Old Fritz and the New Era
Part 4 out of 8
"And here on the margin," continued the general's wife, looking over
to her husband with malicious pleasure, "the king has written a few
lines in his own hand: 'I have given orders that the money shall be
paid to your daughter in person, with her receipt for the same, for
I know you, and know that you do not play, not because you have not
the money, but the gout. If you had the cash and not the gout, you
would play your daughter's dowry to the devil, and that I do not
wish, for a noble maiden should not marry a rich husband as poor as
a church mouse. FREDERICK.'"
A profound stillness prevailed when the reading was finished. The
general busied himself, as usual, rubbing his gouty leg with the
palm of his hand. Marie sat with her hands pressed upon her bosom,
as if she would force back the sighs and sobs which would break
forth. Her great, black eyes were turned to her mother with an
expression of painful terror, and she searched with a deathly
anxiety for a trace of sympathy and mercy upon her cold, immovable
Her mother slowly folded the letter, and laid it upon the table.
"You know all now, Marie--that, as it becomes parents, we have
disposed of your future and your hand. You will submit to their
wishes without murmuring or opposition, as it becomes an obedient,
well-brought-up daughter, and receive the husband we have chosen for
you. He will come today to hear your consent, and you from this day
forth are the betrothed of the future Herr von Werrig. Of course
from this very hour you will cease the highly improper and ungenteel
business which you have pursued. You must not make any more flowers,
or give any more lessons. The time of such degradation and
humiliation is past, and my daughter can no longer be a school-
mistress. You have only to write the receipt to-day, and I will go
with you to the treasury to get the money."
"I will not write the receipt," said Marie, gently but firmly. Her
mother, in the act of rising, sank back upon the divan; and the
general, apparently quite occupied with his leg, stopped rubbing,
and raised his red, bloated face to his daughter in astonishment.
"Did I understand rightly your words, that you would not write the
"Yes, mother, I said so; I cannot and will not write it," replied
"And why cannot you, and will you not write it?" said her mother,
"Because I have no right to the money, and cannot take it, mother,
as I will never be the wife of the man you intend me to marry."
The general sprang with a savage curse from his arm-chair, and would
have rushed to his daughter, but his wife pushed him back into his
seat, and approached Marie, who rose, regarding her mother with a
firm, sad expression. "Why can you not be the wife of the man we
have chosen for you? Answer me, WHY you cannot?"
"You know, mother," she replied, and gradually her voice assumed a
more decided tone, her cheeks reddened, and an inspired expression
beamed from her eyes, and pervaded her whole being--" you know,
mother, that I can never be the wife of Herr Ebenstreit, for I do
not love him. I despise and abominate him, because he is a man
without honor; he knows that I do not love him, and yet he insists
upon marrying me. If it were not so, if I did not despise and
abominate him, I would not receive his suit and marry him."
"Why not?" cried the general, shaking his fist at his daughter.
"Why not?" cried the mother, with a cold, icy glance, void of pity
Marie encountered these looks with beaming eyes. "Because I am
betrothed to another," and the words came like a cry of joy from her
heart--" because I am engaged to my beloved Moritz!"
"Shameless, obstinate creature, have we not forbidden it?" cried her
"Stop!" interrupted his wife, with a commanding wave of her hand,
which silenced the obedient husband immediately. "It belongs to me
to question her, for I am her mother, and my daughter owes me
submission and obedience above all things.--Answer me, Marie, did
you not know that we had forbidden you to speak to this man, or have
any communication with him? Did you not know that I, your mother,
had menaced you with a curse if you married this man, or even spoke
to the miserable, pitiable creature?"
"Mother," cried Marie, vehemently, "he is not a poor, miserable
creature. You may hate him, but you dare not outrage the noble, the
good, and just man!"
"He is a good-for-nothing fellow," cried her father; "he has tried
to win a minor behind the parents' back. He is a shameful, good-for-
"He is dishonorable," cried the general's wife--"a dishonorable man,
who has misused our confidence. We confided to him our daughter to
teach, and paid him for it. He improved the opportunity to make a
declaration of love, and stole the time from us to infatuate the
heart of our daughter with flattery, and from his pupil win a
"Oh, unworthy, shameful slander!" cried Marie, her eyes flashing
with anger. "You well know that it is a vile scandal, that Moritz
was no paid teacher. If he had been--if he had felt obliged to yield
to the sad necessity of being paid for his valuable time, because he
was poor, and forced to live by his intellect, he was a free man,
and had the right to love whom he chose. He loves me, and I have
accepted his love as the most precious, most beautiful, and most
glorious gift of my life. Ah! do not look so angry with me, father;
I cannot say otherwise. I cannot crush or deny the inmost life of my
life.--Oh, mother, forgive me that I cannot change it! You know that
otherwise I have been a most obedient daughter to you in all things,
although you have never taught me the happiness of possessing a
loving mother; though neither of you could ever forgive your only
child for not being a son, who could inherit your name, and win a
brilliant position, yet I have always loved you tenderly and truly,
and never complained that the unwelcome daughter received neither
love nor tenderness, only indifference and coldness from her
"Beautiful, very beautiful!" replied the mother, contemptuously.
"Now you wish to blame us that you are a heartless and thankless
daughter.--We have not understood her heart, and it is our fault
that her love has flown somewhere else.
This is the language of romance. I have, indeed, read it in the
romances of Herr Moritz, and my daughter has only repeated what she
learned as a docile pupil from her schoolmaster. Very fine, to pay
Herr Moritz to form our daughter into the heroine of a romance! She
ought to have learned the languages, but has learned only the
language of romances."
"You are very severe and very cruel, mother," said Marie, sadly. "I
would not complain, only excuse myself, and implore pity and
indulgence, and defend myself from the reproach of having been a
cold, unloving daughter. Oh! God knows how I have longed for your
love; that I would willingly prove that I would joyfully do every
thing to embellish your life and make you happy. It gave me such
pleasure to earn something for you with my dear flowers and lessons,
and afford you a little gratification!"
"Ah! now, she will reproach us with having toiled for us and
sacrificed herself. Husband, thank yourself for the victim who
worked for you, who gave her youth for us that she might strew our
life with roses."
"I have had enough of this talking and whining," cried the general,
furiously beating the table with his fist. "My daughter shall not be
a heroine of romance, but an obedient child, who submits to the will
of her parents. You shall marry the man that we have chosen for you;
the king has given his consent, and it shall take place. I command
you! That is sufficient! I will hear no more about it; the thing is
done with. Herr Ebenstreit is coming this afternoon to make you a
proposal of marriage with our consent, and you must, accept him. I
command you to do it!"
"I cannot obey you! Oh, do not force me to rebel against God's holy
laws! Have pity upon me! I have obeyed you until now, and yielded to
your wishes, although I thought it would break my heart sometimes.
You have forbidden Moritz the house, and turned him out of doors
like a servant, with scorn and contempt, and he has silently borne
it on my account. You have forbidden me to write or receive letters
from him, or ever to meet him. My mother would curse me if I
disobeyed her, and I submitted. I have given up every thing,
sacrificed every wish, and renounced my love. But you cannot expect
more from me, or dare ask it. I can forego happiness, but you cannot
ask me to consent to be buried alive!"
"And what if we should wish it?" asked her mother. "If we should
demand our daughter to give up a romantic, foolish love, to become
the wife of a young man who loves her, and who loves us, and who is
rich enough to assure us a comfortable old age, free from care?"
"Marie," cried the general, in a begging and almost imploring tone,
"Marie, prove to us now that you are really a good and grateful
child--we have had so much care and want in our life, so many
sorrowful days! It lies in your hands to make our declining days
joyous and bright, and free us from want. We have often grumbled
against God, that He did not give us a son; now make us to rejoice
that He has given us a daughter, who will bring us a son and inherit
our name through her children, and who will give us what we have
never known--prosperity and riches. I beg you, my dear, good child,
grant your parents the few last years of their life freedom from
"And I, Marie," said her mother, in a softened and tender tone,
which Marie had never heard from her--"I beg you also, be a good
daughter, pity your mother! I have always led a joyless, unhappy
life. I lived unmarried, a native-born countess, with proud
relations, who made me feel bitterly my dependence; when married my
existence was only trouble, privations, care, and sorrow. I beg you,
Marie, teach me to know happiness, for which I have so longed in
vain; give me independence and prosperity, which I have always
desired, and never known. I pray, Marie, make us happy in bringing
us a rich, genteel, and good son-in-law, Herr Ebenstreit."
Marie, who met the scorn and threats of her mother with firmness and
a proud demeanor, trembled as she heard these severe and merciless
lips, always so cold and harsh, now begging and imploring. At first
she was quite frightened, and then terrified, and covered her face
with her hands, her head sinking upon her breast as her mother
"Speak, my daughter," cried the general, as his wife was silent.
"Speak, my dear Marie. Say the word, and we shall be all happy, and
there will be no happier family found in Berlin, or the world even.
Say that you will marry Ebenstreit, and we will love and bless you
so long as we live. Do say yes, dear Marie!"
Her hands fell from her face, and stretching them out toward her
parents, she looked at them in despair.
There was a fearful pause. "I cannot, it is impossible!" she
shrieked. "I cannot marry this man, for I do not love him. I love
another, whom I can never forget, whom I shall love forever. I
"Herr Conrector Moritz!" announced Trude, hastily bursting open the
door, and looking in with a triumphant smile.
HATE AND LOVE
"Herr Conrector Moritz wishes to pay his respects," called out Trude
"We do not wish to receive him," cried Frau von Werrig.
"He dare not presume to enter!" shrieked the general.
Marie cried, "Moritz! Oh! my beloved Moritz," rushing with
outstretched arms toward her lover, who just appeared at the door.
"God has sent you to sustain me in this fearful hour."
Old Trude peeped through the half-closed door, well satisfied to see
her dear young lady folded in Moritz's arms, and her head leaning
upon his shoulder. "Yes," she murmured, closing softly the door,
"Marie is right, God himself sent her lover in this hour, and I
would not let her wicked, hard-hearted parents send him away."
Quick as thought she turned the key, fastening the door, and betook
herself to the farthest room, carefully closing every door between
them. "Now we will see for once whether they will show him the door,
and pitch him out. No, they will be obliged to listen to him. Old
Trude wishes it, for it will make her dear Marie happy. It is all
the same to me if the old German tries to scratch my eyes out for
it; I will take good care to keep out of his way. I must go and
She put her ear to the keyhole, and then her eye, to see how the
At first the general and his wife were quite alarmed, and almost
speechless as they witnessed the joyful meeting of the lovers. The
father sprang up suddenly, with clinched fist, but instead of bitter
invectives only a fearful shriek of pain was heard, as he sank
groaning and whimpering into his armchair. The gout had again seized
its victim. Anger had excited the general's blood, and had also
brought on the pain in his leg again. His wife took no notice of his
cries and groans, for it was quite as agreeable to her to be the
only speaker, and have her moaning husband a kind of assenting
chorus. "Leave each other!" she commanded, as she approached the
lovers, flourishing her long shrivelled arms about. "Leave each
other, and leave my house!"
