The Merchant of Berlin
Part 3 out of 7
herself between them. With burning words she entreated Feodor to spare
her father, and not to raise his sword against him. But Gotzkowsky's
voice overpowered hers. Such wild words of contempt and insulting rage
issued from his lips, that the young officer, hurt in his military
honor, did not dare to listen to the voice of his beloved. It was
he now who pressed Elise back, and with raised arm placed himself
opposite to her father.
"You must kill me, sir, or wash out this insult with your blood,"
cried he, preparing himself for the combat.
Both were then silent. It was a terrible, unearthly silence, only
broken by the clash of their swords or the occasional outcries of
anger or savage joy, as one or the other received or gave a blow.
Elise raised her head to heaven and prayed; every thing became
confused before her eyes, her head swam, and she felt as if she would
go crazy. She prayed God that He would release her by madness or death
from the suffering of this hour, or that He would point out to her
some way of deliverance or escape. But in the violence of their
dispute and combat, the two men had not heard that there arose
suddenly in the house a loud tumult and uproar; they had not perceived
that a guard of soldiers was drawn up in the street, and that the
commanding officer with a loud voice was demanding the delivery of the
cannoneer who had taken refuge in this house.
As no attention was paid to the demand, the officer had ordered his
soldiers to break open the doors of the house and enter by force. But
Bertram had anticipated this proceeding by having the door opened, and
requesting the Austrian officer to search the house with his men,
and convince himself that no one was concealed in it. With most
industrious energy, and mindful of the price which had been set on the
head of the cannoneer, the soldiers searched every room in the house,
and had finally arrived at the closed door of the hall.
Just as the combat between the two had reached its greatest violence,
it was interrupted by fierce blows at the door from butts of muskets,
and they were compelled to refrain from their imbittered struggle.
They stopped and listened, but Elise sprang from her knees, rushed
with a cry of delight to the door and threw it open. An officer of De
Lacy's chasseurs entered with some of his soldiers, while the rest of
the men filled the entrance hall and passages of the house with noise
With a commanding tone the Austrian officer demanded the delivery of
the cannoneer, who, he asserted, had been seen by all to take refuge
in this house, whence it was impossible that he could have escaped,
as it had been immediately surrounded. And as no one answered his
threats, but only a sullen silence was opposed to his violently
repeated demand, he swore that he would burn down the house and let no
one escape if the refugee was not given up at once.
Gotzkowsky had at first stood like one stunned, and scarcely heard
what the officer demanded of him. Gradually he began to recover from
his stupefaction and regain strength to turn his attention to things
around him. He raised his head from his breast, and, as if awaking
from a dream, he looked around with bewildered amazement. The Austrian
officer repeated his demand still more haughtily and threateningly.
Gotzkowsky had now recovered presence of mind and composure, and
declared with a determined voice, that no one was concealed in his
"He is here!" cried the Austrian. "Our men have followed his track
thus far, and marked this house well. Deliver him up to us, to avoid
bloodshed," and, turning to his soldiers, he continued, "Search all
the rooms-search carefully. The man is hidden here, and we--"
Suddenly he interrupted his order, and gazed earnestly at the door
through which his soldiers were pressing in.
"Had not this cannoneer, as he fled thither, a white cloak around him,
and did he not wear a broad-brimmed hat?" asked he.
As the soldiers answered affirmatively, the officer stepped toward the
door, and drew from under the feet of his men the cloak and hat of the
cannoneer. A wild yell of joy broke from the soldiers.
"Do you still persist in denying that this man is concealed here?"
asked the officer, raising the cloak.
Gotzkowsky did not answer, but gazed on the ground absorbed in deep
As the soldiers thronged into the room, the young Russian colonel had
withdrawn himself to a remote part of the room, and taken the most
lively interest in the scene acted before him. A word from him would
have brought the whole affair to an end, for, as an involuntary
listener, he had heard all that had transpired concerning the
cannoneer. Consequently he knew exactly the hiding-place in which the
latter had been concealed. But it had never come into his mind to
play the informer and traitor. He was only intensely interested in the
issue of the scene, and firmly determined, if the danger should grow
more urgent, to hasten with his weapon to Gotzkowsky's assistance, and
to defend him against the fury of the Austrians.
Gotzkowsky still stood silent. He was trying to devise some plan by
which he might save the brave defender of Berlin, whose presence,
after such positive proof, he could no longer deny.
As suddenly as lightning an idea seemed to penetrate his mind, his
countenance cleared, and he turned with a singular expression in his
eye to Colonel von Brenda.
"Well!" asked the officer, "do you still deny it?
"No, I cannot deny it any longer," said he, in a determined tone. "You
are right, sir; the cannoneer who shattered your ranks is here in my
The soldiers broke out again in a triumphant roar. But Elise looked at
her father with anxious terror, and sought, trembling, to read in his
countenance the meaning of these words. "Can he possibly be capable of
betraying this man whom he has sworn to protect?" thought Feodor, and
yielding to his curiosity he approached the group in the middle of the
hall. Suddenly he felt Gotzkowsky's hand laid on his shoulder, and met
his dark eye, full of hatred.
"Well," said Gotzkowsky, with a loud, defiant voice, "you are looking
for the artilleryman, Fritz. Here he is!"
A scream and a burst of laughter were heard. It was Elise who uttered
the scream, and the colonel who greeted this unexpected turn with a
merry laugh. But Gotzkowsky did not allow himself to be confused by
one or the other.
He laid his arm on Feodor's neck, and forced his countenance to assume
a friendly expression. "Dear friend," said he, "you see it is vain any
longer to deny it. Our stratagem has unfortunately failed."
"What stratagem?" asked the Austrian and Feodor, simultaneously.
Gotzkowsky replied in a sorrowful tone to Feodor: "Do not disguise
yourself any longer, my son! you see it is useless." Then turning
to the officer, he continued: "We had hoped that he might escape
detection in this Russian uniform, left here by the adjutant of
General Sievers, who was formerly a prisoner of war in my house, but
unfortunately the hat and cloak have betrayed him."
Feodor von Brenda looked at Gotzkowsky with admiring wonder, and this
rapidly invented _ruse de guerre_ pleased him astonishingly.
It was a piquant adventure offered him by Gotzkowsky's hate and
cunning, and he did not feel inclined to throw away such an original
and interesting chance of excitement. He, the Russian colonel, and
Count von Brenda, the favorite of the empress, degraded to a Prussian
cannoneer, whose life was in danger! His wilful and foolhardy
imagination was pleased with the idea of playing the part of a
criminal condemned to death.
"Well," asked the Austrian officer, "do you acknowledge the truth of
this statement, or do you deny being the cannoneer, Fritz?"
"Why should I deny it?" answered Feodor, shrugging his shoulders.
"This gentleman, who ought to have saved me, has already betrayed me.
I am the man whom you seek!"
With a scream of surprise, Elise threw herself toward her lover.
"No!" cried she, loudly, "no, he is--"
Her father's hand pressed heavily on her lips. "Another word, and you
are a murderess!" whispered he.
The officer looked suspiciously at them. "You do not deny," asked he
of Feodor, "that you are he who directed such a murderous fire on our
lines? You do not deny that you are the artilleryman, Fritz, and that
this cloak and hat belong to you?"
"I deny nothing!" replied Feodor, defiantly.
The officer called to some of his men and ordered them to shoulder
arms, and take the prisoner in their midst; enjoining them to keep a
sharp watch on him, and at the first attempt to escape, to shoot
him down. But when he demanded his sword of the colonel, the latter
recoiled, shocked, and resisted.
He now became aware of his foolhardiness and rashness, and that he
had not considered or foreseen the dangerous and perhaps dishonorable
consequences. However, as he had gone so far, he considered that it
would be disgraceful and cowardly to retreat now. He was also desirous
of pursuing to the end this adventure which he had begun with so much
boldness and daring. He drew his sword, and with considerable strength
breaking it in pieces, he threw them at the feet of the Austrian
That officer shrugged his shoulders. "Your insolence will only make
your situation worse. Remember, you are our prisoner."
"He must and shall die!" shouted the soldiers, thronging around
The officer ordered silence. "He must die," said he, "that is true;
but we must first carry him to the general, to obtain the price
offered for him."
The soldiers surrounded him and shoved him toward the door. But Elise
broke through the crowd. With flashing eyes, and cheeks burning with
a feverish excitement, she rushed toward Feodor. "No!" cried she, with
all the ardor of love, "no, I will not leave you. You are going to
Feodor kissed her lightly on the forehead, and replied with a smile,
"I fear nothing. Fortune does not forsake a brave soldier."
He then took her by the hand and led her to her father. Gazing on him
with a long and speaking look, he continued: "Here, Father Gotzkowsky,
I bring your daughter to you: be a better father to her than you have
been a friend to me. These are my farewell words."
He leaned forward as if to give Gotzkowsky a parting embrace, and
whispered to him: "I hope we are now quit! I have atoned for my fault.
You will no longer wish to punish your daughter for my transgression."
He then threw the white cloak around him, and bidding Elise, who
leaned half fainting against her father, a tender farewell, he stepped
back into the ranks of the guard.
"Attention! shoulder arms!" commanded the officer; and the Austrians
left the hall with closed ranks, the prisoner in their midst.
* * * * *
The door had closed behind the soldiers and their prisoner. Gotzkowsky
and Elise remained behind, silent and immersed in the deep sorrows of
their souls. Neither spoke a word; both stood motionless and listened.
They heard the soldiers hurry down the steps; they heard the house
door violently thrown open, and the officer announce in a loud voice
to those of his soldiers who were waiting in the street, the lucky
capture of the artilleryman.
A cry of triumph from the Austrians was the answer; then was heard
the loud word of command from the officer, and the roll of the drum
gradually receding in the distance until it was no longer audible.
Every thing was silent.
"Have mercy, Father in heaven have mercy! They are leading him to
death!" cried Elise in a heart-rending tone, and she sank on her knees
"The brave cannoneer is saved!" murmured Gotzkowsky in a low voice
to himself, and he too folded his hands in prayer. Was it a prayer of
gratitude, or did it proceed from the despairing heart of a father?
His countenance had a bright and elevated expression; but as he turned
his eyes down on his daughter, still on her knees, they darkened,
and his features twitched convulsively and painfully. His anger had
evaporated, and his heart was filled with boundless pity and love. He
felt nothing but painful, sorrowful compassion for this young girl
who lay deathly pale and trembling with suffering on the floor. His
daughter was weeping, and his heart yearned toward her to forgive her
every thing, to raise her up and comfort her.
