NAPOLEON AND BLUCHER
Part 4 out of 12
the commander of the cavalry, General von Massenbach, notifies
Marshal Macdonald that he has acceded to York's convention, and
henceforth will no longer obey the marshal's orders. Conformably to
this convention, the Prussian troops have already left the positions
assigned them by Marshal Macdonald, and returned to Prussian
"It is true; there can be no doubt of it," said Hardenberg, with a
deep sigh, and handing back to the marshal the papers which he had
rapidly glanced over. He then rose from his chair and said: "This is
so unparalleled and unexpected an event, that I am at the present
moment almost unable to collect my thoughts. You will pardon me,
therefore, for leaving you; above all, I have to inform his majesty,
the king, of this important intelligence, and receive his orders in
regard to it. But then I beg leave to see Count St. Marsan at his
residence, to confer with him as to the measures to be taken
concerning this terrible event."
"I will await you at whatever hour of the night it may be," said
Count St. Marsan; "I am now about to return to my residence."
"And I to the king!" exclaimed Hardenberg, taking leave.
THE DEFECTION OF GENERAL YORK.
King Frederick William had just returned to his cabinet after
attending to the last business, which he never neglected to perform
on any day of the year; that is to say, he had repaired to the
bedrooms of his children, and bidden the little sleepers "good-
night" by gently kissing them. In former times he did this by the
side of his wife, with a happy heart and a smiling face; it had
been, as it were, the last seal both pressed, at the close of every
day of their common happiness, upon the foreheads of their sleeping
children. But since Louisa had left him, to bid this "good-night"
had become, as it were, a sacred pilgrimage to his most precious
recollections. When he passed through the silent corridors at night,
and entered the rooms of his sons and daughters, he thought of her
who had left him three years before, but whom he believed he saw,
with her sweet smile and loving eyes. He took pains to remind such
of his children as he found awake of their dear departed parent,
whispering to them, "Remember your noble mother, whose eyes behold
you." And on the lips of those asleep he never failed to press two
kisses--one for himself and the other for Louisa.
The king had just returned to his cabinet, and, like a dying glimmer
of twilight, a faint smile was illuminating his countenance, which,
since the queen's death, had grown grave and sad. He seated himself
on the sofa where she had so often sat by his side, and cast a
mournful glance upon the vacant place beside him. "Alone! Always
alone!" he said in a low voice. "Nothing around me but intrigues,
quarrels, and malice! No one who loves me! Alone!" With a quick
motion he turned his head toward the side of the wall where hung
over his desk the portrait of Queen Louisa, in her white dress, and
a rose on her bosom. "Where are you, then, Louisa!" he exclaimed;
"why did you leave me, though you had sworn to bear joy and grief
with me? You are not here to share them, and--" Suddenly the king
paused and turned his eyes toward the door. It seemed to him as
though he heard hasty footsteps, and some one softly rapping at his
door. Who, at this unusual hour, could ask for admittance? Who could
dare now interrupt his solitude, when it was well understood he
desired to be left alone?
The rapping was repeated, louder than before, and a timid, imploring
voice asked, "Has his majesty returned to his cabinet?"
"It is Timm, my chamberlain," said the king. "What can he want of
Ordering him in a loud tone to walk in, the door was immediately
opened, and the chamberlain appeared on the threshold. "Pardon me,
sire," he said, "but his excellency Chancellor von Hardenberg is in
the anteroom, and urgently requests your majesty to grant him an
"Hardenberg!" exclaimed the king, anxiously. "What has happened;
what--" He interrupted himself: "I will see the chancellor. Admit
him at once."
The chamberlain withdrew. The king arose and advanced several steps
toward the door; then, as if ashamed of his own impatience, he
stopped, while his face expressed the agitation of his mind.
Hardenberg entered, and, closing the door rapidly, approached the
king. "Your majesty," he said, "I beg pardon for daring to disturb
you at so late an hour; but the extraordinary importance of the news
I bring to you will be my excuse. I was at the supper-table of
Marshal Augereau, in company with the French ambassador, Count St.
Marsan, when important dispatches, just arrived from the army, were
delivered to the ambassador."
"A battle has been fought, has it not? Has my corps been routed?"
asked the king, breathlessly.
"No, your majesty, there has been no battle. A much more
extraordinary event has taken place, General von York has concluded
a convention with the Russian General Diebitsch, and signed a treaty
by which the troops commanded by York separate from the French, and
engage to remain neutral for two months."
"That is not true!" exclaimed the king. "A mere rumor!--an
"Your majesty, it is but too true. I myself have read the autograph
letters in which Generals York and Massenbach inform Marshal
Macdonald of their resolution not to obey his orders longer."
The king pressed his hands against his temple, and exclaimed, in a
tremulous voice: "Oh, this is enough to throw one into a state of
apoplexy! [Footnote: The king's own words.--Vide Droysen's "Life of
York, "vol. ii., p. 36.] It is unheard of, contrary to military law,
contrary to all international obligations! It is open rebellion,
revolutionary resistance to his king and commander-in-chief! A
general who dares commit so terrible a crime must be tried by court-
martial, and sentence of death passed upon him. I cannot pardon
"Your majesty," said Hardenberg, in dismay, "it is possible that
General York may have committed a crime against discipline, but,
nevertheless, it is an heroic and magnanimous deed, and no Prussian
court-martial will dare inflict punishment on him. We do not yet
know the urgent circumstances obliging the general to make this
decision; we do not yet know from what dangers he may have preserved
the Prussian army by his quick and resolute step."
"But we know that he has committed an unparalleled crime against
"A crime by which he may perhaps have saved Prussia from utter
destruction! The general will be able to justify his deed."
"But it seems that he does not even deem it necessary to inform me
of his proceedings," exclaimed the king, indignantly. "He appears to
have made himself dictator, and as he does not recognize my military
laws, he refuses also to acknowledge me as commander-in-chief, to
whom he owes obedience."
"Your majesty, I believe there is his justification already," said
Hardenberg, pointing at Timm the chamberlain, who reentered the room
at this moment.
"Well, what is it, Timm?" asked the king, hastily.
"Your majesty, a courier from General von York has just arrived; he
is bearer of dispatches, which he is to deliver to your majesty in
"Who is the courier?" asked the king.
"The general's aide-de-camp, Major Thile."
"Let him come in," said the king.
The jingle of spurs, and heavy, weary footsteps were heard
approaching; Major von Thile entered. His uniform was covered with
dust and mud; his hair hung in wet locks upon his forehead, and
there shone in his mustache the snow-flakes with which the stormy
night had adorned it.
"Did you arrive now?" asked the king, eying him closely.
"I did, your majesty, and, agreeably to the orders of General von
York, have had myself driven directly to the royal palace, for the
general deemed it of the highest importance that I should deliver my
dispatches as soon as possible to your majesty. Hence I rode night
and day, and, my horse breaking down today, I was obliged to take a
"But the French courier reached Berlin earlier than you did," said
the king, gruffly. "How does that happen? Have the French quicker
horses or more devoted soldiers?"
"No, your majesty, their road to Berlin was shorter than mine, that
is all. As I could not ride across the French camp, I had to take a
roundabout road by way of Gumbinnen. This caused a delay of four
"Give me your dispatches," said the king.
Major Thile handed him a large sealed paper. The king extended his
hand to take it, but suddenly withdrew it again and started back.
"No," he said, "it does not behoove a king to receive letters from a
traitorous subject--a rebellious soldier. Take this dispatch, M.
Chancellor; open and read it to me. Give it to his excellency."
Major Thile handed Hardenberg the letter, and, while he was doing
so, the eyes of the two men met. The major's eyes expressed an
anxious question, those of Hardenberg made him a sad and painful
reply, and both were unable to restrain a sigh.
"Read," said the king, stepping into the window-niche, folding his
hands on his breast, and placing himself so that the curtains shaded
his face, and screened it from the two gentlemen.
Hardenberg unfolded the paper and read as follows:
"To his Majesty the King:--Tauroggen, December 30, 18l2.--Placed in
a very unfavorable position by setting out at a later day than the
marshal did, and being ordered to march from Mitau to Tilsit, for
the sole purpose of covering the retreat of the seventh division, I
have been compelled, on account of impassable roads, and very severe
weather, to conclude with the Russian commander, Major-General
Diebitsch, the enclosed convention, which I beg leave to lay before
your majesty. Firmly convinced that a continuation of the march
would have unavoidably brought about the dissolution of the whole
corps, and the loss of its entire artillery and baggage, as was the
case of the retreat of the grand army, I believe it was incumbent
upon me, as your majesty's faithful subject, to regard your
interest, and no longer that of your ally, for whom our auxiliary
corps would only have been sacrificed without being able to afford
him any real assistance in the desperate predicament in which he was
placed. The convention imposes no obligations whatever upon your
majesty, but it preserves to you a corps that gives value to the old
alliance, or a new one, if such should be concluded, and prevents
your majesty from being at the mercy of an ally at whose hands you
would have to receive as a gift the preservation or restoration of
your states. I would willingly lay my head at the feet of your
majesty if I have erred; I would die with the joyous conviction of
having at least committed no act contrary to my duty as a faithful
subject and a true Prussian. Now or never is the time for your
majesty to extricate yourself from the thraldom of an ally whose
intentions in regard to Prussia are veiled in impenetrable darkness,
and justify the most serious alarm. That consideration has guided
me. God grant it may be for the salvation of the country!--YORK."
[Footnote: Droysen's "Life of York," vol. i., p. 493.]
A pause ensued. The king still stood with folded arms in the window-
niche, his face shaded by the curtains, and inaccessible to the
anxious and searching glances of Hardenberg and the major.
"Does your majesty now command me to read the convention?" asked the
"No," said the king, sternly, "what do I care for a convention drawn
up by a traitor? I would not be at liberty to accept it even though
it should secure me new provinces.--Major Thile!"
"Your majesty!" said the major, advancing a few steps with stiff,
"Were you present at the negotiations preceding this convention? Are
you familiar with the circumstances that led to it?"
"Yes, your majesty; General von York deigned to repose implicit
confidence in me; I am perfectly familiar with the course of the
negotiations, and was present when the convention was concluded. I
observed the inward struggles of the general; I witnessed the
terrible conflict that took place in his breast between his duty as
a soldier and his conscience as a faithful subject of your majesty.
As a soldier he was conscious of the crime he was about to commit
against discipline; as a faithful subject, he felt that he ought to
commit it if he wished to avoid plunging a corps of ten thousand
men, belonging to your majesty alone, into utter and irretrievable
"Did the negotiations last a long time? Speak! I want to know all;
but, understand me well, the truth. No protestations! Speak now!"
