The Merchant of Berlin
Part 4 out of 7
THE HORRORS OF WAR.
The Russians had at last allowed themselves to be carried away by the
example set them by the Austrians and Saxons. Like them, they roamed
through Berlin, robbing and plundering, unmindful of discipline, and
forgetting the severe punishments which Tottleben inflicted on those
whose misdeeds reached his ear.
Like the Austrians, the Cossacks entered houses with wanton arrogance,
and, under the pretext of being Russian safeguards, they stole, and
robbed, and ill-treated in the rudest manner those who opposed their
demands. They had even managed to reduce their robbery and extortion
to a kind of system, and to value the human person after a new
fashion. It was a sort of mercantile transaction, and the Cossacks
were the brokers in this new-fashioned business. Stealthily and
unheard, they slipped into houses, fell upon the unsuspecting women
and children, and dragged them out, not to capture them as the Romans
did the Sabine women, but to hold them as so much merchandise, to be
redeemed by their friends and relatives at high and often enormous
But the Cossacks drew but small profit from this hunt after noble
human game. They were only servants, acting under orders from their
officers. These latter divided the booty, throwing to the Cossacks a
small reward for their skill in robbing.
Thus, for some days, Berlin was not only subjugated by the enemy, but
a prey to robbers and slave-dealers, and moans and lamentations were
heard in every house. All the more merrily did the enemy's soldiers
carouse and enjoy themselves, laugh and joke. For them Berlin was
nothing more than an orange to be squeezed dry, whose life-blood was
to be drawn out to add new zest to their own draught of life.
The young Russian officers were sitting together in the large room
of their barracks. They were drinking and making merry, and striking
their glasses noisily together; draining them to the health of the
popular, handsome, and brilliant comrade who had just entered their
circle, and who was no other than he whom Gotzkowsky's daughter, in
the sorrow of her heart, was mourning as dead!--no one else than the
Russian colonel, Count Feodor von Brenda.
He had been right, therefore, in trusting to Fortune. Fortune had
favored him, as she always does those who boldly venture all to
win all, and who sport with danger as with a toy. Indeed, it was
an original and piquant adventure which the Russian colonel had
experienced, the more piquant because it had threatened him with
death, and at one moment his life had been in extreme danger. It had
delighted him for once to experience all the horrors of death, the
palpitation, the despair of a condemned culprit; to acquire in his own
person a knowledge of the great and overpowering feelings, which he
had read so much about in books, and which he had not felt in reality
even in the midst of battle. But yet this bold playing with death had,
toward the last, lost a little of its charm, and a moment arrived when
his courage failed him, and his daring spirit was overpowered by
his awed physical nature. There was not, as there is in battle, the
excitement which conquers the fear of death, and drunk with victory,
mocks one to his face; there was not the wild delight which possesses
the soldier in the midst of a shower of balls, and makes him, as it
were, rush toward eternity with a shout. No, indeed! It was something
quite different which Colonel von Brenda, otherwise so brave and
valiant, now felt.
When the Austrian soldiers had pronounced his sentence of death, when
they formed a ring around him at the Gens-d'Armes Market, and loaded
their pieces for his execution, then the haughty Russian colonel felt
a sudden change take place; his blood curdled in his veins, and
he felt as if thousands of small worms were creeping through them,
gliding slowly, horribly to his heart. At length, in the very despair
which oppressed him, he found strength to cast his incubus from his
breast, and with a voice loud and powerful as thunder to cry out for
help and succor. His voice was heard; it reached the ear of General
Bachmann, who came in person to set free the wild young officer, the
favorite of his empress, from the hands of the Austrians.
This adventure, which had terminated so famously, Count Brenda now
related to his friends and comrades. To be sure, the general had
punished the mad freak with an arrest of four-and-twenty hours. But
after undergoing this punishment, he was more than ever the hero of
the day, the idol of his comrades, who now celebrated his release
from arrest with loud rejoicing and the cracking of champagne bottles.
After they had laughed and joked to their satisfaction, they resorted
to the dice.
"And what stake shall we play for?" asked Feodor, as he cast a look
of ill-concealed contempt on his young companions, who so little
understood the art of drinking the cup of pleasure with decency, and
rolled about on their seats with lolling tongues and leering eyes.
Feodor alone had preserved the power of his mind; his brain alone
was unclouded by the fumes of champagne, and that which had made the
others mad had only served to make him sad and gloomy. The drunkenness
of his comrades had sobered him, and, feeling satiated with all the
so-called joys and delights of life, he asked himself, with a smile of
contempt, whether the stammering, staggering fellows, who sat next to
him, were fit and suitable companions and associates of a man who had
made pleasure a study, and who considered enjoyment as a philosophical
problem, difficult of solution.
"And for what stake shall we play?" he asked again, as with a powerful
grip he woke his neighbor, Lieutenant von Matusch, out of the half
sleep which had crept over him.
"For our share of the booty!" stammered the lieutenant.
Feodor looked at him with surprise. "What booty? Have we, then, become
robbers and plunderers, that you speak of booty?"
His comrades burst into a wild laugh.
"Just listen to the sentimental dreamer, the cosmopolite," cried Major
von Fritsch. "He looks upon it as dishonorable to take booty. I for
my part maintain that there is no greater pleasure, and certainly none
which is more profitable. Fill your glasses, friends, and let us drink
to our hunting. 'Hurrah! hurrah for human game!'"
They struck their glasses together, and emptied them amidst an uproar
"Colonel, you shall have your share of the booty!" said Lieutenant von
Matusch, laying his heavy, shaky hand on Feodor's shoulder. "We never
intended to cheat you out of your portion, but you were not here, and
therefore up to this time you could have no share in it."
As Feodor pressed him with questions, he related how they had formed
a compact, and pledged themselves to have their booty and captives in
"We have caught more than a dozen head, and they have ransomed
themselves handsomely," cried Major von Fritsch. "We have just sent
out ten of our men again on the chase."
"Oh! I hope they will bring in just such another handsome young girl
as they did yesterday," cried Matusch, rubbing his hands with delight.
"Ah, that was a pleasant evening! She offered us treasures, diamonds,
and money; she promised us thousands if we would only release her at
once! She wept like a Madonna, and wrung her snow-white hands, and all
that only made her prettier still."
Colonel Feodor looked at him in anger. In contact with such coarse and
debauched companions his more refined self rose powerful within him,
and his originally noble nature turned with loathing from this barren
waste of vulgarity and infamy.
"I hope," said he, warmly, "that you have behaved as becomes noble
Matusch shrugged his shoulders and laughed. "I do not know what you
call so, colonel. She was very pretty, and she pleased me. I promised
to set her free to-day, for the ransom agreed on, and I have kept my
As he spoke thus, he burst into a loud laugh, in which his friends
joined with glee.
But Feodor von Brenda did not laugh. An inexplicable, prophetic dread
overpowered him. What if this young girl, described to him with so
much gusto, and who had been so shamefully ill-treated, should prove
to be his Elise, his beloved!
At this thought, anger and distress took possession of him, and he
never loved Elise more ardently and truly than he did at this moment
when he trembled for her. "And was there no one," cried he, with
flashing eyes, "no one knightly and manly enough to take her part?
How! even you, Major von Fritsch, allowed this thing to happen?"
"I was obliged to do so," replied the major. "We have made a law among
ourselves, which we have all sworn to obey. It is established that the
dice shall determine to which of the officers the booty shall belong;
and he who throws the highest number becomes the owner of the person.
He has to negotiate about the ransom. This, however, of course is
divided among his comrades."
"But if the person is poor?" asked Feodor, indignantly, "if she cannot
"Then she belongs to him who has won her; he must decide on her fate.
The major stopped suddenly. The other officers raised themselves in
their seats, and listened with breathless attention.
"I think I hear the signal," whispered the major. He had not deceived
himself. A shrill, piercing whistle sounded a second time. The
officers sprang from their seats, and broke into a loud cry of
"Our Cossacks are coming. They have caught something! Come, come, let
us throw the dice."
With fierce eagerness, they all rushed to the table, and stretched
out their hands for the bones. Immediately a deep, expectant silence
ensued. Nothing was heard but the rattling of the dice, and the
monotonous calling of the numbers thrown. Feodor alone remained at his
place, lost in deep thought, and his tortured heart kept asking itself
the question, "Could it be her whom the barbarians had captured and
ill-used?" This question burnt in his brain like a red-hot dagger,
upsetting his reason, and driving him almost mad with anger and grief.
Still the rattling of the noisy dice went on--the calling of the
numbers. No one took notice of the young man, who, in desperate
distress, his clinched fist pressed against his breast, paced up and
down the farther end of the room, uttering broken words of anger and
grief. No one, as has been said, noticed him, nor did any one remark
that at this moment the door in the background of the hall was opened,
and six Cossacks entered, bearing a litter on their shoulders.
Feodor von Brenda saw them, and, with deep compassion, he regarded the
veiled, inanimate figure lying on the litter, which was set down by
"Colonel von Brenda," cried Major von Fritsch at this moment, "it is
"Oh, he is too sentimental!" laughed out Matusch. "Is not that the
Feodor remained musing and pensive. "It is a woman," said he to
himself--"perhaps a young and handsome woman like Elise. How if I
should try to save her? I have luck at the dice. Well, I will try."
And with a firm step he approached the table. "Give me the bones,"
cried he. "I will throw with you for my share of the booty."
The dice rattled and tumbled merrily on the table.
"The highest throw!"
"Colonel von Brenda has won!"
"The woman is mine!" cried Feodor, his countenance beaming with joy.
His comrades looked at him with astonishment. "A woman! How do you
know beforehand that it is a woman?"
Feodor pointed silently to the back part of the room. There stood the
Cossacks, next to the litter, waiting in solemn silence to be noticed.
"A woman! Yes, by Heavens! it is a woman," cried the officers. And,
with boisterous laughter, they rushed toward the Cossacks.
"And where did you pick her up?" asked Major von Fritsch.
"Don't know," answered one of the Cossacks. "We crept along a wall,
and when we had climbed to the top, we saw a garden. We got down
slowly and carefully, and waited behind the trees, to see if any one
would come down the long avenue. We did not have long to wait before
this lady came by herself. We rushed on her, and all her struggles, of
course, went for nothing. Luckily for her and us, she fainted, for
if she had cried out, some one, perhaps, might have come, and then we
would have been obliged to gag her."