Suddenly Elise started up from her knees and strode toward her father.
There was something solemn and imposing in her proud bearing, her
extraordinary composure, which only imperfectly veiled her raging
grief and passionate excitement.
"Father," said she solemnly, and her voice sounded hoarse and cold,
"may God forgive you for what you have done! At this moment, when
perhaps he is suffering death, I repeat it, I am innocent."
This proud composure fell freezingly on Gotzkowsky's heart, and drove
back all the milder forgiving impulses. He remembered only the shame
and the injured honor of his daughter.
"You assert your innocence, and yet you had a man concealed in the
night in your bedchamber!"
"And yet I am innocent, father!" cried Elise vehemently. "Read it on
my forehead, see it in my eyes, which do not fear to meet yours. I am
And completely overpowered by the bitter and desperate anguish of
her soul, she continued, still more excited, "But how does all this
concern you? It was not my honor that you were interested in; you did
not seek to avenge that. You only wished to punish me for daring to
assert my freedom and independence, for daring to love without having
asked your leave. The rich man to whom all bend, whom all worship as
the priest of the powerful idol which rules the world, the rich man
sees with dismay that there is one being not dazzled by his treasures
who owns an independent life, a will of her own, and a heart that he
cannot command. And because this being does not of her own accord how
down before him he treads it in the dust, whether it be his own child
"Elise," cried Gotzkowsky, shocked, "Elise, are you mad? Do you know
that you are speaking to your father?"
But her tortured heart did not notice this appeal; and only
remembering that perhaps at this moment her lover was suffering death
through her father's fault, she allowed herself to be carried away by
the overpowering force of her grief. She met the flashing eye of her
father with a smile of contempt, and said, coldly: "Oh yes, you may
look at me. I do not fear your angry glances. I am free; you yourself
have absolved me from any fear of you. You took from me my lover, and
at the same time deprived yourself of your child."
"O God!" cried Gotzkowsky in an undertone, "have I deserved this,
Father in heaven?" and he regarded his daughter with a touching
But she was inexorable; sorrow had unseated her judgment, and "Oh!"
cried she in a tone of triumph, "now I will confess every thing to
you, how I have suffered and what I have undergone."
"Elise!" cried he painfully, "have I not given you every thing your
heart could desire?"
"Yes!" cried she, with a cruel laugh, "you fulfilled all my wishes,
and thereby made me poor in wishes, poor in enjoyment. You deprived me
of the power of wishing, for every thing was mine even before I could
desire it. It was only necessary for me to stretch out my hand, and it
belonged to me. Cheerless and solitary I stood amidst your wealth, and
all that I touched was turned into hard gold. The rich man's daughter
envied the beggar woman in the street, for she still had wishes,
hopes, and privations."
Gotzkowsky listened to her, without interrupting her by a word or even
a sigh. Only now and then he raised his hand to his forehead, or cast
a wandering, doubtful look at his daughter, as if to convince himself
that all that was passing was not a mad, bewildering dream, but
painful, cruel reality.
But when Elise, breathless and trembling with excitement, stopped for
a moment, and he no longer heard her cutting accents of reproach, he
pressed both hands upon his breast, as if to suppress a wail over the
annihilation of his whole life. "O God!" muttered he in a low voice,
"this is unparalleled agony! This cuts into a father's heart!"
After a pause, Elise continued: "I too was a beggar, and I hungered
for the bread of your love."
"Elise, oh, my child, do you not know then that I love you
But she did not perceive the loving, almost imploring looks which her
father cast upon her. She could see and think only of herself and her
own tormented heart.
"Yes," said she, "you love me as one loves a jewel, and has it set
in gold in order to make it more brilliant. You loved me as a costly
ornament of your rooms, as something which gave you an opportunity of
exercising the splendor of your liberality, and to be produced as an
evidence of your renowned wealth. But you did not love me as a father;
you did not perceive that I wept in secret, or if you did see it, you
consoled me with diamonds, with rich dresses, to make me smile. But
you did not give me your father's heart. At last the rich man's child
discovers a happiness not to be bought with gold or treasures, a
happiness that the millions of her father could not purchase for
her. This happiness is--love. The only possession that I have owned,
father, contrary to your will, you have deprived me of, because it was
mine against your will. Now, poor rich man, take all your gold,
and seek and buy yourself a child with it. Me you have lost!" and
staggering back with a sob, she sank fainting on the carpet.
A dread silence now reigned in the room. Gotzkowsky stood motionless,
with his eyes directed toward heaven. The cruel, mocking words of
his daughter sounded over and over again in his ears, and seemed to
petrify the power of his will and chain him fast, as if rooted to the
floor. Gradually he recovered from this apathy of grief. The stagnant
blood revived in his veins, and shot like burning streams of fire to
his heart. He bent over his daughter, and gazing for a long time at
her, his features assumed a gentler and softer expression. Tenderly
with his hand he smoothed the tresses from her clear, high forehead;
and as he did so, he almost smiled again, so beautiful and charming
did she seem to him in her death-like repose.
"She has fainted," whispered he, low, as if fearful of awakening
her. "So much the better for her; and when she recovers, may she have
forgotten all the cruel words that she has uttered!"
He laid his hand on her head as if to bless her, and love and
forgiveness were expressed in his looks. A perfect peace seemed to
pervade his whole frame. In this moment he forgave her all the pain,
all the suffering she had caused him. He pardoned her those unjust
reproaches and accusations, and with lofty emotion, raising his eyes
toward heaven, he exclaimed, "O God! thou seest my heart. Thou knowest
that love alone has possession of its very depths, love to my child!
and my child has no faith in me. I have worked--I am rich--I have
amassed wealth--only for her. I thought of my child as I sat at
my desk during the long, weary nights, busied with difficult
calculations. I remembered my daughter when I was wearied out and
overcome by this laborious work. She should be happy; she should be
rich and great as any princess; for this I worked. I had no time to
toy or laugh with her, for I was working for her like a slave. And
this," continued he with a sad smile, "this is what she reproaches me
with. There is nothing in which I believe, nothing but my child, and
my child does not believe in me! The world bows down before me, and I
am the poorest and most miserable beggar."
Overpowered by these bitter thoughts, which crowded tumultuously upon
his brain, he leaned his head upon his hand and wept bitterly. Then,
after a long pause, he drew himself up erect, and, with a determined
gesture, shook the tears from his eyes.
"Enough!" said he, loudly and firmly, "enough; my duty shall cure me
of all this suffering. That I must not neglect."
He rang the bell, and ordered the servant-maids, who appeared, to
raise up the insensible girl and bear her to her room.
But when the maidens called the waiting-man to their assistance to
raise their mistress, Gotzkowsky pushed them all aside, and carried
her softly and gently, as carefully and tenderly as a mother, to a
couch, on which he placed her. He then pressed a fervent kiss upon her
brow. Elise began to move, a faint blush overspread her cheeks, she
opened her eyes. Gotzkowsky immediately stepped back, and signed to
her maids to carry her into her room.
He looked after her until she had disappeared, his eyes dimmed with
tears. "My child," said he, in a low voice, "she is lost to me. Oh, I
am a poor, pitiable father!" With a deep groan he pressed his hands
to his face, and nothing was heard but the painful sobs wrung from the
heart of this father wrestling with his grief.
Suddenly there arose from without loud lamentations and cries for
help. They came nearer and nearer, and at last reached Gotzkowsky's
house, and filled its halls and passages. It was not the outcry of
a single person. From many voices came the sounds of lamenting and
weeping, screams and shrieks:
"Help! help! have pity on us, save us! The Austrians are hewing us
down--they are burning our houses--save us!"
Gotzkowsky dropped his hands from his face and listened. "What was
that? who cries for help?" asked he, dreamingly, still occupied with
his own sorrows, scarcely conscious of the reality. But suddenly he
started, and from his eyes beamed life and courage. "Ah!" cried he
aloud, "mankind is suffering, and I am thinking of my own griefs. I
know these voices. The wives and children of my workmen, the poor
and oppressed of the city are calling me. The people need me. Up,
Gotzkowsky! give them your heart, your life. Endeavor to be a father
to the unfortunate, and you will not be poor in children!"
Without the wailing and cries for help continued to resound, and the
voices of weeping and trembling women and plaintive children cried
aloud, "Gotzkowsky, help us! have pity on us, Father Gotzkowsky!"
"Father!" cried he, raising his head, his countenance beaming with
delight. "They call me father, and yet I complain. Up! to my children
who love me, and who need my help!"
* * * * *
THE TWO EDITORS.
On the morning succeeding the night of horrors and confusion in which
Berlin had surrendered to the conqueror, the vanguard of the Russians
marched into the town through the Koenig's Gate. But the commanding
general, Tottleben, wished to make his triumphal entry with his staff
and the main body of his army through the Kottbuss Gate, and had
ordered the magistracy of the town to meet him there, and to
bring with them a deputation of the merchants, to determine what
contribution should be laid upon them. But before the Russian general
could make his entry, the vanguard of De Lacy's army corps had
penetrated into the Frederick Street suburb, and were committing the
most atrocious acts of cruelty in the New Street. With wild yells they
entered the houses to rob and plunder, ill-treating those who refused
to give up their valuables, and by violent threats of incendiarism,
raising forced levies from the frightened inhabitants.
But it was not alone this lust of plunder in the soldiers which spread
terror and dismay in each house and in every family. Count De Lacy
possessed a list of those persons who, by word, deed, or writing, had
declared against Austria or Russia, and he gave it to his officers,
with the order that they should not hesitate at any measures, any
threats or acts of violence, to obtain possession of these people.
Besides which, he promised a considerable reward for each "traitor"
brought to him; and it was therefore no wonder that these officers,
with brutal and avaricious zeal, had scarcely arrived in the city
before they commenced the pursuit of these outlaws. With fearful yells
they rushed into the houses, shouting out the names of those on the
pursuit of whom they were bent, and whose seizure would secure them a
Naturally enough, the writers and journalists were the first on whom
the vengeful wrath of the conqueror was poured, for it has ever been
the lot of authors to suffer for the misfortunes of the people, to be
made responsible for the being and thinking, the will and action of
the nation to which they belong. But it is only in days of misfortune
that the responsibility of authors and poets commences. They must
answer for the ill luck, but are never rewarded for the happiness of
Three names, especially, did De Lacy's chasseurs cry out with a raging
howl for vengeance, through the Frederick-Stadt and down the Linden
Street, and they searched for their owners in every house.
