patronage, is in a condition
to satisfy his requirements?"
The queen-mother could hardly suppress a cry of anger and
indignation. The countess had dared to give the king an invitation.
She had committed a breach of etiquette which could only be
accounted for by the most absolute ignorance, or the greatest
impertinence, and one which the king would assuredly punish.
But Sophia Dorothea was mistaken. Bowing low, the king said, with
that kindliness of manner which was peculiar to himself: "I will
take the very first opportunity of paying your establishment a
Sophia Dorothea was very near fainting; she could stand this scene
no longer; and giving herself up entirely to her anger, she was
guilty of the same fault which the countess had committed through
ignorance. Forgetful of etiquette, she assumed a right which
belonged to the reigning king and queen alone. Arising hastily from
her seat, she said, impatiently:
"I think it is time we should join the dancers. Do you not find the
music very beautiful and enticing? Let us go."
The king smilingly laid his hand on her arm. "You forget, madame,
that there is another happy man who longs to bask in the sunshine of
your countenance. You forget, madame, that Count Neal is to have the
honor of an introduction."
The queen gave her son one of those proud, resigned, and reproachful
looks which she had been in the habit of directing toward Frederick
William during her wedded life. She felt conquered, humbled, and
The imperious expression fled from her brow, and found refuge in her
eyes only. "And this, too!" murmured she, sinking back on her seat.
She barely heard Count Neal's introduction. She acknowledged his
respectful greeting with a slight inclination of the head, and
The king, who to-day seemed to be in a conciliatory mood, again came
to the rescue.
"Madame," said he, "Count Neal is indeed an enviable man; he has
seen what we will probably never see. He has been in the lovely,
luxurious, and dreamy South; he has seen the sun of India; he was
governor of Surinam."
"Pardon me, your majesty," said the count, proudly; "I was not only
governor, but vice-regent."
"Ah," said the king, "and what are the prerogatives of a vice-
"I was there esteemed as your majesty is here. The governor of
Surinam is approached with the same submission, humility, and
devotion, he enjoys the same homage as the King of Prussia."
"Ah, you are then an equal of the King of Prussia? Baron Pollnitz,
you have been guilty of a great oversight; you have forgotten to
provide a seat for my brother, the King of Surinam. You must be
indulgent this time, my dear brother, but at the next ball we will
not forget that you are a vice-regent of Surinam, and woe to the
baron if he does not then provide a chair!"
He then took his mother's arm, and signing to Prince Augustus
William to follow him with the reigning queen, proceeded to the
On arriving there he released his mother's arm and said: "If
agreeable to you, we will lay aside etiquette for a short time and
mingle with the dancers." And without awaiting an answer, the king
bowed and hurried off into the adjoining room, followed by Pollnitz.
He there assumed a domino and mask.
The entire court followed the king's example. The prince, and even
the reigning queen, took advantage of his permission.
The queen was deserted by her suite, and left almost entirely alone
in the large saloon. Her marshal, Count Rhedern, his wife, and the
page who held her train, were the only persons who remained. Sophia
Dorothea heaved a deep sigh; she felt that she was no longer a
queen, but a poor widow who had vacated the throne. Happily,
Countess Rhedern, the wife of her marshal, was still there; upon her
she could at least vent her rage.
"Madame," said she, looking angrily at the countess "your train is
too long; you should have brought some of the lads from your
father's store to carry this train for you, in order that it might
be more minutely examined."
The countess bowed. "Your majesty must pardon me for not having done
so, but my father's assistants are not at my disposal. But perhaps
we can find a remedy if your majesty really thinks I need a train-
bearer. I suggest that some of my father's principal debtors should
fill this place. I believe these gentlemen would willingly carry my
train if my father would grant them a respite. If your majesty
agrees to this proposition, I shall at once select two of your
noblest cavaliers for my train-bearers, and will then no longer put
your brilliant court to shame."
The queen did not reply; she cast an angry glance at the quiet and
composed countess, and then walked quietly toward the throne, around
which the royal family had now assembled.
The king, with the assistance of Pollnitz, had now completed his
toilet; he did not wish to be recognized, and his dress was similar
to hundreds of others who were wandering through the rooms.
"Do you think I will be known?"
"No, sire, it is not possible. Now have the goodness to push your
mask slightly over your eyes; they might perhaps betray you."
"Well, these eyes will soon see some curious things. Did you ever
stand upon a battle-field as a conqueror, surrounded by corpses, all
your living enemies having fled before you?"
"Heaven in its mercy preserve me from such a sight! My enemies,
sire, have never fled from me; they chase me and threaten me, and it
is of God's great mercy that I have always escaped them."
"Who are these pursuing enemies of yours?"
"They are my creditors, your majesty, and you may well believe that
they are more terrible to me than a battle-field of corpses.
Unhappily, they still live, and the fiends torment me."
"Well, Pollnitz, after I have seen my first battle-field, in the
condition I have just described to you, and returned home
victorious, I will assist you to kill off your rapacious enemies.
Until then keep bravely on the defensive. Come, let us go, I have
only half an hour left for pleasure."
The king opened the door of the cabinet, and, jesting merrily, he
mingled with the crowd, while Pollnitz remained near the door, and
cast a searching glance around the room. Presently a mocking smile
flitted over his face, and he said to himself: "There, there are all
three of them. There is the modestly dressed nun who would not be
recognized as Madame von Morien. There is the king of cards,
Manteuffel, who is not yet aware that a quick eye has seen his hand,
and his trumps are all in vain. There at last is Madame von Brandt,
'The Gypsy,' telling fortunes, and having no presentiment of the
fate awaiting herself. A little scrap of paper carelessly lost and
judiciously used by the lucky finder is quite sufficient to unmask
three of the worldly wise."
"Well, baron," whispered the nun, "will you fulfil your promise?"
"Dear Madame von Morien," replied Pollnitz, shrugging his shoulders,
"the king expressly commanded me not to betray him."