The officers laughed. "Well," said the major, "Colonel Feodor can
stop her mouth now with kisses." In the mean while, Lieutenant Matusch
threw the Cossacks a few copper coins, and drove them out of the room,
with scornful words of abuse.
"And now let us see what we have won," cried the officers, rushing to
the litter. They were in the act of raising the cloth which concealed
the figure, but Feodor stepped forward with determined countenance and
"Let no one dare to raise this veil," said he haughtily. His comrades
rushed, with easily aroused anger, on him, and attempted again to
approach the veiled woman. "Be on your guard!" cried Feodor, and,
drawing his sword from its scabbard, he placed himself before the
litter, ready for the combat. The officers drew back. The determined,
defiant countenance of the young warrior, his raised and ready sword,
made them hesitate and yield.
"Feodor is right," said the major, after a pause; "he has fairly won
the woman, and it is his business now to settle about the ransom."
The others cast their eyes down, perhaps ashamed of their own
rudeness. "He is right, she belongs to him," murmured they, as they
drew back and approached the door.
"Go, my friends, go," said Feodor. "I promise you that I will settle
with her about her ransom, and give up beforehand all claim to my
The countenances of the Russian officers brightened up. They nodded
and smiled toward him as they left the room. Count Feodor von Brenda
was now alone with the veiled and insensible woman.
* * * * *
As soon as the officers had left the room, Feodor hastened to close
the door after them carefully, to prevent any importunate intrusion.
He then searched thoroughly all the corners of the room, and behind
the window-curtains, to make sure that no one was concealed there. He
wished to be entirely undisturbed with the poor woman whose face he
had not yet beheld, but toward whom he felt himself attracted by a
singular, inexplicable sensation. As soon as he was convinced that
he was quite alone, he went to her with flushed cheeks and a beating
heart, and unveiled her.
But scarcely had he cast his eyes on her, when he uttered a cry,
and staggered back with horror. This woman who lay there before him,
lifeless and motionless, pale and beautiful as a broken flower, was
none other than Elise Gotzkowsky, his beloved! He stood and stared at
her; he pressed his hands to his forehead as if to rouse himself from
this spell which had hold of him, as if to open his eyes to truth and
reality. But it was no dream, no illusion. It was herself, his own
Elise. He approached her, seized her hand, passed his hands over her
glossy hair, and looked at her long and anxiously. His blood rushed
like a stream of fire to his heart, it seethed and burned in his head,
in his veins; and, quite overcome, he sank down before her.
"It is she," murmured he softly, "it is Elise. Now she is mine, and no
one can take her from me. She belongs to me, my wife, my beloved.
Fate itself bears her to my arms, and I were a fool to let her escape
With passionate impetuosity he pressed her to his heart, and covered
her lips and face with his kisses. But the violence of his affection
aroused Elise. Slowly and stunned she raised herself in his arms, and
looked around, as if awakened from a dream. "Where am I?" asked she,
Feodor, still kneeling before her, drew her more closely to his heart.
"You are with me," said he, passionately, and as he felt her trembling
in his arms, he continued still more warmly: "Fear nothing; my Elise,
look not so timidly and anxiously about you. Look upon me, me, who am
lying at your feet, and who ask nothing more from Fortune than that
this moment should last an eternity."
Elise scarcely understood him. She was still stunned--still confused
by the dreams of her swoon. She passed her hand over her forehead, and
let it drop again list-less and powerless. "My senses are confused,"
whispered she in a low voice, "I do not hear; what has happened to
"Do not ask, do not inquire," cried Feodor, ardently. "Think only that
love has sent an angel to you, on whose wings you have reposed on
your passage hither to me. Why will you ask after the nature of
the miracle, when the miracle itself brings delight to our eyes and
hearts? Therefore, fear nothing, gentle, pure being. Like an angel do
you come to me through the deluge of sin. You bear the olive-branch of
peace, and love and happiness are before us."
But as he was about to press her still more closely to his heart, a
shudder pervaded her whole frame. "Oh, now, I recollect," she cried,
vehemently; "now I know all! I was alone in the garden. There came
those terrible men. They seized me with their rude hands. They wounded
my heart with their horrible looks, which made me shudder. Whither
have they brought me? where am I?"
"You are with me," said Feodor, carrying her hand to his lips.
For the first time, then, she looked at him--for the first time,
she recognized him. A deep blush of joy suffused her cheeks, and an
angelic smile beamed on her lips. She felt, she knew nothing further
than that her lover was at her side, that he was not dead--that he was
not lost to her. With an outcry of delight she threw herself into his
arms, and greeted the lost, the found one, with warm and happy words
of love. She raised her eyes and hands to heaven. "Oh, my God, he
lives!" cried she, exultingly. "I thank Thee, God, I thank Thee. Thou
hadst pity on my sufferings."
"Love protected me," said Feodor, gazing at her passionately. "Love
saved me by a miracle. Still more miraculously, it brings you to my
arms. Fear not, Elise. No other eye than mine has seen you. No
one knows your name. That sweet secret, is only known to Love and
Elise trembled. This imprudent speech woke her out of the stupor which
had so long had possession of her; it recalled her to the world, and
dispelled the charm which his presence, his looks, and his words had
thrown around her. She was now aroused, and hurried from a state of
dreamy delight to one of cruel and dread reality. The ray of joy faded
from her cheek, the smile died on her lips, and, extricating herself
forcibly from his arms, she stood before him in her pride and anger.
"Feodor," said she, terrified, "you sent those fearful men! You caused
me to be kidnapped!" With an angry, penetrating glance, she looked at
Feodor, who sank his eyes in confusion to the ground.
As she saw this, she smiled contemptuously, and her injured maiden
honor overcame her love and tenderness. "Ah! now I understand!" said
she, with cutting scorn. "I have been told of the hunt after human
beings which is carried on in the town. Colonel Feodor von Brenda
plays a worthy part in this game!"
Feodor wished to approach her and take her hand, but she repulsed him
sternly. "Do not touch me," cried she, haughtily; "do not seek to take
my hand. You are no longer he whom I love. You are a kidnapper. But
let me tell you, though you have compelled my body to suffer this
dishonorable deed, yet my soul remains free, and that despises you!"
It was a splendid sight to see her in her noble wrath, which seemed to
elevate her whole frame, and drive a deep glow to her cheeks.
Feodor looked at her with ardent gaze. Never had he seen her so
fascinating, so charmingly beautiful. Even her wrath delighted him,
for it was a token of her purity and innocence.
He wanted again to draw near to her, to take her to his heart, but she
drew back in pride and anger. "Go," said she, "I have nothing to do
with a man who violates the most sacred laws of human honor, and like
a vile thief sneaks in to destroy innocence." Her voice failed her,
her eyes filled with tears, but she shook them from her. "I weep,"
said she, "but not for grief, nor yet for love; anger it is alone
which extorts tears from me, and they are bitter--far more bitter than
death." And as she thus spoke, she pressed her hands to her face, and
Feodor passed his arm gently around her trembling form. In the excess
of her grief she did not feel it. "No, Elise," said he, "you weep
because you love me. You weep because you think me unworthy of your
love. But before you condemn me, listen to me. I swear to you by the
memory of my mother, the only woman in whom, besides yourself, I
ever believed, that I had no part in this treachery which has been
committed toward you. You must believe me, Elise! Look at me, beloved
one--I can bear your looks. I dare raise my eyes to you. I am not
guilty of this crime."
Her hands glided slowly from her face, and she looked at him. Their
looks met, and rested for a long time on each other. She read in his
eyes that he was innocent, for love is confiding, and she loved him.
With a charming smile she extended both hands toward him, and he read
in her looks the words of love and tenderness which her timid lips did
not dare give expression to.
Feodor drew her warmly to his heart. "You believe me," cried he,
passionately; and as he raised her with irresistible strength in his
arms, he murmured low, "Now let us enjoy the sacred hour of happiness
without inquiring what divinity we have to thank for it."
But the instinct of modesty prevailed over love. "No," cried she, as
she struggled out of his arms, trembling with excitement--"no, Feodor,
it is no hour of happiness in which my honor and good name are to be
buried--no hour of happiness when scandal can tell from mouth to mouth
how a German maiden let herself be carried into the Russian camp, and
shamelessly rushed into the arms of dishonor; for so will they tell
it, Feodor. No one will believe that you had no hand in this outrage.
The world never believes in innocence. Whoever is accused is already
condemned, even if the judge's sentence should a thousand times
pronounce him innocent, No, they will point at me with the finger of
scorn, and with an exultant laugh will say to each other, 'Behold the
barefaced woman who deserted to the Russians, and revelled with her
lover, while her native town was groaning amidst blood and tears. Look
at the rich man's child, who is so poor in honor!'"
Deeply moved by her own words, she drew herself up still more in the
power of her dignity and innocence, and gazed at Feodor with flashing
eyes. "Count Feodor von Brenda," cried she, firmly, "will you allow
your bride to be suspected and defamed? that a stain should be allowed
to rest upon the name of her who is to become your wife?"
In her proud excitement she did not perceive the rapid motion of his
lips, nor the blush of shame which suffused his cheeks; she remarked
not that he cast down his eyes and spoke to her with broken and
"Elise," said he, "you are beside yourself. Your excited fancy paints
every thing to you in sombre colors. Who will dare to defame you? Who
knows that you are here?"
"But the whole world will know it. Scandal has a thousand tongues to
spread evil reports. Feodor, let me go. You say that no one knows that
I am here; then no one will know that I go. Be merciful with me, let
"No," cried he, almost rudely. "I will not let you. You ask what is
impossible. I were a fool if I were thus madly to cast the happiness
away which I would fain purchase with my heart's blood. Twice have
I risked my life to see you, to be able to kneel for one happy,
undisturbed hour at your feet, and gaze on you, and intoxicate myself
with that gaze. And now you ask that I shall voluntarily give up my
happiness and you!"
"My happiness! my happiness! yes, even my life I ask you to preserve
by letting me go hence, and return to my father's house," cried Elise,
As she perceived that he shook his head in refusal, and met his wild,
passionate looks, reading in them that she might expect no mercy
from him, her anger flashed forth. Imploringly she raised her arms to
heaven, and her voice sounded full and powerful: "Feodor, I swear to
you by God in heaven, and the memory of my mother, that I will only
become the wife of that man whom I follow of my free will out of the
house of my father. I am capable of leaving my father's house; but it
must be my own free choice, my free determination."
"No," said Feodor, wildly; "I will not let you go. You are mine, and
you shall remain."