Laying her hand on Marie's arm, which was thrown around her lover's
neck, she endeavored to tear her away, and draw her daughter toward
herself. But Marie clung only the more firmly, and Moritz pressed
her more fervently to his heart. They heeded not and heard not the
outburst of anger which the mother gave way to. They read in each
other's eyes the bliss, the joy of meeting again, and the assurance
of constant, imperishable love.
"You are pale and thin, my beloved!"
"Sorrow for you is consuming me, Marie, but, thank Heaven, you are
unchanged, and beautiful as ever!"
"Hope and love have consoled and strengthened me, Philip."
"Enough! I forbid you to speak another word to each other," and with
the power which rage lends, the mother tore Marie away. "Herr
Moritz, will you tell me by what right you force yourself into our
house, and surprise us like a street-thief in our peaceful dwelling?
But no! you need not tell me, I will not listen to you. Those who
permit themselves to enter our room unasked and unwelcomed--I will
have nothing to say to them. Leave! there is the door! Out with you,
off the threshold!"
With calm demeanor, Moritz now approached Fran von Werrig, demanding
her pardon, saying: "You see, madame, that I am not so unwelcome
here, therefore you will be obliged to let me remain."
"Yes, that she will," sneered Trude, outside the door. "It will be
difficult for her to send him off so long as I am unwilling."
"No, I will not permit it. We have nothing to do with each other.
Out of my sight!--Away!"
"Away!" cried the general. "Oh, the gout, the maddening pains! I
cannot throw the bold fellow out of the house! I must lie here, and
writhe like a worm! I cannot be master of my house. Oh, oh! what
"Stay, Philip," whispered Marie, as she again leaned toward Moritz.
"They wish to sell me and force me to a hated marriage. Do not
yield! save me!"
"You are mine, Marie; yon have sworn to me eternal constancy, and no
one can compel you to marry if you do not wish to."
"We are her parents; we can, and we will compel her," triumphantly
cried Frau von Werrig. "The king has given his consent, and if it is
necessary we will drag her to the altar by force!"
"Do it, mother, and I will say no before all the world."
"We will take care that no one hears you but the priest, and he will
not listen, as he knows that the king has commanded you to say yes!"
"But God will hear her, Frau yon Werrig, and He will take vengeance
on the cruel, heartless mother."
"I will await this vengeance," she sneered. "It does not concern
you, and you need not trouble yourself about it. Leave the house!"
"I came here to speak with you, and I will not go away until you
have listened to me."
"Then I will leave, for I will not hear you, and I command you to
follow me, Marie!"
She seized Marie with irresistible force, and drew her toward the
side door, which was fast. Then hurried toward the entrance,
dragging her daughter after her, but shook it in vain; that door was
"Oh! I could kiss myself," murmured Trude, as she patted her old,
wrinkled cheeks. "I was as cunning and wise as Solomon. There,
shriek for Trude, order her to open it. Trude is not there, and she
has no ears for you!"
"This is a plot--a shameful plot!" cried Frau yon Werrig, stamping
her feet. "That good-for-nothing creature, Trude, is in it. She has
locked the doors, and the schoolmaster paid her for it."
Trude shook her fist at her mistress behind the door. "Wait! that
good-for-nothing creature will punish you! You shall have something
to be angry about with me every day."
"I swear to you that I do not know who locked the doors," replied
Moritz, calmly. "But whoever did it, I thank them from the depths of
my soul, for it forces you to listen to me, and may love give my
words the power to soften your heart. General and Frau von Werrig, I
conjure you to have compassion upon us. Is it possible that you are
deaf to the cry of grief of your own child?"
Suddenly assuming a contemptuous calm, Frau von Werrig sank back
upon the divan with great dignity. "As I am obliged to listen to
you, through a shameful deception, let it be so. Try to make ears in
my heart, which you say is deaf. Let me listen to your wonderful
"Oh, Philip!" said Marie, clasping his arms, "you see it will all be
"Let me hope to succeed in awakening a spark of loving mercy, as
Moses caused the fountain to gush from the rock.--A year since you
turned me insultingly from your door, Frau von Werrig, and you
forbade me with scorn and contempt to ever cross your threshold. In
the rebellious pride of my heart I swore never to do it again, never
to speak to those who had so injured me. The holy, pure love which
binds me to this dear girl has released me from my oath. We have
tried to live separated from each other a long year, an
inconsolable, unhappy year! We hoped to renounce each other,
although we could not forget. Marie, as an obedient daughter, obeyed
your commands, and returned the ring, which I gave her in a moment
of affection and holy trust. I released her from the oath of
constancy, and made her free! But it is in vain! During this year I
have striven with sorrow as a man, helpless in a desert, who writhes
in the folds of the poisonous serpent. I should have gone mad if a
consoling word from a great and noble mind had not roused me from my
desolation, and if love had not shed a ray of light into my
benighted soul. I listened no longer to sickening pride and humbled
sense of honor. Love commanded me to come here, and I came to ask
you, Marie, in the presence of your parents, if you will be my wife;
if you will accept my poor, insignificant name, and be contented by
my side to lead a quiet, modest existence. I can only earn
sufficient to assure us a peaceful life. I have no splendor, no
treasures to offer you, but only my love, my heart, my life, my
whole thought and being. Will you accept it, Marie?"
"I do accept it, Moritz, as the greatest happiness of my life. I
desire only your love, and I can return only my love to you! Here is
my hand, Philip, it belongs to you alone! Let us kneel in humility
before my parents, and implore their blessing.--Oh, my father and
mother, have pity upon us! See this dear man, to whom my whole heart
belongs. I desire only to live and toil with him. There are no
riches, no treasures, to compare with his love!"
"General and Frau von Werrig, grant me the wife of my heart!" cried
Philip Moritz, deeply moved. "It is true, I am not worthy of her, I
have no name, no position, to offer her, but I swear to strive to
gain it for her. I will win by my talents and knowledge a
distinguished name, and perhaps one day you will concede to my fame
that I am a noble man, though not a nobleman. Will you separate two
hearts which belong to each other? Take me for your son-in-law, and
I swear to be devoted and faithful, to love and honor you for your
daughter's sake. I can say no more--words cannot express all that I
feel. Love causes me to kneel before you, love makes me humble as a
child. I implore you to give me your daughter in marriage."
"I also implore you," cried Marie, sinking down beside Moritz, "give
to me this man, whom I love and honor, for my husband."
It was a beautiful and impressive scene--these two young beings
pleading for happiness; their eyes flashing with the inspiration of
feeling, conscious that they were one in affection, and ready to
combat the whole world for each other. But Frau von Werrig was
immovable, and the general was too much occupied with his gouty,
throbbing leg even to cast a look upon the beautiful group of youth,
love, manly determination, and tender resignation.
Outside the door, Trude knelt imploringly, with folded hands, while
the tears ran down her old cheeks in big drops. "O God, I well know
that they have no pity; have mercy Thou, and cause my dear Marie to
be happy! Suffer not that that hard-hearted woman should sell her,
and marry her to that bad man my Marie despises. I well know that I
am a poor creature, and not worthy that Thou shouldst listen to me,
O Lord! But I love that young girl as if she were my own child, and
I would give my heart's blood for her. Oh, my God! I implore Thee to
let my Marie be happy!" Then she continued, as she rose from her
knees. "Now, I have spoken, and I commit every thing to God, and He
will do what is best. She has been obliged to listen to him, and if
it cannot be otherwise, he must go."
Carefully old Trude unlocked both doors, and then stopped to listen.
Trude was right, there was no mercy in Frau von Werrig's heart.
"Have you finished? Have you any thing more to say?" she asked, in
her most unsympathizing manner.
"Nothing more with our lips, but our hearts still implore you."
"I do not understand this language, sir, and you have not succeeded
in giving me hearing, or ears to hear with. In this useless strife I
will say a last word, which I hope will be for life. You shall never
be the husband of my daughter! You can never be united."
Marie and Moritz sprang from their knees, laying their hands in each
other's, and looked what words could not have better expressed--"We
are inseparable, nothing can disunite us but death!"
"I desire you not to interrupt me," commanded Frau von Werrig; "I
have listened to you, and now you shall listen to me. I promise you
to speak with more brevity than you have. I will not trouble you
with useless phrases and tedious lamentations. I will speak to the
point. Marie is the daughter of General Werrig von Leuthen, whose
name would become extinct if the grace and favor of the king had not
prevented it, by permitting the husband whom we have chosen for our
daughter to take our name, and therewith become our son. You may
think, in your arrogance of commoner, and the pride you take in
having won the love of the daughter of General von Leuthen, that you
could be this husband and son-in-law. But two things fail you:
first, the necessary fortune; and, secondly, the king's consent, and
that of her father. If you were rich, it might be possible that we
should be touched by the tender amorousness of our daughter, and
conquer our aversion to you for her sake. You are of low birth, and
take a subordinate position in society. It would be extremely
laughable for the schoolmaster Moritz to change suddenly into a Herr
von Werrig Leuthen. Our son-in-law must be a rich man, in order to
be able to give his new title consideration; and, fortunately, the
wooer of my daughter's hand possesses this qualification, and
therefore we have given our consent. The king has approved our
choice, and permits the rich banker Ludwig Ebenstreit to become our
son-in-law, and take our name. The king has in this communication,
which lies upon the table, and which Marie has heard read, given his
assurance to ennoble Ebenstreit upon two conditions: first, that the
banker should give up his business, and live upon his income; and,
secondly, that the marriage should not take place until the papers
of nobility are made out and published, so that the daughter of
General von Werrig should not make a misalliance. You know all now,
and you will at last understand that there is but one thing for you
to do--conquer your foolish presumption, and beg to be excused for
your unheard-of boldness in forcing yourself into our house, and
then withdraw quickly. If my ear does not deceive me, your
accomplice has opened the doors. I think I heard rightly, if my
heart has no ears, my head possesses better. We have finished. I
would again enjoin upon you the duty of begging for pardon, and then
I close this unrefreshing scene with the same words with which it
opened--there is the door--go out!"
"Yes, there is the door--go out of it! I want to be quiet--go! My
daughter is the betrothed of the rich banker Herr Ebenstreit; she
will be his wife as soon as the papers are made out and published.--
Go!" cried the general.
The young couple still stood there, hand in hand, looking at the
general, until now their eyes met, beaming with tenderest affection
for each other. "Is it true, Marie? Speak, my beloved, is it true,
will you be the wife of this rich man whom your parents have chosen
"No, Philip," she calmly and firmly replied. "No, I will not, for I
do not love him, I love only you; and here, in the presence of God
and my parents, I swear to you that I will be constant to death!