"Pollnitz," said the nun, with a tearful voice, "have pity upon me;
tell me the disguise of the king; you shall not only have my eternal
gratitude--but look, I know you love diamonds; see this costly pin,
which I will give for the news I crave."
"It is impossible for poor, weak human nature to resist you," said
Pollnitz, stretching out his hand eagerly for the pin; "diamonds
have a convincing eloquence, and I must submit; the king has a blue
domino embroidered with silver cord, a white feather is fastened in
his hat with a ruby pin, and his shoe-buckles are of rubies and
"Thank you," said the nun, handing the pin and mingling hastily with
While Pollnitz was fastening the pin in his bosom, the king of cards
approached, and laid his hand on his shoulder.
"Well, baron, you see I am punctual; answer the questions of
yesterday, and I will give you all the information necessary to
secure you a rich and lovely wife."
"I accept the terms. You wish to know what route the king will take
and the number of his troops: this paper contains the information
you desire; I obtained it from a powerful friend, one of the
confidential servants of the king. I had to pay a thousand crowns
for it; you see I did not forget you."
"Well, here is a draft for four thousand crowns," said Manteuffel;
"you see I did not forget your price."
"And now for the rich and lovely wife."
"Listen. In Nuremberg I am acquainted with a rich family, who have
but one fair daughter; she will inherit a million. The family is not
noble, but they wish to marry their daughter to a Prussian cavalier.
I have proposed you, and you are accepted; you have only to go to
Nuremberg and deliver these letters; you will be received as a son,
and immediately after the wedding you will come into possession of a
"A million is not such a large sum after all," said Pollnitz. "If I
must marry a citizen in order to obtain a fortune I know a girl here
who is young, lovely, and much in love with me, and I think she has
not less than a million."
"Well, take the letters; you can consider the subject. Au revoir, my
dear baron. Oh, I forgot one other small stipulation connected with
your marriage with the Nuremberger; the family is Protestant, and
will not accept a Catholic for their rich daughter; so you will have
to become a Protestant."
"Well, that is a small affair. I was once a Protestant, and I think
I was just as good as I am now."
Manteuffel laughed heartily, and withdrew.
Pollnitz looked thoughtfully at the letters, and considered the
question of the Nuremberg bride. "I believe Anna Pricker has at
least a million, and old Pricker lies very ill from the shock of his
wife's sudden death. If our plan succeeds, and Anna becomes a great
singer, she will have powerful influence with the king; and it will
be forgotten that she is a tailor's daughter. I believe I would
rather have Anna than the Nuremberger, but I will keep the latter in
Pollnitz had reached this point in his meditations, when the gypsy
stood before him; she greeted him with roguish words, and he was
again the thoughtless and giddy cavalier. Madame von Brandt,
however, had but little time for jesting.
"You promised to give me information of the letter I lost at the
last court festival," she said, anxiously.
"Yes, that very important letter, ruinously compromising two ladies
and a nobleman. I suppose you would obtain the letter at any
"Yes, at any sacrifice," said Madame von Brandt. "You asked a
hundred Louis d'ors for the letter; I have brought them with me;
take them--now give me the letter."
The baron took the money and put it in his pocket.
"Well, the letter, let me have it quickly," said Madame von Brandt.
Pollnitz hunted through his pockets anxiously. "My God!" he cried,
"this letter has wings. I know I put it in my pocket, and it has
disappeared; perhaps like yourself I lost it in the saloon; I must
hasten to seek it." He wished to go immediately, but Madame von
Brandt held him back.
"Have the goodness to give me my money until you have found the
letter," she cried, trembling with rage.
"Your money?" cried Pollnitz; "you gave me no money. Why do you keep
me? allow me to go and seek this important letter." He tore himself
from her and mingled with the crowd.
Madame von Brandt looked after him in speechless rage; she leaned
against the wall, to prevent herself from falling.
Pollnitz laughed triumphantly. "This evening has brought me a
thousand crowns, two hundred Louis d'ors, a splendid diamond pin,
and the promise of a rich wife. I think I may be content. Through
these intrigues I have enough to live on for months. I stand now
high in the king's favor, and who knows, perhaps he may now give me
a house, not the house in the Jager Street--that is, alas, no longer
vacant. I see the king--I must hasten to him." Suddenly he heard his
name called, and turning he saw a lady in a black domino, the hood
drawn over her head, and her face covered with an impenetrable veil.
"Baron Pollnitz, a word with you, if you please," and slightly
motioning with her hand, she passed before him. Pollnitz followed
her, curious to know his last petitioner, but the dark domino
covered her completely. They had now reached a quiet window; the
lady turned and said:
"Baron Pollnitz, you are said to be a noble and gallant cavalier,
and I am sure you will not refuse a lady a favor."
"Command me, madame," said Pollnitz, with his eternal smile. "I will
do all in my power."
"Make known to me the costume of the king."
The baron stepped back in angry astonishment. "So, my beautiful
mask, you call that a favor; I must betray his majesty to you. He
has forbidden me positively to make known his costume to any one;
you cannot desire me to be guilty of such a crime!"
"I implore you to tell me," cried the mask; "it is not from idle
curiosity that I desire to know: I have an ardent but innocent
desire to say a few words to the king before he leaves for the wars,
from which he may never return."
In the excitement of deep feeling, the mask spoke in her natural
voice, and there were certain tones which Pollnitz thought he
recognized; he must be certain, however, before speaking; he drew
nearer, and gazing piercingly at the lady, he said. "You say,
madame, that it is not in idle curiosity that you desire to know the
costume of the king. How do I know that you do not entertain
dangerous designs? how do I know but you are an enemy, corrupted by
Austria, and wish to lead the king to his destruction?"
"The only security I can offer is the word of a noble lady who never
told an untruth. God omnipotent, God omnipresent knows that my heart
beats with admiration, reverence, and love for the king. I would
rather die than bring him into danger."
"Will you swear that?"
"I swear!" cried the lady, raising her arm solemnly toward heaven.