Elise drew nearer to him with bashful tenderness. "You must let me go
now, in order one of these days to demand your pure wife from out
her father's house," said she. There was something so touching, so
confiding in her manner that Feodor, against his will, felt himself
overcome by it; but even while submitting to this fascination he was
almost ashamed of himself, and deep sadness filled his soul.
Silently they stood opposite to each other, Elise looking at him with
tenderness, yet with fear--he his head bowed, wrestling with his own
heart. Suddenly this silence was interrupted by a loud and violent
knocking at the door. The voices of his wild companions and mad
comrades were calling out loudly Feodor's name, and demanding, with
vehement impetuosity, the opening of the closed door. Feodor turned
pale. The thought that his Elise, this young, innocent, and
modest girl, should be exposed to the insolent gaze of his riotous
companions, irritated him.
Casting his angry glances around the room to seek for a hiding-place
in which to conceal Elise, he perceived that this was in vain, that
no escape was possible. Sadly he sank his head upon his breast, and
sighed. Elise understood him; she comprehended her disconsolate and
"There is then no place where I can hide myself?" said she in despair.
"Shame awaits me. The whole world will know that I am here!"
Outside the officers raged still louder, and demanded with more
violent cries the opening of the door. Feodor still looked around him
for a secret place. Nowhere was there a possibility of hiding her, or
letting her escape unnoticed. His infuriated companions threatened to
break the door in.
Feodor now with determination seized the large shawl which had
previously enveloped Elise's form, and threw it over her face. "Well
then," said he, "let them come; but woe to him who touches this
He pressed the veiled maiden down in a chair, and, hastening to the
door, drew back the bolt.
* * * * *
MISTRESS OR MAID.
As Feodor opened the door, his comrades rushed screaming and laughing
uproariously into the room, spying round eagerly for the poor woman,
the noble game which they had hunted down.
When they perceived Elise seated in a chair, veiled and motionless
just as they had left her, they gave vent to a cry of delight, and
began to explain to the colonel in a most confused jumble, often
interrupted by bursts of laughter and merry ejaculations, the cause
of their stormy interruption. A young man, they said, had just come
inquiring after a young lady who had been carried off by the Cossacks.
He had insisted upon seeing Colonel Feodor von Brenda, in order to
offer a ransom for the captive lady.
"We have come to inform you of this," said Lieutenant von Matusch,
"so that you may not let her go too cheap. This is the richest haul we
have made yet."
"The daughter of the rich Gotzkowsky!" cried another officer.
"She'll have to pay a tremendous ransom," shouted Major von Fritsch.
Feodor exclaimed, with assumed astonishment, "That woman there the
daughter of Gotzkowsky! Why, don't you know, my friends, that I lived
for a long time in Berlin, and am intimately acquainted with the
beautiful and brilliant daughter of the rich Gotzkowsky? I can assure
you that they do not resemble each other in a single feature."
The officers looked at one another with amazement and incredulity.
"She is not Gotzkowsky's daughter? But the young man told us that he
came from Mr. Gotzkowsky."
"And from that you draw the conclusion that this is his daughter whom
you have caught," cried Feodor, laughing. "Where is this man?"
Lieutenant von Matusch opened the door, and on the threshold appeared
the serious figure of Bertram. He had fulfilled the vow which he had
made to himself, and carefully and attentively watched and guarded
every step of Elise; and while Gotzkowsky was absent from home night
and day faithfully serving his country, Bertram had been a vigilant
sentinel over his daughter. Indeed, Gotzkowsky's house had been, to
all appearance, perfectly safe; it was the sanctuary and refuge of all
the unfortunate, the only secure place where they could bestow their
valuables. Russian sentinels stood before the house, and Tottleben's
adjutant had his residence in it. But this security only applied to
the _house_. As long as Elise kept herself within-doors, Bertram had
no fear. But there was the large garden in which she loved to roam for
hours together, and especially her favorite resort at the extreme end
of the same, not far from the wall, which was so easy to climb.
Bertram had not ventured to restrain Elise from visiting this solitary
and secluded spot, but he had followed her on her visits to it. There,
hidden behind some tree he had, with the patience and perseverance of
which love alone is capable, watched the young girl, who was neither
desirous of nor grateful for guardianship. This very day he had
followed her softly and unperceived into the garden. Then, when he had
ascertained whither she directed her steps, he had returned into the
house to complete some important business of Gotzkowsky. But impelled
by anxious and unaccountable restlessness, he had hastened back into
the garden; at a distance he heard Elise's cry for help, and, rushing
forward, had come up just in time to see her raised over the wall by
Stunned by horror at this sight, Bertram stood for a moment
motionless. He then felt but one desire, one resolve, and that was--to
rescue her. He hurried to the house for the purpose of proceeding
to General Tottleben and invoking his assistance and support. But a
sudden and painful thought arrested his steps.
Suppose that Elise had not gone against her will? Suppose that this
had been a preconcerted abduction to which the semblance of violence
had only been given in order, in case of failure, to maintain Elise's
reputation free from stain?
With a sigh of anguish he recalled to mind when Elise had hidden
her lover in her bedchamber that night when Gotzkowsky had delivered
Feodor over to the Austrians. Since then father and daughter had not
met, and no word of reproach had passed Elise's lips. But Bertram
understood that Gotzkowsky's cruel and relentless sacrifice of her
lover had forever estranged the heart of his daughter from him; that
this hard though just deed had torn asunder the last link which bound
her to him.
Elise could have learned just as well as Bertram had that Feodor had
been accidentally saved. Her lover himself could have sent her this
information, and she, who in the bitterness of her grief had torn
herself loose from her father, might not have had the strength to
withstand his ardent prayers. Perhaps in her sense of bereavement,
trusting to her love, she might have found the sad courage to brave
not only her father, but the judgment and scorn of the world, in order
to be united to her lover.
Such thoughts as these arrested Bertram's steps, and compelled him
to reflection. Only one thing was positive--he must save her at every
hazard, even against her will, even if he should reap, as the sole
reward of his devoted love, her aversion; he must save her from
her own passionate, foolish heart, or from the wild lust of the
unprincipled man to whom she trusted her innocence, her youth, and
But this duty he had to perform alone; he dared not trust any one with
his secret, for fear of thereby defeating the object he had in view,
and, instead of saving, bringing disgrace upon her. His resolve was
formed. He must seek her out. He must penetrate to where she was, even
if hid behind a wall of Russian soldiers. Faithful and unselfish as
ever, she should find him at her side, ready to protect her against
every attack, every danger, even from her own inexperience or the
reckless passion of her lover. Especially above all things, her
abduction must remain a secret. To her maidens, therefore, Bertram
said, that their young mistress had withdrawn into her room, and
shut herself in, in order, after so many sleepless nights, to enjoy a
little rest. The same information he left behind for Gotzkowsky, and,
providing himself with weapons, he betook himself to the search for
Elise. In the first place, he naturally directed his steps to the
dwelling of Colonel von Brenda. Here he learned that the latter was
not at home, but had gone to an entertainment at the mess-room of
his regiment. Thither he hastened, firmly resolved to overcome all
obstacles, and in spite of every refusal to see the colonel, and
read in his countenance whether he were an accomplice of the crime
committed, or whether Elise had followed him of her own free will.
At first, he had been obstinately refused admittance; then in his
despair and anguish he had made use of Gotzkowsky's name, a golden
key to open the doors, as he well knew. In fact, scarcely had the
gold-greedy Russian officers ascertained that the young stranger came
as a messenger from Gotzkowsky and wished to inquire of Count von
Brenda, after a young lady who had been carried off by the Cossacks,
than with a yell of delight they rushed toward the door of the room in
which were Feodor and the captured maiden. Bertram had, therefore, to
thank the avarice of the Russian officers that the door was opened and
he was allowed to enter.
As Bertram appeared on the threshold of the room a scream escaped
the lips of the female, and he was enabled, notwithstanding the
concealment, to recognize her whom he sought. His heart was convulsed
with pain, and his impulse for a moment was, to rush upon this
audacious, dissolute young man who stood next to Elise, to murder him,
and revenge in his blood the disgrace he had brought upon her. But
remembering the sacred duty he had undertaken of protecting Elise and
concealing her flight as far as possible, he controlled his anger and
grief, and forced himself to appear calm and collected.
Elise, in the mean while, with joyful emotion recognized Bertram. His
unexpected and unlooked-for appearance did not surprise her, it seemed
so natural to her that whenever danger threatened he should appear
as her protector and savior. She had such confidence in Bertram's
appearance whenever she stood in need of him, that when she saw him,
she looked upon herself as saved, and protected from every danger
which threatened her. She motioned Feodor to her side, and with a
touch of triumphant pride, said to him, "It is Bertram, the friend
of my youth. He has risked his life to save me from dishonor." Feodor
felt the reproof which lay in the intonation of these words, and his
brow grew dark. But he overcame this momentary irritation, and turning
to Bertram, who was approaching him with a firm and determined step,
asked him, "Well, sir, whom do you seek?"
"A young girl who has been carried off by force," replied Bertram, and
he regarded the young man with angry looks. But Feodor met his glance
with firmness and composure. "It is true," said he, "such an outrage
has been committed; some Cossacks kidnapped a young girl in a garden
and brought her here. I myself will inform the general of this
dishonorable deed, for you understand, sir, that this outrage is an
insult to us as well as to yourself. I have promised my protection to
this young person, and I am ready to defend her against any one who
dares to touch her honor or to doubt her virtue. Come, now, sir, and
see whether this he the same young girl whom you seek."
He stepped toward Bertram, and as he led him to Elise, he whispered
rapidly in a low tone. "Be silent, and do not betray her name, for
Elise's honor is at stake."
He raised the veil, and, pointing to Elise's abashed and blushing
countenance, he asked, with a derisive laugh, "Well, now, do you
recognize her? Will you swear that this is Gotzkowsky's daughter?"
Bertram looked at him with assumed surprise. "Gotzkowsky's daughter?"
asked he, shrugging his shoulders. "Why, it is the young lady herself
who sent me, and no one is looking for her."
Colonel Feodor turned with a laugh of triumph toward his comrades.
"Did I not tell you so?" cried he. "You credulous fools were hoping to
get half a million ransom, and I have been bargaining with her for the
last hour for a hundred dollars. She swears, with tears in her eyes,
that she is not worth a hundred pence. Gotzkowsky's daughter, indeed!