They can prevent my becoming your wife, but they cannot force me to
wed another. I swear, then, that if I cannot be yours, I will never
"I receive your oath, and God has heard it also!" said Moritz,
"I have also heard it, and I tell you," said Frau von Werrig, "that
this romantic heroine will become a perjurer, for I will find means
to make her break her silly oath."
"We will, perhaps, find means to delay the marriage," said Moritz
proudly, "or, much more, prevent the marriage ceremony."
"I am very curious to know the means," said Frau von Werrig. "From
this hour Marie is the betrothed of Herr Ebenstreit, and the wedding
will take place so soon--"
"So soon as the title of nobility is published. That is it, is the
clause to be filled; and therefore I tell you, beloved, wait and
hope! This woman is without pity and without mercy; but God is in
heaven, and Frederick the Great on the earth. Wait and hope. Be firm
in hope, and constant in love. Do not lose courage, and let them
force you to compliance by threats and anger. I have only you to
confide in and to love in the world, and you are my hope, my goal,
and the happiness of my life. If you forsake me, I lose my good
angel, and am a lost, miserable man, whom it would be better to hurl
into the deepest abyss than let him suffer the torments of hated
existence. The knowledge of your love gives me strength and courage;
it will inspire me to fight like a hero, to win the dear, beloved
wife, to whom I would yield my life in order to receive it anew from
her purified and sanctified. The knowledge that I had lost you,
would ruin me."
Laying both hands upon his shoulder, Marie looked at him with eyes
beaming with affection, renewing her vow that she would never love
or marry another. "We will be courageous in hope, and brave in
constancy. Listen to me, my beloved; listen, my mother--I betrothed
myself to this dear man! You can prevent my becoming his wife now,
but in four years I am of age, and then I shall be my own mistress.
Then, my dear Philip, I will be your wife. Let us wait and hope!"
"Yes, Marie, we will wait and hope.--Farewell! Do not forget that
there is a great God in heaven, and a great king upon earth.--
He pressed the hand clasped in his own passionately to his tips, and
felt from the pressure of her delicate fingers a renewed vow of
constancy. Buoyed with this hope in the sad hour of parting, they
were happy and joyful. Marie accompanied him to the door--still hand
"Presume not to go a step farther," commanded her mother, and Marie,
obedient to her wishes, remained near the door, bowed to Moritz, and
never ceased to regard him, with love beaming in her eyes, until the
door closed. Outside stood old Trude, to tell him that she would be
at the baker's at seven o'clock every morning, and wait for his
commissions, "and may be I shall have something to bring you," she
said. "So do come!"
"I will, my good Trude; you are the only person who is friendly to
us. Watch over my angel, console her with your affection, and when
they are too hard upon her, come to me."
"I surely will, but listen--they are already quarrelling with my
good angel. I will go in, to serve as a lightning-rod for dear
Marie. I often do it, and it pleases me when the lightning strikes,
and dashes my hard old head to the ground, but does not hurt me at
alL--Farewell, Herr Moritz, the lightning-rod must go in."
Trude entered suddenly and noiselessly the sitting-room, and
interrupted the angry reproaches which Frau von Werrig hurled
against Marie in a furious stream of words. The countess's rage
turned against Trude, who stared as if to challenge her. "What do
you want? How dare you enter uncalled?"
"I thought you were calling deaf old Trude, or why did you scream
so?" replied Trude, tartly.
"Perhaps it was the general. Ah! there lies the poor, dear old man,
groaning and crying, and nobody has any pity for him."
"Ah! Trude, it is good luck that you are here," whined the general.
"No one troubles himself about me. Quick, bring warm covering for my
leg, the pain is fearful!"
"Poor, dear father, I will take care of you, I will nurse you," said
Marie, hastening to him. Her mother pushed her back violently. "Not
a step farther; you have no right to go near him, you are his
murderess. On your head will fall the guilt, if these dreadful
scenes should cause his death."
"No, no, the general will not die quite yet," said Trude busying
herself about his arm-chair. "But, Fraulein, you have got something
else to do than stay here. They have already sent for the flowers
twice, and the French lady is waiting up-stairs to parlez-vous."
Marie looked her friendly thanks, and quietly and quickly left the
"Now, bold woman, I have a last word to say to you. Who locked the
door when that creature came?" "I, madame," answered Trude, who was
just bringing a great cushion from the back-room to cover the
"You acknowledge that you locked the door intentionally?"
"Now, my dear, good Frau von Werrig, one does not lock a door by
mistake. I did not want Herr Moritz to run away with fright, before
you had given him your mind, and set his head straight. He would
certainly have escaped, and only heard the half of your beautiful
talk, for he had no idea what a miserable fellow he is. So I locked
both doors, and he was obliged to listen to you, and has gone away
contrite and repentant. There, there, my poor, dear general, is your
foot high enough? Shall I not bring the foot-warmer?"
"You shall not bring any thing, nor do any thing more. You are a
hypocrite, who connives with Moritz. Leave my house this very hour!
You are dismissed my service. Go pack up your things and be off!"
cried Frau von Werrig.
"Oh, do not go, Trude, for mercy's sake, for then I have no one to
help me," cried the general.
"I cannot do otherwise, she has given me my dismissal." Trude
approached Frau von Werrig respectfully, saying, "So I must pack up
and go away at once?"
"Immediately, you deceitful creature!"
"Immediately! but Frau von Werrig will be so good as to give me my
"Yes," she answered in a slower and more subdued voice. "That shall
be done presently."
"It will not be so very difficult to reckon them, I have been here
twenty years; just as many years as Marie is old, for I came as
child's nurse, and have helped her learn to talk and walk, and
played mother to the dear child a bit. Then I obtained my wages, for
they were good times; but the pension-time came, and we had no cook
or servant but me. 'The rats run away if the ship springs a leak,'
but the old mole Trude stayed. Mankind is in the world to work, I
said, and why should not I be the cook and waiting-maid too, that my
little Marie should not want any thing? So I became maid-of-all-work
and have stayed here ever since. Then, you told me you would double
my wages, and give me twenty thalers a year, and four thalers at
Christmas. Is it not so, Frau von Werrig?"
"I believe that was the agreement."
"I am quite certain about it," cried the general, who began to
understand the drift of Trude. "Yes, Trude was to have twenty
thalers a year, and we are owing her many years' wages. You know,
wife, I have always kept an account-book for the debts, and only a
few days ago--Oh! oh! the pain! Trude, help me cover up the foot
warmer!--we reckoned it up a few days ago, and we owe Trude one
hundred and thirty thalers."
"One hundred and thirty thalers," repeated Trude, clapping her
hands, astonished. "Is it true? oh, that is splendid. I shall be
rich, and get a husband yet. I pray you give it to me, Frau von
Werrig, right away."
"Not so quickly," said she, proudly. "We will reckon together how
much you have saved--because--"
"Oh!" interrupted Trude, "how good you are to make me keep so much;
you are my savings bank, where I can deposit my money."
"Because," she continued, with emphasis, without noticing the
interruption, "our future son-in-law will pay your wages, the rich
banker, Herr Ebenstreit. Yes, the wealthy lover of our daughter. At
the moment I have not so much cash in the house."
"Your grace will allow me to stay until Herr Ebenstreit is married,
and, in your name, pays me my wages?"
"Yes, Trude, I will allow you to stay," she replied, very
graciously. "You will be cunning, Trude, if you try to persuade
Marie to accept the rich suitor, for when she does I will give you
two hundred thalers."
"I will do all I can to get it. Can I remain here until Marie is
"Yes, you have my permission for that."
"I thank you, Frau von Werrig. Now, general, I will bring you some
warm coverings right away."
CHARLES AUGUSTUS AND GOETHE.
"Now tell me, Wolf," asked Duke Charles Augustus, stretching himself
comfortably on the sofa, puffing clouds of smoke from his pipe--"
are you not weary of dawdling about in this infamously superb pile
of stones, called Berlin? Shall we any longer elegantly scrape to
the right and to the left, with abominable sweet speeches and mere
flattering phraseology, in this monster of dust and stone, of sand
and sun, parades and gaiters? Have you not enough of blustering
generals, of affected women? and of running about the streets like
one possessed to see here a miserable church, or there a magnificent
palace? Are you not weary of crawling about as one of the many,
while at home you stride about as the only one of the many? And
weary also of seeing your friend and pupil Carl August put off with
fair promises and hollow speeches like an insignificant, miserable
mortal, without being able to answer with thundering invectives. Ah!
breath fails me. I feel as if I could load a pistol with myself, and
with a loud report shoot over to dear Weimar. Wolf, do talk, I beg
you, I am tired out; answer me."
"I reply, I shoot, my dear Carl," cried Goethe, laughing. "I was out
of breath myself from that long speech. Was it original with my dear
prince, or did he memorize it from Klinger's great 'Sturm-und-Drang'
tragedy? It reminded me of it."
"Do you mean to accuse me of plagiarism, wicked fellow? I grant that
you are right, my cunning Wolf, it was a lapsus. I did think of
Klinger, and I sympathized with his youthful hero Wild, who declared
that, among the sweetest pleasures, he would like to be stretched
over a drum, or exist in a pistol-barrel, the hand ready to blow him
into the air."
Goethe shoved aside the breakfast-table, straightened his delicate
form, with his noble head proudly erect, and one foot in advance,
extended his right arm, giving one loud hurrah! "Now, for once, a
tumult and noise, that thought may turn about like a weathercock.
This savage noise has already wrought its own benefit. I begin to
feel a little better. Rage and expand, mad heart, quicken yourself
in hurly-burly-burly-burly!" [Footnote: From Klinger's tragedy
"Sturm und Drang."]
"Bravo! bravo!" laughed the duke. "Is that Klinger, or who is it
that refreshes himself in hurly-burly?"
"It is I who am every thing," replied Goethe, striding and
swaggering up and down. "I was an assistant, in order to be
something--lived upon the Alps, tended the goats, lay under the
vault of heaven day and night, refreshed by the cool pastures, and
burned with the inward fire. No peace, no rest anywhere. See, I
swell with power and health! I cannot waste myself away. I would
take part in the campaign here; then can my soul expand, and if they
do me the service to shoot me down, well and good!" [Footnote: From
Klinger's tragedy "Sturm und Drang."]