"Yes, your majesty, the negotiations had been going on for some
time; in fact, ever since the so-called 'grand army' made its
appearance in miserable, ragged, and starving squads--mere crowds of
woe-begone, famished beggars--while the splendid and powerful
Russian forces were constantly approaching closer to our positions
and the Prussian frontier. The Russian generals, Prince Wittgenstein
and General Diebitsch, were sending one messenger after another to
York and informing him of the dangers of his position, surrounded on
all sides by Russian troops. They advised him therefore to yield,
unless he wished needlessly to expose the soldiers of your majesty
to inevitable destruction. They urged him, for the salvation of
Prussia, to grasp the saving hand that was being held out to him,
and compel Prussia to forsake an utterly ruined ally, who, in order
to secure a brief respite, would assuredly not hesitate to sacrifice
for his own benefit Prussia's last strength and resources. But the
general was still unable to make up his mind to take a step which
might be disavowed by your majesty. In the mean time, however, the
news came that Memel had been taken and occupied by the Russians,
and Prince Wittgenstein simultaneously sent word that he had placed
a corps of fifty thousand men on the banks of the Niemen, and was
ready to pursue the French army, which would now seek safety in
Prussia. Prince Wittgenstein, therefore, demanded categorically
whether York would leave the French army, or whether he was to be
considered a part of it, and an enemy of Russia."
"And what did York reply?" asked the king, hastily.
"Your majesty, he was silent. Even we, his confidants, did not know
what decision he had come to. Suddenly a messenger from Marshal
Macdonald, who had succeeded in getting into our lines, appeared at
York's headquarters. He informed the general that the French troops
of the marshal were near Piktupohnen, and brought orders that York
should march to that place, where Macdonald would await him, and
that the French and Prussian forces should then be united.
Henceforth further hesitation was out of the question. The
messengers, both of the Russian General Diebitsch and the French
Marshal Macdonald, were at his headquarters, and insisted that he
should make up his mind as to the course to be pursued by his corps.
York either had to set out at once and force a passage through the
Russian lines, in order to join the French marshal at Piktupohnen,
or to refuse to obey the marshal's orders, and, instead of marching
upon Piktupohnen, join the Russians, and proceed to Prussia. But
General York had not yet made up his mind. Toward nightfall another
messenger from General Diebitsch arrived at his headquarters. This
messenger was Lieutenant-Colonel Clausewitz, whom Diebitsch had sent
to insist again on a categorical reply. York received him sullenly,
and said to him: 'Keep aloof from me. I do not wish to have any
thing to do with you. Your accursed Cossacks have allowed a
messenger from Macdonald to pass through your lines, and he has
brought me orders to march upon Piktupohnen, and there join him. All
doubts are at an end. Your troops do not arrive; you are too weak; I
decline continuing negotiations which would cost me my head.'"
[Footnote: York's own words.--Vide Droysen, vol. i., p. 486.]
"Did the general really say so?" asked the king, quickly. "Do you
tell me the truth?"
"Yes, your majesty, it is the whole truth. General York said so; I
was present when Clausewitz came to him. I remained with Colonel
Roden in the room when Clausewitz, at last, at his urgent request,
received from General York permission to deliver to him at least the
letters he had brought with him from Generals d'Anvray and
Diebitsch. The general read them; he then fixed his piercing eyes on
Clausewitz, and said: 'Clausewitz, you are a Prussian! Do you
believe that General d'Anvray's letter is sincere, and that
Wittgenstein's troops will be on the Niemen on the 31st of December?
Can you give me your word of honor upon it?' Lieutenant-Colonel
Clausewitz gave him his word of honor. York was silent, and
repeatedly paced the room, absorbed in his reflections; he then gave
Clausewitz his hand, and said in a firm voice, and with a sublime
air, 'You have me! Tell General Diebitsch that we will hold an
interview in the morning at the mill of Poscherun, and that I have
made up my mind to forsake the French and their cause. I will not go
to Piktupohnen!' When he said so, we who witnessed that great moment
were no longer able to restrain our transports. Forgetful alike of
etiquette and discipline, Roden, Clausewitz, and myself, rushed up
to the general to embrace him, thanking him with tearful eyes, and
telling him that he had fulfilled the most ardent wishes of the
whole corps, and that all Prussian officers would receive with
heart-felt rejoicings the news that we were to be delivered from the
French alliance. But York gazed on us with grave, gloomy eyes, and
said, with a faint smile; 'It is all very well for you, young men,
to talk in this way. But the head of your old commander is tottering
on his shoulders.' [Footnote: This whole scene is historical.--Vide
Droysen, vol. i., p. 487.] In the morning he summoned all the
officers of his corps to his headquarters, and informed them in an
affecting speech of the decision he had come to."
"What did he say?" asked the king. "Can you repeat his words to me?"
"I can, your majesty; for, after returning to my room, I wrote down
the speech I had heard in my memorandum-book, and I believe every
word of it was engraven in my memory."
"Have you your memorandum-book here?"
"I have, your majesty.'"
Major Thile drew his memorandum-book from his breast-pocket, and
read as follows: "'Gentlemen, the French army has been annihilated
by Heaven's avenging hand; the time has come for us to recover our
independence by uniting with the Russian army. Let those who share
my sentiments, and are ready to sacrifice their lives for the
fatherland and for liberty, follow me; those who are unwilling to do
so may remain with the French. Let the issue of our cause be
whatever it may, I shall always esteem and honor even those who do
not share my sentiments, and who prefer to remain. If we succeed,
the king may, perhaps, pardon me for what I have done; if we are
unsuccessful, then I must lose my head. In that case, I pray my
friends to take care of my wife and children.' Your majesty," said
Major Thile, closing his memorandum-book, "that was the whole
"And what did the officers reply to it?" asked the king. "Mind! the
truth!--I want to know the truth!"
"And I am courageous enough to tell you the truth, although I am
afraid that your majesty will be displeased. All the officers
received the general's speech with unbounded transports and with
tears of joy. They shook hands, they embraced, and greeted each
other, as if they had suddenly returned from a foreign country to
their beloved fatherland; as if their tongues had suddenly been
loosened, and liberty to use the language of their country had been
restored to them. No one thought of remaining with the French; every
one was animated with enthusiasm at the thought that he should at
length risk his life for the cause of his country and his king;
every one had in his heart, and on his lips, a fervent prayer for
the new sacred cause which he was to serve again, and an imprecation
for that which he had been obliged to serve. When the general
exclaimed, in a ringing voice, 'Let us then, with the assistance of
Providence, enter upon and achieve the task of liberation,' all
shouted 'Amen! We will die rather than serve the enemy longer!' Your
majesty, I have now told you nothing but the whole truth. If the
general deserves punishment, all the officers of his corps deserve
it. He called upon us to part with him if we did not share his
convictions. But none of us did so, for his convictions were ours,
and we are ready to share his punishment, too, if your majesty
should punish York for what he did, as a noble and devoted patriot!"
"Your remarks are impertinent, major," said the king sternly. "I
will not allow myself to be dazzled by your tirades. Go! You need
repose. Report to me early in the morning. You will then return with
dispatches to the army. Good-by!"
"Well, M. Chancellor," said the king, when Thile had left the room,
"tell me your opinion--the best way by which we may counteract this
senseless and rash step, and succeed in preserving our country from
the disastrous consequences."
"Your majesty, then, is not willing to approve of the bold act York
has taken?" asked Hardenberg.
"I hope you did not indulge for a moment in such a belief,"
exclaimed the king. "York was perhaps justified in preserving his
troops from being needlessly sacrificed; but he should have based
his conduct solely on this idea, and from it have explained his
action. Instead of doing so, he justifies it by political motives,
and thereby compromises and endangers my own position. Now, I am
myself entirely at the mercy of France, and utterly destitute of
means to brave the anger of Napoleon." [Footnote: The king's words.-
-Vide Droysen, vol. i., p. 488.]
"No," said Hardenberg, "your majesty is not entirely at the mercy of
France, and Napoleon's anger must no longer be allowed to terrify
Prussia. You have only to raise your voice and call out your
faithful subjects, and the whole nation will rise as one man;
thousands will rally round their king, and you will enter with an
invincible army upon the holy war of liberation. It will not be with
a visible army only that you will take the field--an invisible army
will accompany you--the army of minds and hearts, the grand army
whose chieftain is public opinion, whose soldier is every beggar on
the street, whose cannon is every word that is uttered, every love-
greeting and every blessing. Oh, your majesty, this 'grand army'
will pave the way for you, and will enlist everywhere new recruits,
fill your military chests, clothe and feed your soldiers, and, under
your colors, fight the enemy whom all Germany--all Europe hates
intensely, and whose yoke every one feels weighing upon his neck.
Oh, let me assure your majesty that it is only for you to be
willing, and all Prussia will rally round you for the war of
"But I must not be willing," said the king; "it is contrary to my
honor and my conscience. I pledged my word to the Emperor Napoleon;
I am his ally; I am deeply impressed with the sanctity of my
existing treaties with France, and feel, as every man of honor
would, that the obligation to maintain them inviolate is only
rendered the more sacred by the disasters which have overwhelmed the
imperial armies. Besides, you look at things in a light by far too
partial and rose-colored. Do not confound your enthusiastic hopes
with stern reality. The 'grand army of public opinion,' to which you
refer, is an ally which cannot be depended upon--it is fickle,
turning with every wind--it is an ally prodigal of words, but not of
deeds. If my soldiers were to be clothed, and fed by public opinion,
they would likely go naked and die of hunger. If my military chests
wait for public opinion to fill them, they would remain empty.
Public opinion, by the way, has always been on my side and against
Napoleon; it has, for six years past, disapproved--nay, indignantly
condemned his course toward Prussia, and still it has permitted
Napoleon to halve my states; to take much more than he was entitled
to by the treaty of Tilsit; to leave his troops in my states, in
spite of the express stipulations of the treaties; to impose
contributions on Prussia and extort their payment. Public opinion
deplored it as a terrible calamity that I should be, as it were, a
prisoner here in the capital of my own monarchy, and at the palace
of my ancestors, and live under the cannon of Spandau, a fortress
unlawfully occupied by the French. Public opinion, I say, deplored
my fate, but it did not come to my assistance; it did not preserve
me from the humiliations which, at Dresden, I had to endure, not
only at the hands of Napoleon, but of all the German princes. Do
not, therefore, allude again to your 'grand army of public opinion;'
I despise it, and know its fickle and faithless character. By virtue
of the existing treaties, I made my troops participate in Napoleon's
campaign against Russia. More than one-half of my soldiers have been
devoured by wolves on the fields of Russia; the other half are now
in open insurrection. And these are the troops with whom I am to
conquer!--conquer that powerful France which is able to call up
fresh armies as from the ground, and into the treasury of which her
unlimited resources are pouring millions! No, no; I will not plunge
into so hazardous an enterprise. I will not, for the sake of a
chimera, risk my last provinces, the inheritance of my children; I
could joyously give up my life in order to bring about a change of
our present deplorable situation, but I am not at liberty to
endanger my crown--the crown of my successor. Prussia must not be
blotted from the map of nations; she shall not be swallowed by
France, and I am therefore obliged patiently to bear the burden of
these times and submit to circumstances. Hence, I am not at liberty
to pardon General York's crime, but must punish him for his conduct
in accordance with the laws of war. I must give satisfaction to the
Emperor of France for the unheard-of conduct of my general, and he
shall have it! General von York shall be superseded in his command,
cashiered, and put on his trial before a military commission.