Do you imagine that she goes about in a plain white dress, without any
ornament or any thing elegant about her? She is just as fond of dress
as our own princesses and pretty women, and, like them, the daughter
of the rich Gotzkowsky is never visible except in silk and
velvet, with pearls diamonds. Oh! I would like myself to catch the
millionnaire's daughter, for then we might bargain for a decent
"But who, then, is this woman?" roared the disappointed officers. "Why
does the rich Gotzkowsky send after her, if she is not his daughter?"
"Who is she?" cried Feodor, laughing. "Well, I will tell you, as you
attack so much importance to it. You have been served like the seekers
after hidden treasure. You have been seeking for gold, and, instead,
you have only found coals to burn your fingers. You sought after the
millionnaire, the rich heiress, and, instead of her, you have only
"A chambermaid!" growled out his comrades, and turning their dark,
lowering looks on Bertram, they inquired of him whether this woman
were only a chambermaid in Gotzkowsky's house, and assailed him with
reproaches and curses because he had deluded them into the belief that
Gotzkowsky's daughter had been captured.
"If we had not thought so, we would not have let you in," cried
Lieutenant von Matusch. "It was not worth while making so much fuss
about a little chambermaid."
"It was just for that very reason," replied Bertram, "and because I
knew that you would not otherwise help me, that I let you believe it
was Gotzkowsky's daughter whom you had captured; otherwise you would
never have let me come near Colonel von Brenda. And Mademoiselle
Gotzkowsky had expressly directed me to apply to that gentleman, and
I did so. You can understand my doing so, when I inform you that this
young girl is my sister!"
Feodor turned himself to Elise with an expression of anger on his
countenance. "Is this true?"
"It is true!" cried she, reaching her hand out to Bertram, with a look
of heartfelt gratitude. "He is my brother, my faithful brother!"
But, as she read in Feeder's darkened countenance the marks of
ill-concealed anger and jealousy, she turned toward her lover with a
rare, sweet smile. "Oh," said she, "there is nothing nobler, nothing
more sacred and unselfish, than the love of a brother."
Feodor's searching look seemed to penetrate into the inmost recesses
of her heart. Perhaps he read all the love, innocence, and strength
that lay therein, for his brow cleared up, and his looks resumed
their open cheerfulness. Quickly he took Bertram's hand and laid it
in Elise's. "Well, then," said he, "you happy pair, take each other's
hands, and thank God that the danger is over. We have nothing to do
with young and pretty girls--we only want rich ones. Go!"
"No, no," cried the officers, "not at all, not without ransom!" Saying
which, they pressed noisily and angrily nearer, raising their clinched
fists. "She must pay, or we will keep her!"
"Dare one of you touch her?" cried Feodor, drawing his sword, and
placing himself in front of Elise.
"I have come to fetch my sister," said Bertram, turning to the
officers, "but I knew very well that you would not let her go unless
her ransom were paid. I therefore brought all my little portion with
me. Take this purse full of ducats, and let it pay for her."
A cry of triumph was the answer from the soldiers as they drew Bertram
toward the table that he might count out the money. While they were
dividing it among themselves, talking loudly and laughing merrily,
Feodor remained standing at Elise's side, neither daring to break the
impressive silence. Their souls communed with each other, and they
needed not words nor outward signs. At last, after a long pause,
"Are you satisfied now, Elise?"
She answered him with a sweet smile, "I am thine forever!"
"And will you never forget this hour?"
"I will not forget it. I will remember that I have sworn to follow
you voluntarily from my father's house, even against his will." And
letting her blushing face droop upon her breast, she whispered, in a
voice scarcely audible--"I await you!"
But these words, low as they had been spoken, reached the ears of two
men at the same time. Not only Colonel Feodor, but also Bertram, who
had drawn close up to Elise again, had overheard them. The first
they filled with emotions of delight, the other with painful anguish.
Bertram, however, was accustomed to wrestle with his love, and smother
the expression of his pain, under the appearance of quiet composure.
He approached Elise, and offered her his hand, said, "Come sister, let
"Yes, go," said the colonel, with the proud superiority of a preferred
rival. He extended his hand to Bertram, and continued, "Be a good
brother to her, and conduct her safely home."
Bertram's countenance, usually so quiet and calm, assumed for an
instant an offended and almost contemptuous air, and bitter words were
on his tongue; but his angry eye accidentally met Elise's, anxiously
and imploringly directed toward him. He could not master himself
sufficiently to accept Feodor's hand, but at least he could control
his anger. "Come, sister," said he, gently leading Elise toward the
door which the colonel indicated to him by a silent nod.
Elise had not the courage to leave her lover without a word of
farewell; or rather, she was cruel enough to inflict this torture on
Bertram. Stretching both hands toward him, she said softly, "I thank
you, Feodor; God and love will reward you for having greatly and nobly
Feodor whispered to her, "And will you remember your vow?"
"Ever and always!"
In bending over to kiss her hand, he murmured, "Expect me, then,
"I will expect you," said she, as she passed him on her way to the
No word of their whispered conversation escaped the attentive ear of
Bertram; and he understood it, for he loved her, and knew how to read
her thoughts in her looks and her eyes. As he followed her through the
long corridor, and her light, graceful figure floated before him like
a vision, a deep, despairing melancholy settled on his heart, and he
murmured to himself, "To-morrow she expects him!" But with desperate
determination he continued to himself, "Well, then, woe to him if I
find him going astray!"
* * * * *
AN UNEXPECTED ALLY.
Thanks to Bertram's forethought and caution, he had succeeded in
restoring Elise to her father's house, without her absence having been
remarked, or having occasioned any surmise. In the close carriage in
which they performed the journey home, they had not exchanged a word;
but leaning hack on the cushions, each had rest and repose after the
stormy and exciting scenes they had just passed through. Elise's hand
still rested on Bertram's, perhaps unconsciously, perhaps because she
had not the courage to withdraw it from him to whom she owed so much
Bertram felt the feverish warmth of this trembling hand, and as he
looked at her and remarked the paleness of her cheeks, the painful
twitching of her lips, he was overcome by a feeling of deep
wretchedness, of pitying sadness, and was obliged to turn his head
away to conceal his tears from her.
When the carriage stopped, and he accompanied her into the house,
Elise pressed his hand more firmly, and turned her gaze upon him
with a look of deep gratitude, which made his heart palpitate with a
mixture of delight and anguish. He wished to withdraw, he wished to
let her hand go, but she held his still more firmly clasped, and drew
him gently up the steps. Powerless with emotion, he followed her.
As they entered the hall which led to her room, she cast a searching
look around to see if any one were present, and perceiving that
they two were alone, she turned toward Bertram with an indescribable
expression. She tried to speak, but the words died on her lips, a deep
glow suffused her cheeks, and completely overpowered, and giddy
from the tumult of her feelings, she leaned her head on her friend's
Gently he passed his arm around her delicate, trembling figure, and
his eyes beamed with a pure emotion. In the depth of his heart he
renewed to God and himself his vow of fidelity and self-sacrificing
love to this poor girl who lay on his bosom like a drooping flower.
Suddenly she raised her head, her face wet with tears and convulsed
with deep feeling. "Bertram," she said, "I know that I am not worthy
of your noble, generous love, but yet, in my crushed heart, I thank
God that I possess it. A time may come when all the thoughts and
feelings which now fill my soul will appear as vain dreams and
illusions. It may be that some day I will look upon life as a grand
delusion, a fruitless striving after happiness and repose. But never,
my brother, never will that time come when I can doubt your faithful,
pure affection. No power, no other feeling, will ever succeed in
supplanting the deep and boundless gratitude which pervades my whole
soul and binds me to you forever."
And then it seemed to him as if he felt the breath of an angel wave
over his face; as if the dream and desire of his whole life had closed
his lips in unexpected bliss; as if the wishes and hopes of his
ardent but resigned heart had been fulfilled, and become a delightful
When he recovered from this sweet dream, which for a moment robbed him
of his consciousness, Elise had disappeared. But her kiss still glowed
on his lips, and seemed to bless and sanctify his whole life.
This stream of happiness lasted but for a short time, and Bertram soon
awoke, with a sad sigh, from his delightful fancies, to recall the
painful hours he had just gone through, and to say to himself that
Elise was lost to him forever, that he never could hope to rescue that
heart from the lover to whom she had yielded it with all the devotion
of her ardent nature. With a sorrowing heart did he remember the
last words of the lovers. She had appointed a meeting for him on the
morrow, she expected him, and, braving the anger of her father, had
giving him a rendezvous in his house.
As Bertram thought over this, he paced the room up and down, panting
with excitement, and wringing his hands. "If Gotzkowsky knew this, he
would kill her, or die himself of grief. Die of grief!" continued he,
after a pause, completely buried in his sad and bitter thoughts--"it
is not so easy to die of grief. The sad heart is tenacious of life,
and sorrow is but a slow grave-digger. I have heard that one could die
of joy, and it seemed to me just now, when Elise rewarded me with a
kiss, that I could understand this. If she only loved me, it were a
blessing of God to die, conscious of her love."
Completely overcome by his painful thoughts, he remained for a while
motionless and sad. But he soon recovered himself, and shook off the
dark cloud which overshadowed his soul. "I am not born to die such
a death. It is my destiny not to be happy myself, but to save others
from unhappiness. I feel and know that Elise cannot be happy in this
love. A loving heart is gifted with prophetic second sight to read the
future. Elise can never be happy without her father's blessing, and
Gotzkowsky will never give his sanction to this love. How can I lead
her past this abyss which threatens to engulf her? May God, who sees
my heart, help me! He knows how hopeless and disinterested it is. Help
me, Father in heaven! show me some way of saving her noble father from
the grief which lies before him."
It seemed as if God had heard his prayer, and taken compassion on his
pure, unselfish spirit, and sent him assistance. A loud knocking
at the door aroused him suddenly from his gloomy thoughts, and he
hastened to open it.
A veiled lady stood there, wrapped in furs, and attended by a servant
in rich livery. In fluent French, which it could be perceived,
however, was not her native tongue, she inquired whether, as she had
been told, Herr von Brink, Tottleben's adjutant, resided there. As
Bertram answered this question in the affirmative, but added, that
Herr von Brink was in the habit of not returning from the general's
quarters before evening, she added, in a decided tone, "Well, then, I
will wait for him."
Without deeming Bertram's consent necessary, she entered the hall and
motioned to her servant to remain at the door.