"De Justi! De Justi!"--with this cry one of the Austrian officers
rushed through the street, knocked with his sword violently against
the closed house doors, and demanded with savage threats the delivery
of this criminal for whose arrest a high premium had been offered.
M. De Justi was indeed a notorious criminal. Not that he had written
much or badly, but principally because he had dared to use his sharp
pen against the Austrian empress, and her allies the Russians and
Saxons. It was especially three pamphlets which excited the wrath of
the victorious enemy. These pamphlets were called: "Proof that the
Empress should be deposed;" "Why and wherefore Certain Nations in
Europe are disposed to become Anthropophagous," and lastly, "Account
of the life of Count Bruehl." He had offended not only the Austrians,
but also the Russians and Saxons. It was therefore natural that these
three powers reigning in Berlin should wish to take their revenge on
the writer of these insulting pamphlets.
But De Justi had been prudent enough to escape from the pursuit of
his revengeful enemies. During the siege he had betaken himself to
the house of a friend in a more secure street, and had hidden in the
cellar, where it was impossible to find him. As they could not get
possession of the writer, they were obliged to cool their wrath on his
treasonable writings. They were dragged in his stead, as prisoners of
state and dangerous criminals, to headquarters at the New Market.
The two other writers, whom the Austrians pursued with furious zeal,
were the two newspaper editors, Kretschmer and Krause. These two
had no idea of such pursuit; indeed, they did not even know that the
Austrians had penetrated into the city. In the safe hiding-place in
which both of them had passed the night they had only learned that
Berlin had surrendered to the Russians, and that General Tottleben
had ordered the magistrates to receive him the next morning at the
Kottbuss Gate at eight o'clock.
It was intended that the reception should be a brilliant and solemn
one, and that the general should be mollified and conciliated by
humble subjection; it was also determined to endeavor, by an
offering of money made to him individually, to induce him to make the
contribution laid on the town moderate and light.
The news was like a thunder-clap to the two editors, for it compelled
them to leave their safe hiding-place, and to venture out into
the dangerous world. For these gentlemen, editors of such renowned
journals, who prided themselves on giving their readers the most
recent and important intelligence, would not dare to be absent at the
reception of the Russian general. For the love of their country they
had to forget their own fears, and, for the honor of their journals,
face danger like true heroes.
Day had scarcely dawned, and deep silence and death-like stillness
reigned at the Kottbuss Gate. The wings of the gate were closed, and
the watchman had withdrawn into his little box, and was resting from
the events of the past days. Dawn still lay like a veil over poor,
anxious Berlin, and concealed her tears and bloody wounds.
The silence was suddenly interrupted by the sound of approaching
footsteps, and around the nearest corner glided the cowering figure
of a man. He remained still for a minute and listened; then, convinced
that all around him was quiet and silent, he crept along, keeping
anxiously close to the houses, and reached unperceived the pillar on
the right side of the gate, in the dark shadow of which he concealed
himself. This man was no other than Mr. Kretschmer, the editor of the
_Vossian Gazette,_ who made himself comfortable in his hiding-place.
"This is quite nice and right," said he, shoving a stone behind the
pillar, in order to raise himself to a higher point of view. "From
here I can hear and observe every thing."
So, settling himself on the stone, he leaned back in the corner of the
door-pillar, as if it were the leathern arm-chair in his _sanctum_. A
comfortable smile stole over his features.
"This time," said he, "at least, I have forestalled my rival, good
Mr. Krause. To-morrow the _Vossian Gazette_ will be the only one which
will be able to report, from actual observation, on the formal entry
of the Russian general. Oh, how vexed _Spener's_ will be! There is
seven o'clock striking. In an hour the ceremony will begin. _Spener's
Journal_ still sleeps, while the _Vossian Gazette_ wakes and works,
and is alert to satisfy the curiosity of Berlin."
Poor, benighted editor of the _Vossian_! You, indeed, could not
see him, but the veil of the dawning day, which spread over Berlin,
concealed your rival, as well as yourself, in its folds. His drawn-up
figure was not visible to your dimmed sight, as he sneaked along the
houses, and hid himself behind the pillar on the left of the gate.
While you were rejoicing over the long sleep of _Spener's Journal_,
its editor, Mr. Krause, was standing opposite to you, behind the
pillar, whither he had come, notwithstanding his sixty-eight years,
like you, to witness the entrance of the Russians. And happy was he
in spirit at this victory obtained over his rival, the editor of the
_Vossian Gazette_, and it made him very proud indeed to think that
this once he had forestalled Mr. Kretschmer, and consequently would
have the monopoly of describing in the morning's paper, to the people
of Berlin, the magnificent and pompous entrance of the Russians!
The editor of the _Vossian Gazette_ had no idea of the vicinity of his
rival. He continued to congratulate himself on the advantage he had
obtained, and proceeded cheerfully in his soliloquy. "It makes me
laugh to think of _Spener's Journal_. I, myself, advised Mr. Krause
to conceal himself, and the good man faithfully followed my advice.
Perhaps the little old gentleman dreams that I am at this moment
sitting by my fireside, while there is so much matter for my newspaper
here. Good matter, too, that can be moulded into an interesting
article, is not so common that it can be carelessly squandered. Sleep,
therefore, sleep, good _Spener_--the _Vossian_ wakes."
But _Spener_ did not sleep. He was at the opposite pillar, smirking
and saying to himself, "How lucky it is that I have anticipated the
_Vossian_!" He then was silent, but his thoughts were active, and in
the bottom of his heart he instituted some very serious reflections
upon the superfluousness of a second newspaper, how perfectly
unnecessary it was in fact.
"This _Vossian Gazette_ is perfectly intolerable," thought he.
"There ought to be a law prohibiting the publishing of more than one
newspaper in each town. Then the public would always get reliable
news, and draw its political opinions from one source, which would be
undoubted, and it would accept as true what we gave forth for truth.
If the government would follow this plan, and allow only one newspaper
to each town, and conciliate this one with money or patronage, mankind
would be much happier and more contented, and less liable to be
distracted by the most opposite political views and information. What
profits the existence of this _Vossian Gazette_? What does it do
but rob me of my subscribers? By Heavens! I wish the Russian would
exterminate it thoroughly."
While Mr. Krause was thus speaking to himself, Mr. Kretschmer had
followed the same course of thought, and, very naturally, arrived at
a similar conclusion. He, too, had to confess that _Spener's Journal_
was very inconvenient, and hated its editor from the bottom of his
heart. In the vehemence of his vexation, he overlooked the necessary
precaution, and cried out, "Cursed be this rival, this man who has the
presumption to imagine he can compete with me!"
Mr. Krause shuddered at the sound of this voice, which seemed to him
as it were the echo of his own unspoken thoughts, but he mastered
his alarm, and cried aloud, "Did any one speak?" "Did any one speak?"
sounded back again, and two heads were seen protruding from the
pillars on each side of the gate, the eyes in them inquiringly peering
at each other. The morning in the mean while had become lighter, and,
with an inward shudder, the two gentlemen recognized each other.
"It is _Spener's_! May the devil take him!" thought Mr. Kretschmer.
"It is the _Vossian_! Damn the fellow!" thought Mr. Krause.
But while they thought this to themselves, they rushed forward and
embraced each other, with greetings and assurances of friendship, to
all appearances warm and sincere.
"I am not mistaken! It is my dear friend Krause."
"Oh, what happiness! my dear Kretschmer!"
And they shook each other's hands and repeated their asseverations of
friendship and esteem, but, at the same time, breathed in their hearts
their curses and execrations. But the two editors were not the only
persons who had sought the Kottbuss Gate at this early hour. An
Austrian officer with a guard of soldiers, in his search after the two
editors, had also reached the spot, and was marching with his men from
the corner near the gate, looking eagerly right and left and up at all
the windows. His eye fell upon these two men who were shrinking
from his sight, uttering pious ejaculations to Heaven. The officer
approached them and demanded their names. Neither answered. The
officer repeated his question, and accompanied it with such threats as
convinced Mr. Krause of the imperative necessity of answering it. He
bowed, therefore, respectfully to the officer, and pointing to his
friend, said, "This is Mr. Kretschmer, the editor of the _Vossian
Kretschmer cast upon him a look full of hatred and revenge. "And
this," said he, with a wicked smile, "is Mr. Krause, editor of
An expression of joyous triumph shone in the countenance of the
officer: "You are my prisoners, gentlemen," said he, as he beckoned to
his soldiers to arrest them.
Pale did Mr. Krause grow as he drew back a step. "Sir, this must be a
mistake. We are quiet, peaceable citizens, who have nothing to do with
the war, but only busy ourselves with our pens."
"Our arrest is contrary to all national law," cried Mr. Kretschmer,
at the same time endeavoring to defend himself from the weapons which
were pointed at him.
The officer laughed. "In war we know no national law. You are my
prisoners." And disregarding their struggles and cries for help, they
dragged the two editors as prisoners to the guard-house at the New
* * * * *
THE CHIEF MAGISTRATE OF BERLIN.
After a short interval of quiet and lonesomeness at the Kottbuss Gate,
there appeared, first far down the street, then approaching nearer and
nearer, a solemn procession. Foremost staggered the chief burgomaster,
Von Kircheisen, in full uniform, adorned with his golden chain, which
rustled as it rose and sank with his hurried, feverish respiration.
He was followed by the second burgomaster, with the Town Council, and
deputation of merchants, headed by Gotzkowsky. With solemn, serious
air, these gentlemen took up their position at the gate.
The chief burgomaster then beckoned Gotzkowsky to his side. "Stand
by me, my friend," said he, with a groan, and offering his hand to
Gotzkowsky with a dismal air. "I am suffering terribly, and even the
two bottles of Johannisberger are not sufficient to inspire me with
courage. Is it not terrible that the honorable Council should be
obliged to attend in person? It is an unheard-of indignity!"
"Not only for you, but for the Berlin citizen is the insult equally
great," said Gotzkowsky.
Herr von Kircheisen shook his head in a most melancholy manner. "Yes,"
said he, "but the Berlin citizen does not feel it so deeply. It does
not affect his honor as it does that of the magistracy."