"Bravo! Wild, bravo!" cried the duke. "Hei! that thundered and
rolled, and struck fire! It does me good to hear such vigorous words
from an able rare genius in the midst of this miserable, starched
elegance. The powerful Germans are healthy fellows. Something of the
Promethean fire blazes forth in them. They were forced to come,
those jolly, uproarious boys, after the affected cue period; they
were the full, luxurious plants, and my Wolfgang, the favorite of my
heart, my poet and teacher, is the divine blossom of this plant. Let
them prevail, these 'Sturmer und Dranger,' for they are the fathers
and brothers of my Wolfgang. Do me the sole pleasure not to refine
yourself too much, but let this divine fire burst forth in volcanic
flames, and leave the thundering crater uncovered. Sometimes when I
see you so simpering, so modest and ceremonious, I ask myself, with
anxiety, if it is the same Wolfgang Goethe, who used to drink
'Smollis' with me at merry bacchanals out of death-skulls?--the same
with whom I used to practise whip-cracking upon the market-place
hours long, to the terror of the good citizens?--the same who used
to dance so nimbly the two-steps, and was inexhaustible in mad
pranks. Now tell me, Herr Wolfgang, are you yourself, or are you
"I am myself, and not myself," answered Goethe, smiling. "There
still remains a good portion of folly in me, and it must sometimes
thunder and flash, but I hope the atmosphere of my soul will become
clearer, and over the crater a more lovely garden will spread out,
in which beautiful, fragrant flowers will bloom, useful and
profitable for my friends and myself. Sometimes I long for this as
for the promised land; then again it foams and thunders in me like
fermenting must, which, defying all covers and hoops, would froth up
to heaven in an immense source of mad excitement!"
"Let it froth and foam, and spring the covers, and burst the old
casks," cried the duke; "I delight in it, and every infernal noise
you make, the prouder I am to recognize that from this foaming must
will clear itself a marvellous wine, a delicious beverage for gods
and men, with which the world will yet refresh itself, when we are
long gone to the kingdom of shades--to the something or nothing. You
know, Wolf, I love you, and I am proud that I have you! It is true
that I possess only a little duchy, but it is large enough to lead
an agreeable and comfortable existence--large enough for a little
earthly duke, and the great king of intellects, Johann Wolfgang
Goethe. Let us return to our dear home, for I acknowledge to you I
sigh for Weimar. I long for the dear little place, where every one
knows me and greets me, and even for my dogs and horses."
"And I," said Goethe, "I really mourn for my Tusculum, which I owe
to the generous, kind duke; for the balcony of my little cottage,
where, canopied by the blue, starry vault of heaven, I dream away
the lonely May nights."
"Is there nothing else you sigh for but the summer-house at Weimar?"
"No!" cried Goethe, and an indescribable expression of rapture and
delight was manifest in his whole manner.
"No, why should I deny it, how could I? It would be treason to the
Highest and most Glorious. No, I long for my muse, my mistress,
"Beloved!" interrupted the duke. "I pray you not to be so prudish,
so reserved. Have the courage to snap your fingers at this
infamously deceitful moral code, and proud and distinguished as you
are, elevate yourself above what these miserable earthworms call
morality. For the eagle there is a different law than for the
pigeon. If the eagle soars aloft through the ether to his eyry,
bearing a lamb in his powerful claws, has he not a right to it--the
right of superiority and power by God's grace? Has he not as much
right to the lamb as the pigeon to the pea which she finds in the
dust? If the pigeon by chance sees the eagle with his lamb, she
cries, 'Zeter! mordio!' with the pea in her own bill, as if she were
in a position to judge the eagle."
"A beautiful picture," cried Goethe, joyfully--"a picture that would
inspire me to indite a poem."
"Write one, and call it for a souvenir 'The Eagle and the Dove.'
Make it a reality, my eagle youth, bear off the white lamb to your
eyry, and let the world, with its affected morality, say what it
likes. How can you bear to see the one you love at the side of
another man? Tell me, confess to me, is not the beautiful Charlotte
von Stein your beloved?"
"Not in the sense you mean, duke, not in the vulgar sense of the
word. I love her, I adore her, with a pure and holy sentiment. I
would not that Charlotte should have cause to blush before her
children on my account. She would be desecrated to me if I, in my
inmost soul, could imagine the blush of shame upon her cheek, or
that her eye could brighten at other than great, beautiful, and
noble acts. I adore her, and to me she is the ideal of the purest
and sweetest womanhood. I rejoice that she is as she is, like clear
mountain crystal--transparent and so brightly pure, that one could
mirror himself therein. She stands above all other women, and to her
belong all my thoughts, and would, even if I were wedded to another.
To me she is the most beautiful of the beautiful, the purest of the
pure, the most graceful of the graceful, and all my thoughts are in
perfect harmony with hers. Now, duke, if it is agreeable to you,
knowing my feelings, to call Charlotte von Stein my beloved, she is
so in the most elevated sense of the word."
"Ah! you poets, you poets," sighed the duke, smiling.
"A streak of madness in you all, though I will grant that it is
"Say rather that Whit-Sunday comes to us every day, and the divine
Spirit descends daily upon us poets, and causes us to speak in
"I will say that you are the god Apollo descended from heaven, and
with gods one may not dare to dispute. They act differently in their
sphere than we mortals upon earth. I will be contented if our ways
cross from time to time, and we can once in a while walk on together
a good piece the way of life in friendship and harmony. If it would
please my Wolf, I propose to turn toward beloved Weimar, the dear
place, half village, half city. For my part I am finished here, my
business with General yon Mollendorf is accomplished. As I told you
previously, I have had made known to the king my refusal to allow
recruiting in my duchy. I could not consent for the present. In
short, I have spoken as my secretary Wolfgang Goethe has
recorded.[Footnote: This memorial upon recruiting is found.
"Correspondence of the Grand Duke Carl August and Goethe," part, i.,
p. 4.] General Mollendorf has waived his demand for the present--and
to-day we have had the concluding conference, and if it is agreeable
to my secretary, we might set off this afternoon and pass a day at
Dessau, and then on to Weimar."
"Oh, gladly will I do it; it seems as if a star from heaven had
twinkled to me to follow it, for at Weimar is centred all my
happiness! I prefer a lowly cabin there to all the splendor and
palaces of a city."
"Then you agree with me, that this magnificently vile Berlin does
not enchain you in her magic net?"
"No, she holds me not, though it has been pleasant to take a peep
into it (like a child into a curiosity-box). I have seen 'Old
Fritz.' His character, his gold, and his silver, his marbles, his
apes and parrots, and even his town curtains please me. It is
pleasant to be at the seat of war at the very moment that it
threatens to break forth. It has gratified me to witness the
splendor of the royal city, the life, order, and abundance, that
would be nothing if thousands of men were not ready to be
sacrificed; the medley of men, carriages, horses, artillery, and all
the arrangements. All are mere pins in the great clock-work, only
puppets whose motion is received from the great cylinder, Fredericus
Rex, who indicates to each one the melody they must play, according
to one of the thousand pins in the rotary beam."[Footnote: Goethe's
own words.--See Goethe's "Correspondence with Frau von Stein," part
i., p. 168. Riemer, "Communications about Goethe," part ii., p. 60.]
"You are right to compare the great man to the chief cylinder in the
machine of state," nodded the duke "He rules and sets all in motion,
and cares not whether the rabble are suited or not. It has enraged
me sometimes to hear the fellows curse him, and yet I acted as if I
heard them not. Let us return to Weimar--mankind seems better there,
"At any rate, more regardful of us than they are here, duke. The
greater the world the uglier the farce; no obscenities and fooleries
of the buffoon are more disgusting than the characters of the great,
mediocre and insignificant, all mingled together. I prayed this
morning for courage to hold out to the end, and to hasten the
consummation. I am grateful for the benefit of the journey--but I
pray the gods not to conduct themselves toward us as their image-
man, for I should swear to them eternal hatred."[Footnote: Goethe's
own words.--See Goethe's "Correspondence with Frau von Stein," part
i., p. 169.]
"Then you are ready to depart, Wolf?"
"Almost, dear Carl, or, if you will it, quite ready. A few visits I
would make, that the people shall not be too severe upon me and cry
out against my pride and arrogance."
"Because they themselves are proud and supercilious, they are bold
enough to suppose Wolfgang Goethe is like them. I hope you will not
visit the very learned Herr Nicolai, the insipid prosaist, the
puffed-up rationalist, who believes that his knowledge permits him
to penetrate every thing, and who is a veritable ass."
"No, I am not going to Nicolai, Rammler, or Engel, or, as they
should be named, the wise authors of Berlin. I shall visit the
artist Chodowiecki, good Karschin, occasional poetess, and the
philosopher Mendelssohn. Then, if it pleases you, we will set out
this afternoon, shaking the sand of Berlin from our feet."
"I shall prepare whilst you make your visits. Will you take my
carriage? You know there is one from the royal stables always at my
service, which stands at the door."
"Beware! they would shriek if I should drive to their doors in a
royal carriage. They would accuse me of throwing aside the poet, and
being only secretary of legation. I will go on foot; it amuses me to
push my way through the crowd, and listen to the Berlin jargon."
Taking leave of his ducal friend, Goethe betook himself the street,
to commence his visits. Going first to Chodowiecki, the renowned
delineator and engraver, whose fame had already spread throughout
Germany. When Goethe entered, the artist was busy in his atelier,
working upon the figures of the characters in the "Mimic," the
latest work of Professor Engel. "Master," said he, smilingly,
extending him his hand, "I have come to thank you for many
beautiful, happy hours which I owe to you. You paint with the chisel
and poetize with the brush. An artist by God's grace."
"If the poet Goethe says that, there must be something in it,
"replied Chodowiecki, with a radiant face. "I have to thank you for
the most beautiful and best hours of my life, and I am proud and
delighted to have been able in the least to return the pleasure. The
only blissful tears among many bitter ones that I have wept, were
shed over the 'Sorrows of Werther.' 'Gotz von Berlichingen' so
inspired me that he appeared to me in my dreams, and left me no
peace until I rose in the night to draw Gotz, as he sat talking with
brother Martin on the bench in the forest. Wait, I will show you the
drawing; you must see it."
Goethe examined it attentively, and expressed his pleasure at the
correctness and dramatical conception of the design, and did not
remark, or perhaps would not, that the artist was busily occupied
with crayon and paper. "How wonderfully you have reproduced my
'German Knight,'" cried Goethe, after a long observation of it. "The
middle ages entire, proud and full of strength, are mirrored in this
figure, and if I had not written 'Gotz von Berlichingen,' I would
have been inspired to it, perhaps, from this drawing. Oh! you
artists are to be envied. We need many thousand words to express
what a few lines represent, and a stroke suffices to change a
smiling face into a weeping one. How feeble is language, and how
mighty the pencil! I wish I had the talent to be a painter!"
"And I," cried Chodowiecki, "would throw all my pencils, brushes,
and chisels to the devil, or sell him my soul, if I could cope with
the genius and intellect of the poet, Wolfgang Goethe. What a man!
What a profile the gods have given him! There! look--have you ever
seen a man with such a face?" He handed Goethe the drawing, which
proved to be a speaking profile-portrait of himself, dashed off with
a few strokes full of genius.
Goethe looked at it with the air of a critic. "It is true," said he,
perfectly serious, "there are not many such profiles, but I am not
of your opinion that the gods fashioned it. Those sharp features
look as if the joiner had cut them out of oak, and they lead me to
infer a very disagreeable character. I naturally do not know who the
picture represents, but I must tell you, master, that this man could
never please me, although I could swear it is a speaking likeness.