Pollnitz followed all her movements watchfully, and as the long
sleeve of the domino fell back, he saw a bracelet of emeralds and
diamonds, which he recognized; there was but one lady at the
Prussian court who possessed such a bracelet, and that was the
reigning queen. Pollnitz was too old a courtier to betray the
discovery he had made; he bowed quietly to the lady, who,
discovering her imprudence, lowered her arm, and drew her sleeve
tightly over it.
"Madame," said the baron, "you have taken a solemn oath and I am
satisfied; I will grant your request, but, as I gave my word of
honor to tell no one the costume of his majesty, I must show it to
you. I am now going to seek the king; I shall speak with no one but
him; therefore the domino before whom I bow and whom I address will
be the king; follow me."
"I thank you," said the lady, drawing her domino closely over her;
"I shall remember this hour gratefully, and if it is ever in my
power to serve you, I shall do so."
"This is indeed a most fortunate evening! I have earned money and
diamonds and the favor of the queen, who up to this time has looked
upon me with cold dislike."
Pollnitz approached the king and bowed low; the lady stood behind,
marking well the costume of his majesty.
"I have waited a long time for Pollnitz," said the king.
"Sire, I had to wait for three masks; I have seen them all--Madame
von Morien, Madame von Brandt, and Baron von Manteuffel. The baron
remains true to his character; he is in the costume of the king of
"And Madame von Morien?" asked the king.
"She is here as a nun, and burns with desire to speak with your
majesty; and if you will step into the dark saloon, I do not doubt
the repentant nun will quickly follow you."
"Well, what is the costume of Madame von Brandt?"
"A gypsy, sire; a yellow skirt, with a red bodice embroidered in
gold; a little hat studded with diamonds and a beauty spot on the
left temple. She wished me to give her the letter I found, and I
sold it to her for two hundred Louis d'ors."
"You had not the letter, however, and could not receive the money?"
"Pardon, your majesty, I took the Louis d'ors, and then discovered
that I had lost the letter, I came to seek it."
The king laughed heartily, and said: "Pollnitz, Pollnitz, it is a
blessed thing for the world that you are not married; your boys
would be consummate rascals! Did you give Manteuffel the plan of the
campaign and the number of the troops?"
"Yes, sire, I did; and the baron was so charmed that he made me a
present of four thousand crowns! I took them, for appearance' sake;
your majesty must decide what I must do with them."
"Keep the reward of your iniquity, baron. You hare a superb talent
for thieving, and I would prefer you should practise it on the
Austrians to practising it on myself. Go now, and see that I find my
uniform in the cabinet."
The king mingled again with the crowd, and was not recognized, but
laughed and jested with them merrily as man to man.
REWARD AND PUNISHMENT.
Suddenly the king ceased his cheerful laughter and merry jests: he
had for the moment forgotten that he had any thing to do but amuse
himself; he had forgotten that he was here to judge and to punish.
Frederick was standing by the once dearly loved Count Manteuffel,
and as his eye fell upon him he was recalled to himself.
"Ah! I was looking for you," said the king, laying his hand upon the
count's shoulder; "you were missing from my game, dear king of
cards, but now that I have you, I shall win."
The count had too good an ear not to recognize the king's voice in
spite of its disguise; but he was too nice a diplomatist to betray
his discovery by word or look.
"What game do you wish to play with me, mask?" Said he, following
the king into an adjoining and unoccupied room.
"A new game, the game of war!" said the king, harshly.
"The game of war," repeated the count; "I have never heard of that
The king did not answer at once; he was walking hastily up and down
"Count," said he, stopping before Manteuffel, "I am your friend. I
wish to give you some good advice. Leave Berlin to-night, and never
return to it!"
"Why do you advise this?" said the count, coolly.
"Because otherwise you are in danger of being imprisoned as a
traitor and hung as a spy! Make no answer; attempt no defence. I am
your friend, but I am also the friend of the king. I would guard you
from a punishment, though a just one; and I would also guard him
from embarrassment and vexation. The king does not know that you are
an Austrian spy, in the pay of the imperial court. May he never know
it! He once loved you; and his anger would be terrible if informed
of your perfidy. Yes, Count Manteuffel, this prince was young,
inexperienced and trusting; he believed in your love and gave you
his heart. Let us spare his youth; let us spare him the humiliation
of despising and punishing the man he once loved. Oh, my God! it is
hard to trample a being contemptuously under foot whom you once
pressed lovingly to your heart. The king is gentle and affectionate:
he is not yet sufficiently hardened to bear without pain the blows
inflicted by a faithless friend. A day may come when the work of
such friends, when your work, may be accomplished, when King
Frederick will wear about his heart a coat-of-mail woven of
distrust; but, as I said, that time has not come. Do not await it,
count, for then the king would be inexorable toward you; he would
look upon you only as a spy and a traitor! Hasten, then, with flying
steps from Berlin."
"But how, if I remain and attempt to defend myself?" said the count,
"Do not attempt it; it would be in vain. For in the same moment that
you attempted to excuse yourself, the king would hear of your
cunning, your intrigues, your bribery, and your treachery; he would
know that you corresponded with his cook; that Madame von Brandt
kept a journal for you, which you sent to the Austrian court, and
for which you paid her a settled sum; he would know that you watched
his every word and step, and sold your information for Austrian
gold! No, no, dare not approach the king. A justification is
impossible. Leave here to-night, and never dare to tread again on
Prussian soil! Remember I am your friend; as such I address you."
"You then advise me to go at once, without taking leave of the
king?" said the count, who could not now conceal his embarrassment.
"I do! I command you," said the king; "I command you to leave this
castle on the spot! silently, without a word or sign, as beseems a
convicted criminal! I command you to leave Berlin to-night. It
matters not to me where yon go--to hell, if it suits your fancy."
The count obeyed silently, without a word; to the king he bowed and
left the room.