Gotzkowsky smiled scornfully. "Do you think," asked he, "that the
magistrates possess a different kind of honor from that of any citizen
of the town? The sense of honor is keener among the people than it is
among the noblest lords."
The chief burgomaster frowned. "These are very proud words," replied
he, with a shrug of his shoulders.
"Pride belongs to the citizen!" cried Gotzkowsky. "But believe me,
noble sir, my heart to-day is not as proud as my words. It is sore
with pain and grief over our deep, unmerited degradation."
"Silence, silence!" whispered the chief magistrate, leaning
tremblingly on Gotzkowsky's arm. He heard a noise behind the closed
gates, and his mind misgave him that the dreaded enemy was at hand.
Suddenly there sounded on the other side of the walls the loud notes
of a trumpet, and the warder hastened to throw open the gate. A rare
and motley mixture of Russian uniforms now came in sight. There were
seen Cossacks, with their small horses and sharp lances; body-guards,
with their gold-adorned uniforms; hussars, in their jackets trimmed
with costly furs, all crowding in in confused tumult and with
deafening screams and yells, that contrasted strangely with the
silence inside the gates, with the noiseless, deserted streets,
the closed windows of the houses, whose inhabitants scorned to be
witnesses to the triumphal entry of the enemy. Only the ever-curious,
ever-sight-loving, always-thoughtless populace, to whom the honor has
at times been accorded of being called "the sovereign people," only
this populace had hurried hither from all the streets of Berlin to see
the entry of the Russians, and to hurrah to the conqueror, provided
he paraded right handsomely and slowly in. And now a deep silence took
place in the ranks of the enemy; the crowd opened and formed a lane,
through which rode the Russian General Bachmann and his staff. As he
reached the gate he drew in his horse and asked, in a loud, sonorous
voice, in French, whether the magistrates and deputation of merchants
The chief magistrate felt unable to answer; his knees tottered and his
teeth chattered convulsively. He could only wag his head in silence
and point with trembling hand to his companions.
"Is the merchant, John Gotzkowsky, one of your deputation?" asked the
Gotzkowsky stepped out of the crowd and approached the general with a
proud step. "I am he, sir."
"I am glad to meet you," said the general, with a gracious smile. "I
bring you greetings from General Sievers. He commissioned and ordered
me to show you all possible favor. If I can be of service to you in
any possible way, pray command me. I am General von Bachmann, and
during our presence here have been appointed to the command of
"Are you a friend of the noble Sievers?" cried Gotzkowsky, his
countenance beaming with pleasure. "Oh, then, I need fear nothing
for this unfortunate town, for only a noble, high-minded man can be a
friend of Sievers. You will have pity on our distress!"
"Tell me wherein I can serve you, and how I can oblige you; my word
has much influence on our general-in-chief, Count Tottleben."
Gotzkowsky was silent.
"Beg him to make the contribution as small as possible," whispered
Kircheisen in Gotzkowsky's ear.
But Gotzkowsky took no notice of him. He fixed his dark eyes on the
general, as if he wished to read his soul.
"Speak out," said the general. "If it is possible, your wish shall be
"Well then, general," cried Gotzkowsky, "this is my request: Spare the
poor and needy of this town. Order your soldiers to be humane, and do
not forget mercy. Let your warriors neither murder nor plunder; let
them not deride the defenceless and conquered. Give to the world the
example of a generous and noble conqueror."
The general looked into Gotzkowsky's noble countenance with increasing
astonishment, and his features assumed a more benevolent expression.
"I give you my word that your petition shall be granted," said he; "I
will give my soldiers strict orders, and woe be to him who does not
obey them! But you have spoken for others, and I would like to oblige
you personally. Have you no request to make for yourself?"
"Oh, yes, indeed!" cried Gotzkowsky, "I beg you to allow me to hasten
to the Council-hall to report to the elders of the citizens your kind
General Bachmann nodded affably to him. "Hasten then, and return
But as Gotzkowsky turned to hasten away, Herr von Kircheisen seized
him with a convulsive grasp and drew him back. "My God! you are not
going to leave me?" he whined out. "Only think--"
"That the brave and noble citizens may lay the general's words as
a balm to their wounds--that is what I am thinking of," cried
Gotzkowsky, tearing himself loose and hurrying away with rapid
"And now for you, most worthy burgomaster," said General Bachmann,
sternly, "your name, if you please?"
Von Kircheisen looked at him gloomily, but made no answer.
The general repeated his question in a louder and sterner voice, but
the burgomaster still maintained the same obstinate silence.
"Have you, by some unlucky chance, forgotten your name, sir?" asked
the general with a lowering brow.
The angry, piercing look he fastened on him, seemed to awaken the
burgomaster from his lethargy.
"My name is Kircheisen, Von Kircheisen," stammered he, with a heavy
"We came as conquerors, sir," said General Bachmann; "and it is usual
for conquerors to dictate their terms before they enter a captured
city. In the name of our general, Count Tottleben, I have to
communicate to you what sum we demand from you as a war contribution.
This demand amounts to four millions of dollars in good money."
The burgomaster stared at the general with glazed eyes, broke out
into a loud laugh, and staggered back on the wall of the gate-warder's
"I implore you, collect yourself," whispered the second burgomaster,
as he endeavored to support the reeling, staggering chief. "Remember
our weal or woe depends upon you!"
Von Kircheisen grinned an idiotic laugh. "Four millions of dollars!"
screamed he aloud. "Four millions of dollars! Hurrah! hurrah for the
The countenance of the general became still more threatening, and an
angry light flashed from his eye. "Do you dare to mock me?" asked
he, in a harsh tone. "Beware, sir; and remember that you are the
conquered, and in our power. I demand from you a decided answer. You
understand my demand, do you not?"
But still he answered not. He stared at General Bachmann with a vacant
smile, and his head wagged from side to side like the pendulum of a
"This is disgraceful conduct," cried the general, "conduct which does
little honor to the chief magistrate of Berlin. But I warn you, sir,
to beware! I have promised the poor and suffering my protection, but I
well know how to punish those who abuse our magnanimity. If you do not
answer me this time, sir, by Heaven I will have you carried off under
arrest and let a court-martial pronounce judgment on you!"
The chief magistrate continued dumb. The pale and terror-stricken
countenances of those present were turned toward him. The members
of the Council implored and besought him to put aside this unnatural
Von Kircheisen answered their pleadings with a loud-sounding laugh.
He then stared at the general, his features worked and struggled,
writhed, and finally he opened his mouth.
"Ah! God be praised, he is going to speak," cried the second
But no, he did not speak; he only distorted his face. A cry of dismay
sounded from the lips of the deputation, a cry of anger from the
Russian general, who, turning to his adjutant, ordered him immediately
to arrest the burgomaster and carry him off. And now there arose an
indescribable scene of confusion and terror. Pale with fright, the
Council and deputation of merchants had flocked around Von Kircheisen
to protect him from the advancing soldiers who sought to arrest him,
while he, in the midst of all the horror and tumult, continued to
giggle and make grimaces. The enraged soldiery had already commenced
to push aside Kircheisen's defenders with blows from the butts of
their muskets, when a man made his way through the crowd. It was
Gotzkowsky, who, with a loud and full voice, demanded the cause of
this singular uproar. A hundred voices were ready to answer him, and
explain the scene in confused, unintelligible jargon.
But General Bachmann beckoned him to his side. "Tell me, sir, is this
chief burgomaster a fool or a drunkard, or is he, indeed, so demented
as to intend to mock us?"
As Gotzkowsky looked at the deathly pale, convulsed countenance of the
magistrate, who renewed his shrill, screeching laugh, he comprehended
the racking and terrible torture which the unfortunate man was
suffering. He hastened to him, seized him by the arm, and led the
tottering figure toward the general.
"This man is neither a fool nor a madman, your excellency; suffering
has robbed him of speech, and he laughs, not in derision, but from the
convulsion of intense sorrow."
And as the offended and angry general would not believe him, and
commanded his soldiers anew to arrest the burgomaster, and the
soldiers with renewed rage pressed on him, Gotzkowsky placed himself
before him, and protected him with his proud and respect-inspiring
"General Bachmann," cried he, warmly, "I remind you of your oath.
You vowed to me to protect the suffering. Well, then, this man is
a sufferer, a sick man. I demand, from the noble friend of General
Sievers, that he have compassion on the sick man, and allow him to be
escorted safely and unmolested to his house."
"Can you give me your word that this man did not act thus out of
arrogance?" asked the general, in a milder tone; "are you convinced
that he is sick?"
"I swear to you, please your excellency, that the chief magistrate of
Berlin has never been a healthy man; that, for many years, he has been
subject to fits of convulsive laughter."
General Bachmann smiled. "This is an unfortunate disease for the chief
magistrate of a city," said he, "and it seems to me as if the citizens
of Berlin did wrong in choosing for their burgomaster a man who
laughs and cries indifferently, and to whom the misfortunes of his
fellow-citizens apparently serves only for a joke. But you reminded me
of my promise, and you shall see that I will keep it."
He beckoned to his soldiers, and ordered them to fetch a litter on
which to carry the sick burgomaster home. He then turned, with a
smile, to Gotzkowsky, and said: "Sir, the Council of Berlin have cause
to be grateful to you; you have saved their chief from death."
Herr von Kircheisen did not laugh now. His features jerked and
distorted themselves still, but a stream of tears gushed from his
With an unspeakable expression he seized Gotzkowsky's hand, and
pressed it to his lips, then sank unconscious in the arms of his
* * * * *
THE RUSSIAN, THE SAXON, AND THE AUSTRIAN, IN BERLIN.
Berlin was now given up to the enemy, and through the once cheerful
and pleasant streets could be heard nothing but screams and shrieks
of terror, mingled with the wild curses and boisterous laughter of the
conqueror, who, not satisfied with attacking the trembling inhabitants
to rob them of their possessions and property, ill treated them out of
sheer cruelty, and took delight in hearing their screams and looking
at the contortions caused by pain.
And who was this enemy, who, in scorn of all humanity and
civilization, tortured the unfortunate and hunted them down?
They were not Russians, nor wild hordes of Cossacks. They were
Austrians and Saxons, who, robbing and plundering, murdering and
destroying, violating and burning, rushed through Berlin, filling all
the inhabitants with terror and alarm.
General Bachmann kept faithfully the promise he had made to
Gotzkowsky, and the Russian army at first not only preserved the
strictest discipline, but even protected the inhabitants against the
violence of the Austrians and Saxons.