This sharp, bowed nose has something impudent, self-sufficient in
it. The brow is indeed high, which betokens thought, but the
retreating lines prove that the thoughts only commence, and then
lose themselves in a maze. The mouth, with its pouting lips, has an
insupportable expression of stupid good-nature and sentimentality;
and the well-defined, protruding chin might belong to the robber-
captain Cartouche. The great wide-open eyes, with their affected
passionate glances, prove what a puffed-up dandy the man must be,
who perhaps imagines all the women in love with his face. No, no, I
am still of the opinion that the original could never please me, and
if the physiognomist Lavater should see it, he would say: 'That is
the portrait of a puffed-up, quaint, powerful genius, who imagines
himself something important, and who is nothing! The likeness of a
bombastic fellow, with an empty head behind the pretentious brow,
and meaningless phrases on the thick lips.'"
"If Lavater says so, he is a fool and an ass," cried Chodowiecki,
furiously, "and he can hide himself in the remotest corner of the
earth. Lichtenberg of Gottingen is quite right when he says that
this empty-headed Lavater has made himself ridiculous throughout
Germany with his wonderful physiognomy of dogs' tails and his
profiles of unknown pigtails. If Lavater is really so narrow-minded
as not to be able to distinguish a crow from an eagle, it is his own
affair; but he shall never presume to look at this portrait, and
you, too, are not worthy, you scorner, that I should get angry with
you. The likeness is so beautiful that Jupiter himself would be
satisfied to have it imputed to him. It is so like, that you need
not pretend you do not know that it represents Wolfgang Goethe. As
you insult it, and regard it with scorn and contempt, I will destroy
"For mercy's sake do not tear it," cried Goethe, springing toward
Chodowiecki, and holding him fast with a firm grasp. "My dear good
man, do not tear it; it would be like splitting my own head."
"Ah, ah!" shouted Chodowiecki. "you acknowledge the likeness?"
"I do acknowledge it, with joy."
"And will you admit that it is the head of a noble, talented poet, a
favorite of the Muses? Say yes, or I will tear it, and you will have
terrible pains in your head your life long!"
"Yes, yes! all that you wish. I am capable of saying the most
flattering things of myself to save this beautiful design. Give it
to me, you curious fellow!"
"No," said Chodowiecki, earnestly, "I will not give it to you. Such
a portrait is not made to be put in a dusty portfolio, or framed for
the boudoir of your lady-love. All Germany, all the world should
enjoy it, and centuries later the German women will still see
Wolfgang Goethe as he looked in his twenty-ninth year, and hang an
engraving on the wall in their parlor, and sighing and palpitating
acknowledge--'There never was but one such godlike youth, and there
never will be another. I wish that I had known him; I wish he had
loved me!' So will they speak centuries later, for I will perpetuate
this drawing in a steel engraving of my most beautiful artistic
work." [Footnote: This engraving from the artist Chodowiecki still
exists, and the author of this work possesses a beautiful copy,
which Ottille von Goethe sent her. It is a bust in profile, the most
beautiful of his youth.]
"You are a splendid fellow, and I must embrace you, and rejoice to
be immortalized by you, for this portrait pleases me exceedingly. I
might well be proud that this head with the rare profile is a
counterpart of my own. Now we are good friends. Before I say
farewell, let me see the work at which I just disturbed you upon
Goethe was about to raise the cloth, when Chodowiecki waved him
back. "Do not look at it," said he, quickly; "I dislike to appear as
a mechanic before you, as I wish that you should honor only the
artist. We poor toilers are badly off, as the old proverb is ever
proving true with us, 'Art goes for bread.' We must be mechanics the
chief part of our lives, in order to have a few hours free, in which
we are allowed to be artists. I have to illustrate the most
miserable works with my engravings, to buy the time to pursue works
"That is the interest, friend, which you pay the world for the great
capital which the gods confided to you. Believe me, the artist
Chodowiecki would have but a morsel to eat if the mechanic
Chodowiecki did not serve him a tempting meal, paying the bill. Do
not be vexed about it; man must have a trade to support him, as art
is never remunerated. [Footnote: Goethe's words--See G. H. Lewes's
"Goethe's Life and Writings," vol. 1., p. 459.] I hope the mechanic
will be well paid, that the artist may create beautiful and rare
works for us. This is my farewell visit to-day, friend. If you will
hear a welcome from me very soon, come to Weimar, and see how one
honors the artists there, and how well appreciated Chodowiecki is."
Goethe embraced and kissed the artist, who regarded him, his face
radiant with joy, and would not be prevented from accompanying him
to the house door, as if he were a prince or a king. "Now to Madame
Karschin," said Goethe to himself, as he hastened through the
streets in that direction. "The good woman has welcomed me with so
many pretty verses that I must make my acknowledgments, in spite of
my decision to keep the Berlin authors at a distance."
From Wilhelm Street, where Chodowiecki lived, to the tilt-yard, was
not far, and Goethe soon reached the old, antiquated house where the
poetess lived. After many questionings and inquiries at the lower
stories and more splendid apartments of the house, he found the
abode of the poetess, and climbed up the steep stairs to the
slanting attic-room. The dim light of a small window permitted
Goethe to read upon a gray piece of paper, pasted upon the door,
'Anna Louisa Karsch, German poetess.' He knocked modestly at the
door at first, then louder, and as the voices within never ceased
for a moment their animated conversation, he opened it, and entered
the obscure room.
"I will do it, sir," said the little woman sitting in the window-
niche near a table to a young man standing near her. "I will do it,
though I must tell you album writing is very common. But you must
promise me to return here, and let me see what Herr Rammler writes,
and tell me what he says about me. These are my conditions."
"Frau Karschin, I promise you, upon the word of honor of a German
youth, who can never lower himself to break his word."
"Very well! then I will write."
There was perfect silence. The youth watched the little, dry hand
which guided the pen, with a devotional mien, and Goethe with eager
curiosity, who, unobserved, stood like a suppliant at the door of
the obscure little room, the shabby furniture of which betrayed the
narrow circumstances of the German poetess. It harmonized with the
occupant, a little, bony, meagre figure, wearing a tight-fitting
blue-flowered chintz dress. Upon the gray hair, which, parted in the
middle, encircled the low forehead, was a cap, which had lost its
whiteness and was, therefore, more in harmony with the ruff about
her yellow, thin neck. Her sharp, angular features were redeemed by
large, dark eyes, flashing with marvellous brilliancy from under the
thick, gray eyebrows, and with quick, penetrating glances she
sometimes turned them to the ceiling thoughtfully as she wrote.
"There, sir, is my poem," said she, laying down the pen. "Listen:
'Govern your will; If it hinders duty, It fetters virtue; Then envy
beguiles Into fault-finding.' "
"Oh, how beautiful, cried the young man, enraptured. "I thank you a
thousand times for those glorious words, and they shall henceforth
be the guiding star of my existence."
"Go to Professor Rammler, and: then return and show me what he
writes, for I am convinced--. Oh, Heavens! there is a stranger," she
cried, as she discovered Goethe, who had remained standing by the
"Yes, a stranger," said Goethe, smiling, and approaching, as the
happy possessor of the album withdrew--"a stranger would not leave
Berlin without visiting the German poetess."
"And without verses in your album; is it not so? I have become the
fashion, and if I could only live by immortalizing myself in your
albums, I should be free from care. Now I have divined it--you wish
"No! only a good word, and a friendly shake of the hand, for I
possess a poem and a letter which the good Frau Karschin sent me at
Weimar some six months since, written by herself."
"Is it Goethe?" she cried, clasping her hands in astonishment. "The
poet Johann Wolfgang Goethe, the renowned author of the work
"Cost you many tears," broke in Goethe, laughing. "I beg you spare
me these phrases, which follow me upon my journey as the Furies
Orestes. I know that 'Werther' has become the favorite of the
reading public; he has opened all the tear-ducts and made all lovers
of moonlight as soft as a swaddling-cloth. I could punish myself for
having written 'Werther.'"
Frau Karschin laughed aloud. "That is glorious! You please me! You
are a famous poet and a genius, for only geniuses can revise and
ridicule themselves. Welcome, Germany's greatest poet, welcome to
the attic of the poetess! There is the good word which you would
have, and here is the hand. Did you think it worth while to visit
poor Karschin? I am rejoiced at it, for I see that they accused you
unjustly of arrogance and pride!"
"Do they accuse me of it?" asked Goethe, smiling. "Can the Berlin
poets and authors never forgive me that I live at a court, and am
honored with the favor of a prince?"
"They would willingly forgive you if they had the power to push you
one side, and take your place. They are angry with you, because they
envy you and are not accustomed to be esteemed. Our prince and
ruler, as great a hero and king as he otherwise is, cares little for
German poetry, and for all he would care, the Berlin authors might
starve, one and all; he would trouble himself no more about them
than the flies dancing in the sunlight."
"The great king is still the same, then? He will never know anything
of German literature?"
"No! he declares that it is the language of barbarians and bear-
catchers; scolds about us, and despises us, and yet knows as little
of us as the man in the moon. He adores his Voltaire. Old Fritz
knows the French poet by heart, but Lessing he knows nothing of. He
abuses 'Goetz von Berlichingen,' and 'Werther's Sorrows.'"
"Oh! I know it all--I know the king's adjutant-general, von
Siedlitz. I often dine with him, and read aloud my poems to him,
when he relates to me what the king says to enrage me. You must know
when I am angry I speak in verse. I accustomed myself to it during
my unhappy marriage with the tailor Karsch. When he scolded, I
answered in verse, and tried to turn my thoughts to other things,
and to make the most difficult rhymes. As he was always scolding and
quarrelling, I always spoke in rhyme."
"And in this way you led a very poetical marriage?" smiled Goethe.
"Yes, indeed, poetical," she said, and her large brilliant eyes were
dimmed. "If it is true that tears are the baptism of poets, then I
was baptized daily for twelve years, and ought to be an
"That you are, indeed," said Goethe, "who would dispute it? You have
given evidence of great poetical talent, and I read your heroic poem
upon the Great Frederick with real delight."
"Do you know what he did?" she asked, bitterly. "I turned to him,
begging for assistance; for who should a poet turn to, but his God
and his king? Moreover, he had promised it to me personally."
"You have spoken with him, then, yourself?" asked Goethe.
"Yes, eight years ago; General von Siedlitz procured me an audience.
The king was very gracious, and among other things, asked me about
my life; and as I explained to him my poverty and want, he most
kindly promised to help me." [Footnote: This interview which Frau
Karschin had with the king is found in "Anecdotes and Traits of
Character of Frederick the Great." vol. ii., p. 72.]
"And did he not fulfil his promise?"
"No, had it been given to the least of the French writers he would
have kept it, but to a German poet it was not worth while. What is a
native poet to the great German king? A phantom that he knows not,
and believes not. As great as he is, the king showed himself very
small to me. I sang him as a poetess and he bestowed a pittance upon
me as one would to a beggar in tatters by the wayside."