After a pause, there ensued between the two one of those superficial,
ceremonious conversations, the usual refuge of those who have nothing
to say to each other; but the evident uneasiness and confusion of the
young lady prevented her from joining freely in it. Her large, bright
eyes strayed restlessly around the room. A hectic flush alternated
on her cheeks with deathly pallor, and the smile, which occasionally
played around her lips, seemed but a painful expression of mental
suffering. Suddenly she raised her head, as if determined no longer to
bear this constraint, or submit to the fetters of conventionality.
"Sir," said she, in a tone vibrating with excitement and anxiety, "you
will excuse my asking you a question, on the answer to which depends
my future happiness, my life, indeed--to obtain which I have travelled
from St. Petersburg here. I have just left my carriage in which I
performed the journey from that city. You can therefore judge
how important the cause of this undertaking is to me, and what an
influence it may have on my whole existence. Its object lies in the
question I am about to put to you."
Bertram took pity on her painful agitation. "Ask" he said, "and, on
the honor of a gentleman, I assure you that your question shall be
answered truly, and that I am ready to serve you as far as it lies in
"Are you acquainted with General Bachmann's adjutant?" asked she,
shortly and hurriedly.
"I am," replied Bertram.
She trembled as in an ague. "I am come to inquire after a man of whom
I have not heard for six months. I wish to know whether he is alive,
or only dead to me."
"His name?" asked Bertram, with painful misgiving.
Her voice was scarcely audible as she replied: "Colonel Count Feodor
von Brenda, of the regiment Bachmann."
Bertram was quite taken aback by this unexpected turn of the
conversation, and she continued with great excitement, "You do not
answer! oh, have compassion on me, and speak! Is he alive?"
"He is alive, and is here," answered Bertram sadly.
A cry of delight escaped the lips of the lady. "He lives," she
exclaimed loudly. "God has then heard my prayer, and preserved him to
But suddenly the cheerful smile on her lips died away, and, dropping
her head on her breast, she cried, "He is alive, and only dead to me.
He is alive, and did not write me!" For a moment she stood in this
position, silent and depressed; then drawing herself up erect, her
eyes sparkling with passionate warmth, she said: "Sir, I crave your
pardon for a poor stranger, who hardly knows what she is doing or
saying. I am not acquainted with you, or even your name, but there is
something in your noble, calm countenance which inspires confidence."
Bertram smiled sadly. "Fellow-sufferers always feel attracted to each
other by a community of feeling. I, too am a sufferer, and it is God's
will that our sorrows should spring from a common source. The name you
have uttered is but too well known to me."
"You know Colonel Brenda?" she asked.
"I do know him," answered Bertram.
"The count was at one time a prisoner of war," continued the lady. "He
visited this house frequently, for I have been told that it belongs to
Mr. Gotzkowsky, of whom the colonel wrote me, in the commencement of
his captivity, that he received him most hospitably."
"Did he write you any word of Gotzkowsky's handsome daughter?" asked
Bertram, looking inquiringly into the countenance of the stranger.
She shuddered, and turned pale. "O Heaven!" she murmured low, "I have
Bertram seized her hand, his features evincing deep emotion. "Will
you answer me one question?" he asked, and as she bowed her head in
silence, he proceeded--"is the Count von Brenda your brother?"
"Oh, sir," she said, with a faint smile, "one does not suffer for a
brother as I have suffered for Feodor. I am the Countess Sandomir,
and Count Feodor is my betrothed. The good empress herself joined our
hands, and blessed our union. A short time after our marriage the war
broke out, and deprived me of my lover and husband. For six months I
have had no tidings of him, and, tortured by anxiety and apprehension,
I resolved to come myself to Germany to seek my betrothed, either to
bury or nurse him, for I believed he must be sick or dead, as he did
not return to me."
Bertram offered in his heart a prayer of gratitude to God. With
feelings of sympathy, he then turned his eyes on the quivering
features of the stranger. "Listen to me," said he, gently. "As you
entered, I had just prayed to God, in the suffering and sadness of my
heart, to show me some way and means of escape from the labyrinth
in which Count Brenda has placed us. It would seem as if He has
had compassion on us all, for at the very moment he sends you, the
affianced bride of the count, and through you alone can we be saved.
We must be open and candid toward each other. Therefore, listen to me.
I love Gotzkowsky's daughter--I love her without hope, for she loves
"And this other?" asked she breathlessly.
"She loves Count Feodor von Brenda, and is about to escape with him."
"Escape!" cried the lady, and her voice sounded threatening and angry,
and her eyes flashed. "Oh!" said she, gnashing her teeth, "I will
prevent this, even if I kill this girl!"
Bertram shook his head sadly. "Let us rather try to kill this love in
her heart. Let us contrive some means of bringing your lover back to
"Are there any such means?" asked she, anxiously.
Bertram did not answer immediately. His brow was clouded with deep
thought, and a heavy sigh escaped him. He then asked quickly, "Will
you follow me and enter into my plot?"
"I will," she said firmly.
"Above all things, then, let us be cautious. Count Feodor must have no
suspicion that you are here, for your presence would drive him to some
desperate resolve, and I fear Elise loves him sufficiently not to draw
back from any thing."
"You are very cruel," murmured the lady. "You know not what torture
you are preparing for me."
"If I did not know it, I would not undertake the enterprise that is to
serve us both. I have told you that I love Elise, but I have not told
you how deep and sacred this love is. I would cheerfully venture my
life for her, but now I dare to interfere with her love, and earn her
"You have, then, already made your plan?"
"I have made my plan, and if you will allow me to escort you to
your hotel, I will disclose it to you, so that we may arrange the
"Come, then," said she, grasping his hand warmly, "and may God assist
us, and restore to you your bride, and to me my lover!"
* * * * *
THE JEW EPHRAIM.
Much sorrow and tribulation were suffered during this time by the
inhabitants of Berlin. But the saddest lot of all fell to the Jews,
who were threatened with the greatest danger. In Berlin, as everywhere
else, they only led a tolerated, reviled, and derided existence.
They possessed no rights, only duties; no honor, only insults; no
dignities, but humiliation and disgrace. Now they were called on to
give up the last and only thing which shed some gleam of brightness on
their poor, down-trodden existence--their gold and their treasures.
The Russian commander had imposed upon the Jewish community in Berlin
a special tax; and as they hesitated about paying it, and declared
themselves incapable of raising such a large sum, General von
Tottleben had the three elders of the Jews arrested and strictly
guarded in the Vincenti House in Brueder Street.
But who could despise or blame the poor Jews for not wishing to
give up their gold? Gold was to them a condition of existence, their
future, their happiness, their family. Gold enabled some of them to
raise themselves from the dust and degradation to which the cruel
severity of _Christian charity_ had condemned them, and to indulge
in human aspirations, human happiness, and human feelings. Only those
among them who possessed wealth were tolerated, and dared hope by
strenuous industry, ceaseless activity, and fortunate speculation,
to amass sufficient fortune to found a family or beget children. The
happiness of domestic life was only allowed to them on condition of
their being rich.
Frederick the Great had learned with indignation that the Jewish
families in Berlin far exceeded the number of one hundred and
fifty-two allowed by law, and that there were fifty-one too many.
Consequently a stringent decree was issued that they should no longer
be counted by families, but by heads, and that when the poll exceeded
the permitted number, the poorest and lowest of them should be
shipped off. Gold was therefore to the rich Jew a certificate of
naturalization, while the poorer ones had no certainty of a home. They
could at any moment be turned off, driven out of Berlin, if a richer
one should by his wealth and trading acquire the right to take to
himself a wife, and by her have a child. But even he, the rich one,
could only have one child; only one child was allowed to him by law.
For one child only could he obtain legal protection, and only in
exceptional cases, as when their factories and firms succeeded
remarkably well, did the king, in the fulness of his grace, allow a
second child to inherit its guardianship.
Of what avail, then, was it to the poor Jews to have toiled and
worked so hard, driven by the necessity of paying the hateful
_Jewish poll-tax,_ and thereby procuring for themselves a temporary
toleration? At any moment they could be driven off in case the rich
Ephraim or the rich David Itzig, in the arrogance of their wealth,
should venture to give to the world more than one child, and
purchase for the sum of three thousand dollars another certificate of
protection for the second! Of what avail was their wealth even to the
rich Jews Ephraim and Itzig? They were nevertheless under the ban of
their proscribed race. No privileges, no offices existed for them.
They could only build factories or carry on commerce. All other paths
of life, even agriculture and horticulture, were forbidden to them.
And now they were called on to give up to the Russians their very
life, the nerve of their existence, the heart which carried blood and
warmth to their entire organization--their money.
Ephraim and Itzig were rich and powerful in Berlin; they could build
houses, found factories, and even determine the value of money, for
the mint was in their hands. They had farmed it from the king, and
paid him an enormous rent for the same, which had increased each year,
and in 1760 amounted to seven millions. But, thanks to this farming,
the value of money had increased exorbitantly. Twenty dollars were
paid for a Frederick d'or, and five-and-thirty for the mark of fine
silver. Owing to the labors of these Jewish lessees, there were many
millions of light money, many millions of bad eight-groschen pieces,
which, to this day, are known by the name of _Ephraimites_, and whose
repudiation at a later period ruined many thousands of honest,
worthy tradesmen, while Ephraim and Itzig became wealthy and powerful
thereby. Yet it was now this same money which brought misfortune to
them, and was the cause of their suffering and mortal anxiety; for
General Tottleben had threatened that if the Jews could not pay
the tax imposed on them, he would take the mint farmers with him as
hostages, and destroy their factories. Besides this, he had, as we
said before, arrested their elders and sworn to send them to Siberia,
if the Jews did not pay.
The payment was to be made in three days. But the three days had
elapsed, and they had not been able to raise the money which was
demanded of them. In this dire extremity, the two mint-contractors
remembered the man whom they had hitherto most cordially hated, and
whose ruin was the cherished wish of their life. They now recollected
that John Gotzkowsky was the only man who, in the generosity and
kindness of his heart, was capable of forgetting their former insults
and injuries, and of remembering only their need and misery. They
determined, therefore, to apply to him, and request his intercession
and assistance, but they did this with a bitter sigh, for they felt
the hatred and grudge which they nursed in their hearts toward him
become only more intense and stronger.
"Who would have thought it?" said Ephraim, as, by the side of Itzig,
and accompanied by some of the most wealthy Jewish merchants, he took
the road to Gotzkowsky's dwelling--"who would have thought it? The
powerful Russian General von Tottleben is the friend of Gotzkowsky,
and the greatest men among our people are now obliged to go to
Gotzkowsky's house to implore his influence and protection."