The king gazed after him till he was lost in the crowd. "And through
such men as that we lose our trust and confidence in our race; such
men harden our hearts," said he to himself. "Is that then true which
has been said by sages of all times, that princes are condemned to
live solitary and joyless lives; that they can never possess a
friend disinterested and magnanimous enough to love them for
themselves, and not for their power and glory? If so, why give our
hearts to men? Let us love and cherish our dogs, who are true and
honest, and love their masters whether they are princes or beggars.
Ah, there is Manteuffel's noble friend, that coquettish little
gypsy; we will for once change the usual order of things: I will
prophesy to her, instead of receiving her prophecies." The king
approached and whispered: "Pollnitz has found the precious letter,
and is anxious to return it to you."
"Where is he?" said the gypsy, joyously.
"Follow me," said Frederick, leading her to the same room where he
had dismissed Manteuffel. "Here we are, alone and unnoticed," said
the king, "and we can gossip to our heart's content."
Madame von Brandt laughed: "Two are needed for a gossip," said she;
"and how do you know that I am in the humor for that? You led me
here by speaking of a letter which Baron Pollnitz was to give me,
but I see neither Pollnitz nor the letter!"
"Pollnitz gave it to me to hand to you; but before I give it up I
will see if I have not already learned something of your art, and if
I cannot prophesy as well as yourself. Give me your hand: I will
tell your fortune."
Madame von Brandt silently held out her trembling hand; she had
recognized the voice; she knew it was the king who stood by her
The king studied her hand without touching it. "I see wonderful
things in this small hand. In this line it is written that you are a
dangerous friend, a treacherous subject, and a cruel flirt."
"Can you believe this?" said she, with a forced laugh.
"I do not only believe it, I know it. It is written in bold,
imperishable characters upon your hand and brow. Look! I see here,
that from a foreign land, for treacherous service, you receive large
sums of gold; here I see splendid diamonds, and there I read that
twenty thousand crowns are promised you if you prevent a certain
divorce. You tremble, and your hand shakes so I can scarcely read.
Keep your hand steady, madame; I wish to read not only your past but
your future life."
"I shall obey," whispered Madame von Brandt.
"Here I read of a dangerous letter, which fell, through your own
carelessness, into the wrong hands. If the king should read that
letter, your ruin would be unavoidable; he would punish you as a
traitor; you would not only be banished from court, but confined in
some strong fortress. When a subject conspires with the enemy during
time of war, this is the universal punishment. Be cautious, be
prudent, and the king will learn nothing of this, and you may be
"What must I do to avert my ruin?" she said, breathlessly.
"Banish yourself, madame; make some excuse to withdraw immediately
from Berlin; retire to your husband's estate, and there, in quiet
and solitude, think over and repent your crimes. When like Mary
Magdalene you have loved, and deceived, and betrayed, like her you
must repent, and see if God is as trusting as man; if you can
deceive Him with your tears as you once deceived us with your well-
acted friendship. Go try repentance with God; here it is of no
avail. This reformation, madame, must commence at once. You will
leave Berlin to-morrow, and will not return till the king himself
sends for you."
"I go!" said Madame von Brandt, weeping bitterly; "I go! but I carry
death in my heart, not because I am banished, but because I deserve
my punishment; because I have wounded the heart of my king, and my
soul withers under his contempt."
"Mary Magdalene," said Frederick, "truly you have a wondrous talent
for acting; a hint is enough for you, and you master your part at
once. But, madame, it is useless to act before the king; he will
neither credit your tears nor your repentance; he would remember
your crimes and pronounce your sentence. Hasten, then, to your place
of atonement. There you may turn saint, and curse the vain and giddy
world. Here is your letter--farewell!"
The king hastened away, and Madame von Brandt, weeping from shame
and humiliation, remained alone. The king passed rapidly through the
crowded saloon and stepped on the balcony; he had seen the nun
following him, and she came upon the balcony; he tore off his mask,
and confronting the trembling woman, he said, in a harsh voice.
"What do you want with me?"
"Your love," cried the nun, sinking upon her knees and raising her
hands imploringly to the king; "I want the love you once promised
me--the love which is my earthly happiness and my salvation--your
love, without which I must die; wanting which, I suffer the tortures
"Then suffer," said the king, harshly; retreating a few steps--"go
and suffer; endure the torments of purgatory, you deserve them; God
will not deliver you, nor will I."
"Alas! alas! I hear this, and I live," cried Madame von Morien,
despairingly. "Oh, my king, take pity on me; think of the heavenly
past; think of the intoxicating poison your words and looks poured
into my veins, and do not scorn and punish me because I am brought
almost to madness and death by your neglect. See what you have made
of me! see how poor Leontine has changed!" She threw back her veil,
and showed her pale and sorrowful countenance to the king.
He gazed at her sternly: "You have become old, madame," he said,
coldly--"old enough to tread in the new path you have so wisely
prepared for yourself. You who have so long been the votary of love,
are now old enough and plain enough to become a model of virtue.
Accept this order of virtue and modesty, promised you by the Empress
of Austria. The king will not divorce his wife, and as this is
supposed to be solely your work, the empress will not withhold the
"My God! he knows all, and he despises me!" cried Madame von Morien,
"Yes, he despises you," repeated the king; "he despises and he has
no pity on you! Farewell!"
Without again looking toward the broken-hearted woman, he turned
toward the dancing-saloon. Suddenly he felt a hand laid softly upon
his shoulder; he turned and saw at his side a woman in black, and
"One word, King Frederick," whispered the lady.
"Speak, what do you wish?" said the king, kindly.
"What do I wish?" said she, with a trembling voice; "I wish to see
you; to hear your voice once more before you go to the battle-field,
to danger, perhaps to death. I come to entreat you to be careful of
your life! remember it is a precious jewel, for which you are not
only answerable to God, but to millions of your subjects. Oh, my
king, do not plunge wantonly into danger; preserve yourself for your
country, your people, and your family; to all of whom you are
The king shook his head, smilingly. "No one is indispensable. A man
lost is like a stone thrown into the water; for a moment there is a
slight eddy, the waters whirl, then all trace disappears, and the
stream flows quietly and smoothly on. But not thus will I disappear.