"Is it really true, upon your supplication--"
"Sent me two thalers! Yes, that is indeed true, and I see by your
smile that you know it, and know also that I returned it to him. I
had rather die with hunger than take a beggar's penny. But let me
relate to you what happened two weeks since. I had borne patiently
the affair of the two thalers, and forgotten it. I am more
comfortable now; the booksellers pay me for my songs and poems very
well, and a number of patrons and friends, at whose head is the
Prince of Prussia, give me a small pension, from which I can at
least live--though poorly. One of my patrons sent me a strip of land
on the Spree not far from the Hercules Bridge, where I would gladly
build me a little house, at last to have a sure abiding-place where
I could retire--that would be a refuge against all the troubles and
sorrows of life. As I thought it over, the old confidence and
imperishable love for the great king rose again within me, and as I
esteemed him I always hoped for the fulfilment of his promise. I
applied to him again, and begged him to do for me what he had
granted to so many cobblers and tailors, as the king gives building-
money to help those who will build. All the houses of the
Gensdarmen-markt are built by royal aid, and sometimes the king
designs the facades, as he did for the butcher Kuhn's great house;
and sent him a design to ornament the frieze of ninety-nine, sheeps'
heads, only ninety-nine, for he said the butcher himself was the one
hundredth. The butcher remonstrated, but he was obliged to keep
them, if he would have the building-money."
"Really," cried Goethe, laughing, "the king is an ingenious and
extraordinary man in every thing, and no one is like him."
"No one is like him, and no one would have treated me as he did. I
addressed to him a poem, begging him with true inspiration and
emotion to let a German poetess find favor in his sight--and that he
would be for me a Maecenas, if I were not a Horace. My heart bled
with sorrow, that I must so beg and pray, and my tears wet the paper
upon which I indited my begging, rhyming petition. How much money do
you think the great king sent me for my house? Think of the smallest
"If it was small, yet for building-money he would send you at least
two hundred thalers."
The poetess burst into a scornful laugh. "He sent me three thalers!
The great Frederick sent me three thalers to build a house!"
"What did you do? Did you take them?"
"Yes," she answered, proudly, "and I will leave them as a legacy to
my daughter, as an historical souvenir for succeeding generations,
who will relate the benevolence of the German king for the German
poetess. I sent the king a receipt--I will read it to you.
'His majesty commanded, Instead of building-money, To send me three
thalers. The order was exactly, Promptly fulfilled. I am indebted
for thanks, But for three thalers can No joiner in Berlin My coffin
make. Otherwise to-morrow I would order Such a house without horror
Where worms feast, And, feasting, quarrel Over the lean, care-worn
Old woman's remains That the king let sigh away.' [Footnote: See
"Life and Poems of Louisa Karschin," edited by her daughter.]
"Why do you not laugh?" said Frau Karschin, raising her flashing
eyes to Goethe, who sat looking down earnestly and quietly before
"I cannot," he gently answered. "Your poem makes me sad; it recalls
the keen sorrow of a poet's existence, the oft-repeated struggle
between Ideality and Reality. The blessed of the gods must humble
themselves; though they may raise their heads to heaven, their feet
must still rest upon earth; and to find their way upon it, and walk
humbly therein, they must again lower their inspired heads."
"Oh, that makes me feel better," cried Karschin, with tears in her
eyes; "that is balsam for my wounds. You are a great poet, Goethe, I
feel it to be so. You are a great man, for your heart is good and
filled with pity. How unjustly they call you cold and proud! Only be
a little more yielding, and call upon the Berlin poets and writers.
You can imagine that the news of your arrival ran like wild-fire
through the town. Nicolai, Rammler, Engel, Mendelssohn, and all the
other distinguished gentlemen have stayed at home like badgers in
their kennels, watching for you, so as not to miss your visit. At
last they became desperate, and scolded furiously over your
arrogance and pride in thinking yourself better than they. Why have
you not called upon them?"
There was a loud knocking at the door, and the young man with his
album entered, almost breathless. "Here I am," said he, "I came
directly from Professor Rammler here, as I promised you."
"You saw him, then? Has he written something for you?"
"Yes, I saw him, and he granted my request."
"And abused me, did he not, with his nose turned up? You must know,
Goethe, that Professor Rammler despises my poems, because I am not
so learned in Greek and Roman mythology as he is. Now tell me, my
young friend, what did he say about me?"
"I promised you, upon my word of honor, to tell you every thing, but
I hope you will release me from the promise." sighed the young man.
"No, that I will not. Much more, upon the strength of your word of
honor, I desire it. You promised, word for word, to relate it to
"If it must be, then, let it be. I went at once to Professor
Rammler's. He asked me immediately if I had not been here."
"Just as I asked you," laughed Karschin.
"I affirmed it, saying that you showed me his house. Upon which he
asked, 'Did she say any thing against me? She is accustomed to do it
before strangers, like all old women.' He then turned over my album,
and as he saw the lines you wrote he reddened, and striking the
book--'I see it, she knew she had said something about me. She tells
every stranger that I think she is censorious. What she has written
is aimed at me.' Upon that he wrote some lines opposite yours, shut
the book, and handed it to me. I have not even had the time to read
"Read them now, quickly."
"'He who slanders and listens to slander, let him be punished. She
may be hung by the tongue, and he by the ears.'" [Footnote: This
scene took place literally, and may be found in "Celebrated German
Authors," vol. II., p. 340.]
"That is shameful--that is mean!" said Frau Karschin, while Goethe
re-read the cutting epigram. "That is just like Rammler; his tongue
is like a two-edged sword for every one but himself, and he fans his
own glories, and does not know that he is a fool. Frederick the
Great himself called him so. One of his generals called his
attention to him, upon which Frederick turned his horse, riding
directly up to him, asking, 'Is this the distinguished Rammler?'
'Yes, your majesty, I am he,' the little professor proudly bowed.
'You are a fool!' called out Frederick, very loud, and rode away, as
all around the 'Great Rammler' laughed and sneered. There are many
such stories. Shall I tell you how Lessing teased him?"
"No, dear woman, tell me nothing more. I perceive your Berlin
writers and poets are a malicious, contentious set of people. I may
well fear you, and shall be glad to escape unharmed. Think kindly of
me, and have pity upon me; if the others are too severe, raise your
dear hand and hold back the scourge that it may not fall upon poor
Wolfgang Goethe. Adieu, dear Frau Karschin."
Goethe bowed, and hastened down into the street. "With the authors
and poets of Berlin I wish nothing more to do, but with the
philosophers I may be more fortunate, and with them find the wisdom
and forbearance which fail the poets."
Goethe bent his steps to Spandauer Street, in which the merchant and
philosopher Moses Mendelssohn lived; hastened up the stairs, and
knocked, which was answered by an old servant, to whom Goethe
announced himself. The servant disappeared, and the poet stood in
the little, narrow corridor, smilingly looking to the study-door,
and waiting for the "gates of wisdom" to open and let the worldling
enter the temple of philosophy.
The crooked little man, the great philosopher, Moses, son of
Mendelssohn, stood behind the door, turning over in his mind whether
he would receive Goethe or not. "Why should I? The proud secretary
of legation has already been in Berlin eight days, and wishes to
prove to me that he cares little for Berlin philosophers. My noble
friend, the great Lessing, cannot abide 'Gotz von Berlichingen;' and
Nicolai, Rammler, and Engel are the bitter opponents, the very
antipodes of the rare genius and secretary of legation from Weimar.
If he wishes to see me, why did he come so late, so--"
"Herr Goethe is waiting--shall he enter?" asked the servant.
The philosopher raised his head. "No," cried he, loudly. "No! tell
him you were mistaken. I am not at home."
The old servant looked quite frightened at his master--the first
time he had heard an untruth from him. "What shall I say, sir?"
"Say no," cried Moses, very excited and ill-humored. "Say that I am
not at home--that I am out."
With a determined, defiant manner the philosopher seated himself to
work upon his new book, "Jerusalem," saying to himself, "I am right
to send him away; he waited too long, is too late." [Footnote: From
Ludwig Tieck I learned this anecdote, and he assured me that Moses
Mendelssohn told it to him.--See "Goethe in Berlin, Leaves of
Memory," p. 6.--The Authoress.]
FAREWELL TO BERLIN.
"What is the matter, my dear Wolf?" cried the duke, as Goethe
returned from his visits. "What mean those shadows upon your brow?
Have the cursed beaux-esprits in Berlin annoyed and tortured you?"
"No, duke, I--" and suddenly stopping, he burst into a loud ringing
laugh, and sprang about the room, bounding up and down, shouting,
"Hurrah! hurrah! Long live the philosophers, vivat the
"They shall live--live--live,'' shouted the duke!
"Vivat the philosophers! hurrah! To the May-sports upon the
Blockberg they ride upon a little ass with golden horns--with
Pharisaical mien, praying with their eyes, 'I thank Thee, O Lord,
that I am a philosopher, that I am not as the world's children,
vain, proud, and arrogant.' Hey, good Carl Augustus, today a great
revelation has been made known to me by a philosopher. Wisdom flowed
from his mouth. All the spiders in their gray, self-woven nets,
whispered and sang in his corridor, 'We weave at the fountain of
life, we spin the web of time.' The little mice crept out from the
corners, whispering, Hallelujah! Here lives the great philosopher
Moses, who has devoured wisdom, and is unknowing of earthly
vanities. Oh! the mice and the spiders waltz together upon the
threshold of the great philosopher. Hey, ha! a waltz we will dance!"
Goethe caught the duke with both arms around the waist, and tore
around in a giddy whirl, both laughing, both shrieking. Wolfshund,
the duke's dog, asleep in the corner, sprang up howling and barking
at their wild bounds and goat-like springs, and joined the dancers.
As Goethe felt the ribbon which confined his cue give way, he shook
wildly his curly, powdered hair and it fell in mad confusion. Both
he and the duke now sank exhausted to the floor, panting and
"Heaven be praised, Wolf," said the duke, "the must has once more
fermented, and sprung a few of the hoops of dignity?"
"Yes," answered Goethe, who suddenly assumed a grave, serious mien,
"the must has fermented, and I trust a fine wine will clear itself
"Can you not set off, Wolf?" asked the duke, springing up. "Have you
had sufficient of the Berliners?"
"I have done with them," replied Goethe, "not only with the
Berliners, but it may be with all the rest of humanity. I feel, my
duke, that the bloom of confidence, candor, and self-sacrificing
love fades daily; only for you, and the friend whom I love, is there
still attraction and flagrancy. Oh! you dear ones, be charitable,
and do not consent that they fade for you. Let the goodness which I
read in your eyes, my dear Carl, and the sunny rays of friendship
strengthen the poor little blossom, that it does not entirely fade
and wither away!" With passionate earnestness he threw his arms
around the duke, pressing him to his bosom.
"Oh! Wolf, my dear Wolf, you have a child's heart and a poet's soul.