General Kleist will take command of the troops in his place."
"And will your majesty cashier likewise all the officers who
received the announcement of the bold resolution of their general
with enthusiastic cheers?" asked Hardenberg. "Will your majesty
likewise put on trial the spirit of resistance pervading the whole
Prussian corps? I beseech you again, in the name of your army and
your people--in the name of the magnanimous queen whose inspiring
eyes are gazing upon us from yonder portrait--take a bold and
sublime stand! Risk every thing in order to win every thing! Approve
York's step, place yourself at the head of the army, call upon the
Prussians--the Germans--to rally round your flag! Oh, your majesty,
believe me, Germany is only waiting for your war-cry. Every thing is
prepared, all are armed--all weapons, all hands are ready--all eyes
are fixed upon your majesty! Oh, do not hesitate longer; make our
night end, and the new day commence. Declare war against France--
leave her to her destiny!"
The king walked with rapid steps and in visible agitation; and,
whenever he passed the queen's portrait, he raised his eyes toward
it with an anxious expression. Standing in front of Hardenberg, and
laying his hand on his shoulder, he looked gravely into his pale,
quivering face. "Hardenberg," he said at last, in an undertone, "I
cannot allow General York to remain unpunished; I am not at liberty
to approve his course, even--well, yes, even though I should wish to
do so. As commander-in-chief of my army it is above all incumbent on
me to maintain discipline. York acted without regard to his
instructions, and without having received any orders from me to
enter into so dangerous a course, and I ought not afterward to
approve what one of my generals has done in so reckless and
arbitrary a manner. That would be rendering obedience dependent on
the whims and inclinations of every officer of my army.
Unconditional obedience, entire subordination of the individual
will--that is the bond which keeps armies together, and I cannot
loosen it. Where sacred and necessary principles are at stake, I
must not listen to the voice of my heart!"
"But still you ought to listen to the voice of prudence, your
majesty," exclaimed Hardenberg, emphatically. "Now, prudence renders
it necessary for you to fight at this juncture against the
perfidious enemy, who never fulfilled his treaties, never kept his
word, and is even now plotting mischief."
"What do you mean?" asked the king, hastily.
"I mean that your majesty is every day in danger of being arrested
at the slightest symptom that may appear suspicious to the French
gentlemen, and of being secretly conveyed to France. I mean that the
French are anxious that you should give them such a pretext, so that
they might charge you with secret machinations, send you to France,
and appropriate the whole of Prussia. Little King Jerome is tired of
his improvised kingdom of Westphalia. He longs for a more exalted
throne, the existence of which has already been consecrated by
centuries, and for a crown which need not, like his present one, be
specially created for him. Napoleon has promised his brother the
crown and throne of Prussia in case your majesty should give him the
slightest ground for complaint. He has therefore here in Berlin a
host of spies charged with watching every word, movement, and step
of your majesty. Oh, believe me, you are at all hours in danger of
seizure and secret removal. I am familiar with the whole plot; by
means of bribery, dissimulation, and cunning, I have wormed myself
into the confidence of, and gained over to my side, some of these
spies. They have informed me that every day, shortly before
nightfall, a closed carriage drives up to the royal palace, and
waits there all the night long; that, at a short distance from it,
soldiers are posted in isolated groups behind the trees, on the
opera place, and the corners of the streets intersecting the Linden;
that the royal palace is surrounded constantly by a number of agents
of the French police, and that some of these men always find means
to slip into the palace, where they conceal themselves in dark
corners and in the garden, or the yard, in order to watch every
movement of your majesty. What should be the object of all these
proceedings, but, on the first occasion, at the slightest symptom of
your defection, to seize the sacred person of your majesty, to carry
into effect Jerome's ambitious schemes, and transform the theatre
king into a real king?"
Frederick William's face grew pale and gloomy; he compressed his
lips as he used to do when any thing displeasing was communicated to
him. "You have told me one of the absurd stories with which nurses
try to frighten their children," he said, harshly. "But I do not
believe it, nor shall I allow myself to be frightened and take
imprudent steps. No one will dare attack or arrest me. I am the
faithful ally of France, and have proved by my actions that I am
animated with honest intentions toward her, and stand sincerely by
the alliance which I have pledged my word to maintain."
"But suppose France should look upon this defection of General York
as brought about by the secret orders of your majesty? Suppose
Napoleon, in his incessant distrust, and Jerome, in his ardent
desire for the possession of Prussia, should, notwithstanding all
protestations of your majesty to the contrary, believe in an
understanding between York and his king, and therein find a welcome
pretext for carrying into effect their infamous schemes, seizing
your majesty, and annihilating Prussia?"
"I shall give them such convincing proofs of my sentiments that it
will be impossible for them to believe in an understanding between
myself and York," exclaimed the king. "Enough! I adhere to my
resolution. York must be removed from his command, and General
Kleist will be his successor. I shall, besides, address an autograph
letter to Murat, the emperor's lieutenant at the head of the army,
and express to him my profound indignation at what has occurred, and
inform him of the penalty which I am about to inflict on York."
"Very well," said Hardenberg, sighing, "if your majesty so resolves,
it must be done; but it should be done in haste--this very hour.
Count St. Marsan is waiting for me at his residence, to learn from
me the decisions of your majesty before sending off his couriers to
the Emperor Napoleon. It will be necessary for us to lay before him
the letter which your majesty intends to write to the King of
Naples, as well as the formal order in regard to the removal of
General York. You ought also at once to name the courier who is to
convey your majesty's orders and letters to the two camps in Old
"You are right; all this must be done immediately," said the king,
seizing his silver bell and ringing. The door opened, and Timm the
chamberlain entered. "Go to my aide-de-camp, Major Natzmer," said
the king to him. "Inform him that he is to set out immediately on a
journey, and should, therefore, quickly prepare. In four hours every
thing must be done, and Major Natzmer must then be in my anteroom.
Go yourself to him, Timm, and inform him of my orders. This one
courier will be sufficient," said the king, turning again to
Hardenberg, after Timm had left the room. "Natzmer will first repair
to the headquarters of the King of Naples, deliver my letter to him,
show him the orders intended for Kleist and York, and then go to the
Russian camp in order to deliver these orders to my generals."
"Will your majesty not write also a letter to the Emperor Alexander,
begging him to spare your troops, whom Wittgenstein henceforth will
consider enemies, and to address a word of consolation and
encouragement to the emperor, whose magnanimous heart will bitterly
feel this new disappointment?"
"Very well," said the king, after a brief reflection, "I will write
such a letter to Alexander, and Natzmer shall himself take it after
previously seeing Murat, Wittgenstein, and York."
An hour afterward the king wrote his letters, and Hardenberg drew up
the decree removing York from the command of the army. The
chancellor of state then left the king's cabinet to repair to the
residence of the French ambassador, and inform him of the
resolutions of his majesty. The king looked after him long and
musingly, and, folding his hands behind him, paced his room. A
profound silence reigned around him; the storm of the cold January
night swept dense masses of snow against the windows, making them
rattle as if spectral hands were tapping at the panes: the wax-
tapers on the silver candelabra, standing on the king's desk, had
burned low, and their flickering light flashed on the noble portrait
of the queen. The king noticed the fitfully illuminated face gazing
upon him, as it were, with a quick and repeated greeting; he could
not help gently nodding, as if to return the salutation, and then
approached the portrait with slow steps.
"Louisa," he said, in a loud, solemn voice, "God has counted your
tears, and taken upon Himself the revenge of your wrongs. It was at
Piktupobnen where you first met Napoleon, and where the overbearing
man bowed your noble head in the dust. At Piktupobnen the Queen of
Prussia implored the emperor of the French to spare her country, and
grant her lenient terms of peace. It was France now that was waiting
for Prussia at the same place, asking Prussia for assistance, and
Prussia refused it. Where the disgraceful alliance commenced has
been seen its bitter end. God is just; He has counted your tears,
and He is preparing your revenge. It began at Piktupobnen."
During an hour Chancellor von Hardenberg, in the cabinet of the
French ambassador, Count St. Marsan, conferred in an animated and
grave manner as to Prussia's new position, and the guaranties she
offered to France for the sincerity of her alliance. Count St.
Marsan felt entirely satisfied, after reading the letter which King
Frederick William had written to the King of Naples, and the decree
removing York from his command. He cordially shook hands with the
chancellor, and assured him that this disagreeable affair would not
leave the least vestige of distrust; that his august emperor would
also feel entirely satisfied of the sincerity of the king's
"And you may add that this will also satisfy the emperor of the
sincerity of my sentiments toward him," said Hardenberg, smiling. "I
know that Napoleon has unfortunately often distrusted me, and has
believed me to be animated with feelings hostile to his greatness.
Henceforth, however, his majesty will have to admit that I am one of
his most reliable and faithful adherents. It was I who prevailed
upon the king to stand by France so firmly and constantly. You are
aware of it, and I need not conceal it from you, that King Frederick
William loves the Emperor Alexander, and would be happy, if
circumstances enabled him, to renew his alliance with his friend
Alexander. The Emperor of Russia has already stretched out his hand
toward him, and is only waiting for Frederick William to grasp it.
York's defection was carefully prepared on the part of Russia; it
was to be the impulse which should cause the king to take
Alexander's hand. And let me tell you, confidentially, he was not
only greatly inclined to do so, but even the enthusiasm of those
gentlemen of his suite, who, heretofore, had always been ardent
adherents of the Emperor of the French, had cooled down since the
disasters of the grand army in Russia, and they believed it to be
incumbent on them to advise the king to join Russia. But I--I have
obtained a victory over them all, and, by my zeal and eloquence,
have succeeded in convincing Frederick William that just now a firm
maintenance of the alliance with France is most advantageous both to
the honor and welfare of Prussia. The king saw the force of my
arguments, and the consequence was that he rejected the proposals of
Russia, and declared in favor of a faithful continuance of the
alliance with France, as is proved by this letter to Murat, and this
decree, removing York, which I have drawn up, and which is already
signed. France may now confidently count on Prussia, for you see we
have passed through our ordeal, and have proved faithful."
"Yes, you have," exclaimed Count St. Marsan, "and the reward and
acknowledgment due to your fidelity will soon be conferred on you.
The emperor knows full well that the magnanimous and disinterested
character of your excellency will not permit him to bestow upon you
any other rewards and thanks than those of honor and of the heart.