If I am destined to fall in this combat to which I am now hastening,
my death shall be glorious, and my grave shall be known; it must, at
least, be crowned with laurels, as no one will consecrate it with
the tribute of love and tears. A king, you know, is never loved, and
no one weeps for his death; the whole world is too busily engaged in
welcoming his successor."
"Not so; not so with you, my king! you are deeply, fondly loved. I
know a woman who lives but in your presence--a woman who would die
of joy if she were loved by you; she would die of despair if death
should claim you; you, her youthful hero, her ideal, her god! For
this woman's sake who worships you; whose only joy you are; who
humbly lays her love at your feet, and only asks to die there; for
her sake I implore you to be careful of yourself; do not plunge
wantonly into danger, and thus rob Prussia of her king; your queen
of the husband whom she adores, and for whom she is ready at any
hour to give her heart's blood."
The king clasped gently the folded hands of the veiled lady within
his own; he knew her but too well.
"Are you so well acquainted with the queen that you know all the
secrets of her heart?"
"Yes, I know the queen," whispered she; "I am the only confidant of
her sorrows. I only know how much she loves, how much she suffers."
"I pray you, then, go to the queen and bid her farewell for me. Tell
her that the king honors no other woman as he honors her; that he
thinks she is exalted enough to be placed among the noble women of
the olden times. He is convinced she would say to her warrior
husband, as the Roman wives said to their fathers, husbands, and
sons, when handing their shields, 'Return with them or upon them!'
Tell Elizabeth Christine that the King of Prussia will return from
this combat with his hereditary foe as a conqueror, or as a corpse.
He cares little for life, but much for honor; he must make his name
glorious, perchance by the shedding of his blood. Tell Elizabeth
Christine this, and tell her also that on the day of battle her
friend and brother will think of her; not to spare himself, but to
remember gratefully that, in that hour, a noble and pure woman is
praying to God for him. And now adieu: I go to my soldiers--you to
He bowed respectfully, and hurried to the music-room. The queen
followed him with tearful eyes, and then drawing her hood tightly
over her face, she hurried through a secret door into her
apartments. While the queen was weeping and praying in her room, the
king was putting on his uniform, and commanding the officers to
assemble in the court-yard.
Prince Augustus William was still tarrying in the dancing-saloon: he
did not dance; no one knew he was there. He had shown himself for a
few hours in a magnificent fancy suit, but unmasked; he then left
the ballroom, saying he still had some few preparations to make for
his journey. Soon, however, he returned in a common domino and
closely masked; no one but Laura von Pannewitz was aware of his
presence; they were now standing together in a window, whose heavy
curtains hid them from view. It was a sad pleasure to look once more
into each other's eyes, to feel the warm pressure of loving hands,
to repeat those pure and holy vows which their trembling lips had so
often spoken; every fond word fell like glorious music upon their
young hearts. The moment of separation had come; the officers were
assembled, and the solemn beating of drums was heard.
"I must leave you, my beloved, my darling," whispered the prince,
pressing the weeping girl to his heart. Laura sobbed convulsively.
"Leave me, alas, perhaps never to return!"
"I shall return, my Laura," said he, with a forced smile. "I am no
hero; I shall not fall upon the battlefield. I know this; I feel it.
I feel also that if this was to be my fate, I should be spared many
sorrowful and agonizing hours; how much better a quick, glorious
death, than this slow torture, this daily death of wretchedness! Oh,
Laura, I have presentiments, in which my whole future is covered
with clouds and thick darkness, through which even your lovely form
is not to be seen; I am alone, all alone!"
"You picture my own sufferings, my own fears," whispered Laura.
"Alas! I forget the rapture of the present in the dim and gloomy
future. Oh, my beloved, my heart does not beat with joy when I look
at you; it overflows with despair. I am never to see you again, my
prince; our fond farewell is to be our last! Oh, believe me, this
sad presentiment is the voice of Fate, warning us to escape from
this enchanting vision, with which we have, lulled our souls to
sleep. We have forgotten our duty, and we are warned that a cruel
necessity will one day separate us!"
"Nothing shall separate us!" said the prince; "no earthly power
shall come between us. The separation of to-day, which honor demands
of me, shall be the last. When I return, I will remind you of your
oath; I will claim your promise, which God heard and accepted. Our
love is from God, and no stain rests upon it; God, therefore, will
watch over it, and will not withhold His blessing; with His help, we
will conquer all difficulties, and we can dispense with the
approbation of the world."
Laura shook her head sadly: "I have not this happy confidence; and I
have not the strength to bear this painful separation. At times when
I have been praying fervently for help, it seems to me that God is
standing by and strengthening me to obey the command of the dowager-
queen and give my hand to Count Voss. But when I wish to speak the
decisive word my lips are closed as with a band of iron; it seems to
me that, could I open them, the only sound I should utter would be a
cry so despairing as to drive me to madness."
The prince pressed her fondly to his heart: "Swear to me, Laura,
that you will never be so faithless, so cowardly, as to yield to the
threats of my mother," said he, passionately; "swear that you will
be true to your oath; that oath by which you are mine--mine to all
eternity; my wedded wife!"
"I swear it," said she, solemnly, fixing her eyes steadily upon his
"They will take advantage of my absence to torture you. My mother
will overwhelm you with reproaches, threats, and entreaties; but, if
you love me, Laura, you will find strength to resist all this. As
yet my mother does not know that it is I whom you love; I who
worship you; she suspects that the king or the young Prince of
Brunswick possesses your heart. But chance may betray our love, and
then her anger would be terrible. She would lose no time in
separating us; would stop at nothing. Then, Laura, be firm and
faithful; believe no reports, no message, no letter; trust only in
me and in my word. I will not write to you, for my letters might be
intercepted. I will send no messenger to you; he might be bribed. If
I fall in battle, and God grants me strength in dying, I will send
you a last embrace and a last loving word, by some pitying friend.
In that last hour our love will have nothing to fear from the world,
the king, or my mother. You will always be in my thoughts, darling,
and my spirit will be with you."