Are you faint-hearted and dispirited? Do you not know that you are
the sun which brings forth the flowers for us, and shines for us
all? Let no clouds overshadow you, Wolf! Let your fresh, youthful
vigor, and divine brilliancy, penetrate them. In the thick, sandy
atmosphere of Berlin I confess the sun itself loses its force and
brightness! Come! let us be off. Our steeds stamp with impatience."
The duke drew his friend from the room and joyfully they sprang down
the stairs to the carriage, the great dog following, howling and
barking after them. "Forward, then, forward! Blow, postilion, blow!
A gay little air! Let it peal through the streets, a farewell song!
Blow, postilion, blow! and I will moisten your throat at the gates
with the thin, white stuff, which you have the boldness to call
beer." The postilion laughed for joy, and the German song resounded
in quivering tones--" Three riders rode out of the gate." He blew so
long and loudly, that the dog set up a mournful howl, and amid the
peals of the postilion, and the distressed cry of Wolfshund, they
drove through the long, hot streets of Berlin, through the Leipsic
Gate, and the suburbs with their small, low houses. The wagon-wheels
sank to the spokes in the loose, yellow sand of the hill they soon
mounted, and, arriving at the top of which, the postilion stopped to
let his horses take breath, and turned to remind his aristocratic
passengers that this was their last view of the city.
"And will be seen no more," repeated the duke. "Come, let us take a
farewell look at Berlin, Wolf!" and away they sprang without waiting
for the footman to descend, and waded through the sand to a rising
in the fallow fields. There they stood, arm in arm, and viewed the
town with its towers and chimneys, houses, barracks, and palaces
stretched at their feet. A thick, gray, cloud of vapor and smoke
hovered over it, and veiled the horizon in dust and fog. "Farewell,
Berlin, you city of arrogance and conceit!" cried the duke,
joyfully. "I shake your dust from my feet, and strew the sand of
your fields over every souvenir of you in memory," and suiting the
action to his words, he tossed a handful of it in the air.
"Farewell, Muses and Graces of sand and dust!" cried Goethe, as his
fiery eye flashed far out over the fog-enveloped roofs. "Farewell,
Berlin, void of nature and without verdure! the abode of poetic art,
but not of poesy. You Babylon of wisdom and philosophy, I have seen
you with your painted cheeks and coquettish smile, your voluptuous
form and seductive charms. You shall never ensnare me with your
deceitful beauty, and suck the marrow from my bones, or the
consciousness of pure humanity from my soul. Beautiful may you be to
enslaved intellects, but to the free, they turn their backs to you
and thrice strew ashes on your head. Farewell, Berlin, may I never
see you again!" [Goethe, in fact, never visited Berlin again, though
he was often invited there, particularly when the new theatre was
opened, with a poetic prologue written by himself. They inaugurated
the festivity with Goethe's "Iphigenia," the first representation,
and Prince Radzwill urgently invited the poet, through Count Bruhl,
to visit Berlin at this time, and reside in his palace. But Goethe
refused; he was seventy-two years old (1826), and excused himself on
account of his age.] Goethe stooped and threw a handful of sand in
The postilion, tired of standing in the burning sun, blew loudly the
air of the soldier's song: "Now, adieu, Louisa, wipe your face,
every ball does not hit." Mournfully the melody sounded in the
stillness, like accusing spirits who wept the insult of the prince
and the poet.
"Now, on to our dear Weimar, Wolf!" The carriage rolled down the
sandy hill, and Berlin disappeared to the travellers, lost in dreamy
thought. Slowly they advanced, in spite of relays and fresh horses
at every station. Night spread out her starry mantle over the world,
and the sleepers who rested from the burdens and cares of the day.
Goethe alone was wakeful and vigilant. With his beautiful eyes, as
brilliant as fallen stars, uplifted to heaven, to God, his manly
bosom heaving with noble thoughts and glorious aspirations, he
reviewed the past, and recalled with joy that he had accomplished
much and well. He peered into the future, and promised himself to do
more and better. "Yes, I will," whispered he softly, pointing to the
stars; "so high as possible shall the pyramid of my being rise. To
that I will constantly bend my thoughts, never forgetting it, for I
dare not tarry; with the years already on my head, fate may arrest
my steps, and the tower of Babylon remain unfinished. At least they
must acknowledge the edifice was boldly designed, and if I live, God
willing, it shall rise."
STORM AND PRESSURE
THE KING AND THE AUSTRIAN DIPLOMAT.
Frederick commenced the campaign against the house of Hapsburg with
all the energy and bold courage of former days. The diplomats had
once more been permitted to seek the arts of negotiation, and, these
having failed, the king advanced rapidly, and entered Bohemia with
his advance-guard. The imperial army, informed of the approach of
the enemy, retired hurriedly to their intrenchments at Koeniggratz,
beyond the Elbe, without a decisive battle. In the skirmishes at the
outposts the Prussians had been victorious. On the opposite shore of
the Elbe, at Welsdorf, the king took up his headquarters. Why did he
not pursue his bold run of victory? Why did he not surprise the
imperial army, which he knew was scattered, and not in a position to
resist the strength of the Prussian forces? Moreover, the second
column of the Prussian army, under the command of Prince Henry, had
also entered Bohemia, and fortified a camp near Rimburg, having
united with the Saxon allies, which caused the imperialists under
Field-Marshal Loudon to seek protection beyond the Iser, near
Muenchengratz and Yung-bunzlau. Why did the king then stop in the
midst of his victorious career? He had advanced to the field with
his fresh, youthful fire, a shining example to all. He was always
mounted, shunning no danger, but taking part in the hardships and
fatigue incident to the changing life of war; even showing himself
personally active at the discovery of foraging-parties. Why did he
suddenly hesitate and lie inactive in camp? Why did he not summon
his generals and staff-officers to his quarters, instead of his
Minister von Herzberg? Every one asked himself the question, and
every one answered it differently.--Some said, "Because the Empress
of Russia had raised objections to this war of German brothers;"
others, that "the King of the French had offered to settle the
quarrel as intermediator." A third said, the "empress-queen, Maria
Theresa, was terrified at the rapid advance of the Prussians, and
had immediately commenced negotiations for peace."
While the wise politicians of Germany and all Europe reand pondered,
Frederick tarried quietly in his peasant-house, in which he had
taken up his quarters, and which had been arranged very comfortably
with carpets, camp-stools, and curtains. He sat in his cabinet upon
the high, leather-covered arm-chair, which had been brought for him
from the neighboring parsonage. Alkmene lay upon his knee, and Diana
at his feet. His countenance was pale, and betrayed fatigue, but his
eye beamed with undimmed brilliancy, and around his mouth played an
ironical smile. "Well, so matters stand; therefore, I have summoned
you to Welsdorf," said Frederick to his minister, Von Herzberg. "The
empress-queen is, above all things, a most tender mother. She is
fearfully anxious, now that the dear young Emperor Joseph has left
for the army, and will be exposed to the dangers of war. My good
friends in Vienna inform me that my entrance into Bohemia created a
sensation at the brilliant capital, and had so much alarmed the
empress-queen, that she was seriously thinking of negotiating for
peace. As I learned this from a reliable source, I halted and
encamped, that the empress should know where to find me, and sent to
summon you immediately. I had not been here three days, when the
empress's ambassador, Baron von Thugut, appeared to make offers, and
consult about an armistice of two weeks. I made known my conditions,
and promised the empress, through her negotiator, that I would so
calculate my movements that her majesty would have nothing to fear
for her blood and her cherished emperor. [Footnote: The king's
words.--See "Prussia, Frederick the Great," vol. iv., p. 102.]
Voila, mon cher ministre, you know all now. If the Austrian diplomat
comes a second time, you can negotiate with him."
"Is your majesty also inclined to peace?" asked Herzberg.
The king shrugged his shoulders. "When it can be arranged with
honor, yes," said he. "I will acknowledge, Herzberg, to you, the
campaign is hard for me. The old fellow of sixty-eight feels the
burden of life, and would gladly rest quietly, and enjoy the last
few years as philosopher and writer instead of soldier."
"Your majesty has yet many years to live, God willing," cried
Herzberg. "It would be a great misfortune to Prussia if she could
not yet owe to her great king a long and happy reign."
"Hem!" replied the king, "there are in Prussia very many who think
otherwise, and wish me to the devil. But I have no intention of
seeking monsieur so soon, for there are sufficient devilish deeds to
endure in this earthly vale of sorrow to prepare for one a very
decent purgatory, and give him hereafter well-founded hopes of
heaven. Therefore I count upon remaining here below a while, and to
knead with you this leaven of life that may yield to my subjects an
eatable bread. You must help me, Herzberg, when I am the baker, to
provide the flour for my people; you must be the associate to knead
the bread. In order that the flour should not fail, and the bread
give out, it may be necessary, if possible, to make peace."
"Will your majesty be so gracious as to inform me what steps I may
take, and upon what conditions?"
"Take this paper," said the king, extending a written document to
Herzberg. "I have therein expressed my wishes, and you can act
accordingly. I am prepared for peace upon any terms which can be
made with honor, and which do not frustrate the aim I have in view.
You well know that this is the security of Germany against Austria's
ambitious love of territorial aggrandizement! I cannot and I will
not suffer that the house of Habsburg should strive for unjust
possession in Germany, and appropriate Bavaria to herself while a
lawful heir exists. I well know that I play the role of Don Quixote,
and am about to fight for the rights of Germany as the Chevalier de
la Mancha fought for his Dulcinea del Toboso. Mais, que voulez-vous,
it is necessary for my fame and repose that I enter the arena once
more against Austria to prove to her that I exist. I take this step
on account of the prestige I have gained in the German empire, and
which I should lose if I had not faced Austria in this Bavarian
contest. And besides, it is agreeable to me to accustom my successor
to the thunder of cannon, and witness his bearing on the field of
"He will certainly do honor to the heroic race of Hohenzollern,"
answered Herzberg, bowing.
A sudden flash from the king's fiery eyes met the calm pale face of
Herzberg. "Mere words and flattery, which prove that you are not
satisfied, Herzberg! Nay, nay, do not deny it; you do not like that
I should tarry and treat, and set the pen in motion instead of the
sword. You are a man of deeds, and if you had had your way, I should
have already won a decisive battle, and be on the road to Vienna to
besiege the empress in her citadel, and dictate an humiliating peace
"Your majesty, I can assure you--"
"Well, well, do not quarrel!" interrupted the king; "do you suppose
I cannot read your honest and obstinate face? Do you suppose I did
not mean what I said? Acknowledge that I am right! confess it, I
"If your majesty commands it, then I will acknowledge it. Yes, I did
wish that your majesty had not empowered Baron von Thugut to return
for further negotiations. It would have been well if your majesty
had marched victorious to Vienna, to let the proud Hapsburgers see
for once that Frederick of Prussia does not stand behind them, but
at their side; that he has created a new order of things; that the
old, mouldy, rotten statutes of the imperial sovereignty have fallen
in the dust before Frederick the Great; that Germany must be newly
mapped out, in order to give room near the old man Austria for young
Prussia. Yes, your majesty, I could have wished that you had even
been less generous, less noble toward the supercilious, insolent
enemy, and have accepted no conditions but those of 'equality for
Prussia with Austria in the German empire!'"