"Yes," sighed the rich merchant David, "we are obliged to apply to
him to befriend us, and yet what is he compared to you? You are much
richer than he is."
"Silence, unfortunate man!" cried Ephraim with a shudder, as he looked
shyly around. "I am poor, and for that reason can pay nothing. I am
poor, as all of us wretched Jews are. Have we not to contribute the
greater portion of the war-tax? Are not all our means exhausted? Is
that not enough?"
"Too much!" groaned Itzig, who till now had walked in melancholy
contemplation at Ephraim's other side. "It is too much. Are we then
treated like human beings? Have we any rights? Only when we have
to pay, do they remember that we have the right of giving up our
hard-earned property. If the Jew has no money, is he not at least a
man, say I?"
"Pshaw! a man!" cried Ephraim. "Whoever is without money is no man, be
he Jew or Christian. If Gotzkowsky had no money, he would be no better
than we are. Why does the Russian general have any thing to do with
him? Because he is rich. Why do the counts and lords pay court to him?
For the same reason. Why do they call his daughter an angel, and
swear she is the handsomest woman in Berlin? Because her father is
the richest Christian merchant in the town. The whole world knows and
admires him. And why? Because he is rich."
"No one is rich," said Itzig, shaking his head. "He who has not every
thing is not rich. There is no such thing as riches, for he who has
much has to give much."
"God knows we will have to give much!" whimpered Ephraim, and all his
companions joined in with groans and sighs as a chorus to his speech.
"They mean to take every thing from us that we own, and Itzig is
right; if the Jew has not money, he is nobody. Have we not suffered as
much as others? Have we not protected our people, and fed and housed
our poor? No one talks about these things, but the whole town talks
about Gotzkowsky. They praise him, they exalt him; they cry out his
name everywhere, so that one's heart actually burns for vexation. And
yet at the highest calculation he is not worth more than a million."
"He is worth more than ourselves; he is worth much more, for he has
the favor of the Russian general. For this reason we must bow down
before him, and flatter him, and assure him of our eternal gratitude,
for it is a question not of life, but what is more precious than
With deep-drawn sighs they whined out, "Yes, we must bow to him, and
flatter him, and yet we are richer than he is."
As long as they were on the street they maintained an air of pride and
vexation; but as soon as they entered Gotzkowsky's house and stood in
his presence, they were all gentleness, humility, and friendliness.
With tears they implored Gotzkowsky to have pity, and to beg General
Tottleben to have compassion on them. They vowed eternal gratitude to
him, and swore with solemn oaths that if he succeeded in relieving
the Jews from the special impost, they would love him forever, and be
everlastingly thankful to him.
Gotzkowsky smiled in pity. "That means that you would feel yourselves
under obligations to me, and, if ever you got me in your power, you
would take the opportunity to ruin me. But that is of no consequence
to me. This impost is a crying injustice, and therefore will I plead
for you, for it never shall be said that Gotzkowsky suffered an
injustice to be done when he could prevent it. Go home in peace, for,
if I can, I will help you."
"How arrogant this man is!" said Itzig, when they had left the house.
"One would suppose that he had all virtue and honor on lease, just as
we have the mint."
"And if he has," said Ephraim with a laugh, "if he has the monopoly
of virtue and honor, it is only to trade on. No doubt his speculation
will turn out just as profitably as ours with the mint. No doubt he
will coin it into light eight-groschen pieces, cheat the people with
them, and make more than his expenses, as we have done."
"But woe be unto him," growled Itzig, "if any light coin of his virtue
come into my hands! I will throw them back into his face till blood
flows, and I will never forgive him that this day we have had to stand
before him begging and pleading. If he ever comes to grief, I will
remember it. If the Jew has no money, he is nobody. Well, we will see
what Gotzkowsky is worth without money. Let me tell you we will all of
us live to see that day. He has too much stupid generosity, which some
day or other will run away with his purse, and then there will be a
grand blow-up, honor and virtue and all, sky high. Then there will be
no more talk about the great Gotzkowsky and his virtue and all that.
Oh! I do so rejoice over that time a-coming. But in the mean time I am
so very glad that Gotzkowsky can be of some service to us!"
[Footnote 1: Buesching's Travels, 1780.]
[Footnote 2: "Annals of the Jews in the Prussian States,"
* * * * *
THE RUSSIAN GENERAL AND THE GERMAN MAN.
Scarcely had the Jewish deputation left Gotzkowsky's house, before
he betook himself, full of the important information received from
General Bachmann, to General Tottleben's residence, fully determined
to venture every thing to prevent the execution of the cruel order
which threatened the factories and other branches of industry. But
this was not the sole object which led him there. He went there as
a representative of the whole town. Every one who needed assistance
applied to him, and to each one he had promised to intercede for
him. Laden with petitions and commissions from the magistracy,
the merchants, and the citizens of Berlin, he entered the Russian
general's quarters. Deeply inspired with the importance of his
commission, he traversed the halls which led to the general's private
apartments, saying to himself, "This is the most important mission I
have ever undertaken, for the welfare of the whole town depends upon
it--a million dollars depend upon every word I may utter. Many a
struggle have I had in these days, but this is the hardest of them
all, and victory hangs on my tongue."
With beaming countenance and sparkling eyes, with his whole being
animated with the sacredness of his office, he entered the cabinet
of the Russian general. Tottleben did not offer him, as heretofore, a
friendly welcome. He did not even raise his eyes from the dispatches
which he was in the act of reading, and his contracted brows and the
whole expression of his countenance was such as to discourage any
petition or pleading. At this moment General von Tottleben was a true
Russian, and, thanks to General Fermore's dispatches, he had succeeded
in suppressing his German sympathy. At least he flattered himself that
he had, and for that reason he avoided meeting Gotzkowsky's clear,
Without taking any notice, he finished reading the papers, and then
rose and walked about the room. After a while he seemed as if by
accident to perceive Gotzkowsky's presence, and stopped short. "Have
you come back already?" he asked in a sullen, grumbling tone. "I
know very well that you have returned to beg for all sorts of useless
trash; I can't bear such eternal begging and whining--a pitiful rabble
that is all the time creeping to our feet."
"Yes, your excellency, it is nothing but a poor, pitiful rabble," said
Gotzkowsky with a smile; "and for this very reason the Russians are
despised all over Europe. Toward the high and mighty they behave
like fawning hounds, and toward the low and humble they are rude and
"I am not speaking of the Russians," cried the general, as he turned
his lowering countenance toward Gotzkowsky, "I am speaking of _you_.
All day long you have done nothing but beg and demand."
But Gotzkowsky met him with quiet and smiling composure. "Pardon, your
excellency, it is you who demand; and because you are all the time
demanding, I must all the time be begging. And, in fact, I am only
begging for yourself."
Tottleben looked at him in inquiring astonishment, but in silence. "I
am not begging for favor," continued Gotzkowsky, "but for justice; and
if you grant this, why, it is so much gained for you. Then, indeed,
the world will esteem you as not only brave, but just; and then
only will history honor you as truly great--the equitable and humane
conqueror. The Vandals, too conquered by the sword; and if it only
depended on mere brute strength, wild bulls would be the greatest
Tottleben cast a fierce, angry look toward him "For that reason,"
cried he, threateningly, "he is a fool who irritates a wild bull."
Gotzkowsky bowed and smiled. "It is true one should never show him
a red cloak. A firm, unterrified countenance is the only way to tame
him. The bull is powerless against the mind which beams out of the
It was very probably the very boldness of this answer which pleased
the general, accustomed as he was to Russian servility. His features
assumed a softer expression, and he said, in a milder tone: "You are
an extraordinary man, and there is no use in contending with you.
One is obliged to do whatever you wish. Well, now--quick, out with
it--what do you want of me?"
"Justice," said Gotzkowsky. "You gave me your word that your soldiers
should not rob nor plunder, and, notwithstanding, they do it."
"That is not true!" thundered the general.
"It is true," replied Gotzkowsky, calmly.
"Who dares to contradict me?" cried Tottleben, trembling with rage,
and striding toward Gotzkowsky.
"I dare," answered the latter, "if you call that 'to dare' which is
only convincing you of your error. I, myself, have seen your soldiers
striking down the flying women with the butts of their muskets,
robbing and plundering the houses. Your orders have been but poorly
obeyed; and your soldiers _almost_ equal the Austrians in rudeness and
A light smile played over Tottleben's countenance. Gotzkowsky had
understood how to soften his anger. "_Almost_--only," said he, "woe
be to my soldiers if they equal the Austrians in rudeness!" With
hasty steps he traversed the apartment, and called his adjutant. "Send
patrols through the whole town," was his order to the officer as
he entered, "and give orders to all the soldiers to maintain strict
discipline. Whoever dares to plunder, is guilty of disobedience to
military orders, and shall be tried by military law. The gallows
for thieves and marauders--say so to my men; they know that General
Tottleben keeps his word. Are you satisfied now?" he asked Gotzkowsky,
as the adjutant left the room.
"I thank your excellency," said Gotzkowsky, hesitating.
"Thank God that at last you are satisfied, and have nothing more to
ask!" cried Tottleben, almost cheerfully.
"But indeed I have a great deal yet to ask, and if you allow me I will
ask your excellency a question. You have just issued an order. How
high up does this order reach?"
"How high up?" asked the general, surprised.
"I mean does this order which forbids the soldiers from robbing and
plundering under pain of death, affect only the common private, or
must the higher officers also obey it?"
"I would advise every one to do so," cried Tottleben, with a harsh
laugh. "The order is for all."
"Even the highest officers?"
"Not even the generals are excepted." "Then, sir," said Gotzkowsky,
drawing himself up and advancing a step toward the general, "I accuse
before you an officer who has had the presumption to disobey
your general order. You forbid, under severe penalty, robbery and
plundering, and yet he is intent on them. You have strictly ordered
the army to preserve discipline, and not to ill-treat nor abuse the
defenceless, and yet a general is about to do it."
"Who dares that? Give me the name of this general!"
"It is General von Tottleben," answered Gotzkowsky, quietly.
Count Tottleben stepped back and gazed at him in amazement.
Gotzkowsky did not lower his eyes, but met his flashing glance firmly.
"Are you beside yourself?" asked the general, after a long pause. "Is
your life such a burden to you that you are determined to lose it?"
"If my head were to fall, it would only be a confirmation of what I
have asserted--that General von Tottleben issues an order, and does
not respect it himself; that while he forbids his soldiers to rob and
steal, under penalty of death, even _he_ commits those very offences."