The terrified citizens had one powerful and beneficent friend--this
was John Gotzkowsky. Yielding to his urgent entreaty, General von
Bachmann's adjutant, Von Brinck, had taken up his quarters in his
house, and by his assistance and his own influence with the general,
Gotzkowsky was enabled to afford material aid to all Berlin. For
those citizens who were able to pay the soldiers he procured a Russian
safeguard, and more than once this latter protected the inhabitants of
the houses against the vandalism of the Austrians and Saxons.
Contrary to the wish of the Russians, the Austrians had forced
themselves into the city, and, in spite of the terms of the
capitulation agreed upon with the Russians, had quartered themselves
upon the citizens, from whom, with the most savage cruelty and threats
of ingenious torture, they extorted all the gold and jewels they
Berlin was now the open camping-ground of Croats and Austrian hussars,
and Russian Cossacks, and all minds were filled with dread and
It is true that even the Cossacks forgot the strict discipline
which had been commanded them, and entered the houses, robbing and
compelling the inhabitants, by blows of the knout, to give them
all they wanted. But yet they were less cruel than the Saxons,
less barbarous than the Austrians, who, with scoffing and derision,
committed the greatest atrocities. Indeed, it was only necessary
to complain to the Russian general in order to obtain justice
immediately, and have the Cossacks punished. Eight of them were
strung up in one day at the guard-house on the New Market square, as
a warning and example to the others, and expiated their robberies by
a summary death. But with the Austrians and Saxons it was the officers
themselves who instigated the soldiers to acts of revolting barbarity,
and who, forgetful of all humanity, by their laughter and applause
excited their subordinates to fresh ill-treatment of the inhabitants.
Disregarding the capitulation, and listening to their national enmity,
and their love of plunder, they pressed forward with wild screams into
the royal stables, driving away the safeguard of four-and-twenty men,
which General von Tottleben had placed there for their protection, and
with shameless insolence defiling the Prussian coat-of-arms pictured
on the royal carriages. They then drew them out into the open street,
and, after they had stripped them of their ornaments and decorations,
piled them up in a great heap and set them on fire, in order to add
to the fright and terror of the bewildered citizens by the threatening
danger of conflagration.
High blazed the flames, consuming greedily these carriages which had
once borne kings and princes. The screams and fright of the inmates
of the nearest houses, and the crackling of the window-glass broken by
the heat were drowned by the joyous shouts of the Austrians who danced
round the fire with wild delight, and accompanied the roaring of the
flames with insulting and licentious songs. And the fire seemed only
to awaken their inventive powers, and excite them to fresh deeds of
vandalism. After the fire had burnt out, and only a heap of ashes told
of what were once magnificent royal vehicles, the Austrians rushed
back again into the building with terrific outcry, to the apartments
of the royal master of the horse, Schwerin, in order to build a new
bonfire with his furniture, and fill their pockets with his gold and
In the royal stalls a great uproar arose, as they fought with each
other for the horses that were there. The strongest leaped on them and
rode off furiously, to carry into other neighborhoods the terror and
dismay which marked the track of the Austrians through Berlin. Even
the hospitals were not safe from their brutal rage. They tore the sick
from their beds, drove them with scoffs and insults into the streets,
cut up their beds, and covered them over with the feathers. And all
this was committed not by wild barbarians, but by the regular troops
of a civilized state, by Austrians, who were spurred on, by their
hatred of the Prussians, to deeds of rude cruelty and beastly
barbarity. And this unlucky national hatred, which possessed the
Austrian and made him forgetful of all humanity, was communicated,
like an infectious plague, to the Saxons, and transformed these
warriors, who were celebrated for being, next to the Prussians,
the most orderly and best disciplined, into rude Jack Ketches and
In the royal pleasure-palace at Charlottenburg, where Bruehl's (Saxon)
dragoons had taken up their quarters by force, they set up a new
species of dragoonade, which was directed not so much against the
living as against marble statues and the sacred treasures of art. All
the articles of splendor, brilliancy, and luxury which had been
heaped up here, every thing which the royal love of the fine arts
had collected of what was beautiful and rare, was sacrificed to their
raging love of destruction. Gilded furniture, Venetian mirrors, large
porcelain vases from Japan, were smashed to pieces. The silk tapestry
was torn from the walls in shreds, the doors inlaid with beautiful
wood-mosaic were broken up with clubs, the most masterly and costly
paintings were cut in ribbons with knives. To be sure, it sometimes
happened that the officers rescued from the soldiers some costly vase,
some rare treasure or painting, and saved it from destruction,
but this was not to save the King of Prussia's property, but to
appropriate it to themselves, and carry it home with them.
Even the art-collection of Count Polignac, embracing the most splendid
and rare treasures of art in the palace of Charlottenburg, did not
escape this mania of destruction. This collection, containing among
other things the most beautiful Greek statues, had been purchased in
Rome by Gotzkowsky, and had afforded the king peculiar gratification,
and was a source of much enjoyment to him. In the eyes of some Saxon
officers, to whom this fact was known, it was sufficient reason for
its condemnation. They themselves led the most violent and destructive
of their soldiers into the halls where these magnificent treasures
were exposed, even helped them to break the marble statues, to dash
them down from their pedestals, to hew off their heads, arms, and
legs, and even carried their systematic malice so far as to order
the soldiers to grind into powder the fragments, so as to prevent any
restoration of the statues at a subsequent period.
The unfortunate inhabitants of Charlottenburg witnessed all this
abomination that was perpetrated in the royal palace with fear and
trembling, and in order to save their own persons and property from
similar outrage, they offered the enemy a contribution of fifteen
thousand dollars. The Saxons accepted the money, but, regardless of
every obligation usually considered sacredly binding, they only became
more savage and ferocious. With yells of rage they rushed into the
houses, and, when the money they demanded was refused them, they
stripped the men of their clothes, lashed them until the blood flowed,
or cruelly wounded or maimed them with sabre-cuts; and when the women
fled from them, they followed them up, and forced them by brutal
ill-treatment to yield themselves. No house in Charlottenburg escaped
being plundered; and so cruel were the tortures which the inhabitants
suffered, that four of the unfortunate men died a miserable death at
the hands of the Saxon soldiers.
They were Germans who waged against their brother Germans, against
their own countrymen, a brutality and barbarous love of destruction
almost unequalled in the annals of modern history. Consequently
it seemed but natural that the Russians should be excited by such
examples of barbarity, so unstintedly set them by the Austrians and
Saxons. No wonder that they, too, at last began to rob and plunder, to
break into houses at night, and carry off women and maidens by force,
in order to have them released next day by heavy ransom; and that even
the severe punishments, inflicted on those whom the people had the
courage to complain of to the generals lost their terror, and were
no restraint on these sons of the steppes and ice-fields, led away as
they were by the other ruffians.
Two hundred and eighty-two houses were destroyed and thoroughly
plundered in Berlin by the Austrians; the Saxons had devastated the
royal palace in Charlottenburg, and the whole town. Should not the
Russians also leave a memorial of their vandalism? They did so in
Schoenhausen, the pleasure-palace of the consort of Frederick the
Great, who had left it a few days previous, by express command of the
king, to take up her residence in Magdeburg. Eight Russian hussars
forced themselves into the palace, and, with terrible threats,
demanded the king's plate. Only the castellan and his wife, and a few
of the royal servants, had been left behind to protect the place, and
the only answer they could make to the furious soldiers was, that the
booty which they were in search of had been carried with the royal
party to Magdeburg. This information excited their fury to the highest
pitch. Like the Saxon dragoons of Charlottenburg, they devastated the
Schoenhausen palace, stripped the castellan and his wife, and, with
shouts of wild laughter, whipped them and pinched their flesh with
red-hot tongs. And, as if the sight of these bloody and torn human
bodies had only increased their desire for blood and torture, they
then attacked the two servants, stripped them of their clothes, cut
one to pieces like a beast, and threw the other on the red-hot coals,
roasting him alive, as formerly the warriors of her Most Christian
Majesty of Spain did those whom, in the pride of their civilization,
they denominated "the wild heathen."
[Footnote 1: The account of all these cruelties and this vandalism is
verified in the original, by reference to Von Archenholz: "History of
the Seven Years' War," pp.194-198.--TRANSLATOR.]
* * * * *
The day following the occupation of Berlin, a strange and singular
procession moved down the Linden Street through the Brandenburg Gate,
and took the road to Charlottenburg. Bruehl's dragoons and De Lacy's
chasseurs rode on each side of the line, which would have excited
laughter, if pity and sorrow had not overcome the comical element.
It was a procession of children decked in uniform, and having
nothing military about them but their apparel, nothing manly but the
dress-sword at their side.
This singular little regiment was the "Corps of Cadets," which had
been made prisoners of war by the Austrians and Saxons.
The commandant, Von Rochow, did not imagine that the enemy would carry
his hard-heartedness to such an extent as to consider these lads of
tender age as part of the garrison, and make them prisoners of war in
consequence. None of these boys exceeded the age of twelve years (the
larger and older ones having been drafted into the army to supply the
want of officers), and he presumed that their very helplessness and
weakness would be their security, and therefore had omitted to mention
them specially in the surrender. But the conqueror had no compassion
on these little children in uniform, and pronounced them prisoners of
war. Even Liliputian warriors might be dangerous! Remember the pangs
suffered by Gulliver, as, lying quietly on the ground, he was suddenly
awakened by a violent discharge poured into him from behind the high
grass by the Liliputians. To be sure their weapons were only armed
with needles--whence we may infer that the Liliputians are the
original inventors of the modern Prussian needle-percussion
rifles--but, one can be killed by needle-pricks. Count De Lacy feared,
perhaps, the needle weapons of the little Liliputian cadets, and
treated the poor, delicate, tender children as if they were tough old
veterans, accustomed to all the hardships and privations of war. With
coarse abuse and blows from the butt of the musket, they were driven
out into the highway, and compelled to travel on the soft, muddy roads
without cloaks, notwithstanding the severe weather, and only the short
jackets of their uniforms. Heart-rending was the wail of the poor
little ones from whom the war had taken their fathers, and poverty
their mothers--torn from their home, the refuge of their orphaned
childhood, to be driven like a flock of bleating lambs out into the
desert wilderness of life.