As for the latter, please let me return them to you now in the name
of the emperor and of France, and perhaps you will authorize me to
inform him that your excellency will consider the grand cross of the
Legion of Honor as a sufficient acknowledgment."
"Great Heaven!" exclaimed Hardenberg, with a face radiant with joy,
"you have divined the object of my most secret wishes. You have read
my mind, and understood my ambition. There is but one order to wear
which is a proud honor, and this order has not as yet decorated my
Count St. Marsan bent closer to the ear of the chancellor. "My noble
friend," he said, smiling, and in a low voice, "we shall fasten this
order to the breast of the chancellor of state on the day when we
sign the marriage-contract of the crown prince and a princess of the
house of Napoleon."
"Yes," exclaimed Hardenberg, "let it be so. I accept this condition.
I shall not claim, nor deem myself worthy of receiving this longed-
for order before the day when the Prussian crown prince will be
betrothed to an imperial princess of France. To bring about this
joyful event will henceforth be for me an affair of the heart, and,
moreover, to such an extent that, if this honor should previously be
offered me, I would refuse it, because I first wish to deserve it."
"And does your excellency believe that you will have to wait long?"
asked Count St. Marsan. "Do you believe that the day when the
betrothal will take place is yet remote?"
"I hope not. The crown prince will be confirmed next month, and
after his confirmation it will be time to speak of his marriage. I
am satisfied that all will turn out well, and conformably to our
"Well?" asked St. Marsau, when Hardenberg suddenly paused. "Pray,
your excellency, confide in me, and tell me the whole truth. You may
rest assured of my most heart-felt gratitude, my entire discretion,
and the most unreserved confidence on my part. I beseech you,
therefore, to speak out."
"Well, then," said Hardenberg, in a low voice, and with an air of
entire sincerity, "I was going to say that every thing would turn
out conformably to your wishes, provided the king do not listen to
the incessant secret entreaties and insinuations of Russia, and the
new Russian party at our court. So long as _I_ remain here, I am
afraid of nothing; but if those gentlemen should succeed in
persuading the king to leave Berlin, and repair to a city where he
would be closer to Russia, then I would really be afraid."
"And your excellency believes that the king might entertain such an
intention?" asked Count St. Marsan, in breathless suspense.
Hardenberg shrugged his shoulders. "I do not want to believe it," he
said, "but I am almost afraid of it. However, both you and I will be
vigilant. But listen, your excellency, the clock is striking two!
Two o'clock in the morning! Both of us have yet to send off
couriers, and then we may well be allowed to seek an hour's sleep
for our exhausted bodies. Good-night, then, my dear count and ally!-
-good-night! I hasten to the king to tell him that France will be
content with the satisfaction which we offer her, and thereby I
shall procure him a quiet and peaceful slumber for the present
"Ah, you are in truth a magician, your excellency!" said St. Marsan,
gayly, "for you understand both how to take away and give sleep. So
long as I am near you, I forget all weariness; and after you have
left me I shall, thanks to your words and promises, be able to sleep
more quietly than I have done for a long time. You have quieted my
soul, and my body therefore will also find rest. Bid me good-night
again, for when you say so I will be sure to have it."
"Good-night, then, my dear count," said Hardenberg, shaking hands
with his friend, and withdrawing, with a smile, from the room.
This affectionate smile was still playing round the lips of the
chancellor when he entered his carriage. But no sooner had its door
closed and the carriage was moving, than an expression of gloomy
hatred overspread his features. "I hope I have quite succeeded in
misleading St. Marsan and arousing his suspicions in regard to the
king," he said to himself. "As the king refuses to listen to my
warnings and supplications, and does not believe it to be possible
that France should dare seize him, it is time to give him some
irrefutable proofs. Perhaps he may then make up his mind to leave
Berlin. I may sign this longed-for betrothal at some other place,
too, and then fasten on my breast the order for which I am longing.
In truth," he added, laughing, "it is no fault of mine that dear
Count St. Marsan interprets my desire in the way he does. I did not
name to him the order I wish to wear. It is no fault of mine that he
imagines I wish for the grand cross of the Legion of Honor. To be
sure, I wish to obtain an order of honor, but one of a German
patriot, and that I can only obtain from the gratitude of my
countrymen and impartial history."
The carriage stopped in front of the royal palace, and Hardenberg
hastened to the king. Silence reigned in the anteroom; a few sleepy
footmen were sitting on the cane chairs beside the door, and
scarcely took notice of the arrival of the chancellor, who passed
them with soft, hurried steps, and entered the small reception-room.
Here, too, all was still, and the two candles on the table, which
had burned low, shed but a dim light in the room. The chancellor
noticed two figures sitting on both sides of the door leading into
the adjoining room, and slowly swinging to and fro, like the
pendulum of a clock. He softly approached the two sleepers. "Ah," he
whispered, with a smile, "there sleeps Timm, the chamberlain, who is
to announce my arrival to the king; and here sleeps Major Natzmer,
to whom I want to say a word before he sets out." he laid his hand
gently on the major's shoulder. Natzmer jumped up at once and drew
himself up in a stiff, military attitude. "You are very prudent in
nodding a little now," said Hardenberg, kindly giving him his hand,
"for I am afraid you will not find much time for it during the
remainder of the night. You are ready to set out immediately, are
"I am, your excellency."
"And your dispatches, I believe, are ready, too.--My dear Timm," he
then said to the chamberlain, "pray announce my arrival to his
"I believe it is unnecessary," said Timm, with the familiarity of a
favorite servant. "His majesty is waiting for your excellency."
"You had better announce my arrival," said Hardenberg, smiling, "for
it might be possible that I surprise the king in the same manner as
I did these two gentlemen here, and that would be disagreeable."
"That is true," said Timm, hastily approaching the door. "I will
immediately announce your excellency."
No sooner had he left the room, than the chancellor laid his hand on
the major's arm, and bent over him. "My friend," he said, in a low,
hurried voice, "I know you share my views."
"Your excellency knows that I adore you as the statesman who holds
the future happiness of Prussia in his hands, and that I abhor the
French, who have brought Prussia to the brink of ruin."
"Will you do something to bring her back from this brink?"
"Yes, your excellency, though it cost my life."
"That would be a high price. No; we stand in need of your life and
your arm, for Prussia will soon need all her soldiers. What I ask of
you is not near so valuable. Listen to me. The king sends you as a
courier to Old Prussia. Repair, in the first place, to Murat's
headquarters, and deliver the king's letter to him. Go to the
Russian headquarters, and call upon Prince Wittgenstein. All I ask
of you is to inform Prince Wittgenstein that you are the bearer of
two dispatches. Tell him that one is an autograph letter from the
king to the Emperor Alexander, and the other a decree removing
General York from his command, and ordering him to be put on his
trial before a military commission."
"What!" exclaimed Natzmer, in dismay. "Our noble York is to be
removed from his command?"
"Yes; the king has resolved to remove and cashier him, because he
has gone over with his corps to the Russians."
"York gone over to the Russians!" exclaimed Natzmer, joyously. "And
for this wondrously bold step I am to bring him a decree superseding
and cashiering him?"
"That is what the king orders you to do, and, of course, you will
have to obey. But, I repeat to you, the only thing I ask of you is
to inform Prince Wittgenstein what dispatches are in your hands, and
what their contents are."
"But suppose the king should not tell me any thing about them?
Suppose their contents, therefore, should be unknown to me?"
"The king himself will communicate the contents to you, and even
order you to mention everywhere on the road that you are the bearer
of a decree cashiering York, the criminal general. It is of great
importance to his majesty that every one, and, above all, France,
should learn that he is highly incensed at York's defection, and
that--Hush! I hear Timm coming! You will comply with my request?"
"I shall inform Prince Wittgenstein of the contents of my
"In that case, I hope York will be safe! Hush!"
The door opened again, and the chamberlain entered. "Your excellency
was quite right," he said; "it was well that I announced your
arrival. His majesty, like ourselves, had fallen asleep. But now he
is awaiting you." He opened the folding-doors, and Hardenberg
hastened across the adjoining room to the king's cabinet, to
communicate to him the result of his interview with the French
An hour afterward Major Natzmer received three dispatches at the
hands of the king. The first was a letter to Napoleon's lieutenant
at the head of the French army, the King of Naples. In this
Frederick William informed Murat that he was filled with the most
intense indignation at the step York had taken, and that he had
commissioned Major Natzmer to deliver a royal decree to General
Kleist, authorizing him to take command of the troops and arrest
General York. He declared further in this letter that, as a matter
of course, he refused to ratify the convention, and that the
Prussian troops, commanded by General Kleist, should be, as they had
been heretofore, subject to the orders of the Emperor Napoleon, and
his lieutenant, the King of Naples. [Footnote: Droysen's "Life of
York," vol. ii., p. 37.] The second dispatch was confidential, to
the Emperor Alexander, the contents of which the king had not
communicated even to his chancellor of state. The third was, the
decree superseding York, and ordering Kleist to take command of the
troops. "I think," said the king, after Natzmer had withdrawn, "we
have now done every thing to appease Napoleon's wrath, and avert
from Prussia all evil consequences. Are you not also of this
opinion, M. Chancellor?"
"It only remains to send a special envoy to Napoleon himself and
assure him of your majesty's profound indignation," said Hardenberg,
gloomily. "The proud emperor, perhaps, expects such a proof of the
fidelity of your majesty."
The king cast a quick and searching glance on the gloomy countenance
of the chancellor, and then gazed for some time musingly. "You are
right," he said, after a pause; "I must send a special envoy to
Paris. When it is necessary to appease a bloodthirsty tiger, no
means should be left untried. I myself will write to Napoleon and
assure him that I will faithfully adhere to the alliance. Prince
Hatzfeld will depart with this letter for Paris early in the
"Your majesty will then have done every thing to satisfy the French
of the sincerity of your friendly intentions toward them, but I am
afraid they do not care to be satisfied."
"You believe, then, seriously that the French are menacing me?"
asked the king, with a contemptuous smile.
"I am convinced of it, your majesty."
"But what do you believe, then? What are you afraid of?"
"As I said before, I am afraid they will dare abduct the sacred
person of your majesty, and I beseech you to be on your guard; never
leave your palace alone and unarmed; never go into the street
without being attended by an armed escort."
"Ah," said the king, with a sad smile, "do not the French always see
to it that I am attended by an escort? Am I not always surrounded by
their spies and eavesdroppers?"
"If your majesty is aware of this, why do you not yield to my
entreaties? Why do you not leave Berlin?"
"Perhaps to go to Potsdam? Shall I be less watched there by the
spies? Shall I there be less a prisoner?"
"No, your majesty ought to leave Berlin in order to deliver yourself
at one blow, and thoroughly, from this intolerable espionage. Your
majesty ought to make up your mind to go to Breslau. There you would
be nearer your army; there your faithful subjects and followers
would rally round you, and the Emperor Alexander perhaps would soon
come thither. At all events, your majesty would there be secure from
the French spies, and your adherents would be delivered from their
anxiety for the personal safety of your majesty."