The excess of this boldness had the effect upon the general on which
Gotzkowsky had calculated. He had speculated somewhat on the leonine
nature of Tottleben's character.
The general, instead of annihilating his foolhardy antagonist, found
pleasure in his presumption, and it flattered him that he was esteemed
too magnanimous to revenge himself for a few words of insult.
"Look here, my friend, you are so outrageously bold that you make me
laugh. For the sake of its rarity, I will hear you out, and try to
remain cool. Speak on, then. Accuse me--but woe to you if I justify
myself! Fail not to prove what you say."
"The proverb says, 'Small thieves are hung, while great ones go
free,'" replied Gotzkowsky, shrugging his shoulders. "You wish to
prove the truth of this proverb. The soldier who enters the house
for theft and plunder, you condemn; but you acquit the general who
devastates a whole town, and in the arrogance of his victory wishes to
make himself, like Erostratos, immortal by incendiarism and arson."
"Do not presume too much on my forbearance," interrupted Tottleben,
stretching his arm out threateningly toward the bold speaker.
"Erostratos was a violator of temples."
"You are not less one!" cried Gotzkowsky; "you mean, with impious
hand, to cast a firebrand into the holy temple of labor. Erostratos
only destroyed the temple of an imaginary deity; but you, sir, are
worse--you wish to destroy factories!"
"Do you know what that means?"
"It means to deprive the poor man of the morsel of bread which, by the
sweat of his brow, he has earned for his wife and children! It means
to rob him who possesses nothing but the craft of his hands and his
body, of his only right--the right to work. You are going to destroy
the gold and silver manufactories, to burn the warehouse, to tear down
the brass works in the New Town Eberswald! And why all this? Why
do you intend to leave behind you this memorial of your vandalism?
Because your empress is angry with our king!"
"Because enemies wish to revenge themselves on enemies," interrupted
"Do that!" cried Gotzkowsky, warmly. "Revenge yourself on your enemy,
if you consider the destruction of his property a noble revenge.
Destroy the king's palaces; rob him, if you choose, of his most
ennobling enjoyment! Rob him of his pictures; do like the Saxons, who
yesterday destroyed Charlottenburg. Send your soldiers to my house;
there hang splendid paintings bought by me in Italy by the king's
order. I know that our noble king anticipates much pleasure in
carrying them some day to Sans Souci. But revenge yourself, take these
pictures, set fire to these noble works of art, but spare what belongs
to the poor man!"
He spoke with noble warmth, with glowing eloquence, and against his
will Tottleben's German heart was touched, and moved him to clemency
and compassion. But he would not listen to it. General Fermore's
dispatches lay before him, and compelled him to be harsh.
"You think you speak wisely, and yet you talk nothing but impudent
nonsense," said he, with assumed severity. "Who thinks of destroying
the poor man's property? The royal property shall be destroyed, and
"But the gold and silver manufactories and the warehouse are not the
property of the king," said Gotzkowsky quickly. "Not a penny goes
thence into the king's treasury."
The general's countenance brightened up considerably. "Not into the
king's treasury?" said he; "where, then, does it go?"
"The money, your excellency, which is earned at the gold and silver
factories and at the warehouse is devoted to a praiseworthy and
touching purpose. Perhaps you are a father--have children; and when
you go into battle you think of them, and utter a silent prayer,
intrusting them to God's care, and praying that they may not be left
Count Tottleben muttered some untelligible words, and stretched
out his hand deprecatingly. His lips trembled, and to conceal his
agitation he turned away.
Gotzkowsky cried out joyously: "Oh, I see in your eyes that you are
vainly trying to compel yourself to look at me in anger. Yes, you are
a father. Well, then, father, spare the orphans! From the proceeds
of the gold and silver factories, and the warehouse, the new, large
orphan-house in Potsdam is supported. Oh, you cannot be so cruel as
to deprive the poor children, whom the pitiless war has rendered
fatherless, of their last support, of their last refuge!"
The general stepped up to him, and grasped his hand. "God be my
witness that I will not! But is this so certainly? Do you speak the
"Yes, it is the truth!"
"Can you swear to it?"
"Yes, with the most sacred oath."
The general paced the room in silence several times, and then, pausing
before Gotzkowsky, laid his hand on his shoulder. "Listen," said he.
"I have often been reproached at home for being too soft and pitiful.
But never mind! I will once more follow my own inclination, and act in
spite of the orders which I have received. You must help me. Put
all that you have just stated down on paper. Write down that these
buildings are not the property of the king, but of the orphan-house.
Swear to it with a sacred oath, and affix your signature and seal.
Will you do this?"
"Gladly will I do it," cried Gotzkowsky, his face radiant. "Never have
I signed my name with a happier heart than I will have when I sign
it to this affidavit, which will procure for us both the heart-felt
blessings of so many children."
He stepped to the general's writing-table, and, following his
direction, seated himself and wrote.
Tottleben in the mean while walked up and down pensively, his arms
folded. His features wore a thoughtful and mild expression. No trace
of the late angry storm was visible. Once he stopped, and murmured
in a low voice: "Orphans one dare not plunder. Elizabeth has a tender
heart, and if she learns the reason of my disobedience, she will be
content. Yes, my course is the right one."
"I have finished, sir," said Gotzkowsky, standing up and handing him
the paper on which he had written.
Tottleben read it over carefully, and laid it alongside of the
dispatches to his empress. He then called to his adjutant and ordered
him immediately to place strong safeguards over the gold and silver
manufactories and the warehouse, and to protect these against any
Gotzkowsky clasped his hands, and directed his eyes to heaven with
joyful gratitude, and in the deep emotion of his heart he did not
perceive that the general again stood before him, and was looking at
him with inquiring sympathy. His voice first awakened him from his
reverie. "Are you contented now?" asked Tottleben, in a friendly tone.
"Content, general," said Gotzkowsky, shaking his head, "only belongs
to him who lies in his coffin."
Again the general's brow grew dark. "What is troubling you now? Don't
"To speak on, your excellency?" inquired Gotzkowsky, with a gentle
"No--to put yourself in your coffin," answered the other, rudely.
"I have not time for that, as yet," replied Gotzkowsky, sadly. "Both
of us, general, have still too much to do. You have to add fresh
laurels to your old ones--I have to clear thistles and thorns from the
path of my fellow-men."
"Ah! there are more thorns, then?" asked Tottleben, as he sank down
into a chair, and regarded Gotzkowsky with evident benevolence.
"A great many yet, sir," answered Gotzkowsky, sighing. "Our whole body
is bloody from them."
"Then call on the regimental surgeon to cure you," said Tottleben,
with a coarse laugh.
"You only can cure us," said Gotzkowsky, seriously, "for only you are
able to inflict such severe wounds. You are not satisfied with having
conquered and humiliated us, but you wish to tread us in the dust, and
make our cheeks, which were pale with sadness, now redden with shame.
You have ordered that the citizens of Berlin should be disarmed. You
are a brave soldier, sir, and honor courage above all things. Now,
let me ask you, how could you bear to exhibit the certificate of your
cowardice? Could you survive it? You look at me in anger--the very
question makes you indignant; and if that is your feeling, why would
you subject the citizens of Berlin to such disgrace? With our weapons
we have fought for our just rights and our liberty. God has willed
it that we should be subdued nevertheless, and that you should be the
conquerors. But methinks it would redound more to your honor to be
the conquerors of honorable men than of cowardly slaves! And when you
require of us, the conquered, that we shall give up our manly
honor, our weapons, you convert us into abject cowards, and deprive
yourselves of all honor in having conquered us. Let us then, sir, keep
our weapons; leave us this one consolation, that on our tombstones
can be inscribed: 'Freedom died, but with arms in her hand!'" and
Gotzkowsky, quite overcome by his painful emotions, leaned back
against the wall, breathless, his imploring looks fixed upon the
But the latter avoided meeting his eyes, and directed his own darkly
toward the ground.
Gotzkowsky perceived the indecision, the wavering of the general, and
he felt that he must now risk every thing to overcome his resistance.
"Leave us our weapons. Oh, you are a German! spare your German
Tottleben sprang from his seat as if a venomous snake had stung
him. Dark and terrible were his features, his eyes flashed fire, and
raising his right hand threateningly, he cried out: "You remind me
in an evil hour that I am a German. Germany drove me out to find in a
foreign land the appreciation which my own country refused me! Had I
been a foreigner, Germany would long ago have proclaimed my fame;
but, being the son of the family, the mother drives me out among
strangers--and that they call German good-nature!" and he broke out
into a bitter, scornful laugh.
"It is but too true," said Gotzkowsky, sadly. "Our mother Germany is
fond of sending her greatest sons out from home on their pilgrimage to
fame. For her great men she has but the cradle and the grave. But show
your unfeeling mother that you are better than she is; prove to her
how unjust she has been. Be magnanimous, and leave us our weapons!"
"I cannot, by Heaven! I cannot do it," said Tottleben, sadly, in a low
tone. "I must obey the higher authorities above me--the empress and
the commander-in-chief, General Fermore. My orders are very strict,
and I have already yielded too much. It is written in these dispatches
that the arms must be given up."
"The arms?" said Gotzkowsky, hastily. "Yes, but not _all_ arms. Take
some of them--we have three hundred inferior rifles--take them, sir,
and fulfil the letter of your orders, and save our honor."
General von Tottleben did not answer immediately. Again he paced the
room, from time to time casting sharp, piercing glances at Gotzkowsky,
whose firmness and animation seemed to please him. He stopped
suddenly, and asked in a voice so low that Gotzkowsky was scarcely
able to distinguish the words--"Do you think the Germans will praise
me, if I do this thing?"
"All Germany will say, 'He was great in victory, still greater in his
clemency toward the conquered,'" cried Gotzkowsky, warmly.
The general dropped his head upon his breast in deep meditation. When
he raised it again, there was a pleasant smile upon his face. "Well,
then, I will do it. I will once more remember that I am a German.
Where are the three hundred rifles?"
"In the armory, sir."
The general made no reply, but stepped toward his writing-table
hastily. He wrote off a few lines, and then with a loud voice called
his adjutant again to him. As the latter entered, he handed him the
writing. "Let the disarming take place. There are not more than three
hundred muskets. Let the citizens bring them to the Palace Square.
There they will be broken up, and thrown into the river."
"O general!" cried Gotzkowsky, his countenance radiant with delight,
when the adjutant had left the room, "how I do wish at this moment
that you were a woman!"