And when their feet grew weary, when their little bodies, unaccustomed
to fatigue, gave way, they were driven on with blows from sabres and
the butts of muskets. When they begged for a piece of bread, or a drop
of water for their parched lips, they were laughed at, and, instead of
water, were told to drink their own tears, which ran in streams down
their childish cheeks. They had already marched the whole day without
food or refreshment of any kind, and they could hardly drag their
bleeding feet along. With eyes bright with fever, and parched tongues,
they still wandered on, looking in the distance for some friendly
shelter, some refreshing spring.
At nightfall the little cadets were camped in an open field, on the
wet ground. At first, they begged for a little food, a crust of bread;
but when they saw that their sufferings gave pleasure to the dragoons,
and that their groans were to them like a pleasant song, they were
silent, and the spirit of their fathers reigned uppermost in the
breasts of these little, forsaken, trembling lads. They dried their
eyes, and kept their complaints in their little trembling hearts.
"We will not cry any more," said little Ramin, who though only twelve
years of age, was yet the oldest of the captives, and recognized as
their captain and leader. "We will not cry any more, for our tears
give pleasure to our enemies. Let us be cheerful, and that perhaps
will vex them. To spite them, and show how little we think of our
hunger, let us sing a jolly song."
"Come on, let us do it!" cried the boys. "What song shall we sing?"
"_Prince Eugene_," cried young Ramin; and immediately with his
childish treble struck up "Prince Eugene, the noble knight."
And all the lads joined in with a sort of desperate enthusiasm, and
the song of the noble knight rose from their young lips like a peal of
But gradually one little trembling voice after another fell, by
degrees the song grew lower and shriller, and became lost in a
trembling whisper; then it would rise into an unnatural and terrified
scream, or sink into a whining sob or trembling wail.
Suddenly little Ramin stopped, and a cry of pain, like the sound of
a snapped string, burst from his breast. "I cannot sing any more,"
sighed he. "Hunger is killing me." And he sank down on his knees, and
raised his little arms beseechingly to one of the Austrian soldiers,
who was marching beside him, comfortably consuming a roast chicken.
"Oh! give me a bit of bread, only a mouthful, to keep me from starving
"Have pity on us, do not let us starve!"
With similar piteous lamentations, the whole corps of trembling,
weeping, starving little cadets threw themselves on their knees, and
filled the air with their cries and prayers.
"Well, if you positively insist upon eating, you shall have something
to appease your hunger," said the officer who commanded the chasseurs,
and he whispered a few words to his corporal, who received them with a
loud laugh, and then rode off.
"Now, be quiet, and wait," commanded the Austrian officer. "I have
sent the corporal and some soldiers into the village to get food for
you. Only wait now, and be satisfied." And the children dried their
eyes, and comforted each other with encouraging words.
With what impatience, what painful longing, did they look forward
to the promised food! How they thanked God, in the gladness of their
hearts, that He had had pity on them, and had not allowed them to die
They all seemed revived, and strained their hopeful eyes toward the
quarter whence the corporal was to return. And now, with one voice,
they broke out into a cry of joy; they had espied him returning,
accompanied by soldiers who seemed to be bringing a heavy load.
They approached nearer and nearer. "Form a ring," commanded the
officer, and they obeyed in expectant gladness; and around the thickly
crowded ring the Austrian officers and the troop of soldiers took
their stand. In silent waiting stood the cadets, and their hearts
leaped for joy.
"Attention! your dinner is coming," cried the officer.
The ring opened. Ah! now the corporal and the soldiers are going to
bring in the dinner.
But no! The dinner came walking along by itself. With a dignified
step it marched in and gave utterance to an expressive bleat. It was
a _live_ sheep, which was to be given to the poor lads who were faint
from hunger. An outburst of boisterous laughter from the Austrians
greeted the dignified wether, and drowned the cries of the bitterly
"A sheep!" they cried, "and what are we to do with it?"--and they
began to weep afresh.
"Kill him and roast him!" jeered the officer. "You are brave soldiers.
Well, you will only have to do what we often do in camp. Be your own
cook and butler; none of us will help you. We want to see what sort of
practical soldiers you will make, and whether you are as good hands at
cooking as at crying and blubbering."
And the Austrians folded their arms, and looked on idly and with
derisive satisfaction at these poor children who stood there with
their heads bowed down with helplessness and grief.
At length little Ramin arose. His eyes glistened with fierce defiance,
and an expression of noble courage illuminated his pale countenance.
"If the sheep belongs to us," said he, "we will eat him."
"But he's alive," cried the boys.
"We will kill him," answered the little fellow.
"We? we ourselves? We are no butchers. We have never done such a
"Have we ever killed a man?" asked Ramin, rolling his large bright
eyes around the circle of his comrades. "Have we ever deprived a man
of his life?"
"Well, then, we will have it yet to do! We hope to be able to kill
many an enemy, and to do that we will have to begin with some one. Let
us make believe, then, that this wether is the enemy, and that we have
to attack him. Now, then, down upon him!"
"Ramin is right," cried the boys; "let us attack the enemy."
"Attention!" commanded Ramin.
The boys drew themselves up in military order right opposite the
In the twinkling of an eye they had drawn their little rapiers, which
looked more like penknives than swords, and which the Austrians had
left to their little prisoners of war.
"One, two, three!" commanded the little Ramin. "Attention! Forward!"
Down they charged upon the enemy, who was standing motionless, with
staring eyes, bleating loudly. The Austrian soldiers roared and
screamed with delight, and confessed, with tears in their eyes, that
it was the best joke in the world, and no end of fun to see these poor
boys made desperate by hunger.
The first feat of arms of the little cadets was completed, the wether
was slain. But now came the question how to dress him, how to convert
the dead beast into nice warm roast meat.
They were well aware that none of the laughing, mocking soldiers
would help them, and therefore they disdained to ask for help. Wood, a
roasting-pit, and a kettle were given them--means enough to prepare a
good soup and roast. But how to begin and set about it they themselves
hardly knew. But gnawing hunger made them inventive. Had they not
often at home skinned many a cunningly caught mole--had they not often
killed and drawn a rabbit? The only difference was that the sheep was
somewhat larger than a mole or a rabbit.
Finally, after much toil and trouble, and under the approving laughter
of the spectators, they accomplished it. The meat simmered in the
kettle, watched by two cadets, two others turning the spit. The work
was done; the sheep was converted into soup and roast.
And because they showed themselves so industrious and cheerful, one
and another of the soldiers softened their hearts and threw them a
piece of bread or a canteen; and the poor boys accepted these alms
thrown at them with humble gratitude, and no feeling of resentment
or defiance remained in their hearts, for hunger was appeased; but
appeased only for the moment--only to encounter new sufferings,
renewed hunger, fresh mockeries. For onward, farther onward must they
wander. Every now and then one of them sank down, begging for pity and
compassion. But what cared the soldiers, who only saw in the children
the impersonation of the hated enemy, to be tortured and worried to
death as a sport?
More than twenty of these little cadets succumbed to the sufferings
of this journey, and died miserably, forsaken and alone, on the high
road; and no mother was there to close their eyes, no father to
lean over them and bless them with a tear. But over these poor
martyr-children watched the love of God, and lulled them to sleep
with happy dreams and gentle fancies about their distant homes, their
little sister there, or the beautiful garden in which they had so
often chased butterflies together. And amidst such fancies and smiling
memories they dreamed away their childish souls, beyond the grave, to
a holy and happy reawakening.
* * * * *
General von Tottleben was alone in his chamber--at least he had no
visible company; but two invisible companions were there--Care and
Sorrow. They whispered to him uncomfortable and melancholy thoughts,
making his countenance serious and sad, and drawing deep and dark
lines across his brow. He was a German, and was fighting in the ranks
of the enemy against his German fatherland. Therein lay the secret
of his care-worn features, the reading of the suppressed sighs; the
broken, sorrowful words which he uttered, as with folded arms and
bowed head he paced up and down his room. He was a German, and
loved his country, which had repaid his love with that apathy and
non-appreciation that have destroyed and killed some of the greatest
and noblest men of Germany; while others have taken refuge in foreign
countries, to find there that recognition which was denied them at
home. General von Tottleben was only a German--why, then, should
Germany take notice of him? Because he possessed information, talent,
genius. Germany would have appreciated these if Von Tottleben had been
a foreigner; but, as unfortunately he was only a German, Germany took
no notice of him, and compelled him to seek in a foreign country the
road to fame and distinction. He had gone to Russia. There his talents
had been prized and employed. He was now a general in the Russian
army, and the alliance between Russia and Austria compelled him to
fight against his own country.
But the Russian general still preserved his German heart, this heart
so strong in suffering, so unfaltering in its faith, so faithful in
its love, so great in hope, humble in its obedience, modest in its
desires; this German heart of his was the cause of much suffering to
him, for it could not adapt itself to his Russian instructions,
and despite his efforts to render it callous, would insist upon
overflowing with pity and sympathy. He loved Berlin, for in this city
he had passed the best years of his youth. And now he was called on to
act as a cruel tyrant, an unfeeling barbarian, to sow broadcast death
and destruction in this city, from which he yearned so to win a little
love, a little sympathy for her rejected son.
But now his German heart was forced into silence by the exigencies
of Russian discipline, and the general had to obey the orders of his
superior officer, General von Fermore. His chief had ordered him to
exercise the utmost severity and harshness, and imposed upon him the
task of scourging Berlin like a demon of vengeance. And yet Berlin had
committed no other crime than that of remaining faithful to her king,
and of not wishing to surrender to the enemy.
A fresh dispatch had just arrived from General von Fermore, and its
contents had darkened the brow of Tottleben with anxious care. He
had received orders to blow up the arsenal in Berlin. This noble and
handsome building, which rose in proud splendor in the midst of a
populous town, was to be destroyed without reference to the fact that
the blowing up of this colossal edifice would scatter death and ruin
throughout unfortunate Berlin.
"I will not do it," said he, pacing up and down the room, and crushing
the accursed paper which brought the cruel order in his clinched hand.
"I cannot be such a barbarian. Fermore may command me to do barbarous
actions, but I will not accept such commands! I will not obey! No
one but myself knows of this order. I will ignore it. The Empress
Elizabeth has always been very gracious toward me, and will forgive
me for not executing an order which certainly never proceeded from
her own kind heart." At this moment the door opened, and the adjutant
entering, announced Count de Lacy.