"And if you fall, God will have mercy on me and take me from this
cruel world; it will be but a grave for me when no longer gladdened
by your presence."
The prince kissed her fondly, and slipped a ring on her finger.
"That is our engagement ring," said he. "Now you are mine; you wear
my ring; this is the first link of that chain with which I will bind
your whole life to mine! You are my prisoner; nothing can release
you. But listen! what is that noise? The king has descended to the
court; he will be looking for me. Farewell, my precious one; God and
His holy angels guard you!"
He stepped slowly from behind the curtains and closed them carefully
after him, so as to conceal Laura; he passed hastily through the
rooms to his apartment, threw off the domino which concealed his
uniform, and seizing his sword he hastened to the court. The king
was surrounded by his generals and officers; all eyes were fixed
upon him; he had silenced every objection. There was amongst them
but one opinion and one will, the will and opinion of the king, whom
all felt to be their master, not only by divine right, but by his
mighty intellect and great soul. Frederick stood amongst them, his
countenance beaming with inspiration, his eagle eye sparkling and
glowing with the fire of thought, and a smile was on his lips which
won all hearts. Behind him stood the Prince of Anhault Dessau, old
Zeithen, General Vinterfeldt, and the adjutant-generals. Above them
floated a magnificent banner, whose motto, "Pro gloria et patria,"
was woven in gold. Frederick raised his naked sword and greeted the
waving colors; he spoke, and his full, rich voice filled the immense
"Gentlemen, I undertake this war with no other ally than your stout
hearts; my cause is just; I dare ask God's help! Remember the renown
our great ancestors gained on the battle-field of Ferbellin! Your
future is in your own hands; distinction must be won by gallant and
daring deeds. We are to attack soldiers who gained imperishable
names under Prince Eugene. How great will be our glory if we
vanquish such warriors! Farewell! Go! I follow without delay!"
The first campaign of the young King of Prussia had been a bloodless
one. Not one drop of blood had been shed. A sentinel at the gate of
Breslau had refused to allow the Prussian general to enter, and
received for his daring a sounding box on the ear, which sent him
reeling backward. The general with his staff entered the conquered
capital of Silesia, without further opposition. Breslau was the
capital of a province which for more than a hundred years had not
been visited by any member of the royal house of Austria. The heavy
taxes imposed upon her were the only evidence that she belonged to
the Austrian dominions. Breslau did not hesitate to receive this
young and handsome king, who as he marched into the city gave a
kindly, gracious greeting to all; who had a winning smile for all
those richly-dressed ladies at the windows; who had written with his
own hand a proclamation in which he assured the Silesians that he
came not as an enemy, and that every inhabitant would be secured in
their rights, privileges, and freedom in their religion, worth, and
service. The ties which bound the beautiful province of Silesia to
Austria had long ago been shattered, and the prophecy of the king
had already been fulfilled--that prophecy made in Krossen. As the
king entered Krossen with his army, the clock of the great church
tower fell with a thundering noise, and carried with it a portion of
the old church. A superstitious fear fell upon the whole Prussian
army; even the old battle-stained warriors looked grim and
thoughtful. The king alone smiled, and said:
"The fall of this clock signifies that the pride of the house of
Austria will be humbled. Caesar fell when landing in Africa, and
exclaimed: 'I hold thee, Africa!'"
Those great men would not allow themselves to be influenced by evil
omens. Quickly, indeed, was Frederick's prophecy fulfilled. The
house of Austria was suddenly humbled, and the Prussian army was
quietly in possession of one of her capitals. Frederick had been
joyfully received, not only by the Protestants, who had so long
suffered from the bitterest religious persecution, and to whom the
king now promised absolute freedom of conscience and unconditional
exercise of their religious worship, but by the Catholics, even the
priests and Jesuits, who were completely fascinated by the intellect
and amiability of Frederick. No man mourned for the Austrian yoke,
and the Prussians became great favorites with the Silesians,
particularly with the women, who, heart in hand, advanced to meet
them; received the handsome and well-made soldiers as lovers, and
hastened to have these tender ties made irrevocable by the blessing
of the priest. Hundreds of marriages between the Prussians and the
maidens of the land were solemnized during the six weeks Frederick
remained in Silesia. These men, who, but a few weeks before, came as
enemies and conquerors, were now adopted citizens, thus giving their
king a double right to the possession of these provinces.
It soon became the mode for the Silesian girl to claim a Prussian
lover, and the taller and larger the lover, the prouder and more
happy was the lucky possessor. Baron Bielfeld, who accompanied the
king to Breslau, met in the street one day a beautiful bourgeoise,
who was weeping bitterly and wringing her hands; Bielfeld inquired
the cause of her tears, and she replied naively:
"Alas! I am indeed an object of pity; eight days ago I was betrothed
to a Prussian grenadier, who measured five feet and nine inches; I
was very happy and very proud of him. To-day one of the guard, who
measured six feet and two inches, proposed to me; and I weep now
because so majestic and handsome a giant is offered me, and I cannot
The king won the women through his gallant soldiers, the ladies of
the aristocracy, through his own beauty, grace, and eminent
intellect. Frederick gave a ball to the aristocracy of Breslau, and
all the most distinguished and noble families, who had been before
closely bound to the house of Austria, eagerly accepted the
invitation; they wished to behold the man who was a hero and a poet,
a cavalier and a warrior, a youth and a philosopher; who was young
and handsome, and full of life; who did not wrap himself in stiff,
ceremonious forms, and appeared in the presence of ladies to forget
that he was a king. He worshipped the ladies as a cavalier, and when
they accepted the invitation to dance, considered it a flattering
favor. While winning the hearts of the women through his gallantry
and beauty, he gained the voices of men by the orders and titles
which he scattered broadcast through the province.