"My dear sir, I am truly astonished at the vigor with which you
express yourself; I am very glad to find you so enthusiastic," said
Frederick, nodding to his minister; "but listen--I will confide to
you that which I do not wish you to repeat: I am no longer, to my
regret, what you so flatteringly call me, 'Frederick the Great,' but
only 'Old Fritz.' Do you understand me? the latter is a deplorable,
worn-out soldier, who no longer feels power or vigor. The lines of
Boileau often recur to me on mounting my horse:
'Unfortunate one, leave thy steed growing old in peace, For fear,
that, panting and suddenly out of breath, In falling, he may not
leave his master upon the arena!'
It is the misery of life that man will grow old, and that the body,
when worn and weary, will even subdue the spirit, and force her to
fold her wings and suffer. I did not realize that it had gone so far
with me, and I imagined that the winged soul could raise the old,
decayed body. Therefore I risked, in spite of my lazy old age, to
undertake this war, for I recognized it as a holy duty to enter into
it, for the honor and justice of our country, and prove to the
Emperor of Germany that he could not manage and rule at his will in
the German empire. I 1ong not for the honor of new laurels, but I
should be satisfied, as father of my subjects, to gain a civil
There you have my creed. I have as sincerely confessed to you as my
respectable cousin, the empress-queen, to her confessor; only I did
not fall upon my knees to you, and you do not as the said confessor,
betray me to the Holy Father at Rome."
"Your majesty well knows that every word which you have the grace to
confide to me, is engraved upon my inmost soul, and that no power
upon earth could force me to reveal it."
"I know that you are a true and zealous servant of your king and
country," said Frederick. "Once more I say to you, other than an
honorable peace I will not make; and if empress-queen does not
accept the abandonment of Bavaria as the basis of peace, then I must
conquer my aversion to war, and the sword must arrange what the pen
has failed to do. And now, passons ladessus! Until Thugut arrives,
let us speak of other things. I have been tolerably industrious, and
have improved the leisure of camp-life as much as possible. I have
written a panegyric upon Voltaire, and when it is revised and
corrected you shall arrange an anniversary in memoriam, at the
Berlin Academy, and read my eulogy."
"All Germany and all Europe will be surprised at the magnanimity of
the royal mind which could occupy itself in the camp with the muse,
and erect an imperishable monument to the man who witnessed such
ingratitude and baseness to his benefactor and protector."
"Vous allez trop vite, mon cher; vraiment, trop vite," cried
Frederick, ardently. "It is true Voltaire was a miserable fellow,
but he was a great poet. He returned meanness and ingratitude to me
for the many kindnesses I showed to him, for I treated him more like
a friend than a king. Voltaire was my benefactor, in so far that I
owed to him the most agreeable and elevating hours of my youth, In
memory of these hours I have written this eulogy. It is not worthy
of particular mention, and the Academie Francaise will doubtless
severely criticise my knowledge of their language. But it is
impossible to write well, one moment in camp and another on the
march. If it is unworthy of him whom it was intended to celebrate, I
have at least availed myself of the freedom of the pen, and will
cause to be publicly read in Berlin what one dares not whisper in
Paris." [Footnote: The king's own words.--"Posthumous Works," vol.
xv., p. 109. This eulogy upon Voltaire, which the king wrote in
camp, Herzberg read, in the November following, before the Academy.]
"I shall be most happy to be the instrument to make known this
generous expression of your majesty's good-will," remarked Herzberg,
Frederick smiled, adding: "But with the other work which I have
commenced, you are not quite satisfied. You are such an enthusiastic
German, that you presume to assert that the intolerable German
jargon is a beautiful and expressive language!"
"And I abide by this decision, your majesty," zealously cried
Herzberg. "The German language is euphonious, and prolific in ideas,
and it is well capable of rivalling in brevity and clearness those
of the ancients."
"That you have already asserted, and I have contested it, and again
I contest it to-day. Do not trouble me with your German language. It
will only deserve notice when great poets, distinguished orators,
and admirable historians, have given it their attention and
corrected it, freeing it from such disgusting and effeminate phrases
as now disfigure it, and cause one to use a mass of words to express
a few ideas. At present it is only an accumulation of different
dialects, which every division of the German empire thinks to speak
the best, and of which twenty thousand can scarcely understand what
the other twenty thousand are saying!" [Footnote: The king's own
words.--See "Posthumous Works," vol. xv.]
"Sire," cried Herzberg, with vehemence, "should a German king thus
speak of his native tongue, at the same time that he takes the field
to vindicate the honor of Germany, and submits to all the miseries
and hardships of war? Your majesty cannot be in earnest, to despise
our beautiful language."
"I do not despise it; I only say that it must be reformed, and shorn
of its excrescences. Until then we must use the French, which is to-
day the language of the world, and in which one can render all the
master-works of the Greeks and the Latins, with the same
versatility, delicacy, and subtlety, as the original. You pretend
that one can well read Tacitus in a German translation, but I do not
think the language capable of rendering the Latin authors with the
same brevity as the French."
"Sire, to my joy, I can give you proof to the contrary. a Berlin
savant, Conrector Moritz, at my request, has translated a few
chapters of the fourteenth book of the 'Annals of Tacitus,' word for
word, most faithfully into German. He has written it in two columns,
the translation at the side of the original. I have taken the
liberty to bring this work with me and you will see how exactly, and
with what brevity, Latin authors can be rendered into German, and
that there are young learned men who have seized the spirit of our
language and know how to use it with grace and skill."
"Indeed, give it to me," cried the king, zealously. "I am truly
curious to admire the German linguist's work who has so boldly
undertaken to translate Tacitus."
"Sire," said Herzberg, raising his eyes knowingly, with a mild,
imploring expression to the king's face--" sire, I join a request
with this translation."
"What is it? I am very curious about a petition from you, it is so
seldom that you proffer one."
"Your majesty, my request concerns the translator of this very
chapter of Tacitus. He is Conrector Moritz, attached to the Gray
Cloister in Berlin--an unusually gifted young man, who has
undoubtedly a brilliant future before him. He has already written
many eminent works. The Director Gedicke recommended him to me as a
most distinguished, scholarly person, and I have learned to know and
appreciate the young man by this means."
"I see it," nodded the king. "You speak of him with great
enthusiasm, and as what you so warmly recommend is generally able
and well qualified, I begin to be interested in this Herr Moritz.
When I return to Berlin--and Heaven grant that it may be soon!--I
will at once empower you to present this luminary. Are you
"Sire, dare I ask still more? I would beg your majesty to grant this
young man an audience at once."
"How, at once! Is this phoenix here, who so interests my Minister
Herzberg? Where is he from, and what does he wish?"
"He is from Berlin; I met him making the journey on foot. He sat
upon a stone, by the wayside, eating a piece of bread, with a
glowing face, and so absorbed talking to himself in Latin that he
heard not the creaking of my carriage through the sand. I recognized
him immediately, and called him by name. He turned, perfectly
unembarrassed and not at all ashamed to have been discovered in such
an humble and poor position."
"That is to say, he is a good comedian," said the king. "He knew
that you would drive past there, and placed himself expressly to
call your attention to him."
"I beg pardon, sire; Conrector Moritz could not have known that I
would take this journey. You will recollect that the courier arrived
at midnight with your majesty's commands, and two hours later I was
on the road, and have since travelled day and night. As I met the
young man only five miles from this place, he must have set out many
days before I thought of leaving Berlin."
"It is true," said the king, "it was a false suspicion. You invited
him into your carriage, did you not?"
"I did very naturally, sire, as he told me he was going to beg an
audience of your majesty. At first he refused decidedly, as he
wished to travel on foot, like the pilgrims to the pope at Rome."
"An original, a truly original genius," cried the king.
"He is so indeed, and is so called by all his friends."
"Has he any friends?" asked the king, with an incredulous smile.
"Yes, sire, many warm and sympathizing friends, who are much
attached to him, and, on account of his distinguished and brilliant
qualities, are willing to indulge his peculiarities."
"Herzberg, you are charmed, and speak of this man as a young girl in
"Sire, if I were a young girl, I should certainly fall in love with
this Moritz, for he is handsome."
"Diable! I begin to fear this subject. You say he is handsome,
learned, wise, and good, although he belongs to the airy, puffed-up
Berliners. Did you let Herr Moritz wander on in his pilgrimage?"
"No, sire, I persuaded him at last to accept a seat in my carriage,
by explaining to him that your majesty might soon leave Welsdorf,
and he would run the risk of not arriving in season. Upon no
condition would he get inside, but climbed up behind, for, said he,
with a firm, decided manner, 'I go to the king as a beggar, not as a
"Indeed it is an original," the king murmured to himself. "Do you
know what the man wants?" he asked aloud.
"No, your majesty; he said that his business concerned the happiness
of two human beings, and that he could only open his heart to his
God and his king."
"Where is your protege?"
"He stands outside, and it is my humble request that your majesty
will grant him an audience, and permit me to call him."
"It is granted, and--"
Just at that moment the door opened, and the footman announced that
the private secretary of his highness Prince von Galitzin had
arrived, and most respectfully begged an audience.
"It is he--it is the baron," said the king. "Tell your protege he
must wait, and come again. Bid the Prince von Galitzin enter."
As the Minister von Herzberg withdrew, the Baron von Thugut
appeared, the extraordinary and secret ambassador of the Empress
"Well, Herr Baron, you are already returned," said the king, as he
scarcely nodded to the profoundly respectful bows of the ambassador.
"I infer, therefore, that your instructions are not from the
empress, but from the co-regent, the Emperor Joseph, who has betaken
himself to the Austrian camp."
"Sire," answered Thugut, laconically, "I have driven day and night,
and have received my instructions directly from the empress."
The king slowly shook his head, and an imperceptible smile played
around his lips.
"Does the young emperor approve of these instructions?"
"Sire, his majesty, the emperor, is only the co-regent," answered
Thugut, hastily. "It is not therefore necessary, that my sovereign
should make her decisions dependent upon her son's concordance."
"The empress will negotiate for peace," said the king to himself,
"but the emperor desires to win laurels in the war, and will try to
cut off the negotiations of his mother by a coup de main. One must
be on his guard!"
Just then the door opened and Herzberg returned.
"You perceive I expected you, Baron von Thugut," said the king, "and
I ordered here my minister of state, Herr von Herzberg. This is the
Baron von Thugut, my dear minister, the ambassador of the empress-
queen, who carries in his pocket peace or war, as it may be."
"Sire, I must protest against being so important a personage, as
peace and war alone depend upon your majesty. It alone depends upon
the lofty King of Prussia whether he will give peace and
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