Tottleben's countenance assumed a gloomy expression, and, as with
hasty step he advanced toward the Austrian general, he muttered to
himself, "I perceive the bloodhounds have got the scent, and are
eager for blood." In the mean time Count de Lacy approached him with
a friendly and gracious smile. He seemed not to be at all aware that
Tottleben did not accept the hand which the Austrian general held out
to him with a hearty greeting.
"I come to chat for a short quarter of an hour with your excellency,"
said Count de Lacy, in very fluent German, but with the hard foreign
accent of a Hungarian. "After a battle won, I know nothing pleasanter
than to recall with a comrade the past danger, and to revel again in
memory the excitement of the fight."
"May I request your excellency to remember that the Austrians cannot
count the conquest of Berlin in the list of their victories," cried
Count Tottleben, with a sarcastic smile. "It was the Russian army
which besieged Berlin, and Berlin surrendered _to us_."
"You are very kind to remind me of it," said Count de Lacy, with his
unchangeable, pleasant smile. "In the mean time may I request a more
particular explanation than this polite reminder?"
"You shall have it, sir," cried Tottleben, passionately. "I mean
to say that Berlin is not Charlottenburg, and to request that the
vandalism which the Austrian troops practised there, may not be
transferred to Berlin. Be satisfied with the booty which your soldiers
stowed away in their knapsacks at that place, and have the kindness to
order the Austrian army to learn a little discipline and humanity from
"From the Russians?" asked Count de Lacy, with ironical astonishment.
"Truly one is not accustomed to learn humanity from that quarter.
Does your excellency mean to say that the Austrians are to learn good
manners from the Russians?"
"Yes, from the Russians," replied Tottleben--"from my soldiers, who
neither plunder nor rob, but bear in mind that they are soldiers, and
"Sir," cried De Lacy, "what do these words mean?"
"They mean that I have promised my protection to the people of Berlin,
and that I am prepared to afford it to them, even against our own
allies. They mean that I have made myself sufficiently strong to
bid you defiance, sir, and to defend Berlin against the cruelty and
inhumanity of the Austrian army. The Russian army will compel it to be
humane, and to pause in the cruel rage with which they have desolated
Count de Lacy shrugged his shoulders. "What is Germany to you, and why
do you feel for her?" asked he jeeringly. "I beg you, count, let us
not speak of Germany. What to us is this lachrymose, fantastic female
Germania, which has been betrothed to so many lords and wooers, that
she can remain faithful and true to none? Germania will then only be
happy when one of her lovers has the boldness to kill off and tread
under foot all his rivals and so build himself up an undisputed
throne. That is Austria's mission, and our duty is to fulfil it. We
are the heralds who go before Germania's Austrian bridegroom, and
everywhere illuminate the heavens with the torches of our triumphs. If
the torches now and then come too near some piece of humanity and set
it on fire, what is that to us? Germany is our enemy, and if we have
a puling compassion on our enemy, we become traitors to our own
cause. That's all. But what is the use of this strife and these
recriminations?" asked he, suddenly breaking into a smile. "I have
only come to ask your excellency when you intend to light these new
wedding-torches which are to redden the sky of Berlin?"
"What wedding-torches?" inquired Tottleben, turning pale.
"Well, those which are to burst out from the mint and factory
buildings," said De Lacy, with a smile of indifference. "I anticipate
with extraordinary pleasure this exhibition of fireworks which the
town of Berlin is going to give in honor of our presence."
"You mean to say in disgrace of our presence," exclaimed Tottleben,
Count de Lacy looked at him with a compassionate shrug of the
shoulders. "My dear count," said he, with cutting coldness, "when a
man becomes a Russian general, he must have a Russian heart, and not
allow himself to be influenced by any German softness or sympathy.
Otherwise it might happen that they might make a mistake, and not
being able to deprive you of your German heart, might take your German
General Tottleben drew back with astonishment, and stared at him.
Count de Lacy continued, smiling, and in a quiet tone: "I warn you to
guard against your own mildness and your German heart. General Fermore
is my friend, and often consults me about the meaning of German words.
How would you like it if I should explain the word _treason_ in a
manner dangerous to yourself, and if this explanation should result in
translating your excellency into Siberia?"
"General Fermore is neither my commander nor my master," cried
"But the lord and master of your lady and mistress, the high and
mighty Empress Elizabeth--remember that. Will your excellency now
condescend to inform me at what time the Berlin armory shall rise
fluttering in the air like a bird?"
"And do you know that, too?" asked Tottleben, with painful
"I have already told you that the Russians and Austrians are faithful
allies, and have no secrets from each other, as far as their designs
upon Germany are concerned. Oh, it will be a splendid _feu de joie_
for the house of Austria, when the Prussian armory is blown into the
air! When are we to enjoy this spectacle, general?"
General von Tottleben sank his head in silence on his breast. Count de
Lacy regarded him with a cold and piercing glance. Tottleben felt
this look, and understood its important significance. He knew that
his whole future, his freedom, perhaps even his life, hung upon this
"In three hours from now the spectacle will take place," said he, with
a forced laugh. "In three hours the wedding-torches shall be lighted,
and in order to make it the pleasanter, we will have the wails of the
people of Berlin as a musical accompaniment."
"In three hours, then," said Count de Lacy, bowing low; "I hasten to
announce it to my officers. I am burning with impatience to witness
this rare spectacle."
Count de Lacy departed, and General Tottleben was again alone.
For a long time did he pace his room in abstract meditation, anger and
pity, fear and terror struggling in his soul. He was perfectly aware
of the danger which threatened him. He knew that Count Fermore hated
him as a dangerous rival for the smiles of the empress, and only
waited for a favorable opportunity to overthrow him. He was therefore
obliged to yield to this cruel necessity; the Berlin armory must be
Suddenly his countenance lighted up, and his features assumed an
expression of joy. He hastened rapidly to the door and summoned his
body servant and slave, Ivan Petrowitsch. "Ivan," said he, with the
stern and cold composure of a Russian--"Ivan, I have a commission for
you, and if you are successful in its execution, I will not have your
son Feodor hung, although I know that yesterday, contrary to my order,
he was present at the plundering of a house."
"Speak, master, what am I to do? I will save my son, even if it cost
my own life."
"It will cost your life, Ivan."
"I am your property, master, and my life belongs to you," said the
serf, sadly. "You can have me whipped to death any time it pleases
you. Say, then, what I must do to save my son."
"Fifty Cossacks are to ride immediately to the powder-mills to bring
powder. You will accompany them."
Ivan looked at him with astonishment. "Is that all I have to do?"
Tottleben was not yet sufficiently Russian. His German heart would
assert its rights. As he met the inquiring look of Ivan, he turned his
eye away. He forgot that it was only a serf he was speaking to, and
not a human being.
But he soon recalled it. "You will accompany these Cossacks to the
powder-mills, I say, and as you do so you will smoke your pipe, and
see that the tobacco burns well, and that you are burning tinder on
top of it."
An expression of comprehension shone in Ivan's eyes. "I will smoke,
master," said he, sadly.
"When you are in the powder-mills, and the Cossacks are loading the
powder, you will help them, and in doing so you will let the pipe fall
out of your mouth," said Tottleben, in an undertone, and his voice
trembled ever so little. There was a pause--Ivan leaned, pale and
trembling, against the wall. General Tottleben had turned away, as if
afraid to encounter the pallid, terrified countenance of his slave.
"If you do not execute my command," said he, finally, "I will have
your only son hung, as he deserves to be. If you betray to any one
soever a word of my order, I will have your wife whipped to death. Now
think of it."
Ivan shook as if in an ague. His teeth chattered together. "I will
smoke, master," said he, at last, with an effort, "and I will drop my
pipe in the powder-mills. Have pity on my son, master, and spare my
"I will do so, Ivan," said Tottleben. "I will give them both their
freedom, and a pension."
Ivan dropped his head, and a convulsive groan burst from his breast.
"Time passes; make haste!" cried the general, with assumed harshness.
"I go, master," sighed Ivan. "You will not, then, string up my poor
Feodor, nor have my wife whipped?"
"If you execute my order strictly and punctually, I will care for
Two tears coursed slowly down Ivan's brown cheek. "I will carry out
your orders, master; I will smoke, and I will drop my pipe. Farewell,
He approached his master with slavish humility, and kissed the seam of
his garment. "Farewell, master. I thank you, for you have always been
a kind master to me," said he, and his tears moistened the general's
General Tottleben was as yet unable completely to convert his German
heart into a Russian one. He felt himself touched by this humble and
heroic submission of his slave. He felt as if he must give him some
comfort on his fatal road.
"Ivan," said he, softly, "your death will save, perhaps, not only the
property, but also the lives of many hundred other men."
Ivan kissed passionately his proffered hand. "I thank you, master.
Farewell, and think sometimes of your poor Ivan."
A quarter of an hour afterward was seen a troop of fifty Cossacks, on
their swift-footed little horses, racing down Frederick Street.
Each man had a powder-sack with him, and seeing them ride by, people
whispered to each other, "They are riding to the powder-mills. They
have shot away all their own powder, and now, in true Cossack style,
they are going to take our Prussian powder." At that time Frederick
Street did not reach beyond the river Spree. On the other bank began
the faubourgs and the gardens. Even Monbijou was then only a royal
country seat, situated in the Oranienburg suburb. The powder-mills,
which lay beyond the gardens, with a large sandy plain intervening,
were sufficiently remote from the town to prevent all danger from
their possible explosion.
Ivan, the serf of Count von Tottleben, rode by the side of the officer
of the Cossacks. He pranced his pony about, and was cheerful and jolly
like his comrades, the merry sons of the steppe. As they reached the
gate they halted their horses, and gazed with evident pleasure on the
desert, wild, sandy plain, which stretched out before them.
"How beautiful that is!" exclaimed Petrowitsch, the hetman of the
Cossacks. "Just look--what a handsome steppe!"
"Just such a fine sand steppe as at home in our own country!" sighed
one of the Cossacks, beginning to hum a song of his home.
"This is the finest scenery I have seen in Germany," cried another.
"What a pleasure it would be to race over this steppe!"
"Come on, then, let us get up a race over this splendid steppe," said
a fourth, "and let us sing one of the songs we are used to at home."
"Yes, agreed! let us!" cried all, ranging quickly their horses in
"Wait a moment," cried Ivan; "I can't sing, you all know, and I've
only one sweetheart, and that's my pipe. Let me then light my pipe
so that I can smoke." He struck fire with his steel, and lighting
the tinder, placed it in the bowl of his pipe. No one saw the
sad, shuddering look which he cast at the glowing tinder and his
spark-scattering pipe. "Now forward, boys, and sing us a lively song
from home," said Ivan.