"To Breslau!" exclaimed the king, anxiously. "That is impossible!--
that would be pouring oil into the fire--that would be to advance on
the path into which York has entered."
"It would be another step toward the deliverance of your majesty,
the salvation of the country, and the annihilation of the tyrant!"
said Hardenberg, raising his voice.
The king made no reply; he stepped to the window, and, turning his
back to the chancellor, looked out musingly into the night.
Hardenberg looked now at him, and then on the queen's portrait.
Suddenly his features grew milder, and an indescribable, imploring
expression was to be seen in his eyes. "Help me, queen," he
whispered, in a fervid tone. "Direct his heart, guardian angel of
Prussia; render it strong and firm, and--"
The king turned again to the chancellor and approached him. "I
cannot comply with your request," said Frederick William, "for, if I
should go to Breslau, it would be equivalent to a declaration of
war, and we are, unfortunately, not in a position to justify that. I
must not rashly plunge myself and my country into a danger which
probably would bring about our utter ruin. But I pledge you my word
that, if your apprehensions should really be verified--if I really
obtain proofs that my person and liberty are menaced, I shall then
deem it incumbent on me to escape from this danger, and remove the
seat of government to a safer place--perhaps Breslau."
"Is your majesty in earnest?" exclaimed Hardenberg, joyously. "You
really intend, after having satisfied yourself that dangers are
threatening you here, to leave Berlin and place yourself beyond the
reach of the French?"
"I pledge you my word of honor that such is my intention," said the
king, solemnly. "And now, enough! I believe both of us need a few
hours' rest. In the course of the forenoon I will write the letter
which Prince Hatzfeld is to take to Paris. Good-night, M.
"Drive me home as fast as your horses can run," shouted Hardenberg
to his coachman, on entering his carriage.
"We shall be there in five minutes," muttered the coachman, whipping
his horses into a gallop.
Precisely five minutes afterward the carriage stopped in front of
the chancellor's residence, and a well-dressed young man, hastily
pushing aside the footman, opened the coach door.
"Ah, is it you, my dear Richard?" said Hardenberg, surprised. "Why
have you not yet gone to bed?"
"Because I could not sleep while your excellency had not returned,"
said the young man, assisting the minister in alighting. "It is
nearly four o'clock; the whole house was greatly alarmed."
"Well, and what were you afraid of, you dear fools?" asked
Hardenberg, smilingly, while ascending the staircase.
"That your enemies had found means to kidnap you, and that the
French had resorted to such an outrage to get rid of their most
dangerous and powerful adversary."
"Ah, you big children!" exclaimed Hardenberg, laughing. "How could
you give way to such senseless apprehensions while I was supping in
a friendly way at the house of the French marshal?"
"Just for that reason, your excellency," said Richard, smiling. "We
may know well how to get into a mouse-trap, but we do not know how
to get out again. A panic prevailed among your servants, and the
footmen had already made up their minds to arm themselves, go to the
house of Marshal Augereau, and forcibly deliver your excellency."
"I was lucky, therefore, in escaping from such ridicule," said
Hardenberg, gravely. "A minister who is taken home by his servants
vi et armis, because he takes the liberty not to return at an early
hour--what a splendid farce that would be! Pray be kind enough to
tell my servants that their anxiety was very foolish. The greatest
cordiality prevails between myself and the French gentlemen, and
never before has there been such a friendly understanding between
France and Prussia. My servants should always remember that, and
commit no follies."
He intentionally said this in so loud a tone that the two footmen
who preceded him with lights, as well as the two servants who
followed, heard and understood every word he uttered. Hardenberg
knew, therefore, that all his servants, fifteen minutes afterward,
would be informed of the new entente cordials between Prussia and
France; that all Berlin would be aware of it on the following day,
and that he would thus have attained his object.
"Your excellency will not yet retire?" asked Richard, when the
minister, instead of going down the corridor to his bedroom, now
halted at the door of his cabinet.
"No, M. Private Secretary," said Hardenberg, smiling. "As you are
still awake, and apparently not sleepy, let us hold a little
business conference. Come!"
No sooner had the servants put the lights on the table and left the
room, than the face of the chancellor suddenly assumed a grave air.
Ordering, with an imperious wave of his hand, his private secretary
to be silent, he hastened to his desk and quickly wrote a few lines.
"Richard," he said, casting the pen aside, and turning his head
toward the young man, who witnessed his mysterious proceedings in
great surprise, "Richard, come here!"
The young man hastened to him, and when Hardenberg gave him his
hand, with a kind smile, Richard stooped down and pressed a tender
kiss on it.
"Ah, lips as glowing as yours are, should kiss only beautiful
girls," said Hardenberg, smiling.
"But these lips like better to kiss the hand of my benefactor, my
protector," exclaimed the young man, "the kind hand of the man who
extricated me from poverty, distress, and despair; who caused me to
be fed, educated, and instructed; and who (until I myself, by his
liberal kindness, was enabled to discharge this sacred duty) secured
to my poor sick mother an existence free from cares."
"Do not allude to these trifles," said Hardenberg, carelessly. "Tell
me, rather, do you regard me with respect and love?"
"Indescribably, your excellency; with the tenderness of a son, with
the devotedness and fidelity of an old servant."
"Will you give me a proof of it?"
"I will, your excellency, and should you demand my heart's blood, I
would willingly spill it for you!"
"Listen to me, then! In five minutes you must be on horseback and
ride at a gallop, night and day, until you reach the Russian camp."
"In three days," said Richard, gravely, "but the journey will kill
"I will give you two horses for him, provided you arrive sooner than
Major Natzmer at the headquarters of Prince Wittgenstein, commander-
in-chief of the Russian troops!"
"Has Natzmer left Berlin already?"
"Yes, about an hour since, and you know that he is considered the
most dashing and reckless horseman among all our officers. He has,
moreover, another advantage. He will ride through the French camp,
and will thence go to the Russian array, which is in the rear of it;
but you must ride around the French camp, and go by way of
Gumbinnen, unnoticed by the French, to the Russian headquarters. But
the main point is, that you arrive there sooner than Major Natzmer."
"I will arrive there sooner. Your excellency knows that I have often
been in Konigsberg and its surroundings; I know all the by-ways and
short cuts, and am, moreover, a good horseman."
"I know all that. I presume, therefore, that you will be with
Wittgenstein before Natzmer reaches him. But you will tell no one
that it is I who sent you. It is your task to find means to speak to
him alone. But wait--I will give you your credentials. Take this
ring. General Wittgenstein knows it; he has often seen it on my
finger, and he is familiar with my coat-of-arms. Send him this ring
by his aide-de-camp, and he will admit you."
"He will admit me, should I have to shoot down the sentinels."
"As soon as you are face to face with the general, deliver to him
this little note, which I have penned. Read it, and then I will
direct and seal it." He handed the paper to the young man. "Read it
aloud," he said.
"In one or two hours Major Natzmer will arrive at the headquarters
of your excellency, and beg leave to pass through the Russian camp
in order to repair to General York. If your excellency should grant
his request, and allow him to reach York's headquarters, the hopes
of Prussian patriots would be annihilated at one fell swoop. But if
York remains at the head of his troops, so enthusiastically attached
to him--if the whole nation and the whole corps may from this fact
derive the hope that York acted in compliance with the secret
instructions of his king, then we may hope for a speedy change in
our affairs. The fate and the future of Prussia therefore lie in the
hands of noble General Wittgenstein."
"Now read over the letter twice for yourself," said Hardenberg,
"that you may engrave it on your memory. For in case you should
happen to lose the letter, or if it should be stolen from you, you
must verbally repeat its contents to Prince Wittgenstein."
"I shall not lose it, and no one can steal it from me, for I shall
carry it in my heart. I have nothing further to do than to deliver
this letter to him?"
"You have to say yet to the general a few words which I dare not
intrust to paper, but only to your memory. You will say to him:
'Every thing is ready, and the period of procrastination and
hesitation is drawing to a close. In a few days the king will leave
Berlin, where he was in danger of being arrested by the French, and
repair to Breslau. At Breslau he will issue a manifesto to his
people and call them to arms.' Hush, young man, hush! no joyous
exclamations, no transports! You must set out! It is high time!
Beware of the bullets of the French, and the thievish hands of the
Russians! You must reach Wittgenstein sooner than Natzmer does; do
not forget that!"
"I shall not. Farewell, your excellency!"
"Farewell, my young friend. For a week at least, then, I shall not
see your dear face greeting me every morning in my cabinet. You must
indemnify me for it."
"In what way, your excellency?"
"You must embrace me, my young friend," exclaimed Hardenberg,
stretching out his arms toward the young man.
"Oh, how kind, how generous you are!" exclaimed Richard, encircling
the minister with his arms, and then reverentially kissing his
shoulders and his hands.
"Now, your excellency," he said, rising quickly, "now I am ready to
brave all dangers. Farewell!" He waved his hand again to the
minister, and left the room.
"He will outstrip Natzmer," said Hardenberg, gazing after him; "it
is an arrow of love which I have discharged, and it will not miss
its aim. And now let us see how it is about the other arrow of love,
which mes chers amis mes ennemis would like to discharge at me!" He
rang the bell. Conrad, his faithful old footman, entered the room.
"Has there no note come for me?" asked Hardenberg.
"Yes, there has, your excellency," said Conrad, in a low and anxious
tone. "Two letters, your excellency."
"Give them to me."
Conrad cast a searching glance over the room; he then drew two tiny,
neatly-folded letters from his bosom and handed them to the
minister. "She herself was here," he whispered, "and seemed very sad
when I told her his excellency was not at home, and at first she
refused to believe what I said. Only when I swore to her it was
true, she gave me the first note. She returned afterward and brought
the second letter."
"But why do you tell me all this in so mysterious and timid a
manner? Are you afraid lest some one has concealed himself, and
plays the eavesdropper?"
"Not that exactly, your excellency," whispered Conrad; "but--the
walls might have ears!" He pointed furtively at the ceiling of the
"Ah, we are here under my wife's bedroom," said Hardenberg,
laughing. "You are afraid lest she should be awake, and overhear our
words through the floor of her room."
"Madame von Hardenberg sees, hears, and divines every thing," said
Conrad, with an air of dismay.
"It is true," muttered Hardenberg to himself, "her jealousy gives
her a thousand eyes, and the events of her own life have
familiarized her with all sorts of cabals and intrigues. In this way
she succeeded in becoming my wife and in bearing my name before the
world. But, no matter! I am not afraid of her Argus eyes, nor shall
she prevent me from pursuing my own path, and adorning my dreary
private life with a flower or two of pleasure."
"I believe and fear, your excellency," whispered Conrad, "Madame von
Hardenberg has found out that the young lady was here, and that I
received these letters from her."