"I dreamed last night," said he to Pollnitz, laughing, "that I
created princes, dukes, and barons in Breslau; help me to make my
dream a reality by naming to me some of the most prominent
Pollnitz selected the names, and Prince von Pless, Duke Hockburg,
and many others rose up proudly from this creative process of the
Silesia belonged, at this moment, unconditionally to Prussia. The
king could now return to Berlin and devote himself to study, to
friendship, and his family. The first act of that great drama called
the Seven Years' War was now finished. The king should now, between
the acts, give himself up to the arts and sciences, and strengthen
himself for that deep tragedy of which he was resolved to be the
hero. Berlin received her king with shouts of joy, and greeted him
as a demigod. He was no longer, in the eyes of the imperious
Austrians, the little Margrave of Brandenburg, who must hold the
wash-basin for the emperor; he was a proud, self-sustaining king, no
longer receiving commands from Austria, but giving laws to the proud
daughter of the Caesars.
The queen-mother and the young princesses met the king at the outer
gates. The queen Elizabeth Christine, her eyes veiled with rapturous
tears, received her husband tremblingly. Alas! he had for her only a
silent greeting, a cold, ceremonious bow. But she saw him once more;
she could lose her whole soul in those melting eyes, in which she
was ever reading the most enchanting magical fairy tales. In these
days of ceremony he could not refuse her a place by his side; to sit
near him at table, and at the concerts with which the royal chapel
and the newly-arrived Italian singers would celebrate the return of
the king. Graun had composed a piece of music in honor of this
occasion, and not only the Italian singer, Laura Farinelli, but a
scholar of Graun and Quantz, a German singer, Anna Prickerin, would
then be heard for the first time. This would be for Anna an eventful
and decisive day; she stood on the brink of a new existence--an
existence made glorious by renown, honor, and distinction.
It was nothing to her that her father lay agonizing upon his death-
bed; it was nothing to her that her brother William had left his
home three days before, and no one knew what had become of him. She
asked no questions about father or brother; she sorrowed not for the
mother lately dead and buried. She had but one thought, one desire,
one aim--to be a celebrated singer, to obtain the hand of a man whom
she neither loved nor esteemed, but who was a baron and an
influential lord of the court. The object of Anna's life was to
become the wife of the baron, not for love. She wished to hide her
ignoble birth under the glitter of his proud name; it was better to
be the wife of a poor baron than the daughter of a tailor, even
though he should be the court tailor, and a millionnaire.
The king had been in Berlin but two days, and Pollnitz had already
made a visit to his beautiful Anna. Never had he been so
demonstrative and so tender; never before had he been seriously
occupied with the thought of making her his wife; never had he
looked upon it as possible. The example of Count Rhedern gave him
courage; what the king had granted to the daughter of the merchant,
he could not refuse to the daughter of the court tailor, more
particularly when the latter, by her own gifts and talents, had
opened the doors of the palace for herself; when by the power of her
siren voice she had made the barriers tremble and fall which
separated the tailor's daughter from the court circle. If the lovely
Anna became a celebrated singer, if she succeeded in winning the
applause of the king, she would be ennobled; and no one could
reproach the baron for making the beautiful prima donna his wife.
If, therefore, she pleased the king, Pollnitz was resolved to
confess himself her knight, and to marry her as soon as possible--
yes, as soon as possible, for his creditors followed him, persecuted
him at every step, even threatened him with judgment and a prison.
Pollnitz reminded the king that he had promised, after his return
from Silesia, to assist him. Frederick replied that he had not yet
seen a battle-field, and was at the beginning and not the end of a
war, for which he would require more gold than his treasuries
contained; "wait patiently, also," he said, "for the promised day,
for only then can I fulfil my promise." It was, therefore, a
necessity with Pollnitz to find some way of escape from this
terrible labyrinth; and with an anxiously-beating heart he stood on
the evening of the concert behind the king's chair, to watch every
movement and every word, and above all to notice the effect produced
by the voice of his Anna.
The king was uncommonly gay and gracious; these two days in his
beloved Berlin, after weeks of fatigue and weariness in Silesia, had
filled his heart with gladness. He had given almost a lover's
greeting to his books and his flute, and his library seemed to him a
sanctified home; with joy he exchanged his sword for a pen, and
instead of drawing plans of battle, he wrote verses or witty letters
to Voltaire, whom he still honored, and in a certain sense admired,
although the six days which Voltaire had spent in Rheinsberg, just
before the Silesian campaign, had somewhat diminished his admiration
for the French author. After Frederick's first meeting with Voltaire
at the castle of Moyland, he said of him, "He is as eloquent as
Cicero, as charming as Plinius, and as wise as Agrippa; he combines
in himself all the virtues and all the talents of the three greatest
men of the ancients." He now called the author of the "Henriade" a
FOOL; it excited and troubled his spirit to see that this great
author was mean and contemptible in character, cold and cunning in
heart. He had loved Voltaire as a friend, and now he confessed with
pain that Voltaire's friendship was a possession which must be
cemented with gold, if you did not wish to lose it. The king who, a
few months before, had compared him to Cicero, Plinius, and Agrippa,
now said to Jordan, "The miser, Voltaire, has still an unsatisfied
longing for gold, and asks still thirteen hundred dollars! Every one
of the six days which he spent with me cost me five hundred and
fifty dollars! I call that paying dear for a fool! Never before was
a court fool so generously rewarded."
To-day Frederick was expecting a new enjoyment; to-day, for the
first time, he was to hear the new Italian singer. This court
concert promised him, therefore, a special enjoyment, and he awaited
it with youthful impatience.
At last Graun gave the signal for the introduction; Frederick had no
ear for this simple, beautiful, and touching music; and the masterly
solo of Quantz upon the flute drew from him a single bravo; he
thought only of the singers, and at last the chorus began.
The heart of Pollnitz beat loud and quick as he glanced at Anna, who
stood proud and grave, in costly French toilet, far removed from the
Farinelli. Anna examined the court circles quietly, and looked as
unembarrassed as if she had been long accustomed to such society.
The chorus was at an end, and Laura Farinelli had the first aria to
sing. Anna Prickerin could have murdered her for this. The Italian,
in the full consciousness of her power, returned Anna's scorn with a
half-mocking, half-contemptuous smile; she then fixed her great,
piercing eyes upon the music, and began to sing.