"I a woman!" cried Count Tottleben, laughing, "why should I be a
"That I might kiss your hand. Believe me, I never thanked any man so
truly and sincerely as I now do you! I am so proud to be able to say,
'Berlin is conquered, but not dishonored!'"
Tottleben bowed amicably toward him. "Now, after this proof of my
generosity, the town will hasten to pay its war-tax, will it not?"
Then seeing the dark cloud which gathered on Gotzkowsky's brow, he
continued with more vehemence, "You are very dilatory in paying. Be
careful how you exhaust my patience."
"Pray let me know, sir, when it is exhausted," said Gotzkowsky. "It
is cruel to drive an exhausted animal beyond his strength. Do you not
The general nodded his assent in silence.
"You are of my opinion," cried Gotzkowsky. "Well, then, you will be
just, and not exact of this exhausted city, wearied unto death, more
than she can perform."
With glowing words and persuasive eloquence he explained to the
general how impossible it was for the city to pay the demanded war
contribution of four millions.
Tottleben let himself again be persuaded. In the presence of this
ardent, eloquent German patriot, his German heart resumed its power,
and compelled him to mercy and charitableness. He consented to reduce
the tax to two millions of dollars, if Gotzkowsky would guarantee the
punctual payment of the bonds given by the body of merchants, and
give two hundred thousand of it in cash down, as hush-money to the
The latter declared himself gladly willing to accept the orders, and
to stand security with his whole fortune for their payment. Both then
remained silent, as if fatigued by the long and severe war of words,
from which Gotzkowsky had always come out victorious.
The general stood at the window, looking into the street. Perhaps
he was waiting for Gotzkowsky to give vent to his warm and delighted
gratitude before he took leave. But Gotzkowsky did neither the one
nor the other. He remained with folded arms, his countenance full of
earnest courage and bold determination.
"I will finish what I have commenced," said he to himself. "I will
keep my word, and not move from the spot before I have pleaded for all
those to whom I promised my assistance. The general is at liberty to
curse my importunity, if I only do my duty toward my fellow-citizens."
As he still remained silent, Tottleben turned toward him laughingly.
"What," said he, "are you dumb? Is your eloquence exhausted? Indeed,
when I think of all that you have got out of me to-day, it almost
makes me smile." And he broke out into a merry, good-natured laugh.
"Well, laugh, sir," said Gotzkowsky, "I know you are fond of a laugh.
For example, you have just played a little joke on the Jews, and made
them believe that they have to pay an imposition--"
"Made believe?" interrupted Tottleben, hastily. "Man! be satisfied
that I have remitted two millions to the citizens. Don't speak up now
for the Jews."
"But the Jews are a part of the citizens."
"Are you crazy, man?" cried Tottleben, violently. "Is the Jew a
citizen with you?"
"Yes," answered Gotzkowsky, "as far as paying goes. The Jew is obliged
honestly to contribute his proportion of the war-tax. How can you,
with any semblance of justice, require of him another further tax,
when he has already, in common with us, given up all he possesses?"
"Sir," cried Tottleben, with suppressed vexation "this is enough, and
more than enough!"
"No," said Gotzkowsky, smiling. "It is too much. The Jews are not able
to pay it--"
"I will remit their contribution," cried the general, stamping
violently on the floor, "to please you--just to get rid of you--but
"But now," interrupted Gotzkowsky, insinuatingly, "one more favor."
The general stepped back astounded, and looked at Gotzkowsky with a
species of comical terror. "Do you know that I am almost afraid of
you, and will thank God when you are gone?"
"Then you think of me as the whole town of Berlin thinks of you," said
The general laughed. "Your impudence is astonishing. Well, quick, what
is your last request?"
"They are preparing at the New Market a rare and unheard-of
spectacle--a spectacle, general, as yet unknown in Germany. You have
brought it with you from Russia. You are going to make two men run the
gantlet of rods--not two soldiers convicted of crime, but two writers,
who have only sinned in spirit against you, who have only exercised
the free and highest right of man--_the right to say what they think_.
You are going to have two newspaper writers scourged, because they
drew their quills against you. Is not that taking a barbarous revenge
for a small offence?"
"A small offence," cried the general, whose countenance had resumed
its dark, fierce expression. "Come, that's enough. Stop, if you do not
wish me to take back all that I have granted you. Do you call that a
small offence? Why, sir, the editor of _Spener's Journal_ called me
an adventurer, a renegade. Ah! he at least shall feel that I have the
power of punishing."
"Why," said Gotzkowsky calmly, "that would only prove to him that he
had hit you on a tender spot."
"And the scribbler of the _Vossian Gazette_, did he not venture even
to attack my gracious empress?" continued Tottleben, perfectly carried
away by his indignation. "He wrote a conversation between peasants,
and in it he made fun of the empress. He even went so far as to make
his own king join in the dirty talk, in the character of a peasant.
Sir, I am very much surprised that you should defend a man who carries
his impudence so far as to canvass and scandalize the conduct of his
own king in such a disrespectful and audacious manner."
"The king is great enough to be able to bear this calumny of little
minds. Whosoever is truly great, is not afraid of free speaking nor of
calumny. Have you never heard the story of how the king was riding by,
where the people were collected at the corner of a street, stretching
out their necks to read a pasquinade which had been hung on the wall,
and was directed against the king himself? The king reigned in his
horse, and read the hand-bill. The people stood in silent terror, for
the paper contained a sharp abuse of the king, and a libel on him in
verse. What does your excellency think the king did when he had read
this most treasonable placard?"
"He had the mob cut it down, as it deserved to be, and the author
strung up on the gallows," cried Tottleben.
"Not at all, sir," replied Gotzkowsky. "He said, 'Let the paper be
hung lower; the people can't see to read it up so high.' He then
saluted the crowd, and rode off, laughing."
"Did the _great Fritz_ do that?" said Tottleben, unconsciously using
the epithet which the Prussian people had applied to their king.
"He did it _because_ he is great," replied Gotzkowsky.
"Strange, hard to believe," muttered the general, folding his arms,
and striding up and down. After a pause, Gotzkowsky inquired, "Would
you not like to emulate the great king, general?"
Count Tottleben awoke from his reverie. Approaching Gotzkowsky, he
laid his hand upon his shoulder; his expression was indescribably mild
and gentle, and a melancholy smile played around his lips. "Hark'ee, I
believe it would do me good if we could be always together. Come with
me. Settle in Russia. The empress has heard of you, and I know that
she would be rejoiced if you came to Petersburg. Do it. You can make
a large fortune there. The empress's favor will elevate you, and she
will not let you want for orders or a title."
Gotzkowsky could hardly suppress a smile of contempt. "Orders for me!
A title! What would I do with them? Sir, I am more powerful than all
your counts, for the greatness of the nobility lies in the past, in
mouldering ancestors; but the greatness of the manufacturer lies in
the future, and the future belongs to industry. I founded the first
large factories here in Berlin, and the manufacturers who come after
me can call me their ancestor. No other nobility do I desire, count."
"You would then be capable of refusing a count's title?" asked
Tottleben, in astonishment.
Gotzkowsky shrugged his shoulders. "If I had wished for nobility I
could long ago have bought a countship of the holy German empire, for
such things are for sale, and thirty thousand ducats is the
highest price for a count's title; and as for the orders, my own
ribbon-factory turns out the ribbons for them."
General Tottleben looked at him for a long time in mild astonishment.
"You are a wonderful man, and I wish I were like you. If I had thought
as you do, my life would have been a less stormy one, and less tossed
by care and restlessness. I would have--"
The general was interrupted by the hasty entrance of the adjutant.
He was the bearer of dispatches brought by a courier who had just
arrived. The courier, he said, had ridden so hard, that his horse had
fallen dead on his arrival.
Tottleben tore open the dispatches and read them rapidly. His
countenance immediately lost its former expression of mildness and
gentleness. His German heart was silenced by the will of the Russian
He seemed to forget Gotzkowsky's presence, and turning to his
adjutant, with proud military bearing, he said: "These dispatches
contain important and surprising information. They announce that the
Prussian army is drawing on in forced marches, with the king at
its head. We cannot give him battle here, and must, in consequence,
arrange for a rapid retreat from Berlin. Call all the generals and
staff-officers together. Let the alarm be sounded. In three hours
the whole army must have left the city. And, further, summon the Town
Council to the New Market, that we may take our leave, for we must not
leave Berlin as fugitives, but as conquerors, who are proceeding on
"And the poor editors who are to be flogged?" asked Gotzkowsky, when
the adjutant had left.
The general smiled, as he took Gotzkowsky amicably by the hand.
"We will hang them a little lower," said he, significantly. "Come,
accompany us to the market-place!"
NOTE.--Count von Tottleben expiated his clemency toward Berlin very
dearly. A few months later he was sent to Petersburg under arrest,
accused principally of having behaved too leniently and too much in
the German interest for a Russian general.
* * * * *
The morning was cold and rainy, the wind howled down the empty
streets, rattling the windows, and slamming the open house-doors.
Surely the weather was but little suited for going out, and yet the
Berlin citizens were to be seen flocking toward the New Market in
crowds, regardless of wind and rain.
The Berliners have, from time immemorial, been an inquisitive race,
and where any thing is to be seen, there they rush. But this day there
was to be a rare spectacle at the New Market.
The editors of the two newspapers were to run the gantlet; and
besides, General von Tottleben had summoned the Town Council and Jews
thither, to receive his last orders and resolutions before he left
Berlin. People were, therefore, very much excited, and curious to
witness this double show, and in their eagerness they forgave the
hostile general, who had prepared such a delightful entertainment for
them, all the terrors of the last few days. Two gentlemen--two learned
men--were to be flogged. That was, indeed, a precious and delightful
sight for cold, hungry, ragged poverty, which always takes delight in
seeing those whom fortune has favored, suffer and smart.
How often had these shoemakers and tailors worried and fretted
themselves over their pot of beer, that the newspaper writers should
have had the hardihood and stupidity to write so violently against the
Russians, without taking into account that the Russians would one day
occupy Berlin, and take revenge on its innocent citizens! It served
these newspaper writers quite right that they should be punished for
their arrogance. And, besides, the good people would see the Russian
general and his staff, and the grand Town Council and the chief
magistrate, who, in his golden chain and his robes of office, was to
hand over to the hostile general a present of ten thousand ducats.
The Berliners were, therefore, quite happy, and delighted to hear the
hollow sound of the drum, and the Russian word of command.
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