"What makes you believe so?"
"Madame von Hardenberg sent for me at eleven o'clock tonight, and
asked me when your excellency would return, and whither you had
gone. When I told her I could not inform her, because I did not
know, she was pleased to box my ears and threaten that she would
before long turn me out of the house."
"These are, indeed, very valid reasons for your suppositions," said
Hardenberg, smiling. "But do not be alarmed. I know how to protect
you from being turned out, and as to having your ears boxed, it is
no insult, by the soft little hands of a lady. Any other news?"
"Yes, your excellency, the physician of the young lady was here at a
late hour in the evening, in order to tell me that she had again
fallen asleep, and, before doing so, had announced she would be
clairvoyant at eight o'clock in the morning."
"At eight o'clock!" exclaimed Hardenberg. "Do you hear, Conrad?--I
must be there at eight o'clock. That is to say, you must awaken me
at seven o'clock."
"But, your excellency, you will then have slept scarcely two hours,"
said Conrad, sadly.
"My old friend," said Hardenberg, "shall we not have time enough for
sleeping in our graves? Let us be awake here on earth as long as
possible. You will awaken me at seven o'clock. And now, come and
assist me in retiring."
Fifteen minutes afterward Hardenberg was in bed. A neat little
table, with a night-lamp burning on a golden plate, was standing at
his bedside. Before falling asleep, the chancellor read the two
notes which Conrad had delivered to him. "Protestations of love!" he
whispered, smiling and folding them up. "Protestations of love--that
is to say, falsehoods. But I must confess that this arrow, which mes
chers amis mes ennemis have discharged at me, is at least very
finely feathered and very attractive. At eight o'clock in the
morning, then! Well, I shall see whether I do not succeed in playing
my hostile friends a little trick, and in returning the arrow to
their own breast."
For some time past the inhabitants of Berlin had paid a great deal
of attention to the doings of Doctor Binder, and told each other
wonderful stories of the new medical system of this strange
physician. He treated his patients in an entirely novel way, and
performed his cures in a manner bordering strongly on the romantic
and miraculous. He neither felt the pulse of his sick friends, nor
did he examine their tongue; he only gazed on them for a minute with
his sombre, flaming eyes, and the patients then felt as if
fascinated by them. Their pain ceased, their blood burned less
ardently, and an indescribable feeling pervaded their body for a
moment. When the doctor perceived this, he would raise both his
hands, and with the palms softly and repeatedly stroke his subject's
face. Then the sufferer's cheeks colored; a wondrous, long-forgotten
smile played round the lips which, for many months, had opened only
to utter prayers, or sighs and complaints; the dimmed eyes began to
brighten, and fixed themselves with a radiant expression on the face
of the doctor, whose steadfast, piercing glances seemed to penetrate
the sick one's countenance, and reach down into his soul, in order
to divine, in its innermost recesses, his most secret feelings and
thoughts. By and by a sweet peace pervaded the soul of the patient;
his aching limbs relaxed; he folded his hands, which had hitherto
moved convulsively and restively on the counterpane; the eyes, which
had steadfastly rested on the face of the wonderful physician,
closed gradually, and soon his long and regular breathings indicated
that he had at length found the slumber which, during his sickness,
he had so long sought and yearned for.
It is true, the patient awoke after a time, and his sufferings
returned; the end of his slumber was often accompanied by painful
convulsions, an indescribable feeling of depression, and the most
profound sadness, but Dr. Binder was present; his eyes exorcised the
patient's pain, his hands quieted the quivering limbs, and chased
away the tears, and the sufferer fell again into a sweet and
refreshing slumber. This lulling the patient to sleep, this
fascinating gaze, and laying on of hands, were the only medicines
which the doctor administered, and by which he succeeded in freeing
them from their sufferings and diseases. People related the most
wonderful cures which he had performed; they spoke of persons who
had been blind ever since their birth, and whom he had caused to
see--of deaf-mutes, to whom he had given the power of speech and
hearing after a few days' treatment--of lame men, who suddenly,
after being touched by the doctor's hands, had thrown away their
crutches, and walked freely and easily.
But the public's attention was particularly riveted by the case of a
young girl who had been for some time past under Dr. Binder's
treatment. She had come from a distant city to seek a cure at the
hands of the famous physician and pupil of Mesmer. A bad cold had
brought about a paralysis of all her limbs; she was unable to move
her hands and feet, and had for months lain on her bed as
motionless, rigid, and dumb, as a marble statue. Her parents had, in
the anguish of their heart, at length applied to Dr. Binder. The
doctor received her into his house. He publicly invited all the
physicians of Berlin to visit his patient, to examine her condition,
and to satisfy themselves of the efficacy of his cure, he also
requested the public to watch the progress of it, and to come to his
house at the hours when he lulled his patient to sleep. The
physicians had disdainfully refused to have any thing to do with the
"quack doctor," who pretended to cure diseases without medicines;
but the public appeared the more eagerly.
And this public enjoyed the satisfaction of seeing that the
motionless form of the young girl, who at first had lain on the bed
as rigid as stone, very slowly commenced to move. It was seen that,
a few days afterward, she raised her right hand, and, shortly after,
her right foot; gradually life and motion were restored to her
limbs, and at length, at a truly solemn hour, the young girl, at the
doctor's loudly-uttered command, arose from her couch and paced the
room with firm and steady steps. It is true she uttered a piercing
cry, and fell at the feet of the doctor, her limbs quivering as
though she were seized with convulsion, but gradually she grew more
quiet; a peaceful expression beamed from her features, and she
commenced talking in a tone of joyous enthusiasm. She spoke of the
wonderful world on which she was gazing with her inward eyes, of the
visions which burst on her soul, and her lips whispered strange
prophecies. This condition of the patient repeatedly occurred every
day, and with unfailing regularity followed every "crisis."
The young woman had become a clairvoyante; and it was a truly
wonderful fact that she, who, according to the statements of her
relatives, had never cared for politics or public affairs, and to
whom it was entirely indifferent whether Napoleon or any other
sovereign ruled Germany, suddenly, in her clairvoyant state, devoted
her whole attention to political questions, and that she had, as it
were, become a prophetess of the destinies of states.
It was not very strange, therefore, that this phenomenon excited
even the attention of statesmen, and that they too went to see the
clairvoyante in her political ecstasy, and to put to her questions
on public affairs, which she answered always with truly wonderful
tact, and with the most profound insight into all such questions.
Among those who took an interest in her was the chancellor of state,
Minister von Hardenberg. Curiosity had at first induced him to call
upon her; then her clever and piquant remarks struck him as
something very strange, and at last he became a regular visitor. Of
late, at his special request, the room of the patient, during her
crises and clairvoyant trances, had been shut against all other
visitors, and only the chancellor and the physician were present.
The young woman, who, during her trances, regularly announced at
what hour of the following day she would relapse into this
condition, had predicted that she would awake from her magnetic
slumber at eight o'clock in the morning, and would then be in a
state of clairvoyance. This hour had not yet arrived; the clock
which stood in her room on the bureau under the looking-glass
indicated that about ten minutes were still wanting to the stated
time. A profound silence reigned in the room of the young patient.
The physician sat reading on a high-backed chair at her bedside--his
book contained the history and revelations of Swedenborg, the great
Swedish ghost-seer. From time to time, however, he turned his large,
flashing eyes toward the young woman, and seemed to watch her
slumber with searching glances.
The patient was motionless and rigid. A white, neat negligee
enveloped her slender figure, which was stretched out on the bed
without being covered with a counterpane. Her small, beautifully-
shaped hands were folded on her breast, her head was thrown back
sideways, and rested on a pillow of crimson velvet, which contrasted
strangely with her pale face, and black hair, that overhung her
marble cheeks in long tresses. The clock was striking eight. The
doctor cast a quick glance on the patient, and then slowly closed
his book. She began to stir and opened her lips, from which issued a
long, painful sigh. At this moment there was heard the roll of a
carriage on the street. The noise ceased, the carriage seemed to
stop in front of the house. The clairvoyante shuddered, and joy
kindled her countenance. "He is coming! he is coming!" she said, in
a deep, melodious voice. "I see him ascending the staircase. He is
pale and exhausted, and his eyes are dim, for he has slept but
little. Government affairs have kept him awake. Oh, now I am well,
for there he is!"
In fact, the door softly opened, and the chancellor cautiously
entered. By a quick wave of his hand, he ordered the doctor not to
meet him, and then approached the bed softly and on tiptoe.
The young woman did not change her position; her eyelashes did not
quiver, nor did she open her eyes, and yet she seemed to see
Hardenberg, for she said in a mournful and tremulous voice: "Well,
doctor, was I not right? Just see how pale he looks, and how the
sweet smile with which he formerly used to come to us is to-day very
faintly playing round his lips like a little will-o'-the-wisp! But I
told you already he has slept only two hours; he had to be so long
minister of state as to find scarcely two hours' rest for the poor,
The physician cast an inquiring glance on the chancellor. Hardenberg
nodded smilingly. "You are right. Frederica," he said. "I was
minister of state all day long yesterday."
"No, no," she exclaimed, "not all the day. At the commencement of
Marshal Augereau's supper you were merry, and succeeded in
forgetting your onerous business; and had not the secretary of Count
St. Marsan made his appearance and brought the dispatches, you would
have finished your pheasant's wing with good appetite and in the
best of spirits."
The minister's face assumed an air of astonishment, and almost of
terror. "Ah," he said, "it seems you were present at that supper?"
"Certainly I was, for my soul is accompanying you all the time, and
my soul is the eye of my body. I see all you do, and know all your
"Well, then," said Hardenberg, smiling, "tell me what you saw last
night. Look backward, Frederica, and tell me where I was, and what I
"Then you doubt my words?" she asked, reproachfully. "You want to
see whether I am able to tell you the truth? You know that it makes
my eyes ache to look backward, and that my spirit soars with easier
flight into the future than the past!"
"Do so nevertheless, Frederica," said Hardenberg, imperiously. "I
wish you to do so!" He laid his hand upon her arm, and the contact
made her start as an electric shock.
"I will obey," she whispered, in an humble tone. "I see you sitting
at the table of Marshal Augereau. You are in excellent spirits; you
are just telling the marshal that the betrothed of the crown prince
with a princess of the house of Napoleon will take place before
long; Count Narbonne is complaining of the political conversations
with which you are spicing the supper in too piquant a manner;
dispatches arrive and disturb your mirth."
"From whom do these dispatches come?" asked Hardenberg.
"From Marshal Macdonald, who addressed them to the French
ambassador, Count St. Marsan."
"Do you know their contents?"
"I am reading them. There is, in the first place, a letter from
"Hush!" interrupted Hardenberg; "we will speak of that hereafter; do
not allude to it now. Tell me what else I did last night."