They charge over the beautiful plain, and sing in a pealing chorus,
the favorite song of the Cossack, at once so soft and sad:
"Lovely Minka! must I leave thee?"
Big tears ran down poor Ivan's cheek. No one saw them, no one observed
him. He charged with the others over the Berlin steppe, and blew the
smoke out of his pipe. No one heard the sad sighs which he uttered as
he drew nearer and nearer to the powder-mills. No one heard the sad
words of parting which he muttered to himself as his comrades sang:
"Lovely Minka! must I leave thee,
Leave my happy, heather plains?
Ah! this parting does not grieve thee,
Though still true my heart remains.
Far from thee I roam,
Sadly see the sunbeams shining,
Lonely all the night I'm pining
Far from thee alone."
They reach the powder-mills; the Cossacks halt their horses and spring
from their saddles.
Slowly and hesitatingly does Ivan proceed; he passes about his pipe;
he puffs at the tobacco to make it burn, and smoke more freely.
And now all's right. The pipe is alight. Like brilliant eyes of fire
the burning tobacco shines out of the bowl. Ivan puts it back in his
mouth and blows great clouds of smoke, as he and the Cossacks approach
the gates of the powder-mills.
The Russian sentinels let them pass, and, joking and laughing merrily,
the Cossacks carry their bags into the building to fill them with
powder for the blowing up of the arsenal. How joyous and careless they
are, these sons of the steppe! How calmly does Ivan continue to smoke
his pipe, although they are now in the large hall, where casks of
powder are ranged in endless rows!
And now a cask is opened, and merrily and jestingly the Cossacks begin
to load the powder into their sacks.
What art thou staring at so wildly, Ivan Petrowitsch? Why do the big
drops of sweat run down thy forehead? Why do thy limbs tremble, and
why dost thou look so sadly and mournfully at thy comrades?
They sing so merrily, they chatter so gayly, all the while pouring the
powder into their sacks nimbly and actively!
Ivan keeps on blowing furious clouds of smoke out of his pipe.
Suddenly he utters a cry, a heart-rending, pitiful cry. The burning
pipe drops from his mouth!
Then rises a wild yell--an awful, horrible report!
The earth quakes and trembles, as if about to open, to vomit forth the
burning stream of a thundering crater. The sky seems blackened by the
fearful smoke which fills the air far and wide. Everywhere may be seen
human bodies, single shattered limbs, ruins of the exploded building,
flying through the air, and covering the groaning, trembling earth.
But no syllable or sound of complaint, no death-rattle is now heard.
All is over.
The powder-mills have flown into the air, and, though far distant
from Berlin, yet this terrible explosion was felt in every part of
the city. In the Frederick Street the houses shook as if from an
earthquake, and countless panes of glass were shattered.
With darkened brow and a burst of anger did General von Tottleben
receive the news that the powder-mills had blown up, and fifty
Cossacks had lost their lives thereby. He mourned for the unfortunate
Cossacks and his poor serf, Ivan Petrowitsch. Still more did he lament
that it was now impossible to blow up the arsenal in Berlin. But
it was not his fault that the commands of his empress could not be
executed. The Russians had shot away all their powder, and the stock
in the powder-mills having been destroyed, there was none left to
carry into execution this grand undertaking.
[Footnote 1: Archenholz: "History of the Seven Years' War," p. 194.]
* * * * *
A sad and anxious period had the unfortunate city of Berlin yet to
pass through. With fear and trembling did the inhabitants await the
approach of each morning, and in spiritless despondency they seemed to
have lost all capacity for helping themselves.
There was but one man who, unterrified and unwavering, with the
cheerful courage of a noble soul, exposed himself to danger, to
suffering and grief, who proposed to himself but one object--to help
others as far as lay in his power, and to avert fresh misfortune,
additional care and anxiety from the too heavily laden inhabitants of
This one man was John Gotzkowsky, the Merchant of Berlin. In this
day of their trouble the inhabitants looked up to him as to a helping
angel; the poor prayed to him, the rich fled to him with their
treasures; with him the persecuted found refuge, the hungry shelter
For Gotzkowsky there was no rest or leisure, nor did he feel care or
sorrow. The tears he had shed about Elise he had buried in his heart,
overcoming a father's grief by the power of his will. At this time he
only remembered that he was called to the sacred duty of succoring
his fellow-men, his suffering brothers--to be a father to the needy, a
deliverer to the oppressed.
The doors of his house were open to all who sought refuge with him.
The wives and children and aged parents of his workmen rushed there
with screams and loud lamentations, and he received them all, and
gave them beds in his splendid halls, and his gilt and silken ottomans
served for refreshing places to hungry and freezing poverty.
But not the poor alone, the wealthy also found refuge in his house.
They knew that Gotzkowsky's word had much influence, not only with
General Bachmann, but also with General von Tottleben, and that this
latter had ordered that Gotzkowsky should always have free admission
to him. In their anxiety and need they put aside the proud bearing
of their rank and dignity, and hastened to him to plead for help and
rest, to hide their treasures and place their lives and fortunes under
But while hundreds sought refuge and safety there, Gotzkowsky himself
was like a stranger in his own house. Day and night was he seen on
the streets; where-ever danger and alarm prevailed, he appeared like a
rescuing angel; he brought help when all else despaired, and the
power of his eloquence and his pleading words silenced even the rough
insolence of the enemy's soldiers. A hundred times did he expose his
own life to save some unfortunate. In the New Frederick Street he
rushed through the flames into a burning house to save a child which
had been forgotten.
Elsewhere he fought singly against twenty Austrian soldiers, who were
about to carry off two young girls in spite of their heart-rending
shrieks and entreaties. The rescued maidens sank at his feet, and
bathed his hand with their tears.
Gotzkowsky raised them to his heart, and said, with an indescribable
expression: "Should I not have compassion on you? Am not I a father?
Thank my daughter, for it was she who saved you."
But now, at last, exhausted Nature demanded her rights. After two days
and nights without rest, Gotzkowsky tottered toward his own house. As
he crossed the threshold he asked himself with an anxious heart--"Will
Elise come to meet me? Has she cared for me?" And trembling with care
and love, he went in.
Elise did not come to meet him. No one bade him welcome but his
servant Peter. Gently at last, indeed almost timidly, he ventured to
inquire after his daughter.
"She is in the large hall, busy nursing the wounded who have been
Gotzkowsky's countenance expressed great delight and relief at this
report. Elise had not, then, buried herself in the solitude of her
room in idle complaint, but had sought, like himself, comfort for her
suffering in helping and sympathizing with others. In this moment he
appreciated the infinity of his love. He yearned to take her to his
heart, and pour out to her all his unappreciated, doubted love, and
convince her that she, his daughter, the only child of his wife, was
the true end and object of his life. But unhappy, oppressed Berlin
left him no time to attend to the soft and gentle dictates of
his father's heart. He had scarcely got into his house, when two
messengers arrived from the town Council, bringing him six thousand
dollars in cash, with the urgent request that he would take charge of
this sum, which would be safe only with him. The town messengers had
scarcely left him, when there arrived the rich manufacturers, Wegeli
and Wuerst, with a wagon-load of gold and silver bars which Gotzkowsky
had promised to keep in his fire-proof cellars.
His house had become the treasury of the whole of Berlin; and if
it had been destroyed, with all these gold and silver ingots, these
diamonds and silver ware, money and papers, all the Exchanges of
Europe would have felt the disastrous consequences.
At last, all these treasures were stowed away, and Gotzkowsky
addressed himself to rest, when the door of his room was suddenly
opened, and General von Bachmann entered hastily.
"Gotzkowsky," said he, "I have come with important intelligence, and
to redeem the promise I made to my friend Sievers." Approaching more
closely to Gotzkowsky, he said to him in an undertone: "General von
Tottleben has just received orders to destroy and burn all royal
factories and mills."
Gotzkowsky turned pale, and inquired with horror, "Why this barbarous
General Bachmann shrugged his shoulders. "It is the order of the
commander-in-chief, Count von Fermore," said he; "and Tottleben will
have to be all the more particular from the fact that, instead of the
arsenal, fifty of our soldiers were blown into the air. Here, in the
mean while, take this paper, and see whether, among the factories to
be destroyed, one of yours has been included by mistake."
Gotzkowsky looked over the list with dismay. "Did not your excellency
say that only royal factories were to be destroyed?"
"Yes, so runs the order."
"But the factories that stand on this list are not royal institutions.
The brass-works in Eberwalde, the gold and silver factories, and the
warehouse in Berlin, do not belong to the king, and are they going to
be so barbarous as to destroy them? That cannot be. I will hasten to
General Tottleben, and entreat him to revoke this cruel order."
General Bachmann shook his head sadly. "I am afraid it will be in
vain," said he. "Besides, you incur great risk in your undertaking.
The general is in a very angry, excited mood, and your intercession
will only increase his bitterness and anger."
"I fear not his anger," cried Gotzkowsky boldly. "If no one else dares
to tell him the truth, I will do it; and with argument and entreaty
compel him to be humane, and to respect the property of others. Come,
sir, let us go to General Tottleben!"
"No, sir. I am not going with you," said Bachmann, laughing. "I am
not a man to tremble on the eve of battle, and yet I fear to meet
Tottleben's angry looks. In his wrath he is like a Jupiter Tonans,
ready to launch his thunderbolts, and dash to pieces all who approach
"I am not afraid of his thunder!" cried Gotzkowsky, fervently.
"The property and welfare of Berlin are in danger. I must go to the
"Then go along," said Bachmann, "and may God give power to your words!
I have warned you, and that is all I can do."
Gotzkowsky did not answer him. Trembling with eagerness and
impatience, he dressed himself, and throwing his cloak around him, he
once more left his house, with the alacrity of a young man.
General Bachmann looked after him, smiling thoughtfully. "He is a
noble fellow," said he, "and Berlin has good reason to be grateful to
him, and to love him. But who knows? perhaps, for that very reason,
she will one day hate him. Noble-mindedness is so soon forgotten! It
is the solid weight that sinks to the bottom, while light deeds float
on top. Mankind is not fond of being grateful. I would like to know
whether Berlin will ever show a due appreciation of this noble man?"
* * * * *
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