Anna could have cried aloud in her rage, for she saw that the king
was well pleased: he nodded his head, and a gay smile overspread his
features; she saw that the whole court circle made up enchanted
faces immediately, and that even Pollnitz assumed an entirely happy
and enthusiastic mien. The Farinelli saw all this, and the royal
applause stimulated her; her full, glorious voice floated and
warbled in the artistic "Fioritures" and "Roulades," then dreamed
itself away in soft, melodious tones; again it rose into the
loftiest regions of sound, and was again almost lost in the simple,
touching melodies of love.
"Delicious! superb!" said the king, aloud, as Farinelli concluded.
"Exalted! godlike!" cried Pollnitz; and now, as the royal sign had
been given, the whole court dared to follow the example, and to
utter light and repressed murmurs of wonder and applause.
Anna felt that she turned pale; her feet trembled; she could have
murdered the Italian with her own hands! this proud Farinelli, who
at this moment looked toward her with a questioning and derisive
glance; and her eyes seemed to say, "Will you yet dare to sing?"
But Anna had the proud courage to dare. She said to herself, "I
shall triumph over her; her voice is as thin as a thread, and as
sharp as a fine needle, while mine is full and powerful, and rolls
like an organ; and as for her 'Fioritures,' I understand them as
well as she."
With this conviction she took the notes in her hand, and waited for
the moment when the "Ritornelle" should be ended; she returned with
a quiet smile the anxious look which her teacher, Quantz, fixed upon
The "Ritornelle" was ended. Anna began her song; her voice swelled
loudly and powerfully, far above the orchestra, but the king was
dull and immovable; he gave not the slightest token of applause.
Anna saw this, and her voice, which had not trembled with fear, now
trembled with rage; she was resolved to awake the astonishment of
the king by the strength and power of her voice; she would compel
him to applaud! She gathered together the whole strength of her
voice and made so powerful an effort that her poor chest seemed
about to burst asunder; a wild, discordant strain rose stunningly
upon the air, and now she had indeed the triumph to see that the
king laughed! Yes, the king laughed! but not with the same smile
with which he greeted Farinelli, but in mockery and contempt. He
turned to Pollnitz, and said:
"What is the name of this woman who roars so horribly?"
Pollnitz shrugged his shoulders; he had a kind of feeling as if that
moment his creditors had seized him by the throat.
"Sire," whispered he, "I believe it is Anna Prickerin." The king
laughed; yes, in spite of the "Fioritures" of the raging singer, who
had seen Pollnitz's shrug of the shoulders, and had vowed in the
spirit to take a bloody vengeance.
Louder and louder the fair Anna shrieked, but the king did not
applaud. She had now finished the last note of her aria, and
breathlessly with loudly-beating heart she waited for the applause
of the king. It came not! perfect stillness reigned; even Pollnitz
"Do you know, certainly, that this roaring woman is the daughter of
our tailor?" said the king.
Pollnitz answered, "Yes," with a bleeding heart.
"I have often heard that a tailor was called a goat, but his
children are nevertheless not nightingales, and poor Pricker can
sooner force a camel through the eye of his needle than make a
songstress of his daughter. The Germans cannot sing, and it is an
incomprehensible mistake of Graun to bring such a singer before us."
"She is a pupil of Quantz," said Pollnitz, "and he has often assured
me she would make a great singer."
"Ah, she is a pupil of Quantz," repeated the king, and his eye
glanced around in search of him. Quantz, with an angry face, and his
eyebrows drawn together, was seated at his desk. "Alas!" said
Frederick, "when he makes such a face as that, he grumbles with me
for two days, and is never pleased with my flute. I must seek to
mollify him, therefore, and when this Mademoiselle Prickerin sings
again I will give a slight sign of applause."
But Anna Prickerin sang no more; angry scorn shot like a stream of
fire through her veins, she felt suffocated; tears rushed to her
eyes; every thing about her seemed to be wavering and unsteady; and
as her listless, half-unconscious glances wandered around, she met
the gay, triumphant eyes of the Farinelli fixed derisively upon her.
Anna felt as if a sword had pierced her heart; she uttered a fearful
cry, and sank unconscious to the floor.
"What cry was that?" said the king, "and what signifies this strange
movement among the singers?"
"Sire, it appears that the Prickerin has fallen into a fainting-
fit," said Pollnitz.
The king thought this a good opportunity to pacify Quantz by showing
an interest in his pupil. "That is indeed a most unhappy
circumstance," said the king, aloud. "Hasten, Pollnitz, to inquire
in my name after the health of this gifted young singer. If she is
still suffering, take one of my carriages and conduct her yourself
to her home, and do not leave her till you can bring me satisfactory
intelligence as to her recovery." So saying, the king cast a stolen
glance toward the much-dreaded Quantz, whose brow had become
somewhat clearer, and his expression less threatening. "We will,
perhaps," whispered the king, "escape this time with one day's
growling; I think I have softened him." Frederick seated himself,
and gave the signal for the concert to proceed; he saw that, with
the assistance of the baron, the unconscious songstress had been
THE DEATH OF THE OLD TIME.
The music continued, while Pollnitz, filled with secret dread,
ordered a court carriage, according to the command of the king, and
entered it with the still insensible songstress.
"The king does not know what a fearful commission he has given me,"
thought Pollnitz, as he drove through the streets with Anna
Prickerin, and examined her countenance with terror. "Should she now
awake, she would overwhelm me with her rage. She is capable of
scratching out my eyes, or even of strangling me."
But his fear was groundless. Anna did not stir; she was still
unconscious, as the carriage stopped before the house of her father.
No one came to meet them, although Pollnitz ordered the servant to
open the door, and the loud ringing of the bell sounded throughout
the house. No one appeared as Pollnitz, with the assistance of the
servants, lifted the insensible Anna from the carriage and bore her
into the house to her own room. As the baron placed her carefully
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