"After reading the dispatches, you hastened to the king to inform
him of the dreadful news. Scarcely had you been with him for a few
minutes, when a courier from General York arrived and delivered
dispatches concerning the same subject to which the others had
referred. After a protracted interview with the king, you went to
the French ambassador, and informed him of the sentiments and
resolutions of his majesty. The count declared himself satisfied
with what you told him, and you then hastened back to the king. You
there met Major Natzmer, whom the king intended to dispatch as a
courier to Murat and General York. You entered the king's room and
had another protracted interview with him. Thereupon you returned to
"With whom did I speak there first of all?"
The clairvoyante was silent for a moment. "I do not see it," she
said, "the night is so dark."
"Open your eyes until you see!"
"Ah, I see now!" she exclaimed. "Your excellency spoke with old
Conrad. He accompanied you to your bedroom and handed you two
"She is right," muttered the chancellor, loudly enough to be heard
by the young woman and the physician. "Yes, she is right; it is all
precisely as she says." He then asked aloud: "Did I speak with any
one else than Conrad?"
"No," she said; "I do not see anybody else. Conrad told you that I
would open the eyes of my soul and see at eight o'clock this
morning. You ordered him to awaken you at seven o'clock, and went to
"What did I do before falling asleep?"
"You read the two little notes," she said, with a coy smile.
The chancellor turned his eyes toward the physician, who witnessed
this scene in silent and solemn earnestness. "Doctor Binder," he
said, "all that this young lady told me just now is strictly true.
All my doubts are henceforth dispelled, and from this hour I am one
of the believers. No; I say this is no deception, no imposition; it
is a mystery of nature, which I am unable to explain, but in which I
am compelled to believe. It is given to this young lady to look with
the eyes of her soul into the past, as well as into the future, and
to perceive and penetrate the most secret things. I believe in her,
and shall henceforth allow myself to be directed and instructed by
her revelations. I thank you for having brought this wonderful girl
to my notice, and you may always count on my heart-felt gratitude."
"Belief in the high art of my science and doctrines is the only
gratitude I am yearning for, and my only desire is not to be
prevented from healing poor patients and making suffering humanity
happy by my holy science."
"No one shall be allowed to prevent you from doing so as long as _I_
am minister, I pledge you my word," said Hardenberg, gravely. "Take
heart, therefore, and do not be afraid. I am your disciple, and at
the same time your protector. But now grant me a request: I should
like to put to our charming seer yet a few questions in regard to
last night's events. She shall, in her inspired and prophetic
prescience, give me her advice and tell me what course I must
pursue; but, in doing so, I shall have to allude to state secrets,
and to speak of affairs which no one is allowed to know but the king
and his ministers, and--"
"I pray your excellency to permit me to leave you alone with our
young seer," interrupted Doctor Binder, with a polite smile. "I have
to see several patients, and my presence is required at the 'Hall of
Crises' below, for my two young assistants are scarcely able to
restrain our female patients when the crisis sets in."
"Go, then, to your patients," said Hardenberg; "I shall stay here
with our clairvoyante until she awakes."
"If your excellency needs any thing," said the doctor, approaching
the door, "it will only be necessary for you to ring the bell; the
nurse is in the reception-room, and will immediately call my
He bowed to Hardenberg, bent once more with a searching glance over
the couch of his patient, drew with his hands a few circles over her
head, and left the room with noiseless steps. The chancellor and the
clairvoyante were alone.
When the physician left the room, the chancellor returned to the
bedside of the young woman; her position was the same, and her eyes
were still closed. She did not see, therefore, the sarcastic smile
with which Hardenberg looked down upon her, or the proud, triumphant
expression that was beaming from his eyes. Hers were closed, and,
notwithstanding her clairvoyance, she saw nothing, nor did
Hardenberg's voice betray to her aught of the expression of his
countenance or the character of his thoughts.
"Frederica," he said, in his soft, gentle voice, "speak to me now,
my seer; be my prophetess now, and let me see the future. Tell me
what I must do in order to reconcile all these dissensions, and
harmonize all these clashing interests. On which side is justice,
prosperity, and peace?"
"On the side of the great man whose gigantic strength has lifted the
world out of its hinges, and given it a new aspect," she said,
gravely. "Stand faithfully by the alliance with France, unless you
wish the crown to fall from the head of your king, and Prussia to be
divided into two provinces, one annexed to the kingdom of
Westphalia, and the other to the duchy of Warsaw."
"But will France then still have power to do so?" asked Hardenberg;
"is not France herself on the brink of the abyss into which she has
hurled all states, princes, and crowns?"
"France is as powerful to-day as she ever was," responded the seer.
"New armies at the beck of Napoleon will spring from the ground, his
military chests will be filled with new millions, and the invincible
chieftain will lead his legions to new victories. Woe then to
Prussia if she proves faithless--woe to her, if, in insensate
infatuation, she turns her back upon France, and allows herself to
listen to the insinuations and promises by which Russia is trying to
gain her over to her side! Russia herself is weak and exhausted; she
will be unable to afford Prussia any adequate support. Be on your
guard! Russia has always been a perfidious ally; she has always
crushed the hand of her allies in her grasp, while seemingly giving
a pledge of her good faith. France alone is offering to Prussia
substantial guaranties of peace; Napoleon alone must remain the
protector of Prussia. Banish, therefore, the insidious thoughts that
are troubling your soul; try no longer to dissuade the king from
adhering to the alliance. Do not try to persuade him to approve
York's defection! He is a traitor, whose head must fall; for such is
the decree of the laws of war. To approve his defection is to throw
down the gauntlet to France, and annihilate Prussia!"
"You have played your part to perfection!" exclaimed Hardenberg,
laughing. "Please accept my sincere congratulations, my dear child;
the greatest actress in the world could not perform her role any
better than you have done to-day, and ever since I became acquainted
At the first words of the chancellor, the clairvoyante gave a
violent start; a tremor pervaded her whole frame, and a deep blush
suffused her cheeks for a moment; but all this quickly passed away,
and now she was again as rigid and motionless as she was before.
Hardenberg's eyes were fixed on her. "You do not desire to
understand me, Frederica," he said. "Well, then, I will speak
somewhat more lucidly. Will you permit me to ask two additional
"You know very well that I must reply when your soul commands me to
do so," said the young woman, in a perfectly calm voice, "for your
soul has power over mine, and I must obey it."
"Well, then--my first question: did I really, last night, on
returning to my residence, speak with no one but old Conrad? Was no
one but he in my room until I went to bed? Look sharp, open the eyes
of your soul as wide as you can, and then reply!"
"I see," she said, after a pause; "but I see that you were alone
with Conrad, and with the thoughts of a lady who loves you."
"I am very glad that you tell me so," said Hardenberg, calmly, "for
I understand from it that my enemies, who are furnishing you with
correct reports as to all my doings, have yet remained ignorant of
an affair in which I was engaged last night. For there really was
another person with me, and your patrons would give a great deal to
find out what instructions I gave to that person. Now, as to my
second question; but I hope you hear my words, ma toute belle, and
have not yet passed from an unnatural sleep into a natural one!"
"I hear you, and I am ready to answer if your soul commands me."
"Well, then," said Hardenberg, bending over her, and fixing his
piercing eyes upon her countenance, "my question is this: How much
do your protectors give you for playing the part which you performed
A pause ensued. Suddenly the clairvoyante opened her eyes, gazing
with an indescribable expression on the face of the minister still
bending over her.
"They give me nothing," she said, in a firm, sonorous voice, "but
the hope of acquiring a brilliant position in the future."
"You confess, then, that you have played a considerable farce?"
asked Chancellor von Hardenberg, smiling.
"I confess that I have played my part very badly, and that your
eagle eye is able to penetrate every thing. I confess that I adore
you for having unmasked me," she exclaimed, quickly encircling
Hardenberg's neck with her arms, drawing his head down to her, and
pressing a glowing kiss on his lips. Then, still keeping her arms
around his neck, she raised herself from the couch, and leaned for a
moment against the manly form of the chancellor.
Disengaging herself from him, she jumped from the bed to the floor,
and, spreading out her arms, and throwing back her head, she
exclaimed in a jubilant voice: "I am free! I need no longer play my
irksome role! Oh, I am free!"
Leaping into the middle of the room, as light-footed as a sylph, and
fascinating as one of the graces, she began to dance, raising her
feet and moving her arms in a slow, measured mariner, at the outset;
but, turning more rapidly, with more passionate movement and
increasing ardor, her countenance grew more glowing and animated.
Her large black eyes flashed fire--an air of wild, bacchantic
ecstasy pervaded her whole appearance, her cheeks were burning, her
beautiful red lips were half opened, and revealed her ivory teeth,
and her uplifted arms (from which the wide sleeves of her negligee
had fallen back to the shoulders) were of the most charming contour.
Concluding her dance, she glided breathless and with panting bosom
toward Hardenberg, who had sunk into the easy-chair, and was looking
on with wondering eyes. Bursting into loud, melodious laughter, she
sat at his feet, and, pressing her glowing face against his knees,
looked searchingly and suppliantly into his eyes.
"You are angry with me," she said; "oh, pardon me, but I had first
to give vent to my exultation. Now I will be quite sensible."
"And what do you call sensible, then?" asked Hardenberg, who, under
the power of the woman's glances, vainly tried to impart to his
countenance an air of gravity and sternness.
"I call it sensible to reply honestly to the questions your
excellency will put to me now," she said, in a caressing tone.
"Well, then, let us see whether you are really sensible or not,"
said Hardenberg. "In the first place, please rise."
She shook her head slowly. "No," she said, "I will remain at your
feet until you have heard my confession and granted me absolution."
"And suppose I refuse to grant you absolution?"
"Then I shall die at your feet!"
"Ah, it is not so easy to die."
"It is easy to die when one wants to, and has such a friend as this
is," she exclaimed, drawing from her hair one of the two long silver
pins with which her heavy black tresses were partially fastened.
"Strange girl!" murmured Hardenberg, surprised, while she was
looking up to him with radiant eyes, and a smile playing on her
"Will you ask me now?" she then said, gently and almost humbly. "I
am lying here at your feet as if you were my confessor, and I am
longing with trembling impatience for my absolution."
"Well, then, tell me, in the first place, who you are."
"Who am I?" she asked. "A cheat, who, by intrigues, cabals, and
cunning, tried to attain the object she yearned for so intensely,
namely, to lie at the feet of a noble and eminent man, as she is
doing now, and to tell him that she loves him. Who am I? An
adventuress, who has gone out into the world to seek her fortune; to
play, if possible, a prominent part; to acquire a distinguished
name, and to obtain riches, power, and influence. Who am I? A diver,
who has plunged with reckless audacity into the foaming sea, to find
at its bottom either pearls or a grave."
"But, my child," said Hardenberg, "do you not know that the divers,
when plunging into the sea to seek pearls, always gird a safety-rope
around their waist for the purpose of being drawn to the surface
whenever they are in danger of drowning?"
"The man who loves me will be my safety-rope and draw me up," she
Hardenberg laughed. "In truth," he said, "I must admire your
sincerity and naivete. You must be very courageous to utter such
truths about yourself."
"Certainly, it would have been easier to play the virtuous,
forsaken, and unfortunate girl," she said, with a contemptuous
smile. "It would have been less troublesome to throw myself at your
feet, bathed in a flood of tears, and to say, 'Oh, have mercy upon
me! Free me from this unworthy role which has been forced upon me!
Save me from the torture of being compelled to dissimulate, to lie,
and to cheat. Virtue dwells in my heart, innocence and truth are
upon my lips. I have been forced to play a part that dishonors me.
Have mercy upon me, save me from the snares threatening me!'" While
saying so, she imparted to her features precisely the expression
that was adapted to her words; she had spoken in a tremulous,
suppliant voice, with folded hands and tearful eyes.
"Poor child," exclaimed Hardenberg, surprised, "you weep, you are
deeply moved! Ah, now at last you show me your true face, now you
cause me to see the poor, innocent, and unfortunate child that you
She shook away her tears and burst into laughter. "No," she
exclaimed, "I have only proved to you that I would be able to play
the virtuous and innocent girl to perfection, and that I might,
perhaps, thereby succeed in touching your noble heart. But you have
commanded me to tell you the truth, and I have pledged you my word
to do so. I tell you, then, I am no persecuted, virtuous girl, no
innocent angel; I am a woman, carrying a heaven and a hell in her
bosom; I can be an angel, if happiness and love favor me; I will be
a demon, if fate be hostile to me. Yes," she exclaimed, jumping up
and pacing the room in great agitation, "there are hours and days
when I myself believe that I am a demon, an angel hurled down from
heaven, and doomed to walk the earth on account of some crime. There
are hours when heavenly recollections fill my imagination, when an
indescribable, blissful yearning is, as it were, enveloping me in a
veil--when there are resounding in my heart the sweetest and most
enchanting notes of sacred words and devout prayers, and when it
seems to me as though I were sitting in the midst of radiant angels,
surrounded by luminous clouds, at the feet of God, His breath upon
my cheek, and looking down with compassionate, merciful love upon
the world, lying at an unfathomable distance under my feet. And then
I say to myself: 'You have reviled and slandered yourself; you are,
after all, a good angel; God is with you, and prayer, love, and
innocence, are in your heart.' Then it suddenly seems to me as if my
heart were rent, and I heard loud, scornful laughter. I fall from my
heaven; I look around and behold men, with their bittersweet faces,
smiling on, and lying to each other; I see all their duplicity and
their infamy; I laugh at my own transports and swear never to be
human with humanity, but a demon with demons--to cheat as they
cheat, to lie, and win from them as much happiness, honor, and
wealth, as I can with some mimic talent, a cool and sharp mind, a
pretty figure, and an ugly face."
"Ah, you are slandering yourself," exclaimed Hardenberg, smiling.
"You have no ugly face."
She hastened to the looking-glass, and gazed on herself with
searching glances. "Yes," she said, "I am really ugly. My mouth is
too large, my lips too full, my face is angular and by no means
prepossessing, my nose is vulgar, my forehead too low and too wide,
these bushy eyebrows become rather a grenadier than a young lady,
and these large black eyes look like a couple of sentinels, which,
with sharp glances, have to watch the rabble of nose, mouth, ear,
and cheek, lest one should try to escape from disgust at the
ugliness of the others. But I do not regret my want of beauty, for
it is uncommon and piquant, and I can imagine that a gifted, eminent
man, who is tired of the pretty faces of so-called virtuous women,
may feel attracted by my ugliness. Beauty at least always becomes
tiresome, for it treats you at once to all that it is and has, but
ugliness excites your curiosity more and more from day to day, for,
at certain moments, it may be transformed into beauty!"
"Your own case shows that," said Hardenberg, "for, although you call
yourself ugly, there is a fascinating beauty in your whole
She gazed on him with a long and radiant look. "You are a great man,
a genius, and you are, therefore, able to understand me. I will tell
you my history now, that you may at last grant me the blessing of
"Well, tell me your history," exclaimed Hardenberg. "Come,
Frederica, sit down by my side here on the couch on which you have
so often reposed as a modern Pythia, and proclaimed to me the
oracles which your mysterious priest had whispered to you. Now you
are no priestess uttering equivocal wisdom, but a young woman
telling the truth, and making me listen to the revelations of her
"A young woman," she repeated, sighing and reclining on the bed
close to the easy-chair on which Hardenberg was sitting. "Am I
young, then? It seems to me sometimes as though I were old--so old
as no longer to have any illusions, any hopes or wishes; as though I
were the 'Wandering Jew' who has been travelling through the world
so many centuries, seeking perpetually for the rest which he can
nowhere find. But still you are right; I am young, for I am only
twenty years old.".
"And who are your parents? Where do they live?"
"Who are my parents?" she asked, laughing. "My father was a holy
man, a high-priest in the temple of Time. It depended on him when
men were to awake or sleep, eat or work. It was his will that
regulated rendezvous and weddings, parties and arrests, and he had
no other master than the sun. He allowed the sun alone to guide him,
and still he was no Persian!"
"But he was a watchmaker?" asked Hardenberg, smiling.
"Yes, he was a watchmaker, and, thanks to him, the whole town where
he lived knew exactly what time it was. Only my mother did not know
it. She believed herself to be a great lady, although she was only a
poor watchmaker's wife, but was unable to efface the recollections
of her youth. She was the daughter of a French marquis, who, after
gambling away his whole fortune at the court of Louis XV., had
emigrated with his young wife and daughter to Berlin, in order to
seek another fortune at the court of Frederick the Great. But
Frederick the Great had already become somewhat distrustful of the
roving marquises and counts whom France sent to Berlin. Marquis de
Barbasson, my worthy grandfather, received, therefore, no office and
no money, and a time of distress set in, such as he would previously
have deemed utterly unlikely to befall the descendant of his
ancestors. He left Berlin with his family, to make his living
somewhere else as a teacher of languages. He travelled from one
place to another, and arrived at length at a small town called New
Brandenburg. There he remained, for his feet were weary, and his
poor wife was sick and tired of life. Well, Madame la Marquise de
Barbasson died, and the marquis taught the young ladies of New
Brandenburg how to conjugate avoir and etre; his daughter assisted
him, and, as she was very pretty, she taught many a young man how to
conjugate aimer. But who would have thought of marrying the daughter
of a French adventurer, who, it is true, styled himself marquis, but
was as poor as a beggar! He was unable long to bear the privations
and humiliations of his life; he fled from his creditors, and
perhaps also from his remorse, by committing suicide; and his
daughter, who was twenty years of age at that time, remained alone,
and without any other inheritance than the debts of her father. One
of the principal creditors of the marquis was the proprietor of the
house in which father and daughter had lived for three years without
paying rent, or refunding the small sums he had lent to them. This
proprietor was a young watchmaker, named Hahn, an excellent young
man, who had given the family of the French marquis not only his
money, but his heart. He loved the young Marquise de Barbasson,
unfortunate, or, if you prefer, fortunate man! for his courtship was
successful. Now, after the death of the old marquis, he played the
part of an importunate creditor, and told her she had the
alternative of paying or marrying him. The young Marquise de
Barbasson married him, and then paid the poor watchmaker in a manner
which was not very pleasant to him. She never forgave him for having
reduced her to the humble position of a watchmaker's wife, and found
it disgusting to be obliged to call herself Hahn, after having so
long borne the aristocratic name of Barbasson. However that might
be, she was his wife, and I have the honor to represent in my humble
person the legitimate daughter of Hahn, the watchmaker, and the
Marquise de Barbasson."
"And I must confess that you are representing your mother and your
father in a highly becoming manner," said Hardenberg. "You have the
bearing and the savoir vivre of a French marquise, and from your
oracular sayings I have seen that you are as familiar with the time
as a watchmaker is. But I can imagine that the descent of your
parents produced many a discord in your life."
"Say rather that my whole life was a discord," she exclaimed,
vehemently, "and that I have lived in an unending conflict between
my head and my heart, my reality and my imagination. Oh, how often,
when lying in dreary loneliness, in the shade of an oak on the shore
of the charming lake near the small town in which we lived--how
often did I utter loud cries of anguish, and say to the billows that
washed the shore with a low, murmuring sound: 'I am a French
marquise; there is aristocratic blood in my veins; it is my vocation
to shine at the courts of kings, and to see counts and princes at my
feet!' Yet none but the waves of the lake believed my words; men
treated me never as a Marquise de Barbasson, but only as little
Frederica Hahn, daughter of a poor watchmaker. I felt this as a
personal insult, and at many a bitter hour it seemed to me as
though, like my mother, I hated my poor father because he had robbed
us of our brilliant name and our nobility. My father bore my whims
patiently, for he loved me, and I believe he loved nothing on earth
better than his daughter. He saw that I was pining away in the
wearisome loneliness of our dull life; he knew that ambition was
burning in my heart like a torrent of fire, and he wept with me and
begged my pardon for being a poor watchmaker, and no nobleman. He
did all he could to make amends for this wrong; he treated me not as
his daughter, but as his superior; and, although we were scarcely in
easy circumstances, he surrounded me with all comforts becoming an
aristocratic young lady. I had my servants, my own room, a tolerably
fashionable toilet, a piano, a small library; and my father was
proud of being able to have me instructed by the best and most
expensive teachers, and of hearing that I was their most industrious
and talented pupil. But what good did all this do me? I remained
what I was--Frederica IIahn, the watchmaker's daughter--and the
blood of the Barbassons revolted against my position in life; and
the marquises and viscounts, my distinguished ancestors, appeared to
my inward eye, and seemed to beckon me and call me to the proud
castles which had formerly belonged to our family. But how should I
get thither?--how escape from my small native town?--how rid myself
of the burden of my name and my birth? That was the question which
put my brain night and day on the rack, and to which my intellect
was unable to make a satisfactory reply. An accident, however, came
to my assistance."
"Ah, in truth, I am anxious to hear this," exclaimed Hardenberg,
"for I am listening to you in breathless suspense, and am as eager
to learn the conclusion of your history as though it were the
denouement of a drama. An accident, then, furnished you with a
reply, my beautiful Marquise de Barbasson?"
"Yes, your excellency, and never shall I forget the day and the
hour. It was on a beautiful day last autumn. As I was in the habit
of doing every day, I had gone with my book into the forest on the
shore of the lake. I lay in my favorite place under a large oak, in
the dark foliage of which the birds were singing, while the waves of
the lake at my feet were a sweet accompaniment. I was reading the
lately published poetry of my favorite bard, Goethe, and had just
finished 'The Wandering Fool.' This poem struck my heart as
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